Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Burdensome Religion And Joyous Faith (Psalm 1:1-2)

Burdensome religion and joyous faith are worlds apart. They are exact opposites.
“I have to” – How shallow and superficial is “I have to” religion. The man or woman who thinks like this hasn’t even begun to appreciate the great love of Jesus Christ.What a far cry this is from a truly heartfelt and joyful Christian faith!
When someone is really interested in something, it’s never a matter of “I have to.”
- Does a young man, desperately in love, “have to” meet his sweetheart?
- Does a football fanatic “have to” travel miles to watch his team?
- Does a music lover “have to” buy the CDs and go the concerts of his favourite band?
- Does a keen golfer “have to” play golf?
Do you get the point?
The real question is not “Do I have to?” It’s “Do I want to?”
It’s much better to do something good because you want to – not just because you have to!
Have you begun to appreciate something of the great love of God, which is revealed in His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ? If you have, you will count it your great privilege and wonderful pleasure to come to His Table and remember His love for you, with joyful and heartfelt thanksgiving.
There are times when even the strongest of Christians don’t feel on top of the world. There are times when attendance at worship seems to be more of a duty than a delight.
When we feel like this, we need to be reminded of the facts of the Gospel. Jesus died for us. Jesus was raised again for us. As we remember these great facts, our feelings will, once again, be stirred to worship our Saviour with our whole heart.
When you don’t feel like worshipping the Lord, that’s the time when you most need to come and join the people of God as they offer their thanksgiving to the Lord.
- Come to Church when you want to because you want to.
- Come to Church when you don’t want to, because you need to.
When you don’t feel like worshipping the Lord, you will find all kinds of excuses for yourself.
When I was married, the minister said that both prosperity and adversity can lead to marital breakdown.
In times of adversity, a man may forget his wife. He may say, “I can’t afford to keep a wife.”
In times of prosperity, a man may forget about his wife. as he becomes more prosperous, he may become fed-up with the wife he loved when he wasn’t so well-off.
Prosperity and adversity can lead a man away from his God.
Prosperity may make a man say, “I have no need of God.”
Adversity may make a man say, “It’s all God’s fault.”
Prosperity and adversity provide us with tests which can either make us or break us.
The man whose real interest is Christ will grow into a deeper sense of heartfelt gratitude to his Saviour. The man whose interests centre on other things will, perhaps gradually yet nonetheless definitely, forget about his Saviour.
The contrast between religion as an tedious burden and Christ as a source of joy is brought out well in Psalm 1.
In the first Psalm, we learn about happiness. We learn about the way to find happiness. The basic message is this: the man who finds happiness is the man who loves the Lord. The man for whom religion is a tedious burden will know nothing of true happiness. He hasn’t found true happiness because he hasn’t learned to trust and obey.
This is the lesson we must learn: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
A striking contrast is drawn between the happy man and the unspiritual man who doesn’t take God seriously.
When the Psalmist draws this contrast, there’s no suggestion of a “holier-than-thou” attitude. We’re not to look down on other people. We’re not to consider ourselves superior. Such religious arrogance has no places has no place in the hearts of those who have tasted the goodness of the Lord. We are sinners. We have been saved by God’s grace. What right have we to despise others? The Good News of Christ’s love has brought great blessing into our hearts and lives. we dare not keep this blessing to ourselves. We are called to live a holy life – but we must never forget that our holiness comes from the Lord. It comes from His love. This is the love which is always reaching out to others, inviting them to receive God’s forgiveness and calling them to walk in the pathway of holiness.
In Psalm 1, we learn about (a) the habits of the man of God (vs. 1-2); (b) the stability of the man of God (vs. 3-4); and (c) the future of the man of God (vs. 5-6). At each point, a contrast is drawn between the man of God and the worldly man.
The aim of the first Psalm is to press for a decision. The Psalmist doesn’t say, “Here’s an interesting contrast between two different ways of thinking about life.” He wants his readers to stop walking in the world’s way and start walking in the Lord’s way. He wants us to say, “From now on, I will walk in the way of the Lord.”
(a) the habits of the man of God (vs. 1-2)
The Psalmist emphasizes the importance of right conduct.
In verse 1, he does this negatively – "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly …"
In verse 2, he does this positively – "his delight is in the law of the Lord …"
The way of disobedience is a way that gets progressively worse (v. 1).
First, there is “walking in the counsel of the wicked”, which means letting oneself be guided by the advice of the evildoers.
Next, there is “standing in the way of sinners”, which means conforming to the example of sinners.
Thirdly, there “sitting in the seat of the scoffers”, which means actively participating in the mocking of sacred things.
The way of obedience is directly related to the revealed will of God in the Word of God – Hear, Read, Study, Memorize, Meditate (v.2).
(b) the stability of the man of God and the instability of the worldly man(vs. 3-4)
Which describes your life? 

Here, the Psalmist uses the language of biology (v. 3). He shares with us the fundamental law of the divine biology- A good tree cannot bear bad fruit. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit. He uses the language of the harvest to show us that the life that is lived apart from God is empty, meaningless and worthless. This is so different from the meaningful and valuable life of faith.
(c) the future (vs. 5-6)
The Psalmist states quite categorically that those whose lives haven’t been built on Christ will not stand in the judgment. The godless man’s meaningless existence will be seen in its complete futility. On that Day, the things that really matter will be seen as the ultimate meaning of life. These things are faith and obedience.
Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a destiny.
We’ve only one life to live. Only what’s done for Jesus will last.
Where do you stand in relation to all that Psalm 1 says to us?
May God grant that you will stand with Christ – to trust Him, to obey Him, to serve Him, to love Him and to live for Him. May this be the desire of your heart, the conviction of your mind, the resolve of your will, the words of your mouth and the actions of your life.

Monday, 21 December 2015

A Word That Reaches The Heart

“O Lord … Say to my soul, I am your Saviour”  (Psalm 35:1,3).
Assurance of our salvation comes to us from the Lord Himself. He speaks to us. His Word is a deep Word. It reaches the heart.

The God Of Power, The God Of Love

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace” (Psalm 29:10-11).
The Lord is “enthroned” – This is the God of power.
The Lord “gives”, the Lord “blesses” – This is the God of love.
When we think of the God of power, we must always remember that He is also the God of love.
When we think of the God of love, we must never forget that He is also the God of power.
The Lord is the King of love.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Opening Up God's Word: Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and 8:17-19

Deuteronomy emphasizes the importance of responding to the Lord right now.
 - We are reminded of the past, but we must not live in the past.
 - We are pointed to the future, but we must not daydream about the future.
  (1) One of Deuteronomy's main themes is the love of God.
God's love points us back to the past, to the death of Christ for our sins (Romans 5:8). It also points us forward, to the heavenly place that the Lord is preparing for His people (John 14:1-3).
God's love is not, however, something that belongs to the past - and it is not something that is kept for the future.
God loves us now. He loved us in the past - and He loves us now. God has not forgotten us - and He will not forget us. 
We can face the future with the assurance that God loves us. He loves us with a love that will not let us go. He loves us with a love that will not let us down. He loves us with a purpose. He plans to bless us. His purpose of blessing is a purpose of love. He says to us, "I have loved you with an everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3).
  (2) Another major theme of Deuteronomy is the land of promise.
In John 3:16, we learn that God's promise is given in love - and His "land" is "everlasting life."
For those who are trusting in Christ, "the land of promise" is not something in the distant future. We are in "the land of promise." Eternal life has begun It has begun - and now, we press on toward its fulfilment.
  (3) Deuteronomy stresses that the love of God and the land of promise are not to be taken for granted.
In Deuteronomy 7:7-8 and Deuteronomy 8:17-18, there are very clear warnings against the sin of spiritual pride.
 - How easy it is to forget how much God has loved us!
 - How easy it to forget the promises that God has given to us!
When we are tempted to forget the Lord - His love and His promises, we need to hear God's Word - "You shall remember the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 8:18).
When we are tempted to forget the Lord and become preoccupied with ourselves, the Word of God comes to us with this warning: "if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you this day that you shall surely perish" (Deuteronomy 8:19).
The Gospel is a message of joy and gladness - but not to those who have forgotten the Saviour, not to those who think only of their own good works. 
The Good News of salvation does not begin with the word, "I" - 'I have done this. I have done that. I have done the other - therefore I will be saved.' 
The Gospel cuts right across our human pride, and says, "Jesus saves." 
This message brings joy and gladness - but only when truly believe it, only when we receive its truth into our hearts and minds, saying, with the hymnwriter, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; No merit of my own, I claim, But wholly trust in Jesus' Name. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand." 

Show Us Your Way ... Show Us Jesus.

“Show me your ways, Lord; Teach me Your paths … Guide me in your truth … for you are God my Saviour … ” (Psalm 25:4-5).
When we pray, “Show me your ways, Lord”, we must always remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). God says to us, “Let the wicked forsake his way.” There is a better way – “Let him return to the Lord.” When we return to the Lord, we are led into His better way – “He will have mercy on him … our God … will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7).
“The one who has clean hands and a pure heart … the King of glory” (Psalm 24:4,7-10).
We look at Jesus’ life on earth. What do we see? We see the Man “who has clean hands and a pure heart” – “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin.”
We look at Jesus, in heaven. What do we see? We see “the King of glory.” We see Him, in heaven, and we rejoice in this: “He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.”

Singing The Lord's Song

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).
Here on earth, we are always “in a foreign land”. We haven’t yet arrived safely at our heavenly home. In this “foreign” land, we are called to keep on singing the songs of the Lord. We live in an atmosphere of rebellion. Let us keep on praying that God will send revival.
Can depressing situations be turned out? – Our hope is not in ourselves. It is in the Lord. He is “mighty to save” (Isaiah 63:2).

The Twenty-Third Psalm

Psalm 23
“The Lord is my Shepherd … “
The words are so familiar. When we start to think that we understand all that this great Psalm is saying to us, the Lord comes to with something new, something fresh, something that speaks to our hearts, something that brings blessing into our lives. What are to say about this? ~ From God to us, comes blessing, much blessing. How much blessing? Who can say? All we can say is this – It’s His blessing, and His blessing “overflows” (v. 5).
  * Speaking about God – The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness      for His name’s sake.
  * Speaking to God - Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23:1
* The Lord is my Shepherd;
* The Lord is my Shepherd;
* The Lord is my Shepherd;
* The Lord is my Shepherd.
  * “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep and the loving Shepherd.
We read about a lost sheep. We know that we are lost sinners. We are lost because we are sinners. Lost sheep need a loving shepherd. Lost sinners need a loving Saviour. That’s what Jesus is. He’s our Saviour. His Name means “Saviour” –  “You are to give Him the Name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Why did Jesus come to this world?
–  “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).
–  “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
Jesus came to find the lost. He came to save sinners.
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).
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b).
We enter the Kingdom of God through the new birth. Jesus Christ is “the Door” to God’s Kingdom (John 10:9). To those who have come, in faith, to Him, the Lord Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
* Where does the Good Shepherd lead those who follow Him?  – He leads us “in the paths of righteousness.”
* Why does the Good Shepherd lead His people in the paths of righteousness?  – It is “for His Name’s sake.”
The real goal of Christ-like living is not our pleasure. It is God’s glory. we find our true pleasure as we give glory to the Lord.
Are you following the Lord Jesus? He will lead you in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.
In ‘the Shepherd Psalm’ (Psalm 23), we read, in verse 5,: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows’. We are to feast on God’s Word. We are to be filled with God’s Spirit. The ‘table’ is the place of feasting. ‘Oil’ is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. As we feast on God’s Word, we will have good cause to say, again and again, ‘God is good’: ‘His goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life’ (6). The Lord never fails us. He always comes with His life-giving Word, the Word of life, through which our life on earth becomes the beginning of life eternal, the pathway to a life in which the fullness of God’s love will be revealed in a way that we can hardly begin to imagine: ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’(6). This is what Christ is preparing for us (John 14:2)!
We sing our song of praise and thanksgiving. Our enemies are never far away!
(Psalm 23:5).
 * “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” The presence of our enemies – this is never removed. It’s always there. There is, however, another Presence – the Presence of the Lord.
“Be still for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One is here” – This is what we must remember when the presence of our enemies threatens to overwhelm us.

In The House Of The Lord

“One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…”(Psalm 27:4).
Why do we come to the House of the Lord? – We come to offer to Him our heartfelt worship.

How Great Is Our God!

"Who can speak about all the mighty things the Lord has done? Who can announce all the things for which He is worthy of praise?" (Psalm 106:2).

There is always more to be said about the Lord than we can ever say. When we have said all that we can say, we have not said enough. The Lord is always greater than all our words about Him. How great is our God! How great is His mighty work of salvation! Praise be to His Name - the Name of our salvation.

Approaching the Lord’s Table: Forgiveness, Victory, Faith, God’s Word, God’s Love

As we approach the Lord’s Table, let’s think about two verses of Scripture.
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler” (Psalm 91:3).
The first of these verses speaks of the forgiveness of our sins.
The second speaks of victory over Satan.
Through the precious blood of Christ, we receive the forgiveness of our sins (1 Peter 1:18-19).
Through the precious blood of Christ, we are victorious over Satan (Revelation 12:11).
Let us rejoice in God’s gift of forgiveness. Let us also rejoice in His gift of victory.
We do not earn God’s forgiveness. It is God’s gift. Victory is not earned. Like forgiveness, victory is God’s gift.
How do we receive these great gifts of God?
We come to the Cross of Christ. At the Cross, we learn that Christ to bring us forgiveness – and He died to give us victory.
We receive these gifts by faith.
Forgiveness and victory do not come to us without faith. Faith is the response by which we receive God’s gifts.
What is faith? How does faith change us? What part do the reading and preaching of God’s Word have in the strengthening of our faith? How does the celebration of the Lord’s Supper help us to grow in faith?
* Faith is centred on Jesus Christ. It is putting our trust in Him.
* Faith is not only believing with our minds. It’s being changed in our hearts. Faith does not leave us where it finds it. Faith leads us on a journey of discovery. It’s a journey in which we learn more and more of our Saviour. We are learning to love Him, follow Him and serve Him.
* Faith does not take any glory for itself. Faith gives all the glory to God. Faith does not say, ‘Glory for me.’ Faith says, ‘Glory to God.’
In this journey of discovery, what part is played by our gathering together for worship?
* We gather to hear the Word of God. It is read to us. It is preached to us. Faith is part of a conversation between ourselves and our God. He speaks to us. we are learning to speak to Him. unless God speaks to us, we will be unable to speak to Him. God’s Word is spoken to us. God’s Word creates our response. God speaks, and it is done. He says, “Let there be light, and there is light.” God’s Word is our shining light in a dark world. When His light shines upon our life, we walk in His light. It is the light of His love. This is the light that inspires our faith.
* We gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This is a special time of remembering Jesus. It’s a special time of being reminded that Christ loves us. His love is the greatest love of all. There is no love like the love of Jesus. we gather at the Lord’s Table. We learn that we are loved. we are loved with an everlasting love. It’s a love that will not let us go. God loves us long before we ever thought of loving Him. When our love is weak, His love is strong. this is the message that comes to us from the Lord’s Table. This is the love which gives strength to our faith.

The Lord Bless You And Keep You ...

Numbers 6:22-27

There’s nothing better than God’s blessing. It’s nice to have friends. People like you. It feels good. God’s blessing – That’s so much better. Friends come and go. God’s blessing remains. You can be surrounded by friends – and still feel very lonely. Sometimes, they’re great friends. Sometimes, they disappoint us. When you’re surrounded by God’s blessing, everything’s very different. God will never disappoint us. He’s our “always and forever” Friend. His blessing is an “every day” blessing. It’s not just a “now and again” thing. It’s an “all the days of our life” thing. Everywhere we look, we see God. We look to the hills. We see our Creator. We look to the cross. We see our Saviour. We are blessed by our Creator. We are blessed by our Saviour.

How do we enjoy God’s blessing?
Trust Him. Walk in His way. Wherever life’s journey takes us, He’s there. He’s our faithful Friend. He’s the Friend who’ll never let us down. In our happy times, He gives us His joy. In our hard times, He gives us His peace. Is there anything better than this? No! There isn’t. This is not about good things happening to us. It’s about the good God being with us, even when bad things are happening to us. Being blessed by the Lord doesn’t mean that we’ll never have hard times. What it does mean is this – God loves us in the hard times as well as the happy times. Put your trust in the Lord. Trust in His love. Walk in His way. Be changed by His love.

How are we to walk in the Lord’s way?
We must never imagine that walking with the Lord will be easy. It wasn’t easy for Jesus. It won’t be easy for us. Sin is always near. The devil sets many traps for us. He’s always trying to draw us away from Jesus. Sin may be very near – but the Lord comes even closer to us. Jesus is “God with us.” The devil is a powerful enemy. He’s also a defeated enemy. Christ has won the victory over Him. Christ has won the victory for us. He gives His victory to us. Why don’t we enjoy constant victory over sin? – We take our eyes off Jesus. We forget that He’s living in us. We forget that it’s from Him that we receive His peace and His joy. His peace is great. It passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). His joy is great. It’s “a great and glorious joy which words cannot express” (1 Peter 1:8). His peace and His joy give us strength for walking in His way.

Lord, we need Your strength.

Lord, we need Your strength.
Without Your strength, we fall. Without Your strength, we fail.
With Your strength, everything changes.
You lead us from our defeat into Your victory.
Help us, Lord, to trust You.
In ourselves, we are weak. In You, we are strong.
Where does this strength come from? – It comes from this: Jesus has risen – and He lives in us!
“Resurrect in our lives faith, hope, and love, as surely as You raised Jesus Christ from the grave” (Common Order, Prayer for Easter).

Lord, we thank You for Jesus – He is the Rock of our salvation.

Lord, we thank You for Jesus – He is the Rock of our salvation. Often, in our journey through life, we’re walking on shifting sand. As we walk along, we discover that it’s more than shifting sand – It’s quicksand! It’s sucking us in – and it’s dragging us down. Is there any hope for us? Is there any solid ground? Yes! There is! Jesus is “the Solid Rock” (“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness … On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”) Lord, we thank You that You’ve not left us to fall down in our own weakness. You’ve given us Jesus, our Saviour – We stand in His strength. When we feel like we’re sinking, help us, Lord, to look to You, to find new strength in You. When we’re almost overwhelmed by the flood of unbelief that seems to be coming at us all the time, help us to come to You and receive Your strength: “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).

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.

A Problem - And A Response

"Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls ... Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words ... Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord" (Acts 15:24,32,35).

There was a problem. There needed to be a response. Whenever God's people are being "troubled" and "unsettled" by those who speak their own "words" rather than the Word of the Lord, what are we to do? We must pray that God will raise up "prophets" who will preach the Gospel and teach the Word of God, strengthening the faith of God's people and leading them into a closer walk with God.

The Holy City ...

"The Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God - It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel" (Revelation 21:10-11).

At the heart of "the Holy City", there is Jesus Christ. In Him, we see the bright shining light of God's love. He is the precious cornerstone upon which our eternal salvation is built (1 Peter 2:4-7).
As we read about "the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10), our thoughts turn to our Saviour, Jesus Christ. It's only because of what He has done for us that we will be welcomed into the glory of God's saving and eternal presence of love. Jesus is "the cornerstone" of our faith (1 Peter 2:6). He is the foundation upon which our salvation is built. Without Him, there is no salvation. With Him, there is full salvation. What light there is shining into our hearts - from the wonderful love of our Saviour. It's the light that comes from the glory of God. It has touched our life here on earth. It will fill our life with Him - when we go to be with Him in "the Holy City."

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Do what God tells us to do ...

Genesis 2:4-25
Do what God tells us to do. This leads to blessing. Do what God tells us not to do. This leads to trouble. It’s been trouble ever since.
Here, on earth, things can be turned around. We can be set in the right direction. We are not yet at our final destination, but we’re travelling towards it.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they “died” spiritually. Immediately, we see conflict. The devil has won a battle. He has won many more battles. He will win many more battles. He will not win the war.
In Genesis 3:15, we catch a glimpse of God’s eternal Kingdom, in which “there will no longer be any curse” (Revelation 22:3).

Help And Hope - From The Lord

God is calling us to live as "righteous people" (Psalm 58:10-11). When we face hostile persecution, our only hope is in the Lord: “God is my Stronghold, my merciful God” (Psalm 59:9,17). Looking to the Lord, we pray, “Give us help against the enemy because human assistance is worthless” (Psalm 60:11). Trusting in the Lord, we have this confidence: “With God, we will display great strength. He will trample our enemies” (Psalm 60:12). Knowing that god is with us as the God of our salvation, we can say, with glad assurance of faith, “I will triumph!” (Psalm 60:6). We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Whatever Satan does, he will not succeed. We have the victory in Christ.

Good News - Reaching Out To Us And Reaching Out Through Us

“Good News” - “the forgiveness of sins” and “baptism with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:1,4,8). This Good News is centred on Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son (Mark 1:11). Jesus was empowered by “the Spirit” (Mark 1:12). He comes to us with “the Good news of God” (Mark 1:(14). He calls for our response - “Change the way you think and act, and believe the Good News” (Mark 1:15). Where does this change come from? It comes from the Good News. This is what changes us. By becoming Christ-centred (following Jesus), we become less self-centred and more other-centred. Jesus teaches us “how to catch people instead of fish” (Mark 1:17).

“The Lord is my Shepherd” - and my Saviour!

“The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). He is “my Saviour”(Psalm 25:5). He is also “the King of glory” (Psalm 24:8-10). He has promised to “lead us in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His Name” (Psalm 23:3). This promise is fulfilled, as we open our  hearts to Him - “Be lifted,you ancient doors, so that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:9), when we pray for His leading in our lives: “Make Your ways known to me, O Lord, and teach me Your paths.Lead me in Your truth, and teach me because You are God, my Saviour” (Psalm 25:5). The Lord fulfils His promise to us: “The Lord advises those who fear Him. He reveals to them the intent of His promise” (Psalm 25:14).

My Heart Is Overflowing With Good News.

"My heart is overflowing with Good News ... Grace is poured on your lips ... O warrior, strap your sword to your side ... Ride on victoriously in your majesty for the cause of truth, humility, and righteousness" (Psalm 45:1-4).
As we read this Psalm, we catch a glimpse of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - "You are the most handsome of Adam's descendants" (Psalm 45:2). The Good News comes to us from Jesus. Grace comes to us from Jesus. We hear the Gospel. we believe in Jesus. He forgives our sins. He leads us in the way of victory. He teaches us truth, humility and righteousness. His truth sets us free - to become less self-centred and more Christ-centred. He teaches us the truth about ourselves. This keeps us humble. We're never any more than sinners who've been saved by His grace. He teaches us the truth about Himself. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord. As we learn of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord, He creates in us a desire to become more like Him - to be "led in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake" (Psalm 23:3).

Friday, 18 December 2015

“Be glad and find joy in the Lord."

“Be glad and find joy in the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 32:11). “Joyfully sing to the Lord, you righteous people” (Psalm 33:1). Our joy is in the Lord. It is from Him that our “joyous songs of salvation” come (Psalm 32:7). It is “in Him” that “our hearts find joy” (Psalm 33:21). We “look to Him”, and we are “radiant” (Psalm 34:5). Even thought there are many obstacles to our spiritual growth, we are able to face all who oppose us in our walk with God. We are able to say, with confidence in the God who helps us to be strong in Him and victorious through His power, “My soul will find joy in the Lord and be joyful about His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).

The Beginning Of Conflict And The Promise Of Victory

“Created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) - “God saw everything that He had created … it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). At the end of Genesis 1, things couldn’t get any better. It looked so promising. The future looked bright with hope. It was bright with the light of God’s love. Everything looked so good. Could things get any better than this? Sometimes when we feel like this, there can be trouble just around the next corner! That’s what we have in Genesis 3. It begins with the question, “Did God say?” (Genesis 3:1). This is asking for trouble – big trouble! Before long, questioning becomes contradiction – “the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). God says one thing. The serpent (Satan – see Revelation 12:9) says something else. He says the exact opposite! From that moment, there was conflict – but there was also the promise of victory. In Genesis 3:15, there’s a great prophecy. It points forward to the death of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. The serpent – Satan – bruises our Saviour’s heel. Jesus was crucified. This is the bruising of his heel. Beyond the pain of crucifixion, there was, for Jesus, the mighty triumph of resurrection. Jesus triumphed over Satan. It was not Satan’s heel that was bruised. It was his head! The heel and the head – what a difference there is between the two! Jesus has the upper hand! The victory belongs to Jesus. The conflict is “fierce.” The victory is “secure.” While we are on this earth, we can never escape the conflict. Satan will keep on badgering us. He will keep on sowing his seeds of doubt – “Did God say?” We are not alone in this battle. God keeps on coming to us. He comes with His grace – and He comes with His question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” He’s inviting us to walk with Him on the pathway of salvation, sanctification and service. He does not lift us above the conflict – but He does give us the victory: His victory. When Satan comes to us, may God give us strength to say, “No.” When Jesus comes to us, may we receive His strength, the strength to say “Yes”, the strength to say, “By Thy call of mercy … By Thy grand redemption, By Thy grace divine, We are on the Lord’s side; Saviour, we are Thine… Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine.”

Save me, O God ...

"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help;   my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God" (Psalm 69:1-3).
Sometimes, we get ourselves into deep water. We're sinking. We're looking to You, Lord. The world is pulling us down, pulling us away from You. We're looking to You, Lord. It's not easy. Life is difficult. There are many problems. We're looking to You, Lord. Help us to keep on looking to You - when we feel like giving up and giving in. Help us to keep on believing that there is the light at the end of our tunnel. We're looking to You, Lord - and we will keep on looking to You, whatever happens. "Let heaven and earth praise Him… For God will save" (Psalm 69:34-35).

God does not save us because we praise Him. We praise God because He saves us.

Some things are worth repeating!

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!’ (Daniel Thambyrajah Niles).

I Will Sing ...

“I will sing for the one I love” (Isaiah 5:1).
Isaiah speaks here of our love for God. When we speak of our love for God, we must always remember this: God’s love for us comes before our love for Him. We sing to the One who has loved us. The song we sing to Him is the song of love: “Loving Him who first loved me.”
Lord, we sing a song of love. We sing about the best love of all – Your love for us. There is no love like Your love. It’s the greatest love of all. It’s Your love for us that inspires our love for You. Our love for You grows strong when we think less about our love for You – and more about Your love for us.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Great Sin And Even Greater Grace

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth" (Genesis 6: 5) - This is great sin. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8) - This is even greater grace. God could have looked on the whole human race , and said, "Enough is enough. That's us finished." He didn't do this. He didn't give up on us. He kept on going - with His purpose of grace, His plan of salvation. Beyond the flood, there was the new beginning. God was doing a new thing. This was the work of His grace. It had nothing to do with human righteousness. It had everything to do with divine mercy - the saving grace of God. When you read about the flood, look beyond the destruction - and see the salvation of God.

More Than A Departure ...

Exodus 2:23-25

Exodus: It's more than a departure. It's a deliverance. It's more than a protest against Egypt. It's an answer to prayer. It's more than a social revolution. It's a spiritual revelation of God's love.


Light and salvation

Psalm 27:1-14

The Lord brings light and salvation to us. He is our light and our salvation (Psalm 27:1).
When the Lord saves us, He gives us a great desire to worship Him (Psalm 27:4).
We are on a journey - a lifelong journey, an eternal journey (Psalm 27:13-14) - “all the days of  my life, “forever” (Psalm 23:6).
“Wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). We need to hear this for both our lifelong journey and our eternal journey.

Rivers Of Living Wather - Flowing Into Us And Flowing Out From Us

Ezekiel 47:1-12

“ankle-deep, knee-deep, up to the waist, deep enough to swim in, a river than could not be crossed on foot” (Ezekiel 47:3-5).
Jerusalem - ankle-deep, all Judaea - knee deep, Samaria - up to the waist, the ends of the earth - deep enough to swim in (Acts 1:8)
Before there can be witness, there needs to be worship: from a trickle to a river - John 7:37-39.
The rivers of living water must flow into us before they can flow out from us. “There will be life everywhere the river goes” (Ezekiel 47:9).

Fire!

Daniel 3:1-30

Fire - danger, heat
There is, in God’s Word, a word of warning and a word of promise.
This is the way we are not to go. This is the way we are to go.
 * “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).
 * “The bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2).
 * “Our God is an awesome God” (Rich Mullins) - we must never forget this.
Fire is to be respected. Our God is a holy fire. He burns away our dross.
 * “Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy, set apart for You, Lord; I choose to be holy, set apart for You, my Master, ready to do Your will” (Brian Doerksen).
 * “O God of burning, cleansing flame, send the fire! Your blood-bought gift today we claim: send the fire today!... We need another Pentecost! Send the fire today!” (William Booth).
This is the inspiring and empowering fire: the Holy Spirit. “Give me oil in my lamp. Keep me burning” - burning for God.
 * Isaiah 43:2 - “You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”
There were four men in the furnace of blazing fire - Jesus was there: “the fourth was like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25),
We go through many testing times, but we are not alone. Jesus is with us. He’s there with His grace: “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He calls us to put our faith in Him.
 * In the fiery furnace, the men were burning for God. They weren’t being consumed by the fire. They were shining for God. Their light was calling out to others.
Come to the light. Come to the Lord.
When we look at these men, we must look beyond them to the Son of God. Jesus passed through the “fire” for us. He was forsaken by God so that we might be welcomed by God.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Salvation In No One Else!

Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’(Acts 4:12).

This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’(Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’...’(Acts 4:31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God...’(Psalm 139:23-24). There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’(Acts 5:14). There was persecution (Acts 5:17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (Acts 5:42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (Acts 6:1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men... known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’(Acts 6:3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’- ‘filled with the Spirit’- as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’(Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (Acts 6:7).

Jesus is the way of salvation, joy and victory.
  • Jesus is the way of salvation - Concerning "the Name of Jesus Christ", Peter tells us that "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10, 12).
  • Jesus is the way of joy - Jesus tells us, "In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Jesus is the way of victory - Paul gives to us this word of encouragement: "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Eternal Blessings

 * “The Lord gives victory to His anointed” (Psalm 20:6).
Jesus is the Christ (the anointed). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus has won the victory over Satan. He won the victory for us. He gives His victory to us.
  * “Surely You have granted him eternal blessings” (Psalm 21:6). 
Through the mighty victory of Jesus Christ (God’s Anointed), there are “eternal blessings” – for us. 
  * “My God, God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1).
How do eternal blessings come to us through Christ? When we see Christ, suffering on the Cross, we must give thanks to God that His suffering was for us. For Him, there was suffering. For us, there is salvation.
“‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies … Amazing love! how can it be that Thou, my God shouldst die for me! … No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!”
* “Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and  I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:6).
For us, God’s salvation begins while we are here on earth. They continue for “all the days of our life.” His  blessings do not come to an end when we leave this world. His blessings are eternal – “I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”
 * “Your love, Lord reaches to the heavens … How priceless is Your unfailing love, O God!” (Psalm 36:5,7).
Where do God’s eternal blessings come from? They come from His love, His eternal love, His love which endures forever (Psalm 136).
  * “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1).
God’s eternal blessings begin with the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven by God.
  * “We wait in hope for the Lord” (Psalm 33:20).
The forgiveness of our sins is just the beginning of God’s eternal blessings. There is more to come. We look forward to being with the Lord forevermore.

Great things can happen ...

Great things can happen when ‘earnest prayer’ is ‘made to God by the church’ - God ‘is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (Acts 12:5-7; Ephesians 3:20). Give all the glory to God.
Herod ‘did not give God the glory’. He accepted the praise of the people - ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man’. Herod’s sudden death - ‘an angel of the Lord struck him down’ - is a warning (Acts 12:22-23; Proverbs 29:1).
‘Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that he will also reap’. ‘Walk humbly with your God’ (Galatians 6:7; Micah 6:8).

At The Lord's Table, We Remember Him - And We Respond To Him.

John 6:1-59
In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus stands before us as the One who calls for our decision. There is no automatic guarantee that all who hear the preaching of God’s Word do, in fact, receive the blessing of which God’s Word speaks. There is no automatic guarantee that all who receive the blessing to which these symbols point. Jesus stands before us, saying to us, “What is your response to Me?”

Atonement

Leviticus 15:1-16:34 
Each of us is unclean before God. Each of us needs Christ, who has given Himself as “a sin offering” to “make atonement” for us (Leviticus 16:16). Christ is the perfect Saviour, who “bears all our iniquities” (Leviticus 16:22). Concerning His great sacrifice for us, the Word of God says, “On this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30).

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Give careful attention to God's Word.

"The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

Give careful attention to God's Word. This is what we learn from the Bereans. May God help us to be more like them.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Leading sinners to the Saviour of sinners

"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).

It is a great thing to rejoice in God's salvation. We give thanks for the truth upon which our salvation rests. As well as rejoicing in God's salvation and standing upon His truth, we must also speak directly to those who have wandered from the truth, calling upon them to turn from the error of their ways.
Turning "a sinner from the error of his way" - we don't hear much of this kind of talk nowadays. People like to hear the Good News of salvation. They like to be assured of the truth of God's Word. If, however, our teaching regarding the Good News of salvation and the truth of God's Word are to have real depth, we must speak forthrightly about turning "a sinner from the error of his way."
 * Speaking about our "multitude of sins" - this is not to be dismissed as a purely negative reaction against the easy-going outlook of so many people in today's world. There is something much more positive than that - we speak about our sin so that we might learn to glory in God's salvation.
 * Speaking about "the error of our way" - this is not be dismissed as a 'know-it-all' attitude by which we 'look down our noses' at the 'anything goes' approach that is so common in today's world. There's something much more positive here - following our Saviour, we warn against the folly of building on a foundation of shifting sand so that we might learn to build our life upon the Solid Rock: Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24-27;  1 Corinthians 3:11).
 * Speaking about "death" - this is not be dismissed as out-of-touch with the positive outlook of today's world. Once again, there is something very positive here. We emphasize that "the wages of sin is death" so that there might be a greater appreciation of "the gift of God" which is "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
--
Why do we speak of sin, error and death? 
 - We speak of sin so that people may be called back from the way of sin to a much better way  - the way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our Saviour: "He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25).
 - We speak of error so that people may be called back from the way of error to a much more reliable way than the way of error - the way of truth, trusting in Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6). 
 - We speak of death so that people may be called back from the way of death to the much more wonderful way that God has planned for all who put their faith in His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ - the way of eternal life: "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life" (1 John 5:11-12).

On To Victory

In Christ, we have the victory: “they have conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:7-12).

God is calling us beyond the conflict. He is calling us on to victory.

We don’t live in a perfect world. We’re not perfect people. We wish things could be different – but they’re not! Not yet! We pray, “Your Kingdom come” – but we’re still waiting for God’s complete answer to this prayer. The Book of Revelation provides us with a vision of God’s coming Kingdom. As we await His Kingdom, the words of Habakkuk 2:3 are very helpful to us: “the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”
* There is conflict with the world.
We commit ourselves to living for Jesus Christ. There are plenty of other people who don’t want to have anything to do with Him. This is something we must live with. “We do not lose heart” when we face opposition. We give thanks that “God’s mercy” has reached us, bringing to us the forgiveness of all our sins and giving to us the great privilege of being Christ’s witnesses in this sinful world (2 Corinthians 4:1).
* There is conflict within ourselves.
Though we have committed ourselves to Christ, we are deeply conscious that we do not serve Him as well as we should. Our problems do not always come fom the world around us. Often, we create problems for ourselves. There is too much of self and not enough of Christ in our lives. He has given Himself for us. How much have we given ourselves to Him?
* God is calling us beyond the conflict.
“Just as I am, though tossed about, with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings within, and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come.”
The conflict, the doubt, the fightings, the fears – these things don’t just disappear. Satan makes sure of that! As we look to the Lord, we receive His strength. He enables to say from the heart, “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2). These words take us to a ‘high’ place – but we are quickly reminded that there is also a ‘low’ place. Psalm 9:3 begins with the ominous words, “My enemies”!
Beyond those whom the Psalmist describes as “my enemies, there is another enemy – Satan! As we read Psalm 9:3-6, we must catch a glimpse of the final defeat of Satan. Here on earth, we face conflict. Our life in Christ isn’t an easy life. Satan sees to that!
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This is something we must never forget.
Revelation 12:9-10 tells us while Satan may be very powerful, he is less powerful than Christ. The victory does not belong with Satan. It belongs with Christ.
“The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”
How does this victory become ours? – “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).
The victory is not easily won. It was very costly for Christ. He went to the Cross to win for us the victory over Satan. Revelation 12:12 reminds us that it will be very costly for us – “the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
Whatever the devil may be doing – in the world and in his attacks upon ourselves, may us learn to say from the heart, “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

"Look, I'm standing at the door ... " (Revelation 3:20).

Are you ‘looking for a better country - a heavenly one’ (Hebrews 11:16)? ‘God has put eternity into man’s mind’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In every human heart, there’s ‘a God-shaped blank’. Jesus came to give us ‘life’ - ‘abundant life’, ‘eternal life’ (John 10:10; John 17:3; 1 John 5:11). Without Jesus, our lives are empty. The ‘longing for a better country’ can only be satisfied by Him. He is God’s ‘foretaste of glory divine’ (Mission Praise, 59). Jesus stands at the door of every human heart. He knocks. He waits for our answer. He says, ‘Look, I’m standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to My voice and opens the door, I’ll come in...’ (Revelation 3:20). Don’t ‘shrink back’ (Hebrews 10:39). Invite Him into your heart now.

Let The Living Water Flow.

“And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away” (Genesis 21:25, King James Version).
As I read this verse, I found myself thinking about God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Through God’s written Word, the Holy Spirit speaks to us His Word of “reproof” and “correction” (2 Timothy 3:16). In His ministry of reproof, He says to us, “This is not the way you are to go.” In His ministry of correction, He says to us, “This is the way you are to go.” Leading us out of the wrong way and into the right way – this is the Spirit’s ministry of reproof and correction. Jesus speaks of this ministry of the Spirit – He leads us out of “sin” and into “righteousness” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit calls us to look at ourselves honestly. He shows us that we “have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus calls us to “come to Him and drink.” He says to us that, when we believe in Him, “rivers of living water will flow from our hearts” (John 7:37-38).

God's Word Brings Blessing.

"… the seed shall sprout and grow, he himself does not know how …" (Mark 4:27).
God has given us a great promise – “my word that goes out from my mouth … will not return to me empty” (Isaiah 55:11). When we feel that God’s Word is returning to us empty, we have this Word of encouragement: God’s Word will not return to Him empty. God gives us His great promise “my word … will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We do not see all that God’s Word is doing as the Spirit of God brings Christ to the people. God sees the full impact of His Word. That is why He says that His Word will not return to Him empty. When we have preached the Word, we must say, with the hymnwriter, “I know not how the Spirit moves, convincing men of sin; revealing Jesus through the word, creating faith in Him.” We don’t understand all that God is doing as His Word is preached. We do know that He is at work. How do we know this? – We know Him – “I know whom I have believed.” We know that we can trust His promise – His Word will achieve the purpose for which He sends it. When the “seed” of God’s Word is sown in the hearts of men and women, it will “sprout and grow” – even if we are barely aware of all that is happening. The salvation of sinners – it may be beyond our understanding, but it’s not beyond God’s power: “the gospel … is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

A call to pray, a call to seek God's glory


“You do not have because you do not ask God” (James 4:2) - This is a call to prayer.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3) - This is a call to seek God's glory.

Another "3:16" to set alongside John 3:16!

In John 3:16, we read these wonderful words concerning God's love: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Here's another "3:16" - "So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:16).
This "3:16" leads on to some other words about God's love: "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).
Called to repentance by the God of love, we hear the great promise given to us by our Saviour: "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

We look back to the past. We say, “That was then. That’s old.” We live in the present. We say, “This is now. This is new.” We shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the past. Jesus Christ belongs to the past. He also speaks to us in the present. He is preparing us for God’s eternal future.   
We read the Story of Jesus. We rejoice in His love. We say, “The old, old story – It is ever new. The old, old story – Praise the Lord! It’s true!” It’s true! That’s why it’s still God’s “new song.”
There will always be people who refuse to trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Will they silence us? Will we fail our Lord because we’re afraid of what people will say about us? Let’s be like Paul. Let’s defy our critics. Let’s keep on saying, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). 
Jesus is calling us on to His future. He's not merely a figure from the past. He is “Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (Hebrews 13:8). Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour, the living Lord, stands at the centre of our future. He does not only speak to us from the past. He also speaks to us from the future. What is He saying to us? How will He affect our present way of living? Jesus speaks to us from the future. He calls us on to heaven, but He does not turn us into dreamers who are so “heavenly-minded” that we’re not learning to serve the Lord right now. We sing of our heavenly hope: “On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise, and the glory of His resurrection share; when His chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.” What is to be our present response to this glorious hope? - “Let us labour for the Master from the dawn till setting sun. Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care. Then when all of life is over, and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.”

"Always be joyful in the Lord ... I know how to live in poverty or prosperity" (Philippians 4:4,12).

In the Lord - This is the important thing. Poverty with the Lord is better than prosperity without Him.

The Power And The Glory

"Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us" (Ephesians 3:20).
The power comes from God. The glory goes to God.

"The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24).

The Law of God, the Spirit of God and the Son of God

Some schoolmasters may be viewed as disciplinarians. I think, however, we should see the work of the Holy Spirit here. He convicts us of sin and leads us to Christ. This is not the impersonal law. It's the personal approach of the Holy Spirit. In grace and mercy, He shows us how far we have fallen short of God's perfect standard so that He might gently lead us to the Cross of Christ, the place where we receive the forgiveness of all our sins.
In Galatians 4:6, we learn that ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.’ The Spirit is not a reward which we earn by being good people. We are bad people who have broken God's law. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). The Spirit is not a reward which we earn because of our good works. Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ (Galatians 3:13-14).
When the Spirit brings us to Christ our Saviour, He takes us through a process which could be described as disciplinarian. We could look at His work in this way - so long as we see much more of divine grace in this than we would normally associate with the word "disciplinarian"!
The Spirit strips us of our human pride. He leads us to come to Christ with humility. When the Spirit has done His work in our hearts, we do not come to God with our religion in one hand and our morality in the other, insisting that we deserve to be blessed by Him. We look away from ourselves to Christ - ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling.’ All pride in ourselves must be brought to Christ’s Cross as we humbly pray, ‘Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, break me, melt me, mould me, fill me.’
Let's look beyond the idea of the law as a disciplinarian. Let's give thanks to God. He has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).

Strong words ...

“… watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned … By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people” (Romans 16:17-18).

These are very strong words. They are words which have a great deal to say to the Church at a time when it seems that the voice of permissive society is threatening to drown out completely the voice of Holy Scripture. When Paul addresses the problem of divisions among God’s people, He calls us to be faithful “to the teaching you have learned.” Behind Paul’s words concerning “the teaching you have learned”, there is something else: “according to the Scriptures.” We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Paul begins by speaking about “the gospel which I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1). As we look on to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, it becomes clear that he is not concerned with drawing attention to himself. What he is concerned about is this: “according to the Scriptures” – “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The Holy Spirit Comes From God - And Changes Us.

(i) The Holy Spirit comes from God.

- The new birth (John 3:3, 7).

- “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).

(ii) The Holy Spirit changes us.
– “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-4).
– “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

"I have reason to glory in Christ Jesus in the things which pertain to God" (Romans 15:17).

Where has the blessing come from? Does it say something about how worthy we are? No! It's not about us. We haven't done anything to deserve God's blessing. The blessing comes from the Lord. To Him be all the glory!

Jesus Is Risen. Jesus Is Lord.

“God raised Jesus Christ from the dead” (Acts 2:24).
Did this become true only because a lot of people said that it was true? Has it become false because many people refuse to believe that it’s true? No! It’s God’s great miracle. Death has been defeated. There is hope. Death will not triumph over us. Jesus Christ is Lord.

Great Boldness And Great Blessing - From Our Great Saviour

Peter preached Christ with great boldness: ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’(Acts 4:12).
This boldness came from the Holy Spirit. Peter was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’(Acts 4:8). Don’t say, ‘I‘m no Peter’. Peter failed his Lord and had to be restored (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-17). Peter drew great strength from ‘the company of those who believed’. They ‘gathered together’ for prayer. They ‘were of one heart and soul’…’(Acts 4:31-33). Why did God deal so severely with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? This was the start of something great. God refused to let His work be spoiled! There is a warning for us: Don’t pretend to be more holy than you really are. God sees what you’re really like. ‘Search me, O God…’(Psalm 139:23-24). There was great blessing: ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord’(Acts 5:14). There was persecution (Acts 5:17-18). This did not hinder the advance of the Gospel (Acts 5:42). Satan was not going to give up easily. He came right back at the apostles (Acts 6:1). Satan was defeated. Through the Spirit of God and the Word of God, the victory was won. The apostles ‘devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’. They were supported by ‘seven men… known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom’(Acts 6:3-4). Armed with ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God’, let us be ‘be strong in the Lord’- ‘filled with the Spirit’- as we ‘let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’(Ephesians 6:17,10; 5:18; Colossians 3:16). Filled with His Spirit and obedient to His Word, let us look to God for His blessing (Acts 6:7).

“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Is this no longer true just because a lot of people have lost interest in singing the song of salvation?
No! This was Good News in Paul’s day. It’s still Good News for today.
It will always be the Good News of God’s love. It will always be the great reminder of God’s “for ever” love (Psalm 136).

Jesus' Love For Us - And Our Love For Him

John 21:15-17
Jesus loves us so much more than we love Him. In love, He comes to us to draw out from us a greater love for Him. I find great encouragement in the story of the restoration of Peter in John 21. Peter had denied the Lord three times. For each denial, Jesus came to Peter with the question, “Peter, do you love Me?” Three times, Peter reaffirmed his love for Jesus. Following on from this, there is the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) when the Lord works through Peter in a very wonderful way. Three thousand people are brought to faith in Christ – for each denial, a thousand souls brought to faith! What a wonderful restoration! May we have much cause to say of the Lord, “He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). May our ministry of His Word prosper – “those who turn many to righteousness shall shine like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Good News for sinners

God's way of righteousness begins with this - He is "just" - and leads to this - He "justifies those who have faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

"For our salvation Christ came down from heaven" (Nicene Creed) - This is Good News for sinners. 
As we rejoice in the "for our salvation" message of the Gospel, let us never forget the "for His glory" message! 
"To God be the glory, great things He has done! So loved He the world that He gave us His Son, who yielded His life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in.
  Praise the Lord! ... Give Him the glory!"

Christ-centred Ministry

In his message to the elders at Ephesus, Paul describes his ministry in this way - "I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:20-21). As he speaks of this Christ-centred ministry, Paul makes it clear that he does not carry out this ministry in his own strength. He speaks of the next step in his missionary journey - "now ... I am going to Jerusalem, bound in the Spirit" (Acts 20:22). We learn from Paul that the Holy Spirit is leading us on to greater things - in the service of Christ. Paul was not content with what he had achieved in the service of Christ. led by the Holy Spirit, Paul was moving on to greater things. This is the way the Holy Spirit is leading us today. We must not rest content. We must go on.

Strengthening the faith of all the disciples

"Paul ... strengthened  the faith of all the disciples" (Acts 18:23).

Strengthening the faith of all the disciples - This is such an important ministry. We are not to be content with the faith that we have. We are to press on to a stronger faith. What do we mean when we speak about a strong faith? What we mean is this: We're learning to trust in our strong God. Our God is always stronger than our faith. It's not so much our faith that's strong. It's our God who's strong. The strengthening of our faith - This is about a growing awareness of our strong God. He is our strength. Our faith is growing stronger when we're learning to look away from ourselves - we are always weak - to our God - He is always strong.

Cleansing

“Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’” (John 13:10).
* “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us all from sin” (1 John 1:7).
When we come in faith to Jesus Christ, our Saviour, we receive complete cleansing – “The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” ”Every sin had to go ‘neath the cleansing flow.”  * “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, keeps on cleansing us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Coming to Christ and receiving the forgiveness of our sins is just the beginning of our walk in God.
Through faith in our Saviour, we become God’s children. Becoming God’s children through faith in Christ is the beginning of our new life in Christ. God is calling us to grow in Christ. He is calling us to become mature believers.
How are we to grow in Christ? How are to become mature believers? Often, sin will come between us and the holy God. When this happens, we must remember that He is our loving Father. In His great love for us, He has provided for us the way of continual cleansing in the blood of Christ, our Saviour.
When we fail the Lord, He does not leave us. He does not disown us. We are still His children, saved by His wonderful grace. He does, however, call us to come back to Him. He calls us to make progress in the way of holiness.
If we are to a life that brings glory to the Lord, we must come to Him – not once only but many times – and be cleansed in the blood of Christ. This is the continual cleansing which we require if we are to grow in Christ and become mature in Him.
The cleansing of our heart begins with conversion. God gives us a new heart. The cleansing of our life involves lifelong learning – learning to live in the power of the new nature given to us by God at the time of our conversion.
May God help us never to forget our complete cleansing. May we always give thanks to Him for this great blessing. May God help us to come to Him, again and again, for the continual cleansing we need if we are to grow in Christ and bring glory to Him.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Suffering and Glory of Christ (Psalm 22)

 * The suffering of Christ - "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Psalm 22:1).
These words lie at the heart of Christ's suffering. He suffered for us. He died for our salvation. He is our Substitute and our Saviour: "He died that we might go to heaven, saved by His precious blood." He went in obedience to the Cross so that we might be called to obedience from the Cross. He was forsaken by God so that we might be forgiven by God.
 * The glory of Christ - "I will declare Your name to My brothers; in the congregation I will praise You" (Psalm 21:22).
Christ's prayer was answered. God raised Him from the dead. Apparent defeat was turned into glorious victory. The cloud of darkness was removed. The glorious light shone through. death is a defeated enemy. Resurrection to eternal life - this is our glorious hope.
As we look at the death and resurrection of Christ, let us give all the glory to God for all that He has done for us.

Here, There And Everywhere

Colossians 1:1-6
"All over the world this Gospel is bearing fruit and growing" (Colossians 1:6). The work of the Gospel is always more than what's happening in the place where you live. Continue to pray for the work of the Lord in many places. Don't forget to pray for those who brought the Word of the Lord to you and are now serving the Lord in another place.

Worship The Lord ... (Psalm 18)

Psalm 18:1-24
The first three verses set the tone: Worship. What a great start to this Psalm. Our attention is directed away from ourselves to the Lord: ‘my strength...my rock, my fortress and my deliverer...my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’ (1-2). The great testimony of verse 3 - ‘I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies’ - did not come easily (4-5). The enemies of the Lord will be brought to judgment (13-14). ‘The cord of death encompassed me...He delivered me from my strong enemy...’ (4-5,17-19) - Rejoice in the risen Christ through whom we have the ‘victory’ over ‘the last enemy...death’ (1 Corinthians 15:20,26,54). God is leading us into ‘a broad place’ (19). Step into the future with Him. Don’t hold back! ‘Let go and let God have His wonderful way’.

Psalm 18:25-50
‘This God’ is ‘our God’. He is ‘the Rock’. He is ‘my Rock’. No one can compare with the Lord our God. He is the living God, the God of our salvation (30-31,46). In the Lord, we have salvation: ‘You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty’. In our God, we have victory: ‘You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet’ (27,39). Do you want to enjoy God’s blessing - His salvation and His victory? God says, ‘Clothe yourselves with humility’. Together with His command, we have God’s warning - ‘God opposes the proud’ - and God’s promise - He ‘gives grace to the humble’ (1 Peter 5:5). There is a question which each of us must answer: ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? There is an answer which of us must give: ‘We are on the Lord’s side’ (Church Hymnary, 479).