Friday, 20 January 2017

Praying to God, thanking Him, living for Him and working for Him

Solomon prays (1 Kings 8:22-53). The Lord answers Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 9:3-9). We must seek the blessing of God. Without His blessing, all our efforts are fruitless. When our work is “in the Lord”, it is “not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Together with work, there needs to be prayer. We are to look to God for the blessing. As we pray to God and work for Him, we must remember this: God is faithful - He fulfils His promises to His people (1 Kings 8:56). When God blesses us, we must remember to give thanks to Him. As well as praying to Him, working for Him and thanking Him, we must make sure that we keep on living for Him (1 Kings 8:61). At the centre of our life of obedience, there is to be worshipping Him in His House (1 Kings 9:3).

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Lord, we think about ourselves ...

Lord, we think about ourselves, about the way we have lived. We are ashamed of ourselves. There is nothing about us that makes us worthy of coming into Your holy presence – and yet, in Your amazing grace, Your undeserved mercy and Your wonderful love, You are always reaching out to us and calling us to make a new beginning with You. Help us, Lord, to begin again with You. May our past be forgiven by You. May we face the future with the renewed confidence which comes from trusting in Your great love.

God gives us His wisdom - holy wisdom.

Solomon was a wise man. His wisdom came from God: “He possessed wisdom from God”, “God gave Solomon wisdom” (1 Kings 3:28; 1 Kings 4:29). The work done by the king required wisdom. The gift of wisdom is to be received with praise to God: “May the Lord be praised today: He has given David a wise son to rule this great nation” (1 Kings 5:7). God gave wisdom for spiritual leadership - building the Lord’s Temple (1 Kings 6:1,37-38). God gives wisdom to us as we gather together in His House to hear His Word (1 Kings 6:19). We are not only to hear His Word. We are to do His work (1 Kings 7:51). For His work, God gives us His wisdom - holy wisdom.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

More than the story of men ...

The throne is handed on to Solomon by David. This is seen as part of the ongoing purpose of God: “Praise the Lord God of Israel who has let me see the heir to my throne” (1 Kings 1:48). The kingship was given to Solomon by “the Lord” (1 Kings 2:15) - “The Lord set me on my father David’s throne ... As He promised” (1 Kings 2:24). When we read the history of the kings of Israel, it is important that we do not lose sight of this spiritual dimension. This is more than the story of men. It’s the story of God’s dealings with His people.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Where do we see Jesus – and hear Him speaking to us?

Where do we see Jesus – and hear Him speaking to us? Does this only happen when we’re at Church or when we’re reading the Bible?
Come to Church, read your Bible – and look for Jesus everywhere you go. He’ll give you glimpses of His love!
“Open our eyes, Lord, We want to see Jesus … Open our ears, Lord, And help us to listen” (Songs of Fellowship”, 443).
Let us celebrate the love of Jesus. May our hearts be filled with His love.

Life is full of ups and downs …

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes, we’re up on the mountaintop. Sometimes, we’re down in the valley. This is life as we know it. Is it life as God wants it to be? To ask the question is to give the answer!
We may face difficult circumstances – but God is there with us! He gives us the strength to rise above our circumstances: “The Lord is the everlasting God … He strengthens those who are weak and tired” (Isaiah 40:28-29).
When we’re feeling low, God is there to raise us up. He reminds us of the great things He has done for us. He takes us back to the cross of Jesus. He takes us back to the empty tomb. He assures of His love. We may have stopped loving Him. He never stops loving us. We’ve failed Him so often. He has never failed us – and He never will!
Sometimes, we seem to be almost overwhelmed by our own sadness and weakness. When we feel like this, there is something we must never forget: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The joy is there for us. The strength is there for us. The Lord is there for us.
Do you feel like things are getting too much for you? Remember Jesus. Remember that He loves you. Remember that He gave Himself for you. He still gives Himself to you. He gives you His strength – to keep on going, looking to Him and living for Him.
Let us “wait on the Lord and renew our strength” (Isaiah 40:31).

The sun and the Son, the shepherds and the Shepherd

“A red sky at night is the shepherd’s delight. A red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning.” – Let’s think about the sun and the Son, the shepherds and the Shepherd.
“There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). “Is there anything new?” Yes! There is. Beyond the sun, there is the Son – Jesus Christ the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Jesus comes to us from above. He is “the Man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47). He has come to earth for us: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16). His love is brighter than the brightness of the sun.
“The sun rises and the sun sets” (Ecclesiastes 1:5). The Son rises – “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Timothy 2:8). He never sets – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Our world will come to an end. That will not be the end of our Saviour: “the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father” (1 Corinthians 15:24). It will not be the end for us: “everyone who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Beyond the human shepherds, there is the divine Shepherd: “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). The Lord takes delight in His Son, Jesus Christ: “This is My beloved Son. With Him, I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). He calls on us to listen to Jesus: “This is My beloved Son … Listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5). He speaks to us of His love – and He also gives us “the Shepherd’s warning”: “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).
Let us give thanks to God – for Jesus, our beloved Saviour.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A river that I could not cross …

“A mighty wave, a mighty wind is coming from heaven, to raise up our nation again” (Ulf Christiansson) – As I walked along the beach, feeling the wind and watching the waves, these words of faith came into my mind. God is calling us to move – from where we are right now to where He wants us to be.
“If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat”: John Ortberg’s book has a great message – “You’re One Step Away From The Adventure Of Your Life.” One step – That’s where “the mighty wave, the mighty wind” begins: “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from thee; send a revival – start the work in me.”
God is calling us to get into deep water with Him – into His “river” of blessing. “Deep water” – That’s a dangerous place to be. “With God” – That’s the best place to be! How do we get into deep water with God? We must start at the beginning: “the water came up to my ankles.” After that – “the water came up to my knees … the water came up to my waist … it was a river that I could not cross … water in which one must swim” (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
Do we fear danger and forget about grace? Charles Colson speaks about “A Dangerous Grace” – “When God gets a grip on our lives, nothing remains untouched. That’s what makes His grace dangerous!” When we pray for “a mighty wave”, we don’t know what we’re going to get – but we do we know where the “mighty wind” comes from. It comes from God – and He is the God of grace.
“He who hesitates is lost” – No more fear of the unknown! Let’s make a new beginning with God.

As the waters cover the sea

“As the waters cover the sea” – These words come from the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah and Habakkuk. Isaiah says this: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (11:9). Habakkuk adds something else. He speaks about being “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (2:14). It’s wonderful to look out over “the waters that cover the sea.” There’s something more wonderful than “the waters that cover the sea.” It’s the glory of the Lord. When you look out at the waters covering the sea, ask the Lord to give you a glimpse of His glory. Where does the glory of the Lord come from? Does it come from “the waters that cover the sea”? No! That’s not where it comes from. Many people look out – and they see nothing but water! The glory comes from the Lord. It comes to us when we look to Him. Beyond “the waters that cover the sea”, there is the Lord who created “the waters that cover the sea.” He created us. He wants to make us “a new creation in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 5:17). How do we receive this great blessing from the Lord? God sent His Son for us, and He sends His Spirit into our hearts (Galatians 4:4-6). We receive the gift of God’s Spirit when we come, in faith, to God’s Son (Galatians 3:14). Look beyond “the sea.” Look beyond “the waters.” Look to the Son. He gives us the “living water” of the Spirit (John 7:37-39). Blessed by God, let’s give glory to Him!

Real change – people being changed by the Lord

What are we to say about the beginning of a new ministry? We hear it said, “It’s a time of change.” What do we mean when we say this? We speak about the way we do things – “He did it his way. You do it your way.”
Changing the way things are done doesn’t really matter that much. Very often, that kind of change is no more than superficial change. What we must pray for is real change – people being changed by the Lord.
Where does real change come from? Does it come from a minister coming in and saying, “I’ll do it my way”? That sounds a bit too much like saying, “There are two ways of doing things – my way and the wrong way”!
Real change comes when we fix our eyes on Jesus and we keep our eyes on Him. When we realize that He is the Way, we become less concerned with how things are done and more eager to know Him as the Truth on which we build and the Life which brings to us so much blessing from God, our Heavenly Father (John 14:6).
What kind of change are we looking for? Let’s look for real change – “Change my heart, O God, Make it ever new, Change my heart, O God, May I be like You” (Songs of Fellowship, 58).
Real change comes from the Lord. We can’t do this by ourselves. We need Him – “It’s the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need. So help us, Lord, to worship You …” (Songs of Fellowship, 256).

Friday, 13 January 2017

How’s your spiritual temperature?

In the summertime, it can get very hot. In the wintertime, it can get very cold. What about our spiritual temperature? Jesus had something to say about this – “most people’s love will grow cold’ (Matthew 24:12). Has the fire gone out? How long has it been since, in your heart, you said, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us … while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)? Must we get colder as we get older? Can we not be raised from the ashes? Must we be overwhelmed by the spirit of evil? Cannot God restore in us the spirit of praise – “I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever” (Psalm 89:1)? Some of you may not have worshipped God in His House for many years. Is it not time to make a new beginning with God? Do you want to begin again with God? Over the years, God has been speaking to you – but you have not listened to Him. God is still speaking to you. Are you listening to Him? The Lord has come to us – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Now, He’s inviting us to come to Him: ”Listen now, My people, and come to Me; come to Me, and you will have life! … Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:3,6). This is your time for seeking the Lord. It’s the time of your salvation – if you will return to Him. Come to Jesus. Bring your sin to Him. He will come to you. He will forgive your sin. It’s time for a new beginning with God. Let it start now!

More than a great teacher …

Some people think of Jesus as a great teacher of morality. Is that all that we can say about Him? Those who “believe” in Him say something else about Him – He’s “the Son of God” and “the Saviour of the world” (Luke 1:35; John 4:42). The critics say, “You can’t say that!” We give this answer: Jesus said it! He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He said it then. He’s saying it now. Thank God – He’s given us more than a great teacher. He’s given us His Son – our Saviour.
We sing of God’s “amazing grace” – “How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” Sometimes, we lose our way, and we wonder, “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?” Sometimes, Jesus doesn’t seem to be so precious. Sometimes, we don’t feel so blessed. What’s the problem? We’re the problem. We’ve taken our eyes off Jesus. We’ve forgotten how great our Saviour is. When you’re going through a hard time, remember this: “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.”
Sometimes, we find it difficult to rejoice in the Lord. Let’s remember that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) – and we will find it so much easier to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4): “Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone but for eternity. Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me.”

Out of our past, into God’s future

We stand between the past and the future. What kind of people will we be as we move out of our past and into God’s future? God calls us to be His people. He calls us to do His work. Let us commit ourselves to being His people and doing His work. Sometimes, in God’s work, we wonder what is going on. We wonder, “Where is God in all of this?” We need the encouragement of God’s Word: “He knows the way that I take” (Job 23:10). We need to be assured of the faithfulness of God (Lamentations 3:23). We need to look up – and see Jesus. He is our Saviour. He died for our sins. He gives us true and lasting joy. How does His joy fill our hearts? We return to Him. We are revived by Him. We rejoice in Him. His joy gives us strength for serving Him.
God loves us – and He wants His Name to be glorified. Do we want God to be glorified among us? He will be glorified when we commit ourselves more fully to Him. May God help us to move His future – ready to be the kind of people upon whom He has promised to pour out His blessing. How are we to enjoy His blessing? Before we can enjoy His blessing, we must see ourselves as we really are – and we must see Him as He really is.  We are sinners who need to be saved by God’s grace. God is holy. God is love. In His holiness, He shows us our need to be saved by Him. In His love, He saves us – setting our feet on a new pathway: “the High Way of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8).

What does the future hold for us?

God’s Word encourages us to look forward to His future. Here’s a prayer which will help you to do this: We think, Lord about the future, and all we can say is this, “We don’t know what the future holds.” We turn to You. We ask You, “What does the future hold for us?” You give us Your answer to our question. It may not be the answer that we were looking for – but it is always the true answer, the best answer, the only answer. You say to us, “I know what the future holds.” Help us, Lord, to trust You. Help us to say more than “I know not what the future holds.” Help us to say something else – “I know who holds the future.”
“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.” (Cliff Barrows – Mission Praise, 460).

Out of an old year, into a New Year - with Jesus!

We live in a world in which many people are trying to grab our attention. There is more interest in making a profit than listening to the prophet. We need to listen to what the prophet says to us: Emmanuel - God with us - has come to us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). God has come to us. He has not left us - and He will not leave us!
Jesus, our Saviour is always with us. Wherever we are, He is there. When everything seems to be changing, let us remember this: God’s Son is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Often, we forget Jesus. He never forgets us. He always remembers us.
Do you feel that the Lord is far away from you? When you feel like this, remember God's Word: Jesus is "God with us." When we feel like God has deserted us, what has changed? Has God changed? Has He stopped loving us? No! He has not changed. He still loves us. How do we know that God still loves us? How do we know that He keeps on loving us? God has given His answer to our question? - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16).
Our feelings change. Sometimes, we’re up, and sometimes, we’re down. God’s Word is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. When your faith is shaken by the things that happen to you, hold on to this: Jesus still speaks to us “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Our Saviour is with us - always. What a great Saviour He is!
Don’t look back, and wonder about what might have been, if … There is no value in thinking like this. That kind of thing never does anybody any good. Look forward. Look to Jesus. Believe that He loves you. Believe that He will never leave you. Believe that the future is His future. Believe that He wants to bless you. Believe that He will bless you – and celebrate His love.

Lord, our life is lived in different places ...

Lord, our life is lived in different places. Sometimes, we’re in the place of worship. Sometimes, we’re out in the world – the place of witness. Always, You are there. Wherever we are, You are there. You strengthen our faith when we’re gathered for worship. You help us to share our faith when we go back into the world. Sometimes, we speak about ‘the big, bad world.’ Help us, in our everyday life, never to forget that You are the big, good God. With You as our big, good God, even ‘the big, bad world’ can become a world filled with Your blessing, as we learn to trust You to lead us in our journey – through this ‘big, bad world’, on to the better and brighter world of Your eternal Kingdom where Your love shines so brightly, where Your love never comes to an end.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

God is greater than His servants.

David’s work was intended by God to bring blessing to the people.
He was “raised up” by God (2 Samuel 23:1). “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through him" (2 Samuel 23:2).
David’s influence on the people was not always a good influence.
He “sinned” against the Lord, bringing judgment upon the nation (2 Samuel 24:10,15).
Sin and judgment are not, however, the last word concerning God’s dealings with His people.
“So the Lord heard the prayers for the country, and the plague in Israel stopped” (2 Samuel 24:25).
The Lord’s servants are not perfect. There is sin in us. This affects our usefulness in God’s service.
God is greater than His servants.
His grace reaches out to men and women through His very inadequate servants. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.”
Why? - “To show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

God answered the prayers for the land ...

In 2 Samuel 20 - 21, there are so many names.
As we read these chapters, we must not overlook the spiritual dimension.
We must respect the Lord and His servants (2 Samuel 20:19).
We must seek the Lord’s blessing. “God answered the prayers for the land” (2 Samuel 21:14).
We must look to the Lord to do this in our generation.

The outworking of God’s purpose

In 2 Samuel 17,  we read of Absalom pursuing David,
In chapter 18, we read of David defeating Absalom.
In chapter 19, David is restored to the throne.
In these very human events, we must see the outworking of God’s purpose.

Monday, 9 January 2017

A song of praise, a song which exalts the Lord, a song which gives glory to the Lord.

David sings his song to the Lord (2 Samuel 22:1-51). It’s a song of praise. It’s a song which exalts the
Lord. It’s a song which gives glory to the Lord. At the heart of David’s song of praise, there’s a
particularly rich section, which is full of precious statements concerning the Lord.
* God’s way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31).
* Who is God but the Lord? (2 Samuel 22:32).
* God arms me with strength (2 Samuel 22:33).
* He makes my feet like those of a deer (2 Samuel 22:34).
* He trains my hands for battle (2 Samuel 22:35).
* You have given me the shield of Your salvation (2 Samuel 22:36).
* You make a wide path for me to walk on so my feet do not slip (2 Samuel 22:37).
These great verses jump out from the particular historical circumstances out of which David speaks.
They speak to us as words which jump across the centuries.
These words begin as David’s confession of faith. They become our confession of faith.

The Lord is King. We “worship His Majesty.”

“May the Lord your God be praised.
He has handed over the men who rebelled against your Majesty” (2 Samuel 18:28).
The king is called “your Majesty”. We must never forget that there is an even greater
King, an even greater Majesty. The Lord is King. We “worship His Majesty.”

We walk by faith - not by sight.

In 2 Samuel 15 - 16, we have a very human story.
It’s just like our life today. We read it, and we think about our own life. 
We ask, “Where is the Lord in all of this?”
We need to maintain the Lord’s priorities.
We need to keep “God’s ark” - His Word - among us, seek His favour and honour His servants   (2 Samuel 15:25; 2 Samuel 16:18).
If we are to keep sight of the Lord, we must maintain His priorities.
If we fail to maintain our focus on the Lord, we will be swept along by events that do not seem to
be filled with any real sense of the purpose of God being fulfilled in our lives. When God seems far away, we must remember this - we walk by faith, not by sight.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Lord forgives our sin - and He calls us to walk with Him on the pathway of holiness.

In 2 Samuel 13 - 14, we read about sin - rape, murder and deception. This realistic account of human
behaviour highlights the sin which separates us from God. This shows us very clearly our need of
salvation. We need the Lord’s saving grace in our lives, if we are to be kept from going further along
the road of sinful living. By His grace, He saves us. He forgives our sin. He calls us to walk with Him on
the pathway of holiness.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

God’s love is greater than our sin!

“The Lord considered David’s actions evil” (2 Samuel 11:27) - This is a summary of the sinful
and shameful events that are recorded in 2 Samuel 11. For most of 2 Samuel 12, we have a record
of the consequences of David’s sin. At the end of the chapter, there is a ray of hope - the birth of a son,
Jedidiah. His name means “The Lord’s Beloved”. God’s love is greater than our sin!

Friday, 6 January 2017

God's Kindness And God's Strength

“God’s kindness” (2 Samuel 9:3)
God has shown His kindness to us. We are to show His kindness to others.
“Be strong!” (2 Samuel 10:12) - We are to be strong in the strength of the Lord.
Strength and kindness - God will give us the strength to be less self-centred, and more other-centred and God-centred.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Worship, Trust And Obedience

David worships the Lord” - “I will celebrate in the Lord’s presence”, “You are great, Lord God.
There is no one like You, and there is no other god except you” (2 Samuel 6:21; 2 Samuel 7:22).
David trusts God - “Almighty Lord, You are God, and Your words are trustworthy” (2 Samuel 7:28).
David obeys God - “David ruled all Israel. He did what was fair and right for all his people”
(2 Samuel 8:15).

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The end of Saul’s reign, the beginning of David’s reign

The end of Saul’s reign, the beginning of David’s reign
For Saul, the end was tragic - “See how the mighty have fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19,25,27).
David’s reign marked a new beginning. God is gracious. He gives a new beginning
when we have made a mess of things. He is the God of hope. He leads us out of our failure
and into His victory. David became the king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:1-7) and the king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5).
Behind the story of David, there is the story of God at work: “The Lord was with David”,    “The Lord had established him as king of Israel and made his kingdom famous for the sake
of Israel, the Lord’s people” (2 Samuel 5:10-12).

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

God is leading us on to greater blessing.

Saul sinned against the Lord (1 Samuel 28). God’s judgment came upon Saul (1 Samuel 31). While Saul is still king, in these final chapters of 1 Samuel, the chief emphasis is placed on David. God’s work is moving on. It doesn’t stand still. God is looking to the future. Saul was yesterday’s man. David was God’s man for the future. We must move forward with God. He is leading us on to greater blessing.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The victory belongs to the Lord - not to Satan!

Jonathan’s faithfulness to David arose from his love for him (1 Samuel 20:17). This is true of God. He loves us. He is faithful to us. The story of David runs parallel to the story of Saul. It highlight. the continuous conflict between God and Satan. David was God’s man. Saul had become Satan’s tool. God is sending His blessing. Satan is seeking to hinder God’s blessing. This is the conflict that we see in the story of David and Saul. This is the conflict that is still going on in our lives. It’s an unequal conflict. The victory belongs to the Lord - not to Satan!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Two very different attitudes to life - trusting the Lord and taking things into our own hands

The story of David and Saul is a story of two very different men. David recognized that the Lord was in control. Saul, on the other hand, was trying to keep himself in control. There are two very different attitudes to life - trusting the Lord and taking things into our own hands. We see David’s attitude to the Lord in his response to Nabal: “Blessed be the Lord, who defended me against the insults of Nabal and kept me from doing wrong. The Lord has turned Nabal’s own wickedness back on him” (1 Samuel 25:39).

Saturday, 31 December 2016

A great contrast between David and Saul

There’s a great contrast between David and Saul. It is summed up in 1 Samuel 18:12 - “The Lord was with David but had left Saul”. The sadness of this situation is summed up in 1 Samuel 18:29 - “Saul became David’s constant enemy”. The seriousness of this situation is summed up in 1 Samuel 19:10 - “Saul tried to nail David to the wall with his spear”. Saul had been thinking about doing this for some time (1 Samuel 18:11).

Friday, 30 December 2016

Chosen by God, Challenged by Goliath ... Our God will give us the victory.

David was the one, chosen by God, to be king - “Anoint him.He is the one” (1 Samuel 16:12). This was for the future. For the present, there was the challenge of Goliath. God’s will had been made known to David. Now, through his victory over Goliath, the will of God would become clear to all the people. David’s victory was really the Lord’s victory: “I come to you in the Name of the Lord ... The Lord will hand you over to me ... The whole world will know that Israel has a God. Then everyone gathered here will know that the Lord can save without sword or spear, because the Lord determines every battle’s outcome. He will hand all of you over to us” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). When we face our “Goliaths”, we must look beyond him to the Lord. When we take our eyes off the Lord, the “giants” look bigger than they really are. When we keep our eyes on the Lord, the “giants” are cut down to size. We are to be like David. We are to rise to the challenge - in the strength of the Lord. Armed with the armour of God, we can face our enemy, Satan, with the confidence that our God will give us the victory.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Success as a military leader, failure as a spiritual leader

Saul enjoyed success as a military leader: “Wherever he turned, he was victorious” (1 Samuel 14:47). He was a failure as a spiritual leader: “Then the Lord spoke to Samuel, “I regret that I made Saul king. He turned away from Me and did not carry out My instructions” (1 Samuel 15:10-11). God’s Word of judgment was pronounced on Saul: “You rejected what the Lord told you. So the Lord rejects you as king of Israel” (1 Samuel 15:26).

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Samuel and Saul were very different.

Samuel and Saul were very different. Samuel loved the Lord. Saul “didn’t follow the command of the Lord” (1 Samuel 13:14). Today’s Church needs men like Samuel in its leadership. He was committed to the priorities of prayer and God’s Word - “It would be unthinkable for me to sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. I will go on teaching you the way that ids good and right” (1 Samuel 12:23). Samuel called upon the people to “fear the Lord, and serve Him sincerely”. He emphasized that they were to fear the Lord and serve Him with a sense of gratitude for all that He had done for them - “Consider the great things He did for you” (1 Samuel 12:24). As well as the Word of command, grounded in the remembrance of grace, there was also the Word of warning: “But if you go on doing what is evil, you and your king will be wiped out” (1 Samuel 12:25). May God help us to be like Samuel - “speaking the truth in love”.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

No other king but the Lord

The people of Israel were warned. They were not to have a human king. They were to have no other king but the Lord. They disregarded the Word of the Lord. They wanted to have a king. They wanted to be like other nations. Having the Lord as their king wasn’t enough for them. They were determined to get their own way. They insisted on having a human king. God allowed them to have a king - Saul. There was no real blessing under Saul’s leadership. He was not a true man of God. He did not influence the people for God.

Monday, 26 December 2016

God calls His people to return to Him wholeheartedly.

God calls His people to return to Him wholeheartedly. They are to make a commitment to the Lord, and serve only Him (1 Samuel 7:3). When we dedicate our lives to the Lord, we are not left to go it alone. The Lord is with us. He is our Helper - “Until now the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). The call to be dedicated to the Lord is always accompanied by the promise of His help.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

The Lord’s presence among His people

The ark of the Lord signified the Lord’s presence among His people. Even the Philistines, Israel’s enemies, recognized the presence of God among His people - “the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid , for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us!” (1 Samuel 3:6-7). When God’s ark was absent, God’s presence was not among the people - “the glory of the Lord has departed” (1 Samuel 4:21). When the ark of the Lord, containing the Word of the Lord, is returned to its rightful place among God’s people, the blessing of God returns. We need to honour God and His Word, if there is to be blessing among us. If God and His Word are taken lightly, there will be no blessing.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

A man of God, empowered by the Spirit of God

The Lord had His hand on the boy Samuel, and he grew to be a man of God, empowered by the Spirit of God. The ministry of Samuel was a mighty demonstration of the power of the Spirit of God (1 Samuel 3:19-21). God was with him - in power. God was sending His blessing down from heaven. He was giving His Word to Samuel - “the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh through the Word of the Lord”. God’s Word was reaching out, through Samuel, to “all Israel” (1 Samuel 3:21).

Friday, 23 December 2016

Spiritual Growth

Samuel’s spiritual  growth was in stark contrast to the disobedience and downfall of Eli’s sons. This is the context within which we must grow spiritually. We are surrounded by disobedience. We must look away from all of this disobedience. We must keep our eyes on the Lord. We must ask the Lord to give us His grace so that we might go on growing in Christ.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

“My heart finds joy in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1).

Hannah’s prayer begins with the words, “My heart finds joy in the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:1). Her son, Samuel, was going the Lord’s way. This was something which made Hannah rejoice in the Lord. We read about Samuel’s spiritual growth (1 Samuel 2:18,21). “The boy Samuel grew up in front of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:18,21). “The boy Samuel continued to grow and gained the favour of the Lord and the people” (1 Samuel 2:26). For Samuel, this was just the beginning. There were greater things to come: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19).

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

God hears ...

The name, “Samuel”, tells the story, leading up to his birth. His name means “God hears.” Samuel was given this name to indicate that he was God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer: “I asked the Lord for him” (1 Samuel 1:20). She gave her son back to the Lord - “I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request. In return, I am giving him to the Lord. He will be dedicated to the Lord for his whole life” (1 Samuel 1:11,28).

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

A New Beginning

Following the triple tragedy of the deaths of Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:3-5) and the departure of Orpah (Ruth 1:14), there was a new beginning for Naomi and Ruth.This new beginning came to them when "they came to Bethlehem" (Ruth 1:19). The town of Bethlehem marked a new beginning for them. It marks a new beginning for us - Bethlehem was the place where our Saviour was born. "They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began - The timing of their arrival turns our thoughts towards fruitfulness. We come to our Saviour - born at Bethlehem, and He makes us fruitful in His service. Without His help, we cannot even begin to see a harvest gathered in for Him. We must look to Him, putting our trust in Him, if we are to see His blessing in the work that we do for Him.
The story of Ruth and Boaz leads us on to David (Ruth 4:22). It leads us beyond David to Christ. In this love story, we have the fulfilment of Naomi's words: "May the Lord bless him" (Ruth 2:20). It's a story which prompts the response: "Praise the Lord" (Ruth 4:14). It's a story which points beyond itself to the Story of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - the Story of the greatest blessing of all: salvation, the Story which inspires our worship, causing us to say, with heart and voice, "Praise the Lord." From this short story of  Ruth and Boaz, we learn an important lesson: As we read the many stories that we find in Scripture, we must learn to see, in each of them, the Story of our Saviour.

Monday, 19 December 2016

We must pray for the triumph of God’s grace over human sin.

The sinful and shameful times, described in the book of Judges, are summed up in the book’s final verses of chapters 19, 20 & 21. “Never has such a thing happened or been seen from the time the people of Israel came out of Egypt until today” (Judges 19:30). “Then the men of Israel went back to attack the rest of the territory of Benjamin ... “ (Judges 20:48). “Everyone did what he considered right” (Judges 21:25). It was an ‘anything goes’ situation/ Left to our own resources, we will go from bad to worse - further and further into sin,further and further away from God. There is only one thing that can be done in a situation like this. We must repent. We must return to the Lord with our whole heart. When there is a true return to the Lord, even the most sinful people can be mightily transformed. We do not see this at the end of the book of Judges. We see the reverse of this - ‘where grace abounded, sin did much more abound.’ As we see the same thing happening in our own day, we must pray for the triumph of God’s grace over human sin.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The idolater and the prophet

In Judges 17-18, the chief character is Micah. This was not the prophet, Micah. This man was a worshipper of idols! He did what he wanted - not what God wanted (Judges 17:6). What a contrast to the prophet, Micah (Micah 6:8)! This worshipper of idols tried to keep on the right side of God: “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me. I have a Levite as a priest” (Judges 17:13). This is ‘salvation by works’ - trying to earn one’s own salvation. The message of the prophet, Micah is very different. Salvation is by grace (Micah 7:18-20). The idolater, Micah, had a bad influence on others (Judges 18:30-31). The voice of the prophet, Micah, was very different: “The voice of the Lord calls out to the city. The fear of Your Name is wisdom” (Micah 6:9).

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The story of Samson is a story of divine grace, triumphing over human sin.

In the story of Jephthah (Judges 11 & 12), we learn that we need wisdom as well as sincerity. We need to have knowledge of God’s will as well as a desire to do His will.
Samson was to “dedicated to God from his birth” (Judges 13:5). His early life is described in terms of God’s blessing - “The boy grew up,and the Lord blessed him” (Judges 13:24). Samson’s adult life can be viewed  at two levels - (a) Samson’s selfishness - “Get her for me! She’s the one I want!”; and (b) God’s sovereignty - “the Lord was behind” this (Judges 14:3-4). We see this pattern continuing throughout Samson’s life. There is victory: “he called out to the Lord, and said, ‘You have given me this great victory.’” There is defeat: “he saw a prostitute and slept with her” (Judges 15:18; 16:1). This combination of defeat and victory continues all the way through to the time of Samson’s death. He was a prisoner of the Philistines (Judges 16:21,23-24). He was used by God to bring the Philistines down (Judges 16:28-30). The story of Samson is a story of divine grace, triumphing over human sin.

Friday, 16 December 2016

In life’s low points, we must hold on to our conviction that God is there with us, even when He seems to be far away.

“The people of Israel again did what the Lord considered evil ... The Lord became angry with the people of Israel ... Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help” (Judges 10:6-7,10). We don’t deserve to be blessed by the Lord. In mercy, He blesses us, far more than we could ever deserve. The time of the judges was not a time of the greatest blessing. In life’s low points, we must hold on to our conviction that God is there with us, even when He seems to be far away. We must keep on believing that God is with us at all times.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

The story of Gideon is the story of the Lord at work.

The story of Gideon is the story of the Lord at work. This is summed up in (a) Gideon’s call - “The Lord is with you, brave man ... You will rescue Israel from Midian with the strength you have. I am sending you” (Judges 6:12,14). (b) Gideon’s victory over the Midianites - “Attack! The Lord will hand Midian’s camp over to you” (Judges 7:15). There is also a warning for us. Even those who have been used by the Lord can fall into Satan’s trap. Gideon made a gold idol, and “it became a trap for Gideon and his family” (Judges 8:27).

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

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.”                                                                                                                          

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).

When we worship the Lord, we are strengthened to go on, living for Him.

As we read of Israel’s military exploits, we must recognize the spiritual dimension. This is brought out well in the song of victory in Judges 5. It begins with the words, “Praise the Lord!” (Judges 5:2). It is a song of praise to God - “I will sing a song to the Lord. I will make music to the Lord God of Israel” (Judges 5:3). The victories gained by Israel were “the victories of the Lord” (Judges 5:11). When we worship the Lord, we are strengthened to go on, living for Him - “I must march on with strength!” (Judges 5:21).