"You have heard that it was said ... But I say to you ... " (Matthew 5:21-22,27-28,31-32,33-34, 38-39,43-44). When we see the great contrast between what has been said in the past and what Jesus says to His generation and our generation, we must remember Jesus' words, "Don't ever think that I came to set aside Moses; teachings or the Prophets" (Matthew 5:17). What does Jesus mean? Clearly, He doesn't just repeat what's already been said. Jesus says, "I didn't come to set them aside but to make them come true" (Matthew 5:17). Jesus doesn't contradict the Old Testament. He brings out its deeper meaning. He reveals its fuller meaning. Jesus is expounding the Word of God. He enables His hearers to see things in a new light - but He doesn't do this by setting aside God's Word. The Word of God stands - for every generation. It is not to be tampered with. It's to be upheld. At the heart of upholding God's Word, there's a very real question we must ask, "What are you saying to us, Lord, here-and-now?"
Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Jesus speaks about prayer (Matthew 6:5-15), doing good works (Matthew 6:1-4) and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). He emphasizes that we're not to be like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:2,5,16). Sometimes, it is difficult to work out where Jesus is leading us with. In Acts, there's a strong emphasis on God's people praying together. In Matthew 6:6, Jesus is emphasizing the importance of praying "in secret." Is there something about us that leads us in the direction of hypocrisy whenever we are praying with others? We find the same emphasis in Jesus' teaching about doing good and fasting. - "Make sure that you don't become like the hypocrites." When we move into the public sphere, we run the risk of hypocrisy. We must never forget this - and we must pray that God will deliver us from hypocrisy.
1st April: 1 Samuel 17:1-58
David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about 'God' and the 'gods' (43,46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul - unbelief -and the attitude of David - faith (33,37). Unbelief is all around us. Don't be pulled into it. Don't forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (37). Put off the armour provided by men. 'Put on the whole armour of God' (38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are 'strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man' (Psalm 121:2; 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).
2nd April 1 Samuel 18:1-30
'Loved' by 'all Israel and Judah' (16,28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land - Saul (29). Saul was full of envy (7-8), suspicion (9) and violence (10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (17:33,50), and he didn't like it! David had more success with the women (7), and Saul wasn't happy about this! The women shouldn't have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn't have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord - not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! 'Saul was David's enemy continually' (29). His real argument was with God. 'The Lord was with David' (14,28). This didn't please Saul - 'Why am I not getting all this blessing? I'm the king!'. If anyone says, I love God', and hates his brother, he is a liar... he who loves God should love his brother also' (1 John 4:20-21).
3rd April: 1 Samuel 19:1-24
Saul was planning to kill David (1). Jonathan warns David and tries to talk some sense into Saul (2,4-5). Saul took Jonathan's advice - but not for long (6,10)! Thank God that the 'like father, like son' rule didn't apply here! How much more difficult life would have been for David if he had both Saul and Jonathan for enemies! Sin can be a family tradition, passed on from generation to generation. The 'father' chooses a self-centred life. The 'son' follows in his footsteps. 'He's just his father's son'! You can be your Father's son: 'All who receive Christ become children of God' (John 1:12). Saul was seeking his own glory. Jonathan gave the glory to God (4-5). Let us not seek glory for ourselves (John 5:41,44). Give all the glory to God (Revelation 14: 7:12; Romans 11:36).
4th April: Romans 9:1-33
We read about 'Jews' and 'Gentiles'. We learn about salvation. The Jews are not saved because of their nationality. It is 'not because of works'. The Gentiles are not excluded because of their nationality. It is 'because of His call'. Salvation comes from God's grace, not from our good works. It is received 'by faith', not 'by works' (24,11,30-32). There is for us here a word of warning and a word of promise. Here's the warning - You can be religious without being saved: 'not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel...it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God' (6-8). Here's the promise - You can be saved through faith in Jesus Christ: Through faith in Him, those who were 'not God's people' became 'sons of the living God' (26). Trust in Christ, not in yourself!
5th April: Romans 10:1-21
To 'Jew and Gentile', God says, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' (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'(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' (18). Pray that 'faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard' (17).
6th April: Romans 11:1-36
'You stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe' (20). In 9:32, Paul contrasted 'faith' and 'works'. Here, he contrasts 'grace' and 'works' (6). Grace and faith belong together. 'Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy Cross I cling' (Church Hymnary, 83) - This is faith, looking away from itself to divine grace. We do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other. We hear the Gospel invitation - 'O come to the Father through Jesus the Son'. Trusting in Christ, we say, 'To God be the glory! Great things He has done' (Church Hymnary, 374). It is only when we bow at the foot of the Cross that we are able to say, with Paul, 'To Him be the glory for ever!' (36; Galatians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
7th April: 1 Samuel 20:1-42
'Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul' (17). He was ready to die for David (30-33). This is real love and true spiritual fellowship: 'Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends', 'If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another...' (John 15:13; 1 John 1:7). Where there is real love for the Lord, there will be depth of fellowship among His people. If our love for the Lord is shallow, our interest in other people will be superficial. Don't be like Saul - 'backstabbing', 'ready to put the knife in': 'Any one who hates his brother is a murderer...' (1 John 3:15). 'Let there be love shared among us...brotherly love that is real' (Mission Praise, 411). God will answer this prayer - if we really mean it and don't just 'mouth' it!
8th April: 1 Samuel 21:1-22:23
'Religion' is no substitute for compassion (21:3-6; Matthew 12:1-4,7). These were difficult times for David. His life was in great danger. He maintained his trust in the Lord. Looking ahead to the future, he speaks of 'what God will do for me' (22:3). Saul did not have the upper hand. God was in control. We wonder about the future - 'What will it bring?'. With our faith in the Lord, we say, 'I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future'. We look to the Lord and we say, 'My times are in Thy hand: My God I wish them there...My times are in Thy hand, whatever they may be...Why should I doubt or fear?...I'll always trust in Thee'. When life is hard, remember the One who suffered for you: 'Jesus, the Crucified' - He is our Guard and Guide' (Church Hymnary, 680).
9th April: 1 Samuel 23:1-29
Saul imagined that God was with him in his pursuit of David - 'God has given him into my hand' (7). He was wrong - 'Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand' (14). We may like to think that God supports us in everything we decide to do. We must, however, be honest before Him and recognize that there can be a great difference between 'what I want' and 'what God wants'. We must learn to choose God's will rather than our own will (Luke 22:42). We ask, 'What is God's will?'. God says, 'This is the will of God, your sanctification' (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God wants us to be 'changed into His likeness' (2 Corinthians 3:18). He renews our minds, enabling us to live a life that is more truly and more fully in line with His perfect will (Romans 12:2). Do you want your own way - or God's will?
10th April: Psalm 22:1-18
Read of the Psalmist's sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (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' (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).
11th April: Psalms 22:19-23:4
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' (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 (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' (3; 1 Peter 2:25).
12th April: Psalms 23:5-24:10
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' (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 (3-5)! How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts 'that the King of glory may come in' (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' (8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).
13th April: Romans 12:1-13:10
Here, we have practical Christian living, living the life of love. What can our 'sacrifice' be in the light of Christ's greater Sacrifice of Himself for us? It can only be 'our reasonable service', our 'spiritual worship'. His love calls for our response, the response of love: 'Love so amazing, so divine, demands (and shall have) my soul, my life, my all' (12:1; Church Hymnary, 254). Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. 'Love is a many splendoured thing' (12:9-21). Let love direct our thinking, speaking and living - His love, love for God, love for people (13:8-10). Let your prayer be, 'More love, more power, more of You in my life. And I will worship You with all my heart,...mind,...strength' (Songs of Fellowship, 392). Worship the Lord - and be changed by His love!
14th April: Romans 13:1-14:23
'Walk in love' - We must not fall out over matters in which difference of opinion is allowed (14:5,15). There can be a lot of bitterness over 'the Sabbath'. There can be so much pride. For some, this is the 'be-all and end-all' of Christian faith. They say, 'We are the Sabbath keepers. They are not!'. Others react, 'We rejoice in our Christian liberty. They are legalists'. 'Pharisees' are preoccupied with 'the Sabbath'. We must remember that Jesus is 'the Lord of the Sabbath'. We must let His love flow (Matthew 12:2,10,8,11-12). Let faith be real - not just keeping on the right side of narrow-minded people (23; Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:15). Let there be 'peace and joy in the Holy Spirit'. Don't think too highly of yourself. 'Count others better than yourself' (17; 12:3; Philippians 2:3).
15th April: Romans 15:1-33
With Christ's example, 'the encouragement of the Scriptures' and the enabling power of God, let us love one another,'with one heart and one voice' (1-6). This is the way of glorifying God. Trusting in Christ, 'the root of Jesse', we are blessed by 'the God of hope', filled with 'the power of the Holy Spirit' - so that we may 'abound in hope'. This hope comes to us through 'the Scriptures' (12-13,4). God's saving purpose was not only for the 'dyed in the wool' Jew. He saved both Jews and Gentiles (9-12). Thank God that Paul was not as narrow-minded as many people are today! God's blessing is not only for our type of people! Let us learn from Paul. 'A minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles', he was always reaching out to more and more people 'in the fulness of the blessing of Christ' (16,29).
16th April: Romans 16:1-27
Paul was writing to a Church with big problems (17-18). Deeply influenced by the wrong kind of people, the Church gets bogged down in 'dissensions and difficulties'. Critical, fault-finding people exert an extremely divisive influence. They look after their own interests. They only think about themselves. Nothing else matters to them. They manipulate other people - to get their own way. They go out of their way to get their own way! The problem may be great - but the power of God is greater (19-20)! Strengthened by 'the God of peace' and 'the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ', let us press on in 'obedience' to God, claiming His victory over 'Satan'. Let 'the preaching of Jesus Christ' make you strong for God (25-27).
17th April: 1 Samuel 24:1-22
Saul recognized that David was a 'righteous' man to whom 'the kingdom' would be given (17,20). There is a vital connection between godly character and fruitfulness in God's service. We dare not imagine that we will be fruitful for God if we refuse to give ourselves fully to Him. There is no short cut to God's blessing which by-passes the dedication of our hearts and lives to Him. We learn this lesson from David. A man, 'raised up to be king', he was - first of all - 'a man after God's heart', a man who would 'do all God's will' (Acts 13:22). It was great that Saul recognized David's righteous character and spiritual potential. It was sad that this made no real difference to the way in which Saul lived His own life. He continued to 'play the fool', going his own way rather than God's way (26:21).
18th April: 1 Samuel 25:1-44
Forewarned is forearmed. Know where the trouble's coming from before it hits you and knocks you off your feet. This is the message of verse 25. Nabal was well named - Fool!. He is described as 'that wicked man', 'this ill-natured fellow', 'this worthless person', 'this man of Belial'. We need to be on our guard with people like this around! In 2 Corinthians 6:15, Paul uses the word, 'Belial'. It is another name for Satan. It's hardly any wonder that Nabal was a trouble maker. He was a man of Satan! Be on your guard against Satan. He doesn't always come 'as a roaring lion'. Sometimes, he 'masquerades himself as an angel of light' (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14). It's better to be forewarned and forearmed than to have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, 'I wish I had known then what I know now'!
19th April: 1 Corinthians 1:1-2:5
Paul preached the Gospel, 'not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power' (17; 2:4). He preached 'Christ crucified' with a determination 'to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified'(23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - 'Christ crucified...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God' (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' (26-31). Our faith is 'not based on human wisdom but on God's power' (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 (30; Psalm 118:24).
20th April: 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:23
We come to know God when 'the Spirit' leads us to 'Jesus Christ' (2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - 'What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants ...'. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - 'Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth' (3:5-7). We are not members of a 'mutual appreciation society' - 'You pat my back, and I'll pat yours'! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, 'He must increase, but I must decrease' (John 3:30). Let 'Jesus take the highest honour'. Let His Name be 'the Name high over all'. ''Tis all my business...to cry Behold the Lamb!' (Mission Praise, 378,385) - Let's say it and mean it!
21st April: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21
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 (1-4). 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' (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' (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).
22nd April: 1 Corinthians 5:1-6:11
'Your boasting is not good' - May we never become so taken up with ourselves that we forget Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us: 'Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us', 'you were washed...sanctified...justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God' (5:6-7; 6:11). There were problems among God's people - 'sexual immorality', 'lawsuits' (5:1; 6:7). In all of this, Christ was being forgotten. There are no depths to which we cannot sink when we take our eyes off Christ. There are no heights to which we will not be raised as we look away from ourselves to Him. Christ is able to lift from the guttermost and 'save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him' (Hebrews 7:25). Let it be more of Christ and less of self!
23rd April: 1 Samuel 26:1-25
Saul and David were very different. David was wise. He had respect for 'the Lord's anointed' (11). This was grounded in 'the fear of the Lord' which 'is the beginning of wisdom' (Psalm 111:10). Saul 'played the fool'. He 'erred exceedingly', choosing the way of self rather than the way of the Lord (21). This is not only the story of David and Saul. It's like looking into a mirror. In David and Saul, we see ourselves. We are at the cross-roads. We must choose. God promises blessing - 'The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness' (23). This promise is full of challenge. Choose 'righteousness and faithfulness'. Choose Christ. Keep on choosing Him. 'O happy day, that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God...That vow renewed shall daily hear' (Mission Praise, 499).
24th April: 1 Samuel 27:1-28:2
What a difference there is between fear - 'I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul' - and faith - 'The Lord will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (27:1; 17:37)! These words were spoken by the same man - David. There is a battle going on within each one of us - a battle for faith, a battle against fear. How do we overcome fear? How do we grow strong in faith? - 'Perfect love casts out fear'. It is God's love which gives us the victory - 'We love, because He first loved us'. Strengthened by His love, our faith grows strong, and we say, 'This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith...Jesus is the Son of God' (1 John 4:18-19; 5:4-5). 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine' (Isaiah 43:1). Let faith grow strong and fear be banished!
25th April: 1 Samuel 28:3-25
Saul sinned against the Lord. He brought God's judgment upon himself: 'Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord...the Lord has done this thing to you this day' (18). 'Saul disguised himself'' - he thought he could get away with his sin. He was wrong: 'Be sure your sin will find you out' (8; Numbers 32:23). There is no hiding from God - 'Before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do'. God's Word warns us: 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God'. Do not 'trample the Son of God under foot, treating His blood as an unholy thing and outraging the Spirit of grace'. Don't fight against God. You will be the loser! Don't 'shrink back' and be 'destroyed'. 'Believe' and be 'saved' (Hebrews 4:13; 10:29-31, 39; Acts 16:30-31).
26th April: Proverbs 10:1-22
What a difference there is between the 'wise' and the 'foolish'. It is the difference between 'righteousness' and 'wickedness' (1-2). Throughout life, there are choices to be made. We may choose wisely, being led by the Lord 'in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake'. We may choose foolishly, going 'astray', refusing to 'call upon the Lord' (Psalms 23:3-4; 14:2-4). We must be very careful about the choices we make. There is a 'way that leads to life' and a 'way that leads to destruction' (16-17; Matthew 7:13-14). 'Flee from the wrath to come'. Choose Christ. Choose life. 'He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him' (Matthew 3:7; John 3:36).Choose Him now. 'Now is the day of salvation' (2 Corinthians 6:2).
27th April: 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:24
The Lord has placed the highest value on us: 'you were bought with a price' (6:20; 7:23). Our love for Him must be stronger than any other love. Some are under pressure, at home, from an unbelieving husband or wife. You wonder whether your Christian witness is doing any good (7:16). You feel you are getting nowhere. You feel like giving up. You feel yourself being dragged away from the Lord. What does the Word of God say? - 'Lead the life which the Lord has assigned'; 'Remain with God' (7:17,24). A difficult situation at home is just one example of 'the world' trying to 'squeeze us into its own mould' (Romans 12:2). The world will keep chipping away at our faith - until there's nothing left. 'Do not love the world or the things in the world...He who does the will of God abides for ever' (1 John 2:17).
28th April: 1 Corinthians 7:25-8:13
We are to 'use the things of the world' without becoming 'engrossed in them' (31). Becoming more worldly in our way of living is not a purely personal thing. We harm other people 'for whom Christ died'. They look to us for a godly example and we let them down. We 'sin against them'. We 'sin against Christ'. Our choices affect other people. We choose a self-centred life. We cause them to 'fall into sin'. We live a life of 'love', and they are 'built up' in their faith (11-13,1; Matthew 18:5-7, 10). How are we to live? Are we to become preoccupied with how our actions affect those who watch our every move? That could become very confusing and distracting. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. We must live 'not ...as men-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart...' (Ephesians 6:6-7).
Wed. 29th April: 1 Samuel 29:1-30:15
'David was greatly distressed...But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (30:6). Things are going badly. What do you do? Do you start feeling sorry for yourself? That won't do any good. God's Word says, 'Be strong, and let your heart take courage' (Psalm 27:14). In times of difficulty, where does your strength come from? - 'The Lord is my strength and my shield... The Lord is the strength of His people...' (Psalm 28:7-8). How are we to strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God? We must remind ourselves that God is in control: 'The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as King for ever'. This is the way in which 'the Lord gives strength to His people!'.This is the way 'the Lord blesses His people with peace!' (Psalm 29:10-11). Let us be strong in the Lord
30th April: 1 Samuel 30:16-31:13
Here, we have tragedy and triumph - the tragedy of Saul (4), the triumph of the Lord (23). What we are, in ourselves, is tragic - 'all have sinned...the wages of sin is death' (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This is not the full story of our life. There's something else: 'what the Lord has given us' - 'they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus', 'the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (23; Romans 3:24; 6:23). This is the triumph of the Lord. It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. 'This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes' (Psalm 118:23). We give all the praise and glory to the Lord: 'Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph. Let us 'spread the knowledge of Him everywhere' (2 Corinthians 2: 14).
Monday, 29 August 2016
The values of our Lord Jesus Christ, Gospel values, Kingdom values are very different from the world's values. It's the difference between "treasures on earth" and "treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:19-20). When we treasure the things of earth, we will worry about the things of earth. Jesus says that we are not to worry about these things. We are to have a higher priority than 'looking after No. 1'. We're to be concerned about "God's Kingdom and what has His approval" (Matthew 6:33). When the things that matter most to God are not the things that matter most to us, other things will take over our lives. What matters most to you? This is what Jesus is asking us. Are the things that matter most to God becoming the things that matter most to us?
Sunday, 28 August 2016
Times change - but our God doesn't change. He's unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable - in His great love for us. His love doesn't come and go - sometimes up, sometimes down. His love remains forever. This is Good News for sinners. We have wandered far from Him - but He hasn't stopped loving us. He keeps on loving us. He's calling us to return to Him. He's calling us to make a new beginning with Him. This is love - and it gives us great hope for the future. Without His love, a New Year is just another year - more wandering around in the wilderness without really knowing where we're going. With His love, everything changes. His love changes everything. We move forward into the future with confidence in this: the Lord remains forever - and His love remains forever. Thank You, Lord, for Your great love. We don't deserve to be loved by You - but You keep on loving us. This fills our hearts with gladness - and with much hope for the future into which You are leading us.
Jesus calls us to be both holy and loving. We need both - holiness and love. We're not to be hypocrites who've given up on holiness. We're not to be content with keeping up appearances. We're to seek holiness of heart. This is the heart of holiness. We're not to be hypocrites who show no love for other people. How can we have much love for God if we don't have much love for other people? A life that's centred on ourselves is very different from a life that's centred on Christ. A life that's being shaped by Christ's love will be a life of receiving His love and sharing His love. He's teaching us how much He loves us. He's helping us to show His love to other people.
The Lord calls us back from our backsliding: “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding” (Jeremiah 3:22). The returning people say, “Yes, we will come to You, for You are the Lord our God ... surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of
” (Jeremiah 3:22-23). As we return to the Lord, He gives us this calling: “Become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). To those who return to the Lord and seek to live as His holy people, the Lord gives His promise of blessing - “The Lord remembers us and will bless us ... He will bless those who fear the Lord - small and great alike” (Psalm 115:12-13). Israel
The Word of God is like a fire, burning up the sin of man (Jeremiah 5:14). The purpose of this fire is not, however, destructive. God’s purpose is to burn up the pride which “puts confidence in the flesh”, to burn away the “legalistic righteousness.” All of that is to be “considered rubbish” (Philippians 3:4,6,8). Once the rubbish has been burned in the fire of judgment - the judgment which was laid upon the crucified Christ for us, man is led to receive the “righteousness which is through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9). Once this righteousness has been received, we are to keep walking in the way of faith: “I will call upon Him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:2).
The false prophets say, “Peace, peace ... when there is no peace” - “They dress the wound of God’s people as though it were not serious” (Jeremiah 6:14). The true prophet of God comes with a very different message. He says, “Do not say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’” (Jeremiah 7:4). A faithful exercise of prophetic ministry is very demanding. Nevertheless, the Lord gives His servants the strength to say, with conviction and confidence, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). As this ministry is faithfully exercised, there is a deep satisfaction in the soul and an increased confidence in God: “Wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:14).
There is a great contrast between sin - “Do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver ... and no-one speaks the truth” (Jeremiah 9:4-5) - and salvation - “the holy and faithful brothers in Christ ... the Words of truth, the gospel ... has come to you” (Colossians 1:2,5-6). God is calling us from sin to salvation, and then on to service. Those who say, “I will lift up the cup of salvation” go on to say, “O Lord, I am Your servant” (Psalm 116:13,16). This service is offered to the Lord in gratitude for His salvation,. We acknowledge Him as Saviour, saying, “You have freed me from my chains”, and we say to Him, “I will sacrifice a thank-offering to You” (Psalm 116:17).
The Lord’s people are called to a ministry of preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word (Jeremiah 11:6; Colossians 1:25,28). While this ministry is carried out by particular individuals, e.g. Jeremiah and Paul, it is a ministry which is strengthened by the support and encouragement which comes from the Lord’s people. It is not only to the preachers and teachers that God says, “Extol Him.” He says, “Extol Him all you people” (Psalm 117:1).
The life of faith is a life of conflict. We live among “the faithless” - God is “always on their lips, but far from their hearts” (Jeremiah 12:12). We are called to maintain the faith in the face of “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world’s rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). There is conflict, but there is also victory - “The Lord is with me ... I will look in triumph over my enemies ... “ (Psalm 118:6-8).
Our spiritual warfare is both outward and inward. We have enemies coming at us from without and from within. Concerning the enemies from without, God says, “This people will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you ... I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel” (Jeremiah 15:20-21). Concerning the enemies from within, God says, “Put to death ... whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5). We are not to “fret because of evil men” (Proverbs 24:19). We are to “fear the Lord” (Proverbs 24:21).
“A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary” (Jeremiah 17:12). The Lord is enthroned on the praises of His people - “Jesus, we enthrone You ... We lift You up with our praise. And as we worship, build Your throne. Come, Lord Jesus, and take Your place.” When the Lord is enthroned on the praises of His people, there will also be prayer and proclamation - “Devote yourselves to prayer ... that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ ... clearly” (Colossians 4:2-4). The blessing of the Lord is upon those who come to His House, seeking Him: “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. From the House of the Lord we bless you” (Psalm 118:26).
“The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail” (Jeremiah 20:11). This is a tremendous Word of encouragement when the battle is at its fiercest. In this battle, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5), empowered to speak for the Lord and to live for Him. He gives us the strength to battle for the glory of God, “not trying to please men but God ... not looking for praise from men” (1 Thessalonians 1:4,6). This is the way of blessing - the way of doing what God wants us to do - “blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1).
“O land, land, land, hear the Word of the Lord” (Jeremiah 22:29). When we truly hear the Word of the Lord with attentive hearts, there will be an “increase and overflow” of “love” and a strengthening of holiness (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). This is the teaching of Psalm 119:9 - “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.” This is why we hear the Word of the Lord - so that we might learn to do the will of the Lord: “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
How are our lives to be changed? They can be changed by God - “I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord” (Jeremiah 24:7). Knowing God makes a difference. Those who do know not Him live “in passionate lust” (1 Thessalonians 4:5). Those who do know Him “live in order to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). We must not be like “the sluggard ... the man who lacks judgment” (proverbs 24:30). We must apply our hearts to learning the lessons God is teaching us, lessons which will provoke us to greater spiritual alertness and increased spiritual blessing (Proverbs 24:32-33).
The word of judgment is not an easy word to speak, yet it must be spoken in every generation. It was spoken by the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah 25:15). It was spoken by the New Testament apostles (1 Thessalonians 5:9). The wrath of God is part of the message which is to be proclaimed by those who are faithful to God. When God speaks of His wrath, He “rebukes the arrogant who are cursed” (Psalm 119:21). There are those who “stray from God’s commands” (Psalm 119:21), but we must commit ourselves to Him - “I will obey Your Word ... Your servant will meditate on Your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors” (Psalm 119:17,23-24).
There was a message of hope (Jeremiah 29:11), but, first, God’s people had to suffer seventy years of captivity in
(Jeremiah 29:10). There is a glorious hope - “He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10), but, first, we must endure “persecutions and trials”, suffering for “the Babylon ” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5). There are difficult times - “My soul is weary with sorrow” (Psalm 119:28), but there is also strengthening - “Strengthen me according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:28). In each of these passages, there is a wholesome combination of realism and faith. Kingdom of God
In the Christian life, there is always the problem of the false or counterfeit which opposes the true or authentic. In Jeremiah 29:31, we read about the false prophet. In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, we read about “the lawless one.” There are also the promises of God’s blessing (Jeremiah 31:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17). As we consider the contrast between the false and the true, we must learn to say, “Turn my eyes from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:37).
Jeremiah 32:17 tells us that nothing is too hard for the “Sovereign Lord”, the Creator of “the heavens and the earth.” He is able to deliver us “from wicked and evil men”, to “strengthen and protect us from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:2-3). We are enabled to persevere because “the Lord directs our hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). As the Lord Himself leads us in His love, leading us not into temptation and delivering us from evil, He “removes the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith” (Proverbs 25:4).
The slaves were to be set free (Jeremiah 34:8-9). The setting free of slaves is a form of imagery which is used in Scripture to declare the wonder of God’s saving grace. We do not deserve to be set free, yet, in grace and mercy, the Lord saves us (see Paul’s testimony in 1 Timothy 1:12-17). Through His wonderful grace and boundless mercy, the Lord gives to His people this joyful testimony: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts” (Psalm 119:45). Freedom is not only God’s gift at the beginning of the Christian life. It is His blessing throughout the Christian life, as we walk in His way.
Life was not easy for the prophet Jeremiah. The king and his attendants did not pay “any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet” (Jeremiah 37:1-2). We must pray for “kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). They have so much power to do good or evil. As we consider the nation’s life, we must affirm, with the Psalmist, “I remember Your ancient laws, O Lord, and I find comfort in them” (Psalm 119:52).
The difficulties faced by Jeremiah were great - “bound in chains” (Jeremiah 40:1). They were not insurmountable - “the commander ... let him go” (Jeremiah 40:5). The Psalmist says, “Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget Your law” (Psalm 119:61). Whatever difficulties we may face, we are still called to “keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).
“Do not go to
” (Jeremiah 42:19) - Here is a Word from the Lord which is more than geographical directions. It is a Word concerning our walk with God. In Scripture, “ Egypt ” is not simply a particular geographical location. “ Egypt ” is symbolic of a proud, unbelieving hardness of heart. “Do not go to Egypt ” means “Do not harden your heart against the Lord.” “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). We must not abandon the faith. In the face of much falling away, God says to His servants, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). The Word is to be “aptly spoken ... like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:110. There is nothing more precious than the Word of the Lord. Egypt
, God says, “I will punish you in this place” (Jeremiah 44:29). There can be no blessing when we live in direct contradiction to His Word. What we must never forget is the existence and activity of Satan (1 Timothy 5:15). He is always there, seeking to make us “turn away from God to follow Satan.” We must learn to say to God, “I believe in Your commands ... I obey Your Word .... Teach me Your decrees ... I keep Your precepts with all my heart ... I delight in Your law ... The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:66-70,72). Egypt
The judgment of God is upon those who set themselves against Him. This is the message which emerges from Jeremiah’s preaching regarding
. The Lord sets Himself against those who teach false doctrine which “does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching” (1 Timothy 6:3). The contrast between “the arrogant” and the godly is clear - “May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause, but I will meditate on Your precepts” (Psalm 119:78). Egypt
“A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!” (Jeremiah 48:10). We should not be lax in doing the Lord’s work, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Through the power of the Spirit of God, we are able to say, with Paul, “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to “obey the statutes of Your mouth” (Psalm 119:88).
Jeremiah speaks of a time of judgment upon
Babylon (Jeremiah 50:1-3) and a time of blessing upon the people of (Jeremiah 50:4-5). If the blessing, and not the judgment, is to come in our own day, we must be faithful in the ministry of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Faithful ministry of God’s Word is “like cold water to a weary soul.” It is “good news from a distant land” (Proverbs 25:25). It is the Good News sent down from heaven, the Living Water of the Holy Spirit. Israel
This part of Jeremiah’s prophecy is concerned with God’s judgment upon
. God sets Himself against those who set themselves against Him. We live in times when “evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). In such times, we must build upon “the Holy (God-breathed) Scriptures which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and which will “thoroughly equip us for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). This Word of the Lord is “eternal”, and God’s “faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 119:89-90). To say that God’s Word is eternal does not mean that it is distant and remote from time. Rather, it is to emphasize that it is relevant. It is relevant to every generation. It is eternally relevant. Babylon
The Word of God is to be preached, even if it is a difficult message. In face of the judgment pronounced upon
Babylon, God says to His messengers, “When you get to , see that you read all these words aloud” (Jeremiah 51:61). Paul calls on Timothy to “preach the Word” - “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His Kingdom, I give you this charge” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Those who truly love the Lord’s Word and meditate on it all day long (Psalm 119:97) will find it their joyful privilege and their solemn responsibility to speak His Word; “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). Babylon
The final chapter of Jeremiah speaks of the fall of
Jerusalem, followed by captivity in . Difficulties face God’s people in every generation: “There are many rebellious people ... “ (Titus 1:10). The Lord’s people must not be afraid to stand up for Him (Titus 1:11). Whatever others may say and do, this is what we must say and do: “I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow Your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:106). Babylon
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights” - These are the last words of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:19). “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age ...” (Titus 2:11-12). Where does the strength come from - the strength we need for rising from the depths of ungodliness to the heights of godliness? The strength comes from the Lord, the God of grace, the God of our salvation. The Proverbs speak of wisdom. True wisdom is to know that our real strength comes not from within ourselves, but from above, from the Lord.
“The Lord is righteous, yet I rebelled against His command” (Lamentations 1:18). “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). This is the story of our life without Christ, but it is not the full story. We must move on to Titus 3:4-7: a great declaration of the love of God, the salvation of God and the glory of God. This is God, working powerfully in our lives. Psalm 119:115 describes the transformation. No longer is it “I rebelled against His command.” Now, it is “Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!” How does this transformation take place? “Uphold me, and I shall be delivered; I shall always have regard for Your decrees” (Psalm 119:117).
At the heart of the book of Lamentations, there is this great declaration concerning the love of God: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22). His love reaches us not only directly but also through the love of His people - “Your love, dear brother, has brought me great joy and much encouragement! You have cheered the hearts of all God’s people” (Philemon 7). In difficult times, our faith is tested - “My eyes fail, looking for Your salvation, looking for Your righteous promise” (Psalm 119:123). In times such as these, we cry to God, “It is time for You to act, O Lord; Your law is being broken” (Psalm 119:126). This prayer is to be accompanied by obedience: “I love Your commands, more than gold, more than pure gold” (Psalm 119:127).
Lamentations 4:20 contains an interesting phrase - “The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath.” Christ is the Lord’s anointed. Christ is our life. He is God’s Word to us - “in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). He is God’s Son - “about the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever’” (Hebrews 1:8). Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” This opening up of God’s Word is redemptive. As we read His Word, we pray, “Redeem me” (Psalm 119:134) and there arises in our hearts the joyous confession, “O Lord ... You have redeemed my life” (Lamentations 3:58).
The last words of Obadiah are a great declaration; “the Kingdom will be the Lord’s” (Obadiah 21). When we think of God’s Kingdom, we are thinking not only of a Kingdom which belongs to solely to God, but a Kingdom which He shares with the redeemed. Christ says, “Here am I, and the children God has given Me” (Hebrews 2:13). Though there may be “a fierce lion roaming the streets (the devil)” (Proverbs 26:13), the Lord will fufil His saving purpose.
1st March: Ruth 1:1-2:23
Ruth meets Boaz. It seemed like a 'chance' meeting - 'she happened to come...'(2:3). It was more than that. God was at work. Ruth had committed herself to the Lord (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 (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 (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' (2:8; 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 (2:10; Romans 5:8). Let us follow Him (1:16-17; John 6:67-69).
2nd March: Ruth 3:1-4:22
Ruth was covered by the 'garment' of Boaz, her 'kinsman - redeemer' (3:9). Jesus is our Kinsman - Redeemer. He has become one of us. He shares our 'flesh and blood', our 'humanity'. Through His 'suffering' and 'death', we are brought to 'glory' (Hebrews 2:10-11,14-15). In Him, we 'rejoice': 'He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness' (Isaiah 61:10). 'Our righteous acts are like filthy rags'. Bring your 'robes' to Christ and let them be 'washed', 'made white in the blood of the Lamb'(Isaiah 64:6; Revelation 7:14). A 'Moabitess', Ruth was brought into the house of Israel (4:10-11). In Christ, Jew and Gentile become one (Ephesians 2:11-18). Ruth played her part in leading us to Christ (4:13-17; Matthew 1:1,5-6). May God help us to lead people to Christ.
3rd March: Acts 22:17-23:35
A Jew, 'praying in the temple' at 'Jerusalem', Paul was obedient to God's call - 'I will send you far away to the Gentiles' (22:17,21). The racists would not hear of this - 'Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he ought not to live' (22:22). This was not simply dislike for Paul. This was hatred directed against the God who, in Jesus Christ, offers salvation to all nations. Paul was a 'Roman citizen' (22:25-29). God was protecting Paul for his future ministry - 'you must bear witness also at Rome' (23:11). Paul was giving his own testimony when he wrote the words, 'All things work together for good to those who love God' (Romans 8:28). Serving the Lord is never easy. Sometimes, it can be very difficult. When we face violent opposition, we draw our strength from God's Word - 'Take courage' (23:10-11).
4th March: Acts 24:1-27
Paul did not abandon the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures - 'I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets (14). He read the Old Testament. It led him to Christ. Paul's great theme was 'faith in Christ Jesus' (24). Paul speaks. Jesus is speaking through him. Jesus did 'not come to abolish the law and the prophets'. He came 'to fulfil them'. 'Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself' (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:27). God has spoken 'through the prophets'. God has spoken through His Son' (Hebrews 1:1-2). We read the Old Testament. We learn from 'Moses' and 'Elijah'. They step back. We see 'Jesus, only'. He is God's 'beloved Son'. We 'listen to Him' (Matthew 17:3,8,5).
5th March: Acts 25:1-27
Paul stood before Festus as an accused man. Festus listened. Recognizing his own shortcomings and respecting the accused wishes, he gave Paul a fair hearing (20-21,25). Festus made no decision - 'I have nothing definite to write to my lord about him' (26). Jesus was 'dead'. Now, He is 'alive' (19). This is not just 'something to think about'. We must make our decision. There can be no 'sitting on the fence'. Some are indecisive - 'I have nothing definite to say about Jesus'. It's 'make up your mind' time - 'How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3). Festus had to make a decision about Paul. There is a more important question: 'What do you think of the Christ?'. Each of us must answer the question: 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (Matthew 22:42; 27:22).
6th March: Acts 26:1-32
Paul answers three questions concerning himself. He puts a most important question to his hearers. (a) What was I before my conversion? Here, he speaks of his religion - 'According to the strictest party of my religion I have lived as a Pharisee' (5). This brought him 'to the ground' (14). (b) How did my conversion come about? Here, he speaks of his Saviour - 'I am Jesus...Stand up!' (15). (c) What happened after my conversion? Here, he describes how he became a 'servant' and a 'witness' (16). (d) The final question concerns our response - What about you? Will you become a Christian? (27-29). Do you have a story to tell? - Tell your story: the 'before', the 'after', the fact that it was Jesus who made the difference. Don't forget the challenge: To 'all who are listening to me today' - Come to Christ (29).
7th March: Acts 27:1-44
There is, in this story, a great picture of God's way of salvation. (a) Our human situation is hopeless: 'All our hope of being saved was at last abandoned' (20). We are sinners. We cannot save ourselves. (b) There is hope: 'God has granted you all thosee who sail with you' (25). God has provided a way of salvation: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (John 3:16). (c) Faith believes the Word of God: 'I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told' (25) - 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved' (16:31). (d) Safety: 'all escaped to land' (44). God has 'prepared' for us 'a better country', a 'heavenly one', 'a city', 'the city which is to come'. Do you want to 'escape', to be saved? Make sure that you don't 'neglect such a great salvation' (Hebrews 11:16; 13:14; 2:3).
8th March: Acts 28:1-31
Read of Paul's protection from the 'snake'. 'Rejoice' - Christ has won for us a great victory over 'that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan'. When God gives us His victory, we must not think too highly of ourselves - 'he was a god'. We must give all the glory to God: 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of God and the authority of His Christ have come' (3-6; Genesis 3:14-15; Revelation 12:9-12). 'So we came to Rome' (14) - These are words of triumph. God had fulfilled His promise: 'you must bear witness also at Rome' (23:11). Rejoicing that 'this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles', Paul was 'preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered' (29,31). Don't miss God's opportunities to share Christ's Good News!
9th March: 1 Samuel 1:1-28
Hannah 'wept'. Hannah 'was no longer sad' (7,18). What made the difference? No child had been born. She had not even conceived. These things did not happen until later (21). Why was there such a change in Hannah? She believed. God's Word had been spoken (17). Hannah believed His Word. She rejoiced in Him. Jesus ephasized the importance of praying with faith (Mark 11:24). We are to 'ask in faith', to pray 'the prayer of faith' (James 1:6; 5:15). We are also to pray 'according to His will' (1 John 5:14-15). God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: 'My grace is sufficient for you' (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He 'gives grace to the humble' (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).
10th March: 1 Samuel 2:1-36
What a contrast between the son of Hannah and the sons of Eli - 'the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord...in the favour of the Lord', 'the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord (21,26,12). This is the difference between 'the children of God' and 'the children of the devil' (1 John 3:10). God's Word speaks to us with a promise and a warning: 'those who honour Me I will honour and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed' (30). Let your attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: 'There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God' (2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: 'My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exulted in the Lord' (1). May the Lord help us to be 'His faithful ones' who walk with Him (9).
11th March: 1 Samuel 3:1-4:22
The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel's early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become 'a prophet of the Lord' through whom 'the Word of the Lord...came to all Israel' (3:10,19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were 'defeated' by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the 'capture' of 'the ark of God': 'The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured' (4:10-11,22). We may lose 'goods, honour, children, wife' (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people - We must not lose this!
12th March: 1 Samuel 5:1-6:16
In 5:3-4, we read of God's superiority over Dagon - 'The Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King' (Jeremiah 10:10). 'The hand of the Lord was heavy' on those who set themselves against Him (5:6-7,9,11). Let 'the Lord alone be exalted'. He is our only 'Saviour' (Isaiah 2:17-18; 43:10-11). Through His victory over Dagon, the Lord calls us to be completely devoted to Him: 'Down went Dagon, smashed in pieces when the ark of God came in. So shall God destroy those idols that defile our hearts within. Come, Lord, and destroy them'. The return of the ark brought joy (6:13). When the Lord is restored to His rightful place among His people, there is joy. 'Heaven came down and glory filled my soul'. When the Lord comes to us, we 'rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory' (1 Peter 1:8).
13th March: 1 Samuel 6:17-7:17
God is 'holy' (20). He calls His people to be holy. With His call to holiness, there is His promise of blessing (3). Committed to serving the Lord only and calling on the Lord for His help, Israel wins a great victory over the Philistines (4-11). God's people give thanks to Him - 'Until now the Lord has helped us' (12). The victory over the Philistines was spectacular. There were, however, many 'ordinary' days. Here, we may learn from Samuel. He served the Lord 'all the days of his life' (15). The spectacular triumphs were few and far between. The 'ordinary' days were many - 'he went on a circuit year by year...'(16). In all his journeys, he did not forget to 'come home' (7:17). Other places and other people seem to be so interesting. Don't forget - There is much work to be done at 'home'.
14th March: Romans 1:1-32
'I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith' (16). Do you think it was easy for Paul to maintain such commitment to Christ, such confidence in Christ? What kind of world did he live in? - A world of 'ungodliness and wickedness' (18-31). Many times, Paul could have given up in despair - 'There is too much ungodliness and wickedness all around me. How can I go on?'. When you feel like giving up, when everything seems to be so difficult, remember Paul. Remember his longing to 'impart some spiritual gift', his desire to 'reap some harvest' his eagerness to 'preach the gospel' (12-15). Let us say, with Paul, 'God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Galatians 6:14). Let us be 'set apart for the gospel of God' (1).
15th March: Romans 2:1-29
None of us can 'escape the judgment of God'. None of us can 'presume upon the riches of His kindness'(3-4). We dare not come to God like the Pharisee, 'God, I thank Thee that I am not like other men...'. We can only come to Him with the prayer of the tax collector, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' (Luke 18:11-13). We must not pretend that we are 'righteous'. We must confess that we are 'sinners' (Luke 5:32). Sinners, lost, dead - We must hear this 'bad news if we are to come to a true appreciation of the Good News: 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), 'The Son of man came to seek and save the lost' (Luke 19:10), 'God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved' (Ephesians 2:4-5).
16th March: Romans 3:1-31
We are sinners - every single one of us. There are no exceptions - 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'. When we see ourselves as we really are - sinners - , we come to see that there is no way for us to earn God's love. We will never deserve to be loved by God. His love is always 'a gift' - 'the redemption which is in Christ Jesus' (23-24). Through 'faith' we look away from ourselves to Christ. We rejoice that 'His blood' was shed for us. We receive from Him the forgiveness of our sins. This is the love of God. This is His gift. He gave His Son to be our Saviour. He gives salvation to all who trust the Saviour. 'By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God' (Ephesians 2:8). No 'boasting' (27) - Rejoice in your Saviour!
17th March: Romans 4:1-25
Salvation is not a 'reward' to be 'earned'. It is God's 'gift' (4-5). Salvation comes from the Lord. 'God so loved the world that He gave His only Son' (John 3:16): Without the love of God, the gift of God, the Son of God, there can be no salvation. The way of salvation does not begin with the word 'I'. Jesus Christ is the Way. He is the Saviour. Salvation is in Him (John 14:6; Matthew 1:21; Acts 4:12). Looking to 'Jesus our Lord', crucified and raised for our salvation, we are saved and we give 'glory to God' (20-25). We rejoice in 'God our Saviour' - 'He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy...'(Titus 3:4-7). Looking away from ourselves to Christ, we learn the truth of God's Word: 'it is on the basis of faith that it may rest on grace' (16). This is Good News!
18th March: Proverbs 9:1-18
There is, in verse 5, 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' (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 (13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2,6).
19th March: 1 Samuel 8:1-9:10
Israel's demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (8:5,20). Having 'rejected' the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They 'chose for themselves' (8:7,18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (22,18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul's reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: 'I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly' (26:21). 'He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them' (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul's reign. God had greater things in store for Israel - but not until Saul's reign was over!
20th March: 1 Samuel 9:11-10:16
The Lord is King: We must never forget this. A human king is no substitute for the divine King (8:7). God was not pleased with His people. They wanted to be 'like all the nations' (8:5). God refused to abandon His people. They wanted a king. He gave them their king (15-17). He would wait patiently for His people to make a whole-hearted return to Him. The Lord would wait patiently until 'a man after His own heart' would rule over 'His people' (13:14). A human king must never forget the divine King. He must not become 'too big for his boots'. He must not impose his own will. He must submit to God's will. This is what it means to be 'a man after God's own heart' - 'Not my will but Thine be done', 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven' (Luke 22:44; Matthew 6:10).
21st March: 1 Samuel 10:17-11:15
Everyone was so happy - 'Long live the king! (24). Everything seemed to be so promising - 'The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul' (6). God's people were victorious (11). God's people 'rejoiced greatly' (15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse - 'You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you' (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: 'Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word...When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away... The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful' (Mark 4:15,17,19). Pray - 'Deliver us from evil' (Matthew 6:13).
22nd March: Romans 5:1-21
God has great things in store for His people! (a) 'Much more' (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' (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' (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' (21). 'We rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God' (2). Having caught sight of the heavenly and eternal glory, we see our 'suffering' in a new light, the light of 'God's love' (3-5).
23rd March: 1 Samuel 12:1-13:15a
To the king as well as the people, God speaks in promise and warning: 'If both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well... If you will not hearken to the voice of the Lord...then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king' (12:14-15). Samuel was not afraid to speak very directly to the king - 'You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God...Your kingdom shall not continue' (13:13-14). Saul's reign was about to end. God's love continued: 'The Lord will not cast away His people, for His great Name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself' (12:22). Saul had become too full of himself and his own importance. He needed to be replaced by 'a man after God's own heart' (13:14). To the divine King be all the glory!
24th March: Romans 6:1-23
(a) 'We know that our old self was crucified' (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' (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' (8:9-11). (c) 'Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life' (13) - Act upon it'. 'Walk in newness of life' (4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are 'not under law but under grace' (14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.
25th March: 1 Samuel 13:15b- 14:23
Humanly speaking, Israel seemed to be 'no hopers' (13:22). There was, however, something else. The Lord was with His people and He would give them the victory (14:6,19,12,23). There is a very important lesson for us here: 'The weapons of our warfare are not worldly'. We are to 'put on the whole armour of God' (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:11-13). The victory does not come from our own strength. It comes from the Lord (Psalms 21:16; 21:7). In all our difficulties, we say, with faith, 'If God is for us, who can be against us?...In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us' (Romans 8:31,37). Do you want to have this strong faith which rejoices in the Lord, even when life is very difficult? - 'Wait on the Lord and renew your strength' (Isaiah 40:31).
26th March: 1 Samuel 14:24-52
Making mistakes - it's part of life for all of us: 'We all make mistakes. If any one makes no mistakes ...he is a perfect man' (James 3:2). What are we to make of the 'mistakes' made by Saul and Jonathan? Saul's 'mistake' was an error of judgment which 'troubled the land' (24,29). Jonathan's 'mistake' was unfortunate. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he 'had not heard' what had been going on before he arrived on the scene (27). It was almost his last 'mistake' (43-44)! How are we to react to our mistakes? We can be like Saul or we can learn from our mistakes. Digging in his heels, Saul blundered on from one 'mistake' to another. He acted like he was the 'perfect man' who never makes 'mistakes'. He had got it wrong, and he was the last to see it (44-45)! May God help us to learn from our mistakes!
27th March: Romans 7:1-25
God's purpose is not easily fulfilled in us. Our battle with sin is extremely intense. There is a great conflict going on within us. 'The Spirit' and 'the flesh' are at war with each other (Galatians 5:17). God has given us His Spirit - 'we serve...in the new life of the Spirit' (6). We are still sinners - 'I am carnal, a slave to sin' (14). These are two sides of the one coin. The Spirit is within us yet we remain sinners. Honestly confessing our sin, we say, 'Wretched man that I am!'. Gladly rejoicing in our Saviour, we say, 'Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!' (24-25). Despite our many defeats, we say, 'Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord' (8:39). Wait for 'the final result': 'God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Corinthians 15:57).
28th March: 1 Samuel 15:1-35
Saul chose convenience rather than obedience. He did what he wanted - not what God commanded (3,9). Saul was disobedient. God was not pleased with him (10). Saul made big claims for himself: 'I have performed the commandment of the Lord' (13). This was nonsense. Samuel saw through it immediately - 'What then is this bleating...?'(14). Saul had done what suited himself. God said one thing. Saul did another. Saul tried to 'pass the buck'. He blamed 'the people' (21). Saul appears to confess his sin. Still, there is this element of 'passing the buck'. He blames 'the people' - 'They put me up to it. It was their idea' (24). This was 'the last straw'. For Saul, this was 'the end' - 'the show was over'. He would be replaced (26-28). Love God 'with all your heart...' - not just a part (Deuteronomy 6:5)!
29th March: 1 Samuel 16:1-23
'Samuel did what the Lord commanded' (4). Real obedience comes from 'the heart'. It is more than just 'keeping up appearances'(7). 'The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart' - This is something we must never forget!'. 'It's the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need' (Songs of Fellowship, 256) - This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in verses 13-14: 'the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David...the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul'. David exerted a good influence upon Saul (23). Sadly, however, Saul's best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ' a man after God's own heart' (13-14). Don't settle for second best when you can have God's very best!
30th March: Romans 8:1-39
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' (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' (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' (21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (14,26,17).
31st March: Psalms 20:1-21:13
'We boast of the Name of the Lord our God...Through the steadfast love of the Most High' we 'shall not be moved' (20:7;21:7). We do not trust in things that 'collapse and fall'. We build on 'the Rock' (20:8; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalms 18:1-3; 62:5-7). We 'rejoice' in our God. He has made us 'most blessed for ever'(21:1,6; Ephesians 1:3). Think of Jesus Christ your Saviour. He is absolutely trustworthy. He is completely dependable. His love is an 'unfailing love' (21:7). In Him, there is salvation. In Him, there is joy. With His strong and powerful love, He has saved us. He has given us 'a new song' to sing, 'a song of praise to our God' (Psalm 40:1-3). Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise and worship: 'Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength,! We will sing and praise Thy power' (13).
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