Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year Two - January

1st January: Joshua 1:1-18
For Israel, it was a new beginning. They were leaving the wilderness. That was their past. They were entering the promised land. This was God's future. For God's future there is God's command - 'Be strong' - and God's promise - 'the Lord your God is with you'. We wonder what the future holds. We wonder how it will all work out. God says, 'Don't be frightened. I will be with you wherever you go' (9). How can we face the future with confidence? How can we 'be strong in the Lord' (Ephesians 6:10)? How can we be sure that the Lord will never let us down (2 Corinthians 3:5)? How can we step out into a future full of His blessing? 'Meditate on His Word day and night'. Read your Bible - 'This Book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book': Which will it be? (8; Psalm 1:1-3).
2nd January: Joshua 2:1-24
The story of Rahab is summarized in Hebrews 11:31 - 'By faith...she gave a friendly welcome to the spies'. A friendly welcome - What an important thing this is! She spoke the word of encouragement - 'I know the Lord has given you this land' (9). This message of faith was taken back to Joshua (24). It was exactly what he needed! Few of us are 'big name' spiritual leaders like Joshua. All of us have an important part to play in the Lord's work. For every 'Joshua' we need plenty of 'Rahabs', giving the friendly welcome, speaking the word of encouragement. Let there be no more unhelpful, negative criticism - 'We cannot do this. We dare not do that. We must not do the other'. Let there be the friendly welcome, the word of encouragement. It will make such a difference - for the better!
3rd January: Joshua 3:1-17
'Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you' (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' (7). There would be conflict - and victory: 'the living God is among you...He will without fail drive out from before you...' (10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus - 'God with us' (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
4th January: Joshua 4:1-24
'These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever' (7). When, in the future, the question was asked, 'What do these stones mean?'(6), Israel would remember what the Lord had done for them (23). Knowing that 'the hand of the Lord is mighty', they would be strengthened to face their difficulties with confidence in God. Rejoicing in what the Lord has done - 'This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes' - , they would learn to 'fear the Lord their God for ever' (24; Psalm 118:23). Israel remembered. We must remember. When you're going through a hard time, don't forget - to remember! God has been good to you. He has blessed you. When God seems so far away, remember - and pray that, once again, 'times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord' (Acts 3:19).
5th January: Joshua 5:1-15
As you read about circumcision (2-7) and the Passover (10), think also of Paul's words in Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 - 'real circumcision is a matter of the heart', 'Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival...with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth'. 'The Commander of the Lord's army' came to Joshua (13-15). Christ comes to us. He calls us to worship. He equips us for battle. 'Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe...At the sign of triumph, Satan's legions flee...Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise...Like a mighty army moves the Church of God... Gates of hell can never 'gainst that Church prevail; We have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail...On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory' (Church Hymnary, 480).
6th January: Joshua 6:1-27
'The walls came tumbling down' - What a mighty work of God this was! It was 'the Lord' who gave Jericho into the hands of His people (16). His victory was received by faith: 'By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days' (Hebrews 11:30). Notice that the declaration of victory comes before the obedience of faith (2,16). We start out from victory. We do not achieve the victory by our own faith. The victory is given to us by the Lord. Faith simply receives the blessing already promised to us by the Lord. Faith expresses itself in obedience. Believing God's promise, they obeyed His command - and the blessing followed. They walked 'by faith, not by sight' (2 Corinthians 5:7) - 'It shall be done', not 'It can't be done'. Let us be 'devoted to the Lord' (17-19).
7th January: Joshua 7:1-26
This chapter begins with the word, 'But' - This is ominous! What comes next? - Sin: 'the people of Israel broke faith with regard to the devoted things'. The sin was Achan's, yet it affected the whole people of Israel: 'the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel' (1). Sin is like infection - it spreads! What kind of effect do your actions have on other people? Cain asked, 'Am I my brother's keeper (Genesis 4:9). His question was an expression of callous indifference. There is no place for this attitude among God's people: 'Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother' (Romans 14:13). Read the story of Achan, and remember this: 'Be sure your sin will find you out' (Numbers 32:23). Let no one have good cause to ask, 'Why did you bring trouble on us' (25).
8th January: Joshua 8:1-35
The victory was given by the Lord: 'I have given into your hand...' (1). The people still had to claim the victory. Israel's triumph was a spiritual victory from which we can learn much. We learn, first, that 'the battle is the Lord's' (7; 1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15). Believing the Lord's promise - 'the Lord your God will give it into your hand' (7) - we act upon His command: 'Do what the Lord has commanded' (8). God's work is to be done in God's way - Believing the promise, Obeying the command (18) - with God's Word at the centre. We need the whole Word of God - 'all that is written...'. In this, we learn from Joshua - 'He did not leave out one word from everything Moses had commanded'. We need 'the blessing and the curse' - the strong warnings as well as the precious promises (34-35).
9th January: Joshua 9:1-10:15
Some chose 'to make war against Joshua and Israel' (9:1-2). The Gibeonites came, looking for peace. They achieved their objective - 'Joshua made peace with them' (9:15). In this story we see the work of Satan, and we may catch a glimpse of the work of God. The 'peace' was based on deception. The Gibeonites 'acted with cunning' (9:4). The Israelites were easily deceived. They 'did not ask direction from the Lord' (9:14). The Gibeonites brought trouble to Israel (10:3-5). There were 'weeds among the wheat' - An enemy has done this' (Matthew 13:25,28). Through the grace of God, the Gibeonites' 'curse' could become a 'blessing'. Working at 'the place' of worship, they could come to know and love the Person who is worshipped (23,27; Psalm 84:4). Let Christ bring you from 'no peace' to real peace (Jeremiah 6:14; Romans 5:1).
10th January: Acts 1:1-26
We read, in John 7:39, that 'the Spirit' would not be 'given' until Jesus was 'glorified'. Now, as Jesus was about to be 'taken up...into heaven', He tells His apostles, 'the Holy Spirit' will 'come upon you' (11,8). He gives them His Word of promise: 'I send the promise of my Father upon you'. He gives them His Word of command: 'stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high' (Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only 'be filled with the Spirit' (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles 'devote themselves to prayer' (14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God's gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
11th January: Acts 2:1-47
'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' (1,5). They are 'amazed' at what they hear - 'we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God' (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' (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 (41-47).
12th January: Joshua 10:16-11:15
God gives the promise. Believing His promise, we obey His command, pressing on to victory (25,6). This is God's way of victory: 'go in to take possession of the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess' (1:11). As we read of Joshua's military exploits, we must not lose sight of the spiritual dimension: 'the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel' (42). This is what we must learn. The victory does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord who fights for us. Through 'the obedience of faith' (Romans 1:5), - believing God's promise, we obey His command - , the Lord's victory becomes a living reality in our lives. Joshua built on the foundation laid for him by Moses (12,15). Learning from 'the apostles and prophets', we build on God's Foundation, 'Jesus Christ' (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
13th January: Joshua 11:16-12:24
What is the spiritual value of this list of victories? Don't be sidetracked by the military aspect. This is not about Israel blowing its own trumpet. It is about giving glory to God. In Genesis 12:1-3, we have God's promise to bring blessing to all nations. Before Christ came as 'the Saviour of the world' (John 4:42), Israel was to become 'a great nation' - 'a holy nation', 'a light to the nations' (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 49:6). This involved the 'curse' on the rebellious peoples who presented a sinful obstacle to God's saving purpose. The Lord is King! The united people of God won a decisive victory in 'the whole land' (11:23). There was, however, still 'very much land to be possessed' by the individual tribes (13:1). God's Word is preached publicly. It must also be applied personally - by you!
14th January: Acts 3:1-26
'Laid daily at the gate of the temple', the 'man lame from birth' had seen plenty of 'ordinary' days (2). This was no 'ordinary' day. This was a day for 'walking, and leaping, and praising God' (9). Jesus Christ can do for us what 'silver and gold' cannot do (6). He is 'the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith' (Romans 1:16). From the healing of the lame man came a great opportunity for Peter to preach the Gospel to 'the people' (10-12). Peter gave all the glory to God. Peter and John had not performed this miracle by their 'own power or piety' (12). This was the work of God, 'the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob', the God who raised Jesus from the dead (13-16). This is the God who calls us to return to Him. 'Turn' to Him. He will forgive your sins. He will send 'times of refreshing' (19).
15th January: Acts 4:1-5:11
Peter preached Christ with great boldness: 'There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved' (12). This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was 'filled with the Holy Spirit' (4:8). Don't say, 'I'm no Peter'. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from 'the company of those who believed'. They 'gathered together' for prayer. They 'were of one heart and soul'...' (31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don't pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you're really like. 'Search me, O God...' (Psalm 139:23-24).
16th January : Proverbs 7:1-27
The way of obedience is the way of life: 'keep My commandments and live' (2). This is not a shallow legalism. It is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is 'walking in the Spirit'. It is living as 'a new creation'. We do not glory in our own obedience. We 'glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 5:16; 6:16,14). Obedience is a mark of spiritual maturity. The 'mature' are 'those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil' (Hebrews 5:14). In His Word, God shows us how we are to live and how we are not to live. We must 'listen' to God. We must 'be attentive' to His Word, thinking on and doing 'these things' which will glorify Him (24; Philippians 4:8-9). 'Sin so easily entangles...let us fix our eyes on Jesus' (25-27; Hebrews 12:1-2).
17th January: Joshua 13:1-14:15
God has given the land to Israel. Still, there was the challenge: 'there is still very much land to be possessed' (13:1). 'God...has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing'. Now, we must 'lead a life worthy of His calling' (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1). 'Joshua was old and advanced in years'. Caleb was 'eighty five years old' (13:1; 14:10).These were men of faith. Forty five years earlier, they had called on the people to trust and obey: 'The Lord...will bring us into this land...Only, do not rebel against the Lord' (14:7-10; Numbers 14:6-9). They had persevered: 'I press on...'. They had been preserved: 'Kept by the power of God' (Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 1:5). 'I am still as strong to this day as I was', 'We will serve the Lord' (14:11; 24:15). This is faith -for yesterday, today and tomorrow!
18th January: Acts 5:12-6:7
There was great blessing: 'More than ever believers were added to the Lord' (14). There was persecution (17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles 'devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word'. They were supported by 'seven men...known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom' (3-4). Armed with 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God', let us be 'be strong in the Lord' - 'filled with the Spirit' - as we 'let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly' (Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (7).
19th January: Joshua 15:1-63
'The land of Negeb' had little water. The request was made - 'Give me also springs of water'. The request was granted. Trusting in the Lord's promise - 'the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him', we receive His blessing - 'rivers of living water' (19; Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39). 'The people of Judah could not drive out' the Jebusites. We may contrast Judah's failure with Caleb's faith - 'the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord said'. Learning from Judah's failure - 'Do not be conformed to this world' - , we must build on Caleb's faith - 'Be transformed by the renewal of your mind'. Let us commit ourselves to doing 'God's will - His good, pleasing and perfect will' (63; 14:12; Romans 12:2). Do His will. Let His 'rivers of living water' flow freely.
20th January: Acts 6:8-8:3
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. (6:8,15,10-11). In death, we hear him praying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord, do not hold this sin against them' (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 (8). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (9:4-6)!
21st January: Joshua 16:1-17:18
Compromise is a poor substitute for obedience. Fail to obey God, and you may have to live with the consequences of your disobedience: 'they did not drive out the Canaanites...so the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day (16:10). Settling for anything less than God's very best will surely lead us far from Him and His blessing: 'He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them' (Psalm 106:15). If we are to make real spiritual progress, we must not rest on our laurels' - 'We are a numerous people'. We must do the work of God: 'you shall drive out the Canaanites'. Our obedience must be more than 'empty words'. We must not live as 'the sons of disobedience'. We must 'live as the children of light' - 'God's own people' (14,18; Ephesians 5:6-10; 1 Peter 2:9).
22nd January: Acts 8:4-40
Make sure that it's real! Simon the magician was impressed by the 'signs and great miracles', but his 'heart' was 'not right before God' (13,19). The Ethiopian's conversion was real. Searching the Scriptures, he found the Saviour (30-35). From the Ethiopian's conversion, we learn of Jesus' promise: 'Seek and you will find'. From Simon's tragedy, we hear Jesus' warning: 'Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord", shall enter the kingdom of heaven...' (Matthew 7:7,21-23). What is God saying to us from these two very different stories? - 'Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure' (2 Peter 1:10). 'Search me, O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Lord, and know my thoughts I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me, Cleanse me from every sin and set me free' (Mission Praise. 587).
23rd January: Joshua 18:1-19:51
'How long will you be slack to go in and take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?' (18:3). God has given us so much: 'His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness'. How much are we giving ourselves to Him? - 'Make every effort to add to your faith...If you do this you will never fail; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 1:3-11). In Joshua, we see a fine example of the Christlike spirit - 'not to be served but to serve' (Mark 10:45). After 'they had finished distributing the... land', Joshua received his 'inheritance'. He led with the attitude of a servant. He wasn't 'in it only for what he could get out of it' - the city he chose had to be 'rebuilt' (49-50)!
24th January: Acts 9:1-43
Saul the persecutor become Paul the Apostle (13:9). What a great turning-point this was in the life of the early Church! When we read of Paul's missionary journeys (13:1-28:31). we may be tempted to think, 'What a great man Paul must have been'. In his letters, Paul insists that we must not think like this. He tells us that 'nothing good dwells within' him. Paul never forgot his 'past': 'I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him'. Paul describes himself as 'the worst of sinners'. Paul gives his testimony: 'The grace of God was poured on me abundantly' (Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). God's true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, 'The Lord Jesus...has sent me...'(17). Saul 'preached boldly in the Name of Jesus' (27). Peter said, 'Jesus Christ heals you...' (34).
25th January: Joshua 20:1-21:45
We read of manslaughter, 'the cities of refuge' and the death of the high priest (20:1-6). What does all this have to do with us? We are sinners. Jesus Christ has died for us. He is our Refuge. He is our Great High Priest. In Him, there is 'no condemnation'. In Him, we become 'a new creation' (Matthew 5:21-22; Romans 5:8; 8:1; Hebrews 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Israel's story is a human story. It is also the Lord's Story (43-45). We fail God. He never fails us (2 Timothy 2:13). Sin threatens to overwhelm us. The Lord comes to us with His promise of deliverance and victory (Romans 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Our spiritual progress is so slow - 'little by little'(Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22-24). God does not lose patience with us (Psalm 103:8-13). He never stops loving us!
26th January:Acts 10:1-11:18
'When the Holy Spirit comes on you...you will be my witnesses...to the ends of the earth' (1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches 'the Gentiles' (10:45; 11:1,18) - is a movement of 'the Spirit' (11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God's Word, we read of (a) God's love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God's Son who died for 'the sins of the whole world' (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God's command that 'the Good News' should be preached to 'everyone' (Mark 16:15); (d) God's purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). 'Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save...Here am I, send me' (Youth Praise, 128). 'Go forth and tell!' (Mission Praise, 178).
27th January: Joshua 22:1-34
Joshua had heard God's Word (1:8). Now, he speaks God's Word to the people (5). To those who 'have obeyed' Him, God says, 'Keep on obeying Me'. This is the way of blessing (1-6). Together with God's promise of blessing, we need His warning against rebellion: 'Do not rebel against the Lord' (19). Why does God warn us against the dangers of 'rebellion against the Lord' (16)? It is because He wants us to say with heart and voice: 'Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord' (29). Our 'resolution' seems so weak - 'I feel like giving up'. The temptation to 'rebel against the Lord' seems so strong - 'I feel like I can't go on'. Let us pray for a stronger faith in God - 'The Lord is God' - and a richer experience of His presence - 'We know that the Lord is in the midst of us' (34,31).
28th January: Joshua 23:1-16
God has done, is doing and will do great things for us (3-5, 8-10). He calls us to 'obey' Him, to 'hold fast' to Him, to 'love' Him (6,8,11). The pattern of Joshua's teaching - 'This is what the Lord has done' (3-5) 'Therefore' 'This is what you must do' (6-8) - is similar to Paul's approach in Romans and Ephesians. In Romans 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3, Paul grounds his readers in the truth of the Gospel. In Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1, he says, 'Therefore'. Here are the practical implications. In the light of all that the Lord has done for you, this is how you must live for Him. Be strong in the Lord. In Him, we have the victory (10; Psalm 3:6). Maintain your love for God. Don't presume on God's blessing. There is no guarantee of blessing for those who 'turn back' from following the Lord (11-13,15-16). He has not failed us (14). We must not fail Him!
29th January: Joshua 24:1-33
Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (15,29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (16-18,21, 24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision - a definite, public commitment to the Lord (24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua's preaching. What God has done for Israel (2-13) is followed by 'Therefore...' (14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, 'Do I really mean it' (19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: 'Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness' (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 (15,24). Let us 'serve the Lord all the days' of our life (31).
30th January: Acts 11:19-12:25
Barnabas 'was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord' (11:24). Let's be like Barnabas, giving ourselves to the Lord and asking Him to make us more useful in His service. Great things can happen when 'earnest prayer' is 'made to God by the church' - God 'is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think' (5-7; Ephesians 3:20). Give all the glory to the Lord. Herod 'did not give God the glory'. He accepted the praise of the people - 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man'. Herod's sudden death - 'an angel of the Lord struck him down' - is a warning (12:22-23; Proverbs 29:1). 'Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap'. 'Walk humbly with your God' (Galatians 6:7; Micah 6:8).
31st January: Psalm 18:25-50
'This God' is 'our God'. He is 'the Rock'. He is 'my Rock'. No one can compare with the Lord our God. He is the living God, the God of our salvation (30-31,46). In the Lord, we have salvation: 'You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty'. In our God, we have victory: 'You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet' (27,39). Do you want to enjoy God's blessing - His salvation and His victory? God says, 'Clothe yourselves with humility'. Together with His command, we have God's warning - 'God opposes the proud' - and God's promise - He 'gives grace to the humble' (1 Peter 5:5). There is a question which each of us must answer: 'Who is on the Lord's side? There is an answer which of us must give: 'We are on the Lord's side' (Church Hymnary, 479).

Monday, 22 August 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - December

1st December: John 10:1-42
The Christian life is not easy. The devil 'comes only to steal and kill and destroy' (10). Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying 'to stone' Jesus (31). 'Again', they failed (39). They could not take Jesus' life. 'His hour had not yet come' (18; 7:30; 8:20). When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (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).
2nd December: Deuteronomy 19:1-20:9
Justice is concerned with (a) the protection of the innocent - 'innocent blood will not be shed in your land' (10); (b) the punishment of the guilty - 'you must purge the evil from among you' (19). Through justice, God is to be glorified among His people. We are to fight for the Lord without fear, confident of His glorious presence (20:1-4). In the service of the Lord, we must not be 'fearful and fainthearted' (20:8). We are to be 'good soldiers of Jesus Christ' (2 Timothy 2:3). We need to give careful attention to the Word of God: 'When you draw near to the battle, the priest will come forward and speak to the people, and say to them, 'Hear, O Israel...' (20:2-3). God's Word is not concerned only with 'Church work'. It sends us 'back to our house' - 'dedicated' to the Lord (20:5-9).
3rd December: Deuteronomy 20:10-21:23
The offer of 'peace' is made (20:10; Romans 5:1). Some refuse to 'make peace'.They choose to 'make war' (20:12). When the enemies of Christ and the Gospel are raging, we must be resolute in our commitment to living 'as the Lord our God has commanded' (20:16-18). We are to 'do what is right in the sight of the Lord'. This will involve 'going forth to war against our enemies'. It will involve 'purging the evil from our midst' (21:9-10,21; Ephesians 6:10-13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-2,11). Our life of holiness is grounded in the death of Christ who, on the Cross, was 'accursed by God' so that we might be saved by God (21:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24). Through faith in Him, we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1,3-5,9-10).
4th December: John 11:1-44
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 (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' (25). His words are immediately followed by the question: 'Do you believe this?' (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...'(27). This is 'for the glory of God' - receiving new life from 'the Son of God...' (4).
5th December: Deuteronomy 22:1-30
Care for 'your brother' (1-4). Our caring is not to be selective - 'If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is' (2). When Jesus says, 'Love your neighbour as yourself' (Luke 10:27), He means much more than loving the people who live near us, the people that we know. The 'Samaritan' didn't know 'the man who fell into the hands of robbers' (Luke 10:30,33). 'Jews did not associate with Samaritans (John 4:9). Jesus says, 'Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Love your enemies with the love of the Lord - 'when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son' (Romans 5:8,10). Don't love the ways of those who 'live as enemies of the Cross of Christ' (Philippians 3:18). 'Purge the evil from the midst of you' (21-22,24).
6th December: Deuteronomy 23:1-25
God sees us as we really are. He 'looks on the heart' as well as 'the outward appearance'. We must live to please Him, praying, 'Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!' (14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139: 23-24). God calls us to be holy: 'you shall keep yourself from every evil thing' (9). This 'holiness' is not to be a proud, arrogant thing. It is to be filled with compassionate caring. Don't write anyone off, saying, 'They're not our kind of people' (7). Don't be all out for all you can get for yourself without any thought of how your actions affect other people (24-25). Let your holiness be real. Don't say one thing and do another. Don't pretend to be more 'holy' than you really are. Choose to be holy - every day (21-23).
7th December: John 11:45-12:36
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (49-53). The voice of 'common sense' is not always the voice of the Lord (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 (8). The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, 'The world has gone after Him' (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 (28,31-32). Jesus had 'come' for this 'hour' (27).
8th December: Deuteronomy 24:1-25:29
Justice for the vulnerable is grounded in God's redemption (24:17-18). This is an important principle for us. God loves us. He has done great things for us. He cares. We are to care. Let His love be the guiding light in every part of your life. Scripture speaks of both salvation and judgment. Israel was given 'the land' as 'an inheritance to possess'. The Amalekites were blotted out (25:19). The Christian life is a spiritual warfare. When we are 'faint and weary', we will be 'attacked on the way'. If we 'lag behind' in our walk with God, those who 'do not fear God' will try to 'cut us off' from the Lord and His people. This is the work of Satan. We must not be 'ignorant of his devices'. God is with us in the battle. He is leading us on to our eternal 'inheritance' (25:17-19; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
9th December: Deuteronomy 26:1-27:10
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 (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' (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' (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).
10th December: John 12:37-13:20
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' (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 (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 (50). he 'hour' of Jesus' suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (1-3). It is the 'hour' of His love. We are 'washed' in His precious blood (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' (14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (17).
11th December: Deuteronomy 27:11-28:24
Through His strongly worded warnings, God calls us back from the way of disobedience (27:15-26;28:15-24). Through His promises of blessing, He calls us to the way of obedience, the only way to true happiness (28:1-14). God's blessing cannot be taken for granted. Where there is disobedience, there is no blessing. Our 'enemies' will triumph over us (28:25). We need not be defeated. God has shown us His way of blessing. It is the way of obedience (1-2). We are not blessed because we deserve to be blessed. We can never earn the Lord's blessing. The blessing comes from Him (8). He blesses us because He loves us - not because we are worthy of His blessing. You can be in 'the promised land' without enjoying the promised blessing. Don't 'suffer loss' - 'saved, but only as through fire' (1 Corinthians 3:15).
12th December: Deuteronomy 28:25-68
There is nothing inevitable about the chain of events described in these verses. These are the consequences of disobedience. God is warning His people: 'If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God...' (28:15). Why does God warn His people of the consequences of disobedience? He wants them to draw back from the way of disobedience and follow the pathway of obedience and blessing. These 'curses' were avoidable. They would only happen if Israel persisted in rebelling against the Lord. We can bring 'curses' upon ourselves. Don't imagine that God doesn't care how you live. He does. That is why He calls us back from the pathway of disobedience. That is why He exhorts us to choose holiness. Read Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25-29. Pray for God's mercy (Luke 18:13). Ask Him to make you more holy (Hebrews 12:14).
13th December: John 13:21-14:14
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (21-30). He would be denied by Peter (36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (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' (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 (1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (9). Now, He is working in and through us (12-14). He is preparing us for His place: 'Lord Jesus...fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there' (Church Hymnary, 195).
14th December: Deuteronomy 29:1-29
God has done great things for His people - 'in the land of Egypt...in the wilderness' (2,5). Acknowledging Him to be the Lord their God, they were to live in obedience to Him (6,9). The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of blessing. Moses warns the people that they must not depart from the way of obedience (16-28). Turning away from the Lord leads to judgment - 'anger and fury and great wrath' (24-28). There are 'secret things'. There are 'things that are revealed'. Some 'things' we will never understand. These 'things belong to the Lord our God'. There are many 'things' we have learned and have firmly believed. 'The things that are revealed' are found in 'the Holy Scriptures'. Through God's written Word, we are brought to 'salvation' and we are 'thoroughly equipped' for Christian living (29; 2 Timothy 3:14-17).
15th December: Deuteronomy 30:1-31;13
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' (30:10). We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - '...the Word is very near you...'(11-14). Through His Word, God 'sets before' us a choice. He calls us to 'choose life' (15-20). Joshua was to succeed Moses (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' (31:6). Turning from the people to Joshua, Moses spoke the same words (31:7-8). Hear; Learn to fear the Lord; Be careful to obey His Word (31:12-13).
16th December: John 14:15-15:17
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His 'commandments', keeping His 'Word' (21,23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (23). Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (4). Jesus says to us, 'Apart from me you can do nothing' (5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. 'The Holy Spirit teaches us all things' (26). Christ's 'words' abide in us (7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (15:5,15) - 'the fruit of the Spirit': 'love, joy, peace...' (Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (21). He gives us His peace (27). He gives us His joy (11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this 'fruit' be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. 'Love one another...Go and bear fruit...love one another' (15:12,16-17).
17th December: Proverbs 6:16-35
God's Word is our 'lamp' and 'light' (23; Psalm 119:105). It leads us in the way we are to go (22). It exposes the darkness of the ways we are to avoid. It shows us the 'things that the Lord hates', the things which are 'an abomination to Him' (16). Why does God list the 'things' which are not pleasing to Him? He wants us to watch how we live. He wants us to keep on choosing His way. We must not allow things to drift. Keep God's Word in 'your heart always' (21). Let 'the reproofs of discipline' keep you from straying (23). The world tells us, 'Anything goes. Do what you like. It doesn't matter how you live'. God's Word speaks about sin: There is 'no sense' in it. It is the way of self destruction. It will not 'go unpunished' (32,29). Be careful to obey God in everything.
18th December: John 15:18-16:33
Jesus was 'persecuted'. We will be 'persecuted' - 'all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted' (15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, 'the Spirit of truth' directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (15:26; 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus' words: 'In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world' (16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? 'Who is it that overcomes the world buy he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?' - This is our faith' (1 John 5:4-5).
19th December: John 17:1-26
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (20). The story of the Cross (1-5), the story of the first disciples (6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ's death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today's world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - 'that they may be one' (11). He prays the same prayer for us (20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, 'the one who chose to be lost' (12). If we are to 'maintain the unity of the Spirit', we must take account of 'the Judas factor' - 'take notice of those who create dissensions...avoid them' (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
20th December: Deuteronomy 31:14-32:18
'Write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel' (19,22). Moses did not delay his obedience to God. 'Write...Teach...': God is speaking to us about the renewal of our worship. Don't say, 'It's never been done that way before' - 'the seven last words of the church'! Moses' song was 'a witness for God against the people of Israel' (19). It can still help us, in this generation, to confess our sin - We 'have dealt corruptly with Him' (5) - and glorify our God - 'I will proclaim the Name of the Lord' (3). Modern music can help us to hear afresh the ancient message: 'Ascribe greatness to our God...' (3-4; Mission Praise, 40). Let us praise God 'in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs' (Ephesians 5:18-20).
21st December: Deuteronomy 32:19-33:17
Here, we have both the warning of judgment and the promise of salvation. Rebuking 'a perverse generation' - 'They are devious people, children who can't be trusted' - God says, 'I will hide My face from them' (20). When, in our need, we look to Him for mercy, we have His promise: 'The Lord will...have compassion on His servants, when He sees their power is gone' (36). 'This is the blessing...'(1). For each tribe - Reuben (6), Judah (7), Levi (8-11), Benjamin (12), Joseph (13-17) - , there is a different Word from the Lord. Each of us is different. Our circumstances are different. God knows what we need to hear. He speaks the Word which is just right for each one. He 'loves' every one of us. We are 'in His hands'. Let us 'follow in His steps, receiving direction from Him' (3).
22nd December: John 18:1-27
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (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 (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 (14; Luke 24:26). Alongside the story of Jesus was the story of Peter (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 (21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38,41).
23rd December: John 18:28-19:16
'Barabbas was a robber'. He was released (39-40). There was 'no crime' in Jesus. He was 'crucified' (38,4,6,16). Was Jesus not 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...' (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).
24th December: Matthew 1:18-25
'Immanuel...God with us' (23). Think of what this means! Here are some words to help you. 'He walked where I walked, He stood where I stand, He felt what I feel, He understands. He know my frailty, shared my humanity, tempted in every way, yet without sin. God with us, so close to us. God with us, 'Immanuel!'. Let your thoughts move on to the Cross - 'He died in my place that I might live'. Let your heart be filled with worship: 'Immanuel, O Immanuel, Bowed in awe I worship at your feet, and sing Immanuel, God is with us; Sharing my humanness, my shame, feeling my weakness, my pain, taking my punishment, my blame, Immanuel. And now my words cannot explain, all that my heart cannot contain, how great are the glories of Your Name, Immanuel' (Mission Praise, 221,326).
25th December: Luke 2:1-20
'A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord' (11). The Name, 'Jesus', means 'Saviour' (Matthew 1:21). Focus your thoughts on Him: The Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a prayer to help you make your response to Him: 'Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, You are one with us, Mary's Son. Cleansing our souls from all their sin, pouring your love and goodness in; Jesus, our love for You we sing, Living Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, You have come to us, born as one of us, Mary's Son. Led out to die on Calvary, risen from death to set us free, Living Lord Jesus, help us see You are Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, we would come to You, live our lives for You, Son of God. All Your commands we know are true, Your many gifts will make us new, into our lives Your power breaks through, Living Lord' (Mission Praise, 435).
26th December: Matthew 2:1-12
'King of the Jews' (2). Jesus came from the Jews. He came for 'all nations' (28:19). He is the 'King of kings' (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Here on earth, we are learning 'to worship Him' (2). We are being prepared for heavenly worship (Revelation 7:9-12): 'Kings and queens and beggarmen, presidents and servants, the people of all nations, will gather on that day. We will kneel before the King. None will be observers. We will lift our voices. Together, we will say, "He is the King and He will reign forever. He is the King and we will sing His praise. The King of kings and Lord of lords forever, Jesus, He is the King. Hallelujah to the King, He is our salvation. Master of the universe, King of all creation"!' Let 'Jesus...take the highest honour'. Let us 'glorify the King of kings' (Songs of Fellowship, 302, 590).
27th December: John 19:17-20:10
'It is finished' (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' (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 (42). Still, this was not the end of the story. Something else had to happen - 'Jesus had to rise from the dead' (11). For our salvation, Jesus died 'and was raised to life' (Romans 4:25).
28th December: John 20:11-31
Christ is 'the Lord' (2,18,20,25). Christ is 'my Lord' (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' (13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - 'I have seen the Lord!' (18). (b) The disciples were filled with 'fear'. Jesus came to them. He gave them His 'peace' and 'joy' (19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - 'My Lord and my God!' (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' (31).
29th December: Deuteronomy 33:18-34:12
'The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms' (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' (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' (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 (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).
30th December: John 21:1-25
'Fishers of men' (Matthew 4:19) - Set your goals lower than this, and you will take others with you. Together, you will discover the emptiness of life without Christ at its centre - 'they caught nothing' (3). Note the contrast between the self-centered life (5) and the Christ centered life (6,8,11). Loving, serving and following Jesus - These are the most important things in life (15-17,22). Don't look over your shoulder at someone else - 'Lord, what about this man?' (21). Let it be personal - Jesus says, 'Do you love Me?' (15-17). He asked Peter, 'Do you love me more than these?' (15) - more than you love these other disciples, more than these other disciples love Me, more than your boats, nets and fishes? Look back and ask yourself, 'Do I love Jesus more than I did a year ago?'.
31st December: Psalm 18:1-24
The first three verses set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: 'my strength...my rock, my fortress and my deliverer...my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold' (1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - 'I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies' - did not come easily (4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (13-14). 'The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...' (4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the 'victory' over 'the last enemy...death' (1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into 'a broad place' (19). Step into the future with Him. Don't hold back! 'Let go and let God have His wonderful way'.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Daily Devotional Readings: Year One - November

1st November: Deuteronomy 1:1-46
With the exception of Caleb and Joshua, the older generation - including Moses - was not to enter the land (34-38). For the new generation, there was a challenge. There must be no more failures. One wasted generation was enough. This was the time for real commitment to the Lord. He loved them - He had 'set the land before' them. They were to rise up in faith and ' take possession of the land' (8). We are called to go on with the Lord. 'You have stayed long enough' at a low level of Christian living. God is calling us on to maturity: 'go in and take possession of the land; (6,8; Philippians 3:13-14). Do not hesitate to move forward with God: 'do not fear...It is a good land which the Lord gives us' (21,25). Will we be the new generation, 'a new creation in Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:17) ?
2nd November: Deuteronomy 2:1-37
During their wilderness years, God's people had many problems. God is greater than all the problems! Israel's journey began in the land of 'bondage' (Exodus 2:23-25). From there, He led them to the land of promise, 'the land which the Lord our God gives to us' (29). This is 'amazing grace': 'Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; 'Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home' (Mission Praise, 31). In the giving and taking of the land, we see both grace and faith: I have begun to give...this land over to you; begin to take possession...' (31). We are not saved by grace apart from faith. We are 'saved by grace through faith. We are not saved by faith without grace. We are 'saved by grace through faith'. Saved by the Lord, let us press on to a life of 'good works' (Ephesians 2:8-10).
3rd November: Luke 23:26-24:12
'God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong' (1 Corinthians 1:27). In his weakness, the thief on the cross trusted Christ for salvation (42-43). Pilate, a man of power, rejected Christ, sending Him off to be crucified (23:23-25). Jesus was 'delivered into the hands of sinful men'. Jesus was 'crucified'. This was not, for Him, the end. He rose from the dead (7). At the Cross, 'the centurion' described Jesus as 'a righteous man' (47). In the resurrection, God declared Him to be much more than a righteous man - He is 'the Son of God' (Romans 1:4). Don't be like those who do 'not believe', those who consider Christ's resurrection to be 'an idle tale' (11). Something has 'happened', something very wonderful - Jesus has risen from the dead:... 'believe...be saved' (12; Romans 10:9).
4th November: Deuteronomy 3:1-29
The promised land was near. For Moses, it was 'so near and yet so far'. He was excluded. Together with the sadness of Moses' exclusion, there was the joy of the people's entrance (27-28). When we consider Moses' sadness and the people's joy, we must remember this: Nobody deserved to go into the land! The land was God's gift. Without His strength, the people of Israel would fail. With Him, they would be victorious: 'You shall not fear them; for it is the Lord your God who fights for you' (22). There is here a basic principle of Christian living: 'not by might , nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts' (Zechariah 4:6). 'In heavenly armour we'll enter the land. The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that's fashioned against us will stand, The battle belongs to the Lord' (Mission Praise, 639).
5th November: Deuteronomy 4:1-43
The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God - not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would 'not go over the Jordan'. As God's man. he was to prepare the people for their task: 'you shall go over and take possession of that good land' (22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage 'by a mighty hand and outstretched arm' (34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: 'Obey His laws and commands' (40). The Lord our God is 'a merciful God' (31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be 'no other besides Him' (35). Flee to Christ for refuge (42-43), and live each day with 'the attitude of gratitude'.
6th November: Luke 24:13-53
'In all the Scriptures', Jesus teaches 'the things concerning Himself' (27). Do 'our hearts burn within us...while He opens to us the Scriptures?' (32). He calls us to be His 'witnesses', to preach His message of salvation 'to all nations' (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' (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' (48-53)!

7th November: Deuteronomy 4: 44-5:33
Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: 'I am the Lord your God' who brought you...out of the house of bondage' (6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him - more!
8th November: Deuteronomy 6:1-25
'Hear' and 'do' (1-3; James 1:22-25). In our obedience to God, there is to be the fear of the Lord and love for the Lord (2,5). Fear and love: the two belong together. God is holy - fear Him. God is love - love Him. This is for every generation: 'you and your son and your son's son'(2). 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart' (5). Teach the children well so that the blessing of God may be 'prolonged' among us(7,2). Our promised land - heaven (John 14:1-3) - is far better than Israel's promised land. Through faith in Christ, we have received 'eternal life' (John 5:24; 6:40). Never take the Lord's blessing for granted. Always remember to thank Him for all that He has done for you (10-12). Teach the children what the Lord has done for them (20-23). Then, and only then, tell them what they must 'do' for Him (24-25).
9th November: Deuteronomy 7:1-26
Enter, Destroy, Possess (1-2). Don't try to jump straight from entering to possessing. Don't forget to destroy. We enter the Christian life through faith in Christ. We will not 'take possession of' a fuller enjoyment of His salvation if we refuse to 'destroy' the obstacles to His blessing in our lives. Sin is like a 'cancer'. It will 'kill' us if we let it (Romans 6:23). This is why we must fight it - with 'the whole armour of God' (Ephesians 6:10-17). From beginning to end, our salvation is the work of God: '...it is because the Lord loves you...that He has...redeemed you...' (6-8). The Lord's love speaks of His keeping power. He will complete the work He has begun (17-19; Philippians 1:6). Saved and kept by the power of God, we travel from Christ's Cross to our Crown (Romans 1:16; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 2:24-25; 5:4).
10th November: John 1:1-34
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (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 (1-3). From Him, there is salvation (12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (29,32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (1,29,34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - 'the 'Word was God' (1), 'No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known' (18). Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' (29).
11th November: Deuteronomy 8:1-9:21
The 'wilderness' was a place of 'testing'. God was 'disciplining' His people. He was teaching them to 'walk in His ways' (2,5-6). In the 'wilderness', we must remember this: 'man does not live by bread alone...man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord' (3). Everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord - His warnings as well as His promises! He speaks to us in warnings: 'Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God...' (11). He speaks to us in promises: 'the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land' (7). 'God forbid that I should glory...' (8:17-18; 9:4-6; Galatians 6:14). God gave Israel the land. He gives us 'the Kingdom' (Luke 12:32). As earthly kingdoms rise and fall, 'the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed' (Daniel 2:44).
12th November: Deuteronomy 9:22-10:22
'We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4). Moses was an intercessor (25-29). The ministry of the Word needs to be grounded in prayer. Prayerfully seeking the Lord's help, we are to place His Word at the centre of the life of His people (5). God shows His mercy by providing His servants to carry His Word in a ministry of blessing to the people, a ministry which helps the people to 'go in and possess the land' (8,10-11). In gratitude to God, our Creator-Redeemer, we are to give ourselves to Him in obedience (12-15). Let your heart and life be changed by the Lord, never forgetting this: 'He is your praise; He is your God, who has done for you...great... things' (16-21). 'God...gives the growth' (22; Corinthians 3:7). Read Psalm 126:6 and pray!
13th November: John 1:35-2:25
Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (40-42). 'You are...You shall be...' (42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The 'water' became 'wine' (9). This was the Lord's doing. In Christ, we have been 'made alive'. This is the work of God. He is 'rich in mercy'. He loves us with a 'great love' (Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice (1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (13-17). There was 'death' in the temple. Those who were spiritually 'dead' acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God's House - 'My House shall be called a house of prayer' (Matthew 21:13). 'Raised from the dead', we receive 'new life' (22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (23-25).
14th November: Deuteronomy 11:1-32
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 (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 (8-15). Without obedience, there can be no blessing (16-17). Teach others to obey God - especially the 'children' (18-21). God is good. He loves us (22-25). Obey Him. Choose blessing (26-28).
15th November: Deuteronomy 12: 1-32
In our hearts, nothing else must compete with the Lord. There is no room for idolatry. 'Destroy' everything that threatens to take the place of God in your life. (2-3). We are not to 'do what is right in our own eyes'. We are to worship as the Lord 'chooses' (5,8,13-14). Remove every distraction. Get rid of those things which keep you from crowning Christ as Lord of your life. When you are tempted to put other things before the Lord, 'be careful not to be ensnared' in the ways of the world (29-31). When we are tempted, we must take our stand on God's Word. 'Everything' He has given to us - This means more than our favourite passages! Don't 'add to it', making 'the traditions of men' more important than the Word of God. Don't 'take from it', ignoring the parts you don't like (32; Mark 7:8; Acts 20:27).
16th November: John 3:1-16
We say, 'I'll turn over a new leaf'. Christ says, 'You must be born again' (3,7). Our way of thinking begins with 'I'. Christ's way of salvation begins with 'God': 'God so loved the world...' (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' (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 (20-21,36,29,34).
17th November: Proverbs 6:1-15
'Save yourself ...like a bird from the hand of the fowler' (5). 'He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler'(Psalm 91:3). In scripture, we have both the promise of grace and the call to faith: 'By grace you have been saved' (Ephesians 2:5), 'Your faith has saved you' (Luke 7:50), 'Keep yourselves in the love of God', 'To Him who is able to keep you from falling (Jude 21,24). Laugh at 'the sluggard' (6-11), but do not laugh too quickly or too long: You may be laughing at yourself! Looking at the sluggard is like looking into a mirror. We see so much of ourselves in him! 'A worthless man, a wicked man' - He 'fancies himself' - He's 'a chancer'. He better watch out: God doesn't share this man's opinion of himself - 'calamity will come...he will be broken beyond healing' (15).
18th November: Deuteronomy 13:1-14:21
Obedience to God involves an uncompromising attitude toward those who would lead people away from God. Those who say 'Let us go and serve other gods' (13:2,6,13) must not be permitted to exert their evil influence on God's people. God says, 'You must not listen to them (13:3,8). Temptations to 'idolatry' can come under the guise of 'spirituality' - 'a prophet...a dreamer of dreams...a sign or a wonder' (13:1; 1 John 4:1). 'Idolatry' can come from within one's own family. The Lord must come first (13:6-11; Luke 14:26). God's judgment is upon 'idolaters' so that others may see their folly, turn from 'idolatry' and receive God's mercy (13:12-18). Remember God's purpose of love (John 3:17). In our worship and in the whole of life, we are to be 'a people holy to the Lord our God' (14:2,21).
19th November: John 4:1-42
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 (9). This is not simply the story of one woman. It is the story of 'many Samaritans' coming to faith in Christ (39). There are two 'stages' in their coming to faith. First, they 'believed in Him because of the woman's testimony' (39). Second, 'they believed because of His Word' (41). The Samaritans came to trust Jesus as 'the Saviour of the world' (42). The woman said that 'salvation is of the Jews' (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).
20th November: John 4:43-5:29
In Jesus' healings, we see the love of God. He 'went about doing good'. In His healings, we see the Source of His spiritual strength: 'God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power' (Acts 10:38). We look beyond Jesus to God the Father: 'mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through Him' (Acts 2:22). Jesus speaks of His unique relationship with the Father (19,26). Jesus is no mere servant. He is 'the Son'. We are to 'honour the Son' as well as the Father (23). Through Christ, we receive 'eternal life' (24). The gift of eternal life is the gift of God's love. In love, God 'gave His only Son'. 'In His Son', there is eternal life. 'This life' is given to everyone who 'believes in the Son of God' (3:16; 1 John 5:10-12). Listen to 'the voice of the Son of God', believe and 'live' (25).
21st November: Deuteronomy 14:22-15:23
'Tithing' (Giving the tenth to God) emerges out of holiness: 'You are a people holy to the Lord your God...You shall tithe' (14:21-22). It is more than giving things to God. It is giving ourselves to Him. It also involves caring for others (7-11; Isaiah 58:6-7). We have been 'earmarked' as servants of the Lord (17). Being 'earmarked' for God involves listening to God (Isaiah 55:2-3). Bring 'the firstling' to God (19). 'We are here to bring You the best that we can bring. And it is our love rising from our hearts' (Mission Praise, 717). 'Just as I am...to be the best that I can be for truth, and righteousness, and Thee, Lord of my life, I come' (Church Hymnary, 448). No second bests - Only the best will do for God.
22nd November: John 5:30-6:21
'Search the Scriptures' - and make sure you 'come to Christ and receive life' (39-40). From Jesus' miracles - the feeding of the five thousand (1-13) and His walking on water (16-21) - we learn about faith in Christ. Jesus is more than a 'prophet'. He is 'the Bread of God...which comes down from heaven' (14,33). He is not merely a human 'king'. He is the divine King - 'Lord of lords and King of kings' (15; Revelation 17:14). When the storms of life are raging, Jesus says, 'It is I; do not be afraid' (20). He assures us of His final victory - 'they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them' (Revelation 17:14). 'Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?...We have an anchor that keeps the soul...Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love' (Church Hymnary, 412).
23rd November: John 6: 22-59
Jesus said, 'I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst' (35). Jesus had enemies - 'The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, 'I am the bread which comes down from heaven' (41). Christ's enemies are still with us. They 'murmur among themselves' (43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, 'the Living Bread' (51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: 'You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies' (Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: 'O taste and see that the Lord is good! (Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: 'We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still' (Church Hymnary, 571).
24th November: Deuteronomy 16:1-17:13
Blessed by God, the people of Israel had much to celebrate. They had been brought out of the land of bondage. They were about to enter the land of promise. The keeping of the feasts (16:1-17) was a response to God's love, a way of celebrating His love. Why did God bring Israel to the promised land? It was because He 'loved them' (Psalm 44:3). The Passover was a continuing reminder of God's mighty work of redemption. The Lord's Supper is a memorial of what God has done for us in Christ. In remembering His dying love for us, we remember what we were without Him and we give thanks for all that He has done for us. As well as 'joy' (45), there is to be justice (16:18-17:13; Micah 6:8). Note the effect of justice: 'And all the people shall hear, and fear, and not act presumptuously again' (17:13).
25th November: John 6:60-7:36
Jesus' words are 'spirit and life'. They are 'the words of eternal life' (63,68). While others - including Judas Iscariot - were drawing back from following Jesus, Peter confessed his faith in Jesus: 'You are the Holy One of God' (66-71). It was only a matter of time before Judas Iscariot (71) and 'the Jews'(1) formed an unholy alliance. The 'time' was 'not yet' (6,8). Even the plans of evil men could only be fully developed in the Lord's time. When God permitted their evil plans to proceed, then it would be His time for Jesus' crucifixion and our salvation (Acts 2:23). 'The Jews' were amazed at Jesus' teaching - 'How is it that this man has learning when he has never studied? (15). They did not understand that God's wisdom is different from man's wisdom. Obey God. Receive wisdom (17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
26th November: John 7:37-8:20
'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' (37-39,44,46). Stop 'throwing stones' (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 (11). Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world' (12). This brought an immediate reaction from the 'Pharisees': 'Your testimony is not true' (13). They were 'disguised as angels of light' (2 Corinthians 11:14). They 'loved darkness rather than light' (3:19). Their 'darkness' was exposed by 'the Light of the world'. These evil men could do nothing until God's time (19-20).
27th November: Deuteronomy 17:14-18:22
Even the king is subject to God's 'law'. His supreme responsibility is this: Pay careful attention to God's Word (17:18-20). Politically, he may be in an elevated position - a 'king over' others (17:14-15). Spiritually, he must not allow 'his heart' to be 'lifted up above his brethren' (17:20). There must be humble obedience to God's Word. Priests speak to God for us. Prophets speak to us for God. We need both - 'prayer and the ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:4). In our worship, we must keep the Lord at the very centre. Anything or anyone who distracts our attention from the Lord is no help to true worship (9-14). 'A prophet like Moses' (18:15): Jesus is the ultimate prophet - to see and hear Him is to see and hear God (John 5:19; 12:49; 14:9). He preaches God's Word. He is 'the Word of God' (John 1:1).
28th November: John 8:21-58
In the face of evil unbelief and persistent opposition, Jesus spoke with tremendous assurance: 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world...you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He' (23-24). 'As He spoke thus, many believed in Him (30) - Jesus spoke with power and love. Responding to Him in faith, we are set 'free' (32,36; Romans 8:2; Galatians 5:1). To receive His freedom, we must recognize our need: 'everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin' (34). To grow in His freedom, we must 'continue in His Word' (31). To religion without Christ (39,41), Jesus' answer is emphatic: 'You are of your father the devil...you do not hear God's words because you are not of God' (44,47). 'I am' (58; Exodus 3:14). God is in control - not men (59,20).
29th November: John 9:1-41
Empowered by God, Jesus gives sight to the blind man (3,6-7). 'The Pharisees' hear the man's testimony (15). 'Some of' them reject the Lord (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' (25). The Pharisees continue to fire questions at him (26). He puts the most challenging question to them: 'Do you too want to become His disciples?' (27). They hurl insults at him (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 (38; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Don't be 'blind', despising the believer and the Saviour (39-40; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
30th November: Psalm 17:1-15
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 (5). His prayer is sincere. It 'does not rise from deceitful lips' (1). He is painfully aware of 'the onslaughts of the wicked'. His 'enemies cluster round him, breathing hostility' (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' (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' (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).

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Participation Of God's People

John 1:29-42
"Like a mighty army moves the Church of God" - What a great challenge there is in these words from the well-known hymn, "Onward Christian soldiers."
How are we, in the Church, to move forward into the future? How are we to march forward - with God and for God?
Let's look together at three men - John the Baptist, Andrew and Peter (especially Andrew).
As we look at these three men, we'll also look beyond them to Jesus.
Each of these men say to us, "Keep your eyes on Jesus. We are only servants. Jesus is the Saviour."
John and Peter are two towering giants in the New Testament story.
What do we learn from John the Baptist and the Apostle Peter? We learn about the preaching of God's Word, and we learn about the power of God's Spirit.
John and Peter were great preachers. their preaching brought many people to the saviour. When John and Peter preached, the Spirit of God was doing a mighty work in the hearts of many people.
we need the preaching of God's Word, and we need the power of God's Spirit. there is, however, something else that we need. It is something that must never be overlooked. It is something that we learn from Andrew. We need the participation of God's people.
Andrew is rarely mentioned in the New Testament. he wasn't so well-known as his brother, Peter. Andrew could, very easily, be overlooked. He could, so easily, become the forgotten man.We must not forget Andrew. He was the link in the chain. John had told Andrew about Jesus - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Andrew told Peter about Jesus - "We have found the Christ" (John 1:41).
When you think of Peter's preaching, bringing 3,000 souls to Christ on the Day of Pentecost, don't forget Andrew. It was Andrew who brought Peter to Jesus.
In today's world, we need people like Andrew. He wasn't like John the Baptist. He wasn't like his brother, Peter. Thousands of people were talking about John's preaching. Thousands of people were talking about Peter's preaching. What about Andrew? Andrew didn't preach to thousands of people, but he did lead his brother, Peter, to Jesus.
 - Andrew heard what John had said.
 - Andrew followed Jesus.
 - The first thing that Andrew did was to find his brother, Peter, and tell him, "We have found the Messiah (Christ)."
 We need the participation of God's people.
You may never preach to great crowds of people, but you can share the love of God with the people you meet. You can tell them that you love Jesus. You can invite them to come to Church. you can invite them to come to the Saviour. You can bring them to Church. You can bring them to Jesus. You can give them a friendly welcome. You can introduce them to the greatest Friend of all - our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we get from the preaching of God's Word to the participation of God's people? - We need the power of God's Spirit. When the Spirit of God is at work among God's people, things start to happen.There is change, real change - people get changed: changed by God. When God is changing us, we become more like Jesus. we want to live for Him. we want to serve Him. We don't hang back. we get involved - worshipping God, doing His will, working for Him, bringing His Word to others.
In the work of the Lord, there is something for every one of us. This is the great lesson that comes to us from Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
We began with a memorable phrase from an old hymn: "Like a mighty army moves the Church of God." There's a modern hymn that tells us something else about this mighty army. It's something we must never forget - This mighty army is "an army of ordinary people." What an encouraging phrase this is! We must never say, "We're just ordinary people." We may be ordinary people, but we have an extraordinary God.
How does "an army of ordinary people" become "a mighty army"? - The extraordinary God is working in us. He is changing us. The extraordinary God is working through us. He's giving us something to do for Him. You may wonder, "What can I do for God?" The best answer I can give you is this:
"There's a work for Jesus, ready at your hand.
 'Tis a task the Master just for you has planned.
 Haste to do His bidding. Yield Him service true.
 There's a work for Jesus, none but you can do." (WEC Youth Crusade Songbook, 61).
We may be intimidated by people like John the Baptist and the Apostle Peter. thousands of people were brought to Christ through their powerful preaching (Matthew 3:5-6; Acts 2:41).
When we look at Andrew, we see someone who is very ordinary, and we begin to think, "I could do what Andrew did."
What did Andrew do? Is it within the reach of ordinary people? When we look at Andrew, we say, "This is for all of us." Bringing his brother, Peter, to Jesus - Was this the only time Andrew brought people to Jesus? No! It wasn't. It was the first time that he brought someone to Jesus, but it wasn't the last time. On two other occasions, he brought people to Jesus.
 * Do you remember the wee bit who had 5 loaves and 2 fishes? - It was Andrew who brought him to Jesus (John 6:8-9).
 * Do you remember the Greeks who said, "We want to see Jesus"? - It was Andrew who brought them to Jesus (John 12:20-22).
Andrew may not have been preaching to great crowds of people - but he was doing the work that God had given him to do. He was bringing his family, friends and neighbours to Jesus. He was bringing children to Jesus. He was being a friend to strangers. He was introducing them to the greatest Friend of all - Jesus, our Saviour. Bringing people to Jesus - This is something all of us can do.
Leading people to Jesus is not only our great responsibility. It is also our great privilege.
May God help each of us to be more like Andrew. Andrew was filled with the joy of the Lord. It was an overflowing joy. Let this joy fill your heart and ask God to give you opportunities to share His joy with others. Say to God, "Lead me to some soul. Teach me, Lord, just what to say" (WEC Youth Crusade Songbook, 140). 

The Use of the Bible in Evangelical Preaching Today

If you want to read the list of footnotes, which accompanied the original article, click on this link – The Use of the Bible in Evangelical Preaching Today.
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Ernest Best was Professor of New Testament at the University of Glasgow. Robert Davidson was Professor of Old Testament at the University of Glasgow. The late George Macleod was the Founder of the Iona Community. Each of these men has exerted a significant influence on the ministry of the church of Scotland. Comments made by Best, Davidson and Macleod provide an appropriate point of departure for this short study concerning contemporary preaching. In his book, From Text to Sermon, Best writes, ‘The preacher … ought to avoid merely using the text as a jumping-off for what he wants to say.’ 
When invited to introduce a former student Rev. Fraser Aitken to his first charge, Neilston Parish Church, Davidson preached from Ephesians 3:8, concerning Paul’s description of his ministry in terms of preaching ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’. Macleod’s book, Speaking the Truth in Love, contains this arresting remark concerning ‘preaching’ which, though it ‘may be without doctrinal error hardly stirs a soul’. Taken together, these three comments highlight three essential features which must surely characterize evangelical preaching in every generation. Our preaching should be grounded in Scripture, centred on Christ and empowered by the Spirit. The Scriptures, the Saviour and the Spirit here we have a ‘threefold cord’ that cannot be broken. By stressing the importance of the Bible for contemporary preaching we are not simply being ‘traditional’. We ground our preaching in Scripture because we find Christ in the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27; Jn. 5:40; 2 Tim. 3:15). We do not base our preaching on Scripture simply because we wish to be ‘Biblicists’. We preach from Scripture because the Spirit points us to the Son through the Scriptures (Lk. 24:2; Rom. 10:17). This ‘threefold cord’, the Scriptures, the Saviour and the Spirit, must be preserved if contemporary preaching is to be truly evangelical. Today’s preachers are, like Paul, called to ‘preach the unsearchable riches of Christ’. Our situation is not however precisely the same as Paul’s. We are to preach the Word of God ‘as addressed to modem man’.  This application of the gospel to the situation of modem man requires to be handled in a careful and sensitive manner. We dare not remain locked in the past if we are to speak a word which has genuine relevance for the present day. On the other hand, the threat of modernism’ is real. We can be so easily ‘squeezed into the mould of the world’s way of thinking’, rather than allowing our minds to be renewed by ‘the living and abiding word of God (cf. Rom. 12:1-2 J. B. Phillips; 1 Pet. 1:23). Where modern thinking is accorded an undue importance, the gospel can be seriously distorted. This kind of distortion takes place in the theologies offered to us by Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich. Commenting on Bultmann’s theology, G. C. Berkouwer writes, ‘The fact that he proceeds from a pastoral and missionary motive namely, to preserve modern man from rejecting the New Testament because of its mythical structure – does not diminish by one iota the theological presumption of this undertaking’. K. Hamilton describes Tillich’s theology thus: ‘Jesus Christ and the biblical revelation have been fitted into a structure already complex without them.’ One particularly serious consequence of this type of theological reductionism is selectivity in the use of Scripture. This may be illustrated with particular reference to the theology of Bultmann. Discussing Bultmann’s exegetical procedure, N. J. Young offers a penetrating analysis. Bultmann’s norm for understanding the New Testament is the theology of Paul and John as interpreted by Bultmann. Those parts of the New Testament which do not accord with Bultmann are not given careful attention. Paul and John, as well as the rest of the New Testament, are treated in this way.This method of exegesis, ‘in which a variety of views are acknowledged, but only one selected for attention, leaving the others virtually ignored’is particularly noticeable when he discusses Paul’s eschatology. He acknowledges that there is evidence that Paul does have an ‘apocalyptic eschatology with its expectation of a cosmic catastrophe’.Nevertheless, Bultmann pays no further attention to this aspect of Paul’s eschatology. What are we to make of this approach to the New Testament? This is what Young says: ‘If some parts of the New Testament prove to be impervious to a particular hermeneutical approach … it may be because the hermeneutical approach is not adequate for the task, not because it claims too much.’Young contends that there is a better way than Bultmann’s way. ‘A proper recognition of the diversity of the New Testament witness… makes unnecessary Bultmann’s attempt to achieve harmony by silencing those voices which appear to him to be off-key.’Best makes this point more positively without any direct reference to Bultmann’s theology. ‘Christ is greater than any single description of him, and we need the variety we have in the New Testament.’What relevance does this discussion of Bultmann’s selective exegesis have for the preacher? N. Weeks, clearly alluding to the kind of theology propounded by Bultmann, makes an astute and most important observation: ‘The belief that modem man cannot understand biblical concepts becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we believe that men cannot accept such truths, then we will not preach and teach them. Hence they will not be received because faith comes by hearing the word preached. If we would preach the ‘whole counsel of God’ from the pulpit, there must be a thorough searching of the Scriptures in the study. Selective exegesis can never be a real option for those who would seek to ground their preaching in the Scriptures. To dissociate ourselves from Bultmann’s method of reading the New Testament is not to involve us in stepping back from the complexities of biblical interpretation. Rather, we stress that the complex business of biblical interpretation will never permit one particular line of interpretation to take a stranglehold over our thinking. Whenever a particular method of interpretation dominates our thinking, it becomes our authority. Scripture the authoritative Word of God is then moulded to fit what we think it should be. The interpretation of Scripture is not to be separated from the authority of Scripture. Divorced from an authoritative Word from the Lord, biblical interpretation can become a very confusing business. We are not, however, forced to choose between a real involvement in the complex issues of biblical interpretation and a naive biblicism which refuses to get involved with the difficult questions. It has been said that ‘the Bible is like a pool in which a child can wade and an elephant can swim’.There are many areas where differences of interpretation can leave us quite confused. Nevertheless, we are still able to affirm that Jesus Christ is the centre of the biblical message. We are still able to experience the power of the Holy Spirit as he leads us to Christ through the Scripture. By refusing to align ourselves with Bultmann’s approach to the New Testament we are not dissociating ourselves from his concern with relevance. We are, however, stressing that there is another concern to which we must give careful attention faithfulness: ‘In seeking for relevance we must not renounce faithfulness.’We must not set relevance and faithfulness over against each other, as though we are forced to choose between them be faithful at the expense of relevance; be relevant at the expense of faithfulness. Relevance and faithfulness belong together. Relevance is not to be divorced from faithfulness but grounded in faithfulness. God’s Word is seen to be ‘the living and abiding word of God’ as God’s people believe it to be and proclaim it as ‘the living and abiding word of God’. The faithfulness which is ever relevant involves a real commitment to walking in the Spirit as ‘ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills but the Spirit gives life’ (2. Cor. 3:6). J. Veenhof, expounding the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures, emphasizes that it is the Holy Spirit who binds faithfulness and relevance together. He ‘makes it clear that this ancient word never becomes antiquated but is permanently relevant’.This relevance is always a matter of something more than mere words. Our lives as well as our words must be faithful to the Word of the Lord. Faithfulness and relevance do not belong only to the study and the pulpit. There is a life to be lived in the world as well as a sermon to be preached in the church. Our lives are to be a ‘letter from Christ’, ‘known and read by all men’ (2 Cor. 3:2). In the pulpit, faithfulness and relevance are to be held together. In the study authority and interpretation are to be held together. If, in the study, Scripture is not honoured as the authoritative word of God, there will not be faithful preaching from the pulpit. A commitment to faithfulness carries with it a concern for relevance, since God ‘is not God of the dead, but of the living’ (Matt. 22:32). He is the living God and his Word is to be proclaimed as the living Word. If we are to speak a word of relevance, we need to interpret God’s Word for this generation. It is not sufficient to affirm the authority of the Bible, if we do not give serious consideration to understanding what God is saying to the world of today. The preacher, who seeks both faithfulness and relevance, will seek to understand the relationship between authority and interpretation. In the preface to his book, A Theology of the New Testament, G. E. Ladd writes, ‘All theology is a human undertaking and no man’s position can be considered final.’
However strongly we affirm the authority of Scripture, we dare not elevate our own theological understanding to the level of Scripture itself. When we recognize clearly the distinction between authority and interpretation, we will not be afraid of interacting with theological perspectives different from our own. We need openness without a loss of the divine Word. We need not make the ideal of ‘open-mindedness’ so prominent in our thinking that we end up empty-minded, with no clear conviction concerning the divine Word. Nevertheless, we must surely welcome the kind of openness described by G. C. Berkouwer in the foreword to his book, A Half Century of Theology: ‘A curiosity that works itself out in passionate study and serious listening to others promises surprises, clearer insight, and deeper understanding no matter from which direction they came.Our interpretation of the vital relationship between authority and interpretation is directly connected to our understanding of the dual character of Scripture as both the Word of God and the words of men. Scripture speaks to us with authority because it speaks to us as the Word of God. The study of Scripture involves us in the complex business of interpretation, since it speaks to us as the words of men, words written at various times and places by many writers. E. Schillebeeck describes the dual character of Scripture in a helpful way: All human speech about what comes ‘from above’ (‘it has been revealed’) is uttered by human beings, i.e. from below … However human it may be, this language is not an autonomous human initiative. G. C. Berkouwer offers an insightful perspective on Scripture as both Word of God and words of men. He describes ‘scripture’ as ‘the human witness empowered by the Spirit’.He stresses the divine origin of this witness: ‘This witness does not well up from the human heart but from the witness of God in which it finds its foundation and empowering as a human witness … This Scripture finds its origin in the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ, and witnesses of him through the human witness.’Berkouwer emphasizes that this ancient word speaks with relevance to every generation: ‘These witnesses are not ‘lifted out’ of their time and milieu, but as living witnesses could interpret in their era what was destined for all times.’He helps us to understand both how we are to approach Scripture and how we are not to approach Scripture: ‘Believing Scripture does not mean staring at a holy and mysterious book, but hearing the witness concerning Christ.’It is within this context of a human yet divine, ancient yet permanently relevant witness concerning Jesus Christ that we are to understand our confession of faith. The Bible is the Word of God: ‘The respect for the concrete words is related to this and the ‘is’ of the confession points to the mystery of the Spirit, who wants to bind men to Christ through these words, through this witness.The faith with which we are to receive God’s word has been well described by Calvin: ‘The word is not received in faith when it merely flutters in the brain, but when it has taken deep root in the heart.’From Berkouwer and Calvin the preacher can learn much. Faithful, relevant, authoritative preaching is preaching which focuses upon Christ, preaching which is empowered by the Spirit, preaching which calls for faith that takes deep root in the heart. With this understanding of preaching, we will take care to hold doctrine and experience together. J. 1. Packer emphasizes that ‘revelation is … much more than propositional’.E. Schillebeeckx emphasizes that ‘the right propositional understanding of revelation … must be kept in a right relation to the experience with which this propositional language is associated’.Developing this theme further, Schillebeeckx describes Scripture as the point of contact between the spiritual experience of the biblical writers and today’s readers and hearers who are now being invited by Scripture to enter into the same experience of the living God: ‘As a testimony to the experience of those who created it Scripture is an offer a possibility that this experience can be extended to others’.There is the relationship between the words of Scripture and the power of the Spirit. Rightly understood, the words of Scripture are not mere words. They are words which speak with power. Jesus makes this point within the context of his own ministry. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63). Paul, like Jesus, could not conceive of ministry as a thing of words only. True ministry is ministry empowered by the Spirit: ‘My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Cor. 2:4): ‘Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction’ (1 Thess. 1:5).
In our preaching of God’s Word today, we must  pray earnestly for this dual ministry of the Spirit: “The Spirit … opens up the Scripture to us and ‘opens’ us to the Scripture.”
Being opened up by the Spirit to the Scripture can be an uncomfortable experience. Where the Word of God is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the situation described in the letter to the Hebrews; “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword … discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (4:12-130.
Scripture does not only speak of salvation. It also speaks about sin. Scripture does not only speak of the love of God. It also speaks about the holiness of God. When Jesus spoke of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He said this: “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).”
There are uncomfortable truths concerning which the Lord Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22).
If we would be faithful preachers of God’s Word, we must preach what people need to hear, and not simply what they want to hear. This is not only the way of faithfulness. It is also the way of relevance. Those who seek relevance at the expense of faithfulness turn out to be irrelevant. Their shallow ans superficial preaching turns out to be no real substitute for “the living and abiding Word of God” through which alone the hearers can be “born anew” (1 Peter 1:230. Before we can truly appreciate the grace of God in the gospel, we must understand that “there is no human solution to the human problem.” This can be a painful experience. we do our hearers no favours if we pay little attention to the uncomfortable truths of God’s Word. G. C. Berkouwer ends his discussion, “The Voice of Karl Barth” with these words: “He discovered the powerful witness of the ‘tremendous’ word that always speaks against us so that we can learn to stop speaking against it.”
To appreciate Barth’s emphasis on the centrality of Christ, we must first hear the Word speaking against us. Concerning the message of the Bible, Barth writes; “”The Bible says all sorts of things certainly; but in all this multiplicity and variety, it says in truth only one thing – just this: the name of Jesus Christ.”
In the presence of Jesus Christ, we learn that we are sinners, but we also learn that Christ loves sinners. Unlike the Pharisees, who despised ‘sinners’, Jesus Crist “receives sinners” (Luke 15:2). In the presence of Christ, we encounter both perfect holiness and perfect love. In Christ, we discover “an unmerited abundance of love.” This love leads us to a special kind of obedience – the obedience of love: “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In Christ, we face the claim of love upon our lives. This living presence of Christ, inviting us to receive salvation and calling us to embark on the pathway of discipleship is the depth-dimension of preaching. On the face of it, preaching involves a preacher giving an address to a congregation. There is, however, something much deeper than that going on when the Word of God is preached. In an article entitled, “Biblical Theology and Preaching”, D. G. Miller highlights this depth-dimension of preaching: “In a real sermon … Christ is the preacher. The preacher speaks through the preacher … The biblical view of preaching is to confront men with the question, “What think ye of Christ?” And out of this question, to have the encounter shift into the dimension of a personal confrontation by Christ, who himself asks, “Who do you say that I am?” This is the unique task of the Christian preacher.”
Describing further the purpose of preaching, Miller continues: “Preaching must always be for decision. Our aim is not merely to inform the mind, to stimulate the feelings so that men have a rather pleasant emotional experience: it is rather to strike directly at the will with the demand for decision … until we have confronted men with the issue so that they either have to surrender or rebel further, to accept it or reject, believe or disbelieve.”
This decision concerning Jesus Christ is also a decision concerning the meaning, purpose and direction of our own lives – “Deciding about him is at the same time deciding about ourselves.” As we hear the story of Jesus Christ, the Word of God tells us the story of our own lives – what we are and what we can become. The call for decision is a call to leave behind what we are in our sin, and move on to what we can become in Christ.
If evangelical preaching is to make a significant impact on today’s world, it dare not rest content with giving theological lectures. stressing the relevance of the Bible to our life today, D. E. Stevenson describes the Bible as “a hall of mirrors” and offers this advice: “Look into it properly and you will see yourself.” The preacher dare not place himself far above the people, preaching a message which goes over the heads of the people. The preacher, no less than his hearers, must sit under the Word of God. If he is to preach a message which is relevant to the life of his hearers, he must first find in Scripture a Word that is relevant to his own life. This involves much more than being an academic theologian who seeks intellectual stimulation from his study of the Bible. The preacher is not to remain a stranger to the people. He dare not speak as a theologian, proud of his education yet detached from his hearers’ life-situation. The preacher is to be a friend to his hearers. He lives among them. He meets them in the streets and at the shops. He visits them in hospital and at home. He teaches their children at school. He hears about and shares the joys and concerns of the community in which he lives. Within this very human context, the pulpit must not become an ivory tower of irrelevance. Though not merely human – he is an “ambassador for Christ”, bringing to his hearers “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20), the preacher must not ignore the very human context in which the Word of God is to be preached. In preaching from the Scriptures, he proclaims a Word which transforms the present, and not merely a word that belongs to the past. The preacher, who is sensitive to the pastoral relationships which exist between himself and the people, will not preach messages which could be preached anywhere and at any time. He takes account of the particular situation into which he is called to preach God’s Word. He seeks to hear and to speak the Word which God wants to speak to this people at this time. The method of preaching will vary from sermon to sermon, from one series of sermons to another. The manner in which we preach remains constant. It is to be preaching grounded in the Scriptures, centred on the Saviour and empowered by the Spirit.
Such preaching has relevance, not only for the Church but also for the world. The Gospel cannot be kept within the ‘four walls’ of the Church. Paul described the Gospel in this way – “The Gospel for which I am suffering and wearing chains like a criminal.” He then went on to say, “But the Word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9). Sometimes, the preacher will feel like Paul – imprisoned within his circumstances. he may feel imprisoned within a clerical strait-jacket. He may feel imprisoned within the limitations of being only one man, able to do so much and no more. Like Paul, however, the preacher can lift up his eyes to the Word of God, which is able to break free from such imprisoning limitations. When the Word of God is preached, it is not simply a proclamation by one man within the ‘four walls’ of the Church. It is a proclamation which reaches out into the world. It is carried by the hearers into their life-situations. this fact encourages the preacher to believe that the message he preaches may be just the spark which sets the Church on fire with a real desire to pass on the Good News of Christ’s love to the needy world. The possibility of being the spark, which lights a fire, gives the preacher greater boldness. It assures him that his preaching is not as insignificant and ineffective as he may sometimes feel it is. there is, however, a humbling factor here. The preacher receives boldness in the answer to the prayers of God’s people: “Pray … for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel” (Ephesians 6:18-19). There is no true boldness in preaching without the prayers of faithful men and women who call upon God on behalf of the preacher.
With the supporting prayers of God’s people, the preacher goes into the pulpit. Through the continuing witness of God’s people, the preached word goes beyond the pulpit into the world. The preacher is one among many within the fellowship of the Lord’s people. His ministry is significant, but so also is the ministry exercised by others. As we consider the relationship between the pastor and the people, we must never forget that the spark which gets the fire going is the power of the Holy Spirit. In all the works of ministry – the ministry of the preacher and the ministry of the people, there is something we must never forget: “We are servants of the word and not its masters … Not only are we servants of the word … we are unprofitable servants.”