Thursday, 31 December 2015

More Than A Departure ...

Exodus 2:23-25

Exodus: It's more than a departure. It's a deliverance. It's more than a protest against Egypt. It's an answer to prayer. It's more than a social revolution. It's a spiritual revelation of God's love.


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Prayers based on Daniel 1 - 6

Daniel 1:1-2:16
‘Daniel resolved not to defile himself’ (Daniel 1:8). We thank You, Lord, that Daniel was devoted to You. It was not easy to live as Your faithful servant. His dedication to You was put to the test - ‘Test your servants’ (Daniel 1:12). Our faith is put to the test. We ‘suffer many trials’. Why, Lord, do You allow our faith to be tested by ‘all kinds of trials? - ‘The testing of your faith produces steadfastness’. ‘These have come so that your faith, which is much more precious than gold, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Peter 1:6-7; James 1:2-3). Knowing that ‘every trial falls from above, traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love’, may we learn to ‘trust You fully’ and ‘find You wholly true’ (Mission Praise, 421).
Daniel 2:17-49
‘In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed’ (44). We thank You, Lord, that Your Kingdom is the only Kingdom which stands forever. Your Kingdom is eternal. We thank You that, through Christ, ‘the Kingdom of God has come near to us’ (Luke 10:9). Christ is the ‘King of kings’ (Revelation 17:14; 19:16). ‘His throne will last for ever and ever’. ‘His Kingdom will never end’. ‘He will reign for ever and ever’ (Hebrews 1:8; Luke 1:33; Revelation 11:15). Teach us, Lord, to sing, from our hearts, 'Christ triumphant... ever reigning... enthroned for ever’: ‘Sin and death and hell shall never stifle hymns of love. So, our hearts and voices raising through the ages long... this shall be our song: Yours the glory and the crown...’ (Mission Praise, 77).
Daniel 3:1-30
‘We want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’ (Daniel 3:18). We have no other king but You, Lord. You, alone, are King. You, alone, are to be worshipped. We are to ‘have no other gods before You’. We are ‘not to make for ourselves an idol’ which takes the place of the Lord (Exodus 20:3-4). You, Lord, must come first in our lives. You are to be our ‘first love’ - ‘the love of our heart: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart...’ (Revelation 2:4; Mark 12:30). Jesus asks us, ‘Do you love me?’ He waits for our reply: ‘I love You’ (John 21:15-17). May we sing, from our hearts, ‘I love the Name of Jesus. King of my heart, He is everything to me’. ‘I love You, O Lord, You alone... my God who shall have all my praise’. (Mission Praise, 285,286).
Daniel 4:1-37
‘His Kingdom is an eternal Kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation’ (Daniel 4:3). The generations rise and fall - ‘You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning... by evening it is dry and withered’; ‘As for man, his days are like grass... the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more’ (Psalms 90:5-6; 103-15-16). You, Lord, are ‘the everlasting God’: ‘From everlasting to everlasting You are God’. Your love is an ‘everlasting’ love: ‘From everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him’. You, Lord, ‘have established Your throne in heaven, and Your Kingdom rules over all’. We thank You that You are ‘our dwelling-place throughout all generations’ (Isaiah 40:28; Psalms 90:1-2; 103:17,19).
Daniel 5:1-31
Teach us, Lord, not to ‘praise the gods of gold and silver...’ (Daniel 5:4). Material possessions must never take the place of God. Seeking material prosperity is not to be the most important thing in our lives. We are to ‘seek first Your Kingdom...’. We are to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Matthew 6:33; 2 Peter 3:18). Teach us to say, from our hearts, ‘I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold, I’d rather be His than have riches untold...I’d rather have Jesus... than to be the king of a vast domain and be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today. I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause, I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame, I’d rather be true to His holy Name’ (Mission Praise, 319).
Daniel 6:1-28
‘He is the living God and He endures for ever; His Kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end’ (Daniel 6:26). You, Lord, are the living God. You are also the loving God - ‘His love endures forever’ (Psalm 136). You are the King. You're a very special kind of king. You're ‘the King of Love’. The coming of Your Kingdom will be the victory of Your love: ‘Kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of the Lord: Love has the victory for ever!’ May we enjoy the victory of Your love as we lift our hearts to You in worship: ‘Who can see Your greatest Gift and fail to worship You?’ May we enjoy the victory of Your love as we give our lives to You in service: ‘Let us labour for the Master... Let us talk of all His wondrous love...’ (Church Hymnary, 388; Mission Praise, 86,759).

Monday, 28 December 2015

Some "1 & 2 Chronicles" Links

" Praying Through God's Word: 1 Chronicles"

" Lessons from 1 Chronicles 21-29"

" Praying Through God's Word: 2 Chronicles"

" Lessons from 2 Chronicles 1-11"

" Lessons from 2 Chronicles 26-36"

Some "1 & 2 Kings" Links

" Praying Through God's Word: 1 Kings"

" Lessons from 1 Kings 1-9"

" The Holy Spirit - Learning from 1 Kings"

" Lessons from 2 Kings 1-8"

" Lessons from 2 Kings 17-25"

Some "1 & 2 Samuel" Links

" The Holy Spirit - Learning from 1 Samuel"

" Lessons from 1 Samuel 1-7"

" The Holy Spirit - Learning from 2 Samuel"

" Lessons from 2 Samuel 10-16"

"Ruth" Link

" Search the Scriptures: Ruth"

Some "Judges" Links

" Search the Scriptures: Judges"

" Overview Of The Old Testament: Judges"

Some "Joshua" Links

" Search the Scriptures: Joshua"

" Notes on Joshua" - Charles Cameron

Some "Deuteronomy" Links

" The Holy Spirit - Learning from Deuteronomy"

" Overview Of The Old Testament: Deuteronomy"

" Praying Through God's Word: Deuteronomy"

" Notes on Deuteronomy"

" Search The Scriptures: Deuteronomy"

Some "Numbers" Links

" Search The Scriptures: Numbers"

" The Holy Spirit - Learning from Numbers"

" Learning From God's Word: Numbers"

Some "Leviticus" Links

Some "Exodus" Links

" Learning From God's Word: Exodus"

Some "Genesis" Links

" Search the Scriptures: Genesis"

Can We Learn From Life's Tragedies?

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13).
God has spoken words of encouragement: “the Lord is with you, brave man” (Judges 6:12). Things were not going well. Gideon was having doubts about God: “now the Lord has abandoned us” (Judges 6:13). God was quick to reassure Gideon: “You will rescue Israel … I am sending you” (Judges 6:14). Gideon moved from the ‘why’ question to the ‘how’ question: “How can I rescue Israel?” (Judges 6:15). God’s answer is still the same: “I will be with you” (Judges 6:16).

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The true God and false gods

There is a great contrast between the true God and false gods (Isaiah 31). God brings great blessing into our lives. He does this through the gift of the Holy spirit – “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:14). In Him, we receive “peace” (Isaiah 32:18). In Him, we receive “the riches of salvation”, which “are wisdom and knowledge” (Isaiah 33:6). We look away from ourselves in “the fear of the Lord.” We find our “treasure” in “the Lord” – “our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King, our Saviour” (Isaiah 33:6,22).

Perfect love and perfect holiness

The Word of God speaks to us of God, who is both holy and loving. This God calls for our response to His Word. In love, He calls us to come to Him and receive His forgiveness. In holiness, He warns us that rebellion leads to judgment (Isaiah 1:18-20). His Word gives us a glimpse of His love and His holiness. The God of perfect love and perfect holiness invites us to say, from the heart, “Let’s go to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3). God’s blessing is promised to those who will honour Him as their God – “Tell the righteous that blessings will come to them” (Isaiah 3:10). Alongside this promise, there is also the warning: “How horrible it will be for the wicked! Disaster will strike them” (Isaiah 3:11).

Life under the sun? or Life in the Son?

Life “under the sun” is depressing (Ecclesiastes 1:3,9,14). When life is seen in an earthbound way, with nothing above and beyond it, there is no hope, no glimmer of light. The preacher is not saying that this is the only way we can look at life. He is saying that this way of thinking about life is a dead-end street. He is inviting us to see the meaninglessness of a life that is no more than life “under the sun.” He shows us the hopelessness of life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:17,20,22). We can never be satisfied by life “under the sun.” There is always a sense of something more. This dissatisfaction, this longing for something more, comes from God: “He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Life “under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1,3) offers nothing to those who are searching for a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction.There is an emptiness at the heart of life “under the sun.” Attempting to find something more, through our own efforts, is a never-ending task, a fruitless exercise - “trying to catch the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6,8). We need more than life “under the sun.”. We need life in the Son. We need the One who came from above - Jesus Christ, our Saviour. He alone can bring something different into our life. He brings something lasting - eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). As we read Ecclesiastes in the context of the whole of Scripture, our thoughts turn towards another life, a better life - life in the Son. This is a life that is filled with glorious, heavenly, eternal hope. Without God, life is hopeless.With Him, life becomes hopeful. By placing before us these two very different ways of life - life without God and life with God, Ecclesiastes invites us to choose. We are to choose life - the life that comes from above, the abundant life, which is the gift of God’s grace to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). When we receive life in the Son, our life is transformed. It is transformed by the life of Christ - new life, eternal life.
The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the books of Wisdom. Much of it reads like the wisdom of the writer, as he reflects on his life. There is, however, another dimension in this book. There is God. We are encouraged to see our life in the light of God: “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The call to “fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7) lies at the heart of this book. This is more than human wisdom. This is the wisdom that comes from above. It’s the wisdom of God. This wisdom comes to us from divine revelation. True wisdom always recognizes that God is at the centre of life. There are times when this book seems to be the writer’s own practical philosophy of life. Sometimes, it seems like God isn’t in his thoughts. In chapter 6, God is only mentioned in verse 2. We should not, however, ignore the fact that he recognizes the reality of God. It is one thing to mention God only occasionally. It is something else when we ignore Him altogether.  The fact that Ecclesiastes (the Preacher) does not have ready-made answers for every question does not mean that he is not listening for the word of the Lord. It does mean that he recognizes that the answers lie with the Lord - not with ourselves. This is what he means when he says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Our wisdom is limited. Sometimes, we are wise - but we are not always wise. True wisdom comes from God. As we seek Him, we find that He gives His wisdom to us. It comes to us in and through Christ, who is “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). As we look at our life, we are to “consider what God has done” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). When we look at the good things in our lives, we must not forget to say,”this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:19). True wisdom is given to us when we recognize that God is the living God, the God who has done great things for us, the God of our salvation. Recognizing that He is the living God, the God of revelation, doesn’t mean that we’ll understand everything. Throughout our life on earth, there will be matters which are beyond our understanding. We must be content to put our trust in the Lord, with this simple confession of faith: “As for God - His way is perfect.” This is the point the Preacher makes in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17. This is a call for humility. It’s based on the fact that only God understands all things. We must learn to content ourselves with trusting in His wisdom, even we don’t understand all that He’s doing.
* As we learn to trust Him, He teaches us that the quality of our life - learning to live according to His purpose for us - is more important that the quantity of our years - living for a long time without really understanding what our life is all about, without coming to know the true joy that He alone can give to us (Ecclesiastes 5:3-6).
* As we learn to trust the Lord, He teaches us that “patience is better than pride” (Ecclesiastes 7:8). We learn to stop acting like we know it all. He teaches us to say, “God loves me. He knows what’s best for me. He will not fail me - even when I fail Him. He gives me His peace and His joy - even when I don’t really understand much of what’s going on in my life.”
* When we are learning to walk with God, He teaches us that it’s better to seek God-centred holiness - “God made mankind upright” - rather than self-centred happiness - “men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:19).
* As we seek to put the Lord first in our lives, He teaches us that His way, for us, is not the way of seeking “power” for ourselves (Ecclesiastes 8:4,8). We’re not to assert ourselves - ‘I did it my way.’ We’re to submit to Him - “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
The Lord is leading us beyond our own human “power” to achieve our human ambitions. He’s showing us His way. As we walk in His way, we learn that there’s a greater power  - the power of the Holy Spirit. His power is at work in us - to give us a real sense of meaning, purpose and direction: less of ourselves and more of the Lord.
We are to “pay more attention to calm words from wise people” (Ecclesiastes 9:17). This combination of calmness and wisdom is highlighted also in James - “the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial and sincere.” This description of wisdom is followed by these words of comment: “A harvest that has God’s approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers” (James 3:17-18). In Ecclesiastes 10:2, the wise person and the fool are contrasted - “A wise person’s heart leads the right way. The heart of a fool leads the wrong way.” At the heart of the call to wisdom, there is the call to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-6). How are we to remember our Creator? - “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Is there a way out of the desert?

God speaks to His people about their sin - "The people of Jerusalem turned away from Me without ever returning ..." (Jeremiah 8:5). He is not pleased with them. He is calling them to return to Him - "Change the way you live ..." (Jeremiah 7:3). The life of Israel is “like the desert” (Jeremiah 9:12). This moral and spiritual desert is described in Jeremiah 9:13-14 - “The Lord answered, They’ve abandoned My teachings that I placed in front of them. They didn’t obey Me, and they didn’t follow them, They followed their own stubborn ways and other gods ...” This was a serious situation. These words are very relevant to today’s Church and world. God is not being taken seriously. His Word  is being ignored. The situation goes from bad to worse. God is speaking. Few people are listening. He speaks through His Word. Few people are reading His Word. We must listen to what God says and do what He tells us to do.

God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us and through us

“Listen and pay attention! Don’t be arrogant. The Lord has spoken” (Jeremiah 13:5). “Do something, Lord, for the sake of Your Name, even though our sins testify against us” (Jeremiah 14:7). We listen to God, and we call upon Him – “If you return, I will take you back … I am with you, and I will save you and rescue you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 15:19-20). Along with the great promise, “I am with you and I will save you”, there is also the call to return to the Lord. God knows what we are like – “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). God knows that we cannot change ourselves. We can only be changed by Him. He calls us back from the way of the “fool” (Jeremiah 17:11). He calls us to Himself. The Word, given to the prophet, is also the Word, spoken to the people. It is the Word of salvation. “Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It’s not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us and through us.“Where is the Word of the Lord? Let it come!” (Jeremiah 17:15). The Word of the Lord comes. It comes from above. It comes from the Lord. The Word of the Lord – This is God at work. He is speaking to us. He is working in us. We cannot create the Word of the Lord. We must let it come to us. The Word is His. It is not ours. We must pray, “Let the Word of the Lord come to us.” Let the Word of the Lord be God among us, God speaking to us, God working in us, God working through us.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Listen to the Word of the Lord!

The Word of God, spoken by Jeremiah, still needs to be heard today – “O land, land, land! Listen to the Word of the Lord!” (Jeremiah 22:29). God has much to say to this land and every land. Are we listening to His Word? or Have we closed our ears? Jeremiah speaks of our Saviour, Jesus Christ – “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will grow a righteous Branch for David” (Jeremiah 23:5). Like Jeremiah, we must direct attention to the Saviour. Speaking God’s Word, Jeremiah said, “I am a God who is near. I am also a God who is far away” (Jeremiah 23:23).We must maintain these two emphases in our preaching. God is greater than we can imagine, yet He has come near to us in Christ.

The most important thing in life

Again and again, Proverbs calls us to make a decision. We must choose - righteousness or wickedness. Will we "abandon God's teachings"? or Will we "follow God's teachings" (Proverbs 28:4)? The way of righteousness is the way upon which God sends His blessing. The way of wickedness is the way upon which there can be no blessing from the Lord. The situation is well summed up in Proverbs 29:18 - "Without prophetic vision people run wild, but blessed are those who follow God's teachings." We are to come to God with humility: "I'm weary and worn out, O God... I don't have knowledge of the Holy One" (Proverbs 30:1,3). When God hears this prayer, He answers, giving us this confidence in Him: "Every word of God has proven to be true. He is a shield to those who come to Him for protection" (Proverbs 30:5). The book of Proverbs ends by reminding us that "the fear of the Lord" (Proverbs 31:30) is the most important thing in life, if we are to be praised - not only by men, but by God.

After judgment - hope for the future

In Isaiah 22 – 23, we read about God’s judgment on Judah, Shebna and Tyre. We read of “a day of confusion and trampling” (Isaiah 22:5). We read the words of judgment on “Shebna, the man in charge of the palace” – “Look, mighty man! The Lord will throw you out” (Isaiah 22:15,17). There is judgment on Tyre “for seventy years” (Isaiah 23:14). There is also hope for the future – “At the end of seventy years, the Lord will come to help Tyre” (Isaiah 23:17). Sadly, His help was not appreciated – “Then she will go back to earning money as a prostitute for all the world’s kingdoms” (Isaiah 23:17). The message of God’s judgment continues in Isaiah 24. This is hard for us to hear. There is, however, something else that we must never overlook: “In all these things, it is said of the Lord, He will be glorious” (Isaiah 24:23).

Promise and danger

In Proverbs 22 - 24, we learn about promise and danger. At every stage in our journey through life, there is both promise and danger - the promise of God’s blessing to those who keep Him at the centre of their life, the danger of coming under God’s judgment when we ignore His way and go the way of the world. This kind of instruction, combining both promise and warning, is important. It teaches us about both the way we are to take and the way we  are to avoid, what we are to be and what we are not to be, how we are to live and how we are not to live.

"The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say ... Listen to the Word of the Lord.”

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “the sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory.
“Listen to the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 13:2). We must not “follow our own ideas” (Ezekiel 13:3). “Change the way you think and act” (Ezekiel 14:6). We are changed, as we pay attention to what the Lord has to say to us. What is the alternative to turning to the Lord, listening to Him and being changed by Him? We turn from Him, and our lives become a “wasteland” (Jeremiah 15:8). The message of the prophet, Ezekiel, comes as a call to choose - Turn to the Lord and be saved, or turn from Him and be lost.

Our Rebellion, God's Redemption

Speaking through the prophet, God uses very colourful sexual imagery to describe Israel’s relationship with Himself and her revolt against Him. The last word, in Ezekiel 16, is not, however, a word concerning the rebellion of Israel against the Lord. It is the message of redemption - the forgiveness of sins (Ezekiel 16:63).
“I am the Lord ... I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 17:24). In His Word, God tells us who He is and what He has done for us. He is the God who loves us. He has shown us His love in the death of His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
What a contrast there is between God’s salvation and man’s sin. God brought His people out of Egypt and into the promised land. They rebelled against Him and refused to listen to Him (Ezekiel 20:6-8). God had not given up on His people. He would draw them to Himself. He would make them His instrument of blessing to the nations (Ezekiel 20:40-44).
In Ezekiel 21 - 22, words concerning God’s holy judgment against sin are awesome. He does not take sin lightly. He takes sin very seriously. As we realize the seriousness with which He looks upon sin, we are called to repentance. We are called to return to the Lord, in sincerity and truth.

Eternal Blessings

 * “The Lord gives victory to His anointed” (Psalm 20:6).
Jesus is the Christ (the anointed). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has won the victory over Satan. He won the victory for us. He gives His victory to us.
  * “Surely You have granted him eternal blessings” (Psalm 21:6). 
Through the mighty victory of Jesus Christ (God’s Anointed), there are “eternal blessings” – for us. 
  * “My God, God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1).
How do eternal blessings come to us through Christ? When we see Christ, suffering on the Cross, we must give thanks to God that His suffering was for us. For Him, there was suffering. For us, there is salvation.
“‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies … Amazing love! how can it be that Thou, my God shouldst die for me! … No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!”
* “Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and  I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6).
For us, God’s salvation begins while we are here on earth. They continue for “all the days of our life.” His  blessings do not come to an end when we leave this world. His blessings are eternal – “I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”
 * “Your love, Lord reaches to the heavens … How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!” (Psalm 36:5,7).
Where do God’s eternal blessings come from? They come from His love, His eternal love, His love which endures forever (Psalm 136).
  * “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1).
God’s eternal blessings begin with the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven by God.
  * “We wait in hope for the Lord” (Psalm 33:20).
The forgiveness of our sins is just the beginning of God’s eternal blessings. There is more to come. We look forward to being with the Lord forevermore.

The Lord saves and keeps.

"The fear of the Lord leads to life" (Proverbs 19:23). God is holy. We come to Him, confessing our sins. He forgives our sins, and leads us into new life. "Wait for the Lord, and He will save you... The Lord is the One who directs a person’s steps” (Proverbs 20:22,24). The Lord saves and keeps: “The victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Saving and keeping us, as He leads along the pathway of discipleship, the Lord brings us to our final victory. This is the great triumph, described in the jubilant words of 1 Corinthians 15:58 - “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Can Things Be Turned Around?

In Ezekiel 26, we find an awesome Word of judgment, spoken against the city of Tyre. The Word, spoken by God through His prophet, is uncompromising - “Tyre, you famous city, you have been destroyed” (Ezekiel 26:17). The effect of Tyre’s fall is described: “Your defeat will make the people, who live by the coast, tremble. Your end will terrify the islands in the sea” (Ezekiel 26:18). This is the fear of the Lord. We become aware that it’s a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Gospel tells us about the hands that were nailed to the Cross for us, so that we might pass from judgment to salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.
This is a continuation of the Word of judgment, which began in Ezekiel 26. How final are the words at the end of Ezekiel 27: “You have come to a terrible end, and you will never exist again” (Ezekiel 27:36). This is the bad news concerning all of us. We are sinners. We are under God’s judgment. Our only hope is the God of grace and mercy. He has made Himself known to us as the One, who can turn everything around for us. He does through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s judgment on Tyre - This theme continues on from Ezekiel 26 - 27. The emphasis is on His judgment on the king - “the ruler of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:1). Here, we look beyond “the ruler of Tyre.” We may look on from him to Satan. Like the king of Tyre, Satan will also “come to a terrible end” (Ezekiel 28:19). In Ezekiel 28:20-24, we have a prophecy of judgment on Sidon. In Ezekiel 28:25-26, we have a message of hope for God’s people, Israel - “they will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 28:26).

Worship Your Saviour.

The Lord comes to us as our Saviour - “When I said, ‘My feet are slipping’, Your mercy, O Lord, continued to hold me up. When I worried about many things, Your assuring words soothed my soul... The Lord has become my Stronghold. My God has become my Rock of refuge” (Psalm 94:18-19,22). We are to come to him as His worshippers - “Come, let’s sing joyfully to the Lord. Let’s shout happily to the rock of our salvation.Let’s come into His presence with a song of thanksgiving. Let’s come, let’s worship and bow down. Let’s kneel before the Lord, our Maker” (Psalm 95:6). “Sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord! Praise His Name!” (Psalm 96:1).

The Kingdom of the Lord endures forever.

In Ezekiel 29, we read about God's judgment upon Egypt, that proud nation, which caused so much distress to His people, Israel. Egypt's time of power had come to an end. Their position of power had been taken by Babylon. The Lord is looking beyond the day of Babylon's power. He is doing a work that is eternal. His work centres upon His people, Israel - "On that day, I will make the people of Israel strong again ..." (Ezekiel 29:21).
In Ezekiel 30, we read about the fall of Egypt and the rise of Babylon. The history of our world is the history of the rise and fall of nations. Whatever happens, the Lord remains the Lord of history. Kingdoms rise. Kingdoms fall. The Kingdom of the Lord endures forever. This is a great encouragement to God's people. The knowledge that God is in control assures us that there is, in history, more than just the ever-changing flow of events. There is the God whose love remains forever.
Egypt will be conquered. This message, from Ezekiel 29-30, continues in Ezekiel 31. The time of Egypt's power will come to an end. The power of God is very different. He is the eternal God. His power is a very special power. It is the power of love. His love is as great as His power. When we sing, "How great Thou art", we do not sing only of His great power. We sing also of His great love. In the events of history, we must learn to see God at work - in power and love. The power of God's love is so different from Egypt's love of power.
Again, in Ezekiel 32, we read about God's judgment on Egypt. God's Word of judgment is awesome. There is a real sense of the holiness of God. Men cannot do what they like, and expect that God will not punish them. When we read of such things, it becomes clear to us that it is better to listen to God and obey His Word than to ignore him and invite Him to send His judgment into our lives.

The Everlasting God

“You are God, from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). “You are my Refuge and my Fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:2). “You, O Lord, are highly honoured forever” (Psalm 92:8). As we read the Psalms, we learn of God - how great He is, how much He is worthy of praise, trust and obedience. We learn to worship the Lord - "The Lord rules as King!" (Psalm 93:1). As we learn to centre our lives on Him, we will be blessed by Him.

The Watchman, The Shepherd, New Birth And Revival

In Ezekiel 33, we read about the ministry of "the watchman." He listens to God's Word and speaks the Word of warning  to the people (Ezekiel 33:7). He declares the love of God - "I don't want wicked people to die ... I want them to turn from their ways and live" (Ezekiel 33:10). The warning is spoken as the voice of love, calling sinners to draw back from the way that leads to death, to turn to the Lord and live.
In Ezekiel 34, there is the promise of a new Shepherd for the lost sheep. This is Good News. We are more than lost sheep. We are the Lord's sheep. Without the Lord, we are  lost. In Him, we are found. God says, "I will search for My sheep Myself and I will look after them" (Ezekiel 34:11). We read this, and our thoughts turn to Jesus, who came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us. He is the Great Shepherd, who rose from the dead for us. He is the Chief Shepherd, who is coming again for us. The Lord says to us, "You, My sheep, are the sheep of My pasture." He says to us, "I am your God" (Ezekiel 34:31).
In Ezekiel 35, we learn that it is through His judgment as well as His salvation that we learn that the Lord is God. It is important that we remember two things - (i) God's purpose is salvation (John 3:17); (ii) His judgment comes upon us as a result of our sin (John 3:18). The light of God's love shines brightly. It is sin which brings darkness into our world. The darkness of our sin is great. The bright shining light of God's love is greater. This is the great love of God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.
The great miracle of the new birth is described in Ezekiel 36:26 - "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you." We cannot change ourselves. We must be changed by the Lord. He forgives our sin. He gives us His Holy Spirit. He enables us to put the past behind us and live the new life in the Spirit.
To the valley of dry bones, the Word of God is spoken: "I will put My Spirit in you, and you will live" (Ezekiel 37:14). It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that there can be blessing among God's people. It is only through the Spirit's power that God's work is carried forward in the blessing of many who are dead in their sins without God's saving grace. When the Lord comes in power, everything changes. The dead are brought to life.

A Faithful Follower Of The Lord

Daniel was a faithful follower of the Lord. He refused to follow a worldly way of living (Daniel 1:8). He loved the Lord. He refused to follow a way of life which would harm his walk with God. He is a great example for those who take seriously the call to live in obedience to God. As we read about Daniel’s single-minded devotion to the Lord, we are challenged to live in obedience to God’s holy Word rather than following the ways of the sinful world which is always threatening to pull us away from the Lord.
In Daniel 2, we read about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation. God is speaking to Nebuchadnezzar. God is speaking through Daniel. The heart of the message, given in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation, is summed up in Daniel 2:44 - “At the time of those kings, the God of heaven will establish a Kingdom that will never be destroyed ... It will be established forever.” These are prophetic words. They look far beyond Daniel’s time. They look ahead to God’s eternal Kingdom.
“Look, I see four men ... The fourth one looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). These words of Nebuchadnezzar point beyond the servants of God - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They point to the Son of God - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The Son of God saved His faithful servants. He saves all who put their trust in Him. He saved them from the fire of Nebuchadnezzar. He saves us from the fire of judgment.
“Stop sinning and do what is right” (Daniel 4:27). This was the Word that God spoke to Nebuchadnezzar. This is the Word that God speaks to us. “Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar will praise, honour, and give glory to the King of heaven. Everything He does is true, His ways are right and He can humiliate those who act arrogantly” (Daniel 4:37) - This was Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the Word of Lord. In Nebuchadnezzar’s response, there is a call to worship, addressed to every one of us. It is a call to humble ourselves before God. It is a call to learn from Him and live for Him.
The handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5) is a word of judgment. Numbered, Numbered, Weighed and Divided - This is the message that came to Nebuchadnezzar from God. God has numbered the days of your kingdom. He will bring it to an end. You have been weighed on a scale. You have been found to be too light. Your kingdom will be divided. It will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Down through the centuries, these words could be repeated, time and time again. Human greatness is brought to nothing so that the glory might belong to God alone.
Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6) - What a remarkable miracle we have here. When we read about it, our thoughts move on to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection of Jesus is a far greater miracle than the deliverance of Daniel. Daniel was delivered from the threat of death. Jesus was dead - and He was raised to life. We rejoice in what God did for Daniel. Our joy is so much greater when we think of what God has done for us through the mighty resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Visions Of God's Eternal Kingdom

The visions, given to Daniel, concerned God’s eternal Kingdom (Daniel 7:27). This eternal dimension must never be lost. If we have nothing to which we can look forward, with confidence in the eternal God, we are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “of all men most miserable.” When we look, through faith in Jesus Christ, beyond the earthly horizon, we catch a glimpse of the eternal glory, and our faith is increased. We come to believe, most firmly, that what happens, here on earth, is not the last word on our life. God is preparing us for His Kingdom. He is preparing His Kingdom for us.
“Daniel saw a vision” (Daniel 8:1). With this vision, there was the explanation. Daniel falls down. He hears these words, “Son of man, understand that the vision is about the end times” (Daniel 8:17). Daniel does not remain facedown. He is lifted up: “Then he touched me and raised me to my feet” (Daniel 8:18). Daniel 8 ends with these words - “The vision horrified me, because I couldn’t understand it” (Daniel 8:27). There is much, in God’s Word, that is beyond our understanding. We must keep on looking to the Lord. We must pray that He will lead us in His perfect way.
In Daniel 9, we see Daniel, the man of prayer. He confesses his own sin and the sin of the nation (Daniel 9:8). He looks to the Lord, the God of compassion and forgiveness (Daniel 9:9). He prays that God will move among the people, with His blessing (Daniel 9:19).
“Then he touched me and made my hands and knees shake” (Daniel 10:10). It is an awesome thing to be in the presence of the living God. What a reassuring thing it was, for Daniel, when he heard this gracious word: “Daniel, you are highly respected ... Don’t be afraid” (Daniel 10:11-12). When we are in the presence of God, we must listen to what He has to say to us - “Pay attention to my words ....” (Daniel 10:11). We dare not speak words until God gives us the words that we are to say: “I bowed down ... And was silent” (Daniel 10:15). When God gives the words, that is the time for speaking (Daniel 10:16). God gives us words to confess our need of His grace and mercy: “pain has overwhelmed me, and I’m helpless” (Daniel 10:16). When we look to God for His grace and mercy, He speaks His Word of encouragement: “Be strong! Be strong!” (Daniel 10:19). God’s Word makes us strong.
When, in Daniel 11, we read of the rise and fall of human kingdoms, we must remember this - God is building His eternal Kingdom. This Kingdom - God’s Kingdom - is the only Kingdom which will never come to an end. We put our trust in the Lord. Our trust in the Lord is well-founded. The Lord is absolutely trustworthy.
The Word of God points us forward to “the end times” (Daniel 12:4,7-9,13). There will be a time of salvation. There will be a time of judgment. Those who have believed in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, are called to win others for Him. Along with the call to be faithful and fruitful servants of the Lord, we are given a great promise: “Those who lead many people to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Our Refuge And Our Rock

God is our “Refuge” (Psalm 142:5). In His “mercy”, He leads us in His way. He protects us and rescues us from our enemies (Psalm 143:8-9). The Lord, “the One in whom we take refuge”, is described by the Psalmist as “my Rock... My merciful One, my Fortress, my Stronghold, my Saviour, my Shield” (Psalm 144:1-2). The Lord is “great.” He is to be praised “every day.” He is to be praised “forever and ever” (Psalm 145:1-3).

A Message From The Lord

Three times, in the first verse of Obadiah, the divine origin of Obadiah's message is emphasized - "This is what the Almighty Lord says ... We heard a message from the Lord. A messenger was sent ..." (Obadiah, verse 10).  The final verse   places the emphasis on the divine outcome of the prophetic message: "The Kingdom will belong to the Lord" (Obadiah, verse 21). What is the way in which the Lord leads us from the beginning of our faith to the completion of our faith? - It's the way of holiness (Obadiah, verse 17). God is calling us to be holy. He's calling us to walk with Him in holiness of life.

God's Word Of Love - For The Preacher And The People

"The Lord spoke the Word to Micah" (Micah 1:1).  The Word is given to the prophet. This is where true prophecy begins. It begins with God. It does not come from the mind of the prophet. It is given to him by the Lord. In this revelation, given by God to the prophet, there is "the Word" and "the vision." God speaks to us. He draws near to us. Jesus is God's "Word" to us. He is more than the words spoken to us. He is "the Word made flesh" (John 1:1,14). To "all" people, God says, "Listen ... Pay attention" (Micah 1:2). What does God say to us? He speaks "against" us (Micah 1:2). Do we need to hear this? Yes! We do. The Word that is spoken against us prepares us for the Good News of God's love. The more seriously we take the Word that is spoken against us, the more we will give thanks to God for His love. We will rejoice in this - His love reaches us in our sin and triumphs over our sin.
"The Lord will lead the people" (Micah 2:13). These are precious words. Whatever happens in our life, we must hold on to this: "The Lord will lead the people." Whatever happens to us - good things or bad things, we must not lose sight of the Lord. In the good times, let us trust Him to keep us, walking in His way, praising Him, even when we don't understand what's going on in our lives. He is there with us, every step of the way. He loves us - always and forever.

Teach Us, Lord, To Live For You.

"I am filled with the power of the Lord's Spirit" (Micah 3:8). This is what makes true ministry of God's Word so different from 'prophecy' that doesn't come from the Lord. Without the power of the Lord, there can be no Word from the Lord. We need the Word, and we need the power.
"Let's go to the mountain of the Lord ...He will teach us His ways so that we may live by them" (Micah 4:2). We are taught by the Lord so that we might live for Him. Teaching and living - they belong together. We do not learn from God's Word so that we can amass more head-knowledge. We pray for a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ - a life-changing knowledge that gives us the strength that we need to live for the glory of God.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

"How Can we Escape?"

In Isaiah 19-21, there are words of judgment and words of grace: “The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague. When He strikes them, He will also heal them. They will come back to the Lord. And He will respond to their prayers and heal them” (Isaiah 19:22). The question is asked, “How can we escape?” (Isaiah 20:6). To this question, the Lord gives His answer: “When the people cry to the Lord because of those who oppress them, He will send a Saviour and Defender to rescue them” (Isaiah 20:20). From the words of Isaiah 21:9 – “Babylon has fallen! It has fallen! All the idols they worship He shattered on the ground”, we look on to Revelation 18:18 – “Fallen! Babylon the  Great has fallen! She has become a home for demons” and Revelation 18:4 – “Come out of Babylon, My  people.” God is calling His people turn from worldly ways “Come out of Babylon, My people.” He’s calling His people to turn to Him – “When the people cry to the Lord …” He’s calling us to trust Him. He’s calling us to obey Him. He’s calling us to sing the song of salvation: “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory and power belong to our God” (Revelation 19:11).

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Lord Is Reaching Out To Us - In Love.

Much of what we read in Isaiah 16 – 18 concerns divine judgment on the disobedient – Moab – chapter 16, Damascus and Israel – chapter 17, Sudan – chapter 18. In the face of God’s holy judgment upon sin, we must never forget that “He is the God of our salvation, our Rock, our Stronghold” (Isaiah 17:10). God does not wish to pass judgment upon us. He calls us to Himself, that He may be gracious to us (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:17). This is the love of God. His love is everlasting. He reaches out to us, in love, so that we, loving Him, might rejoice in the fact that we are His beloved – “loved with everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Personal worship - and public worship

Psalm 129 speaks of God's judgment upon "wicked people who attack" the Lord's people. Psalm 130 is a prayer for forgiveness. In Psalm 131, the Psalmist comes to the Lord with humility - "My heart is not conceited" (Psalm 130:1). In Psalm, he worships the Lord with joy - "Let your godly ones sing with joy" (Psalm 132:9); "Then Zion's godly ones will sing joyfully" (Psalm 132:16). Our worship is not only personal worship. It is also public worship - worshipping in fellowship with the Lord's people: "See how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in harmony" (Psalm 133:1).

Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 8:12).

Life without Christ is very different from life with Christ. He is “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). When Christ shines His light into our hearts, the whole of life is so much brighter than it could ever be without Him. We could compare the world to a jigsaw. We don’t see the complete picture until we have all the pieces in place. For many people, Christ is “the missing piece.” He’s not just one small missing piece that doesn’t really matter very much if it’s not there. He is the Centre of everything. Take Him away, and everything else looks very different. Put Him in His proper place, at the centre of our life, and we begin to see the complete picture. Everything is centred on Him. When we see the whole of life in relation to Christ, our whole life starts to make sense in a way that it doesn’t when Christ is taken out of the picture.

The highest position in heaven

The opening words of Psalm 110 are applied, in Hebrews, to our Lord Jesus Christ: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the highest position in heaven until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” As we consider the mighty triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ, our hearts are filled with worship - “Hallelujah!” (Psalm 111:1; Psalm 112:1; Psalm 113:1,9).

Lord, You're Speaking To Us. Help Us To Listen To You.

"This is a revelation from the Lord ..." (Nahum 1:1). What a wonderful start to this prophecy! "The Lord is patient and has great strength" (Nahum 1:3). Where does such knowledge of God come from? It comes from the revelation of God. It is revealed to us. It is the Word that comes to us from the Lord. It is the Word that is given to us by the Lord. "The Lord is good. He is a fortress in the day of trouble" (Nahum 1:7). Do we come to this faith by way of our unaided reason? or Is such faith given to us by the Lord? The way to faith is the way of revelation. "What do you think about the Lord?" (Nahum 1:9). This is a challenging question. True thoughts about the Lord are given to us by the Lord Himself. Fake thoughts come from our own minds. We think that we know God, until God comes to us and shows us that we are far from Him, and we need to be saved by Him. We need to have our minds renewed by Him. "This is what the Lord says" (Nahum 1:12). Learning to listen to the Lord is more important than anything else.
A Word of warning for God's people: "The one who will scatter you is coming to attack you. Guard your fortress! Keep a lookout on the road! Prepare for battle! Be very courageous!" (Nahum 2:1). A promise of victory for God's people: "The Lord will restore Jacob's glory like Israel's glory, although enemies have looted it and have destroyed its vines" (Nahum 2:2). We read the Old Testament prophets. It seems to us that their world is very different from our world. There are, however, spiritual principles which remain constant for every nation and every generation. The Lord comes to us in our conflict. He leads us on to His victory.
"I am against you, Nineveh, declares the Lord of Armies" (Nahum 3:5) - The Lord speaks against us so that we might learn to stop speaking against Him. We cannot really appreciate God's positive Word concerning salvation until we learn to listen attentively to His negative Word concerning our sin. It's only when we begin to see ourselves as sinners that we will begin to see how wonderful is the great salvation that has provided for sinners.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Stop Walking Away ...

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! … it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades” (Luke 10:13-15).
What is Christ saying to us as we read His strong words of judgment? He’s calling us to change direction. Stop walking on “the broad road that leads to destruction.” Start walking on “the narrow road that leads to life” (Matthew 7:13-14). Stop walking away from Christ. Start walking with Him.

God's Revelation And Our Response

“The divine revelation that the prophet Habakkuk saw” (Habakkuk 1:1) – This is a Word from the Lord. It is given to Habakkuk. It is given to God’s people, Israel. It is given to His Church in every nation and every generation. God’s Word is to be received by God’s people. God’s Word is to be passed on to God’s people. “Didn’t You exist before time began, O Lord my God, my Holy One?” (Habakkuk 1:12). God does not speak to us from the standpoint of a human observer. He’s more than someone who belongs to time alone. He is the eternal God. When we listen to the voice of God, we are listening to the voice of the One who is eternal, the One who is calling us on to eternal life.
“I will stand at my guard  post. I will station myself on the wall. I will watch to see what He will say to me…” (Habakkuk 2:1). When we speak about God’s revelation, we’re emphasizing that God speaks to us. Here, we’re emphasizing our response to God’s revelation. God’s Word is heard by us when we listen to Him. “Write the vision. Make it clear on tablets so that anyone can read it quickly” (Habakkuk 2:2). When we have heard the Word of the Lord, we are to share it with others, We are to pray that they will be changed by it. “The vision… will certainly happen…” (Habakkuk 2:3). When the vision comes from the Lord, it will be a true vision, a vision that will be fulfilled. “The righteous person will live because of his faithfulness” (Habakkuk 2:4). These great words are quoted by Paul in Romans 1:17. When Martin Luther read these great words, his life was changed by the power of God. Luther’s conversion led to the Reformation of the Church. “The Lord is in His holy temple. All the earth should be silent in His presence” (Habakkuk 2:20). When the Lord speaks to us, in power, from His Word, what are we to do? The first thing we must do is this: Bow before Him in worship – “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

From Rebellion To Righteousness

"This is the Word that the Lord spoke to Zephaniah" (Zephaniah 1:1). Straightaway, our attention is drawn away from the prophet to the Lord - "The Lord spoke His Word" (Zephaniah 1:1). How are we to hear the Word of the Lord? - "Be silent in the presence of the Almighty Lord" (Zephaniah 1:7). How can we hear what the Lord is saying to us, if we're too busy speaking? We must listen to God, if we are to hear what He is saying to us. What we hear from the Lord may not be what we want to hear. It will be what we need to hear. He speaks to us His Word of judgment so that we might see ourselves as sinners and come to Him for salvation.
"Search for the Lord, all you humble people in the land... " (Zephaniah 2:2). Even when the people have wandered away, far from God, and the land has become deeply affected by ungodly and unrighteous ways of thinking and living, God continues to call the people to return to Him and enter into His blessing.
The Lord is "righteous" (Zephaniah 3:5). His people are "rebellious" (Zephaniah 3:1). The people were not served well by their "prophets" and "priests" (Zephaniah 3:4). Could this situation be turned around? Could the people be led back from rebellion to righteousness? From the human side, there is no returning to the Lord. The human side is not all that there is. There is God - and He refuses to give up on His people: "Then I will give all people pure lips to worship the Lord and to serve Him with one purpose" (Zephaniah 3:9). To His people, God says, "I will remove your arrogance" (Zephaniah 3:11). Rebellious people can be changed by God's saving grace. How many will return to the Lord? - God speaks about "a faithful few" (Zephaniah 3:12-13). "They will seek refuge in the Name of the Lord" (Zephaniah 3:12). Any good thing in us has come from the Lord, When we consider all that the Lord has done for us, we are to worship Him - "Sing happily, people of Zion... " (Zephaniah 3:14). What reasons do we have for singing praise to the Lord? - "The Lord has reversed the judgments against you. He has forced out your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is with you" (Zephaniah 3:15). We rejoice in the Lord, and He takes delight in us - "He... celebrates over you with shouts of joy" (Zephaniah 3:17).

Friday, 11 December 2015

Eternal Life

John 3:16; John 10:10
What does it mean to have eternal life? There are two important dimensions in eternal life. There is life after death and there is life before death. There are a great many people who never give any thought to an after-life. The question, “Is there life after death?” rarely crosses their mind. they are content to live from day to day, taking each day as it comes. These people are, however, interested in another question: Is there life before death? When they hear of Jesus Christ, they ask, “Can He change my life here and now? Can He make a difference in my life right now? The Gospel answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes”. Jesus Christ does not only give us heaven. He give us new life here and now. The two sides of the life which Christ gives to us must be emphasized. There is life before death. Jesus calls this: “abundant life” (John 10:10). There is life after death. Here, Jesus speaks of “everlasting life” (John 3:16, Authorized Version).
Eternal life has a beginning, but it has no end. It begins when we come in faith to Jesus Christ to receive from Him the new life which He alone can give, the abundant life which is far better than life without Christ. Without Christ, life is empty. In Christ, there is abundant life. Apart from Christ, we have mere existence, just going on from day to day with no real sense of meaning, purpose and direction. With Christ, everything is different. This great change is well described in the words of the hymn: “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!” Jesus makes a difference here and now. He also gives us a life which has no end. This is also emphasized in this hymn: “I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure, since Jesus came into my heart!”
Eternal life is life with a new quality. It is life with an everlasting duration. When we think of the abundant quality of eternal life, we can testify with the hymnwriter: “All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me.” When we think of the everlasting duration of eternal life, we rejoice in these words from the hymn, “Amazing grace”: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” When we read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life”, our hearts are filled with joy – the joy of the Lord. When we read the rest of the verse, our hearts are filled with even greater joy: “they shall never perish.” These are great words! The truth of Jesus’ promise is presented very effectively in a Gospel song: “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.” When we read the words, “they shall never perish”, we may be painfully aware of the many temptations which we face. we are aware of the Lord’s presence, but we are also aware of the activity of Satan. He is always seeking to snatch us out of the Lord’s hands. What does Jesus say to us about Satan? – “No one (not even Satan himself) shall snatch you out of My hand.”
Years ago, on a mission in Brodick, on the island of Arran, I heard an interesting song, the words of which have remained in my mind: “Why do Christians never turn back? They could, if they desired. Or, could it be that Christians are permanently fired with a love for a life they’ve found to be so real? They’ve found the perfect living in a God who is ideal for today.” Jesus has given us abundant life. When we are tempted to turn back from following Jesus, we find, in our hearts, an echo of the words of Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go?You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we look forward to life after death. Our sense of expectation is greatly increased by the marvellous fact that we have received life before death: “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine: O what a foretaste of glory divine!” Abundant life, here on earth, is a foretatse of life, in heavenly glory, with the Lord. We are not in heaven yet, but we have been heaven in our hearts, because we have Jesus in our hearts: “Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul, when, at the cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul.” It is a wonderful thing to know that eternal life has begun. It is an even more wonderful thing to know that it shall never end.
Many Christians have come to faith in Christ through a little booklet entitled, “Journey into Life.” This is a good description of what it means to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian means beginning a journey into life. this journey is a never-ending journey. The life, which Christ gives, is not only abundant life. It is also everlasting life. Have you begun the journey into life? If not, you can begin, today, your own personal journey into life. Let Jesus Christ lead you into this journey into life.

A New Beginning!

Following the triple tragedy of the deaths of Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:3-5) and the departure of Orpah (Ruth 1:14), there was a new beginning for Naomi and Ruth.This new beginning came to them when "they came to Bethlehem" (Ruth 1:19). The town of Bethlehem marked a new beginning for them. It marks a new beginning for us - Bethlehem was the place where our Saviour was born. "They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began - The timing of their arrival turns our thoughts towards fruitfulness. We come to our Saviour - born at Bethlehem, and He makes us fruitful in His service. Without His help, we cannot even begin to see a harvest gathered in for Him. We must look to Him, putting our trust in Him, if we are to see His blessing in the work that we do for Him.
The story of Ruth and Boaz leads us on to David (Ruth 4:22). It leads us beyond David to Christ. In this love story, we have the fulfilment of Naomi's words: "May the Lord bless him" (Ruth 2:20). It's a story which prompts the response: "Praise the Lord" (Ruth 4:14). It's a story which points beyond itself to the Story of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - the Story of the greatest blessing of all: salvation, the Story which inspires our worship, causing us to say, with heart and voice, "Praise the Lord." From this short story of  Ruth and Boaz, we learn an important lesson: As we read the many stories that we find in Scripture, we must learn to see, in each of them, the Story of our Saviour.

From Mourning - To Dancing

 * “I will honour You highly, O Lord … O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever” (Psalm 30:1,12).
At the heart of true worship, which gives much glory to God, there is thanksgiving. We must never forget that we are sinners, who have been saved by His amazing grace. We receive His grace at the Cross of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to God for our Saviour.
 * “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11).
What the Lord does for us – This is truly amazing. He does for us what we could never do for ourselves. He does for us what no-one else could ever do for us. We look at what we are. We look at what the Lord has done for us. We say, This is ‘amazing grace.’ We say, ‘To God be the glory. Great things He has done.’  “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23). “Not to us, Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).

Out Of Our Failure - And Into The Lord's Victory ...

The end of Saul’s reign, the beginning of David’s reign
For Saul, the end was tragic - “See how the mighty have fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19,25,27).
David’s reign marked a new beginning. God is gracious. He gives a new beginning when we have made a mess of things. He is the God of hope. He leads us out of our failure and into His victory.
David became the king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:1-7) and the king of Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5). Behind the story of David, there is the story of God at work: “The Lord was with David”,     “The Lord had established him as king of Israel and made his kingdom famous for the sake of Israel, the Lord’s people” (2 Samuel 5:10-12).
“David worships the Lord” - “I will celebrate in the Lord’s presence”, “You are great, Lord God. There is no one like You, and there is no other god except you” (2 Samuel 6:21; 2 Samuel 7:22).
David trusts God - “Almighty Lord, You are God, and Your words are trustworthy” (2 Samuel 7:28).
David obeys God - “David ruled all Israel. He did what was fair and right for all his people” (2 Samuel 8:15).
“God’s kindness” (2 Samuel 9:3)
God has shown His kindness to us. We are to show His kindness to others.
“Be strong!” (2 Samuel 10:12) - We are to be strong in the strength of the Lord.
Strength and kindness - God will give us the strength to be less self-centred, and more other-centred and God-centred.
“The Lord considered David’s actions evil” (2 Samuel 11:27) - This is a summary of the sinful and shameful events that are recorded in 2 Samuel 11. For most of 2 Samuel 12, we have a record of the consequences of David’s sin. At the end of the chapter, there is a ray of hope - the birth of a son, Jedidiah. His name means “The Lord’s Beloved”. God’s love is greater than our sin!
In 2 Samuel 13 - 14, we read about sin - rape, murder and deception. This realistic account of human behaviour highlights the sin which separates us from God. This shows us very clearly our need of salvation. We need the Lord’s saving grace in our lives, if we are to be kept from going further along the road of sinful living. By His grace, He saves us. He forgives our sin. He calls us to walk with Him on the pathway of holiness.
In 2 Samuel 15 - 16, we have a very human story. It’s just like our life today. We read it, and we think about our own life. We ask, “Where is the Lord in all of this?” We need to maintain the Lord’s priorities. We need to keep “God’s ark” - His Word - among us. We need to seek His favour and honour His servants (2 Samuel 15:25; 2 Samuel 16:18). Maintaining the Lord’s priorities is so important if we are to keep sight of Him. If we fail to maintain our focus on the Lord, we will be swept along by events that do not seem to be filled with any real sense of the purpose of God being fulfilled in our lives. When God seems far away, and we can’t see Him at work, we must keep on believing in His presence and power, We walk by faith - not by sight.
In 2 Samuel 17 - 19, we read of Absalom pursuing David (chapter 17), David defeating Absalom (chapter 18), and David being restored to the throne (chapter 19). At the heart of these very human events concerning conflict within the nation, we must see the outworking of God’s purpose.
“May the Lord your God be praised. He has handed over the men who rebelled against your Majesty” (2 Samuel 18:28). The king is called “your Majesty”. We must never forget that there is an even greater King, an even greater Majesty. The Lord is King. We “worship His Majesty”.
In 2 Samuel 20 - 21, there are so many names. As we read about the various incidents that are described in these chapters, we must not overlook the spiritual dimension. We must respect the Lord and His servants (2 Samuel 20:19). We must seek the Lord’s blessing. “God answered the prayers for the land” (2 Samuel 21:14) - We must look to the Lord to do this in our generation.
David sings his song to the Lord (2 Samuel 22:1-51). It’s a song of praise. It’s a song which exalts the Lord. It’s a song which gives glory to the Lord. At the heart of David’s song of praise, there’s a particularly rich section, which is full of precious statements concerning the Lord.
* God’s way is perfect (2 Samuel 22:31).
* Who is God but the Lord? (2 Samuel 22:32).
* God arms me with strength (2 Samuel 22:33).
* He makes my feet like those of a deer (2 Samuel 22:34).
* He trains my hands for battle (2 Samuel 22:35).
* You have given me the shield of Your salvation (2 Samuel 22:36).
* You make a wide path for me to walk on so my feet do not slip (2 Samuel 22:37).
These great verses jump out from the particular historical circumstances out of which David speaks.
They speak to us as words which jump across the centuries.
These words begin as David’s confession of faith. They become our confession of faith.
David’s work was intended by God to bring blessing to the people.
He was “raised up” by God (2 Samuel 23:1). “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through him" (2 Samuel 23:2).
David’s influence on the people was not always a good influence.
He “sinned” against the Lord, bringing judgment upon the nation (2 Samuel 24:10,15).
Sin and judgment are not, however, the last word concerning God’s dealings with His people.
“So the Lord heard the prayers for the country, and the plague in Israel stopped” (2 Samuel 24:25).
The Lord’s servants are not perfect. There is sin in us. This affects our usefulness in God’s service.
God is greater than His servants.
His grace reaches out to men and women through His very inadequate servants. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels”.
Why? - “To show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Thursday, 10 December 2015

"The Word Made Flesh" - Then And Now

“The Word became flesh” then so that He might be made flesh in us now (John 1:14). 
The Son of God became “Emmanuel” (God with us) so that He might be “God with us” here-and-now.
“Jesus … has risen” (Matthew 28:5-6) – so that, as the living Christ, He might live in us.
Our faith is grounded in the great facts of the Gospel: The Word became flesh, Jesus has risen. The Saviour was born for us. He lived for us. He died for us. He rose for us.
All that He has done for us must become a powerful reality in us. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
‘For us’ – we must never forget this. We do not jump straight to ‘In us.’
To those who speak of a inner spirituality which is not grounded in the historical reality of the great events of the Gospel, the Word of God says, “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2-3),  “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
There is no ‘Christ of faith’ without ‘the Jesus of history.” A ‘Christ of faith’ who is not also ‘the Jesus of history’ is very different from the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
‘In us’ – we must never forget this. We are not to rest content with a Jesus who belongs to a world that is both far away and long ago.
The Gospel does not leave us in the past. Jesus comes to us from the past. He comes as the living Saviour.

The faithfulness of God

Psalm 89 begins and ends with the faithfulness of God (Psalm 89:1,49). As we think of God, we say, concerning Him, “Your faithfulness stands firm in the heavens” (Psalm 89:2). “O Lord, the heavens praise your miracles and Your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones” (Psalm 89:5). “Mighty Lord, even Your faithfulness surrounds You” (Psalm 89:8).

Take Your Problems To The Lord.

The Psalmist faced many difficulties. There were the problems caused by “unfaithful people” (Psalm 101:3-5). He had health problems (Psalm 102:3-5). He takes his problems to the Lord, convinced that “from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s mercy is on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:17).

Enthroned

“You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).
God is not enthroned because we enthrone Him. We enthrone Him because He is enthroned.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Singing The Lord's Song

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).
Here on earth, we are always “in a foreign land”. We haven’t yet arrived safely at our heavenly home. In this “foreign” land, we are called to keep on singing the songs of the Lord. We live in an atmosphere of rebellion. Let us keep on praying that God will send revival.
Can depressing situations be turned out? – Our hope is not in ourselves. It is in the Lord. He is “mighty to save” (Isaiah 63:2).

The Word of God - Spoken In The Power Of The Spirit Of God

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7).
God’s Word does not return to Him empty. It accomplishes the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). Often, we feel like God’s Word returns to us empty. It never returns to Him empty. Wherever God’s Word is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, God is at work. He is doing more than we realize. Some may refuse to listen to the voice of the Spirit – but the Spirit keeps on speaking to them, calling them to return to the Lord and receive His free gift of salvation: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Let us pray that the Word of God will be spoken in the power of the Spirit of God: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Psalm 19:7).
Psalm 19:14
Pray that ‘the meditation of your heart’ and ‘the words of your mouth’ will be filled with the Spirit of love.

The Prodigal Son And The Perfect Son

* Jesus told a story of God’s love – “the story of the prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-32).
* Jesus is the Story of God’s love – His Story is the Story of God’s perfect Son.

God's Way Is The Best Way.

“As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).
The Lord knows what He has planned for each one of us. There are no surprises for Him. The Lord doesn’t leave us to travel on our own. He’s with us every step of the way. When we wonder about what’s happening in our lives, He is there, teaching us to say from the heart, “As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30; 2 Samuel 22:31). He’s leading us to His Son, Jesus. He’s showing us our suffering Saviour. He’s showing us our risen Lord. He’s showing us that there is a way of peace, joy and love. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s the way of trusting Him. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He will lead you in His way. God’s blessing will surround you each day.

When I was in trouble ...

We call upon the Lord, and He answers us - “When I was in trouble, I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me” (Psalm 120:1). The Lord is our Helper - “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2). We worship the Lord - “I was glad when they said to me, Let’s go to the House of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1). We put our trust in the Lord - “we depend on the Lord our God” (Psalm 123:2).

A Call To Prayer And A Promise Of Blessing

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, there is a call to prayer and promise of blessing: ‘If My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their hand’. Why is there so little blessing? – ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’. God will bless mightily – when His people pray earnestly. Why does the devil have so many victories among us? – ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. God will lead us in His way of victory – when we stop tolerating the devil, and start resisting him. Why does God seem so far away? – ‘Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you’ (James 4:2,7-8). God will come near to us – if we will let Him. ‘I stand at the door and knock; if any one… opens the door, I will come in…’ (Revelation 3:20).
We are to seek God’s face. Seeking God’s face – what will this mean? We could simply repeat what is said here – come to him in prayer, come to Him with humility, come to Him in repentance – turning from our wicked ways. Let’s think a little bit more about seeking God’s face. We communicate with each other by letters, emails and telephone calls. All of these things are good, but they’re not really a substitute for being with each other – face-to-face. Seek God’s face – God is calling us to get to know Him better. He’s calling us to move beyond a casual acquaintance with Him. Don’t be content with a superficial knowledge of God. Don’t be content with a shallow experience of God’s love and power. God has given us great promises – “I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” How great is our God! How wonderful is His blessing! Our appreciation of our great God and His wonderful blessing will grow stronger as we are learning to say, from hearts that have been deeply touched by His love and power, ”O for a closer walk with God.”

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Great Love Of God - Hallelujah! What A Saviour!

"Even outside the borders of Israel, the Lord is great (Malachi 1:5). The Lord is not great because we call Him great. We call Him great because He is great. When we worship God, we are not creating His greatness. We worship God because He is so much greater than we can put into words or even imagine. His greatness does not come from our understanding of Him or our faith in Him. our understanding is limited. Our faith is weak. Our God is great. We must never forget this. It's not about our great faith or our great understanding. It's about our great God. He is great in holiness and power. more than that, He is great in love. We see the greatness of His love in Christ, His Son, our Saviour. We see His love in the death of our Saviour - "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" "His Name will be great among the nations" (Malachi 1:11). To say that God's greatness extends beyond Israel is not an excuse for complacency. We have a God-given responsibility to proclaim His greatness: "I am a great King" (Malachi 1:14). The Lord is King. He's the King of love. Let us never think that the Lord can be compared to earthly kings. He is far greater than any and every earthly king. He is to be the King in our worship. He is to be the King in every part of our life. When we say, "The Lord is King, we're not just speaking words - even words of faith. we're pointing to the reality - "The Lord is King" - and we're committing ourselves to living in the light of this reality.
God's Word speaks out against us so that we might learn to stop speaking against Him. We speak against Him when we present ourselves as righteous in His sight. To imagine that we are righteous is to be guilty of self-deception. If we are to enjoy the blessing that comes to us from the Lord, there is something that we must hear: "this warning is for you" (Malachi 2:1). Through the warning of the Gospel, we are brought into the position where we see ourselves as sinners. This is God's way of showing us our need of the Saviour. It's His way of leading us to Jesus.
There is, in Malachi 3:1, a prophecy which has two parts - John the Baptist, Jesus the Saviour. When Jesus comes to us, He makes us new (Malachi 3:2-3). This purpose of God - to make us holy - is in fulfilment of His plan, which has been spoken of in "the past, as in years long ago" (Malachi 3:4). In His coming, there is salvation, and there is also judgment (Malachi 3:5). When we speak about prophecy and fulfilment, there is something we must never forget: "I, the Lord, never change" (Malachi 3:6). When we read God's Word, we must pray that we will see the continuity that comes from the character of God. In Old Testament times, in New Testament times and today, He calls us to "return" to Him. He promises that He will "return" to us. As we are faithful in committing ourselves to Him, He will send His blessing to us (Malachi 3:7-10). This blessing is described in Malachi 3:11-12. If we are to enjoy His blessing, we must learn to stop speaking against Him (Malachi 3:12-14). It is a good thing to seek God's blessing. We must never take His blessing for granted. That is arrogance (Malachi 3:15). The better way is the way of fearing the Lord and serving Him (Malachi 3:16,18). When we give ourselves truly to the Lord, we will draw strength from this: "They will be mine, says the Lord of Armies. On that day I will make them My special possession" (Malachi 3:17).
"The Sun of Righteousness will rise ... " (Malachi 4:2). The perfect Son of God has risen from the dead. This is the great declaration of salvation. The resurrection - This is what stands at the heart of the New Testament. The resurrection stands at the centre of the Gospel of Christ. This is the thought that we are to carry with us into the New Testament.

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...