Monday, 25 May 2015

Restore us, O God ...

Psalm 80:1-19
“Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:3). When, Lord, we come to You with the question of salvation – “What must I do to be saved?”, You come to us with Your answer – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). In Christ, You have “blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). Thank You, Lord.

The Tower of Babel

Genesis 10-11
Following on from the reference to Babylon in 10:10, we have, in chapter 11, the story of "the Tower of Babel". "This is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible to them" (11:6). What can we say about the world today, as men 'play God', taking the issues of life and death into their own hands? We need to remember that God is the Creator and we are His creatures. We dare not assume an authority which does not belong to us. God is left out by man who sees himself as the be-all and end-all, man who does things his way, man who seeks his own glory rather than God's glory. We must ask, "Does this glorify God or man? Does this show the love of God or the 'couldn't care less' attitude of godless man?" We must ask concerning ourselves: "Am I getting caught up in a secular, materialistic, godless way of thinking? Am I seeking to bring Christian values to bear on social concerns?"
What does God think about our godless society? It's all there in the 'Tower of Babel' story. It's still true today. * Nothing is hidden from God. He sees all that's going on. We cannot leave God out, no matter how much we might like to. * God sees man, and He is not pleased. Sin brings judgment. * God allows man to do his own thing, but this leads to confusion. Nobody knows what to think. Everyone does what they feel like doing. There is a desperate need for authoritative teaching from God's Word. * The saving purpose of God is not withdrawn. Look on to 12:1-3. Look further on to Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of this prophecy.

The Gospel Of God's Amazing Grace

Genesis 6
As we read the story of Noah, we learn of the place of Noah within the divine revelation of the Gospel of grace. "Noah found grace" might be turned around to read "Grace found Noah." "Amazing grace ... I once was lost but now am found." The significance of Noah, highlighted in 5:29 - "this one (Noah) shall bring relief from our work and from the toil of our hands" - is expressed in the words, "Not the labour of my hands can fulfil Thy law's demands. All for sin could not atone. Thou must save, and Thou alone. Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to Thy Cross I cling." To see the flood exclusively in terms of judgment is to see only one side of what God was doing. As well as judging He was also saving: "In this ship a few people - eight in all - were saved by water" (1 Peter 3:20). The ark points forward to Christ "who came back from death to life", Christ who "saves" us (1 Peter 3:21). God was working out His purpose of salvation. In these two statements, 'Noah found grace' and 'this one will bring ... ', we see both salvation and service. we are saved to serve. Once we ourselves have been found by grace, we are to seek to bring others to Christ that they also may be saved by Him and become His servants. In Noah's day, the remnant of faith was very small, yet the promise of God's love was given to them - 'I will establish my covenant with you' (18). Even when wickedness threatens to overwhelm us, we still have God's promise of love, 'the new covenant in Christ's blood' (1 Corinthians 11:25). 'The blood of Jesus, God's Son, cleanses us from all sin' (1 John 1:7). Knowing that Christ loved us and died for us, we are able to be like Noah (22). We are to walk with the Lord and serve Him.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Real worship, joyful worship, heartfetlt worship

Psalm 84:1-12
‘How I love Your Temple, Almighty Lord! How I want to be there! I long to be in the Lord’s Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God’(Psalm 84:1-2). Lord, we read this words, and we know that this is much more than paying lip-service to You. This is real. ‘I long for You, O God. I thirst for You, the living God; when can I go and worship in Your presence’(Psalm 42:1-2).  ‘Let Your light and Your truth guide me… to the place where You dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight…’(Psalm 43:4). Here, Lord, we meet a man who found great joy in worshipping You.‘O God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You… my soul is thirsty for You’(Psalm 63:1). Here, Lord, we meet a man who worshipped You with his whole heart. This is real worship, joyful worship, heartfetlt worship. Lord, help us to worship You like that!

God Is Still At Work, Calling Sinners To Worship Him.

Genesis 4
This chapter tells the story of the progression of mankind, the increase of sin and - in its final sentence - the development of worship. There are interesting snippets of cultural information (vs. 20-22). There may be progress in the horizontal dimension - agriculture, music, industry, but history reveals again and again that all is not well in our relationship with God. Sin was on the increase (vs. 1-16). Things were getting out of control. Could they be turned around again? A strongly positive answer is not spelled out in detail in this chapter. There is, however, a hint of God at the end of the chapter. He is still at work, calling sinners to worship Him. People are beginning to respond. This is the note on which the chapter ends. "At that time, people began to worship the Lord" (v. 26). This is the ray of hope. This is the word of inspiration at the end of a chapter which is, at best informative - the progression of culture, and, at worst, depressing - the increase of sin.

God Is At Work In You.

Philippians 2:12-3:11
God’s command- ‘Work out your own salvation’- must never be separated from His promise - ‘God is at work in you’(12-13). We do not save ourselves - We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’. We are saved by the Lord - We ‘glory in Christ Jesus’(3). We are to ‘shine as lights in the world’, directing attention away from ourselves to Him who is ‘the Light of the world’- our Lord Jesus Christ (15; John 8:12). We have this testimony: “I have ‘no righteousness of my own’. ‘Through faith in Christ’, I have received ‘this rtighteousness from God’”(9). We are living in difficult times. This is ‘a crooked and perverse generation’(15). We are called to ‘hold fast the Word of life’(16). It will not be easy. We will face many difficulties. We must take encouragement from this: ‘God is at work in you’(13).

God's Way To Revival

2 Samuel 15:1-37
There is a great difference between human popularity and divine approval. Here, we have human popularity - ‘The conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing’(12). In Acts 5:14, we have divine approval - ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women’. Conspiracy involves man seeking to get his own way. Revival comes when we ‘let go and let God have His wonderful way’. ‘Carry the ark of God back into the city’(25). In the ark of God, we have the Word of God among the people of God. If the people of God are to enjoy the blessing of God, they must live according to the Word of God. We organize things to suit ourselves. This is conspiracy. God is not in it. Look to God. Listen for His Word. Live in the light of His Word. This is God’s way to revival.

God Is Calling Us To Be Faithful To Him.

Nahum 1:1-2:9
‘Fulfil your vows’ (1:15). God is calling us to be faithful to Him. We are to be faithful in worship. We are to be faithful in reading His Word. We are to be faithful in prayer. We are to be faithful in giving. We are to be faithful in witness. Our faith is to be real. Our faith is to make a difference. It’s to change the way we live. It’s not to be a case of ‘faith without works’. That kind of ‘faith’ is ‘dead’ (James 2:17). Our whole life is to be a life of faith. It is to be a life of ‘love’. We are to live ‘for the glory of God’ (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 16:14; 10:31). ‘Fill Thou our life, O Lord our God, in every part with praise... Not for the lip of praise alone, nor even the praising heart we ask, but for a life made up of praise in every part’ (Church Hymnary, 457).
Nahum 2:10-3:19
To those who refuse to live in obedience to Him, God speaks His Word of judgment: ‘I am against you’ (2:13; 3:5). Those who refuse to listen to God’s Word of salvation - ‘The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him’ - will hear a very different Word from the Lord. It will be a Word of judgment. God’s Word will come like ‘an overwhelming flood’: ‘He will pursue His foes into darkness’ (1:7-8). None of us needs to face this ‘overwhelming flood’ and hear the words, ‘I am against you’. Each of us can come to Christ and hear His Word of ‘overwhelming victory’: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?... Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:31,37-39).

There Is Only One Kingdom Which Stands Forever - The Kingdom Of God.

Daniel 1:1-2:16
‘Daniel resolved not to defile himself’(8). Daniel was devoted to the Lord. It was not easy to live as the Lord’s faithful servant. His dedication to the Lord was put to the test - ‘Test your servants’(12). Our faith is put to the test. We ‘suffer many trials’. Why does God allow our faith to be tested by ‘all kinds of trials? - ‘The testing of your faith produces steadfastness’. ‘These have come so that your faith, which is much more precious than gold, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’(1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-3). Knowing that ‘every trial falls from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love’, may we learn to ‘trust God fully’ and ‘find Him wholly true’(Mission Praise, 421).

Daniel 2:17-49
‘In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed’(44). There is only one Kingdom which stands forever - the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom is eternal. Through Christ, ‘the Kingdom of God has come near to us’(Luke 10:9). Christ is the ‘King of kings’(Revelation 17:14;19:16). ‘His throne will last for ever and ever’. ‘His Kingdom will never end’. ‘He will reign for ever and ever’(Hebrews 1:8; Luke 1:33; Revelation 11:15). Christ is ‘triumphant... ever reigning... enthroned for ever’: ‘Sin and death and hell shall never stifle hymns of love. So, our hearts and voices raising through the ages long... this shall be our song: Yours the glory and the crown...’(Mission Praise, 77).

‘Christ Died For Sins, Once For All, The Righteous For The Unrighteous, To Bring You To God.’

2 Samuel 18:1-33
Some die young. Others live to a ripe old age. None of us can predict what lies ahead of us. There are some things that are beyond our control. We look at what is happening and we say, ‘I wish things could be different’. Absalom had been killed. David wished he could have died instead of him. It was not to be. Each of us must die our own death: ‘No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on for ever and not see decay’(Psalm 49:7-9). There is, however, a ‘Man’ who has died for us - Jesus Christ, ‘our Lord and our God’. He ‘gave Himself as a ransom for all’. ‘Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’(John 20 28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Peter 3:18).

Less About The Preacher And More About The Lord!

1 Corinthians 14:13-40
‘Be eager to prophesy’ (39).
Preaching God’s Word to the people is important. It is not everything. It is to be accompanied by prayer and praise.
Many come to hear ‘the preacher.’ Few gather to pray that the whole service of worship will be filled with the presence of the Lord.
Some come to hear a ‘sermon.’ They show little real enthusiasm for worshipping the Lord. They want ‘the Word.’ There is no real heart for worship, witness, and work.
The preacher’s public performance becomes more important than the prayerful praise of God’s people.
‘All things’ are ‘done decently and in order’ yet the atmosphere is forbidding. The Spirit of God is not moving freely among the people of God (39-40).
Let there be less talking about the preacher and more concern with giving all the praise and glory to the Lord.

So many people are turning away from You, Lord.

Psalm 79:1-13
So many people are turning away from You, Lord. They no longer worship You. We wonder, “Can things be turned around?” It would be so easy to give up and go the way of the world. “Help us, O God of our salvation” (Psalm 79:9) – to keep on praising You: “W, Your people, the flock which You shepherd, will give thanks to You forever. We will praise You throughout every generation” (Psalm 79:13).


I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me.

Philippians 3:12-4:23
‘Christ Jesus has made me His own’(3:12). In Paul`s words, we hear an echo of Jesus` words, ‘You did not choose Me... I chose you’(John 15:16). Christ has claimed us for Himself. He has laid claim to every part of our life. We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’(4). We are to bring ‘everything’ to Him in prayer (6). We are to be ‘content in all circumstances’(4:11-12). We are to face every challenge with confidence in His strength - ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’(4:13). We are to trust Him to ‘supply’ our ‘every need’(4:19). In every situation, we can come to the Lord, trusting in His promise: ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’(7). Whatever is happening, take it to the Lord in prayer and let Him give you His peace.

Celebrating The Lord's Supper In Joyful Obedience

1 Corinthians 11:1-34
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper (23-26).
We take note of what Paul says about the way we are to come to the Lord’s Table (27-29).
What’s this all about? Is it about the whole thing looking good - impressive?
Paul gives us something to think about in verse 22 - ‘Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?’
In Paul’s questions, we hear an echo of the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 1:12-20; Amos 5:21-24).
We rejoice in John 3:16 - ‘God so loved the world…’.
Let’s not forget 1 John 3:16-18 - ‘let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.’
Jesus says, ‘…first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’ (Matthew 5:23-24).
Don’t just think about it. Act on it (James1:22-25; 2:14-17)!

Let's Live As Servants Of Christ.

1 Corinthians 7:25-8:13
We are to ‘use the things of the world’ without becoming ‘engrossed in them’ (31).
Becoming more worldly in our way of living is not a purely personal thing. We harm other people ‘for whom Christ died’. They look to us for a godly example and we let them down. We ‘sin against them’. We ‘sin against Christ’. Our choices affect other people. We choose a self-centred life. We cause them to ‘fall into sin.’ We live a life of ‘love’, and they are ‘built up’ in their faith (11-13,1; Matthew 18:5-7, 10).
How are we to live? Are we to become preoccupied with how our actions affect those who watch our every move? That could become very confusing and distracting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must live ‘not ... as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart...’ (Ephesians 6:6-7).



What A Great Saviour Jesus Is!

1 Corinthians 9:1- 27
‘If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting’ (16).
Paul preached the Gospel. His whole desire was to bring men and women to the Saviour (22). He did not want to draw attention to himself. He didn’t preach so that his hearers would say, ‘What a good preacher Paul is!’ He wanted his hearers to say, 'What a great Saviour Jesus is!'
He did not want to be ‘an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ’ (12). Paul was not a ‘performer’, trying to increase his own popularity.
Paul described his ministry like this: ‘I do it all for the sake of the Gospel’ (23).
Keep your eyes on Jesus. This is very important. Don’t get so preoccupied with ‘a good preacher’ that you lose sight of the great Saviour!
There is no room for ‘superstars’: ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord’ - ‘The Name of Jesus is the Name above every name’ (James 4:10; Philippians 2:9-10).

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Beyond The ‘Pain’ Of ‘Discipline’, There Is ‘The Peaceful Fruit Of Righteousness.’

2 Samuel 7:1-29
David was king. God was looking ahead to the next king, Solomon. Knowing the kind of man Solomon would become, God speaks of chastening: ‘When he does wrong, I will chasten him’. This chastening is an expression of God’s ‘steadfast love’: ‘Those whom I love, I rebuke and chasten’. How do we respond to God’s chastening? Don’t be like ‘Saul’. He was ‘put away from’ being king because of his continual disobedience. ‘Be zealous and repent’. When you are being chastened, don’t forget the love of God: ‘The Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives’. Why does God chasten His children? - ‘He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness’. Beyond the ‘pain’ of ‘discipline’, there is ‘the peaceful fruit of righteousness’(14-15; Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-11).

2 Samuel 8:1-9:13
David was involved in many battles with his enemies. Their antagonism had been aroused by his strong stand for the Lord. David enjoyed many victories. Why? - ‘The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went’(8:6,14). Jesus said, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing’(John 15:5). We are not left on our own. Through ‘the kindness of God’, we receive strength (9:3). ‘The heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind’. Through His kindness, He has provided ‘plentiful redemption’. When, through the kindness of God, we enjoy His victory let’s not forget, ‘Every virtue we possess, every victory won, every thought of holiness, are His alone’(Church Hymnary, 218,336). The ‘victory’ does not come from ourselves. It is ‘the victory of our God’: ‘Sing to the Lord… He has done marvellous things’(Psalms 44:3; 98:1-3)!

Do You Feel Useless? You Can Become Useful.

Philemon 1-25
‘He was useless... now he has become useful’(11). This is the story of Onesimus (the name means ‘useful’). A runaway ‘slave’, he became ‘a beloved brother... in the Lord’(16). It appears that Onesimus had stolen from his master, Philemon (18-19). He landed up in prison - and there, he was converted! This is what Paul is telling us when he speaks of ‘Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment’(10). Why did God allow Paul, His faithful servant, to land up in prison - for the sake of the Gospel? Part of the reason was Onesimus. God wanted Paul to meet Onesimus. Paul was to lead Onesimus to Christ. Sometimes, our difficult circumstances may feel like a prison sentence. You want to get out, but you can’t - until God has fulfilled His purpose: the ‘useless’ becomes ‘useful’- in the service of God.

More Of Christ And Less Of Self!

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

Lord, help us to win others for You.

Proverbs 1:20-33
Lord, help us to win others for You. You’ve called us to be Your witnesses. How can we be Your witnesses – when there is so much about us that is unworthy of You, so much that speaks so loudly of ourselves, so little that proclaims the amazing grace of Jesus? Lord, we thank You that, along with this high calling – “you shall be My witnesses”, you give to us Your wonderful promise: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8).

Search The Scriptures: New Testament

This is an updated post. I've just added notes on Mark 7.
________________________

MATTHEW
Jesus was also called Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23). Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ This is the great message that comes to us from the first chapter of the New Testament. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. Along with the Name, Emmanuel, there is the better - known Name - Jesus. The Name of Jesus means “He saves” (Matthew 1:21,25). In the two Names - Emmanuel and Jesus, we have the Good News of our salvation. God has come to earth - that’s the meaning of the Name, Emmanuel. He has come to save us - that’s the meaning of the Name, Jesus.
The wise men did want to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:2). Herod said that he wanted to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). What a difference there is between saying that we want to worship Jesus and really wanting to worship Him. This highlights the conflict between false religion and true worship. Religion may say the right things, but, if we don’t really mean what we say, our words will not make any difference to the way we live. This kind of religion is worthless. What does God say to us about this kind of religion? - “God warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod” (Matthew 2:12). God is still warning His people to steer clear of empty religion. When we come to the Lord, we must not come with empty words - words that we don’t really mean. Our worship is to shape our life. How is our worship to change our way of living? Real worship arises out of salvation. This is very different from religion. Religion says more about ourselves than it says than it says about our Saviour. Salvation is not about us. It’s about Jesus, our Saviour. When He is the focus of our attention, we will learn to worship Him and live for Him.
As the story of Christ’s becoming one of us - His birth - moves on towards the story of His dying in our place - His crucifixion, the story of His baptism is a significant step forward. Jesus identifies with us. He stands in the place of the sinner. John the Baptist said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by You. Why are You coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus was doing everything that God required of Him - everything that needed to be done for sinners to be saved. The chief focus is on His death for us - “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). We do, however, need to look back from His crucifixion to His birth and His baptism. In His birth, we see the sovereign purpose of God. In His baptism, we see the definite choice made by Jesus. In salvation, there is the work of God, and there is our response. God reveals Himself to us through His Son: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We respond to God’s revelation and redemption when we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, when we look away from ourselves - sinners - to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Jesus' victory over Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4) must be seen in the broader context of His work of salvation. This was more than just a personal victory - a victory for Jesus. It was a victory for us. Jesus won the victory for us. He walked in the way of victory so that we might live in the power of His victory. After Jesus had won the victory over Satan, He called His disciples to Him - "Come, follow Me!" - and He sent them out from Him, empowered by Him, to be witnesses for Him - "fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). His victory was more than a victory for His first disciples. It was a victory for all would become believers through their witness. This includes all of us, since each one of us has come to faith in Christ through the testimony of His apostles. When Jesus sent them out, He did more than send them. He showed them what they were to do (Matthew 4:23-25).
Jesus' words, known as "the Sermon  on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7), need to be taken as a whole. We're not to pick out the bits that we like, and ignore the bits that we don't like so much. We're not to come, looking for "comfort" (Matthew 5:4), if we're not also seeking for "righteousness" (Matthew 5:6). We're not to look for peace, if we're not preparing ourselves for persecution (Matthew 5:9-10). We're not to read one verse, and say, "This is great", and then skim over the next verse, as if it wasn't even there.
We're called to be "salt for the earth" and "light for the world" (Matthew 5:13-14). How can we be "salt" and "light" in a world that has turned its back on the things that matter most in life? Can we do this by "setting aside Moses' teaching or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17)? No! Jesus says, "No." He says, 'This is what we must never do. We cannot preserve true Christian living, if we set aside the Word of the Lord. A stripped-down ethic, which changeable from one generation to another, is no substitute for a Christian that is grounded in the Word of God, which is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Who are we come to the Word of God with the attitude that we can decide that there are some things that are "unimportant" (Matthew 5:19)? When God calls something important, we must also say, 'This is important.' It's not to be changed because it doesn't fit in with our modern outlook. Sometimes, people disregard what God's Word says because they think that they have the right, to say, 'This is important. That is unimportant.' When we say this kind of thing, what are we really saying? We're saying, 'I am more important than God. I know better than God." Such an attitude can have no place in the hearts of those who want, through their lives, to "praise their Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  
"You have heard that it was said ... But I say to you ... " (Matthew 5:21-22,27-28,31-32,33-34, 38-39,43-44). When we see the great contrast between what has been said in the past and what Jesus says to His generation and our generation, we must remember Jesus' words, "Don't ever think that I came to set aside Moses; teachings or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17). What does Jesus mean? Clearly, He doesn't just repeat what's already been said. Jesus says, "I didn't come to set them aside but to make them come true" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus doesn't contradict the Old Testament. He brings out its deeper meaning. He reveals its fuller meaning. Jesus is expounding the Word of God. He enables His hearers to see things in a new light - but He doesn't do this by setting aside God's Word. The Word of God stands - for every generation. It is not to be tampered with. It's to be upheld. At the heart of upholding God's Word, there's a very real question we must ask, "What are you saying to us, Lord, here-and-now?"
Jesus speaks about prayer (Matthew 6:5-15), doing good works (Matthew 6:1-4) and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). He emphasizes that we're not to be like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:2,5,16). Sometimes, it is difficult to work out where Jesus is leading us with. In Acts, there's a strong emphasis on God's people praying together. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of praying "in secret." Is there something about us that leads us in the direction of hypocrisy whenever we are praying with others? We find the same emphasis in Jesus' teaching about doing good and fasting. - "Make sure that you don't become like the hypocrites." When we move into the public sphere, we run the risk of hypocrisy. We must never forget this - and we must pray that God will deliver us from hypocrisy.
The values of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gospel values, Kingdom values are very different from the world's values. It's the difference between "treasures on earth" and "treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20). When we treasure the things of earth, we will worry about the things of earth. Jesus says that we are not to worry about these things. We are to have a higher priority than 'looking after No. 1'. We're to be concerned about "God's Kingdom and what has His approval"  (Matthew 6:33). When the things that matter most to God are not the things that matter most to us, other things will take over our lives. What matters most to you? This is what Jesus is asking us. Are the things that matter most to God becoming the things that matter most to us? 
Jesus calls us to be both holy and loving. We need both - holiness and love. We're not to be hypocrites who've given up on holiness. We're not to be content with keeping up appearances. We're to seek holiness of heart. This is the heart of holiness. We're not to be hypocrites who show no love for other people. How can we have much love for God if we don't have much love for other people? A life that's centred on ourselves is very different from a life that's centred on Christ. A life that's being shaped by Christ's love will be a life of receiving His love and sharing His love. He's teaching us how much He loves us. He's helping us to show His love to other people.
Jesus calls us to be both holy and loving. What will it mean to live a life that is becoming both more holy and more loving? It begins with being reached by the love of God and changed by the love of God. We cannot make ourselves more holy. We cannot make ourselves more loving. When we catch a glimpse of the great God, who is both holy loving, we see ourselves as we really are - sinners, and we also see the Saviour who is reaching out to us, the Saviour who can and will change us. How does he change us? He shows us our sin. He forgives our sin. Seeing our sin as it really is, we cannot be, like the Pharisee who looked down his nose at the tax collector (Luke 18:11). Seeing our Saviour as He really is, we know that there is hope for every one who comes to the Saviour. We have His precious promise - "I will never turn away anyone who comes to  Me" (John 6:37). When the love of Christ reaches us, we rejoice in this: "Every offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives." Thankful to the Lord for His love, which has reached us, we pray that His love will change us. We pray that we will become more like Jesus - more holy and more loving. We will say, 'Lord, Your love has reached us. May Your love change us. May your love inspire us to live a life that is pleasing to you - a life of holiness, a life of love.' We cannot change ourselves. We need to be changed by the Lord. Let us pray for His help. Let us pray that He will fill us with His love. This is where true  holiness comes from. It comes from the love of God, reaching us. It comes from the love of God, changing us. The love of God - This is the real power that lies behind a life of holiness and love. We need more holiness. We need more love. These are not things that we can reach out and grasp for ourselves. We must always look away from ourselves to the Lord - "How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?" (Matthew 7:12).
The choices that we make while we are here on earth will decide whether we will spend eternity with him or apart from Him. This is the message of Matthew 7:13-14. "False prophets ... vicious wolves" will seek to lead us away from the Lord (Matthew 7:15-16). We must pray that the Lord will deliver us from paying lip-service to Him without living our whole life for Him (Matthew 7:21-23). How are we to live for the Lord? - We must hear His Word and obey it (Matthew 7:24). Obedience to God's Word begins with hearing His Word. Hearing God's Word leads to obeying His Word. May God help us to build on Christ, always receiving His Word as the Word that speaks to us with His authority.
In Matthew 8:1-17, we see Jesus' healing ministry. There are three miracles - healing people who were suffering from "a skin disease" (Matthew 8:1-4), paralysis (Matthew 8:5-13) and "a fever" (Matthew 8:14-15). After these three miracles, we have a more general statement about the ministry of casting out demons (Matthew 8:16-17). This is followed by Matthew 8:18 - "Now, when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He ordered His disciples to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee." Jesus was moving from place to place, taking His ministry to more people. 
In Matthew 8:19-34, we learn about discipleship (Matthew 8:19-22), peace (Matthew 8:23-27) and deliverance (Matthew 8:28-34). How sad it is that this chapter ends with these words: "Everyone from the city went to meet Jesus. When they saw Him, they begged him to leave their territory" (Matthew 8:34). If it had ended with the words, "Everyone went out to meet Jesus", we would say, "Wonderful! We want more of this." When this is followed by the sentence, "When they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their territory", we sense that we are in the presence of something solemn, even something sinister. What we have here is the activity of Satan. Even when the Lord is working powerfully, Satan is also at work, seeking to hinder the work of God, creating resistance in the hearts of those who have begun to show an initial interest in Jesus. Satan gets worried. Hr does everything he can to prevent people moving from seeking to finding. Let us take our stand against Satan. Let us take our stand in the Name of Christ. Let us take our stand in the power of Christ.
We read, in Matthew 9:2, of the forgiveness of sins. This is followed, in Matthew 9:6, by the words that brought healing to the paralyzed man. When we read about Jesus' healing miracles, we must also remember the healing that comes to us through the forgiveness of our sins. The healing of our lives begins here. From this beginning - the forgiveness of our sins, we move on to the healing of our lives, which takes place when we look to the Lord to take the brokenness of our lives and put everything back together again. This is followed by Matthew's own story. He receives the forgiveness of his sins. From the conversion of Matthew, the message that comes to us is this: Jesus "came to call sinners" (Matthew 9:13).  We come to Jesus - with our sins. We receive from Him - our salvation. At the heart of our salvation is this great message: God does more for us than forgiving our sins. He gives us new life - described here as "new wine" (Matthew 9:17).
In Matthew 9:18-38, we read about Jesus' healing ministry. At the end of Matthew 9, there's a reminder to us that the Lord's work is to be carried on by His followers - "The harvest is large, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord who gives this harvest to send workers to harvest His crops" (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus wasn't saying, 'Look at what I am doing and see how great I am." He was saying, 'Look at what I am doing and learn from Me - learn how to see the crowds with compassion, to see them in their trouble, to see how helpless they are - "like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). we are to be looking at Jesus and learning from Him. We are to be looking at the world and seeing how we can serve the world for Jesus' sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
"Don't go among people who are not Jewish ..." (Matthew 10:5). The time for reaching out to the Gentiles had not yet come. After Jesus' resurrection, the Good News of His love and His salvation were to be taken to "the ends of the earth" (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). This ministry was to be carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit - "The Spirit of your Father will be speaking through you" (Matthew 10:20). This was to continue after Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:8; Acts 2:3). If we are to speak for the Lord, He must be our "Teacher" (Matthew 10:24). The Lord teaches us, and we are to teach others - "Teach and make disciples" (Matthew 28:18-20).
In Matthew 11, we learn, from Jesus the Saviour, about John the Baptist. From the warnings given by Jesus to Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, we learn of the urgency of the Word of the Lord. The highlight of Matthew 11 is found in verse 28 - "Come to Me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest."
"It is right to do good on the day of worship" (Matthew 12:12). Why did Jesus have authority over the day of worship? It was because of who He is. He is worshipped. Jesus fulfils prophecy (Mathew 12:17-21). He has authority over Satan (Matthew 12:28). The victory of Jesus over Satan becomes ours when we receive God's Word, with humble faith, as "the sword of the Spirit." This speaks of the work of the Spirit in and through the Word. The Spirit leads us to Jesus. He leads us out for Jesus. Jesus is risen from the dead (Matthew 12:40), Let us serve Him and be His true family (Matthew 12:50).
In Matthew 13, we see Jesus, the Storyteller. His stories are ordinary stories - with an extraordinary message. The stories are human. The message is divine. They are stories about people. They are stories about God. Following on from Jesus' parables, we have His return to "His hometown" (Matthew 13:54). The people were "amazed" at His teaching (Matthew 13:54), They did not, however, look for a divine explanation. They looked at Jesus in a human way. They said that He shouldn't be able to speak like this. They denied Him the right to speak with divine authority. They did not hear and receive what He said to them. What did Jesus say about them? "The only place a prophet isn't honoured is in his hometown and in his own house" (Matthew 13:57). What was the result of their refusal to recognize Jesus' authority? His power was not released among them: "He didn't work many miracles there because of their lack of faith" (Matthew 13:58).
Jesus the Saviour is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12). Jesus does more than proving physical food. He is the Bread  of Life (Matthew 14:13-21). Jesus has power over nature (Matthew 14:22-36) - because He is "the Son of God, Look, the Lamb" (Matthew 14:33). We look beyond John to Jesus. John pointed away from himself to Jesus, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  Jesus is our Saviour. Let us praise Him for all that He is, all that He has done for us and all that He has given to us.
The Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus with a question: "Why do your disciples break the traditions of our ancestors ...?" (Matthew 15:2). Jesus answered them with another question: "Why do you break the commandments of God because of your traditions?" (Matthew 15:3). Their question was shallow. His question was deep. They were concerned with external observance of human traditions. He directed their attention to something far important - heartfelt obedience to God's Word. We are  not to honour God with our lips, while our hearts remain far from Him.
"Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!" (Matthew 17:6). Even after there is divine revelation (Matthew 16:17), the influence of evil can be felt (Matthew 16:23). The warning - "Be careful! Watch out ... !" must never be forgotten. Satan is looking for an opportunity to leads us away from the Lord. We must hear what Jesus is saying to us about discipleship (Matthew 16:24), and we must commit  ourselves to Him (Matthew 16:25). There is nothing more important than this (Matthew 16:26). If we are to be true followers of Jesus, we must learn to live our lives in the light of eternity (Matthew 16:27). We are to seek revelations of God's eternal Kingdom, revelations which will send us back, from the mountain-top, to live each day for Jesus.
"They saw no one but Jesus" (Matthew 17:8). Everyone else is secondary. Jesus is the central theme. "Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:21). We must not think according to human expectations. We must let the Word of God inspire us to accomplish great things for God and His Kingdom. May we never forget to give great glory to God. "The disciples became sad" (Matthew 17:23), because they did not understand. What god gives to us is greater than we can imagine. Let us praise Him.
Learning from children and caring for children: This is what Jesus speaks about in Matthew 18:1-10. We should never act like we know it all, and have nothing more to learn. We should never act like we're a law unto ourselves. We must do all that we can to protect little children in a world that has so many dangers. We need little children. They have something to teach us. Little children need us. They need the protection that we, adults, can give to them.
"The Son of Man came to save the lost" (Matthew 18:11). In Matthew 18:12-1, Jesus speaks about sheep. He's really speaking about us. He is the Shepherd. We are His sheep. Sheep wander away from the shepherd. We wander away from the Lord. The shepherd looks for the lost sheep. Jesus has come to seek for us and find us. He brings  us home to God, our Father. Through His saving grace, we receive new life - a life  in which we rejoice in our great Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He delivers us from the condemnation, which our sin has brought upon us. He brings us into the knowledge of His forgiveness. This Gospel of salvation changes us. It teaches us to live in the power of God's love.
Jesus speaks about "the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:12,23), "the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:14,24) and "eternal life" (Matthew 19:29).  Jesus' way of thinking and living is so very different from the world's way of thinking and living. He challenges us to think His way and live his way.
"The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matthew 20:16). This is the reversal of the world's values. This is grace - not works. The way in which grace reaches us is through Christ's death and resurrection  (Matthew 20:17-19). When we hear the Gospel - Jesus "came to serve and gave His life as a ransom for many people" (Matthew 20:28), our eyes are opened to see who Jesus really is and to understand what He has done for us, and we follow Him (Matthew 20:34).
In Matthew 21:1-22, we learn that Jesus is a very different King from the kings of this world. He is the King of love. There is no tyranny, no dictatorship, no reign of terror. Alongside His love, there is His holiness. We see this in the cleansing of the Temple. He is looking for us to be fruitful. This is the lesson of the cursed fig tree. May God help us to be fruitful - in holiness and in love.
In Matthew 21:23-46, we learn that the authority of Jesus is heard in His words and seen in His actions. He speaks of grace. He lives by grace. Jesus is the foundation of our salvation. Without Him, there is no salvation. With Him, we are greatly blessed. What a great Saviour He is!
What variety there is in Matthew 22 - a story about a wedding reception, a question about taxes, the dead come back to life, love God and your neighbour, how can David's son be David's Lord? When we read the Gospels, we must allow the Lord Jesus to speak to us on all the subjects that He brings to us. We are not to select our favourite passages and ignore the other passages. If we only read the parts we like, we are not really listening to the Lord. He has so much to say to us. Lord, give us a listening ear.
In Matthew 23, we have a devastating protest against hypocrisy. What is a protest against hypocrisy? It's a protest for holiness. God is calling us to be holy. He is saying to us that we must never be content with hypocrisy. God has something better for us. The way of holiness begins with welcoming the Saviour. Our faith and life are grounded in Him - "Blessed is the One who comes in the Name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39). Jesus inspires our worship. He gives us strength for living.
Why does Jesus speak to us about the end-times? - He is encouraging us to "endure to the end" (Matthew 24:13). We cannot endure to the end without the grace of God: "If God does not reduce the number of those days, no one will be saved" (Matthew 24:22). God's Word tells us that we are to "keep ourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). It also tells us that we are kept, in the love of God, by the power of God - the power of His love (Jude 24).
Jesus speaks about the end-times: "The earth and heaven will disappear." He also speaks about something that will never come to an end: "My words will never disappear" (Matthew 24:35). In all of life's changing circumstances, we must hold on to this great truth: God's Word is forever.
Whenever the end-times are spoken of, many strange things are said. People speak as if they know it all. The more they say, the more they show that they don't know it all. We need to make sure that we keep listening to what God's Word says to us. This will keep us from being deceived by people who make things up as they go along. The main thing that Jesus says to us is this:  "you must be ready because the Son of Man will return when you least expect Him" (Matthew 24:44).
Matthew 25 begins with the words, "When the end comes" (Matthew 25:1), and ends with the words, "eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). Often, we might wish that this was all that the Word of God says  about "the end" - "eternal life." This is not all that is said. Jesus also speaks to us about eternal loss (Matthew 25:11-12,30,41,46). The choices that determine eternal loss and eternal life are being made here-and-now. Each one of us must decide whether we will be like the wise bridesmaids or the foolish bridesmaids. By our way of life, here on earth, we will show whether we are "good and faithful servants" or "useless servants." Our response to the Lord will be seen in our response to other people (Matthew 25:40). Live for the Lord now. Live with Him in eternity.
"At that time, the Son  of Man will be handed over to be crucified" (Matthew 26:2). Jesus was not taken by surprise. He knew what He was letting Himself in for. He knew why He had come to earth. He knew what He had come to do. He knew the purpose of His life. "You will not always have Me with you. She poured this perfume on My body before it is placed in a tomb" (Matthew 26:11-12). Jesus was under no illusions about what lay ahead of Him. He had come to die. The time of His crucifixion was drawing near - and He knew it. Immediately after He speaks about His tomb, He speaks about the "Good News" being "spoken  in the world" (Matthew 26:13). He knew the connection between the two - His death and the Good News. He died for us. This is the Good News of God's love.
In Matthew 26:14-35, we read about Judas, Peter and Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus - but Jesus knew all about it before it happened. Jesus knew what was going on behind the scenes with Judas. Peter denied Jesus. Again, Jesus knew that this was going to happen. Between Jesus' identification of Judas and Peter as the men who would betray Him and deny Him, there is the Lord's Supper. How wonderful this is - we hear  about human failure (sin), and we also hear about our Saviour's sacrifice for the salvation of sinners.
"Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, let Your will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Jesus was not just a passive victim of circumstances. He embraced the will of God, his loving, heavenly Father. He saw what needed to be done, and He said, 'I will do it.' He said, 'I will give Myself in death so that sinners might be forgiven and live eternally in the heavenly glory of God's Kingdom.
"All of this happened so that what the prophets have written would come true" (Matthew 26:56). "The Son of Man will be coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). Here, we have looking back to what came before and looking forward to what lies ahead. If we are  to avoid becoming like Peter, who denied Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75), we need this big perspective on Jesus. He is much more than a man, more than a prophet, more than a good example. he came from heaven. He returned to heaven. He will come, again, from heaven. When we keep before our eyes what the Scriptures teach us about Jesus, we will not be taken in by those who reduce Jesus to the human level. We will, always by the grace of God, stand up for Jesus, lifting Him up as the perfect Son of God and the perfect Saviour of sinners.
"Thirty silver coins" (Matthew 27:3,9) - Jesus' enemies paid the price to Judas. Jesus paid the price for us. Thank God for Jesus. His sacrifice for sin was worth much more than the money paid to Judas by Jesus' enemies. His sacrifice of Himself for our salvation was the only way in which the price could be paid. Jesus took our sin upon Himself so that we might receive God's salvation - as a free gift.
"Jesus said absolutely nothing in him in reply, so the governor was very surprised" (Matthew 27:14). Jesus had not come to escape death. He had come to die. Pilate was surprised. He did not understand. This was not the normal response. Jesus could not be understood according to the thinking of other people. He was a special person. He had a special purpose. He was heading to the Cross. The place of His suffering was to become the place of our salvation. Thank You, Jesus.
"The release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus" (Matthew 27:20) - In this, we catch a glimpse of the meaning of Christ's death. The sinless Saviour dies for the guilty sinner. "He saved others, but he can't save himself" (Matthew 27:42. The two are  connected. He saves others by sacrificing Himself. "My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?" (Matthew 27:46). This is Jesus, taking our place, bearing our sin. "The curtain in the temple was split in two, from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51). Notice the direction. The barrier to our coming into God's presence is removed from above. It is the work of God. It is His doing. Glory to the Lord!
Securing the tomb - That's what they tried to do. Raising the dead - That's what God did. "He's not here. He has been brought back to life, as He said" (Matthew 28:6). What a tremendous turnaround! What, to man, is impossible, becomes reality through the power of God. "Don't be afraid! Go, tell My followers to go to Galilee. There, they will see Me" (Matthew 28:10). The first revelation of the risen Lord - It's for His followers, but they're not to keep the Good News to themselves. This is for us. We're to bring Jesus and His love to more and more people. We do not go to people in our name. We go with the "authority" of Jesus, our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20). He is with us "until the end of time."
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MARK
This is the beginning of the notes on Mark’s Gospel. I will add more notes.
“Good News” - “the forgiveness of sins” and “baptism with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:1,4,8). This Good News is centred on Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son (Mark 1:11). Jesus was empowered by “the Spirit” (Mark 1:12). He comes to us with “the Good news of God” (Mark 1:(14). He calls for our response - “Change the way you think and act, and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15). Where does this change come from? It comes from the Good News. This is what changes us. By becoming Christ-centred (following Jesus), we become less self-centred and more other-centred. Jesus teaches us “how to catch people instead of fish” (Mark 1:17).
“He taught them with authority” (Mark 1:22). We need both - the teaching and the authority. It is the teaching that gives the authority. We are taught by the Lord. We speak with the authority that comes from this: God’s Word is truth. When we know that the revelation has come to us from the Lord, we are able to understand and communicate God’s Word of truth. This is not about our level of understanding or our ability to communicate. It’s about the Lord, making Himself known to us and enabling us to share His Word with others. What do we have to share with others? We have “Good News” (Mark 1:38-39). “People kept coming to Him from everywhere” (Mark 1:45). Lord, give us such blessing in our day.
Jesus brings us salvation - “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5) - and He calls us to discipleship - “Follow Me” (Mark 2:14). We cannot be His disciples without, first, coming to Him for salvation. We must emphasize that salvation leads to discipleship. Our discipleship demonstrates the reality of our salvation. We must hear the words, “I’ve come to call sinners” (Mark 2:17) before we can respond to the call to live as “saints” (God’s people). By nature, we are not God’s people. Through His redemption, we become His people. We are redeemed through the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). We are called to live in the strength of the Lord, walking with Him in the pathway of victory, “more than conquerors” through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
"New wine is poured into fresh skins" (Mark 2:22). New, fresh - This is the work of God. This isn't something that we can do for ourselves or give to ourselves. This must be done for us. It must be given to us. All the glory belongs to the Lord! "The Son of Man has authority over the day of worship" (Mark 2:28) - It's not so much the activity of worship that's important. It's the Saviour whom we worship - He's the One who makes worship so important. We worship Him.
"Jesus ... was deeply hurt because their minds were closed" (Mark 3:5). "Whoever curses the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He is guilty of an everlasting sin" (Mark 3:29). "Whoever does what God wants is My brother and sister and mother" (Mark 3:35). These are challenging verses, They call us to be open to the life-changing love of Christ, to draw back from the evil way of unbelief and disobedience, to allow the Lord to change us into "new creatures In Christ Jesus" and inspire us to live as "a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Parables: Where does the understanding come from? It comes from the  Lord. Before there can be "harvest" (Mark 4:29), there needs to be sowing (Mark 4:26). We are not to say, "This one is good soil. Here, there is bad soil." Following some parables, we have Jesus calming the sea (Mark 4:35-41) - "Be still" (Mark 4:39): This is the Word of the Lord. Where does peace come from? It comes from the Lord. It comes to us through His Word.
In Mark 5, we learn that Jesus is for everyone - a demoniac called Legion, a synagogue leader named Jairus, a child,  a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for twelve years. The more we learn of Jesus, the more we learn that He is for everyone. Each of us needs Him. He comes to us at our point of need. He shows us how much we need Him.He reaches out to us. He draws us to Himself. He saves us. From whatever angle, we approach this chapter - Legion, Jairus, the child, the woman, the message is the same: Jesus is such a great Saviour!
"Their unbelief amazed Him" (Mark 6:6). The Lord has done so much for us. Why do we persist in unbelief? There is no real answer to this question, other than this: "The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Our unbelief may be amazing. His grace is so much more amazing. it is also amazing that the Lord should choose sinners like us to carry forward His work (Mark 6:12-13).
"When Herod listened to John, he would become very disturbed, and yet he liked to listen to him" (Mark 6:20). There are people who like to listen to God's Word, but they refuse to be changed by God's Word. Listening to God's Word is of no value, if it doesn't lead to being changed by God's Word.
As we read of the feeding of the five thousand, our thoughts turn to the Lord's Supper - Jesus blessed the food, broke it and gave it to everyone. "All of them ate as much as they wanted" (Mark 6:42). In the Lord  Jesus Christ - the Bread of Life, there is more than enough for everyone.
"They were in a lot of trouble ...because they were going against the wind" (Mark 6:48).  We make a lot of trouble for ourselves when we go against the wind of the Spirit. John 3 and Acts 2 compare the Spirit to the wind. We need to go with the wind of the Spirit if we are to be blessed by the Lord."
They didn't understand ... their minds were closed" (Mark 6:52). Where does understanding come from? It comes from the Lord. How does understanding come to us? It comes to us when we open our minds - "Lord, show me what this means."
There's a huge difference between salvation through Jesus and the religion of the Pharisees. Jesus had this to say to the Pharisees: "You abandon the commandments of God to follow human traditions" (Mark 7:8). Jesus' words are a challenge to us - Will we stand on the Word of the Lord? or Will we let our own ideas become more important than God's Word? The woman who "happened to be Greek" (Mark 7:26) is a better example to us than the Pharisees. She's a woman of faith. Her trust is in Jesus. Faith brings blessing into our lives. Tradition sees no real need for a living faith - so long as we keep doing that have always been done. When Jesus is at work in us, He touches our ears - so that we may hear the Word of God clearly - and our tongues - so that we may not speak the Word of God faithfully and powerfully: "At once", following on from the touch of Jesus, "the man could hear and talk normally" (Mark 7:35).
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LUKE
This is the beginning of the notes on Luke’s Gospel. I will add more notes.
“You will know that what you have been told is true” (Luke 1:4). Historical truth underlies the spiritual truth through which the Spirit brings home to our hearts the meaning of the Gospel. Without the historical truth, there is no Gospel. The Gospel is not based on myth. It is God’s testimony to His truth: truth - unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. The historical truth of the Gospel is not something that we can set aside, as we search for some deep meaning, which is independent of historical truth.
“He will prepare the people for their Lord” (Luke 1:17). Before the people could come to Jesus, they needed to come to John. The role of the witness is to lead people to Jesus. They come to us with the question, “What do you have to say?” As they listen, they become less interested in what we have to say and more concerned with hearing the Word of the Lord. What is it that leads people beyond the words of man to the Word of God? “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:16).
We tend to think of Jesus’ birth as supernatural, and the birth of John the Baptist as natural. It should be noted that it’s in connection with John’s birth that the angel of the Lord says that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). John wasn’t born of a virgin - but his birth did have a supernatural dimension. In both births - Jesus and John, God was at work. He was carrying forward His plan of salvation.
The birth of Jesus and the birth of John are closely connected. God was sending His Son. He was also sending His prophet. The prophet should not be exalted too highly.  His purpose is to exalt the Saviour. As we read about Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, we see that each of them gave glory to the Lord. "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" (Luke 1::41). "Mary said, My soul praises the Lord's greatness" (Luke 1:46). "Zechariah began to praise God .... Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied" (Luke 1:64-67).
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JOHN
This is the beginning of the notes on John's Gospel. I will add more notes.
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"The Light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it" (John 1:5).
Jesus is the Light of the world. We are to be like John, who said, "Make the way for the Lord straight" (John 1:23). Like John, we are to say, "Look! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). When we are faithful, we will see others being brought to the Saviour. At the beginning of their faith, they will be filled with the joy of the Lord. Like Jesus, we must teach them that there is greater joy, still to come: "You will see the sky open and God's angels going up and coming down to the Son of Man" (John 1:51).
There's a contrast between the two parts of John 2 - the joy of water being turned into wine (John 2:1-12), the seriousness of the money changers being thrown out of the temple courtyard (John 2:13-17). We need both - joy and seriousness; the joy that comes from knowing Jesus, the seriousness of commitment to following Jesus. The rebuilding of our lives comes from the resurrection of Jesus (John 2:18-22). This rebuilding comes to us when we seek to know the reality of the Lord in our lives. This reality comes to us when we seek to be real with God (John 2:23-25).
God's love sent God's Son (John 3:16). God's power brings the new birth (John 3:6-8). God's love and power flow through those who, like John the Baptist, give first place to Jesus - "He must increase in importance, while I must decrease in importance" (John 3:1-36)
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ACTS
This is the beginning of the notes on Acts. I will add more.
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:2,5,8,16) - This was the time for the fulfilment of promises made by Jesus during His earthly ministry (John 14:16,25; John 16:12).
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4,17-18,33,38) - God is doing a new thing. This far surpasses all that happened in the Old Testament. What had been promised is now reality. From prophecy to power - This is what happened on the Day of Pentecost.
Peter points away from  himself to Jesus (Acts 3:12-16). What he's emphasizing is this - This is more than what I say about Jesus. It's what the prophets said about Him. This was God speaking through the prophets (Acts 3:18).
"The power of Jesus Christ" (Acts 4:10) - This is more than the healing of one man. This is salvation for all who come to Jesus, the Saviour (Acts 4:12).
"All the people were praising God for what had happened" (Acts 4:21). This wasn't  praise for Peter and John. It was praise to God. We must learn to look beyond the servants of God to the God whom they serve.
The apostles pray for God's help (Acts 4:23-31). The believers share their property (Acts 4:32-37). The Lord is doing a mighty work among His people. At the heart of this work of God, there is "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:31).
God was doing a mighty work - and He was protecting it. Satan was trying to destroy the work of God - but God was one step ahead of him. This work must go on. It must not be spoiled. Following on from the act of divine judgment (Acts 5:1-11), there was great blessing (Acts 5:12-16). The judgment came so that Satan may be prevented from having a mighty triumph over God's people. This judgment paved the way for the blessing. First, there was God's purifying judgment. Then, there was His abundant blessing.
"The Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). "The men you put in prison are standing in the temple courtyard. They're teaching the people" (Acts 5:25). "Every day in the temple courtyard and from house to house, they refused to stop teaching and telling the Good News that Jesus is the Messiah" (Acts 5:42). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the work of the Lord moved forward. There was great boldness in preaching the Gospel. People were brought to the Saviour.
"The Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5) - This is in relation to social concern. "Prayer and the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4) - This is not the whole service of the Lord. It lies at the heart of God's work, but there must also be ways of showing people that we care.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Help us, Lord, to keep on praying that our love for You will grow.

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

Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Psalms 120:1-121:8
‘Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips’ (Psalm 120:2). Lord, You’re calling us to ‘believe the truth’, ‘love the truth’ and ‘follow the truth’. We are to be people who ‘do what is true’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; 3 John 3-4; John 3:21). How can we be such people? Help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is ‘the Truth’ (Hebrews 12:2; John 14:6). When we’re tempted to turn away from the pathway of truth, help us to remember this: ‘My help comes from the Lord’. Help us to remember Your promise: ‘The Lord is your Keeper…The Lord will keep you from all evil’. Your promise is not only for ‘this time’. It’s ‘for evermore’ (Psalm 121:2,5,7-8). Give to us the glorious hope that fills our hearts as we keep on looking to Christ,‘eagerly awaiting’ His Return ( Hebrews 9:28).

Jesus is able to deliver us from the evil one.

Psalm 91:1-16
‘Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter’(Psalm 91:3). Lord, You have given us Your warning. We must ‘be alert’- ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. You have also given us Your promise – ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. How are we to resist the devil? – We are to ‘resist him, standing firm in the faith’(1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7). Help us not to try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are. Help us to resist him in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have the victory – ‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’(1 Corinthians 15:57). Help us never to forget that Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Help us never to forget this: Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one’(Matthew 6:13).

May God's Blessing Surround You Each Day ...

God's Word is "a lamp to our feet and a light to our path." He has "wondrous things" to teach us as we pray "Open my eyes that I may see" (Psalm 119:105, 18, 11). "May God's blessing surround you each day, as you trust Him and walk in His way. May His presence within guard and keep you from sin, go in peace, go in joy, go in love." "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your Name give glory, because of Your mercy and Your truth" (Psalm 115:1).

The Great Love Of God

Psalms 113:1-114:8 
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’(Psalm 113:4-5; Psalm 114:7-8). Lord, You are greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like Your greatness. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with Your greatness. Your greatness is not only the greatness of Your power. It is also the greatness of Your love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of Your power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of Your love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’

Holy Fear And Heartfelt Love

Psalms 98:1-100:5
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’(Psalm 99:5,9; Psalm 98:4,6; Psalm 100:1). Lord, You're calling us to worship You with joy. You're calling us to glorify You. You want us to enjoy You. In our worship, may we never forget Your holiness: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’(99:5,9). In our worship, may we rejoice in Your love: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’(Psalm 100:5; Psalm 98:1). You are the God of ‘awesome purity’ - and You love us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’. Help us to worship You with holy fear and heartfelt love.

Are we to say, ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’?

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

You keep on loving us, no matter what’s going on in our lives.

Psalm 119:73-96
Lord, we rejoice in Your ‘constant love’. This is our ‘comfort’ - You keep on loving us, no matter what’s going on in our lives. We may be going through really hard times - ‘Men persecute me with lies... They have almost succeeded in killing me’. There’s one thing that never changes - Your ‘constant love’. You love us in the hard times as well as in the happy times. Your love inspires us to keep on loving You when we feel like giving up in despair (Psalm 11976,86-88). We see many changes taking place in our world. Sometimes, we wonder, ‘Where are You, Lord, in all of this? Have You abandoned us? Can we keep on trusting You and rejoicing in Your Word?’. When our minds are full of negative thoughts, help us, Lord, to remember Your Word - ‘Your Word, O Lord, will last for ever... Your faithfulness endures through all the ages’ (Psalm 119:89-90).

Lord, You have so much to teach us – and we have so much to learn.

Lord, You have so much to teach us – and we have so much to learn. How do we learn from You? – You open up Your Word to us. You speak to us words of life. You shine Your light upon us. You show us how much You love us. Every day You have something to say to us. Every day, You have something to share with us. Every day, You show us more of Your love for us. Help us, each and every day, to take time to learn from You.
Throughout life, Lord, we have to make choices. Some choices are relatively straightforward. Others are very much more difficult. Some choices don’t affect the rest of our life very much. There are, however, choices which affect the whole of our life. Help us, Lord, to make the one choice which is more important than any other – Choosing the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. Those who refuse to choose are ‘double-minded’(Psalm 119:113). They can’t make up their mind. They know that they should be following Christ – but they are still ‘in love with the world’. They are ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (I John 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:4). Lord, give us the strength to keep on choosing Christ. Help us to say to the world, ‘Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God’. Help us to say to You, ‘I have decided to obey Your laws until the day I die’ (Psalm 119:115,112).

Worshipping the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!

Psalm 104:1-35
‘I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 104:33). Sometimes, Lord, we feel like giving up. Other things become more important to us. Worshipping You gets pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes creep in. It starts with the idea, ‘Worship’s just an hour on a Sunday’. Then, it becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I feel like it’. It soon becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I’ve nothing better to do’. Before long, all desire for worshipping You Lord has gone! Little-by-little, we drift away from the Lord. It’s time, for us, to start thinking about what’s happening. It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time for an ‘all my life’ commitment to worshipping You, Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!

How, Lord, do we receive Your strength?

Psalm 105:1-22
‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done...’(Psalm 105:4-5). Lord, You give strength to those who put their trust in You. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’(Philippians 4:13). How, Lord, do we receive Your strength? We must '‘seek Your face always'. We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without Your strength, we will be defeated. You have helped us in the past. Help us never to forget this. Help us to give thanks to You for every victory won. As we face temptation, help us to remember Your promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape...’(1 Corinthians 10:13).

Some things are worth repeating!

Psalm 107:1-43 
Lord, there are some things that are worth repeating! The story of Your amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again - ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’(Psalm 107:6,13,19,28). The call to praise You is also something we need to hear again and again - ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’(Psalm 107:8,15,21,31). Help us, Lord, 'consider Your great love.' Help us to ‘give thanks to You’(Psalm 107:43,1). 

What, Lord, are we to do when the world, the flesh and the devil are threatening to overwhelm us?

Psalm 109:1-31 
Lord, we come to You, recognizing that, without You, our situation is hopeless - ‘I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I fade away like an evening shadow’(Psalm 109:22). When our enemies are on the attack, we are no match for them. What are we to do when the world, the flesh and the devil are threatening to overwhelm us? We must come to You, Lord, praying for Your help, asking You to save us - ‘Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with Your love’(Psalm 109:26). Help us, Lord, to look away from ourselves and our own weakness. Help us to put our trust in You and Your strength. You will not fail us. You ‘stand beside’ us in our time of testing. You ‘save’ us from our enemies. Help us to keep on praising You: ‘I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth. I will praise Him among many people...’(Psalm 109:30-31).

We come to You, Lord, in our weakness, and You ‘renew our strength.’

Psalm 110:1-7 
‘The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand...’(Psalm 110:1). Lord, we read these words, and we think of our Lord Jesus Christ: When ‘He was taken up into heaven, He sat at the right hand of God’(Mark 16:19). When Jesus ascended to Your Father’s right hand, the Holy Spirit was sent down from heaven to fill our lives with Your blessing (John 7:37-39). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our lives are changed: ‘In the Day of Your power, Your people will come to You willingly...’. We come to You, Lord, in our weakness, and You ‘renew our strength’. We come to You in our weariness, and we are ‘refreshed’ by Your ‘streams of living water’(Psalm 110,7). ‘Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise.’

The Lord Is Our Rock.

Psalm 144:1-15 
‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle’(Psalm 144:1). Lord, You are ‘the One who gives victory’ to Your people (Psalm 144:10). What a great God You are! You are ‘our loving God, our Fortress, our Stronghold, our Deliverer, our Shield’ (Psalm 144:2). What great blessing You send into our lives! You fight for us (Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; 3: 22; Nehemiah 4:20). You are ‘our Strength’ (Psalm 28:7-8; Psalm 59:17). ‘With God we shall gain the victory’ (Psalm 60:12). We pray You will pour out Your blessing upon us: ‘Part Your heavens, O Lord, and come down... Reach down Your hand from on high...’ (Psalm 144:5,7). Lord, we think of how much You have blessed us. Help us to sing our song of praise to You: ‘I will sing a new song to You, O God’ (Psalm 144:9). 

Great God, Great Love, Great Faithfulness

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

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Lord, help us to be doers of Your Word.

Proverbs 1:1-7
Lord, help us to be doers of Your Word. Hearing Your Word is easier than doing Your Word. We hear what You’re saying to us – but do we do what You’re telling us to do? This is the great question we must always ask ourselves. It’s the great question that You’re always putting to us. It’s a question that calls for an answer – ‘Not my will but Yours be done’ (Matthew 26:39).

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Loved By The Lord - And Saved By Him

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

We stand in the strength of the Lord.

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

King Jesus

“For a full 180 days, King Xerxes displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendour and glory of his majesty” (Esther 1:4).
As I was reading these words about King Xerxes, I thought about another king, a very different king, a much better king – King Jesus. What did Jesus say about His Kingdom?  This is what He said – “My Kingdom is not of this world… My Kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). We read about Xerxes. We read about Jesus. We must make our choice. What is most important to us – this world or the world towards which God is calling us, the world of His glory?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Mercy Of God And The Ministry Of His Word

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

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

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

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

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

Some schoolmasters may be viewed as disciplinarians. I think, however, we should see the work of the Holy Spirit here. He convicts us of sin and leads us to Christ. This is not the impersonal law. It's the personal approach of the Holy Spirit. In grace and mercy, He shows us how far we have fallen short of God's perfect standard so that He might gently lead us to the Cross of Christ, the place where we receive the forgiveness of all our sins.
In Galatians 4:6, we learn that ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.’ The Spirit is not a reward which we earn by being good people. We are bad people who have broken God's law. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). The Spirit is not a reward which we earn because of our good works. Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ (Galatians 3:13-14).
When the Spirit brings us to Christ our Saviour, He takes us through a process which could be described as disciplinarian. We could look at His work in this way - so long as we see much more of divine grace in this than we would normally associate with the word "disciplinarian"!
The Spirit strips us of our human pride. He leads us to come to Christ with humility. When the Spirit has done His work in our hearts, we do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling.’ All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.’
Let's look beyond the idea of the law as a disciplinarian. Let's give thanks to God. He has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).

Help us to resist Satan – in Your strength.

2 Kings 23:31-24:17 “The king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valour … all of them strong and fit for war” (2 King...