Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Redeemed By The Lord, Let Us Serve Him.

Leviticus 25:1-55

This chapter is full of the Lord’s instructions concerning the Jubilee to be celebrated by Israel. Why was it so important for Israel to hear and obey the Word of the Lord? – “The Israelites belong to Me as servants. They are My servants. I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 25:55). This is still the foundation of our call to obedience. The Lord, who calls us to obedience, has first called us to belong to Him through redemption. He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. We will serve Him.

Knowing The Difference

Leviticus 10:1-11:47
It is vital that we know “the difference between what is holy and what is unholy” (Leviticus 10:10). God calls us to “be holy”, to “live holy lives” (Leviticus 11:44). This is the central point we must see in all the many unfamiliar details of ancient Jewish worship. This is the “permanent law” (Leviticus 10:9,15). This is the teaching which must be passed on to “generations to come.”

Moral Living - Grounded In Spiritual Worship

Leviticus 19:1-37
Again and again, we read the words, “I am the Lord your God”, or, more simply, “I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:3-4,10,12,14,16,18,25,28,30-32,34,36-37). The whole point of this is that our moral practice is grounded in our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

Clean!

Leviticus 12:1-13:59
Again and again, we read the word, “clean.” Looking beyond the teaching “regarding health”, we may recall that “the blood of Jesus Christ – God’s Son – cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This is the cleansing which everyone needs. No matter how healthy we may be in our bodies, we are spiritually diseased because of sin, and we need Christ’s cleansing.

It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better!

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

The Anointing

Leviticus 8:1-9:24
Aaron was anointed with “the anointing oil”, set apart or “dedicated” to the Lord for “holy duties” (Leviticus 8:12,30). Anointed by the Lord and dedicated to Him, “Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord commanded, through Moses” (Leviticus 8:36). Concerning the Lord’s commands, “Moses said, ‘The Lord has commanded you to offer these sacrifices so that you may see the Lord’s glory'” (Leviticus 9:6). Together with Moses, Aaron was obedient to God, bringing the blessing of God to the people – “Then the Lord’s glory appeared to all the people” (Leviticus 9:23). The principles of God’s blessing are still the same. We need the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He calls us to obedience. This is the way of receiving God’s blessing. This is the way in which the glory of God comes down upon the people of God. We receive God’s blessing when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us in His mighty power.

A Soothing Aroma To The Lord

Leviticus 1:1-3:17
We may note the frequent recurrence of the phrase, “a soothing aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:9,13,17: Leviticus 2:2,9,12; Leviticus 3:5,16). The presence of the Lord is “like a fragrance that fills the air.” Not all people welcome the presence of the Lord. To some, it is “the aroma of Christ”, ” a life-giving fragrance.” To others, it is “a deadly fragrance” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). We are to pray that our life – in every part – will be pleasing to the Lord, bringing glory to Him. This will involve our worship in the holy place. It will also involve our living for the Lord in the many and varied situations of everyday life.

A Promise Of Blessing And A Warning Against Disobedience

God wants “to heal Israel” (Hosea 7:1). Sadly, there is so much “sin” in the hearts of Israel - “I trained them and made them strong. Yet, they plan evil against Me” (Hosea 7:15). God wants to send His blessing. Sadly, “they don’t return to the Most High” (Hosea 7:16). This is Israel’s story. It’s also our story. God is calling us to return to Him, to be trained by Him, to live in His presence, to enjoy His blessing, to give praise and glory to Him.
In Hosea 8, we read about God’s judgment on the sinful nation of Israel. His standard is perfect holiness. Every one of us falls short. None of us can stand before God’s righteous judgment. There is, one Man who has not fallen short. God’s Son, Jesus, our Saviour, has taken our sin upon Himself so that we might receive His salvation. This is the Gospel. It is Good News for sinners.
“The prophet, along with my God, is the watchman over Ephraim” (Hosea 9:8). Being a watchman will involve speaking strong words of warning. It’s not easy to speak God’s Word. It’s not easy to hear His Word. His Word calls for change. It calls us to come out of our sin and into His holiness. The watchman must speak of “days of punishment” and “days of reckoning.” He must speak about “sins” and “hostility” (Hosea 9:7). Why must he speak of such things? Before people can turn to the Lord, they must be shown that they need the Lord. The watchman does not do this work on His own. It is “the prophet, along with my God” who “is the watchman.” We must never forget the Lord our God. Without Him, we can never be real and true watchman. With Him by our side, we will listen to what men will say, “The prophet is considered a fool, the inspired man a maniac” (Hosea 9:7). We still say, “Being a fool for God is very different from being a fool.” “The fool says in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). A fool for God is only a fool in the eyes of men. He’s not a fool in the eyes of the One who really matters - the Lord.
God speaks to His people with a promise of blessing and a warning against disobedience. The blessing is there, waiting for us. We lose out on the blessing when we continue to walk on the pathway of disobedience. God says to us, “Plough new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessings that your devotion to Me will produce.” This is the promise of blessing, with its call to return to the Lord. Alongside this promise of blessing, with its call to turn to the Lord - “It is time for you will come and pour out blessings upon you” (Hosea 10:12), there is God’s warning against following a way of life upon which His judgment rests: “But instead you planted evil and reaped its harvest. You have eaten the fruit produced by your lies” (Hosea 10:13).

Praise doesn't begin with us!

"Praise God in His sanctuary" (Psalm 150:1). "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit... glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Where does praise come from? How do we learn to glorify God"? We learn that we "have been bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). At the Cross of Christ, we learn to praise God. We see Jesus, crucified for us - and our hearts are filled with praise to God. This is where praise begins. It doesn't begin with us. It begins with God. It begins with Jesus. It begins with the Holy Spirit.

A Word Of Encouragement

How do we react when things don’t seem to be going very well? We all need the encouragement of God’s Word: ‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph’ (2 Corinthians 2:14).

The Power And The Glory

"Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us" (Ephesians 3:20).
The power comes from God. The glory goes to God.

Saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8)

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

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

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

Tremendous Words Of Faith ...

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

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The joy of God's salvation

In the Lord, we have joy - the joy of His salvation: “I will find joy in the Lord. I will delight in my God. He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation. He has wrapped me in the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). This joy of salvation comes to us through our Saviour, Jesus Christ. God has fulfilled His gracious promise: “The Lord has announced to the ends of the earth: Tell My people Zion,Your Saviour is coming” (Isaiah 62:11). In the Lord, we have victory. We rejoice in Him. He gives us the victory. He announces His victory - “It is I, the Lord, I am coming to announce my victory. I am powerful enough to save you” (Isaiah 63:1).

Don't trust 'Egypt'. Trust the Lord.

Isaiah speaks of both God’s judgment (Isaiah 34:2) and His salvation (Isaiah 35:2). What a privilege it is to be called “the redeemed of the Lord” (Isaiah 35:9-10). We're not to "trust Egypt" (Isaiah 36:6) - That's what we've been delivered from. We're to "trust the Lord our God" (Isaiah 36:7) - It's the Lord who has delivered us from "Egypt." The redemption of God - This is the source of true happiness, real joy and lasting gladness.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Search The Scriptures: Exodus

Exodus 1:1-2:25
The stage is set for a mighty work of God. The Lord's people face a crisis situation. they are being oppressed by the Egyptians. God sees what is happening. He is making His plans - to give His people a better future. It may have seemed like God was doing nothing about Israel's problems - "a  long time passed " (Exodus 2:23). God was not standing back, paying no attention to what was going on. He was busy - preparing Moses to be the leader of His people. He was taking steps towards the great event of the deliverance from the oppressors. God was looking ahead to the Exodus and the movement from the land of bondage to the land of promise - "He remembered His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Exodus 2:24), and He was about to fulfil this promise with a mighty demonstration of His saving power.
Exodus 3:1-22
Moses was called to be a servant of God's people. He was to be the leader who would play an important part in bringing the blessing of God to the people of Israel. He was not to be a 'lone ranger.' He was to "assemble the leaders of Israel" (Exodus 3:16). He was to share with them the Lord's vision for His people's future. God was taking them away from "misery." He was leading them on to blessing - " a land flowing with milk and honey." Moses was not to go to the Pharaoh as a 'lone ranger' - "you and the leaders must go to the King of Egypt" (Exodus 3:18). There are important lessons here for God's servants today. We move forward together - as "one body in Christ."
Exodus 4:1-31
In Moses, there is great weakness. In the Lord, there is great strength. By himself, Moses was completely out of his depth. With God, Moses would go from strength to strength. He had God's promise as well as God's command: "Now go, and I will help you speak and will teach you what to say" (Exodus 4:12). Moses was not to be left on his own. As well as having the help of the Lord, he would also have the help of Aaron, his brother: "I will help both of you speak, and I will teach you what to do" (Exodus 4:15). Moses and Aaron were not to work in isolation from the other "leaders of the people of Israel." They were to share with them "everything the Lord had said" (Exodus 4:29-30). God's Word to Israel was a Word of power - He "did miraculous signs for the people" (Exodus 4:30) - and love - "The Lord was concerned about the people of Israel" (Exodus 4:31).
Exodus 5:1-8:31
It gets worse before it gets better. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse for God's people. They become "discouraged" (Exodus 6:9). They were unable to look beyond their present difficulties. They needed the Lord's Word of encouragement - "The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I use My power against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of there" (Exodus 7:5). Before there was salvation for Israel, there needed to be judgment for Egypt. The judgments on Egypt (the "plagues") were a call to repentance. If there had been a willingness to listen to God's Word at the beginning, these "plagues" would not have happened. Each "plague" was a call to repentance as well as a judgment on disobedience. Each "plague" could have been the last - if Pharaoh had said 'Yes' to the Lord. Pharaoh said 'No', and the "plagues" continued.
In the bad times as well as the good times
“Fulfil your works, your daily tasks, as when there was straw” (Exodus 5:14).
When everything seems to be going from bad to worse, we must pray that God will give us the strength that we need to keep on loving Him, trusting Him and serving Him. Our circumstances may have changed. Nothing seems to be going right. We didn’t think it would turn out this way. Has our Saviour changed? Has He gone away and left us? No! He hasn’t. He’s still with us. Are we still with Him? or Do we opt out when the going gets tough? Lord, You are faithful to us. Keep us faithful to You.
Exodus 9:1-11:10
More plagues, more opportunities for repentance - God was appealing to Pharaoh to change his mind about God and the people of God. The call to repentance was ignored. Pharaoh put on a show of repentance (Exodus 9:27-28; Exodus 10:16-17). - but he didn't mean it: "Pharaoh was stubborn", "the Lord made him stubborn" (Exodus 9:35; Exodus 10:20). He was a man of unbelief. God confirmed him in his unbelief. the final plague - the death of the firstborn - represented the end of the road for Pharaoh - "the Lord made Pharaoh stubborn" (Exodus 11:10). God was saying, 'Enough is enough.' God was going to bring His people out of Egypt - with or without Pharaoh's permission. there were good things happening - "the Lord made the Egyptians kind to the people. And Moses was highly respected by Pharaoh's officials and all the Egyptians" (Exodus 11:3) - but this didn't change the fact that Pharaoh was resistant to God. This resistance did not hinder God in the outworking of His great purpose of salvation.
Exodus 12:1-13:22
The purpose of the Passover was to build a bridge between the past, the present and the future: "Remember this day - the day when you left Egypt, the land of slavery. The Lord used His mighty hand to bring you out of there" (Exodus 13:3), "In the future, when your children ask you what this means, tell them, " 'The Lord used His mighty hand to bring us out of slavery in Egypt'" (Exodus 13:14). What must be remembered about these events is this: the Lord was in control. Once they had come out of Egypt, God continued to be in control of their journey. In Exodus 13:17-18, we read that God closed one door - "the shortest route" - and opened another door. God's perfect way may not always be "the shortest route" - but it is His way, and it's the best way.
"God will surely visit you" (Exodus 13:19).
Sometimes, when we’re reading the Scriptures, there are some words that just jump out at us. We say to ourselves, “That was just what I needed to read.” We say to God, “Thank You, Lord for that Word. You’ve spoken Your Word to me. It was just the right Word – for me, for right now.” Here’s a great word of encouragement – “God will surely visit you” (Exodus 13:19). What a great privilege this is – God visits us! Are we ready for His visit? Do we pretend that we’re not in when He comes knocking on our door? or Are we so pleased to get a visit from Him? Often, we’re so busy with small things – things that don’t really matter that much in the light of eternity – that we fail to give the Lord an enthusiastic welcome.
As I thought about these words of encouragement – “God will surely visit you”, I looked at the rest of the verse and read these words, “the bones of Joseph”! Here, we see the realism of God’s Word. It lifts us up to the eternal God, but it also keeps our feet on the ground – with a reminder of our mortality! Do we need to hear about “the bones of Joseph”? – Of course, we do! We’re not going to go on forever. “The bones of Joseph” – there’s more than this. There are the heavenly “mansions” (John 14:2). Then, we’ll be going to “visit” the Lord. We’ll be more than visitors. We’ll “dwell in the House of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). That’s our glorious future. This is what we have to look forward to!
Here-and-now, we must settle for something less than that. We’re not quite ready for the fullness of His glory. He’s preparing us for glory. He’s giving us His visitations. He’s giving us ” a foretaste of glory divine.” How well prepared will be for the full revelation of God’s glory? We’ll never be fully prepared. We’ll always be sinners. We can, however, draw encouragement from God’s precious promise – “God will surely visit you.” Here-and-now, we must learn to appreciate God’s visitations. They’re preparing us for something better – “Eye has not seen. Ear has not heard. Neither has it entered into the heart what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Exodus 14:1-15:27
Here, we see "the great power of the Lord" (Exodus 14:31). This leads to worship - "I will sing to the Lord. He has won a glorious victory ... The Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Saviour. This is my God and I will praise Him ... " (Exodus 15:1-2). In the work of God's redemption, we see His love and power - "Lovingly You will lead the people You have saved. Powerfully, You will guide them to Your holy dwelling" (Exodus 15:13). This is the greatness of God's power - it is power which serves the purpose of His love. The Lord is King - "The Lord will rule as King forever and ever" (Exodus 15:18). He is not a tyrant. He is not a dictator. He is the King of love. He loves us. we are to love Him, living for Him and looking to Him to fulfil His promises in our lives.
Exodus 16:1-17:16
The Lord provides. Through the provision of manna and water, the Lord sustains His people. Strong in Him, they press on to victory. This is a picture of the Christian life. Before we can be soldiers of Christ, we must receive our strength from the Lord. We come to Him, looking to Him for strength - His strength. Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water (John 6:51: John 4:14). Strengthened by Him, we will not be defeated. We will be victorious - "more than conquerors through Him who loved us." His love will give us the victory. "Nothing will be able to separate us from His love" (Romans 8:37-39). In the provision of manna and water, we see love. In the victory over the Amalekites, we see the victory of love: "Love has the victory forever." The God who loved His people - revealing His love in the Exodus, maintaining His love in the wilderness - gave them the victory.
Exodus 18:1-20:26
The Word of God tells us what God has done for His people: "the Lord saved them" (Exodus 18:8). The Word of God teaches us that being saved by the Lord places us under responsibility to be obedient to Him (Exodus 19:4-5). the vital connection between salvation and obedience is brought out clearly in the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Before speaking to His people about what they must do if they are to live as His obedient people, God reminds them of what He has done for them: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt" (Exodus 20:2). We must never forget how much the Lord has done for us. If we lose sight of His love, His grace and His mercy, so wonderfully revealed to us in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, our 'obedience' will be nothing but legalism. Real obedience comes from real salvation. It comes to us from the God of our salvation.
"showing mercy to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:6).
In there, among the Ten Commandments, there's the word, "mercy" - what a wonderful word! What a wonderful thought - God is merciful. He does not look upon us in our sin. He looks upon us in His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He looks at Jesus - dying on the Cross. He sees Jesus, bearing our sin - and He sees us, receiving Jesus' salvation. "In my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" - This is mercy, and it's right here in the Ten Commandments. How wonderful is this!
God's Word speaks here of our love for the Lord and our obedience to His commandments. Where does this come from? It comes from the Lord - from the God of love, grace and mercy. Before we come to the Ten Commandments, we have the great declaration of God's salvation: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). Real love for the Lord and true obedience to his Word can never be reduced to legalism. It's always much more than that. His love for us inspires our love for Him. Our obedience to His Word is grounded in gratitude for His love.
Thousands came out of Egypt. They had been redeemed by the Lord. They weren't taken straight into the Promised Land. They had to spend many years in the wilderness. Is that not the story of our life? We want to love Him more truly and obey Him more fully - but our sin keeps on holding us back. We're not the finished article. We're a work in progress. Thousands - this is not just about the spiritual leaders, people like Moses and Joshua. This is about ordinary people, people with a story tell: "This is what the Lord has done for me." My story is not your story. Your story is not my story. Each one tells their own story - in their own way. All of us tell the same story - "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me ... " This is mercy - and it's reached so many different people: different names, different faces, different places, one Saviour - Jesus.
How does God's mercy lead us in the pathway of loving him more truly and obeying Him more fully?
"May your Spirit make us look at the commandments not as a set of observances. May they move us to serve you not in a slavish way but as your sons and daughters who love you and whom you have set free. May we thus fulfil more than the law and serve you as your sons and daughters, in whom you recognize Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord forever."
"As grateful children of God, let us put our hearts into seeking in the commandments not our will but the will of God, so that we do not ask what God orders us to do but simply how we can respond to his love and show that love to the people around us."
"Commandments are not just observances that guarantee our salvation. they are a response to all God has given us. We ask God not what we are obliged to do, but what He expects us to do to respond to his love."
"May we learn from Jesus that love is the heart of the law and that true love knows how to serve" (Camilo J. Marivoet, "Liturgy Alive - Models of Celebration: Weekdays", pp. 314-316)
We've read about "thousands", receiving God's mercy, "thousands", learning to love God and obey Him. God's Word describes, for us, the glory of heaven. It says that there will be "a great multitude, which no man could number" (Revelation 7:9). How amazing is this! We'll come from different nations, different languages, different cultures and different centuries. Each of us will come with a different story to tell - our own unique story of what the Lord has done for us. There will be so many differences, but they will mean nothing to us. We will all be singing the same song. We'll be singing, "Salvation to our God, who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb" (Revelation 7:10). As we think of where we have come from - the depths of sin - and where we have been brought to - the heights of glory, we will sing to the Lord: "Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might be to our God for ever and ever" (Revelation 7:12).
Exodus 21:1-23:33
Our obedience to God is to take shape within the varied circumstances of everyday life. At the heart of our obedience, there is to be compassion, an expression of God's compassion (Exodus 22:21,28; Exodus 23:9). At the heart of our obedience, there is to be worship (Exodus 23:14). taking compassion and worship together, we come to the very heart of our obedience to God. It is not compassion without worship. It is not worship without compassion. The spiritual and the social belong together. We need spiritual foundations, leading to social changes. The social does not stand on its own. There needs to be spiritual depth. The 'spiritual' does not stand on its own. It is empty formality, if it does not lead to a change in our way of living from day-to-day.
"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” (Exodus 21:2).
In the seventh year, the slave could choose to leave his master. The slave was no longer under a legal requirement to remain in the service of his master. In the service of Christ, we are bound to Him by His everlasting love. There is never a point at which we should ever choose to turn back from following Him. Jesus redeemed us by the shedding of His precious blood. Let us serve Him all the days of our life.
"The Feast of Ingathering" (Exodus 23:16).
We are gathered into Christ. Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). This is Good News - but it's not to be kept to ourselves. Good News is for sharing. We're to gather others into Christ. As I thought about this phrase, "the feast of ingathering", my thoughts turned to the words of Psalm 126:5-6 - "Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy." We are to take the "precious seed" with us. We are to sow the "precious seed." We are to trust in the Lord's promise: We "will surely come back with shouts of joy, bringing our sheaves with" us. Our salvation is a tremendous privilege - and so is the service that we offer to our Lord. The Lord has saved us, and we say, "Glory to You, Lord." He has called us to be His servants, and, again, we say, "Glory to You, Lord." We look at our life in Christ - being gathered into Him and gathering others into Him, and we say, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23). In the New Testament, we read about a man called Levi (Mark 2:13-14). He was to become Matthew (Matthew 9:9-13). Spiritually, it looked like his life was going nowhere - until Jesus came along, and everything changed. He was never the same again. What a big part Matthew has had in the ingathering of men and women for Christ. He was no longer Levi, a despised and forgotten tax collector. He was Matthew, the Gospel-writer. In Matthew's story, we learn about being gathered into Jesus and gathering in others for Jesus. His story is a story of both conversion and call. His life was turned around. It was turned outward towards others. He had a new purpose in life - winning people for his Saviour. * We see the opening of his eyes. Before Jesus spoke the two life-changing words, "Follow Me", was Levi watching Jesus? Was he seeing something different in Jesus? Was he beginning to see himself differently? Was the Spirit of the Lord working in him, preparing him for these life-transforming words, "Follow Me"? His immediate response - "he got up and followed Jesus" - suggests to us that the Lord was already working in his heart, preparing him for that moment when his new life, his life of discipleship, his life of mission would begin. On the day that Jesus came along, Levi saw himself as he really was - a sinner. He also saw Jesus as He really is - the Saviour of sinners, his Saviour. He was gathered in to Jesus - but this was just the beginning of gathering many others into Jesus. * We see the stirring of his heart. Had Levi noticed Jesus? Had he sensed something of the love of Jesus? Was he already beginning to hope that Jesus might do something special for him? Was the love of Jesus already reaching out to him before Jesus spoke the words, "Follow Me"? One thing we can say is this: Levi's conversion was a conversion of the heart. He gave his whole heart to the Lord Jesus - and, when he speaks to us in his Gospel, he speaks to us from his heart, and he speaks to our hearts. * We see the opening of his ears. As we read Matthew's account of his conversion, we are struck by the power of Jesus' words, "Follow Me." Whatever we may think about what could have been happening in Levi's life prior to that moment, we must say this: The moment that Jesus spoke the words, "Follow Me" was the moment that life began again for Levi. It was the moment that he was saved by the Lord - saved from a life of serving his own interests, saved for a life of serving his Saviour. * We see the changing of his life. Levi, the tax collector, became Matthew, the Gospel-writer - a new name and a new mission. He was not only gathered into Jesus. He began a new life of gathering others into Jesus. * We see the loosening of his tongue. We don't know a lot about Matthew. In Acts, we read of Peter and Paul. They were faithful and fruitful preachers of the Gospel. We don't read about Matthew being a preacher. We do know that, in his Gospel, he was speaking for his Lord. He was letting the world know how much Jesus meant to him. He was playing his part - a very important part - in gathering in men and women for the Saviour. * What about us? Will we play our part in the great "ingathering"? "Return to the Lord ... He will revive us ... He will raise us up ... He will come to us like the rain ... " (Hosea 6:1-3). * Return to the Lord. This is where it begins. A life of faithful and fruitful service to the Lord begins when we return to the Lord, when, like Levi, we say to Jesus, "Yes, Lord. I will follow You." * He will revive us. We pray for revival - a great ingathering of many people to our Saviour. Where does it begin? It begins with ourselves: "He will revive us." * He will raise us up. This is not just a little pick-me-up. This is resurrection. In ourselves, we are spiritually dead. In Christ, our risen Saviour, we are made alive. * He will come to us like the rain. "The spring showers water the land" - This is what we must pray for: a spiritual harvest which will bring many people to the Saviour and much glory to God.
Exodus 24:1-27:21
"The glory of the Lord" (Exodus 24:16-17) - God is to be glorified in all that we do. Symbolic of God's glory is the frequent reference to "gold" or "pure gold." God's glory is to shine brightly among God's people. If God is to be glorified among us, if our lives are to be like "pure gold", we must be like "pure virgin olive oil", keeping our "lamps" burning for Him (Exodus 27:20-21). God will not be glorified if we are not looking to Him to keep our lamps burning for Him - "Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning", "Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father's glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze. Set our hearts on fire ... " The blessing we read about here is not simply for those who are already God's people. It is also for those who will be reached for Christ and won for Him, as the Lord's people rise to the challenge of carrying Christ to "this land" and to "the nations."
Exodus 28:1-30:38
In all our worship and in all of life, we are to be "holy to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36). Holiness lies at the heart of God's instructions to His people. God speaks of the special blessing of His "presence" at "the tent of meeting - "My glory will make this place holy" (Exodus 29:42-43). The holiness of God is full of love. He lives among His people as the God of redemption: "I brought them out of Egypt so that I might live among them" (Exodus 29:45-46). In the Lord's presence, there is grace - "in the Lord's presence ... the sins in their lives are removed" (Exodus 30:16). This redemption, given to us by the grace of God, is to be an ongoing experience through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Our salvation is never to be taken for granted in an arrogant way. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do receive assurance of God's salvation - but we must never forget this: "Holy to the Lord" (Exodus 30:37).
Exodus 31:1-33:23
The history of Israel is like a rollercoaster ride. It's full of highs and lows. We read of the Lord giving His Word to Moses (Exodus 31:18). This is followed by the people rebelling against God (Exodus 32:1). The sin of the people is very greater. The mercy of God is even greater. He shows mercy to those whop have rebelled against Him. He continues to speak His Word of grace - "My presence will go with you, and I will give you peace" (Exodus 33:14). Often, we feel like God won't want to have anything more to do with us. God is the God of grace. He is also the God of glory. He reveals His glory to us (Exodus 33:18-22. His full glory is too much for us. He gives us a glimpse of His glory. He gives us enough to create in us a thirst for more of His glory. He doesn't give us so much that we are overwhelmed by His glory.  What we have is grace and glory together. When His glory seems too much for us, His grace breaks in and assures us that we belong to Him. He shows us that His glory is the glory of His love, the greatest love of all.
Exodus 34:1-35
Moses received the Word from the Lord. He brought God's Word to the people. With God's Word of grace - "the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God ...", there is also His Word of warning - "He never lets the guilty go unpunished ... " (Exodus 34:6-7). Hearing God's Word of warning, together with His Word of grace, Moses pleads with God for mercy - "Lord, please go with us ... " (Exodus 34:9). The Lord promises to give His blessing - "I'm making My promise again." This promise of His blessing is accompanied by His call to obedience - "Do everything that I command today" (Exodus 34:11). When Moses came, from God's presence, to the people, his "face was shining" (Exodus 34:30,35). This was a sign of the power of the Spirit - filling Him, giving Him strength, equipping Him for the work of ministry,
"The skin of Moses' face shone" (Exodus 34:35).
What glory there is in the presence of the Lord! The glory of the Lord was shining upon Moses. The glory of the Lord was shining out from Moses. In the Lord's presence, there is light. When we come into His presence, we come out of the darkness, and we come into the light. It is the light of His glory. It is the light of His love. It is the glory of His love. This is what changes us. This is what makes us new men and women. How can we remain the same when we have been in the presence of the Lord? Was there something special about Moses? No! There was something special about God. Is there something special about us? No! There's something special about God. In His presence, everything changes. The things that seemed so important to us are seen in a new light - the light of eternity. They are seen for what they really are. Do these things really matter as much as we thought they did? or Have we been shaped too much by the world's way of thinking? In the Lord's presence, everything seems so different. Light is shining upon us. It is the light of God's Word. It is the light of the Gospel. His light is a great light. It shines brightly. It will not be overcome by the darkness. Often, we feel that the darkness is so powerful. It seems like we're struggling to get into the light - and the darkness keeps on pulling us back in. What do we learn when we come into the Lord's presence? What do we learn when we read His Word? What do we learn when His Gospel reaches us? We learn that it's not all about us - our struggle to break free from the darkness. It's all about Him - His power to set us free. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."
Exodus 35:1-36:38
The work of God requires the work of a large number of people, who pool their resources together to see that God's work is done. When there is this willing spirit among God's people, God's work moves forward. This willing spirit comes from the Lord Himself - "The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God." Through the Spirit of God, we receive gifts which are put to good use in the service of God (Exodus 35:31). When God's work is done in God's way - "as the Lord has commanded" (Exodus 36:1), there will be God's blessing: "The people are bringing much more than we need for doing the work the Lord has commanded us to do" (Exodus 36:5).
Exodus 37:1-29
Many times over, we read the word, "gold." We look beyond the furnishings of the place of worship to the God whom we worship. In our hearts, we say, "My God, how wonderful You are." All that we read of here is pointing us to the great God, the God of glory, the god who is worthy of all praise. Many people place great value on "gold", but they do not worship God and give glory to Him. How sad it is that so many people place such high value on the things of this world  - and place such little value on the God who created our world. In our world, we must learn to look beyond this world. We must learn to say, "I'd rather have Jesus than riches untold." The Lord must always be more important to us than anyone or anything else. We must not let "gold" become our "god." We must look beyond the "gold" to our God.
Exodus 38:1-40:38
All of this may seem so strange to us. Among all the many details, there is one thing which we must not miss. They "made everything that the Lord commanded." They "followed the Lord's instructions" (Exodus 38:22; Exodus 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43). God's people are called to be obedient to Him. We are not to do what we want We are to what He commands. We are to follow His instructions. There can be no "anointing" (Exodus 40:9-15), if there is no obedience. The two go together - obedience and anointing. We are to do everything the Lord commands us. We are to follow His instructions (Exodus 40:16,19). Such obedience to God will involve putting His Word at the centre of our lives. His Word is not so much a Word of demand as a Word of "promise." It is not so much a Word of law as a Word of "mercy" (Exodus 40:20). Our obedience to God is grounded in our experience of God's "promise" of "mercy." Having received this "mercy" of God, promised to us in Jesus Christ, we follow the Lord's instructions (Exodus 40:21,23,27,29,32). When we have "finished the work" God has given us to do, we must look to Him to send the blessing - "the glory of the Lord filled the tent" (Exodus 40:34-35). In all the strangeness of the world of Old Testament worship, there are deep spiritual lessons for us, lessons which enable us to go on with the Lord - receiving His mercy, obeying His Word, experiencing His glory. God is good to us. He shows His mercy to us. He puts a new Spirit within us - the Spirit of obedience. He sends His glory so that we might rejoice in His presence and be strengthened by His presence.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Fulfil Your Vows

Faith
“Fulfil your vows” (Nahum 1:15).
We’re going to think together about our Church membership vows. These vows can be summarized in five words: Faith, Worship, Devotions, Giving, Witness.
The first vow is the foundation upon which the others are built.
The other four vows are the practical implications of the first vow: our confession of faith.
The first vow emphasizes that there is a faith to be believed, a faith to be confessed: “I believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and I confess Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord.”
We are called to have faith. The Bible calls us to have a personal faith. It is not only the faith of the Church. It is to be my faith. It is to be your faith. Each one of us is to say, “I believe.”
What does it mean to have faith? It means believing something. there is something to be believed. Faith also means trust. When you and I say, “I believe in one God,” we are saying, “I am trusting God, putting my trust in Him.”
The question is asked, “Do you believe in God?” The real issue is not so much the existence of God. The real issue is the importance of God. Many people claim to believe in God’s existence, but it’s very clear that this belief makes no real difference to the way they live their lives.
Do you believe in God? How important is He to you? What difference does He make to your life? These are the practical questions of faith.
“I believe in God.” There are many different ideas of God. What are we to believe concerning Him? Who is the God in whom we are called to put our trust? We are to believe what the Bible teaches us about Him. In the Bible, we have God’s self-description. God tells us what he is like. He reveals Himself to us.
How does God reveal Himself to us? What does the Bible teach us concerning Him? God reveals Himself as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” The Bible speaks of this way – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). We cannot fully understand this, but we can believe it. The important question is not so much, “Do we understand it?” It’s “Do we believe it?”
Many people believe in a God who cannot be described – an “unknown god.” The Bible speaks to us of a God who has introduced Himself to us, a God who can be known. At the heart of our faith, there is a Man – “the Man, Christ Jesus.” He is “the one Mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5).
How do we know what God is like? We know Him through Jesus Christ – “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). How do we get to know God? We get to know Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus Christ? He is our Saviour and Lord.
* He is my Saviour because He is my Lord. Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). That’s why He can be my Saviour.
* He is my Lord because He is my Saviour. Those who have trusted Him as Saviour consider it their privilege to submit to Him as their Lord.
At the heart of the Trinity – God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, there is the Man, Christ Jesus. The Father points to Him (Matthew 3:17). The Holy Spirit leads us to Him (John 16:14).

Worship
"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).

Do you promise to worship regularly, with your fellow Christians, on the Lord's Day?

Let us worship God. we are called to worship Him. We are to worship Him in "wonder, love and praise." In our worship, we are to exalt the Lord our God. we are to glorify Him. We are to proclaim His greatness in "humble adoration." In simple and sincere faith, we are to say to him, "Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever."

Our worship is concerned with God. The "who" of worship is far more important than the "how" of worship. Who we worship is far more important than how we worship. Before we ask, "What is worship?", before we ask, "How do we worship?", we must ask the first question, "Who do we worship?"

To understand what worship is, we need to be clear about worship is not.

* Worship is not superficial emotionalism. We need sound teaching from the Word of God. We need Christ-centred preaching, which strengthens our faith and inspires our worship.

* Worship is not barren  intellectualism. We need the moving of God's Spirit in our hearts and lives. We need the power of God, moving among us. If our worship is to be whole-hearted, if we are to grow strong in our praying and strong in our caring, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit.

What is worship?

The question, "What is worship?", is directly related to the question, "Who is God?"

We learn, from the Bible, what God is like. As we learn what God is like, we learn also how we are to worship Him.

The Bible teaches us that God is holy. The Bible teaches us that God is love. Our worship should focus our attention on the holiness and love of God. There should be reverence, as we enter the presence of the holy God. There should be joy, as we come to the God of love.

(a) We come to the Lord to express our gratitude to Him.

(b) We come to the Lord in fellowship with His people.

(c) We come to the Lord so that we might be changed by Him.

* Expressing our gratitude to the Lord

In Psalm 107, the importance of thanksgiving is emphasized five times.

- "O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever" (Psalm 107:1).

- "Let them thank the Lord, for He is steadfast love, for His wonderful works to the sons of men" (Psalm 107:8,15,21,31).

We worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving. We worship Him in the fellowship of His people.

Following the last of these calls to give thanks to the Lord, there is, in Psalm 107:32, a call to worship the Lord in the company of His people - "Let them extol Him in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders." 

* What does it mean to worship in the fellowship of His people?

- God speaks of His people as His "remnant", as the "survivors" (Isaiah 37:32). We live in an age of darkness, a generation in which the vast majority of people have little or no time for God. Even in such an unbelieving age as ours, God still has His faithful people. It is the Lord Himself who gathers His people for worship. It is the presence of God Himself which draws His people to worship.  This is more than meeting with one another. We come to meet with the Lord.

- God calls His people to be His witnesses. Before we can be His witnesses, we must be His worshippers. We are to "exalt Him in the assembly of His people" (Psalm 107:32). We are to worship the Lord as those who have been saved by Him. We sing praise to Him who has given His salvation to us (Isaiah 38:20).  Our commitment to worship is to be a life-long commitment. We are to worship "all the days of our life at the house of the Lord" (Isaiah 38:20).

* We worship the Lord so that we might be changed by Him. An excellent description of what it means to worship is found in Revelation 1:10 - "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day."

When John was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day," he became a changed man. How was he changed? He was changed in the presence of the Spirit. He was changed through the hearing of God's Word. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet." In the presence of the Spirit, John heard the Word of the Lord, and he was changed. We, too, can be changed by the Spirit and the Word. Through the Spirit, the "parched ground" of our lives can become the "flowing springs" of His blessing (Psalm 107:35). As God's Word is sown into the hearts of men and women, it yields a fruitful harvest (Psalm 107:37) - "By His blessing they multiply greatly" (Psalm 107:38). This is God's purpose for us. It's His purpose of blessing.

Together, with His purpose of blessing, there is a warning. It is a warning addressed to those who do not take seriously the call to worship God. It is addressed to those who are content with formal religion, those who have no real desire to be "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day." Where the Lord is not honoured, "rivers" will be turned into "a desert," "springs of water" will be turned into "thirsty ground," "a fruitful land" will be turned into "a salty waste" (Psalm 107:33-34). Why does this happen? It is a judgment of God upon the wickedness of men (Psalm 107:34). How does it happen? - "They are diminished and brought low through oppression, trouble, and sorrow" (Psalm 107:39).

* Whatever your response to the Word of the Lord, you will be changed. Either you will draw closer to Him, or you will draw back from Him. Which will it be? Drawing closer to Him or drawing back from Him?

Psalm 107 ends with some words of challenge: "Whoever is wise, let him give heed to these things, let men consider the steadfast love of the Lord." In view of the Lord's great love, will you not confess your need of Him? - Lord, my life is "a desert," "a parched land" (Psalm 107:35). Will you not invite Him to meet your need? - Lord, turn the "desert into springs of water, the parched land into springs of water" (Psalm 107:35).

Devotions
Fulfil your vows” (Nahum 1:15).
“Do you promise to be faithful in reading the Bible and in prayer?”
Religion can make you immune to reality. You can get so used to a form of religion, which is comfortable, that you fail to hear the voice of the Lord. His voice is the only voice which can awaken you and bring you out of the slumber of shallow superficiality.
Are you prepared to take Jesus Christ seriously? Are you prepared to break out from the comfortable atmosphere of shallow, superficial religion? Are you ready to be gripped by the Spirit of God? Will you read the Word of God with a real desire to be changed by the Lord? Will you seek God in prayer with an earnest desire to become more like Jesus day-by-day?
These are searching questions. They take us beyond the superficial questions – “Do you go to church?”, “Do you like the minister’s preaching?” These questions are inviting you to think about your relationship with God. Are you content to remain a spiritual ‘baby’, to be spoon fed by the minister?
God wants us to go on with Him. He wants us to grow in faith. He wants us to grow in our love for Him. This is why Bible reading and prayer are so important. This is not just about religious habits. It’s about getting to know God. It’s about being changed by God.
We talk about the church changing the world. If this is to happen, the Church needs to be changed. We need to be changed. You need to be changed. I need to be changed.
This is where the personal discipline of Bible reading and prayer becomes very important. You and I cannot really be changed if we do not take time to listen to God and speak to Him.
“God often visits us – but most of the time we are not at home” (French proverb). We hear the prompting of the Spirit – take some time to read God’s Word, take some time to pray. “Do not quench the Spirit.” “Do not grieve the Spirit.”
We are to grow into maturity. This involves the opening of our eyes to see Jesus, the opening of our ears to hear Him, and the opening of our lives to serve Him. This growth begins with conversion – the new birth, but it must not end there. We must go on to maturity. If there are no signs of spiritual growth, then your profession of faith must be called in question. This deep questioning does not come from the minister or the church. It comes from the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
The Word of God calls us to grow in Christ. The Spirit of God longs to re-create in us the character of our Lord.
Are you at home when God visits? Do you take time to read His Word? Do you take time to pray?
There will be no spiritual growth if you fail to find time for God, for His Word, for prayer.
Let’s think about our spiritual journey. Have you and I pulled back from following the Lord? or Have we gone on with Him? We must not think only of the public hearing of God’s Word and public prayer. We must also think about personal Bible reading and prayer.
The personal and the public – we need both. Let’s think about prayer – public prayer and private prayer.
When we speak about prayer, we must emphasize public prayer as well as private prayer. What is prayer? Is it always and only a private matter between myself and my God? No! There is also the call to God’s people to gather together for united prayer.
In most churches, few people pay much attention to the call to gather together for prayer . Often, the attendances are shameful. We look around, and wonder, “Where is he? Where is she?”
What are we to say about public prayer? It’s a duty. It’s a privilege. It’s a blessing.
Small groups lend themselves to greater sharing in prayer. We are not, however, to be content with small numbers. We must pray earnestly that more people will commit themselves to gathering together for prayer.
There are differences between personal prayer and public prayer.
In personal prayer, there can be a real outpouring of the soul. In public prayer, it is more than the individual pouring out his or her soul before the Lord. We are leading others in prayer. This doesn’t mean that there is just one person praying, and the others are just listening. The others are silently praying along with the leader. They are giving their silent “Amen” to the prayer that is being prayed aloud.
In public prayer, we cannot just ‘let go’ and say everything that comes into our minds. Wisdom requires us to leave some things unsaid when we are praying in a meeting. Other people are listening to what we say.
In public prayer, we must not fall into the trap of using our prayers as a way of getting at other people, ‘preaching’ a message that we want them to hear. When prayers start to sound more like sermons, we should pray for a rediscovery of the real purpose of prayer – speaking to God.
Alongside public prayer, there is to be personal prayer, spending time alone with God.  He is our Father. We are His children. A good father will want to spend time with his children – sometimes, with all of them together; sometimes, with each one on their own. God is like that. There are times when He wants us to gather together in prayer. There are times when He wants each one of us to be alone with Him.
Whenever we think about prayer – public and private, we should also think about hearing God’s Word and reading God’s Word. Our prayer life will grow strong when we give careful attention to hearing and reading what the Lord has to say to us from His Word.
When we pay close attention to both the Word of God and prayer, we are emphasizing that our conversation with God is a two-way conversation. God speaks to us. We speak to Him.
Let’s think about this two-way conversation – reading the Bible and praying.
* Where do I start in reading the Bible?
Some start at the beginning, and get bogged down in the second half of Exodus, or in Leviticus. It would make better sense to begin with the gospels. they tell us about Jesus. You could, then, go on to Acts. It tells us the story of the Gospel being preached by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* Which Bible should I read? Some people stop reading the Bible because they find the king James Version difficult. They have never taken the trouble to look for an appropriate modern version. If you want to be able to say, with the Psalmist, “Oh, how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97), find a version of the Bible you are likely to understand and enjoy reading.
 * How much should I read?
Some people read too much too quickly, and they end up with spiritual indigestion. There are various Bible reading plans which will help you to start reading the Bible and keep on reading it. Following a plan will help you to be faithful in reading God’s Word.
 * How can I understand what I read?
Are you serious about reading God’s Word? You should be. I hope that you are. If you are serious about learning from God’s Word, day-by-day, you may find Bible reading notes helpful. Look for notes that will help you to walk more closely with the Lord.
 * As well as reading the Bible, we should pray.
If, like the Psalmist, you are to grow in wisdom as you are to grow in wisdom (Psalm 119:98), if you are to grow in true, spiritual understanding (Psalm 119:99-100,1o4), if you are to take delight in God’s Word (Psalm 119:102), to live in obedience to His Word (Psalm 119:101), you need to pray. You need to ask the Lord Himself to be Your Teacher (Psalm 119:102).
 * When you pray, remember that you are speaking to God. Remember that He is your loving, heavenly Father.  Remember that He loves you. Remember that He wants the best for you. Remember that He wants to help you to grow in faith. Remember that He wants to help you to grow  more like Jesus.
 * When I pray to God, what am I to say to Him?
 - You can praise Him for who He is.
Let the lessons you have learned from God’s Word feed into your prayer. God’s Word will lead you into praising the Lord. In your prayer, lift up your heart to the Lord. Praise Him.
 - You can thank Him for what He has done for you, what He is doing for you, and what He will do for you.
 - You can confess your sins and receive God’s forgiveness.
 - You can pray for others – for your family, for your friends and neighbours, for the church, for ministers, for missionaries.
 - You can pray for yourself. Don’t be so preoccupied with your own problems that you forget to pray for others.
“Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.”
Take time for God. Take time to be with Him.
There are so many other things we can do with our time. Don’t let time slip away. “Take time to be holy.”
Giving
"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).
"Do you promise to give a fitting proportion of your time, talents and monry for the Church's work in the world."
The Gospel calls for a change in our way of living. Before we speak about giving, we must speak about living. What are your priorities in life? How are you responding to the Good News of Jesus Christ?
How do you use your time? What takes up most of your time? Do you find time for God? or Does everything revolve around yourself? Do we think so much about ourselves that we never really pay much attention to our Lord Jesus Christ?
What about the gifts God has given you? Everyone of us has gifts. They have been given to us by God. Are we using these gifts for God? How much we use our time and talents for God shows how much or how little we care about Him.
When we think about giving, we’re also thinking about caring. Do we care enough to give well? Do we care enough to give quality time to God? Do we care enough to give quality time to the service of Jesus Christ? Do we lay our talents before the Lord and invite Him to use us in His service? Do we care enough to give ourselves to the Lord? or Do we say, “I can’t do that”, and really mean, “I won’t do that”? The level of our giving of time, talents and money shows how much or how little we care about God.
God has a mission. It’s an “all the time” mission. Do we want to get involved in His mission? or Does His work suffer because of our indifference?
A self-giving response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls for a change in our way of living. We get so used to things we don’t really need, and the work of the Lord suffers. We get so used to the way things are that we lose sight of the way things could be if we allowed the Lord to take control of our lives. When you and I think about our lives, there are two questions we need to ask ourselves: “How do I live?” and “How should I live?” These are two very different questions. The first asks, “How am I living right now?” The second invites us to make a response. It calls for change. It calls us to be changed by the Lord. It calls us, to say from the heart, “I want to walk with Jesus Christ, all the days I live of this life on earth, to give to Him complete control of body and of soul.”
Christian living – This comes before Christian giving. Some people say, “Money doesn’t matter to God. He’s interested in the heart.” Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
In our giving, we give thanks to God, and we provide for His work to be done. When we do not honour God in this way, our worship lacks depth and reality, and the work of God suffers. The giving of money for the Lord’s work emerges out of the giving of ourselves to the Lord.
- We are to give quietly – not as spiritual show-offs.
- We are to give consistently – as part of the giving of ourselves to the Lord in His service.
- We are to give whole-heartedly – as an act of worship.
- We are to give sacrificially. We need to exercise greater discipline in our use of money. We need to manage our money wisely and well. Where there has been a misuse of money, we need to seek and receive God’s forgiveness, and we need to receive His wisdom and strength to redirect our lives towards the greatest priority of all: the priority of God’s Kingdom.
What is your attitude towards this highest priority, the priority of God’s Kingdom?
There are some who have become very materialistic in their way of thinking. When they hear the call to increase the level of their giving to the Lord, they dismiss this out-of-hand. They don’t want to be bothered. Their reaction shows the things they really care about – the things of this world.
Our giving is to be an act of worship, offered to God. We come to the Lord with joyful praise – and we bring our offerings to Him. In our giving, we express our attitude towards the Lord, our desire to honour Him in every part of our life.
We seek to give glory to Him. We’re not to be like the Pharisees – honouring Him with our lips while remaining far from Him in our hearts.
God wants to bless us, but His blessing will be hindered if, in our hearts, we have no real desire to honour Him.
Do you want to know more of His blessing on your life? – Honour Him as the Lord of your life.
Give yourself more fully to the Lord, and you will have the joy of discovering that the Lord has more satisfying and more significant work for you to do for Him.
If you draw back from committing yourself, more truly and more fully, to the Lord, He will withdraw His blessing from your life. If, in your heart, there is a resistance to the Word of the Lord, God has something to say to you. It is something very serious. he says this: “Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).
If,in your heart, you find a greater openness to receive the Word of the Lord, then I ask you to pray with me, “Lord, help me to open my heart more widely. Help me to receive Your blessing more fully.”

Witness
"Fulfil your vows" (Nahum 1:15).
"Do you promise, depending on the grace of God, to confess Christ before men and women, to serve Him in your daily work, and to walk in His ways all the days of your life?"
* First, we note the words, "depending on the grace of God." Without the grace of God, we cannot even begin to confess Christ before men and women, to serve Him in our daily work, and to walk in His ways."
This is a rebuke to the attitude which says, "I do my best", while never recognizing the fact that our best is never good enough. When we say, "I do my best," God calls us to bow before Him, and receive His Best - Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
It's also a word of encouragement. When we become painfully aware That our best can never be good enough, God comes to us with His Word of encouragement - "I am with you. I am your Helper. I will not fail you. I will give you the strength that you need to live for Me."
* The Christian life can be described in different ways.
(a) Confession - confessing Christ before men and women;
(b) service - serving Christ in our daily work;
(c) Walking - walking in His ways.
When we speak about Christian living, we must emphasize this - "depending on the grace of God."
* How can we sustain this kind of life? We can't. Only Christ can.
This is why we must place great emphasis on Paul's description of the Christian life: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
- This is what it means to be a Christian - Christ lives in us.
- This is what we mean when we use the phrase, "depending on the grace of God."
Jesus says to us, "The Holy Spirit is the Helper who dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:15-16).
* (a) The Holy Spirit helps us to confess Christ before men and women.
- "The Holy Spirit ... will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26).
- "The Spirit of truth ... will bear witness to Me; and you also are witnesses" (John 15:26-27).
We are Christ's witnesses, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
"The Gospel must first be preached to all nations ... Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11).
You may say, "I am not a preacher. I am not a teacher." There is something else that needs to be said, "If you are faithful in your personal witness for Christ, confessing Him to others, your witnesses part of the preaching of the Gospel and the teaching of God's Word." This witnessing for Christ is grounded in a relationship with God, in a life of discipleship.
* (b) The nature of our relationship with God becomes clear as we consider what Jesus teaches us concerning serving Him.
"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all hat I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 14:15).
We are more than servants in our Master's house. We are sons and daughters of our loving, heavenly Father.
Before you can serve the Lord, you must become His child. The service that we offer to the Lord is not the service of hired hands. It is the service of His children.
The life of service does not begin with the words, "I will give my service to the Lord."
It begins with the words, "I will receive salvation from the Lord. I will receive Jesus as my Saviour."
Before you can give to the Lord, you must receive from Him.
The life of service is a response to God's love. It begins when we receive God's love, when we realize that He loves us. Our love for Him arises out of His love for us. Through faith in Christ, we are born into the family of God's love. Our obedience is an expression of love (John 14:21). It is Gospel obedience. We must not try to obey God in the hope that we might receive forgiveness because of our great obedience. That's legalistic obedience. It has nothing at all to do with the Gospel. Gospel obedience is very different. The Gospel is not about our great obedience, and what it can do for us. The Gospel is about God's great love. It's about what He has done for us - not what we can do for Him. We experience the love of God. We receive the forgiveness of God. Out of gratitude to God, with love for God, we give ourselves in service to Him.
* (c) We are to walk with the Lord, all the days of our life.
Everything that we may do for Christ, as His witnesses, arises out of our following Him, as His disciples. "Follow Me" - This was the first thing Jesus said to His disciples. We are to walk with the Lord. Before we can run, we must learn to walk. If a child never moves beyond walking to running, there's something wrong.
"Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
Is this a word for enthusiastic young people? Are we 'too long in the tooth' for this kind of enthusiasm? No! This is a word for all who will "wait upon the Lord" and "renew their strength. We are told, in Isaiah 40:30, that "even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted." This is followed, in Isaiah 40:31, with these great words, "Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength."
How can we keep on walking with the Lord all the days of our life? How can we "run and not be weary"? How can we "walk and not faint"? The answer is the Lord (Isaiah 40:28-29).
If we are to confess Christ, serve Him and walk with Him, we must come to Him, at His Cross, and receive His forgiveness for our many failures. We must come and receive His power, the power of His resurrection, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power that changes us, the power that renews our life.

Receive New Life From The Lord - And Live Your Life For Him.

What's it all about - this Christianity? is it a form of religion or a code of ethics? The words, 'religion' and 'ethics' are well wide of the mark when it comes to describing what it means to be a Christian.
The word, 'life' is the word used by Jesus: "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
Jesus did not say, "I have come that they might have religion (or ethics)."
Jesus came to give us life - the life of God.
When we have received this life from Him, we come to understand that being a Christian is about a personal relationship with God. It's not just a matter of following a certain code of religious or moral behaviour.
This personal relationship with God is entirely bound up with Jesus Christ. Apart from him, there is no life. There is only the emptiness of life without God, in this world and in the world to come. With Jesus Christ, there is life - a life given by God, a life dependent on God, a life lived for God.
  • (1) A life given by God
What is a Christian? Is it about being kind to others, giving to charities, not committing crimes? A humanist does all of these things. Is it about going to church services? the New Testament says something different: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
Note the contrast between the things which we do and the New Testament teaching that Christianity is Christ .
This contrast is emphasized in the Gospels. The religious leaders of Jesus' day had become so tied up with rules and regulations that they had neglected their relationship with God. Jesus, offering them something better - a life that is to be given to us by God. He told them, in no uncertain terms, that they needed to be "born again."
This is a message that we need to hear today. Like the Pharisees, we tend to complicate the simplicity of the Gospel. We turn it into a complex system of rules. God invites us to come to know Him as our loving Father. Why do we insist on thinking of God as a kind of heavenly policeman, who is constantly trying to catch us out when we do wrong? The idea of God as a kind of heavenly policeman, who's trying to catch us out, needs to be rooted out of our thinking.
There's another idea we need to get rid of - the idea that God is a kind of heavenly skinflint, a tight-fisted character, who's only interested in what he can get out of us. The idea of a god, who is on the make, s the exact opposite of the god and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is a loving God, a giving God - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16).
It's often said, "You only get what you pay for." If you approach the Christian Faith from this angle, you will come up with the most complete misunderstanding of the Christian Gospel imaginable.
If God were to give us what we've paid for, there would be nothing, for us, but judgment and condemnation. This is what we deserve from God - nothing more, nothing less: judgment and condemnation. The amazing thing is this: God has, in His Son, paid the price of our sin. this is the Gospel. This is the Good News that comes to us from God. In Jesus Christ, God has taken the punishment for our sin. At the heart of the Christian Faith is the death of Jesus Christ as our substitute. He took my place and died for me. This is what the Christian has come to know. Those who have come to the Cross and accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour can truly say, "The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
There is no room, at the Cross of Jesus Christ, for a 'skinflint' god. It is, at the Cross, that we must receive the gift of God, the gift for which we can never even begin to pay, the gift which has been paid for the death of Another - our Lord Jesus Christ. At the Cross, we learn that it is not we who give to God. It's God who gives to us. we learn that we can only receive from God. From Him, we receive the gift of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
  • (2) A life dependent on God
We must avoid carefully the idea of a god, who is always on the make. We must also take care not to take God for granted. The kind of person, who tries to get as much as he can out of God with the least personal involvement, has misunderstood completely what it means to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To have faith in Christ is to "live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). The Christian life is lived in the light of the death of Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us. It doesn't make sense to say, "I believe the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me", and, then, hold back from giving ourselves to Him, in glad surrender.
The question may be asked, "Can I accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour without submitting to Him as my Lord?" This question is based on reveals on a serious misunderstanding of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saved by the grace of God. We can do nothing to deserve His grace. We must receive the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as God's free gift. We must never lose this emphasis. It is the heart of the Christian Gospel. Building on the foundation of God's grace, we must emphasize that Christian commitment is a privilege before it is a responsibility.
Trusting Jesus is not like wearing a lucky charm. It's not just a way of getting on the right side of God, and making sure of a place in heaven. We are called to a life of faith: "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
  • (3) A life lived for God
If the life of trust and obedience is to be real in you and me, we must take great care to avoid two very dangerous misconceptions of the Christian life.
(a) The first is that we become so heavenly-minded that we're no earthly use. This kind of person is very concerned to make sure that he himself is going to heaven, but he shows no real interest in serving the Lord and serving other people here on earth. He needs to understand that real faith is more than booking a place in heaven. We need to be wary of a self-centred desire to get to heaven, which doesn't lead us to serve God and other people here and now. Salvation leads to service.
(b) The second is that we become so earthly-minded that we're no heavenly use. Some people throw everything into their work., their family life and their personal interests. The Christian has a higher priority: serving God and pleasing Him. This doesn't mean that we should all be preachers or missionaries. What it does mean is this: use your gifts and abilities to the full for God. The Bible never separates believing and doing. Faith and work belong together. We are not saved by works, but we are saved for works. When faith is real, it will lead to good works.
Live for God. This is very important. Words mean nothing, if we're not living for the Lord.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

It's All So Strange!

Exodus 38:1-40:38
All of this may seem so strange to us. Among all the many details, there is one thing which we must not miss. They “made everything that the Lord commanded.” They “followed the Lord’s instructions” (Exodus 38:22; Exodus 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43). God’s people are called to be obedient to Him. We are not to do what we want We are to what He commands. We are to follow His instructions. There can be no “anointing” (Exodus 40:9-15), if there is no obedience. The two go together – obedience and anointing. We are to do everything the Lord commands us. We are to follow His instructions (Exodus 40:16,19). Such obedience to God will involve putting His Word at the centre of our lives. His Word is not so much a Word of demand as a Word of “promise.” It is not so much a Word of law as a Word of “mercy” (Exodus 40:20). Our obedience to God is grounded in our experience of God’s “promise” of “mercy.” Having received this “mercy” of God, promised to us in Jesus Christ, we follow the Lord’s instructions (Exodus 40:21,23,27,29,32). When we have “finished the work” God has given us to do, we must look to Him to send the blessing – “the glory of the Lord filled the tent” (Exodus 40:34-35). In all the strangeness of the world of Old Testament worship, there are deep spiritual lessons for us, lessons which enable us to go on with the Lord – receiving His mercy, obeying His Word, experiencing His glory. God is good to us. He shows His mercy to us. He puts a new Spirit within us – the Spirit of obedience. He sends His glory so that we might rejoice in His presence and be strengthened by His presence.

Gold!

Exodus 37:1-29
Many times over, we read the word, “gold.” We look beyond the furnishings of the place of worship to the God whom we worship. In our hearts, we say, “My God, how wonderful You are.” All that we read of here is pointing us to the great God, the God of glory, the god who is worthy of all praise. Many people place great value on “gold”, but they do not worship God and give glory to Him. How sad it is that so many people place such high value on the things of this world  – and place such little value on the God who created our world. In our world, we must learn to look beyond this world. We must learn to say, “I’d rather have Jesus than riches untold.” The Lord must always be more important to us than anyone or anything else. We must not let “gold” become our “god.” We must look beyond the “gold” to our God.

Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service.

1 Kings 7:13-8:13 Lord, You’re calling us to choose the life of fruitful service – “gold, silver, precious stones”. You’re calling us t...