Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Ascension of the Lord: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47 or 93 or Daniel 7:9-14; Psalm 24:7-10; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Jesus is taken up into heaven. The Holy Spirit is given to us.
We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’ would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified.’
Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up... into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’ (Acts 1:11, 8).
He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’.
He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).
Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14).
They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).

Jesus is taken up into heaven. May His Name be exalted in all the earth.
‘Be still, and know that I am God ... Shout to God with loud songs of joy’ (Psalms 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’ (Psalms 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).
‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever... The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty...’ (Psalms 92:8; 93:1-2).
The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’.
‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’ - This is the truth concerning the Lord.
‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth.
We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’.
This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’.
‘From all eternity’, the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord - ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’ (Psalms 97:9; 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).

Jesus is taken up into heaven. He will come again with power and great glory.
‘There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven... His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed’ (Daniel 7:13-14).
These words point us to Christ’s description of His Second Coming, the Coming of His Kingdom: ‘They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’ (Matthew 24:30).
In Revelation 1:7, we have another echo of Daniel’s ‘vision’: ‘Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him’. ‘Lo! He comes, with clouds descending... Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the power and glory, claim the Kingdom for Thine own. O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly! Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!’(Church Hymnary, 316).

Jesus is taken up into heaven. In Him, we will dwell in God’s house for ever.
For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6). We ‘receive this blessing from the Lord, ...the God of our salvation’ (Psalm 24:5).
There is only one answer to the question, ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?’: Jesus Christ ‘shall stand in His holy place’.
No one else has ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ - no one else but Jesus. He is the One who receives ‘blessing’ from the Lord - and He gives it to us (Psalm 24:3-5)!
How do we receive His blessing? - We must open our hearts ‘that the King of glory may come in’ (Psalm 24:7, 9).
How can ‘the Lord, strong and mighty’ live in me? How can I receive His resurrection power?
Jesus says, ‘I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in’ (Psalm 24:8; Ephesians 1:19-20; Revelation 3:20).

Jesus is taken up into heaven. Saved by Him, let us live for Him.
Raised from the dead, Jesus Christ now sits at God’s right in the heavenly places. He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named (Ephesians 1:20:21).
His Name is the Name of our salvation. Through Him, we rejoice in God’s wonderful grace: ‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Saved by the Lord, we are to live for Him.
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).

Jesus is taken up into heaven. Let us preach Him to all nations.
‘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 24:48-53)!

Day of Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21 (or Numbers 11:24-30); Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 (or Acts 2:1-21); John 20:19-23 (or John 7:37-39)


The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ.

‘No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). ‘In Jerusalem’, on ‘the day of Pentecost’ there are ‘Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:1, 5). They are ‘amazed’ at what they hear - ‘we hear them telling in our own tongue the mighty works of God’ (Acts 2:7-11). The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). ‘To God be the glory! Great things He hath done!’ (Church Hymnary, 374). Speaking ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’, the apostles pave the way for Peter’s bold proclamation: ‘God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:36). Empowered ‘by the Holy Spirit’, this message - ‘Jesus is Lord’- is still God’s way of bringing people to Himself. Preach Christ. Pray for the Spirit’s power. Look to God for His blessing (Acts 2:41-47).

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of obedience and blessing.

God is at work among His people, teaching them many lessons.  Through His precious promises and strong warnings, He leads us in the way of obedience and blessing (Numbers 11:31-32).  If we are to enjoy the Lord’s blessing, we need the whole Word of God – the warnings as well as the promises.  Obedience to God – This is the most important thing in the life of faith.  Obedience demonstrates the reality of faith.  By our obedience, we show our ‘love’ for the Lord.  We rejoice in ‘all the great work of the Lord’.  By ‘His mighty hand’, He has provided for us a great salvation.  Our enjoyment of His salvation increases as we live in obedience to Him (Numbers 11:8-15).  Without obedience, there can be no blessing (Numbers 11:16-17).  Teach others to obey God – especially the ‘children’ (Numbers 11:18-21).  God is good.  He loves us (Numbers 11:22-25).  Obey Him.  Choose blessing (Numbers 11:26-28).

The Holy Spirit leads us into a life of worship.

‘I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 104:33). Do you feel like giving up? Other things are becoming more important to you. Worshipping the Lord is being pushed out to the edge of your life. Wrong attitudes are creeping in. It starts with the idea, ‘Worship’s just an hour on a Sunday’. Then, it becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I feel like it’. It soon becomes, ‘I’ll worship the Lord when I’ve nothing better to do’. Before long, all desire for worshipping the Lord has gone! Little-by-little, you are drifting away from the Lord. It’s time to start thinking about what’s happening. It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time for an ‘all my life’commitment to worshipping the Lord - not just on a Sunday, not only when I feel like it, not only ‘when there’s nothing better to do’!

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of love.

Paul speaks about ‘gifts of the Spirit’. They are ‘given for the common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). We’re not ‘to show off’: ‘Look at me. The Church can’t do without me’. When we draw attention to ourselves rather than Christ, we are not living ‘by the Spirit of God’. He moves us to say, with our whole heart, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). We live in fellowship with one another: ‘the body does not consist of one member but of many’ (1 Corinthians 12:14). ‘I’m happy – as long as I’m getting my own way’: We can do without this kind of attitude! What about ‘the common good’? Sometimes, things don’t go according to my plan. Perhaps, my plan needs revising – to take account of ‘the common good’. When self raises its ugly head – ‘It’s my way or no way at all’ – let’s not forget the ‘still more excellent way’ (1 Corinthians 12:3). It is the way of love – Christ’s love!

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of peace and joy.

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 Holy Spirit leads us in the way of new life.

‘Rivers of living water’ were flowing out of  Jesus’ heart. ‘No man ever spoke like this man’! ‘The Spirit’ was speaking through Him with power. Still, there were those who ‘wanted to arrest Him’ (John 7:37-39,44,46). Stop ‘throwing stones’ (John 8:1-11)! Only Jesus had the right to point the finger at this woman. He refused to do so. He bore her sins and our sins on the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus spoke to the woman of both forgiveness and holiness (John 8:11). Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12). This brought an immediate reaction from the ‘Pharisees’: ‘Your testimony is not true’ (John 8:13). They were ‘disguised as angels of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). They ‘loved darkness rather than light’ (John 3:19). Their ‘darkness’ was exposed by ‘the Light of the world’. These evil men could do nothing until God’s time (John 8:19-20).

Monday, 22 May 2017

Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:15- 17, 21-26; Psalm 1 (or Jeremiah 10:1-10a); Psalm 108; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:15- 17, 21-26; Psalm 1 (or Jeremiah 10:1-10a); Psalm 108; 1 John 5:9-13; John 17:6-19

We need the Holy Spirit.
We read, in John 7:39, that ‘the Spirit’ would not be ‘given’ until Jesus was ‘glorified’. Now, as Jesus was about to be ‘taken up... into heaven’, He tells His apostles, ‘the Holy Spirit’ will ‘come upon you’ (Acts 1:11, 8). He gives them His Word of promise: ‘I send the promise of my Father upon you’. He gives them His Word of command: ‘stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). They wait upon the coming of the Holy Spirit. They cannot fill themselves with the Spirit. They can only ‘be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Waiting for the Spirit, the apostles ‘devote themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14). They do not earn the Holy Spirit as a reward for spending much time in prayer. Waiting on God, their strength is renewed as they receive God’s gift (Isaiah 40:31; Luke 11:13).

We need the Holy Scriptures.
The first Psalm contrasts two ways - the way of the Word and the way of the world, the way of blessing and the way of judgment. Encouraging us to build upon the solid foundation of God’s Word, the opening Psalm sets the tone for what is to follow. To whet your appetite for the Psalms, here are some early lessons: stability in the Lord (Psalm 1:1-2); service for the Lord (Psalm 2:11); salvation of the Lord (Psalm 3:8); sanctification from the Lord (Psalm 4:4-5); singing to the Lord (Psalm 8:4); strength in the Lord (Psalm 9:9). These are some of the blessings promised to those who ‘delight in the law of the Lord’ (Psalm 1-2). With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?

We need to worship the holy God.
‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King’ (Jeremiah 10:10). Can there ever be anything more important than worshipping the Lord? We know the answer as soon as we ask the question! Very often, our lives give a very different answer. We have taken our eyes off the Lord. We have forgotten that He is the true and living God. We sing the words, ‘O Lord, Thou art my God and King... Each day I rise, I will Thee bless...’- but they have a hollow ring about them! Here’s a prayer to help you to make a real commitment of your life to the Lord: ‘Teach me to live, day by day, in Your presence, Lord... Teach me to praise, day by day, in Your Spirit, Lord... Teach me to love, day by day, in Your power, Lord... Teach me to give, day by day, from my wealth, O Lord...’ (Church Hymnary, 346; Mission Praise, 627).

The holy God leads us in the way of holiness.
‘With God we shall gain the victory. He will trample down our enemies’ (Psalm 108:13). In ourselves, there is only defeat. We are no match for ‘our enemies’ - the world, the flesh and the devil. We are surrounded by the world - ‘The world is ever near. I see the sights that dazzle. The tempting sounds I hear’. We live with the constant problem of the flesh - ‘the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will’(Church Hymnary, 434). Behind the world and the flesh, there is an even stronger enemy - the devil: ‘Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against... the spiritual forces of evil...’ (Ephesians 6:12). Our situation seems to be utterly hopeless. How can we possibly win the victory? The simple truth is: We cannot. There is, however, a deeper truth: God is with us - and ‘with God we shall win the victory’!

We walk in the way of holiness when we keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, our holy Saviour.
What a great blessing we receive through faith in Christ - ‘Every one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God’ (1John 5:1). Our life as God’s children is not a life of tranquility. We face conflict, real conflict - a battle. In this spiritual warfare, we have God’s promise of victory. In 1 John 5:5, we have a question: ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?’. The answer is contained in the question. Our victory is in Christ. We are not victorious because our faith is so strong that we couldn’t possibly fail. Many times, we fail. We take our eyes off Christ - and we are defeated. What are we to do? - when temptations seem to be so many and so powerful. When you feel so weak, let Christ be your Strength. ‘With Christ within, the fight we’ll win’.

As we walk in the way of holiness, we are supported by the powerful prayers of our holy Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (John 17:20). The story of the Cross (John 17:1-5), the story of the first disciples (John 17:6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ’s death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today’s world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples - ‘that they may be one’ (John 17:11). He prays the same prayer for us (John 17:20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, ‘the one who chose to be lost’ (John 17:12). If we are to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit’, we must take account of ‘the Judas factor’ - ‘take notice of those who create dissensions... avoid them’ (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20 or Ezekiel 43:1-7a; Psalm 115; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

In our worship, we listen to the Word of the Lord.
Notice the importance of the Scriptures for both public ministry - ‘reasoning with them from the Scriptures’ and private devotion - ‘examining the Scriptures every day’ (Acts 17:2, 11).
We need the Word of the Lord on the Lord’s Day. We need the Word of the Lord every day.
God is not the ‘unknown God’. He has made himself known to us.
For many, He seems to be the ‘unknown God’. We must seek to lead them beyond a vague awareness of ‘the God who made the world’ to a real knowledge of Jesus Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Acts 17:24, 3).
When our faith is grounded in the Scriptures, we will not think of God as the ‘unknown God’ about whom we can know very little. We will make it our ambition ‘to know Christ and the power of His resurrection’ (Philippians 3:10).
‘Let us press on to know the Lord’(Hosea 6:3).

In our worship, we hear the Story of God’s salvation.
‘Come and see what God has done’ (Psalm 66:5).
God invites us to look into His Word, to read His Story, the Story of all that He has done for us.
‘Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for me’ (Psalm 66:16).
God invites us to listen to the preaching of His Word, to let His Story become our story, to let His salvation become real in our lives.
We read God’s Word. We hear His Word.
This is our journey of discovery. We discover what the Lord has done for us. We discover how much He wants to bless us.
He waits to hear our prayer - ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us...’ He answers our prayer - ‘God has blessed us’ (Psalm 67:1, 6-7).
He wants us to ‘be glad and sing for joy’. He wants us to call ‘all the ends of the earth’ to ‘worship Him’ (Psalm 67:4, 7).

In our worship, let us pray the glory of the Lord will fill His Church.
This is not only about the glory of the Temple. It’s about ‘the glory of the God of Israel’. This is the greater glory - ‘the glory of the Lord filled the Temple’ (Ezekiel 43:1, 5).
God is not only concerned about the creation of a beautiful place of worship. He wants our lives to be ‘radiant with His glory’. This happens when ‘the Spirit lifts us up’ and brings us close to God - ‘into the inner court’ (Ezekiel 43:2, 5).
We pray that the glory of the Lord will fill the place of worship: ‘May the fragrance of Jesus fill this place.’ We pray that ‘the glory of Jesus’ will ‘fill His Church’. We are not only praying for God’s glory in the place of worship. We are praying for His glory in our lives: ‘May the beauty of Jesus fill my life... Fill my thoughts, my words, my deeds’ (Mission Praise, 462).

In our worship, let us give all the glory to the Lord.
‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your Name be the glory because of Your love and faithfulness’ (Psalm 115:1).
God loves us. He loves us with a faithful love, ‘an everlasting love’, a ‘love that will not let us go’. His love ‘never comes to an end’. Nothing can separate us from His love (Jeremiah 31:3; Lamentations 3:22-23; Romans 8:38-39; Church Hymnary, 677). What have we done to deserve such love? Absolutely nothing! We are ‘sinners’. We do not deserve to be loved by God. We have done nothing to earn His love. Love begins with God. It comes from Him.
How do we know that He loves us? Have we proved ourselves worthy of His love? No! - ‘God shows His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. ‘To God be the glory!’ (Romans 5:8; Church Hymnary, 374).

As we leave the place of worship, let us take the Gospel with us.
The world is preoccupied with outward appearances. As Christians, we should be more concerned with our inward attitude. ‘In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord’. Pray for His ‘attitude’ - ‘a tender heart and a humble mind’ (1 Peter 3:8, 15; 4:1).
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.

As we go into the world, let us pray that the fruit of the Spirit will be seen in us.
Those who love the Lord are called to a life of obedience - keeping His ‘commandments’, keeping His ‘Word’ (John 14:21, 23).
We cannot live this life in our own strength. Christ must make His home in us (John 14:23).
Once He has come to live in us, we are to abide in Him (John 15:4).
Jesus says to us, ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
You cannot live the Christian life until Christ comes to live in you.
‘The Holy Spirit teaches us all things’ (John 14:26). Christ’s ‘words’ abide in us (John 15:7).
We are called to a life of fruitfulness (John 15:5, 15) - ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: ‘love, joy, peace...’ (Galatians 5:22-23).
Jesus loves us (John 14:21). He gives us His peace (John 14:27). He gives us His joy (John 15:11).
Love, Joy, Peace: Let this ‘fruit’ be seen in us. Let it be shared with others. ‘Love one another... Go and bear fruit... love one another’ (John 15:12, 16-17).

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 or Proverbs 4:10-18; Psalm 119:9-32; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Stephen’s Prayer: An echo of Christ’s words from the Cross
In life and death, Stephen was Christlike. In life and death, he made a great impact.
In life, we see him, ‘full of grace and power’, doing ‘great wonders and signs among the people’. People noticed that ‘his face was like the face of an angel’. Even his enemies took notice of him. Unable to ‘withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke’, they decided that he needed to be silenced. (Acts 6:8, 15, 10-11).
In death, we hear him praying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... Lord, do not hold this sin against them’ (Acts 7:59-60). In Stephen’s words, we hear an echo of Christ’s words from the Cross (Luke 23:34,46).
Stephen was dying. Stephen was praying. Saul was watching. Saul was listening (Acts 7:58). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (Acts 9:4-6)!
David’s Prayer: A foretaste of Christ’s words from the Cross
‘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).

Beyond the Cross, there is Christ’s Resurrection.
‘The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day’ (Proverbs 4:18).
Face the risen Son. His life in us is like the rising sun. It begins with ‘the first gleam of dawn’. It ‘shines ever brighter until the full light of day’'. Christ ‘dawns on us like the morning light’ (2 Samuel 23:4).
In a moment of discovery, we say, ‘It’s just dawned on me’. It is very wonderful when Christ reveals Himself, when He brings us out of our darkness and into His light.
This is just the beginning. There is so much more: ‘No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9).
‘Light has dawned that ever shall blaze... Light a flame within my heart... Let my flame begin to spread’ (Mission Praise, 422; Songs of Fellowship, 339).

Look at Christ. See His love. Drawn by His love, let us follow Him.
The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1, 9, 11, 17).
Many will choose the way of disobedience - ‘influential people sit together and slander me’.
We must choose the way of obedience - ‘Your servant will meditate on Your teachings’ (Psalm 119:23).
Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us - ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20) - and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus... The world behind me, the Cross before me... Though none go with me, I still will follow... No turning back, no turning back’ (Mission Praise, 272).

We follow Christ when we are revived according to God’s Word.
‘Revive me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:25).
How does God revive us according to His Word?
He gives us His salvation: ‘Let Your unfailing love come to me, O Lord - Your salvation according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:41).
He gives us His strength: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to Your Word’ (Psalm 119:28).
He gives us a change of heart: ‘I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on Your laws... I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free... Give me understanding, and I will keep Your law and obey it with my whole heart... Turn my heart to Your testimonies...’ (Psalm 119:30, 32, 34, 36).
He gives us ‘new life’: ‘When someone becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!’ (Psalm 119:40; 2 Corinthians 5:17).

A life revived by God’s Word: this is our privilege and responsibility.
Being ‘God’s own people’ is a great privilege - ‘you have received mercy’. It is also a great responsibility - ‘declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9-10).
God’s people are described as ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Peter 2:11). We must not think of ourselves as ‘superior’- ‘a cut above the rest’. We are not! In ourselves, we are ‘strangers’- ‘without God in the world’. There’s nothing ‘special’ about us, There’s something very special about what God has done for us: ‘In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13).
As those who ‘have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls’, let’s point others to Him who ‘bore our sins...that we might die to sin and live to righteousness’ (1 Peter 2:24-25).

Revived by God’s Word, we look forward to His 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).

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23 or Ezekiel 34:7-15; Psalm 100; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

The Day of the Spirit’s Power
In Acts 2, we read about the Day of Pentecost. It was a great day. The Spirit was poured out on God’s people. Christ was proclaimed to the crowds. Many were brought to faith in Christ. What is to be our response to the God who worked so mightily on the Day of Pentecost. Let us pray for the Spirit’s power. Let us preach Christ. Let us look to God for His blessing.

Preach Christ – the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd.
* Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4).
Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love –
(a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11);
(b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21);
(c) the Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4).
He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25). He is preparing us for our glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’ (Psalm 23:6).
* God speaks to us in love. He says, ‘I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep’ (Ezekiel 34:15).
We rejoice in His love. We say, ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’ (Psalm 23:1).
Jesus is our Shepherd.
He is ‘the good Shepherd’. He laid down His life for us that we might receive the forgiveness of our sins. ‘Christ died for our sins’. He - ‘the Righteous’- died for us - ‘the unrighteous’- ‘to bring us to God’ (John 10:11; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 3:18). He is ‘the great Shepherd’. He was ‘raised’ from the dead’. Through His resurrection, we receive eternal life. He says to us, ‘Because I live you will live also’ (Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:4; John 14:19).
He is ‘the chief Shepherd’. He will come again with ‘the unfading crown of glory’ for His ‘good and faithful servants’ (1 Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:21).

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

Let us look to God for His blessing on our witness.
Being ‘God’s own people’ is a great privilege - ‘you have received mercy’.
It is also a great responsibility - ‘declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9-10).
God’s people are described as ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Peter 2:11).
We must not think of ourselves as ‘superior’- ‘a cut above the rest’. We are not! In ourselves, we are ‘strangers’- ‘without God in the world’. There’s nothing ‘special’ about us, There’s something very special about what God has done for us: ‘In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:12-13).
As those who ‘have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls’, let’s point others to Him who ‘bore our sins...that we might die to sin and live to righteousness’ (1 Peter 2:24-25).

Let us look to God for His blessing on our walk with Him.
The Christian life is not easy.
The devil ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’ (John 10:10).
Satan was working through the religious leaders. They were trying ‘to stone’ Jesus (John 10:31). ‘Again’, they failed (John 10:39). They could not take Jesus’ life. ‘His hour had not yet come’ (John 10:18; 7:30; 8:20).
When Satan attacks us, we must remember this: God is in control. God has given us great promises (John 10:28-29).
Jesus saves. Jesus keeps. His salvation is eternal: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn’t build His home in us to move away. He didn’t lift us up to let us down.’
Satan will cause us plenty of trouble. Be on the alert (1 Peter 5:8). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Looking to Jesus, we are assured of this: Satan will be defeated (Revelation 12:9).

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...