Thursday, 26 October 2017

Lord, You have done so much for us.

Exodus 19:1-25
Lord, You have done so much for us. What are we doing for You? You tell us about Your redemption. You call for our response. Our response is inspired by Your redemption. Thank You for the grace of Your redemption - "By grace you have been saved." Give us the grace to make our response - "Saved through faith for good works" (Ephesians 2:8-10). Lord, help us to have less self-confidence and more confidence in You. Self-confidence is all about us. It has nothing to do with You. Confidence in You is so different. It comes from faith - not from pride. Help us to find our true strength. It's not our strength. It's Your strength.

Lord, show us our pride - and teach us to humble ourselves before You.

Exodus 7:25-8:32
Lord, show us our pride - and teach us to humble ourselves before You. Show us Your power and teach us to trust You to do great things in and through us.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Lord, we thank You that You want to bless us ...

Genesis 27:1-40
Lord, we thank You that You want to bless us - more than we want to be blessed by You. We don't deserve to be blessed - but You keep on blessing us. Help us never to forget to say, "Thank You, Lord." Help us always to treasure Your blessing - and to keep on praying that it will grow and grow and ...

Teach us, Lord, to count our blessings.

Genesis 24:50-67
Teach us, Lord, to count our blessings.
We try to think of all the good things You have done for us, all the great gifts You have given to us.
We cannot keep up with You, Lord. There is so much to count, so much for which we can only say, ‘Thank You, Lord.’

Lord, You are with us – even when we feel that You are far away from us.

Lord, You are with us – even when we feel that You are far away from us.
We think about what’s going on in our life – and we get it all wrong!
We look at what’s happening – and we think that You’ve gone away and left us.
When will we learn? – It’s us who’ve gone away and left you!
We start thinking, ‘You need to come back to me, Lord.’
You’re saying to us, ‘No! You’ve got it all wrong. It’s you that needs to come back to Me.’
Even in our darkest days, You’ve never gone away and left us.
You’ve always been there – all the time.
You’ve always been there – for us.
Thank You, Lord.

Lord, living for You isn’t easy ...

Lord, living for You isn’t easy – Satan makes sure of that!
We try to escape his evil clutches – but he’s always there, and he’s up to no good!
Satan is such a determined enemy. Help us to remind him that he’s a defeated enemy.
We’re often tempted – and we feel so weak.
Help us to tell Satan that Jesus is Lord – and we belong to Jesus!
Satan wins some battles with us. He gives us a hard time. Often, he gets the better of us.
Help us to remind him that the final triumph belongs to Jesus.
Beyond our present conflict, there is His final triumph; “This day the noise of battle, the next the victor’s song” (from “Stand up, stand up for Jesus”).

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Faithful And Fearless Preaching

God’s Word speaks against us so that we might learn not to speak against God’s Word. God calls us to holiness – “Run away from Babylon! Run for your lives!” (Jeremiah 51:6). The final outcome is described in Jeremiah 51:8 – “Babylon will suddenly fall and be shattered.” God is warning us. It is folly to live the world’s way rather than the Lord’s way. In the light of the Lord’s Word, preached so faithfully by Jeremiah, we must learn to pray, “Your will be done, Lord.”

Lord, the world seems so strong – but You are stronger!

Lord, the world seems so strong – but You are stronger!
“The world is ever near … my foes are ever near me … but, Jesus, draw still nearer, and shield my soul from sin” (CH4, 644).
Sometimes, the battle seems to be too much for us. Sometimes, we feel like giving up.
Come to us, Lord. Show us Your love. Without Your love, we are helpless. Our situation is hopeless. Your love brings us help. Your love gives us hope. It’s Your love that makes us “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).

To You, Lord, be all the glory ...

To You, Lord, be all the glory – You have done so many great things for us.
So many blessings – and they all come from You, Lord.
Our sins have been forgiven. You’ve come to live in us.
Such great blessing – but this is just the beginning!
You’re leading us on to eternal life.
Lord, when our heads go down, help us to lift up our eyes.
Help us to “come and see the shining hope.” Help us to look through heaven’s “open door.” Help us to catch a glimpse of “the mighty multitudes of heaven … singing, ‘Alleluia!’ … Love has the victory for ever!” (Mission Praise, 86).

Lord, Your love is greater than our sin.

Lord, Your love is greater than our sin.
You have a great purpose for every one of us – but our sin gets in the way!
You want to make us more like Jesus – but there’s so much of self in us!
You want to lead us in the pathway of victory – but Satan’s always trying to trip us up!
What are we to make of all this? Are we to give up in despair?
No! We must not give up – because You, Lord, never give up on us.
Your love is greater than our sin. You will fulfil Your great purpose in us. You will make us more like Jesus. You will lead us in the pathway of victory.
Our sin shall not triumph over Your love. Satan will be defeated. Your “love has the victory for ever!” (Mission Praise, 86).

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Lord saves me.

“I call on God, and the Lord saves me” (Psalm 55:16) - This is the Psalmist’s testimony. It is followed by his call to others to turn to the Lord and discover how good He is: “Turn your burdens over to the Lord and He will take care of you” (Psalm 55:22). “I praise the Word of God, I trust God, I am not afraid. What can mere flesh and blood (mortals) do to me?” (Psalm 56:4,10-11). “My heart is confident, O God, I want to sing and make music... I want to give thanks to You among the people, O Lord, I want to make music to praise You among the nations because Your mercy is as high as the heavens. Our truth reaches the skies. May You be honoured above the heavens, O God. Let Your glory extend over the whole earth” (Psalm 57:7,9-11). As we praise God, He leads us forward in His triumph.

Lord, we thank You that You are always with us ...

Genesis 15:1-21
Lord, we thank You that You are always with us – even when bad things are happening to us.

Lord, sometimes, we feel like we’re stuck in a rut.

Lord, sometimes, we feel like we’re stuck in a rut.
When we feel like this, help us to see that You’ve moved on ahead of us. You’re calling us on – into Your future!
Do we need to see exactly where You’re leading us? – No! We don’t! We just need to keep on following You.
The future may be unknown to us – but it’s never unknown to You!
“Face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you. Look to the One who can put your past behind you. Be the one you were born to be – Don’t you want to be free? … There'll be brighter days ahead” (Garry Brotherston).
Lord, let there be no more fear of an unknown future. Help us to look to the Son. Help us to know that, with Him, we can never be stuck in a rut! Help us to move forward with Him and for Him.

A Call For A Christ-Centred Life

The concluding message, preached by Joshua, is a call for the people to exalt the Lord. They make a definite and public commitment to the Lord. The Christ-centredness of real commitment to the Lord is summed up in the words of John the Baptist: "He must become greater; I must become less" (John 3:30). We must confess Christ and honour Him - "The One who comes from heaven is above all" (John 3:31). We must listen to what He says to us - "The One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit" (John 3:34). It will not be easy to live a life of true commitment to Christ. Nevertheless, we have God's promise: "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22).

Overwhelmed By Problems?

In Psalms 41-43, we see the Psalmist encountering great difficulties. He is not, however, overwhelmed by his problems. Each of these Psalms ends on the triumphant note of praise: “Thank the Lord God of Israel through all eternity!” (Psalm 41:13); “Put your hope in God, because I will still praise Him. He is my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:11; Psalm 43:5).

Our Shepherd, Our Strength - The Lord Saves And Satisfies.

Blessed by the God of love, called to be “His people, the flock of His pasture”we “praise” Him and “give thanks” to Him (Psalm 79:13). He is our “Shepherd” (Psalm 80:1). He restores our soul. He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake (Psalm 23). He is “our Strength.” In Him, we rejoice with true happiness (Psalm 81:1). “All the nations” belong to the Lord (Psalm 82:8). He is “the Most High God of the whole earth” (Psalm 83:18). Those who know the Lord as their Shepherd and their Strength, the One who “saves” (Psalm 80:19) and “satisfies” (Psalm 81:16), are to pray and work, with the goal of bringing others to the knowledge of Him.

Divine Grace And Human Sin

Divine grace - “But He is compassionate. He forgave their sin. He did not destroy them. He restrained His anger many times. He did not display all of His fury” (Psalm 78:38) - and human sin - “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness! How often they caused Him grief in the desert! Again and again, they tested God and they pushed the Holy One of Israel to the limit. They did not remember His power ... “ (Psalm 78:40-43): This is the story of human history. When God’s love is thrown back at Him by persistently rebellious sinners, there will be divine judgment - “They tested God Most High and rebelled against Him ... When God heard, He became furious ... “ (Psalm 78:56-64). Where God is angry, it can lead to restoration - “ ... He struck His enemies from behind He built His holy place to be like the high heavens ... He chose His servant David ... ” (Psalm 78:65-72).

Tell The Good News.

"Tell the good news! ... Here is your God" (Isaiah 40:9). "I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will support you with My victorious right hand"  (Isaiah 41:10)."I am the Lord, that is My Name. I will not give glory to anyone else or the praise I deserve to idols" (Isaiah 42:8). The preacher of the Good News is called to proclaim salvation, bringing glory to God alone - zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners.

Our love for God - a response to His love for us

This book (Song of Solomon) can be read at two different levels. At the human level, it’s a celebration of the love between a man and a woman. At the spiritual level, it inspires us to appreciate, more truly and more fully, the great love which Christ has for us. As we grow in our awareness of Christ’s amazing love for us, we are called to love Him more. His love comes first. We must never forget this. His love is an everlasting love. Our love for Him can never be any more than a response to His love for us.

The Lord Is My Light ...

“The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1).
“They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 22:5).
No fear of a power cut! This is brighter than the Eurovision Song Contest!
“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
The “light” that brightens up our life is the light of God’s “salvation.” It’s the Saviour who brings us out of darkness. He brings us into His light. This light gives us strength. God’s salvation is more than forgiveness for the past. It is strength for every day.

Real Listening ...

Real Listening, A Real Turning To The Lord And A Real Sense Of His Blessing (Psalm 85:8)
We are to pray for real listening - ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord - ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing - ‘He will speak peace to His people’(Psalm 85:8).

Take your problem to the Lord.

"O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake ... " (Daniel 9:19).
"O Lord" - This is prayer. We do not take our problem to everyone else but the Lord. We take our problem to the Lord.
"Hear" and "listen" - There can be a very real difference between hearing and listening. Something is said in our hearing, but we're not listening. When something is important, we say, "Are you listening?" Why do we want to make sure that the hearer is paying attention to what we're saying? - Because it's important to us. When we say to the Lord, "Hear"  and "listen", we're saying, "Lord, this is important to me."
"Forgive" and "act" - We want to break free from our past. We want to be set free for God's future. Don't let my past sins hinder my future blessing. Send Your blessing, Lord. That's what we're praying for when we say, "Lord, forgive and act."
"Do not delay for Your own sake, my God" - This is urgent prayer. Why are we to pray with urgency? Is it because we want to get blessing for ourselves? There is more than that here. There is the glory of God. The more we are learning to love God, the more we will pray that He will be glorified. Our prayers will be less about getting things for ourselves. They will be more about giving glory to God. Let the blessing come to us - but let all the glory go to the Lord.

Sing with joy ...

Jeremiah 31:7-14

“Sing with joy” (Jeremiah 31:7,12-13).
This is to be our response to the Gospel. It’s more than a singalong. It’s “praise.” This praise continues after we leave the place of worship.
“Shout” - “I am not ashamed” (Romans 1:16).
“Proclaim” - Make the message known: “for the Good News” (Romans 1:1,5-6).
This for everyone (Jeremiah 31:8,10).
We come as we are - “blind” and “lame” (Jeremiah 31:8). We come to our “Shepherd” (Jeremiah 31:10). He has “ransomed” us. He has “redeemed” us from the “power” of Satan, Our enemy is stronger than we are, but he is not stronger than Jesus - “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:40.
With Christ in our life, everything changes - “new wine, fresh oil... Their life will be... They will be no longer...” (Jeremiah 31:12). It is “abundant” life, a “satisfied” life (Jeremiah 31:14). We have received new life in Christ - “This is the Lord’s declaration concerning us (Jeremiah 31:14).

Standing!

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing in your gates, Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:2).
* Standing – in the House of the Lord! In life’s many trying times, we are put to the test – Will we stand? Will we fall?
* Standing – in the house of the Lord! Let’s never imagine that we can stand in our own strength – “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
* Standing – in the House of the Lord: We stand when we put our trust in the Lord. We stand when we build our life on Him.

Do not trust in deceptive words ...

"Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,  the temple of the Lord!”... Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 7:4,11).
Jeremiah spoke to the people of his own day. He speaks to us as well. Don't let the place where you worship become more important than it really is. This is what he says to us. These are not only the words of Jeremiah. This is the Word of the Lord. What's happening in our hearts when we are gathered together in the House of the Lord? Are we thinking to ourselves, "I never miss a church service - not like those who've stopped coming to church"? What kind of "worship" is this? Lord, take us to the heart of worship. Give us a worshipping heart.

Everlasting Love

"I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).
God loves us. This isn’t for some perfect people who’ve never fallen into sin. There’s nobody who’s like that. All of us have made a mess of things – but God still says to us, “I love you.” He says, “My Son, Jesus, died for you.” This is what gives us the strength to choose His way rather than our own way. This is what keeps us from sin. This is what convinces us that there’s a better way than the way of sin. There’s a way of blessing. It comes to us when we’re learning how much God loves us. He doesn’t give up on us when we let Him down. He keeps on loving us. He keeps on lifting us up. He sets us on our feet. He changes the direction of our life. It becomes less about ourselves, and more about Him (Galatians 2:20).

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’ (Jeremiah 31:3).
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).
Where do God’s peace and joy come from? They come from His love. It’s the greatest love of all (Ephesians 3:18). There’s nothing like the love of God. His peace is great. His joy is great. His love is even greater. This is where His blessing comes from. He loves us. He loves us with “an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). It’s a love that will not let us go. It’s a love that goes on forever. When we say, “May God’s blessing surround you each day”, what we’re saying is this: May you know that God loves you; may you know that He’s never going to stop loving you; may you know the blessing of His love.

The Third Day!

Genesis 1:13 - “the third day”
We read these words, and our thoughts move forward to the mighty miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead – “on the third day God raised Him from the dead.”

Being With Jesus And Learning From Him

Mark 3:1-19
Jesus' ministry of preaching, teaching and healing was a remarkable ministry - but He did not go it alone. He called disciples to be with Him and learn from Him. How much do we know about these men? We know quite a lot about some of them. There are others about whom we know nothing at all. Do we need to know a lot about all of the apostles? No! We need to know about Jesus. The Saviour is more important than the servants. The message is more important than the messengers. This is a very important lesson. This is a lesson that we all need to learn. This is a lesson that we must never forget. Before we can work for the Lord, we are to "be with Him." We are to speak for Him (Mark 3:14). We are to pray that people will be changed (Mark 3:15).

Blessing - From The Lord

Psalm 24:1-10

“The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3) - That’s Jesus. “He will receive a blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 24:5).
How do we receive this blessing? We must receive it through Jesus. We must open our hearts to “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7,9). He will lead us on to “the mountain of the Lord”, to “His holy place” (Psalm 24:3).

From Revelation To Revival

Ezekiel 37:1-14

God calls us to speak His Word. First, we must receive His Gospel. We must see ourselves as sinners. We must see Jesus as our Saviour. The Word of the Lord is to be encouraging, challenging and life-changing. We will not always be on the mountain-top. Often, we will be down in the valley. We will need to be lifted up by the Lord.
As we move from the world of the Bible to the world of today, we must ask the question, “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3), and we must listen to God’s answer to this question. Humanly speaking, the answer is “No.” God gives us a different answer. He says, “Yes.” God’s answer is given by grace. It is to be spoken in faith. It is the answer that comes to us when the Spirit of the Lord is at work in us (Ezekiel 37:1). It is the answer that comes from revelation. It is the answer that leads to revival.


A New Song - A Song Of Salvation

The world sings its songs. They do not sing the song of the Lord. There is a song which can only be sung by those who have been saved by the Lord. It is "a new song." It is the song of "salvation." Saved by the Lord, we sing to Him our song of "thanksgiving." We think of what the Lord has done for us and we say, "Praise the Lord!" (Psalm 149:1).

Serving the Lord arises out of worshipping Him.

Isaiah 6:1-13 

Serving the Lord arises out of worshipping Him.
 * We proclaim His holiness: "Holy, holy, holy... " (Isaiah 6:3).  
 * We confess our sin: "Woe is me" (Isaiah 6:5) - a personal confession.
Before we can speak the words, "Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8), we must hear the words, "Your sin has been forgiven" (Isaiah 6:7).
We are to be faithful in speaking God's Word. This involves our lips (Isaiah 6:7). It also involves our lives. Serving the Lord means more than paying lip-service to Him. We are to serve Him with our lives.
Is there any guarantee that we will bear much fruit?
The parable of the sower says that our fruit may be 100, 60 or 30 times what was sown (Matthew 13:23). The parable of the talents says that one talent could become two; two could become four; five could become ten (Matthew 21:14-30).
What does Isaiah 6 say to us about bearing fruit for the Lord?
There is a word of realism. Many people will pay no attention to us and to our Lord (Isaiah 6:9-10). 
There is a word of faith, a word of hope - "the holy seed is the stump" (Isaiah 6:13).
We may say, Lord, we're looking for more than a "stump."
God says to us, Even  when "the land is ruined and desolate", even when "the people" are "far away", even when there is "great emptiness in the land" (Isaiah 6:11-12), there is still hope, and we must keep on working for the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Conviction Of Sin, Conversion To The Saviour

Jeremiah was fearless in his preaching of God’s Word. He spoke the truth. He spoke the Word which had been given to him by the Lord. When God speaks the Word of His holiness, the Word which exposes sin for what it really is, there is no place to hide. When we read Jeremiah’s words about Israel’s enemies, we must recognize that the Word of God concerning sin must be spoken clearly. It is only when there is conviction of sin that there can be conversion to the Saviour.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Is there still hope of God's blessing?

Jeremiah speaks of God’s judgment - “I’m bringing disaster and widespread destruction ...” (Jeremiah 4:6). This message comes to us as a word of warning, a plea to the people to return to the Lord and find His mercy - “So put on sackcloth, mourn and cry because the Lord’s burning anger hasn’t turned away from us” (Jeremiah 4:8). This is the call to repentance. We read of God’s burning anger, and we wonder,”Is there still the hope of God’s blessing?” God is speaking of His judgment - “Nation of Israel, I’m going to bring a nation from far away to attack you,declares the Lord, I won’t destroy all of you” (Jeremiah 5:15,18). God’s Word  concerning the threat of judgment is a call to the people to honour Him as God: “Pay attention to My warning, Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you. I will make your land desolate ...” (Jeremiah 6:8). The ministry of Jeremiah differs from the ministry of the false prophets. They say, “Everything is alright!” He says, “It’s not alright! (Jeremiah 6:14). Jeremiah calls upon the people to make a new beginning with God - “Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask which paths are the old reliable paths. Ask which way leads to blessings. Live that way, and find a resting place for yourselves” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The “Rock of our salvation”

Isaiah speaks words of prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the “Rock of our salvation”, the “precious Cornerstone”, the “solid Foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ gives us the blessings of God’s salvation – “the deaf will hear the words, written in the book. The blind will see out of their gloom and darkness. Humble people again will find joy in the Lord” (Isaiah 29:18-19). With the Gospel proclamation – in Christ, there is full salvation – comes an appeal to come to Him and receive the blessings, promised to us by the God of love: “This is what the Almighty Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, You can be saved by returning to Me. You can have rest. You can be strong by being quiet and by trusting Me” (Isaiah 30:15). The Lord is looking for our response. He longs to pour out His blessing on those who put their trust in Him: “The Lord is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 30:18). To those who put their trust in Him,the Lord gives His promise. He will lead them in the pathway of obedience, which is the highway of holiness – “You will hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way. Follow it” (Isaiah 30:21).

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The coming Saviour and the coming Kingdom

Isaiah 10 speaks of a divine judgment, in which the only “survivors” will be those who “depend on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 10:20). Isaiah 11 contains a Messianic prophecy. These are words, which point forward to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. They are words of the coming Kingdom (Isaiah 11:1-10). Isaiah 12 contains a hymn of praise to God: “I will praise You, O Lord” (Isaiah 12:1), which is followed by a call to praise God – “Praise the Lord …” (Isaiah 12:4-6). This is a short chapter. It only has six verses. Its words are very precious. We can come to these words, again and again, and experience the fulfilment of the Lord’s precious promise: “With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). This is the “living water”, which is Christ Himself.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Wisdom for living

Practical wisdom, wisdom for living  - this is what we have in Proverbs. The teaching of Proverbs is base on the principle: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 1:7). This does not mean that God is mentioned frequently. In Proverbs 25 - 27, there is only one mention of God (Proverbs 25:2). The concern is with life on earth, our relationships with our fellow human beings. These relationships are to be lived out from the godly perspective which comes from "the fear of the Lord."

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Special Days – Dedication / Anniversary: Genesis 28:10-22; Psalm 48: (1-8), 9-14; 1 Corinthians 3:9-17; Matthew 12:1-8


A night to remember – blessing from the Lord, dedication to the Lord
Just another night (Genesis 28:11)? No! This was a night to remember, a night Jacob would never forget. God came to him with His wonderful promise of love: ‘I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you’ (Genesis 28:15). At Bethel (‘the house of God’), powerfully transformed by the presence of God - ‘Surely the Lord is in this place’ (Genesis 28:16) - , Jacob consecrated himself to the Lord. ‘If’ (Genesis 28:20) means ‘Since’. See Romans 8:31 - ‘If (Since) God is for us, who can be against us?’ Giving the tenth (Genesis 28:22) - this is not legalism, a kind of repayment scheme. There can be no ‘salvation by works’. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our giving must always be a heartfelt expression of thanksgiving to the God of grace: ‘Loving Him who first loved me’. We are saved ‘to do good works’ (Ephesians 2:10) - not because we do good works!

Our worship does end in God’s House. Let His praise go to the ends of the earth.
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised’ (Psalm 48:1). We worship God in the place of worship - ‘Within Your Temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love’. Our worship must not end there. We are to play our part in seeing that the praise of the Lord ‘reaches to the ends of the earth’. We are to ‘be glad’ in the Lord. We are to ‘rejoice’ in Him (Psalm 48:9-11). We must not keep this joy to ourselves. The Lord is ‘the joy of all the earth.’ We must share His joy. We are to ‘tell the next generation.’ How will they know if we do not tell them? Many are slow to come and worship the Lord. We must not be slow to witness for Him. Let’s remember God’s promise - ‘My Word...will not return to Me empty, but will...achieve the purpose for which I sent it’ - and let’s say - ‘Here am I. Send me!’ (Isaiah 55:11; 6:8).

Let Jesus take the highest honour. Let His Name be high over all.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’ - ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’(John 3:30). Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’ (Mission Praise, 378, 385) - Let’s say it and mean it!

Let us commit ourselves afresh to the service of Christ.
Much of Jesus’ ministry was carried out under the watchful eye of the Pharisees. The controversy with the Pharisees was intensifying (Matthew 12:2, 14). The Pharisees were out to get Jesus. For all their religion, they had no time for Jesus. Still, there are the critics, those who try to undermine our faith in Christ, those who attempt to draw us away from serving Christ. We must remain resolute in our faith, believing what God says concerning His Son: ‘Here is my Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, in whom I delight’ (Matthew 12:18; 3:17; 17:5). As we read of Jesus, the chosen Servant of God, loved by the Father and bringing delight to the Father's heart, we should give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 1: 4-6), and we should commit ourselves afresh to the service of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Special Days – St. Andrew’s Day: Zechariah 8:20-23; Psalm 87; Romans 10:8b-15; Matthew 4:12-20

Let us pray that the Spirit will be poured upon us from on high.
When people stop listening to God’s Word, their life becomes ‘a desolate wasteland’ (Zechariah 7:11-14). What are we to do when we see this happening? - ‘Do not be afraid... Be strong’. We must keep on believing God’s promise: ‘I will save you, and you will be a blessing’. We must keep on praying that our faithful witness will bring others to the Lord: ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’ (Zechariah 8:13, 23). We must pray that ‘the Spirit will be poured upon us from on high and the desert will become a fertile field.’ ‘Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father’ (Isaiah 32:15; Matthew 5:15-16).

Through the power of the Spirit, we are born again.
‘Glorious things are said of you, O city of God... The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion”. As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in You”’ (Psalm 87:3, 6-7). The ‘city of God’ is our glorious destination - ‘we are looking for the city that is to come’, ‘the Holy City’ (Hebrews 13:14; Revelation 21:2). It is also the place of our heavenly birth - ‘This one was born in Zion’. The heavenly birth - This is where our journey to the ‘city of God’ begins: ‘No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above’ (John 3:3). Between our heavenly birth and our glorious destination, there is life in the Spirit: The Psalmist says, ‘All my fountains are in You.’ Jesus says, ‘Rivers of living water shall flow from the heart of anyone who believes in Me’ (John7:38).

The Spirit leads us to call upon the Name of the Lord and be saved.
To ‘Jew and Gentile’, God says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:12-13). The Jews had praised the Lord Jesus: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’. Before long, they were shouting, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ (John 12:12-13; 19:6). We rejoice that the Gospel has now come to the Gentiles. We remember also that God still ‘holds out His hands to Israel’ (Romans 10:19-21). Still, Christ says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem... How often would I have gathered your children together...’ (Luke 13:34). ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’, for the advance of the Gospel among the Jews (Psalm 122:6). Pray also for the ‘voice’of the Gospel, ‘going out into all the earth’ (Romans 10:18). Pray that ‘faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard’ (Romans 10:17).

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

Special Days – Remembrance Day: Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 20; Revelation 22:1-5; Matthew 5:38-48


Looking back and looking forward
‘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).

Jesus Christ is our Saviour. Let us bring our song of praise to Him.
‘We boast of the Name of the Lord our God...Through the steadfast love of the Most High’ we ‘shall not be moved’ (Psalms 20:7; 21:7). We do not trust in things that ‘collapse and fall.’ We build on ‘the Rock’ (20:8; Matthew 7:24-27; Psalms 18:1-3; 62:5-7). We ‘rejoice’ in our God. He has made us ‘most blessed for ever’ (Psalm 21:1, 6; Ephesians 1:3). Think of Jesus Christ your Saviour. He is absolutely trustworthy. He is completely dependable. His love is an ‘unfailing love’ (Psalm 21:7). In Him, there is salvation. In Him, there is joy. With His strong and powerful love, He has saved us. He has given us ‘a new song’ to sing, ‘a song of praise to our God’ (Psalm 40:1-3). Let us lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise and worship: ‘Be exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength! We will sing and praise Thy power’ (Psalm 21:13).

Come to Christ and dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.
God has given us a glimpse of a future which is heavenly, eternal and glorious: ‘the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God’. Is this ‘eternal life’ for everyone? Will all people ‘dwell in the House of the Lord for ever?’ Will everyone be saved? Is this what the Word of God teaches? ‘God wants everyone to be saved.’ He wants everyone to ‘come to the knowledge of the truth’, to ‘come to repentance.’ Sadly, there are many who ‘refuse to love the truth and so be saved’ (Revelation 21:10-11; John 3:16; Psalm 23:6; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:10). Who will be saved? - ‘only those, whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life’. ‘Come’ to Christ - ‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they...may go through the gates into the city’ (Revelation 21:27; 22:17,14).

Trusting in Christ’s love, we learn to love.
The Pharisees lived by law. Jesus lived by love. The law of God - ‘holy and just and good’ (Romans 7:12) - had been distorted by the religious hypocrites. They were saying, ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’ (Matthew 5:43). ‘Love your neighbour’ is found in Leviticus 19:18. ‘Hate your enemy’is not found in the Old Testament. For the Jews, ‘neighbour’ meant their own kind. They wrongly concluded that Gentiles were to be hated. Jesus’parable of the Good Samaritan makes it clear that we are to love our enemies as well as our friends (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus’ disagreement is not with the law of God. It is with man’s misuse of it. Jesus’teaching is simple - Love is not to be limited. It is demanding - love is all-embracing. We dare not bring love within our reach. We always fall short. We can only come to Christ. Confessing our lack of love and trusting in His perfect love, we learn to love.

Special Days – All Saints: Revelation 7:9-17 or Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 34:1-10, 22; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12

Looking at things with Christ’s eyes
Christ invites us to ‘come’ (Revelation 6:1, 3, 5, 7) - and look at things through His eyes. With Him, we look at earth. With Him, we look at heaven. Troubled world, tremendous worship - These are the things we see when we look through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our world is deeply troubled. Heaven’s worship is absolutely tremendous. Of all our many ‘troubles’, the greatest is this: We are sinners, and none of us ‘can stand’ before ‘the face of Him who sits on the throne’. Our earthly ‘troubles’ are nothing compared with this! There is hope. There is a way of ‘salvation’. We can be saved through ‘the blood of the Lamb’. If, however, we turn from Him - ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’- there will be no hope. We will face ‘the wrath of the Lamb’ (Revelation 4:16-17; 5:10, 14; John 1:29). Will you be saved - or lost?

Listening to God and speaking for God
‘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).

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
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).

Our full enjoyment of eternal life is still to come.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of God’, we receive ‘eternal life’ (1 John 2:22-25; John 20:31). Our enjoyment of eternal life has already begun - ‘we are God’s children now.’ Our full enjoyment of eternal life is still to come: ‘It does not yet appear what we shall be...’. We have begun to experience Christ’s victory: ‘The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil’. We look forward to our full enjoyment of His victory: ‘When He appears, we shall be like Him...’ (1 John 3:2, 8). Some will try to ‘deceive’us. We must keep our eyes on Christ - ‘He laid down His life for us’. We have received His ‘love’. We must show His love - ‘Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:7, 16, 18). Do you believe in Christ? Live the life. Be a believer - in deed’!

We have begun to enjoy God’s blessing. Let’s share it with others.
Here, in Matthew 5:1-2, we have the introduction to ‘the Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5-7). Reference is made to both ‘the disciples’ and ‘the crowds’. The disciples are taught with a view to becoming teachers of the crowds. Peter learned from Christ and later he taught the crowds (Acts 2:14-42). The Sermon on the Mount was heard by the crowds as well as the disciples. Jesus spoke to the crowds. His ministry to the disciples had a dual purpose. It was for their own spiritual strengthening. It was training for the time when they would be entrusted with the Lord's commission: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’(Matthew 28:19-20). Do you read God’s Word solely for your own benefit? Or, do we have an eye for ways in which we can learn to share His Word with others?
‘The Beatitudes’ show us God’s way of blessing. We might also describe them as the Be Attitudes, since they show us what we are to be. Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness is the way of holiness. The only alternative to the way of holiness is the way of hypocrisy. There can be no true happiness when we are walking in the way of hypocrisy. Holiness is to take shape in our lives - the shape of Jesus Christ living in us. This is the truly happy life: the Christ-centered life. We are not to live according to present appearances. We are to live in the light of the future Reality of God's heavenly Kingdom. Some of Jesus’later statements can be viewed as an exploration of the meaning of the Beatitudes. The general principles (Matthew 5:3-10) are to be applied personally: ‘Blessed are you...’ (Matthew 5:11-12). We are not only to read the Beatitudes. We are to live them.

Special Days – Michaelmas: 2 Kings 6:8-17; Psalm 103:19-22; Revelation 12:7-12a; Matthew 18:1-6, 10


Our love for God is grounded in His love for us.
Elisha was ‘the man of God’ (2 Kings 6:6, 9, 15). This was the important thing about him. More than anything else, he was ‘the man of God’. We find the same phrase in 1 Timothy 6:11 - ‘But as for you, man of God,… aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’. We are to be people who put first things first. There is nothing more important than this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’. Does this seem too heavenly-minded? Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Luke 10:27). We are not to be super-spiritual. We are to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Let there be no conflict between loving God and loving our neighbour. Christ is our Lord. We serve others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
‘Praise the Lord’ (Psalm 103:1-2, 20-22). Let’s praise Him for His ‘steadfast love’. He is ‘abounding in steadfast love’ (Psalm 103:8). How are we to respond to His ‘steadfast love’? Are we to say, ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’? No! We must not think like this. We’re not to say, ‘I’ll keep on sinning. God will keep on forgiving’ (Romans 6:1-2). God’s Word tells us something very different. Loved by God, we learn to love Him. When God’s ‘steadfast love’has really touched our hearts, it changes our lives. This is the great change which the Psalmist has in mind when he writes, ‘As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him... The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him’ (Psalm 103:11, 17). Let’s thank God for His love - and live to please Him!

Listening to the Word of God and obeying the Word of God
In Genesis 3:1, we read of ‘the serpent’. Here he is again - ‘that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan’. He is a powerful enemy. He ‘leads the whole world astray’. He is a determined enemy. ‘Day and night’, he is busy, accusing God’s children. He is a defeated enemy. ‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...’ This is not only Christ’s victory over Satan. This is our victory in Christ, the victory Christ has won for us. Why is Satan so busy? It’s because ‘he knows his time is short’ (Revelation 12:9-12). How are we to take our stand against Satan? We must listen to the Word of God: ‘He who has an ear, let him hear’. We must obey the Word of God: ‘This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness...’ (Revelation 13:9). Christ has won the victory for us. Let us claim His victory by faith.

Let there be love shared among us.
From Jesus’ reply to the question: ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ (Matthew 18:1), we learn much about the valued place children are to have among us. Our attitude to children is to be marked by humility, respect, responsibility and - above all - love. (a) humility: We teach the children. We can learn from them (Matthew 18:2-4). (b) respect: Physically, we may look down on them. Spiritually, we must ‘not look down’on them (Matthew 18:10). They are to be highly valued. (c) responsibility: What kind of influence do we have on the children? - This is a question of the greatest importance (Matthew 18:6). (d) love: Our ‘Father in heaven’loves the children (Matthew 18:14). The kind of welcome we give to children shows the kind of welcome we give to ‘Jesus’ who ‘loves the little children’ (Matthew 18:5). May God help us not to fail the rising generation.

Special Days – Harvest Festival: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 145:8-21; Revelation 14:14-18; Matthew 13:24-33


Break the vicious circle and get on to God’s victorious circle.
The people of Israel had a testimony. They had been redeemed by the God of love. Thankful for His love and salvation, they brought their offerings to the Lord (Deuteronomy 26:5-9). The call to obedience is grounded in the gift of salvation. Redeemed by the Lord, we are called to be ‘a people holy to the Lord our God’ (Deuteronomy 26:16-19). There is no privilege without responsibility. Israel was privileged: God was giving them ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’. Israel was responsible: God was saying to them, ‘Keep all the commandments which I command you this day’ (Deuteronomy 27:1-3). God blesses us. We obey Him. We enjoy more of His blessing. This leads us to obey Him more. Break the ‘vicious circle’. Get on to God’s ‘victorious circle’: He shows us His love. We love Him. He shows us more of His love. We love Him more... (John 14:21).

God is great. His love is great. His faithfulness is great.
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. Let us worship our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3). The God whom we worship is so much greater than the worship we bring to Him. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration’. We celebrate His great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’. We rejoice in His great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’. Here on earth, we have only begun to worship our great God. Our worship will continue in His ‘everlasting Kingdom’. There, we will ‘praise His Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8, 13, 21).

Think of the great things that God has done and give all the glory to Him.
With ‘patient endurance’, we are to ‘obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus’ (Revelation 14:12), This will not be easy. Satan will do all that he can to defeat us. How can we be ‘victorious’ over him? We must rejoice in all that God has done for His people, Israel. He delivered them from their bondage in Egypt. We sing ‘the song of Moses’. Beyond the great event of the Exodus, there is something even more wonderful. We rejoice in what God has done for us - ‘In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself’. We sing ‘the song of the Lamb’ (Revelation 15:2-3; Deuteronomy 7:7-8; 2 Corinthians 5:19). we hear God’s call - ‘Fear God and give Him glory’. We consider His ‘great and marvellous deeds’. In our hearts, we say, ‘Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to Your Name’ (Revelation 14:7; 15:3-4).

Sow the seed of God’s Word and pray that there will be a great spiritual harvest.
Jesus’ parables are so rich in spiritual content. They speak with an indirectness which is very direct! They may be parabolic in form, but they do go right to the heart of the matter in a way that is very challenging. The parable of the ‘wheat and the weeds’ (Matthew 13:24-30, with explanation given in Matthew 13:36-43) contrasts a real believing response to Christ with an empty profession of faith in Him. There is also something else - leave judgment to God. He knows those who are His and those who are not. The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) is a word of encouragement - Do not give up hope that the seed of God’s Word is growing, slowly and surely, in the hearts of those who do not appear to be bearing much fruit. The parable of the yeast is also encouraging - What a difference even a few believers can make to a whole community!

Special Days – Springtime: Genesis 8:15-22; Psalm 65:9-13; Galatians 6:7-10; Matthew 6:24-30

Christ has taken away our sin. Let us rejoice in Him.
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.
‘Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord’ (Psalm 64:10). True joy in the Lord is not just a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last for very long. When our ‘praise’ to the Lord is real, it leads to a changed life: ‘O God’, we will ‘keep our promises to You’ (Psalm 65:1). Jesus shows us the great difference between a passing emotion, a feeling which doesn’t last, and a true conversion which leads to a changed life. He speaks of those who ‘receive the Word with joy, ... endure for a while’ and then ‘fall away’. He speaks also of those who ‘hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit’ (Mark 4:3-9, 16-17, 20). How do you worship the Lord? Are you looking for a good feeling - and nothing more than that? God is looking for more. He wants us to live as ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Christ has given us new life. Let us live for Him.
What are we praying for when we ask God to fill us with His Spirit? We are praying ‘for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’. This is ‘the fruit of the Spirit’(Galatians 5:22-23). How are we to be filled with the Spirit? How does the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives? We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, saying in our hearts, ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world’ (Galatians 6:14). ‘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). Looking to Him, let’s concentrate on the one thing that really matters - living as ‘a new creation’ (Galatians 6:15).
On the one side of Christ’s disciples, there are the hypocrites. On the other side, there are ‘the Gentiles’ (Matthew 6:32). The hypocrites represent religion without reality. The Gentiles represent the world, living for material things only, refusing to take spiritual realities seriously. We are to be different from both the hypocrites and the Gentiles. Our top priority is pleasing God, not impressing men. We are to live for God’s eternal Kingdom rather than living for a world which is passing away. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. Our life is to be governed by heavenly, and not earthly, priorities (Matthew 6:19-21). We are to walk in the light, refusing to be overcome by the darkness (Matthew 6:22-23). We are to trust the Lord, refusing to let unbelieving anxiety rule our lives (Matthew 6:25-34).

Special Days – Presentation of the Lord: Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

The Lord calls us to return to Him.
God calls us to be His faithful people. He says, ‘Return to Me.’ He promises to bless those who return to Him: ‘I will return to you’. God calls us to honour Him with our ‘tithes and offerings: ‘Bring the whole tithe (tenth) into the storehouse...’ When we honour the Lord, He has promised that He will honour us: ‘Those who honour Me, I will honour’. When we honour the Lord with our obedience, He promises that He will honour us with His blessing. He promises to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down for us an overflowing blessing’. Satan - ‘the devourer’- will be defeated. We will ‘serve God’. He will take ‘delight’ in us. We will be His ‘treasured possession’ (Malachi 3:8-12, 17-19; 1 Samuel 2:30).

Open the door of your heart to Jesus. He will come in.
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).

Receive Christ and become a child of God.
God invites each of us to receive a great blessing - the blessing of being His ‘children’ (Hebrews 2:13). We become God’s children through faith in Christ: ‘To all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God’ (John 1:12). What will you do with God’s great invitation, His invitation of love? Will you receive Christ and become a child of God? Will you miss out on the blessing ‘because of unbelief’ (Hebrews 3:19)? God is waiting for your answer - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 3:7, 15). Throughout life, we must guard against ‘an evil, unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God’. ‘Every day’, we must take care that we do not become ‘hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’ (Hebrews 3:12-13). As God’s children, let’s grow in Christ (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).

Let us follow Jesus. Be filled with the Spirit. Walk in the Spirit.
Jesus ‘fulfilled all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). His circumcision and presentation to the Lord was ‘according to the law of Moses’ (Luke 2:21-24; Leviticus 12:1-8). Jesus’ obedience was always more than mere conformity to ‘the written code’. He was walking ‘in the Spirit’. He was filled with ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3,6). His obedience came ‘from the heart’ and His ‘praise’ came ‘not from men but from God’ (Romans 6:17; 2:29). What joy there was for Simeon and Anna! This was ‘salvation’, ‘redemption’ (Luke 2:30, 38). As you journey through life, don’t ‘lose Jesus’ (Luke 2:43-45). Keep close to Him! If you do ‘lose Him’, where will you find Him again? - ‘In the temple’ (Luke 2:46). Have you lost your way? Find your way back to ‘the sanctuary of God’ - and things will start to fall into place again (Psalm 73:16-17)!

Special Days – Christian Unity: Ezekiel 37:15-24; Psalm 122; 1 Corinthians 3:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20

As we we come to God’s House, let us pray, “Holy Spirit, we welcome You.”
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).
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’ (Psalm 123:3). We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalm 123:2; 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus Christ and He sends us out for Jesus Christ.
We come to know God when ‘the Spirit’ leads us to ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 3:11; John 16:14). We must not attach too much importance to the preachers - ‘What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants...’. When we make too much of the servant, we draw attention away from the Saviour. There is a very important lesson here - ‘Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). We are not members of a ‘mutual appreciation society’ - ‘You pat my back, and I’ll pat yours’! We must learn to point to Jesus, saying, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30). Let ‘Jesus take the highest honour’. Let His Name be ‘the Name high over all’. ‘’Tis all my business... to cry Behold the Lamb!’ (Mission Praise, 378, 385) - Let’s say it and mean it!
Why is it so important that we ‘make disciples’ (Matthew 28:19)? There is a devil, and he is doing his utmost to hinder the progress of God’s truth. He spreads lies about Christ - ‘to this day’ he is still sowing seeds of unbelief (Matthew 28:11-15). We must combat the enemy of Christ - with words of truth, with the believing declaration, ‘He has risen’ (Matthew 28:6-7). Satan failed to halt the progress of the Gospel. Christ’s disciples rose to the challenge, and so must we: ‘Rise up, you champions of God... We’ll reach this generation... Go forth! Jesus loves them. Go forth! Take the Gospel. Go forth! The time is now. The harvest is ripening; Go forth! Feel now the burden of the Lord. Feel how He longs to save them. Feel now for those who never heard... Now is the time’ (Songs of Fellowship, 486). ‘All authority... has been given to Me... I am with you always' (Matthew 28:18-20).

Twenty-Seventh (or last) Sunday after Pentecost (Reign of Christ the King): Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Psalm 100 or Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-26; Psalm 95:1-7a; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46


Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd.
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 worship the Lord with joy.
‘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!’(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).
‘Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord... Let us come before Him with thanksgiving... Come, let us bow down in worship...’ (Psalm 95:1-2, 6). We are to worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving. We rejoice in the Lord. We give thanks for His love. He is ‘the great God’. He is ‘our God’. He is the God of creation - ‘In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land’. He is the God of salvation - ‘We are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care’ (Psalm 95:3-5, 7). If we are to learn to worship the Lord with joyful thanksgiving, we must open our hearts to Him: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Psalm 95:7-8). When we hear the call to worship, we must open our hearts to the Spirit of worship.

As we worship God, we are called to have faith in Him and to be faithful to Him.
‘By grace you have been saved through faith… for good works’ (Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’ - by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him - He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; 1:4; 2:7). When we realize the truth concerning ourselves - ‘nothing good dwells within me’ (Romans 7:18) - and God - He is ‘rich in mercy’ (Ephesians 2:4) - , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’ We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’ The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’ actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’and ‘pleasure for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Judges 4:1-7; Psalm 123 or Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18; Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30


Our help comes from the Lord. The glory goes to the Lord.
Barak is an example of ‘faith’ (Hebrews 11:32-34). Faith involves believing God’s promise - ‘I will give...’and obeying His command - ‘Go’ (Judges 4:6-7). God still says, ‘Go... I am with you always...’ (Matthew 28:19-20). Barak needed Deborah’s help (Judges 4:8-10). Both needed God’s help - ‘Our sufficiency comes from God’ (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). In Deborah’s song, we learn of the importance of giving all the glory to God: ‘Bless the Lord... To the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord... Bless the Lord’ (Judges 5:2-3, 9). We are to repeat the triumphs of the Lord’. This is our high calling as ‘the people of the Lord’ (Judges 5:11). ‘Awake, awake, Deborah … Arise, Barak …’ (5:12) – God is still calling His people to wake up, to rise up: ‘Rise up O Church of God, awake!’ (Church Hymnary, 477; Mission Praise, 178).
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2). Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4). We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’ (Psalm 123:3). We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord...’ (Psalm 124:8). As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6). In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalms 123:2; 124:1-5). Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

Worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in truth, we celebrate His great love for us.
‘The great Day of the Lord is near - near and coming quickly... That Day will be a Day of wrath... I will bring distress upon the people... because they have sinned against the Lord’ (Zephaniah 1:14-17). This is God’s Word of warning. He is calling us back to Himself: ‘Seek the Lord - before the fierce anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the Day of the Lord’s wrath comes upon you’. We are to seek the Lord in ‘righteousness’and ‘humility’. This is the way of being ‘sheltered on the Day of the Lord’s anger’ (Zephaniah 2:2-3). God is calling us to ‘worship Him in Spirit and in truth’: ‘Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to His service and pleasing to Him. This is the true worship that you should offer’ (John 4:24; Romans 12:1).
‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’ (Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’ Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).

We worship the faithful God. He gives us strength to be faithful to Him.
Do you feel like giving up? God is not about to give up on you: ‘He who calls you is utterly faithful and He will finish what He set out to do’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He has a great future for us: ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We look forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘The Lord Himself will descend from heaven’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16). We look forward to heavenly and eternal glory: ‘We shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the kind of encouragement we need. We are to remind one another of these things: ‘Comfort one another with these words’ (1 Thessalonians 4:18). We are ‘to encourage one another’ to go on with the Lord. Let’s ‘build one another up’, encouraging each other to build on ‘the Rock’ which is ‘Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Matthew 7:24-27).
We are to be faithful to God (Matthew 25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (Matthew 25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves: ‘what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Bringing glory to God - this is to be our greatest joy. We are not to be thinking, ‘What am I going to get out of this?’ We are to be asking, ‘What can I give to others?’ The ‘righteous’ are not full of boasting about their ‘righteous’ actions (Matthew 25:37-38). The Lord’s true servants do not draw attention to themselves. Do you have ‘talents’? Yes - you do! Use them! ‘Serve the Lord with gladness’ (Psalm 100:2). Let this be your ‘reward’: the joyful privilege of bringing blessing to others and glory to God. On earth, we begin to ‘enter the joy of our Lord’ (Matthew 25:21). In heaven, there will be ‘fullness of joy’ and ‘pleasure for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).

Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7 or Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13


Let us serve the Lord all the days of our life.
Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (Joshua 24:15, 29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (Joshua 24:16-18, 21, 24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision - a definite, public commitment to the Lord (Joshua 24:24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua’s preaching. What God has done for Israel (Joshua 24:2-13) is followed by ‘Therefore...’ (Joshua 24:14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, ‘Do I really mean it’ (Joshua 24:19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: ‘Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness’ (Joshua 24:14). Make your own commitment to the Lord. Give your testimony - ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. Pray that others will also say, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him (Joshua 24:15, 24). Let us ‘serve the Lord all the days’ of our life (Joshua 24:31).

We are strengthened for God’s service when we drink from the cup of salvation.
‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’ (Psalm 78:19). We are living in a spiritual wilderness. We wonder, ‘Can God continue to bless us in this wilderness?’ How does God’s Word answer our question? - ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’. In the ‘wilderness’, there are many ‘enemies’. There is also the ‘table’. At the ‘table’, God blesses us - ‘You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows’ (Psalm 23:5). We are in the ‘wilderness’, surrounded by many ‘enemies’. What are we to do? - We must come to the ‘table’ - the Lord’s Table. We must come to Christ. We must drink from ‘the cup of salvation’ (Psalm 116:7). Come to the Saviour. Look to Him for His blessing. He will not disappoint you. You will be ‘anointed with the oil of gladness’. His blessing will be poured upon you ‘like precious oil’ (Psalms 45:7; 133:2).

Drinking from the cup of salvation, we commit ourselves to a life of obedience.
‘Seek the Lord and live’. ‘Seek good, not evil...’ (Amos 5:6, 14). Those who truly seek the Lord are to live a godly life. God sees right through hypocritical religion. He is not pleased with it: ‘I hate your show and pretence - your hypocrisy of ‘honouring’ Me with your religious feasts and solemn assemblies... Away with your hymns of praise - they are mere noise to My ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is’ (Amos 5:21, 23). God is looking for true obedience: ‘a mighty flood of justice - a torrent of doing good’ - ‘Let justice flow like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (Amos 5:24). God speaks to us about our sins - ‘Many and great are your sins. I know them so well’ - so that we might learn to ‘hate evil’and ‘love good’ (Amos 5:12, 15).

As we drink from the cup of salvation, we are led in the way of victory.
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).

Drinking from the cup of salvation, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.
Do you feel like giving up? God is not about to give up on you: ‘He who calls you is utterly faithful and He will finish what He set out to do’ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He has a great future for us: ‘God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9). We look forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘The Lord Himself will descend from heaven’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16). We look forward to heavenly and eternal glory: ‘We shall always be with the Lord’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the kind of encouragement we need. We are to remind one another of these things: ‘Comfort one another with these words’ (1 Thessalonians 4:18). We are ‘to encourage one another’ to go on with the Lord. Let’s ‘build one another up’, encouraging each other to build on ‘the Rock’ which is ‘Christ’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:3; Matthew 7:24-27).

As we drink from the cup of salvation, we build on Christ, the solid Rock.
‘The times they are-a-changing’. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, ‘My words will not pass away’ (Matthew 24:35). In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: ‘The Word of the Lord stands forever’ (1 Peter 1:25). The scoffers will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ (2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that ‘He is near’ (Matthew 24:33). Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). When He returns need not concern us: ‘the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Matthew 24:44). We are to be ready at all times (Matthew 25:13) - doing the Lord's will (Matthew 24:46). We are to be ‘faithful and wise’ (Matthew 24:45). As ‘the bride of Christ’ (Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him’ (Matthew 25:6).

Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Joshua 3:7-17; Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 or Micah 3:5-12; Psalm 43; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12

Set apart for God, we rejoice in His great love.
‘Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’ (Joshua 3:5). ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth’ (John 17:17). Together with the command, there is the prayer. We are called to set ourselves apart for God. We can only do this when we look to the Lord for His strength. We receive His strength through His Word. We give ourselves to the Lord. He gives His promise to us: ‘the Lord will do wonders among you’. His promise of blessing is no guarantee of an easy time. In the promised land, there would be problems - and God: ‘as I was with Moses, so I will be with you’ (Joshua 3:7). There would be conflict - and victory: ‘the living God is among you... He will without fail drive out from before you...’ (Joshua 3:10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus - ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).
There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again - ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’ (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again - ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’ (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord’. Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43, 1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free... It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’ (Church Hymnary, 415).

Set apart for God, we worship Him, walk with Him and witness for Him.
Micah speaks to those ‘who hate good and love evil’ (Micah 3:2). He calls upon them to change their way of living. He calls upon them to worship the Lord - ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’- and walk with Him - ‘We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God for ever and ever’. How do we learn to ‘walk in His paths’? We come to His ‘House’. We listen to His ‘Word’. We pray that His Word will come to us ‘with power’. We ask Him to ‘teach us His ways’. We pray that we will be ‘filled with the Spirit of the Lord’ (Micah 4:2, 5; 3:8). We worship the Lord in His House. Gathered in His House for worship, we ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us’. Through His power, we are equipped for witness: ‘you will be My witnesses...’ (Acts 1:8).

In our worship, we listen to the Word 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).

In our walk with God, we are strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit.
If God is to be glorified through the preaching of His Word, there needs to be more than the ‘words’ of the preacher. There needs to be ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Good preaching is not a matter of ‘plausible words of wisdom’. We must look for ‘a demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the Spirit is at work, there is effective communication, leading to a life-changing encounter with God. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’ (1 Thessalonians 13). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’. The ‘message’ will do you no good if you don’t hear it ‘with faith’ - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:2; 3:15).

In our witness for the Lord, we pray that our words will be filled with His love.
As you read Jesus’ stinging words, remember this: there is a ‘Pharisee’' in every one of us! Jesus disturbs the ‘peace’ of ‘those who sit at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6:1). He invites us to see ourselves as God sees us: ‘before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’ (Hebrews 4:13). Why does Christ speak such disturbing words? - He loves us. He longs for us to return to Him and be forgiven. Many times He comes to us - ‘How often would I have gathered you’. Many times, we refuse His appeal of love: ‘you would not’ (Matthew 23:37). You may have refused Him often, yet still He waits. Still, He perseveres in love. Still, He seeks to show you the emptiness of your life without Him - ‘forsaken and desolate’ (Matthew 23:38). Still, He waits for you to say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ (Matthew 23:39).

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost; Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 or Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46


“The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’ (Deuteronomy 33:27): This is no guarantee of peaceful tranquillity. For Israel, there was conflict. ‘Saved by the Lord’, Israel had found true happiness. Still, there were ‘enemies’ to be ‘thrust out’and ‘trampled down’ (Deuteronomy 33:27, 29). Knowing the blessing of God’s salvation is no guarantee that life will be easy. When the enemies of the Gospel see a believer intent on glorifying the Lord, they do all they can to create problems. We have ‘enemies’ in ‘high places’ (Deuteronomy 33:29; Ephesians 6:12). Their argument is not with us. It is with God. If God’s work is to do well, there needs to be spiritual leadership. Moses had led God’s people in his day. Joshua was to take his place (Deuteronomy 34:9). Moses was important. Joshua was important. The Lord is more important - ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).
‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations... From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’ (Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God...’ Before the world began, there was God - ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises - ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).

Saved by the eternal God, let us walk with Him in holiness, love and joy.
Holiness and love - the two belong together (Leviticus 19:1, 18, 34). God calls us to live a life of holiness, a life of love. Through His Spirit - the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love - , He enables us to live this life. We need His promises. We need His commands. Take them both together - not one without the other! Promises without commands - We take God for granted, we presume on His blessing. Commands without promises - Our 'obedience' becomes a legalistic thing which has nothing to do with the Gospel of grace. We are to 'be holy... before Him in love' (Ephesians 1:4). 'The holiness without which no one will see the Lord' (Hebrews 12:14) is to be accompanied by the 'love' without which we are 'nothing' (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). The Lord has redeemed us: By His grace, we shall 'be holy... in love' (Leviticus 19:34, 36).
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 1:1-2). With a God like this - full of so much blessing for us - what else can we do but rejoice in Him?

The blessing of the eternal God comes to us when we open our hearts to Jesus.
If God is to be glorified through the preaching of His Word, there needs to be more than the ‘words’ of the preacher. There needs to be ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Good preaching is not a matter of ‘plausible words of wisdom’. We must look for ‘a demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Corinthians 2:4). When the Spirit is at work, there is effective communication, leading to a life-changing encounter with God. ‘When you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers’ (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’. The ‘message’will do you no good if you don’t hear it ‘with faith’ - ‘Today, when you hear His voice, harden not your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:2; 3:15).
The Pharisees had failed. The Sadducees had failed. Now, ‘they come together’ (Matthew 22:34). There were differences between them, yet they were prepared to lay aside their differences and join forces in their common opposition to Jesus. They were trying to get Him to set one commandment above all the others. They would then say that He had insufficient respect for the other commandments. Jesus answered them wisely: Love - for God and our neighbour - embraces all the commandments. They have fired questions at Jesus. Now, He puts a question to them (Matthew 22:42). He seeks to raise their thinking beyond the human level - Jesus is not merely ‘the son of David’ (Matthew 22:42). He is the Son of God. Greater than all of the great men, He is ‘our Lord and our God’(John 20:28). No more trick questions. Give the answer of faith: ‘You are... the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16: 16).

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...