Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12

We find God’s blessing when we come to worship Jesus Christ.
In Micah 5:2, we have a prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus at ‘Bethlehem’. This prophecy invites us to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’.
At ‘Bethlehem’, we see ‘shepherds, glorifying and praising God’ (Luke 2:15,20). We also see Jesus our Shepherd. He is the One whom the shepherds worshipped. He is the One who ‘will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...’
- He is ‘the Good Shepherd’. He ‘laid down His life’ for us.
- He is ‘the Great Shepherd’. He ‘was raised from the dead’ for us.
- He is ‘the Chief Shepherd’. He will ‘come’ again for us (5:4; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4).
Jesus, our ‘Shepherd’, gives us ‘strength’ to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8).

God’s blessing increases as we build our life upon Jesus Christ.
Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us.
This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’ - In Him, we ‘rejoice’ (Psalm 14:7).
God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’ (Psalm 15:5).
We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation...would come...’ (Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us.
Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1).
‘Fear the Lord’- ‘and give Him glory’ (Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7).
We are to ‘act wisely’- ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’ (Psalm 14:2,4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’ (Psalm 15:1)? - ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode...’ (Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).

Every blessing we enjoy comes from the Lord. All the glory belongs to Him.
Paul preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’(1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).

We enjoy God’s blessing most when we share it with others.
In Matthew 5:1, we see both ‘the disciples’ and ‘the crowds’.
The disciples are taught with a view to becoming teachers of the crowds.
Jesus’ ministry to the disciples had a dual purpose.
- It was for their own spiritual strengthening.
- It was training for the time when they would be entrusted with the Lord's commission: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28: 19-20).
Do we read God’s Word solely for our own benefit? Or, do we have an eye for ways in which we can learn to share His Word with others?
In Matthew 5:3-12, ‘The Beatitudes’ show us God’s way of blessing. In verses 3-10, we have the general principles. In verses 11-12, we are challenged to apply these principles to ourselves: ‘Blessed are you...’
We might also describe them as the Be Attitudes, since they show us what we are to be.
Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness is the way of holiness.
The only alternative to the way of holiness is the way of hypocrisy. There can be no true happiness when we are walking in the way of hypocrisy.
Holiness is to take shape in our lives - the shape of Jesus Christ living in us. This is the truly happy life: the Christ-centered life.
We are not to live according to present appearances. We are to live in the light of the future Reality of God's heavenly Kingdom.
We are not only to read the Beatitudes. We are to live them.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

From Genesis to Revelation in a Year: 25th-31st January - Exodus 23-40

These notes are also being posted, day-by-day, at From Genesis to Revelation in a Year.

25th January - Exodus 23-25

23:1-33  -  God is love: He loves ‘the stranger’ (9). God is holy: He ‘will not acquit the wicked’ (7). He wants to reproduce His love and holiness - in us. Not holiness without love: that is self-righteous legalism. Not love without holiness: that is spineless sentimentalism. To Israel, He sent 'an angel...' (20). To us, He has sent Christ: He is the Way to the place prepared for us (John 14:2-3,6). Through the Holy Spirit, Christ continues His ministry among us (John 14:25-26). ‘Pay attention’ to the words of Christ. ‘Listen’ for the voice of the Holy Spirit (21). Do not ‘quench’ or ‘grieve’ the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). It may take time - ‘little by little’ (30) - but God will work through his obedient people - ‘I will... you shall...’ (30-31).
24:1-18  -  Moses was alone with the Lord - receiving the Word of the Lord (1-2). Moses went to the people - speaking the Word of the Lord (3). There was also a written ministry of the Word (4). At the heart of our worship, there is ‘the blood of the covenant’ (8; 12:13; John 1:29; Hebrews 9:22; 10:4; 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7). Moses worshipped on ‘the mountain of God’ (12-18). We worship ‘in spirit and truth’ (John 4:19-24). We come to the Father through Christ and in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). We come on the basis of Christ’s blood shed for us (Hebrews 10:19-22). We come as those to whom the Spirit has been given (John 1:33; 3:34). With ‘the Spirit of God’ living in us and helping us as we pray, let us feast on Christ, the Truth, the living Word, to whom the written and spoken words point us (Romans 8:9,26; John 14:6; 1:1,14; 17:17).
25:1-40  -  This is full of Christ! We don't ‘read into’ the Old Testament things which aren’t really there. We read this part of Scripture in the light of the full revelation of God. We see Christ as the Central Theme. Above everything else and everyone else, there is Jesus Christ our Saviour. God dwells among His people (8). Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27). God is merciful to us (17-22; Psalm 103:8-12; Micah 7:18-19). Through Christ, we have received ‘mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 3:4-7). From ‘mercy’ we move on to 'testimony' (18). The two are vitally related (1 Timothy 1:12-17). The ‘bread of the Presence’ (30) turns our thoughts to the Cross. The ‘lampstand of pure gold’ calls us to shine brightly for Christ, who ‘came... to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

26th January: Exodus 26:1-29:9

26:1-37  -  From the outside, it was a ‘tent’. On the inside, the tabernacle was a place of great beauty. Many look at Christ, and see ‘no beauty that we should desire Him’ (Isaiah 53:2). The believer looks at Christ, and says, ‘You are beautiful beyond description, too marvellous for words, too wonderful for comprehension, like nothing ever seen or heard’ (Mission Praise, 788). The ‘veil’ has been removed (2 Corinthians 4:3-4,6). Our sin had separated us from God, hiding His face from us (Isaiah 59:2). When Christ died, ‘the curtain of the temple was torn in two...’ (Mark 15:37-38). He has changed everything (Hebrews 9:7-8,11-12). Once, we were ‘separated... alienated... strangers... far off’. Now, we are ‘in Christ Jesus’ - ‘brought near in the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13; Hebrews 10:19-22).
27:1-19  -  We highlight two interesting phrases - (a) ‘as you were shown on the mountain’ (8); (b) ‘towards the sunrise’ (13, New International Version). We need both ‘the Scriptures’ and ‘the power of God’ (Mark 12:24). Our faith is based on divine revelation - ‘according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). We are ‘not’ to ‘go beyond what is written’ (1 Corinthians 4:6). Face the risen Son - We may not always be facing the rising sun, but we should always be facing the risen Son! The revelation, the resurrection, the Scriptures, the Son - these are the great focal-points of our Christian Faith: God has revealed Himself, Christ has risen. Encouraged by the Scriptures, and empowered by the Son, we face the risen Son and we say, ‘I will proclaim the glory of the risen Lord’ (Romans 15:4; Matthew 28:18-20; Mission Praise, 14).
27:20-29:9  -  The ‘lamp’ was ‘set up to burn continually’ (27:20) - ‘May we be a shining light... Let the flame burn brighter...’ (Songs of Fellowship 389; Mission Praise, 743). A ‘royal priesthood’, we have been called by God - to let His light shine (1 Peter 2:9). He has called us to serve Him (28:1 John 15:16; Acts 20:28; 13:2; 9:15; Hebrews 5:4). The divine call is accompanied by a divine empowering - ‘the Holy Spirit sent from heaven’ (1 Peter 1:12). We are precious to God - Our ‘names’ are written on His heart (9-12,21,29-30; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; John 10:3). In Christ we are cleansed (29:4 1 John 1:7), anointed (29:7; 1 John 2:27) and robed (29:5-6,8-9; Isaiah 61:10). In Christ, we have ‘the best robe’ (28:2; Luke 15:22; Revelation 7:9-10,13-14). In Him, we are ‘consecrated’ by the Word and ‘anointed’ by the Spirit (28:3,41; John 17:17; 14:16-17, 26; 16:13-14).

27th January: Exodus 29:10-32:14

29:10-46  -  There is a great contrast between the many sacrifices of the Old Testament and the one sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9:25-28; 10:1-4, 10-14). Looking to Christ, we focus attention on verses 42-46. For God’s people, ‘the tent of meeting’ was a special place concerning which God said, ‘I will meet with you, to speak there to you. There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by My glory’ (42-43). Let us pray that, in both the pulpit and the pew, there will be the glory of God. Aaron and his sons were ‘consecrated to serve’ (44). We look beyond them to Christ who ‘came... to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). He dwells among us (45; John 1:14). He has provided for us a ‘better’ redemption than the redemption of Israel from Egypt - He is ‘much more excellent’ (46; Hebrews 8:6; 9:23-24).
30:1-38  -  The Word of God (‘the testimony’) declares the mercy of God, leading to our meeting with God (6). We highlight several features of our worship: (a) ‘the blood of the sin offering of atonement’ (10) - This points to the ‘how much more’ sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for us (Hebrews 9:13-14); (b) ‘washing’ (18) - Christ ‘has washed us from our sins in His blood’ (Revelation 1:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5-6); (c) ‘holy anointing oil’ (25) - We are to be ‘consecrated’, ‘most holy’, servants of the Lord, ‘making holiness perfect in the fear of God’, living in the power of the Holy Spirit (29-30; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Zechariah 4:6); (d) ‘incense’ (35) - We are to be ‘the aroma of Christ’, spreading His ‘fragrance’ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Christlike living is grounded in prayer (Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4; Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
31:1-32:14  -  Called’ by God and ‘filled’ with His Spirit (31:1-3), Bezalel had the support of Oholiab and ‘all able men’ (31:6). Few may be called and equipped to lead, but many are required for God’s work to be done - effectively (1 Corinthians 12:4-10). ‘All’ of us receive our strength from the ‘Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:11). We offer ourselves in service with this faith, ‘Jesus is Lord’. Faith is God’s gift: ‘no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’. There are many gifts. They are varied expressions of one gift - the faith which confesses that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). The people fell into idolatry and immorality (32:6): a ‘warning’ to us (1 Corinthians 10:6-12). We have God’s help - to overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10: 13). Moses sets for us a godly example: he spent time with God, hearing His voice and prevailing in prayer (32:1,7-14).

28th January - Exodus 32:15-34:35

32:15-33:23  -  In Moses, we see the holiness and love of God: a deep hatred of sin (32:19), an intense longing for sinners to be forgiven (32). Filled with ‘the fear of the Lord’, Moses was fearless before men. God’s Word to sinners is clear: He warns them (Proverbs 29:1); He calls them to repent (Acts 2:38); He invites them to return to Him (Hosea 6:1). Moses’ faithful and fearless preaching emerged from his closeness to God: ‘The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend’ (11). Moses prayed; God heard; God answered (33:17). Moses prayed for a revelation of God’s glory (33:18). God revealed Himself as the good God, the God of grace and mercy (33:19). Let us go up to God and bring down all that is needed to build the Body of Christ that God may take pleasure in it and that He may appear in His glory (Haggai 1:8).
34:1-35  -  God gives His promise (33:19). God keeps His promise (5-7). The glory of Christ is revealed to those who are learning to love Him (John 14:21). We are not yet ready for the full glory (33:20). When Christ returns, ‘we shall see Him as He is’ (1 John 3:2). There is to be ‘no other god’ but the Lord (14). We are not to be squeezed into the world’s mould (Romans 12:2). ‘No molten gods’, ‘no graven image’ - We are to be remoulded by God, ‘conformed to the image of His Son’ (17; 20:4; Romans 12:2; 8:29). Moses’ face was shining - Other people noticed (29)! Let others see Christ in you. Never take pride in your own spirituality - ‘If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not know (the Lord) as he ought to know (Him)’ (1 Corinthians 8:2). Keep your eyes on Jesus. The glory comes from Him. No glory for me - All glory to Him (2 Corinthians 3:18)!

29th January - Exodus 35-37

35:1-36:7  -  The work of God is shared by many different people with many different gifts. The work is done according to (a) the Lord’s command (35:1,4,10; 36:1,5); (b) heartfelt obedience (21; 36:3,5-7); (c) the God-given abilities (24-25; 36:2,4,8). There is something for ‘everyone’ to do - everyone ‘whose heart is stirred whose spirit is moved’ (21). Many gifts are needed (31-35). Underlying them all, there is this: ‘filled with the Spirit of God’ (31). In God’s work, there is to be ‘full’ obedience. When we are fully obedient, there will be ‘an overflowing blessing’ (Malachi 3:10). ‘The people bring much more than enough...’. There ‘was sufficient to do all the work, and more’ (36:5,7). God is ready to bless. Are we ready to obey? ‘If my people... I will...’(2 Chronicles 7:14). ‘Always abounding in the work of the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 15:58)!
36:8-38  -  Moses may have been the leader among God’s people, but he could not do all the work by himself! Two of his helpers - Bezalel and Oholiab - are named (1-2). Most - ‘all the able men’ - remain anonymous (8). Anonymous yet indispensable - Without them, the work of God would have been left undone! To those who are full of their own importance, God says, ‘No-one is indispensable. I will find someone else to do My work’. To those who, without fuss, get on with doing His work, God says, ‘You are my servants, through whom My work will make good progress’. Building Christ’s Church is a long process, involving suffering and disappointments as well as hard-fought victories. In so many ways, the tabernacle pointed to Christ: ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). May God help us to lead many people to Christ!
37:1-29  -  Pure gold (2,6,11,16-17,22-24, 26); Jesus Christ is ‘pure gold’. He is ‘God with us’. His body was broken for us. We feed on Him, the living Bread. His light is shining. He spreads the fragrance of His holiness, and the aroma of His love (Matthew 1:23; Luke 22:19; John 6:35; 8:12; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Read about the ark, the mercy seat, the table, the lampstand, the altar of incense, the holy anointing oil... Think of Christ: He is the ‘mercy seat of pure gold’ (6). ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious...’: In mercy, He withholds His judgment from us - He is ‘slow to anger’. In grace, He pours His blessing on us - He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’ (Psalm 103:8). We deserve judgment. We receive salvation. Why? Christ took our judgment that we might receive His salvation. This is the Gospel - and it is ‘pure gold’!

30th January - Exodus 38-39
38:1-31  -  We read, in verse 8, of  ‘the ministering women...’. See also 35:25-26,29 - ‘all women ... all the women... All the men and women...’. Male and female - We need each other. We are ‘one in Christ Jesus’. In Him, ‘there is neither male nor female’ (Galatians 3:28). There should never be a competitive spirit. We are to complement each other. In verse 25, we read of ‘the silver from those of the congregation’. God’s work does not depend entirely on those who have been called to be leaders. Each of us must play our part. There should be no pulling in different directions. We belong together. We are to work together. Let’s pull together, pooling our resources, pulling our weight. Among God’s people, there is ‘gold’ - but it must be ‘used for the work’ (24). Will you be worth your weight in gold - for God?
39:1-43  -  ‘As the Lord had commanded...’ (1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43): Obedience to God - this is the most important thing. ‘And Moses blessed them’ (43): Where there is obedience, there is blessing - there’s a vital connection between the two. In Jesus, we see perfect obedience: ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Jesus was fully obedient to the Father’s will: ‘He became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross’ (Philippians 2:8). Through His obedience, there is blessing for us: ‘by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (Romans 5:19). We look beyond the Old Testament priesthood to Christ, the ‘High Priest of the good things that have come’ - By ‘His own blood’, He has secured for us ‘an eternal redemption’ (Hebrews 9:11-12).

31st January - Exodus 40
40:1-38  -  Here, we highlight three lessons: (a) The work of God begins with the Word of God:  ‘The Lord said to Moses...’ (1). Before we can do anything for God, we must be taught by God. (b) The work of God must proceed in the way of God: ‘Thus did Moses; according to all that the Lord commanded him, so he did’ (16). If we are to accomplish anything for God, we must do God’s work in God’s way. (c) The work of God must lead to the worship of God: ‘The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’ (34). If we are really seeking to work for God, we must seek to give Him the glory for all that is accomplished. Making these our priorities - the Word, way and worship of God - , we will look for ‘the cloud and fire’, the presence and power of God among us:  He will be our Guide ‘throughout all our journeys’ (38).

Monday, 23 January 2017

Third Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23


God has kept His promise. Christ has come. Let us rejoice in Him.
The prophecy has been spoken - ‘To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given... .’ The prophecy has been fulfilled - ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord’. Jesus Christ is our great Saviour. He is our ‘Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6: Luke 2:11).
Jesus Christ has brought to us a great salvation. Through faith in Him, we enter God’s heavenly and eternal ‘Kingdom’ (Isaiah 9:7: Luke 1:30-33). This is ‘Good News of great joy’- for ‘all the people’, for ‘all generations’.
Let us rejoice in the Lord, as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did - ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for the Mighty One has done great things for me... .’ Let us join with the angels in saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest...’ (Luke 2:10; 1:46-50; 2:14).

Worship the Lord, wait on Him and walk with Him.
God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’ (Psalm 26:3).
Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12).
Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’ us (Psalms 26:4-5, 9-10; 27:2-3, 6 ,11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’ (Psalm 27:4).
What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing - ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’ (Psalm 27:14).
Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear … I will be confident’ (Psalm 27:1, 3).

How are we to worship the Lord, wait on the Lord and walk with Him?
* “The Word of the Cross … is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
I knew a man called John Mutch. He said to me, “Think much of the blood”. I called this the “much” (or “Mutch”) theology.
Let your faith be centred on “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and, strengthened with the joy of the Lord, you will grow strong in a life of worshipping God, waiting on Him and walking with Him.
* Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).
Any progress we make in following Christ and becoming fishers of men is based on this – a deep awareness of this: we have been redeemed ... with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
- Let our worship be filled with heartfelt gratitude for the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
- Let our waiting on God be centred on Christ crucified and filled with a growing confidence in the Father’s love, so wonderfully revealed to us in the Cross of Christ: He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not give us all things with Him? (Romans 8:32); If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11:14).
- Let our walking with God be filled the joy which comes from knowing that Christ is our Saviour. We walk in the Spirit when we say, from the heart, God forbid that I should glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:16; 6:14).

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Second Sunday after the Epiphany – Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23

We worship the Lord. Let us be His witnesses.
‘I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob’. We are not to keep this to ourselves. God wants ‘all mankind’ to ‘know’ (Isaiah 49:26).
‘Jesus, the Name to sinners dear, the Name to sinners given, it scatters all their guilty fear, it turns their hell to heaven’- This is not something to keep to ourselves.
We must make Christ known to others - ‘Oh, that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me, would all mankind embrace. His only righteousness I show, His saving truth proclaim: ‘tis all my business here below to cry: “Behold the Lamb!” Happy, if with my latest breath I may but gasp His Name: preach Him to all, and cry in death: “Behold, behold the Lamb!”’(Mission Praise, 385). ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News’ (Mark 16:15).

Worship and witness – we need the Lord’s help.
We have been saved by the Lord: ‘He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my feet secure’ (Psalm 40:2).
He calls us to a life of worship and witness.
We are to worship Him with ‘a new song...a song of praise to our God’ (Psalm 40:3).
We are to be His witnesses, sharing with others the Good News of His salvation: ‘I have not hid Thy saving help within my heart, I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation...’ (Psalm 40:10). God has given out His call to worship and witness.
May our response be like the Psalmist’s: ‘I delight to do Thy will, O my God.’
Let us worship the Lord - ‘Great is the Lord’.
Let us be His witnesses - ‘I have told the glad news of deliverance’.
Let us pray for the Lord’s help: ‘let Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness ever preserve me!’ (Psalm 40:8, 16, 9, 11).

Worship and witness – let us learn from the Apostle Paul
Paul preached the Gospel, ‘not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ (1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:4). He preached ‘Christ crucified’ with a determination ‘to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2).
This is the message of our salvation - ‘Christ crucified... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). All the glory belongs to God. We have no right to steal away any of the glory for ourselves: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord’ (26-31).
Our faith is ‘not based on human wisdom but on God’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:5). ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace’ (Mission Praise, 712). Christ is our full salvation. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad’ in Him’(1 Corinthians 1:30; Psalm 118:24).

In our worship and witness, let us follow our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Having overcome His enemy, Jesus begins His ministry. Satan will be back - Luke ends his account of Jesus’ temptations with these ominous words, ‘When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time’ (Matthew 4:12). Satan will try again, but - for now - he has failed to stop Jesus setting out on His ministry, a ministry which brings light into the darkness.
The light is shining brightly - ‘the Kingdom of heaven is near’ (Matthew 4:17). Jesus’ ministry is viewed as a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 4:15-16; Isaiah 9:1-2). The prophecy had been given: Death will be overcome, men and women will be delivered from ‘the shadow of death’. Now, in Christ, the prophecy has been fulfilled: by His death, Christ has destroyed ‘him who holds the power of death - that is, the devil’ and He has set ‘free’ those who live in ‘fear of death’(Hebrews 2:14-15).
Christ’s victory over the world was won for us (1 John 3:8: 5:4-5). Jesus was not a loner. He was a team leader: ‘From victory to victory His army He will lead’(Church Hymnary, 481). At the very outset of His ministry, He set about putting together His ministry team. Peter, Andrew, James and John were the first four disciples. He called them to follow Him.
His call was both gracious and demanding. It is gracious because it is the Saviour who calls us: ‘Follow Me’. It is demanding because He calls us to follow, to submit to His Lordship: ‘Follow Me’.
These men were called to a new kind of ‘fishing’(Matthew 4:19).
Jesus’ ministry reached ‘great crowds’ through His ‘teaching... preaching... and healing’(Matthew 4:23-25).
This chapter sets the scene for Jesus' ministry. We see the Word of the Lord triumphant over Satan, fulfilled in Christ, and effective in the lives of the disciples and the crowds.___________

First Sunday after the Epiphany: Baptism of the Lord – Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus Christ is God’s Beloved Son.
‘Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen One in whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:1).
These words turn our thoughts towards the Lord Jesus Christ. At His baptism, we hear the voice of the Father - ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ At His baptism, we see ‘the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on Him’.
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Word of prophecy: ‘All mankind shall see the Saviour sent from God’. After His resurrection, we hear Jesus Himself speaking. He says, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...’ (Matthew 12:15-21; 3:16-17; 28:18-20; Luke 3:6).
Let us bring Christ to the nations. Let us serve the Lord in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus Christ is our great Strength.
‘The Lord is my Strength…The Lord is the Strength of His people’ (Psalm 28:7-8).
Our personal strengthening is closely related to the strengthening of God’s people. Don’t be a ‘lone ranger’, going it alone, keeping yourself to yourself. Share your strength with others. Draw strength from them. ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another’(Hebrews 10:24-25).
Where does your strength come from? It comes from ‘the Lord’ who ‘sits enthroned as King for ever’ (Psalm 29:10).
We grow strong as we listen for ‘the voice of the Lord’ (Psalm 29:3-9). Don’t let God’s voice be drowned out - ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus Christ is our perfect Saviour.
Considering the contrast between Jesus and John - John is not fit to carry Christ’s sandals (Matthew 3:11) - , it is quite remarkable that Jesus submits Himself to baptism by John.
Why does He do this? Jesus gives us the reason in verse 15: ‘it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness’.
When Jesus uses the word ‘proper’(or fitting), does He use it to mean ‘according to convention’? No - He means that ‘it is fitting’ into God’s perfect plan of salvation. It is part of His perfect obedience to the Father. It is part of what is involved in His giving Himself for us as ‘the Righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18).
As well as directing us to the Cross, Jesus’ baptism directs us to Pentecost - the descent of the Spirit (Matthew 3:16; Acts 2:1-4). Christ died for us. The Spirit lives in us. Jesus ‘fits’ our need perfectly!

Let’s share the Good News of our Saviour’s love.
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’ (Acts 11:12).
The Spirit speaks through the Word (Acts 10:44; 11:15).
In God’s Word, we read of
(a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16);
(b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’ (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2);
(c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’(Mark 16:15);
(d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19).
‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save... Here am I, send me’ (Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’(Mission Praise, 178).

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Season of Epiphany: Epiphany of the Lord – Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Let the light of Christ shine.
‘Arise, shine; for your Light has come... the Lord will be your everlasting Light’ (Isaiah 60:1, 19-20). Jesus Christ is ‘the Light of the world’. When we ‘follow Him’, we ‘will not walk in darkness’. We ‘will have the light of life’ (John 8:12).
We are living in difficult times. We are surrounded by much darkness. We must not be discouraged - ‘the lamp of God has not yet gone out’ (1 Samuel 3:3). When the darkness threatens to overcome the Light, we must take encouragement from God’s Word - ‘The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5).
When the darkness seems to be everywhere, put your trust in the Lord - The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?’- and let ‘His Word’ be ‘a lamp to your feet and a light to your path’ (Psalms 27:1; 119:105).

Let the words of Scripture lead to thoughts of the Saviour.
* Read the words - ‘His Name’ shall ‘endure for ever’ (Psalm 72:17) - and think of Christ.
His Name is ‘the Name above all other names’. He is ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16).
* Read the words - ‘all nations call Him blessed’ (Psalm 72:17) - , and think of Christ.
‘From every tribe and language and people and nation’, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9).
* Read the words -‘May His glory fill the whole earth!’ (Psalm 72:19) – and think of Christ.
In the ‘new heaven and new earth’, ‘the holy city’ will shine with ‘the glory of God’. ‘Its radiance’, ‘like a very precious jewel’, will be shining from this ‘lamp’: Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Revelation 21:1-2, 10-11, 23; John 1:29).

In Christ, we are called to salvation, sanctification and service.
By the grace of God we are called to salvation - ‘saved through faith’- , sanctification - ‘for good works’ - , and service - ‘according to the gift of God’s grace… by the working of His power’, we are enabled ‘to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ’(Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:7-8).
When we consider all this, we say in our hearts, ‘To God be the glory’! (Ephesians 3:21).
We are ‘strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being’so that we might live as those who are saved, sanctified and serving.
Even when we are deeply conscious of our own great weakness, we draw encouragement from this: God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’(Ephesians 3:16, 20).
We grow in grace as we share in fellowship - ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit’(Ephesians 4:3).

Be wise – worship the Saviour.
We read ‘the story of the wise men’. It is not so much about the wise men. It is about Jesus. He is the central character.
We are not told how many wise men there were. The word, ‘three’ does not appear (Matthew 2:1). We are not told their names. We are not told exactly where they came from - just, they came ‘from the East’ (Matthew 2:11).
The important thing is that they made their journey. They came, seeking Jesus: ‘Where is he...?’. They came ‘to worship Him’(Matthew 2:2). The wise men were led to Jesus not only by ‘His star’ (Matthew 2:2) but also by the Scriptures.
When asked where the child was to be born, they answered by quoting from the Scriptures (Matthew 2:5-6; Micah 5:2). Wise men are still led to Christ through the Scriptures.
Reading the Scriptures, we become wise for salvation as we find Christ who is our Wisdom (2 Timothy 3:15; 1 Corinthians 1:30).
Bethlehem was a ‘little town’. Humanly speaking, it did not have any great importance. Its importance is derived from the fact that it was the birth-place of our Saviour. When we think of Bethlehem, we do not think so much of the place as the Saviour who was born there.
Herod says that he wants to go to Bethlehem to worship Jesus (Matthew 2:8). Satan was speaking through Herod. Satan has no intention of worshipping God, and neither had Herod. Satan ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’. Christ comes to give ‘life... to the full’ (John 10:10).
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Herod was not a worshipper of Christ but a servant of Satan. The wise men worship Jesus, then they return to their own country.
We know nothing about their return journey, their destination or their life in their own country. Their whole purpose was to point away from themselves to Jesus.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Second Sunday after Christmas Day: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:(1-9), 10-18


In love, the Lord draws us to Himself.
‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’ (Jeremiah 31:3).
So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’ (Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us.
The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’.
As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’ becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’ (Jeremiah 31:18).

In love, the Lord brings us into fellowship with His people.
‘The Lord builds up Jerusalem. He gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:2-3).
This is much more than the building of the city of Jerusalem with bricks and mortar. This is God building up His people in their ‘most holy faith’ (Jude 20). This is God blessing His people as they gather together to worship Him.
In Christ, we are ‘being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). The Lord draws us to Himself. He brings us into fellowship with His people.
He calls us to worship Him: ‘Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving’. He ‘blesses’ us through ‘His Word’. He ‘blesses’ us in ‘the Spirit’: ‘He sends His Word... and the waters flow’ (Psalm 147:7, 12-13, 18; John 7:37-39).

In love, the Lord calls us to be changed by His love.
‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’- by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7).
When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’(Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
We praise His glorious grace when we receive His love and are changed by His love.

In love, the Lord calls us to be changed by His glory.
Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He is the Beginning. He is also the End (John 1:1-3; Revelation 21:6).
He is ‘the Word... made flesh’. ‘We have seen His glory’ (John 1:14). This is only the beginning. When He returns, we shall see His glory - ‘we shall see Him as He is’(1 John 3:2).
From Him, there is creation (John 1:1-3). From Him, there is salvation (John 1:12-13). In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 1:29, 32-34). He is the Word of God, the Lamb of God and the Son of God (John 1:1, 29, 34).
When we look at Jesus Christ, we see God - ‘the ‘Word was God’ (John 1:1), ‘No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’ (John 1:18).
Do you want to know what God is like? - Look at Jesus (John 14:9). What do we see when we look at Him? - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
We look at the Lamb of God, crucified for us. We see love – the greatest love of all. It is divine love. It is eternal love. It is a love which calls us to say, with Paul,
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me ...
... one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what
is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has
called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

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...