Sunday, 23 April 2017

Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19 or Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 34:1-10; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

Jesus Christ is Lord.
‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:36).
‘Jesus is Lord’: When this message is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit’, it is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself.
Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (Acts 2:41-47).
Love the Lord.
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’ (Psalm 116:1-2).
Our love for God is to be a lifelong life. It is to be the love of our life.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (Psalm 117:2).
When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us. When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us.
He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak. In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength.
Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’ (Church Hymnary, 450).

Listen to the Lord. Look to the Lord. Learn from the Lord. Live for the Lord.
* ‘Listen’ to the Lord (Isaiah 51:1, 4).
* ‘Look’ to the Lord – ‘Look to the rock from which you were hewn … Look to Abraham … I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him … Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath …’ (Isaiah 51:1-2, 6).
* Learn from the Lord – ‘He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). ‘Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation, for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as light of the peoples’ (Isaiah 51:4).
* Live for the Lord - Before we can live for the Lord, we must listen to Him, look to Him and learn from Him.
Listening to the Lord, looking to Him and learning from Him, we will be changed by His salvation and His righteousness: ‘My righteousness is near. My salvation has gone forth’ (Isaiah 51:5).
The shaping of our life by God’s salvation and righteousness: This is the beginning of eternal life: “My salvation will be for ever, and My righteousness will not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:6).

Lead others to the Lord.
Looking to the Lord, we are ‘radiant.’ He has ‘delivered’ us. He has ‘saved’ us (Psalm 34:4-6). Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, ‘I will bless the Lord at all times’ (Psalm 34:1).
* We call upon others to worship the Lord with us - ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His Name together!’ (Psalm 34:3).
* We invite them to trust in the Lord and come to know the joy of His salvation - ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!’ (Psalm 34:8).
* We encourage them to keep on hearing the Word of the Lord so that they may learn to walk with God - ‘Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord’ (Psalm 34:11).
* We seek to lead people on to spiritual maturity. We say to them, ‘Depart from evil, and do good’, praying that they will become ‘mature’, ‘trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil’ (Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 5:14).

Where does our love for the Lord come from? - It comes from His love for us.
In our loving the Lord, listening to Him, looking to Him, learning from Him, living for Him and leading others to Him, we must never forget that we have been ‘redeemed with the precious blood of Christ’ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
We must never take pride in our obedience - ‘boasting is excluded’. All that can be said about ourselves is this: ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. What makes the difference? What is it that changes us? What is it that sets us on the pathway of holiness and love? We have received ‘the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’. Our ‘faith’ is in Him (Romans 3:27,23-25). He makes the difference. He changes us. He makes us holy. He fills us with His love.

How does our love for the Lord grow? – He leads us into the light of His love.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’ (Luke 24:32). He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’ (Luke 24:47-48).
Before we can preach, we must listen to Him. Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’ (Luke 24:39). Even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’ (John 20:25).
Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high.’ Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy.’ With all this going on in our lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:048-53)!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Second Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16 or Exodus 15:1-11; Psalm 111; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31


Christ has risen. Believe the Gospel. Be changed by the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
In the preaching of Peter on the Day of Pentecost, we see the vital connection between the Holy Spirit and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:24, 30-32).
Jesus Christ has risen. Jesus Christ is Lord. This was Peter’s message. If, like Peter, we are to speak in the power of the Holy Spirit, this must be our message. Jesus Christ has risen. Jesus Christ is Lord.
In Acts 2:25-28, Peter quotes the words of Psalm 16:8-11.
He emphasizes that these words direct our attention to Jesus Christ – “David says concerning Him” (Acts 2:25).
He maintains that David’s words look forward to the resurrection of Christ – “David … spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:29-31).
The final verse of Psalm 16 contains a marvellous message of hope: ‘You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (v.11).
In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come.
By connecting these words of hope with the resurrection of Christ, Peter is stressing that our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection.
We look back to the fact of Christ’s resurrection - ‘Christ has been raised from the dead’ and we look forward to the fulfilment of Christ’s resurrection – ‘at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52).
Here and now, let there be in us faith in Christ’s resurrection – ‘The Lord is my chosen portion’ and the fruit of Christ’s resurrection – ‘Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9).

The Lord has redeemed us. Let us worship Him.
In Exodus 15, we have
(a) a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people,
(b) a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption,
(c) a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption.
This is not only a ‘song of God’s people.’ It is also the song of Moses, a personal song.
This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart.
Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship:
(i) He praises the God of grace - ‘my strength... my song... my salvation’ (v. 2).
(ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (v. 1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds’ (verses 6, 11).
(iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (v. 13) - and glory - the reigning God (v. 18) - , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28).
Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.

We worship the Lord. Let us go out into the world, assured of His victory.
‘Praise the Lord... To Him belong eternal praise... Blessed is the man who fears the Lord... His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes...’ (Psalms 111:1,10; 112:1,8).
Those who ‘fear the Lord’ have no need to live in fear of man. Those who know that ‘eternal praise belongs to the Lord’ can face their enemies with confidence.
Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord.
We know how good the Lord has been to us - ‘He provided redemption for His people’.
We have heard and believed the Good News of Christ. We need not ‘fear’ any ‘bad news’ which the devil sends our way.
We ‘trust in the Lord’, confident that the ‘light’ will triumph over the ‘darkness.’ The Good News of Christ will triumph over the devil’s bad news (Psalms 111:9; 112:4, 7).

We rejoice in Christ’s victory. He will lead us in His way of holiness and love.
On earth, we have ‘trials’. In ‘heaven’, we will have ‘salvation’ (1 Peter 1:3-9). In our journey from trials to salvation, from earth to heaven, we are to live a life of holiness and love.
We are sinners. How can we live a life of holiness and love? We have received ‘the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’. Our ‘faith’ is in Him (Romans 3:27,23-25). Jesus makes us holy. Jesus fills us with His love.
Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2, 18, 20, 25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13, 28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us.
Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ.
In love, He comes to them, and they are changed.
(a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13, 15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18).
(b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear.’ Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (John 20:19-20).
(c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (John 20:25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28).
Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Easter Sunday Evening: Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 114; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; Luke 24:13-49

Remembering the Lord, rejoicing in Him and looking forward to His return
‘O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name... You have done marvellous things’ (Isaiah 25:1).
We remember what God has done for us. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour.
We rejoice in Jesus Christ who died for us. We rejoice in Jesus Christ who rose again for us.
We look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We look forward to the Day when ‘He will swallow up death for ever’.
On that Day, ‘the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces’.
On that Day, we will look back and say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us’.
On that Day, we will ‘rejoice and be glad in His salvation’ (Isaiah 25:8-9).
Here and now, let us learn to ‘trust in the Lord’. We can trust in Him ‘for ever’. He is ‘the everlasting Rock’- ‘the Rock of our salvation’ (Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 95:1).

Remembering the Lord’s greatness: the greatness of His power and His love
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8).
The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love.
When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).

Rejoicing in the Lord: He has been sacrificed for us. We are saved by Him.
‘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’ (1 Corinthians 5:6-7; 6:11).
There were problems among God’s people - ‘sexual immorality’, ‘lawsuits’ (1 Corinthians 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!

Looking forward to the Lord’s return, let us live as His faithful witnesses.
‘In all the Scriptures’, Jesus teaches ‘the things concerning Himself’ (Luke 24:27). Do ‘our hearts burn within us... while He opens to us the Scriptures?’ (Luke 24:32).
He calls us to be His ‘witnesses’, to preach His message of salvation ‘to all nations’ (Luke 24:47-48).
Before we can preach, we must listen to Him.
Before we can proclaim His resurrection, we must consider His suffering for us: ‘See my hands and my feet’ (Luke 24:39) - even after His resurrection, they still bear ‘the mark of the nails’ (John 20:25).
Listen to Christ. Consider His suffering for you. Be ‘clothed with power from on high.
Let the Lord ‘bless’ you, strengthening your worship and filling you ‘with great joy’. With all this going on in your lives, we will consider it not only our responsibility but our joyful privilege to be His ‘witnesses’ (Luke 24:48-53)!

Easter Sunday Morning: Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4 or Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10

God’s love, God’s Son, God’s command, God’s purpose
‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you... you will be My witnesses... to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).
This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’ (Acts 10:45; 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).

God’s love is an everlasting love.
‘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).

God’s Son is our wonderful Saviour.
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’.
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59,744).
Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.

God’s command: Build your life on Jesus Christ.
Be what you already are. Be what God has made you in Christ. This is what God is saying to us here. ‘You have been raised with Christ... You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:1, 3).
Paul is describing the new birth. Christ has made His home in us. New life has begun. Now that Christ lives in us - what are we to do about it? How are we to live? - ‘Set your hearts and minds on things above’ (Colossians 3:1-2). This is how we are to live. We are to live out the life which God has put into our hearts.
The new life begins when Christ comes to live in us. It does not end there. That is only the beginning. We are to go on, ‘being renewed in knowledge after the image of our Creator’ (Colossians 3:10).
Christ wants to reign in us. He wants to enrich our lives (Colossians 3:15-16).
In Him, there is so much blessing. Let’s enjoy it!

God’s purpose: Christ comes to us. Let us go for Him – Go and make disciples.
Christ is ‘the Lord’ (John 20:2, 18, 20, 25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (John 20:13, 28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us.
Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas - changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed.
(a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (John 20:13, 15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer - ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (John 20:18).
(b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (John 20:19-20).
(c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (John 20:25). Jesus came to him, and he believed - ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28).
Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (John 20:31).
The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love.
There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’- His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (Matthew 28:5-6; 1 John 4:18).
There has to be a new beginning in faith.
First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact- Christ has been raised from the dead’(1 Corinthians 15:20).
Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (Matthew 28:19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ’s resurrection - , there is worship (Matthew 28:9).
The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (Matthew 28:17).
As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (Matthew 28:10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). Run and tell - with great joy (Matthew 28:8)!

Easter Vigil: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26; Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13; Psalm 46; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16; Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21; Exodus 15:1b-13, 17-18; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6; Psalm 19; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Psalms 42 and 43; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 143; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Psalm 98; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 114; Matthew 28:1-10

In the beginning, there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Genesis’ means ‘beginning’. These opening verses challenge us to get our priorities right - (a) The priority of God (Genesis 1:1). God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there. (b) The priority of God’s Word (Genesis 1:3). God is the first to speak. Before any human word is spoken, there is the Word of the Lord. (c) The priority of God’s Spirit (Genesis 1:2). All was ‘empty’, all was ‘darkness’, yet the ‘Spirit of God’ was at work, and transformation was set in motion. Here, we have God’s priorities, set out in the Bible’s first three verses - Putting God first and listening to His Word, we are to pray for the moving of God’s Spirit, ‘hovering over’ our lives to transform them. For those who make God’s priorities their own, there is a promise of great blessing (Psalm 1:1-2). It is the great blessing of knowing Jesus Christ, our Saviour, as ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23).
God speaks, and it is done (Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 11). God is pleased with what He has done (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12). This is the pattern of God’s original creation. It is to be the pattern of our life as a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God speaks to us and we say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10). We say, ‘let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38). God looks on such obedience, this ‘walking in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:16, 22-23), and He sees that it is ‘good’ (Micah 6:8). In these verses we read of the separation of the light and the darkness, the separation of the waters and the dry land, and the fruitfulness of God's creation. There are lessons for us here. We are to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7). We are to let the Spirit's ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:39-39). Walking in the light, letting the living water flow - this is the way of fruitfulness.
The Bible’s opening chapter is a great hymn of praise, emphasizing that all things have been created for the glory of God (Revelation 4:11). Nothing can be permitted to distract our attention from the Lord. He alone is worthy of worship. The creation of the ‘lights’ makes no reference to the sun and the moon. These were worshipped by neighbouring peoples. They are not gods. They are simply ‘lights’. Our worship is to be given to God alone. The waters teemed with living creatures. The land produced living creatures. Here, we have a picture of life. There is life where the living water of the Spirit is flowing freely among God’s people (Ezekiel 47:5-9). This water brings life to the land (Ezekiel 47:12). Moving with the flow of God’s Spirit, we are to pray that ‘the water of life’ will flow freely ‘for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2).
We now come to the creation of humanity, male and female. Our creation is described in a distinctive way - created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We are different from the rest of creation. We have been given dominion over ‘all the earth’ and ‘every living creature’ (Genesis 1:26, 28). We are different from God. He is the Creator. We are His creation. Created in God’s image, we have been created by Him and for Him. Though we have sinned (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23), now - in Jesus Christ - we have begun to live as a new creation (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10). The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is God (John 1:1) and that ‘all things were created by Him and for Him’ (Colossians 1:16). This is the Saviour who is at work in us, enabling us to live as a new creation! Creation has been ‘completed’ (2:1). Salvation will be completed (Philippians 1:6)!

In the end, there will be love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘His love endures for ever’. This is the great message contained in every single verse of this Psalm. It’s a message worth repeating - over and over again! God’s love is an everlasting love - ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love is an unfailing love - ‘My unfailing love for you will not be shaken’ (Isaiah 54:10). Let us ‘give thanks’ to God for His love (Psalm 1-3, 26). In His love, the Lord has provided for us ‘an everlasting salvation’. His ‘salvation will last for ever’ (Isaiah 45:17; 51:6). We must not be like those who refuse to love the Lord - ‘Pharaoh... great kings... mighty kings ...’ (Psalm 136:15, 17-20). Those who reject God’s love will not receive ‘eternal life’. Their future will be very different - the ‘raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’ (John 3:16-18; Hebrews 10:26-27).

When you see a rainbow, remember there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we pick up on the words of Genesis 7:16 - ‘the Lord closed the door behind them’. What was going on outside of the ark is contrasted with the haven of salvation inside the ark. What was it that made the ark a place of salvation? - The Lord. What is it that makes Jesus Christ the Source of our salvation? - God has given Him the Name that is above every name, the Name of our salvation (Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 4:12). From the ark, we learn of (a) the one way of salvation - The ark had only one door. Jesus is ‘the Door’ which leads to salvation (John 10:9); (b) the eternal security of salvation - All were safe inside the ark. In Christ there is eternal security (John 10:28); (c) the absolute necessity of salvation - Outside of the ark, there was certain death. Refusal to come to Christ for salvation leads to judgment: ‘How shall we escape...?’(Hebrews 2:3).
Following the flood, we have this simple yet striking declaration: ‘the ground was dry’ (Genesis 8:13). Safe from judgment! This is the message which comes to us from the Cross: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). The judgment has fallen upon Christ. We are no longer swept away in the judgment. We can stand on solid ground: ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand’ (Church Hymnary, 411). He is our Support in ‘the whelming flood’. God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ship’ (Genesis 8:15). We are in Christ. He is the Source of our salvation. God has brought us into Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). He does not bring us into Christ solely for our own benefit. We are sent out to be fruitful (Genesis 8:17; John 15:16). We are to ‘abide in Christ’. This is the way of fruitfulness (John 15:4-5). We are not sent out alone. Strengthened in ‘the ship’ (in Christ), we step out with Christ and for Him.
‘When you see a rainbow, remember God is love’. The rainbow reminds us of the gracious promise of God (Genesis 9:13-15). If the love of God is revealed in the rainbow, it is more fully revealed in the Cross: ‘We sing the praise of Him who died, of Him who died upon the Cross... upon the Cross we see in shining letters. ‘God is love’, He bears our sins upon the tree. He brings us mercy from above’. When we read the Old Testament stories, we must learn to see their place within the fuller Story, the Story of God’s salvation: ‘I will sing the wondrous Story of the Christ who died for me’. This is the greatest Story of all - ‘the Story of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love,... the Story of wonderful redemption, God’s remedy for sin’. ‘This is our Story. This is our Song, praising our Saviour all the day long’. This is ‘the Story to tell to the nations’ (Church Hymnary, 258, 381, 132; Mission Praise, 59, 744).

Be still and know that there is love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Be still, and know that I am God...Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:2). In our worship, there is to be both quiet trust and loud praise. We read the great words: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). God’s Word brings peace - ‘in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength’. We must not keep God’s blessing to ourselves. We must share it with joy - ‘Sing to the Lord...let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands’ (Isaiah 30:15; 42:10-12). The Lord is to be ‘exalted among the nations’. He is not only ‘our King’. He is ‘the King of all the earth’ (Psalm 46:10; 47:6-7). ‘Father (Jesus/Spirit), we love You. We worship and adore You. Glorify Your Name in all the earth’(Mission Praise, 142).

In Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
Here, we see Abraham in his relationship with the world (Genesis 21:22-34) and his relationship with the Lord (Genesis 22:1-14). Abraham deals honestly and wisely with the pagan king, Abimelech, who acknowledges Abraham's closeness to God - ‘God is with you in all that you do’ (Genesis 21:22). We are to be honest and wise in our relationship with the world (Romans 12:17; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:12). Our relationship with the world is to be grounded in our relationship with God. In the testing of Abraham, we catch a glimpse of ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Christ is the Lamb whom God will provide (Genesis 22:8). In Genesis 22:14, we read, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided’. On Calvary’s hill, Christ died to bring us to God, so that we might learn to live for Him in this world (1 Peter 3:18; 2:24).
After the renewal of God’s promise (Genesis 22:15-18), Abraham went to Beersheba (Genesis 22:19). He returned to the place where he had ‘called...on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God’ (21:33). This is a good ‘place’ to be, the ‘place’ of calling on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. As we read of the death and burial of Sarah, we must remember this: the Lord is the Everlasting God. The death of Sarah took place in God's time. Her death signified that her work had been done. She had mothered the child of promise. Beyond the death of Sarah, there was the continuing purpose of God. The cave at Machpelah (23:19-20) became the burial place for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. We see the continuity of history, and we thank God for His continuing faithfulness down through the generations.

Our hope of eternal glory comes from love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead...at His coming those who belong to Christ...will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion...Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.

In the redemption of Israel, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God had redeemed His people. He was with them, and He was about to reveal His saving power in a mighty way (Exodus 14:13-14). There is judgment as well as salvation (Exodus 14:30). Looking to neither the ‘right’ nor the ‘left’, we must look to the Lord (Exodus 14:21-22). Rejoicing in ‘the great work’ He has done, our faith ‘in the Lord’ grows strong (Exodus 14:31).
God has given us a song to sing. We have a song to sing. It is a song of redemption - God has redeemed His people; a song of thanksgiving - we give thanks for God's redemption; and a song of hope - we look forward to the complete fulfilment of God's redemption. This is not only a ‘song of God’s people’. It is also the song of Moses, a personal song. This is worship - not a mere formality, but worship which arises from the depths of Moses’ heart. Deeply moved by the grace and glory of God, Moses pours his heart out to God in worship: (i) He praises the God of grace - ‘my strength... my song... my salvation’ (Exodus 15:2). (ii) He praises the God of glory - God triumphs ‘gloriously’ (Exodus 15:1). His ‘glorious’ power is demonstrated in His ‘glorious’ deeds (Exodus 15:6, 11). (iii) Worshipping this God of grace - the redeeming God (Exodus 15:13) - and glory - the reigning God (Exodus 15:18) - , we say, ‘You are my God, and I will praise You’ (Psalm 118:28). Let us worship God - personally as well as publicly.

In the prophet’s words, we hear the Word of love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Word of God is spoken - ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found...’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). No one seems to be listening. What are we to do? We must remember God’s promise: ‘My Word will not return to Me empty’ (Isaiah 55:11). We do not see all that God is doing. He is doing much more than we realize - ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts...’ (Isaiah 55:8-9). We may be feeling very despondent - ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything’ (Luke 5:5). The Lord still comes to us with His Word of encouragement: ‘You shall go out with joy...’ (Isaiah 55:12). Before there is joy, there may be many tears. When there seems to be nothing but disappointments, we must remember the Lord’s promise: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy...’ (Psalm 126:5-6). We must not ‘judge before the time...’ (1 Corinthians 4:5).
‘I will praise You, O Lord... God is my Salvation... The Lord is my Strength and my Song...’ (Isaiah 12:1-2). May this be our personal faith – this is what the Lord means to me – and our public testimony - making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12: 4-5).

Be wise. Open your heart to love, eternal love, the love of God.
Hoping for ‘good luck’, some people expect good things to happen to them - all the time! God says, ‘Seek wisdom. Be ready for the hard times’. Wisdom comes from God. He speaks to us with words of wisdom (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 8:6-8). Wisdom is not only for ‘kings and rulers, princes and nobles’. It is for everyone who loves the Lord (Proverbs 8:15-17). Wisdom calls us to choose good rather than evil, life rather than death (Proverbs 8:13, 35-36; Hebrews 5:14; Deuteronomy 30:19). The way of wisdom is the way of happiness (Proverbs 8:32-34). Our path may not be paved with gold. Wisdom is better than ‘silver, gold and jewels’ (Proverbs 8:10-11). Christ is our Wisdom. Receiving Him, we receive wisdom. Growing in Him, we grow in wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2:6). As you rejoice in Christ, remember: ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Proverbs 11:30). Don’t keep Wisdom to yourself. Share Christ with others.
In Proverbs 9:5, there is a Gospel invitation: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed’. We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:10). ‘This sounds so old-fashioned’- so the world tells us. ‘The fear of the Lord’- This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! - It is a lack of obedience. When we do not ‘honour’ God, we are ‘without sense’. ‘Claiming to be wise’, we show that we are ‘fools’. If we are wise, we will keep ‘going straight on the way’, looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from ‘the depths of hell’ to the heights of heaven (Proverbs 8:13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2, 6).

In creation and Scripture, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
God reveals Himself in creation and Scripture. He speaks through His created world. He speaks through His written Word. God is always speaking. He is never silent. Through His created world, God is speaking to us - every day, every night. He is showing us His glory (Psalm 19:1-2). He makes us aware of His presence. He whets our appetite for His written Word. The Scriptures lead us to Christ. Through faith in Him, we receive salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Christ is the high-point of God’s revelation. He is the living Word (John 1:1, 14). The testimony of the Psalmist - ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul’ (7) - becomes real for us through faith in Christ - ‘I came to Jesus...My soul revived and now I live in Him’ (Church Hymnary, 212). Make it real. Come to Christ. Come alive in Him!

Through Christ, God looks upon us with love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘I will look on you with favour’ (Ezekiel 36:9). Through Christ our Saviour, God looks upon us with favour. Here are some words which will help you to rejoice in the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which is ‘greater than all my sin’, the ‘wonderful grace of Jesus’ which ‘reaches me’. ‘Let me introduce you to a friend called Grace. Doesn’t care about your past or your many mistakes. He’ll cover your sins in a warm embrace. Let me introduce to a friend called Grace’. ‘His grace reaches lower than your worst mistake and His love will run further than you can run away’. ‘He believes in lost causes when common sense would just give up. He believes in lost causes and changes people with His love. There’s nobody too far gone, no one beyond His reach. He believes in lost causes ‘cause He believed in me’. Let Jesus be your Joy!

May your soul be lifted up by love, eternal love, the love of God.
Three times, the question is asked, ‘Why are you downcast, O my soul’. Three times, the answer is given, ‘Put your hope in God’. Three times, there is the response of faith: ‘I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5). Often, we are filled with questions. We must bring our questions to God. We must learn to listen for His answers. The Lord is speaking to us. Are we listening? God speaks to us through His Word. Are we taking time to read His Word? He wants us to come to Him with the prayer, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:8-10). Listen to the Word of the Lord. Let His Word be your Guide: ‘Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me...’ (Psalm 43:5). ‘Deep calls to deep’ (Psalm 42:7) - Let ‘the Spirit’ show you ‘the deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:10).

When the Spirit breathes upon us, we receive love, eternal love, the love of God.
It was ‘a valley of dry bones’ (Ezekiel 37:1-2). Then, the Lord changed everything - ‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37:5). What a difference the Lord makes! ‘Breathe on me, Breath of God. Fill me with life anew’ (Church Hymnary, 103). What happens when the Spirit of the Lord breathes new life into the Church of God? - ‘The Church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees and dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth’. ‘Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Let the breeze of Your presence flow that Your children here might truly know how to move in the Spirit’s flow... Holy Spirit, we welcome You. Please accomplish in us today some new work of loving grace, we pray. Unreservedly, have Your way. Holy Spirit, we welcome You’ (Mission Praise, 274, 241).

On the Lord’s pathway of victory, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The Psalmist prays, ‘Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord’ (Psalm 143:9). He is not concerned only about his own welfare. He is concerned about the glory of God: ‘For Your Name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life’ (Psalm 143:11). How does God lead us in victory? How is He glorified in our lives? He brings to us the teaching of His Word - ‘Let the morning bring me Word of Your unfailing love’ (Psalm 143:8). He gives to us the strength of His Spirit - ‘May Your good Spirit lead me in good paths’ (Psalm 143:10). Through His Word and Spirit, God shows us His ‘unfailing love’. He enables us to say, ‘You are my God’, ‘I have put my trust in You’ and ‘I am Your servant’. He ‘shows us the way we should go’. He ‘teaches us to do His will’. He gives us victory over our ‘enemies’ (8, 10, 12).

In the story of God’s salvation, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
In Zephaniah 3, we have a story of sin - Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled! She has not obeyed His voice. She has not accepted correction. She has not trusted in the Lord. She has not drawn near to her God’ - and a story of salvation - ‘Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment. He has turned back your enemy... The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will renew you in His love. He will rejoice over you with singing’ (Zephaniah 3:1-2, 14-17). The story of our sin is full of sadness. The story of God’s salvation fills us with gladness - ‘Rejoice and be glad! The Redeemer has come’ (Mission Praise, 573).

Let us worship God: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘Exalt the Lord our God... Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ (Psalms 99:5, 9; 98:4, 6; 100:1). We are to worship the Lord with joy. We are to glorify God. We are to enjoy Him. In our worship, we must never forget the holiness of God: ‘He is holy!... The Lord our God is holy!’ (Psalm 99:5, 9). In our worship, we rejoice in the love of God: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever... He has done marvellous things!’ (Psalms 100:5; 98:1). The God of ‘awesome purity’ loves us with the most perfect love of all: ‘No earthly father loves like Thee...’ Let us worship Him with holy fear and heartfelt love: ‘O how I fear Thee, living God, with deepest, tenderest fears... with trembling hope and penitential tears! Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord, Almighty as Thou art, for Thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart’ (Church Hymnary, 356).

Living as a new creation: our response to love, eternal love, the love of God.
(a) ‘We know that our old self was crucified’ (Romans 6:6) - What a great thing God has done! He has made you ‘a new creation in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). (b) ‘Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:11) - Believe it. This is what the Lord has done: ‘you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit... the Spirit of God dwells in you... Christ is in you... the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you... His Spirit dwells in you’ (Romans 8:9-11). (c) ‘Yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life’ (Romans 6:13) - Act upon it’. ‘Walk in newness of life’ (Romans 6:4). Live as those whom God has made new. We are ‘not under law but under grace’ (Romans 6:14). Keep your eyes fixed on the Saviour and your obedience will be Gospel obedience and not merely legal obedience.

At the Cross of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
‘The Lord is high above all nations... Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high?... Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, who turns the hard rock into springs of water’ (Psalms 113:4-5; 114:7-8). The Lord is greater than we could ever imagine. There is no greatness like the greatness of the Lord. All human greatness cannot even begin to compare with the greatness of God. His greatness is not only the greatness of His power. It is also the greatness of His love. When we sing, ‘How great Thou art’, we sing not only of His power - ‘Thy power throughout the universe displayed’. We sing also of His love - ‘And when I think that God His Son not sparing, sent Him to die - I scarce can take it in, that on the Cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin...’(Mission Praise, 506).

In the resurrection of Christ, we see love, eternal love, the love of God.
The resurrection declares Christ’s victory over evil, the triumph of His love. There is no need for fear: ‘He has risen’- His ‘perfect love casts out fear’ (Matthew 28:5-6; 1 John 4:18). There has to be a new beginning in faith. First, there was a new beginning ‘in fact - Christ has been raised from the dead’ (1 Corinthians 15:20). Christ has won the victory over the grave. Christ has taken the sting out of death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Between the new beginning in faith - making disciples (Matthew 28:19) - and the new beginning in fact - Christ’s resurrection - , there is worship (Matthew 28:9). The fact is not dependent on our feelings. ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7) - the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (Matthew 28:17). As we worship, we are strengthened in faith, strengthened for our task. We are to invite people to come to the place where ‘they will see’ Jesus (Matthew 28:10). We are to ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19). Run and tell - with great joy (Matthew 28:8)!

Saturday in Holy Week: Job 14:1-14 (or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24); Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16; 1 Peter 4:1-8; Matthew 27:57-66 (or John 19:38-42)

Out of darkness into light - “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
When you don’t really know what you’re talking about, it’s a case of the less said the better.
That’s how Job feels about his ‘friends’- ‘Oh that would you keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!’(Job 13:5).
They are no help to him. What does he do next? He takes his problem to the Lord. Nothing seems clear to Job. He seems to be bogged down in his own suffering.
There is, however, a glimmer of light. A question comes into his mind - ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ (Job 14:14).
Later on, Job gives the answer of faith: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives...Even after my skin has been stripped off my body, I will see God in my own flesh’ (Job 19:25).
‘Christ has been raised from the dead...Death is swallowed up in victory...Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15:20, 54, 57).

Out of darkness into light – “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.”
There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction...’ (Lamentations 3:1-3).
In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’.
When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us.
We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’.
It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong.
We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives.
We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ (Lamentations 3:22-26).

Out of darkness into light – the “spacious place” of God’s salvation
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5). These words were spoken by Christ as, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (Psalm 31:11). His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21).
In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).

Out of darkness  into light – Create in me, a clean heart, O God.
As we consider Christ who suffered for us, let us pray that we may have His ‘attitude.’ Let us commit ourselves to doing the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
The Gospel was preached even to those who are now dead (1 Peter 4:6). As we read those words, let us commit ourselves to our God-given task of preaching the Gospel to those who are living.
We believe the Gospel - ‘Christ died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God’. Let’s share the Gospel - ‘Be always ready to give...a reason for the hope that is in you.’
How are we to share the Gospel? - ‘with gentleness and respect’ (1 Peter 3:18, 15). We must get the attitude right - ‘so that nothing will hinder our prayers’ (1 Peter 3:7). We need more than the ‘right’ prayers - words that sound good. We need the right attitude. The blessing will not come because our words sound good. It will only come when our attitude is right.
Our obedience to God’s will, in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is to be grounded our prayer. Our preaching and prayer are to be grounded in praise.
In all the service we offer to God, there is to be the offering of worship: ‘To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever’ (1 Peter 4:11; 5:11).
We will not learn to serve God unless we are learning to worship Him.
There is a ‘form of religion’ which ‘denies the power’ of God - ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’ (2 Timothy 3:5; Matthew 15:8). They go through the motions - but their hearts are not in it!
We must pray that God will deliver us from this kind of thing: ‘O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin set free; A heart that always feels Thy blood, so freely shed for me’ (Church Hymnary, 85).
‘Religion’ is about respectability. Salvation is about renewal: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me’ (Psalm 51:10).

Out of darkness into light – It was impossible for death to hold Christ.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64). As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’(64). The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them! Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24). He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!

Out of darkness into light – Love has the victory for ever.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42).
Was this the end of His story? - No! There was more to come – the resurrection. His story did not end there - ‘Jesus had to rise from the dead’ (John 20:9).
On the Cross, Jesus had said, ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’ - on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father.
The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
We read of Jesus’ death. We read of His burial – but His story does not end there!
This was a time of darkness: Low in the grave He lay, Jesus my Saviour.
It was also the time of waiting: Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord.
Soon, the time of triumph would come: Up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes.
The story of Jesus Christ does not end with the darkness of His burial. Beyond the darkness, there is the light of His resurrection: He arose a Victor from the dark domain, and He lives for ever with His saints to reign.
For our salvation, Jesus died ‘and was raised to life’(Romans 4:25). The light shines brightly. It is the light of God’s love.
We hear the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection: He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! (Mission Praise, 453).
We hear of the triumph of God’s love: Love has the victory for ever!
Inspired by the great declaration of Christ’s resurrection and the triumph of God’s love, let us respond with the worship of our hearts: Who can see Your greatest gift and fail to worship You? (Mission Praise, 86).

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Good Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16-25 (or Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9); John 18:1-19:42

Were we there when they crucified our Lord? – Yes. He died for our sins.
In this remarkable prophecy, we see Jesus Christ, crucified for us - ‘the Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ - and risen from the dead - ‘After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life’ (Isaiah 53:6, 11).
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ (Mission Praise, 745). We might put this question to Isaiah. In one sense, he wasn’t there. He lived long before the time of Christ. In another sense, he was there. God opened his eyes. God gave him a glimpse of what was going to happen in the future.
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ In one sense, we weren’t there. These things happened long before we were even born. In another sense, we were there. It was our sins which Christ took with Him to the Cross. It was our sins which He left behind Him when He rose from the dead (Romans 4:25).

Jesus Christ – forsaken by God and pierced for our transgressions
Read of the Psalmist’s sufferings. Think of the Saviour, suffering for you (Psalm 22:7-8, 18; Matthew 27:39 ,43, 35).
We highlight two statements: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet’ (Psalm 22:1, 16).
Jesus Christ was ‘crucified and killed by the hands of the lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). There is, however, more to His story than this: ‘The Lord has laid all our sins on Him’ (Isaiah 53:6).
When we read of Jesus Christ, ‘pierced for our transgressions’, we see Him ‘pierced’ by men and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34; Matthew 27:46).
Looking on to Jesus Christ, risen, exalted and returning, we see Him still bearing the marks of His suffering - ‘the mark of the nails’, ‘a Lamb standing as though it had been slain’, ‘pierced’ (John 20:25; Revelation 5:6; 1:7).
Jesus Christ has ‘tasted death for everyone’ (Hebrews 2:9). Now, through Him, salvation is proclaimed to ‘the congregation’, to ‘the ends of the earth’ to ‘future generations’ (Psalm 22:22, 27, 30). Jesus Christ, ‘the same yesterday, today and for ever’, proclaims salvation to the great ‘congregation’, drawn from ‘every tribe and language and people and nation’ (Hebrews 13:8; 2:12; Revelation 5:9).

Looking back to Christ’s crucifixion, looking forward to His return
We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). We are to live as those who are awaiting the Day of the Lord’s return (Hebrews 10:25).
We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us.
Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in Hebrews 9:28 - ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’.
We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’(Galatians 2:20).
We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us - His body broken for us and His blood shed for us.
We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Remember - and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’(Revelation 22:20).
As we remember our Lord Jesus Christ, we see how sinful we really are and we pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ (Hebrews 4:15-16). It is through His grace and mercy that we are able to look forward to ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:9).
“It is finished”. The work of redemption is completed. Jesus is the risen Lord.
The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (John 18:1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (John 18:12-14, 19-24).
Jesus is ‘drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him’- He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (John 18:11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Jesus’ death was not only ‘expedient’. It was ‘necessary’- for our salvation (John 18:14; Luke 24:26).
Alongside the story of Jesus there is the story of Peter (John 18:15-18, 25-27). Jesus’ death was not the end of His story - He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (John 21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38, 41).
‘Barabbas was a robber’. He was released (John 18:39-40). There was ‘no crime’ in Jesus. He was ‘crucified’ (John 18:38; 19:4, 6, 16).
Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die.
Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born...’ (John 18:36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross.
As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas - ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas - ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12, 6).
‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph.
At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (John 4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption.
In one sense, ‘it is finished’- on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done - by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection - ‘God raised Him from the dead’(Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9).
To come to the words, ‘It is finished’ is not to reach the end of the story.
Jesus was laid in the tomb (John 19:42). This was not the end of His story.
He was raised on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4)!

Thursday in Holy Week: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17

Christ died for us. Let us live for Him.
Here, we focus attention on two verses which emphasize the importance of being saved by the Lord and going on to live for Him: ‘when I see the blood, I will pass over you... you must eat unleavened bread’ (Exodus 12:13, 20).
In verse 13, we are directed beyond the Passover to Jesus Christ, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins (John 1:29; 1 John1:7).
In verse 20, we have the call to holy living.
In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Galatians 5:7-9, Paul uses ‘leaven’ as a symbol of ‘sin’, which holds us back from ‘running a good race’.
We are to live as a new creation, who feast on ‘the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. Forgiveness of sins and holy living belong together. We are not to rejoice in God’s forgiveness and then gloss over His call to holy living: ‘justified by faith’, we are to ‘walk in newness of life’ (Romans 5:1; 6:4).

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

Our love for God is to be a lifelong love.
‘I love the Lord... I will call on Him as long as I live’ (Psalm 116:1-2).
Our love for God is to be a lifelong love. It is to be the love of our life.
What are we to do when our love for God grows weak? We must remember His love for us - ‘Great is His love towards us. The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever’ (Psalm 117:2).
When we find it difficult to keep on loving God, we must remember how much He loves us.
When we feel like giving up on loving God, we must remember that He never gives up on loving us.
He loves us when our love for Him is strong. He loves us when our love for Him is weak.
In love, He reaches out to us. He brings us out of our weakness and into His strength. Let His strong love reach you in your weakness and give you His strength: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’ (Church Hymnary, 450).

Let the love of God change the way you live.
The Pharisees continue to exert their evil influence. ‘For fear of the Pharisees’, many remained silent, ‘loving the praise of men more than the praise of God’(John 12:42-43).
Whatever the opposition, Jesus calls us to believe in Him and confess Him (Romans 10:9). He calls us out of darkness into light (John 12:46).
If you are a believer, come out into the open. Make it known that you belong to Christ.
Do not only read God’s Word for yourself. Speak His Word to others (John 12:50).
The ‘hour’ of Jesus’ suffering draws near. Satan is busy. Jesus is in control (John 13:1-3). It is the ‘hour’ of His love.
We are ‘washed’ in His precious blood (John 13:8; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 7:14).
What God has done for us comes before what we ought to do for others.
Jesus is our Saviour before He is our ‘Example’ (John 13:14-15). Knowing Him, let us do His will (John 13:17).

Wednesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32


Waiting on the Lord, witnessing for Him and winning others for Him
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4). We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God. We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him. We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God. First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’. Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’. Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).

Strengthened in worship, we are equipped for witness.
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2). We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it! Rather than being preoccupied with his own problems, he is calling on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4). How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3). Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).

Learning from others, looking to Jesus
We read about many people who trusted the Lord. Their faith was real. It changed their lives. As you read of so many people who lived ‘by faith’, let God’s Word challenge you. Bring your own weak faith to Him and ask Him to give you a stronger faith: ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). We learn from so many different people. We read about their faith. We are inspired by their faith. We do not, however, make too much of them. We must always be ‘looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2). We must learn the lesson of the transfiguration. We look at Moses. We look at Elijah. We learn from them. There comes a point where they - together with all God’s faithful people - must step aside, leaving us to look up and see ‘Jesus only’ (Mark 9:2-8).

Looking beyond our difficult times to Christ’s glorious future
Difficult times lay ahead for Jesus. He would be betrayed by Judas Iscariot (John 13:21-30). He would be denied by Peter (John 13:36-38). For Jesus, there was His departure (John 13:31-33). It would be a difficult time for His followers. He tells them to ‘love one another’: ‘By this all men shall know that they are His disciples’ (John 13:34-35). Jesus points them beyond the difficult times. He speaks of His glorious future. He assures them that the best is yet to be. He is preparing a place in His ‘Father’s House’ for us. He will come again to take us to Himself (John 14:1-3). He is the Way to this place, the true and living way (John 14:6). Now, He reveals the Father to us (John 14:9). Now, He is working in and through us (John 14:12-14). He is preparing us for His place: ‘Lord Jesus... fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there’(Church Hymnary, 195).

Tuesday in Holy Week: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36


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

Keeping Christ at the centre in joyful worship and courageous witness
David is in great danger. His life is being threatened by his enemies (Psalm 70:2).
We might expect that he would be depressed. Far from it!
He is not preoccupied with his own problems. He calls on God’s people to worship the Lord with joy: ‘May all who seek You, rejoice and be glad in You! May those who love Your salvation continually say, “God is great!”’ (Psalm 70:4).
How was David able to rise above his own problems and call the Lord’s people to worship? - He knew that the Lord was his ‘Rock of refuge’, his ‘strong Fortress’ (Psalm 71:3).
Like David, we may face ‘many terrible troubles’. Let us learn, like David, to praise the Lord and look to Him to lead us in the way of victory: ‘You have done great things, O God... You will revive me again’ (Psalm 71:19-20).

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

Keep Christ at the centre: concern for the poor grounded in devotion to Christ
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6). There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasising that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32).
Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).

Monday in Holy Week: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 36:5-11; Hebrews 9:11-15; John 12:1-11


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

Let us bring Christ to the nations. Let us serve the Lord in the power of the Spirit.
Never take God’s love for granted. Let us be deeply appreciative of His love.
Read about God’s ‘steadfast love’ and rejoice in Him: ‘Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens...How precious is Your steadfast love, O God! ...O continue Your steadfast love to those who know You...’ (Psalm 36:5, 7, 10).
Rejoicing in the Lord’s ‘steadfast love’ is quite different from taking His love for granted.
We dare not say, “God loves me. I can do what I like.”
We must not become like the wicked - ‘there is no fear of God before his eyes’ (Psalm 36:1).
Where there is true rejoicing in God’s ‘steadfast love’, there will also be ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10).
A real appreciation of God’s ‘steadfast love’ brings with it a real awareness of our own sinfulness.
Knowing how much God loves us leads us to pray, ‘Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away’ (Psalm 36:11).

Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His wonderful redemption.
God gave His promise - ‘I will make a new covenant’ (Hebrews 8:8-12; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God has fulfilled His promise. There is now a ‘new covenant in Jesus’ blood’ (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
The old covenant cannot even begin to compare with the new covenant. It is only a ‘shadow.’
The new covenant is the real thing. It is ‘much more excellent’. It is ‘a better covenant’ (Hebrews 8:5-6),
The old covenant is ‘outdated’ (Hebrews 8:13). It has seen its day. Now, it’s past its ‘sell by date’!
We look at the old covenant and we say, ‘There must be more than this’.
There is more - ‘much more’.
Through ‘the blood of Christ’, ‘our hearts and lives’ have been ‘cleansed’. Now, we can begin ‘to serve the living God’ (Hebrews 9:14).
‘What a wonderful redemption!’- ‘eternal redemption’ (Mission Praise, 765; Hebrews 9:12)!

Through Jesus Christ, the God of love gives to us His victory over Satan.
The Pharisees are developing their wicked plan. God is fulfilling His saving purpose (John 11:49-53).
The voice of ‘common sense’ is not always the voice of the Lord (John 12:4-6).
There is a higher wisdom than ‘common sense’. We are to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He leads us to put Jesus at the centre of our lives.
Jesus is not suggesting that the poor are unimportant. He is emphasizing that we must not lose sight of Him.
If our concern for the poor is not truly grounded in devotion to Christ, it is not the obedience of faith (John 12:8).
The Pharisees are lying in wait for Jesus. They say, ‘The world has gone after Him’ (John 12:19). They are going after Him too - in a different way!
The crucifixion draws near. God is to be ‘glorified’ in the defeat of Satan and the salvation of sinners (John 12:28, 31-32). Jesus had ‘come’ for this ‘hour’ (John 12:27).

Monday, 3 April 2017

Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm / Passion)

Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm / Passion): Entry into Jerusalem – Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29; Passion – Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66 (or Matthew 27:11-54)   

PALM SUNDAY

Our response to Christ - Discipleship, Depth, Devotion
Four times, Jesus is called ‘the Son of David’ (Matthew 20:30-31; 21:9,15).
Christ is greater than David. He is David’s ‘Lord’ (Matthew 22:41-46). Christ is not only ‘the Son of David’. He is also the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4).
We rejoice with the Psalms of David. We rejoice even more in the Gospel of Christ.
Our response to Christ is to be marked by discipleship, depth and devotion.
Discipleship - The blind men ‘received their sight and followed Him’ (Matthew 20:34). They did not receive their sight and then forget about Him. Grace is to be followed by gratitude. Those who have received grace are to give themselves to the Lord in gratitude.
Depth - The crowds were enthusiastic (Matthew 21:8-9) but superficial (27:20-23). Pray for depth, a true and lasting response to Christ.
Devotion - Pray that the spirit of praise will overcome the spirit of pride (Matthew 21:15).

Discipleship, Depth, Devotion – with Christ as our Strength, Song and Saviour
‘The Lord is my Strength and my Song. He is my Saviour’ (Psalm 118:14).
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour gives us a song to sing: ‘Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine... This is my story, this is my song, praising my Saviour all the day long’.
Knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, we sing His song with strength, committing ourselves to His service, earnestly seeking to win others for Him: ‘We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right ... We’ve a song to be sung to the nations, that shall lift their hearts to the Lord...We’ve a message to give to the nations, that the Lord, who reigneth above, hath sent us His Son to save us... We’ve a Saviour to show to the nations...’ (Mission Praise, 59, 744).
Don’t keep your Saviour to yourself. Share Him with others. Win others for Him.

PASSION SUNDAY
Waiting on the Lord, witnessing for Him and winning others for Him
‘The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught’ (Isaiah 50:4).
We are to listen to God. We are to speak for God.
We cannot speak for God unless we are listening to Him. Before we can speak for God, we must speak to Him.
We must pray, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9-10). Listening to God comes before speaking for God.
First, we wait on the Lord - ‘I waited patiently for the Lord’.
Then, we witness for the Lord - ‘He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God’.
Waiting on the Lord and witnessing for Him, we will win others for Him - ‘Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1-3).

Waiting on the Lord – let us look to Christ, crucified and risen for us.
‘Into Thy hand, I commit my spirit’ (Psalm 31:5).
These words were spoken by Christ when, in death, He gave Himself for our sins (Luke 23:46).
For Christ, there was suffering - ‘I am the scorn of all my adversaries’ (31:11).
His suffering was followed by rejoicing, the joy of the resurrection - ‘I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, for You saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place’ (Psalm 31:7-8).
God answered the prayer of His Son - He brought Him into the ‘spacious place’ of the resurrection, the ‘spacious place’ which is, for us, ‘eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:7-9). We look to the crucified Christ and we say, ‘Praise be to the Lord, for He showed His wonderful love to me’ (Psalm 31:21). In the risen Christ, we are ‘strong and our hearts take courage’ (Psalm 31:24).

In our witness for the Lord, may our whole life declare that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up? Here`s God`s Word of encouragement for you: ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6).
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful.
His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
In ‘humility’, let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’ (Philippians 2:3; 1:11). ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
Jesus asks, Do you love Me? Let us say Yes – and go out to win others for Him.
Peter and Judas Iscariot had something in common. They both failed their Lord (Matthew 26:14-16, 34).
Things turned out very differently for them (Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 2:38-42).
When we fail the Lord , we find ourselves at a cross-roads. We can turn to Him. We can turn away from Him.
In view of His great love for us - His ‘blood’ has been ‘poured out for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28) - how can we turn our backs on Him? How can you and I say ‘No’ to such love?
There is no reason why we should say ‘No’ to Him - yet we do!
Do we doubt that He is there for us? Do we wonder if He really loves us?
What about you? Do you think that He cannot or will not forgive your sins?
He can and He will. That’s why He died - ‘for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).
Jesus’ suffering is increasing.
What pain His disciples caused Him. Three times, He ‘found them sleeping’ (Matthew 26:40-45), ‘My betrayer is at hand’ (Matthew 26:46), ‘all the disciples forsook Him and fled’ (Matthew 26:56)!
Was this the end of the road for His disciples? No! With one exception - Judas Iscariot, whom Jesus still called ‘friend’ (Matthew 26:50), the others became men of prayer (Acts 1:13-14). They stood with Peter as he preached the Gospel, as he led many sinners to the Saviour (Acts 2:14, 37-38).
Jesus loved His disciples. He died for them. Then - after Jesus was ‘glorified’- the Spirit was ‘given’ to them (John 7:39).
The fleeing disciples became men ‘on fire’ (Acts 2:3). No more ‘fleeing’. Now it was ‘flowing’- ‘rivers of living water’(John 7:38). ‘Blaze, Spirit blaze. Set our hearts on fire. Flow, river, flow. Flood the nations with grace and mercy’(Mission Praise, 445).
‘Peter followed Him at a distance’ (Matthew 26:58). He didn't want to get too close!
Keeping your distance from Jesus leads to trouble!
Trouble was not the end of Peter's story.
Three times Peter denied the Lord (Matthew 26:69-75).
Three times Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love Me?’, three times Peter answered Jesus, ‘I love You’ (John 21:15-17) - for each denial, an opportunity to re-affirm his love for Jesus.
Three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41) - for each denial, one ‘thousand souls’ brought to Christ.
The contrast between the ‘Peter’ of the Gospels and the ‘Peter’ of Acts is striking. When Jesus first met Peter, He said, ‘You are Simon... You shall be called Peter’ (John 1:42).
‘Peter’ means ‘rock’. Peter’s confession of faith - ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16) - is the Rock on which our faith is built.
With Peter, let us confess Christ.
Jesus went to the Cross for us. Refusing to protest His own innocence, He took our guilt upon Himself.
Observing this, ‘the governor wondered greatly’ (Matthew 27:14).
We also should wonder greatly at this - Christ took our place, receiving the punishment that should have been ours. Barabbas was released, Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:26).
This is the great exchange - the sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (2 Corinthians 5:21).
As well as its divine aspect - ‘God so loved...’ (John 3:16) - the Cross has a human dimension - the people, Jews and Gentiles (the whole sinful world), sent Jesus to the Cross.
For Jews and Gentiles (‘the whole world’), Christ has provided salvation (Romans 1:16; 1 John 2:2).
In the release of Barabbas and the crucifixion of Christ, we are invited to ask ourselves, ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
The ‘King of the Jews’ wore ‘a crown of thorns’ (Matthew 27:29).
In the Cross, we see the King.
The way of crucifixion - this is the way of the Kingdom.
The prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10), could only be answered by way of the Cross.
From the Cross, we hear the call for decision. It is the call of love. The love of Christ calls for our answer: ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (Matthew 27:22).
Here, we see different responses to Christ - derision, mocking, reviling (Matthew 27:39-44); misunderstanding (Matthew 27:47-49); believing worship (Matthew 27:54).
How are we brought out of unbelief and into faith, out of derision and into rejoicing? By the mighty working of God in our hearts, we are brought out of darkness and into light (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Salvation comes from above, from God - ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (Matthew 27:51).
‘Mary the mother of James and Joseph’ was also the mother of Jesus (Matthew 27:56; 13:55).
She began by receiving Jesus, not only as her son but also as her Saviour (Luke 1:38). She was still following Jesus - ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5). None of us - not even the mother of Jesus - can walk with the Lord without His grace keeping us in the way of faith.
The unbelieving world still denies Christ - ‘that imposter’ (Matthew 27:63) - and His resurrection - ‘fraud’ (Matthew 27:64).
As believers, we must maintain our testimony: ‘He has risen from the dead’ (Matthew 27:64).
The unbelievers expected a ‘fraud’. They did not expect a resurrection! For them, a resurrection was out of the question. God had a surprise in store for them!
Unbelief says, ‘Resurrection? - Impossible!’. Faith says, ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:24).
He has risen (Matthew 28:6) - Hallelujah!

Help us to resist Satan – in Your strength.

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