Monday, 5 December 2016

Revised Common Lectionary Year A: Third Sunday of Advent - Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10 (or St Luke 1:47-55); James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of holiness.
What blessings are given to those who draw near to God - ‘Your God... will come and save you’ (Isaiah 35:4).
The Good News of Christ comes to us as a call to faith - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31).
We have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot remain the same. We are called to live a new life. We must travel on the Lord’s ‘highway’- ‘the Way of Holiness’ (Isaiah 35:8). This is ‘the Way’ which leads to ‘everlasting joy’ (Isaiah 35:10).
This ‘Way’ is so different from the world’s way. The world has no time for those who seek to live a holy life. This is what Jesus says about the world’s way of life: ‘the gate is wide and the way is wide that leads to destruction’ (Matthew 7:13).
Whatever the world may say, we must never forget this: ‘Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).
Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of worship.
‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 146:2).
Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength.
We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength.
We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8).
‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).
Let us join with Mary in saying, ‘My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:46-47).
Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of listening to God’s Word.
Much is said about John the Baptist here, yet the whole purpose is to draw attention to Jesus the Saviour. Jesus is superior to John. He is the One to whom John pointed. There are two responses to Jesus.
- We can take offence at Him: ‘Blessed is he who takes no offence at Me’(Matthew 11:6).
- We can hear what He says, receiving Him with faith: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 11:15).
In His time, Jesus asked the question, ‘To whom shall I compare this generation?’, giving the answer, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’ (Matthew 11:16-17).
The promise of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not rejoice. The warning of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not repent. This is the story of our generation.
May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the ‘Friend of sinners’ (Matthew 11:19).
Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of obeying God’s Word.
Don’t worry about ‘what will happen tomorrow’. It’s in the Lord’s hands (James 4:14-15).
We must not lose sight of ‘the purpose of the Lord’. We must remember that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’(James 5:11).
We look forward to ‘the Lord’s Coming’ as the great Day of our salvation (James 5:7-8).
We must not, however, forget God’s words of warning: ‘The Judge is standing at the door’. God speaks to us concerning ‘the misery that is coming upon you’. What is He saying to us here? - He is warning us: Be careful how you live - Don’t trust in riches. ‘Don’t grumble against each other’(James 5:1-3, 9).
The warning and the promise belong together. Those who are facing judgment can be brought to the Saviour. May God help us to speak His Word - the warning as well as the promise - , always praying that sinners will be saved (James 5:16, 19-20).

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Revised Common Lectionary: Year A - Second Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

Christ calls all nations to come to Him.
The family tree of ‘Jesse, the father of King David’ has a very special ‘Branch’- Jesus Christ (Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 1:1, 6, 16).
Jesus Christ has raised ‘a banner for the nations’. He is ‘the Saviour of the world’. He has died ‘for the sins of the whole world’. The ‘Good News’ is to be preached to ‘all the world’.
Christ calls ‘all nations’ to ‘turn to Him’. He calls ‘all nations’ to receive the ‘forgiveness of sins’. He calls ‘all nations’ to become His ‘disciples’ (Isaiah 11:12; John 4:42; 1 John 2:2; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Matthew 28:19).
May our personal faith - ‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’- become our public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12:1-2, 4-5).
From all over the world Christ gathers His people.
Read the words - ‘His Name’ shall ‘endure for ever’ (Psalm 72:17) - and think of Christ. His Name is ‘the Name above all other names’. He is ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16).
Read the words - ‘all nations call Him blessed’ (Psalm 72:17) - , and think of Christ. ‘From every tribe and language and people and nation’, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9).
Read the words -‘May His glory fill the whole earth!’(Psalm 72:19) - and think of Christ. In the ‘new heaven and new earth’, ‘the holy city’ will shine with ‘the glory of God’. ‘Its radiance’, ‘like a very precious jewel’, will be shining from this ‘lamp’: Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Revelation 21:1-2, 10-11, 23; John 1:29).
The Good News of Christ is for all the world.
With Christ’s example, ‘the encouragement of the Scriptures’ and the enabling power of God, let us love one another,‘with one heart and one voice’(Romans 15:1-6). This is the way of glorifying God.
Trusting in Christ, ‘the root of Jesse’, we are blessed by ‘the God of hope’, filled with ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’- so that we may ‘abound in hope’. This hope comes to us through ‘the Scriptures’(Romans 15:12-13, 4).
God’s saving purpose was not only for the ‘dyed in the wool’ Jew. He saved both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 15:9-12). Thank God that Paul was not as narrow-minded as many people are today! God’s blessing is not only for our type of people! Let us learn from Paul. ‘A minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles’, he was always reaching out to more and more people ‘in the fullness of the blessing of Christ’(Romans 15:16, 29).
Let us take the Good News of Christ to every nation.
Our Gospel passage begins with ‘John the Baptist’(Matthew 3:1). It ends with our Lord Jesus Christ concerning whom the Voice from heaven says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’(Matthew 3:17).
Once John had served his purpose, once he has pointed away from himself to the Lord Jesus Christ, he retreats into the background. This is how it must always be. We point to One who is ‘more powerful’ than ourselves (Matthew 3:11; Romans 1:16). With John, we must learn to say, ‘Christ must increase, I must decrease’(John 3:30).
The contrast between John and Jesus is highlighted in Matthew 3:11 - ‘I baptize with water... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’. This is still the contrast between the preacher and the Saviour - We preach the Word. He sends the power. Still He says, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses’(Acts 1:8).

Revised Common Lectionary: Year A - First Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

Awaiting Christ’s Return , let us worship God and walk in His ways.
God calls us to worship Him - ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord... ’ - and walk in His ways - ‘Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord’ (Isaiah 2:3, 5).
We are moving towards the Day when ‘the pride of men shall be humbled and brought low’, the Day when ‘the Lord alone will be exalted’ (Isaiah 2:11, 12, 17).
How are we to get ready for the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ? God calls us to keep on worshipping Him. We are to encourage one another to keep on walking with God. ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching’(Hebrews 10:25).
Let our pride be humbled and let the Lord be exalted as we await Christ’s Return in ‘faith’, looking to Him alone for our ‘salvation’(1 Peter 1:7-9).
Worshipping the Lord with joy
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2).
Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4).
We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’(Psalm 123:3).
We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8).
As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6).
In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalms 123:2; 124:1-5).
Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).
Walking with the Lord in love
Awaiting the Return of Christ – our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed - , let us clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:11, 14).
Clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ, let us ‘walk in love’- We must not fall out over matters in which difference of opinion is allowed (Romans 14:5, 15).
There can be a lot of bitterness over ‘the Sabbath’. There can be so much pride. For some, this is the ‘be-all and end-all’ of Christian faith. They say, ‘We are the Sabbath keepers. They are not!’. Others react, ‘We rejoice in our Christian liberty. They are legalists.’ ‘Pharisees’ are preoccupied with ‘the Sabbath’. We must remember that Jesus is ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’.
We must let His love flow (Matthew 12:2, 10, 8, 11-12).
Let faith be real- not just keeping on the right side of narrow-minded people (Romans 14:23; Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:15).
Let there be ‘peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’.
Don’t think too highly of yourself. ‘Count others better than yourself’(Romans 14:17; 12:3; Philippians 2:3).
Worshipping with joy and walking in love, we await Christ’s Return.
‘The times they are-a-changing’. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, ‘My words will not pass away’(Matthew 24:35).
In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: ‘The Word of the Lord stands forever’(1 Peter 1:25).
The scoffers will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’(2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that ‘He is near’(Matthew 24:33).
Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
When He returns need not concern us: ‘the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’(Matthew 24:44).
We are to be ready at all times (Matthew 25:13) - doing the Lord's will (Matthew 24:46).
We are to be ‘faithful and wise’(Matthew 24:45).
As ‘the bride of Christ’(Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him’(Matthew 25:6).

Cain, Abel and Christ

Genesis 4:1-16
We read about Cain and Abel. We look beyond them to Christ. He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin. He is "the Passover Lamb." He "has been sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
We read here about the parting of the ways. Cain went one way - away from God. Abel went the other way - towards God. When we come to the Cross of Jesus Christ, we must make our choice. Our  life can never be the same again.
Will we be like Cain? - "He went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of wandering" (Genesis 4:16). What does God say to those who are wandering away from Him? He says, "Awake, sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Ephesians 5:14).
We read about Abel, and we look beyond him to Christ. Let us walk with Christ on the way of faith and obedience, the way of His salvation, the way of holiness. When we read about Abel's offering being accepted by God, we must remember this - It's Christ who makes the difference. It's "His blood" which "cleanses us from our sins" (1 John 1:7).

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Will our life be self-centred? or Will it be God-centred?

Genesis 3:1-7
The tragedy of Adam and Eve: their fall into sin. We compare this with the triumph of Jesus - His victory over Satan.
What made the difference?- standing on the Word of God.
Adam and Eve believed the lie of the devil.
Jesus took His stand on the Word of God.
What about us? Do we stand? or Do we fall? Will we listen to Satan? or Will we listen to God?
We cannot be facing in two directions at the same time. We must make our choice.
Will our life be self-centred? or Will it be God-centred?
God is calling us out of the old life (the Adam life). He’s calling us into the new life (the Jesus life). When we choose to walk with Jesus, He walks with us.

Do what God tells us to do. This leads to blessing.

Genesis 2:4-25
Do what God tells us to do. This leads to blessing. Do what God tells us not to do. This leads to trouble. It’s been trouble ever since.
Here, on earth, things can be turned around. We can be set in the right direction. We are not yet at our final destination, but we’re travelling towards it.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they “died” spiritually. Immediately, we see conflict. The devil has won a battle. He has won many more battles. He will win many more battles. He will not win the war.
In Genesis 3:15, we catch a glimpse of God’s eternal Kingdom, in which “there will no longer be any curse” (Revelation 22:3).

Before the creation, there is the Creator.

Genesis 1:1-2:3
Before the creation, there is the Creator.
* He is the chief focus of attention in the Bible’s first chapter. Wherever we look in Genesis 1, we see the word, God. This is about Him. Genesis 1 speaks about us. It tells us where we have come from. We have come from God. He is our Creator. Take away God, and our life has no meaning, no purpose, no direction.
* Move on from the Bible’s first chapter. Read the rest of Genesis, the rest of the Old Testament,the rest of the Bible. What do you find? The Bible is a Book about God. It’s not only a Book about God. It’s a Book that has been given to us by God. It’s His Word.
* What about our faith and our life? Our faith comes to us from God. Our life has been given to us by God. We are to put our faith in God. We are to live our life for God.
* “God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). The light of God’s love and holiness. “He created us in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). Created by God - love. Created for God - called to holiness. The light of His love - a sure foundation for our faith. The light of His holiness - The Lord is calling us to walk with him in the light of His holy Word.
* “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This was before our sin spoiled the world. We must not blame God for our sin. We are the ones who have spoiled His good creation.
* “God completed His work” (Genesis 2:2). This was the end of the beginning. When we come to Genesis 3, it seems like we’re reading about the beginning of the end. It’s not. It’s the start of a new beginning - God’s rescue plan (Genesis 3:15).

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Preaching The Word Of The Lord: Old Testament


Genesis 1:1-2:3
Before the creation, there is the Creator.
* He is the chief focus of attention in the Bible’s first chapter. Wherever we look in Genesis 1, we see the word, God. This is about Him. Genesis 1 speaks about us. It tells us where we have come from. We have come from God. He is our Creator. Take away God, and our life has no meaning, no purpose, no direction.
* Move on from the Bible’s first chapter. Read the rest of Genesis, the rest of the Old Testament,the rest of the Bible. What do you find? The Bible is a Book about God. It’s not only a Book about God. It’s a Book that has been given to us by God. It’s His Word.
* What about our faith and our life? Our faith comes to us from God. Our life has been given to us by God. We are to put our faith in God. We are to live our life for God.
* “God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). The light of God’s love and holiness. “He created us in His own image” (Genesis 1:27). Created by God - love. Created for God - called to holiness. The light of His love - a sure foundation for our faith. The light of His holiness - The Lord is calling us to walk with him in the light of His holy Word.
* “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This was before our sin spoiled the world. We must not blame God for our sin. We are the ones who have spoiled His good creation.
* “God completed His work” (Genesis 2:2). This was the end of the beginning. When we come to Genesis 3, it seems like we’re reading about the beginning of the end. It’s not. It’s the start of a new beginning - God’s rescue plan (Genesis 3:15).
Genesis 2:4-25
Do what God tells us to do. This leads to blessing. Do what God tells us not to do. This leads to trouble. It’s been trouble ever since.
Here, on earth, things can be turned around. We can be set in the right direction. We are not yet at our final destination, but we’re travelling towards it.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they “died” spiritually. Immediately, we see conflict. The devil has won a battle. He has won many more battles. He will win many more battles. He will not win the war.
In Genesis 3:15, we catch a glimpse of God’s eternal Kingdom, in which “there will no longer be any curse” (Revelation 22:3).
Genesis 3:1-7
The tragedy of Adam and Eve: their fall into sin. We compare this with the triumph of Jesus - His victory over Satan.
What made the difference?- standing on the Word of God.
Adam and Eve believed the lie of the devil.
Jesus took His stand on the Word of God.
What about us? Do we stand? or Do we fall? Will we listen to Satan? or Will we listen to God?
We cannot be facing in two directions at the same time. We must make our choice.
Will our life be self-centred? or Will it be God-centred?
God is calling us out of the old life (the Adam life). He’s calling us into the new life (the Jesus life). When we choose to walk with Jesus, He walks with us.
Genesis 4:1-16
We read about Cain and Abel. We look beyond them to Christ. He offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin. He is "the Passover Lamb." He "has been sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
We read here about the parting of the ways. Cain went one way - away from God. Abel went the other way - towards God. When we come to the Cross of Jesus Christ, we must make our choice. Our  life can never be the same again.
Will we be like Cain? - "He went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of wandering" (Genesis 4:16). What does God say to those who are wandering away from Him? He says, "Awake, sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you" (Ephesians 5:14).
We read about Abel, and we look beyond him to Christ. Let us walk with Christ on the way of faith and obedience, the way of His salvation, the way of holiness. When we read about Abel's offering being accepted by God, we must remember this - It's Christ who makes the difference. It's "His blood" which "cleanses us from our sins" (1 John 1:7).
Genesis 9:8-17
We look at the rainbow. We see the love of God. We look beyond the rainbow. We look to the Cross. There, we see the supreme demonstration of the love of God. There, we see Jesus, suffering for us. His suffering is the suffering of love. It wasn't the nails that held Him to the Cross. It was His love for us that sent Him to the Cross. It was His love for us that kept Him on the Cross.
Genesis 12:1-9
This was a major step for Abraham - and for God. Abraham would never be the same again. For him, this was the beginning of a journey. It was more than a journey into a new land. It was a journey into God's blessing. Notice that Abraham was "75 years old" (Genesis 12:4) when he set out on this great journey of faith and blessing. 75 years old - we don't normally expect big changes at this age. Big change - this was what God expected of Abraham. Can we ever say, "It's too late to make a new beginning with God?" No! We must never say this. Whatever age we are, we must be ready to say "Yes" to God, to move forward with Him. Pray that God will give you a new hunger for Himself, for His Word, for prayer. As we get older, are we getting colder or bolder? Do we say, "My best days are behind me? or Do we rise to new challenges?
Exodus 3:1-22
Moses may have been content to remain in the background. God was calling him to step into the foreground - for God’s people.
This is more than the story of Moses. It’s the story of Israel. It points forward to God’s purpose for all nations. When we read the Old Testament story, we find that God is saying to us, ‘This is just the beginning. There is more than this.’ From Exodus to the Gospels, to Acts, to the book of Revelation: We’re not at the final triumph yet. Like those who have come before us - Moses, the Psalmist, the prophets, Jesus, Peter, Paul, we must face conflict. There will be glimpses of glory, but the full glory is still to come.
In Exodus, we see God’s people on a journey. It’s a journey with God. It’s a journey of faith. We see the same thing in Acts.In the work of God, there are people who are very significant - Moses and Peter. The work of God is always bigger than such individuals. Let us never forget the people who remain in the background. They’re not just making up the numbers. They’re important - loved by God and valued by God.
* What does God have to say to each and every one of us concerning His purpose for our lives?
Exodus 3 and Acts 2 - God’s holiness (burning bush, holy ground, Holy Spirit); God’s love (the redemption of Israel, the salvation of three thousand sinners.)
His holiness and His love: This is what God wants to reproduce in our lives. This is not only for big names, like Moses and Peter. From the Father, the Son and the Spirit - new life, abundant life, eternal life.
2 Chronicles 7:12-22
The gathering together of God’s people - “I ... have chosen this place for Myself” (2 Chronicles 7:12). Note also 2 Chronicles 7:15-16 - “... this place... this temple.”
The key verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14. Taking this verse together with Acts 1:12-14, we may say, ‘This is the kind of prayer that leads to Pentecost.’
What we have here is humility, prayer, longing for God and repentance.
When say, “Pray”, we must ask, ‘How are we to pray?’
* We are to pray with humility. Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14).
* We are to pray with longing for God. Prayer is more than just words. There is to be intensity and persistence. The parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8): She kept on praying until she received an answer. We are to “cry out to God day and night” (Luke 18:7).
* We are to pray with repentance. Our words are to be backed up by our life.
When God hears this kind of prayer, arising from our hearts and lives as well as our lips, He says, “I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
Can there be a new Pentecost? Will we commit ourselves to pray, like the first apostles prayed?
Psalm 23:1-6
“The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
He speaks to us. He calls us to Himself. He leads us on with Himself (John 10:3).
He is all that we need for walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
He works in us through the “oil” of the Holy Spirit and the “table” and “cup” of Christ (Psalm 23:5).
The completion of God’s work in us is beyond this life. It’s more than “as long as I live.” It’s “forever” (Psalm 23:6).
Psalm 24:1-10
“The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3) - That’s Jesus. “He will receive a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 24:5).
How do we receive this blessing? We must receive it through Jesus. We must open our hearts to “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7,9). He will lead us on to “the mountain of the Lord”, to “His holy place” (Psalm 24:3).
Psalm 27:1-14
The Lord brings light and salvation to us. He is our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1).
When the Lord saves us, He gives us a great desire to worship Him (Psalm 27:4).
We are on a journey - a lifelong journey, an eternal journey (Psalm 27:13-14) - “all the days of my life, “forever” (Psalm 23:6).
“Wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). We need to hear this for both our lifelong journey and our eternal journey.
Psalm 34:1-22
"I will praise the Lord at all times" (Psalm 34:1) - in the bad times as well as the good times. "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). "His praise will always be on my lips" (and in my heart) (Psalm 34:1). This Psalm begins with "I" (see also Psalm 34:2 - "I will boast in the Lord"), but it move on, from there, to "Proclaim with me the Lord, let us exalt His Name together" (Psalm 34:3). Note also "I" (Psalm 34:4) and "Taste and see" (Psalm 34:8).
The way to happiness - true and lasting joy (Psalm 34:5,8): True joy goes hand in hand with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 34:11-12).
The Lord sees us in our need, and He has compassion on us. He is near to us - "Emmanuel." He saves us - "Jesus" (Psalm 34:18; Matthew 1:23,21).
What the Lord does for us is summed up in Psalm 34:22 - He redeems us. This is more than changing our life here-and-now. This is eternal life. This comes to us through the death of Christ (Psalm 34:20; John 19:33,36). He died that we might live.    
Psalm 40:1-3
The sinner becomes the singer and the servant.
* “a desolate pit”, “the muddy clay” - This is our sin. We bring our sin to the Saviour.
* “a new song” - This is our song of salvation. This is the song that our Saviour has given to us.
* “Many will see...” We do not sing for ourselves. We do not live for ourselves. We live for the Lord. We are to win people for Him.
Before a song can be a song of praise, it must be a song of salvation. We praise God because He has saved us.
Psalm 46:1-11
"God is our refuge and our strength ..." (Psalm 46;1). "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). First, the truth about God; Then, our feelings are brought into line with the truth about God,
Facts; Faith; Feelings
 * Facts - Christ's death and resurrection for us 
 * Faith - I believe the facts. My faith is built on the sure foundation - Christ, the rock of my salvation.
 * Feelings - Never start with feelings. They will lead you astray.
Safety; Certainty; Enjoyment
 * Safety - We have been saved by the Lord. It's His doing - not ours.
 * Certainty - We believe His Word. We stand upon His promises.
 * Enjoyment - We enjoy His blessing.
Psalm 93:1-5
“The Lord reigns” - “majesty”, “strength” (Psalm 93:1). He is the eternal God (Psalm 93:2). He speaks to us. His Word is true, holy and eternal (Psalm 93:5).
Psalm 111:1-10
Hallelujah! Jesus Christ is risen today - a celebration for Easter, and every Lord’s Day.
* At the start of the Psalm - “I will praise the Lord” (Psalm 111:1).
* At the end of the Psalm - “His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10).
In our worship, there is to be both “the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 111:10) and trust in the Lord - “the Lord is gracious and compassionate... He has sent redemption to His people” (Psalm 111:4,9).
We give thanks to the Lord for His love, but we must never forget that “His Name is holy and awe-inspiring” (Psalm 111:9).
* The character of God: He is holy, He is love.
* The message of the Gospel: In love for us, the holy God has provided a way for our sins to be forgiven.
These are the truths of God’s Word which are to shape our lives, making us more holy and more loving.
Psalm 118:19-29
God is calling us to praise Him.
* “I will praise the Lord” (Psalm 118:20).
* “I will praise You” (Psalm 118:21).
* “You are my God, and I will praise You” (Psalm 118:28).
Praise is more than words that we sing in church. Our whole life is to be full of praise to God.
We come to the Lord’s Table to receive forgiveness from Him. We go from the Lord’s Table to share His forgiveness with others.
* “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12),
* “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
* How many times should I forgive my brother? - “As many as seven?” “Seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). If we’re still counting, we’ve missed the point!
* “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34).
Thank God that Jesus prayed this prayer for every one of us. Let it shape our attitudes and actions towards one another.
May God help us to be less like the Pharisee, and more like the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). This is true praise. It pleases God.
Isaiah 1:16-20
Each of us must make choices - not just, What suit, shirt and tie will I put on?
Will I worship the Lord? Or Will I stay at home?
What attitude will I bring with me to church? - ‘This is just a religious habit” or “This a meeting with God. It will change my way of thinking and living.”
In Isaiah 1:18-20, we read about two very different responses to God - returning to Him or rebelling against Him. When we return to the Lord, this will change the way we relate to other people (Isaiah 1:16-17).
We’re not to be like Judas Iscariot - making money for himself, but paying the ultimate price: “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
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. We must keep on working for the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Isaiah 11:1-9
When we read God’s word, we ask, What can I learn about Jesus, about believing in him and living for Him?
“The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him... ” (Isaiah 11:2) - This is about Jesus.It’s about Peter on the Day of Pentecost. It’s about us.
“Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge” - All of these suggest something we know with our minds. Strength speaks to us about acting on what we know.
Where do all these blessings come from? - They come from “the Spirit of the Lord.” Everything that God gives to us is summed up in this: “the Spirit of the Lord.”
Life in the spirit includes both “the fear of the Lord” and trust in the Lord. Life in the Spirit includes both divine revelation and human response.There’s a vital connection between what we say and what we do and what we are. There will be powerful and effective preaching when what we say is backed up by what we do and what we are.









Isaiah 40:1-11
Comfort (Isaiah 40:1) – This comes from God’s great faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).
In our past, present and future, we see the faithfulness of God - “His mercies never end. They are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Think of God’s faithfulness, and “count your blessings.” Think of this, that and the other blessing (good things in your life) – and don’t forget to thank Him for the greatest blessing of all: Jesus.
– The faithfulness if God is summed up in this: “The Word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
– There’s a New Testament way of saying this: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
As we move from one year to another year, let’s think about the old and the new.
On His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus speaks about the old and the new.
– He tells us that He didn’t come to destroy the Law and Prophets. He came to fulfil them (Matthew 5:17-20). He wasn’t setting aside the Old Testament. He was building on it.
– He doesn’t just repeat what others have said. He brings something new, something fresh. He said, “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you” (Matthew 5:21,27,31,33,38,43).
Build on the past. Move on into the future.
Isaiah 40:12-31
The greatness of God
* He is great in Himself. Before the world was created, God is great: “In the beginning, God....” (Genesis 1:1).
* He is great for us. This is the great message that comes to us from Isaiah 40:28-31.
God is great in love. God is great in power. God is great in holiness. God is great in faithfulness.
* Love - “God is love” (1 John 4:16); “God so loved the world...” (John 3:16); “God showed His love for us...” (Romans 5:8).
* Power - the power of God’s love - “kept by the power of God” (1 Peter 1:5); “He is able to keep us from falling” (Jude 24).
* Holiness - God is holy. Through his love and His power, He is working to make us holy. As well as the command - “Be holy”, there is the promise - “You shall be holy.”
* Faithfulness - “Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22). God is faithful. He will accomplish His purpose in us (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
* Glory - Jude 24-25 and Revelation 1:5-6. God shares His glory with us.
Isaiah 42:1-9
Through Jesus Christ, God’s Servant, God’s Son, our Saviour, God calls us to be saved by Him and to become His servants. We’re to be “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:60.
All the glory belongs to Him (Isaiah 42:8).
He will lead us forward into great blessing: “new events” (Isaiah 42:9). This directs our attention to Jesus.
We now look back to Jesus - but we also look forward from Him to the glorious future He is preparing for us. Here, on earth, we have “a foretaste of glory divine.” In heaven, it will be the real thing.
Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Jesus spoke about His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:210. This is prophecy. What we have here is even more remarkable. We read this, and we think that this must have been written after Jesus’ death. This is the work of the Spirit of God. He sees what lies ahead. He describes these events, as if they had already happened. This is more than a description of what was going to happen. It’s an explanation of the meaning of the death of Christ.
Is there a look beyond His death to His resurrection? Yes! “He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will succeed by His hand” (Isaiah 53:10).
When these words were first spoken, people must have wondered, “What does all this mean?” They must have wondered about Jesus, when He started talking about His resurrection - “What is He talking about?”
When Jesus died for us, and then rose from the dead, everything fell into place. This was what Isaiah and Jesus had been speaking about.
Isaiah 54:1-17
Singing with joy (Isaiah 54:1) - Our song comes from the Lord. Our joy comes from the Lord. From ourselves, there is sin. From the Lord, there is salvation. “Through the love of God our Saviour, all will be well ... All is well ... All must be well.” So much blessing is ours, because Jesus is crucified, risen and exalted.
On the Cross, Jesus was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven by God. At the Cross, He was brought low so that we might be lifted up. From the Cross, Jesus calls out to us.
In love, He speaks to us. His love is the greatest love of all. His love is “everlasting love” (Isaiah 54:8).
This is where our song of joy comes from. It comes from His everlasting love.
In the Old Testament, we see the rainbow (Isaiah 54:9). It’s a reminder of God’s great love for us.
In the New Testament, we have bread and wine - God’s way of reminding us that He loves us so much that He gave his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us.
Through Jesus, we have “peace with God” (Isaiah 54:10), we are “taught by the Lord” (Isaiah 54:13), we will be given His victory over Satan - “No weapon formed against you will succeed” (Isaiah 54:17), we will be led on to His everlasting Kingdom - “poor Jerusalem” (Isaiah 54:11) will become “new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:2).
Isaiah 55:1-13
“Without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1) - “The best things in life are free. Money can’t buy me love” (The Beatles).
We read, in Matthew 26:7, about a woman who anointed Jesus with “very expensive fragrant oil.”
What are we to say about all of this? - It’s not about repaying the Lord for His love for us. It’s about expressing our love for Him. It’s about worship.
Where does worship begin? - “Seek the Lord... He will freely forgive” (Isaiah 55:7).
How does the love of Christ reach us and change us? You feel like you’re lost. The love of Christ says, “You can be found,” This is the message of Jesus’ parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son (Luke 15) - three parables, one message.
It’s not so much about us - our seeking the Lord and finding Him. It’s about the Lord. He seeks us and finds us.
In Matthew 26, we read about a woman who worshipped the Lord, and a man who betrayed Him.
Worship or betrayal? Which will it be?
* How do we worship the Lord? - We worship Him, when we make Him the top priority in our lives.
* How do we betray the Lord? - We betray him when we fill our lives with other things, and leave no place for Him.
The woman is to be remembered for the right reason. She worshipped the Lord. Judas Iscariot is remembered for the wrong reason. He betrayed the Lord.
We remember them. We remember Jesus, the Passover Lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jeremiah 1:4-10
How old was Jeremiah when he was called to be a prophet of God? We don't know. We do know that this was the great turning-point of his life. This was the day that he discovered the meaning, purpose and direction of his life. This was revealed to him by God. This call gave him strength to face many difficult times.
Jeremiah 31:1-6
God’s everlasting love: His love for us comes before our love for Him.
We’re living in a wilderness - spiritual and moral. We’re always searching, but never finding. We’re never sure which way to turn.
Into this situation, comes God - from “far away” (heaven). He speaks of His love, and putting our life together again (Jeremiah 31:3-4).
We can’t do this for ourselves. He must do this for us. It’s not a self-improvement programme. It’s a new birth into a life of praise (Jeremiah 31:40, service (Jeremiah 31:5) and calling others to come and worship the Lord (Jeremiah 31:6).
Jeremiah 31:7-14
“Sing with joy” (Jeremiah 31:7,12-13).
This is to be our response to the Gospel. It’s more than a singalong. It’s “praise.” This praise continues after we leave the place of worship.
“Shout” - “I am not ashamed” (Romans 1:16).
“Proclaim” - Make the message known: “for the Good News” (Romans 1:1,5-6).
This for everyone (Jeremiah 31:8,10).
We come as we are - “blind” and “lame” (Jeremiah 31:8). We come to our “Shepherd” (Jeremiah 31:10). He has “ransomed” us. He has “redeemed” us from the “power” of Satan, Our enemy is stronger than we are, but he is not stronger than Jesus - “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:40.
With Christ in our life, everything changes - “new wine, fresh oil... Their life will be... They will be no longer...” (Jeremiah 31:12). It is “abundant” life, a “satisfied” life (Jeremiah 31:14). We have received new life in Christ - “This is the Lord’s declaration concerning us (Jeremiah 31:14).
Jeremiah 31:15-20
The human situation, the divine solution
* “She refuses to be comforted” (Jeremiah 31:15). Often, we dig a hole for ourselves.
* “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears” - This is what “the Lord” says to us (Jeremiah 31:16).
If anyone else says this to us, we might well say, “It’s all right for you to say that. You’re not suffering like I am.”
God gave His only Son - to die for us. He knows what we’re going through. He’s been there, and He hasn’t forgotten it,
He came out the other side for us - the resurrection.
* “They shall come back from the land of the enemy; there is hope for your future” (Jeremiah 31:16-17) - “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
How are we to understand our times of suffering?
* “You disciplined me” (Jeremiah 31:18) - There is a purpose of God in our suffering. “Bring me back, let me come back, for You are the Lord my God” (Jeremiah 31:18) - the story of the prodigal son, your story, my story.
* “After I had turned away, I repented” - two stages of life.
* Jeremiah 31:20 - God puts a question to us, and He answers it for us. It is the answer of His love. Don’t stop believing in His love. He’ll never stop loving you. Believe in His Son. Believe in His promises.
Jeremiah 31:21-30
“Set your hearts toward the highway; keep the highway in mind” (Jeremiah 31:210 - “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).
Jeremiah 31:31-34
God forgives and forgets (Jeremiah 31:34). It’s not “God cannot remember.” It’s “God chooses not to remember.” The rebuilding of our life - we are to be “holy to the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:38-40).
Ezekiel 37:1-14
God calls us to speak His Word. First, we must receive His Gospel. We must see ourselves as sinners. We must see Jesus as our Saviour. The Word of the Lord is to be encouraging, challenging and life-changing. We will not always be on the mountain-top. Often, we will be down in the valley. We will need to be lifted up by the Lord. As we move from the world of the Bible to the world of today, we must ask the question, “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3), and we must listen to God’s answer to this question.
Humanly speaking, the answer is “No.” God gives us a different answer. He says, “Yes.” God’s answer is given by grace. It is to be spoken in faith. It is the answer that comes to us when the Spirit of the Lord is at work in us (Ezekiel 37:1). It is the answer that comes from revelation. It is the answer that leads to revival.
Ezekiel 47:1-12
“ankle-deep, knee-deep, up to the waist, deep enough to swim in, a river than could not be crossed on foot” (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
Jerusalem - ankle-deep, all Judaea - knee deep, Samaria - up to the waist, the ends of the earth - deep enough to swim in (Acts 1:8)
Before there can be witness, there needs to be worship: from a trickle to a river - John 7:37-39.
The rivers of living water must flow into us before they can flow out from us. “There will be life everywhere the river goes” (Ezekiel 47:9).
Daniel 2:44-47
God’s Kingdom “will never be destroyed.” It “endures forever.”
“The dream is true, and the interpretation is certain.”
Through the resurrection of Jesus, this is more than a dream. He has triumphed over death.
How are we to respond to Jesus? - “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28); “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16); “revealer of mysteries” (Daniel 2:47).
Worship the Lord. Submit to Him. Learn from Him. Live for Him.
Daniel 3:1-30
Fire - danger, heat
There is, in God’s Word, a word of warning and a word of promise.
This is the way we are not to go. This is the way we are to go.
* “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).
* “The bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2).
* “Our God is an awesome God” (Rich Mullins) - we must never forget this.
Fire is to be respected. Our God is a holy fire. He burns away our dross.
* “Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy, set apart for You, Lord; I choose to be holy, set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will” (Brian Doerksen).
* “O God of burning, cleansing flame, send the fire! Your blood-bought gift today we claim: send the fire today!... We need another Pentecost! Send the fire today!” (William Booth).
This is the inspiring and empowering fire: the Holy Spirit. “Give me oil in my lamp. Keep me burning” - burning for God.
* Isaiah 43:2 - “You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”
There were four men in the furnace of blazing fire - Jesus was there: “the fourth was like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25),
We go through many testing times, but we are not alone. Jesus is with us. He’s there with His grace: “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He calls us to put our faith in Him.
* In the fiery furnace, the men were burning for God. They weren’t being consumed by the fire. They were shining for God. Their light was calling out to others.
Come to the light. Come to the Lord.
When we look at these men, we must look beyond them to the Son of God. Jesus passed through the “fire” for us. He was forsaken by God so that we might be welcomed by God.
Daniel 6:1-28
The deliverance of Daniel from the mouths of the lions - What a great miracle this is! It points forward to an even greater miracle - the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Why is the resurrection a greater miracle? - It seemed almost inevitable that Daniel would be killed, but he didn’t actually die. Jesus did die. The shadow of death hung over Daniel, but death did not take him. Jesus was raised from death. He was “crucified, dead and buried” - and, after all that, He was raised to life.
The message of Daniel’s deliverance from the mouths of the lions - “For He is the living God, and He endures forever; His Kingdom will never be destroyed, and His dominion has no end” (Daniel 6:26). This is the message of Jesus’ resurrection.
Daniel’s deliverance gives us a glimpse of God’s glory. Jesus’ resurrection is a marvellous and mighty revelation of the eternal God and eternal life (see 1 John 5:20 - “Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”) Daniel was a great man. Jesus is our great Saviour.
Like Daniel, we will face “lions” - Satan goes about “like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). Like Daniel, we must “resist” the devil, firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9). Christ delivers us - and He will raise us.
Daniel 7:13-14
What a future God has planned for His people. What a great future He is planning for His people. Coronation - What a day of celebration.This is better than any human coronation. It’s better than any human celebration.
When Christ comes, this will go beyond our ability to describe or even imagine: the great Kingdom - full of the glory of God; the great Saviour - full of the grace of God. Christ takes us from grace to glory.
In Matthew 26:75, we see what Peter was. In Acts 2, we see what He became. This is grace, calling us on to glory.
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).
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.
Joel 2:21-32
Give thanks to the Lord (Joel 2:21).
Joel 2:22-24 - Harvest is a special time for giving thanks to the Lord.
* We look back from the harvest, and we see the character of God (Joel 2:13).
* We look forward from the harvest - to greater blessing: spiritual as well as material (Joel 2:28-29).
Note the way of salvation - “Call on the Name of the Lord, and be saved” (Joel 2:32).
Micah 6:8
In Micah 6:8, the question is asked, “What does the Lord require of us?”
Micah 6:8 gives us an Old Testament answer to the question, “What is holiness?”
As well as Micah’s answer, there is a New Testament answer to this question.
* “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22).
God calls us to come to the Cross. That’s where the life of faith and obedience begins.
* “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).
God calls us to put our faith in Christ. It’s personal faith. Each one of us must come to Jesus - “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” Faith is God’s gift. Each one of us must receive His gift.
* “Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
God is calling us to become more like Jesus. Our life is to be less of self and more of Christ - and we’re to give all the glory to God.
Zechariah 9:9-10
This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
Jesus is the King - not just a king.
* What kind of King is He? - “righteous and victorious”, “humble” (Zechariah 9:9)., “to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10).
* How are we to respond to Him? - “Rejoice greatly... Shout in triumph” (Zechariah 9:9).

Revised Common Lectionary: Year A

Revised Common Lectionary – Year A

First Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

Awaiting Christ’s Return , let us worship God and walk in His ways.

God calls us to worship Him - ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord... ’ - and walk in His ways - ‘Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord’ (Isaiah 2:3, 5).
We are moving towards the Day when ‘the pride of men shall be humbled and brought low’, the Day when ‘the Lord alone will be exalted’ (Isaiah 2:11, 12, 17).
How are we to get ready for the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ? God calls us to keep on worshipping Him. We are to encourage one another to keep on walking with God. ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching’(Hebrews 10:25).
Let our pride be humbled and let the Lord be exalted as we await Christ’s Return in ‘faith’, looking to Him alone for our ‘salvation’(1 Peter 1:7-9).

Worshipping the Lord with joy

‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2).
Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4).
We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’(Psalm 123:3).
We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8).
As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6).
In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalms 123:2; 124:1-5).
Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

Walking with the Lord in love

Awaiting the Return of Christ – our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed - , let us clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:11, 14).
Clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ, let us ‘walk in love’- We must not fall out over matters in which difference of opinion is allowed (Romans 14:5, 15).
There can be a lot of bitterness over ‘the Sabbath’. There can be so much pride. For some, this is the ‘be-all and end-all’ of Christian faith. They say, ‘We are the Sabbath keepers. They are not!’. Others react, ‘We rejoice in our Christian liberty. They are legalists’. ‘Pharisees’ are preoccupied with ‘the Sabbath’. We must remember that Jesus is ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’.
We must let His love flow (Matthew 12:2, 10, 8, 11-12).
Let faith be real- not just keeping on the right side of narrow-minded people (Romans 14:23; Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:15).
Let there be ‘peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’.
Don’t think too highly of yourself. ‘Count others better than yourself’(Romans 14:17; 12:3; Philippians 2:3).

Worshipping with joy and walking in love, we await Christ’s Return.

‘The times they are-a-changing’. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, ‘My words will not pass away’(Matthew 24:35).
In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: ‘The Word of the Lord stands forever’(1 Peter 1:25).
The scoffers will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’(2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that ‘He is near’(Matthew 24:33).
Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).
When He returns need not concern us: ‘the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’(Matthew 24:44).
We are to be ready at all times (Matthew 25:13) - doing the Lord's will (Matthew 24:46).
We are to be ‘faithful and wise’(Matthew 24:45).
As ‘the bride of Christ’(Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him’(Matthew 25:6).
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Second Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

Christ calls all nations to come to Him.

The family tree of ‘Jesse, the father of King David’ has a very special ‘Branch’- Jesus Christ (Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 1:1, 6, 16).
Jesus Christ has raised ‘a banner for the nations’. He is ‘the Saviour of the world’. He has died ‘for the sins of the whole world’. The ‘Good News’ is to be preached to ‘all the world’.
Christ calls ‘all nations’ to ‘turn to Him’. He calls ‘all nations’ to receive the ‘forgiveness of sins’. He calls ‘all nations’ to become His ‘disciples’ (Isaiah 11:12; John 4:42; 1 John 2:2; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Matthew 28:19).
May our personal faith - ‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’- become our public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12:1-2, 4-5).

From all over the world Christ gathers His people.

Read the words - ‘His Name’ shall ‘endure for ever’ (Psalm 72:17) - and think of Christ. His Name is ‘the Name above all other names’. He is ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16).
Read the words - ‘all nations call Him blessed’ (Psalm 72:17) - , and think of Christ. ‘From every tribe and language and people and nation’, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9).
Read the words -‘May His glory fill the whole earth!’(Psalm 72:19) - and think of Christ. In the ‘new heaven and new earth’, ‘the holy city’ will shine with ‘the glory of God’. ‘Its radiance’, ‘like a very precious jewel’, will be shining from this ‘lamp’: Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Revelation 21:1-2, 10-11, 23; John 1:29).

The Good News of Christ is for all the world.

With Christ’s example, ‘the encouragement of the Scriptures’and the enabling power of God, let us love one another,‘with one heart and one voice’(Romans 15:1-6). This is the way of glorifying God.
Trusting in Christ, ‘the root of Jesse’, we are blessed by ‘the God of hope’, filled with ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’- so that we may ‘abound in hope’. This hope comes to us through ‘the Scriptures’(Romans 15:12-13, 4).
God’s saving purpose was not only for the ‘dyed in the wool’Jew. He saved both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 15:9-12). Thank God that Paul was not as narrow-minded as many people are today! God’s blessing is not only for our type of people! Let us learn from Paul. ‘A minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles’, he was always reaching out to more and more people ‘in the fulness of the blessing of Christ’(Romans 15:16, 29).

Let us take the Good News of Christ to every nation.

Our Gospel passage begins with ‘John the Baptist’(Matthew 3:1). It ends with our Lord Jesus Christ concerning whom the Voice from heaven says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’(Matthew 3:17).
Once John had served his purpose, once he has pointed away from himself to the Lord Jesus Christ, he retreats into the background. This is how it must always be. We point to One who is ‘more powerful’than ourselves (Matthew 3:11; Romans 1:16). With John, we must learn to say, ‘Christ must increase, I must decrease’(John 3:30).
The contrast between John and Jesus is highlighted in Matthew 3:11 - ‘I baptize with water... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’. This is still the contrast between the preacher and the Saviour - We preach the Word. He sends the power. Still He says, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses’(Acts 1:8).
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Third Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10 (or St Luke 1:47-55); James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of holiness.

What blessings are given to those who draw near to God - ‘Your God... will come and save you’ (Isaiah 35:4).
The Good News of Christ comes to us as a call to faith - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31).
We have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot remain the same. We are called to live a new life. We must travel on the Lord’s ‘highway’- ‘the Way of Holiness’ (Isaiah 35:8). This is ‘the Way’ which leads to ‘everlasting joy’ (Isaiah 35:10).
This ‘Way’ is so different from the world’s way. The world has no time for those who seek to live a holy life. This is what Jesus says about the world’s way of life: ‘the gate is wide and the way is wide that leads to destruction’ (Matthew 7:13).
Whatever the world may say, we must never forget this: ‘Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of worship.

‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 146:2).
Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength.
We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength.
We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8).
‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).
Let us join with Mary in saying, ‘My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:46-47).

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of listening to God’s Word.

Much is said about John the Baptist here, yet the whole purpose is to draw attention to Jesus the Saviour. Jesus is superior to John. He is the One to whom John pointed. There are two responses to Jesus.
- We can take offence at Him: ‘Blessed is he who takes no offence at Me’(Matthew 11:6).
- We can hear what He says, receiving Him with faith: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 11:15).
In His time, Jesus asked the question, ‘To whom shall I compare this generation?’, giving the answer, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’ (Matthew 11:16-17).
The promise of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not rejoice. The warning of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not repent. This is the story of our generation.
May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the ‘Friend of sinners’ (Matthew 11:19).

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of obeying God’s Word.

Don’t worry about ‘what will happen tomorrow’. It’s in the Lord’s hands (James 4:14-15).
We must not lose sight of ‘the purpose of the Lord’. We must remember that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’(James 5:11).
We look forward to ‘the Lord’s Coming’as the great Day of our salvation (James 5:7-8).
We must not, however, forget God’s words of warning: ‘The Judge is standing at the door’. God speaks to us concerning ‘the misery that is coming upon you’. What is He saying to us here? - He is warning us: Be careful how you live - Don’t trust in riches. ‘Don’t grumble against each other’(James 5:1-3, 9).
The warning and the promise belong together. Those who are facing judgment can be brought to the Saviour. May God help us to speak His Word - the warning as well as the promise - , always praying that sinners will be saved (James 5:16, 19-20).
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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

Christ has come. Christ is coming again.

Isaiah looked ahead to the coming of ‘Immanuel’- ‘God with us’ (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).
We look forward to the Second Coming of Immanuel: ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God’ (Revelation 21:3).
The Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ presents us with a challenge: ‘When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?’(Luke 18:8). He calls us to ‘stand firm in our faith’.
We must not ‘shrink back ‘from Him. We must ‘believe and be saved’ (Isaiah 7:9; Hebrews 10:37-39).
Jesus says, ‘I am coming soon’. Let us pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.
Let us pray that our ‘love’ for Him will not ‘grow cold’. Let us pray for strength to ‘stand firm to the end and be saved’ (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20; Matthew 24:12-13).

Christ has come as our Saviour. Let Him be your Saviour.
‘Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved’ (Psalm 80:3).
This prayer for salvation is repeated with a growing sense of God’s greatness - ‘O God Almighty’ (Psalm 80:7), ‘O Lord God Almighty’(Psalm 80:19).
To those who are asking the question of salvation - ‘What must I do to be saved?’- , God gives His answer - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:30-31).
What does the Lord say to those who look to Christ for salvation? - ‘The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace’ (Numbers 6:24-26).
Let us worship Him: ‘Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer’ (Ephesians 1:3).

Looking back and looking forward, let us live for Christ now.

‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith’(Romans 1:16).
Do you think it was easy for Paul to maintain such commitment to Christ, such confidence in Christ?
What kind of world did he live in? - A world of ‘ungodliness and wickedness’(Romans 1:18-31).
Many times, Paul could have given up in despair - ‘There is too much ungodliness and wickedness all around me.
How can I go on?’. When you feel like giving up, when everything seems to be so difficult, remember Paul.
Remember his longing to ‘impart some spiritual gift’, his desire to ‘reap some harvest’his eagerness to ‘preach the gospel’(Romans 1:12-15).
Let us say, with Paul, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’(Galatians 6:14).
Let us be ‘set apart for the gospel of God’(Romans 1:1).
 
As we remember Christ’s supernatural birth, let us live the power of the Spirit.

The birth of Christ is a fulfilment of prophecy: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel’(Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). Christ is ‘God with us’. He was born through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, 20). He is still ‘God with us’, when we are ‘born of the Spirit’(John 3:5).
Some people do not believe what the Bible says here. They do not like the idea of a ‘virgin birth’. The Bible gives no encouragement to such unbelief. Matthew simply says, ‘This is the way it happened’(Matthew 1:18).
In view of the amazing thing God was doing - sending His Son to be the Saviour of the World - why should we doubt that God took things out of man's hands and worked in His own miraculous way? We rejoice not only in the miracle but also in its saving purpose: ‘He will save His people from their sins’(Matthew 1:21).
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Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) I – Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)  - The same readings are suggested for Years B and C.

Glory to God in the highest – our Saviour has come.

The prophecy has been spoken - ‘To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given...’. The prophecy has been fulfilled - ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord’.
Jesus Christ is our great Saviour. He is our ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6: Luke 2:11).
Jesus Christ has brought to us a great salvation. Through faith in Him, we enter God’s heavenly and eternal ‘Kingdom’ (Isaiah 9:7: Luke 1:30-33).
This is ‘Good News of great joy’- for ‘all the people’, for ‘all generations’.
Let us rejoice in the Lord, as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did - ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for the Mighty One has done great things for me...’
Let us join with the angels in saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest...’ (Luke 2:10; 1:46-50; 2:14).

Christ: King of glory, King of love - may the glory of His love shine in us.

‘The Lord reigns’ (Psalms 96:10; 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’
He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’
He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’ (Church Hymnary, 35, 36, 388, 360, 86).
His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life.
He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life.
Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do.
We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’ and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).

Christ is coming in glory. Christ is preparing us for glory.

We read in Titus 2:11,13 of Christ’s coming in grace- ‘the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people’- and His coming in glory- ‘we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’. From grace to glory - This is the journey from Christ’s first coming to His Second Coming.
It is also the journey of our life of faith. We begin with the forgiveness of our sins. our final destination is glory, heavenly and eternal glory, the glory of God. We live by the grace of God. We look forward to the glory of God.
God wants us to live as ‘a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds’(Titus 2:14). If we are to be ‘zealous for good deeds’, we must first be zealous for Jesus Christ. Do good - but never forget, ‘He saved us - not because of deeds done by us...’(Titus 3:8, 4-6).
The full revelation of Christ’s glory is still to come. Let it begin in us now.
God is in control! Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Long before it happened, God had it planned (Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2-3).

As we approach Christ's Return, God still has His plan. He is still in control.

The birth of Christ is not merely an event from the past. It is also a message for the future.
We look back so that we can move forward.
We are fearful about many things. ‘What's the world coming to?’, we ask. God turns our question on its head: ‘Christ is coming to the world’.
From His first coming, we look on to His Second Coming - He ‘will come to all the people’(Luke 2:10): ‘every eye will see Him’(Revelation 1:7).
His Return invites us to ask another question: ‘when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?’(Luke 18:8).
For you, is it still ‘before Christ’? Let the ‘new age’ begin: Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11) - in your heart!
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Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) II – Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2: (1-7), 8-20  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

God has given us ‘a new Name’. It is ‘the Name which is above every name’, the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 62:2; Philippians 2:9-11).

Christ loves us. He has given Himself for us. He calls us His ‘Bride’ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9).
Through faith in Christ, we have become ‘the Holy People’. Through Him, we are ‘the Redeemed of the Lord’. We have been ‘Sought After’ by the Lord. In Him, we are ‘the City No Longer Deserted’ (Isaiah 62:12; 1 Peter 2:9-9-10; 1:18-19; Luke 19:10; John 14:18).
‘There is a Name I love to hear... It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free. It tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea... Jesus, the Name I love so well, the Name I love to hear! ... O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth!’(Mission Praise, 672).
‘The Lord reigns’(Psalm 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’ As we worship the Lord our King, let us focus our attention on Christ, the newborn King :
“Come and worship Christ, the new-born King” (Church Hymnary, 182).

At the place of Christ’s birth, we learn that the reign of God is the reign of His love.

When we look away from ourselves to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we rejoice in this:
‘He saved us - not because of deeds done by us...’ (Titus 3:4-6).
This is the Good News of great joy. We hear this Good News – the birth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ – and we give glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:10-11, 14).
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Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) III – Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12); John 1:1-14  -  The same Bible Readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Good News

‘Good News’- Let us ‘shout for joy’. ‘Good News’- Let us sing ‘songs of joy’.
There is the Good News of God’s reign - ‘Your God reigns’.
There is the Good News of our redemption - ‘The Lord has redeemed’ us.
We are not to keep the Good News to ourselves. This ‘news of happiness’ is to be shared with everyone. We must let ‘all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God’.
‘Christ died for our sins’- This is Good News.
Christ was ‘raised on the third day’- This is Good News.
‘Jesus is Lord’- This is Good News.
This is the Good News we must ‘pass on’ to others. In our world, there is so much bad news. We must not let the Good News be drowned out by the bad news. We must make sure that the people hear the Good News - loud and clear (Isaiah 52:7-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Mission Praise, 249).

God loves us.

‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5,9; 98:4,6; 100:1).
We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him.
In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! ... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9).
In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(Psalms 100:5; 98:1).
The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).

Let us worship Christ – our Lord and our God.

From the heights of heaven and the depths of suffering, ‘God... has spoken to us by His Son’ (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus Christ is God’s ‘Word’ to us. He is ‘the Word’who came from heaven: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. He is ‘the Word’who came to earth: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...’ (John 1:1-14).
In heaven, He is worshipped by angels: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him’(Hebrews 1:6).
On earth, ‘He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9).
We see the greatness of Christ in both His heavenly glory and His saving grace. None can compare with Him. He is our Lord. He is our Saviour. We consider all that He has done for us - ‘the nail marks in His hands...’- and we worship Him - ‘my Lord and my God’(John 20:19-20,24-28).

Keep your eyes on Christ: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (John 1:1-3; Revelation 21:6).
He is ‘the Word... made flesh’. ‘We have seen His glory’(14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’(1 John 3:2).
From Him, there is creation (John 1:1-3).
From Him, there is salvation (John 1:12-13).
In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 32-34).
He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:1, 29, 34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’(John 1:1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’(John 1:18).
Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (John 14:9).
What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’(John 1:29).
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First Sunday after Christmas Day: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Praise the Lord! – Through His power and His love, He has saved us.

The Lord our God is ‘mighty to save’. He has shown His ‘steadfast love’ to us. He has become our ‘Saviour’. ‘In His love’, He has ‘redeemed’ us (Isaiah 63:1, 7-9).
We read here about the power of God - He is ‘mighty to save’- and the love of God - ‘In His love’, He has ‘redeemed’ us.
What love the Lord has for us - ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son...’ (John 3:16)!
What power there is in the Gospel of love - ‘The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16)!
What a ‘Saviour’ we have - Our Lord Jesus Christ is ‘able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25)!

Think of Jesus Christ. Think of His love, His power, His salvation.

Thank Him for all He has done for you - ‘Alleluia! What a Saviour!’(Church Hymnary, 380)
We consider all that the Lord has done for us and we join with the Psalmist in saying, “Praise the Lord” (Psalm 148:1, 14).
God wants to bless you. Make sure that you don’t miss out on His blessing.
God invites each of us to receive a great blessing - the blessing of being His ‘children’(Hebrews 2:13).
We become God’s children through faith in Christ: ‘To all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God’(John 1:12).
What will you do with God’s great invitation, His invitation of love? Will you receive Christ and become a child of God? Will you miss out on the blessing ‘because of unbelief’(Hebrews 3:19)?
God is waiting for your answer - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’(Hebrews 3:7, 15).
Throughout life, we must guard against ‘an evil, unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God’. ‘Every day’, we must take care that we do not become ‘hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’(Hebrews 3:12-13).
As God’s children, let’s grow in Christ (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).

God has a great plan for you – let His power and love flow through you to others.

The story unfolds according to God’s saving purpose and not Herod's Satanic schemes. Herod dies. Jesus lives. The purpose of man is defeated. The purpose of God prevails.
Jesus’time in Egypt is full of prophetic significance (Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1). Egypt was the place of bondage. God turns everything around, making it the place of protection (Exodus 1:11; 13-15). The emphasis is not on the place. It is on what God is doing, as He fulfils His purpose.
From Bethlehem to Egypt and then to Nazareth - the young Jesus is being taken from place to place - all in the perfect plan of God. Again, the emphasis is not on the place but on God’s purpose. Nazareth was a humble place, dignified by the fact that God chose it to be the home of His Son.
Our concern is not with wise men or famous places. ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus’. ‘Stand amazed in the presence of Jesus’.
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January 1: The Naming of Jesus – Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7 (or Philippians 2:5-11); Luke 2:15-21

His Name was called JESUS (Luke 2:21).

Christmas is over – but let’s not forget Jesus. He is still here. He is still with us.
He is for New Year’s Day as well as Christmas Day. He is for every day.
The New Year has begun. Let there be more than a new year. Let there be new life – the new life that Jesus brings.
We have celebrated His birth.
It is similar to the birth of any other child. It is a time for joyful thanksgiving.
It is different from the celebration of any other child. This is the special Child. This is God’s Son. He is Jesus. He is the Saviour. He brings new life to the world.
On the first Christmas Day, the announcement was made: There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
We move on from the first Christmas. We move on to today. We do not leave Jesus behind. He is with us still.
On this day, any day, every day, we hear God’s call: Let new life begin.
New Year’s Day comes around just once a year. Every day is new life day.
Every day, God is speaking to us. He speaks to us about new life.
This is much more than the traditional greeting – We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

In the Name of Jesus, we hear the Good News of new life. 

He has been born in the city of David.
This is Good News for us. This is Good News for today.
The New Year has begun. Let new life begin.
Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11). Let Him be born in your heart!
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love.
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love, perfect love, the greatest love of all. There is no love like the love of Jesus.
At Christmas time, we look back to His birth. We celebrate His continuing love.
On New Year’s Day, we look on to the future. We commit ourselves to loving Him who first loved us.
In the Name of Jesus, God speaks to us with a call to consecration and a promise of blessing.

* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us consecrate ourselves to Him.

‘Separate... to the Lord... Separate... from wine and strong drink’ (Numbers 6:2-3): These two thoughts are closely connected in the New Testament - ‘Do not get drunk with wine... Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). We are to be ‘holy to the Lord’ (Numbers 6:8). ‘Consecrated to the Lord’, our whole life must be controlled by one thing: ‘Do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).

* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us seek His blessing in our lives.

Motivated by a desire for God’s glory, we will enjoy God's blessing (Numbers 6:22-27). God’s blessing is not a ‘cheap’ thing, something that doesn’t matter very much.
Remember Esau (Genesis 25:29-34). He couldn’t be bothered. He couldn’t care less. God’s blessing meant nothing to him. He didn’t want God’s blessing.
What did God do? - He gave it to Jacob.
‘The Lord bless you...’ - Do you want this? Or must God find somebody else?

In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.
‘The Lord is ‘majestic’ (Psalm 8:1, 9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. This is the message of Christmas. The Saviour has been born. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. He has come near to us. He is God with us.
In the birth of Jesus, we see God’s greatness, the greatness of His love. His love makes all the difference.
* When we feel forgotten. He remembers us.
* When we feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4).
* When we are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’ (Psalm 8:2).
At the beginning of a New Year, we are reminded of God our Creator (Psalm 8:5-8).
The God of creation is the God of our salvation. From Bethlehem, the place of Christ’s birth, we look forward. We see Jesus, crucified for us. In His death, there is victory. Christ has won the victory for us. Christ has triumphed over ‘him who has the power of death.’ Christ has triumphed over ‘the devil.’ (Hebrews 2:8-9, 14).
We rejoice in Christ’s victory. We worship Him. We sing, “Majesty, worship His Majesty. Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’.

Jesus leads us on from victory to victory.

At the Cross, Christ won the victory over Satan. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ makes His victory real in our life here and now.

* ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6).

The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). In Galatians 3:13-14, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ. We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’(Church Hymnary, 83).
All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’(Mission Praise, 613).
God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).

* ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’(Philippians 1:6).

Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up?
God gives us His Word of encouragement. He will bring His good work to completion.
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
We do not find our own victory. We receive His victory. The victory does not come from deep down within ourselves. It comes from high above us. It comes from Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is not our victory. It is His victory. All the power comes from Him. All the glory goes to Him.
In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’(Philippians 2:3; 1:11).
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January 1: when observed as New Year’s Day – Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6a; Matthew 25: 31-46  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Let’s begin the year with worship: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name …” (Psalm 8:1).

How excellent is our Saviour – He takes away the emptiness of life without Him.
‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there is a God-shaped blank. It can only be filled by Jesus Christ.
Many people try to find true happiness without opening their heart to Jesus Christ. That’s like ‘trying to catch the wind’ (Ecclesiastes 4:16). True happiness keeps slipping through your fingers. There’s always something missing - ‘an aching void the world can never fill’ (Church Hymnary, 663).
Jesus Christ stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for your answer. He says, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in...’ (Revelation 3:20). Will you invite Him into your heart? He is waiting for you to pray, ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus’.

How excellent is our Saviour – He is preparing us for a glorious future.
Our Saviour is ‘Faithful and True’. He is ‘the Word of God’. He is our ‘Lord’and ‘King’(Revelation 19:11,13,16).
We are invited to ‘come’to Him. The invitation - ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God’- is a call to come to Christ (Revelation 19:17). We come to Christ so that we might ‘reign with Him’(Revelation 20:6).
Coming to Christ is only the beginning. God is preparing us for something even better - reigning with Him. This is a great future - ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’(Revelation 21:4).
There is, however, a Word of warning for those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation - ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’; ‘Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur’(Revelation 20:15; 21:8). ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31).

How excellent is our Saviour – He gives us joy as we serve Him day-by-day.

We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’(2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy.
We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’. We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’.
The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves.
Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’(Psalm 100:2).
Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God.
On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’(21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’and ‘pleasure for evermore’
(Psalm 16:11).
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Second Sunday after Christmas Day: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:(1-9), 10-18  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

In love, the Lord draws us to Himself.
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’ (Jeremiah 31:3).
So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’ (Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us.
The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’.
As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’ (Jeremiah 31:18).

In love, the Lord brings us into fellowship with His people.
‘The Lord builds up Jerusalem. He gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:2-3).
This is much more than the building of the city of Jerusalem with bricks and mortar. This is God building up His people in their ‘most holy faith’ (Jude 20). This is God blessing His people as they gather together to worship Him.
In Christ, we are ‘being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). The Lord draws us to Himself. He brings us into fellowship with His people.
He calls us to worship Him: ‘Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving’. He ‘blesses’ us through ‘His Word’. He ‘blesses’ us in ‘the Spirit’: ‘He sends His Word... and the waters flow’ (Psalm 147:7, 12-13, 18; John 7:37-39).

In love, the Lord calls us to be changed by His love.
‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’- by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7).
When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’(Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
We praise His glorious grace when we receive His love and are changed by His love.

In love, the Lord calls us to be changed by His glory.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (John 1:1-3; Revelation 21:6).
He is ‘the Word... made flesh’. ‘We have seen His glory’ (John 1:14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’(1 John 3:2).
From Him, there is creation (John 1:1-3). From Him, there is salvation (John 1:12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:1, 29, 34).
When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’ (John 1:1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’ (John 1:18).
Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (John 14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
We look at the Lamb of God, crucified for us. We see love – the greatest love of all. It is divine love. It is eternal love. It is a love which calls us to say, with Paul,
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me ...
... one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what
is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has
called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
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Season of Epiphany: Epiphany of the Lord – Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Let the light of Christ shine.
‘Arise, shine; for your Light has come... the Lord will be your everlasting Light’ (Isaiah 60:1, 19-20). Jesus Christ is ‘the Light of the world’. When we ‘follow Him’, we ‘will not walk in darkness’. We ‘will have the light of life’ (John 8:12).
We are living in difficult times. We are surrounded by much darkness. We must not be discouraged - ‘the lamp of God has not yet gone out’ (1 Samuel 3:3). When the darkness threatens to overcome the Light, we must take encouragement from God’s Word - ‘The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5).
When the darkness seems to be everywhere, put your trust in the Lord - The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?’- and let ‘His Word’ be ‘a lamp to your feet and a light to your path’ (Psalms 27:1; 119:105).

Let the words of Scripture lead to thoughts of the Saviour.
* Read the words - ‘His Name’ shall ‘endure for ever’ (Psalm 72:17) - and think of Christ.
His Name is ‘the Name above all other names’. He is ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16).
* Read the words - ‘all nations call Him blessed’ (Psalm 72:17) - , and think of Christ.
‘From every tribe and language and people and nation’, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9).
* Read the words -‘May His glory fill the whole earth!’ (Psalm 72:19) – and think of Christ.
In the ‘new heaven and new earth’, ‘the holy city’ will shine with ‘the glory of God’. ‘Its radiance’, ‘like a very precious jewel’, will be shining from this ‘lamp’: Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Revelation 21:1-2, 10-11, 23; John 1:29).

In Christ, we are called to salvation, sanctification and service.
By the grace of God we are called to salvation - ‘saved through faith’- , sanctification - ‘for good works’ - , and service - ‘according to the gift of God’s grace… by the working of His power’, we are enabled ‘to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ’(Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:7-8).
When we consider all this, we say in our hearts, ‘To God be the glory’! (Ephesians 3:21).
We are ‘strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being’so that we might live as those who are saved, sanctified and serving.
Even when we are deeply conscious of our own great weakness, we draw encouragement from this: God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’(Ephesians 3:16, 20).
We grow in grace as we share in fellowship - ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit’(Ephesians 4:3).

Be wise – worship the Saviour.
We read ‘the story of the wise men’. It is not so much about the wise men. It is about Jesus. He is the central character.
We are not told how many wise men there were. The word, ‘three’ does not appear (Matthew 2:1). We are not told their names. We are not told exactly where they came from - just, they came ‘from the East’ (Matthew 2:11).
The important thing is that they made their journey. They came, seeking Jesus: ‘Where is he...?’. They came ‘to worship Him’(Matthew 2:2). The wise men were led to Jesus not only by ‘His star’ (Matthew 2:2) but also by the Scriptures.
When asked where the child was to be born, they answered by quoting from the Scriptures (Matthew 2:5-6; Micah 5:2). Wise men are still led to Christ through the Scriptures.
Reading the Scriptures, we become wise for salvation as we find Christ who is our Wisdom (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Bethlehem was a ‘little town’. Humanly speaking, it did not have any great importance. Its importance is derived from the fact that it was the birth-place of our Saviour. When we think of Bethlehem, we do not think so much of the place as the Saviour who was born there.
Herod says that he wants to go to Bethlehem to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). Satan was speaking through Herod. Satan has no intention of worshipping God, and neither had Herod. Satan ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’. Christ comes to give ‘life... to the full’ (John 10:10).
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Herod was not a worshipper of Christ but a servant of Satan. The wise men worship Jesus, then they return to their own country.
We know nothing about their return journey, their destination or their life in their own country. Their whole purpose was to point away from themselves to Jesus.
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First Sunday after the Epiphany: Baptism of the Lord – Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17  -  The same Bible Readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Jesus Christ is God’s Beloved Son.
‘Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:1).
These words turn our thoughts towards the Lord Jesus Christ. At His baptism, we hear the voice of the Father - ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’. At His baptism, we see ‘the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on Him’.
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Word of prophecy: ‘All mankind shall see the Saviour sent from God’. After His resurrection, we hear Jesus Himself speaking. He says, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...’ (Matthew 12:15-21; 3:16-17; 28:18-20; Luke 3:6).
Let us bring Christ to the nations. Let us serve the Lord in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus Christ is our great Strength.
‘The Lord is my Strength…The Lord is the Strength of His people’ (Psalm 28:7-8).
Our personal strengthening is closely related to the strengthening of God’s people. Don’t be a ‘lone ranger’, going it alone, keeping yourself to yourself. Share your strength with others. Draw strength from them. ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another’(Hebrews 10:24-25).
Where does your strength come from? It comes from ‘the Lord’ who ‘sits enthroned as King for ever’ (Psalm 29:10).
We grow strong as we listen for ‘the voice of the Lord’ (Psalm 29:3-9). Don’t let God’s voice be drowned out - ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus Christ is our perfect Saviour.
Considering the contrast between Jesus and John - John is not fit to carry Christ’s sandals (Matthew 3:11) - , it is quite remarkable that Jesus submits Himself to baptism by John.
Why does He do this? Jesus gives us the reason in verse 15: ‘it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness’.
When Jesus uses the word ‘proper’(or fitting), does He use it to mean ‘according to convention’? No - He means that ‘it is fitting’into God’s perfect plan of salvation. It is part of His perfect obedience to the Father. It is part of what is involved in His giving Himself for us as ‘the Righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18).
As well as directing us to the Cross, Jesus’ baptism directs us to Pentecost - the descent of the Spirit (Matthew 3:16; Acts 2:1-4). Christ died for us. The Spirit lives in us. Jesus ‘fits’ our need perfectly!

Let’s share the Good News of our Saviour’s love.
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (Acts 11:12).
The Spirit speaks through the Word (Acts 10:44; 11:15).
In God’s Word, we read of
(a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16);
(b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2);
(c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’should be preached to ‘everyone’(Mark 16:15);
(d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19).
‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save... Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’(Mission Praise, 178).
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Second Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23  - The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year A.

We worship the Lord. Let us be His witnesses.
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’. We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’ (Isaiah 49:26).
‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves.
We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’(Mission Praise, 385). ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).

Worship and witness – we need the Lord’s help.
We have been saved by the Lord: ‘He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my feet secure’ (Psalm 40:2).
He calls us to a life of worship and witness.
We are to worship Him with ‘a new song...a song of praise to our God’ (Psalm 40:3).
We are to be His witnesses, sharing with others the Good News of His salvation: ‘I have not hid Thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation...’ (Psalm 40:10). God has given out His call to worship and witness.
May our response be like the Psalmist’s: ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God.’
Let us worship the Lord - ‘Great is the Lord’.
Let us be His witnesses - ‘I have told the glad news of deliverance’.
Let us pray for the Lord’s help: ‘let Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness ever preserve me!’ (Psalm 40:8, 16, 9, 11).

Worship and witness – let us learn from the Apostle Paul
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4). He preached ‘Christ crucified’with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2).
This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (26-31).
Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’(1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).

In our worship and witness, let us follow our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Having overcome His enemy, Jesus begins His ministry. Satan will be back - Luke ends his account of Jesus’temptations with these ominous words, ‘When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time’ (Matthew 4:12). Satan will try again, but - for now - he has failed to stop Jesus setting out on His ministry, a ministry which brings light into the darkness.
The light is shining brightly - ‘the Kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17). Jesus’ministry is viewed as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 4:15-16; Isaiah 9:1-2). The prophecy had been given: Death will be overcome, men and women will be delivered from ‘the shadow of death’. Now, in Christ, the prophecy has been fulfilled: by His death, Christ has destroyed ‘him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil’ and He has set ‘free’ those who live in ‘fear of death’(Hebrews 2:14-15).
Christ’s victory over the world was won for us (1 John 3:8: 5:4-5). Jesus was not a loner. He was a team leader: ‘From victory to victory His army He will lead’(Church Hymnary, 481). At the very outset of His ministry, He set about putting together His ministry team. Peter, Andrew, James and John were the first four disciples. He called them to follow Him.
His call was both gracious and demanding. It is gracious because it is the Saviour who calls us: ‘Follow Me’. It is demanding because He calls us to follow, to submit to His Lordship: ‘Follow Me’.
These men were called to a new kind of ‘fishing’(Matthew 4:19).
Jesus’ ministry reached ‘great crowds’ through His ‘teaching... preaching... and healing’(Matthew 4:23-25).
This chapter sets the scene for Jesus' ministry. We see the Word of the Lord triumphant over Satan, fulfilled in Christ, and effective in the lives of the disciples and the crowds.
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Third Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23  - The readings from 1 Corinthians and Matthew are also suggested for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.

God has kept His promise. Christ has come. Let us rejoice in Him.
The prophecy has been spoken - ‘To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given... .’ The prophecy has been fulfilled - ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord’. Jesus Christ is our great Saviour. He is our ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6: Luke 2:11).
Jesus Christ has brought to us a great salvation. Through faith in Him, we enter God’s heavenly and eternal ‘Kingdom’ (Isaiah 9:7: Luke 1:30-33). This is ‘Good News of great joy’- for ‘all the people’, for ‘all generations’.
Let us rejoice in the Lord, as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did - ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for the Mighty One has done great things for me... .’ Let us join with the angels in saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest...’ (Luke 2:10; 1:46-50; 2:14).

Worship the Lord, wait on Him and walk with Him.
God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’ (Psalm 26:3).
Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12).
Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’ us (Psalms 26:4-5, 9-10; 27:2-3, 6 ,11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’ (Psalm 27:4).
What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’ (Psalm 27:14).
Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear … I will be confident’ (Psalm 27:1, 3).

How are we to worship the Lord, wait on the Lord and walk with Him?
* “The Word of the Cross … is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
I knew a man called John Mutch. He said to me, “Think much of the blood”. I called this the “much” (or “Mutch”) theology.
Let your faith be centred on “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and, strengthened with the joy of the Lord, you will grow strong in a life of worshipping God, waiting on Him and walking with Him.
* Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).
Any progress we make in following Christ and becoming fishers of men is based on this – a deep awareness of this: we have been redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
- Let our worship be filled with heartfelt gratitude for the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
- Let our waiting on God be centred on Christ crucified and filled with a growing confidence in the Father’s love, so wonderfully revealed to us in the Cross of Christ: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not give us all things with Him? (Romans 8:32); If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:14).
- Let our walking with God be filled the joy which comes from knowing that Christ is our Saviour. We walk in the Spirit when we say, from the heart, God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:16; 6:14).
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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12  - The 1 Corinthians and Matthew readings are also suggested for the Second Sunday after Epiphany.
We find God’s blessing when we come to worship Jesus Christ.
In Micah 5:2, we have a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus at ‘Bethlehem’. This prophecy invites us to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’.
At ‘Bethlehem’, we see ‘shepherds, glorifying and praising God’ (Luke 2:15,20). We also see Jesus our Shepherd. He is the One whom the shepherds worshipped. He is the One who ‘will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...’
- He is ‘the Good Shepherd’. He ‘laid down His life’ for us.
- He is ‘the Great Shepherd’. He ‘was raised from the dead’ for us.
- He is ‘the Chief Shepherd’. He will ‘come’ again for us (5:4; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4).
Jesus, our ‘Shepherd’, gives us ‘strength’ to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8).

God’s blessing increases as we build our life upon Jesus Christ.
Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us.
This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’ - In Him, we ‘rejoice’ (Psalm 14:7).
God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’ (Psalm 15:5).
We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation...would come...’ (Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us.
Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1).
‘Fear the Lord’- ‘and give Him glory’ (Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7).
We are to ‘act wisely’- ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’ (Psalm 14:2,4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’ (Psalm 15:1)? - ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...’ (Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).

Every blessing we enjoy comes from the Lord. All the glory belongs to Him.
Paul preached ‘Christ crucified’with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’(1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).

We enjoy God’s blessing most when we share it with others.
In Matthew 5:1, we see both ‘the disciples’and ‘the crowds’.
The disciples are taught with a view to becoming teachers of the crowds.
Jesus’ ministry to the disciples had a dual purpose.
- It was for their own spiritual strengthening.
- It was training for the time when they would be entrusted with the Lord's commission: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28: 19-20).
Do we read God’s Word solely for our own benefit? Or, do we have an eye for ways in which we can learn to share His Word with others?
In Matthew 5:3-12, ‘The Beatitudes’show us God’s way of blessing. In verses 3-10, we have the general principles. In verses 11-12, we ar challenged to apply these principles to ourselves: ‘Blessed are you...’
We might also describe them as the Be Attitudes, since they show us what we are to be.
Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness is the way of holiness.
The only alternative to the way of holiness is the way of hypocrisy. There can be no true happiness when we are walking in the way of hypocrisy.
Holiness is to take shape in our lives - the shape of Jesus Christ living in us. This is the truly happy life: the Christ-centered life.
We are not to live according to present appearances. We are to live in the light of the future Reality of God's heavenly Kingdom.
We are not only to read the Beatitudes. We are to live them.
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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12); Psalm 112:1-9, (10); 1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16); Matthew 5:13-20

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we receive peace and joy.
‘To the far and to the near’, God speaks His Word of ‘peace’ (Isaiah 57:19). Christ is God’s Word of ‘peace’ (Ephesians 2:13-14). Christ is for ‘the Jews’. Christ is for ‘the Gentiles’.
There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. We must put our ‘faith’ in Him. Through Him, we have ‘peace with God’ (Romans 3:29-30; 5:1).
God’s Word invites us to ‘call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved’ (Isaiah 58:9; Acts 2:21). In Christ, there is true ‘joy’- ‘I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation...’ (Isaiah 58:14; 61:10).
We rejoice in Jesus Christ. He is ‘the High and Exalted One’. He has come from His ‘high and holy place’. He has become ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. He is our peace and joy, our Saviour and our God’ (Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 1:21, 23; John 20:28).

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we offer to God our triumphant praise.
‘Praise the Lord... To Him belongs eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...’ (Psalms 111:1, 10; 112:1, 8).
Those who ‘fear the Lord’ have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise belongs to the Lord’ can face their enemies with confidence. Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord.
We know how good the Lord has been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people’. We have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’ any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way. We ‘trust in the Lord’, confident that the ‘light ‘will triumph over the ‘darkness’. The Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalms 111:9; 112:4, 7).

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we serve God and we pray for His blessing.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14).
We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’- ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).
Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’(Mission Praise, 378,385) - Let’s say it and mean it!

Through faith in Christ our Saviour, we walk in the way of holiness and happiness.
Holiness is to be seen. Happiness is to be shared. We are not to be secret disciples.
It will not be easy to live the life of Christ’s disciples.
In a world of much corruption, we are to be ‘the salt of the earth’ (Matthew 5:13). In a world of much darkness we are to be ‘the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14).
If we are to bring the refreshing light of Christ into our world, we ourselves must receive spiritual refreshment as we let the light of God’s Word shine on our lives.
Reading God’s Word can never be a purely personal thing. Being ‘the salt of the earth’and ‘the light of the world’- this is what Jesus says we are- , we read Scripture with a view to learning how we are to live in the world. Don’t lose your saltiness. Be salty enough to create a thirst for God in other people. Don’t let your light grow dim. Let it shine brightly. Remember - all the glory belongs to God (Matthew 5:16; Psalm 115:1).
In Matthew 5:20, Jesus refers to ‘the scribes and Pharisees’. He warns us against the shallow superficiality of these men who were more concerned with outward appearances than inner reality.
This conflict with the Jewish religious leaders lies close to the surface in the Sermon on the Mount. When Jesus says, ‘This is their way. This is My way’, He is not calling in question the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures: ‘Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them’ (Matthew 5:17). He is in conflict with ‘the hypocrites’ (Matthew 6:2 5,16). He is warning us against the ‘false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves’ (Matthew 7:15).
What a difference there was between Jesus’teaching and those who ‘preach, but do not practise’ (Matthew 23:3) - He spoke with ‘authority’, they did not (Matthew 7:29).
May we be like Jesus!
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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany – Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

Hearing and Obeying God’s Word
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with ‘all the heart and soul’ involved obedience to ‘His commandments... written in this book of the law’ (Deuteronomy 30:10).
We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - ‘...the Word is very near you...’ (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Through His Word, God ‘sets before’ us a choice. He calls us to ‘choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Joshua was to succeed Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-2, 7-8). Conflict lay ahead. God’s people needed His Word of encouragement: ‘Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them’.
Beyond the conflict, there would be triumph. God gave His Word of promise: ‘It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you’ (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (Deuteronomy 31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (Deuteronomy 31:12-13).

Following Christ
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1, 9, 11, 17).
Many will choose the way of disobedience - ‘influential people sit together and slander me’. We must choose the way of obedience - ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23).
Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
The teaching of Jesus here may be summed up thus: The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus’ teaching was much more penetrating than the pronouncements made by the scribes and Pharisees. Not content to scratch the surface, Jesus asked the deeper question, ‘What's going on in your heart?’. Jesus’teaching has real spiritual depth. He takes seriously the Biblical teaching that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt’(Jeremiah 17:9). He knows that we need a ‘new heart’(Ezekiel 36:26). The Pharisees were bogged down in intricate details - Do this. Do that. Do the other. All the emphasis was on what we do. Christ was much more direct - Get the heart right.
Ask God for a heart of love (Matthew 5:21-26), purity (Matthew 5:27-32), and truthfulness (Matthew 5:33-37). Do not say, ‘Look what I've done’(7:22).
Let Christ live in your heart; let Him change you. Never think too highly of yourself. Always remember this - ‘only God ... gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany – Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Psalm 119:33-40; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48
Holiness and love

Holiness and love - the two belong together (Leviticus 19:1, 18, 34).
God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love.
Through His Spirit - the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - , He enables us to live this life.
We need His promises. We need His commands. Take them both together - not one without the other! Promises without commands - We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing. Commands without promises - Our 'obedience' becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace.
We are to 'be holy... before Him in love' (Ephesians 1:4). 'The holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the 'love' without which we are 'nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall 'be holy... in love' (Leviticus 19:34, 36).

Through the Scriptures of truth, we are led on the pathway of holiness and love.

‘Revive me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:25).
How does God revive us according to His Word?
- He gives us His salvation: ‘Let Your unfailing love come to me, O Lord - Your salvation according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:41).
- He gives us His strength: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:28).
- He gives us a change of heart: ‘I have chosen the way of truth; I have set
my heart on Your laws... I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free... Give me understanding, and I will keep Your law and obey it with my whole heart... Turn my heart to Your testimonies...’ (Psalm 119:30, 32, 34, 36).
- He gives us ‘new life’: ‘When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!’(40; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Through the Spirit of grace, we are led on the pathway of holiness and love.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14).
The Pharisees lived by law. Jesus lived by love.
The law of God - ‘holy and just and good’ (Romans 7:12) - had been distorted by the religious hypocrites. They were saying, ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’(Matthew 5:43). ‘Love your neighbour’is found in Leviticus 19:18. ‘Hate your enemy’is not found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, ‘neighbour’meant their own kind. They wrongly concluded that Gentiles were to be hated.
Jesus’parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus’disagreement is not with the law of God. It is with man’s misuse of it. Jesus’teaching is simple - Love is not to be limited. It is demanding - love is all-embracing. We dare not bring love within our reach. We always fall short. We can only come to Christ. Confessing our lack of love and trusting in His perfect love, we learn to love.
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Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 49:8-16a; Psalm 131; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34

Good News for everyone: Jesus Christ is our Redeemer.
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’. We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’ (Isaiah 49:26). ‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves. We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’ (Mission Praise, 385). ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).

Good News for everyone: In Jesus Christ, there is “full redemption”.

We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’- ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’- ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’ ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

Let’s share the Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As ‘servants of Christ’, we must concern ourselves with one thing - being ‘found faithful’. This is not a matter of pleasing people - ‘it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you...’. Pleasing God - this is the most important thing (1 Corinthians 4:1-4). Serving Christ is not easy. There are always those who are quick to pass judgment on the Lord’s servants. What does God say about this? - ‘Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes’ (1 Corinthians 4:9-13, 5). Being ‘found faithful’is not just a matter of ‘saying the right words’. We must be the right people. This is what Paul means when he says, ‘The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20). ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses’(Acts 1:8; Romans 12:11).

Let’s share the Good News by living for Christ.
On the one side of Christ’s disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are ‘the Gentiles’ (Matthew 6\;32). The hypocrites represent religion without reality. The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously. We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles. Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men. We are to live for God’s eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (Matthew 6:19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).
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Ninth Sunday (or Last Sunday) after the Epiphany (Transfiguration of the Lord) – Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2 (or Psalm 99, suggested as an alternative for Ninth Sunday); 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
May our words point to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.
Moses was alone with the Lord - receiving the Word of the Lord (Exodus 24:1-2). Moses went to the people - speaking the Word of the Lord (Exodus 24:3). There was also a written ministry of the Word (Exodus 24:4). At the heart of our worship, there is ‘the blood of the covenant’ (Exodus 24:8; 12:13; John 1:29; Hebrews 9:22; 10:4; 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). Moses worshipped on ‘the mountain of God’ (Exodus 24:12-18). We worship ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:19-24). We come to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). We come on the basis of Christ’s blood shed for us (Hebrews 10:19-22). We come as those to whom the Spirit has been given (John 1:33; 3:34). With ‘the Spirit of God’ living in us and helping us as we pray, let us feast on Christ, the Truth, the living Word, to whom the written and spoken words point us (Romans 8:9,26; John 14:6; 1:1,14; 17:17).

May our words point to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In the second Psalm, we read of a conflict. On the one side, there is ‘the Lord and His Anointed’ (Psalm 2:2). On the other there are those who ‘conspire and ...plot’ (Psalm 2:1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, ‘You are My Son’ (Psalm 2:7), the One to whom God says, ‘I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession’ (Psalm 2:8). God calls us to worship Christ - ‘Kiss the Son’ (Psalm 2:12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God’s judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (Psalm 2:12; John 3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase, ‘Kiss the Son’. We delight in God’s Son, and we delight in God’s Word which leads us to Him.

May our words be full of joyful worship.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4,6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).

May our words be full of heartfelt thanksgiving.
God ‘has given us His very great and precious promises’ (2 Peter 1:4). God has a great purpose for us. He is preparing for us ‘a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:11). The pathway to heavenly and eternal glory is not an easy one. Often, we will be tempted to settle for being ‘ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There will be many distractions, drawing our attention away from Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him if we are not to become ‘blind and short-sighted’. We can so easily forget the most important thing - we have been ‘cleansed from our old sins’. It is so important that we keep looking to Christ, remembering what He has done for us and giving thanks to Him (2 Peter 1:8-9). ‘The Lord’will not fail us in our ‘trials’ (2 Peter 2:9). Let’s not fail Him!

May our words be full of divine glory.
There will come a time when the glory of God will be fully revealed - ‘the Son of man is going to come in His Father's glory’ (Matthew 16:27). Here on earth, there are ‘foretastes of glory divine’: Matthew 16:28 may be understood in connection with the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) - the divine glory of heaven breaking through into our human life on earth. Revelations of glory prepared these men for discipleship. They turned their eyes upon Jesus (Matthew 17:8). They looked full in His wonderful face (Matthew 17:2). The things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace (Mission Praise, 59,712) - ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’ (Matthew 17:4). The ‘mountain top’experience could not be preserved - no ‘three shelters’ (Matthew 17:4)! We can continue to worship, hear Jesus’words and look to Him (Matthew 17:6-8), rejoicing in His suffering for us (Matthew 17:12) and awaiting His return to ‘restore all things’ (Matthew 17:11).
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First Sunday in Lent: Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

Created by God and for God, we have sinned against Him.
We noted, in Genesis 1:1-3, the importance of getting our priorities right - God, God’s Word, God’s Spirit. Here, we emphasize the importance of these priorities.
We are under God. We must remember that He is God (Genesis 2:15). We are to obey God’s Word (Genesis 2:16-17).
Here, we learn that the act of obedience is an act of freedom. In Christ, we are set free to obey God.
God says, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden’. He does not then say, ‘You are free to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. He says, ‘You must not’.
The act of disobedience is not an act of freedom. By choosing the way of sin, we show that we are in bondage. We are not free. We are the captives of sin, and we need to be set free - by Christ (John 8:32, 36).
We come to know God, choosing good rather than evil, as we follow the way of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Hebrews 5:14).
The creation of woman is bound up with the creation of man. She is created from man’s ‘rib’ (Genesis 2:21-22).
The ‘rib’ is taken from his side, emphasizing that man and woman are to be together, side-by-side, not one in front of the other. The ‘rib’, rather than the head or the feet, emphasizes this togetherness rather than any superiority-inferiority relationship. The ‘rib’ is close to the heart. Woman is close to the heart of man. Both are close to the heart of God.
The contrast between humanity and the animals is again clear. Among the animals, there was ‘no suitable helper’ for the man (Genesis 2:20). The animals had been ‘formed out of the ground’ (Genesis 2:19). Humanity has come from ‘the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). Like the animals, we come from ‘the dust of the ground’, but there is more: the Breath of God, created in His image to glorify Him!
We have read about the beginning of creation (Genesis 1:1). Now, in Genesis 3,  we come to the beginning of sin.
Sin begins with temptation. We must, however, note that temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin when we do what the tempter suggests (Genesis 3:6).
Temptation comes from ‘that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan’ (Revelation 12:9). Satan reverses the priorities of God, God’s Word and God’s Spirit.
God is ‘our Father’ (Matthew 6:9). Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).
Satan quotes and questions God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). He not only questions God’s Word. He contradicts it (Genesis 3:4).
Satan is spiritual, an evil spirit. We must be aware of his schemes, and, in Christ, we must take our stand against his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11).
When Satan says, ‘Did God really say?’ (Genesis 3:1), we must wage war for God, filled with His Word and Spirit (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
Once we were innocent. Now we are guilty. The story of Adam and Eve is repeated over and over again. This is our story as well as Adam and Eve’s story.
Even in the face of sin, we see something else. We see the God of love, seeking to restore the fallen to Himself. In His words, ‘Where are you?’, we catch an early glimpse of the Gospel of salvation: ‘the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10).
Adam and Eve had lost their way. Now, God was looking for them to bring them back to Himself. In the question, ‘Where are you?’, there is the searching question, ‘What have you done?’, but there is also the passionate appeal, ‘Will you not return to me?’ This is the call of mercy: ‘Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, “O sinner, come home”’ (Sacred Songs & Solos, 414). Our loving Father is waiting patiently to welcome the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20).

Receiving God’s gift – the forgiveness of all our sins.
The forgiveness of sins - what a tremendous blessing this is (Psalm 32:1-2).
We receive God’s forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him.
This is the Psalmist’s testimony: ‘I made my sins known to You, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to You, O Lord. Then You forgave all my sins’ (Psalm 32:5).
This is the promise of God: ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’(1 John 1:9).
Knowing that our sins have been forgiven by God, we can face our many trying times with confidence in Him: ‘You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance whenever I am afraid. I will trust in You, I will trust in You. Let the weak say, “I am strong in the strength of my God”’ (Psalm 32:7; Mission Praise, 793).
The forgiveness of our sins: it’s just the beginning of all that God will do for us.

God has great things in store for His people!
(a) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:9-10): ‘Justified by Christ’s blood’, ‘reconciled to God’, ‘We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God’, ‘saved by His life’.
(b) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:15, 17): ‘The grace of God’ has ‘abounded for many’. In Christ, we have ‘received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness’. Through Him, we shall ‘reign in life’.
(c) ‘More than that’ (Romans 5:3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be ‘suffering’. God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: ‘grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:21). ‘We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our ‘suffering’in a new light, the light of ‘God’s love’ (Romans 5:3-5).
When we are tempted, we must follow Christ, taking our stand on God’s Word.
God the Father has declared Jesus to be His Son (Matthew 3:17). Now, the devil challenges God’s Word: ‘If you are the Son of God…’ (Matthew 4:3).
The Spirit has descended upon Jesus (Matthew 3:16). Now, the devil uses his power in an attempt to defeat Jesus.
The devil sows seeds of doubt; the ‘if you are…’approach is just the same as his ‘Did God really say?’method used in Genesis 3:1.
The devil is ‘crafty’ (Genesis 3:1). He comes to Jesus, quoting from the Bible (Matthew 4:6; Psalm 91:11-12).
His real goal becomes clear in verse 9 - he wants Jesus to ‘bow down and worship’him.
In Jesus’victory over the devil, we see the importance of Scripture - ‘It is written’ (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
We learn that true life comes from God (Matthew 4:4), true safety is found in God (Matthew 4:7); and true worship is given to God (Matthew 4:10).
When the tempter comes, we must stand on God’s Word: ‘every Word that comes from… God’ ( Matthew 4:4).
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Second Sunday in Lent: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17

Human failure and divine faithfulness
This is a divine Story, carried forward by God’s grace and power. God’s very great promises (Genesis 12:1-3) find their ultimate fulfilment in the coming of God’s eternal Kingdom (Revelation 21:10). We have not reached our heavenly destination. We are still caught in the tension between obedience (Genesis 12:4) and disobedience (Genesis 12:11-13). We are conscious of our human failure, yet we rejoice in the divine faithfulness. We read of Abraham’s sin (Genesis 12:10-20), yet we look beyond this to God's salvation. This is not simply the story of Abraham. It is the Story of Abraham's God. This becomes clear in the change of name. Abram (‘exalted father’) draws attention to the man. Abraham (‘Father of Many’) points to God’s purpose (Genesis 17:5). Like Abraham, we are to worship God (Genesis 12:7-8). We are to say, ‘He is exalted’. We are to say, ‘Christ must increase, and I must decrease’ (John 3:30).

Our help comes from the Lord. He will keep us from evil.
‘Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips’ (Psalm 120:2). God calls us to ‘believe the truth’, ‘love the truth’ and ‘follow the truth’. We are to be people who ‘do what is true’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; 3 John 3-4; John 3:21). How can we be such people? We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is ‘the Truth’ (Hebrews 12:2; John 14:6). When we are tempted to turn away from the pathway of truth, we must remember this: ‘My help comes from the Lord’. We must remember God’s promise: ‘The Lord is your Keeper...The Lord will keep you from all evil’. God’s promise is not only for ‘this time’. It’s ‘for evermore’ (Psalm 121:2, 5, 7-8). This gives us glorious hope as we keep on looking to Christ, ‘eagerly awaiting’ His Return (Hebrews 9:28).

In ourselves, there is no salvation. Our salvation is in Jesus Christ.
Salvation is not a ‘reward’to be ‘earned’. It is God’s ‘gift’ (Romans 4:4-5). Salvation comes from the Lord. ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’ (John 3:16): Without the love of God, the gift of God, the Son of God, there can be no salvation. The way of salvation does not begin with the word ‘I’. Jesus Christ is the Way. He is the Saviour. Salvation is in Him (John 14:6; Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12). Looking to ‘Jesus our Lord’, crucified and raised for our salvation, we are saved and we give ‘glory to God’ (Romans 4:20-25). We rejoice in ‘God our Saviour’ - ‘He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy...’ (Titus 3:4-7). Looking away from ourselves to Christ, we learn the truth of God’s Word: ‘it is on the basis of faith that it may rest on grace’ (Romans 4:16). This is Good News!

God so loved the world. Christ died for us. This is Good News for sinners.

We say, ‘I’ll turn over a new leaf’. Christ says, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3, 7). Our way of thinking begins with ‘I’. Christ’s way of salvation begins with ‘God’: ‘God so loved the world...’ (John 3:16). Begin with ‘I’ and you have sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:10-11). Begin with God and you have Good News for sinners: ‘God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). Through faith in Christ, we are ‘born of the Spirit’ (John 3:6-8; 1:12). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, love and truth. Those who are ‘born of the Spirit’ are to live a life of holiness, love and truth (1 John 4:2-3, 6-7, 12-13; 5:2-3). ‘Come to the light’. ‘Do what is true’. ‘Obey the Son’. Let Christ increase. This is the work of the Spirit in us (John 3:20-21, 36, 29, 34).
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Third Sunday in Lent: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

Called to serve the Lord, we begin with worship, praying and listening to His Word.
Worldly people create problems (Exodus 17:3). Moses asks, ‘What shall I do...?’ (Exodus 17:4). Indecision asks, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ (Exodus 17:7). He gives victory (Exodus 17:8-9, 13). Joshua is being equipped for special service - ‘in the ears of Joshua’ (Exodus 17:14). God’s great concern is that His people move forward together. The work is not to be left to the few (18:18). God is looking to faithful servants who will ‘bear the burden’ together (18:21-22). There is much to be done, but we must never forget this: ‘prayer and the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:1-4). You may not be a Moses or a Joshua, but you can play your part. We rejoice in who God is and what He has done for us. Assured of His presence with us, let us worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord...’ (18:10-11).

We are to worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving.
‘Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord... Let us come before Him with thanksgiving... Come, let us bow down in worship...’ (Psalm 95:1-2, 6). We are to worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving. We rejoice in the Lord. We give thanks for His love. He is ‘the great God’. He is ‘our God’. He is the God of creation - ‘In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land’. He is the God of salvation - ‘We are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care’ (Psalm 95:3-5, 7). If we are to learn to worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving, we must open our hearts to Him: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Psalm 95:7-8). When we hear the call to worship, we must open our hearts to the Spirit of worship.

In our worship, we are being prepared for God’s heavenly and eternal glory.
God has great things in store for His people! (a) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:9-10): ‘Justified by Christ’s blood’, ‘reconciled to God’, ‘We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God’, ‘saved by His life’. (b) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:15, 17): ‘The grace of God’has ‘abounded for many’. In Christ, we have ‘received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness’. Through Him, we shall ‘reign in life’. (c) ‘More than that’ (Romans 5:3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be ‘suffering’. God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: ‘grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:21). ‘We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our ‘suffering’ in a new light, the light of ‘God’s love’ (Romans 5:3-5).

In our worship, we are equipped for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Here, we see Jesus’ ministry of love. He brings the Samaritan woman out of her bondage to sin and into the joy of His salvation. Jesus comes to the woman in love. His love overcomes cultural divisions. His love breaks down cultural barriers (John 4:9). This is not simply the story of one woman. It is the story of ‘many Samaritans’ coming to faith in Christ (John 4:39). There are two ‘stages’ in their coming to faith. First, they ’believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony’ (John 4:39). Second, ‘they believed because of His Word’ (John 4:41). The Samaritans came to trust Jesus as ‘the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42). The woman said that ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22). It is also ‘to the Greek’ (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is for all. Pray that the human word will be empowered by the divine Word (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2:13).
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Fourth Sunday in Lent: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Don’t settle for “second-best”.
‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded’ (1 Samuel 16:4). Real obedience comes from ‘the heart’. It is more than just ‘keeping up appearances’ (1 Samuel 16:7). ‘The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart’- This is something we must never forget!’
‘It’s the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need’ (Songs of Fellowship, 256) - This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in 1 Samuel 16:13-14: ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David... the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul’.
David exerted a good influence upon Saul (1 Samuel 16:23). Sadly, however, Saul’s best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 16:13-14).
Don’t settle for second best when you can have God’s very best!

Jesus Christ is God’s very best.
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9).
Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25).
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’ (Psalm 24:5).
There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? - Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)!
How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’ (Psalm 24:7, 9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).

Make a new beginning with Christ.
God wants us to ‘grow up in every way into Christ’ (Ephesians 4:15). We are to ‘walk in love’ (Ephesians 5:2). We are to live a life which is ‘pleasing to the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:10).
It is so easy for us to settle for something less than God’s very best. We settle down into a state of spiritual complacency.
What does God have to say about this? - ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’ (Ephesians 4:30).
He gives us His wake-up call: ‘Awake, O sleeper…’ (Ephesians 5:14). God says to us, ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength… Shake yourself from the dust, arise’ (Isaiah 52:1-2).
Have you become ‘lukewarm’? - ‘Be zealous and repent’.
Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him’ (Revelation 3:16, 19-20).
What will you say to Him? - ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Empowered by God, Jesus gives sight to the blind man (John 9:3, 6-7).
‘The Pharisees’ hear the man’s testimony (John 9:15). ‘Some of’ them reject the Lord (John 9:16, 24). There will always be those who refuse to believe in the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ. They will pour scorn on those who have come to know the Lord.
The man gives his testimony: ‘One thing I know... I was blind, now I see’ (John 9:25). The Pharisees continue to fire questions at him (John 9:26).
He puts the most challenging question to them: ‘Do you too want to become His disciples?’ (John 9:27).
They hurl insults at him (John 9:28).
Fools attack what they don’t understand. The more they rage, the more they show their folly.
We say, ‘Lord, I believe’, and our spiritual ‘eyes’ are opened (John 9:38; 2 Corinthians 4:6).
Don’t be ‘blind’, despising the believer and the Saviour (John 9:39-40; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
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Fifth Sunday in Lent: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

We need to be changed by the Lord.
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5).
What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103).
What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’.
‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray. Unreservedly, have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You’ (Mission Praise, 274,241).

The Lord changes us when He forgives our sin.
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility - ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1).
When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7).
It is for ‘now’- ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’- ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’ ‘Praise the Lord!... Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

The Lord changes us when He gives us His Holy Spirit.
Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).

The Lord will change us when He raises us to eternal life.
Everything is moving on towards Christ’s death and resurrection. On His way to the Cross, Jesus performs a mighty miracle - the raising of Lazarus (John 11:43-44) - which points unmistakably to an even greater miracle - His own resurrection (Acts 2:24). Accompanying this miracle - the raising of Lazarus - , we have Jesus’great declaration concerning Himself: ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die’ (John 11:25). His words are immediately followed by the question: ‘Do you believe this?’ (John 11:26). This question is put to each of us. Jesus waits for the answer of faith: ‘Yes, Lord I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God...’ (John 11:27). This is ‘for the glory of God’- receiving new life from ‘the Son of God...’ (John 11:4).
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Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm / Passion): Entry into Jerusalem – Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Passion – Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66 (or Matthew 27:11-54)   
For Palm Sunday, the same reading from the Psalms is suggested for Year B and Year C.
For Passion Sunday, the same readings from Isaiah, Psalms and Philippians are suggested for Year B and Year C.

PALM SUNDAY

Our response to Christ - Discipleship, Depth, Devotion
Four times, Jesus is called ‘the Son of David’ (Matthew 20:30-31; 21:9,15).
Christ is greater than David. He is David’s ‘Lord’ (Matthew 22:41-46). Christ is not only ‘the Son of David’. He is also the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4).
We rejoice with the Psalms of David. We rejoice even more in the Gospel of Christ.
Our response to Christ is to be marked by discipleship, depth and devotion.
Discipleship - The blind men ‘received their sight and followed Him’ (Matthew 20:34). They did not receive their sight and then forget about Him. Grace is to be followed by gratitude. Those who have received grace are to give themselves to the Lord in gratitude.
Depth - The crowds were enthusiastic (Matthew 21:8-9) but superficial (27:20-23). Pray for depth, a true and lasting response to Christ.
Devotion - Pray that the spirit of praise will overcome the spirit of pride (Matthew 21:15).

Discipleship, Depth, Devotion – with Christ as our Strength, Song and Saviour
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’.
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59, 744).
Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.

PASSION SUNDAY
Waiting on the Lord, witnessing for Him and winning others for Him
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4).
We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God.
We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him.
We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God.
First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’.
Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’.
Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).

Waiting on the Lord – let us look to Christ, crucified and risen for us.
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5).
These words were spoken by Christ when, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (31:11).
His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21). In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).

In our witness for the Lord, may our whole life declare that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6).
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful.
His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
In ‘humility’, let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
Jesus asks, Do you love Me? Let us say Yes – and go out to win others for Him.
Peter and Judas Iscariot had something in common. They both failed their Lord (Matthew 26:14-16, 34).
Things turned out very differently for them (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 2:38-42).
When we fail the Lord , we find ourselves at a cross-roads. We can turn to Him. We can turn away from Him.
In view of His great love for us - His ‘blood’ has been ‘poured out for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28) - how can we turn our backs on Him? How can you and I say ‘No’ to such love?
There is no reason why we should say ‘No’to Him - yet we do!
Do we doubt that He is there for us? Do we wonder if He really loves us?
What about you? Do you think that He cannot or will not forgive your sins?
He can and He will. That’s why He died - ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).
Jesus’suffering is increasing.
What pain His disciples caused Him. Three times, He ‘found them sleeping’ (Matthew 26:40-45), ‘My betrayer is at hand’ (Matthew 26:46), ‘all the disciples forsook Him and fled’ (Matthew 26:56)!
Was this the end of the road for His disciples? No! With one exception - Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus still called ‘friend’ (Matthew 26:50), the others became men of prayer (Acts 1:13-14). They stood with Peter as he preached the Gospel, as he led many sinners to the Saviour (Acts 2:14, 37-38).
Jesus loved His disciples. He died for them. Then - after Jesus was ‘glorified’- the Spirit was ‘given’to them (John 7:39).
The fleeing disciples became men ‘on fire’ (Acts 2:3). No more ‘fleeing’. Now it was ‘flowing’- ‘rivers of living water’(John 7:38). ‘Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy’(Mission Praise, 445).
‘Peter followed Him at a distance’ (Matthew 26:58). He didn't want to get too close!
Keeping your distance from Jesus leads to trouble!
Trouble was not the end of Peter's story.
Three times Peter denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75).
Three times Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love Me?’, three times Peter answered Jesus, ‘I love You’ (John 21:15-17) - for each denial, an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Jesus.
Three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41) - for each denial, one ‘thousand souls’brought to Christ.
The contrast between the ‘Peter’ of the Gospels and the ‘Peter’ of Acts is striking. When Jesus first met Peter, He said, ‘You are Simon... You shall be called Peter’ (John 1:42).
‘Peter’means ‘rock’. Peter’s confession of faith - ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16) - is the Rock on which our faith is built.
With Peter, let us confess Christ.
Jesus went to the Cross for us. Refusing to protest His own innocence, He took our guilt upon Himself.
Observing this, ‘the governor wondered greatly’ (Matthew 27:14).
We also should wonder greatly at this - Christ took our place, receiving the punishment that should have been ours. Barabbas was released, Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:26).
This is the great exchange - the sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21).
As well as its divine aspect - ‘God so loved...’ (John 3:16) - the Cross has a human dimension - the people, Jews and Gentiles (the whole sinful world), sent Jesus to the Cross.
For Jews and Gentiles (‘the whole world’), Christ has provided salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 John 2:2).
In the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ, we are invited to ask ourselves, ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
The ‘King of the Jews’ wore ‘a crown of thorns’ (Matthew 27:29).
In the Cross, we see the King.
The way of crucifixion - this is the way of the Kingdom.
The prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10), could only be answered by way of the Cross.
From the Cross, we hear the call for decision. It is the call of love. The love of Christ calls for our answer: ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
Here, we see different responses to Christ - derision, mocking, reviling (Matthew 27:39-44); misunderstanding (Matthew 27:47-49); believing worship (Matthew 27:54).
How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Salvation comes from above, from God - ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (Matthew 27:51).
‘Mary the mother of James and Joseph’was also the mother of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; 13:55).
She began by receiving Jesus, not only as her son but also as her Saviour (Luke 1:38). She was still following Jesus - ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5). None of us - not even the mother of Jesus - can walk with the Lord without His grace keeping us in the way of faith.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64).
As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’ (Matthew 27:64).
The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them!
Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24).
He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!
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Monday in Holy Week: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11

Jesus Christ is God’s beloved Son - the Saviour sent to us by the God of love.
‘Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:15-21).
These words turn our thoughts towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
At His baptism, we hear the voice of the Father - ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ At His baptism, we see ‘the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on Him’ (Matthew 3:16-17).
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Word of prophecy: ‘All mankind shall see the Saviour sent from God’ (Luke 3:6).
After His resurrection, we hear Jesus Himself speaking. He says, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

Let us bring Christ to the nations. Let us serve the Lord in the power of the Spirit.
Never take God’s love for granted. Let us be deeply appreciative of His love.
Read about God’s ‘steadfast love’ and rejoice in Him: ‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens...How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! ...O continue Your steadfast love to those who know You...’ (Psalm 36:5, 7, 10).
Rejoicing in the Lord’s ‘steadfast love’ is quite different from taking His love for granted.
We dare not say, “God loves me. I can do what I like.”
We must not become like the wicked - ‘there is no fear of God before his eyes’ (Psalm 36:1).
Where there is true rejoicing in God’s ‘steadfast love’, there will also be ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10).
A real appreciation of God’s ‘steadfast love’ brings with it a real awareness of our own sinfulness.
Knowing how much God loves us leads us to pray, ‘Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away’ (Psalm 36:11).

Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His wonderful redemption.
God gave His promise - ‘I will make a new covenant’ (Hebrews 8:8-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God has fulfilled His promise. There is now a ‘new covenant in Jesus’blood’ (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
The old covenant cannot even begin to compare with the new covenant. It is only a ‘shadow.’
The new covenant is the real thing. It is ‘much more excellent’. It is ‘a better covenant’ (Hebrews 8:5-6),
The old covenant is ‘outdated’ (Hebrews 8:13). It has seen its day. Now, it’s past its ‘sell by date’!
We look at the old covenant and we say, ‘There must be more than this’.
There is more - ‘much more’.
Through ‘the blood of Christ’, ‘our hearts and lives’have been ‘cleansed’. Now, we can begin ‘to serve the living God’ (Hebrews 9:14).
‘What a wonderful redemption!’- ‘eternal redemption’ (Mission Praise, 765; Hebrews 9:12)!

Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His victory over Satan.
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6).
There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
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Tuesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Knowing Christ and making Him known
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’ (Isaiah 49:26).
We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’.
‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves.
We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’ (Mission Praise, 385).
‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).

Keeping Christ at the centre in joyful worship and courageous witness
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2).
We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it!
He is not preoccupied with his own problems. He calls on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4).
How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3).
Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).

With our faith centred on Christ crucified, let us give all the glory to God.
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4).
He preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2).
This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’(Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).

Keep Christ at the centre: concern for the poor grounded in devotion to Christ
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32).
Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
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Wednesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C

Waiting on the Lord, witnessing for Him and winning others for Him
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).

Strengthened in worship, we are equipped for witness.
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2). We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it! Rather than being preoccupied with his own problems, he is calling on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4). How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3). Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).

Learning from others, looking to Jesus
We read about many people who trusted the Lord. Their faith was real. It changed their lives. As you read of so many people who lived ‘by faith’, let God’s Word challenge you. Bring your own weak faith to Him and ask Him to give you a stronger faith: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). We learn from so many different people. We read about their faith. We are inspired by their faith. We do not, however, make too much of them. We must always be ‘looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2). We must learn the lesson of the transfiguration. We look at Moses. We look at Elijah. We learn from them. There comes a point where they - together with all God’s faithful people - must step aside, leaving us to look up and see ‘Jesus only’ (Mark 9:2-8).

Looking beyond our difficult times to Christ’s glorious future
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (John 13:21-30). He would be denied by Peter (John 13:36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (John 13:31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to ‘love one another’: ‘By this all men shall know that they are His disciples’ (John 13:34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (John 14:6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (John 14:9). Now, He is working in and through us (John 14:12-14). He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’(Church Hymnary, 195).
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Thursday in Holy Week: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Christ died for us. Let us live for Him.
Here, we focus attention on two verses which emphasize the importance of being saved by the Lord and going on to live for Him: ‘when I see the blood, I will pass over you... you must eat unleavened bread’ (Exodus 12:13, 20).
In verse 13, we are directed beyond the Passover to Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins (John 1:29; 1 John1:7).
In verse 20, we have the call to holy living.
In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-9, Paul uses ‘leaven’ as a symbol of ‘sin’, which holds us back from ‘running a good race’.
We are to live as a new creation, who feast on ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. Forgiveness of sins and holy living belong together. We are not to rejoice in God’s forgiveness and then gloss over His call to holy living: ‘justified by faith’, we are to ‘walk in newness of life’ (Romans 5:1; 6:4).

God loves us. Let us love one another.
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). We take note of what Paul says about the way we are to come to the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
What’s this all about? Is it about the whole thing looking good - impressive?
Paul gives us something to think about in verse 22 - ‘Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?’.
In Paul’s questions, we hear an echo of the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 1:12-20; Amos 5:21-24).
We rejoice in John 3:16 - ‘God so loved the world…’. Let’s not forget 1 John 3:16-18 - ‘let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in trust’.
Jesus says, ‘…first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’(Matthew 5:23-24). Don’t just think about it. Act on it (James1:22-25; 2:14-17)!

Our love for God is to be a lifelong love.
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’ (Psalm 116:1-2).
Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (Psalm 117:2).
When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us.
When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us.
He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak.
In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’ (Church Hymnary, 450).

Let the love of God change the way you live.
The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. ‘For fear of the Pharisees’, many remained silent, ‘loving the praise of men more than the praise of God’(John 12:42-43).
Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (John 12:46).
If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ.
Do not only read God’s Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (John 12:50).
The ‘hour’of Jesus’suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (John 13:1-3). It is the ‘hour’of His love.
We are ‘washed’ in His precious blood (John 13:8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14).
What God has done for us comes before what we ought to do for others.
Jesus is our Saviour before He is our ‘Example’ (John 13:14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (John 13:17).
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Good Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25 (or Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9); John 18:1-19:42  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.
Were we there when they crucified our Lord? – Yes. He died for our sins.
In this remarkable prophecy, we see Jesus Christ, crucified for us - ‘the Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ - and risen from the dead - ‘After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life’ (Isaiah 53:6, 11).
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ (Mission Praise, 745). We might put this question to Isaiah. In one sense, he wasn’t there. He lived long before the time of Christ. In another sense, he was there. God opened his eyes. God gave him a glimpse of what was going to happen in the future.
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ In one sense, we weren’t there. These things happened long before we were even born. In another sense, we were there. It was our sins which Christ took with Him to the Cross. It was our sins which He left behind Him when He rose from the dead (Romans 4:25).

Jesus Christ – forsaken by God and pierced for our transgressions
Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 22:7-8, 18; Matthew 27:39 ,43, 35).
We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’ (Psalm 22:1, 16).
Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ (Isaiah 53:6).
When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46).
Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’ (John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9).

Looking back to Christ’s crucifixion, looking forward to His return
We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). We are to live as those who are awaiting the Day of the Lord’s return (Hebrews 10:25).
We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us.
Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in Hebrews 9:28 - ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’.
We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’(Galatians 2:20).
We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us - His body broken for us and His blood shed for us.
We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Remember - and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’(Revelation 22:20).
As we remember our Lord Jesus Christ, we see how sinful we really are and we pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (Hebrews 4:15-16). It is through His grace and mercy that we are able to look forward to ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:9).
“It is finished”. The work of redemption is completed. Jesus is the risen Lord.
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (John 18:1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (John 18:12-14, 19-24).
Jesus is ‘drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him’- He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (John 18:11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Jesus’death was not only ‘expedient’. It was ‘necessary’- for our salvation (John 18:14; Luke 24:26).
Alongside the story of Jesus there is the story of Peter (John 18:15-18, 25-27). Jesus’death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (John 21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38, 41).
‘Barabbas was a robber’. He was released (John 18:39-40). There was ‘no crime’in Jesus. He was ‘crucified’ (John 18:38; 19:4, 6, 16).
Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die.
Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born...’ (John 18:36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross.
As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12, 6).
‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’- on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’(Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
To come to the words, ‘It is finished’ is not to reach the end of the story.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42). This was not the end of His story.
He was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4)!
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Saturday in Holy Week: Job 14:1-14 (or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24); Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 (or John 19:38-42)  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.

Out of darkness into light - “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
When you don’t really know what you’re talking about, it’s a case of the less said the better.
That’s how Job feels about his ‘friends’- ‘Oh that would you keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!’(Job 13:5).
They are no help to him. What does he do next? He takes his problem to the Lord. Nothing seems clear to Job. He seems to be bogged down in his own suffering.
There is, however, a glimmer of light. A question comes into his mind - ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ (Job 14:14).
Later on, Job gives the answer of faith: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives...Even after my skin has been stripped off my body, I will see God in my own flesh’ (Job 19:25).
‘Christ has been raised from the dead...Death is swallowed up in victory...Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 54, 57).

Out of darkness into light – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”
There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction...’ (Lamentations 3:1-3).
In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’.
When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us.
We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’.
It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong.
We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives.
We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:22-26).

Out of darkness into light – the “spacious place” of God’s salvation
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5). These words were spoken by Christ as, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (Psalm 31:11). His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21).
In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).

Out of darkness  into light – Create in me, a clean heart, O God.
As we consider Christ who suffered for us, let us pray that we may have His ‘attitude.’ Let us commit ourslves to doing the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
The Gospel was preached even to those who are now dead (1 Peter 4:6). As we read those words, let us commit ourselves to our God-given task of preaching the Gospel to those who are living.
We believe the Gospel - ‘Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’. Let’s share the Gospel - ‘Be always ready to give...a reason for the hope that is in you.’
How are we to share the Gospel? - ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:18, 15). We must get the attitude right - ‘so that nothing will hinder our prayers’ (1 Peter 3:7). We need more than the ‘right’ prayers - words that sound good. We need the right attitude. The blessing will not come because our words sound good. It will only come when our attitude is right.
Our obedience to God’s will, in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is to be grounded our prayer. Our preaching and prayer are to be grounded in praise.
In all the service we offer to God, there is to be the offering of worship: ‘To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever’ (1 Peter 4:11; 5:11).
We will not learn to serve God unless we are learning to worship Him.
There is a ‘form of religion’ which ‘denies the power’ of God - ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’ (2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 15:8). They go through the motions - but their hearts are not in it!
We must pray that God will deliver us from this kind of thing: ‘O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin set free; A heart that always feels Thy blood, so freely shed for me’ (Church Hymnary, 85).
‘Religion’ is about respectability. Salvation is about renewal: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).

Out of darkness into light – It was impossible for death to hold Christ.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64). As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’(64). The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them! Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24). He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!

Out of darkness into light – Love has the victory for ever.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42).
Was this the end of His story? - No! There was more to come – the resurrection. His story did not end there - ‘Jesus had to rise from the dead’ (John 20:9).
On the Cross, Jesus had said, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’ - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father.
The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
We read of Jesus’ death. We read of His burial – but His story does not end there!
This was a time of darkness: Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Saviour.
It was also the time of waiting: Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.
Soon, the time of triumph would come: Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
The story of Jesus Christ does not end with the darkness of His burial. Beyond the darkness, there is the light of His resurrection: He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives for ever with His saints to reign.
For our salvation, Jesus died ‘and was raised to life’(Romans 4:25). The light shines brightly. It is the light of God’s love.
We hear the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection: He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! (Mission Praise, 453).
We hear of the triumph of God’s love: Love has the victory for ever!
Inspired by the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection and the triumph of God’s love, let us respond with the worship of our hearts: Who can see Your greatest gift and fail to worship You? (Mission Praise, 86).
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Easter Vigil: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13; Psalm 46; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16; Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21; Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6; Psalm 19; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Psalms 42 and 43; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 143; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Psalm 98; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Matthew 28:1-10  -  The same readings are suggested for Year B and Year C.
In the beginning, there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. These opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right - (a) The priority of God (Genesis 1:1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there. (b) The priority of God’s Word (Genesis 1:3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord. (c) The priority of God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2). All was ‘empty’, all was ‘darkness’, yet the ‘Spirit of God’ was at work, and transformation was set in motion. Here, we have God’s priorities, set out in the Bible’s first three verses - Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God’s Spirit, ‘hovering over’ our lives to transform them. For those who make God’s priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2). It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
God speaks, and it is done (Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 11). God is pleased with what He has done (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12). This is the pattern of God’s original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God speaks to us and we say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). We say, ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38). God looks on such obedience, this ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, 22-23), and He sees that it is ‘good’ (Micah 6:8). In these verses we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God's creation. There are lessons for us here. We are to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7). We are to let the Spirit's ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:39-39). Walking in the light, letting the living water flow - this is the way of fruitfulness.
The Bible’s opening chapter is a great hymn of praise, emphasizing that all things have been created for the glory of God (Revelation 4:11). Nothing can be permitted to distract our attention from the Lord. He alone is worthy of worship. The creation of the ‘lights’ makes no reference to the sun and the moon. These were worshipped by neighbouring peoples. They are not gods. They are simply ‘lights’. Our worship is to be given to God alone. The waters teemed with living creatures. The land produced living creatures. Here, we have a picture of life. There is life where the living water of the Spirit is flowing freely among God’s people (Ezekiel 47:5-9). This water brings life to the land (Ezekiel 47:12). Moving with the flow of God’s Spirit, we are to pray that ‘the water of life’ will flow freely ‘for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).
We now come to the creation of humanity, male and female. Our creation is described in a distinctive way - created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are different from the rest of creation. We have been given dominion over ‘all the earth’ and ‘every living creature’ (Genesis 1:26, 28). We are different from God. He is the Creator. We are His creation. Created in God’s image, we have been created by Him and for Him. Though we have sinned (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23), now - in Jesus Christ - we have begun to live as a new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1) and that ‘all things were created by Him and for Him’ (Colossians 1:16). This is the Saviour who is at work in us, enabling us to live as a new creation! Creation has been ‘completed’ (2:1). Salvation will be completed (Philippians 1:6)!

In the end, there will be love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘His love endures for ever’. This is the great message contained in every single verse of this Psalm. It’s a message worth repeating - over and over again! God’s love is an everlasting love - ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love is an unfailing love - ‘My unfailing love for you will not be shaken’ (Isaiah 54:10). Let us ‘give thanks’ to God for His love (Psalm 1-3, 26). In His love, the Lord has provided for us ‘an everlasting salvation’. His ‘salvation will last for ever’ (Isaiah 45:17; 51:6). We must not be like those who refuse to love the Lord - ‘Pharaoh... great kings... mighty kings ...’ (Psalm 136:15, 17-20). Those who reject God’s love will not receive ‘eternal life’. Their future will be very different - the ‘raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’ (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 10:26-27).

When you see a rainbow, remember there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we pick up on the words of Genesis 7:16 - ‘the Lord closed the door behind them’. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation - The ark had only one door. Jesus is ‘the Door’ which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation - All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation - Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape...?’(Hebrews 2:3).
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (Genesis 8:13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’. God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (Genesis 8:15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (Genesis 8:17; John 15:16). We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
‘When you see a rainbow, remember God is love’. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (Genesis 9:13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: ‘We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross... upon the Cross we see in shining letters. ‘God is love’, He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above’. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God’s salvation: ‘I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me’. This is the greatest Story of all - ‘the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,... the Story of wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin’. ‘This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long’. This is ‘the Story to tell to the nations’ (Church Hymnary, 258, 381, 132; Mission Praise, 59, 744).

Be still and know that there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).

In Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world (Genesis 21:22-34) and his relationship with the Lord (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - ‘God is with you in all that you do’ (Genesis 21:22). We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God. In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (Genesis 22:8). In Genesis 22:14, we read, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided’. On Calvary’s hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).
After the renewal of God’s promise (Genesis 22:15-18), Abraham went to Beersheba (Genesis 22:19). He returned to the place where he had ‘called...on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (21:33). This is a good ‘place’ to be, the ‘place’ of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God. The death of Sarah took place in God's time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. We see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.

Our hope of eternal glory comes from love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.

In the redemption of Israel, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God had redeemed His people. He was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (Exodus 14:13-14). There is judgment as well as salvation (Exodus 14:30). Looking to neither the ‘right’ nor the ‘left’, we must look to the Lord (Exodus 14:21-22). Rejoicing in ‘the great work’ He has done, our faith ‘in the Lord’ grows strong (Exodus 14:31).
God has given us a song to sing. We have a song to sing. It is a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people; a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption; and a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption. This is not only a ‘song of God’s people’. It is also the song of Moses, a personal song. This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart. Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship: (i) He praises the God of grace - ‘my strength... my song... my salvation’ (Exodus 15:2). (ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (Exodus 15:1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds (Exodus 15:6, 11). (iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (Exodus 15:13) - and glory - the reigning God (Exodus 15:18) - , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28). Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.

In the prophet’s words, we hear the Word of love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found...’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11). We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts...’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy...’ (Isaiah 55:12). Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...’ (Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time...’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).
‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’ (Isaiah 12:1-2). May this be our personal faith – this is what the Lord means to me – and our public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12: 4-5).

Be wise. Open your heart to love, eternal love, the love of God.
Hoping for ‘good luck’, some people expect good things to happen to them - all the time! God says, ‘Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times’. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 8:6-8). Wisdom is not only for ‘kings and rulers, princes and nobles’. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (Proverbs 8:15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (Proverbs 8:13, 35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (Proverbs 8:32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than ‘silver, gold and jewels’ (Proverbs 8:10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Proverbs 11:30). Don’t keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
In Proverbs 9:5, there is a Gospel invitation: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed’. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). ‘This sounds so old-fashioned’- so the world tells us. ‘The fear of the Lord’- This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! - It is a lack of obedience. When we do not ‘honour’ God, we are ‘without sense’. ‘Claiming to be wise’, we show that we are ‘fools’. If we are wise, we will keep ‘going straight on the way’, looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from ‘the depths of hell’ to the heights of heaven (Proverbs 8:13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2, 6).

In creation and Scripture, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’ (7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’ (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!

Through Christ, God looks upon us with love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘I will look on you with favour’ (Ezekiel 36:9). Through Christ our Saviour, God looks upon us with favour. Here are some words which will help you to rejoice in the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which is ‘greater than all my sin’, the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which ‘reaches me’. ‘Let me introduce you to a friend called Grace. Doesn’t care about your past or your many mistakes. He’ll cover your sins in a warm embrace. Let me introduce to a friend called Grace’. ‘His grace reaches lower than your worst mistake and His love will run further than you can run away’. ‘He believes in lost causes when common sense would just give up. He believes in lost causes and changes people with His love. There’s nobody too far gone, no one beyond His reach. He believes in lost causes ‘cause He believed in me’. Let Jesus be your Joy!

May your soul be lifted up by love, eternal love, the love of God.
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).

When the Spirit breathes upon us, we receive love, eternal love, the love of God.
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray. Unreservedly, have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You’ (Mission Praise, 274, 241).

On the Lord’s pathway of victory, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Psalmist prays, ‘Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord’ (Psalm 143:9). He is not concerned only about his own welfare. He is concerned about the glory of God: ‘For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life’ (Psalm 143:11). How does God lead us in victory? How is He glorified in our lives? He brings to us the teaching of His Word - ‘Let the morning bring me Word of Your unfailing love’ (Psalm 143:8). He gives to us the strength of His Spirit - ‘May Your good Spirit lead me in good paths’ (Psalm 143:10). Through His Word and Spirit, God shows us His ‘unfailing love’. He enables us to say, ‘You are my God’, ‘I have put my trust in You’ and ‘I am Your servant’. He ‘shows us the way we should go’. He ‘teaches us to do His will’. He gives us victory over our ‘enemies’ (8, 10, 12).

In the story of God’s salvation, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
In Zephaniah 3, we have a story of sin - Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ - and a story of salvation - ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy... The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:1-2, 14-17). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness - ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’ (Mission Praise, 573).

Let us worship God: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).

Living as a new creation: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). (b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it. This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11). (c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’. ‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.

At the Cross of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).

In the resurrection of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’- His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (Matthew 28:5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact - Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (Matthew 28:19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ’s resurrection - , there is worship (Matthew 28:9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (Matthew 28:17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (Matthew 28:10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). Run and tell - with great joy (Matthew 28:8)!
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Easter Sunday Morning: Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10  -  The same readings (with the exception of the Gospel Reading) are suggested for Year B and Year C.

God’s love, God’s Son, God’s command, God’s purpose
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (Acts 11:12).
The Spirit speaks through the Word (Acts 10:44; 11:15).
In God’s Word, we read of
(a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16);
(b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2);
(c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’should be preached to ‘everyone’ (Mark 16:15);
(d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19).
‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save... Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’ (Mission Praise, 178).

God’s love is an everlasting love.
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’ (Jeremiah 31:3).
So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’ (Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us. The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’. As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’ (Jeremiah 31:18).

God’s Son is our wonderful Saviour.
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’.
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59,744).
Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.

God’s command: Build your life on Jesus Christ.
Be what you already are. Be what God has made you in Christ. This is what God is saying to us here. ‘You have been raised with Christ... You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:1, 3).
Paul is describing the new birth. Christ has made His home in us. New life has begun. Now that Christ lives in us - what are we to do about it? How are we to live? - ‘Set your hearts and minds on things above’ (Colossians 3:1-2). This is how we are to live. We are to live out the life which God has put into our hearts.
The new life begins when Christ comes to live in us. It does not end there. That is only the beginning. We are to go on, ‘being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator’ (Colossians 3:10).
Christ wants to reign in us. He wants to enrich our lives (Colossians 3:15-16).
In Him, there is so much blessing. Let’s enjoy it!

God’s purpose: Christ comes to us. Let us go for Him – Go and make disciples.
Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2, 18, 20, 25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13, 28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us.
Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed.
(a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13, 15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18).
(b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’and ‘joy’ (John 20:19-20).
(c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (John 20:25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28).
Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).
The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love.
There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’- His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (Matthew 28:5-6; 1 John 4:18).
There has to be a new beginning in faith.
First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact- Christ has been raised from the dead’(1 Corinthians 15:20).
Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (Matthew 28:19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ’s resurrection - , there is worship (Matthew 28:9).
The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (Matthew 28:17).
As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (Matthew 28:10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). Run and tell - with great joy (Matthew 28:8)!

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Easter Sunday Evening: Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 114; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; Luke 24:13-49
Remembering the Lord, rejoicing in Him and looking forward to His return
‘O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name... You have done marvellous things’ (Isaiah 25:1).
We remember what God has done for us. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour.
We rejoice in Jesus Christ who died for us. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who rose again for us.
We look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to the Day when ‘He will swallow up death for ever’.
On that Day, ‘the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces’.
On that Day, we will look back and say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us’.
On that Day, we will ‘rejoice and be glad in His salvation’ (Isaiah 25:8-9).
Here and now, let us learn to ‘trust in the Lord’. We can trust in Him ‘for ever’. He is ‘the everlasting Rock’- ‘the Rock of our salvation’ (Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 95:1).

Remembering the Lord’s greatness: the greatness of His power and His love
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8).
The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love.
When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).

Rejoicing in the Lord: He has been sacrificed for us. We are saved by Him.
‘Your boasting is not good’- May we never become so taken up with ourselves that we forget Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us: ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us’, ‘you were washed... sanctified... justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; 6:11).
There were problems among God’s people - ‘sexual immorality’, ‘lawsuits’ (1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:7). In all of this, Christ was being forgotten.
There are no depths to which we cannot sink when we take our eyes off Christ. There are no heights to which we will not be raised as we look away from ourselves to Him. Christ is able to lift from the guttermost and ‘save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25).
Let it be more of Christ and less of self!

Looking forward to the Lord’s return, let us live as His faithful witnesses.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’ (Luke 24:32).
He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’ (Luke 24:47-48).
Before we can preach, we must listen to Him.
Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’ (Luke 24:39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’ (John 20:25).
Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high.
Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy’. With all this going on in your lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:48-53)!
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Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16 or Exodus 15:1-11; Psalm 111; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

Christ has risen. Believe the Gospel. Be changed by the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
In the preaching of Peter on the Day of Pentecost, we see the vital connection between the Holy Spirit and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:24, 30-32).
Jesus Christ has risen. Jesus Christ is Lord. This was Peter’s message. If, like Peter, we are to speak in the power of the Holy Spirit, this must be our message. Jesus Christ has risen. Jesus Christ is Lord.
In Acts 2:25-28, Peter quotes the words of Psalm 16:8-11.
He emphasizes that these words direct our attention to Jesus Christ – “David says concerning Him” (Acts 2:25).
He maintains that David’s words look forward to the resurrection of Christ – “David … spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:29-31).
The final verse of Psalm 16 contains a marvellous message of hope: ‘You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (v.11).
In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come.
By connecting these words of hope with the resurrection of Christ, Peter is stressing that our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection.
We look back to the fact of Christ’s resurrection - ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’ and we look forward to the fulfilment of Christ’s resurrection – ‘at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52).
Here and now, let there be in us faith in Christ’s resurrection – ‘The Lord is my chosen portion’ and the fruit of Christ’s resurrection – ‘Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9).

The Lord has redeemed us. Let us worship Him.
In Exodus 15, we have
(a) a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people,
(b) a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption,
(c) a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption.
This is not only a ‘song of God’s people.’ It is also the song of Moses, a personal song.
This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart.
Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship:
(i) He praises the God of grace - ‘my strength... my song... my salvation’ (v. 2).
(ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (v. 1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds’ (verses 6, 11).
(iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (v. 13) - and glory - the reigning God (v. 18) - , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28).
Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.

We worship the Lord. Let us go out into the world, assured of His victory.
‘Praise the Lord... To Him belong eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...’ (Psalms 111:1,10; 112:1,8).
Those who ‘fear the Lord’ have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise belongs to the Lord’ can face their enemies with confidence.
Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord.
We know how good the Lord has been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people’.
We have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’ any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way.
We ‘trust in the Lord’, confident that the ‘light’ will triumph over the ‘darkness.’ The Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalms 111:9; 112:4, 7).

We rejoice in Christ’s victory. He will lead us in His way of holiness and love.
On earth, we have ‘trials’. In ‘heaven’, we will have ‘salvation’ (1 Peter 1:3-9). In our journey from trials to salvation, from earth to heaven, we are to live a life of holiness and love.
We are sinners. How can we live a life of holiness and love? We have received ‘the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’. Our ‘faith’ is in Him (Romans 3:27,23-25). Jesus makes us holy. Jesus fills us with His love.
Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2, 18, 20, 25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13, 28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us.
Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ.
In love, He comes to them, and they are changed.
(a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13, 15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18).
(b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear.’ Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’and ‘joy’ (John 20:19-20).
(c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (John 20:25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28).
Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).
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Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 or Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 34:1-10; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35
Jesus Christ is Lord.
‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:36).
‘Jesus is Lord’: When this message is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit’, it is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself.
Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (Acts 2:41-47).
Love the Lord.
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’ (Psalm 116:1-2).
Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (Psalm 117:2).
When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us. When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us.
He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak. In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength.
Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’ (Church Hymnary, 450).

Listen to the Lord. Look to the Lord. Learn from the Lord. Live for the Lord.
* ‘Listen’ to the Lord (Isaiah 51:1, 4).
* ‘Look’ to the Lord – ‘Look to the rock from which you were hewn … Look to Abraham … I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him … Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath …’ (Isaiah 51:1-2, 6).
* Learn from the Lord – ‘He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). ‘Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation, for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as light of the peoples’ (Isaiah 51:4).
* Live for the Lord - Before we can live for the Lord, we must listen to Him, look to Him and learn from Him.
Listening to the Lord, looking to Him and learning from Him, we will be changed by His salvation and His righteousness: ‘My righteousness is near. My salvation has gone forth’ (Isaiah 51:5).
The shaping of our life by God’s salvation and righteousness: This is the beginning of eternal life: “My salvation will be for ever, and My righteousness will not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:6).

Lead others to the Lord.
Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant.’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’ (Psalm 34:1).
* We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’ (Psalm 34:3).
* We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’ (Psalm 34:8).
* We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’ (Psalm 34:11).
* We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’ (Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).

Where does our love for the Lord come from? - It comes from His love for us.
In our loving the Lord, listening to Him, looking to Him, learning from Him, living for Him and leading others to Him, we must never forget that we have been ‘redeemed with the precious blood of Christ’ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
We must never take pride in our obedience - ‘boasting is excluded’. All that can be said about ourselves is this: ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. What makes the difference? What is it that changes us? What is it that sets us on the pathway of holiness and love? We have received ‘the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’. Our ‘faith’ is in Him (Romans 3:27,23-25). He makes the difference. He changes us. He makes us holy. He fills us with His love.

How does our love for the Lord grow? – He leads us into the light of His love.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’ (Luke 24:32). He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’ (Luke 24:47-48).
Before we can preach, we must listen to Him. Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’ (Luke 24:39). Even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’ (John 20:25).
Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high.’ Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy.’ With all this going on in our lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:048-53)!
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Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23 or Ezekiel 34:7-15; Psalm 100; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
The Day of the Spirit’s Power
In Acts 2, we read about the Day of Pentecost. It was a great day. The Spirit was poured out on God’s people. Christ was proclaimed to the crowds. Many were brought to faith in Christ. What is to be our response to the God who worked so mightily on the Day of Pentecost. Let us pray for the Spirit’s power. Let us preach Christ. Let us look to God for His blessing.

Preach Christ – the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd.
* Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4).
Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love –
(a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11);
(b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21);
(c) the Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4).
He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25). He is preparing us for our glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6).
* God speaks to us in love. He says, ‘I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep’ (Ezekiel 34:15).
We rejoice in His love. We say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ (Psalm 23:1).
Jesus is our Shepherd.
He is ‘the good Shepherd’. He laid down His life for us that we might receive the forgiveness of our sins. ‘Christ died for our sins’. He - ‘the Righteous’- died for us - ‘the unrighteous’- ‘to bring us to God’ (John 10:11; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18). He is ‘the great Shepherd’. He was ‘raised’ from the dead’. Through His resurrection, we receive eternal life. He says to us, ‘Because I live you will live also’ (Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:4; John 14:19).
He is ‘the chief Shepherd’. He will come again with ‘the unfading crown of glory’ for His ‘good and faithful servants’ (1 Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:21).

Let us look to God for His blessing on our worship.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4,6; 100:1).
We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him.
In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9).
In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1).
The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’
Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).

Let us look to God for His blessing on our witness.
Being ‘God’s own people’is a great privilege - ‘you have received mercy’.
It is also a great responsibility - ‘declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9-10).
God’s people are described as ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Peter 2:11).
We must not think of ourselves as ‘superior’- ‘a cut above the rest’. We are not! In ourselves, we are ‘strangers’- ‘without God in the world’. There’s nothing ‘special’about us, There’s something very special about what God has done for us: ‘In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13).
As those who ‘have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls’, let’s point others to Him who ‘bore our sins...that we might die to sin and live to righteousness’ (1 Peter 2:24-25).

Let us look to God for His blessing on our walk with Him.
The Christian life is not easy.
The devil ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’ (John 10:10).
Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying ‘to stone’ Jesus (John 10:31). ‘Again’, they failed (John 10:39). They could not take Jesus’life. ‘His hour had not yet come’ (John 10:18; 7:30; 8:20).
When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (John 10:28-29).
Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.’
Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).
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Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 or Proverbs 4:10-18; Psalm 119:9-32; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14
Stephen’s Prayer: An echo of Christ’s words from the Cross
In life and death, Stephen was Christlike. In life and death, he made a great impact.
In life, we see him, ‘full of grace and power’, doing ‘great wonders and signs among the people’. People noticed that ‘his face was like the face of an angel’. Even his enemies took notice of him. Unable to ‘withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke’, they decided that he needed to be silenced. (Acts 6:8, 15, 10-11).
In death, we hear him praying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (Acts 7:59-60). In Stephen’s words, we hear an echo of Christ’s words from the Cross (Luke 23:34,46).
Stephen was dying. Stephen was praying. Saul was watching. Saul was listening (Acts 7:58). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:4-6)!
David’s Prayer: A foretaste of Christ’s words from the Cross
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5).
These words were spoken by Christ as, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (Psalm 31:11). His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9).
We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21). In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).

Beyond the Cross, there is Christ’s Resurrection.
‘The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day’ (Proverbs 4:18).
Face the risen Son. His life in us is like the rising sun. It begins with ‘the first gleam of dawn’. It ‘shines ever brighter until the full light of day’'. Christ ‘dawns on us like the morning light’ (2 Samuel 23:4).
In a moment of discovery, we say, ‘It’s just dawned on me’. It is very wonderful when Christ reveals Himself, when He brings us out of our darkness and into His light.
This is just the beginning. There is so much more: ‘No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9).
‘Light has dawned that ever shall blaze... Light a flame within my heart... Let my flame begin to spread’ (Mission Praise, 422; Songs of Fellowship, 339).

Look at Christ. See His love. Drawn by His love, let us follow Him.
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1, 9, 11, 17).
Many will choose the way of disobedience - ‘influential people sit together and slander me’.
We must choose the way of obedience - ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23).
Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).

We follow Christ when we are revived according to God’s Word.
‘Revive me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:25).
How does God revive us according to His Word?
He gives us His salvation: ‘Let Your unfailing love come to me, O Lord - Your salvation according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:41).
He gives us His strength: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:28).
He gives us a change of heart: ‘I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on Your laws... I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free... Give me understanding, and I will keep Your law and obey it with my whole heart... Turn my heart to Your testimonies...’ (Psalm 119:30, 32, 34, 36).
He gives us ‘new life’: ‘When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!’ (Psalm 119:40; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

A life revived by God’s Word: this is our privilege and responsibility.
Being ‘God’s own people’ is a great privilege - ‘you have received mercy’. It is also a great responsibility - ‘declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9-10).
God’s people are described as ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Peter 2:11). We must not think of ourselves as ‘superior’- ‘a cut above the rest’. We are not! In ourselves, we are ‘strangers’- ‘without God in the world’. There’s nothing ‘special’about us, There’s something very special about what God has done for us: ‘In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13).
As those who ‘have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls’, let’s point others to Him who ‘bore our sins...that we might die to sin and live to righteousness’ (1 Peter 2:24-25).

Revived by God’s Word, we look forward to His glorious future.
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus.
He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (John 13:21-30).
He would be denied by Peter (John 13:36-38).
For Jesus, there was His departure (John 13:31-33).
It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to ‘love one another’: ‘By this all men shall know that they are His disciples’ (John 13:34-35).
Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be.
He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3).
He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (John 14:6).
Now, He reveals the Father to us (John 14:9).
Now, He is working in and through us (John 14:12-14).
He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’(Church Hymnary, 195).
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Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20 or Ezekiel 43:1-7a; Psalm 115; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21
In our worship, we listen to the Word of the Lord.
Notice the importance of the Scriptures for both public ministry - ‘reasoning with them from the Scriptures’and private devotion - ‘examining the Scriptures every day’ (Acts 17:2, 11).
We need the Word of the Lord on the Lord’s Day. We need the Word of the Lord every day.
God is not the ‘unknown God’. He has made himself known to us.
For many, He seems to be the ‘unknown God’. We must seek to lead them beyond a vague awareness of ‘the God who made the world’ to a real knowledge of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Acts 17:24, 3).
When our faith is grounded in the Scriptures, we will not think of God as the ‘unknown God’ about whom we can know very little. We will make it our ambition ‘to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10).
‘Let us press on to know the Lord’(Hosea 6:3).

In our worship, we hear the Story of God’s salvation.
‘Come and see what God has done’ (Psalm 66:5).
God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us.
‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’ (Psalm 66:16).
God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives.
We read God’s Word. We hear His Word.
This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us.
He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’ He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’ (Psalm 67:1, 6-7).
He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’ (Psalm 67:4, 7).

In our worship, let us pray the glory of the Lord will fill His Church.
This is not only about the glory of the Temple. It’s about ‘the glory of the God of Israel’. This is the greater glory - ‘the glory of the Lord filled the Temple’ (Ezekiel 43:1, 5).
God is not only concerned about the creation of a beautiful place of worship. He wants our lives to be ‘radiant with His glory’. This happens when ‘the Spirit lifts us up’ and brings us close to God - ‘into the inner court’ (Ezekiel 43:2, 5).
We pray that the glory of the Lord will fill the place of worship: ‘May the fragrance of Jesus fill this place.’ We pray that ‘the glory of Jesus’ will ‘fill His Church’. We are not only praying for God’s glory in the place of worship. We are praying for His glory in our lives: ‘May the beauty of Jesus fill my life... Fill my thoughts, my words, my deeds’ (Mission Praise, 462).

In our worship, let us give all the glory to the Lord.
‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory because of Your love and faithfulness’ (Psalm 115:1).
God loves us. He loves us with a faithful love, ‘an everlasting love’, a ‘love that will not let us go’. His love ‘never comes to an end’. Nothing can separate us from His love (Jeremiah 31:3; Lamentations 3:22-23; Romans 8:38-39; Church Hymnary, 677). What have we done to deserve such love? Absolutely nothing! We are ‘sinners’. We do not deserve to be loved by God. We have done nothing to earn His love. Love begins with God. It comes from Him.
How do we know that He loves us? Have we proved ourselves worthy of His love? No! - ‘God shows His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. ‘To God be the glory!’ (Romans 5:8; Church Hymnary, 374).

As we leave the place of worship, let us take the Gospel with us.
The world is preoccupied with outward appearances. As Christians, we should be more concerned with our inward attitude. ‘In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord’. Pray for His ‘attitude’ - ‘a tender heart and a humble mind’ (1 Peter 3:8, 15; 4:1).
We believe the Gospel - ‘Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’. Let’s share the Gospel - ‘Be always ready to give...a reason for the hope that is in you’.
How are we to share the Gospel? - ‘with gentleness and respect’(1 Peter 3:18, 15).
We must get the attitude right - ‘so that nothing will hinder our prayers’ (1 Peter 3:
7).
We need more than the ‘right’prayers - words that sound good. We need the right attitude. The blessing will not come because our words sound good. It will only come when our attitude is right.

As we go into the world, let us pray that the fruit of the Spirit will be seen in us.
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His ‘commandments’, keeping His ‘Word’ (John 14:21, 23).
We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (John 14:23).
Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (John 15:4).
Jesus says to us, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you.
‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’ (John 14:26). Christ’s ‘words’ abide in us (John 15:7).
We are called to a life of fruitfulness (John 15:5, 15) - ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace...’ (Galatians 5:22-23).
Jesus loves us (John 14:21). He gives us His peace (John 14:27). He gives us His joy (John 15:11).
Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’ be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’ (John 15:12, 16-17).
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Day of Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21 (or Numbers 11:24-30); Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 (or Acts 2:1-21); John 20:19-23 (or John 7:37-39)

The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ.

‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). ‘In Jerusalem’, on ‘the day of Pentecost’ there are ‘Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:1, 5). They are ‘amazed’at what they hear - ‘we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God’ (Acts 2:7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!’ (Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’, the apostles pave the way for Peter’s bold proclamation: ‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:36). Empowered ‘by the Holy Spirit’, this message - ‘Jesus is Lord’- is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (Acts 2:41-47).

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of obedience and blessing.

God is at work among His people, teaching them many lessons.  Through His precious promises and strong warnings, He leads us in the way of obedience and blessing (Numbers 11:31-32).  If we are to enjoy the Lord’s blessing, we need the whole Word of God – the warnings as well as the promises.  Obedience to God – This is the most important thing in the life of faith.  Obedience demonstrates the reality of faith.  By our obedience, we show our ‘love’ for the Lord.  We rejoice in ‘all the great work of the Lord’.  By ‘His mighty hand’, He has provided for us a great salvation.  Our enjoyment of His salvation increases as we live in obedience to Him (Numbers 11:8-15).  Without obedience, there can be no blessing (Numbers 11:16-17).  Teach others to obey God – especially the ‘children’ (Numbers 11:18-21).  God is good.  He loves us (Numbers 11:22-25).  Obey Him.  Choose blessing (Numbers 11:26-28).

The Holy Spirit leads us into a life of worship.

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

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of love.

Paul speaks about ‘gifts of the Spirit’. They are ‘given for the common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We’re not ‘to show off’: ‘Look at me. The Church can’t do without me’. When we draw attention to ourselves rather than Christ, we are not living ‘by the Spirit of God’. He moves us to say, with our whole heart, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). We live in fellowship with one another: ‘the body does not consist of one member but of many’ (1 Corinthians 12:14). ‘I’m happy – as long as I’m getting my own way’: We can do without this kind of attitude! What about ‘the common good’? Sometimes, things don’t go according to my plan. Perhaps, my plan needs revising – to take account of ‘the common good’. When self raises its ugly head – ‘It’s my way or no way at all’ – let’s not forget the ‘still more excellent way’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). It is the way of love – Christ’s love!

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of peace and joy.

Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2,18,20,25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas – changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer – ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18). (b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (John 20:19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (John 20:25). Jesus came to him, and he believed – ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of new life.

‘Rivers of living water’ were flowing out of  Jesus’ heart. ‘No man ever spoke like this man’! ‘The Spirit’ was speaking through Him with power. Still, there were those who ‘wanted to arrest Him’ (John 7:37-39,44,46). Stop ‘throwing stones’ (John 8:1-11)! Only Jesus had the right to point the finger at this woman. He refused to do so. He bore her sins and our sins on the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus spoke to the woman of both forgiveness and holiness (John 8:11). Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12). This brought an immediate reaction from the ‘Pharisees’: ‘Your testimony is not true’ (John 8:13). They were ‘disguised as angels of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). They ‘loved darkness rather than light’ (John 3:19). Their ‘darkness’ was exposed by ‘the Light of the world’. These evil men could do nothing until God’s time (John 8:19-20).
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Trinity Sunday (First Sunday after Pentecost): Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

Getting our priorities right: God, His Word, His Spirit - at the centre of our life

The Bible’s opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right.
(a) The priority of God (Genesis 1:1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there.
(b) The priority of God’s Word (Genesis 1:3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord.
(c) The priority of God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2). All was ‘empty’, all was ‘darkness’, yet the ‘Spirit of God’ was at work, and transformation was set in motion.
Here, we have God’s priorities, set out in the Bible’s first three verses.
Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God’s Spirit, ‘hovering over’ our lives to transform them.
For those who make God’s priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2).
It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as ‘God with us’  (Matthew 1:23).
God speaks, and it is done (Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 11).
God is pleased with what He has done (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12).
This is the pattern of God’s original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God speaks to us and we say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10).
We say, ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38).
God looks on such obedience, this ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16,22-23), and He sees that it is ‘good’ (Micah 6:8).
In Genesis 1:4-13, we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God's creation.
There are lessons for us here. We are to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7).
We are to let the Spirit's ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:39-39).
Walking in the light, letting the living water flow - this is the way of fruitfulness.
The Bible’s opening chapter is a great hymn of praise, emphasizing that all things have been created for the glory of God (Revelation 4:11).
Nothing can be permitted to distract our attention from the Lord. He alone is worthy of worship.
The creation of the ‘lights’ makes no reference to the sun and the moon. These were worshipped by neighbouring peoples. They are not gods. They are simply ‘lights’. Our worship is to be given to God alone.
The waters teemed with living creatures. The land produced living creatures. Here, we have a picture of life. There is life where the living water of the Spirit is flowing freely among God’s people (Ezekiel 47:5-9). This water brings life to the land (Ezekiel 47:12). Moving with the flow of God’s Spirit, we are to pray that ‘the water of life’ will flow freely ‘for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).
The creation of humanity is described in a distinctive way - created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
We are different from the rest of creation. We have been given dominion over ‘all the earth’ and ‘every living creature’ (Genesis 1:26, 28).
We are different from God. He is the Creator. We are His creation.
Created in God’s image, we have been created by Him and for Him. Though we have sinned (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23), now - in Jesus Christ - we have begun to live as a new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10).
The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1) and that ‘all things were created by Him and for Him’ (Colossians 1:16).
This is the Saviour who is at work in us, enabling us to live as a new creation! Creation has been ‘completed’ (Genesis 2:1). Salvation will be completed (Philippians 1:6)!

The Priority of Worship: Father, Son and Holy Spirit –  “Glorify Your Name”
The Lord is ‘majestic’ (Psalm 8:1, 9).
He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He shows us His greatness, the greatness of His love.
We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4). We are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’ (Psalm 8:2).
We look beyond our creation (Psalm 8:5-8) to our salvation - ‘we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone...that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil’ (Hebrews 2:8-9, 14).
This is ‘Majesty’- ‘Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’. The Name of the Lord is majestic ‘in all the earth’ (Psalm 8:1, 9).
To God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we pray, ‘Glorify Your Name in all the earth’ (Mission Praise. 454, 142).

In our worship, let us seek the blessing of God.
‘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)!

Blessed by the Lord, let us share His blessing with others.
Why is it so important that we ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19)?
There is a devil, and he is doing his utmost to hinder the progress of God’s truth. He spreads lies about Christ - ‘to this day’ he is still sowing seeds of unbelief (Matthew 28:11-15). We must combat the enemy of Christ - with words of truth, with the believing declaration, ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7).
Satan failed to halt the progress of the Gospel. Christ’s disciples rose to the challenge, and so must we: ‘Rise up, you champions of God... We’ll reach this generation... Go forth! Jesus loves them. Go forth! Take the Gospel. Go forth! The time is now. The harvest is ripening; Go forth! Feel now the burden of the Lord. Feel how He longs to save them. Feel now for those who never heard... Now is the time’ (Songs of Fellowship,486).
‘All authority... has been given to Me... I am with you always' (Matthew 28:18-20).
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Second Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 6:9-22, 7:24, 8:14-19; Psalm 46 or Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28; Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24; Romans 1:16-17, 3:22b-28 (29-31); Matthew 7:21-29
The one way of salvation: Learning from the ark, looking to Christ
To view the Genesis flood exclusively in terms of judgment is to see only one side of what God was doing.
As well as judging, He was also saving - ‘In this ship a few people - eight in all - were saved by water’ (1 Peter 3:20).
The ark points forward to Christ ‘who came back from death to life’, Christ who ‘saves’ us (1 Peter 3:21).
God was working out His purpose of salvation.
In Noah’s day, the remnant of faith was very small, yet the promise of God's love was given to them - ‘I will establish My covenant with you’ (Genesis 6:18).
Even when wickedness threatens to overwhelm us, we still have God’s promise of love, ‘the new covenant in Christ’s blood’ (1 Corinthians 11:25). ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’(1 John 1:7).
Knowing that Christ loved us and died for us, we are to be like Noah (Genesis 6:22). We are to walk with the Lord and serve Him.
‘The Lord closed the door behind them’ (Genesis 7:16).
What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark.
What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord.
What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12).
From the ark, we learn of
(a) the one way of salvation - The ark had only one door. Jesus is ‘the Door’ which leads to salvation (John 10:9);
(b) the eternal security of salvation - All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28);
(c) the absolute necessity of salvation - Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape...?’(Hebrews 2:3).
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (Genesis 8:13).
Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’.
God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (Genesis 8:15).
We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30).
He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (Genesis 8:17; John 15:16).
We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5).
We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
God’s Word brings peace. Let us share His Word with joy.
‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalms 46:10; 47:2).

In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise.
We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1).
* God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’.
* We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12).
The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:6-7).
‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’ (Mission Praise, 142).

We are blessed by the Lord when we walk with him in the pathway of obedience.
God is at work among His people, teaching them many lessons.
Through His precious promises and strong warnings, He leads us in the way of obedience and blessing (Deuteronomy 11:31-32).
If we are to enjoy the Lord’s blessing, we need the whole Word of God - the warnings as well as the promises.
Obedience to God - This is the most important thing in the life of faith. Obedience demonstrates the reality of faith. By our obedience, we show our ‘love’ for the Lord. We rejoice in ‘all the great work of the Lord’. By ‘His mighty hand’, He has provided for us a great salvation. Our enjoyment of His salvation increases as we live in obedience to Him (Deuteronomy 11:8-15). Without obedience, there can be no blessing (Deuteronomy 11:16-17). Teach others to obey God - especially the ‘children’ (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
God is good. He loves us (Deuteronomy 11:22-25). Obey Him. Choose blessing (Deuteronomy 11:26-28).

Walking in the pathway of obedience, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5).
These words were spoken by Christ as, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (Psalm 31:11).
His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9).
We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21).
In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).

Christ has saved us. Let us rejoice in our Saviour.
‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith’ (Romans 1:16).
Do you think it was easy for Paul to maintain such commitment to Christ, such confidence in Christ? What kind of world did he live in? - A world of ‘ungodliness and wickedness’ (Romans 1:18-31). Many times, Paul could have given up in despair - ‘There is too much ungodliness and wickedness all around me. How can I go on?’
When you feel like giving up, when everything seems to be so difficult, remember Paul. Remember his longing to ‘impart some spiritual gift’, his desire to ‘reap some harvest’ his eagerness to ‘preach the gospel’ (Romans 1:12-15).
Let us say, with Paul, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14). Let us be ‘set apart for the gospel of God’ (Romans 1:1).
We are sinners - every single one of us. There are no exceptions - ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. When we see ourselves as we really are - sinners - , we come to see that there is no way for us to earn God’s love. We will never deserve to be loved by God. His love is always ‘a gift’- ‘the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23-24).
Through ‘faith’ we look away from ourselves to Christ. We rejoice that ‘His blood’ was shed for us. We receive from Him the forgiveness of our sins. This is the love of God. This is His gift. He gave His Son to be our Saviour. He gives salvation to all who trust the Saviour. ‘By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8).
No ‘boasting’ (Romans 3:27) - Rejoice in your Saviour!

Christ has saved us. Let us build our lives on Him.
Whenever we are seeking to follow Christ, there will be dangers - false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20), empty profession (Matthew 7:21-23).
Clearly, our faith must be grounded in the Son of God and the Word of God. This is the point of Jesus’ parable of the two builders and the two houses (Matthew 7:24-27). We must build upon Christ. We must build on the Word of God.
Jesus’ ‘sermon’ ends in verse 27, and is followed - in verses 28-29 - by a statement of its effect upon His hearers.
Down through the centuries, Jesus’ teaching continues to make this impression on people.
His words come to us with authority, addressing us with remarkable relevance.
We imagine that our time is very different from Jesus’ time, yet Jesus’ words make it very clear - things are not so different after all.
Still, we hear Him speaking as One who has authority. His Word is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
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Third Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 12:1-9; Psalm 33:1-12 or Hosea 5:15-6:6; Psalm 50:7-15; Romans 4:13-25; Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

God comes to us with grace and power. Let us rejoice in His faithfulness.

This is a divine Story, carried forward by God’s grace and power.
God’s very great promises (Genesis 12:1-3) find their ultimate fulfilment in the coming of God’s eternal Kingdom (Revelation 21:10).
We have not reached our heavenly destination. We are still caught in the tension between obedience (Genesis 12:4) and disobedience (Genesis 12:11-13).
We are conscious of our human failure, yet we rejoice in the divine faithfulness.
We read of Abraham’s sin (Genesis 12:10-20), yet we look beyond this to God's salvation.
This is not simply the story of Abraham. It is the Story of Abraham's God.
This becomes clear in the change of name.
Abram (‘exalted father’) draws attention to the man. Abraham (‘Father of Many’) points to God’s purpose (Genesis 17:5).
Like Abraham, we are to worship God (Genesis 12:7-8). We are to say, ‘He is exalted.’ We are to say, ‘Christ must increase, and I must decrease’ (John 3:30).

We have plenty of good reasons for rejoicing in the Lord.

‘Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous’ (Psalm 33:1).
We have plenty of good reasons for rejoicing in the Lord.
* He opens His heart to us, making known ‘the thoughts of His heart to all generations’ (Psalm 33:11).
* In His heart, there is love for us - ‘the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord’ (Psalm 33:5).
* He speaks to us of His love. Listening to His voice of love, our joy increases as we learn to trust in His Word - ‘the Word of the Lord is right and true’- and rest in His faithfulness - ‘He is faithful in all He does’ (Psalm 33:4).
We have good cause to say, ‘Our heart is glad in Him’ (Psalm 33:20).
Think of God’s love - His heart of love, His purpose of love, His Word of love.
Let His love touch your heart and change your life. May His love cause each of us to pray from the heart: ‘May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord’ (Psalm 33:22).

We rejoice in the Lord’s wonderful love. Let us love Him with a ‘steadfast love.’
We are to leave the old way of sinful disobedience and follow the new way of faith and obedience: ‘Come, let us return to the Lord... Let us press on to know the Lord’.
As we return to the Lord, pressing on to know Him, His blessing returns to us. He leads us in the way of fruitfulness: ‘He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth’ (Hosea 6:1, 3).
We must not be like those who react to God’s Word with ‘pride’: ‘They do not return to the Lord their God’. God longs to ‘redeem’ them, yet they ‘rebel against’ Him: ‘They do not turn to the Most High God’ (Hosea 7:10, 13, 16).
Our ‘love’ for God is not to be ‘like the early dew that disappears’. Let us ‘acknowledge our guilt and seek His face’. Let us love Him with a ‘steadfast love’ (Hosea 5:15; 6:4, 6).

God comes to us. He speaks to us. Treasure His presence. Listen to His voice.
‘Our God comes, He does not keep silence’ (Psalm 50:3).
God does not keep His distance. He comes near to us. He does not keep His silence. He speaks to us - ‘God the Lord speaks’ (Psalm 50:1).
* How does God come near to us? How does He speak to us?
He comes near to us in Jesus Christ. He speaks to us through Jesus Christ.
In John 1:1, we have this tremendous description of Jesus Christ: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Jesus Christ is the Word. God is speaking to us through Jesus Christ.
* How does God speak to us through Jesus Christ?
He speaks to us by drawing near to us - ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. Jesus Christ is God’s Word. He is God, speaking to us. He is God, coming near to us. He is God, ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

We come to God’s throne of grace. We give thanks for the Word of His grace.
Salvation is not a ‘reward’ to be ‘earned.’ It is God’s ‘gift’ (Romans 4:4-5). Salvation comes from the Lord.
‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’ (John 3:16): Without the love of God, the gift of God, the Son of God, there can be no salvation. The way of salvation does not begin with the word ‘I.’ Jesus Christ is the Way. He is the Saviour. Salvation is in Him (John 14:6; Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12).
Looking to ‘Jesus our Lord’, crucified and raised for our salvation, we are saved and we give ‘glory to God’ (Romans 4:20-25). We rejoice in ‘God our Saviour’ - ‘He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy...’ (Titus 3:4-7).
Looking away from ourselves to Christ, we learn the truth of God’s Word: ‘it is on the basis of faith that it may rest on grace’ (Romans 4:16). This is Good News!

The Lord has done great things for us. Let us do great things for Him.
Christ demonstrates His power over nature (Matthew 8:23), demons (Matthew 8:28-34) and sickness (Matthew 9:1-8).
Following such mighty works of power, the next verse seems so ordinary - Jesus said, ‘Follow me’. Matthew ‘rose and followed Him’ (Matthew 9:9).
Matthew’s conversion may seem so unspectacular, but it is no less a mighty work of God than the great miracles which preceded it.
Where does the desire to follow Christ come from? Does it come from our own sinful hearts? No! It comes from the Word of Christ, spoken in power and love - ‘He drew me and I followed on, charmed to confess the Voice Divine’ (Mission Praise, 499).
In the human heart there is resistance - we say, ‘I am “righteous.” “I have no need”of a Saviour’ (Matthew 9:12-13). This resistance is broken down by Christ when ‘new wine is put into fresh wineskins’ (Matthew 9:17).
In Jesus’ miracles, we see His triumph over sin, death and hell.
As well as healing, there is forgiveness (Matthew 9:5-6), the raising of the dead (Matthew 9:18, 24-25) and the casting out of demons (Matthew 9:33).
The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) did not like what was happening, and they came up with their own explanation - ‘He casts out demons by the prince of demons’ (Matthew 9:34).
Jesus gives us another, better, explanation: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...’ (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus was sent to preach the Gospel. We are to bring the Gospel to other people.
Jesus was 'teaching... preaching... and healing' (Matthew 9:35).
What opportunities there are to bring the healing power of Christ into many hearts and homes! These opportunities will be missed if ‘the labourers’ remain ‘few’ (Matthew 9:37). Many are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36). We must not fail them!
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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 18:1-5 (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19 or Exodus 19:2-8a; Psalm 100; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

Trust the Lord.
Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:14).
We need to hear these words as God’s call to greater faith.
Sarah, like Abraham, had heard God’s promises, yet ‘she laughed to herself’ (Genesis 18:12).
We can hear God’s Word, and still remain, in our hearts, men and women of unbelief. The Word of God does not benefit us when we do not receive it with faith (Hebrews 4:2).
God knows what is in our hearts, just as He knew what was in Sarah’s heart (Genesis 18:13-15). He knows the human heart, ‘deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9), yet He continues to love us. He does not give up on us. He perseveres with us. He could have given up on Sarah as a hopeless waste of His time, but He did not.
‘The evil heart of unbelief’ is always with us, but God is constantly at work to create in us ‘a clean heart’ (Hebrews 3:12: Psalm 51:10). 'Soften my heart, Lord’ (Mission Praise, 606).
We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief. Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him.
In Christ, we are the children of promise - ‘children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:13).
God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (Genesis 21:17-21).
The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace.
Many people know much of the grace of God in ‘the common things of life’ (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count. Still they fail to appreciate God’s greatest gift - His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and... Jesus!

Love the Lord.
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’ (Psalm 116:1-2).
Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (Psalm 117:2).
When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us.
When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us.
He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak.
In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’ (Church Hymnary, 450).

Obey the Lord.
Before law, there is Gospel - what God has done for us (Exodus 19:4).
We are to obey in the Spirit of grace, as those who have been redeemed by His mercy (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9-10).
God’s Word is not only for the leader. It is for the whole people of God (Exodus 19:3, 7, 9, 11).
God speaks to us concerning possession, consecration and reverence.
* Possession - We are His 'own possession' (Exodus 19:5). In love, He has claimed us for Himself. We belong to Him.
* Consecration - God is holy. We are to be holy (Exodus 19:10, 14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
* Reverence - Don’t rush into God’s presence, presuming on His blessing. We must not take God’s blessing for granted. That would be arrogance (Exodus 19:21-22).
We must come to Him with this humble confidence: God will bless those who truly call upon Him (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).
May God help us to say, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (Exodus 19:8).

Worship the Lord.
‘Exalt the Lord our God ... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1).
We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him.
* In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! ... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9).
* In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(100:5; 98:1).
The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’
Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).

Rejoice in the Lord.
God has great things in store for His people!
(a) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:9-10): ‘Justified by Christ’s blood’, ‘reconciled to God’, ‘We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God’, ‘saved by His life.’
(b) ‘Much more’ (Romans 5:15, 17): ‘The grace of God’ has ‘abounded for many’. In Christ, we have ‘received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness.’ Through Him, we shall ‘reign in life.’
(c) ‘More than that’ (Romans 5:3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be ‘suffering.’ God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: ‘grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:21). ‘We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God’ (Romans 5:2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our ‘suffering’in a new light, the light of ‘God’s love’ (Romans 5:3-5).

Serve the Lord.
In Jesus’miracles, we see Him triumph over sin, death and hell.
As well as healing, there is forgiveness (Matthew 9:5-6), the raising of the dead (Matthew 9:18, 24-25) and the casting out of demons (Matthew 9:33).
The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) did not like what was happening, and they came up with their own explanation - ‘He casts out demons by the prince of demons’ (Matthew 9:34). Jesus gives us another, better, explanation: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...’ (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus was sent to preach the Gospel. We are to bring the Gospel to other people. Jesus was 'teaching... preaching... and healing' (Matthew 9:35).
What opportunities there are to bring the healing power of Christ into many hearts and homes! These opportunities will be missed if ‘the labourers’remain ‘few’ (Matthew 9:37). Many are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’(Matthew 9:36). We must not fail them!
Jesus gave authority to His disciples (Matthew 10:1). He gives authority to us. It is the authority of the Word and the Spirit - ‘you will be given what to say’by ‘the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (Matthew 10:20).
Christ’s disciples were being trained for a great work to be done in the Name and the Power of the Lord (Matthew 28:18-20).
If we are to communicate the Word in the power of the Spirit, we need to see our life as life in the Spirit and life under the Word. Scripture calls us to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18) and to ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’ (Colossians 3:16). To be filled with the Spirit is to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. To let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly is to be filled with the Spirit. We are to live in the power of the Spirit. We are to live in accordance with the Scriptures.
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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 or Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 19:24-30

Let us rejoice in God’s greatest gift – Jesus.

We have here the contrast between Isaac, the child of promise, and Ishmael, the fruit of unbelief.
Ishmael was born as a result of impatience, the failure to wait upon the Lord. In the birth of Isaac, the initiative belonged with God, and the glory belonged to Him.
In Christ, we are the children of promise - ‘children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:13).
God did not forget Ishmael. There were blessings for him (Genesis 21:17-21).
The difference between Ishmael and Isaac is the difference between common grace and saving grace.
Many people know much of the grace of God in ‘the common things of life’ (Church Hymnary, 457). There are so many blessings for them to count.
Sadly, they fail to appreciate God’s greatest gift - His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thank God for this and that and... Jesus!

Let the God of love fill your heart with His joy.
‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you... Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth... I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart... For great is Your love towards me’ (Psalm 86:5, 11-13).
God loves us. He forgives our sins.
We receive His love. We want to love Him more.
His love inspires our praise - ‘I will praise You...’
His love inspires our prayer - ‘Teach me Your way...’
Our whole life is to be a celebration of His love - ‘Great is Your love towards me’. We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’ (Psalm 86:4).
We rejoice in the Lord because of who He is - ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’- and what He has done for us - ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’ (Psalm 86:15, 17).

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to keep on serving Him.
Jeremiah is deeply depressed - ‘Cursed be the day I was born! ... Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?’ (Jeremiah 20:14-18).
He has been preaching God’s Word.
He’s getting nothing but abuse in return: ‘The Word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long’ (Jeremiah 20:8).
Does he stop preaching? No! He keeps on going.
He feels like giving up: ‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”’.
There is, however, a greater Power which drives him on - ‘His Word is in my heart like a fire.’
No matter how much Jeremiah tries to keep silent, he ‘cannot’ do it (Jeremiah 20:9). He moves forward in triumphant faith: ‘The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior’ (Jeremiah 20:11).
He calls on the people to worship the Lord: ‘Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord!’ (Jeremiah 20:13).

The joy of the Lord gives us strength when we are suffering.
David is going through ‘the deep waters’ of suffering. He prays to the Lord for deliverance from ‘the flood’ and ‘the deep’ (Psalm 69:14-15).
He had sinned against the Lord. He does not try to hide this. He confesses his sin and guilt - ‘the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You, my guilt is not hidden from You’ (Psalm 69:5).
He looks to the Lord, remembering that He is the God of ‘steadfast love’ and ‘abundant mercy’ (Psalm 69:16).
When you come to God in prayer, do not try to hide your sins from Him.
Remember - ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’
In Christ, there is ‘mercy’ - God doesn’t send the judgment we deserve - and ‘grace’ - God sends the blessing we don’t deserve.
Come to Christ and receive His ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (1 Timothy 1:13-16; Hebrews 4:14-16).

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to walk in the way of Gospel obedience.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done!
He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (Romans 6:2 Corinthians 5:17).
(b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it.
This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11).
(c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’.
‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new.
We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.

The joy of the Lord gives us strength to look to Jesus Christ for salvation.
Even though ‘large crowds followed Him’, still ‘the Pharisees’opposed Jesus (Matthew 19:2-3).
Jesus’teaching regarding marriage has perfect balance.
Marriage is God’s purpose for ‘male and female’ (Matthew 19:4-5).
‘Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 19:12). There is no compulsion in these matters. Each one must seek God’s will. Celibacy should not be viewed with suspicion. This way can also be chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. It must not be suggested that celibacy is the only truly ‘spiritual’ way.
Jesus calls for humility (Matthew19:14, 30).
What we cannot do for ourselves, God does for us (Matthew 19:23-26). The Gospel humbles us and exalts God. Before we can be exalted by God and with Him, we must be humbled by God and before Him.
‘Eternal life’ (Matthew 19:16) begins when, conscious of our sin - ‘Who then can be saved?’ (Matthew 19:25) - we look to Christ alone for salvation.
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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 22:1-12; Psalm 13 or Jeremiah 28:5-9; Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42

Let us look to Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

In Genesis 21:22-34, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world.
In Genesis 22:1-14, we see Abraham in his relationship with the Lord.
Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - ‘God is with you in all that you do’ (Genesis 21:22).
We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God.
In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (Genesis 22:8). In Genesis 22:14, we read, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ On Calvary’s hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).

Through Christ our Saviour, “God is able to make all grace abound to us.”

'The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven': We 'take refuge' in Him (Psalm 11:4, 1).
We are to seek His face, confident that 'when He appears...we shall see Him as He is' (Psalm 11:7; 27:8; 1 John 3:2). Seeking God's face, we learn to rest in His promises, we are protected, we are kept (Psalm 12:6-7).
We may face difficult circumstances (Psalm 13:1-4). We can still trust in the Lord's 'steadfast love'. We can still 'rejoice' in His 'salvation'. We can still say with the Psalmist, 'I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me' – ‘God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work’ (Psalm 13:5-6; 2 Corinthians 9:8).

Let us exchange our weakness for the strength of our Saviour.
‘Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie’ (Jeremiah 28:15).
What a difference there is between those who wait on the Lord for His strength and those who rush ahead in their own strength!
The Word of God warns us against trying to serve God in our own strength: ‘Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted’.
If we are to be true servants of the Lord, we must learn to wait upon the Lord and receive His strength: ‘Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’. What a difference the strength of the Lord makes - ‘They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint’ (Isaiah 40:30-31)!

Let us exchange our weakness for God’s strength - then we will truly be ‘sent’ by the Lord and will speak His truth.
Christ has died for us. Christ has risen for us. Let us sing of His great love for us.
‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’ (Psalm 89:1).
Many years have passed since these words were written by the Psalmist. Many generations have come and gone since Jesus Christ came to our world. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time.
There is something which must never change. The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever’. He is to be praised ‘through all generations’.
We must look back and remember. Jesus Christ was crucified for us. Jesus Christ has risen for us.
This is the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever...’

With Christ as our Saviour, let us walk in newness of life.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
(b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it. This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11).
(c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’. ‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new.
(d) We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.

Let us learn from our Saviour. Let us walk with Him in the way of the Cross.
Jesus tells us that ‘a student is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master’ (Matthew 10:24). Our Teacher is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Master. Jesus emphasizes that ‘it is enough for the student to be like his teacher and the servant like his master’ (Matthew 10:25). This is the goal of the Christian life - we are to be like Jesus.
This will not be an easy life. There will be persecution (Matthew 10:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).
In this situation - going the way of the Cross with Jesus (Matthew 10:38) - we need to hear and heed the Word of the Lord: Do not fear man. Fear God (Matthew 10:28). The fear of men is to be avoided. The fear of God is to be treasured greatly.
There will be conflict with those who do not honour God (Matthew 10:34-37). We must remember: pleasing God is more important than pleasing people. Our prayer is that our hearers will receive Christ as well as ourselves (Matthew 10:40).
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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67; Psalm 45:10-17 or Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (or Zechariah 9:9-12); Psalm 145:8-14; Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Rejoicing in God’s love and faithfulness, let us seek His guidance and blessing.
The detailed account of Isaac's marriage highlights the guidance of God.
He directs the life of His people. This is our testimony - ‘the Lord... has led me on the right road’ (Genesis 24:48).
The great lessons of this story are stated in Genesis 24:27.
(a) the ‘steadfast love’ of the Lord;
(b) the ‘faithfulness’ of God;
(c) the guidance of God - ‘the Lord has led me’;
(d) worshipping the Lord - ‘Blessed be the Lord...’
We are to seek God’s guidance, rejoicing in His love and trusting in His faithfulness. Looking to Christ, who went to the Cross for us, we are to say, with Him, ‘I have come to do Thy will, O God’, ‘I will praise Thee’, ‘I will put my trust in Him’, ‘Here am I, and the children God has given Me’ (Hebrews 10:7; 2:12-13).
To those who do His will, praising Him and trusting Him, God will give much blessing - ‘an overflowing blessing’ (Malachi 3:10).
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In Genesis 24:60, we read of the blessing of God upon Rebekah - ‘Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies’.
This refers to the long-term fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham. Through the death of Christ, the Lamb of God, ‘a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation,’ will sing the song of salvation, ‘Salvation belongs to our God ...and to the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:9-10).
This is what we must pray for in our own community. In homes where Christ has not been honoured, there will be transformation.
The Lord’s messengers will be received - ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ - and the Lord’s Name will be praised - ‘Hosanna in the highest!’ (Matthew 21:9).
Such blessing will be given to those who spend time with God (Genesis 24:63; Joshua 1:8).

Rejoicing in God’s love and faithfulness, let us praise our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is ‘the most excellent of men’ (Psalm 45:2). He is more than that. He is God.
In Psalm 45:6, we read these words - ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever’. We read them again in Hebrews 1:8. They are the words which God the Father speaks to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
* How does the Word of God describe Jesus Christ? - ‘He is your Lord’.
* How are we to respond to Him? - We are to approach Him with ‘reverence’. We are to ‘honour’ Him. We are to ‘bow down’ and ‘worship’ Him. We are to ‘obey’ Him (Psalm 45:11).
Think of the “Good News’ of our Lord Jesus Christ - ‘the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me’.
Let your heart overflow with praise to the Lord Jesus Christ - What a wonderful Saviour He is (Psalm 45:1; Galatians 2:20)!
Let us celebrate His Name in this generation. Let Him be praised for ever and ever’ (Psalm 45:17).
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‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding.’ Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3).
The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration’.
* We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’.
* We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’.
Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom’.
There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8, 13, 21).
Christ comes to us in love. Let us receive His love. Let us give Him our love.
Christ comes to us in love: ‘The Voice of my Beloved! Look! Here He comes...’ (Song of Solomon 2:8).
He calls us to come to Him: ‘My Beloved speaks and says to me, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away”’ (Song of Solomon 2:10).
He calls us to belong to Him: ‘My Beloved is mine and I am His’ (Song of Solomon 2:16).
* Let us come to Jesus and experience His love: ‘Jesus, how lovely You are! You are so gentle, so pure and kind...’
* Let us come to Jesus and give Him our love: ‘Jesus, I love You, love You more and more each day; Jesus, I love You, Your gentle touch renews my heart. It’s really no wonder why no other love can satisfy; Jesus, I love You, You’ve won this heart of mine!’
* Let us come to Jesus and receive His joy: ‘Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart’ (Mission Praise, 361, 363, 362).
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‘...See your King comes to you... gentle and riding on a donkey...’ (Zechariah 9:9). These words point us to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Jesus is our King. Jesus comes to us.
How are we to welcome our King? We are to welcome Him with joyful praise - ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ (Matthew 21:1-9; John 12:12-16).
* Jesus our King has come to us from God the Father: ‘When the time had fully come, God sent His Son...’
* Jesus our King has come to us to be our Saviour: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (Galatians 4:4; 1 Timothy 1:15).
* Christ will come again - ‘with power and great glory’.
‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 22:20).
Through our Saviour, Jesus Christ, God is leading us in the way of victory.
God’s purpose is not easily fulfilled in us. Our battle with sin is extremely intense. There is a great conflict going on within us.
‘The Spirit’ and ‘the flesh’ are at war with each other (Galatians 5:17). God has given us His Spirit - ‘we serve... in the new life of the Spirit’ (Romans 7:6). We are still sinners - ‘I am carnal, a slave to sin’ (Romans 7:14). These are two sides of the one coin. The Spirit is within us yet we remain sinners.
Honestly confessing our sin, we say, ‘Wretched man that I am!’. Gladly rejoicing in our Saviour, we say, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (Romans 7:24-25).
Despite our many defeats, we say, ‘Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:39).
Wait for ‘the final result’: ‘God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
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The ministry of John the Baptist had one great purpose. It was to draw attention to Jesus the Saviour.
Jesus is superior to John. He is the One to whom John pointed.
There are two responses to Jesus.
* We can take offence at Him: ‘Blessed is he who takes no offence at Me’ (Matthew 11:6).
* We can hear what He says, receiving Him with faith: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 11:15).
In His time, Jesus asked the question, ‘To whom shall I compare this generation?’, giving the answer, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’ (Matthew 11:16-17).
* The promise of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not rejoice.
* The warning of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not repent.
This is the story of our generation.
May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the ‘Friend of sinners’ (Matthew 11:19).
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In John 16:8-11, Jesus speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit, convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
* Before there can be conversion, there needs to be conviction of sin.
None of us can come to the Saviour of sinners without first seeing ourselves as sinners who need the Saviour. God uses the warning of judgment to send us to the Saviour - there ‘will be...judgment’, so make sure that you ‘come’ to Christ for salvation (Matthew 11:24, 28; Luke 3:7-8; Hebrews 2:3; 3:7-15).
* Before there can be growth in grace, there needs to be conversion.
If we are to live a righteous life, we must learn from Christ (Matthew 11:29; 1 Peter 1:15-16), coming to Him for rest and being declared righteous by Him (Matthew 11:28; Romans 4:5-8).
In Christ, we have salvation, set free from judgment - ‘no condemnation’- and set free for righteousness - ‘living according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:1).
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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112 or Isaiah 55:10-13: Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-13; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Choosing the Lord’s way: Our response to God’s grace
Esau was a fool. He chose his own way rather than the Lord’s way.
Jacob was a ‘heel’! ‘Born with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel..., he was named Jacob (Heel)’ (Genesis 25:26). A crafty twister, a manipulating cheat, there was nothing about him that merited God’s blessing.
Jacob was not superior to Esau. Like Esau, Jacob was a sinner. Esau was not inferior to Jacob. Both were guilty before God.
Why, then - in God’s purpose - does ‘the elder’ (Esau) ‘serve the younger’ (Jacob) (Genesis 25:23)?
The answer is grace, the ‘amazing grace’ of God. Grace lifted Jacob. The glory belongs to God.
Grace could have lifted Esau.
By grace Jacob valued the birthright (God’s blessing). His way of seeking God’s blessing was devious. Nevertheless, he was seeking for God - and God, in His grace, found him and made him a new man (Genesis 32:28). ‘Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin!’

Choosing the Lord’s way: Our choice for the whole of our life
‘I have decided to obey Your laws until the day I die’ (Psalm 119:112).
Throughout life, we have to make choices. Some choices are relatively straightforward. Others are very much more difficult. Some choices don’t affect the rest of our life very much. There are, however, choices which affect the whole of our life.
There is one choice which is more important than any other - Choosing the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour.
Those who refuse to choose are ‘double-minded’ (Psalm 119:113). They can’t make up their mind. They know that they should be following Christ - but they are still ‘in love with the world.’ They are ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (I John 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:4).
Make your choice. Say to the world, ‘Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God’. Say to God, ‘I have decided to obey Your laws until the day I die’ (Psalm 119:115, 112).

Choosing the Lord’s way: Let the Word of God change your life.
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found...’ (Isaiah 55:6-7).
No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11).
We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts...’ (Isaiah 55:8-9).
We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy...’ (Isaiah 55:12).
Before there is joy, there may be many tears.
When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...’ (Psalm 126:5-6).
We must not ‘judge before the time...’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Choosing the Lord’s way: Let the joy of God change your life.
‘Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord’ (Psalm 64:10).
True joy in the Lord is not just a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last for very long.
When our ‘praise’ to the Lord is real, it leads to a changed life: ‘O God’, we will ‘keep our promises to You’ (Psalm 65:1).
Jesus shows us the great difference between a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last, and a true conversion which leads to a changed life.
He speaks of those who ‘receive the Word with joy,... endure for a while’ and then ‘fall away.’ He speaks also of those who ‘hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit’ (Mark 4:3-9, 16-17, 20).
How do you worship the Lord? Are you looking for a good feeling - and nothing more than that? God is looking for more. He wants us to live as ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Choosing the Lord’s way: Let the Spirit of God change your life.
Each of us must choose.
We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit.’ We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’ or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6).
The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’(21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).

Choosing the Lord’s way: Let the Son of God change your life.
Jesus spoke in parables. He spoke of everyday things, teaching lessons concerning the Kingdom of God. He was a story-teller, and yet He was more than that. His stories had a message, a life-changing message, a message designed to lead His hearers into new life, the life of God’s Kingdom.
The parable of the sower may be described more fully as the parable of ‘the sower, the seed and the soil.’
Some respond to God’s Word in a shallow way. In others, there is greater depth of response. Some ‘enjoy’ the preaching without really responding, in faith, to Christ. Jesus says, ‘He who has ears, let him hear’(Matthew 13:10).
Receive God’s Word in obedient faith, and your knowledge of God will increase (Matthew 13:12). This is the way of childlike faith and spiritual growth. Beware of proud unbelief and spiritual decline (Matthew 13:12; 11:25)!
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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 28:10-19a; Psalm 139:1-13, 23-24 or Isaiah 44:6-8; Psalm 86:11-17; Romans 8:12-25; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Saved by grace, we are led “in the way everlasting.”
Was this just another night (Genesis 28:11)?
No! This was a night to remember, a night Jacob would never forget. God came to him with His wonderful promise of love: ‘I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you’ (Genesis 28:15).
At Bethel (‘the house of God’), powerfully transformed by the presence of God - ‘Surely the Lord is in this place’ (Genesis 28:16) - , Jacob consecrated himself to the Lord. ‘If’ (Genesis 28:20) means ‘Since.’ See Romans 8:31 - ‘If (Since) God is for us, who can be against us?’ Giving the tenth (Genesis 28:22): this is not legalism, a kind of repayment scheme. There can be no ‘salvation by works.’
We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our giving must always be a heartfelt expression of thanksgiving to the God of grace: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’. We are saved ‘to do good works’ (Ephesians 2:10) - not because we do good works!

God has given us eternal life. We pray, “Lead us in the way everlasting.”
Through Christ our Saviour, we are led ‘in the way everlasting’: ‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ (Psalm 139:24; 1 John 5:11).
God’s great purpose of eternal salvation seems ‘too wonderful’- ‘too good to be true’! ‘It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me, and yet I know that it is true...’ (Psalm 139:6; Church Hymnary, 385).
God has a glorious future planned for us. We can hardly even begin to take it in: ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain’.
We know that ‘no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ yet we rejoice in this: ‘God has revealed it to us by His Spirit’ (Psalm 139:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
‘Lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24).

We walk “in the way everlasting” when we are “filled with the Spirit.”
‘I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants’ (Isaiah 44:3).
Here, Isaiah is looking forward to the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost - ‘They were all filled with the Holy Spirit...’ (Acts 2:4).
It is ‘the Spirit’ who brings ‘streams of living water’ into our lives. It is ‘the Spirit’ who sends ‘streams of living water’, flowing out from us to others (John 7:37-39).
We are to ‘be filled with the Spirit’. ‘Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ’- Let your life be full of praise to God: ‘filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18-20).
Each of us must choose.
We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit.’ We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6).
The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit.’ The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance.’ He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).

“In the way everlasting”, our praise and prayer are inspired by God’s love.

‘You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you... Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth... I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart... For great is Your love towards me’ (Psalm 86:5, 11-13).
God loves us. He forgives our sins. We receive His love. We want to love Him more.
* His love inspires our praise - ‘I will praise You...’
* His love inspires our prayer - ‘Teach me Your way...’
Our whole life is to be a celebration of His love - ‘Great is Your love towards me.’
* We are to celebrate His love with ‘joy’ (Psalm 86:4).
* We rejoice in the Lord because of who He is - ‘You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’ - and what He has done for us - ‘You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me’ (Psalm 86:15, 17).

“In the way everlasting”, God’s Word grows in us and bears much fruit.
Jesus’parables are so rich in spiritual content. They speak with an indirectness which is very direct! They may be parabolic in form, but they do go right to the heart of the matter in a way that is very challenging.
Jesus tells us the parable of the ‘wheat and the weeds’ (Matthew 13:24-30). He gives us its explanation (Matthew 13:36-43). In this parable, Jesus contrasts a real believing response to Christ with an empty profession of faith in Him.
There is also something else. Leave judgment to God. He knows those who are His and those who are not.
The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) is a word of encouragement. Do not give up hope that the seed of God’s Word is growing, slowly and surely, in the hearts of those who do not appear to be bearing much fruit.
The parable of the yeast is also encouraging - What a difference even a few believers can make to a whole community!
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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 29:15-28; Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (or Psalm 128) or 1 Kings 3:5-12; Psalm 119:129-136; Romans 8:26-39; Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

Trust in the Lord. He is working in us to do us good.
The tables are turned on Jacob. The trickster is tricked! The ‘trick’ was according to the ‘custom’ that the elder daughter should be given in marriage before the younger one (Genesis 29:23, 25-26). Seven years became fourteen years (Genesis 29:18-20, 27, 30). Jacob did receive his heart’s desire, but there was a lesson to be learned: Going God’s way is better than getting your own way.
‘All things work together for good to those who love God’ (Romans 8:28) - this doesn’t mean that we always get what we want. We must learn to ‘let go and let God have His wonderful way’, and to say, ‘This God - His way is perfect’ (Psalm 18:30). Out of love for Rachel (Genesis 29:18, 20), Jacob served Laban for an extra seven years. We would serve Christ better if we loved Him more. Jesus still asks the question, ‘Do you love Me?’ (John 21:15-17).

Look to the Lord and receive His strength.
‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done… ’ (Psalm 105:4-5).
The Lord gives strength to those who put their trust in Him. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13).
How do we receive the Lord’s strength? We must ‘seek His face always.’
We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without the strength of the Lord, we will be defeated.
He has helped us in the past. Never forget this. Give thanks to Him for every victory won.
As you face temptation, remember the Lord’s promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape…’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).
‘He brought His people out with joy’ (Psalm 105:43).
When things are going badly and we feel like giving up, we must remember the Word of the Lord: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’
The Lord does not leave us on our own when our time of testing comes. He is there for us in our time of need: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:4, 19).
When we are deeply conscious of our own weakness, the Lord comes to us with His Word of strength: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Through the Word of God, we receive strength. His Word brings joy to us. Let us sing ‘glad songs of victory’: ‘The Lord is my Strength, my Song, my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14-15).

Fear the Lord and walk in His ways.
‘Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways’ (Psalm 128:1).
If we are to enjoy the Lord’s blessing, we must fear Him and walk in His ways. Many people despise the place of worship. They ‘pass by’. They have no desire to know ‘the blessing of the Lord’. God warns us that we must not allow this attitude to grow in us: ‘May all who hate Zion be put to shame.’
We must take care that our love for the Lord doesn’t ‘wither’ away. We must keep on praying that our love for Him will ‘grow.’
If we place no value on the Lord’s blessing, our lives will be empty. Come to the Lord with this prayer: ‘The greatest thing in all my life is knowing You, loving You, serving You. I want to know You more, love You more, serve You more’. He will ‘fill’ your life with His blessing (Psalm 129:5-8; Mission Praise, 646).

Love the Lord and let your life show that your love for Him is real.
Solomon was a complicated man. We wonder what was most important to him - his alliances with the world or his allegiance to the Lord, ‘building his own house’ or ‘building the House of the Lord’ (1 Kings 1-3)?
In 1 Kings 3:9-13, we learn that Solomon prized wisdom more than riches. In 1 Kings 3:14, Solomon is reminded that he must keep on loving the Lord: ‘If you will walk in My ways…’
We look at Solomon. We see ourselves. We claim to love the Lord. The world has a ‘fatal attraction’ for us. In each of us, there is conflict, a lifelong conflict between ‘the desires of the flesh’ and ‘the desires of the Spirit’.
We are faced with a choice. Will it be love for the Lord or love for the world? Don’t ‘abandon your first love’ (Galatians 5:17; 1 John 2:15; Revelation 2:4). Make it simple: Jesus comes first!

Walk with the Lord in the light of His Word.
‘The entrance of Your words gives light’ (Psalm 119:130).
The Word of God brings light into our lives. Sadly, many people ‘love darkness rather than light’. They refuse to ‘come to the light’. They prefer to remain in the darkness. They refuse to listen to what God is saying to them through His Word.
Then, when things are not going so well for them, they blame God. They say, ‘It’s all Your fault’!
Things could have been so different. They could have learned to spend time with God. They could have learned the lessons of faith which are found in God’s Word. They could have learned to cope with life’s difficulties. They could have been filled with the strength of the Lord. They would not be complaining against Him. They would be rejoicing in Him: He has ‘called us out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:10).

Live for the Lord. Let’s live in the power of the Spirit.
Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’ or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6).
The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course!
With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).

Hope in the Lord, looking beyond our life on earth to His coming Kingdom.

Jesus’ parables are so rich in spiritual content. They speak with an indirectness which is very direct! They may be parabolic in form, but they do go right to the heart of the matter in a way that is very challenging.
The parable of the ‘wheat and the weeds’ (Matthew 13:24-30, with explanation given in Matthew 13:36-43) contrasts a real believing response to Christ with an empty profession of faith in Him.
There is also something else - leave judgment to God. He knows those who are His and those who are not.
The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) is a word of encouragement - Do not give up hope that the seed of God’s Word is growing, slowly and surely, in the hearts of those who do not appear to be bearing much fruit.
The parable of the yeast is also encouraging - What a difference even a few believers can make to a whole community!
Be patient. Do not doubt the power of God’s Word. Once God’s Word has begun to exert its influence among the people, great things will happen. The beginnings may seem small. Remember: nothing is insignificant when God is in it! Some may be on the verge of the kind of joyful discovery of Christ, described in Matthew 13:44-46!
The parable of the net (Matthew 13:47-50) is similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). The separation of ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ comes ‘at the end of the age’ (Matthew 13:48-49).
The Gospel is ‘old’ and ‘new’ (Matthew 13:52). We’ve known its teaching for years, yet there are always some ‘new treasures’ for us to discover. It’s sadly possible to hear the Word of God without believing it and enjoying its blessing.
Don’t let Christ be ‘a prophet without honour’ (Matthew 13:57). Honour Him in your heart and life.
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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 32:22-31; Psalm 17:1-7, 15 or Isaiah 55:1-5; Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21

Receiving Strength From The Lord
At the place called Peniel, Jacob ‘saw God face to face’ (Genesis 32:30). We see ‘the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Jacob wrestled with God and became an overcomer (Genesis 32:28). Christ wrestled with the powers of evil, and has won a mighty victory for us.
When He cried out from the Cross, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30), this was not an admission of defeat. It was the declaration of victory - the victory has been won, the victory is complete. ‘Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:57).
For Jacob, crossing the Jabbok involved a spiritual ‘crossing over’. Jacob became Israel, a new man (Genesis 32:28).
After he had been ‘touched’ by God, Jacob was ‘limping’ (Genesis 32:31-32). This was a reminder of his own weakness.
His true strength was in the Lord. Wait on the Lord, and renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31).

We Receive Strength When We Receive The Love Of The Lord.
Here is the prayer of a man whose earnest desire is to walk with God, to have a close walk with God in the centre of His will (Psalm 17:5). His prayer is sincere. It ‘does not rise from deceitful lips’ (Psalm 17:1). He is painfully aware of ‘the onslaughts of the wicked’. His ‘enemies cluster round him, breathing hostility’ (Psalm 17:9).
Whatever troubles we may encounter, we must learn to pray with the Psalmist: ‘Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer’ (Psalm 17:1). As we call upon the Lord, He gives the assurance of His protection. Through His Word and Spirit, He assures us that He will ‘keep us as the apple of His eye’ (Psalm 17:8).
We are precious in His sight. He looks upon us in love. He does not see our sin. He sees us ‘in Christ’- ‘accepted in the Beloved’, ‘no condemnation’ (Psalm 32:1; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:1).

We Receive Strength When We Listen To The Word Of The Lord.
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found…’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11).
We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts…’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy…’ (Isaiah 55:12).
Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy…’ (Psalm 126:5-6).
We must not ‘judge before the time…’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).

We Receive Strength When We Praise The Name Of The Lord.
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3).
The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration’.
* We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’.
* We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’.
Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom’. There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8, 13, 21).

We Receive Strength When We Trust In The Grace Of The Lord.
We read about ‘Jews’and ‘Gentiles’. We learn about salvation. The Jews are not saved because of their nationality. It is ‘not because of works’. The Gentiles are not excluded because of their nationality. It is ‘because of His call’.
Salvation comes from God’s grace, not from our good works. It is received ‘by faith’, not ‘by works’ (Romans 9:24, 11, 30-32).
There is for us here a word of warning and a word of promise.
* Here’s the warning - You can be religious without being saved: ‘not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel… it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God’ (Romans 9:6-8).
* Here’s the promise - You can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ: Through faith in Him, those who were ‘not God’s people’ became ‘sons of the living God’ (Romans 9:26).
Trust in Christ, not in yourself!

We Receive Strength When We Are Faithful In The Work Of The Lord.
John the Baptist was ‘arrested’ and ‘put in prison’ (Matthew 14:3). Shortly after this, he was ‘beheaded’ (Matthew 14:10). John was a faithful man. He was ‘faithful unto death’ (Revelation 2:10). His death arose directly from his faithfulness to God. He died as a ‘martyr’.
Following the death of John, news came to Jesus, who was to die as our Saviour. How did Jesus react to this news? - First, ‘he withdrew… privately to a solitary place (Matthew 14:13). Then, having renewed His strength in the presence of His Father (Isaiah 40:31), He stepped out again into the sphere of public ministry. He continued on His way - the way that would lead Him to the Cross.
What are we to learn from John, the faithful martyr, and Jesus, the faithful Saviour, who gave Himself in death for us? We are to be faithful to God. If suffering lies ahead of us, He will make us strong.
We read of the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21) and the walking on water (Matthew 14:25-33), and our thoughts go to Calvary.
* From the feeding with bread and fish, we move to the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus’body broken for us and His blood shed for us (Matthew 26:26-28).
* From the confession of faith - ‘Truly You are the Son of God’ (Matthew 14:33), we move to the Cross to hear the centurion’s words of faith; ‘Surely He was the Son of God!’ (Matthew 27:54).
* We see Jesus, the Man of prayer (Matthew 14:23), the Healer (Matthew 14:35-36), and we look to the Cross, where we experience the healing influence of His prayer for us; ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). ‘Thank You for the Cross, The price you paid for us, How You gave Yourself, So completely, Precious Lord, Now our sins are gone, All forgiven, Covered by your blood, All forgotten, Thank You, Lord’(Mission Praise, 632).
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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b or 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33

Strengthened by the Lord, we are led in the way of victory.
In the story of Joseph, we see human sin and divine grace.
We see jealousy (Genesis 37:11) and its effects: ‘where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice’ (James 3:16).
We see God working out His purpose: ‘you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50:20).
In his dreams, Joseph was given a glimpse of the ‘new thing’ (Isaiah 43:19) God was about to do. Joseph’s situation seemed hopeless: ‘cast... into a pit’, ‘sold’ into slavery (Genesis 37:24, 28). God was in this situation.
Each of us is in a ‘pit’, but we are not alone. Jesus has gone into the ‘pit’for us, and He has come out of it victorious: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?’ Slaves of Satan, we have been set free by Christ (Romans 6:17-18; Hebrews 2:14-15).
God was with Joseph. He is with us.

Strengthened by the Lord, we rejoice in Him.
‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done...’ (Psalm 105:4-5). The Lord gives strength to those who put their trust in Him. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). How do we receive the Lord’s strength? We must ‘seek His face always. We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without the strength of the Lord, we will be defeated. He has helped us in the past. Never forget this. Give thanks to Him for every victory won. As you face temptation, remember the Lord’s promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape...’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).
‘He brought His people out with joy’ (Psalm 105:43). When things are going badly and we feel like giving up, we must remember the Word of the Lord: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’. The Lord does not leave us on our own when our time of testing comes. He is there for us in our time of need: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:4, 19). When we are deeply conscious of our own weakness, the Lord comes to us with His Word of strength: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). Through the Word of God, we receive strength. His Word brings joy to us. Let us sing ‘glad songs of victory’: ‘The Lord is my Strength, my Song, my Saviour’ (118:14-15).

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

Strengthened by the Lord, we pray, “Send a revival. Start the work in me.”
We are to pray for revival - ‘Restore us again, O God our Saviour... Will You not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4, 6). We are to pray that God will ‘grant us His salvation’. We are to pray that ‘His saving presence will remain in our land’. We must pray that ‘His glory may dwell in our land’ (Psalm 85:7, 9). We are to pray for real listening - ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord - ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing - ‘He will speak peace to His people’ (Psalm 85:8). Prayer for revival does not begin as a prayer for others. It begins with ourselves: ‘O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival - start the work in me’. It begins with this prayer: “Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine’ (Mission Praise, 587).

Strengthened by the Lord, we pray for the advance of the Gospel in all the earth.

To ‘Jew and Gentile’, God says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:12-13). The Jews had praised the Lord Jesus: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’. Before long, they were shouting, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ (John 12:12-13; 19:6). We rejoice that the Gospel has now come to the Gentiles. We remember also that God still ‘holds out His hands to Israel’ (Romans 10:19-21). Still, Christ says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... How often would I have gathered your children together...’ (Luke 13:34). ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’, for the advance of the Gospel among the Jews (Psalm 122:6). Pray also for the ‘voice’ of the Gospel, ‘going out into all the earth’ (Romans 10:18). Pray that ‘faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard’ (Romans 10:17).

Strengthened by the Lord, we give thanks for Jesus Christ, crucified for us.
We read of the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21) and the walking on water (Matthew 14:25-33), and our thoughts go to Calvary. From the feeding with bread and fish, we move to the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus’ body broken for us and His blood shed for us (Matthew 26:26-28). From the confession of faith - ‘Truly You are the Son of God’ (Matthew 14:33), we move to the Cross to hear the centurion’s words of faith; ‘Surely He was the Son of God!’ (Matthew 27:54). We see Jesus, the Man of prayer (Matthew 14:23), the Healer (Matthew 14:35-36), and we look to the Cross, where we experience the healing influence of His prayer for us; ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). ‘Thank You for the Cross, The price you paid for us, How You gave Yourself, So completely, Precious Lord, Now our sins are gone, All forgiven, Covered by your blood, All forgotten, Thank You, Lord’ (Mission Praise, 632).
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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 133 or Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

We gather together to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
In the reunion of Joseph with his brothers, there is a great testimony to the God of grace: ‘Do not be distressed... because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life... God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God... God has made me lord of all Egypt' (Genesis 45:5, 7-9).
Joseph was the pioneer. He went ahead of the others. He paved the way for them.
* Jesus is ‘the Pioneer of our salvation’. He will ‘bring many sons to glory’. He will welcome us as His ‘brothers’ (Hebrews 2:10-12).
* Jesus is also the ‘Perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2). He is leading us to ‘a better country - a heavenly one’ (Hebrews 11:16).
Let ‘every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11). Let it begin here on earth.

We gather together to worship God.
God sends ‘His blessing’ when His people gather together for worship: ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1, 3).
Many people like to think of themselves as ‘believers’, yet they show no interest in worshipping together with God’s people.
What does God’s Word say about this? - ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...’ (Hebrews 10:25).
‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the House of the Lord’ (Psalms 133:1; 134:1).
Some people never miss a Sunday morning service - but they always miss the Sunday evening services!
They are missing out on so much of God’s blessing. ‘May the Lord... bless you...’on Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings (Psalm 134:2)!

We gather together to pray for the nations.
‘My House will be called a House of prayer for all nations’ (Isaiah 56:7).
God is gathering His people together ‘from every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Revelation 5:9).
‘Salvation comes from the Jews’, but it doesn’t end there - ‘The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (the rest of the world)’ (John 4:22; Romans 1:16).
We were ‘foreigners’. Now, we are ‘no longer foreigners...’ (Isaiah 56:6; Ephesians 2:19). Christ has ‘broken down the dividing wall of hostility’. ‘We are no longer Jews or Gentiles’. ‘We are one in Christ Jesus’. Christ has ‘made the two one’. We ‘have been brought near through the blood of Christ’. We are ‘one body’- Jews and Gentiles brought together ‘through the Cross’of Christ (Ephesians 2:13-16; Galatians 3:28).

We gather together to hear the Word of the Lord.
‘Come and see what God has done’ (Psalm 66:5).
God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us. ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’ (Psalm 66:16).
God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives.
We read God’s Word. We hear His Word. This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us.
He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’ He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’ (Psalm 67:1, 6-7). He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’to ‘worship Him’ (Psalm 67:4, 7).

We gather together to look away from ourselves to the God of our salvation.
‘You stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe’ (Romans 11:20).
In Romans 9:32, Paul contrasted ‘faith’ and ‘works’. Here, he contrasts ‘grace’ and ‘works’ (Romans 11:6).
Grace and faith belong together. ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling’(Church Hymnary, 83) - This is faith, looking away from itself to divine grace.
We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other. We hear the Gospel invitation - ‘O come to the Father through Jesus the Son’. Trusting in Christ, we say, ‘To God be the glory! Great things He has done’(Church Hymnary, 374).
It is only when we bow at the foot of the Cross that we are able to say, with Paul, ‘To Him be the glory for ever!’(36; Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

We gather together to confess our sins and receive Christ’s forgiveness.
The Pharisees were preoccupied with washing the hands (Matthew 15:2), yet they missed out on the most important thing - the cleansing of the heart.
They were obsessed with ‘correct’ religious ritual, yet they sent Christ to the Cross. They honoured God with their words, yet in their hearts they were far from Him (Matthew 15:8).
We must pray for the cleansing of the heart: ‘Purify my heart, Cleanse me from within And make me holy. Purify my heart, Cleanse me from my sin, Deep within’ (Songs of Fellowship, 475).
When Jesus was buried, He was wrapped in a ‘clean linen cloth’ (Matthew 27:59). This was followed by His mighty resurrection.
Without lapsing into hypocritical obsession with outward appearances, we make this simple comment: the ‘resurrection’ of God's work among us will come as we pray earnestly for the cleansing of our hearts.
Above all Jesus’ miracles, we celebrate His mighty resurrection from the dead (Matthew 28:5-7).
This miracle is referred to in Matthew 16:4 - ‘the sign of Jonah’: Jonah was raised from ‘the belly of a huge fish’, Jesus has been raised from ‘the heart of the earth’ (Matthew 12:40).
We are to ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8).
In the girl’s healing (Matthew 15:21-28), we see the risen Lord’s great triumph over evil - evil men tried to put Him down, but He did not stay down (Acts 2:23-24).
In the feeding of the crowd (Matthew 15:36-37), we see the risen Lord’s ongoing ministry of feeding His people. Here, we compare Matthew 15: 36-37 with the Lord's Supper: (a) He took bread; (b) He gave thanks; (c) He broke it; (d) He gave it to the disciples; (e) The bread is shared with the people; (f) All are satisfied.
All glory to the risen Lord!
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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124 or Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

Redeemed by the Lord, we are to be consecrated to Him.
Things were difficult for Israel yet ‘the more they were oppressed the more they multiplied’ (Exodus 1:12). Difficult times can be the making of God’s people! Pharaoh (and Satan!) is murderously anxious about the growth of God's people (Exodus 1:15-16; John 10:10). God is about to move in saving power - His ‘midwives’ are preparing for the ‘birth’ of His redeemed people (Exodus 1:17, 20). Moses was preserved in ‘a basket made of bulrushes’ (Exodus 2:3). Born again, we are preserved through God’s Word and Spirit - ‘the living and abiding Word of God’ (1 Peter 1:23). Moses was drawn out of the water (Exodus 2:10). Israel was drawn out of the bondage in Egypt (Exodus 6:6-8). Like Israel, we have been redeemed by blood (Exodus 12:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Redeemed by the Lord, we are to be consecrated to Him. In Exodus 20:1-2, ‘the Ten Commandments’ are introduced by a declaration of God’s salvation. Our obedience to God is to be grounded in this: He has redeemed us!

Redeemed by the Lord and consecrated to Him, we offer our worship to Him.
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’ (Psalm 123:3). We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalms 123:2; 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

In our worship, we wait on God and learn to witness and win others for Him.
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).

As we worship, we receive strength to keep on worshipping the Lord.
‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:4). It is not easy to keep on worshipping the Lord when so many show no interest in worshipping Him. What are we to do when our faith seems so weak and we are on the verge of giving up? ‘Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you’. What will we find when we come to the Lord, looking to Him for strength? ‘He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through’. God gives us strength - ‘You answered me when I called to You. With Your strength, You strengthened me’ (Psalm 138:3). ‘To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown. Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down. He who is our Saviour, our strength will renew. Look ever to Jesus. He will carry you through’ (Church Hymnary, 482).

As we worship, we are changed by God’s love.
Here, we have practical Christian living, living the life of love. What can our ‘sacrifice’be in the light of Christ’s greater Sacrifice of Himself for us? It can only be ‘our reasonable service’, our ‘spiritual worship’. His love calls for our response, the response of love: ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands (and shall have) my soul, my life, my all’ (Romans 12:1; Church Hymnary, 254). Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. ‘Love is a many splendoured thing’ (Romans 12:9-21). Let love direct our thinking, speaking and living - His love, love for God, love for people (Romans 13:8-10). Let your prayer be, ‘More love, more power, more of You in my life. And I will worship You with all my heart,... mind,... strength’ (Songs of Fellowship, 392). Worship the Lord - and be changed by His love!

As we worship, we learn to glory in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What a contrast there is between Jesus Christ and the religious leaders of His day. Three times, we are told to ‘guard against... the Pharisees and Sadducees’ (Matthew 16:6, 11-12). These men had religion without salvation. They claimed to have faith in God, yet they despised Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of sinners. We are to guard against the ‘Pharisees and Sadducees’. We are to glory in Christ, God’s Son, our Saviour. In Christ, ‘the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16), we have a Saviour against whom ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail’ (Matthew 16:18). Our faith is like Peter’s - sometimes strong (Matthew 16:16-17), often weak (Matthew 16:22-23). Our Saviour is always strong. We ‘are weak, but He is strong’- may we never ‘outgrow’this simple testimony, as we confess our sin and glory in our Saviour who forgives sin.
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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 3:1-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c or Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

The work of God makes progress when God’s people move forward together.
Salvation, service, personal faith, life among God’s people - God has much to teach us. Moses sins (Exodus 2:12). God graciously forgives (Micah 7:18-19) - this is salvation. His sin forgiven, Moses is called to service. He is called by the eternal God, the God who draws near to His people (Exodus 3:14-15). Saved by Christ, we are called to serve Him, the eternal ‘God’who ‘became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:1-14). Saved, we belong to God’s people (1 Peter 2:10). Serving, we play our part within the ‘one body’of Christ (Romans 12:4-5). Moses was to serve God’s people, the people whose prayer God answered - delivering them from bondage and leading them on to great blessing (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:8). Moses was a key figure, but he did not stand alone. The work of God made progress because the people of God went forward together. In God’s work, we are to be participators - not spectators!

The work of God makes progress when God’s people receive strength from Him.

‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done...’ (Psalm 105:4-5). The Lord gives strength to those who put their trust in Him. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). How do we receive the Lord’s strength? We must ‘seek His face always. We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without the strength of the Lord, we will be defeated. He has helped us in the past. Never forget this. Give thanks to Him for every victory won. As you face temptation, remember the Lord’s promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape...’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).
‘He brought His people out with joy’ (Psalm 105:43). When things are going badly and we feel like giving up, we must remember the Word of the Lord: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’. The Lord does not leave us on our own when our time of testing comes. He is there for us in our time of need: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:4, 19). When we are deeply conscious of our own weakness, the Lord comes to us with His Word of strength: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). Through the Word of God, we receive strength. His Word brings joy to us. Let us sing ‘glad songs of victory’: ‘The Lord is my Strength, my Song, my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14-15).

The work of God makes progress when we trust Him to give us the victory.
Some of our problems come from outside of ourselves. Other people cause problems for us - ‘This people will fight against you’ (Jeremiah 15:20). Some of our problems come from within our own hearts. Our own sins cause problems for us - ‘Put to death what is earthly in you...’ (Colossians 3:5). There are ‘fightings and fears within.’ There are ‘fightings and fears without.’ We are ‘tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt’. Tell the Lord all about it. Tell Him how it really is. ‘Just as I am’- This is how we must come to the Lord. Our ‘fightings and fears’ do not simply disappear the moment we pray, ‘O Lamb of God, I come’ (Church Hymnary, 79). We do, however, have God’s promise: ‘They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you’ (20). He will lead us in the way of victory (Colossians 2:8-10).

The work of God makes progress when we walk continually in His truth.
God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’ (Psalm 26:3). Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalms 26:11-12). Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’us (26:4-5, 9-10; 27:2-3, 6, 11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’ (Psalm 27:4). What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’ (Psalm 27:14). Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear… I will be confident’ (Psalm 27:1, 3).
The work of God makes progress when His love fills every part of our life.
Here, we have practical Christian living, living the life of love. What can our ‘sacrifice’be in the light of Christ’s greater Sacrifice of Himself for us? It can only be ‘our reasonable service’, our ‘spiritual worship’. His love calls for our response, the response of love: ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands (and shall have) my soul, my life, my all’ (Romans 12:1; Church Hymnary, 254). Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. ‘Love is a many splendoured thing’ (Romans 12:9-21). Let love direct our thinking, speaking and living - His love, love for God, love for people (Romans 13:8-10). Let your prayer be, ‘More love, more power, more of You in my life. And I will worship You with all my heart,... mind,... strength’(Songs of Fellowship, 392). Worship the Lord - and be changed by His love!

The work of God makes progress when keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
There will come a time when the glory of God will be fully revealed - ‘the Son of man is going to come in His Father's glory’ (Matthew 16:27). Here on earth, there are ‘foretastes of glory divine’: Matthew 16:28 may be understood in connection with the transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) - the divine glory of heaven breaking through into our human life on earth. Revelations of glory prepared these men for discipleship. They turned their eyes upon Jesus (Matthew 17:8). They looked full in His wonderful face (Matthew 17:2). The things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace (Mission Praise, 59, 712) - ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’ (Matthew 17:4). The ‘mountain top’experience could not be preserved - no ‘three shelters’ (Matthew 17:4)! We can continue to worship, hear Jesus’words and look to Him (Matthew 17:6-8), rejoicing in His suffering for us (Matthew 17:12) and awaiting His return to ‘restore all things’ (Matthew 17:11).
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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149 or Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20

Saved by the Lord, let us go on to live for Him.

‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you... You must eat unleavened bread’ (Exodus 12:13, 20).
In Exodus 12:13, we are directed beyond the Passover to Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins (John 1:29; 1 John1:7).
In Exodus 12:20, we have the call to holy living. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-9, Paul uses ‘leaven’ as a symbol of ‘sin’, which holds us back from ‘running a good race’. We are to live as a new creation, who feast on ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’.
Forgiveness of sins and holy living belong together. We are not to rejoice in God’s forgiveness and then gloss over His call to holy living: ‘justified by faith’, we are to ‘walk in newness of life’ (Romans 5:1; 6:4).

Saved by the Lord, our whole life is to offered to Him as a song of praise.
‘Praise the Lord’. Psalms 146–150 begin and end with these words.
Our personal song of praise to God - ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock... I will sing a new song to You, O God... I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You... My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord... I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalms 144:1, 9; 145:1-2, 21; 146:2) - is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller - ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ (Psalm 150:6).
May these great Psalms of praise inspire us to praise the Lord more truly and more fully.

Saved by the Lord, our whole life is to be given to Him as a response to His love.
Ezekiel was to be ‘a watchman for the house of Israel’: ‘whenever you hear a Word from My mouth, you shall give them warning from Me’. He was to ‘warn the wicked to turn from his way’ (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
This is the warning of love. God loves us. It is because He loves that He ‘has no pleasure in the death of the wicked’. In His love, He shows us our sin so that we might come to Him with a real confession of sin: ‘Our sins are upon us.’ In His love, He creates in us a desire for His salvation: ‘How then can we live?’ In His love, He calls us to return to Him: ‘Turn back from your evil ways’. He loves us. He does not want us to ‘die’: ‘Why will you die?’ (Ezekiel 10-11).
In love, God shows us our sin - ‘The wages of sin is death’- and calls us to receive His ‘free gift’ - ‘eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’(Romans 6:23).

Saved by the Lord, we begin a new life with Him.
‘Revive me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:25).
How does God revive us according to His Word?
He gives us His salvation: ‘Let Your unfailing love come to me, O Lord - Your salvation according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:41).
He gives us His strength: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:28).
He gives us a change of heart: ‘I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on Your laws... I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free... Give me understanding, and I will keep Your law and obey it with my whole heart... Turn my heart to Your testimonies...’ (Psalm 119:30, 32, 34, 36).
He gives us ‘new life’: ‘When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!’ (Psalm 40; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Saved by the Lord, our life is to be filled with His love.
Before we think about our love for the Lord, let’s think about His love for us. What can our ‘sacrifice’ be in the light of Christ’s greater Sacrifice of Himself for us? It can only be ‘our reasonable service’, our ‘spiritual worship’. We must not think too highly of our love for Jesus. His love for us is always far greater than our love for Him.
His love calls for our response, the response of love: ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands (and shall have) my soul, my life, my all’ (Romans 12:1; Church Hymnary, 254).
Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us.
‘Love is a many splendoured thing’ (Romans 12:9-21). Let love direct our thinking, speaking and living - His love, love for God, love for people (Romans 13:8-10).
Let your prayer be, ‘More love, more power, more of You in my life. And I will worship You with all my heart,... mind,... strength’ (Songs of Fellowship, 392). Worship the Lord - and be changed by His love!
‘Walk in love’- We must not fall out over matters in which difference of opinion is allowed (Romans 14:5, 15).
There can be a lot of bitterness over ‘the Sabbath.’ There can be so much pride. For some, this is the ‘be-all and end-all’ of Christian faith. They say, ‘We are the Sabbath keepers. They are not!’. Others react, ‘We rejoice in our Christian liberty. They are legalists’. ‘Pharisees’are preoccupied with ‘the Sabbath’. We must remember that Jesus is ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’. We must let His love flow (Matthew 12:2, 10, 8, 11-12).
Let faith be real - not just keeping on the right side of narrow-minded people (Romans 14: 23; Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:15).
Let there be ‘peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’.
Don’t think too highly of yourself. ‘Count others better than yourself’ (Romans 14:17; 12:3; Philippians 2:3).

Saved by the Lord, let us honour in Him in every part of our life.
Discipline and forgiveness are not opposites. They belong together. Discipline is to be part of our caring.
If it is not carried out in a caring way, it is not the discipline of the Lord. It is the expression of human arrogance.
Where there is a genuine desire to honour God and do His will, we have more than some human beings imposing their own will upon others. We have God at work, purifying His Church.
The link between discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) and forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35) is prayer (Matthew 18:18-20).
Without prayer, we will never achieve a true balance between discipline and forgiveness.
We must avoid a harsh legalism which knows nothing of God’s love. We dare not soft-pedal the moral demands of discipleship. God is holy. God is love. We need both holiness and love - for the sake of the ‘large crowds’ who need the Saviour (Matthew 19:2).
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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114 (or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21) or Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103: (1-7), 8-13; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

In the wilderness, we can know that God is wth us.

Sin may be ‘near’, but God never leads His people into it (Exodus 13:13:17, James 1:13).
Following Christ means walking a narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14). We are surrounded by many temptations. Pray that your feet will not slip (Psalm 37:31; 17:5; 44:18).
Sometimes, the Lord leads us ‘by way of the wilderness’ - a way of apparent fruitlessness.
Why? - So that ‘equipped for battle’, we might learn to serve Him better (Exodus 13:18).
The Lord does not leave His people in the wilderness. Pursued by their enemies (the Egyptians), they were guided by the ‘cloud’ and ‘fire’ (Exodus 13:21-22).
God was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (Exodus 13:13-14).
There is judgment as well as salvation (Exodus 14:30).
Looking to neither the ‘right’ nor the ‘left’, we must look to the Lord (Exodus 14:21-22). Rejoicing in ‘the great work’ He has done, our faith ‘in the Lord’ grows strong (Exodus 14:31).

In the wilderness, we can know the greatness of God’s power and His love.

‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8).
The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love.
When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’ (Mission Praise, 506).

In the wilderness, we look back with thanksgiving and look forward with hope.

In Exodus 15, we have a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people; a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption; and a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption.
This is not only a ‘song of God’s people.’ It is also the song of Moses, a personal song. This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart.
Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship: (i) He praises the God of grace - ‘my strength... my song... my salvation’ (Exodus 15:2). (ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (Exodus 15:1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds (Exodus 15:6, 11). (iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (Exodus 15:13) - and glory - the reigning God (Exodus 15:18) - , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28). Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.

In the wilderness, we remember this: God is in control and He loves us.
It was a time of ‘very great and sorrowful lamentation’ (Genesis 50:10). Jacob had died (Genesis 49:33). Soon, Joseph would be gone (Genesis 50:26).
God was still there. He had been there in the past (Genesis 50:20). He would be there in the future (Genesis 50:24-25).
Times are hard. We rejoice: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
An earthly life has ended. We say, ‘His mercies never come to an end.’
We cannot cope. We discover that ‘His mercies are new every morning.’
Everything seems to be changing. We trust in God’s unchanging love: ‘Great is Thy faithfulness.’
It seems hopeless. We say, ‘I will hope in the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:22-24).
‘Bad’ things are happening to you. Do you need to be ‘reassured... and comforted’? - ‘God meant it for good... Do not fear.’ The Lord ‘will provide for you’ (Genesis 50:20-21).
Whatever happens, remember this - God is in control, and He loves you (Romans 8:28)!

In the wilderness, we can learn to thank God for His love and live for Him.
‘Praise the Lord’ (Psalm 103:1-2, 20-22).
Let’s praise Him for His ‘steadfast love’. He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’ (Psalm 103:8).
How are we to respond to His ‘steadfast love’? Are we to say, ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’? No! We must not think like this. We’re not to say, ‘I’ll keep on sinning. God will keep on forgiving’ (Romans 6:1-2).
God’s Word tells us something very different. Loved by God, we learn to love Him. When God’s ‘steadfast love’has really touched our hearts, it changes our lives.
This is the great change which the Psalmist has in mind when he writes, ‘As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him... The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him’ (Psalm 103:11, 17).
Let’s thank God for His love - and live to please Him!

In the wilderness, we can know that we belong to the Lord.
Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8).
Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes, it can be anything but easy! Whatever is happening to us, we must remember this: we belong to the Lord.
When everything’s going well, remember what it was like to be in the wilderness!
Jesus tells us a remarkable story about a forgiving master and an unforgiving servant..
It’s about a servant who had a very large debt - millions of pounds/dollars - cancelled by his forgiving master (Matthew 18:27).
What did the servant do? He demanded payment from another servant who owed him a few pounds/dollars (Matthew 18:28-30)!
When your life has taken a turn for the good, don’t look down on those who are still in the wilderness.
Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way... Do not... destroy your brother for whom Christ died... Don’t do anything that will cause your brother to fall (Romans 14:13, 15, 21).
God didn’t bring us out of our wilderness so that we could drive other people more deeply into their wilderness!
You are... a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).
We rejoice in the Lord who has brought us into the promised land of His salvation. In our rejoicing, we must never forget that they were in the wilderness.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:10).
Remember that you have been brought out of the wilderness and pray that God will help you to bring others out of the wilderness.
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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 or Jonah 3:10-4:11; Psalm 145:1-8; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16

Receiving strength from the Lord

God allows His people to suffer difficulties. Why? - To strengthen our faith (Exodus 15:25; 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2, 16; 1 Peter 1:6-7). He chastens us, to teach us repentance (Revelation 3:19).
Don't forget God’s love. He is faithful: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us.’ He shows us His glory (Exodus 16:7). He assures us that He is God (Exodus 16:12).
He provides us with ‘daily bread’ (Exodus 16:4). Yesterday’s ‘bread’ is insufficient for today’s challenges (Exodus 16:19-20). ‘Morning by morning’, the ‘bread’ is to be gathered (Exodus 16:21; Lamentations 3:22-23). Jesus is the Living Bread (John 6:32-35, 48-51). Feed on Him each day. Don’t invite spiritual starvation by missing days. If you miss some days, don’t let it continue. Remember: ‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak’! ‘How long has it been since you talked with the Lord?’ Too long? It is time to pray and feed on Jesus!
‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done...’ (Psalm 105:4-5).
The Lord gives strength to those who put their trust in Him. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13).

How do we receive the Lord’s strength? We must ‘seek His face always.’
We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without the strength of the Lord, we will be defeated. He has helped us in the past. Never forget this. Give thanks to Him for every victory won. As you face temptation, remember the Lord’s promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape...’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).
‘He brought His people out with joy’ (Psalm 105:43).
When things are going badly and we feel like giving up, we must remember the Word of the Lord: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10).
We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’. The Lord does not leave us on our own when our time of testing comes. He is there for us in our time of need: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:4, 19).
When we are deeply conscious of our own weakness, the Lord comes to us with His Word of strength: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Through the Word of God, we receive strength. His Word brings joy to us. Let us sing ‘glad songs of victory’: ‘The Lord is my Strength, my Song, my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14-15).

Our strength comes from God’s faithful love and saving grace.
The people of Nineveh ‘believed God’ and ‘turned from their evil ways.’ God had shown Himself to be ‘a gracious and compassionate God...’ How did Jonah react? Was he rejoicing in the Lord? No! He was complaining - ‘Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.’
Jonah was a proud Jew. He despised the Ninevites. He didn’t want them to be saved. That’s why he was ‘so quick to flee to Tarshish’ (Jonah 3:5, 10; 4:1-2).
What does God’s Word say about Jonah’s attitude? - ‘You have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else.’ We must not ‘show contempt for the riches of His kindness.’ We must not say, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men.’ We must pray, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Romans 2:1, 4; Luke 18:11-14).
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3). The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration.’ We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.’ We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’. Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom.’ There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8, 13, 21).
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6). God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down.’ In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’ (1 Peter 1:5). In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
The workers served for different lengths of time (Matthew 20:1-7). They received equal payment (Matthew 20:8-16). This a parable of grace. Some have served the Lord a long time. Some have served Him a short time. The length of time is not the most important thing. More important is this: each one of us has been saved by grace. We owe it all to the Lord, the Giver of salvation.
In Matthew 20:17-19, Jesus speaks of His death and resurrection. These are the great events upon which our salvation rests (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). If we are to follow Christ, we must walk the way of the Cross (Matthew 20:22). He suffered for us. We must be ready to suffer for Him. His glory did not come without suffering. Our glory will not come without suffering. Do not seek ‘greatness.’ Go the way of the Cross (Matthew 20:26-28).
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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 or Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-9; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

Prayer and the ministry of God’s Word

Worldly people create problems (Exodus 17:3). Moses asks, ‘What shall I do...?’ (Exodus 17:4). Indecision asks, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ (Exodus 17:7). He gives victory (Exodus 17:8-9, 13).
Joshua is being equipped for special service - ‘in the ears of Joshua’ (Exodus 17:14). God’s great concern is that His people move forward together.
The work is not to be left to the few (Exodus 18:18). God is looking to faithful servants who will ‘bear the burden’ together (Exodus 18:21-22). There is much to be done, but we must never forget this: ‘prayer and the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:1-4). You may not be a Moses or a Joshua, but you can play your part.
We rejoice in who God is and what He has done for us. Assured of His presence with us, let us worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord...’ (Exodus 18:10-11).

Celebrating the Lord’s Supper
‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’ (Psalm 78:19). We are living in a spiritual wilderness. We wonder, ‘Can God continue to bless us in this wilderness?’ How does God’s Word answer our question? - ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.’ In the ‘wilderness’, there are many ‘enemies’. There is also the ‘table’. At the ‘table’, God blesses us - ‘You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows’ (Psalm 23:5). We are in the ‘wilderness’, surrounded by many ‘enemies’. What are we to do? - We must come to the ‘table’ - the Lord’s Table. We must come to Christ. We must drink from ‘the cup of salvation’ (Psalm 116:7).
Come to the Saviour. Look to Him for His blessing. He will not disappoint you. You will be ‘anointed with the oil of gladness’. His blessing will be poured upon you ‘like precious oil’ (Psalms 45:7; 133:2).

Trusting in the Saviour
‘The soul that sins shall die’ (Ezekiel 18:4). ‘If a man is righteous... he shall surely live’ (Ezekiel 18:5-9).
What hope is there for us? If we look with honesty into our own hearts, we discover this dark truth concerning ourselves: ‘None is righteous... All have sinned’ (Romans 3:10, 23).
Is there any Good News for us? Is there a way that leads to eternal life? ‘Suppose there is a truly good man, righteous and honest...’ (Ezekiel 18:4). Is there such a man? Is there a man concerning whom God says, ‘That man is righteous; he will surely live’ (Ezekiel 18:9).
Yes! There is! Who is this man? What does the Word of God tell us about him? He is Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He ‘died for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). We put our faith in Him. He gives us ‘eternal life’. We ‘pass from death to life’ (1 John 5:11-13; John 5:24).

Walking with the Saviour
‘Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation’ (Psalm 25:5).
We can pray this prayer with confidence. God has given His promise: ‘He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way’ (Psalm 25:9).
Our confidence is in the Lord. We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3).
Jesus teaches us that God hides Himself from the proud and reveals Himself to the humble: ‘…Father…Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes’ (Matthew 11:25).
In the life of faith, the most important thing is the right attitude - not the ‘best education’! The proud may concern themselves with impressing ‘the right people’. For the humble, there is something more important - pleasing God. His opinion is the one that really matters!

Receiving encouragement from God’s Word
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6).
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.’
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’ (1 Peter 1:5). In ‘humility’, let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
Shining as lights in God’s world
God’s command - ‘Work out your own salvation’- must never be separated from His promise - ‘God is at work in you’ (Philippians 2:12-13).
We do not save ourselves - We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’. We are saved by the Lord - We ‘glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:3).
We are to ‘shine as lights in the world’, directing attention away from ourselves to Him who is ‘the Light of the world’ - our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:15; John 8:12).
We have this testimony: “I have ‘no righteousness of my own’. ‘Through faith in Christ’, I have received ‘this righteousness from God’” (Philippians 3:9).
We are living in difficult times. This is ‘a crooked and perverse generation’ (Philippians 2:15). We are called to ‘hold fast the Word of life’ (Philippians 2:16). It will not be easy. We will face many difficulties. We must take encouragement from this: ‘God is at work in you’ (Philippians 2:13).

As we worship and witness, we look to God for His blessing.
Jesus entered the city (Matthew 21:10). He entered the temple (Matthew 21:12). He went ‘back to the city’ (Matthew 21:18). He entered the temple (Matthew 21:23). Here, we have the pattern for Christian living - in the place of worship, out into the world, back to the place of worship... Worship, witness, worship... The two go hand in hand throughout the Christian life.
We will encounter unbelief - even in the place of worship (Matthew 21:23). God’s servants - the prophets - were rejected (Matthew 21:35-36). God’s Son - Jesus - was rejected (Matthew 21:37-39). We live in a situation where the threat of judgment is very real (Matthew 21:19). Nevertheless, there is hope. Christ is ‘the Church’s one Foundation’ (Church Hymnary, 420). Through Him, we will bear fruit which will bring glory to God (Matthew 21:42-43).
We have been slow to believe, but God is ‘swift to bless.’ No more ‘I will not’ - let there be repentance, entering God’s Kingdom and doing His will (Matthew 21:29- 31).
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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19 or Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:7-15; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

Before our love for God, there is His love for us.

God does not want to see sin in us (Exodus 20:20). He wants to see Himself in us. Sin robs us of His great blessing. He wants to fill us with love (Mark 12:28-31; Galatians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Before our love for Him, there is His love for us. He is the God of redemption. He has redeemed us. We are His people. This is His doing. All the glory belongs to Him (Exodus 20:1-2). We are to live as His people. He is to have first place in our lives (Exodus 20:3). The ‘law’ is ‘holy’ and ‘good’, but it cannot make us holy and good - without ‘the new life of the Spirit’ (Romans 7:12, 6: 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:3). ‘Moses’ cannot save! There is only one Saviour - Jesus! Not under law, we yield ourselves to the God of salvation (Romans 6:13-14). Our obedience comes from faith in Christ - not legalism (Romans 1:5-6)! Our holiness comes from the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

In love, God reveals Himself to us.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’ (Psalm 19:7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’ (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!

In love, God calls us to be holy.
‘Those who are left... will be called holy’ (Isaiah 4:3). The world speaks of God’s people with contempt - ‘the holy people who need to learn to live in the real world’. When God calls His people ‘holy’, He speaks in a very different way. He speaks with affection. He looks upon us with love. We are special to Him. We are precious in His eyes. God loves us and He calls us to be holy. We are to live as those who have been set apart for God. We are not to live for this world only. There is something else, something greater than this so-called ‘real world’. There is a world that is unseen and eternal, heavenly and glorious. This is our higher calling, our call to holiness. Let us ‘look to the things that are unseen and eternal’. Let us ‘press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 4:18; Philippians 3:14).

In love, God blesses us with every spiritual blessing.
‘Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved’ (Psalm 80:3). This prayer for salvation is repeated with a growing sense of God’s greatness - ‘O God Almighty’ (Psalm 80:7), ‘O Lord God Almighty’ (Psalm 80:19). To those who are asking the question of salvation - ‘What must I do to be saved?’, God gives His answer - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:30-31). What does the Lord say to those who look to Christ for salvation? - ‘The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace’ (Numbers 6:24-26). Let us worship Him: ‘Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer’ (Ephesians 1:3).

In love, God gives us the strength we need to live for Him.
God’s command - ‘Work out your own salvation’ - must never be separated from His promise - ‘God is at work in you’ (Philippians 2:12-13). We do not save ourselves - We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’. We are saved by the Lord - We ‘glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:3). We are to ‘shine as lights in the world’, directing attention away from ourselves to Him who is ‘the Light of the world’- our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:15; John 8:12). We have this testimony: “I have ‘no righteousness of my own’. ‘Through faith in Christ’, I have received ‘this righteousness from God’” (Philippians 3:9). We are living in difficult times. This is ‘a crooked and perverse generation’ (Philippians 2:15). We are called to ‘hold fast the Word of life’ (Philippians 2:16). It will not be easy. We will face many difficulties. We must take encouragement from this: ‘God is at work in you’ (Philippians 2:13).
‘Christ Jesus has made me His own’ (Philippians 3:12). In Paul`s words, we hear an echo of Jesus` words, ‘You did not choose Me... I chose you’ (John 15:16). Christ has claimed us for Himself. He has laid claim to every part of our life. We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (Philippians 4:4). We are to bring ‘everything’ to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6). We are to be ‘content in all circumstances’ (Philippians 4:11-12). We are to face every challenge with confidence in His strength - ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). We are to trust Him to ‘supply’ our ‘every need’ (Philippians 4:19). In every situation, we can come to the Lord, trusting in His promise: ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7). Whatever is happening, take it to the Lord in prayer and let Him give you His peace.

In love, God call us to worship Him and be His witnesses.

Jesus entered the city (Matthew 21:10). He entered the temple (Matthew 21:12). He went ‘back to the city’ (Matthew 21:18). He entered the temple (Matthew 21:23). Here, we have the pattern for Christian living - in the place of worship, out into the world, back to the place of worship... Worship, witness, worship... The two go hand in hand throughout the Christian life. We will encounter unbelief - even in the place of worship (Matthew 21:23). God’s servants - the prophets - were rejected (Matthew 21:35-36). God’s Son - Jesus - was rejected (Matthew 21:37-39). We live in a situation where the threat of judgment is very real (Matthew 21:19). Nevertheless, there is hope. Christ is ‘the Church’s one Foundation’ (Church Hymnary, 420). Through Him, we will bear fruit which will bring glory to God (Matthew 21:42-43). We have been slow to believe, but God is ‘swift to bless.’ No more ‘I will not’ - let there be repentance, entering God’s Kingdom and doing His will (Matthew 21:29-31).
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Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 or Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

Receiving strength from the Spirit of God

‘Called’ by God and ‘filled’ with His Spirit (Exodus 31:1-3), Bezalel had the support of Oholiab and ‘all able men’ (Exodus 31:6). Few may be called and equipped to lead, but many are required for God’s work to be done - effectively (1 Corinthians 12:4-10). ‘All’ of us receive our strength from the ‘Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:11). We offer ourselves in service with this faith, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Faith is God’s gift: ‘no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’. There are many gifts. They are varied expressions of one gift - the faith which confesses that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). The people fell into idolatry and immorality (Exodus 32:6): a ‘warning’to us (1 Corinthians 10:6-12). We have God’s help - to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Moses sets for us a godly example: he spent time with God, hearing His voice and prevailing in prayer (Exodus 32:1, 7-14).

We must not rebel against the Spirit of God.
We read here about sin and salvation. There is a very realistic description of Israel’s sin - ‘They soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His counsel... They despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His promise... They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord... They rebelled against the Spirit of God’ (Psalm 106:13, 24-25, 33). This is not only ancient history. It’s the story of our life! We read this, and we must join in Israel’s confession of sin: ‘We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly’ (Psalm 106:6). The history of Israel is not only a history of sin. It is also a history of salvation: ‘He saved them...’ (Psalm 106:8, 10). As we read of God’s salvation, we must echo the prayer of God’s people - ‘Save us, O Lord our God...’ - and join with them in praising God - ‘Praise be to the Lord...’ (Psalm 106:47-48).

Looking forward to the return of our Saviour
‘O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name... You have done marvellous things’ (Isaiah 25:1). We remember what God has done for us. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who died for us. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who rose again for us. We look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to the Day when ‘He will swallow up death for ever’. On that Day, ‘the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces’. On that Day, we will look back and say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us’. On that Day, we will ‘rejoice and be glad in His salvation’ (Isaiah 25:8-9). Here and now, let us learn to ‘trust in the Lord’. We can trust in Him ‘for ever’. He is ‘the everlasting Rock’- ‘the Rock of our salvation’ (Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 95:1).
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25).
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord, ... the God of our salvation’ (Psalm 24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’ (Psalm 24:7, 9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).

Strengthened by our Saviour, we travel towards God’s eternal Kingdom.

‘Christ Jesus has made me His own’ (Philippians 3:12). In Paul`s words, we hear an echo of Jesus` words, ‘You did not choose Me... I chose you’ (John 15:16). Christ has claimed us for Himself. He has laid claim to every part of our life. We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’ (Philippians 4:4). We are to bring ‘everything’ to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6). We are to be ‘content in all circumstances’ (Philippians 4:11-12). We are to face every challenge with confidence in His strength - ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). We are to trust Him to ‘supply’our ‘every need’ (Philippians 4:19). In every situation, we can come to the Lord, trusting in His promise: ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:7). Whatever is happening, take it to the Lord in prayer and let Him give you His peace.
Jesus speaks in parables. Some hear, understand and believe. Others miss the point altogether. One man was ‘not wearing wedding clothes’ (Matthew 22:11). He was dressed in the ‘filthy rags’of his own ‘righteous acts’(Isaiah 64:6). He was not clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Revelation 21:1-2, 7:9-14). Without Christ’s righteousness we are naked and ashamed. Sin brings shame. Before sin, there was nakedness without shame (Genesis 2:25). After sin, ‘they realized they were naked... and made coverings for themselves’ (Genesis 3:7). Spiritually, we are naked before the all-seeing eye of God (Hebrews 4:13). Christ says, ‘buy from me... white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness’ (Revelation 3:18). God says, ‘Come, buy... without money... Seek the Lord... call on Him... He will have mercy... He will freely pardon...’(Isaiah 55:1, 6-8). Do you want to enter God's Kingdom? Make sure you are clothed in Christ's righteousness.
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Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost: Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99 or Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22

God is holy. God is love. Let us come to Him with our prayers.

In Moses, we see the holiness and love of God: a deep hatred of sin (Exodus 32:19), an intense longing for sinners to be forgiven (Exodus 32:32). Filled with ‘the fear of the Lord’, Moses was fearless before men. God’s Word to sinners is clear: He warns them (Proverbs 29:1); He calls them to repent (Acts 2:38); He invites them to return to Him (Hosea 6:1). Moses’faithful and fearless preaching emerged from his closeness to God: ‘The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend’ (Exodus 33:11). Moses prayed; God heard; God answered (Exodus 33:17). Moses prayed for a revelation of God’s glory (Exodus 33:18). God revealed Himself as the good God, the God of grace and mercy (Exodus 32:19). Let us go up to God and bring down all that is needed to build the Body of Christ that God may take pleasure in it and that He may appear in His glory (Haggai 1:8).

God is holy. God is love. Let us come to Him with our praise.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! ... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).

Our “God and Saviour” comes to us with His strength and salvation.
‘I am the Lord... I will strengthen you’ (Isaiah 45:5). How does the Lord strengthen us? He strengthens us with salvation. He comes to us as our ‘God and Saviour’. He calls us to come to Him and receive salvation: ‘Turn to Me and be saved...’ Through faith in Christ, we are ‘saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation’ (Isaiah 45:15, 17, 21-22). We are strengthened with ‘everlasting salvation’. We look ahead to Christ’s Return ‘in power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30). On that Day, the glory of our Saviour will be fully revealed: ‘At the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’. Jesus is our Saviour. His ‘Name is above every name’. Our ‘strength’ comes from Him (Isaiah 45:23-24; Philippians 2:10-11).

Let the Lord, the King of heaven and the King of love, be the King of your heart.
‘The Lord reigns’ (Psalms 96:10; 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’. He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’ He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’ (Church Hymnary, 35, 36, 388, 360, 86). His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life. He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life. Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do. We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).

As you hear the Word of God, let the Spirit of God move in your heart.
If God is to be glorified through the preaching of His Word, there needs to be more than the ‘words’ of the preacher. There needs to be ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Good preaching is not a matter of ‘plausible words of wisdom’. We must look for ‘a demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the Spirit is at work, there is effective communication, leading to a life-changing encounter with God. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’ (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’. The ‘message’will do you no good if you don’t hear it ‘with faith’- ‘Today, when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:2; 3:15).

As you listen to the voice of the Saviour, may His Word increase your faith.

The Pharisees were subtle - just like the ‘ancient serpent who is the devil’ (Genesis 3:1; Revelation 20:2). They tried ‘to entangle Jesus in His talk’ (Matthew 22:15). They wanted to trap Him and bring a charge against Him. They asked Jesus about payment of taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:17). Jesus moved beyond this question to our greatest responsibility: ‘Render ... to God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22:21). If we must speak words of political significance - ‘Render.. to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ (Matthew 22:21) - , let them arise out of this: Giving God His rightful place in His Church, the nation and the wider world. Jesus’ words to the Sadducees, in Matthew 22:29, were not simply a protest against the religion of the Sadducees. They were a protest for the Scriptures and the power of God. A positive faith is much more helpful than a purely negative reaction!
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Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost; Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 or Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46

“The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’ (Deuteronomy 33:27): This is no guarantee of peaceful tranquillity. For Israel, there was conflict. ‘Saved by the Lord’, Israel had found true happiness. Still, there were ‘enemies’ to be ‘thrust out’and ‘trampled down’ (Deuteronomy 33:27, 29). Knowing the blessing of God’s salvation is no guarantee that life will be easy. When the enemies of the Gospel see a believer intent on glorifying the Lord, they do all they can to create problems. We have ‘enemies’in ‘high places’ (Deuteronomy 33:29; Ephesians 6:12). Their argument is not with us. It is with God. If God’s work is to do well, there needs to be spiritual leadership. Moses had led God’s people in his day. Joshua was to take his place (Deuteronomy 34:9). Moses was important. Joshua was important. The Lord is more important - ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).
‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’ (Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’ Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).

Saved by the eternal God, let us walk with Him in holiness, love and joy.

Holiness and love - the two belong together (Leviticus 19:1, 18, 34). God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love. Through His Spirit - the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - , He enables us to live this life. We need His promises. We need His commands. Take them both together - not one without the other! Promises without commands - We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing. Commands without promises - Our 'obedience' becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace. We are to 'be holy... before Him in love' (Ephesians 1:4). 'The holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the 'love' without which we are 'nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall 'be holy... in love' (Leviticus 19:34, 36).
The first Psalm contrasts two ways - the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow. To whet your appetite for the Psalms, here are some early lessons: stability in the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2); service for the Lord (Psalm 2:11); salvation of the Lord (Psalm 3:8); sanctification from the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5); singing to the Lord (Psalm 8:4); strength in the Lord (Psalm 9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’ (Psalm 1:1-2). With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?

The blessing of the eternal God comes to us when we open our hearts to Jesus.
If God is to be glorified through the preaching of His Word, there needs to be more than the ‘words’of the preacher. There needs to be ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Good preaching is not a matter of ‘plausible words of wisdom’. We must look for ‘a demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the Spirit is at work, there is effective communication, leading to a life-changing encounter with God. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’ (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’. The ‘message’will do you no good if you don’t hear it ‘with faith’ - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:2; 3:15).
The Pharisees had failed. The Sadducees had failed. Now, ‘they come together’ (Matthew 22:34). There were differences between them, yet they were prepared to lay aside their differences and join forces in their common opposition to Jesus. They were trying to get Him to set one commandment above all the others. They would then say that He had insufficient respect for the other commandments. Jesus answered them wisely: Love - for God and our neighbour - embraces all the commandments. They have fired questions at Jesus. Now, He puts a question to them (Matthew 22:42). He seeks to raise their thinking beyond the human level - Jesus is not merely ‘the son of David’ (Matthew 22:42). He is the Son of God. Greater than all of the great men, He is ‘our Lord and our God’(John 20:28). No more trick questions. Give the answer of faith: ‘You are... the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16: 16).
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Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Joshua 3:7-17; Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 or Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12

Set apart for God, we rejoice in His great love.

‘Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’ (Joshua 3:5). ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth’ (John 17:17). Together with the command, there is the prayer. We are called to set ourselves apart for God. We can only do this when we look to the Lord for His strength. We receive His strength through His Word. We give ourselves to the Lord. He gives His promise to us: ‘the Lord will do wonders among you’. His promise of blessing is no guarantee of an easy time. In the promised land, there would be problems - and God: ‘as I was with Moses, so I will be with you’ (Joshua 3:7). There would be conflict - and victory: ‘the living God is among you... He will without fail drive out from before you...’ (Joshua 3:10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus - ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again - ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’ (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again - ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’ (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord’. Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43, 1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free... It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’ (Church Hymnary, 415).

Set apart for God, we worship Him, walk with Him and witness for Him.

Micah speaks to those ‘who hate good and love evil’ (Micah 3:2). He calls upon them to change their way of living. He calls upon them to worship the Lord - ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’- and walk with Him - ‘We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God for ever and ever’. How do we learn to ‘walk in His paths’? We come to His ‘House’. We listen to His ‘Word’. We pray that His Word will come to us ‘with power’. We ask Him to ‘teach us His ways’. We pray that we will be ‘filled with the Spirit of the Lord’ (Micah 4:2, 5; 3:8). We worship the Lord in His House. Gathered in His House for worship, we ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us’. Through His power, we are equipped for witness: ‘you will be My witnesses...’ (Acts 1:8).

In our worship, we listen to the Word of God.
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).

In our walk with God, we are strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit.
If God is to be glorified through the preaching of His Word, there needs to be more than the ‘words’ of the preacher. There needs to be ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Good preaching is not a matter of ‘plausible words of wisdom’. We must look for ‘a demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the Spirit is at work, there is effective communication, leading to a life-changing encounter with God. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’ (1 Thessalonians 13). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’. The ‘message’ will do you no good if you don’t hear it ‘with faith’ - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:2; 3:15).

In our witness for the Lord, we pray that our words will be filled with His love.
As you read Jesus’stinging words, remember this: there is a ‘Pharisee’' in every one of us! Jesus disturbs the ‘peace’of ‘those who sit at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6:1). He invites us to see ourselves as God sees us: ‘before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13). Why does Christ speak such disturbing words? - He loves us. He longs for us to return to Him and be forgiven. Many times He comes to us - ‘How often would I have gathered you’. Many times, we refuse His appeal of love: ‘you would not’ (Matthew 23:37). You may have refused Him often, yet still He waits. Still, He perseveres in love. Still, He seeks to show you the emptiness of your life without Him - ‘forsaken and desolate’ (Matthew 23:38). Still, He waits for you to say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ (Matthew 23:39).
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Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7 or Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Let us serve the Lord all the days of our life.

Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (Joshua 24:15, 29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (Joshua 24:16-18, 21, 24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision - a definite, public commitment to the Lord (Joshua 24:24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua’s preaching. What God has done for Israel (Joshua 24:2-13) is followed by ‘Therefore...’ (Joshua 24:14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, ‘Do I really mean it’ (Joshua 24:19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: ‘Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness’ (Joshua 24:14). Make your own commitment to the Lord. Give your testimony - ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. Pray that others will also say, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him (Joshua 24:15, 24). Let us ‘serve the Lord all the days’ of our life (Joshua 24:31).

We are strengthened for God’s service when we drink from the cup of salvation.
‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’ (Psalm 78:19). We are living in a spiritual wilderness. We wonder, ‘Can God continue to bless us in this wilderness?’ How does God’s Word answer our question? - ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’. In the ‘wilderness’, there are many ‘enemies’. There is also the ‘table’. At the ‘table’, God blesses us - ‘You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows’ (Psalm 23:5). We are in the ‘wilderness’, surrounded by many ‘enemies’. What are we to do? - We must come to the ‘table’ - the Lord’s Table. We must come to Christ. We must drink from ‘the cup of salvation’ (Psalm 116:7). Come to the Saviour. Look to Him for His blessing. He will not disappoint you. You will be ‘anointed with the oil of gladness’. His blessing will be poured upon you ‘like precious oil’ (Psalms 45:7; 133:2).

Drinking from the cup of salvation, we commit ourselves to a life of obedience.

‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil...’ (Amos 5:6, 14). Those who truly seek the Lord are to live a godly life. God sees right through hypocritical religion. He is not pleased with it: ‘I hate your show and pretence - your hypocrisy of ‘honouring’ Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies... Away with your hymns of praise - they are mere noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is’ (Amos 5:21, 23). God is looking for true obedience: ‘a mighty flood of justice - a torrent of doing good’ - ‘Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (Amos 5:24). God speaks to us about our sins - ‘Many and great are your sins. I know them so well’ - so that we might learn to ‘hate evil’and ‘love good’ (Amos 5:12, 15).

As we drink from the cup of salvation, we are led in the way of victory.
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2). We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it! Rather than being preoccupied with his own problems, he is calling on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4). How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3). Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).

Drinking from the cup of salvation, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.

Do you feel like giving up? God is not about to give up on you: ‘He who calls you is utterly faithful and He will finish what He set out to do’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He has a great future for us: ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We look forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘The Lord Himself will descend from heaven’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16). We look forward to heavenly and eternal glory: ‘We shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the kind of encouragement we need. We are to remind one another of these things: ‘Comfort one another with these words’ (1 Thessalonians 4:18). We are ‘to encourage one another’ to go on with the Lord. Let’s ‘build one another up’, encouraging each other to build on ‘the Rock’ which is ‘Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Matthew 7:24-27).

As we drink from the cup of salvation, we build on Christ, the solid Rock.
‘The times they are-a-changing’. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, ‘My words will not pass away’ (Matthew 24:35). In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: ‘The Word of the Lord stands forever’ (1 Peter 1:25). The scoffers will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ (2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that ‘He is near’ (Matthew 24:33). Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). When He returns need not concern us: ‘the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Matthew 24:44). We are to be ready at all times (Matthew 25:13) - doing the Lord's will (Matthew 24:46). We are to be ‘faithful and wise’ (Matthew 24:45). As ‘the bride of Christ’ (Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him’ (Matthew 25:6).
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Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123 or Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Our help comes from the Lord. The glory goes to the Lord.

Barak is an example of ‘faith’ (Hebrews 11:32-34). Faith involves believing God’s promise - ‘I will give...’and obeying His command - ‘Go’ (Judges 4:6-7). God still says, ‘Go... I am with you always...’ (Matthew 28:19-20). Barak needed Deborah’s help (Judges 4:8-10). Both needed God’s help - ‘Our sufficiency comes from God’ (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). In Deborah’s song, we learn of the importance of giving all the glory to God: ‘Bless the Lord... To the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord... Bless the Lord’ (Judges 5:2-3, 9). We are to repeat the triumphs of the Lord’. This is our high calling as ‘the people of the Lord’ (Judges 5:11). ‘Awake, awake, Deborah … Arise, Barak …’ (5:12) – God is still calling His people to wake up, to rise up: ‘Rise up O Church of God, awake!’ (Church Hymnary, 477; Mission Praise, 178).
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’ (Psalm 123:3). We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalms 123:2; 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

Worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in truth, we celebrate His great love for us.
‘The great Day of the Lord is near - near and coming quickly... That Day will be a Day of wrath... I will bring distress upon the people... because they have sinned against the Lord’ (Zephaniah 1:14-17). This is God’s Word of warning. He is calling us back to Himself: ‘Seek the Lord - before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the Day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you’. We are to seek the Lord in ‘righteousness’and ‘humility’. This is the way of being ‘sheltered on the Day of the Lord’s anger’ (Zephaniah 2:2-3). God is calling us to ‘worship Him in Spirit and in truth’: ‘Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer’ (John 4:24; Romans 12:1).
‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’ (Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’ Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).

We worship the faithful God. He gives us strength to be faithful to Him.
Do you feel like giving up? God is not about to give up on you: ‘He who calls you is utterly faithful and He will finish what He set out to do’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He has a great future for us: ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We look forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘The Lord Himself will descend from heaven’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16). We look forward to heavenly and eternal glory: ‘We shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the kind of encouragement we need. We are to remind one another of these things: ‘Comfort one another with these words’ (1 Thessalonians 4:18). We are ‘to encourage one another’ to go on with the Lord. Let’s ‘build one another up’, encouraging each other to build on ‘the Rock’ which is ‘Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Matthew 7:24-27).
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’ We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’ The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’ actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’ and ‘pleasure for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).
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Twenty-seventh (or last) Sunday after Pentecost (Reign of Christ the King): Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100 or Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-26; Psalm 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd.

God speaks to us in love. He says, ‘I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep’ (Ezekiel 34:15). We rejoice in His love. We say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ (Psalm 23:1). Jesus is our Shepherd. He is ‘the good Shepherd’. He laid down His life for us that we might receive the forgiveness of our sins. ‘Christ died for our sins’. He - ‘the Righteous’- died for us - ‘the unrighteous’- ‘to bring us to God’ (John 10:11; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18). He is ‘the great Shepherd’. He was ‘raised’ from the dead’. Through His resurrection, we receive eternal life. He says to us, ‘Because I live you will live also’ (Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:4; John 14:19). He is ‘the chief Shepherd’. He will come again with ‘the unfading crown of glory’ for His ‘good and faithful servants’ (1 Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:21).

Let us worship the Lord with joy.

‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! ... The Lord our God is holy!’(99:5,9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).
‘Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord... Let us come before Him with thanksgiving... Come, let us bow down in worship...’ (Psalm 95:1-2, 6). We are to worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving. We rejoice in the Lord. We give thanks for His love. He is ‘the great God’. He is ‘our God’. He is the God of creation - ‘In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land’. He is the God of salvation - ‘We are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care’ (Psalm 95:3-5, 7). If we are to learn to worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving, we must open our hearts to Him: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Psalm 95:7-8). When we hear the call to worship, we must open our hearts to the Spirit of worship.

As we worship God, we are called to have faith in Him and to be faithful to Him.

‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’ - by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7). When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’ (Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’ We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’ The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’ actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’and ‘pleasure for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).
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Special Days – Christian Unity: Ezekiel 37:15-24; Psalm 122; 1 Corinthians 3:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20

As we we come to God’s House, let us pray, “Holy Spirit, we welcome You.”
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray. Unreservedly, have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You’ (Mission Praise, 274, 241).
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’ (Psalm 123:3). We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalm 123:2; 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus Christ and He sends us out for Jesus Christ.

We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’ - ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30). Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’ (Mission Praise, 378, 385) - Let’s say it and mean it!
Why is it so important that we ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19)? There is a devil, and he is doing his utmost to hinder the progress of God’s truth. He spreads lies about Christ - ‘to this day’ he is still sowing seeds of unbelief (Matthew 28:11-15). We must combat the enemy of Christ - with words of truth, with the believing declaration, ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7). Satan failed to halt the progress of the Gospel. Christ’s disciples rose to the challenge, and so must we: ‘Rise up, you champions of God... We’ll reach this generation... Go forth! Jesus loves them. Go forth! Take the Gospel. Go forth! The time is now. The harvest is ripening; Go forth! Feel now the burden of the Lord. Feel how He longs to save them. Feel now for those who never heard... Now is the time’ (Songs of Fellowship, 486). ‘All authority... has been given to Me... I am with you always' (Matthew 28:18-20).
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Special Days – Presentation of the Lord: Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

The Lord calls us to return to Him.

God calls us to be His faithful people. He says, ‘Return to Me.’ He promises to bless those who return to Him: ‘I will return to you’. God calls us to honour Him with our ‘tithes and offerings: ‘Bring the whole tithe (tenth) into the storehouse...’ When we honour the Lord, He has promised that He will honour us: ‘Those who honour Me, I will honour’. When we honour the Lord with our obedience, He promises that He will honour us with His blessing. He promises to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down for us an overflowing blessing’. Satan - ‘the devourer’- will be defeated. We will ‘serve God’. He will take ‘delight’ in us. We will be His ‘treasured possession’ (Malachi 3:8-12, 17-19; 1 Samuel 2:30).

Open the door of your heart to Jesus. He will come in.
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord, ... the God of our salvation’ (Psalm 24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ - no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’ (Psalm 24:7, 9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).

Receive Christ and become a child of God.
God invites each of us to receive a great blessing - the blessing of being His ‘children’ (Hebrews 2:13). We become God’s children through faith in Christ: ‘To all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God’ (John 1:12). What will you do with God’s great invitation, His invitation of love? Will you receive Christ and become a child of God? Will you miss out on the blessing ‘because of unbelief’ (Hebrews 3:19)? God is waiting for your answer - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 3:7, 15). Throughout life, we must guard against ‘an evil, unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God’. ‘Every day’, we must take care that we do not become ‘hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’ (Hebrews 3:12-13). As God’s children, let’s grow in Christ (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).

Let us follow Jesus. Be filled with the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit.
Jesus ‘fulfilled all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). His circumcision and presentation to the Lord was ‘according to the law of Moses’ (Luke 2:21-24; Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus’ obedience was always more than mere conformity to ‘the written code’. He was walking ‘in the Spirit’. He was filled with ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3,6). His obedience came ‘from the heart’ and His ‘praise’ came ‘not from men but from God’ (Romans 6:17; 2:29). What joy there was for Simeon and Anna! This was ‘salvation’, ‘redemption’ (Luke 2:30, 38). As you journey through life, don’t ‘lose Jesus’ (Luke 2:43-45). Keep close to Him! If you do ‘lose Him’, where will you find Him again? - ‘In the temple’ (Luke 2:46). Have you lost your way? Find your way back to ‘the sanctuary of God’ - and things will start to fall into place again (Psalm 73:16-17)!
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Special Days – Springtime: Genesis 8:15-22; Psalm 65:9-13; Galatians 6:7-10; Matthew 6:24-30

Christ has taken away our sin. Let us rejoice in Him.

Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (Genesis 8:13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’. God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (Genesis 8:15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (Genesis 8:17; John 15:16). We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
‘Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord’ (Psalm 64:10). True joy in the Lord is not just a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last for very long. When our ‘praise’ to the Lord is real, it leads to a changed life: ‘O God’, we will ‘keep our promises to You’ (Psalm 65:1). Jesus shows us the great difference between a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last, and a true conversion which leads to a changed life. He speaks of those who ‘receive the Word with joy, ... endure for a while’ and then ‘fall away’. He speaks also of those who ‘hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit’ (Mark 4:3-9, 16-17, 20). How do you worship the Lord? Are you looking for a good feeling - and nothing more than that? God is looking for more. He wants us to live as ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Christ has given us new life. Let us live for Him.
What are we praying for when we ask God to fill us with His Spirit? We are praying ‘for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’. This is ‘the fruit of the Spirit’(Galatians 5:22-23). How are we to be filled with the Spirit? How does the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives? We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, saying in our hearts, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Galatians 6:14). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Looking to Him, let’s concentrate on the one thing that really matters - living as ‘a new creation’ (Galatians 6:15).
On the one side of Christ’s disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are ‘the Gentiles’ (Matthew 6:32). The hypocrites represent religion without reality. The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously. We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles. Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men. We are to live for God’s eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (Matthew 6:19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).
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Special Days – Harvest Festival: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 145:8-21; Revelation 14:14-18; Matthew 13:24-33

Break the vicious circle and get on to God’s victorious circle.

The people of Israel had a testimony. They had been redeemed by the God of love. Thankful for His love and salvation, they brought their offerings to the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). The call to obedience is grounded in the gift of salvation. Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be ‘a people holy to the Lord our God’ (Deuteronomy 26:16-19). There is no privilege without responsibility. Israel was privileged: God was giving them ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’. Israel was responsible: God was saying to them, ‘Keep all the commandments which I command you this day’ (Deuteronomy 27:1-3). God blesses us. We obey Him. We enjoy more of His blessing. This leads us to obey Him more. Break the ‘vicious circle’. Get on to God’s ‘victorious circle’: He shows us His love. We love Him. He shows us more of His love. We love Him more... (John 14:21).

God is great. His love is great. His faithfulness is great.
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3). The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration’. We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’. We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’. Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom’. There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8, 13, 21).

Think of the great things that God has done and give all the glory to Him.
With ‘patient endurance’, we are to ‘obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus’ (Revelation 14:12), This will not be easy. Satan will do all that he can to defeat us. How can we be ‘victorious’ over him? We must rejoice in all that God has done for His people, Israel. He delivered them from their bondage in Egypt. We sing ‘the song of Moses’. Beyond the great event of the Exodus, there is something even more wonderful. We rejoice in what God has done for us - ‘In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself’. We sing ‘the song of the Lamb’ (Revelation 15:2-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:19). we hear God’s call - ‘Fear God and give Him glory’. We consider His ‘great and marvellous deeds’. In our hearts, we say, ‘Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your Name’ (Revelation 14:7; 15:3-4).

Sow the seed of God’s Word and pray that there will be a great spiritual harvest.
Jesus’ parables are so rich in spiritual content. They speak with an indirectness which is very direct! They may be parabolic in form, but they do go right to the heart of the matter in a way that is very challenging. The parable of the ‘wheat and the weeds’ (Matthew 13:24-30, with explanation given in Matthew 13:36-43) contrasts a real believing response to Christ with an empty profession of faith in Him. There is also something else - leave judgment to God. He knows those who are His and those who are not. The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) is a word of encouragement - Do not give up hope that the seed of God’s Word is growing, slowly and surely, in the hearts of those who do not appear to be bearing much fruit. The parable of the yeast is also encouraging - What a difference even a few believers can make to a whole community!
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Special Days – Michaelmas: 2 Kings 6:8-17; Psalm 103:19-22; Revelation 12:7-12a; Matthew 18:1-6, 10

Our love for God is grounded in His love for us.

Elisha was ‘the man of God’ (2 Kings 6:6, 9, 15). This was the important thing about him. More than anything else, he was ‘the man of God’. We find the same phrase in 1 Timothy 6:11 - ‘But as for you, man of God,… aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’. We are to be people who put first things first. There is nothing more important than this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’. Does this seem too heavenly-minded? Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Luke 10:27). We are not to be super-spiritual. We are to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Let there be no conflict between loving God and loving our neighbour. Christ is our Lord. We serve others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
‘Praise the Lord’ (Psalm 103:1-2, 20-22). Let’s praise Him for His ‘steadfast love’. He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’ (Psalm 103:8). How are we to respond to His ‘steadfast love’? Are we to say, ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’? No! We must not think like this. We’re not to say, ‘I’ll keep on sinning. God will keep on forgiving’ (Romans 6:1-2). God’s Word tells us something very different. Loved by God, we learn to love Him. When God’s ‘steadfast love’has really touched our hearts, it changes our lives. This is the great change which the Psalmist has in mind when he writes, ‘As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him... The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him’ (Psalm 103:11, 17). Let’s thank God for His love - and live to please Him!

Listening to the Word of God and obeying the Word of God

In Genesis 3:1, we read of ‘the serpent’. Here he is again - ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’. He is a powerful enemy. He ‘leads the whole world astray’. He is a determined enemy. ‘Day and night’, he is busy, accusing God’s children. He is a defeated enemy. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...’ This is not only Christ’s victory over Satan. This is our victory in Christ, the victory Christ has won for us. Why is Satan so busy? It’s because ‘he knows his time is short’ (Revelation 12:9-12). How are we to take our stand against Satan? We must listen to the Word of God: ‘He who has an ear, let him hear’. We must obey the Word of God: ‘This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness...’ (Revelation 13:9). Christ has won the victory for us. Let us claim His victory by faith.

Let there be love shared among us.

From Jesus’reply to the question: ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ (Matthew 18:1), we learn much about the valued place children are to have among us. Our attitude to children is to be marked by humility, respect, responsibility and - above all - love. (a) humility: We teach the children. We can learn from them (Matthew 18:2-4). (b) respect: Physically, we may look down on them. Spiritually, we must ‘not look down’on them (Matthew 18:10). They are to be highly valued. (c) responsibility: What kind of influence do we have on the children? - This is a question of the greatest importance (Matthew 18:6). (d) love: Our ‘Father in heaven’loves the children (Matthew 18:14). The kind of welcome we give to children shows the kind of welcome we give to ‘Jesus’ who ‘loves the little children’ (Matthew 18:5). May God help us not to fail the rising generation.
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Special Days – All Saints: Revelation 7:9-17 or Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 34:1-10, 22; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Looking at things with Christ’s eyes

Christ invites us to ‘come’ (Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7) - and look at things through His eyes. With Him, we look at earth. With Him, we look at heaven. Troubled world, tremendous worship - These are the things we see when we look through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our world is deeply troubled. Heaven’s worship is absolutely tremendous. Of all our many ‘troubles’, the greatest is this: We are sinners, and none of us ‘can stand’before ‘the face of Him who sits on the throne’. Our earthly ‘troubles’are nothing compared with this! There is hope. There is a way of ‘salvation’. We can be saved through ‘the blood of the Lamb’. If, however, we turn from Him - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’- there will be no hope. We will face ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ (Revelation 4:16-17; 5:10, 14; John 1:29). Will you be saved - or lost?

Listening to God and speaking for God
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant.’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’ (Psalm 34:1). We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’ (Psalm 34:3). We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’ (Psalm 34:8). We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’ (Psalm 34:11). We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’ (Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).

Our full enjoyment of eternal life is still to come.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God’, we receive ‘eternal life’ (1 John 2:22-25; John 20:31). Our enjoyment of eternal life has already begun - ‘we are God’s children now.’ Our full enjoyment of eternal life is still to come: ‘It does not yet appear what we shall be...’. We have begun to experience Christ’s victory: ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil’. We look forward to our full enjoyment of His victory: ‘When He appears, we shall be like Him...’ (1 John 3:2, 8). Some will try to ‘deceive’us. We must keep our eyes on Christ - ‘He laid down His life for us’. We have received His ‘love’. We must show His love - ‘Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:7, 16, 18). Do you believe in Christ? Live the life. Be a believer - in deed’!

We have begun to enjoy God’s blessing. Let’s share it with others.
Here, in Matthew 5:1-2, we have the introduction to ‘the Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7). Reference is made to both ‘the disciples’ and ‘the crowds’. The disciples are taught with a view to becoming teachers of the crowds. Peter learned from Christ and later he taught the crowds (Acts 2:14-42). The Sermon on the Mount was heard by the crowds as well as the disciples. Jesus spoke to the crowds. His ministry to the disciples had a dual purpose. It was for their own spiritual strengthening. It was training for the time when they would be entrusted with the Lord's commission: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’(Matthew 28:19-20). Do you read God’s Word solely for your own benefit? Or, do we have an eye for ways in which we can learn to share His Word with others?
‘The Beatitudes’ show us God’s way of blessing. We might also describe them as the Be Attitudes, since they show us what we are to be. Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness is the way of holiness. The only alternative to the way of holiness is the way of hypocrisy. There can be no true happiness when we are walking in the way of hypocrisy. Holiness is to take shape in our lives - the shape of Jesus Christ living in us. This is the truly happy life: the Christ-centered life. We are not to live according to present appearances. We are to live in the light of the future Reality of God's heavenly Kingdom. Some of Jesus’later statements can be viewed as an exploration of the meaning of the Beatitudes. The general principles (Matthew 5:3-10) are to be applied personally: ‘Blessed are you...’ (Matthew 5:11-12). We are not only to read the Beatitudes. We are to live them.
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Special Days – Remembrance Day: Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 20; Revelation 22:1-5; Matthew 5:38-48

Looking back and looking forward

‘O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name... You have done marvellous things’ (Isaiah 25:1). We remember what God has done for us. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who died for us. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who rose again for us. We look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to the Day when ‘He will swallow up death for ever.’ On that Day, ‘the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces’. On that Day, we will look back and say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us.’ On that Day, we will ‘rejoice and be glad in His salvation’ (Isaiah 25:8-9). Here and now, let us learn to ‘trust in the Lord’. We can trust in Him ‘for ever’. He is ‘the everlasting Rock’- ‘the Rock of our salvation’ (Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 95:1).

Jesus Christ is our Saviour. Let us bring our song of praise to Him.

‘We boast of the Name of the Lord our God...Through the steadfast love of the Most High’ we ‘shall not be moved’ (Psalms 20:7; 21:7). We do not trust in things that ‘collapse and fall.’ We build on ‘the Rock’ (20:8; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalms 18:1-3; 62:5-7). We ‘rejoice’ in our God. He has made us ‘most blessed for ever’ (Psalm 21:1, 6; Ephesians 1:3). Think of Jesus Christ your Saviour. He is absolutely trustworthy. He is completely dependable. His love is an ‘unfailing love’ (Psalm 21:7). In Him, there is salvation. In Him, there is joy. With His strong and powerful love, He has saved us. He has given us ‘a new song’ to sing, ‘a song of praise to our God’ (Psalm 40:1-3). Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise and worship: ‘Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength! We will sing and praise Thy power’ (Psalm 21:13).

Come to Christ and dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.
God has given us a glimpse of a future which is heavenly, eternal and glorious: ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God’. Is this ‘eternal life’ for everyone? Will all people ‘dwell in the House of the Lord for ever?’ Will everyone be saved? Is this what the Word of God teaches? ‘God wants everyone to be saved.’ He wants everyone to ‘come to the knowledge of the truth’, to ‘come to repentance.’ Sadly, there are many who ‘refuse to love the truth and so be saved’ (Revelation 21:10-11; John 3:16; Psalm 23:6; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Who will be saved? - ‘only those, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life’. ‘Come’ to Christ - ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they...may go through the gates into the city’ (Revelation 21:27; 22:17,14).

Trusting in Christ’s love, we learn to love.
The Pharisees lived by law. Jesus lived by love. The law of God - ‘holy and just and good’ (Romans 7:12) - had been distorted by the religious hypocrites. They were saying, ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’ (Matthew 5:43). ‘Love your neighbour’ is found in Leviticus 19:18. ‘Hate your enemy’is not found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, ‘neighbour’ meant their own kind. They wrongly concluded that Gentiles were to be hated. Jesus’parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus’ disagreement is not with the law of God. It is with man’s misuse of it. Jesus’teaching is simple - Love is not to be limited. It is demanding - love is all-embracing. We dare not bring love within our reach. We always fall short. We can only come to Christ. Confessing our lack of love and trusting in His perfect love, we learn to love.
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Special Days – St. Andrew’s Day: Zechariah 8:20-23; Psalm 87; Romans 10:8b-15; Matthew 4:12-20

Let us pray that the Spirit will be poured upon us from on high.

When people stop listening to God’s Word, their life becomes ‘a desolate wasteland’ (Zechariah 7:11-14). What are we to do when we see this happening? - ‘Do not be afraid... Be strong’. We must keep on believing God’s promise: ‘I will save you, and you will be a blessing’. We must keep on praying that our faithful witness will bring others to the Lord: ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’ (Zechariah 8:13, 23). We must pray that ‘the Spirit will be poured upon us from on high and the desert will become a fertile field.’ ‘Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father’ (Isaiah 32:15; Matthew 5:15-16).

Through the power of the Spirit, we are born again.
‘Glorious things are said of you, O city of God... The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion”. As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in You”’ (Psalm 87:3, 6-7). The ‘city of God’ is our glorious destination - ‘we are looking for the city that is to come’, ‘the Holy City’ (Hebrews 13:14; Revelation 21:2). It is also the place of our heavenly birth - ‘This one was born in Zion’. The heavenly birth - This is where our journey to the ‘city of God’ begins: ‘No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above’ (John 3:3). Between our heavenly birth and our glorious destination, there is life in the Spirit: The Psalmist says, ‘All my fountains are in You.’ Jesus says, ‘Rivers of living water shall flow from the heart of anyone who believes in Me’ (John7:38).

The Spirit leads us to call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved.
To ‘Jew and Gentile’, God says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:12-13). The Jews had praised the Lord Jesus: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’. Before long, they were shouting, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ (John 12:12-13; 19:6). We rejoice that the Gospel has now come to the Gentiles. We remember also that God still ‘holds out His hands to Israel’ (Romans 10:19-21). Still, Christ says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... How often would I have gathered your children together...’ (Luke 13:34). ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’, for the advance of the Gospel among the Jews (Psalm 122:6). Pray also for the ‘voice’of the Gospel, ‘going out into all the earth’ (Romans 10:18). Pray that ‘faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard’ (Romans 10:17).

Through the power of the Spirit, we are led in Christ’s way of victory.

Having overcome His enemy, Jesus begins His ministry. Satan will be back - Luke ends his account of Jesus’temptations with these ominous words, ‘When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time’ (Matthew 4:12). Satan will try again, but - for now - he has failed to stop Jesus setting out on His ministry, a ministry which brings light into the darkness. The light is shining brightly - ‘the Kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17). Jesus’ministry is viewed as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 4:15-16; Isaiah 9:1-2). The prophecy had been given: Death will be overcome, men and women will be delivered from ‘the shadow of death’. Now, in Christ, the prophecy has been fulfilled: by His death, Christ has destroyed ‘him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil’and He has set ‘free’ those who live in ‘fear of death’ (Hebrews 2:14-15).
Christ’s victory over the world was won for us (1 John 3:8: 5:4-5). Jesus was not a loner. He was a team leader: ‘From victory to victory His army He will lead’ (Church Hymnary, 481). At the very outset of His ministry, He set about putting together His ministry team. Peter, Andrew, James and John were the first four disciples. He called them to follow Him. His call was both gracious and demanding. It is gracious because it is the Saviour who calls us: ‘Follow Me.’ It is demanding because He calls us to follow, to submit to His Lordship: ‘Follow Me’. These men were called to a new kind of ‘fishing’ (Matthew 4:19). Jesus’ministry reached ‘great crowds’through His ‘teaching... preaching... and healing’ (Matthew 4:23-25). This chapter sets the scene for Jesus' ministry. We see the Word of the Lord triumphant over Satan, fulfilled in Christ, and effective in the lives of the disciples and the crowds.
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Special Days – Dedication / Anniversary: Genesis 28:10-22; Psalm 48: (1-8), 9-14; 1 Corinthians 3:9-17; Matthew 12:1-8

A night to remember – blessing from the Lord, dedication to the Lord

Just another night (Genesis 28:11)? No! This was a night to remember, a night Jacob would never forget. God came to him with His wonderful promise of love: ‘I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you’ (Genesis 28:15). At Bethel (‘the house of God’), powerfully transformed by the presence of God - ‘Surely the Lord is in this place’ (Genesis 28:16) - , Jacob consecrated himself to the Lord. ‘If’ (Genesis 28:20) means ‘Since’. See Romans 8:31 - ‘If (Since) God is for us, who can be against us?’ Giving the tenth (Genesis 28:22) - this is not legalism, a kind of repayment scheme. There can be no ‘salvation by works’. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our giving must always be a heartfelt expression of thanksgiving to the God of grace: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’. We are saved ‘to do good works’ (Ephesians 2:10) - not because we do good works!

Our worship does end in God’s House. Let His praise go to the ends of the earth.

‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised’ (Psalm 48:1). We worship God in the place of worship - ‘Within Your Temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love’. Our worship must not end there. We are to play our part in seeing that the praise of the Lord ‘reaches to the ends of the earth’. We are to ‘be glad’ in the Lord. We are to ‘rejoice’ in Him (Psalm 48:9-11). We must not keep this joy to ourselves. The Lord is ‘the joy of all the earth.’ We must share His joy. We are to ‘tell the next generation.’ How will they know if we do not tell them? Many are slow to come and worship the Lord. We must not be slow to witness for Him. Let’s remember God’s promise - ‘My Word...will not return to Me empty, but will...achieve the purpose for which I sent it’ - and let’s say - ‘Here am I. Send me!’ (Isaiah 55:11; 6:8).

Let Jesus take the highest honour. Let His Name be high over all.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’ - ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’(John 3:30). Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’ (Mission Praise, 378, 385) - Let’s say it and mean it!

Let us commit ourselves afresh to the service of Christ.

Much of Jesus’ministry was carried out under the watchful eye of the Pharisees. The controversy with the Pharisees was intensifying (Matthew 12:2, 14). The Pharisees were out to get Jesus. For all their religion, they had no time for Jesus. Still, there are the critics, those who try to undermine our faith in Christ, those who attempt to draw us away from serving Christ. We must remain resolute in our faith, believing what God says concerning His Son: ‘Here is my Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, in whom I delight’ (Matthew 12:18; 3:17; 17:5). As we read of Jesus, the chosen Servant of God, loved by the Father and bringing delight to the Father's heart, we should give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 1: 4-6), and we should commit ourselves afresh to the service of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58).