Friday, 29 May 2015

God is in control!

God is in control! Jesus was born at Bethlehem - Long before it happened, God had it planned (Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2-3). As we approach Christ's Return, God still has His plan. He is still in control. The birth of Christ is not merely an event from the past. It is also a message for the future. We look back so that we can move forward. We are fearful about many things. 'What's the world coming to?', we ask. God turns our question on its head: 'Christ is coming to the world'. From His first coming, we look on to His Second Coming - He 'will come to all the people' (Luke 2:10): 'Every eye will see Him' (Revelation 1:7). His Return invites us to ask another question: 'When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?' (18:8). For you, is it still 'before Christ'? Let the 'new age' begin: Let Christ be 'born this day' (Luke 2:11) - in your heart!

A very special child!

No ordinary child! Jesus would be special - very special! This was the message the angel brought to Mary - 'He will be great...the Son of the Most High...the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God' (Luke 1:32,35). We celebrate the birth of a child. How much more should we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ! 'Come on and celebrate! His gift of love we will celebrate - the Son of God who loved us and gave us life' (Mission Praise, 99). God is calling us to worship His Son, our Saviour. Let Jesus be the centre of your attention. No one else must compete with Him. 'O come let us adore Him...For He alone is worthy...We'll give Him all the glory...Christ the Lord' (Mission Praise, 490). He is more than 'a lovely baby - much more than that! He is our wonderful Saviour!

Praying Through God's Word: John's Gospel

John 1:1-34
We thank You, Lord, for Your Son, Jesus - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). What a wonderful thing this - it's the great exchange: Jesus has taken our sin, and we receive His salvation.

John 1:35-2:25
Help us, Lord, to look beyond what we are right now. Help us to catch a glimpse of what You want us to become. How are we to become what You want us to be? Your divine power is far more important than our human effort. We don't change ourselves. We are changed by You - changed by Your love, changed by Your power.

John 3:1-36
Where does our salvation come from? Does it come from ourselves? Does it begin with "I"? No! It comes from You. It begins with You - "God so loved the world ... " (John 3:16).

John 4:1-42
We thank You, Lord, for Your great love. You bring us out of our bondage to sin. You bring us into the joy of Your salvation. Your love reaches down to us. Your love brings us to Jesus. He's Your Son. He's our Saviour. Help us to put our trust in Him - to be set free from the guilt of our sinful past, to face the future with the strength that comes from Your joy (Nehemiah 8:10).

John 4:43-5:29
Lord, You love us with the best love of all. There is no love like Your love for us. Where would we be without Your love? Our lives would be a mess - a complete mess. You pick up the pieces. You put us together again. You send Your Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. He is Your guarantee to us that You are leading us on to eternal glory - with You.

John 5:30-6:21
We thank You, Lord, for Jesus - "the Bread of God ... which comes down from heaven" (John 6:33). We recall the words that He spoke to Satan in the wilderness: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). It's Jesus that we need. It's Jesus who satisfies our deepest longings. At the heart of our lives, there is emptiness - when Jesus isn't there. When He is there - in our hearts, everything changes. His love changes everything - and we say, "All that thrills my soul is Jesus. He is more than life to me."

John 6:22-59
Help us, Lord, never to be satisfied with anything less than Jesus. He's the very best, Your greatest gift, Your most wonderful blessing. What could be better than having Jesus as our Saviour? - Nothing! There's no-one like Jesus - Hallelujah!

John 6:60-7:36
We thank You, Lord, for Your Word of life. When we are tempted to draw back from following Jesus, He speaks to us "the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). This is what keeps us walking with You. It's not the strength of our faith. It's the power of Your grace. Our faith is weak. Your grace is strong. Help us, in our weakness, to hear Your Word of strength: "My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

John 7:37-8:20
We thank You, Lord, for Jesus, our holy Saviour, our loving Saviour. Jesus is perfectly holy, yet He keeps on loving us with a perfect love - "Neither do I condemn you" (John 8:11). Jesus' love for us is very wonderful, but He doesn't say to us, 'Go and do what you like.' He says, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11). We have been "redeemed by His precious blood" (1 Peter 1:18-19). May we be renewed, day-by-day, by Your grace which never leaves us as we were, Your grace which changes - "Create in us a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us" (Psalm 51:10).

John 8:21-58  
Help us, Lord, to see ourselves as we really are: "everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Help us, also, to see that Your wonderful grace is greater than all our sin. Help us to see that Jesus sets us free (John 8:36). He forgives our sins. He gives us the strength that we need to keep on walking with You. He's leading us on to Your eternal glory. With Jesus as our Saviour, may we know that our sin will never have the last word: "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

John 9:1-41
Lord, we thank You that You bring us out of our darkness and into Your light: "One thing I know. I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). We only catch a glimpse of Your light. There is still so much darkness. It's not only the darkness around us. It's the darkness in us. Lord, may the glimpses of Your light keep us from being overwhelmed by the darkness.

John 10:1-42
Living for You, Lord, is not easy. Satan sees to that! Help us, Lord, when we're sorely tempted to turn from You, to remember that You are stronger than Satan: "Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

John 11:1-44
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, is "the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11:25). His promise is given to those who believe in Him: "he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25). Help us, when we hear these words of hope, to say 'Yes' to Jesus when He puts to us His question, ""Do you believe this?" (John 11:26).

John 11:45-12:36
We thank You, Lord, for Jesus. He died on the Cross for us. Through His death, Satan is defeated. Through His death, we are saved. Thank You, Lord, for this mighty victory over Satan. Thank You for this great salvation for us.

John 12:37-13:20
Help us, Lord, not to be secret disciples. May we be unashamed to say that we belong to Jesus - to take our stand for Jesus. Help us not to think of Him only as our personal Saviour. Give us the strength that we need to confess Him before others - to confess Him as our Lord.

John 13:21-14:14
When, Lord, we face difficult times, help us to look beyond them - to Your glorious future. Jesus is "preparing a place for us in Your House" (John 14:2). When we feel low, may His precious promise of heavenly and eternal glory fill us wiyth Your joy and Your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

John 14:15-15:17
Lord, we come to You in our weakness. You give to us Your strength. Without Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). With Jesus as our Saviour - His Word abiding in us (John 15:7) and the Holy Spirit teaching us all things (John 15:26), we are led into a life of fruitfulness (John 15:12,16-17). May it be "the fruit of the Spirit" - "love, joy, peace ... " (Galatians 5:22-23).

John 15:18-16:33
Lord, we face many problems and difficulties. You are greater than all of them! This is Good News - and it fills our hearts with joy. "The world is trying to squeeze us into its mould" (Romans 12:2) - but You come to us with Your Word of victory: "Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). You call us to trust in You, to be led in Your way of victory: "Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5).

John 17:1-26
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is praying for us. He is seated at Your right hand - and He has not forgotten us. Often, we forget Him. He never forgets us. He keeps on praying for us - "He ever lives to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25). He prays that we "may be one" (John 17:11).When we are tempted to go the way of Judas Iscariot, "the one who chose to be lost" (John 17:12), help us to "take note of those who create dissensions", to "avoid them" and to "maintain the unity of the Spirit" (Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).

John 18:1-27
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, drank from the cup of our condemnation so that we might drink from the cup of His salvation. What a great thing Jesus has done for us. He has done all that needed to be done - for us to be forgiven by You. We thank You that Jesus, the risen Lord, gives us a new beginning - the new beginning that comes from Your Holy Spirit, the new beginning that turns sinful failures into faithful servants.

John 18:28-19:16
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus took our sin - and we receive His salvation. Is there anything better than this? No! This is the best. Jesus is the best. We look at Him - crucified for us, and we say, "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!"

John 19:17-20:10
We thank You, Lord, that, when Jesus died on the Cross, He did all that needed to be done for our salvation. From the Cross, He mad this great declaration: "It is finished" (John 19:30). These were not words of despair. They are words of triumph. Beyond the Cross, there was something elsethat needed to be done. It was something that only You could have done. You raised Jesus from the dead. No-one else could have done this. Resurrection is Your work. To You alone be all the glory - forever and ever!

John 20:11-31
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, is "our Lord and our God" (John 20:28). We thank You that, through Jesus, the risen Lord, we have received Your gift of eternal "life" (John 20:31). As we think of all that You have done for us and given to us, may we keep on trusting You, giving thanks to You and living to bring glory tp Your great Name - the Name of our salvation.

John 21:1-25
We thank You, Lord, for the words of Jesus - "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19). This is the call of Your grace. It is our Saviour who calls us. He calls to receive His forgiveness - and to follow Him. It is the call to discipleship. We're not to keep our distance. We're to draw near to Jesus - and follow in His footsteps. It's the call to be fruitful. We're not to keep the Good News to ourselves. We're to share Jesus' love with others.We're to bring others to Him. Lord, help us to receive Your grace, to follow your Son, and to bring people to Him.

Saved by the Lord

What we cannot do for ourselves, You do for us. Thank You, Lord. You forgive our sins. You give us new life. You're leading us on to Your eternal glory. Thank You, Lord.

Lead us to Jesus.

We thank You, Lord, that the Holy Spirit directs our attention to Jesus (John 16:14). He leads us to make our confession of faith: "Jesus is Lord" (1 Corinthians 12:3). He leads us into a new life - a life that is centred on Jesus, a life that brings glory to You and blessing to us.

Strengthened By The Lord

We thank You, Lord, for Your gift of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to serve You in our own strength. We come to You in our weakness. You give to us Your strength. This is the strength that we need - the strength that comes from You.

A Message For The New Year

We stand between the past and the future. We are to give thanks for the past. Let us “give thanks to the Lord”, remembering “the wonderful works that He has done” (1 Chronicles 16:8,12). We are to commit our future to the Lord in prayer. God promises His blessing to those who call upon Him in prayer: “If My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). There is work to be done. It is God’s work. God gives His command to do His work. God gives the strength to do His work (Ezra 1:2,5). God raises up His servants to do His work. We must be committed to doing the work of the Lord (Esther 4:14,16).
Sometimes, in God’s work, we wonder what is going on. We wonder, “Where is God in all of this?” We need the encouragement of God’s Word: “He knows the way that I take” (Job 23:10). We need to be assured of the faithfulness of God (Lamentations 3:23). Whenever we don’t understand what God is doing, we must learn to look up and catch a glimpse of His eternal purpose for us: “He has put eternity into man’s mind” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Looking beyond the things of this world, we see Jesus. We see Him as “altogether lovely” – “outstanding among ten thousand” (Song of Solomon 5:16,10).
What is so special about our Lord Jesus Christ? What is so important about Him? He is our Saviour. He died for our sins. Though we had “gone astray”, He continued to love us. He saw that we had “turned every one to his own way”, yet He did not stop loving us. He showed His love for us by dying on the Cross for us: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Through Christ, we have received full salvation.
God has made Himself known to us. He has forgiven our sins. He has become our God. We have become His people” (Jeremiah 31:33-34). He has given us “a new heart” and “anew spirit.” We have His Spirit living within us. We must seek to glorify His “great Name” (Ezekiel 36:26-27,23). With Christ as our Saviour, we have good cause to “rejoice in the Lord” (Joel 2:23). We look away from ourselves to Him, and we say, “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). He is “the living God” – “the God of our salvation (Daniel 6:26-27). We are to “return to the Lord”, believing His promise: “He will revive us” (Hosea 6:1-2). as those who have returned to the Lord and have been revived by Him, we must live for Him, never forgetting that privilege involves responsibility. We dare not sit back and take it easy. If we do, there will be “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 3:2; Amos 8:11). We need “vision.” Looking ahead to the Lord’s return, we must proclaim His message of salvation – “in Mount Zion there shall be those that escape” – and judgment – “there will be no survivors from the house of Esau” (Obadiah 1:17-18),
Before we can enjoy God’s blessing, we must hear the “witness” of the Lord “against” us. Before we can “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God”, we must see how far we have fallen short of His perfect standard for our lives (Micah 1:2; Micah 6:8). We need to see ourselves as we really are – sinners who need to be saved by the grace of God. We must remember that the Lord is a God of holiness as well as a God of love. In His holiness, He shows us our need to be renewed by Him. In His love, He renews us by the power of His Spirit. When He says to us, “Fulfil your vows”, we are conscious of our own inadequacy. When we look to Him for “strength”, we become aware of something else, something very wonderful – “the Lord is restoring” us to a life which will bring glory to Him (Nahum 1:2,7,15; Nahum 2:1-2).
In our sin, we come to the Lord with this prayer: “O Lord … in wrath, remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). In His answer, God directs us to the Cross of Christ, where we see our saviour, bearing our sin so that we might receive His forgiveness. When we pray, we must listen for God’s answer: “Be silent before the Lord God!” In His answer, God speaks to us of “the Day of the Lord.” It is “at hand.” It is “near and hastening fast.” It will be “a day of wrath” because of sin – we “have sinned against the Lord”, He leads us on the pathway which leads to true joy. Through Christ, we are able to “rejoice and exult with all our heart.” Our faith in Christ brings joy to us. It also brings joy to God: “He will rejoice over you with gladness.” He looks forward, with great anticipation, to the Great Gathering Together of His people, the Great Homecoming of the redeemed (Zechariah 1:7,14,15,17; Zechariah 3:14,17,20).
We must not allow ourselves to become bogged down in our present situation. God is calling us to “take courage, to draw strength from His promises: “I am with you … My Spirit abides among you … I will bless you” (Haggai 2:4-5,19). Sometimes, we may feel that the Lord has forgotten us. He remembers us. This gives us good reason to “rejoice greatly.” This joy is not a superficial thing. It is true and lasting joy. It is the rejoicing of those who have returned to the Lord. Never forget this: Our rejoicing in the Lord is always vitally connected to our returning to Him. To those who return to Him. To those who return to Him, He gives His precious promise: “I will return to you.” “The Lord Almighty” returns to us, and we are filled with His joy (Zechariah 9:8,13).    
God will not forget His people. As those who belong to Him through faith in Christ, we have a very special place in His heart. He loves us. we belong to Him. He calls us His “treasured possession.” We have a special place in His purpose. He says, “My Name will be great among the nations.” “In every place”, He wants His Name to be glorified. How is God to be glorified among us? He will be glorified when we honour Him with the full commitment of our hearts and lives. God is waiting to pour out His blessing. He wants “to open the windows of heaven for us and pour down on us an overflowing blessing.” He will do this for us when, in our hearts, we put Him first (Malachi 1:11; Malachi 3:10).
May  God help us to move into the future with Him – ready to be the kind of people upon whom He has promised to pour out His blessing.

A New Year Sermon: Matthew 2:13-23; Luke 2:21-40

Matthew 2:13-23; Luke 2:21-40
We begin with a thought for the New Year. It's from Warren W. Wiersbe - "What good is it for us to add years to our life if we don't add life to our years?"
Now, let's look together at two parts of the Christmas story which are often overlooked.
 (1) Matthew 2:13-23
 * "Out of Egypt" - God led Israel out of Egypt. This is a pictorial prophecy rather than a verbal one. Here, there are parallels with the book of Exodus - the murder of babies, the protection of Moses and Jesus.
 - Moses is God's servant, the human leader in God's purpose for Israel at that time.
 - Jesus is God's Son, the divine Saviour in God's plan of salvation for every nation and every generation.
 Matthew 2:17-18  - This is another pictorial prophecy. Israel's mourning at the time of the Babylonian captivity is compared to the weeping at the time of Herod's massacre of the innocents.
The point is clear. Satan attacks the people of God - but he shall not triumph over the purpose of God. This is about more than the safety of Jesus. It's about our salvation. Later on, there would be suffering for Jesus - the Cross. It's suffering for Him which brings salvation to us.
  Matthew 2:23 - "He shall be called a Nazarene." Nazareth was an obscure town in Galilee. It was a place of lowly reputation - "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46). To call Jesus a Nazarene was to fulfil the prophecy that He would be "despised and rejected" (Isaiah 53:3).
He did not come from Nazareth. He came to Nazareth from heaven. He came from heaven to earth to bring us from earth to heaven.
When we think of Christ as "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3), we are thinking of His crucifixion.
We must look beyond this. He was rejected by men - and then He was raised by God. He was raised by God so that we might be raised to eternal life.
 (2) Luke 2:21-40
In Jesus, salvation has come (Luke 2:30). Our salvation comes to us through His suffering - Mary watched her Son die on the Cross (Luke 2:35).
The journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem was six miles. As a baby, Jesus was taken to the Temple at Jerusalem. 33 years later - only six miles from the place where He was born, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, and there He was crucified for us: "There is a green hill far away outside a city wall where our dear Lord was crucified and died to save us all."
This is Good News from God. Thanks be to God.
As we compare these two Bible readings from Matthew and Luke, we see that the focus of attention is different.
 - Matthew focuses on the opposition from Herod.
 - Luke focuses on the praise from Simeon and Anna.
Taking the two together, we have this great message - Even where there is determined opposition, the people of God continue to praise God.
This is God's Word to us at the beginning of the New Year. He is calling us to keep on praising Him.
Herod's opposition was just the beginning. The conflict continues.
Christ won the victory for us at the Cross - but the final victory is still to come.
Like Simeon and Anna, let us praise God.

A New Year Sermon: 2 Chronicles 30:6-12; Mark 1:1-13

2 Chronicles 30:6-12; Mark 1:1-13
"Then the runners went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the king" (2 Chronicles 30:6).
A message had been given to them. They passed the message on. They "spoke according to the command of the king" (2 Chronicles 30:6).
What we see here, in 2 Chronicles 30, is similar to what we read about in Mark 1 - John the Baptist is the messenger sent from God. He brings God's Word to the people.
In the time of King Hezekiah, in the time of John the Baptist, in today's world, God speaks His Word: "Return to the Lord God" (2 Chronicles 30:6). With the call to return to the Lord, there is the promise: "He will return to you" (2 Chronicles 30:6).
"Return to Me and I will return to you" - This is the message that God is speaking to us all of the time.
We look back to the past, and we ask, "Where have we been? How have we lived in 2014?"
We look on to the future, and we ask, "Where are we going? How will we live in 2015?"
Mark's Gospel speaks of a new beginning. It's not a new beginning which begins with ourselves. It's a new beginning which comes to us from God - "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1).
Our new beginning does not begin with ourselves. It begins with God. Our returning to the Lord doesn't begin when we say to ourselves, "I think I'll return to the Lord." We don't begin there. We must go further back than that. We must go back to the Word of the Lord. Before we ever think of returning to the Lord, He is speaking to us. He's calling us to return to Him.
"The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus ... " Gospel means Good News. Jesus means Saviour.
At this time of year, we wish each other a "Happy New Year." Very often, this is just hoping for the best, hoping that good things will happen to us. As we say, "Happy New Year", we must ask ourselves this very important question: "Do we know the way to true happiness?"
As soon as we ask this question, God gives His answer: "the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
Jesus is our Saviour. This is Good News. Jesus is God's way to true happiness.
Following the ministry of John the Baptist, there is the baptism of Jesus.
 * As we think together about making a new beginning with God, the first thing we must say is this - It's a new beginning in faith.
We are called to believe what God says to us about Jesus: "You are My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11).
 * The second thing we must say is this - It's a new beginning in holiness: "The Spirit descended upon Him like a dove" (Mark 1:10).
As I say to you, "Happy New Year", I pray that you will have been saved by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit.
 * There is, however, a third blessing that I pray you will enjoy - victory over Satan.
In Mark 1:12-12, Mark gives us a brief account of Jesus' temptations - "The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness", "Jesus was tempted by Satan."
 Here, we see the conflict between the Spirit, in Jesus, and Satan, coming from outside of Jesus.
Like Jesus, we need to say to Satan, "You don't belong here. My heart belongs to the Holy Spirit."

Beginning a New Year with God

Psalm 119:105-112
We begin the year with the words of verse 105: ‘Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’. This a great text with which to begin the year. It is a great starting-point for these studies in God’s Word. As we journey through life with God and His Word, we discover that there is a Word from the Lord for every part of life’s journey. There is never a time when God has nothing to say to His people. Sometimes, He speaks to us from places which seem rather unlikely. As we explore His Word, we learn that He is the true and living God, ever ready to bring to us something new, something fresh, something that will send us on our way rejoicing, something that will strengthen our faith, something to deepen our commitment to Christ, something to increase our love for the Saviour. As we receive God’s Word - ‘a lamp to our feet and a light to our path’ - we are to pray, ‘renew my life, O Lord, according to Your Word’ (107).

The Lord Never Changes – He Remains Unchanged, Unchanging And Unchangeable In His Love.

Numbers 20:1-29
No man or woman is indispensable. God’s work goes on, with or without us! (a) Miriam(Moses’ sister) served and worshipped the Lord (Exodus 2:7-8; 15:20-21). Now, her time had come. She was not to enter the land. She ‘died’(1). (b) Moses had been the leader of God’s people. He sinned, and he was excluded from the promised land (12). Do not rest on your laurels. Yesterday’s grace is not sufficient for today’s challenges. A day-by-day walk with the Lord is called for. (c) Aaron(Moses’ brother) had stood alongside Moses in leadership. He ‘died’(28) without entering the promised land. In the leadership of God’s people, the names and the faces change – but the Lord never changes. He remains unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable in His love. When Moses, Aaron and Miriam had gone, God was still there!

God's Word For New Year's Day

The Naming of Jesus – Numbers 6:22-27; Psalm 8; Galatians 4:4-7 (or Philippians 2:5-11); Luke 2:15-21

His Name was called JESUS (Luke 2:21).

Christmas is over – but let’s not forget Jesus. He is still here. He is still with us.
He is for New Year’s Day as well as Christmas Day. He is for every day.
The New Year has begun. Let there be more than a new year. Let there be new life – the new life that Jesus brings.
We have celebrated His birth.
It is similar to the birth of any other child. It is a time for joyful thanksgiving.
It is different from the celebration of any other child. This is the special Child. This is God’s Son. He is Jesus. He is the Saviour. He brings new life to the world.
On the first Christmas Day, the announcement was made: There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).
We move on from the first Christmas. We move on to today. We do not leave Jesus behind. He is with us still.
On this day, any day, every day, we hear God’s call: Let new life begin.
New Year’s Day comes around just once a year. Every day is new life day.
Every day, God is speaking to us. He speaks to us about new life.
This is much more than the traditional greeting – We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

In the Name of Jesus, we hear the Good News of new life. 

He has been born in the city of David.
This is Good News for us. This is Good News for today.
The New Year has begun. Let new life begin.
Let Christ be ‘born this day’(Luke 2:11). Let Him be born in your heart!
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love.
The Name of Jesus is the Name of love, perfect love, the greatest love of all. There is no love like the love of Jesus.
At Christmas time, we look back to His birth. We celebrate His continuing love.
On New Year’s Day, we look on to the future. We commit ourselves to loving Him who first loved us.
In the Name of Jesus, God speaks to us with a call to consecration and a promise of blessing.

* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us consecrate ourselves to Him.

‘Separate... to the Lord... Separate... from wine and strong drink’ (Numbers 6:2-3): These two thoughts are closely connected in the New Testament - ‘Do not get drunk with wine... Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). We are to be ‘holy to the Lord’ (Numbers 6:8). ‘Consecrated to the Lord’, our whole life must be controlled by one thing: ‘Do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).

* Do we love the Name of Jesus? – Let us seek His blessing in our lives.

Motivated by a desire for God’s glory, we will enjoy God's blessing (Numbers 6:22-27). God’s blessing is not a ‘cheap’ thing, something that doesn’t matter very much.
Remember Esau (Genesis 25:29-34). He couldn’t be bothered. He couldn’t care less. God’s blessing meant nothing to him. He didn’t want God’s blessing.
What did God do? - He gave it to Jacob.
‘The Lord bless you...’ - Do you want this? Or must God find somebody else?

In the Name of Jesus, we have the victory.
‘The Lord is ‘majestic’ (Psalm 8:1, 9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. This is the message of Christmas. The Saviour has been born. God has not remained in heaven. He has come to earth. He has come near to us. He is God with us.
In the birth of Jesus, we see God’s greatness, the greatness of His love. His love makes all the difference.
* When we feel forgotten. He remembers us.
* When we feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4).
* When we are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’ (Psalm 8:2).
At the beginning of a New Year, we are reminded of God our Creator (Psalm 8:5-8).
The God of creation is the God of our salvation. From Bethlehem, the place of Christ’s birth, we look forward. We see Jesus, crucified for us. In His death, there is victory. Christ has won the victory for us. Christ has triumphed over ‘him who has the power of death.’ Christ has triumphed over ‘the devil.’ (Hebrews 2:8-9, 14).
We rejoice in Christ’s victory. We worship Him. We sing, “Majesty, worship His Majesty. Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’.

Jesus leads us on from victory to victory.

At the Cross, Christ won the victory over Satan. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ makes His victory real in our life here and now.

* ‘God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts’ (Galatians 4:6).

The Spirit is not a reward we earn by being good people. The Spirit is God’s gift (Titus 3:5). In Galatians 3:13-14, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit with Christ’s death for us and our faith in Christ. 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’(Church Hymnary, 83).
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’(Mission Praise, 613).
God has given His Spirit to us. Let’s give ourselves to Him - to ‘be filled with the Spirit’(Ephesians 5:18).

* ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ’(Philippians 1:6).

Do you feel like you can`t go on? Do you feel like giving up?
God gives us His Word of encouragement. He will bring His good work to completion.
God finishes what He starts - ‘He didn`t bring us this far to leave us. He didn`t teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn`t build His home in us to move away. He didn`t lift us up to let us down’.
In all the changes of life, we must remember this: God is faithful. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
We don`t keep going because we are strong. We are ‘kept by the power of God’(1 Peter 1:5).
‘Jesus Christ is Lord’(Philippians 2:11) – He will give you the strength to keep going when you feel like giving up.
We do not find our own victory. We receive His victory. The victory does not come from deep down within ourselves. It comes from high above us. It comes from Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is not our victory. It is His victory. All the power comes from Him. All the glory goes to Him.
In ‘humility’ let us live ‘to the glory and praise of God’(Philippians 2:3; 1:11).

Opening up God’s Word: Genesis 12:1-3

Our concern is not so much with Abraham. Our chief focus of attention is on “the God of Abraham.” The story of Abraham is both the story of Abraham and the story of God’s grace and power. We see the grace of God, revealed in the promises of God. We see the power of God, revealed in the fulfilment of His promises: “God can do anything; God can do anything; God can do anything but fail; He can save. He can keep. He can cleanse, and He will. God can do anything but fail.”
God’s promise to Abraham has three parts: (a) personal – “I will bless you; (b) national – “I will make of you a great nation”; (c) universal – “by you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As the fulfilment of God’s promise moves forward from Abraham to Israel to Christ, we hear God’s Word speaking to us: “I will bless you” – saved, kept, cleansed.
As we receive the blessing of God’s salvation, we discover how faithful God is, in His love towards us. “God can do anything but fail” – God cannot fail, because He is the everlasting God. He is Lord. He is carrying out His purpose, the purpose of His unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable love. This purpose of love is expressed in His promises. His promises has been fulfilled in Christ. His promises are offered to us today. These promises are summed up in the simple yet rich words, “I will bless you.” His promises express “the unchangeable character of His purpose” (Hebrews 6:17). We know that God will not fail us. He will not let us down. He will not forsake us. He will not leave us. We know this not only because of the promise given to Abraham. We know that God is faithful, in His love, because of the Cross of Christ – “the sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19).
As we learn about the faithfulness of God, we discover that the God of Abraham is our  God, and the God of Jesus Christ is our God. We find ourselves drawn to Him. This isn’t a superficial and shallow attraction. It’s a deep devotion. It’s a heartfelt, loving loyalty. As we think about God’s faithfulness, our hearts are filled with hope for the future. This hope is summed up for us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. we think of Him, and we say, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”

Opening Up God’s Word: Exodus 2:23-25

The mercy of God, revealed in the Exodus, is connected with the ongoing purpose of God – “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24).
From Exodus 1:13 to Exodus 2:23-25, there were 80 years (Acts 7:23,30). These 80 years are referred to as “the course of those many days” (Exodus 2:23). Egypt is “the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6). The people of God were in bondage for many years. Year after year passed, and the people remained in bondage. Where in the world was God in all this? Was He absent? Has He left His people? Had God forgotten His promises? No! Not at all! God was there all the time. In mercy, He was waiting patiently for His people to call upon Him, to cry to Him for mercy.
Is there not here a lesson for our Church and our community? Don’t give up. God hasn’t given up on us. He is still waiting for us to call upon Him. In mercy, He is waiting for us to cry to Him for mercy.
In Exodus 2:23-25, we read about the time when the people of God are brought to an end of themselves, the time when they cry out to the Lord for mercy, the time when God’s plan of salvation is set in motion.
Notice that, if the Lord’s blessing is to come to us, we must be brought to an end of ourselves, and we must learn to cry to the Lord for mercy.
We must note the contrast between Israel’s past in “the house of bondage” and the future that was opened up for them by God’s mighty act of redemption, the Exodus. Is there not here a picture of the future could be for our congregation and community? Before start thinking about what the future may hold, we must think about the past from which we need to be delivered. Have we, like the people of Israel, lived in “the house of bondage”? Have we been in bondage to a self-centred and godless lack of spiritual priorities? Have we been in bondage to prayerlessness? Has this bondage, like the people of Israel’s bondage, continued for many years? Have we been in bondage to fear which holds us back from being faithful and loyal witnesses to Jesus Christ? Our future can be very different. We can leave “the house of bondage.” We can leave it in the past. We can follow the Lord into the future He has planned for us. We can set out on a new journey of faith, a journey that will lead us to a new, bright, Christ-centred future – a future which will be blessed by the Lord.
What will our future be? Will it be a life of continuing in “the house of bondage”? or Will it be a new life – a life that has Christ at its very centre? Will we rise to the challenge of being the people of God – people who are serious about living for the Lord, even when it would be so easy to settle for something less than God’s very best?
What will your choice be? Will you stop saying ‘No’ to God, and start saying ‘Yes’ to Him? Will you dare to start being honest with God and with yourself? If you and I dare to be honest with God and with ourselves, we will be deeply humbled before Him, we will acknowledge our need of God’s mercy, and we will make a new beginning with Him.
As we think about the future, we will be tempted to ask, “Have things gone too far?” This is the voice of the devil, speaking to us. God is saying something else to us. He’s speaking to us of His mercy. If we forget the mercy of God, we will be pessimistic about the future. If we look to the God of mercy, we will grow strong in the faith that things can be turned out – by God.
If things are turned around, we must make outr response to the God of mercy. We must receive His mercy, which brings to us the forgiveness of our sins. We must receive, from Him, the power that we need to rise up and live as His faithful servants, who learning day-by-day what it means to be set free from our self-centred way of life, set free for a life of serving the Lord and bringing glory to His Name, the Name of our salvation.
There is an alternative to being real with God. It’s the way of hypocrisy. We can ‘go through the motions’ of religion – but we must not forget what Jesus says about that way of life – “I never knew you, Away from Me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23).
May God help us to open our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord – and we’ll see the difference that He makes, when we give Him life-service, and not just lip-service.

Barth's Theme - Not I, but Christ

Karl Barth is not the Name.
Jesus, for salvation, came.
Barth points us to the One,
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

If Barth were here today, 
I think he would still say,
Look from Barth, look away. 
Look to Jesus, he would say.

Karl Barth spoke of Christ’s grace. 
Yes! Karl Barth knew his place.
He did not seek the glory. 
He wrote to tell Christ’s story.

Look! Here comes Doctor Barth! 
It doesn’t sound quite right!
If God’s Word claims our heart, 
“Jesus only” is in our sight.

“Barth is small. Christ is great.” 
This is what “KB” said.
We’re in an awful state,
When we say “Barth is great ...”.

Karl Barth wrote many books. 
What were they all about?
To Jesus Christ he looks. 
Let’s get His message out.

Words of Christ's text are few.* 
They are addressed to you.
“The Bible tells us so”,
And Jesus helps us grow.

Karl Barth said, “Less of me.”
More of Christ may we see.
When we read Barth’s CD,**
May Christ be all we see.

Karl Barth calls us to praise. 
Our songs to Christ we raise.
With the Lord we will win. 
He is Victor over sin.

Dare we forget Karl Barth?***
Let Jesus fill your heart,
This, he asks us to do: 
Trust in Christ. He loves you.

If you and I do this, 
Barth’s point, we will not miss.
Put Jesus first, and not KB. 
Jesus’ people, we must be.
* Here, I am thinking of a sermon preached on 2 Corinthians 12:9 in which Barth contrasted the many books he had written and the few words of his text, "My grace is sufficient with you." He said that we may forget all that he says, but we must hold on to these few words: "My grace is sufficient for you."
** CD = "Church Dogmatics", not "Compact Disc"!!
*** The name Barth is pronounced Barth. The h is silent.
These thoughts about Karl Barth are offered in a spirit of critical appreciation. What I am saying is an echo of what Barth himself said. Whatever importance Karl Barth may have had, this is nothing compared with the importance of Jesus Christ.

God’s Word is preached publicly. It must also be applied personally – by you!

Joshua 11:16-12:24

What is the spiritual value of this list of victories? Don’t be sidetracked by the military aspect. This is not about Israel blowing its own trumpet. It is about giving glory to God. In Genesis 12:1-3, we have God’s promise to bring blessing to all nations. Before Christ came as ‘the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42), Israel was to become ‘a great nation’ - ‘a holy nation’, ‘a light to the nations’ (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 49:6). This involved the ‘curse’ on the rebellious peoples who presented a sinful obstacle to God’s saving purpose. The Lord is King! The united people of God won a decisive victory in ‘the whole land’ (Joshua 11:23). There was, however, still ‘very much land to be possessed’ by the individual tribes (Joshua 13:1). God’s Word is preached publicly. It must also be applied personally - by you!

Opening Up God’s Word: Genesis 3

“Behold, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought many devices” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
* Following the glory and majesty of the Creator and His creation in Genesis 1 & 2, the third chapter of Genesis begins with the enemy of God, the enemy of our souls, the devil, Satan (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2). He is “subtle” – sly, cunning, crafty. He is evil.He sows seeds of doubt: “Did God say?” (Genesis 3:1). From his very first words, it is clear that he is the enemy of God. “Did God say? Did God really say?” One can almost hear the wicked, unbelieving tone of voice with which Satan spoke.
* When the woman heard the voice of Satan, she ought to have turned away from him. She ought to have said, “Get behind me, Satan. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” She ought to have said this, but she didn’t. She discussed the matter with the enemy. She had no right to do this. There was one answer she ought to have given to the devil: God has spoken, God has stated His will, God has given His Word.  This is what she ought to have said to Satan, but she didn’t.
* As Satan spoke to Eve and she listened to him, he made her doubt God’s Word and question His command. Eve started to talk things over with Satan. This is where she made her big mistake. She should have told Satan that God’s command is for our good. She should have told him that God’s law is good and pure and holy. She should have said this to the devil, but she didn’t. The more Eve spoke with Satan and listened to him, the less she delighted in God’s holy Word; She was seduced by the devil’s subtlety. She was led astray by the deceiver. By this time, Satan had moved beyond questioning God’s Word. He was contradicting it. He was saying the exact opposite of what God had said. He was saying “You will not die” (Genesis 3:4). By this time, Eve was taken in by the tempter. When she looked at the tree, she saw only what Satan wanted her to see (Genesis 3:6). She had cast aside the Word of God and listened, instead, to the voice of the devil. She no longer allowed God’s Word to be the last word on the matter. Now, she thought that she had the right to decide whether or not God’s way was the best way. She made herself the judge of what was good and evil, right and wrong. She had stopped listening to the Word of God. She was no longer committed to obeying the Word of God. The story of Genesis 3:6  continues down to the present day – Adam’s sons are still “rushing helter skelter to destruction with their fingers in their ears” (Don Francisco).
* The immediate effect of sin was shame. Note the contrast between Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:7. Sin and shame go together. Sin is not something of which should be proud. Sin is something of which we should be ashamed. Refusing to listen to god’s word is a matter of great shame. Refusing to do god’s will is a shameful thing. The shamefulness of sin is bound up with the undeniable fact that sin makes us guilty – utterly and completely guilty before God. The innocence of Genesis 1 & 2 was lost. Like, Adam and Eve, we are guilty – unquestionably guilty before the God of perfect holiness. The judgment of God is upon us. Like Adam and Eve, we may resort to finger-pointing. Adam blamed the woman (Genesis 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:13). There can be no passing the buck. We must acknowledge our sin before God. We must confess our sin to Him. as we come to God, seeking His forgiveness, we will discover the wonder of His love for us.
When we come, acknowledging the holiness of God and our own sin and guilt – “God made man upright, but they have sought many devices”, we discover that the God of great holiness is also the God of great love. The God, who pronounces His judgment upon sin, is also the God who demonstrates His love for sinners.
When God says, “What is this that you have done?” (Genesis 3:13), this is not only a Word of judgment on sin. It’s also the Word that speaks of God’s love for sinners. God is declaring His love for sinners. He is saying, ‘I have loved you so much. There is absolutely no reason why you should have done this.’ God is declaring His love for us. In love, He’s appealing to us not to turn our backs on Him and lose out on the blessing that He wants so much to give to us. He’s saying to us, ‘I love you. Why are you turning away from Me? Will you not return to Me, and discover how much I love you?’
When God says, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9), this is not only a Word of God’s holiness, from which we have been separated by our sin. It’s also a Word of His love, This is God’s seeking love. This is the God of love, seeking the lost sinner. He is saying, ‘I love you, and I am seeking to save you.’
The God of love, the God who seeks to save sinners, gives the first promise of a Saviour, as early as Genesis 3:15. These words, spoken to the enemy. promise that there will be One who will triumph over the enemy: “I will put enmity between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Jesus, our Saviour, fulfils this promise of love. He was “bruised” for our sins, and, through His death, He has triumphed over Satan for us. So, even here in Genesis 3, with its message of sin and guilt, there is, for us, a message of hope – triumphant hope, glorious hope, eternal hope.

Praying Through God's Word: Micah

Micah 1:1-2:13
We thank You, Lord, that Micah was a fearless preacher of Your Word. His message was not popular: ‘Let the Lord God be a witness against you.’ He was a forthright preacher of Your Word. He knew that the people wouldn’t want to hear what he had to say to them. He demanded that they listen to him. This wasn’t only Micah’s word. It was Your word, Lord. That’s why Micah said, ‘Hear, O peoples, all of you. Listen, O earth and all who are in it’ (Micah 2:2). Teach us, Lord, that we cannot afford to ignore Your Word. Help us to listen to Your Word. You speak Your Word against us. You say to us, ‘You cannot save yourselves’ (Micah 2:3). You speak Your Word against us so that we might learn to rejoice in Your Word of salvation: ‘I will bring you together like sheep returning to the fold’ (Micah 2:12).

Micah 3:1-5:1
We thank You, Lord, for the words that 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 You - ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’ - and walk with You - ‘We will walk in the Name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.’ How do we learn to ‘walk in Your paths’? We come to Your ‘House’. We listen to Your ‘Word’. We pray that Your Word will come to us ‘with power.’ We ask You to ‘teach us Your ways.’ We pray that we will be ‘filled with the Spirit of the Lord’ (Micah 4:2,5; 3:8). We worship You, Lord. Gathered in Your House for worship, we ‘receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on us.’ Through Your power, we are equipped for witness: ‘you will be My witnesses...’ (Acts 1:8).

Micah 5:2-6:16
We thank You, Lord, for Micah's words of prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus at ‘Bethlehem’ (Micah 5:2). This prophecy invites us to ‘go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ At ‘Bethlehem’, we see ‘shepherds, glorifying and praising God’ (Luke 2:15,20). We thank that Jesus, Your Son is also Jesus our Shepherd. He is the One whom the shepherds worshipped. He is the One who ‘will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord...’. He is ‘the Good Shepherd’. He ‘laid down His life’ for us. He is ‘the Great Shepherd’. He ‘was raised from the dead’ for us. He is ‘the Chief Shepherd’. He will ‘come’ again for us (5:4; John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). We thank You, Lord, that Jesus our ‘Shepherd’ gives us ‘strength’ to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8).

Micah 7:1-20
‘Who is a God like You? You forgive sin... You love to be merciful.You will again have compassion on us... You will throw all our sins into the depths of the ocean!... You will bless us... You will set Your love upon us...’ (Micah 7:18-20). When, Lord, we read these great words, we think of Jesus, our great Saviour - ‘I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean. He took my sins and my sorrows. He made them His very own. He bore the burden to Calvary, and suffered and died alone. When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see, ‘twill be my joy through the ages to sing of His love for me. How marvellous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be: How marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviour’s love for me!’ (Mission Praise, 296).

Praying Through God's Word: Leviticus

Leviticus 1:1-2:16
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). In His death for us, we see Your love for us. Help us to come to the Cross of Christ. Help us to worship You in the beauty of holiness. Help us to celebrate Your love in the spirit of thanksgiving.

Leviticus 3:1-4:35
We thank You, Lord, that "we have peace with You through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). We thank You that "Jesus is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14). This peace is not something that comes from within ourselves. It comes to us from outside of ourselves. It comes from above. It comes to us from You. It's given to us. It's Your gift. We cannot give this gift to ourselves. We can only receive it by faith - faith in Jesus, our Saviour.

Leviticus 5:1-6:30
We thank You, Lord, that Your salvation is greater than our sin. We look at Christ's sacrifice - He gave Himself in death for us. We are glad that He is our Saviour. He has taken our sin upon Himself. He gives Your salvation to us. Thank You, Lord.

Leviticus 7:1-38
When, Lord, we think of Jesus, crucified for us, may our hearts be filled with joyful praise and heartfelt thanksgiving.

Leviticus 8:1-36
Lord, You love us. You call us to love You. Help us, Lord, to grow in our love for You - to obey Your Word, to do Your will, to walk in Your way.

Leviticus 9:1-10:20
Lord, You are holy. We are sinners. You see our sin - and You keep on loving us. We see Jesus - and we know that You will never stop loving us. Help us, Lord, to confess our sin and to receive Your forgiveness. Lead us out of our sin and into Your holiness - and help us to give all the glory to You.

Leviticus 11:1-47
Lord, we thank You that Your call to holiness begins with Your call to salvation. We're not left to go it alone. You come to us. You come as our Saviour. You take us as we are - but You don't leave us the way You found us. You start changing us. You have great plans for us. You're making us more like Your Son, Jesus. We trust Jesus. We receive His salvation. Help us to follow Him, to be changed by Him, to become more like Him.

Leviticus 12:1-13:46
Lord, we thank You that the blood of Your Son, Jesus, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). We come to the Cross of Christ in our failure. At the Cross of Christ, we receive Your forgiveness. We bring our sin to the Saviour. He gives to us His salvation. Bring us, Lord, out of the darkness of our sin and into the light of Your salvation.

Leviticus 13:47-14:32
We thank You, Lord, that "the vilest offender , who truly believes, that moment, from Jesus, a pardon receives." By faith, we receive Your forgiveness - but we never earn Your forgiveness. Forgiveness is always Your gift. It's never a reward. By faith, we look away from ourselves. We look to Jesus, our Saviour. We do not say, "How great is my faith." We say, "How great is my Saviour."

Leviticus 14:33-15:33
Lord, what are we to do about our sin? What can we do about it? It keeps on spreading. We can't do anything about this. It just gets worse and worse. What can be done about this? We can do nothing - but Jesus can do something about it. He's our Saviour. He comes to us in love. He comes to us in power. He forgives our sin. He gives us a new beginning. The past is put behind us. Jesus leads us on to Your eternal glory. Hallelujah! - "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23).

Leviticus 16:1-34
Lord, we sing of Jesus, Your Son. He is "the man of sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3) - but this does not make us sad. We look beyond His suffering. We see our salvation. We sing of Your salvation. With joy, we sing to You - "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" We look at Jesus - and we ask the question, "Full atonement - can it be?" We rejoice in Your answer - "Full atonement - Yes it is!" What a a perfect Saviour we have! What a great salvation He has given to us! Help us, Lord, to say, in our hearts, "God forbid that I should ever boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).

Leviticus 17:1-18:23
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus, died - so that we might live. He was forsaken by You - so that we might live with You. We think of Jesus, suffering for us - "In my place, condemned, He stood." We think of the blessing that He brings to us: "Sealed my pardon with His blood." Here-and-now, there's a song of praise, arising in our hearts - but there's more than that: We look forward to the full glory of Your heavenly and eternal glory: "When He comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we'll sing: Alleluia! What a Saviour!"

Leviticus 18:24-19:37
Lord, You are the God of perfect holiness. You are the God of perfect love. You call us to a life of holiness. You call us to a life of love. How are to live this life of holiness and love? We need the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of love. Without Him, we cannot even begin to live this new life - the life of holiness and love. We thank You, Lord, that You have not left us to live this life in our own strength - "the Holy Spirit ... lives in us" (2 Timothy 1:14).

Leviticus 20:1-27
Lord, if we are to become holy, it must be Your doing - not our own achievement. We come to our Saviour with our sin. We receive from Him Your forgiveness - and the Spirit of holiness. Our past is put behind us. Our sins are forgiven - and forgotten. You call us on into Your future. We are being changed by Your love and Your holiness. We look back at all that You have done for us - and we say, "To God be the glory! Great things He has done." We look forward to all that You will do for us - and we say, 'To God be the glory! There is more to come  - "much more" (Romans 5:10). The best is yet to be! (1 Corinthians 2:9).'

Leviticus 21:1-22:16
Teach us, Lord, that "every virtue we possess ... every victory won ... every thought of holiness are Yours alone." Virtue, victory, holiness - Where do these things come from? They come from You, Lord. "In ourselves, there is no good thing" (Romans 7:18) - Our lives have been spoiled by our sin. We thank You, Lord, that You haven't given up on us. You haven't dismissed us as a lost cause. You keep on working in us, changing us, making us more like Jesus.

Leviticus 22:17-23:44
Lord, You call us to "worship You in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Where does true worship come from? - It comes from You. It comes from Your Spirit. It comes from Your Truth. We read the Holy Scriptures - and we begin to worship You. We open our hearts to the Holy Spirit - and the spirit of praise grows stronger in us. We listen to the voice of our Holy Saviour - and He leads in the pathway of true worship. True worship comes from You: "Fill Thou our life, O Lord our God, in every part with praise."

Leviticus 24:1-25:24
Lord, we hear the questions, "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?" and "Who shall stand in His holy place?" - and we say, 'This is too much for us." We thank You, Lord, that there is Good News for us. There is One who has ascended the hill of the Lord. There is One who stand in Your holy place. Jesus has ascended the hill of the Lord. Jesus stands in Your holy place. He has ascended Your holy hill - for us. He stands in Your holy place - for us. He has "received blessing from You" - for us (Psalm 24:3-5). When , Lord, we come to worship You, help us to come in the Name of Jesus: Just as I am, without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me ... "

Leviticus 25:25-55
Teach us, Lord, that what You have done for us is always so much greater than anything we could ever do for You. You gave Your Son, Jesus, to be our Saviour. Your Holy Spirit has come to live in our hearts. He's changing us. He's making us more like Jesus. You give us the privilege of serving You - sharing, with others, the wonderful love of Jesus. You've done so much for us. You've given so much to us. What have we done to deserve all of this? - Nothing! It's Your gift. We can only say, "Thank You, Lord."

Leviticus 26:1-46
Lord, help us never to think, "We are blessed because we are obedient." Help us always to say, "We are blessed because You love us and Jesus died for us." Your love for us, Jesus' death for us:  This is where the blessing comes from - and it's where our obedience comes from! We think of Your great love for us. We think of Jesus, crucified for us.  We say, "Lord, You love me. Help me to love You." We say, "Jesus, You died for me. Help me to live for You." This is how Your blessing comes to us - You show us how much You love us, You put Your love into our hearts, the obedience grows stronger - and so does the blessing!

Leviticus 27:1-34
What great love, Lord, You have for us. There is no love like Your love for us. It's the best love! What joy You give to us - the joy that comes from knowing that we are loved with "everlasting love" (Jeremiah 31:3). Help us, Lord, to rejoice in Your love, to be changed by Your love, to share Your love. Your love: It's the best thing we could ever receive from You - and it's the best thing we can pass on to other people!

Praying Through God’s Word: Haggai


We read, Lord, the questions that You put to Your people: ‘Why is everyone saying it is not the right time for rebuilding My Temple?'; ‘Is it then the right time for you to live in luxurious homes, when the Temple lies in ruins?’ (Haggai 1:2-4). Your people had forgotten about You. They were pleasing themselves – but they were not pleasing You! Lord, You’re challenging us to think about our way of living – ‘Consider your way of life’ (Haggai 1:5,7). Teach us, Lord, to ‘obey Your voice.’ Help us to change our way of thinking – ‘the people feared the Lord’ – and living – ‘They came and began work on the House of the Lord Almighty, their God.’ Help us to obey Your voice and trust in Your promise – ‘I am with you’(Haggai 1:12-14).
Lord, You’re speaking Your Word to us: ‘“Be strong, all you people of the land”, declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you”, declares the Lord Almighty’ (Haggai 2:4). You’re calling us to work for You. When, Lord, we commit ourselves to serving You, You give to us the promise of Your blessing: ‘From this day on I will bless you’ (Haggai 2:19). To Your faithful servants, You promise great blessing: ‘I will fill this House with glory’ (Haggai 2:7). You’re calling us to give ourselves completely to You: ‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that, in the Lord, your labour is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58). When we hear Your questions, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Who will serve the King?’, may we say, ‘We are on the Lord’s side, Saviour, we are Thine… Always on the Lord’s side, Saviour, always Thine’ (Church Hymnary, 479).

Worship (Part One) - Psalm 17

1) Worship with sincerity (Psalm 17:1-5).
2) Worship the Saviour (Psalm 17:6-9).
3) Worship despite setbacks (Psalm 17:10-14).
4) Worship with satisfaction (Psalm 17:15).
1) Worship with sincerity (Psalm 17:1-5).
God calls us to be sincere. Without sincerity, we can never offer true worship to the Lord. We are not, however, at liberty to decide for ourselves what "sincerity" means. Sincerity isn't everything. You can be sincere - and wrong. God is looking for more than sincerity. We need truth as well as sincerity.  Our worship is to be grounded in God's Word. We are to build upon truth with sincerity. Our faith is to be grounded in the "Scriptures" (2 Timothy 3:14-15). Our faith is to be "a sincere faith" (2 Timothy 1:15). This sincerity is to be grounded in the Scriptures. We come to the Scriptures, ready to hear what the Lord has to say to us. We come to the Scriptures, ready to be changed by what the Lord has to say to us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
2) Worship the Saviour (Psalm 17:6-9).
Our faith is to be centred on the Saviour. A faith which is centred on "my sincerity" is very different from a faith that is centred on "my Saviour." True worship Him is more about Him than it is about me. We can make our faith up as we go along - and still say, "This is what sincerely believe." Our sincerity doesn't amount to very much if we find ourselves being "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). What will it mean to have a faith that is centred on the Saviour? It will mean this. Our faith is grounded in "the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  We do not come to the Scriptures with our minds already made up about Jesus. A "faith" that is centred upon Jesus, the teacher and example, needs to be challenged. Does your "faith" come from your own sincerity? We can make a "god" of our own sincerity. Even God is not permitted to shake our confidence in our own sincerity. What kind of worship can we offer to the Lord our God if our "faith" is full of the self-righteousness, which makes much of Jesus, the teacher and example, while refusing to trust Him as Saviour? The answer is simple and straightforward. There is a form of "worship", which says more about ourselves than it says about our Saviour. True worship does not begin and end with a commitment to following Jesus' teaching and example. True worship begins with being saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). Saved by Christ, let us follow Him. In the life of discipleship, we are "kept by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5). With such a great Saviour, leading us on to eternal life, why should we be content with a "Jesus", who is no more than a great teacher and a great example?
3) Worship despite setbacks (Psalm 17:10-14).
Where do our setbacks come from? They come from Satan. Many people profess their faith in God. They do not, however, take Satan seriously. Don't take Satan seriously - and he won't take you seriously! You will be an irrelevance! We take Satan seriously. We take Christ even more seriously! "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). In our worship, we will not hesitate to speak of spiritual warfare. There is an enemy. His name is Satan. We will speak, even more emphatically, of the victory of Christ. God's people need to hear the warning - "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour" (1 Peter 5:9). More than the warning, we need to hear of Christ's triumph - "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). When Satan, our determined enemy, comes to us with many powerful temptations, let's remind him that he's a defeated enemy. Christ has won the victory for us. Let us take our stand on his victory - "this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith."  Satan will dispute God's verdict - "Did God say ... ?" (Genesis 3:1). We throw another question back at him - "Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:5). Satan knows the answer to that question. That won't stop him coming back at us again and again - "the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!" (Revelation 12:12). Let's keep on reminding him of this - "the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down ... into the lake of fire ... " (Revelation 12:9; 20:10). In our worship, may we have many reminders of Christ's great triumph over Satan: "Now the salvation and the power and the Kingdom of our God anf the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down" (Revelation 12:10).
4) Worship with satisfaction (Psalm 17:15).
Where does our satisfaction come from? Satan promises much - but the end result will be "I can't get no satisfaction." Satan will "transform himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14). Jesus tells us the truth about Satan - "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." Satan will promise us everything - and give us nothing! Where does our satisfation come from? It comes from Jesus. He gives us His promises - and He keeps His Word,. He does what He said He would do for us: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). With Jesus as our Saviour, we have a better life than we could ever have with Satan as our master. It's a better life. It's eternal life. Jesus, our Good Shepherd says to us: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).

The Darkness Of Sin, The Light Of Salvation

Beyond the darkness of sin, there's the light of salvation (Genesis 1-3).
This is not only about creation. It's also about sin. There's also the promise of salvation (Genesis 3:15). Even in the darkness of sin, there's a glimpse of the light that will come. God created us. He has not forgotten us. He has sent His Son for us. He has not left us in our sin. He has delivered us. We have just a hint of this here - "The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent" (Genesis 3:15). There is enough of a hint to persuade us that there are better things still to come. We do not get bogged down in sin. God is calling us beyond that. He is calling us on to salvation. He is calling us to come to the Saviour - our Lord Jesus Christ.

Back to the beginning

Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
This is our only starting-point. We begin with the eternal God. Before there was creation, there is God. There is nothing beyond God. He is the Beginning.
Genesis 1:2 - “darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of face of the waters.”
Before the Spirit of God has done his powerful work in our hearts, we remain in darkness. We can do nothing about this. The light does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord.
Genesis 1:3 - “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
This is the mighty work of God. Through His amazing grace, He brings us out of His darkness and into His light.
Genesis 1:4 - “the light was good”
What a wonderful blessing it is when the light of the Lord shines in our hearts.

Out of the darkness - and into the light

Genesis 1:5 – “Day and Night”
It’s like the difference between Day and Night. What a great change there is in us when the Lord brings us out of our darkness and into His light.
Genesis 1:6 - “a firmament”
Firm – We have a firm foundation upon which to build our faith. There is solid ground upon which we can take our stand. The sold ground is Jesus Christ. He is the firm Foundation.
Genesis 1:7 - “the waters”
In the days of Noah, there was a great flood. All around us there is danger. The flood threatens to overwhelm us. How are we to be saved from drowning? There is one way of salvation. Jesus Christ is our Saviour.
Genesis 1:8 - “Heaven”
What a wonderful word this is! What a wonderful Saviour Jesus is. He is the way to heaven (John 14:6).
Genesis 1:9 – “gathered together unto one place”
What a release of the living waters of God’s Spirit there is when the Lord’s people are gathered together with a real desire to give praise and glory to Him.
Genesis 1:10 - “the gathering together of the waters”
When we are gathered together in the Lord’s House, we must pray that the Spirit of God will be at work among us, bringing to us a mighty river of blessing.

Blessed By The Lord

Genesis 1:22 - “God blessed them”
What a great thing it is to be blessed by the Lord. Without His blessing, we have nothing. We must never forget these challenging words of Jesus; “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What a great challenge they are to our human pride. When we think we can manage on our own, Jesus reminds us, “You are nothing, you have nothing and you can do nothing without My blessing.” With His blessing, everything changes. This is the great change which God has brought into our life – “In Christ, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3).

The Glory of the Lord in His Creation (Psalm 8)

This Psalm is a hymn of praise. It proclaims the glory of the Lord in His creation. The focus is not so much on the glories of nature. The great theme is the glory of Him who created nature. The Psalm begins and ends with the praise of God – “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (v. 1); “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (v. 9). The whole Psalm is filled with the fear of God and joy in God. The words of verse 2 – “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” – are quoted in the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ” ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?” (Matthew 21:16). The reference to “children and infants” refers also to those who are withouit spiritual learning since they have not received spiritual instruction. How are we to receive real spiritual understanding? Each of us must become a babe in Christ by being humble before God, our Creator and Redeemer. The way of humility is the way in which we come to a proper understanding of God and ourselves – “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (vs. 3-4). In verse 3, the emphasis is upon God rather than nature. This leads us on, in verse 4, to the question, “What is man?” This question is grounded in the question, “Who is God?” – ” Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19). How are we to come to a right understanding of ourselves? We must not come to God as know-it- alls. We are to come to Him as worshippers. We learn, from this Psalm, that God’s revelation and our self-understanding are intimately related. The revelation of God enlightens our self-understanding. A true understanding of ourselves cannot be achieved if God is disregarded. By faith, we see ourselves from God’s perspective. He is our Creator. We are His creatures. We learn, from this Psalm, that God is midful of us. He cares for us. He is gracious towards us. He loves us. How are we to respond to God, our Creator? – We come, with awe, before His majesty. We come, with joy, because of His love. From verses 5-8, we learn that human dignity is a gift of God. This isn’t a song of praise to man. It’s a song of praise to God – “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). May God help us to worship Him with both awe and joy. As we rejoice in the Lord, let us not forget that He is the awesome God. As we bow before His majesty, let us not forget His love. Remembering how much He loves us, our hearts will be filled with true and lasting joy.

In God's Image ...

Genesis 1:26 - “in God’s image”
This doesn’t sound like a true description of the way we really are! We are sinners. We have lost our way. It’s a reminder of what God created us to be. It’s His high calling for us. He calls us to be like Him. He calls us to bring glory to Him.
Genesis 1:27 - “male and female”
We belong together. We’re not to compete with each other. We are to help each other to love the Lord more and more as we journey through life together.
Genesis 1:28 - “dominion”
We are given dominion. God has dominion. Let us never forget this. We must not think too highly of ourselves. We can never think too highly of the Lord.

The Good News of salvation (Psalm 6)

(1) The Psalmist’s need of salvation. He comes to God in his need – “My soul is in anguish” (v. 3); “I am worn out from groaning” (v. 6); “My eyes grow weak with sorrow” (v.7). He looks to the future, and all that he sees is “the grave” (v. 5). (2) The Psalmist’s prayer for salvation. He looks to the Lord for salvation – “Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (v. 4). He prays that God will not come under the judgment of God – O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath” (v. 1) He prays that God will have “mercy” on him – “Be merciful to me, Lord” (v.2) He trusts in God’s “unfaliling love – “Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (v. 4). (3) Repentance and Faith In the Psalmist’s prayer, there is repentance - “Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping” (v. 8) – and faith – “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (v. 9). (4) Assurance of Salvation Coming to the Lord in repentance and faith, the Psalmist receives assurance of salvation – “the Lord accepts my prayer” (v. 9). (5) A Word of Warning and a Call to Repentance “All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace” (v. 10). What are we to say about this final verse? Is the Psalmist gloating over his enemies? I believe that he’s saying something much more positive than that. He’s warning them, “This is what will happen if you refuse to repent.” He’s calling them to return to the Lord. The future need not be filled with shame, dismay and disgrace. Like him, their hearts can be turned back to the Lord. Their lives can be turned around for God. They need not remain God’s “enemies” for ever – “when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). We have been saved by the Lord. Let’s keep on proclaiming the Good News of Christ – “it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Even the “enemies” of Christ can be saved by grace – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15). —— We have come to God as sinners. He has heard and answered our prayer for salvation. Let us pray for others that they will bring their sin to the Saviour and will receive His salvation. When we pray for others, let us be bold in our prayers. The Good News of grace reaches beyond those whom the world may describe as ” a righteous man” “a good man” (Romans 5:7). We look at the Cross of Christ, and we remember this: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) – This is the Gospel of our salvation. As we rejoice in God’s salvation, let us make this our earnest prayer: “O that the world might taste and see the riches of His grace! The arms of love that compass me would all mankind embrace.” Having received God’s salvation, let us commit ourselves to sharing the Good News of His love: “’tis all my business here below to cry: ‘Behold the Lamb.’”