Charles’s quotes


"It is surely ours to combine these elements of mourning for sin and joy in our salvation in one complex and composite experience which keeps us perpetually humble and yet perpetually joyful too."— Rev William Still

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book Review: The Strangeness of God

The Strangeness of God: Essays in Contemporary Theology
Elizabeth Templeton
Arthur James Limited, London, 1993; 173pp., £7.99; ISBN 0 85305 296 4

Templeton describes this book as 'fragments of thinking done over some fifteen years ... mostly since I stopped being "an academic"'. This latter phrase, perhaps, explains her description of this material as 'unacademic theology'. Certainly, these articles are likely to prove very difficult reading for those who are not academics! The Bishop of Durham, who would presumably classify himself as an academic, appears to have  found this book heavy going. His Foreword urges perseverance in reading
this book, especially where the reader does not 'at first, make much sense of it'. In the Foreword, we read that  this book 'lies very much  within Christian Faith, taken for granted and pursued'. Some readers may wonder whether this begs the question: Can we take it for granted that this book gives us an authentic account of the Christian faith? Later, the Foreword describes God as 'far too great a Mystery and a Glory for dogmatisms, moralisms and sectarian certainties'. This statement highlights the difficulty of speaking about God in a way that does not reduce him to human size. Templeton's book is a protest against this type of thinking. Perhaps, in her theology, there is a strong element of reaction against 'two years of fervent evangelical acceleration in my early teens'. Throughout this book, there is one conspicuous absence: the voice of Scripture, speaking authoritatively as the Word of God. At the risk of being accused of 'claustrophobic anti-world sectarianism', this reviewer must ask the author for more exposition of Scripture. Templeton's articles raise the question: What is to set the agenda for our theology - the world or the Word? She  insists that we must not say 'more than can be said in view of the facts' and that we must not dodge 'the actualities of existence'. The evangelical theologian must also say that Scripture is one of the facts, Scripture as a Word, spoken to our existence by God himself. Where the Word is removed from theology's centre-stage, the world will not be slow to fill the gap. Theology will, then, be too much our speaking and not enough God speaking to us, too much listening to the world and not enough listening to the Word. There needs to be balance here: listening to the world and listening to the Word. I suspect that many readers will question whether Templeton has come close to achieving such a balance. In her opening chapter, she depicts God as saying, 'I will go to them incognito ... I must be careful not to dazzle them. I will be mistakable for anybody, or nobody.' While affirming that, in Christ, we have God 'veiled in flesh', this reviewer must ask: Is the glory of God so hidden as to merit this kind of talk- 'mistakable for anybody, or nobody'? or Is there some other reason why Templeton is drawn to this way of thinking? On the next page, she tells us that 'a strange thing happened. In the community of those who had learned to love this man ... the presence of the man who was dead and gone became more alive and potent and  convincing than it had been even in his lifetime'. Here, we must ask whether this is how Scripture describes, for us, the 'strange thing' that we call  the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Again, we must ask why Templeton speaks as she does. She speaks of God in  terms of  'love and freedom which is uncoercive'. Do we have, here, an explanation why she shies away from a clearer statement concerning the glory of our Lord Jesus  Christ (2 Peter 1:16-18)? Is this the reason why she draws back from giving an account of Christ's resurrection, which refuses to reduce the fact of his resurrection to our faith in him (1 Corinthians 15:17,20)? It seems, to this reviewer, that she draws back from any account of Jesus Christ, which is, in her view, too coercive. Here, we have the problem of reading Scripture according to our own preconceived notions. We only allow Scripture to say what we want to hear. It seems, to this reviewer, that readers, who look for a greater willingness to let Scripture speak more freely, will feel that there is an element of strangeness in this book. Whether this is 'the strangeness of God' is another question. Perhaps, it is the strangeness of reading theology, which seems so uncommitted to a careful and attentive listening to the voice of Scripture, speaking as the Word of God.
Charles M. Cameron

Ezekiel 29

In Ezekiel 29, we read about God's judgment upon Egypt, that proud nation, which caused so much distress to His people, Israel. Egypt's time of power had come to an end. Their position of power had been taken by Babylon. The Lord is looking beyond the day of Babylon's power. He is doing a work that is eternal. His work centres upon His people, Israel - "On that day, I will make the people of Israel strong again ..." (Ezekiel 29:21).

Monday, 30 October 2017

Do not trust in deceptive words ...

"Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,  the temple of the Lord!”... Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 7:4,11).
Jeremiah spoke to the people of his own day. He speaks to us as well. Don't let the place where you worship become more important than it really is. This is what he says to us. These are not only the words of Jeremiah. This is the Word of the Lord. What's happening in our hearts when we are gathered together in the House of the Lord? Are we thinking to ourselves, "I never miss a church service - not like those who've stopped coming to church"? What kind of "worship" is this? Lord, take us to the heart of worship. Give us a worshipping heart.

Holy, Holy, Holy ...

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3); “Your sins are forgiven” (Isaiah 6:7).
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Awesome holiness: It was my sin which sent Christ to the Cross.
Amazing love: Christ has taken my sin to the Cross. I receive His forgiveness.

A New Song - A Song Of Salvation

The world sings its songs. They do not sing the song of the Lord. There is a song which can only be sung by those who have been saved by the Lord. It is "a new song." It is the song of "salvation." Saved by the Lord, we sing to Him our song of "thanksgiving." We think of what the Lord has done for us and we say, "Praise the Lord!" (Psalm 149:1).

Peace With God? or No Peace?

The proclamation of peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) must be carefully dissociated from a proclamation which says, "'Peace, peace', when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11).

Serving the Lord arises out of worshipping Him.

Isaiah 6:1-13 

Serving the Lord arises out of worshipping Him.
 * We proclaim His holiness: "Holy, holy, holy... " (Isaiah 6:3).  
 * We confess our sin: "Woe is me" (Isaiah 6:5) - a personal confession.
Before we can speak the words, "Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8), we must hear the words, "Your sin has been forgiven" (Isaiah 6:7).
We are to be faithful in speaking God's Word. This involves our lips (Isaiah 6:7). It also involves our lives. Serving the Lord means more than paying lip-service to Him. We are to serve Him with our lives.
Is there any guarantee that we will bear much fruit?
The parable of the sower says that our fruit may be 100, 60 or 30 times what was sown (Matthew 13:23). The parable of the talents says that one talent could become two; two could become four; five could become ten (Matthew 21:14-30).
What does Isaiah 6 say to us about bearing fruit for the Lord?
There is a word of realism. Many people will pay no attention to us and to our Lord (Isaiah 6:9-10). 
There is a word of faith, a word of hope - "the holy seed is the stump" (Isaiah 6:13).
We may say, Lord, we're looking for more than a "stump."
God says to us, Even  when "the land is ruined and desolate", even when "the people" are "far away", even when there is "great emptiness in the land" (Isaiah 6:11-12), there is still hope, and we must keep on working for the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

New Strength

God’s Word for hard times: “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).

Godliness And Wisdom

“…you have to be godly to be wise …” (Derek Kidner, Proverbs, p. 32).

Everlasting Love

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

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

We thank You, Lord, that You are our God - the God of our salvation.

Numbers 15:1-41 
We thank You, Lord, that You are our God - the God of our salvation. You have called us to be Your people. we have been saved by Your grace. Help us to live for Your glory. May we always be learning to walk with You. May we never forget to say of Jesus, Your Son: "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!"

Ezekiel 27-28

This is a continuation of the Word of judgment, which began in Ezekiel 26. How final are the words at the end of Ezekiel 27: “You have come to a terrible end, and you will never exist again” (Ezekiel 27:36). This is the bad news concerning all of us. We are sinners. We are under God’s judgment. Our only hope is the God of grace and mercy. He has made Himself known to us as the One, who can turn everything around for us. He does through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s judgment on Tyre - This theme continues on from Ezekiel 26 - 27. The emphasis is on His judgment on the king - “the ruler of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1). Here, we look beyond “the ruler of Tyre.” We may look on from him to Satan. Like the king of Tyre, Satan will also “come to a terrible end” (Ezekiel 28:19). In Ezekiel 28:20-24, we have a prophecy of judgment on Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, we have a message of hope for God’s people, Israel - “they will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 28:26).

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Ezekiel 26

In Ezekiel 26, we find an awesome Word of judgment, spoken against the city of Tyre. The Word, spoken by God through His prophet, is uncompromising - “Tyre, you famous city, you have been destroyed” (Ezekiel 26:17). The effect of Tyre’s fall is described: “Your defeat will make the people, who live by the coast, tremble. Your end will terrify the islands in the sea” (Ezekiel 26:18). This is the fear of the Lord. We become aware that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Gospel tells us about the hands that were nailed to the Cross for us, so that we might pass from judgment to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Yes, Lord.

“The Lord is the only God. He is the living God and eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10). The contrast between God and the gods is simple. God made us. We made the gods. In the Lord our God, there is majesty and mystery - the majesty of the “eternal King”, the mystery that He is always beyond our understanding. Before this majesty and mystery, we bow down in worship. We acknowledge his greatness. We give Him glory. He is worthy of our worship. When God speaks His Word to us, “Obey Me, and do everything that I have told you to do. Then you will be My people, and I will be your God. I will keep the oath I made to your ancestors and give them a land flowing with milk and honey, the land you still have today.” We are to give our answer, “Yes, Lord” (Jeremiah 11:4-5). There will be many times when our "devotion" to the Lord will be put to the "test" (Jeremiah 12:3). These will be times of temptation - times when our 'Yes, Lord' could so easily become 'No, Lord.' When this happens, may God help us to return to Him and hear, again, His wonderful Word of amazing grace: "I will have compassion on them again ..." (Jeremiah 12:15).

“Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”

There is to be prayer from “every one who lives in the land” (Joel 1:14). It is to be personal prayer - “O Lord, I cry to You for help!” (Joel 1:19). These two belong together - prayer for the nation and personal prayer. This is expressed so well in the words: “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me.”
We hear the words, “Return to the Lord, your God” (Joel 2:13). They are followed by some wonderful words about the character of God - “He is merciful and compassionate, patient and always ready to forgive and to change His plans about disaster” (Joel 2:13). How do we know that God is like this? We look at what He has done for us - “Be glad and rejoice. The Lord has done great things!” (Joel 2:21). Looking at all that the Lord has done for us, we trust His promise: “Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32). This salvation is more than forgiveness for past sins. It’s more than the future glory of being in God’s everlasting Kingdom - “Mount Zion” (Joel 2:32). It’s also the power of the Spirit, here and now: “I will pour out My Spirit on everyone” (Joel 2:28).
“The Lord will be a Refuge for His people. He will be a Stronghold for the people of Israel. You will know that I am the Lord, your God” (Joel 3:16-17). The Lord is reaching out to us. He’s speaking to us His Word of salvation. As we learn to trust the Lord, we will find that God shows Himself to be the faithful God. May the Lord keep us close to Himself.

More Than A Prophet?

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

God's Word Brings Blessing.

"… the seed shall sprout and grow, he himself does not know how …" (Mark 4:27).
God has given us a great promise – “my word that goes out from my mouth … will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11). When we feel that God’s Word is returning to us empty, we have this Word of encouragement: God’s Word will not return to Him empty. God gives us His great promise “my word … will accomplishwhat I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We do not see all that God’s Word is doing as the Spirit of God brings Christ to the people. God sees the full impact of His Word. That is why He says that His Word will not return to Him empty. When we have preached the Word, we must say, with the hymnwriter, “I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through the word, creating faith in Him.” We don’t understand all that God is doing as His Word is preached. We do know that He is at work. How do we know this? – We know Him – “I know whom I have believed.” We know that we can trust His promise – His Word will achieve the purpose for which He sends it. When the “seed” of God’s Word is sown in the hearts of men and women, it will “sprout and grow” – even if we are barely aware of all that is happening. The salvation of sinners – it may be beyond our understanding, but it’s not beyond God’s power: “the gospel … is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

New Life

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

A Very Important Question

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

Two Men With The Same Name

Two men with the same name – Saul, the first king of Israel, and Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of Christ and His servants.
In both stories, we read of a new man.
* In the case of Saul, the first king of Israel, David was the new man. Saul was rejected. He was replaced.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king … So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:1, 13).
* In the case of Saul of Tarsus, it was very different. Saul became the new man. He became Paul the apostle. He was saved by the Lord. His life was transformed by the power of Christ’s love. He became a new creation in Christ Jesus. He had this great testimony: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20).
- We don’t need to be like Saul, the first king of Israel – castaway, laid aside as of no further use (1 Corinthians 9:27).
- Each of us can be like Paul the apostle. In 2 Corinthians 5:17, we have more than Paul’s own testimony. we have a call to each one of us. God is calling us to be transformed by the power of Christ’s love. He is calling us to become “a new creation in Christ” – “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come!”

Ezekiel 25

“Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:4,7,11). “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:17). God is in control. This is the message of the prophet. The events on earth express the purpose of God. It is so important that we do not lose sight of this spiritual dimension. People say, ‘Everything is politics.’ God’s Word tells us, ‘Politics isn’t everything.’ We must not imagine that we can leave God out of the reckoning. He will remind us of His presence - “That you may know that I am the Lord.”

Friday, 27 October 2017

Ezekiel 24

In Ezekiel 24, we learn about God’s holiness and His love. If we are to appreciate the wonderful love God has for sinners, we need to become more deeply aware of the awesome holiness of God’s hatred of sin. We look at our sin. We look at God’s holiness. We learn about ourselves. We see how far we have fallen short of God’s glory. We learn about God. We come to know that He is the Lord. Deeply aware of God’s holiness and our own sin, we are led, by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, to see Jesus, crucified for us. We hear about God’s holiness. This is the Word of His judgment upon our sin. This is not, however, the final Word that He speaks to us. He speaks His Word of love - His Word of forgiveness, peace and hope.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Singing A New Song

The singers will come “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). 

Not just some nations! All nations! Not just this generation! Not just the “now” generation! Every generation will be there. They will come from the past. They will come from the future. This is bigger than the Eurovision Song Contest!

“They sang a new song” (Revelation 5:9). 

When does a “new song” become an old song? – People stop singing it. They forget about it. It becomes last year’s song.
What about God’s “new song”? Does it ever become yesterday’s song? Will there ever be a time when there is no-one to sing the song of salvation? Will the song of praise ever be silenced? Will it ever be thrown into the dustbin of the ancient past?
No! The song of joyful worship is always the song of the eternal future. We’re looking forward to something that’s far bigger, brighter and better than the Eurovision Song Contest!

"Look, I'm standing at the door ... " (Revelation 3:20).

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

Why has God made us His ‘own people’?

In Christ, we are ‘a holy nation’. Why has God made us His ‘own people’? - ‘that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him... ’ (1 Peter 2:9).‘The nations are waiting for us, waiting for the gospel we will bring’ (Songs of Fellowship, 539).

A call to pray, a call to seek God's glory


“You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2) - This is a call to prayer.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3) - This is a call to seek God's glory.

Encourage One Another ...

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good works, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).

It's great that we are able to encourage one another in the Lord. Hebrews 10:25 speaks about "the assembling of ourselves together" and "exhorting one another." Each of us has a particular ministry of encouragement to those with whom we are gathered together to worship the Lord. It is a privilege to be able to share something of this ministry of encouragement with other people. We encourage one another in the Lord when we gather together for worship (Hebrews 10:25). The preaching of Christ strengthens our faith (Romans 10:17). What a great encouragement it is to know that "God is pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21). What happens in the place of worship is important - but it's not the be-all and end-all. There's more than worship in the Lord's House. There's life outside of the place of worship. In the world - That's where we're to live a life of "love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24). If, when we're in the place of worship, we start thinking that this is all that there is - an hour on a Sunday, we've got it all wrong. When our worship ends, our witness begins. Our witness is more than words. It's living the life of a believer. In the world - This is where we see how real our worship is.

God was manifested in the flesh ...

"I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God ... the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh ..." (1 Timothy 3:15-16).

We read, in 1 Timothy 3:16, of our deeply-held convictions concerning our Saviour, Jesus Christ: "God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory." Paul is not only speaking about beliefs that we hold with our minds - 'I believe this about Christ. I believe that about Him.' He's speaking about beliefs that change the way we live - "how you conduct yourselves in the house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15).  
When Paul speaks about "the mystery of godliness", he's speaking about "God was manifested in the flesh". He's also speaking about "how we conduct ourselves in the house of God." This is the practical mystery - How can sinners live a godly life? This takes us beyond recalling the events of Christ's life. This takes us beyond, "I believe this about Him. I believe that about Him." This takes us on to Paul's teaching concerning the Holy Spirit: "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you ... you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit ... " (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). 
When Paul writes to us about "how we conduct ourselves in the house of God", we may recall his description of our life (it's more than our body, it's our body and our spirit) as "the temple of the Holy Spirit." Paul is not only concerned about how we behave when we set foot in the house of God. He's concerned about our whole life. He's saying to us, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).
What is the connection between "the mystery of godliness" - God was manifested in the flesh" - and "the mystery of godliness" - sinners saved by grace are led in the way of the Holy Spirit? - "You were bought at a price": If we really believe the things that happened to Christ and the reason that these things happened to Him ("for us and for our salvation"), how can we continue to live as if these things were not true?
How we conduct ourselves - in the house of God and in the whole of life: This is where the real strength of our faith will be seen. Strong faith expresses itself in godly living. A strong faith is always ready to ask the question, "How much is my life being changed by the Lord?"

"Always be joyful in the Lord ... I know how to live in poverty or prosperity" (Philippians 4:4,12).

In the Lord - This is the important thing. Poverty with the Lord is better than prosperity without Him.

Saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8)

Sinners become singers. We never cease to be sinners. We are not superior to those who do not sing the song of the Lord. We have been saved by His grace. All the glory belongs to Him. May our whole life be a song of praise to Him (Ephesians 2:8-10). In our battle against Satan, we must never forget that our victory is grounded in His salvation: “At the Name of Jesus, Satan’s legions flee; on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory.” “The Church of God” is called to move forward as “a mighty army.”  The Lord has loved us so much. He has saved us. May we always give to others a friendly invitation and a warm welcome: “Onward then, you people, join our happy throng, blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.” Sinners will become singers – when we, who have begun to sing the Lord’s song, always remember that we are never any more than this: sinners who have been saved by God’s grace.

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ …” (Galatians 6:14).

At the cross, we see Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” ( John 1:29). In the cross, we see the fulfilment of God’s eternal plan of salvation – “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). In the cross, we catch a glimpse of the eternal glory of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb … For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:10,17).
As we consider the glory of our Saviour sent to us from eternal love, crucified for us, leading us on to eternal glory, let us join with Paul in saying “I will glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We rejoice in our Saviour. We give all the glory to Him. He's "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). What a great salvation He has given to us! It begins with the forgiveness of our sins. It continues with the Holy Spirit, living in us and leading us out of a life that is centred on ourselves and into a life that is becoming more centred on Christ. Beyond the blessings that we receive while we are here on earth, there is the glory of being with the Lord forevermore - the full glory of eternal life. This final glory will surpass every blessing that we have enjoyed during our earthly journey of faith and obedience. All of these blessings come to us from our Saviour - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

"The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24).

The Law of God, the Spirit of God and the Son of God

Some schoolmasters may be viewed as disciplinarians. I think, however, we should see the work of the Holy Spirit here. He convicts us of sin and leads us to Christ. This is not the impersonal law. It's the personal approach of the Holy Spirit. In grace and mercy, He shows us how far we have fallen short of God's perfect standard so that He might gently lead us to the Cross of Christ, the place where we receive the forgiveness of all our sins.
In Galatians 4:6, we learn that ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.’ The Spirit is not a reward which we earn by being good people. We are bad people who have broken God's law. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). The Spirit is not a reward which we earn because of our good works. Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ (Galatians 3:13-14).
When the Spirit brings us to Christ our Saviour, He takes us through a process which could be described as disciplinarian. We could look at His work in this way - so long as we see much more of divine grace in this than we would normally associate with the word "disciplinarian"!
The Spirit strips us of our human pride. He leads us to come to Christ with humility. When the Spirit has done His work in our hearts, 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.’ 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.’
Let's look beyond the idea of the law as a disciplinarian. Let's give thanks to God. He has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2 Corinthians 13:14).

We have often heard these words spoken. Here, we are reading them in the Word of God. How often do we think about these words? What do they mean? These are life-changing words. Through ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ’, we become ‘rich’ - ‘blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing’ (2 Corinthians 8:9, Ephesians 1:3). ‘In love God has destined us to be His sons through Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 1:5). How do these blessings become ours? How do we become God’s children? We hear the Word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation. We believe in Christ. We are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). Such great blessing - ‘the Spirit is poured upon us from on high (Isaiah 32:15)!

Tremendous Words Of Faith ...

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). 
These are tremendous words of faith. They lift our eyes above “our light and momentary troubles.” They set our eyes on the “eternal glory.” When we see our times of suffering in this eternal perspective, our hearts are encouraged in the Lord. Our suffering isn’t the last word. God’s eternal glory is – and we will share in His eternal glory – “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! … Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:1-2).

The Mercy Of God And The Ministry Of His Word

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

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

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

A Word Of Encouragement

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).

God's Temple ...

"Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

God has given us a great privilege - "you yourselves are God's temple... God's Spirit dwells in your midst."  He's given us a great responsibility - we must take care of "God's temple." When God's Spirit comes into our hearts, what does He do? Does He give us a feeling of superiority - we're better than they are? No! He calls upon us to search our hearts more deeply: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).

Strong words ...

“… watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned … By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:17-18).

These are very strong words. They are words which have a great deal to say to the Church at a time when it seems that the voice of permissive society is threatening to drown out completely the voice of Holy Scripture. When Paul addresses the problem of divisions among God’s people, He calls us to be faithful “to the teaching you have learned.” Behind Paul’s words concerning “the teaching you have learned”, there is something else: “according to the Scriptures.” We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Paul begins by speaking about “the gospel which I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1). As we look on to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, it becomes clear that he is not concerned with drawing attention to himself. What he is concerned about is this: “according to the Scriptures” – “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Ezekiel 23

Samaria and Jerusalem behaved like prostitutes. In graphic language, the sin of turning from the Lord is compared to sexual immorality. Why does God expose their sin with such plainness of speech? He wants to show them the full extent of their rebellion, so that they may see the folly of continuing in sin and may be moved to return to the Lord - “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 23:49).

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Ezekiel 21-22

In Ezekiel 21 - 22, words concerning God’s holy judgment against sin are awesome. He does not take sin lightly. He takes sin very seriously. As we realize the seriousness with which He looks upon sin, we are called to repentance. We are called to return to the Lord, in sincerity and truth.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Prophecy That Has Been Fulfilled, Prophecy That Will Be Fulfilled

"They will look on Me, the One they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10).
"These things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled ... ‘They will look on the One they have pierced’" (John 19:36-37).
"They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (Zechariah 12:10).
"‘Look, He is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of Him.’ So shall it be! Amen" (Revelation 1:7).
There is prophecy that has been fulfilled. There is prophecy that will be fulfilled. From the words of the prophet, we look to events that have already taken place - the crucifixion of Christ. We also look forward to an event that still lies in the future - the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God for the fulfilment of prophecy. We trust in God for the fulfilment of prophecy.

Don't Let God's Word Go In One Ear And Out The Other Ear!

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Let your hands be strong, you who have been hearing in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, who spoke ... '" (Zechariah 8:9). 
We hear the Word of the Lord so that we might become strong in the Lord. God's Word is not to go in one ear and out the other hand. When that happens, Satan is winning a great victory over us - "When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts" (Mark 4:15). When we "hear the Word of God", let us pray that we will "accept it and bear fruit" (Mark 4:20).

There is hope.

Hosea 14:1-9

There is hope. There is a future. Hosea 14:9 - Conclusion: This is for us. The only way to live is the Lord’s way.
Repentance (Hosea 14:2) - It’s returning to the Lord (Hosea 14:1). It’s more than “words” (Hosea 14:2). It’s a way of life. As we walk with the Lord, we learn about repentance.
God speaks to us about forgiveness (Hosea 14:2). In love, He’s speaking to us. He speaks to us from the cross of Christ. The Spirit makes God’s love real to us. He brings Jesus to us. God’s love inspires our thinking and our living.
Our whole life is to be an expression of our love for the Lord, a heartfelt response to His love for us - a way of saying, “Thank You, Lord”, a way of offering to the Lord the praise and worship that arises from our hearts.
As we worship God, we must remember that He is not only love. He is also holiness.
This is to be seen in our “return to the Lord” (Hosea 14:1), our conversion. It’s not to be a partial conversion - paying lip-service to the Lord. It’s to be a full conversion - our hearts and our lives: the stirring of our hearts and the changing of our lives.

Return To The Lord ...

Hosea 6:1-3

 * “Let us return to the Lord” (Hosea 6:1). There are many blessings, waiting for us. We must come to the Lord and receive these blessings from Him.
 * “He will revive us” (Hosea 6:2). This is new life in Christ. It’s new life in the Spirit. We were dead. Now, we are alive, Glory to God!
 * “He will raise us up” (Hosea 6:2) - resurrection, not just a pick-me-up. God must do it. He alone can do it - and He does!
 * “He will come to us like the rain” (Hosea 6:3) - “the spring showers that water the land”: This will put a spring in our step. It will send us out, with joy and strength, to serve the Lord and bring others to Him (Psalm 126:5-6).

The Highway

Jeremiah 31:21-30

“Set your hearts toward the highway; keep the highway in mind” (Jeremiah 31:21) - “the highway of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8):
A call to the “backsliding daughter” (Jeremiah 31:22). “The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied” (Proverbs 14:14).
Here’s a breath prayer (breathe in for the first part, breathe out for the second part). It’s based on John 3:30 - “More of You, Lord, less of me.”
“The Lord bless you... mountain of holiness” (Jeremiah 31:23), “the days are coming” (Jeremiah 31:27,31,38): God is looking towards what we will become.
Taking apart the self-centred life; putting together the God-centred life (Jeremiah 31:28).

God’s salvation

“I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
God’s salvation
- It’s a permanent salvation: it “will endure forever”;
- It’s a complete salvation: “nothing can be added to it”;
- It’s a secure salvation: “nothing” can be “taken from it”;
- It’s a salvation which leads to worship: “so that men will revere Him.”

God's Way Is The Best Way.

“As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).
The Lord knows what He has planned for each one of us. There are no surprises for Him. The Lord doesn’t leave us to travel on our own. He’s with us every step of the way. When we wonder about what’s happening in our lives, He is there, teaching us to say from the heart, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30; 2 Samuel 22:31). He’s leading us to His Son, Jesus. He’s showing us our suffering Saviour. He’s showing us our risen Lord. He’s showing us that there is a way of peace, joy and love. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s the way of trusting Him. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He will lead you in His way. God’s blessing will surround you each day.

The Light Of God's Love, Truth And Holiness

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28).
Without You, Lord, we’re stumbling around in the dark. With You, we’re walking in the light – the light of Your love, the light of Your truth, the light of Your holiness.

Loved By The Lord - And Saved By Him

“Show Your marvellous lovingkindness …  O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 17:7; Psalm 19:14).
The lessons that we discover in the Word of God are lessons that are given to us by revelation. God shows us His “marvellous lovingkindness.” He shows us His salvation. Learning about God’s love and His salvation – There is nothing more wonderful than this. To know that we are loved by the Lord and have been saved by Him – This is what gives us strength to keep on loving and praising Him as we travel with Him towards His glorious Kingdom.

We stand in the strength of the Lord.

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

If I Perish ...

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

Sin and Salvation (Ezekiel 16:63 ... 20:40-44)

Speaking through the prophet, God uses very colourful sexual imagery to describe Israel’s relationship with Himself and her revolt against Him. The last word, in Ezekiel 16, is not, however, a word concerning the rebellion of Israel against the Lord. It is the message of redemption - the forgiveness of sins (Ezekiel 16:63).
“I am the Lord ... I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 17:24). In His Word, God tells us who He is and what He has done for us. He is the God who loves us. He has shown us His love in the death of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
What a contrast there is between God’s salvation and man’s sin. God brought His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. They rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him (Ezekiel 20:6-8). God had not given up on His people. He would draw them to Himself. He would make them His instrument of blessing to the nations (Ezekiel 20:40-44).

Monday, 23 October 2017

Ezekiel 13-15

“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Ezekiel 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Ezekiel 10-12

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “The sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

We Ask Our Question. God Gives His Answer.

Our Question And God’s Answer (Acts 2:37-38)
The question is our question: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
The answer is God’s answer: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Where Does Our Question Come From? (Acts 2:37)
Where does our question come from? – It comes from God.
His Word is preached. His Spirit is at work.
Following on from the preaching of God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit, we read this, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart”. This is where the question comes from. God has put it into our heart. Through His Word and His Spirit, he leads us to ask the question of salvation: “What must I do to be saved?”
God’s Answer To Our Question (Acts 2:37-38)
The question is our question. The answer must always be God’s answer. We ask the question. We cannot give the answer. In ourselves, there is no answer. We are “far off” (Acts 2:39).
We know about our sin, but we cannot give to ourselves the forgiveness of sin.
We know about the emptiness in our lives, but we cannot fill our own hearts with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We can only come to God in our sin and our emptiness.
We come in our sin, praying for God’s forgiveness. We come in our emptiness, praying that God will fill us with His Spirit.
When we come in our sin and emptiness, God speaks His answer.
God’s Answer Comes To Us In The Name Of Jesus Christ.
“What are we to do?” – Before we think of what we are to do, we must think about what Jesus Christ has done for us. This is the Good News. Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon Himself. He has died for us so that we might be forgiven by Him. 
We must never begin with the call for repentance and baptism. We must always begin with Jesus Christ – “the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us” (Galatians 2:20). 
“What are we to do?” – The first thing we must do is this: we must look away from ourselves to Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
When we turn our eyes on Jesus and keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will never think of our repentance and baptism as ‘good works’ we have done, ‘good works’ by which we make ourselves acceptable to God. 
The Name of Jesus Christ is the Name of our salvation. It is in Him that we are called to repentance and baptism. It is through the power of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that we are able to put the old life behind us and begin the new life of the Spirit. 
At the heart of God’s answer to our question, there is “the Name of Jesus Christ.”
In His answer to our question, God speaks to us of repentance and baptism. He speaks of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Above all else, He speaks to us of His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s Answer Is For Every One Of Us (Acts 2:38).
To every one of us, God says, “Repent and be baptized”. To every one of us, He says, “Leave your old life behind. Step out into the new life with Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord.”
God’s answer is for every one of us. He doesn’t say to some of us, “You need to repent” and then turn to others, saying, “You won’t need to repent. You’re good enough already.”
Let God’s Answer Change You. (Acts 2:38).
The question is asked, “What are we to do?” God’s answer begins with a call for repentance and baptism – “Repent and be baptized.”
If we were to read no further than the words, “Repent and be baptized”, we would miss a great deal of what God is saying to us here.“Repent and be baptized” is only the beginning of God’s answer. We must go on from there. As we read the remainder of verse 38, we learn that
* God’s answer is addressed to every one of us.
* God’s answer comes to us in the Name of Jesus Christ.
* God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We ask the question, “What are we to do?” (Acts 2:37), God gives the answer – “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38).
We lay our old life before the Lord. We invite Him to come and change us.
He comes in forgiving love. He comes in transforming power.
Once we have put our faith in Christ, everything changes.
“If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation.
Old things have passed away. Everything has become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Three Great Gifts

Three Great Gifts – Jesus, Forgiveness, And The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
Through faith in Christ, we put the old life behind us. Our sins are forgiven. We receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to live as men and women who love God.
Through faith in Christ, we receive the strength we need to maintain our confession of faith – “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
In Jesus Christ, God’s answer comes to us with the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Set Free By The Lord, Set Free For The Lord

Before we come to “the Ten Commandments”, we have these great words, “ I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).  Grace comes first. Holiness follows on from grace. We see the same pattern in the New Testament – in the teaching of Jesus, in the letters of Paul.
From the ministry of Jesus, we have the words, “Neither do I condemn you … Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). “Neither do I condemn you” – This is grace. “Go and sin no more” – This is holiness. It’s not grace without holiness. It’s not holiness without grace. It’s grace and holiness together. It’s grace leading on to holiness.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians begins with grace – “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul emphasizes that we have been saved by grace and we are called to holiness –  “By grace you have been saved, through faith … to do good works … ” (Ephesians 2:8-10). To those who have been saved by God’s grace, the Apostle Paul writes, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives us a great description of ”the Gospel.” He says that “it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). To those who have saved by the grace of God, Paul says this: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
We cannot save ourselves. We cannot make ourselves holy. From beginning to end, salvation is the work of God’s grace. He brings us to Himself. He forgives our sins. He comes to live in our hearts. He gives us the strength to live for Him. He will bring us to His glorious and eternal Kingdom. All glory to His great Name!

A Great Salvation - And A Grave Warning

Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:3).

What kind of people are we to be?

What kind of people are we to be? What kind of life are we to live? Lord, You’re calling us to live a life of “love” (Proverbs 17:9). How, Lord, do we learn what love is? – We learn from You. You show us what love is – “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son … ” (John 3:16). In Jesus, we see perfect love – “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The Holy Spirit fills our lives with Your love – “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). Help us, Lord, to live a Godly, Christlike, Spirit-filled life – a life of love.

Ezekiel 8-9

In Ezekiel 8, we have a description of sin - “very disgusting things”, even more disgusting things” (Ezekiel 8:6,9,13,17). When we read such “bad news”, we wonder, “Is there good news?” The answer of God’s Word is “Yes”! God does not leave us in our sin. He sends His Son to be our Saviour. This is the Good News, for which the prophets paved the way. Their ministry exposed sin, so that sinners might see their need of the Saviour.
 If holiness is to be preserved, there must be a divine judgment upon sin (Ezekiel 9. We cannot grow in our love for God, if we continue to have love, in our hearts, for the ways of the world. “Abba, Father, let me be Yours and Yours alone” (Dave Bilbrough, Mission Praise, 3).

Friday, 20 October 2017

Ezekiel 7

“The end is coming” - We read these words five times in Ezekiel 7:1-6. These are words of judgment. Ezekiel 7 ends with the words, “Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7:27). In His judgment, the Lord is known as the holy God. If the people refuse to return to the Lord, there will be judgment. This is the word of warning. It comes as a call to repentance, a call to walk with God in obedience.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Teach Us, Lord, To Live For You.

"I am filled with the power of the Lord's Spirit" (Micah 3:8). This is what makes true ministry of God's Word so different from 'prophecy' that doesn't come from the Lord. Without the power of the Lord, there can be no Word from the Lord. We need the Word, and we need the power.
"Let's go to the mountain of the Lord ...He will teach us His ways so that we may live by them" (Micah 4:2). We are taught by the Lord so that we might live for Him. Teaching and living - they belong together. We do not learn from God's Word so that we can amass more head-knowledge. We pray for a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ - a life-changing knowledge that gives us the strength that we need to live for the glory of God.

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

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

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

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

Life under the sun? or Life in the Son?

Life “under the sun” is depressing (Ecclesiastes 1:3,9,14). When life is seen in an earthbound way, with nothing above and beyond it, there is no hope, no glimmer of light. The preacher is not saying that this is the only way we can look at life. He is saying that this way of thinking about life is a dead-end street. He is inviting us to see the meaninglessness of a life that is no more than life “under the sun.” He shows us the hopelessness of life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:17,20,22). We can never be satisfied by life “under the sun.” There is always a sense of something more. This dissatisfaction, this longing for something more, comes from God: “He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1,3) offers nothing to those who are searching for a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction.There is an emptiness at the heart of life “under the sun.” Attempting to find something more, through our own efforts, is a never-ending task, a fruitless exercise - “trying to catch the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6,8). We need more than life “under the sun.”. We need life in the Son. We need the One who came from above - Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He alone can bring something different into our life. He brings something lasting - eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). As we read Ecclesiastes in the context of the whole of Scripture, our thoughts turn towards another life, a better life - life in the Son. This is a life that is filled with glorious, heavenly, eternal hope. Without God, life is hopeless.With Him, life becomes hopeful. By placing before us these two very different ways of life - life without God and life with God, Ecclesiastes invites us to choose. We are to choose life - the life that comes from above, the abundant life, which is the gift of God’s grace to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). When we receive life in the Son, our life is transformed. It is transformed by the life of Christ - new life, eternal life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the books of Wisdom. Much of it reads like the wisdom of the writer, as he reflects on his life. There is, however, another dimension in this book. There is God. We are encouraged to see our life in the light of God: “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The call to “fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7) lies at the heart of this book. This is more than human wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from above. It’s the wisdom of God. This wisdom comes to us from divine revelation. True wisdom always recognizes that God is at the centre of life. There are times when this book seems to be the writer’s own practical philosophy of life. Sometimes, it seems like God isn’t in his thoughts. In chapter 6, God is only mentioned in verse 2. We should not, however, ignore the fact that he recognizes the reality of God. It is one thing to mention God only occasionally. It is something else when we ignore Him altogether.  The fact that Ecclesiastes (the Preacher) does not have ready-made answers for every question does not mean that he is not listening for the word of the Lord. It does mean that he recognizes that the answers lie with the Lord - not with ourselves. This is what he means when he says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Our wisdom is limited. Sometimes, we are wise - but we are not always wise. True wisdom comes from God. As we seek Him, we find that He gives His wisdom to us. It comes to us in and through Christ, who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). As we look at our life, we are to “consider what God has done” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). When we look at the good things in our lives, we must not forget to say,”this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). True wisdom is given to us when we recognize that God is the living God, the God who has done great things for us, the God of our salvation. Recognizing that He is the living God, the God of revelation, doesn’t mean that we’ll understand everything. Throughout our life on earth, there will be matters which are beyond our understanding. We must be content to put our trust in the Lord, with this simple confession of faith: “As for God - His way is perfect.” This is the point the Preacher makes in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17. This is a call for humility. It’s based on the fact that only God understands all things. We must learn to content ourselves with trusting in His wisdom, even we don’t understand all that He’s doing.
* As we learn to trust Him, He teaches us that the quality of our life - learning to live according to His purpose for us - is more important that the quantity of our years - living for a long time without really understanding what our life is all about, without coming to know the true joy that He alone can give to us (Ecclesiastes 5:3-6).
* As we learn to trust the Lord, He teaches us that “patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). We learn to stop acting like we know it all. He teaches us to say, “God loves me. He knows what’s best for me. He will not fail me - even when I fail Him. He gives me His peace and His joy - even when I don’t really understand much of what’s going on in my life.”
* When we are learning to walk with God, He teaches us that it’s better to seek God-centred holiness - “God made mankind upright” - rather than self-centred happiness - “men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:19).
* As we seek to put the Lord first in our lives, He teaches us that His way, for us, is not the way of seeking “power” for ourselves (Ecclesiastes 8:4,8). We’re not to assert ourselves - ‘I did it my way.’ We’re to submit to Him - “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
The Lord is leading us beyond our own human “power” to achieve our human ambitions. He’s showing us His way. As we walk in His way, we learn that there’s a greater power  - the power of the Holy Spirit. His power is at work in us - to give us a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction: less of ourselves and more of the Lord.
We are to “pay more attention to calm words from wise people” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). This combination of calmness and wisdom is highlighted also in James - “the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial and sincere.” This description of wisdom is followed by these words of comment: “A harvest that has God’s approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers” (James 3:17-18). In Ecclesiastes 10:2, the wise person and the fool are contrasted - “A wise person’s heart leads the right way. The heart of a fool leads the wrong way.” At the heart of the call to wisdom, there is the call to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). How are we to remember our Creator? - “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Is There Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

In Job 3, we see Job in a state of deep depression. At this stage, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. He is in desperate need of the Lord’s sustaining strength. Where will the Lord’s help come from? When will his time of suffering come to an end? Job has many questions. He doesn’t have any answers. This “the dark night of the soul.”
In Job 4 - 5, we have the first speech of Eliphaz. On the pretext of bringing comfort to Job, Eliphaz brings a message of accusation. However much Eliphaz claims to be bringing God’s Word to Job, we can be sure that he is not God’s messenger. Why? - It’s because his message conflicts with God’s understanding of Job’s situation (Job 1:8).
In Job 6 - 7, Job replies. There is real pain in Job’s words. He speaks of his “grief” and “misery” (Job 6:2). There is a real longing for God to answer his prayer. Sadly, his prayer has become a cry of despair: “that God would finally be willing to crush me, that He would reach out to cut me off” (Job 6:9). Even though he is in great distress, Job retains sufficient clarity of thought to know that his so-called ‘friends’ have got it wrong - “Please change your mind ... Change your mind because I am still right about this! ...or is my mouth unable to tell the difference between right and wrong?” (Job 6:29-30). There is sadness here - “As a cloud fades away and disappears, so a person goes into the grave and doesn’t come back again” (Job 7:9). Job hasn’t broken through this sense of hopelessness to the triumphant faith, expressed in his confession of confidence in God: “I know that my Redeemer lives ...” (Job 19:25-26), a tremendous declaration of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection in Him. It’s so wonderful that in a book, filled with so much suffering, there is this marvellous glimpse of an eternal glory, in which all suffering will be banished forever.

Attacked And Accused

With God’s permission, “Satan, the accuser” attacks Job (Job 1:8). The attack is ferocious, May the Name of the Lord be praised! Through all this, Job did not sin or blame God for doing anything wrong” (Job 1:21-22). Satan’s attack on Job is really a challenge to God. The Lord is in control of the situation. Satan can only do what God permits him to do (Job 2:6).
Job’s so-called ‘friends’ were watching the situation. They intended to sympathize with him and comfort him (Job 2:11). When they saw the “great pain” he was in, they did not say anything to him (Job 2:13). They were thinking about what was happening to him, and their thoughts moved from comfort to blame. They started off with the intention of being comforters. They ended up doing the work of accusers.

More Than A Human Story!

Queen Vashti is removed from her position. She is replaced by Esther. There is no direct mention of God in connection with these events. That fact that the book of Esther has been included in the Word of God indicates that these events were interpreted as evidence of God’s activity among His people. It is important that we read the book of Esther as part of Scripture, and not only in terms of what is written in the book itself. Reading Esther in this way, we see it as part of God’s Story, and not only as a human story.
Although the Name of God does not appear in this book, we have here an inspiring story of the triumph of good over evil. This is a book about God and Satan. They are opposites. The victory belongs to God. He is Lord. Before the victory, there is the conflict. The people of God are in great jeopardy. Their life is in danger. The evil man, Haman, “planned to wipe out ... All the Jews in the entire kingdom of Xerxes” (Esther 3:6). Esther played a vital part in the defeat of Haman. She was willing to die for the sake of her people. She was protecting her people, even at the risk of losing her own life: “I will go to the king, even if it is against a royal decree. If I die, I die” (Esther 4:16).
Esther’s bold request - “Spare my life ... Spare the life of my people” (Esther 7:3) - was followed by an even bolder accusation of Haman - “Our vicious enemy is this wicked man, Haman!” (Esther 7:6). God honoured His servant, Esther. God’s people were spared. God’s enemy, Haman, was killed. Here, we see salvation and judgment. The Lord is the Saviour of all who put their trust in Him. He is also the Judge of those who oppose Him.
Esther showed great courage in standing up for her people - “I cannot bear to see my people suffer such evil” (Esther 8:6). The outcome of her stand for her people was wonderful - “So the Jews were cheerful, happy, joyful, and successful” (Esther 8:16). What celebration there was among God’s people - “Their grief turned to joy.” In their joy, they did not forget “the poor” (Esther 9:22).

The Rebuilding Of The Walls

The book of Nehemiah begins with distressing news - “The wall of Jerusalem has been broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). Nehemiah takes this situation to the Lord in prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11). With the help of God, the work of rebuilding begins. This work was pleasing to the Lord (Nehemiah 2:18). This work would not be easy. There was opposition: They “mocked and ridiculed us, ‘What is this you are doing?’” (Nehemiah 2;19). The opponents would not succeed. Why? - “The God of heaven” would give “success” to His people (Nehemiah 2:20). God’s work is done by many people, working together. Nehemiah 3 gives us a list of all the people who played their part in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.
Nehemiah and his fellow-builders face determined opposition from their enemies: “What they are building - if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:3). When the enemies “heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it” (Nehemiah 4:7-8). What did God’s people do when they were faced with this opposition? - “We prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Nehemiah 4:10). They were watching out for their enemies - and they were looking to the Lord. Nehemiah urged the workers to keep looking to the Lord: “Remember how great and awe-inspiring the Lord is ... Our God will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:14,20). This is what we must do. We must keep our eyes on the Lord. He is the great God. He is a great help to His people in their many times of testing.
Nehemiah works, with the help of God, for the poor of the people (Nehemiah 5:19). The enemies of Nehemiah continued to oppose the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. When they came with their criticisms, Nehemiah refused to be distracted. He kept on working (Nehemiah 6:3). Work on the city walls was completed. The critics were silenced - “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence.” God was glorified - “They realized we had done this work with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:19). The situation of God’s people today is still the same as it was in Nehemiah’s day. To rebuild the “walls” of God’s work, we must overcome determined opposition.
Following the list of those who returned to the city of Jerusalem from exile (Nehemiah 7), we see the people of God, hearing the Word of God, read and explained to them (Nehemiah 8:7-8). The preaching of God’s Word took the place within the context of thanksgiving and worship (Nehemiah 8:6). The ministry of the Word of God was grounded in the study of the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:13).
“Stand up and thank the Lord your God” (Nehemiah 9:5). This is a call to worship. We worship God, our Creator: “You alone are the Lord. You made heaven ... You made the earth” (Nehemiah 9:6). The God of Abraham is our God - the faithful God: “You made a promise ... You kept Your promise” (Nehemiah 9:8). Our God is the God of redemption. He’s the God who redeemed His people, Israel, from their bondage in Egypt (Nehemiah 9:9-11). He is the God who has given us “commandments, laws and teachings” (Nehemiah 9:14). He gives us “bread” and “water”, as we stumble through life’s wilderness, on our way to His promised land (Nehemiah 9:15). Our God is great: “You are a forgiving God, One who is compassionate, merciful,patient, and always ready to forgive” (Nehemiah 9:17). He is the God of “endless compassion” (Nehemiah 9:19). He has given us “His good Spirit” to teach us (Nehemiah 9:20). He blesses us, with His “vast supply of good things” (Nehemiah 9:25). “Our God” is “the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God.” He is the “merciful and compassionate God” (Nehemiah 9:31-32).
The “separation of God’s people from the inhabitants of the land” was “for the sake of God’s teachings” (Nehemiah 10:28). There is an important principle here. We are separated from the world so that we might be separate to God. Everything revolves around this - giving glory to God by giving Him His rightful place in our hearts and lives: “We won’t neglect God’s Temple” (Nehemiah 10:39).
The walls had been rebuilt. Now, they were “dedicated” to God (Nehemiah 12:27). Was a time of great joy (Nehemiah 12:27,43). The people of God sand “songs of praise and thanksgiving to God” (Nehemiah 12:46). As well as singing praise to God, the Lord’s people listened to His Word (Nehemiah 13:1). Sometimes, after happy times among God’s people, there can be a time of decline - “Why is God’s Temple being neglected?” (Nehemiah 13:11). We must not live in the past. Our walk with God must continue. There must be an ongoing fellowship with the Lord. If there is to be a closer walk with God, we must always remember that this is not our own doing. It is the loving kindness of God, reaching out to us: “Remember Me ... My God ... Since You are very kind” (Nehemiah 13:22). His kindness brings blessing into our lives: “Remember me, my God, for my benefit” (Nehemiah 13:31).

The Lord's Mercy Endures Forever ...

Following the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, after their captivity in Babylon and prior to the beginning of the rebuilding of the Temple, there was the resumption of worship at the Temple site (Ezra 3:1-6). Worship - This must always lie at the heart of the life of God’s people. Once the foundation had been laid at the Temple, there was joyful thanksgiving - “They prayed and gave thanks to the Lord ... He is good; His mercy toward Israel endures forever ... Praise the Lord” (Ezra 3:11).
In Ezra 4, we read of opposition to God’s work. This opposition led to a temporary hold in God’s work (Ezra 4:24). Inspired by the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, Zerubbabel resumed the rebuilding of God’s Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:1-2). The work was completed (Ezra 6:15) and dedicated to the Lord (Ezra 6:16). At the heart of the dedication of the Temple, there was worship - joyful worship (Ezra 6:19-22).
Ezra was a man of God. His life was grounded in the word of God. He brought the Word of God to others, teaching them to build their lives on the word of God. In Ezra 8:22, we have a Old Testament statement of the spiritual principle, taught by Paul in Romans 8:28 - “Our God works things out for the good of everyone who dedicates his life to serving him.”
In His Word, God calls us to make a total commitment of our lives to Him. Where we have failed him, we must make confession of our sin and pray that He will give us the strength to live a life that is pleasing to Him and brings glory to Him.

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