Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Holy City or The Holy Saviour?

"… Jerusalem, the city where I chose to place My Name” (1 Kings 11:36).
Jerusalem is called the Holy City. It’s not so much Jerusalem that’s holy. It’s the Name of the Lord that’s holy – and He has placed His holy Name in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Jesus died for us and rose again for us. Again, it’s not Jerusalem that’s holy. It’s our Saviour who’s holy. Jerusalem’s a special place because Jesus is special. There’s no one like Him. He’s our Lord. He’s our Saviour.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Is There A Revelation In A Genealogy?

Ruth 4:18-22

“A genealogy is a striking way of bringing before us the continuity of God’s purpose through the ages. The process of history is not haphazard. There is a purpose in it all. And the purpose is the purpose of God.” (Leon Morris, Ruth).

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Revised Common Lectionary: Year C

Revised Common Lectionary – Year C
First Sunday of Advent: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36
Every spiritual blessing - in Christ: Come to Him and receive His blessing.
‘I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against Me... Then this city will bring Me renown, joy, praise, and honour before all nations on earth...’(Jeremiah 33:7-9). What great blessing lay ahead of God’s people! God was pointing His people to the place of blessing: Jesus Christ - ‘the righteous Branch from David’s line’(Jeremiah 33:15-16). ‘In Christ’, we have ‘every spiritual blessing’: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’(Ephesians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 2:9). God has so much blessing to give to us. Come to Him and receive His blessing: ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you; I will show you wonderful and marvellous things that you know nothing about’(Jeremiah 33:3).
We put no confidence in the flesh. Our confidence is in the Lord. He is the God of our salvation.
‘Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation’(Psalm 25:5). We can pray this prayer with confidence. God has given His promise: ‘He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way’(Psalm 25:9). Our confidence is in the Lord. We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’(Philippians 3:3). Jesus teaches us that God hides Himself from the proud and reveals Himself to the humble: ‘…Father…Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes’(Matthew 11:25). In the life of faith, the most important thing is the right attitude - not the ‘best education’! The proud may concern themselves with impressing ‘the right people’. For the humble, there is something more important - pleasing God. His opinion is the one that really matters!
Our love is to be holy. Our holiness is to be loving.
We need both ‘love’ and ‘holiness’(1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). Our love is to be holy. Our holiness is to be loving. Getting the right balance between love and holiness is like walking a tightrope. You can easily lose your balance and fall off. We can be too soft - all love and no holiness. We can be too hard - all holiness and no love. Love doesn’t mean ‘anything goes ’ - ‘I don’t care how you live’. That’s not love. That’s indifference, a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. Holiness doesn’t mean looking down your nose at other people - ‘You’ve sinned and I will never let you forget it’. Don’t be like ‘the Pharisees’. They wanted to ‘stone the woman caught in adultery’. We must not ‘stone’ people with our ‘hot tongue and cold shoulder’! Be like Jesus. Show love - ‘I don’t condemn you’ - and holiness - ‘Do not sin again’(John 8:3-11).
True giving is our response to God’s grace. Let us give ourselves to Him.
The ‘poor widow’ gave her ‘all’ to the Lord (Luke 21:1-4). True giving is a response to ‘the grace of God’. Learning to appreciate ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’, we will learn to give with ‘abundance of joy’ and ‘wealth of liberality’ (2 Corinthians 8:1-2, 9). Let us give ourselves to our Lord. True Christian living will not be easy (12; 2 Timothy 3:12). The Lord will be with us in all our difficulties (Luke 21:15, 18-19). Christ will return ‘with power and great glory’(Luke 21:27). For some this will be a time of ‘distress... perplexity... fear... foreboding’(Luke 21:25-26). For others, it will be the Day of ‘redemption’(Luke 21:28). To all, there is the warning: ‘Take heed to yourselves... watch at all times’(Luke 21:34-36). Let us restore Him to His rightful place in our lives - ‘...all the people came to Him...’(Luke 21:38).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-------------------
Second Sunday of Advent: Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 27 (or Luke 1:68-79); Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6
We come to the Lord’s House so that we might offer our heartfelt worship to the Lord.
‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’(Psalm 27:4). What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’(Psalm 27:14). Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear… I will be confident’(Psalm 27:1, 3).
We come to the Lord’s House so that we might receive encouragement from the Lord and be changed by the Lord.
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’(Philippians 1:6). God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’. In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5). Called to live ‘to the glory and praise of God’(Philippians 1:11), let us remember that God is “the refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2). He is “the “purifier of silver” (Malachi 3:3). May our “faith – of greater worth than gold” be “refined by fire.” May our “faith … be proved genuine.” May our “faith … result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). We have been “called” to “be holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). As we seek to walk with God in holiness, let us never forget this – “you were redeemed … with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
We come to the Lord’s House so that we might receive strength from the Lord and be sent out to proclaim the Word of the Lord.
We sing our song of praise to the Lord – “Blessed be the Lord God …” (Luke 1:68). May we grow “strong” in the Lord (Luke 1:80). John's message came from ‘God’(Luke 3:2). He did not begin with love. He preached about sin and divine judgment, warning his hearers to ‘flee from the wrath to come’(Luke 3:7). He called for ‘repentance’(Luke 3:3, 8). This was not what people wanted to hear. Before we can rejoice in the Good News concerning salvation, we must recognize our sin and our need of salvation. John prepared the way for Jesus. ‘All have sinned’, ‘The wages of sin is death’ - This is the ‘bad news; which prepares us to receive, with joyful thanksgiving, ‘the Good News’: ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’(Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Third Sunday of Advent: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Psalm 45 (or Isaiah 12:2-6); Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
Sin brings sadness. Salvation brings gladness.
The story of sin – ‘Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ (Zephaniah 3:1-2) – is followed by the story of salvation - ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy... The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’(Zephaniah 3:14-17). Why does God speak to us about our sin? He is preparing the way for His Word of salvation. He speaks to us of His coming wrath - flee from the coming wrath (Luke 3:7). He is preparing our hearts for receiving the Saviour – “the Christ … is coming … He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:15-16). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness - ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’(Mission Praise, 573).
Jesus Christ is our Saviour and Lord. May our whole life be filled with praise to Him.
Jesus Christ is ‘the most excellent of men’(Psalm 45:2). He is more than that. He is God. In Psalm 45:6, we read these words - ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever’. We read them again in Hebrews 1:8. They are the words which God the Father speaks to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does the Word of God describe Jesus Christ? - ‘He is your Lord’. How are we to respond to Him? - We are to approach Him with ‘reverence’. We are to ‘honour’ Him. We are to ‘bow down’ and ‘worship’ Him. We are to ‘obey’ Him (Psalm 45:11). Think of the “Good News’ of our Lord Jesus Christ - ‘the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me’. Let your heart overflow with praise to the Lord Jesus Christ - What a wonderful Saviour He is (1; Galatians 2:20)! Let us celebrate His Name in this generation. Let Him be praised ‘for ever and ever’(Psalm 45:17). May our personal faith - ‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’- become our public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12:1-2, 4-5).
Christ has claimed us for Himself. May He have every part of our life.
‘Christ Jesus has made me His own’(Philippians 3:12). In Paul`s words, we hear an echo of Jesus` words, ‘You did not choose Me... I chose you’(John 15:16). Christ has claimed us for Himself. He has laid claim to every part of our life. We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’(Philippians 4:4). We are to bring ‘everything’ to Him in prayer (Philippians 4:6). We are to be ‘content in all circumstances’(Philippians 4:11-12). We are to face every challenge with confidence in His strength - ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). We are to trust Him to ‘supply’ our ‘every need’(Philippians 4:19). In every situation, we can come to the Lord, trusting in His promise: ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’(Philippians 4:7). Whatever is happening, take it to the Lord in prayer and let Him give you His peace.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-------------------
Fourth Sunday of Advent: Micah 5:2-5a; Psalm 80:1-7 (or Luke 1:47-55); Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45, (46-55)
Worshipped by shepherds, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd.
In Micah 5:2, we have a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus at ‘Bethlehem’. This prophecy invites us to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’. At ‘Bethlehem’, we see ‘shepherds, glorifying and praising God’(Luke 2:15, 20). We also see Jesus our Shepherd. He is the One whom the shepherds worshipped. He is the One who ‘will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...’. He is ‘the Good Shepherd’. He ‘laid down His life’ for us. He is ‘the Great Shepherd’. He ‘was raised from the dead’ for us. He is ‘the Chief Shepherd’. He will ‘come’ again for us (Micah 5:4; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). Jesus our ‘Shepherd’ gives us ‘strength’ to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’(Micah 6:8).
What must I do to be saved? – Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
‘Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved’(Psalm 80:3). This prayer for salvation is repeated with a growing sense of God’s greatness - ‘O God Almighty’(Psalm 80:7), ‘O Lord God Almighty’(Psalm 80:19). To those who are asking the question of salvation - ‘What must I do to be saved?’- , God gives His answer - ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:30-31). What does the Lord say to those who look to Christ for salvation? - ‘The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace’(Numbers 6:24-26). Let us worship Him: ‘Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer’(Ephesians 1:3).
Saved by our Lord Jesus Christ, let us praise Him with joyful songs of celebration.
In Luke 1:46-55, we have a great ‘song of praise.’. God was doing ‘a new thing’. His people were rejoicing in Him. Great things were happening. Greater things were going to happen. Soon, the Saviour would be born. The birth of our Saviour - This was something to celebrate! From the birth of Jesus, we look forward to the death of Jesus – we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all“ (Hebrews 10:10). Here, we have something else to celebrate!
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) I – Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)
Glory to God in the highest – our Saviour has come.
The prophecy has been spoken - ‘To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given…’ The prophecy has been fulfilled - ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord’.
Jesus Christ is our great Saviour. He is our ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6: Luke 2:11).
Jesus Christ has brought to us a great salvation. Through faith in Him, we enter God’s heavenly and eternal ‘Kingdom’ (Isaiah 9:7: Luke 1:30-33).
This is ‘Good News of great joy’- for ‘all the people’, for ‘all generations’.
Let us rejoice in the Lord, as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did - ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour… for the Mighty One has done great things for me…’
Let us join with the angels in saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest…’ (Luke 2:10; 1:46-50; 2:14).
Christ: King of glory, King of love - may the glory of His love shine in us.
‘The Lord reigns’ (Psalms 96:10; 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’
He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’
He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’ (Church Hymnary, 35, 36, 388, 360, 86).
His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life.
He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life.
Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do.
We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’ and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).
Christ is coming in glory. Christ is preparing us for glory.
We read in Titus 2:11,13 of Christ’s coming in grace- ‘the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all people’- and His coming in glory- ‘we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’. From grace to glory - This is the journey from Christ’s first coming to His Second Coming.
It is also the journey of our life of faith. We begin with the forgiveness of our sins. our final destination is glory, heavenly and eternal glory, the glory of God. We live by the grace of God. We look forward to the glory of God.
God wants us to live as ‘a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds’(Titus 2:14). If we are to be ‘zealous for good deeds’, we must first be zealous for Jesus Christ. Do good - but never forget, ‘He saved us - not because of deeds done by us…’(Titus 3:8, 4-6).
The full revelation of Christ’s glory is still to come. Let it begin in us now.
God is in control! Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Long before it happened, God had it planned (Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2-3).
As we approach Christ’s Return, God still has His plan. He is still in control.
The birth of Christ is not merely an event from the past. It is also a message for the future.
We look back so that we can move forward.
We are fearful about many things. ‘What’s the world coming to?’, we ask. God turns our question on its head: ‘Christ is coming to the world’.
From His first coming, we look on to His Second Coming - He ‘will come to all the people’(Luke 2:10): ‘every eye will see Him’(Revelation 1:7).
His Return invites us to ask another question: ‘when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?’(Luke 18:8).
For you, is it still ‘before Christ’? Let the ‘new age’ begin: Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11) - in your heart!
—–
The Bible Readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
-------------------
Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) II – Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2: (1-7), 8-20
God has given us ‘a new Name’. It is ‘the Name which is above every name’, the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 62:2; Philippians 2:9-11).
Christ loves us. He has given Himself for us. He calls us His ‘Bride’ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9).
Through faith in Christ, we have become ‘the Holy People’. Through Him, we are ‘the Redeemed of the Lord’. We have been ‘Sought After’ by the Lord. In Him, we are ‘the City No Longer Deserted’ (Isaiah 62:12; 1 Peter 2:9-9-10; 1:18-19; Luke 19:10; John 14:18).
‘There is a Name I love to hear… It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free. It tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea… Jesus, the Name I love so well, the Name I love to hear! … O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth!’(Mission Praise, 672).
‘The Lord reigns’(Psalm 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’ As we worship the Lord our King, let us focus our attention on Christ, the newborn King : “Come and worship Christ, the new-born King” (Church Hymnary, 182). At the place of Christ’s birth, we learn that the reign of God is the reign of His love.
When we look away from ourselves to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we rejoice in this: ‘He saved us - not because of deeds done by us…’ (Titus 3:4-6). This is the Good News of great joy. We hear this Good News – the birth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ – and we give glory to God in the highest (Luke 2:10-11, 14).
—–
The Bible Readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same Bible Readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
-------------------
Season of Christmas: Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day) III – Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-4, (5-12); John 1:1-14
Good News
‘Good News’- Let us ‘shout for joy’. ‘Good News’- Let us sing ‘songs of joy’.
There is the Good News of God’s reign - ‘Your God reigns’.
There is the Good News of our redemption - ‘The Lord has redeemed’ us.
We are not to keep the Good News to ourselves. This ‘news of happiness’ is to be shared with everyone. We must let ‘all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God’.
‘Christ died for our sins’- This is Good News.
Christ was ‘raised on the third day’- This is Good News.
‘Jesus is Lord’- This is Good News.
This is the Good News we must ‘pass on’ to others. In our world, there is so much bad news. We must not let the Good News be drowned out by the bad news. We must make sure that the people hear the Good News - loud and clear (Isaiah 52:7-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Mission Praise, 249).
God loves us.
‘Exalt the Lord our God… Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5,9; 98:4,6; 100:1).
We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him.
In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy! … The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9).
In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever… He has done marvellous things!’(Psalms 100:5; 98:1).
The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee…’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears… with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).
Let us worship Christ – our Lord and our God.
From the heights of heaven and the depths of suffering, ‘God… has spoken to us by His Son’ (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus Christ is God’s ‘Word’ to us. He is ‘the Word’ who came from heaven: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. He is ‘the Word’ who came to earth: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…’ (John 1:1-14).
In heaven, He is worshipped by angels: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him’(Hebrews 1:6).
On earth, ‘He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9).
We see the greatness of Christ in both His heavenly glory and His saving grace. None can compare with Him. He is our Lord. He is our Saviour. We consider all that He has done for us - ‘the nail marks in His hands…’- and we worship Him - ‘my Lord and my God’(John 20:19-20,24-28).
Keep your eyes on Christ - the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (John 1:1-3; Revelation 21:6).
He is ‘the Word… made flesh’. ‘We have seen His glory’(14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’(1 John 3:2).
From Him, there is creation (John 1:1-3).
From Him, there is salvation (John 1:12-13).
In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 32-34).
He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:1, 29, 34). When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’(John 1:1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’(John 1:18).
Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (John 14:9).
What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
—–
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
-------------------
January 1: The Naming of Jesus – Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7 (or Philippians 2:5-11); Luke 2:15-21
His Name was called JESUS (Luke 2:21).
Christmas is over – but let’s not forget Jesus. He is still here. He is still with us.
He is for New Year’s Day as well as Christmas Day. He is for every day.
The New Year has begun. Let there be more than a new year. Let there be new life – the new life that Jesus brings.
We have celebrated His birth.
It is similar to the birth of any other child. It is a time for joyful thanksgiving.
It is different from the celebration of any other child. This is the special Child. This is God’s Son. He is Jesus. He is the Saviour. He brings new life to the world.
On the first Christmas Day, the announcement was made: There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
We move on from the first Christmas. We move on to today. We do not leave Jesus behind. He is with us still.
On this day, any day, every day, we hear God’s call: Let new life begin.
New Year’s Day comes around just once a year. Every day is new life day.
Every day, God is speaking to us. He speaks to us about new life.
This is much more than the traditional greeting – We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
In the Name of Jesus, we hear the Good News of new life. He has been born in the city of David.
This is Good News for us. This is Good News for today.
The New Year has begun. Let new life begin.
Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11). Let Him be born in your heart!
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love.
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love, perfect love, the greatest love of all. There is no love like the love of Jesus.
At Christmas time, we look back to His birth. We celebrate His continuing love.
On New Year’s Day, we look on to the future. We commit ourselves to loving Him who first loved us.
In the Name of Jesus, God speaks to us with a call to consecration and a promise of blessing.
* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us consecrate ourselves to Him.
‘Separate… to the Lord… Separate… from wine and strong drink’ (Numbers 6:2-3): These two thoughts are closely connected in the New Testament - ‘Do not get drunk with wine… Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). We are to be ‘holy to the Lord’ (Numbers 6:8). ‘Consecrated to the Lord’, our whole life must be controlled by one thing: ‘Do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).
* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us seek His blessing in our lives.
Motivated by a desire for God’s glory, we will enjoy God’s blessing (Numbers 6:22-27). God’s blessing is not a ‘cheap’ thing, something that doesn’t matter very much.
Remember Esau (Genesis 25:29-34). He couldn’t be bothered. He couldn’t care less. God’s blessing meant nothing to him. He didn’t want God’s blessing.
What did God do? - He gave it to Jacob.
‘The Lord bless you…’ - Do you want this? Or must God find somebody else?
In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.
‘The Lord is ‘majestic’ (Psalm 8:1, 9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. This is the message of Christmas. The Saviour has been born. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. He has come near to us. He is God with us.
In the birth of Jesus, we see God’s greatness, the greatness of His love. His love makes all the difference.
* When we feel forgotten. He remembers us.
* When we feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4).
* When we are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’ (Psalm 8:2).
At the beginning of a New Year, we are reminded of God our Creator (Psalm 8:5-8).
The God of creation is the God of our salvation. From Bethlehem, the place of Christ’s birth, we look forward. We see Jesus, crucified for us. In His death, there is victory. Christ has won the victory for us. Christ has triumphed over ‘him who has the power of death.’ Christ has triumphed over ‘the devil.’ (Hebrews 2:8-9, 14).
We rejoice in Christ’s victory. We worship Him. We sing, “Majesty, worship His Majesty. Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’.
Jesus leads us on from victory to victory.
At the Cross, Christ won the victory over Satan. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ makes His victory real in our life here and now.
* ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6).
The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). In Galatians 3:13-14, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ. We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’(Church Hymnary, 83).
All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’(Mission Praise, 613).
God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).
* ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’(Philippians 1:6).
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up?
God gives us His Word of encouragement. He will bring His good work to completion.
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’ (1 Peter 1:5).
‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
We do not find our own victory. We receive His victory. The victory does not come from deep down within ourselves. It comes from high above us. It comes from Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is not our victory. It is His victory. All the power comes from Him. All the glory goes to Him.
In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11).
—–
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
--------------------
January 1: when observed as New Year’s Day – Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Psalm 8; Revelation 21:1-6a; Matthew 25: 31-46
Let’s begin the year with worship: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your Name” (Psalm 8:1).
How excellent is our Saviour – He takes away the emptiness of life without Him.
‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there is a God-shaped blank. It can only be filled by Jesus Christ.
Many people try to find true happiness without opening their heart to Jesus Christ. That’s like ‘trying to catch the wind’ (Ecclesiastes 4:16). True happiness keeps slipping through your fingers. There’s always something missing - ‘an aching void the world can never fill’ (Church Hymnary, 663).
Jesus Christ stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for your answer. He says, ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…’ (Revelation 3:20). Will you invite Him into your heart? He is waiting for you to pray, ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus’.
How excellent is our Saviour – He is preparing us for a glorious future.
Our Saviour is ‘Faithful and True’. He is ‘the Word of God’. He is our ‘Lord’ and ‘King’(Revelation 19:11,13,16).
We are invited to ‘come’ to Him. The invitation - ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God’- is a call to come to Christ (Revelation 19:17). We come to Christ so that we might ‘reign with Him’(Revelation 20:6).
Coming to Christ is only the beginning. God is preparing us for something even better - reigning with Him. This is a great future - ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’(Revelation 21:4).
There is, however, a Word of warning for those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation - ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’; ‘Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur’ (Revelation 20:15; 21:8). ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31).
How excellent is our Saviour – He gives us joy as we serve Him day-by-day.
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’(2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy.
We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’. We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’.
The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’ actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves.
Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’(Psalm 100:2).
Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God.
On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’(21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’and ‘pleasure for evermore’
(Psalm 16:11).
—–
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
------------------
Second Sunday after Christmas Day: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:(1-9), 10-18
In love, the Lord draws us to Himself.
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’ (Jeremiah 31:3).
So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’ (Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us.
The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’.
As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’ (Jeremiah 31:18).
In love, the Lord brings us into fellowship with His people.
‘The Lord builds up Jerusalem. He gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:2-3).
This is much more than the building of the city of Jerusalem with bricks and mortar. This is God building up His people in their ‘most holy faith’ (Jude 20). This is God blessing His people as they gather together to worship Him.
In Christ, we are ‘being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). The Lord draws us to Himself. He brings us into fellowship with His people.
He calls us to worship Him: ‘Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving’. He ‘blesses’ us through ‘His Word’. He ‘blesses’ us in ‘the Spirit’: ‘He sends His Word… and the waters flow’ (Psalm 147:7, 12-13, 18; John 7:37-39).
In love, the Lord calls us to be changed by His love.
‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’- by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7).
When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’(Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
We praise His glorious grace when we receive His love and are changed by His love.
In love, the Lord calls us to be changed by His glory.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (John 1:1-3; Revelation 21:6).
He is ‘the Word… made flesh’. ‘We have seen His glory’ (John 1:14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’(1 John 3:2).
From Him, there is creation (John 1:1-3). From Him, there is salvation (John 1:12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:1, 29, 34).
When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’ (John 1:1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’ (John 1:18).
Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (John 14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
We look at  the Lamb of God, crucified for us. We see love – the greatest love of all. It is divine love. It is eternal love. It is a love which calls us to say, with Paul,
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me …
… one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what
is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has
called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).
—–
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
--------------------
Season of Epiphany: Epiphany of the Lord - Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12
Let the light of Christ shine.
“Arise, shine; for your Light has come… the Lord will be your everlasting Light” (Isaiah 60:1, 19-20). Jesus Christ is “the Light of the world.” When we “follow Him”, we “will not walk in darkness.” We “will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
We are living in difficult times. We are surrounded by much darkness. We must not be discouraged - “the lamp of God has not yet gone out” (1 Samuel 3:3). When the darkness threatens to overcome the Light, we must take encouragement from God’s Word - “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).
When the darkness seems to be everywhere, put your trust in the Lord - “The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?”- and let “His Word” be “a lamp to your feet and a light to your path” (Psalms 27:1; 119:105).
Let the words of Scripture lead to thoughts of the Saviour.
* Read the words - “His Name” shall “endure for ever” (Psalm 72:17) - and think of Christ.
His Name is “the Name above all other names.” He is “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16).
* Read the words - “all nations call Him blessed” (Psalm 72:17) - , and think of Christ.
“From every tribe and language and people and nation”, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9).
* Read the words - “May His glory fill the whole earth!” (Psalm 72:19) - , and think of Christ.
In the “new heaven and new earth”, “the holy city” will shine with “the glory of God.” “Its radiance”, “like a very precious jewel”, will be shining from this “lamp”: Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Revelation 21:1-2, 10-11, 23; John 1:29).
In Christ, we are called to salvation, sanctification and service.
By the grace of God we are called to salvation - “saved through faith”- , sanctification - “for good works” - , and service - “according to the gift of God’s grace by the working of His power”, we are enabled “to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:7-8).
When we consider all this, we say in our hearts, “To God be the glory!” (Ephesians 3:21).
We are “strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being” so that we might live as those who are saved, sanctified and serving.
Even when we are deeply conscious of our own great weakness, we draw encouragement from this: God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:16, 20).
We grow in grace as we share in fellowship - “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3).
Be wise - worship the Saviour.
We read “the story of the wise men.”. It is not so much about the wise men. It is about Jesus. He is the central character.
We are not told how many wise men there were. The word, “three” does not appear (Matthew 2:1). We are not told their names. We are not told exactly where they came from - just, they came “from the East” (Matthew 2:11).
The important thing is that they made their journey. They came, seeking Jesus: “Where is he…?” They came “to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). The wise men were led to Jesus not only by “His star” (Matthew 2:2) but also by the Scriptures.
When asked where the child was to be born, they answered by quoting from the Scriptures (Matthew 2:5-6; Micah 5:2). Wise men are still led to Christ through the Scriptures.
Reading the Scriptures, we become wise for salvation as we find Christ who is our Wisdom (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Bethlehem was a “little town.” Humanly speaking, it did not have any great importance. Its importance is derived from the fact that it was the birth-place of our Saviour. When we think of Bethlehem, we do not think so much of the place as the Saviour who was born there.
Herod says that he wants to go to Bethlehem to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). Satan was speaking through Herod. Satan has no intention of worshipping God, and neither had Herod. Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy”. Christ comes to give “life… to the full” (John 10:10).
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Herod was not a worshipper of Christ but a servant of Satan. The wise men worship Jesus, then they return to their own country.
We know nothing about their return journey, their destination or their life in their own country. Their whole purpose was to point away from themselves to Jesus.
——
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary - Year C.
The same Bible Readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
--------------------
First Sunday after the Epiphany (Baptism of the Lord): Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
The Lord is our Salvation.
‘I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour… I am the Lord, apart from Me there is no saviour’(Isaiah 43:3, 11). Isaiah’s words turn our thoughts towards Jesus our Saviour. The Name of Jesus is the Name of our salvation: ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’(Acts 4:12). ‘How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear’; ‘There is a Name I love to hear… It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free; it tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea. O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth’; ‘Name of all majesty… See now what God has done, sending His only Son, Christ the beloved One, Jesus is Lord!’(Church Hymnary, 376; Mission Praise, 672, 481).
The Lord is our Strength.
‘The Lord is my Strength…The Lord is the Strength of His people’(Psalm 28:7-8). Our personal strengthening is closely related to the strengthening of God’s people. Don’t be a ‘lone ranger’, going it alone, keeping yourself to yourself. Share your strength with others. Draw strength from them. ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another’(Hebrews 10:24-25). Where does your strength come from? It comes from ‘the Lord’ who ‘sits enthroned as King for ever’(Psalm 29:10). We grow strong as we listen for ‘the voice of the Lord’(Psalm 29:3-9). Don’t let God’s voice be drowned out – ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’(Matthew 4:4).
Make sure that it’s real!
Simon the magician was impressed by the ‘signs and great miracles’, but his ‘heart’ was ‘not right before God’(Acts 8:13, 19). The Ethiopian’s conversion was real. Searching the Scriptures, he found the Saviour (Acts 8:30-35). From the Ethiopian’s conversion, we learn of Jesus’promise: ‘Seek and you will find’. From Simon’s tragedy, we hear Jesus’ warning: ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter the kingdom of heaven…’(Matthew 7:7, 21-23). What is God saying to us from these two very different stories? – ‘Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure’(2 Peter 1:10). ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart today; Try me, O Lord, and know my thoughts I pray; See if there be some wicked way in me, Cleanse me from every sin and set me free’ (Mission Praise. 587).
Receiving salvation begins with the confession of sin.
John’s message came from ‘God’(Luke 3:2). He did not begin with love. He preached about sin and divine judgment, warning his hearers to ‘flee from the wrath to come’(Luke 3:7). He called for ‘repentance’(Luke 3:3, 8). This was not what people wanted to hear. Before we can rejoice in the Good News concerning salvation, we must recognize our sin and our need of salvation. John prepared the way for Jesus. ‘All have sinned’, ‘The wages of sin is death’ – This is the ‘bad news; which prepares us to receive, with joyful thanksgiving, ‘the Good News’: ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’(Romans 3:23; 6:23). Like John, we are to point to Jesus, God’s ‘beloved Son’: Before ‘Adam’ was, He is. Pray that the ‘Holy Spirit’ will bring people to Christ (Luke 3:22, 38; Luke 8:58).
——————–
Second Sunday after the Epiphany: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 36:5-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; John 2:1-11
God has given to us the greatest Name.
God has given us ‘a new Name’. It is ‘the Name which is above every name’, the Name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 62:2; Philippians 2:9-11). Christ loves us. He has given Himself for us. He calls us His ‘Bride’(Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2,9). Through faith in Christ, we have become ‘the Holy People’. Through Him, we are ‘the Redeemed of the Lord’. We have been ‘Sought After’by the Lord. In Him, we are ‘the City No Longer Deserted’(Isaiah 62:12; 1 Peter 2:9-9-10; 1:18-19; Luke 19:10; John 14:18). ‘There is a Name I love to hear… It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free. It tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea… Jesus, the Name I love so well, the Name I love to hear!… O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth!’(Mission Praise, 672).
God loves us with the greatest love.
Read about God’s ‘steadfast love’ and rejoice in Him: ‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens…How precious is Your steadfast love, O God!…O continue Your steadfast love to those who know You…’(Psalm 36:5, 7, 10). Rejoicing in the Lord’s ‘steadfast love’ is quite different from taking His love for granted. We dare not say, “God loves me. I can do what I like”. We must not become like the wicked – ‘there is no fear of God before his eyes’(Psalm 36:1). Where there is true rejoicing in God’s ‘steadfast love’, there will also be ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’(Psalm 111:10). A real appreciation of God’s ‘steadfast love’ brings with it a real awareness of our own sinfulness. Knowing how much God loves us leads us to pray, ‘Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away’(Psalm 36:11).
The way of Christ is the way of love.
Paul speaks about ‘gifts of the Spirit’. They are ‘given for the common good’(1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We’re not ‘to show off’: ‘Look at me. The Church can’t do without me’. When we draw attention to ourselves rather than Christ, we are not living ‘by the Spirit of God’. He moves us to say, with our whole heart, ‘Jesus is Lord’(1 Corinthians 12:3). We live in fellowship with one another: ‘the body does not consist of one member but of many’(1 Corinthians 12:14). ‘I’m happy – as long as I’m getting my own way’: We can do without this kind of attitude! What about ‘the common good’? Sometimes, things don’t go according to my plan. Perhaps, my plan needs revising – to take account of ‘the common good’. When self raises its ugly head – ‘It’s my way or no way at all’ -  let’s not forget the ‘still more excellent way’(1 Corinthians 12:3). It is the way of love – Christ’s love!
Let the love of Jesus change you.
Andrew brought his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40-42). ‘You are… You shall be…’(John 1:42). Jesus looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become through the transforming power of His grace. The ‘water’ became ‘wine’(John 2:9). This was the Lord’s doing. In Christ, we have been ‘made alive’. This is the work of God. He is ‘rich in mercy’. He loves us with a ‘great love’(Ephesians 2:4-5). At a wedding, Jesus rejoices with those who rejoice  (John 2:1-11). In the temple, He rebukes those who are proud (John 2:13-17). There was ‘death’ in the temple. Those who were spiritually ‘dead’ acted in complete disregard for the true purpose of God’s House – ‘My House shall be called a house of prayer’(Matthew 21:13). ‘Raised from the dead’, we receive ‘new life’(John 2:22; Romans 6:4). Be real with Jesus. He will bless you (John 2:23-25).
———————
Third Sunday after the Epiphany: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a; Luke 4:14-21
Let us worship God.
What happens when God’s people ‘gather together’(Nehemiah 8:1)? – (a) We hear the Word of the Lord (Nehemiah 8:2-3, 8). We come to the Lord’s House, seeking a fresh understanding of His Word. We look to the Lord, speaking through His Word, to fill us ‘with great joy’(Nehemiah 8:12). (b) We thank God for His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ (8:13-18). In ‘the feast of the seventh month’, ‘the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles’, God’s people remembered how much He had done for them (Leviticus 23:34,42). In the Lord’s Supper, we remember that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). (c) We dedicate our lives to the Lord (Nehemiah 9:2). ‘Do not be conformed to this world’. ‘Be transformed’by God’s Word (Romans 12:2). (d) We worship the Lord (Nehemiah 9:5). Let us ‘praise the Lord our God…’.
Let us hear the Word of the Lord.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us – every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist – ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’(Psalm 19:7) – becomes real for us through faith in Christ – ‘I came to Jesus…My soul revived and now I live in Him’(Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
With a thankful heart, let us dedicate our lives to the Lord.
Paul speaks about ‘gifts of the Spirit’. They are ‘given for the common good’(1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We’re not ‘to show off’: ‘Look at me. The Church can’t do without me’. When we draw attention to ourselves rather than Christ, we are not living ‘by the Spirit of God’. He moves us to say, with our whole heart, ‘Jesus is Lord’(1 Corinthians 12;3). We live in fellowship with one another: ‘the body does not consist of one member but of many’(1 Corinthians 12:14). ‘I’m happy – as long as I’m getting my own way’: We can do without this kind of attitude! What about ‘the common good’? Sometimes, things don’t go according to my plan. Perhaps, my plan needs revising – to take account of ‘the common good’. When self raises its ugly head – ‘It’s my way or no way at all’- let’s not forget the ‘still more excellent way’(1 Corinthians 12:3). It is the way of love – Christ’s love!
Let us follow Jesus in the pathway of victory.
Jesus was ‘tempted by the devil’(Luke 4:2). He was rejected by His enemies (Luke 4:28-29). When we look around us, we see nothing but temptations and rejection – What a negative way of looking at things! There is something more positive here – the presence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1,14,18). Do not be afraid. There is no need to be discouraged. We need not be defeated. The temptations may be many. The opposition may be fierce. We can ‘pass through the midst of them’(Luke 4:30): ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control’(2 Timothy 1:7). Satan is persistent – They did not rest until they had crucified Him. Faced with such opposition, we – like Jesus – must walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12,17-18).
——————–
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
Catching a glimpse of the eternal God.
To understand Jeremiah’s story, we must look ‘behind the scenes’: ‘The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”’(Jeremiah 1:4-5). To understand our own story, we must go even further back – ‘The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight’. We must never forget the words of Jesus: ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last’(Ephesians 1:3-4; John 15:16). We’re not to be ‘on the surface’ people. We’re to be people who have seen ‘behind the scenes’, people who have caught a glimpse of the eternal God and His eternal purpose for our lives.
Looking to the Lord who leads us in the way of victory.
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2). We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it! Rather than being preoccupied with his own problems, he is calling on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’(Psalm 70:4). How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? – He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’(Psalm 71:3). Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God… You will revive me again’(Psalm 71:19-20).
A revival of love
Paul’s teaching seems so unrealistic. Life isn’t like this, people aren’t like this, the Church isn’t like this – and we’re all the poorer for it! We speak about revival. We hope for it. We pray for it. What we need most of all is a revival of love. This is not a return to ‘the good old days’. This is for here and now. We can make a great deal of a ‘revival’ which took place a good many years ago. It is in today’s world that we are called to show love. Differences of opinion become deeply-held prejudices. It’s all going on in the Name of Christ! Our reverence for yesterday’s religious leaders will mean nothing – if there is no love. Some things should have been ‘dead and buried’a long time ago. Keep the negative thinking going and we’ll be speaking to ourselves. Nobody will be listening (1 corinthians 14:4, 8)!
In our weakness, the Holy Spirit comes to us with His strength.
Jesus was ‘tempted by the devil’(Luke 4:2). He was rejected by His enemies (Luke 4:28-29). When we look around us, we see nothing but temptations and rejection – What a negative way of looking at things! There is something more positive here – the presence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1,14,18). Do not be afraid. There is no need to be discouraged. We need not be defeated. The temptations may be many. The opposition may be fierce. We can ‘pass through the midst of them’(Luke 4:30): ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control’(2 Timothy 1:7). Satan is persistent – They did not rest until they had crucified Him. Faced with such opposition, we – like Jesus – must walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12,17-18).
——————–
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany: Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
In God’s holiness, we see our sin. Through His love, we receive His forgiveness.
God reveals His holiness: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts’(Isaiah 6:3). In His holiness, we see our own sinfulness: ‘I am a man of unclean lips’(Isaiah 6:5). God is perfectly holy: ‘Your eyes are too pure to look on evil’(Habakkuk 1:13). When we look at ourselves in the light of God’s perfect holiness, we see the truth concerning ourselves: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’(Romans 3:23). There is no room for excuses. We must confess our sin. We must pray for God’s forgiveness: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’(Luke 18:13). To those who come to Him with a true confession of sin, God speaks His Word of forgiveness: ‘your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven’(Isaiah 6:7). The Lord has saved us. Let us serve Him. Let us pray, ‘Here am I! Send me’(Isaiah 6:8). Let us share the Good News of His forgiveness.
When your faith seems so weak, Jesus won’t let you down – He’ll lift you up.
‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’(Psalm 137:4). It is not easy to keep on worshipping the Lord when so many show no interest in worshipping Him. What are we to do when our faith seems so weak and we are on the verge of giving up? ‘Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you’. What will we find when we come to the Lord, looking to Him for strength? ‘He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through’. God gives us strength – ‘You answered me when I called to You. With Your strength, You strengthened me’(Psalm 138:3). ‘To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown. Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down. He who is our Saviour, our strength will renew. Look ever to Jesus. He will carry you through’(Church Hymnary, 482).
When your faith seems so weak, remember this – Jesus is risen from the dead.
Here, we learn of Christ’s resurrection: the fact - ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’- and the meaning – ‘the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’(1 Corinthians 15:20). We look back to His resurrection. We ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’(2 Timothy 2:8). We look forward to our own resurrection. We will be ‘raised ‘ -  ‘imperishable… in glory… in power… a spiritual body’(1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Looking back to His resurrection and looking forward to our own resurrection, we are to live, here and now, in ‘the power of His resurrection’(Philippians 3:10). We believe the fact of the resurrection. We live in the power of the resurrection. We rejoice in the hope of the resurrection. With ‘resurrection’ faith in the ‘resurrection’ God, let us live the ‘resurrection’ life as a ‘resurrection’ people!
When your faith seems so weak, pray that God’s Word will speak to you with power.
‘His Word was with power’(Luke 4:32). Where there are hindrances, obstructing the flow of God’s Word, we must pray that God’s Word will be heard for ‘what it really is’- ‘not the word of men but the Word of God’(1 Thessalonians 2:13). Our hearing of God’s Word is not to be a superficial thing – Here, the people of Capernaum ‘tried to keep Him from leaving them’(Luke 4:42). Later, Jesus said, ‘You, Capernaum… shall be thrust down to hell’(Luke 10:15). We must hear the Word of God and act on it (Luke 5:1,3). We may feel, ‘it’s a waste of time’. We must be obedient to God: ‘at Your Word I will let down the nets’(Luke 5:5). We are to be ‘partners’ in the Lord’s work (Luke 5:7): ‘workers together with God’(2 Corinthians 6:1). All the glory belongs to the Lord: We are ‘sinful’- Through His grace, we can win others for Him (Luke 5:8,10).
———————
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 |Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26
God’s Word, God’s Salvation, God’s Blessing
‘The Lord’ is ‘the Fountain of living water’(Jeremiah 17:13). He says to us, ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’(Isaiah 12:3). We can be ‘like a tree planted by water’, a tree that ‘does not cease to bear fruit’(8; Psalm 1:3). God speaks His Word to us: ‘“Where is the Word of the Lord?”Let it come!’(Jeremiah 17:15; Psalm 1:2) He brings His salvation to us: ‘Save me, and I will saved’(Jeremiah 17:14; Psalm 1:6). He gives His blessing to us: ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord’(Jeremiah 17:7: Psalm 1:1). We rejoice in God’s ‘eternal love’, drinking from ‘the streams of living waters’ and discovering that ‘grace,… like the Lord the Giver, never fails from age to age’(Church Hymnary, 421). Let us press on to our heavenly and eternal glory: ‘In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures for evermore’(Psalm 16:11).
God has so much blessing for us. Let us rejoice in Him.
The first Psalm contrasts two ways – the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow. To whet your appetite for the Psalms, here are some early lessons: stability in the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2); service for the Lord (Psalm 2:11); salvation of the Lord (Psalm 3:8); sanctification from the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5); singing to the Lord (Psalm 8:4); strength in the Lord (Psalm 9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’(Psalm 1:1-2). With a God like this – full of so much blessing for us – what else can we do but rejoice in Him?
The “resurrection” God calls us to live the “resurrection” life.
Here, we learn of Christ’s resurrection: the fact – ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’- and the meaning – ‘the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’(1 Corinthians 15:20). We look back to His resurrection. We ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’(2 Timothy 2:8). We look forward to our own resurrection. We will be ‘raised’- ‘imperishable… in glory… in power… a spiritual body’(1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Looking back to His resurrection and looking forward to our own resurrection, we are to live, here and now, in ‘the power of His resurrection’(Philippians 3:10). We believe the fact of the resurrection. We live in the power of the resurrection. We rejoice in the hope of the resurrection. With ‘resurrection’ faith in the ‘resurrection’ God, let us live the ‘resurrection’ life as a ‘resurrection’ people!
Hunger for God, Love for God, Vision of God, Foundations in God
Four thoughts from Jesus’‘sermon’: (a) Hunger for God (Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:6): Laziness leads to superficial Christianity. Do not hunger and you will not be ‘filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18). Do not seek and you will not find (Matthew 7:7). Seek the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). God has so much for us (1 Corinthians 2:12). Don’t miss out (2 Corinthians 9:6). (b) Love for God: Love is the greatest thing in the world. Our love for God is to be seen in our love for others (Luke 6:27; 1 John 3:16-17). (c) Vision of God: The blind cannot lead the blind (Luke 6:39-42). Make sure you are not ‘blind and short-sighted’(2 Peter 1:9). Run with the vision – Others will be blessed (Habakkuk 2:2). (d) Foundations in God: Make sure you are ‘rooted’ in Christ, our sure ‘Foundation’(Luke 6:43-49; Ephesians 3:17; 2:19-22).
——————–
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany: Genesis 45:3-11, 15; Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40; 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50; Luke 6:27-38
Let us follow Jesus. He is leading us on to the glory of heaven.
In the reunion of Joseph with his brothers, there is a great testimony to the God of grace: ‘Do not be distressed… because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life… God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God… God has made me lord of all Egypt’ (Genesis 45:5,7-9). Joseph was the pioneer. He went ahead of the others. He paved the way for them. Jesus is ‘the Pioneer of our salvation’. He will ‘bring many sons to glory’. He will welcome us as His ‘brothers’(Hebrews 2:10-12). Jesus is also the ‘Perfecter of our faith’(Hebrews 12:2). He is leading us to ‘a better country – a heavenly one’(Hebrews 11:16). Let ‘every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’(Philippians 2:11). Let it begin here on earth.
Trust in the Lord now and look forward to being with Him in the glory of heaven.
Those who ‘trust in the Lord…will dwell in the land’. Those who turn from Him will ‘perish’(Psalm 37:3,20). Through faith in Christ, we look ahead to ‘a heavenly country’, ‘better’ than anything we will know on earth (Hebrews 11:16; Philippians 3:20). We have caught sight of ‘a happy land, far, far away, where saints in glory stand, bright, bright as day’. We have heard the sound of their song – ‘O how they sweetly sing, “Worthy is our Saviour King!”’. We lift our voices to the Lord – ‘Loud let His praises ring, praise, praise for aye’. Still, some are perishing. They have not come to Christ for salvation. To them, we say, ‘Come to this happy land, come, come away; Why will ye doubting stand? Why, still delay?’(Revised Church Hymnary, 587). Trust in the Lord now and look forward to being with Him in heaven.
We look back to Christ’s resurrection. We look forward to our own resurrection.
Here, we learn of Christ’s resurrection: the fact – ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’- and the meaning - ‘the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’(1 Corinthians 15:20). We look back to His resurrection. We ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’(2 Timothy 2:8). We look forward to our own resurrection. We will be ‘raised’- ‘imperishable… in glory… in power… a spiritual body’(1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Looking back to His resurrection and looking forward to our own resurrection, we are to live, here and now, in ‘the power of His resurrection’(Philippians 3:10). We believe the fact of the resurrection. We live in the power of the resurrection. We rejoice in the hope of the resurrection. With ‘resurrection’ faith in the ‘resurrection’ God, let us live the ‘resurrection’ life as a ‘resurrection’ people!
May the glory of heaven be seen in the way we live here on earth.
Four thoughts from Jesus’‘sermon’: (a) Hunger for God (Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:6): Laziness leads to superficial Christianity. Do not hunger and you will not be ‘filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18). Do not seek and you will not find (Matthew 7:7). Seek the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). God has so much for us (1 Corinthians 2:12). Don’t miss out (2 Corinthians 9:6). (b) Love for God: Love is the greatest thing in the world. Our love for God is to be seen in our love for others (27; 1 John 3:16-17). (c) Vision of God: The blind cannot lead the blind (Luke 6:39-42). Make sure you are not ‘blind and short-sighted’(2 Peter 1:9). Run with the vision – Others will be blessed (Habakkuk 2:2). (d) Foundations in God: Make sure you are ‘rooted’ in Christ, our sure ‘Foundation’(Luke 6:43-49; Ephesians 3:17; 2:19-22).
——————–
Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany: Isaiah 55:10-13; Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; Luke 6:39-49
God’s Word will not return to Him empty – even through our ineffective preaching.
The Word of God is spoken – ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found…’(Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’(Isaiah 55:11). We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize – ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts…’(Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent – ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’(Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy…’(Isaiah 55:12). Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy…’(Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time…’(1 Corinthians 4:5).
The Lord is exalted – even in our inadequate worship.
‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever… The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty…’(Psalms 92:8; 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’- This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’ the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord – ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’(Psalms 97:9; 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).
Trusting the Lord, Loving Him and Serving Him
In Christ, there is ‘victory’ – glorious, eternal, heavenly victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Every day, we face a battle. It is a battle for faith, love and service. (a) We are called to trust the Lord: ‘Stand firm in your faith’(1 Corinthians 16:13). We are to have faith. It is to be a growing faith, a faith which is growing stronger. (b) We are called to love the Lord. This is to be the most important thing in our life: ‘love for the Lord’(1 Corinthians 16:21). Christ’s question comes to us: ‘Do you love Me?’(John 21:15-17). Is our love for Him growing stronger or getting weaker? (c) We are called to serve the Lord: ‘Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord’(1 Corinthians 15:58). Let’s get rid of the lazy, ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude. We shall be victorious through ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus’(1 Corinthians 16:23).
Living for Jesus begins with listening to Him and learning from Him.
Four thoughts from Jesus’‘sermon’: (a) Hunger for God (Luke 6:21; Matthew 5:6): Laziness leads to superficial Christianity. Do not hunger and you will not be ‘filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18). Do not seek and you will not find (Matthew 7:7). Seek the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). God has so much for us (1 Corinthians 2:12). Don’t miss out (2 Corinthians 9:6). (b) Love for God: Love is the greatest thing in the world. Our love for God is to be seen in our love for others (Luke 6:27; 1 John 3:16-17). (c) Vision of God: The blind cannot lead the blind (Luke 6:39-42). Make sure you are not ‘blind and short-sighted’(2 Peter 1:9). Run with the vision – Others will be blessed (Habakkuk 2:2). (d) Foundations in God: Make sure you are ‘rooted’in Christ, our sure ‘Foundation’(Luke 6:43-49; Ephesians 3:17; 2:19-22).
——————–
Ninth (or Last) Sunday after the Epiphany (Transfiguration of the Lord): Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)
The glory comes from Christ. The glory goes to Him. May His glory be seen in us.
God gives His promise (Exodus 33:19). God keeps His promise (Exodus 34:5-7). The glory of Christ is revealed to those who are learning to love Him (John 14:21). We are not yet ready for the full glory (Exodus 33:20). When Christ returns, ‘we shall see Him as He is’(1 John 3:2). There is to be ‘no other god’ but the Lord (Exodus 34:14). We are not to be squeezed into the world’s mould (Romans 12:2). ‘No molten gods’, ‘no graven image’-  We are to be remoulded by God, ‘conformed to the image of His Son’(Exodus 34:17; 20:4; Romans 12:2; 8:29). Moses’ face was shining – Other people noticed (Exodus 34:29)! Let others see Christ in you. Never take pride in your own spirituality – ‘If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not know (the Lord) as he ought to know (Him)’(1 Corinthians 8:2). Keep your eyes on Jesus. The glory comes from Him. No glory for me – All glory to Him (2 Corinthians 3:18)!
God is holy. God is love. Let us glorify Him. Let us enjoy Him.
‘Exalt the Lord our God… Make a joyful noise to the Lord’(Psalms 99:5,9; 98:4,6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!… The Lord our God is holy!’(Psalm 99:5,9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever… He has done marvellous things!’(Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee…’. Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears… with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’(Church Hymnary, 356).
Strengthened by the Spirit of the living God – for salvation and service
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). When everything seems to be going wrong, we need to be reminded of God’s Word: ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’(Romans 8:37). When we feel so weak, we receive strength ‘from God’. We are strengthened by ‘the Spirit of the living God’(2 Corinthians 3:5,3). We must learn to look beyond our circumstances to our Saviour. In Him, we see ‘the surpassing glory’. As we look upon ‘the glory of the Lord’, we are ‘changed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory’(2 Corinthians 3:18). In life’s many hard times, may God help us to see what He is doing in our lives and not only what we think is happening to us.
God has called us to salvation – ‘God has shone in our hearts…’(2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service – ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’(2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe’. We are to ‘speak’. This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’with His ‘grace’(2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’(2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’(2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).
Look to Christ. Listen to Him. Learn from Him.
The ‘glory’ of Christ (Luke 9:2) – ‘Before the world was made’, He shared the Father’s glory. Through the Cross – ‘His departure…’(Luke 9:31) – , Christ, ‘the Lamb that was slain’ for sinners, has fulfilled God’s eternal purpose of salvation (John 17:4-5; Revelation 13:8). We are to ‘look’ to the Lamb of God. We are to ‘listen’ to God’s beloved Son. If we do not look and listen, we will not learn. To those who refuse to look, listen and learn, God issues His Word of warning: ‘See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking’(Hebrews 12:25). We must confess our spiritual poverty, our lack of power (Luke 9:37-42), understanding (Luke 9:43-45), humility (Luke 9;46-48), unity (Luke 9:49-50) and love (Luke 9:51-56). Looking to Christ who ‘set His face to go to Jerusalem’ and refusing to ‘look back’, we must choose to be ‘good soldiers of Jesus Christ’(Luke 9:51,62: 2 Timothy 2:3-4).
--
Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 (or Isaiah 58:1-12); Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Let us return to the Lord our God.
‘Joel’ means ‘the Lord is God’. The Lord is our God. He is ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…’ Let us ‘return to the Lord our God’. Let us ‘return to Him with all our heart’. Let us look to Him for His ‘blessing’ (Joel 2:12-14).
Alongside God’s promise of blessing for those who return to Him, there is His Word of warning for those who take no notice of Him and pay no attention to His Word: ‘The Day of the Lord is near. It will come like destruction from the Almighty… Let all who live in the land tremble, for the Day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand - a Day of darkness and gloom…’ (Joel 1:15; 2:1-2).
God wants to bless us. Let us ‘cry out’ to Him for His blessing: ‘To You, O Lord, I call’ (Joel 1:14, 19).
Jesus Christ is God’s way of salvation.
‘To the far and to the near’, God speaks His Word of ‘peace’ (Isaiah 57:19). Christ is God’s Word of ‘peace’ (Ephesians 2:13-14). Christ is for ‘the Jews’. Christ is for ‘the Gentiles’. There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour. We must put our ‘faith’ in Him. Through Him, we have ‘peace with God’ (Romans 3:29-30; 5:1).
God’s Word invites us to ‘call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved’ (Isaiah 58:9; Acts 2:21). In Christ, there is true ‘joy’- ‘I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation…’ (Isaiah 58:14; 61:10).
We rejoice in Jesus Christ. He is ‘the High and Exalted One’. He has come from His ‘high and holy place’. He has become ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. He is our peace and joy, our Saviour and our God’ (Isaiah 57:15; Matthew 1:21, 23; John 20:28).
Come to Christ. Receive Him as your Saviour.
‘Create in me a clean heart, O God… Cast me not away from Thy presence… Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’ (Psalm 51:10-12).
These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. You can make them your words. David made a new beginning with God. You can make a new beginning with God.
You have sinned. You need to be forgiven. Come to Christ. He says, ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me’ (John 6:37).
You need to be ‘born again’. Receive Christ as your Saviour and be ‘born again’- ‘born of God’ (John 3:3, 7; 1:12).
You feel so weak, unable to be the person God wants you to be. Let ‘the joy of the Lord be your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.
We are to be ambassadors for Christ.
‘Reconciled’ to God through Christ, we have received ‘the ministry of reconciliation’. Saved by Him, we are to ‘work with Him’. We are ‘not to accept the grace of God in vain’ by living for ourselves. We are to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’.
We must proclaim the urgent message of salvation - ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’. We must call men and women to respond to God’s message of salvation: ‘Be reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).
If we are to be effective ‘ambassadors for Christ’, we must dedicate our lives to Him: ‘Let us cleanse ourselves… and make holiness perfect in the fear of God’ (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Without this heartfelt commitment to godly living, we cannot really serve the Lord at all. Our wrong lives will drown out our ‘right’ words. We need true lives as well as ‘true’ words.
Let us follow Christ. Let us bring the holiness of heaven to this world.
Jesus says that we are not to be like ‘the hypocrites’ (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). The word ‘hypocrite’ means ‘play actor’. It refers to ‘putting on a performance’. This performance may be extremely religious, but God is not in it.
The hypocrites live according to ‘the letter’ of the law, but they know nothing of the power of ‘the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:6).
The hypocrites’ religious performance gets along very well without God. His presence is not sought, welcomed or treasured.
The hypocrites draw attention to themselves. They do not direct attention away from themselves to God.
There is a better way than the way of hypocrisy. It is the way of holiness. Our lives are to be centred on Christ - ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’(Galatians 2:20). We must not forget: apart from Him we can do nothing. We are to abide in Him (John 15:5) - in true holiness.
On the one side of Christ’s disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are ‘the Gentiles’ (Matthew 6:32).
The hypocrites represent religion without reality.
The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously.
We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles.
Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men.
We are to live for God’s eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (Matthew 6:19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).
—–
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Years A and B.
--------------------
First Sunday in Lent: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be holy.
The people of Israel had a testimony. They had been redeemed by the God of love. Thankful for His love and salvation, they brought their offerings to the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). The call to obedience is grounded in the gift of salvation. Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be ‘a people holy to the Lord our God’(Deuteronomy 26:16-19). There is no privilege without responsibility. Israel was privileged: God was giving them ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’. Israel was responsible: God was saying to them, ‘Keep all the commandments which I command you this day’(Deuteronomy 27:1-3). God blesses us. We obey Him. We enjoy more of His blessing. This leads us to obey Him more. Break the ‘vicious circle’. Get on to God’s ‘victorious circle’: He shows us His love. We love Him. He shows us more of His love. We love Him more... (John 14:21).
Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one.’
‘Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter’(Psalm 91:3). God has given us His warning. We must ‘be alert’ - ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. He also gives us His 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). We must not try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are. We must 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). Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Let’s never forget this: Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one’(Matthew 6:13).
Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.'
To ‘Jew and Gentile’, God says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’(Romans 10:12-13). The Jews had praised the Lord Jesus: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’. Before long, they were shouting, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’(John 12:12-13; 19:6). We rejoice that the Gospel has now come to the Gentiles. We remember also that God still ‘holds out His hands to Israel’(Romans 10:19-21). Still, Christ says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... How often would I have gathered your children together...’(Luke 13:34). ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’, for the advance of the Gospel among the Jews (Psalm 122:6). Pray also for the ‘voice’ of the Gospel, ‘going out into all the earth’(Romans 10:18). Pray that ‘faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard’(Romans 10:17).
God has given us His Spirit. He calls us to walk in the Spirit.
Jesus was ‘tempted by the devil’(Luke 4:2). He was rejected by His enemies (Luke 4:28-29). When we look around us, we see nothing but temptations and rejection - What a negative way of looking at things! There is something more positive here - the presence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1,14,18). Do not be afraid. There is no need to be discouraged. We need not be defeated. The temptations may be many. The opposition may be fierce. We can ‘pass through the midst of them’(Luke 4:30): ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control’(2 Timothy 1:7). Satan is persistent - They did not rest until they had crucified Him. Faced with such opposition, we - like Jesus - must walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12,17-18).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Second Sunday in Lent: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35
A sure salvation
God is greater than our circumstances. God had given great promises to Abraham, yet there appeared no sign that His promises were being fulfilled. The circumstances seemed bleak, and Abraham felt despondent. Abraham was full of questions. In Genesis 15:2, he asks, ‘What can you give me...?’. This is the question of salvation. What does God give? He gives salvation. In Genesis 15:8, he asks, ‘How can I know...?’. This is the question of assurance. We ask for assurance. God gives it - the assurance of salvation, the assurance that salvation has been given and received. Where are we to look for answers to these questions? Are we to look to our circumstances? Are we to look to our feelings? No. We look to the ‘Almighty God’(Genesis 15:2,8). Trusting in Christ, the ‘Passover Lamb...sacrificed for us’, we receive a sure salvation (Genesis 15:6; 1 Corinthians 5:7; John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).
God’s love inspires our loyalty to Him.
God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’(Psalm 26:3). Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12). Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’ us (Psalm 26:4-5, 9-10; Psalm 27:2-3,6,11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’(Psalm 27:4). What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’(Psalm 27:14). Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear… I will be confident’(Psalm 27:1,3).
Christ has claimed us for Himself. He has laid claim to every part of our life.
‘Christ Jesus has made me His own’(Philippians 3:12). In Paul`s words, we hear an echo of Jesus` words, ‘You did not choose Me... I chose you’(John 15:16). Christ has claimed us for Himself. He has laid claim to every part of our life. We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’(Philippians 4:4). We are to bring ‘everything’ to Him in prayer (6). We are to be ‘content in all circumstances’(Philippians 4:11-12). We are to face every challenge with confidence in His strength - ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’(Philippians 4:13). We are to trust Him to ‘supply’ our ‘every need’(4:19). In every situation, we can come to the Lord, trusting in His promise: ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’(Philippians 4:7). Whatever is happening, take it to the Lord in prayer and let Him give you His peace.
Repentance and faith are not only for the beginning of the Christian life. They’re for the whole of our life. Jesus stresses the need for both repentance (Luke 13:1-5) and the fruits of repentance (Luke 13:6-9). God’s Word, planted in our hearts at conversion, is to bear fruit. This requires continual repentance and faith (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 3:1-5). Don’t put it off till tomorrow! Today is ‘the day of salvation’. Don’t ‘neglect’ God’s ‘great salvation’(Luke 13:15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:3). Let there be spiritual growth, affecting the whole of your life (Luke 13:18-21). Jesus was ‘journeying toward Jerusalem’- to ‘finish His course’ at the Cross (Luke 13:22,32-33). He came from the Lord (Luke 13:35). Through Him, we come to the Lord (Luke 13:24; John 10:9). There is no salvation in ourselves (Luke 13:25-27). Apart from Him, there is ‘no peace’(Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Jesus loves you (Luke 13:34). Make ‘sure’ that your trust is in Him. He will never fail you (2 Peter 1:10-11).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Third Sunday in Lent: Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
God has given His promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty.’
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found...’(Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’(Isaiah 55:11). We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts...’(Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’(Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy...’(Isaiah 55:12). Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...’(Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time...’(1 Corinthians 4:5).
The Lord is ‘my Rock and my Salvation.’
The Lord is ‘my Rock and my Salvation’(Psalm 62:2,6). As you read the Psalmist’s words, let your thoughts turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our ‘Rock’- the ‘Rock’ of our salvation. Through ‘the blood of Christ’, we receive the greatest ‘blessing’ of all - salvation (1 Corinthians 10:1-4,16). No other blessing can ever compare with the joy of knowing Christ as Saviour: ‘Your steadfast love is better than life.’ Through our great Saviour - the Lord Jesus Christ - , we are learning to ‘praise’ God. We are learning to say, with the Psalmist, ‘I will praise You as long as I live’(Psalm 63:3-4). What a great Saviour we have. He is greater than all our songs of praise. He is ‘too marvellous for words’- ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(Mission Praise, 788; 2 Corinthians 9:15).
Participate ‘in Christ’ – not only in ‘the Church’!
‘Participation in the blood of Christ… participation in the body of Christ’(1 Corinthians 10:16): There is nothing more important than this. We are not to be spectators, standing on the side lines, watching what’s going on without ever getting involved. We are to be participants, getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ, growing in our love for Him, strengthening our faith in Him, bringing more glory to Him. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us’. We do not only remember this great event from the past. We participate in Christ here and now. He has brought us out of our old life - ‘I have been crucified with Christ’ - and into His new life - ‘It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me’(Galatians 2:20). Participate ‘in Christ’ - not only in ‘the Church’!
Don’t put if off until tomorrow! Today is ‚the day of salvation.’
Jesus stresses the need for both repentance (Luke 13:1-5) and the fruits of repentance (Luke 13:6-9). God’s Word, planted in our hearts at conversion, is to bear fruit. This requires continual repentance and faith (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 3:1-5). Don’t put it off until tomorrow! Today is ‘the day of salvation’. Don’t ‘neglect’ God’s ‘great salvation’(Luke 13:15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:3). Let there be spiritual growth, affecting the whole of your life (Luke 13:18-21). Jesus was ‘journeying toward Jerusalem’- to ‘finish His course’ at the Cross (Luke 13:22,32-33). He came from the Lord (Luke 13;35). Through Him, we come to the Lord (Luke 13:24; John 10:9). There is no salvation in ourselves (Luke 13:25-27). Apart from Him, there is ‘no peace’(Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). Jesus loves you (Luke 13:34). Make ‘sure’ that your trust is in Him. He will never fail you (2 Peter 1:10-11).
The Bible readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Fourth Sunday in Lent: Joshua 5:9-12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.
As you read about circumcision (Joshua 5:2-7) and the Passover (Joshua 5:10), think also of Paul’s words in Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 - ‘real circumcision is a matter of the heart’, ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival... with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. ‘The Commander of the Lord’s army’came to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15). Christ comes to us. He calls us to worship. He equips us for battle. ‘Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe... At the sign of triumph, Satan’s legions flee... Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise... Like a mighty army moves the Church of God... Gates of hell can never ‘gainst that Church prevail; We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail... On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory’(Church Hymnary, 480).
The forgiveness of our sins
The forgiveness of sins - what a tremendous blessing this is (Psalm 32:1-2). We receive God’s forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him. This is the Psalmist’s testimony: ‘I made my sins known to You, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to You, O Lord. Then You forgave all my sins’(Psalm 32:5). This is the promise of God: ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’(1 John 1:9). Knowing that our sins have been forgiven by God, we can face our many trying times with confidence in Him: ‘You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance whenever I am afraid. I will trust in You, I will trust in You. Let the weak say, “I am strong in the strength of my God”’(Psalm 32:7; Mission Praise, 793).
Ambassadors for Christ
‘Reconciled’ to God through Christ, we have received ‘the ministry of reconciliation’. Saved by Him, we are to ‘work with Him’. We are ‘not to accept the grace of God in vain’ by living for ourselves. We are to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’. We must proclaim the urgent message of salvation - ‘now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation’. We must call men and women to respond to God’s message of salvation: ‘Be reconciled to God’(2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2). If we are to be effective ‘ambassadors for Christ’, we must dedicate our lives to Him: ‘Let us cleanse ourselves… and make holiness perfect in the fear of God’(2 Corinthians 7:1). Without this heartfelt commitment to godly living, we cannot really serve the Lord at all. Our wrong lives will drown out our ‘right’ words. We need true lives as well as ‘true’ words.
In ourselves, we are lost. In Christ we are found.
People were coming to Christ (Luke 15:1). Still, the critics were murmuring among themselves (Luke 15:2). What did Jesus do ? - He kept on preaching the Gospel (Luke 15:3-32). The lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7) the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), the lost son (Luke 15:11-32) - These are the parables of the Gospel. They teach us two lessons - By ourselves we are lost; In Christ, there is salvation. Read about the prodigal son, and think of the perfect Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we see God’s perfect love. Through Him, we receive God’s perfect salvation - (a) ‘the best robe’ - forgiveness (Revelation 7:13-14); (b) the ‘ring’- membership of God’s family (John 1:12); (c) the ‘shoes’ - empowered to bring ‘the Gospel’ to others (Ephesians 6:15). ‘God... has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing’(Ephesians 1:3). Don’t be like the ‘elder son’(Luke 15:28-30)!
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Fifth Sunday in Lent: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8
The Name of Jesus is the Name of our salvation.
‘I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour... I am the Lord, apart from Me there is no saviour’(Isaiah 43:3,11). Isaiah’s words turn our thoughts towards Jesus our Saviour. The Name of Jesus is the Name of our salvation: ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’(Acts 4:12). ‘How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear’; ‘There is a Name I love to hear... It tells me of a Saviour’s love, who died to set me free; it tells me of His precious blood, the sinner’s perfect plea. O how I love the Saviour’s Name, the sweetest Name on earth’; ‘Name of all majesty... See now what God has done, sending His only Son, Christ the beloved One, Jesus is Lord!’(Church Hymnary, 376; Mission Praise, 672,481).
Build on Jesus Christ, the Solid Rock.
‘Those who trust in the Lord... cannot be moved...’. When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the’ foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’(Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’(1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10,411). ‘Christ died for our sins... He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
We do not save ourselves. We are saved by the Lord.
God’s command - ‘Work out your own salvation’ - must never be separated from His promise - ‘God is at work in you’(Philippians 2:12-13). We do not save ourselves - We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’. We are saved by the Lord - We ‘glory in Christ Jesus’(Philippians 3:3). We are to ‘shine as lights in the world’, directing attention away from ourselves to Him who is ‘the Light of the world’ - our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:15; John 8:12). We have this testimony: “I have ‘no righteousness of my own’. ‘Through faith in Christ’, I have received ‘this righteousness from God’”(Philippians 3:9). We are living in difficult times. This is ‘a crooked and perverse generation’(Philippians 2:15). We are called to ‘hold fast the Word of life’(Philippians 2:16). It will not be easy. We will face many difficulties. We must take encouragement from this: ‘God is at work in you’(Philippians 2:13).
‘Christ Jesus has made me His own’(Philippians 3:12). In Paul`s words, we hear an echo of Jesus` words, ‘You did not choose Me... I chose you’(John 15:16). Christ has claimed us for Himself. He has laid claim to every part of our life. We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’(Philippians 4:4). We are to bring ‘everything’ to Him in prayer (6). We are to be ‘content in all circumstances’(Philippians 4:11-12). We are to face every challenge with confidence in His strength - ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’(Philippians 4:13). We are to trust Him to ‘supply’ our ‘every need’(Philippians 4:19). In every situation, we can come to the Lord, trusting in His promise: ‘the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’(Philippians 4:7). Whatever is happening, take it to the Lord in prayer and let Him give you His peace.
Keep on listening to Jesus. Keep on looking to Him. Keep on loving Him.
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53). The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives. Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasizing that we must not lose sight of Him. If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8). The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’(John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way! The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28,31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’(John 12:27).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm / Passion): Entry into Jerusalem – Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Passion – Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66 (or Matthew 27:11-54)
PALM SUNDAY
Our response to Christ - Discipleship, Depth, Devotion
Four times, Jesus is called ‘the Son of David’ (Matthew 20:30-31; 21:9,15).
Christ is greater than David. He is David’s ‘Lord’ (Matthew 22:41-46). Christ is not only ‘the Son of David’. He is also the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4).
We rejoice with the Psalms of David. We rejoice even more in the Gospel of Christ.
Our response to Christ is to be marked by discipleship, depth and devotion.
Discipleship - The blind men ‘received their sight and followed Him’ (Matthew 20:34). They did not receive their sight and then forget about Him. Grace is to be followed by gratitude. Those who have received grace are to give themselves to the Lord in gratitude.
Depth - The crowds were enthusiastic (Matthew 21:8-9) but superficial (27:20-23). Pray for depth, a true and lasting response to Christ.
Devotion - Pray that the spirit of praise will overcome the spirit of pride (Matthew 21:15).
Discipleship, Depth, Devotion – with Christ as our Strength, Song and Saviour
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’.
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59, 744).
Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.
PASSION SUNDAY
Waiting on the Lord, witnessing for Him and winning others for Him
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4).
We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God.
We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him.
We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God.
First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’.
Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’.
Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).
Waiting on the Lord – let us look to Christ, crucified and risen for us.
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5).
These words were spoken by Christ when, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (31:11).
His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21). In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).
In our witness for the Lord, may our whole life declare that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6).
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful.
His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
In ‘humility’, let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
Jesus asks, Do you love Me? Let us say Yes – and go out to win others for Him.
Peter and Judas Iscariot had something in common. They both failed their Lord (Matthew 26:14-16, 34).
Things turned out very differently for them (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 2:38-42).
When we fail the Lord , we find ourselves at a cross-roads. We can turn to Him. We can turn away from Him.
In view of His great love for us - His ‘blood’ has been ‘poured out for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28) - how can we turn our backs on Him? How can you and I say ‘No’ to such love?
There is no reason why we should say ‘No’ to Him - yet we do!
Do we doubt that He is there for us? Do we wonder if He really loves us?
What about you? Do you think that He cannot or will not forgive your sins?
He can and He will. That’s why He died - ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).
Jesus’ suffering is increasing.
What pain His disciples caused Him. Three times, He ‘found them sleeping’ (Matthew 26:40-45), ‘My betrayer is at hand’ (Matthew 26:46), ‘all the disciples forsook Him and fled’ (Matthew 26:56)!
Was this the end of the road for His disciples? No! With one exception - Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus still called ‘friend’ (Matthew 26:50), the others became men of prayer (Acts 1:13-14). They stood with Peter as he preached the Gospel, as he led many sinners to the Saviour (Acts 2:14, 37-38).
Jesus loved His disciples. He died for them. Then - after Jesus was ‘glorified’- the Spirit was ‘given’ to them (John 7:39).
The fleeing disciples became men ‘on fire’ (Acts 2:3). No more ‘fleeing’. Now it was ‘flowing’- ‘rivers of living water’(John 7:38). ‘Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy’(Mission Praise, 445).
‘Peter followed Him at a distance’ (Matthew 26:58). He didn't want to get too close!
Keeping your distance from Jesus leads to trouble!
Trouble was not the end of Peter's story.
Three times Peter denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75).
Three times Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love Me?’, three times Peter answered Jesus, ‘I love You’ (John 21:15-17) - for each denial, an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Jesus.
Three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41) - for each denial, one ‘thousand souls’ brought to Christ.
The contrast between the ‘Peter’ of the Gospels and the ‘Peter’ of Acts is striking. When Jesus first met Peter, He said, ‘You are Simon... You shall be called Peter’ (John 1:42).
‘Peter’ means ‘rock’. Peter’s confession of faith - ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16) - is the Rock on which our faith is built.
With Peter, let us confess Christ.
Jesus went to the Cross for us. Refusing to protest His own innocence, He took our guilt upon Himself.
Observing this, ‘the governor wondered greatly’ (Matthew 27:14).
We also should wonder greatly at this - Christ took our place, receiving the punishment that should have been ours. Barabbas was released, Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:26).
This is the great exchange - the sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21).
As well as its divine aspect - ‘God so loved...’ (John 3:16) - the Cross has a human dimension - the people, Jews and Gentiles (the whole sinful world), sent Jesus to the Cross.
For Jews and Gentiles (‘the whole world’), Christ has provided salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 John 2:2).
In the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ, we are invited to ask ourselves, ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
The ‘King of the Jews’ wore ‘a crown of thorns’ (Matthew 27:29).
In the Cross, we see the King.
The way of crucifixion - this is the way of the Kingdom.
The prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10), could only be answered by way of the Cross.
From the Cross, we hear the call for decision. It is the call of love. The love of Christ calls for our answer: ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
Here, we see different responses to Christ - derision, mocking, reviling (Matthew 27:39-44); misunderstanding (Matthew 27:47-49); believing worship (Matthew 27:54).
How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Salvation comes from above, from God - ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (Matthew 27:51).
‘Mary the mother of James and Joseph’ was also the mother of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; 13:55).
She began by receiving Jesus, not only as her son but also as her Saviour (Luke 1:38). She was still following Jesus - ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5). None of us - not even the mother of Jesus - can walk with the Lord without His grace keeping us in the way of faith.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64).
As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’ (Matthew 27:64).
The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them!
Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24).
He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
For Palm Sunday, the same reading from the Psalms is suggested for Years A and B.
For Passion Sunday, the same readings from Isaiah, Psalms and Philippians are suggested for Years A and B.
-----
Monday in Holy Week: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11
Jesus Christ is God’s beloved Son - the Saviour sent to us by the God of love.
‘Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:15-21).
These words turn our thoughts towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
At His baptism, we hear the voice of the Father - ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ At His baptism, we see ‘the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on Him’ (Matthew 3:16-17).
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Word of prophecy: ‘All mankind shall see the Saviour sent from God’ (Luke 3:6).
After His resurrection, we hear Jesus Himself speaking. He says, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...’ (Matthew 28:18-20).
Let us bring Christ to the nations. Let us serve the Lord in the power of the Spirit.
Never take God’s love for granted. Let us be deeply appreciative of His love.
Read about God’s ‘steadfast love’ and rejoice in Him: ‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens...How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! ...O continue Your steadfast love to those who know You...’ (Psalm 36:5, 7, 10).
Rejoicing in the Lord’s ‘steadfast love’ is quite different from taking His love for granted.
We dare not say, “God loves me. I can do what I like.”
We must not become like the wicked - ‘there is no fear of God before his eyes’ (Psalm 36:1).
Where there is true rejoicing in God’s ‘steadfast love’, there will also be ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10).
A real appreciation of God’s ‘steadfast love’ brings with it a real awareness of our own sinfulness.
Knowing how much God loves us leads us to pray, ‘Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away’ (Psalm 36:11).
Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His wonderful redemption.
God gave His promise - ‘I will make a new covenant’ (Hebrews 8:8-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God has fulfilled His promise. There is now a ‘new covenant in Jesus’ blood’ (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
The old covenant cannot even begin to compare with the new covenant. It is only a ‘shadow.’
The new covenant is the real thing. It is ‘much more excellent’. It is ‘a better covenant’ (Hebrews 8:5-6),
The old covenant is ‘outdated’ (Hebrews 8:13). It has seen its day. Now, it’s past its ‘sell by date’!
We look at the old covenant and we say, ‘There must be more than this’.
There is more - ‘much more’.
Through ‘the blood of Christ’, ‘our hearts and lives’ have been ‘cleansed’. Now, we can begin ‘to serve the living God’ (Hebrews 9:14).
‘What a wonderful redemption!’- ‘eternal redemption’ (Mission Praise, 765; Hebrews 9:12)!
Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His victory over Satan.
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6).
There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasizing that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
-----
The Bible readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
-------------------------------------------------
Tuesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36
Knowing Christ and making Him known
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’ (Isaiah 49:26).
We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’.
‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves.
We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’ (Mission Praise, 385).
‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).
Keeping Christ at the centre in joyful worship and courageous witness
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2).
We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it!
He is not preoccupied with his own problems. He calls on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4).
How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3).
Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).
With our faith centred on Christ crucified, let us give all the glory to God.
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4).
He preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2).
This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’(Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’ (1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).
Keep Christ at the centre: concern for the poor grounded in devotion to Christ
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasizing that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32).
Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).
-----
The Bible Readings are based on the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
-----------------
Wednesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32
Waiting on the Lord, witnessing for Him and winning others for Him
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).
Strengthened in worship, we are equipped for witness.
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2). We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it! Rather than being preoccupied with his own problems, he is calling on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4). How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3). Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).
Learning from others, looking to Jesus
We read about many people who trusted the Lord. Their faith was real. It changed their lives. As you read of so many people who lived ‘by faith’, let God’s Word challenge you. Bring your own weak faith to Him and ask Him to give you a stronger faith: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). We learn from so many different people. We read about their faith. We are inspired by their faith. We do not, however, make too much of them. We must always be ‘looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2). We must learn the lesson of the transfiguration. We look at Moses. We look at Elijah. We learn from them. There comes a point where they - together with all God’s faithful people - must step aside, leaving us to look up and see ‘Jesus only’ (Mark 9:2-8).
Looking beyond our difficult times to Christ’s glorious future
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (John 13:21-30). He would be denied by Peter (John 13:36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (John 13:31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to ‘love one another’: ‘By this all men shall know that they are His disciples’ (John 13:34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (John 14:6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (John 14:9). Now, He is working in and through us (John 14:12-14). He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’(Church Hymnary, 195).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
------------------
Thursday in Holy Week: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17
Christ died for us. Let us live for Him.
Here, we focus attention on two verses which emphasize the importance of being saved by the Lord and going on to live for Him: ‘when I see the blood, I will pass over you... you must eat unleavened bread’ (Exodus 12:13, 20).
In verse 13, we are directed beyond the Passover to Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins (John 1:29; 1 John1:7).
In verse 20, we have the call to holy living.
In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-9, Paul uses ‘leaven’ as a symbol of ‘sin’, which holds us back from ‘running a good race’.
We are to live as a new creation, who feast on ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. Forgiveness of sins and holy living belong together. We are not to rejoice in God’s forgiveness and then gloss over His call to holy living: ‘justified by faith’, we are to ‘walk in newness of life’ (Romans 5:1; 6:4).
God loves us. Let us love one another.
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). We take note of what Paul says about the way we are to come to the Lord’s Table (1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
What’s this all about? Is it about the whole thing looking good - impressive?
Paul gives us something to think about in verse 22 - ‘Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?’.
In Paul’s questions, we hear an echo of the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 1:12-20; Amos 5:21-24).
We rejoice in John 3:16 - ‘God so loved the world…’. Let’s not forget 1 John 3:16-18 - ‘let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in trust’.
Jesus says, ‘…first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’(Matthew 5:23-24). Don’t just think about it. Act on it (James1:22-25; 2:14-17)!
Our love for God is to be a lifelong love.
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’ (Psalm 116:1-2).
Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (Psalm 117:2).
When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us.
When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us.
He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak.
In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’ (Church Hymnary, 450).
Let the love of God change the way you live.
The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. ‘For fear of the Pharisees’, many remained silent, ‘loving the praise of men more than the praise of God’(John 12:42-43).
Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (John 12:46).
If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ.
Do not only read God’s Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (John 12:50).
The ‘hour’ of Jesus’ suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (John 13:1-3). It is the ‘hour’ of His love.
We are ‘washed’ in His precious blood (John 13:8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14).
What God has done for us comes before what we ought to do for others.
Jesus is our Saviour before He is our ‘Example’ (John 13:14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (John 13:17).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
Good Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25 (or Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9); John 18:1-19:42
Were we there when they crucified our Lord? – Yes. He died for our sins.
In this remarkable prophecy, we see Jesus Christ, crucified for us - ‘the Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ - and risen from the dead - ‘After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life’ (Isaiah 53:6, 11).
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ (Mission Praise, 745). We might put this question to Isaiah. In one sense, he wasn’t there. He lived long before the time of Christ. In another sense, he was there. God opened his eyes. God gave him a glimpse of what was going to happen in the future.
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ In one sense, we weren’t there. These things happened long before we were even born. In another sense, we were there. It was our sins which Christ took with Him to the Cross. It was our sins which He left behind Him when He rose from the dead (Romans 4:25).
Jesus Christ – forsaken by God and pierced for our transgressions
Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 22:7-8, 18; Matthew 27:39 ,43, 35).
We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’ (Psalm 22:1, 16).
Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ (Isaiah 53:6).
When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46).
Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’ (John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9).
Looking back to Christ’s crucifixion, looking forward to His return
We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). We are to live as those who are awaiting the Day of the Lord’s return (Hebrews 10:25).
We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us.
Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in Hebrews 9:28 - ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’.
We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’(Galatians 2:20).
We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us - His body broken for us and His blood shed for us.
We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Remember - and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’(Revelation 22:20).
As we remember our Lord Jesus Christ, we see how sinful we really are and we pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (Hebrews 4:15-16). It is through His grace and mercy that we are able to look forward to ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:9).
“It is finished”. The work of redemption is completed. Jesus is the risen Lord.
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (John 18:1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (John 18:12-14, 19-24).
Jesus is ‘drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him’- He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (John 18:11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Jesus’ death was not only ‘expedient’. It was ‘necessary’- for our salvation (John 18:14; Luke 24:26).
Alongside the story of Jesus there is the story of Peter (John 18:15-18, 25-27). Jesus’ death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (John 21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38, 41).
‘Barabbas was a robber’. He was released (John 18:39-40). There was ‘no crime’ in Jesus. He was ‘crucified’ (John 18:38; 19:4, 6, 16).
Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die.
Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born...’ (John 18:36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross.
As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12, 6).
‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’- on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’(Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
To come to the words, ‘It is finished’ is not to reach the end of the story.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42). This was not the end of His story.
He was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4)!
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
--------------------
Saturday in Holy Week: Job 14:1-14 (or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24); Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 (or John 19:38-42)
Out of darkness into light - “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
When you don’t really know what you’re talking about, it’s a case of the less said the better.
That’s how Job feels about his ‘friends’- ‘Oh that would you keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!’(Job 13:5).
They are no help to him. What does he do next? He takes his problem to the Lord. Nothing seems clear to Job. He seems to be bogged down in his own suffering.
There is, however, a glimmer of light. A question comes into his mind - ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ (Job 14:14).
Later on, Job gives the answer of faith: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives...Even after my skin has been stripped off my body, I will see God in my own flesh’ (Job 19:25).
‘Christ has been raised from the dead...Death is swallowed up in victory...Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 54, 57).
Out of darkness into light – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”
There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction...’ (Lamentations 3:1-3).
In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’.
When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us.
We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’.
It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong.
We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives.
We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:22-26).
Out of darkness into light – the “spacious place” of God’s salvation
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5). These words were spoken by Christ as, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (Psalm 31:11). His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21).
In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).
Out of darkness into light – Create in me, a clean heart, O God.
As we consider Christ who suffered for us, let us pray that we may have His ‘attitude.’ Let us commit ourselves to doing the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
The Gospel was preached even to those who are now dead (1 Peter 4:6). As we read those words, let us commit ourselves to our God-given task of preaching the Gospel to those who are living.
We believe the Gospel - ‘Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’. Let’s share the Gospel - ‘Be always ready to give...a reason for the hope that is in you.’
How are we to share the Gospel? - ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:18, 15). We must get the attitude right - ‘so that nothing will hinder our prayers’ (1 Peter 3:7). We need more than the ‘right’ prayers - words that sound good. We need the right attitude. The blessing will not come because our words sound good. It will only come when our attitude is right.
Our obedience to God’s will, in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is to be grounded our prayer. Our preaching and prayer are to be grounded in praise.
In all the service we offer to God, there is to be the offering of worship: ‘To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever’ (1 Peter 4:11; 5:11).
We will not learn to serve God unless we are learning to worship Him.
There is a ‘form of religion’ which ‘denies the power’ of God - ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’ (2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 15:8). They go through the motions - but their hearts are not in it!
We must pray that God will deliver us from this kind of thing: ‘O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin set free; A heart that always feels Thy blood, so freely shed for me’ (Church Hymnary, 85).
‘Religion’ is about respectability. Salvation is about renewal: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).
Out of darkness into light – It was impossible for death to hold Christ.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64). As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’(64). The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them! Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24). He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!
Out of darkness into light – Love has the victory for ever.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42).
Was this the end of His story? - No! There was more to come – the resurrection. His story did not end there - ‘Jesus had to rise from the dead’ (John 20:9).
On the Cross, Jesus had said, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’ - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father.
The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
We read of Jesus’ death. We read of His burial – but His story does not end there!
This was a time of darkness: Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Saviour.
It was also the time of waiting: Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.
Soon, the time of triumph would come: Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
The story of Jesus Christ does not end with the darkness of His burial. Beyond the darkness, there is the light of His resurrection: He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives for ever with His saints to reign.
For our salvation, Jesus died ‘and was raised to life’(Romans 4:25). The light shines brightly. It is the light of God’s love.
We hear the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection: He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! (Mission Praise, 453).
We hear of the triumph of God’s love: Love has the victory for ever!
Inspired by the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection and the triumph of God’s love, let us respond with the worship of our hearts: Who can see Your greatest gift and fail to worship You? (Mission Praise, 86).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
-------------------
Easter Vigil: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13; Psalm 46; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16; Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21; Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6; Psalm 19; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Psalms 42 and 43; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 143; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Psalm 98; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Matthew 28:1-10
In the beginning, there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. These opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right - (a) The priority of God (Genesis 1:1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there. (b) The priority of God’s Word (Genesis 1:3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord. (c) The priority of God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2). All was ‘empty’, all was ‘darkness’, yet the ‘Spirit of God’ was at work, and transformation was set in motion. Here, we have God’s priorities, set out in the Bible’s first three verses - Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God’s Spirit, ‘hovering over’ our lives to transform them. For those who make God’s priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2). It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
God speaks, and it is done (Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 11). God is pleased with what He has done (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12). This is the pattern of God’s original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God speaks to us and we say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). We say, ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38). God looks on such obedience, this ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, 22-23), and He sees that it is ‘good’ (Micah 6:8). In these verses we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God's creation. There are lessons for us here. We are to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7). We are to let the Spirit's ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:39-39). Walking in the light, letting the living water flow - this is the way of fruitfulness.
The Bible’s opening chapter is a great hymn of praise, emphasizing that all things have been created for the glory of God (Revelation 4:11). Nothing can be permitted to distract our attention from the Lord. He alone is worthy of worship. The creation of the ‘lights’ makes no reference to the sun and the moon. These were worshipped by neighbouring peoples. They are not gods. They are simply ‘lights’. Our worship is to be given to God alone. The waters teemed with living creatures. The land produced living creatures. Here, we have a picture of life. There is life where the living water of the Spirit is flowing freely among God’s people (Ezekiel 47:5-9). This water brings life to the land (Ezekiel 47:12). Moving with the flow of God’s Spirit, we are to pray that ‘the water of life’ will flow freely ‘for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).
We now come to the creation of humanity, male and female. Our creation is described in a distinctive way - created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are different from the rest of creation. We have been given dominion over ‘all the earth’ and ‘every living creature’ (Genesis 1:26, 28). We are different from God. He is the Creator. We are His creation. Created in God’s image, we have been created by Him and for Him. Though we have sinned (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23), now - in Jesus Christ - we have begun to live as a new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1) and that ‘all things were created by Him and for Him’ (Colossians 1:16). This is the Saviour who is at work in us, enabling us to live as a new creation! Creation has been ‘completed’ (2:1). Salvation will be completed (Philippians 1:6)!
In the end, there will be love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘His love endures for ever’. This is the great message contained in every single verse of this Psalm. It’s a message worth repeating - over and over again! God’s love is an everlasting love - ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love is an unfailing love - ‘My unfailing love for you will not be shaken’ (Isaiah 54:10). Let us ‘give thanks’ to God for His love (Psalm 1-3, 26). In His love, the Lord has provided for us ‘an everlasting salvation’. His ‘salvation will last for ever’ (Isaiah 45:17; 51:6). We must not be like those who refuse to love the Lord - ‘Pharaoh... great kings... mighty kings ...’ (Psalm 136:15, 17-20). Those who reject God’s love will not receive ‘eternal life’. Their future will be very different - the ‘raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’ (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 10:26-27).
When you see a rainbow, remember there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we pick up on the words of Genesis 7:16 - ‘the Lord closed the door behind them’. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation - The ark had only one door. Jesus is ‘the Door’ which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation - All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation - Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape...?’(Hebrews 2:3).
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (Genesis 8:13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’. God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (Genesis 8:15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (Genesis 8:17; John 15:16). We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
‘When you see a rainbow, remember God is love’. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (Genesis 9:13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: ‘We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross... upon the Cross we see in shining letters. ‘God is love’, He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above’. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God’s salvation: ‘I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me’. This is the greatest Story of all - ‘the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,... the Story of wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin’. ‘This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long’. This is ‘the Story to tell to the nations’ (Church Hymnary, 258, 381, 132; Mission Praise, 59, 744).
Be still and know that there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).
In Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world (Genesis 21:22-34) and his relationship with the Lord (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - ‘God is with you in all that you do’ (Genesis 21:22). We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God. In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (Genesis 22:8). In Genesis 22:14, we read, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided’. On Calvary’s hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).
After the renewal of God’s promise (Genesis 22:15-18), Abraham went to Beersheba (Genesis 22:19). He returned to the place where he had ‘called...on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (21:33). This is a good ‘place’ to be, the ‘place’ of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God. The death of Sarah took place in God's time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. We see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.
Our hope of eternal glory comes from love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.
In the redemption of Israel, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God had redeemed His people. He was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (Exodus 14:13-14). There is judgment as well as salvation (Exodus 14:30). Looking to neither the ‘right’ nor the ‘left’, we must look to the Lord (Exodus 14:21-22). Rejoicing in ‘the great work’ He has done, our faith ‘in the Lord’ grows strong (Exodus 14:31).
God has given us a song to sing. We have a song to sing. It is a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people; a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption; and a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption. This is not only a ‘song of God’s people’. It is also the song of Moses, a personal song. This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart. Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship: (i) He praises the God of grace - ‘my strength... my song... my salvation’ (Exodus 15:2). (ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (Exodus 15:1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds (Exodus 15:6, 11). (iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (Exodus 15:13) - and glory - the reigning God (Exodus 15:18) - , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28). Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.
In the prophet’s words, we hear the Word of love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found...’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11). We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts...’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy...’ (Isaiah 55:12). Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...’ (Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time...’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).
‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’ (Isaiah 12:1-2). May this be our personal faith – this is what the Lord means to me – and our public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12: 4-5).
Be wise. Open your heart to love, eternal love, the love of God.
Hoping for ‘good luck’, some people expect good things to happen to them - all the time! God says, ‘Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times’. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 8:6-8). Wisdom is not only for ‘kings and rulers, princes and nobles’. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (Proverbs 8:15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (Proverbs 8:13, 35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (Proverbs 8:32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than ‘silver, gold and jewels’ (Proverbs 8:10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Proverbs 11:30). Don’t keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
In Proverbs 9:5, there is a Gospel invitation: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed’. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). ‘This sounds so old-fashioned’- so the world tells us. ‘The fear of the Lord’- This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! - It is a lack of obedience. When we do not ‘honour’ God, we are ‘without sense’. ‘Claiming to be wise’, we show that we are ‘fools’. If we are wise, we will keep ‘going straight on the way’, looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from ‘the depths of hell’ to the heights of heaven (Proverbs 8:13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2, 6).
In creation and Scripture, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’ (7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’ (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!
Through Christ, God looks upon us with love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘I will look on you with favour’ (Ezekiel 36:9). Through Christ our Saviour, God looks upon us with favour. Here are some words which will help you to rejoice in the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which is ‘greater than all my sin’, the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which ‘reaches me’. ‘Let me introduce you to a friend called Grace. Doesn’t care about your past or your many mistakes. He’ll cover your sins in a warm embrace. Let me introduce to a friend called Grace’. ‘His grace reaches lower than your worst mistake and His love will run further than you can run away’. ‘He believes in lost causes when common sense would just give up. He believes in lost causes and changes people with His love. There’s nobody too far gone, no one beyond His reach. He believes in lost causes ‘cause He believed in me’. Let Jesus be your Joy!
May your soul be lifted up by love, eternal love, the love of God.
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).
When the Spirit breathes upon us, we receive love, eternal love, the love of God.
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray. Unreservedly, have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You’ (Mission Praise, 274, 241).
On the Lord’s pathway of victory, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Psalmist prays, ‘Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord’ (Psalm 143:9). He is not concerned only about his own welfare. He is concerned about the glory of God: ‘For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life’ (Psalm 143:11). How does God lead us in victory? How is He glorified in our lives? He brings to us the teaching of His Word - ‘Let the morning bring me Word of Your unfailing love’ (Psalm 143:8). He gives to us the strength of His Spirit - ‘May Your good Spirit lead me in good paths’ (Psalm 143:10). Through His Word and Spirit, God shows us His ‘unfailing love’. He enables us to say, ‘You are my God’, ‘I have put my trust in You’ and ‘I am Your servant’. He ‘shows us the way we should go’. He ‘teaches us to do His will’. He gives us victory over our ‘enemies’ (8, 10, 12).
In the story of God’s salvation, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
In Zephaniah 3, we have a story of sin - Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ - and a story of salvation - ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy... The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:1-2, 14-17). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness - ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’ (Mission Praise, 573).
Let us worship God: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).
Living as a new creation: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). (b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it. This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11). (c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’. ‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
At the Cross of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).
In the resurrection of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’- His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (Matthew 28:5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact - Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (Matthew 28:19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ’s resurrection - , there is worship (Matthew 28:9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (Matthew 28:17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (Matthew 28:10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). Run and tell - with great joy (Matthew 28:8)!
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
The same readings are suggested for Year A and Year B.
-------------------
Easter Day: Acts 10:34-43 (or Isaiah 65:17-25); Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (or Acts 10:34-43); John 20:1-18 (or Luke 24:1-12)
God’s love, God’s Son, God’s command, God’s purpose
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you… you will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel – Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; Acts 11:1,18) – is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (Acts 10:44; Acts 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’ (Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save… Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise, 128). ‘Go forth and tell!’ (Mission Praise, 178).
Make sure that you belong to Christ. Put your faith in Him.
What a contrast there is between those who belong to Christ - ‘My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts’ - and those who have refused to come to Christ for salvation - ‘You will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit’ (Isaiah 65:14)! God is preparing a great future ‘for those who love Him’ - ‘I will create a new heaven and a new earth’. He is calling us away from our sins - ‘Past things will  not be remembered. They will not come to mind’. He is calling us to His ‘holy mountain’.  How can we enter into our full enjoyment of God’s eternal salvation? God’s Word tells us: ‘I will pay attention to those who are humble and sorry for their sins and who tremble at My Word’ (Isaiah 65:17,25; Isaiah 66:2; 1 Corinthians 2:9). Make sure that you belong to Christ. Put your faith in Him (John 3:18,36).
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’(Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’. Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’(Mission Praise, 59,744). Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.
Christ’s resurrection – believe the fact , live in its power, rejoice in its hope.
We learn of Christ’s resurrection: the fact – ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’ – and the meaning – ‘the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). We look back to His resurrection. We ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8). We look forward to our own resurrection. We will be ‘raised’ – ‘imperishable… in glory… in power… a spiritual body’ (1 Corin42-44). Looking back to His resurrection and looking forward to our own resurrection, we are to live, here and now, in ‘the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10). We believe the fact of the resurrection. We live in the power of the resurrection. We rejoice in the hope of the resurrection. With ‘resurrection’ faith in the ‘resurrection’ God, let us live the ‘resurrection’ life as a ‘resurrection’ people!
Changed by the power of the risen Christ
Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2,18,20,25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Jesus comes to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Mary, the disciples and Thomas are changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer – ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18). (b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (25). Jesus came to him, and he believed – ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).
Jesus has risen from the dead. Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus was ‘delivered into the hands of sinful men’.  Jesus was ‘crucified’. This was not, for Him, the end. He rose from the dead (Luke 24:7). At the Cross, ‘the centurion’ described Jesus as ‘a righteous man’ (Luke 23:47). In the resurrection, God declared Him to be much more than a righteous man – He is ‘the Son of God’ (Romans 1:4). Don’t be like those who do ‘not believe’, those who consider Christ’s resurrection to be ‘an idle tale’ (Luke 24:11). Something has ‘happened’, something very wonderful – Jesus has risen from the dead:… ‘believe… be saved’ (Luke 24:12; Romans 10:9).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Comon Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 118:14-29 (or Psalm 150; or 2 Kings 7:1-16); Psalm 2; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him" (Acts 5:32).
There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’ (Acts 5:14). There was persecution (Acts 5:17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (Acts 5:42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (Acts 6:1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men… known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’ (Acts 6:3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’ – ‘filled with the Spirit’ – as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’ (Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (Acts 6:7).
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’(Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’. Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’(Mission Praise, 59,744). Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.
‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’(Psalm 150:6).
‘Praise the Lord’. Psalms 146-150 begin and end with these words. Our personal song of praise to God - ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock... I will sing a new song to You, O God... I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You... My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord... I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 144:1,9; Psalm 145:1-2,21; Psalm 146:2) - is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller - ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’(Psalm 150:6). May these great Psalms of praise inspire us to praise the Lord more truly and more fully.
“ … Good news of a great joy … To you is born this day … a Saviour …” (Luke 2:10-11).
We read, in 2 Kings 7:2, of ‘windows in heaven’. Malachi 3:10 also speaks of ‘the windows in heaven’. Calling us to ‘bring the whole tithe (tenth)’ to Him, God invites us to look to Him to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down an overflowing blessing’. In 2 Kings 7:9, we read of ‘a day of good news’. What ‘a day of good news’ it will be when God ‘opens the windows of heaven and pours down an overflowing blessing’. All of our days of good news come from the day of good news: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day… a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11). ‘In Christ’, there is ‘every spiritual blessing’. God has given us so much. Let us give ourselves to Him: ‘Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1).
Let us take delight in God’s Son.
In Psalm 2, we read of a conflict. On the one side, there is ‘the Lord and His Anointed’ (Psalm 2:2). On the other there are those who ‘conspire and ...plot’ (Psalm 2:1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, ‘You are My Son’ (Psalm 2:7), the One to whom God says, ‘I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession’ (Psalm 2:8). God calls us to worship Christ - ‘Kiss the Son’ (12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God’s judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (12; John3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase,‘Kiss the Son.’ We delight in God’s Son,and we delight in God’s Word which leads us to Him.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ
This is ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Revelation 1:1). It comes from Him and it speaks of Him. Christ ‘loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood’ (5). We rejoice in Him. Christ is ‘coming with the clouds’ (7). We must get ready for Him. ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ calls for our response. It is not ‘for information only’. We are to ‘pay attention to what is written in it’. We are to ‘take it to heart’. We are to ‘do what it says’ (3). Christ reveals Himself to us. Is it for our benefit only? Is it just to make us ‘feel good’? No! We are to share with others what the Lord is teaching us. Christ said to John, ‘Write what you see’ (19). Don’t keep it to yourself. Share Christ. Tell others about Him. Tell them what the Lord has done for you. Speak His words of love: ‘Come… and learn from Me’ (Matthew 11:28-30).
Christ is the Lord. Christ is my Lord.
Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2,18,20,25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas – changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer – ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18). (b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (John 20:19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (John 20:25). Jesus came to him, and he believed – ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 9:1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30 (or Isaiah 61:1-3); Psalm 90:13-17; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
Called to Salvation: “The grace of God was poured on me abundantly” (1 Timothy 1:14).
Saul the persecutor become Paul the Apostle (Acts 13:9). What a great turning-point this was in the life of the early Church! When we read of Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-28:31), we may be tempted to think, ‘What a great man Paul must have been’. In his letters, Paul insists that we must not think like this. He tells us that ‘nothing good dwells within’ him. Paul never forgot his ‘past’: ‘I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him’. Paul describes himself as ‘the worst of sinners’. Paul gives his testimony: ‘The grace of God was poured on me abundantly’(Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). God’s true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, ‘The Lord Jesus… has sent me…’(Acts 9:17). Saul ‘preached boldly in the Name of Jesus’(Acts 9:27). Peter said, ‘Jesus Christ heals you…’(Acts 9:34).
Called to Worship: “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:12).
‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise,217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(Psalm 30:11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).
Called to Witness: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me … to bring Good News …” (Isaiah 61:1).
‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me... to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’(Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus has fulfilled these words (Luke 4:18-21). Jesus has come, ‘proclaiming the Good News of God’. He tells us that ‘the time has come’. This is the time of opportunity, the time for making our response to Jesus Christ. He calls for our response - ‘Repent and believe the Good News!’. He calls us to make our response now- ‘now is the acceptable time... now is the day of salvation’(Mark 1:14-15; 2 Corinthians 6:2). There will come a time when the time of opportunity comes to an end. When Christ returns ‘with power and great glory’, it will be ‘the Day of vengeance of our God’. We do not know when Christ will return. Get ‘ready’ for His Return. Put your ‘faith’ in Him (Isaiah 61:2; Matthew 24:30,36,44; 25:13; Luke 18:8).
Rejoicing in the loving heart of our salvation, worship and witness: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’(Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’. Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).
Looking forward to the glorious hope in our salvation, worship and witness: “... to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory ...“ (Revelation 5:14)
‘In heaven’, there’s ‘an open door’(Revelation 4:1). Who has opened heaven’s door for us? - Jesus Christ: ‘He only could unlock the gate of heaven, and let us in’, ‘Jesus loves me! He who died heaven’s gate to open wide; He will wash away my sin, let His little child come in’(Church Hymnary, 241,418). From heaven’s open door, we hear the voice of love. Jesus calls us - ‘Come up here’(Revelation 4:2). What happens when we respond to Christ’s call? - ‘At once I was in the Spirit’: ‘God sends the Spirit into our hearts’(Revelation 4:2; Galatians 4:6). The Spirit fills our hearts with worship: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God...’. ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain...’(Revelation 4:11; Revelation 5:12). Jesus invites us to catch a glimpse of heaven, to catch the Spirit of worship, to be filled with the ‘glory’ of God (Revelation 4:8,11; Revelation 5:12-13).
Our hope of eternal glory is filled with the love of Christ. What about here and now? Are we learning to love Jesus more truly and more fully?
Fishers of men (Matthew 4:19) - Set your goals lower than this, and you will take others with you. Together, you will discover the emptiness of life without Christ at its centre - ‘they caught nothing’(John 21:3). Note the contrast between the self-centered life (John 21:5) and the Christ-centered life (John 21:6,8,11). Loving, serving and following Jesus - These are the most important things in life (John 21:15-17,22). Don’t look over your shoulder at someone else - ‘Lord, what about this man?’(John 21:21). Let it be personal - Jesus says, ‘Do you love Me?’(John 21:15-17). He asked Peter, ‘Do you love me more than these?’(John 21:15) - more than you love these other disciples, more than these other disciples love Me, more than your boats, nets and fishes? Look back and ask yourself, ‘Do I love Jesus more than I did a year ago?’
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23 (or Isaiah 53:1-6); Psalm 114; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
Paul the Apostle points us to Jesus the Saviour.
Saul the persecutor become Paul the Apostle (Acts 13:9). What a great turning-point this was in the life of the early Church! When we read of Paul’s missionary journeys (Acts 13:1-28:31), we may be tempted to think, ‘What a great man Paul must have been’. In his letters, Paul insists that we must not think like this. He tells us that ‘nothing good dwells within’ him. Paul never forgot his ‘past’: ‘I cursed Him, persecuted Him, and acted arrogantly toward Him’. Paul describes himself as ‘the worst of sinners’. Paul gives his testimony: ‘The grace of God was poured on me abundantly’(Romans 7:18; 1 Timothy 1:13-15). God’s true servants direct our attention to Christ. Ananias said, ‘The Lord Jesus... has sent me...’(Acts 9:17). Saul ‘preached boldly in the Name of Jesus’(Acts 9:27). Peter said, ‘Jesus Christ heals you...’(Acts 9:34).
Jesus the Saviour is our Shepherd of love.
Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’(Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25). For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’(Psalm 24:5).
Jesus the Saviour was crucified for us and has risen for us.
In this remarkable prophecy (Isaiah 53), we see Jesus Christ, crucified for us - ‘the Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ - and risen from the dead - ‘After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life’(Isaiah 53:6,11). ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’(Mission Praise, 745). We might put this question to Isaiah. In one sense, he wasn’t there. He lived long before the time of Christ. In another sense, he was there. God opened his eyes. God gave him a glimpse of what was going to happen in the future. ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ In one sense, we weren’t there. These things happened long before we were even born. In another sense, we were there. It was our sins which Christ took with Him to the Cross. It was our sins which He left behind Him when He rose from the dead (Romans 4:25).
In Jesus the Saviour, we see the greatness of God’s love.
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’(Psalm 113:4-5; Psalm 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).
Jesus the Saviour invites us to come to Him.
Christ invites us to ‘come’(Revelation 6:1,3,5,7) - and look at things through His eyes. With Him, we look at earth. With Him, we look at heaven. Troubled world, tremendous worship - These are the things we see when we look through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our world is deeply troubled. Heaven’s worship is absolutely tremendous. Of all our many ‘troubles’, the greatest is this: We are sinners, and none of us ‘can stand’ before ‘the face of Him who sits on the throne’. Our earthly ‘troubles’ are nothing compared with this! There is hope. There is a way of ‘salvation’. We can be saved through ‘the blood of the Lamb’. If, however, we turn from Him - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’- there will be no hope. We will face ‘the wrath of the Lamb’(Revelation 4:16-17; Revelation 5:10,14; John 1:29). Will you be saved - or lost?
In Jesus the Saviour, there is eternal life.
The Christian life is not easy. The devil ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’(John 10:10). Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying ‘to stone’ Jesus (John 10:31). ‘Again’, they failed (John 10:39). They could not take Jesus’ life. ‘His hour had not yet come’(John 10:18; John 7:30;John 8:20). When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (John 10:28-29). Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’. Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148 (or Leviticus 19:9-18); Psalm 24:1-6; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35
When the Holy Spirit comes on you ... there is witness.
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’(Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’(Acts 10:45; Acts 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’(Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (Acts 10:44; Acts 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’(John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’(Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save... Here am I, send me’(Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’(Mission Praise, 178).
When the Holy Spirit comes on you … there is praise.
‘Praise the Lord’. Psalms 146 and 147 began and ended with these words. Now, we find the same beginning and ending in Psalms 148-150 - ‘Praise the Lord’. Our personal song of praise to God - ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock... I will sing a new song to You, O God... I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You... My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord... I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 144:1,9; Psalm 145:1-2,21; Psalm 146:2) - is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller - ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’(Psalm 150:6). May these great Psalms of praise inspire us to praise the Lord more truly and more fully.
When the Holy Spirit comes on you … there is holiness and love.
Holiness and love - the two belong together (Leviticus 19:1,18,34). God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love. Through His Spirit - the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - , He enables us to live this life. We need His promises. We need His commands. Take them both together - not one without the other! Promises without commands - We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing. Commands without promises - Our 'obedience' becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace. We are to 'be holy... before Him in love' (Ephesians 1:4). 'The holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the 'love' without which we are 'nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall 'be holy... in love' (Leviticus 19:34,36).
When the Holy Spirit comes on you … there is the hope of eternal glory.
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord,...the God of our salvation’(Psalm 24:5). There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’. No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’- no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’(Psalm 24:7,9). How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power? Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’(Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
When the Holy Spirit comes on you ... there is a great future.
Our Saviour is ‘Faithful and True’. He is ‘the Word of God’. He is our ‘Lord’ and ‘King’(Revelation 19:11,13,16). We are invited to ‘come’ to Him. The invitation - ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God’- is a call to come to Christ (Revelation 19:17). We come to Christ so that we might ‘reign with Him’(Revelation 20:6). Coming to Christ is only the beginning. God is preparing us for something even better - reigning with Him. This is a great future - ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’(Revelation 21:4). There is, however, a Word of warning for those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation - ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’; ‘Their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur’(Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:8). ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31).
When the Holy Spirit comes on you ... there is a glorious future.
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (John 13:21-30). He would be denied by Peter (John 13:36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (John 13:31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to ‘love one another’: ‘By this all men shall know that they are His disciples’(John 13:34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (John 14:6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (John 14:9). Now, He is working in and through us (John 14:12-14). He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’(Church Hymnary, 195).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
----------------------
Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67 (or Deuteronomy 34:1-12); Psalm 109:21-31; Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5; John 14:23-29 (or John 5:1-9)
Let us pray that the Word of the Lord will speak to us as the power of God for salvation.
Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (Acts 16:13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (Acts 16:16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (Acts 16:25-34). They had gone to Philippi ‘to preach the Gospel to them’(10). Even when they were ‘in chains’, the Gospel proved itself to be ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’(Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). ‘The Word of God is not bound’. It is ‘living and active’. ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword’, it is ‘the sword of the Spirit’(2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (Acts 16:30-31)? ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit... with all perseverance’(Ephesians 6:18).
Let us read the Word of the Lord. Let us hear the Word of the Lord.
‘Come and see what God has done’(Psalm 66:5). God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us. ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’(Psalm 66:16). God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives. We read God’s Word. We hear His Word. This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us. He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’. He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’(Psalm 67:1,6-7). He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’to ‘worship Him’(Psalm 67:4,7).
Let us trust the Word of the Lord.
‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’(Deuteronomy 33:27): This is no guarantee of peaceful tranquillity. For Israel, there was conflict. ‘Saved by the Lord’, Israel had found true happiness. Still, there were ‘enemies’ to be ‘thrust out’ and ‘trampled down’(Deuteronomy 33:27,29). Knowing the blessing of God’s salvation is no guarantee that life will be easy. When the enemies of the Gospel see a believer intent on glorifying the Lord, they do all they can to create problems. We have ‘enemies’ in ‘high places’(Deuteronomy 33:29; Ephesians 6:12). Their argument is not with us. It is with God. If God’s work is to do well, there needs to be spiritual leadership. Moses had led God’s people in his day. Joshua was to take his place (Deuteronomy 34:9). Moses was important. Joshua was important. The Lord is more important - ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’(Romans 8:31).
Let us receive strength from the Word of the Lord.
We must come to the Lord, recognizing that, without Him, 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 the Lord, praying for His help, asking Him to save us - ‘Help me, O Lord my God; save me in accordance with Your love’(Psalm 109:26). Let us look away from ourselves and our own weakness. Let us put our trust in the Lord and His strength. The Lord will not fail us. He ‘stands beside’ us in our time of testing. He ‘saves’ us from our enemies. Let us praise Him: ‘I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth. I will praise Him among many people...’(Psalm 109:30-31).
Let us respond to the Word of the Lord. Let us come to repentance.
God has given us a glimpse of a future which is heavenly, eternal and glorious: ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God’. Is this ‘eternal life’ for everyone? Will all people ‘dwell in the House of the Lord for ever’? Will everyone be saved. Is this what the Word of God teaches? ‘God wants everyone to be saved.’ He wants everyone to ‘come to the knowledge of the truth’, to ‘come to repentance.’ Sadly, there are many who ‘refuse to love the truth and so be saved’(Revelation 21:10-11; John 3:16; Psalm 23:6; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Who will be saved? - ‘only those, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.’ ‘Come’ to Christ - ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they...may go through the gates into the city’(Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:17,14).
Let us obey the Word of the Lord.
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His ‘commandments’, keeping His ‘Word’(John 14:21,23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (John 14:23). Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (John 15:4). Jesus says to us, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’(John 15:5). You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you. ‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’(John 14:26). Christ’s ‘words’ abide in us (John 15:7). We are called to a life of fruitfulness (John 15:5,15) - ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace...’(Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (John 14:21). He gives us His peace (John 14:27). He gives us His joy (John 15:11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’ be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’(John 15:12,16-17).
Let us believe the Word of the Lord.
In Jesus’ healings, we see the love of God. He ‘went about doing good.’ In His healings, we see the Source of His spiritual strength: ‘God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power’(Acts 10:38). We look beyond Jesus to God the Father: ‘mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through Him’(Acts 2:22). Jesus speaks of His unique relationship with the Father (John 5:19,26). Jesus is no mere servant. He is ‘the Son’. We are to ‘honour the Son’ as well as the Father (John 5:23). Through Christ, we receive ‘eternal life’(John 5:24). The gift of eternal life is the gift of God’s love. In love, God ‘gave His only Son’. ‘In His Son’, there is eternal life. ‘This life’ is given to everyone who ‘believes in the Son of God’(John 3:16; 1 John 5:10-12). Listen to ‘the voice of the Son of God’, believe and ‘live’(John 5:25).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Ascension of the Lord (Revised Common Lectionary - Year C)
Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:1-9 (or Psalm 93:1-5; or Daniel 7:9-14); Psalm 113:1-9; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53
(The only difference between Years A, B and C is in the second suggestion for the Psalms, i.e. Psalm 113 is different from Year A (Psalm 24:7-10) and Year B (Psalm 68:15-20, 32-35)
Be filled with the Spirit.
We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’ would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified’. Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up... into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’(Acts 1:11,8). He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’. He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’(Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’(Acts 1:14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift(Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).
Be still and know that I am God.
‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’(Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’(Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’(Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’(Psalm 46:10; Psalm 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).
God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted.
‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever... The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...’(Psalm 92:8; Psalm 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’ - This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’ - This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’ the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’(Psalm 97:9; Psalm 29:10; Mission Praise, 158,217,388,507).
Come, Lord, come!
‘There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven... His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed’(Daniel 7:13-14). These words point us to Christ’s description of His Second Coming, the Coming of His Kingdom: ‘They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’(Matthew 24:30). In Revelation 1:7, we have another echo of Daniel’s ‘vision’: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’. ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending... Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the power and glory, claim the Kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!’(Church Hymnary, 316).
How great Thou art – great in power, great in love.
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’(Psalm 113:4-5; Psalm 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).
Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’(Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’ - by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:7). When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’(Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’(Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’(Ephesians 1:6).
Let the Lord bless you, strengthening your worship and filling you with great joy.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’(Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’(Luke 24:32). He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’(Luke 24:47-48). Before we can preach, we must listen to Him. Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’(Luke 24:39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’(John 20:25). Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high. Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy’. With all this going on in your lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’(Luke 24:48-53)!
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
------------------------------------
Seventh Sunday of Easter (Revised Common Lectionary - Year C)
Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97:1--12 (or 2 Kings 2:1-15); Psalm 2:1-12; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17:20-26
Pray at all times in the Spirit ... with all perseverance.
Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (Acts 16:13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (Acts 16:16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (Acts 16:25-34). They had gone to Philippi ‘to preach the Gospel to them’(Acts 16:10). Even when they were ‘in chains’, the Gospel proved itself to be ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’(Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). ‘The Word of God is not bound’. It is ‘living and active’. ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword’, it is ‘the sword of the Spirit’(2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (Acts 16:30-31)? ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit... with all perseverance’(Ephesians 6:18).
Reign in me, Sovereign Lord.
‘The Lord reigns’(Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1). ‘The Lord is King!’. He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’. He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’(Church Hymnary, 35,36,388,360,86). His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life. He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life. Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do. We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).
Will you take up the mantle of prophetic ministry for God and the next generation?
‘He took up the mantle of Elijah’(2 Kings 2:13). Elijah’s ministry had ended. Elisha’s ministry was about to begin. It was the beginning of a new era. This may have been a new ministry. It was not, however, a new message. Both men preached the Word of the Lord. Elisha continued Elijah’s work. He took up where Elijah had left off. He brought the Word of the Lord to the people. Elisha was not exactly the same as Elijah. He was Elisha - not Elijah! There was, however, continuity. The second ministry built on the work done during the first ministry. The laying of the foundations - This is what Elijah’s ministry had been all about. Now, Elisha would build on this good foundation. He would take the work of God forward. Into the future, on to the second stage - This is what Elisha’s ministry was all about.
‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’(2 Kings 2:14). Elijah was no longer there - but God was still there! Don’t imagine that God goes away when there’s a change of ministry. While Elijah had been serving the Lord, Elisha was being prepared for his time. God is always one step ahead of us. We are living in the present day. He is planning for the future. With each succeeding generation, the question is asked, ‘Where is the Lord?’. In every generation, God is looking for those who will serve Him - ‘testifying of the Gospel of the grace of God, testifying of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, declaring the whole counsel of God’(Acts 20:24,21,27). This is ‘the mantle of Elijah’(2 Kings 2:14) - the mantle of prophetic ministry. Will you ‘take up the mantle’ for God and the next generation?
Let us take delight in God’s Son – and in God’s Word, which leads us to Him.
In Psalm 2, we read of a conflict. On the one side, there is ‘the Lord and His Anointed’(Psalm 2:2). On the other there are those who ‘conspire and ...plot’(Psalm 2:1). The conspiracies and plots of men will come to nothing. The saving purpose of God will be fulfilled. This purpose will be accomplished in Christ, the One to whom God says, ‘You are My Son’(Psalm 2:7), the One to whom God says, ‘I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession’(Psalm 2:8). God calls us to worship Christ - ‘Kiss the Son’(Psalm 2:12). This call to worship Christ is accompanied by a warning against judgment and a promise of salvation. As sinners, we are under God’s judgment. Trusting in Christ, we are saved (Psalm 2:12; John 3:36). We are to take delight in Christ. This is the thought conveyed by the phrase, ‘Kiss the Son’. We delight in God’s Son, and we delight in God’s Word which leads us to Him.
God has a glorious future for all who will come to Christ and be saved by Him.
God has given us a glimpse of a future which is heavenly, eternal and glorious: ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God’. Is this ‘eternal life’ for everyone? Will all people ‘dwell in the House of the Lord for ever’? Will everyone be saved. Is this what the Word of God teaches? ‘God wants everyone to be saved’. He wants everyone to ‘come to the knowledge of the truth’, to ‘come to repentance’. Sadly, there are many who ‘refuse to love the truth and so be saved’(Revelation 21:10-11; John 3:16; Psalm 23:6; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Who will be saved? - ‘only those, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life’. ‘Come’ to Christ - ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they...may go through the gates into the city’(Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:17,14).
Jesus prayed for His first disciples. He is still praying for us.
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (John 17:20). The story of the Cross (John 17:1-5), the story of the first disciples (John 17:6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ’s death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today’s world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - ‘that they may be one’(John 17:11). He prays the same prayer for us (John 17:20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, ‘the one who chose to be lost’(John 17:12). If we are to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit’, we must take account of ‘the Judas factor’- ‘take notice of those who create dissensions... avoid them’(Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Day of Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21 (or Genesis 11:1-9); Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:14-17 (or Acts 2:1-21); John 14:8-17, (25-27)
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ.
‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’(1 Corinthians 12:3). ‘In Jerusalem’, on ‘the day of Pentecost’ there are ‘Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven’(Acts 2:1,5). They are ‘amazed’ at what they hear - ‘we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God’(Acts 2:7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!’(Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’, the apostles pave the way for Peter’s bold proclamation: ‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’(Acts 2:36). Empowered ‘by the Holy Spirit’, this message - ‘Jesus is Lord’ - is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (Acts 2:41-47).
In Christ, there is safety and strength.
Human pride sets itself up against the authority of God. This is the oft-repeated story of the ‘Tower of Babel.’ The end of godless men is sure - ‘Tower and temple, fall to dust’(Church Hymnary, 405). Sin can be analyzed psychologically in terms of the human attitude of proud independence - ‘let us make a name for ourselves’(Genesis 11:5), sociologically in terms of sin’s pervasive influence on a whole society (this was the sin of a whole society), and theologically in terms of the divine judgment which human sin brings upon itself (Genesis 11:5-9). What a contrast there is between the Tower of Babel and the great declaration of Proverbs 18:10 - ‘The Name of the Lord is a strong tower’. In Babel there is scattering (Genesis 11:9). In the Lord, there is safety - ‘A righteous man runs to it and is safe.’ Do not imagine yourself to be strong (Proverbs 18:11). True strength is in Christ alone (1 Corinthians 1:27).
Worshipping the Lord – it’s an “all my life” commitment!
‘I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 104:33). Do you feel like giving up? Other things are becoming more important to you. Worshipping the Lord is being pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes are creeping in. It starts with the idea, ‘Worship’s just an hour on a Sunday’. Then, it becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I feel like it’. It soon becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I’ve nothing better to do’. Before long, all desire for worshipping the Lord has gone! Little-by-little, you are drifting away from the Lord. It’s time to start thinking about what’s happening. It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time for an ‘all my life’ commitment to worshipping the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!
Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory.
Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’ or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’(Romans 8:5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’(Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit.’ The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance.’ He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more - ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’(Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14,26,17).
Looking forward to heavenly glory, let us learn to give glory to the Lord here-and-now.
Jesus speaks of His glorious future. He assures His disciples that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (John 14:6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (John 14:9). Now, He is working in and through us (John 14:12-14). He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’(Church Hymnary, 195).
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His ‘commandments’, keeping His ‘Word’(John 14:21,23). We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (John 14:23).
‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’(26). ‘The fruit of the Spirit’ is ‘love, joy, peace...’(Galatians 5:22-23). Jesus loves us (John 14:21). He gives us His peace (John 14:27). He gives us His joy (John 14:11). Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’ be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’(John 15:12,16-17).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-----------------------------------
Trinity Sunday (First Sunday after Pentecost): Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
Are you looking for Wisdom? - Christ is our Wisdom.
Hoping for ‘good luck’, some people expect good things to happen to them - all the time! God says, ‘Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times’. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 8:6-8). Wisdom is not only for ‘kings and rulers, princes and nobles’. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (Proverbs 8:15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (Proverbs 8:13,35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (Proverbs 8:32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than ‘silver, gold and jewels’(Proverbs 8:10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: ‘He who wins souls is wise’(Proverbs 11:30). Don’t keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
Are you looking for Love? – Christ is our Love.
The Lord is ‘majestic’(Psalm 8:1,9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He show us His greatness, the greatness of His love. We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4). We are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’(Psalm 8:2). We look beyond our creation (Psalm 8:5-8) to our salvation - ‘we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone...that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil’(Hebrews 2:8-9,14). This is ‘Majesty’ - ‘Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’. The Name of the Lord is majestic ‘in all the earth’(Psalm 8:1,9). To God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we pray, ‘Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise. 454,142).
Are you looking for Salvation? – Christ is our Salvation.
God has great things in store for His people! (a) ‘Much more’(Romans 5:9-10): ‘Justified by Christ’s blood’, ‘reconciled to God’, ‘We shall be saved by Christ from the wrath of God’, ‘saved by His life’. (b) ‘Much more’(Romans 5:15,17): ‘The grace of God’ has ‘abounded for many’. In Christ, we have ‘received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness’. Through Him, we shall ‘reign in life’. (c) ‘More than that’(Romans 5:3): Our pathway to eternal glory will not be easy. There will be ‘suffering’. God has given us a glimpse of our eternal destiny: ‘grace reigning through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Romans 5:21). ‘We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God’(Romans 5:2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our ‘suffering’ in a new light, the light of ‘God’s love’(Romans 5:3-5).
Are you looking for Victory? - Christ is our Victory.
Jesus was ‘persecuted’. We will be ‘persecuted’- ‘all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted’(John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, ‘the Spirit of truth’ directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (John 15:26; John 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus’words: ‘In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’(John 16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ - This is our faith’(1 John 5:4-5).
The Bible readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Second Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39; Psalm 96 (or 1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43); Psalm 96:1-9; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-10
Life is full of ups and downs. God’s love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
Things were getting desperate: ‘Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him’(1 Kings 16:33). What did God do about this? How did He respond to this situation? God sent His prophet, a man who would stand up for God against Ahab. ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’(Isaiah 59:19). Where did Elijah come from? He came from God! All we know about Elijah’s early life is expressed in the words: ‘Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead’. There is something else we know about him. He was a man of God. He was a man with a message, a man who spoke in the Name of the Lord the God of Israel’(1 Kings 17:1). Things happened when Elijah was around. This was the Spirit of God at work - in power!
Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’(1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’(1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’- ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
‘The Lord reigns’(Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1).
‘The Lord is King!’. He is not only ‘the King all-glorious above’. He is ‘the King of love’. He is ‘our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend!’. He is not only ‘the King of heaven’. He is ‘the God of grace’. He is ‘the King of mercy’(Church Hymnary 3, 35,36,388,360,86). His reign is not to be restricted to some faraway heaven. It is not to be a reign that is far removed from the practicalities of our everyday life. He is to reign in our hearts. He is to reign in every part of our life. Let His reign of love begin. Let His grace and mercy control all that you do. We must pray, ‘Reign in me, Sovereign Lord, reign in me’. When we say, ‘Let Your Kingdom come’ and ‘let Your will be done’, we must pray, ‘Captivate my heart. Establish there Your throne’(Mission Praise, 570).
“The glory of the Lord filled the House of the Lord’(1 Kings 8:6,11).
The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord whenever the Word of God is honoured by the people of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1,14). The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord when Christ is given the place of highest honour among the people of God. Do you want to experience God’s glory? Honour His Word. Love His Son - the Lord Jesus Christ.
The person who leads us in worship, the place where we worship or the God whom we worship - Which is the most important? We know what our answer should be. No person or place is more important than the Lord. Often, we take our eyes off the Lord. Solomon directs our attention to the Lord. Leading ‘all the assembly of Israel’ in worship, he says, ‘Blessed be the Lord’(1 Kings 8:14-15). The glory does not belong to Solomon. It belongs to the Lord. In his prayer, Solomon contrasts the place where we worship with the God whom we worship: ‘Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee; how much less this House which I have built!’(1 Kings 8:27). We must think big thoughts about God. He is ‘the God of Israel’(1 Kings 8:15,17,20,23,25-26). He is more than that. He is our God. He loves all nations (Isaiah 45:22; 49:6; Acts 13:47; John 3:16).
What is happening when we are gathered together for worship? Is this merely a human thing, something which we do? No! - There is something more. God is at work. He is there to ‘incline our hearts to Him…’(1 Kings 8:58). Before we have gathered, God is there, waiting for us, ready to speak His Word: ‘Let your heart be wholly true to the Lord your God…’(1 Kings 8:61). God wants us to be holy. He wants us to be wholly true to Him. Holiness is no ‘kill joy’ affair. It is a life of joy and gladness (1 Kings 8:66).
‘A revelation of Jesus Christ’(Galatians 1:12)
This is what the Gospel is all about. Christ is the Gospel. Without Him, there is no Gospel. What was Paul’s testimony? What did he preach to others? - God ‘was pleased to reveal His Son in order that I might preach Him…’(1:15-16). We have no other testimony. We have no other message. Christ is our Testimony. Christ is our Message. Paul’s conversion, Paul’s preaching - All of this comes from a very long time ago. So much has changed. Things are so different now. We listen to this kind of talk and we wonder, ‘Is the Gospel still relevant?’. Should we not leave Christ in the past and ‘get on with living in today’s world?’. We listen to the world’s talk and we are filled with doubts. Listen to God’s Word: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’(Hebrews 13:8).
‘When he heard of Jesus...’(Luke 7:3)
‘Faith comes from hearing...’. Tell people of Jesus: ‘How can they believe in Him if they have not heard His message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?’(Romans 10:17,14). ‘God has visited His people!’(Luke 7:16): ‘Raised from the dead’ - Pray for a real ‘quickening’ as the ‘God, who is rich in mercy’, pours out ‘His great love’ upon us (Ephesians 2:4-6). John was looking for the One who was ‘to come’(Luke 7:19). What a great thing it is when Christ comes among us. Do we take His presence for granted? Do not presume on God’s blessing: ‘Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!... many... desired to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it’(Luke 10:23-24). Do we care about God’s blessing? - If we don’t, we may lose it!
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
----------------------
Third Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 17:8-16, (17-24); Psalm 146:1-10 (or 1 Kings 17:17-24); Psalm 30:1-12; Galatians 1:11-24: Luke 7:11-17
The Spirit of God at work – in power!
Things were getting desperate: ‘Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him’(1 Kings 16:33). What did God do about this? How did He respond to this situation? God sent His prophet, a man who would stand up for God against Ahab. ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’(Isaiah 59:19). Where did Elijah come from? He came from God! All we know about Elijah’s early life is expressed in the words: ‘Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead’. There is something else we know about him. He was a man of God. He was a man with a message, a man who spoke in the Name of the Lord the God of Israel’(1 Kings 17:1). Things happened when Elijah was around. This was the Spirit of God at work - in power!
We need the Lord’s help. We have the Lord’s help.
‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 146:2). Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’(Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’(Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).
We look to God in our weakness. He gives us His strength.
‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise,217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(Psalm 30:11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).
Power, Help and Strength – in Jesus Christ; “the same yesterday and today and forever”
‘A revelation of Jesus Christ’(Galatians 1:12) - This is what the Gospel is all about. Christ is the Gospel. Without Him, there is no Gospel. What was Paul’s testimony? What did he preach to others? - God ‘was pleased to reveal His Son in order that I might preach Him…’(Galatians 1:15-16). We have no other testimony. We have no other message. Christ is our Testimony. Christ is our Message. Paul’s conversion, Paul’s preaching - All of this comes from a very long time ago. So much has changed. Things are so different now. We listen to this kind of talk and we wonder, ‘Is the Gospel still relevant?’ Should we not leave Christ in the past and ‘get on with living in today’s world?’ We listen to the world’s talk and we are filled with doubts. Listen to God’s Word: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever’(Hebrews 13:8).
What a great thing it is to us when Christ comes to us – with His blessing!
‘When he heard of Jesus...’(Luke 7:3): ‘Faith comes from hearing...’. Tell people of Jesus: ‘How can they believe in Him if they have not heard His message? How can they hear if no one tells the Good News?’(Romans 10:17,14). ‘God has visited His people!’(Luke 7:16): ‘Raised from the dead’- Pray for a real ‘quickening’ as the ‘God, who is rich in mercy’, pours out ‘His great love’ upon us (Ephesians 2:4-6). John was looking for the One who was ‘to come’(Luke 7:19). What a great thing it is when Christ comes among us. Do we take His presence for granted? Do not presume on God’s blessing: ‘Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!... many... desired to see what you see and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it’(Luke 10:23-24). Do we care about God’s blessing? - If we don’t, we may lose it!
--
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a; Psalm 5:1-8 (or 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15; Psalm 32:1-11; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
God’s Word of judgment – a call to hear His Word of mercy
We read of human sin and divine judgment (1 Kings 21:1-4,15-16,20-24). There is also something else here: the mercy of God - ‘Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days…’(1 Kings 21:29). The judgment of God will come - but not yet. It is held back by the mercy of God. We live in confusing times. There is much evidence of sin. There are some signs of repentance. What are the servants of the Lord to say? Is there a single message, a Word of judgment, a Word of mercy? Here is what we must say: ‘What the Lord says to me, that I will speak’(1 Kings 22:14). Let us not settle for a one-sided message - preaching judgment without a glimmer of hope, promising mercy without issuing the Gospel warning. May God help us to be like Paul: ‘I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God’(Acts 20:27).
All have sinned … Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Psalm 5 is a morning prayer: ‘morning by morning’, we are to come before the Lord ‘in expectation’ of His blessing (Psalm 5:3). The Psalmist prays with great earnestness. His prayer is a ‘sighing’ before God, a ‘cry for help’(Psalm 5:1-2). He acknowledges the holiness of God: ‘You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, with you the wicked cannot dwell’(Psalm 5:4). The words of Psalm 5:9 apply to every one of us. Paul quotes this verse in support of the conclusion that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’(Romans 3:13,23). There is, however, a way of coming to God. It is ‘by His mercy’(Psalm 5:7). Each of us has been declared guilty by God (Psalm 5:10; Romans 3:19-20). For the fallen, God has provided a way of forgiveness. For the guilty, He has provided a way to gladness (Psalm 5:11; Luke 2:10-11). ‘Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’(Church Hymnary, 380).
Our sin is great. The Lord’s love for us is even greater than our sin.
‘The thing that David had done displeased the Lord’ (2 Samuel 11:27). Often, we do not live up to the ideal. Throughout life, there are choices between our own will and the will of the Lord. Sometimes, we make wrong choices. We choose our own way rather than the Lord’s way. Throughout life, God is speaking to us. He is trying to get our attention. He wants it to be less of self and more of Him. He is leading us to say from the heart, ‘As for God, His way is perfect’ (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30). May we have this testimony: ‘I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God’ (Psalm 18:21).
In God’s dealings with sinners, we see His great love for us. In 2 Samuel 12:7, there is conviction of sin - ‘You are the man’. In 2 Samuel 12:13, we have confession of sin - ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ - and forgiveness of sin - ‘The Lord has taken away your sin’. In 2 Samuel 12:20, there is the restoration of the sinner - ‘washed... anointed… changed… he went into the house of the Lord, and worshipped’. These were not easy times for David - ‘the child died’ (2 Samuel 12:18). Later on, ‘a son’ was born (2 Samuel 12:24). Sometimes, good things are happening to us. Sometimes, bad things are happening. ‘The Lord loved him’ (2 Samuel 12:24): ‘Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy', never forget ‘His love’ (Mission Praise, 702). Our circumstances change. His love never changes. When you’re feeling down, let His love lift you up!
The forgiveness of sins – a tremendous blessing!
The forgiveness of sins - what a tremendous blessing this is (Psalm 32:1-2). We receive God’s forgiveness when we confess our sins to Him. This is the Psalmist’s testimony: ‘I made my sins known to You, and I did not cover up my guilt. I decided to confess them to You, O Lord. Then You forgave all my sins’(Psalm 32:5). This is the promise of God: ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’(1 John 1:9). Knowing that our sins have been forgiven by God, we can face our many trying times with confidence in Him: ‘You are my hiding place. You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance whenever I am afraid. I will trust in You, I will trust in You. Let the weak say, “I am strong in the strength of my God”’(Psalm 32:7; Mission Praise, 793).
Christ loves me. Christ lives in me.
Who is the Christ who stands in the centre of Paul’s testimony and preaching? He is the crucified Christ – ‘I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me’. He is the living Christ – ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’. In Christ, there is love- ‘He loved me’. In Christ there is life - He ‘lives in me’(Galatians 2:20). The world tells us to forget about Christ – ‘He’s out-of-date’. The Word of God calls us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Jesus forgives our sins and He calls us to be faithful to Him.
Jesus does not come to us because we are good. He comes to us because He forgives sins. The woman came to Jesus and received forgiveness. The Pharisee, though steeped in religion, remained unforgiven (Luke 7:47-50). Don’t be like the Pharisee. Don’t look down your nose at the ordinary people who mean so much to the Lord. ‘Some women…’: Much of God’s work is being upheld by faithful women who, by their praying, giving and working, are ‘ministering to Him’ (Luke 8:1-3).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-----------------------------------------------------------
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a; Psalms 42 and 43 (or Isaiah 65:1-9); Psalm 22:19-28; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39
God’s Love is Unchanged, Unchanging and Unchangeable.
Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’ (1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’ (1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’ - ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word?
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalm 42:5,11; Psalm 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).
The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.
We confess our sins to God - ‘We sinned... All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. We look to God for forgiveness - ‘Do not remember our sins for ever’ (Isaiah 64:5-6,9). We know that God hears and answers our prayer. Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to our prayer. He has ‘come down’ from heaven to earth. ‘The Son of the Most High’ has been ‘born’ into our world. Jesus Christ is God’s way of saying ‘Here am I! Here am I!’. He is ‘God with us’ (Isaiah 64:1; Isaiah 65:1; Luke 1:32,35; Matthew 1:23). ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’. Let us ‘confess our sins’. ‘The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin’ - Let us come to God with faith, believing that He ‘will forgive our sins’. (1 John 1:7,9). Let us rejoice in Jesus, our Saviour!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22,27,30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9). Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love - (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25).
God has sent His Spirit. Be filled with His Spirit.
‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ (Galatians 3:13-14). We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’ (Church Hymnary, 83). All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me’ (Mission Praise, 613). God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
We need both - worship and witness.
‘Where is your faith?’ (Luke 8:25). The Lord is not looking for lip-service. He is looking for real faith. Some beg Jesus ‘to depart from them’ (Luke 8:37). They don't want to know! Others long to ‘be with Him’ (Luke 8:38). They don’t want to go! Some have no interest in worship. They don’t really want to get to know Jesus. Others love to ‘worship’, but they are so slow to witness. They need to hear Jesus’ words - ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’ (Luke 8:39). Real faith worships. Real faith witnesses. We need both - Worship and Witness. Some - ‘the multitudes’ (Luke 8:45) - touch Jesus superficially. They are interested - when everything seems exciting! They touch Jesus religiously. They do not touch Him by faith. Where is the ‘power’, the resurrection power (Luke 8:46,54)? Without faith, there is no power!
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Revised Common Lectionary - Year C)
2 Kings 2:1-2,6-14; Psalm 77:1-2,11-20 (or 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21); Psalm 16:1-11; Galatians 5:1,13-25; Luke 9:51-62
Will you take up the “mantle” of prophetic ministry for the next generation?
‘He took up the mantle of Elijah’(2 Kings 2:13). Elijah’s ministry had ended. Elisha’s ministry was about to begin. It was the beginning of a new era. This may have been a new ministry. It was not, however, a new message. Both men preached the Word of the Lord. Elisha continued Elijah’s work. He took up where Elijah had left off. He brought the Word of the Lord to the people. Elisha was not exactly the same as Elijah. He was Elisha - not Elijah! There was, however, continuity. The second ministry built on the work done during the first ministry. The laying of the foundations - This is what Elijah’s ministry had been all about. Now, Elisha would build on this good foundation. He would take the work of God forward. Into the future, on to the second stage - This is what Elisha’s ministry was all about.
‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’(2 Kings 2:14). Elijah was no longer there - but God was still there! Don’t imagine that God goes away when there’s a change of ministry. While Elijah had been serving the Lord, Elisha was being prepared for his time. God is always one step ahead of us. We are living in the present day. He is planning for the future. With each succeeding generation, the question is asked, ‘Where is the Lord?’. In every generation, God is looking for those who will serve Him - ‘testifying of the Gospel of the grace of God, testifying of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, declaring the whole counsel of God’(Acts 20:24,21,27). This is ‘the mantle of Elijah’(2 Kings 2:14) - the mantle of prophetic ministry. Will you ‘take up the mantle’ for God and the next generation?
When you’re full of questions, remember what the Lord has done for you.
Sometimes, we have more questions than answers (Psalm 77:7-9). The questions keep flooding into our minds. We wonder where the answers are going to come from. What are we to do when this happens? We must remember what the Lord has done for us (Psalm 77:11-12). Look back over the ‘years’ - and remember how the ‘hand’of the Lord has been upon you (Psalm 77:5,10). Think of how the Lord has led you on your journey through life. He has been your ‘Shepherd’. He has led you ‘in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake’. Let the memory of God’s many blessings fill you with strength - to face the future with confidence in Him: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 77:19-20; Psalm 23:1,3,6). Trust in the Lord. He will make you truly happy.
When you’re down, remember the times when “the fire of the Lord fell”.
Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’(1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’(1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’- ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
Choose Christ and be glad.
‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’(Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’(Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’(1 Corinthians 15:20-23,52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’(5,9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.
Let’s concentrate on the one thing that really matters – living as a new creation.
What are we praying for when we ask God to fill us with His Spirit? We are praying ‘for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’. This is ‘the fruit of the Spirit’(Galatians 5:22-23). How are we to be filled with the Spirit? How does the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives? We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, saying in our hearts, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’(Galatians 6:14). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’(Mission Praise, 712). Looking to Him, let’s concentrate on the one thing that really matters - living as ‘a new creation’(Galatians 6:15).
Looking to Christ, let us choose to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ.
The ‘glory’ of Christ (Luke 9:32) - ‘Before the world was made’, He shared the Father’s glory. Through the Cross - ‘His departure...’(Luke 9:31) - , Christ, ‘the Lamb that was slain’ for sinners, has fulfilled God's eternal purpose of salvation (John 17:4-5; Revelation 13:8). We are to ‘look’ to the Lamb of God. We are to ‘listen’ to God’s beloved Son. If we do not look and listen, we will not learn. To those who refuse to look, listen and learn, God issues His Word of warning: ‘See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking’(Hebrews 12:25). We must confess our spiritual poverty, our lack of power (Luke 9:37-42), understanding (Luke 9:43-45), humility (Luke 9:46-48), unity (Luke 9:49-50) and love (Luke 9:51-56). Looking to Christ who ‘set His face to go to Jerusalem’ and refusing to ‘look back’, we must choose to be ‘good soldiers of Jesus Christ’(Luke 9:51,62: 2 Timothy 2:3-4).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-------------------
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Revised Common Lectionary - Year C)
2 Kings 5:1-14: Psalm 30:1-12 (or Isaiah 66:10-14); Psalm 66:1-9; Galatians 6:1-16; Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Confess your sins and receive God’s forgiveness.
How are we to receive God’s blessing? Are we to ‘do some great thing’? Are we to prove ourselves worthy of His blessing? No! The Word of God gives this simple instruction: ‘Wash and be clean’(2 Kings 5:13). Salvation is not something to be paid for or earned. It’s ‘the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord’(Romans 6: 23). We don’t come to God, saying, ‘Look at me. Look at how good I am. Look at my religion. Look at my morality. You’ve got to bless me. I deserve it’. We come to Him, believing His Word - ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ - confessing our sins and trusting in His promise of forgiveness- ‘If we confess our sins, He forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong’(1 John 1:7,9). Forget about ‘doing some great thing’. Obey the command that really matters: ‘Wash and be clean’.
Let us worship God.
‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise, 217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him - ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy - ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer - ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(Psalm 30:11). God calls us to worship Him - ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).
Let us hear the Word of the Lord with the joy of the Lord and in the fear of the Lord.
‘Hear the Word of the Lord’. How are we to listen to God’s Word? We are to ‘tremble at His Word’. We are to ‘drink deeply with delight’(Isaiah 66:5,10-11). There is to be the fear of the Lord. There is to be joy in the Lord. These are not opposites. They belong together - ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling... Rejoice in the Lord’(Philippians 2:12; 3:1). We hear God’s warning, and we ‘tremble’. To those who ‘sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth’, God says this: ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’(Hebrews 10:26,31). We hear God’s promise, and we ‘rejoice’: ‘The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms’(Deuteronomy 33:27). Let us ‘hear the Word of the Lord’ - the warning as well as the promise!
Read God’s Word. Hear his Word. Discover what He has done for you.
‘Come and see what God has done’(Psalm 66:5). God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us. ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’(Psalm 66:16). God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives. We read God’s Word. We hear His Word. This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us. He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’. He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’(Psalm 67:1,6-7). He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’(Psalm 67:4,7).
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
What are we praying for when we ask God to fill us with His Spirit? We are praying ‘for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’. This is ‘the fruit of the Spirit’(Galatians 5:22-23). How are we to be filled with the Spirit? How does the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives? We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, saying in our hearts, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’(Galatians 6:14). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’(Mission Praise, 712). Looking to Him, let’s concentrate on the one thing that really matters - living as ‘a new creation’(Galatians 6:15).
Jesus loves you. Let Him save you. Let His love change you.
Christ’s message - ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’(Luke 10:9) - calls for our response - hearing with faith or rejecting in unbelief (Luke 10:16). Where does this response of faith come from? - From God: He reveals Himself to us (Luke 10:21). Questions: Why do we ask them? - ‘to put Jesus to the test’(Luke 10:25), ‘to justify ourselves’(Luke 10:29)? You cannot come to Christ until you stop trying to justify yourself - Are you trying to test Him or learning to trust Him? (a) What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' (Luke 10:25): The law cannot save. It can only show us our need of the One who does save - Jesus (Romans 8:3-4). (b) ‘Who is my neighbour?’(Luke 10:29): ‘Passing by on the other side’(Luke 10:31-32) - This is not love. It’s nothing like the love of God for ‘sinners’(Romans 5:8). Jesus loves you. Let Him save you. Let His love change you.
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-------------------------
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Amos 7:7-17; Psalm 82 (or Deuteronomy 30:9-14); Psalm 25:1-10; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
Look beyond the dark times to the brighter future.
‘That’s enough, prophet! Go back to Judah and do your preaching there... Don’t prophesy here at Bethel any more’ (Amos 7:12-13). Amos was a faithful preacher of God’s Word - but his hearers wanted to get rid of him! This was the beginning of a time of great darkness: ‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it’ (Amos 8:11-12). There were dark times ahead - but God was looking beyond them to a brighter future: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel’ (Amos 9:14). ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation...’ (Psalm 85:4-7).
The great privilege of becoming “sons of the Most High”
‘The Lord’ is ‘the Most High’(Psalm 83:18). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we become ‘sons of the Most High’: ‘You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus’(Psalm 82:6; Galatians 3:26). Through the great love of God, we have received the great privilege of becoming ‘sons of the Most High’. With this great privilege comes the great responsibility of sharing His love with others: ‘Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the desolate. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked’(Psalm 82:3-4). Let us rejoice in our great privilege. Let us be faithful to our great responsibility. This is the way of enjoying God’s great blessing: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God’. This is the way of ‘giving glory to our Father in heaven’(Matthew 5:9,16).
The Word is very near you. Choose life.
For Israel, a real turning to the Lord with ‘all the heart and soul’ involved obedience to ‘His commandments... written in this book of the law’ (Deuteronomy 30:10). We are not left wondering what God wants us to do - ‘...the Word is very near you...’(Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Through His Word, God ‘sets before’ us a choice. He calls us to ‘choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
Our confidence is in the Lord. He leads us in His truth. He teaches us His way.
‘Lead me in Thy truth, and teach me, for Thou art the God of my salvation’(Psalm 25:5). We can pray this prayer with confidence. God has given His promise: ‘He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way’(Psalm 25:9). Our confidence is in the Lord. We ‘put no confidence in the flesh’(Philippians 3:3). Jesus teaches us that God hides Himself from the proud and reveals Himself to the humble: ‘…Father…Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to babes’(Matthew 11:25). In the life of faith, the most important thing is the right attitude - not the ‘best education’! The proud may concern themselves with impressing ‘the right people’. For the humble, there is something more important - pleasing God. His opinion is the one that really matters!
Christ is all that we need for salvation, sanctification and service.
‘In everything’ Christ is ‘pre-eminent’ (Colossians 1:18). In Him, there is salvation - ‘redemption, the forgiveness of sins’ (Colossians 1:14) - , sanctification - ‘mature in Christ’ (Colossians 1:28) - and service - making Him known (Colossians 1:27). Everything is in Christ. In Him are ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) - all that we need for salvation, sanctification and service. We must go on with Him - ‘Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him’ (Colossians 2:6). How are we to live in Him? - ‘rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness’ (Colossians 2:7). Remember all that the Lord has done for you. Give thanks to Him. He has loved you so much. He has done so much for you. Let gratitude be your attitude. Filled with His strength, we will go from strength to strength.
Stop trying to test the Lord and start learning to trust Him.
Why do we ask questions? - ‘to put Jesus to the test’ (Luke 10:25), ‘to justify ourselves’ (Luke 10:29)? You cannot come to Christ until you stop trying to justify yourself. Are you trying to test Him or learning to trust Him? (a) What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' (Luke 10:25): The law cannot save. It can only show us our need of the One who does save - Jesus (Romans 8:3-4). (b) ‘Who is my neighbour?’ (Luke 10:29): ‘Passing by on the other side’ (Luke 10:31-32) - This is not love. It’s nothing like the love of God for ‘sinners’ (Romans 5:8). Jesus loves you. Let Him save you. Let His love change you.
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-----------------------------------------------
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52 (or Genesis 18:1-10a); Psalm 15; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42
“Restore us again … “ - Looking beyond the famine to the restoration
‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it’ (Amos 8:11-12). There were dark times ahead - but God was looking beyond them to a brighter future: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel’ (Amos 9:14). ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation...’ (Psalm 85:4-7).
Spiritual Growth – in the House of God
‘I am like a green olive tree in the House of God’(Psalm 52:9). This is a picture of growth and fruitfulness - in the House of God. You can grow spiritually - in the House of God. You can become spiritually fruitful - in the House of God. We must not ‘go it alone’. We receive strength as we worship with the Lord’s people. When the Psalmist prays for God’s blessing, he is not just thinking about himself. He is praying for the whole people of God: ‘O that salvation for Israel would come from Zion!’ He is praying that God will ‘restore the fortunes of His people’. He is not thinking only about his own personal happiness. He is praying that all God’s people ‘will rejoice and be glad’(Psalm 53:6). Don’t just pray for yourself. Pray ‘that the body of Christ may be built up until we all... become mature...’(Ephesians 4:12-13).
A Call to Greater Faith: Put Your Faith in the Great God.
Is anything too hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:14). We need to hear these words as God’s call to greater faith. Sarah, like Abraham, had heard God’s promises, yet ‘she laughed to herself’ (Genesis 18:12). We can hear God’s Word, and still remain, in our hearts, men and women of unbelief. The Word of God does not benefit us when we do not receive it with faith (Hebrews 4:2). God knows what is in our hearts, just as He knew what was in Sarah’s heart (Genesis 18:13-15). He knows the human heart, ‘deceitful above all things’ (Jeremiah 17:9), yet He continues to love us. He does not give up on us. He perseveres with us. He could have given up on Sarah as a hopeless waste of His time, but He did not. ‘The evil heart of unbelief’ is always with us, but God is constantly at work to create in us ‘a clean heart’ ( Hebrews 3:12: Psalm 51:10). 'Soften my heart, Lord’ (Mission Praise, 606).
Life can be testing and trying. Trust in the Lord. He will not disappoint you.
Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us. This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’ - In Him, we ‘rejoice’(Psalm 14:7). God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’(Psalm 15:5). We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation...would come...’(Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us. Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’(Psalm 14:1). ‘Fear the Lord’ - ‘and give Him glory’(Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7). We are to ‘act wisely’ - ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’(Psalm 14:2,4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’(Psalm 15:1)? - ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...’(Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).
Filled with Christ’s strength, let us go from strength to strength.
‘In everything’ Christ is ‘pre-eminent’ (Colossians 1:18). In Him, there is salvation - ‘redemption, the forgiveness of sins’ (Colossians 1:14) - , sanctification - ‘mature in Christ’ (Colossians 1:28) - and service - making Him known (Colossians 1:27). Everything is in Christ. In Him are ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3) - all that we need for salvation, sanctification and service. We must go on with Him - ‘Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him’ (Colossians 2:6). How are we to live in Him? - ‘rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness’ (Colossians 2:7). Remember all that the Lord has done for you. Give thanks to Him. He has loved you so much. He has done so much for you. Let gratitude be your attitude. Filled with His strength, we will go from strength to strength.
Listening to the Lord, praying to Him, receiving His blessing
Mary was ‘listening to the Lord’ (Luke 10:39). Martha was ‘distracted’ (Luke 10:40). ‘One thing is needful’ (Luke 10:42): Don’t let anything distract you from this - Getting alone with God. More than anything else, Jesus wants to ‘teach us to pray’ (Luke 11:1). The greatest gift that God gives - in answer to prayer - is the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). We are to ‘pray at all times in the Spirit’, relying completely on the Spirit to teach us to pray (Ephesians 6:18). Pray that you will be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 4:31). As you pray, let the Spirit be your Helper (Romans 8:26). ‘Blessed... are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!’ (Luke 11:28).
The Bible readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9, 43; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21
God’s love for us is much greater than our love for Him.
So often, we are like the people of ‘Israel’ in Hosea’s time. They did not have much love for the Lord because they didn’t pay much attention to Him (Hosea 10:3). We
look at them, and we see ourselves. God loves us so much. We love Him so little. He speaks to us of His love for us. We hardly take any notice of Him. We take His love for granted. We don’t take time to say, “Thank you”. Our love for Him remains weak.
* We must thank God for His love for us. We must think about our love for Him.
When, in Hosea 11:1-11, we read of ‘God’s love for Israel’, we thank Him for His love for us and we think about our love for Him.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us. Our love for God grows weak. His love for us remains strong. He refuses to give up on us.
We wander away from the Lord. He calls us back to Himself: ‘It is time to seek the Lord’ (Hosea 10:12), ‘You must return to your God’ (Hosea 12:6).
When we return to the Lord, He leads us in the way of His ‘love’ (Hosea 11:3-4). He teaches us to ‘walk in the Spirit’. He produces in us ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16-18, 22-25).
God will help us to grow strong in our love for Him: ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). We must seek to grow strong in our love for Him. We must ‘not quench the Spirit’. We must ‘not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’ (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30).
* Before we even begin to think of our love for God, we must thank Him for his love for us.
There are some things that are worth repeating!
The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again - ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’ (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28).
The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again - ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men and women’ (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31).
Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord’. Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107: 43, 1).
‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free... It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’
* We thank God for His love for us and we think about our love for Him.
In our love for God, we are to be what He, in His love for us, has made us to be.
In Colossians 3:1-11, we read of our privilege and our responsibility.
In Christ, God has made us new people. We are God’s people. This is our great privilege.
In Christ, God calls us to live as new people. He calls us to live as his people. This is our great responsibility.
Be what you already are. Be what God has made you in Christ. This is what God is saying to us here. ‘You have been raised with Christ... You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:1, 3).
Paul is describing the new birth. Christ has made His home in us. New life has begun. Now that Christ lives in us - what are we to do about it? How are we to live? - ‘Set your hearts and minds on things above’ (Colossians 3:1-2).
This is how we are to live. We are to live out the life which God has put into our hearts.
The new life begins when Christ comes to live in us. It does not end there. That is only the beginning. We are to go on, ‘being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator’ (Colossians 3:10). Christ wants to reign in us. He wants to enrich our lives (Colossians 3:15-16). In Him, there is so much blessing. Let’s enjoy it!
* In our love for God, we must never lose our sense of privilege.
Loving God – this is our great responsibility. Being loved by God – this is our great privilege.
We are called to love the Lord our God. This is an awesome responsibility. It fills us with fear. Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid” (Luke 12:4).
We are not left to go it alone. The Lord is with us. However difficult our journey through life may be, we can be sure of this: God loves us. We can say, with Paul, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Throughout life, we are faced with a choice. We can acknowledge Christ or we can deny him (Luke 12:8-9). Let your choice be clear - ‘Christ means everything to me’ (Philippians 1:21).
Do you want to confess Christ? It will not be easy. We live in a time when many people are preoccupied with ‘having a lot of material possessions’ (Luke 12:15). There’s a ‘gold rush’. Those who stand up for Christ will come under fire - ‘He’s too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good’!
What does God say about this ‘gold rush’? A single word says it all – “Fool!” (Luke 12:20). He turns worldly wisdom on its head – ‘You can be too earthly-minded to be any heavenly good’!
It is better to live God’s way than the world’s way (Romans 8:6).
When standing up for Christ seems so difficult, remember this: “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).
When the world keeps dragging you down, let Jesus lift you up: “Seek His Kingdom... it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:31-32).
God loves us. He calls us to love Him.
When your love for God is weak, remember this: His love for you is strong. Let His strong love reach you. Let His strong love change you.
God’s love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. Inspired by such love, let us love Him more truly and more fully.
--------------------
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Isaiah 1:10-20; Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16; Luke 12:32-40
Christ has come among us. Christ still comes to us. Christ will come for us.
* Christ has come to us.
God is not a ‘god’ who keeps His distance from us. He comes near to us. He is not a ‘god’ who keeps His silence. He speaks to us.
This is the great declaration of faith made by the Psalmist in Psalm 50:3 – “Our God comes, He does not keep silence”.
“God the Lord speaks” – This is the great message which comes to us from the opening verse of Psalm 50.
How does God come near to us? How does He speak to us?
He comes near to us in Jesus Christ. He speaks to us through Jesus Christ.
In John 1:1, we have this tremendous description of Jesus Christ: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.
Jesus Christ is the Word. God is speaking to us through Jesus Christ. How does God speak to us through Jesus Christ?
He speaks to us by drawing near to us – “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. Jesus Christ is God’s Word. He is God, speaking to us. He is God, coming near to us. He is God, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
- We think about Jesus Christ. We think about His coming to our world. We ask, “What has he brought to our world?”
We may answer this question in a number of ways. He has brought meaning. He has brought purpose. He has brought direction. He has brought love. He has brought joy. He has brought peace.
What has Christ brought to our world? There is another answer to our question. It is not a list of many things. It is quite simply this: He has brought Himself. He has brought God. He is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
- We think about Jesus Christ. We ask, “What is His message for today’s world?”
We begin with the Man. He is the message. To hear His message, we must listen to Him.
Before we press on to the present, his message for us today, we must go back to the past.
Christ has come among us. This is our starting-point. From here, we move on to today, to the Christ who still comes to us.
* Christ still comes to us.
Who is Jesus Christ?
We answer this question in terms of history. He’s a man from a long time ago, a Man from the distant past, a Man we could very easily forget.
The answer of faith takes us beyond ancient history. It speaks of the living Christ. He still comes to us.
He comes in love. He invites us to come to Him in love.
Jesus Christ is God’s invitation.
He invites us to come and receive salvation - ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’ (Isaiah 1:18).
With this promise, there is also the warning – “if you refuse and rebel …” (Isaiah 1:20).
The promise and the warning – we find them both in the message brought to us by our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
- God speaks to us of his great purpose of salvation: ‘God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him’.
- He tells us that we can be saved through faith in Christ: ‘Whoever believes in Him is not condemned’.
- He calls us back from the way of unbelief and judgment: ‘Whoever does not believe is condemned already because he does not believe in the Name of the only Son of God’ (John 3:17-18).
Jesus Christ still comes to us. He comes with His “great salvation’.
Make sure that you receive God’s salvation: ‘How shall we escape if we neglect or ignore such a great salvation?’(Hebrews 2:3).
In Christ’s invitation of love, with its promise and its warning, we catch a glimpse of the future, a glorious future which is summed up for us in the marvellous words: Christ will come for us.
* Christ will come for us.
In Hebrews 11:16, we are invited to think about “a better country – a heavenly one”.
Can we live in the present with no thought for the future?
We think about the future when we plan our holidays. We plan for the future when we do our Christmas shopping. We think ahead. We save our money for a time when we will need it.
What about the eternal future?
We may try to put it on the backburner. There are more pressing things to think about it – things that have to be done today, things that have to be done tomorrow, things that must be done by the end of the week.
Can we just forget about the eternal future?
We may try. For a while, we may succeed. Then something happens and it all comes back to us: What about the eternal future?
Why do thoughts of the eternal future come back to us, even when our minds are so full of other things?
The answer to this question is given in Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “God has put eternity into man’s mind”.
In every human heart, there’s ‘a God-shaped blank’.
Jesus came to fill this ‘God-shaped blank”. He came to give us “life” – “abundant life”, “eternal life” (John 10:10; 17:3; 1 John 5:11).
Without Him our lives are empty. The longing for “a better country” can only be satisfied by Him. He is God’s “foretaste of glory divine”.
We must prepare for the eternal future.
In Luke 12:32-40, Jesus tells us to “be ready” for His Return (v. 40). We are to “wait” on the Lord (v. 36). We are to keep “watching” for Him (v. 37). We are to “keep our lamps burning” (v. 35).
How can we do this? How can we be ready for Him, waiting for Him and watching for Him?
Keeping our lamps burning - what will this mean for us?
It will mean keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. He is our “lamp” – “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Revelation 21:23; John 1:29).
We must keep our eyes on Christ. He will keep us faithful. He will keep us ready for his coming.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-----------------
Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-19; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56
Christ calls us to be different. He calls us to be saved. He calls us to be holy.
* Christ calls us to be different.
When Christ was here on earth, he met plenty of religious people. He wasn’t impressed by their religion. They liked to think that they were different from other people. They were different – but not in a way that pleased the Lord. He looked at them and He said, “Hypocrites!” (Luke 12:56).
They drew attention to themselves – but they did not direct attention to the Lord. Everything revolved around themselves. The Lord didn’t get a look in.
Christ calls us to be different – different from the “hypocrites”. How are we to be different? How does Christ make the difference in our lives?
* How are we to be different from the “hypocrites”?
We look at the “hypocrites”. What do we see? There was something missing. They had a big problem. Their hearts were closed to the Spirit of grace (Luke 12:57-59). If they were going to be changed, they needed to open their hearts to the Spirit of grace. If we are going to be changed, we must open our hearts to the Spirit of grace.
We must learn to pray, “Spirit of the living of God, fall afresh on me … break me, melt me, mould me, fill me …”
Real change does not come from within ourselves. It comes from above, from “the Spirit of the living God”.
We do not say, “I’m going to make myself better.” We come to the Lord and we pray, “break me, melt me, mould me, fill me”.
Real change is not our own doing. We do not change ourselves. It is the Lord’s doing. It is the work of “the Spirit of the living God”.
He sees what we really are. He sees beneath the surface. He sees where there needs to be change.
He creates in us a desire for change, real change. We talk about the need for change – but we don’t let it get too personal. He presses upon us the call for personal revival. He prompts us to pray: “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me.”
* Christ calls us to be saved.
In Psalm 80:3, we have a prayer for salvation: “Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”
When we come to God with our prayer for salvation, we do not come to a ‘god’ who is unable to hear our prayer. We do not come to a ‘god’ from whom we can expect no answer. We come to “God Almighty” – the “Lord God Almighty” (Psalm 80:7, 19). We come with of salvation – “What must I do to be saved?” God gives us His answer – “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).
What does the Lord say to those who look to Christ for salvation? He says this: “The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace’ (Numbers 6:24-26).
What are we to say to the Lord who blesses us so much? – We worship Him. We say, “Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through Christ, God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing that heaven has to offer” (Ephesians 1:3).
This is where real change begins. It begins with the prayer for salvation. It begins when we open our hearts to “the Spirit of the living God”. It begins when we pray, “Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved”.
* Christ calls us to be holy.
In Isaiah 5:3, we find words that are full of sadness: “he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit”. These words are followed by a question that is full of challenge: “When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” (Isaiah 5:4).
This is the call to holiness. God’s people are called to be “holy” (Isaiah 4:3). Holiness is not an optional extra. It’s not something we can take or leave. We cannot say, “Yes, I want to be saved but I don’t want to be holy.”
When salvation is real, there will be a real desire for holiness. God does not forgive our sins only to say, “Just go on living the way you did before I forgave your sins”. He forgives us our sins and He changes us, leading us into a new way of living – His way.
Holiness is not popular in today’s world. The world speaks of God’s people with contempt – “these holy people need to learn to live in the real world.”
When God calls His people ‘holy’, He speaks in a very different way. He speaks with affection. He looks upon us with love. We are special to Him. We are precious in His eyes. God loves us and He calls us to be holy. We are to live as those who have been set apart for God.
We are not to live for this world only. There is something else, something greater than this so-called “real world.” There is a world that is unseen and eternal, heavenly and glorious. This is our higher calling, our call to holiness. Let us “look to the things that are unseen and eternal.” Let us “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:18; Philippians 3:14).
* How are we to live as people who are different – people who are saved and holy?
We may look around us and say to ourselves, “It cannot be done. There is too much sin in our world.”
We look inside ourselves and we say, “It cannot be done. There is too much sin in ourselves.”
In Hebrews 11, we read about many people who trusted the Lord. Their faith was real. It changed their lives. They lived in difficult times. They encountered many problems. Many times, they were tempted to give up. They didn’t give up. They kept on going. They were heroes of the faith.
As you read about these heroes of the faith, let God’s Word challenge you. Bring your own weak faith to Him and ask Him to give you a stronger faith. Say to the Lord, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’(Mark 9:24).
We learn from so many different people. We read about their faith. We are inspired by their faith. We do not, however, make too much of them. We must always be ‘looking to Jesus’(2).
We must learn the lesson of the transfiguration. We look at Moses. We look at Elijah. We learn from them. There comes a point where they - together with all God’s faithful people - must step aside, leaving us to look up and see ‘Jesus only’(Mark 9:2-8).
When we look to Him, He will change us. He will make us different. He saves us and He makes us holy.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-------------------
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17
By grace you have been saved through faith ... for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Before we speak of our own good works, we must speak of faith in Christ.
Before we speak of faith in Christ, we must speak of the grace of God.
* The grace of God
We begin with the story of Jeremiah – the story of his call to the prophetic ministry.
The story doesn’t begin with Jeremiah. It begins with God – the eternal God.
To understand Jeremiah’s story, we must look ‘behind the scenes’.
What happened on the day when Jeremiah was called to the prophetic ministry?
Was it just a case of Jeremiah making up his mind, “I’m going to become a prophet”? – No. There was something more than that.
Behind Jeremiah’s decision, there was God’s decision. This was not simply Jeremiah’s decision: “I will be a prophet.” This was God’s decision: “You will be My prophet.”
How did God come to this decision? Did He just happen to notice Jeremiah and think, “He would make a good prophet”?
Once again, there was something more than that.
God’s mind was made up long before He told Jeremiah about His plan.
Jeremiah tells us what happened: ‘The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”’ (Jeremiah 1:4-5).
Jeremiah’s story helps us to understand our own story.
To understand our own story, we must go even further back - ‘The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ... chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight’ (Ephesians 1:3-4). We must never forget the words of Jesus: ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit - fruit that will last’ (John 15:16).
We’re not to be ‘on the surface’ people. We’re to be people who have seen ‘behind the scenes’, people who have caught a glimpse of the eternal God and His eternal purpose for our lives, people who know that we have been “saved by grace.”
* Faith in Christ
We turn from the story of Jeremiah to the story of David.
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2).
We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it! Rather than being preoccupied with his own problems, he is calling on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’(Psalm 70:4).
How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3).
Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Like David, we must learn to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).
It would be so easy to turn from the Lord in unbelief. There is so much unbelief all around us. The spirit of unbelief threatens to overwhelm us.
We must learn to “love God’s salvation.” We must learn to look away from ourselves to Christ. He is the “Rock” of our salvation. In Him, we have true joy, the joy of knowing that our sins have been forgiven. In Him, we have real strength, the strength we need to press on towards a life of true holiness.
* We have been saved by grace through faith for good works.
In Hebrews 12:14, we are called upon to seek ‘the holiness without which no-one will see the Lord’ (14).
This is not the ‘holiness’ of the Pharisee: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men...’(Luke 18:11-12). It is the holiness that grows in the hearts and lives of those who have received ‘the grace of God’, those who have prayed, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’(15; Luke 18:13).
We do not earn ‘the grace of God’ as a reward for our ‘holiness’. Salvation is ‘not our doing, it is the gift of God - not because of works, so that no one can boast’.
In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is a call to holiness. We are saved ‘for good works’.
Before we think about holiness, we must think about the grace of God and faith in Christ.
- First, there is the grace of God: without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
- This is followed by faith in Christ: without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
- Saved by grace through faith, we are called to holiness: without holiness no-one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
This is the divine order in God’s plan of salvation.
First, there is the provision of salvation. This is the Lord’s doing. It has nothing to do with us. This is the great declaraion of the Gospel: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16), God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
Second, we receive salvation. We trust in Christ. We look away from ourselves to the Saviour. He can do for us what we can never do for ourselves. He forgives our sins.
Third, there is the call to holiness. Before we can answer the call to holiness, we must answer the call to salvation.
Jesus Christ, our Saviour, calls us to live a holy life.
He stresses the need for both repentance (Luke 13:1-5) and the fruits of repentance (Luke 13:6-9).
God’s Word, planted in our hearts at conversion, is to bear fruit.
This requires continual repentance and faith (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 3:1-5).
Jesus Christ calls for our response. Don’t put it off till tomorrow! Today is ‘the day of salvation’. Don’t ‘neglect’ God’s ‘great salvation’(Luke 13:15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:3). Let there be spiritual growth, affecting the whole of your life (Luke 13:18-21).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14
God’s Word speaks to us about sin, salvation and sharing.
We are to face up to our sin. We are to bring our sin to the Saviour. We are to share the Good News of salvation, inviting sinners to come to the Saviour.
* We must face up to our sin.
Jeremiah’s message was not popular. He spoke to the people about their ‘sins’. They had turned away from the Lord. They had chosen to go their own way (Jeremiah 2:13).
He invited them to think about what their wrong choices were doing to them: ‘Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the Lord your God when He led you in the way?’(Jeremiah 2:17).
Jeremiah left the people in no doubt about where their wrong choices were leading them - ‘“Your own evil will punish you, and your turning from Me will condemn you. You will learn how bitter and wrong it is to abandon Me, the Lord your God, and no longer to remain faithful to Me”, I, the Sovereign Lord Almighty, have spoken’ (Jeremiah 2:19).
This was not what the people wanted to hear. It was what they needed to hear. It’s still what we need to hear today!
Before we can hear the Good News concerning God’s salvation, we must hear the bad news concerning our own sin. This is very important. We will never really appreciate the Good News of our salvation until we have begun to understand the bad news concerning our sin.
* We are to bring our sin to the Saviour.
In Psalm 81, God calls His people to worship Him with joy - ‘Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!’(1).
He has blessed His people with His salvation - ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt’. He will continue to bless us, as we keep on looking to Him for blessing - ‘Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it’ (10).
God wants to bless us. He wants us to seek His blessing - ‘O that my people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! ... I would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you’ (13, 16).
Far too often, we can’t be bothered with God and are not really interested in seeking His blessing. We are so like the people of Israel - ‘My people did not listen to My voice; Israel would have none of me’ (11).
We have sinned against the Lord – but He has not given up on us. He still calls out to us. He calls upon us to seek Him. His call comes to us with His promise: ‘You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).
We seek the Lord. We find Him. In our seeking and finding, we come to know that, before we even began to seek for Him, He came seeking for us: “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10),
* We are to share the Good News of salvation.
God’s Word says to us, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers’ (Hebrews 13:1).
If the love of Christ is to flow freely among us, there can be no place for ‘us and them’ thinking - ‘He’s not one of us. They’re not our kind of people. They’re strangers. They don’t belong here’.
This kind of attitude is a contradiction of the love of Christ. We must remember: ‘Strangers are only friends we’ve never met’. We sing, ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus’. Do we show His friendship to strangers?
We must never underestimate the importance of a ‘friendly welcome’(Hebrews 11:31). If there is no ‘friendly welcome’, word will soon get around - ‘They’re not very friendly’!
This is not just a matter of saying the ‘right words’. It’s about being the right kind of people - people who care enough to be friendly!
Real sharing begins in the heart. Let God’s love flow freely in your own heart. Let it flow, from there, into the lives of others. Receive Christ and share Him with others.
The Gospel says, ‘Come, for everything is now ready’. Some will make excuses (Luke 14:17:-20). We must not be discouraged. We must keep on sharing Christ. We have received His love. Let us keep on sharing His love (2 Corinthians 4:1).
When we share Christ’s love, there will be a mixed response. Some will be critical of us (Luke 14:1). Others will open their hearts to Him (Luke 14:11).
The Gospel comes to us. It comes with a call for our response. The Gospel goes out from us. It calls for a response from everyone.
What will we do? Will we exalt ourselves? That is the way of bringing judgment upon ourselves. Will we humble ourselves? That is the way of receiving God’s blessing: everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33
God is calling us on to glory. There will be difficulties along the way. There will also be blessings.
* God is calling us on to glory.
We begin with the prophet – Jeremiah – and the psalmist – David.
Here are two men who caught a glimpse of the glory of God.
Jeremiah speaks of the Potter and the clay. The Lord is the Potter. We are the clay.
This is what Jeremiah says: ‘The pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him’(Jeremiah 18:4).
The Potter and the clay: it’s a picture of what the Lord is doing in our lives.
He is ‘the Potter’. We are no more than ‘jars of clay’ (Jeremiah 18:6; Isaiah 64:8; 2 Corinthians 4:7).
Our lives are ‘marred’ by sin. It would be very easy to give up on ourselves. God hasn’t given up on us. He looks beyond what we are now. He sees what we will become.
He is preparing us for ‘eternal glory’. ‘We are being renewed day by day’. ‘We are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-17:3:18).
When we catch a glimpse of God’s glorious purpose, we will give ourselves to Him to do His will: ‘Jesus, You are changing me. By Your Spirit, You’re making me like You ... You are the Potter and I am the clay. Help me to be willing to let You have Your way ...’
Like Jeremiah, David caught a glimpse of God’s glorious purpose. He prayed, that he would be led “in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24).
Through Christ our Saviour, we are led ‘in the way everlasting’: ‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ (1 John 5:11).
God’s great purpose of eternal salvation seems ‘too wonderful’- ‘too good to be true’! ‘It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me, and yet I know that it is true ...’(Psalm 139:6).
God has a glorious future planned for us. We can hardly even begin to take it in: ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain’ (Psalm 139:6). We know that ‘no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ yet we rejoice in this: ‘God has revealed it to us by His Spirit’(1 Corinthians 2:9-10).
As we consider the glorious purpose God has for us, let us pray, with David, ‘Lead me in the way everlasting!’(Psalm 139:24).
* There will be difficulties along the way.
Jesus never promised that life would be easy fo those who commit themselves to Him.
He spoke of the ‘cost’ of being a disciple. He spoke of the ‘cross’: anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple“ (Luke 14:27-28).
The cross: this is something we cannot get away from. It meets us wherever we go.
He suffered. We will suffer also.
God’s Word is very clear about this: everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).
If you are serious about following Christ, you will encounter difficulties along the way.
Make no mistake about it: the way of Christ is the way of the cross.
It is death to self – but it is more than that.
For Christ, there was crucifixion – but His story didn’t end there. There was also resurrection.
For us, there are also difficulties along the way – but there is more than that.
* There will also be blessings.
Paul was in prison – difficulties along the way.
What happened while he was in prison? – blessing.
Imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, Paul preached the Gospel while he was in prison.
Thrown into prison, Paul must have wondered, Will anything good come out of this?
God had an answer for this question. In prison, Paul met a young man called Onesimus. The story of Onesimus is told in Paul’s letter to Philemon. It’s a wonderful story: ‘He was useless ... now he has become useful’(verse 11).
Onesimus – his name means ‘useful’. He was a runaway ‘slave’. He became ‘a beloved brother ... in the Lord’(verse 16).
It appears that Onesimus had stolen from his master, Philemon (verses 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’(verse 10).
Why did God allow Paul, His faithful servant, to land up in prison? It was for the sake of the Gospel. He was there because of His faithfulness to Christ. He was there to share the Good News of Christ.
The imprisonment of the Apostle Paul – why did God allow this to happen? 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.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
------------------
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28; Psalm 14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
Serve the Lord. Keep on serving the Lord. Preach the Gospel. Keep on preaching the Gospel.
God was not pleased with his people - “My people are fools; they do not know Me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding.” They had sinned against Him – “They are skilled in doing evil; they do not know how to do good” (Jeremiah 4:22). They had brought judgment upon themselves - “Now I pronounce My judgments against them.”(Jeremiah 4:12).
The situation sounds pretty hopeless, doesn’t it?
Was there no hope for the future? Had God given up on His people?
We read about the word of judgment – but there is more. There is also the promise of blessing.
God was calling his people back to Himself.
* Serve the Lord.
God’s call is not only a call to salvation. It is also a call to service – “If you will return, O Israel, ... then the nations will be blessed ...” (Jeremiah 4:1-2).
We are not only to seek blessing for ourselves. We are to pray that others will be blessed also. The blessing of God is not to be kept to ourselves. It is to be shared.
We are not to be small-minded people – “What will I get out of it?”
Jesus said to His first disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
This is still His Word to us today. We cannot rest content with being an inward-looking Church.
Christ has given us a worldwide mission: “You will be My witnesses ... to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Christ has returned to heaven – but He has not left us on our own. He says, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
We do not take up this great challenge in our own strength. Christ says to us, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you’ (Acts 1:8).
There will be times when we feel are getting nowhere – “Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins” (Jeremiah 4:20).
We read the daily news. We wonder, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ We ask, ‘Where will it all end?’ Are we to give up hope? - No!
We must learn to look beyond the things that are happening in our world today. We must learn to look to the Lord - ‘the God of hope’ (Romans 15:13).
He says to us, ‘There is hope for your future’. Do you feel like things are just going from bad to worse? Remember God’s Word: ‘I know the plans I have for you ... to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11; 31:17).
What is this future? What is this hope? Is it just a future filled with personal blessing? Is it just the hope that our own future will better?
No! There is more than that.
There is overflowing blessing. There is blessing which reaches out to others.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
* Keep on serving the Lord.
Life can be testing and trying. We often feel like giving up. We often like our faith has come to an end.
What are we to do when this happens? How are we to keep on trusting the Lord? How are we to keep on serving the Lord?
We must remember the Lord. Remember His faithfulness. He has blessed us in the past. He has not given up on us. He still has plans for us.
In our times of great difficulty, he comes to us. In our times of great distress, he makes himself real to us.
This is our assurance of faith: “The Lord restores the fortunes of His people.”
The Lord makes us “glad.” We “rejoice” in Him (Psalm 14:7).
We give thanks to God for His promise of blessing. Let us pray that His blessing will come: “O that salvation ... would come ...” (Psalm 14:7).
The Lord will not disappoint us. He will send his blessing.
When your faith is put to the test, don’t be “the fool” who “says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1).
“Fear the Lord” - ‘and give Him glory” (Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7). “Act wisely”’- “seek God”, “call on the Lord” (Psalm 14:2, 4).
When you find it difficult to keep on trusting the Lord, when you feel that your strength is almost gone, ask yourself, “what is most important to me?”
Am I content with a life that is centred on myself? Do I want to rise to the challenge of serving the Lord?
Why be content with less than God wants to give to us?
He is the God of hope. He wants us to enjoy his overflowing blessing.
Let’s commit ourselves to him – and see what He is able to do when we say from the heart,
“We are on the Lord’s side; Saviour, we are Thine … Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine.”
* Preach the Gospel.
‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).
Paul had something special to say about this statement. This is what he says - ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance’(1 Timothy 1:15).
Paul was a man with a testimony: ‘I received mercy ... the grace of our Lord overflowed for me’(1 Timothy 1:13-14).
God is still looking for people who will say, with Paul - I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith; God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16; Galatians 6:14).
May God help us, in our generation, to be ‘eager to preach the Gospel’(Romans 1:15).
* Keep on preaching the Gospel.
People were coming to Christ (Luke 15:1). Still, the critics were murmuring among themselves (Luke 15:2).
What did Jesus do ? - He kept on preaching the Gospel.
He spoke of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). He spoke of the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10). He spoke of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32).
These are the parables of the Gospel.
They teach us two lessons - By ourselves we are lost;
- In Christ, there is salvation.
Read about the prodigal son, and think of the perfect Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
- In Him, we see God’s perfect love.
- Through Him, we receive God’s perfect salvation:
(a) ‘the best robe’- forgiveness (Revelation 7:13-14);
(b) the ‘ring’- membership of God’s family (John 1:12);
(c) the ‘shoes’- empowered to bring ‘the Gospel’ to others (Ephesians 6:15).
God ... has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). May God help us to share these blessings with others.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; Psalm 79:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13
Living in the Light of Eternity – A Challenge to the World’s Way of Thinking, Speaking and Living
* Living in the Light of Eternity – A Challenge to the Worldly Way of Thinking
Some people think they’re smart. They’re wise in their own eyes.
They ‘know it all’- so they think!
They’ve an answer for everything - except the most important question, the question of salvation: ‘What must I do to be saved?’
They know so much - yet they know so little that really matters!
Some people think they’re smart. They’re getting on in the world. They’ve no time for God.
They’re too busy enjoying all the pleasures of this world.
What does the Word of God say about people who think they’re smart. What does God’s Word say to those who think they can manage fine without God?
- ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved’ (Jeremiah 8:20).
This is not only God’s Word for other people. It’s a challenge to every one of us.
When this world is ‘past’ and its pleasures have ‘ended’, where will we be?
Jesus has a question for every one of us: ‘What good will it do you if you gain the whole world - and lose eternal life?’(Matthew 16:22).
* Living in the Light of Eternity – A Challenge to the Worldly Way of Speaking
The ‘smart’ people direct their sarcasm against God’s people: “Where is their God?” (Psalm 79:10).
Many people listen to this sarcasm - and they turn away from the Lord. They no longer worship Him.
We look at what’s happening in today’s world. We hear what people are saying. We wonder if things can be turned around.
Can we be turned around? This is the question of the Gospel. This is the call for conversion. This is God’s Word to every one of us.
It would be so easy to start listening to the voice of the world and stop listening to the voice of God. The voice of the world can so easily drown out the voice of God.
We must not pretend that we are not tempted. The tempter’s voice is persistent. We must pray that the Lord’s voice will be heard.
How are we to pray? How are we to come to the Lord?
- We must come to the Lord with a realistic awareness of our own weakness:
“The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me, around me and within”.
Coming to the Lord with a realistic awareness of our own weakness, we pray that we “may receive mercy” - “How long, O Lord? Will You be angry for ever?” (Hebrews 4:16; Psalm 79:5)
- We must come to the Lord with a prayer for His protection:
“Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.”
Coming to the Lord with a prayer for His protection, we pray that we might “find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
- We must come to the Lord, praying that He will help us to keep on listening to His voice:
“O let me hear Thee speaking, in accents clear and still,
above the storms of , the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me, to hasten and control;
O speak and make me listen. Thou Guardian of my soul.”
We must keep on listening to the Lord. We must keep on praying to Him.
We must pray that His Name will be glorified.
How is the Name of the Lord to be glorified in today’s world?
It must begin with us - ‘We, Your people, the flock which You shepherd, will give thanks to You forever. We will praise You throughout every generation.’(Psalm 79:13).
* Living in the Light of Eternity – A Challenge to the World’s Way of Living
The smart people are quick to see ways of making a profit. For the Christian, there is a higher priority. Beyond financial profit, there is eternal profit
Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve God and money’ (Luke 16:13). The ‘lovers of money’ did not like His teaching (Luke 16:14)! .
Don’t be like the lovers of money! Don’t let money squeeze Christ out of your life. Remember: life without Christ leads to eternity without Christ (Luke 16:19-31).
Look for opportunities to support the work of the Gospel.
By our giving, we help the Church to be Christ’s prophet in today’s world.
‘Make friends’ (Luke 16:9). Win others for Christ so that, together with them, we may be welcomed to our eternal home.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
Listening to God and Speaking for God
In the ministry of Jeremiah, there is both listening to God – “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord” (Jeremiah 32:1) and speaking for God – “this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel” (Jeremiah 32:15).
Listening to God is not easy. Speaking for God is not easy. We face many difficult situations. There are many times we will feel like giving up. We are tempted to stop listening to God. We are tempted to stop speaking for God.
What are we to do when it feels like we can take no more?
We must remember the Lord. Nothing is too hard for Him. We must learn, like Jeremiah, to look to the Lord and say, “Nothing is too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:17).
We must remember His promise: “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
Jesus calls us to follow Him (Matthew 4:19). He calls us to follow Him. He warns us – “the way is hard” (Matthew 7:14).
It is Jesus - our loving Saviour - who calls us to follow Him. He does not leave us to go it alone. He gives us His strength – “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
“When the road is rough and steep, fix your eyes upon Jesus. He alone has power to keep. Fix your eyes upon Him.” You can “depend on” Jesus. He is your “gracious Friend.” “He is faithful to the end.”
Keep on Listening to God. Keep on Speaking for God.
Why do we find it so difficult to keep on listening to God and speaking for God?
There is an enemy – Satan, the devil – who is determined to stop us listening to God and speaking for God.
We must not overestimate our enemy. The Lord is stronger than the devil. With the Lord on our side, we need not live in fear of the devil. God has given us His promise: “Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter” (Psalm 91:3).
We must not underestimate our enemy. As well as God’s promise, we also have His warning. We must “be alert” - “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
We dare not be overconfident. The devil deserves our respect. He is a powerful enemy. We need to hear God’s warning.
Along with His warning, there is also His promise. God says to us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’ (James 4:7). It is within the context of faith – believing God’s promise – that we listen to God’s warning. How are we to resist the devil? - We are to “resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9).
We must not try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are.
We must 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).
Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Let’s never forget this: Jesus is able to “deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).
Each of us must decide – I will listen to God, I will speak for God.
There is a great battle going on - between God and Satan. There have been disappointments. Some have already strayed after Satan (1 Timothy 5:15). Lives are being ruined (1 Timothy 6:9). Many have wandered away from the faith (1 Timothy 6:10). They have not found happiness. They have pierced their hearts with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:10).
There is a great deal at stake in this battle. We must ‘give the enemy no opportunity to slander us’ (1 Timothy 5:14). We must take care how we live - ‘so that God’s Name ... may not be slandered’(1 Timothy 6:1).
We are to live a life of ‘godliness’, a life that is based on ‘the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Timothy 6:3). We are to ‘aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’ (1 Timothy 6:11). Let’s live for ‘the life to come, the life which is permanent’. This is ‘life indeed, the life that is truly life’(1 Timothy 6:19).
In Luke 16:19-31, we learn that our decisions shape our destiny. Will we listen to God? Will we speak for Him? Exclude Christ from your life here on earth, and you will excluded from the glorious life which is being prepared by God for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:10).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Lamentations 1:1-6; Lamentations 3:19-26 (or Psalm 137); 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10
Jerusalem had fallen into hard times. Her sad situation is described for us in Lamentations 1:1 – “she who once was great among the nations... has now become a slave.”
In their difficult and distressing situation, God’s people were forced to ask the question: “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”(Psalm 137:4).
There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us. We look around us and all we see is our “affliction” (Lamentations 3:19).
* In such times, we must remember the faithfulness of God.
We must take encouragement from the words of Lamentations 3:22 – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.”
When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us. We must learn to look to the Lord and say, “Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).
It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong.
We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives. We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lamentations 3:25-26).
* Trusting in God’s faithfulness, we grow in faith.
It is not easy to keep on worshipping the Lord when so many have given up on worshipping Him.
What are we to do when our faith seems so weak and we are on the verge of giving up? - “Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you.”
What will we find when we come to the Lord, looking to Him for strength? - “He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through.” God gives us strength to keep on going when we feel like giving up – “To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown. Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down. He who is our Saviour, our strength will renew. Look ever to Jesus. He will carry you through.”
Let us pray for an increase of our faith (Luke 17:5). Let us pray for an increase of the Lord’s blessing (Luke 17:6).
As we grow in faith, let us give all the glory to God: “Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).
* Growing in faith, we are called to share our faith.
God’s Word is not to be kept to ourselves.
Paul was called by God to be a preacher of the Gospel (2 Timothy 1:11). He passed God’s Word on to Timothy, encouraging him to share the message with ‘faithful’ people who would pass it on to others’(2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2).
Everyone has their part to play. Things didn’t come to a standstill when Paul wasn’t around. Timothy was to make sure that everything didn’t revolve around himself. There were others who were to carry the work of God forward.
We must not make too much of certain individuals. The work of the Lord is always much more than the work done by any one person. God is always looking for more people who will take up the challenge of seeing that His work is not left undone.
Serve the Lord in the ‘power’of ‘the Holy Spirit’. Trust Him - His work is ‘safe in His hands’(2 Timothy 1:7, 14, 12).
As we serve the Lord, there are two things we must never forget.
- We are always ‘unworthy servants’ (Luke 17:10).
- We will never outgrow our need of ‘God’s mercy’(Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 4:1).
Sharing our faith, let us give all the glory to God: Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-12; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
‘I know the plans I have for you... to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
This was God’s long-term purpose for His people.
It was important that they did not lose sight of this.
There would be ‘seventy years’ of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10).
At times, they must have wondered, ‘Will this ever end? Is there really something better still to come?’
Our life on earth may, sometimes, seem like the ‘seventy years’ in Babylon: ‘The length of our days is seventy years... yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow’ (Psalm 90:10)!
We wonder, ‘Is there a glorious future still to come?’
We wonder, ‘Where can we find strength that is greater than our suffering?’
* In our times of suffering, we draw our strength from God’s Word.
God’s Word says to us: ‘Come and see what God has done’ (Psalm 66:5). God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us.
God’s Word says to us: ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’ (Psalm 66:16). God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives.
We read God’s Word. We hear His Word.
This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us.
- He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’
- He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’ (Psalm 67:1, 6-7).
- He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’ (Psalm 67:4).
- He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’ (Psalm 67:7).
* In our times of suffering, we draw our strength from Jesus Christ.
As we read God’s Word, we learn from the psalmist and we learn from the prophet.
They are not,however at the very centre of our faith. They point us to Someone who is greater than themselves. We are to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8).
God’s servants become part of our past. Christ remains the heart of our future.
He is the risen Christ, the living Lord.
When God’s servants become a distant memory, we must remember Him.
Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ. We must keep Him at the very centre of our lives.
If we are to be ‘lovers of God’rather than ‘lovers of self’, we must keep on saying, from the heart, ‘I must decrease. Christ must increase’(2 Timothy 3:4, 2; John 3:30). Keep your eyes on Jesus!
* In our times of suffering, we draw our strength from our glorious future.
Through our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we catch a glimpse of a glorious future.
- Our lives need not be dominated by our past.
Our life is not to be controlled by our sin. We have been cleansed (Luke 17:17).
Let us come to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving (Luke 17:15-16). Let us come to Him with the attitude of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- Our lives can be shaped by His future.
Our life is to be inspired by Christ’s redemption. Here is the source of our strength - Jesus is coming again (Luke 17:24).
He is coming for us: I will come back and take you to be with Me (John 14:3).
Let us press on to this glorious future. Let us put our sin and shame behind us. Let us live by faith in our Saviour (Luke 17:19). He is leading us on to His eternal glory.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-12; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19
‘I know the plans I have for you... to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
This was God’s long-term purpose for His people.
It was important that they did not lose sight of this.
There would be ‘seventy years’ of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10).
At times, they must have wondered, ‘Will this ever end? Is there really something better still to come?’
Our life on earth may, sometimes, seem like the ‘seventy years’ in Babylon: ‘The length of our days is seventy years... yet all they bring us is trouble and sorrow’ (Psalm 90:10)!
We wonder, ‘Is there a glorious future still to come?’
We wonder, ‘Where can we find strength that is greater than our suffering?’
In our times of suffering, we draw our strength from God’s Word.
God’s Word says to us: ‘Come and see what God has done’ (Psalm 66:5). God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us.
God’s Word says to us: ‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’ (Psalm 66:16). God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives.
We read God’s Word. We hear His Word.
This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us.
- He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’
- He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’ (Psalm 67:1, 6-7).
- He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’ (Psalm 67:4).
- He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’ (Psalm 67:7).
In our times of suffering, we draw our strength from Jesus Christ.
As we read God’s Word, we learn from the psalmist and we learn from the prophet.
They are not,however at the very centre of our faith. They point us to Someone who is greater than themselves. We are to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8).
God’s servants become part of our past. Christ remains the heart of our future.
He is the risen Christ, the living Lord.
When God’s servants become a distant memory, we must remember Him.
Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ. We must keep Him at the very centre of our lives.
If we are to be ‘lovers of God’ rather than ‘lovers of self’, we must keep on saying, from the heart, ‘I must decrease. Christ must increase’(2 Timothy 3:4, 2; John 3:30). Keep your eyes on Jesus!
In our times of suffering, we draw our strength from our glorious future.
Through our Saviour, Jesus Christ, we catch a glimpse of a glorious future.
- Our lives need not be dominated by our past.
Our life is not to be controlled by our sin. We have been cleansed (Luke 17:17).
Let us come to the Lord with praise and thanksgiving (Luke 17:15-16). Let us come to Him with the attitude of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
- Our lives can be shaped by His future.
Our life is to be inspired by Christ’s redemption. Here is the source of our strength - Jesus is coming again (Luke 17:24).
He is coming for us: I will come back and take you to be with Me (John 14:3).
Let us press on to this glorious future. Let us put our sin and shame behind us. Let us live by faith in our Saviour (Luke 17:19). He is leading us on to His eternal glory.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost: Joel 2:23-32; Psalm 65; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
* Call on the Lord.
Each of us is ‘in the valley of decision’ (Joel 3:14).
We must make sure that we are prepared for ‘the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord’ (Joel 2:31).
God has given us His promise: ‘Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved’ (Joel 2:32).
The Lord promises great blessing to those who call upon Him.
He ‘will pour out His Spirit’ upon us. He will do ‘great things’ for us. He will be our ‘Refuge’ and ‘Stronghold’. He will fill us with ‘joy and gladness’. He will fill our hearts with ‘praise’ (Joel 2:20-21, 23, 26, 28-29; 3:16).
Make sure that you ‘call on the Name of the Lord’. Make sure that you do not miss out on the great blessings the Lord gives to those who call on His Name. Make your decision now - ‘I will call on the Name of the Lord’ (1 Kings 18:24).
* Rejoice in the Lord.
‘Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord’ (Psalm 64:10).
True joy in the Lord is not just a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last for very long. When our ‘praise’ to the Lord is real, it leads to a changed life: ‘O God’, we will ‘keep our promises to You’ (Psalm 65:1).
Jesus shows us the great difference between a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last, and a true conversion which leads to a changed life.
He speaks of those who ‘receive the Word with joy ... endure for a while’ and then ‘fall away’. He speaks also of those who ‘hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit’ (Mark 4:3-9, 16-17, 20).
How do you worship the Lord? Are you looking for a good feeling - and nothing more than that? God is looking for more. He wants us to live as ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
* Speak for the Lord.
We call on the Lord. We receive His salvation. We rejoice in the Lord. In Him, we have assurance of our salvation.
God’s salvation is not to be kept to ourselves. It is to be shared with others.
We are not only to be believers. We are to be witnesses.
We are not only to have the inward look - this is what the Lord has done for me.
We are to have the outward look - this is what the Lord can do for you.
In 2 Timothy 4:17, we see Paul the evangelist - the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it.
We are to be like Paul. We are to be evangelists. We are to proclaim the message of salvation.
We have called upon the Lord. He has saved us. We invite others to call upon the Lord, to be saved by the Lord.
In the Lord, we have found true and lasting joy. We invite others to come to the Lord and receive His joy.
* We pray for God’s mercy.
We call upon the Lord. We rejoice in the Lord. We speak for the Lord. These are not things about which we can boast.
We dare not congratulate ourselves – God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I call upon the Lord. They do not. I rejoice in the Lord. They do not. I speak for the Lord. They do not (Luke 18:11).
In all our calling upon the Lord, our rejoicing in the Lord and our speaking for the Lord, we must remember to pray – God, have mercy on me, a sinner (Luke 18: 13).
Calling upon the Lord, rejoicing in the Lord, speaking for the Lord. Where do these things come from? They come from the Lord.
He calls us to Himself. He gives us His joy. He gives us His Word.
- We call upon the Lord, trusting in His promise of salvation – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).
- We rejoice in our Saviour, Jesus Christ, giving thanks that He welcomes sinners (Luke 15:2).
- We speak the Word of the Lord, proclaiming the Good News that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
We look at what we are – sinners. We look at what Jesus is – our Saviour. We look to Him and we say, To Him be glory for ever and ever (2 Timothy 6:18).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-------------------
Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4;Psalm 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10
* Keep on praying to the Lord.
‘How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen?’(Habakkuk 1:2). There are times when it seems that God is not listening to us. What are we to do when we feel like this?
Are we to give up on God? Are we to stop praying? No! We must wait patiently for the Lord’s answer - ‘I will look to see what He will say to me’ (Habakkuk 2:1).
We must not forget His promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:25-26).
‘The vision awaits its time ... If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay’ (Habakkuk 2:3-4). Let us ‘live by faith’, awaiting the Day when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’ (Habakkuk 2:14).
* Keep on listening to the Lord.
We pray, “Give me understanding that I may live” (Psalm 119:144). We look to God to shine His light upon our lives: ‘The entrance of Your words gives light’ (Psalm 119:130).
The Word of God brings light into our lives.
Sadly, many people ‘love darkness rather than light’. They refuse to ‘come to the light’. They prefer to remain in the darkness. They refuse to listen to what God is saying to them through His Word. Then, when things are not going so well for them, they blame God. They say, ‘It’s all Your fault’!
Things could have been so different. They could have learned to spend time with God. They could have learned the lessons of faith which are found in God’s Word. They could have learned to cope with life’s difficulties. They could have been filled with the strength of the Lord.
They would not be complaining against Him. They would be rejoicing in Him: He has ‘called us out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:10).
What about us? Are we walking in the light of the Lord?
* Keep on walking with the Lord.
Here, on earth, we face persecutions and trials. God is calling us to have perseverance and faith (2 Thessalonians 1:4).
It will not be easy to keep on walking with the Lord. We could easily lose our way. There will be many temptations to leave the pathway that leads to eternal glory.
We must learn to look beyond our present to God’s future.
What will the future hold for us?
For some, there will be salvation. For others, there will be judgment.
- “For ‘all those who have believed’, ‘the Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’will be a great Day, the Day of celebration, the Day of our salvation, the Day of ‘our being gathered to Him’(2 Thessalonians 2:1; 1:10).
- ‘When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven’, it will be a Day of judgment for ‘those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus’(2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
The Word of God is very clear about God’s purpose of salvation: ‘God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him’. ‘The Lord does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’. ‘God wants all people to be saved’(John 3:17; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4).
Alongside the promise of salvation, there is the warning – there will be judgment for those who refuse to come to Christ and receive His salvation.
Make sure that you don’t lose your way. Don’t say ‘No’ to Christ - and perish.
Make sure that you’re on the pathway to eternal glory. Say “Yes’ to Him and be saved: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(2 Thessalonians 2:10; John 3:18; Acts 16:31).
* Keep your eyes on Jesus.
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51; 13:22; 17:11), the place where He would be crucified for the world’s salvation.
‘Passing through’ Jericho, He brought ‘salvation’ to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1, 9).
‘Near to Jerusalem’, He spoke about service (Luke 19:11-27).
- Jesus is our Saviour. He came ‘to save us’(Luke 19:10).
- He is also our Lord. He wants to ‘reign over’ us (Luke 19:27).
‘Salvation has come to us (Luke 19:9). As ‘good servants’, let us be ‘faithful’ to our Lord (Luke 19:17). Let us keep on praying to the Lord. Let us keep on listening to the Lord. Let us keep on walking with the Lord. In all our praying, listening and walking, let us keep our eyes on Jesus, learning, as we travel with Him, what it means to say, He is my Saviour, He is my Lord.
----------
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Haggai 1:5b-2:9; Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 (or Psalm 98); 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38
* Work for God.
‘“Why is everyone saying it is not the right time for rebuilding My Temple?” asks the Lord’. His reply to them is this: ‘Is it then the right time for you to live in luxurious homes, when the Temple lies in ruins?’(Haggai 1:2-4).
God’s people had forgotten about God. They were pleasing themselves - but they were not pleasing God!
God is challenging us to think about our way of living - ‘Consider your way of life’ (Haggai 1:5, 7).
We are to ‘obey the voice of the Lord our God’. We are to change our way of thinking - ‘the people feared the Lord’ - and living - ‘They came and began work on the House of the Lord Almighty, their God’. Let us obey God’s voice. Let us trust in His promise - ‘I am with you’ (Haggai 1:12-14).
‘“Be strong, all you people of the land”, declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you”, declares the Lord Almighty’ (Haggai 2:4).
We are to work for God. When we commit ourselves to serving Him, the Lord promises His blessing: ‘From this day on I will bless you’ (Haggai 2:19).
To His faithful servants, God promises great blessing: ‘I will fill this House with glory’ (Haggai 2:7).
‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that, in the Lord, your labour is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).
‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King? ... We are on the Lord’s side, Saviour, we are Thine ... Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine.’
* Worship God.
Our work for God is to be grounded in worship[.
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3).
The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him.
Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration’.
We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’.
We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’.
Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom’.
There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8, 13, 21).
Let us worship the Lord – “Sing to the Lord a new song … Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth” (Psalm 98:1, 4).
* Wait for God.
Worshipping God and working for Him, we await the Day of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:2).
We wait upon the Lord and we renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31).
Paul prayed for the Thessalonians and he asked them to pray for him.
- He prayed that God would ‘comfort their hearts and establish them in every good work and word’(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
- He prayed that they would enjoy peace: ‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in all ways’(2 Thessalonians 3:16).
- He asked them to pray for his ministry: ‘pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed on and triumph among you’(2 Thessalonians 3:1).
Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, ‘You keep on praying for us and we’ll keep on praying for you’.
Far too often, we forget. It becomes a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
We must not forget each other. We are to keep on praying for those who belong to our past.
We must remember each other - in prayer. Don’t forget to remember!
We’re not to live in the past. We are travelling towards the future – God’s future.
God’s future: That’s the reason we keep on praying for those who belong to our past. We pray that their future will be filled with His blessing
- filled with the comfort of the Gospel
- filled with the peace of God
- filled with the triumph of His grace.
We await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him (2 Thessalonians 2:1). As we await the glorious future of God’s eternal Kingdom, may we grow strong in the firm conviction that He is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Luke 20:38).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
-------------------
Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
* God is calling us on to glory.
What a contrast there is between those who belong to Christ - ‘My servants will sing out of the joy of their hearts’- and those who have refused to come to Christ for salvation - ‘You will cry out from anguish of heart and wail in brokenness of spirit’(Isaiah 65:14)!
God is preparing a great future ‘for those who love Him’ - ‘I will create a new heaven and a new earth’. He is calling us away from our sins - ‘Past things will not be remembered. They will not come to mind’. He is calling us to His ‘holy mountain’.
How can we enter into our full enjoyment of God’s eternal salvation? God’s Word tells us: ‘I will pay attention to those who are humble and sorry for their sins and who tremble at My Word’ (Isaiah 65:17, 25; 66:2; 1 Corinthians 2:9).
Make sure that you belong to Christ. Put your faith in Him (John 3:18, 36).
* God is calling us out for service.
Think of God’s great future – and be changed here-and-now.
Thank God for His great future. Let His praise fill your life here-and –now.
How are we to serve the Lord? How is His eternal glory to shine in our life here-and-now?
- We serve the Lord in our speaking.
- We serve the Lord in our living.
- We serve the Lord in our giving.
* The glory of God in our speaking, living and giving
- Our speaking for the Lord arises out of our experience of His glory.
We experience His great salvation and we say, ‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’ This is our personal worship.
Our experience of His great salvation inspires our personal worship and it leads us on to public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12:1-2, 4-5).
- Our living for the Lord arises out of our experience of His glory.
We are to never tire of doing what is right (2 Thessalonians 3:13). What inspires us to keep on going, to keep on choosing the right way rather than the wrong way?
We choose the godly way when we have caught a glimpse of the glory of God.
We are tempted to lapse back into the world’s way of living. The Lord speaks to us of His great salvation.he gives us His strength. We continue to sing the Lord’s song. By our life as well as our words, we say, This is what the Lord has done for us.
- Our giving to the Lord arises out of our experience of His glory.
The ‘poor widow’ gave her ‘all’ to the Lord (Luke 21:1-4). True giving is a response to ‘the grace of God’. Learning to appreciate ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’, we will learn to give with ‘abundance of joy’ and ‘wealth of liberality’(2 Corinthians 8:1-2, 9).
Let us give ourselves to our Lord. True Christian living will not be easy (Luke 21:12; 2 Timothy 3:12). The Lord will be with us in all our difficulties (Luke 21:15, 18-19).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 1:68-79; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
‘In everything’ Christ is ‘pre-eminent’ (Colossians 1:18).
* He is pre-eminent in our salvation.
In Luke 23:42-43, we read of the thief on the cross, trusting in Christ for salvation. Like the dying thief, we come to Christ in our weakness. He meets us with His strong salvation.
Deeply conscious of our sin, we know that we can do nothing to save ourselves. We must look away from ourselves to the Saviour.
In Him, there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14).
Through Him, we receive the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:77).
He is our Saviour. We look to Him and we say, Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness (Psalm 115:1).
* He is to be pre-eminent in our praise.
In Luke 1:68-79, we have a song of praise.
Zechariah worships the Lord: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and He has redeemed His people (v. 68).
This song of praise – from the father of John the Baptist - is directly connected to the song of praise which came from Mary, the mother of Jesus: My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour ... (Luke 1:46-55).
Like Zechariah and Mary, we are to praise the God of our salvation.
We are to give thanks to God for the gift of His Son - our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
* He is to be pre-eminent in our preaching.
Jeremiah warns us against the false prophets: ‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ (Jeremiah 23:1).
We are not to be like the false prophets. We are to be faithful servants of the Lord. God is calling us to be faithful.
To John the Baptist, God’s Word was spoken: “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him” (Luke 1:76).
This is our ministry. We are to prepare the way for the Lord. We are to point away from ourselves, saying, “I must decrease. Christ must increase” (John 3:30).
We are to direct attention to Jesus, our Saviour, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Special Days: Christian Unity – Ezekiel 47:1-12; Psalms 133 and 134; Revelation 21:9-14, 22-27; Luke 13:22-30
* What a wonderful message the prophet brings to us – the ‘river’ of God’s blessing.
He speaks of the rising of the ‘river’ of God’s blessing - ‘ankle-deep... knee-deep... up to the waist ... deep enough to swim in - a river that no-one could cross’ (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
This is the river of ‘life’- ‘a great number of trees.... Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows... large numbers of fish because... where the river flows everything will live’ (Ezekiel 47:7-9).
‘The Spirit’ brings ‘rivers of living water’ into our lives (John 7:38-39).
Don’t settle for a shallow experience of God’s blessing - ‘ankle-deep’, ‘knee-deep’ (Ezekiel 47:3-4).
‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7). Let ‘the Spirit’ lead you into ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).
‘Launch out into the deep’ (Luke 5:4). ‘Swim’ in God’s mighty ‘river’ of blessing (Ezekiel 47:5).
‘Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
* What a wonderful message the psalmist brings to us – God blesses us as we gather to worship Him.
God sends ‘His blessing’ when His people gather together for worship: ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!’(Psalm 133:1, 3).
Many people like to think of themselves as ‘believers’, yet they show no interest in worshipping together with God’s people.
What does God’s Word say about this? - ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another...’(Hebrews 10:25).
‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the House of the Lord’ (Psalms 133:1; 134:1).
Some people never miss a Sunday morning service - but they always miss the Sunday evening services! They are missing out on so much of God’s blessing.
‘May the Lord... bless you...’on Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings (Psalm 134:2)!
* What a wonderful message the apostle brings to us – a glimpse of the heavenly worship.
God has given us a glimpse of a future which is heavenly, eternal and glorious: ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God’ (Revelation 21:10-11).
We read the apostle’s words, and we wonder, Is this ‘eternal life’ (John 3:16) for everyone? Will all people ‘dwell in the House of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6)? Will everyone be saved? Is this what the Word of God teaches?
‘God wants everyone to be saved’. He wants everyone to ‘come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He wants everyone to ‘come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).
Sadly, there are many who ‘refuse to love the truth and so be saved’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Who will be saved? - ‘only those, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life’ (Revelation 21:27).
‘Come’ to Christ (Revelation 22:17).
‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they ... may go through the gates into the city’(Revelation 22:14).
* What a wonderful message the Saviour brings to us – Christ is preparing us for the heavenly worship.
Jesus stresses the need for both repentance (Luke 13:1-5) and the fruits of repentance (Luke 13:6-9).
God’s Word, planted in our hearts at conversion, is to bear fruit.
This requires continual repentance and faith (Colossians 2:6; Galatians 3:1-5).
Don’t put it off till tomorrow! Today is ‘the day of salvation’. Don’t ‘neglect’ God’s ‘great salvation’(Luke 13:15-16; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:3). Let there be spiritual growth, affecting the whole of your life (Luke 13:18-21).
Jesus was ‘journeying toward Jerusalem’- to ‘finish His course’ at the Cross (Luke 13:22, 32-33).
He came from the Lord (Luke 13:35). Through Him, we come to the Lord (Luke 13:24; John 10:9).
There is no salvation in ourselves (Luke 13:25-27). Apart from Him, there is ‘no peace’(Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11).
Jesus loves you (Luke 13:34). Make ‘sure’ that your trust is in Him. He will never fail you (2 Peter 1:10-11).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Special Days: Presentation of the Lord (February 2) – Haggai 2:1-9; Psalm 8; 1 John 3:1-8; Luke 2:22-40
* God calls us to worship Him.
The Lord is ‘majestic’ (Psalm 8:1, 9).
He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He shows us His greatness, the greatness of His love.
We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4).
We are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’ (Psalm 8:2).
We look beyond our creation (Psalm 8:5-8) to our salvation - ‘we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone ... that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil’ (Hebrews 2:8-9, 14).
This is ‘Majesty’- ‘Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’. The Name of the Lord is majestic ‘in all the earth’ (Psalm 8:1, 9).
To God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - we pray, ‘Glorify Your Name in all the earth.’
* God calls us to walk with Him.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God’, we receive ‘eternal life’(1 John 2:22-25; John 20:31).
Our enjoyment of eternal life has already begun - ‘we are God’s children now’. Our full enjoyment of eternal life is still to come: ‘It does not yet appear what we shall be ...’ (1 John 3:2).
We have begun to experience Christ’s victory: ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil’. We look forward to our full enjoyment of His victory: ‘When He appears, we shall be like Him...’(1 John 3:8).
Some will try to ‘deceive’ us. We must keep our eyes on Christ - ‘He laid down His life for us’. We have received His ‘love’. We must show His love - ‘Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth’(1 John 3:7, 16, 18).
Do you believe in Christ? Live the life. Be a believer - in deed’!
* God calls us to work for Him.
‘“Be strong, all you people of the land”, declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you”, declares the Lord Almighty’ (Haggai 2:4).
We are to work for God.
When we commit ourselves to serving Him, the Lord promises His blessing: ‘From this day on I will bless you’ (Haggai 2:19). To His faithful servants, God promises great blessing: ‘I will fill this House with glory’ (Haggai 2:7).
‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that, in the Lord, your labour is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).
‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King? ... We are on the Lord’s side, Saviour, we are Thine ... Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine’.
* In our worship, walk and work, God calls us to follow Christ.
Jesus ‘fulfilled all righteousness’(Matthew 3:15).
His circumcision and presentation to the Lord was ‘according to the law of Moses’(Luke 2:21-24; Leviticus 12:1-8).
Jesus’ obedience was always more than mere conformity to ‘the written code’.
He was walking ‘in the Spirit’. He was filled with ‘the Spirit of the living God’(2 Corinthians 3:3, 6).
His obedience came ‘from the heart’ and His ‘praise’ came ‘not from men but from God’(Romans 6:17; 2:29).
What joy there was for Simeon and Anna! This was ‘salvation’, ‘redemption’(Luke 2:30, 38).
As you journey through life, don’t ‘lose Jesus’(Luke 2:43-45). Keep close to Him!
If you do ‘lose Him’, where will you find Him again? - ‘In the temple’(Luke 2:46).
Have you lost your way? Find your way back to ‘the sanctuary of God’- and things will start to fall into place again (Psalm 73:16-17)!
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Special Days: Springtime – Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 126; James 3:13-18; Luke 12:23-31
* God calls us to be a holy people.
“The Song of the Vineyard” (Isaiah 5:1-7) is a call to holiness. God’s people are to be “the garden of His delight” (Isaiah 5:7). We are to live a “holy” life (Isaiah 4:3).
The world speaks of God’s people with contempt - ‘the holy people who need to learn to live in the real world’.
When God calls His people ‘holy’, He speaks in a very different way.
He speaks with affection. He looks upon us with love. We are special to Him. We are precious in His eyes.
God loves us and He calls us to be holy. We are to live as those who have been set apart for God.
We are not to live for this world only. There is something else, something greater than this so-called ‘real world’.
There is a world that is unseen and eternal, heavenly and glorious. This is our higher calling, our call to holiness.
Let us ‘look to the things that are unseen and eternal’. Let us ‘press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 4:18; Philippians 3:14).
* God calls us to be a joyful people.
‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’ (Psalm 126:3). We rejoice in our Saviour who ‘died for our sins’ and ‘was raised on the third day’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
Holiness and joy belong together. We will not find true happiness unless we seek real holiness. We find real holiness and true happiness when we build our life upon our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 125:1 tells us that ‘Those who trust in the Lord... cannot be moved...’
When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the’ foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’ (Matthew 7:24-27).
‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’ (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4).
In Christ alone, we find true happiness and real holiness.
* God calls us to be a wise people.
Use your words with wisdom - ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’(James 3:17-18). So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. So much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’(James 3:5) can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on’.
Don’t fight to get your own way.
Be wise - ask God to show you His way (James 4:2).
Be wise - be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another...Who are you to judge your neighbour?’(James 4:11-12).
May God deliver us from hypocrisy - ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’(James 3:10).
May He give us ‘more grace’- to be ‘humble’ and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (James 4:6-7).
* God calls us to seek His Kingdom.
‘Seek His Kingdom... it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom’(Luke 12:31-32).
- Seeking God’s Kingdom, we will live by faith and not by fear.
‘Do not fear...’(Luke 12:4): ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’(Romans 8:31).
- Seeking God’s Kingdom, we will be unashamed of our Saviour.
Acknowledge Christ or deny Him (Luke 12:8-9): Let your choice be clear - ‘Christ means everything to me’(Philippians 1:21).
Do you want to confess Christ? - Here’s a great promise for you: ‘the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say’(Luke 12:12).
- Seeking God’s Kingdom, we will lay up our treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20).
In our generation, there is a ‘gold rush’. Many are preoccupied with ‘having a lot of material possessions’(Luke 12:15). What does God say about this? - ‘Fool!’(Luke 12:20).
We hear it said, ‘He’s too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good’. You can be ‘too earthly-minded to be any heavenly good’!
It is better to be ‘spiritually minded’ than ‘carnally minded’(Romans 8:6).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Special Days: Harvest Festival – Ruth 2; Psalm 144; Galatians 5:16-25; Luke 12:13-21
Looking beyond the harvest to the Lord of the harvest
Ruth meets Boaz. It seemed like a ‘chance’ meeting - ‘she happened to come...’ (Ruth 2:3). It was more than that. God was at work.
Ruth had committed herself to the Lord (Ruth 1:16-17). She was being guided by the Lord (Psalm 37:3-5; Proverbs 3:5-6).
Ruth was unassuming and grateful, hard-working and responsible (Ruth 2:10, 13, 7, 18). She is a fine example of the ‘good wife’, described in Proverbs 31:10-31. In Boaz, she found a good man - godly, generous and sensitive (Ruth 2:12, 14, 16).
We read about Ruth. We learn about Jesus Christ. When you come to Him, He says, ‘Do not go to glean in another field...’ - ‘There is salvation in no one else’ (Ruth2:8; Acts 4:12). In Him, there is amazing grace. He loves us. He looks upon us favourably. He takes notice of us. He died for us (Ruth 2:10; Romans 5:8). Let us follow Him (Ruth 1:16-17; John 6:67-69).
Praying that the Lord of the harvest will send His blessing
‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle’ (Psalm 144:1). The Lord is ‘the One who gives victory’ to His people (Psalm 144:10). What a great God we have! He is ‘our loving God, our Fortress, our Stronghold, our Deliverer, our Shield’ (Psalm 144:2).
What great blessing the Lord sends into our lives! He fights for us (Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; 3: 22; Nehemiah 4:20). He is ‘our Strength’ (Psalms 28:7-8; 59:17). ‘With God we shall gain the victory’ (Psalm 60:12).
Let us pray that God will pour out His blessing upon us: ‘Part Your heavens, O Lord, and come down... Reach down Your hand from on high...’ (Psalm 144:5, 7).
Let us think of how much the Lord has blessed us. Let us sing our song of praise to Him: ‘I will sing a new song to You, O God’ (Psalm 144:9).
The harvest of the Spirit – sent to us by the Lord of the harvest
What are we praying for when we ask God to fill us with His Spirit? We are praying ‘for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’. This is ‘the fruit of the Spirit’(Galatians 5:22-23).
How are we to be filled with the Spirit? How does the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives? We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, saying in our hearts, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’(Galatians 6:14).
‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’. Looking to Him, let’s concentrate on the one thing that really matters - living as ‘a new creation’(Galatians 6:15).
The challenge set before us by the Lord of the harvest
Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord challenges us to look honestly at ourselves.
What is happening in our lives?
Have we settled for something less than God’s very best? - I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12:19).
Jesus says to us, There is more to life than the physical harvest. There is the harvest of the Spirit.
Make sure that you are rich towards God (Luke 12:21).
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Special Days: Michaelmas (September 29) - Genesis 21:33 and 23:19-20 (see explanation below); Psalm 148; Revelation 12:7-12a; Luke 9:23-27
Explanatory Comment regarding the Genesis Reading
I had been intending to comment on the passages given in “The Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland” (1994). When I looked for the Genesis passage (23:20-33), I found that Genesis 23 ends at verse 20!! I have gone to Genesis 21 to find a verse 33 and have made a comment on it! I have also commented on Genesis 23:19-20. I hope these comments are helpful.
The Lord is the Everlasting God.
Abraham returned to the place where he had ‘called...on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (Genesis 21:33). This is a good ‘place’ to be, the ‘place’ of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God.
The death of Sarah took place in God's time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (Genesis 23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah.
Here, we see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.
Praise the Lord.
‘Praise the Lord’. Psalm 148 begins and ends with these great words. These words are also the opening and closing words of Psalms 146, 147, 149 and 150.
Our personal song of praise to God - ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock... I will sing a new song to You, O God... I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You... My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord... I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalms 144:1,9; 145:1-2,21; 146:2) - is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller - ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’(Psalm 150:6).
“Praise the Lord” – may these words Psalms 146-150 inspire us to praise the Lord more truly and more fully.
In our Lord Jesus Christ, we have the victory.
In Genesis 3:1, we read of ‘the serpent’. Here, he is again - ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’.
- He is a powerful enemy. He ‘leads the whole world astray’.
- He is a determined enemy. ‘Day and night’, he is busy, accusing God’s children.
- He is a defeated enemy. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...’.
This is not only Christ’s victory over Satan. This is our victory in Christ, the victory Christ has won for us.
- Why is Satan so busy? It’s because ‘he knows his time is short’ (Revelation 12:9-12).
- How are we to take our stand against Satan? We must listen to the Word of God: ‘He who has an ear, let him hear’. We must obey the Word of God: ‘This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness...’(Revelation 13:9).
Christ has won the victory for us. Let us claim His victory by faith.
Looking to Christ, we await the coming Kingdom of God.
In Luke 9:18-27, we learn (a) Who Jesus is: ‘the Christ of God’ (20). (b) What Jesus has done for us: His death and resurrection (22). (c) What Jesus calls us to be: His followers (23).
May God give us grace to follow ‘the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us’(Galatians 2:20). May God help us to follow Christ, looking for ‘the Kingdom of God’(27).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Special Days: All Saints (November 1) – Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-32
The Glory of God is revealed in His salvation.
Our God is the God of “salvation” – “the Lord takes delight in His people: He crowns the humble with salvation” (Psalm 149:4). Through receiving the free gift of God’s salvation, we receive true joy: “Let the saints rejoice in this honour and sing for joy …” (Psalm 149:5).  In Psalm 149:9, we read of “the glory of all His saints”. In the prophecy of Daniel, we catch a glimpse of the full glory of God’s salvation.
The Glory of God is revealed in the Coming of Christ, our Saviour.
Daniel received “visions” from the Lord (Daniel 7:1-2, 15). He wondered about their “true meaning” (Daniel 7:16). They were visions of God’s Kingdom”: “the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it for ever – yes, for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18).   The coming of God’s eternal Kingdom is described in Daniel 7:13-14 - ‘There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven… His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed’. These words point us to Christ’s description of His Second Coming, the Coming of His Kingdom: ‘They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’(Matthew 24:30). In Revelation 1:7, we have another echo of Daniel’s ‘vision’: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’. ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending… Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the power and glory, claim the Kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!’
Trusting in Christ, we travel towards the Glory of God’s Eternal Kingdom.
We read, in Ephesians 1:18, we read of “the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints”. Our attention is directed towards “Christ” who is “seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:20). “Christ” is our “hope”. (Ephesians 1:12). Trusting in Him, we look forward to our full “redemption” (Ephesians 1:14). The pathway to God’s eternal Kingdom is described for us in Ephesians 2:8-10 - ‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’.God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’- by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7). When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’(Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’(Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’(Ephesians 1:6).
Live your life “to the praise of God’s glory”.
In Luke 6:17-49, Jesus calls us to live our life to the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:14).
(a) Hunger for God (21; Matthew 5:6): Laziness leads to superficial Christianity. Do not hunger and you will not be ‘filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18). Do not seek and you will not find (Matthew 7:7). Seek the Lord with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13). God has so much for us (1 Corinthians 2:12). Don’t miss out (2 Corinthians 9:6).
(b) Love for God: Love is the greatest thing in the world. Our love for God is to be seen in our love for others (27; 1 John 3:16-17).
(c) Vision of God: The blind cannot lead the blind (39-42). Make sure you are not ‘blind and short-sighted’(2 Peter 1:9). Run with the vision - Others will be blessed (Habakkuk 2:2).
(d) Foundations in God: Make sure you are ‘rooted’ in Christ, our sure ‘Foundation’(43-49; Ephesians 3:17; 2:19-22).
—–
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Special Days: Remembrance Day – Micah 4:1-8; Psalm 9:9-20; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5; Luke 1:68-79
The prophet calls us to worship the Lord and walk with Him.
Micah speaks to those ‘who hate good and love evil’ (Micah 3:2).
- He calls upon them to change their way of living.
- He calls upon them to worship the Lord - ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’- and walk with Him - ‘We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God for ever and ever’ (Micah 4:2, 5).
How do we learn to ‘walk in His paths’?
- We come to His ‘House’.
- We worship the Lord in His House.
- We listen to His ‘Word’
- We pray that His Word will come to us ‘with power’.
- We ask Him to ‘teach us His ways’.
- We pray that we will be ‘filled with the Spirit of the Lord’ (Micah 3:8).
Gathered in His House for worship, we ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us’. Through His power, we are equipped for witness: ‘you will be My witnesses...’ (Acts 1:8).
The psalmist calls us to worship the Lord and walk with Him.
Psalm 9 will help us to worship the Lord. It will help us to be His witnesses.
- ‘I will give thanks to the Lord...’ (1-2).
- The enemy is defeated (3-6).
- ‘The Lord sits enthroned for ever’ (7).
- ‘The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’ (9).
What an encouraging Psalm this is!
We have the victory in Christ. Nevertheless, it is not easy when we face determined opposition from the enemies of Christ and His Gospel: ‘Behold what I suffer from those that hate me’ (13).
In this situation, we must call upon the Lord: ‘Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail’ (19). Though the conflict is raging all around us, we must - taking our stand in Christ - declare God’s praises and rejoice in His salvation (14).
‘The Lord dwells in Zion’(11): ‘Blest inhabitants of Zion, Washed in the Redeemer’s blood’, may we always say, ‘Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name’.
The apostle calls us to pray to the Lord.
Paul prayed for the Thessalonians and he asked them to pray for him.
- He prayed that God would ‘comfort their hearts and establish them in every good work and word’(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
- He prayed that they would enjoy peace: ‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in all ways’(2 Thessalonians 3:16).
He asked them to pray for his ministry - ‘pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed on and triumph among you’(2 Thessalonians 3:1).
Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, ‘You keep on praying for us and we’ll keep on praying for you’.
We must not forget each other. We must remember each other - in prayer.
Far too often, we forget. It becomes a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
We’re not to live in the past. We are to keep on praying for those who belong to our past.
Don’t forget to remember!
The prayer of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79) calls us to worship the Lord and walk with Him.
We are called to join with Zechariah in saying, Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel ... (68).
As we worship the Lord, we are confident of this: He will “guide our feet into the path of peace” (79).
May God help us to respond to His call. Let us worship God. Let us walk with Him.
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
---------------------
Special Days: St Andrew’s Day (November 30) – Isaiah 55; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 4:1-16; John 12:20-36
I am a Church of Scotland minister. St Andrew is the “patron saint” of Scotland.
-----
Seek the Lord.
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found...’ (Isaiah 55:6-7).
No one seems to be listening. What are we to do?
We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11).
We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts...’ (Isaiah 55:8-9).
We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’(Luke 5:5).
The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy...’ (Isaiah 55:12).
Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...’ (Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time...’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Seek the Lord’s blessing.
The first Psalm contrasts two ways - the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow.
Here are some early lessons from the first few Psalms: stability in the Lord (1:1-2); service for the Lord (2:11); salvation of the Lord (3:8); sanctification from the Lord (4:4-5); singing to the Lord (8:4); strength in the Lord (9:9).
These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’ (Psalm 1:1-2).
With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?
Seek the Lord’s glory.
As ‘servants of Christ’, we must concern ourselves with one thing - being ‘found faithful’.
This is not a matter of pleasing people - ‘it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you...’. Pleasing God - this is the most important thing (1 Corinthians4:1-4).
Serving Christ is not easy. There are always those who are quick to pass judgment on the Lord’s servants. What does God say about this? - ‘Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes’(1 Corinthians 4:9-13,5).
Being ‘found faithful’ is not just a matter of ‘saying the right words’. We must be the right people. This is what Paul means when he says, ‘The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power’(1 Corinthians 4:20).
‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses’(Acts 1:8; Romans 12:11).
Serve the Lord’s purpose – the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners.
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasizing that we must not lose sight of Him. If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’(John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32). Jesus had ‘come’for this ‘hour’(John 12:27).
-----
The Bible readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.
--------------------
Special Days: Dedication / Anniversary - 2 Samuel 24:18-25; Psalm 122; 2 Peter 2:1-10; Luke 4:16-30
To God be the glory.
David wanted to ‘know the number of the people’ (2 Samuel 24:2). Why? He wanted to feel important - ‘the big man’. He was not giving the glory to the Lord. In the spirit of pride, he was taking the glory for himself.
Did God give up on David - ‘a hopeless case, too full of himself and his own importance’? Of course not!
The Lord, whose ‘mercy is great’, drew David back to Himself.
David confessed his sin - ‘I have sinned greatly… I have done very foolishly… I have sinned and I have done wickedly’ (2 Samuel 24:10, 17). David was accepted by the Lord - ‘The Lord your God accepts you’. He was brought from pride to praise (2 Samuel 24:23, 25).
This is what God has done for us. We are ‘accepted in the Beloved’- ‘to the praise of His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
Let us glorify the Lord in our worship.
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’(Psalm 122:2).
Why do we go to the House of the Lord?
- We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4).
- We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’(Psalm 123:3).
- We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8).
As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalms 123:2; 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).
Let us live for the glory of God.
God ‘has given us His very great and precious promises’(2 Peter 1:4). God has a great purpose for us. He is preparing for us ‘a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’(2 Peter 1:11).
The pathway to heavenly and eternal glory is not an easy one. Often, we will be tempted to settle for being ‘ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There will be many distractions, drawing our attention away from Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him if we are not to become ‘blind and short-sighted’. We can so easily forget the most important thing - we have been ‘cleansed from our old sins’. It is so important that we keep looking to Christ, remembering what He has done for us and giving thanks to Him (2 Peter 1:8-9).
‘The Lord’ will not fail us in our ‘trials’ (2:9). Let’s not fail Him!
Let the Holy Spirit lead you on the pathway to God’s glory.
Jesus was ‘tempted by the devil’(Luke 4:2). He was rejected by His enemies (Luke 4:28-29).
When we look around us, we see nothing but temptations and rejection - What a negative way of looking at things! There is something more positive here - the presence of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14, 18).
Do not be afraid. There is no need to be discouraged. We need not be defeated. The temptations may be many. The opposition may be fierce. We can ‘pass through the midst of them’ (Luke 4:30): ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control’(2 Timothy 1:7).
Satan is persistent - They did not rest until they had crucified Him. Faced with such opposition, we - like Jesus - must walk in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:12, 17-18).
-----
The Bible Readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary – Year C.

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...