Revised Common Lectionary Year B (Part Four)

Day of Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21 (or Ezekiel 37:1-14); Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Romans 8:22-27 (or Acts 2:1-21); John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

 

The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ.

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

 

The Holy Spirit breathes new life into the Church of God.

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

 

The Holy Spirit leads us into a life of worship.

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

 

The Holy Spirit leads us on to heavenly and eternal glory.

Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more – ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).

 

The Holy Spirit leads us in the way of victory.

Jesus was ‘persecuted’. We will be ‘persecuted’ – ‘all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted’ (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). We have no guarantee that life will be easy. In all our difficulties, ‘the Spirit of truth’ directs our attention to Jesus our Saviour (John 15:26; 16:13-15). Whatever our problems, we draw encouragement from Jesus’words: ‘In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). Here, we have realism and faith. The world is trying to squeeze us into its own mould (Romans 12:2). Sometimes, we feel like faith is slipping away. Sometimes, we feel like giving up. What are we to say to all this? ‘Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ – This is our faith’ (1 John 5:4-5).

 

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Trinity Sunday (First Sunday after Pentecost): Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; Romans 8:12-17; John 8:12-17; John 3:1-17

 

The Lord has saved us. Let us serve Him.

God reveals His holiness: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts’ (Isaiah 6:3). In His holiness, we see our own sinfulness: ‘I am a man of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5). God is perfectly holy: ‘Your eyes are too pure to look on evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13). When we look at ourselves in the light of God’s perfect holiness, we see the truth concerning ourselves: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). There is no room for excuses. We must confess our sin. We must pray for God’s forgiveness: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). To those who come to Him with a true confession of sin, God speaks His Word of forgiveness: ‘your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven’ (Isaiah 6:7). The Lord has saved us. Let us serve Him. Let us pray, ‘Here am I! Send me’ (Isaiah 6:8). Let us share the Good News of His forgiveness.

 

Called to serve the Lord, we receive strength from Him.

‘The Lord is my Strength…The Lord is the Strength of His people’ (Psalm 28:7-8). Our personal strengthening is closely related to the strengthening of God’s people. Don’t be a ‘lone ranger’, going it alone, keeping yourself to yourself. Share your strength with others. Draw strength from them. ‘Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another’ (Hebrews 10:24-25). Where does your strength come from? It comes from ‘the Lord’ who ‘sits enthroned as King for ever’ (Psalm 29:10). We grow strong as we listen for ‘the voice of the Lord’ (Psalm 29:3-9). Don’t let God’s voice be drowned out – ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4).

 

Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory.

Each of us must choose. We can ‘live according to the flesh’ or we can ‘live according to the Spirit’. We can ‘set the mind on the flesh’ or we can ‘set the mind on the Spirit’ (Romans 8:5-6). The new life in the Spirit is just the beginning. God is preparing us for the greater ‘glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18). We have ‘the first fruits of the Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is ‘the guarantee of our inheritance’. He is the starter which whets our appetite for the main course! With Him in our hearts, we long for more – ‘an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’, ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Romans 8:21-23; Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Led by the Spirit, strong in the Spirit, we press on to glory (Romans 8:14, 26, 17).

 

Those who are born of the Spirit are to live as life of holiness, love and truth.

Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world’(John 8:12). This brought an immediate reaction from the ‘Pharisees’: ‘Your testimony is not true’(John 8:13). They were ‘disguised as angels of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14). They ‘loved darkness rather than light’ (John 3:19). Their ‘darkness’ was exposed by ‘the Light of the world’. We say, ‘I’ll turn over a new leaf’. Christ says, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3, 7). Our way of thinking begins with ‘I’. Christ’s way of salvation begins with ‘God’: ‘God so loved the world…’ (John 3:16). Begin with ‘I’and you have sin, guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:10-11). Begin with God and you have Good News for sinners: ‘God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8). Through faith in Christ, we are ‘born of the Spirit’ (John 3:6-8; John 1:12). The Spirit of God is the Spirit of holiness, love and truth. Those who are ‘born of the Spirit’ are to live a life of holiness, love and truth (1 John 4:2-3, 6-7, 12-13; 1 John 5:2-3). The life begins when we come to Jesus – the light of the world.

 

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Second Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20); Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (or Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Psalm 81:1-10; 2 Corinthians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6

 

God loves us. He comes to us, calling us to come to Him.

The call of Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel’s early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become ‘a prophet of the Lord’ through whom ‘the Word of the Lord… came to all Israel’ (1 Samuel 3:10, 19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were ‘defeated’by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the ‘capture’ of ‘the ark of God’: ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (1 Samuel 4:10-11, 22). We may lose ‘goods, honour, children, wife’ (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people – We must not lose this!

 

God loves us. He leads us in the way everlasting.

Through Christ our Saviour, we are led ‘in the way everlasting’: ‘God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ (Psalm 139:24; 1 John 5:11). God’s great purpose of eternal salvation seems ‘too wonderful’ – ‘too good to be true’! ‘It is a thing most wonderful, almost too wonderful to be, that God’s own Son should come from heaven and die to save a child like me, and yet I know that it is true…’ (Psalm 139:6; Church Hymnary, 385). God has a glorious future planned for us. We can hardly even begin to take it in: ‘Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.’ We know that ‘no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him’ yet we rejoice in this: ‘God has revealed it to us by His Spirit’ (Psalm 139:6; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10). ‘Lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24).

 

God loves us. His love for us inspires our love for Him.

Obedience is grounded in salvation. The Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:7-21) are preceded by the divine declaration: ‘I am the Lord your God’who brought you… out of the house of bondage’ (Deuteronomy 5:6). He has redeemed us. We are to live for Him. The Word of God was spoken to Moses before it was spoken by him (Deuteronomy 5:27). We cannot begin to live for the Lord until we begin to listen to Him. The way of obedience is the way of blessing. Our obedience is to be offered in a spirit of gratitude to God for His gracious salvation. Never imagine it is because of our obedience that God loves us. His love for us is always prior to our love for Him. Remember what the Lord has done for you, and your love for Him will grow stronger. Forget, and you love will grow weaker. Loved by God, let us love Him – more!

 

God loves us. He calls us to worship Him with joy.

God calls us to worship Him with joy – ‘Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob!’ (Psalm 81:1). He has blessed us with His salvation – ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’ He will continue to bless us, as we keep on looking to Him for blessing – ‘Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it’ (Psalm 81:10). God wants to bless us. He wants us to seek His blessing – ‘O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in My ways! … I would feed you with the finest of wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you’ (Psalm 81:13, 16). Far too often, we can’t be bothered with God and are not really interested in seeking His blessing – ‘My people did not listen to My voice; Israel would have none of me’ (Psalm 81:11). ‘You will seek Me and find Me; when you seek Me with all your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).

 

God loves us. He has called us to salvation. He has called us to service.

God has called us to salvation – ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service – ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe.’ We are to ‘speak.’ This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).

 

God loves. He makes us a new creation in Christ.

Jesus changes people. Levi became Matthew (Mark 2:14). He became ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The change of name marked his new birth (John 3:6). To be changed by Jesus you must recognize yourself as a sinner (17). There is a world of difference between legal obedience – ‘old wine’ – and Gospel obedience – ‘new wine’ (Mark2:21-22). There is an eternity of difference between belonging to God’s Kingdom and remaining outside of His Kingdom (John 3:3, 5, 7). The religion of the Pharisees was legalistic. The obedience of Jesus was spiritual. Will we follow Jesus, or will we be like these ‘religious’men who planned ‘to destroy Him’ (Mark 3:6)? It is sadly possible to participate in ‘religion’, professing faith in ‘the Son of God’, in an ‘unclean spirit’ (Mark 3:11). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, let us truly confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).

 

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Third Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15); Psalm 138 (or Genesis 3:8-15); Psalm 130; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

 

Confessing our sin, we look to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins.

Once we were innocent. Now we are guilty. The story of Adam and Eve is repeated over and over again. This is our story as well as Adam and Eve’s story. Even in the face of sin, we see something else. We see the God of love, seeking to restore the fallen to Himself. In His words, ‘Where are you?’, we catch an early glimpse of the Gospel of salvation: ‘the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10). Adam and Eve had lost their way. Now, God was looking for them to bring them back to Himself. In the question, ‘Where are you?’, there is the searching question, ‘What have you done?’, but there is also the passionate appeal, ‘Will you not return to me?’. This is the call of mercy: ‘Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, “O sinner, come home”’ (Sacred Songs & Solos, 414). Our loving Father is waiting patiently to welcome the returning prodigal (Luke 15:20).

Having chosen the way of sin, we are ‘naked’ and ashamed (Genesis 3:10). The Gospel teaches us that ‘there’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin.’ We can be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. We can bring the ‘filthy rags’ of ‘our righteous acts’ (Isaiah 64:6) to God, and we can exchange them for the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Putting our trust in Christ, we need not be ashamed in God’s presence (Romans 10:11). There must be no ‘passing the buck’ – the man blaming the woman, the woman blaming the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13). We are to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness comes to us through the Cross where the suffering Saviour becomes the victorious Victor and the subtle serpent became the defeated devil. This is the message of Genesis 3:15: through the Cross, God has provided for us a full salvation!

We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’ (Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility – ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’ (Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’ (Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’ (Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’ – ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.’ It is ‘for evermore’ – ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’ ‘Praise the Lord! … Give Him the glory!’ (Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

 

Confessing our sin, we pray that God will  deliver us from evil and renew our strength.

Israel’s demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (1 Samuel 8:5, 20). Having ‘rejected’ the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They ‘chose for themselves’ (1 Samuel 8:7, 18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (1 Samuel 8:22, 18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (1 Samuel 9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul’s reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: ‘I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly’ (1 Samuel 26:21). ‘He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul’s reign. God had greater things in store for Israel – but not until Saul’s reign was over!

Everyone was so happy – ‘Long live the king! (1 Samuel 10:24). Everything seemed to be so promising – ‘The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul’ (1 Samuel 11:6). God’s people were victorious (1 Samuel 11:11). God’s people ‘rejoiced greatly’ (1 Samuel 11:15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse – ‘You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you’ (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: ‘Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word… When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away… The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful’ (Mark 4:15, 17, 19). Pray – ‘Deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:13).

‘How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’ (Psalm 137:4). It is not easy to keep on worshipping the Lord when so many show no interest in worshipping Him. What are we to do when our faith seems so weak and we are on the verge of giving up? ‘Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you’. What will we find when we come to the Lord, looking to Him for strength? ‘He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through’. God gives us strength – ‘You answered me when I called to You. With Your strength, You strengthened me’ (Psalm 138:3). ‘To him that o’ercometh, God giveth a crown. Through faith we shall conquer, though often cast down. He who is our Saviour, our strength will renew. Look ever to Jesus. He will carry you through’ (Church Hymnary, 482).

 

Forgiven and strengthened by the Lord, let’s serve Him in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The conflict intensifies. The ‘twelve’ are ‘sent… to cast out demons’ (Mark 3:14-15). Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed (Mark 3:22). Jesus warns against ‘an eternal sin’ – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30). With the offer of forgiveness – ‘the blood of Jesus… cleanses us from all sin’ – , there is the call to ‘confess our sins’ (1 John 1:7, 9). ‘If we say we have no sin’ (1 John 1:8, 10) and no need of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we resist the Holy Spirit who seeks to convict us of our sin and lead us to the Saviour (John 16:8-9, 14). Are you anxious about ‘an unpardonable sin’? Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Saviour. Take your sin to Jesus, and let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’ (1 John 4:17). Do you think you cannot be forgiven ? God’s thoughts are ‘higher’: ‘Return to the Lord… He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:6-9).

God has called us to salvation – ‘God has shone in our hearts…’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). He has called us to service – ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:1). We receive salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31). We are not to keep our faith to ourselves. We ‘believe.’ We are to ‘speak.’ This is God’s way of reaching ‘more and more people’ with His ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 4:13-15). Our experience of salvation and our empowering for service are both grounded in one great gift from God: ‘God… has given us the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 5:5). We fail our Lord often. Our faith is weak. Our witness seems so ineffective. When you feel such a failure, remember the Spirit. He will not fail you. He is our ‘guarantee of heavenly and eternal glory’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5).

 

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20 (or Ezekiel 17:22-24); Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13), 14-17; Mark 4:26-34

 

Don’t settle for second best when you can have God’s very best.

‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded’(1 Samuel 16:4). Real obedience comes from ‘the heart’. It is more than just ‘keeping up appearances’(1 Samuel 16:7). ‘The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart’ – This is something we must never forget!’. ‘It’s the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need’(Songs of Fellowship, 256) – This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in verses 13-14: ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David… the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul’. David exerted a good influence upon Saul (1 Samuel 16:23). Sadly, however, Saul’s best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ‘a man after God’s own heart’(1 Samuel 16:13-14). Don’t settle for second best when you can have God’s very best!

 

Jesus Christ is God’s very best.

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

 

Looking forward to the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ

In Ezekiel 17:22-24, we have a prophecy which looks forward to the coming of the Messiah, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This prophecy ends with God’s promise: ‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it’. God has fulfilled His promise. He has sent His Son to be our Saviour (Matthew 1:22-23). We now await the fulfilment of prophecy concerning Christ’s Return: ‘I will come again’; ‘This same Jesus… will come back’; ‘The Lord Himself will come down from heaven’. He says, “I am coming soon’. We say, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’(John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonoians 4:16; Revelation 22:20).

 

Lifting our hearts to the Lord in worship

‘You, O Lord, are exalted for ever… The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty…’(Psalm 92:8; Psalm 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’- This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’the Lord – ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’(Psalm 97:9; Psalm 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).

 

Let there be less of self and more of Christ.

‘Your boasting is not good’- May we never become so taken up with ourselves that we forget Jesus Christ and all that He has done for us: ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us’, ‘you were washed… sanctified… justified in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’( 1 Corinthians 5:6-7; 1 Corinthians 6:11). There were problems among God’s people – ‘sexual immorality’, ‘lawsuits’(1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:7). In all of this, Christ was being forgotten. There are no depths to which we cannot sink when we take our eyes off Christ. There are no heights to which we will not be raised as we look away from ourselves to Him. Christ is able to lift from the guttermost and ‘save to the uttermost all those who come to God through Him’(Hebrews 7:25). Let it be more of Christ and less of self!

 

Looking to the Lord to send His blessing

We preach the Word. God gives the growth (Mark 4:26-29; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). A small child can count the seeds in an apple. Only God knows how many apples there are in a single seed! God’s Word is a ‘seed’ which bears much fruit (Mark 4:30-32; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Parables whet the appetite – for more! They were given to people ‘as they were able to hear it’ – ‘a starter’(Mark 4:33-34)! May we be ‘visual aids’ to whet people’s appetite – for God!

 

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49; Psalm 9:9-20 (or 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16); Psalm 133 (or Job 38:1-11); Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32; 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Mark 4:35-41

 

The enemy is defeated. We have the victory in Christ.

David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about ‘God’and the ‘gods’(1 Samuel 17:43, 46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul – unbelief -and the attitude of David – faith (1 Samuel 17:33, 37). Unbelief is all around us. Don’t be pulled into it. Don’t forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (1 Samuel 17:37). Put off the armour provided by men. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’(1 Samuel 17:38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are ‘strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man’(Psalm 121:2; Psalm 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).

‘Loved’ by ‘all Israel and Judah’(1 Samuel 18:16, 28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land – Saul (1 Samuel 18:29). Saul was full of envy (1 Samuel 18:7-8), suspicion (1 Samuel 18:9) and violence (1 Samuel 18:10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (1 Samuel 17:33, 50), and he didn’t like it! David had more success with the women (1 Samuel 18:7), and Saul wasn’t happy about this! The women shouldn’t have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn’t have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord – not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! ‘Saul was David’s enemy continually’(1 Samuel 18:29). His real argument was with God. ‘The Lord was with David’(1 Samuel 18:14, 28). This didn’t please Saul – ‘Why am I not getting all this blessing? I’m the king!’. If anyone says, I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar… he who loves God should love his brother also’(1 John 4:20-21).

‘I will give thanks to the Lord…’(Psalm 9:1-2). The enemy is defeated (Psalm 9:3-6). ‘The Lord sits enthroned for ever’(Psalm 9:7). ‘The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’(Psalm 9:9). What an encouraging Psalm this is: We have the victory in Christ. Nevertheless, it is not easy when we face determined opposition from the enemies of Christ and His Gospel: ‘Behold what I suffer from those that hate me’(Psalm 9:13). In this situation, we must call upon the Lord: ‘Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail’(Psalm 9:19). Though the conflict is raging all around, we must – taking our stand in Christ – declare God’s praises and rejoice in His salvation (Psalm 9:14). ‘The Lord dwells in Zion’(Psalm 9:11): ‘Blest inhabitants of Zion, Washed in the Redeemer’s blood’, may we always say, ‘Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy Name’(Church Hymnary, 421).

 

As we gather together for worship, let us give thanks to the Lord and let us ask Him to strengthen our faith in Him.

God sends ‘His blessing’ when His people gather together for worship: ‘How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!’(Psalm 133:1, 3). Many people like to think of themselves as ‘believers’, yet they show no interest in worshipping together with God’s people. What does God’s Word say about this? – ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…’(Hebrews 10:25). ‘Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the House of the Lord’(Psalm 133:1; Psalm 134:1). Some people never miss a Sunday morning service – but they always miss the Sunday evening services! They are missing out on so much of God’s blessing. ‘May the Lord… bless you…’on Sunday evenings as well as Sunday mornings (Psalm 134:2)!

There are some things that are worth repeating! The story of God’s amazing grace is worth repeating over and over again – ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress’(Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28). The call to praise the Lord is also something we need to hear again and again – ‘Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men’(Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). Let us ‘consider the great love of the Lord’. Let us ‘give thanks to the Lord’ (Psalm 107:43, 1). ‘The great love of God is revealed in the Son, who came to this earth to redeem every one. That love, like a stream flowing clear to the sea, makes clean every heart that from sin would be free… It’s yours, it is ours, O how lavishly given! The pearl of great price, and the treasure of heaven!’(Church Hymnary, 415).

Jesus was sleeping because He was tired – not because He didn’t care (Mark 4:38)! He does care. Everything was under control. Faith was being tested. Fear and faith are opposites (Mark 4:40). ‘Awe’(Mark 4:41) is very different from unbelieving fear. Awe leads to worship. Fear destroys faith.

 

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130 (or Lamentations 3:23-33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

 

By grace, we shall stand.
‘How are the mighty fallen!’(2 Samuel 1:19,25,27). The tragedy of Saul was there for all to see. He had made a right mess of things! What are we to think when we read of this tragic figure? He started out so well. He ended so badly. There were high hopes – but it all came to nothing. Do we not see ourselves in Saul? – This could happen to me, if I’m not careful. The danger signs are there. Satan is at hand. He is ready to sweep in. He will sweep the feet away from us, if we don’t watch out. We are very weak, but the Lord is ‘able to keep us from falling’(Jude 24-25). These are things we must never forget – our own weakness and the strength of the Lord. Disaster threatens. Tragedy looms. Jesus draws near. He speaks His Word – ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness’(2 Corinthians 12:9). By grace, we shall stand!

In the Lord, we have full redemption.
We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’(Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’(Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility – ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’(Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’and ‘forgiveness’(Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’we have ‘full redemption’(Psam 130:7). It is for ‘now’ – ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’ – ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’. ‘Praise the Lord!… Give Him the glory!’(Psalm 131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

How can we refuse to be changed by God’s love?
There are times when it seems nothing is going right for us: ‘I am the man who has seen affliction…’(Lamentations 3:1-3). In such times, we must remember this: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end’. When we find ourselves in circumstances of great distress, we must learn to look beyond the things that are happening to us. We must learn to look to the Lord and say, ‘Great is Your faithfulness’. It will not be easy to see God at work in our lives when everything seems to be going wrong. We must be patient as we wait for the blessing of the Lord to return to our lives. We must put all our hope in the Lord, trusting in His precious promise: ‘The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’(Lamentations 3:22-26).
In our ‘grief’, we must not forget the ‘compassion’ of God (Lamentations 3:32). He understands us. He cares for us. How do we know that God loves us? ‘Christ died for us’(Romans 5:8). This is the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us. How can we doubt God’s love for us when we think of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross for us as our Saviour? When we think of God’s love for us, we must remember that He calls us to love Him. We are not to take God’s love for granted – ‘God loves me. I can do what I like’. We are to appreciate God’s love – ‘God loves me. I will love Him’. God loves us. Christ died for us. How can we say, ‘I’ll do what I like’? How can we refuse to be changed by His love? ‘Let us examine our ways and turn back to the Lord. Let us open our hearts to God’(Lamentations 3:40-41).

“O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”
‘I will exalt You, O Lord’(Psalm 30:1). God is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted: ‘He is exalted, for ever exalted, and I will praise His Name’(Mission Praise,217). How do we come to the point where we say, ‘I will exalt You, O Lord’? We realize our need of Him – ‘when You hid Your face, I was dismayed’(Psalm 30:7). We look to Him for mercy – ‘To You, O Lord, I called; to the Lord, I cried for mercy’(Psalm 30:8). God hears and answers our prayer – ‘You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy’(11). God calls us to worship Him – ‘Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name’(Psalm 30:4). ‘The joy of the Lord’, His ‘unutterable and exalted joy’, gives us ‘strength’(Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Peter 1:8). We worship God: ‘O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever’(Psalm 30:12).

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

We may face difficult circumstances. We may experience much suffering. In all of this there is one thing we must never forget: ‘God… comforts the downcast’(2 Corinthians 7:6). He lifts us up when we are down. He enables us to ‘excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness, in love, in giving’(2 Corinthians 8:7). How are we to excel in everything? We must ‘give ourselves to the Lord’(2 Corinthians 8:5). Everything else flows from this. We are to ‘give ourselves in devoted service to others’(2 Corinthians 7:12; 2 Corinthians 8:4-5). Where does this spirit of ‘rich generosity’ come from? It comes from God, from ‘the grace that God has given’ to us (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). It comes to us as we give ourselves to Him. Before we can ‘excel in this grace of giving’, we must receive ‘from His fullness, grace upon grace’(2 Corinthians 8:7; John 1:16).
How are we to be ‘cheerful’ in giving ourselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 9:7)? How are we to be confident that ‘God is able to provide us with every blessing in abundance’(2 Corinthians 9:8)? Before we ever think of giving ourselves to God, we must look at all He has given to us. We look away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ: ‘You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…’(2 Corinthians 8:9). We look at Him and we say, in our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!’(2 Corinthians 9:15). Can our giving to Him even begin to compare with His giving to us? We give to Him as those who have first received from Him. In his giving, we see His love. Our giving expresses our love, our response to His love: ‘We love because He first loved us’(1 John 4:19). Rejoice in His love. Thank Him – for ‘every blessing in abundance’!

“Do not fear, only believe.”
The story begins with Jairus (Mark 5:21-24). Then, there is an ‘interruption’ – which brought healing to a woman (Mark 5:25-34). The woman had nowhere else to go (Mark 5:25-26). She came to Jesus (Mark 5:27). She was healed – not because she touched His garment (many others were brushing against Him), but because she had ‘faith’(Mark 5:28, 31, 34). Jesus brought her out into the open – so that she might confessHim (Mark 5:30, 32-33). The new birth can take place in very quiet circumstances – by faith in Christ. Jesus wants us to ‘come out’ – to confess Him. Back to Jairus’daughter – People thought there was no hope. Jesus said, ‘Do not fear, only believe’(Mark 5:35-36).

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10; Psalm 48:1-14 (or Ezekiel 2:1-5); Psalm 123:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10; Mark 6:1-13

 

As we worship God, we receive wisdom and strength.

‘Inquire of the Lord’. ‘Do as the Lord commands’. Keep on believing that there will be a breakthrough – from the Lord (2 Samuel 5:19, 23, 25, 20). Can you ‘hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees’? – ‘The Spirit of the Lord has come down on the earth’. Let us ‘rise, a mighty army, at the bidding of the Lord – The Spirit won’t be hindered by division in the perfect work that Jesus has begun’(2 Samuel 5:24; John 3:8; Mission Praise, 274).

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

‘The Spirit came into me… Do not be afraid of them or their words’(Ezekiel 2:2,6). Through the Spirit, we receive wisdom – ‘We have received the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand what God has freely given us’- and strength – ‘God strengthens us with power through His Spirit in our inner being’(1 Corinthians 2::12; Ephesians 3:16). ‘Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart… Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word… Be Thou my Battleshield, sword for the fight’(Church Hymnary, 87).

 

As we worship God, we receive mercy and grace.

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

‘My grace is sufficient for you’(2 Corinthians 12:9). These are tremendous words! Believe them. Apply them to yourself. Let the strength of the Lord come to you as you reflect on these great words. God is speaking His Word to you. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever difficulties you are facing, God’s Word is still the same: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. Do you think God will let you down? Don’t believe it – not even for a moment! It is a lie of the devil. It’s ‘as old as the hills’. Way back in Genesis 3:1, Satan was spreading doubt: ‘Did God say?’. God says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you’. Satan comes along and says ‘Surely you don’t believe that!’. ‘When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, By the living Word of God I shall prevail’(Redemption Hymnal, 261). Did God say? – Yes! He did say!

Not everyone believes. We can limit the power of Christ among us – by our unbelief (Mark 6:5-6)! We can, however, be called, sent and given authority… (Mark 6:7) – Never forget: The power and glory belongs to God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

 

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19; Psalm 24 (or Amos 7:7-15); Psalm 85:8-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:14-29

 

Worshipping the Lord in Spirit and in truth

‘When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart’(2 Samuel 6:16). Michal was a very angry young woman. Her husband had embarrassed her and she didn’t like it! What had David done to deserve this? – ‘I will celebrate before the Lord’(2 Samuel 6:21). This is really quite pathetic. God’s children are learning to ‘worship Him in Spirit and in truth’(John 4:23-24). In comes ‘the stiff upper lip brigade’. They have no real heart for worship. They put a dampener on it – ‘This has to stop’. This is not only pathetic. It is sinful. ‘Do not quench the Spirit… Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God… Be filled with Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart…’(1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30; 5:18-20)

 

Receiving blessing from the Lord

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

 

Hearing the Word of the Lord

‘That’s enough, prophet! Go back to Judah and do your preaching there… Don’t prophesy here at Bethel any more’(Amos 7:12-13). Amos was a faithful preacher of God’s Word – but his hearers wanted to get rid of him! This was the beginning of a time of great darkness: ‘The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but they will not find it’(Amos 8:11-12). There were dark times ahead – but God was looking beyond them to a brighter future: ‘I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel’(Amos 9:14). ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation…’(Psalm 85:4-7).

 

Praying for revival

We are to pray for revival – ‘Restore us again, O God our Saviour… Will You not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?’(Psalm 85:4,6). We are to pray that God will ‘grant us His salvation’. We are to pray that ‘His saving presence will remain in our land’. We must pray that ‘His glory may dwell in our land’(Psalm 85:7,9). We are to pray for real listening – ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord – ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing – ‘He will speak peace to His people’(Psalm 85:8). Prayer for revival does not begin as a prayer for others. It begins with ourselves: ‘O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival – start the work in me’. It begins with this prayer: “Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine’(Mission Praise, 587).

 

Living a holy life

By grace you have been saved through faithfor good works’(Ephesians 2:8-10). God calls us to live a ‘holy’ life. We cannot make ourselves holy. We are spiritually ‘dead’. We need to be ‘made alive’ – by God. Holiness does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord. Long before we ever thought of loving Him – He loved us. Our love for Him is so changeable. His love for us is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable. It is eternal. He loved us ‘before the foundation of the world’. He will love us ‘in the world to come’. This is the love of God, the love which inspires us and enables us to live a ‘holy’ life (Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:7). When we realize the truth concerning ourselves – ‘nothing good dwells within me’(Romans 7:18) – and God – He is ‘rich in mercy’(Ephesians 2:4) – , we will ‘praise His glorious grace’(Ephesians 1:6).

 

Looking beyond the preacher to the Saviour

They were great men of God – ‘John the baptiser… Elijah… the prophets of old’(Mark 6:14-15). None of them can compare with the Lord Jesus Christ. These men directed attention to the Lord (1 Kings 18:36-39; Isaiah 52: 13-53:12; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Of Christ alone, we say, ‘There is salvation in no one else…’(Acts 4:12). Christ saves – and satisfies: We feed on Him and we are ‘satisfied’(Mark 6:42). Apart from Him, the human search ends in this: ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’. In Him, there is satisfaction – He is the Saviour. Saved, satisfied and sharing – this is what we are to be. To His disciples, He still says, ‘You give them something…’ (Mark 6:37). We say, ‘We don’t have enough’. He says, ‘I am more than enough’(2 Corinthians 3:5). Many are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. We must not fail them. We must ‘teach them many things’(Mark 6:34).

 

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 7:1-14a; Psalm 89:20-37 (or Jeremiah 23:1-6); Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:11-22; Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

 

Disciplined by the Lord, let us remember to sing of His great love for us.

David was king. God was looking on the next king, Solomon. Knowing the kind of man Solomon would become, God speaks of chastening: ‘When he does wrong, I will chasten him’. This chastening is an expression of God’s ‘steadfast love’: ‘Those whom I love, I rebuke and chasten’. How do we respond to God’s chastening? Don’t be like ‘Saul’. He was ‘put away from’being king because of his continual disobedience. ‘Be zealous and repent’. When you are being chastened, don’t forget the love of God: ‘The Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives’. Why does God chasten His children? – ‘He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness’. Beyond the ‘pain’ of ‘discipline’, there is ‘the peaceful fruit of righteousness’(2 Samuel 7:14-15; Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-11).

‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness through all generations’(Psalm 89:1). Many years have passed since these words were written by the Psalmist. Many generations have come and gone since Jesus Christ came to our world. The years come and go. The centuries run their course. One generation gives way to another generation. Time moves on relentlessly. None of us can halt the march of time. Many changes have taken place over the course of time. There is something which must never change. The Lord is to be praised ‘for ever’. He is to be praised ‘through all generations’. We must look back and remember. Jesus Christ was crucified for us. Jesus Christ has risen for us. This is the Good News which inspires our praise: ‘I will sing of the Lord’s great love for ever…’

 

God is calling us to be faithful. He leads us in the way of faithfulness.

‘Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’(Jeremiah 23:1). We are not to be like the false ‘prophets’: ‘They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord’. What were the false ‘prophets’ saying? – ‘They keep saying to those who despise Me, “The Lord says: You will have peace”. To all those who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, they say, “No harm will come to you”’(Jeremiah 23:16-17). God is calling us to be faithful. It will not be easy. Often, we will be tempted to ‘take the easy way out’. We will feel the pull of the world: ‘Just be the same as everybody else’. This may seem to be the ‘easy’ option. There is something else we must remember: It is also ‘the broad road that leads to destruction’. Let us follow Christ on ‘the narrow road which leads to life’(Matthew 7:13-14).

Jesus Christ has passed ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’ for us (Psalm 23:4). Now, we rejoice in Him, our Shepherd of love – (a) the Good Shepherd who died for us (John 10:11); (b) the Great Shepherd who was raised for us (Hebrews 13:20-21); (c) The Chief Shepherd who is coming again for us (1 Peter 5:4). He restores us. He keeps us from ’straying like sheep’. He leads us ‘in paths of righteousness’(Psalm 23:3; 1 Peter 2:25). For God’s people, there is a glorious eternal destiny: ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’(Psalm 23:6).

We are led in the way of faithfulness as we build our lives upon “Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 2:20).

 

Saved by Christ and satisfied by Him, let us stand for Him when the storm is raging.

Christ saves – and satisfies: We feed on Him and we are ‘satisfied’(Mark 6:42). Apart from Him, the human search ends in this: ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’. In Him, there is satisfaction – He is the Saviour. Saved, satisfied and sharing – this is what we are to be. To His disciples, He still says, ‘You give them something…’ (Mark 6:37). We say, ‘We don’t have enough’. He says, ‘I am more than enough’(2 Corinthians 3:5). Many are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. We must not fail them. We must ‘teach them many things’(Mark 6:34). The storm is raging: ‘they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them’(Mark 6:48). Jesus draws near, and there is peace: ‘the wind ceased’(Mark 6:51). Another ‘storm’ continues to rage: ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders…?’(Mark 7:5). How did Jesus respond to this ‘storm’ of criticism? – He exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the tradition of men more important than the Word of God (Mark 7:7-9,13). He invited ‘the people’ to come ‘to Him’, to ‘hear’, to ‘understand’. His Word was addressed to ‘all’ of them (Mark 7:14). Jesus emphasizes this point: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’(1 Samuel 16:7). The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Which will it be? – ‘Their hearts were hardened’(Mark 6:52) or ‘Loving the Lord your God with all your heart’(Mark 12:30).

 

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalm 14 (or 2 Kings 4:42-44); Psalm 145:10-18; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21

 

Doing the will of the Lord

‘May the Lord do what seems good to Him’ (2 Samuel 10:12). This is the attitude we ought to have. This is the ideal: ‘Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven’; ‘Not as I will, but as You will’ (Matthew 6:10; 26:39). Often, we do not live up to the ideal – ‘the thing that David had done displeased the Lord’ (2 Samuel11:27). Throughout life, there are choices between our own will and the will of the Lord. Sometimes, we make wrong choices. We choose our own way rather than the Lord’s way. Throughout life, God is speaking to us. He is trying to get our attention. He wants it to be less of self and more of Him. He is leading us to say from the heart, ‘As for God, His way is perfect’ (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30). May we have this testimony: ‘I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God’ (Psalm 18:21).

 

Seeking the blessing of the Lord

Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us. This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’- In Him, we ‘rejoice’ (Psalm 14:7). God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’ (Psalm 15:5). We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation…would come…’ (Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us. Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1). ‘Fear the Lord’ – ‘and give Him glory’ (Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7). We are to ‘act wisely’ – ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’ (14:2, 4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’ (Psalm 15:1)? – ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode…’ (Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).

 

Making a new beginning with the Lord

The situation seemed hopeless – ‘The child was lying dead on his bed’ (2 Kings 4:32). What did Elisha do? – He ‘prayed to the Lord’ (2 Kings 4:33). What are we to do when everything seems hopeless? Pray: ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation… Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4,6). When we are at our lowest ebb, God is waiting to hear from us. Our prayer may not be eloquent – but it must come from the heart! Perhaps, we can hardly put our prayer into words. God looks beyond our inadequate words. He looks into our hearts. If, in our hearts, we are saying to Him, ‘Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience’, He will hear and He will answer (Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 51:12). You can make a new beginning with God – right now!

 

Worshipping the Lord

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

 

Receiving strength from the Lord

By the grace of God we are called to salvation – ‘saved through faith’ – , sanctification – ‘for good works’ – , and service – ‘according to the gift of God’s grace… by the working of His power’, we are enabled ‘to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 2:8-10; 3:7-8). When we consider all this, we say in our hearts, ‘To God be the glory’! (Ephesians 3:21). We are ‘strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being’so that we might live as those who are saved, sanctified and serving. Even when we are deeply conscious of our own great weakness, we draw encouragement from this: God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’ (Ephesians 3:16, 20). We grow in grace as we share in fellowship – ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3).

 

Trusting in the Lord

‘Search the Scriptures’- and make sure you ‘come to Christ and receive life’ (John 5:39-40). From Jesus’ miracles – the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-13) and His walking on water (John 6:16-21) – we learn about faith in Christ. Jesus is more than a ‘prophet’. He is ‘the Bread of God… which comes down from heaven’ (John 6:14; John 5:33). He is not merely a human ‘king.’ He is the divine King – ‘Lord of lords and King of kings’(15; Revelation 17:14). When the storms of life are raging, Jesus says, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’ (20). He assures us of His final victory – ‘they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them’ (Revelation 17:14). ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?… We have an anchor that keeps the soul… Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love’ (Church Hymnary, 412).

 

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a; Psalm 51:1-12 (or Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15); Psalm 78:23-29; Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35

 

Forgiven by the Lord

We read about David, the sinner – ‘the thing that David had done displeased the Lord’(2 Samuel 11:27). We learn much about God’s dealings with sinners. In 2 Samuel 12:7, there is conviction of sin – ‘You are the man’. In 2 Samuel 12:13, we have confession of sin – ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ – and forgiveness of sin – ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.’ In 2 Samuel 12:20, there is the restoration of the sinner – ‘washed… anointed… changed… he went into the house of the Lord, and worshipped’. Throughout life, there are choices between our own will and the will of the Lord. Sometimes, we make wrong choices. We choose our own way rather than the Lord’s way. Throughout life, God is speaking to us. He is trying to get our attention. He wants it to be less of self and more of Him. He is leading us to say from the heart, ‘As for God, His way is perfect’(2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30). May we have this testimony: ‘I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God’(Psalm 18:21).

‘Create in me a clean heart, O God… Cast me not away from Thy presence… Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’(Psalm 51:10-12). These words come to us from the ancient past. They were first spoken many centuries ago. They can be the words which change your future. You can make them your words. David made a new beginning with God. You can make a new beginning with God. You have sinned. You need to be forgiven. Come to Christ. He says, ‘I will never turn away anyone who comes to Me’(John 6:37). You need to be ‘born again’. Receive Christ as your Saviour and be ‘born again’ – ‘born of God’(John 3:3,7; 1:12). You feel so weak, unable to be the person God wants you to be. Let ‘the joy of the Lord be your strength’(Nehemiah 8:10). Let His love reach you. Let His power make you a new person.

 

Feeding on the Lord

God allows His people to suffer difficulties. Why? – To strengthen our faith (Exodus 15:25; Exodus16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2,16; 1 Peter 1:6-7). He chastens us, to teach us repentance (Revelation 3:19). Don’t forget God’s love. He is faithful: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us’. He shows us His glory (Exodus 16:7). He assures us that He is God (Exodus 16:12). He provides us with ‘daily bread’(Exodus 16:4). Yesterday’s ‘bread’is insufficient for today’s challenges (Exodus 16:19-20). ‘Morning by morning’, the ‘bread’is to be gathered (Exodus 16:21; Lamentations 3:22-23). Jesus is the Living Bread (John 6:32-35,48-51). Feed on Him each day. Don’t invite spiritual starvation by missing days. If you miss some days, don’t let it continue. Remember: ‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak’! ‘How long has it been since you talked with the Lord?’Too long? It is time to pray and feed on Jesus!

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

Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies – ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571).

 

Growing in the Lord

By the grace of God we are called to salvation – ‘saved through faith’ – , sanctification – ‘for good works’ – , and service – ‘according to the gift of God’s grace… by the working of His power’, we are enabled ‘to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ’(Ephesians 2:8-10; Ephesians 3:7-8). When we consider all this, we say in our hearts, ‘To God be the glory’! (Ephesians 3:21). We are ‘strengthened with power through His Spirit in our inner being’so that we might live as those who are saved, sanctified and serving. Even when we are deeply conscious of our own great weakness, we draw encouragement from this: God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us’(Ephesians3:16: Ephesians 3:20). We grow in grace as we share in fellowship – ‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit’(Ephesians 4:3).

God wants us to ‘grow up in every way into Christ’(Ephesians 4:15). We are to ‘walk in love’(Ephesians 5:2), a life which is ‘pleasing to the Lord’(Ephesians 5:10). It is so easy for us to settle for something less than God’s very best. We settle down into a state of spiritual complacency. What does God have to say about this? – ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’(Ephesians 4:30). He gives us His wake-up call: ‘Awake, O sleeper…’(Ephesians  5:14). God says to us, ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength… Shake yourself from the dust, arise’(Isaiah 52:1-2). Have you become ‘lukewarm’? – ‘Be zealous and repent’. Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him’(Revelation 3:16; Revelation 3:19-20). What will you say to Him? – ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’.

 

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130 (or 1 Kings 19:4-8); Psalm 34:1-8; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

 

Jesus Christ has died for us. In Him, we have ‘full redemption.’

Some die young. Others live to a ripe old age. None of us can predict what lies ahead of us. There are some things that are beyond our control. We look at what is happening and we say, ‘I wish things could be different’. Absalom had been killed. David wished he could have died instead of him. It was not to be. Each of us must die our own death: ‘No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him that he should live on for ever and not see decay’(Psalm 49:7-9). The ransom for a life is costly. No payment is ever enough. There is, however, a ‘Man’ who has died for us – Jesus Christ, ‘our Lord and our God’. He ‘gave Himself as a ransom for all’. ‘Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’(John 20 28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Peter 3:18).

We are not to pray to God with superficial words that don’t mean very much to us. Our prayer is to be a real cry from the heart: ‘Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord’(Psalm 130:1). We are to ‘cry for mercy’ with a deep awareness of how sinful we really are: ‘If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’(Psalm 130:3). We must come to God with deep humility – ‘My heart is not proud, O Lord’(Psalm 131:1). When we truly confess our sin, we receive God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘forgiveness’(Psalm 130:4). ‘In the Lord’ we have ‘full redemption’(Psalm 130:7). It is for ‘now’ – ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. It is ‘for evermore’ – ‘But purer and higher and greater will be our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see!’. ‘Praise the Lord!… Give Him the glory!’(131:3; Church Hymnary, 374).

 

When you’re down, look to the Lord. He loves you. He will lift you up.

Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’(1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’(1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’- ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.

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

 

Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us. He is our Living Bread.

God wants us to ‘grow up in every way into Christ’(Ephesisns 4:15). We are to ‘walk in love’(Ephesians 5:2), a life which is ‘pleasing to the Lord’(Ephesians 5:10). It is so easy for us to settle for something less than God’s very best. We settle down into a state of spiritual complacency. What does God have to say about this? – ‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’(Ephesians 4:30). He gives us His wake-up call: ‘Awake, O sleeper…’(Ephesians 5:5:14). God says to us, ‘Awake, awake, put on your strength… Shake yourself from the dust, arise’(Isaiah 52:1-2). Have you become ‘lukewarm’? – ‘Be zealous and repent’. Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him’(Revelation 3:16, 19-20). What will you say to Him? – ‘Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today. Come in to stay’.

Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies – ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571).

 

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111 (or Proverbs 9:1-6); Psalm 34:9-14; Ephesisans 5:15-20; John 6:51-58

 

Our confidence is not in ourselves. Our confidence is in the Lord.

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

 

Remove the obstacles. Receive the blessing.

God’s purpose does not stand still. It moves forward. This was a new beginning for God’s people. Solomon was not to do his own thing. He was to do God’s will: ‘Keep the charge of the Lord your God’(1 Kings 2:3). He was to serve God’s purpose: ‘that the Lord may establish His Word’(1 Kings 2:4). There are to be no comparisons between one man and another. God’s servants are not to be in competition with one another. Some may have been looking back to the past – ‘How will we manage without David? God had already moved on from there. He was pressing on to the future – ‘If your sons…’(1 Kings 2:4). God’s blessing would not come easily. There were obstacles to be removed (1 Kings 2:13-46). If ‘the Word of Christ’ is to ‘dwell in us richly’, we must ‘put to death what is earthly in us’(Colossians 3:5, 16). God will not bless us if we do not obey Him.

Solomon was a complicated man. We wonder what was most important to him – his alliances with the world or his allegiance to the Lord, ‘building his own house’or ‘building the House of the Lord’(1 Kings 3:1-3)? In 1 Kings 3:9-13, we learn that Solomon prized wisdom more than riches. In 1 Kings 3:14, Solomon is reminded that he must keep on loving the Lord: ‘If you will walk in My ways…’. We look at Solomon. We see ourselves. We claim to love the Lord. The world has a ‘fatal attraction’ for us. In each of us, there is conflict, a lifelong conflict between ‘the desires of the flesh’ and ‘the desires of the Spirit’. We are faced with a choice. Will it be love for the Lord or love for the world? Don’t ‘abandon your first love’(Galatians 5:17; 1 John 2:15; Revelation 2:4). Make it simple: Jesus comes first!

 

A Gospel invitation

There is, in Proverbs 9:5, a Gospel invitation: ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.’ We eat bread. We drink wine. We remember our Saviour (Matthew 26: 26-29). ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’(Proverbs 9:10). ‘This sounds so old-fashioned’ – so the world tells us. ‘The fear of the Lord’ – This is something we must not forget. If we do not fear the Lord, we will forget Him. If we forget Him, we are fools. What is foolishness? Is it a lack of education? No! – It is a lack of obedience. When we do not ‘honour’ God, we are ‘without sense’. ‘Claiming to be wise’, we show that we are ‘fools’. If we are wise, we will keep ‘going straight on the way’, looking always to Jesus Christ who is the true and living Way. He leads us from ‘the depths of hell’ to the heights of heaven (Proverbs 9:13-18; Romans 1:21-22; John 14:2,6).

Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies – ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571).

 

Spiritual maturity – “Be filled with the Spirit

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

‘Be very careful how you live’(Ephesians 5:16). This is for all of us – in every situation of life. How are we to live? We are to ‘be filled with the Spirit’. We are to have ‘reverence for Christ’. We are to live ‘as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart’. We are to ‘be strong in the Lord’. We are to ‘pray at all times in the Spirit’. We are to ‘to love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying’(Ephesians 5:18, 21; Ephesians 6:6, 10, 18, 24). Careful living emerges from true spirituality. It is not a matter of rules and regulations. It is a matter of love for Jesus. We’re not to be like the Pharisees: ‘On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy’, ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’(Matthew 23:28; Mark 7:6). Take care – because you love Jesus!

 

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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84 (or Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18); Psalm 34:15-22: Ephesians 6:10-20: John 6:56-69

 

Come to the House of God, and pray that His glory will fill His House.

We read about ‘the silver’ and ‘the gold’. We are called to choose between the life of fruitful service – ‘gold, silver, precious stones’ – and the unfruitful life – ‘wood, hay, straw’(1 Kings 7:51; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). We read of ‘the ark of the covenant of the Lord’ being ‘brought to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the House, in the most holy place. We are told that the glory of the Lord filled the House of the Lord’(1 Kings 8:6, 11). The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord whenever the Word of God is honoured by the people of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14). The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord when Christ is given the place of highest honour among the people of God. Do you want to experience God’s glory? Honour His Word. Love His Son – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The person who leads us in worship, the place where we worship or the God whom we worship – Which is the most important? We know what our answer should be. No person or place is more important than the Lord. Often, we take our eyes off the Lord. Solomon directs our attention to the Lord. Leading ‘all the assembly of Israel’ in worship, he says, ‘Blessed be the Lord’(1 Kings 8:14-15). The glory does not belong to Solomon. It belongs to the Lord. In his prayer, Solomon contrasts the place where we worship with the God whom we worship: ‘Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee; how much less this House which I have built!’(1 Kings 8:27). We must think big thoughts about God. He is ‘the God of Israel’(1 Kings 8:15, 17, 20, 23, 25-26). He is more than that. He is our God. He loves all nations (Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 49:6; Acts 13:47; John 3:16).

 

Come to the House of God, and make your commitment: “We will serve the Lord.”

‘How I love Your Temple, Almighty Lord! How I want to be there! I long to be in the Lord’s Temple. With my whole being I sing for joy to the living God’(Psalm 84:1-2). This is much more than paying lip-service to the Lord. This is real. Worshipping the Lord meant everything to the Psalmist: ‘I long for You, O God. I thirst for You, the living God; when can I go and worship in Your presence’(Psalm 42:1-2). He found great joy in worshipping the Lord: ‘Let Your light and Your truth guide me… to the place where You dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight…’(Psalm 43:4). He worshipped God with his whole heart: ‘O God, You are my God, and I long for You. My whole being desires You… my soul is thirsty for You’(Psalm 63:1). This is real worship, joyful worship, heartfelt worship. May God help us to worship Him like that!

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

‘Be very careful how you live’(Ephesians 5:16). This is for all of us – in every situation of life. How are we to live? We are to ‘be filled with the Spirit’. We are to have ‘reverence for Christ’. We are to live ‘as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart’. We are to ‘be strong in the Lord’. We are to ‘pray at all times in the Spirit’. We are to ‘to love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying’(Ephesians 5:18, 21; Ephesians 6:6, 10, 18, 24). Careful living emerges from true spirituality. It is not a matter of rules and regulations. It is a matter of love for Jesus. We’re not to be like the Pharisees: ‘On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy’, ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’(Matthew 23:28; Mark 7:6). Take care – because you love Jesus!

 

We feed on Jesus, the Living Bread. Let us invite others to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Jesus said, ‘I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’(John 6:35). Jesus had enemies – ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, “I am the bread which comes down from heaven”’(John 6:41). Christ’s enemies are still with us. They ‘murmur among themselves’(John 6:43). How are we to respond to this situation? We must feed on Jesus Christ, ‘the Living Bread’(John 6:51). Whatever difficulties we may face, the Lord provides for us: ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies’(Psalm 23:5). We have His invitation: ‘O taste and see that the Lord is good!’(Psalm 34:8). With His provision and invitation, let us make our response: ‘We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread, and long to feast upon Thee still’(Church Hymnary, 571). Jesus’ words are ‘spirit and life’. They are ‘the words of eternal life’(John 6:63, 68). While others – including Judas Iscariot – were drawing back from following Jesus, Peter confessed his faith in Jesus: ‘You are the Holy One of God’(John 6:66-71).

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

 

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Song of Songs 2:8-13; Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9 (or Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9); Psalm 15; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

 

Christ comes to us in love. He calls us to come to Him.

Christ comes to us in love: ‘The Voice of my Beloved! Look! Here He comes…’(Song of Solomon 2:8). He calls us to come to Him: ‘My Beloved speaks and says to me, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away”’(Song of Solomon 2:10). He calls us to belong to Him: ‘My Beloved is mine and I am His’(Song of Solomon 2:16). Let us come to Jesus and experience His love: ‘Jesus, how lovely You are! You are so gentle, so pure and kind…’. Let us come to Jesus and give Him our love: ‘Jesus, I love You, love You more and more each day; Jesus, I love You, Your gentle touch renews my heart. It’s really no wonder why no other love can satisfy; Jesus, I love You, You’ve won this heart of mine!’. Let us come to Jesus and receive His joy: ‘Jesus, I am resting, resting, in the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart’(Mission Praise, 361, 363, 362).

 

Christ loved us and gave Himself for us. Let us worship Him. Let us obey Him.

Jesus Christ is ‘the most excellent of men’(Psalm 45:2). He is more than that. He is God. In Psalm 45:6, we read these words – ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever’. We read them again in Hebrews 1:8. They are the words which God the Father speaks to His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How does the Word of God describe Jesus Christ? – ‘He is your Lord’. How are we to respond to Him? – We are to approach Him with ‘reverence’. We are to ‘honour’ Him. We are to ‘bow down’ and ‘worship’ Him. We are to ‘obey’ Him (Psalm 45:11). Think of the ‘Good News’ of our Lord Jesus Christ – ‘the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me’. Let your heart overflow with praise to the Lord Jesus Chist – What a wonderful Saviour He is (Psalm 45:1; Galatians 2:20)! Let us celebrate His Name in this generation. Let Him be praised for ever and ever’(Psalm 45:17).

 

We have been redeemed by the Lord. We are called to obey the Lord.

The people of Israel were involved in the work of the Lord. The work was based on God – not Moses. Moses would not be in the promised land. God would be there. Moses would ‘not go over the Jordan’. As God’s man. he was to prepare the people for their task: ‘you shall go over and take possession of that good land’(Deuteronomy 4:22). Privilege involves responsibility. Israel was a privileged people, redeemed by the Lord, delivered from bondage ‘by a mighty hand and outstretched arm’(Deuteronomy 4:34). Israel was a responsible people, called to obey the Lord: ‘Obey His laws and commands’(Deuteronomy 4:40). The Lord our God is ‘a merciful God’(Deuteronomy 4:31). He has saved us. We are to serve Him. Let Him reign in your heart. Let there be ‘no other besides Him’(Deuteronomy 4:35). Flee to Christ for refuge (Deuteronomy 4:42-43), and live each day with ‘the attitude of gratitude’.

 

God is the Sure Foundation for our lives. Let us build our lives on Him.

Life can be testing and trying. In all of this, God makes Himself real to us. This is our assurance of faith: ‘The Lord restores the fortunes of His people’. He makes us ‘glad’ – In Him, we ‘rejoice’(Psalm 14:7). God Himself is the Sure Foundation for our lives: Build on Him, and you ‘shall never be moved’(Psalm 15:5). We long for God’s blessing, ‘O that salvation…would come…’(Psalm 14:7). He will not disappoint us. Do not be ‘the fool’ who ‘says in his heart, “There is no God”’(Psalm 14:1). ‘Fear the Lord’ – ‘and give Him glory’(Psalm 15:4; Revelation 14:7). We are to ‘act wisely’ – ‘seeking after God’, ‘calling upon the Lord’(Psalm 14:2, 4). Do you want to ‘dwell on God’s holy hill’(Psalm 15:1)? – ‘There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode…’(Church Hymnary, 357): Christ is the Way to God and Heaven (John 14:2-6).

 

Even in our most difficult times, let us pray, ‘Lord, what are You teaching me in this?’

Even the most difficult times can have a godly effect on us – when we ask God for wisdom: ‘Lord, what are You teaching me in this?’(James 1:2-5). Humanly speaking, we may be ‘in humble circumstances’. Spiritually speaking, we are in a ‘high position’(James 1:9). Our position is to become even higher – ‘the crown of life’(James 1:12). Before that happens, there will be many temptations (James 1:13-15). We can face these temptations with confidence in the God of faithfulness and His ‘Word of truth’(James 1:16-18). God’s ‘Word’ is ‘planted in us’so that we may become ‘doers of the Word, and not hearers only’(James 1:21-22). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’ – ‘like water off a duck’s back’. Let there be His controlling – ‘a tight rein on the tongue’, caring – looking after the needy, and cleansing – ‘unstained from the world’(James 1:26-27).

 

Christ invites us to come to Him, to hear His Word with understanding and to love God with our whole heart.

‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders…?’(Mark 7:5). How did Jesus respond to this ‘storm’ of criticism? – He exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the tradition of men more important than the Word of God (Mark 7:7-9, 13). He invited ‘the people’ to come ‘to Him’, to ‘hear’, to ‘understand’. His Word was addressed to ‘all’ of them (Mark 7:14). Jesus emphasizes this point: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’(1 Samuel 16:7). The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Which will it be? – ‘Their hearts were hardened’(Mark 6:52) or ‘Loving the Lord your God with all your heart’(Mark 12:30).

 

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125 (or Isaiah 35:4-7a); Psalm 146; James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17; Mark 7:24-37

 

God’s Word is for you. Read God’s Word today.

‘So that your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you today, even you’(Proverbs 22:19). Many people say, ‘It’s not for me’. They know that others have been greatly blessed through reading God’s Word. Still, they do not take the trouble to read God’s Word for themselves. They can’t be bothered. Receiving God’s blessing doesn’t really matter that much to them. Don’t miss out on God’s blessing. God’s Word is for ‘you’. It’s not just for somebody else. It’s for you – ‘even you’. Some people say, ‘I’ll read God’s Word tomorrow’. When ‘tomorrow’ comes around, they’re still saying the same thing – ‘I’ll read God’s Word tomorrow’! Sadly, their ‘tomorrow’ never comes. They never get round to reading God’s Word. They’re missing out on so much. Don’t say, ‘I’ll leave it till tomorrow’. Read God’s Word ‘today’.

 

Be wise. Build your life on Jesus Christ.

‘Those who trust in the Lord… cannot be moved…’. When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the’foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’(Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’(1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10, 411). ‘Christ died for our sins… He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

 

Saved by the Lord, let us live for Him.

What blessings are given to those who draw near to God – ‘Your God… will come and save you’(Isaiah 35:4). The Good News of Christ comes to us as a call to faith – ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’(Acts 16:31). We have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot remain the same. We are called to live a new life. We must travel on the Lord’s ‘highway’ – ‘the Way of Holiness’(Isaiah 35:8). This is ‘the Way’ which leads to ‘everlasting joy’(Isaiah 35:10). This ‘Way’ is so different from the world’s way. The world has no time for those who seek to live a holy life. This is what Jesus says about the world’s way of life: ‘the gate is wide and the way is wide that leads to destruction’(Matthew 7:13). Whatever the world may say, we must never forget this: ‘Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord’(Hebrews 12:14).

 

Praising the Lord our God – it’s a lifelong commitment.

‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 146:2). Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’(Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’(Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).

 

The Gospel turns the world’s values upside-down. God must come first – every time.

The Gospel turns the world’s values upside down – the ‘poor in the world’ are ‘rich in faith’(James 2:5). We are to live according to the Gospel. We are not to be controlled by the world’s way of thinking. If we ‘show favouritism’, we place ourselves in a dangerous position – ‘judgment without mercy’. Even where there is the threat of judgment, there is the promise of mercy – ‘mercy triumphs over judgment’(James 2:9, 13). God is calling us back from the brink. He is saying, ‘It’s not too late’. Even at ‘the eleventh hour’, God is calling us to receive His mercy (Matthew 20:6-9). He wants to change us. He wants us to put Him first. For Abraham and Rahab, God came first – not Abraham’s son, not Rahab’s country (James 2:20-26; Genesis 22:12; Joshua 2:9). Don’t let anyone or anything come before Him. He must come first – every time.

 

First things first – a real faith and a real desire for God’s blessing

It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs (Mark 7:27). Is this a ‘refusal?’ We must remember that the Gospel is for all – Jews and Gentiles (John 3:16). Here, we see the love of Jesus. In love, He says, ‘Show me that your faith is real’. First things ‘first’: Do you really want to be blessed by the Lord ? Or, are you content with ‘going through the motions’of religious ritual? Is God’s Word going in one ear and out the other (deaf)? Are you ashamed of the Lord (dumb)? Jesus ‘makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak’(Mark 7:37). Jesus feeds those who are hungry – for Him. To those who say, “‘Yes, Lord, even the crumbs’, so long as it comes from You”, Jesus gives much – and we are ‘satisfied’(Mark 7:28; Mark 8:8). Don’t settle for ‘the leaven of the Pharisees’(Mark 8:15) – second best (by a long way!) – when you can have Jesus, the very best! ‘Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus’(Mark 8:22-26; Mission Praise, 545).

 

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proverbs 1:20-33; Psalm 19 (or Isaiah 50:4-9a); Psalm 116:1-9; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38

 

Filled with the Holy Spirit, let us speak the Word of God with boldness.

The reading from Proverbs begins with the words, ‘Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares’(Proverbs 1:20) and ends with the words, ‘whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm’(Proverbs 1:33). The Gospel is not to be kept to ourselves. Christ is to be proclaimed. Why is it so important that we tell others about our Saviour, Jesus Christ? – It is because He offers salvation to all who come to Him: ‘Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved’(Romans 10:13). Later on, in Proverbs, we read. ‘he who wins souls is wise’(Proverbs 11:30). Those who are wise will pray for a greater fulfilment of the Lord’s promise: ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses …’(Acts 1:8). Filled with the Holy Spirit, we will speak the Word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).

 

The written Word of God – Scripture – leads us to the living Word of God – our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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

 

Let us wait on the Lord, witness for Him and win others for Him.

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

 

Let God’s strong love reach you in your weakness. Let Him give you His strength.

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

 

Let there be no more hurtful words and a lot more helpful words.

So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. so much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on’ (James 3:5; Mission Praise, 348). Use your words with wisdom – ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’(James 3:17-18). Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way (James 4:2). Be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another…Who are you to judge your neighbour?’(James 4:11-12). May God deliver us from hypocrisy – ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’(James 3:10). May He give us ‘more grace’- to be ‘humble’and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (James 4:6-7).

 

Where does our faith come from? It comes from divine revelation.

‘Who do you say that I am ?’: Jesus puts this question to all of us. Some believe He is the Christ. Others do not. Some try to ‘sit on the fence’. Everyone makes their response to Him. God is not deceived by outward observance of religion, when it masks an inward refusal to receive Christ as Saviour, to submit to Him as Lord. On the day of judgment, God will not be looking for respectability. He will be looking for faith (Luke 18:8). Peter confessed Christ (Mark 8:29). Then, he was overcome by Satan (Mark 8:33). He became ‘puffed up’ with pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). He forgot that faith comes from divine revelation (Matthew 16:17). We are not ‘to rebuke’the Lord (Mark 8:32). Looking to ‘Jesus only’(Mark 9:8; Romans 4:5), we are to live as His disciples (Mark 8:34) – not of this world, as He is not of this world (John 17:14, 16; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Peter 1:3-4).

 

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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proverbs 31:10-31; Psalm 1:1-6 (or Jeremiah 11:18-20); Psalm 54:1-7; James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37

 

The one treasure that lasts for ever – the treasure of salvation.

‘A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies… Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’(Proverbs 31:10, 30). We are to seek ‘treasures in heaven’ rather than ‘treasures on earth’(Matthew 6:19-21). The riches of this world will not last for ever: ‘All your riches and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered… “Woe! Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!”’ There is one treasure which lasts forever – the treasure of salvation. Let us praise our Saviour: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and power and glory belong to our God’(Revelation 18:14-17; 19:1).

 

Great blessings for those who “delight in the law of the Lord”

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

 

“Now” – the time for obedience to God’s Word.

God speaks His Word to us. He calls us to obedience. He says to us, ‘Obey My voice’. Sadly, however, the story of our life is often summed up in the words: ‘They did not listen or pay attention. They did not obey’(Jeremiah 11:7-8). God’s Word is not just ‘something to think about. When God calls us to obedience, we’re not to say, ‘I’ll think about that later’. ‘Now’ is the time for obedience to God’s Word: ‘Obey now the voice of the Lord’(Jeremiah 38:20). We must not put this off until tomorrow. God is looking for our obedience today: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’(Hebrews 4:7). To those who were deeply involved in religious ritual – ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices’ – , God said this, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’(1 Samuel 15:22). Obedience involves our whole life – not just ‘never missing a service’!

 

Don’t try to run away from your problems. Take them to the Lord.

The Psalmist had problems – ‘Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life – men with no regard for God’(Psalm 54:3). There was, however, something else troubling him. Someone else was causing him problems – ‘my close friend, with whom I enjoyed sweet fellowship, as we worshipped together at the House of God’(Psalm 55:13-14). He felt like running away from it all – ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – I would flee far away and stay in the desert… I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm’(Psalm 55:6-8). This is what he felt like doing. He had almost forgotten – ‘God is my Helper’(Psalm 54:4). With God, he faced and overcame his problems: ‘I will call upon God; and the Lord will save me’. ‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you’(Psalm 55:16, 22).

 

Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way.

So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. so much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’ can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on’ (James 3:5; Mission Praise, 348). Use your words with wisdom – ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’(James 3:17-18). Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way (James 4:2). Be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another…Who are you to judge your neighbour?’(James 4:11-12). May God deliver us from hypocrisy – ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’(James 3:10). May He give us ‘more grace’ – to be ‘humble’ and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (James 4:6-7).

 

Less self-confidence and more confidence in God – This is what we need.

‘Our God is able’(Daniel 3:17). Do we believe this? There is no doubt about God’s power. What about our faith? We come to Jesus, saying, ‘If you can’. Jesus turns things around: ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’(Mark 9:22-23). This is not so much an appeal for positive thinking. It is a call to prayer (Mark 9:29). Less self-confidence and more confidence in God – This is what we need. God’s greatness is more important than our ‘greatness’(Mark 9:33-35). Are there things that you don’t understand? Don’t be afraid to ask (Mark 9:32). You may even learn from those who ‘don’t belong to our group’(Mark 9:38-40). They don’t belong to our group? So what? Do they belong to Christ? That’s what matters. ‘It is better’(Mark 9:43, 45, 47) to be Christ’s – than anything else! May our faith, though ‘tested by fire’, grow strong – to God’s glory (Mark 9:49-50; 1 Peter 1: 6-7).

 

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Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22; Psalm 124 (or Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Psalm 19:7-14; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50

 

We rejoice in Christ. He was crucified for us. He has risen for us.

Esther spoke up for God’s people – ‘spare my people’(Esther 7:3). She spoke out against the enemy of God’s people – ‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!’(Esther 7:6). The tables were turned on the enemy of the Lord’s people – ‘they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai’(Esther 7:10). He was replaced by the Lord’s servant – ‘the king took off the signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai’(Esther 8:2). Instead of the gallows, Mordecai received ‘royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a purple robe of fine linen’(Esther 8:15)! For God’s people, this was ‘a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour’(Esther 8:16). Let’s look beyond Mordecai to Christ. Rejoice! He was crucified for us. He is now exalted to the highest place (Philippians 2:8-9).

Among God’s people, there was much ‘feasting and joy’. They gave thanks to the Lord – ‘their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration’(Esther 9:17-22). They gave thanks to God for Mordecai – ‘he sought the welfare of his people, he worked for the good of his people’. They rejoiced because of ‘the greatness and high honour of Mordecai, to which the king had raised him’(Esther 10:2-3). We have even more to celebrate. We gather at the Lord’s Table. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We rejoice in Jesus Christ our Saviour. He ‘gave His life as a ransom for many’. His body was broken for us. His blood was shed for us. ‘Redeemed with His precious blood’, we rejoice in Christ – ‘crucified’ and ‘risen’ for us (Mark 10:45; Mark 14:22-24; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

 

Through Christ, we have received mercy. In Christ, we have the victory.

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

 

Standing in Christ’s strength, we resist the devil. Defeated by Christ, the devil flees from us.

‘The people complained in the hearing of the Lord’(Numbers 11:1) – Remember: All our words are spoken ‘in the hearing of the Lord’! There was ‘a rabble among them’(Numbers 11:4): What problems there are when such people are mingling with God’s people! What are we to do when this happens? – Pray for God’s help (Numbers 11:10-15). God will not disappoint us – He gives people who will ‘take their stand with us’(Numbers 11:16), the Spirit who rests on God’s people (Numbers 11:25), the Word, ‘strong meat’ to sustain our spiritual strength (Numbers 11:31-32; Hebrews 5:12-14). The lure of the world, the pull of the flesh – ‘the rabble’ wanted to go back to ‘Egypt’(Numbers 11:4-6): This is the attack of the devil. Standing in Christ’s strength alone, we ‘resist the devil’. Defeated by Christ, Satan can do nothing but ‘flee from us’(Philippians 4:13; James 4:7; 1 John 3:8).

 

God is speaking to us. He speaks to us of Jesus Christ. He calls us to come to Christ.

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

 

God helps us to speak His Word. Let’s pray that sinners will be saved.

Don’t worry about ‘what will happen tomorrow’. It’s in the Lord’s hands (James 4:14-15). We must not lose sight of ‘the purpose of the Lord’. We must remember that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’(James 5:11). We look forward to ‘the Lord’s Coming’ as the great Day of our salvation (James 5:7-8). We must not, however, forget God’s words of warning: ‘The Judge is standing at the door’. God speaks to us concerning ‘the misery that is coming upon you’. What is He saying to us here? – He is warning us: Be careful how you live – Don’t trust in riches. ‘Don’t grumble against each other’(James 5:1-3,9). The warning and the promise belong together. Those who are facing judgment can be brought to the Saviour. May God help us to speak His Word – the warning as well as the promise – , always praying that sinners will be saved (James 5:16,19-20).

 

A call to prayer

‘Our God is able’(Daniel 3:17). Do we believe this? There is no doubt about God’s power. What about our faith? We come to Jesus, saying, ‘If you can’. Jesus turns things around: ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’(Mark 9:22-23). This is not so much an appeal for positive thinking. It is a call to prayer (Mark 9:29). Less self-confidence and more confidence in God – This is what we need. God’s greatness is more important than our ‘greatness’(Mark 9:33-35). Are there things that you don’t understand? Don’t be afraid to ask (Mark 9:32). You may even learn from those who ‘don’t belong to our group’(Mark 9:38-40). They don’t belong to our group? So what? Do they belong to Christ? That’s what matters. ‘It is better’(Mark 9:43,45,47) to be Christ’s – than anything else! May our faith, though ‘tested by fire’, grow strong – to God’s glory (Mark 9:49-50; 1 Peter 1: 6-7).

 

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Job 1:1; 2:1-10; Psalm 26 (or Genesis 2:18-24); Psalm 8; Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12; Mark 10:17-31

 

Satan is very busy. Remember – God is in control.

Satan is very busy – ‘going to and fro on the earth…walking up and down on it’. Why is Satan ‘roaming through the earth’? – ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’(Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8). If, like Job, you ‘fear God and turn away from evil’, Satan will make you his target. He will do all that he can to make you stop worshipping God and start cursing Him (Job 1:1, 11). Satan is very powerful – but he can only do what God allows him to do (Job 1:12; 2:6). There is a greater Power than the power of Satan – ‘the Power of God’. When you face Satan’s onslaughts, remember – God is in control. His Power is at work in us to keep us in the way of faith, the way which brings ‘praise and glory and honour’to Him (1 Peter 1:3-7).

 

God’s love inspires our loyalty to Him.

God’s love for us inspires our loyalty to Him: ‘Your love is ever before me, and I will walk continually in Your truth’(Psalm 26:3). Loyalty to the Lord involves worshipping Him and walking with Him (Psalm 26:11-12). Walking with God is not easy. There are ‘enemies round about’us (Psalm 26:4-5, 9-10; Psalm 27:2-3, 6, 11-12). What are we to do? We are to worship God: ‘One thing have I asked of the Lord…that I may dwell in the House of the Lord…’(Psalm 27:4). What are we doing when we gather in the Lord’s House for worship? This is what we are doing – ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage’(Psalm 27:14). Where does our strength come from? It comes from God: ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation… The Lord is the stronghold of my life’. Strong in Him, we say, ‘My heart will not fear… I will be confident’(Psalm 27:1, 3).

 

Created in God’s image, let’s glorify Him.

We come here to the creation of woman. Her creation is bound up with the creation of man. She is created from man’s ‘rib’ (Genesis 2:21-22). The ‘rib’ is taken from his side, emphasizing that man and woman are to be together, side-by-side, not one in front of the other. The ‘rib’, rather than the head or the feet, emphasizes this togetherness rather than any superiority-inferiority relationship. The ‘rib’ is close to the heart. Woman is close to the heart of man. Both are close to the heart of God. The contrast between humanity and the animals is again clear. Among the animals, there was ‘no suitable helper’ for the man (Genesis 2:20). The animals had been ‘formed out of the ground’ (Genesis 2:19). Humanity has come from ‘the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). Like the animals, we come from ‘the dust of the ground’, but there is more: the Breath of God, created in His image to glorify Him!

 

To God, we pray, “Glorify Your Name in all the earth.”

The Lord is ‘majestic’(Psalm 8:1, 9). He does not remain remote. He does not keep His distance. He show us His greatness, the greatness of His love. We feel forgotten. He remembers us. We feel unloved. He cares for us (Psalm 8:4). We are tempted. He will ‘still the enemy’(Psalm 8:2). We look beyond our creation (Psalm 8:5-8) to our salvation – ‘we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone…that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil’(Hebrews 2:8-9, 14). This is ‘Majesty’ – ‘Jesus, who died, now glorified, King of all kings’. The Name of the Lord is majestic ‘in all the earth’(Psalm 8:1, 9). To God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we pray, ‘Glorify Your Name in all the earth’ (Mission Praise. 454,142).

 

Let’s worship our Lord Jesus Christ. He is great in heavenly glory. He is great in saving grace.

From the heights of heaven and the depths of suffering, ‘God… has spoken to us by His Son’(Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is God’s ‘Word’ to us. He is ‘the Word’ who came from heaven: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’. He is ‘the Word’who came to earth: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…’(John 1:1-14). In heaven, He is worshipped by angels: ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him’(Hebrews 1:6). On earth, ‘He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone’(Hebrews 2:9). We see the greatness of Christ in both His heavenly glory and His saving grace. None can compare with Him. He is our Lord. He is our Saviour. We consider all that He has done for us – ‘the nail marks in His hands…’ – and we worship Him – ‘my Lord and my God’(John 20:19-20, 24-28).

 

As we give ourselves to God, let’s remember this: He has given more. He gave His Son for us.

The Pharisees came to Jesus – ‘to test Him’(Mark 10:2). They asked Him about divorce (Mark 10:2). He spoke to them about marriage (Mark 10:6-9). We need to be positive, well grounded in the basic principles of God’s Word. When the thorny problems come – as they surely will – we will face them with maturity, and not as ‘children, tossed to fro and and carried about with every wind of doctrine’(Ephesians 4:14). Jesus loved the little children (Mark 10:13-16). Do we? Some say ‘No’to the love of Jesus (Mark 10:21-22). Say ‘Yes’ to Him. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is God’s doing, not ours (Mark 10:26-27). Don’t let ‘self’ take the place of Christ: ‘we have left everything…’(Mark 10:28). Don’t say, ‘I have given so much to God, done so much for Him, given up so much for Him’. God has given you more! God has done more for you! God has given up more for you! “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” (John 3:16).

 

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Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15 (or Amos 5:6-7, 10-15); Psalm 90:12-17; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

 

When you’re suffering, remember that God loves you.

Job’s ‘friends’ assume that Job is being punished by God. They are unaware that someone else is behind Job’s suffering – Satan! Job isn’t sure what to make of it all. Is God punishing him after all? Deep down in his heart, he knows that God loves him. Job asks the question – ‘Would He contend with me in the greatness of His power?’. He answers his own question – ‘No; He would give heed to me’(Job 23:6). Job knows that God is a God of great power. He knows something else about God. He is a God of great love. He is not ‘all power and no love’. ‘God is love’(1 John 4:8). What really lies behind Job’s suffering? – ‘The devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!’. The time will come when God will say to Satan, ‘Enough! No more!’(Revelation 12:12; 20:10)!

Satan is working overtime! He is filling Job with fear. In his state of deep depression, Job says, “God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me; for I am hemmed in by darkness, and thick darkness covers my face’(Job 23:16-17). Where do these thoughts come from? Do they come from the Lord? No! They come from Satan! This is not ‘the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom’(Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7). It is a very different kind of fear, a fear which comes from Satan. How are we to overcome this fear? When depression threatens to overwhelm us, what are we to do? Look to the Lord. He ‘has not given us a spirit of fear’. He has given us His ‘Spirit of power and love’. He gives us ‘a sound mind’. Look to the Lord. Let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’(2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18).

 

When you’re suffering, remember that Christ died for you.

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

 

When you’re suffering, remember God’s Word of love: “Seek the Lord and live.”

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

 

When you’re suffering, remember God’s Word of love: “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

‘Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations… From everlasting to everlasting, You are God’(Psalm 90:1-2). The Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning, God…’. Before the world began, there was God – ‘the eternal God’. He is ‘the high and exalted One’. He is the God ‘who inhabits eternity’. He is the God ‘who lives for ever’. He has no beginning. He has no end. He is ‘the beginning and the end’. Our life on earth has a beginning. It has an end. Trusting in ‘the eternal God’, we rejoice in His precious promises – ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’; ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’; ‘The free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’(Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 33:27; Isaiah 57:15; Revelation 21:6; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 6:23).

 

When, in your suffering, you hear God’s voice, do not harden your heart.

‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. These words from Hebrews 3:7,15, are repeated in Hebrews 4:7. Make sure that you don’t miss the point! These are words that we need to keep on hearing – again and again. None of us ever reaches a stage where we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning. Reading God’s Word can be a very uncomfortable experience: ‘God’s Word is living and active… God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for Him to see. We must answer to Him’(Hebrews 4:12-13). This may not be the kind of thing we like to hear. It’s what we need to hear. We will only pray for ‘mercy’ and ‘grace’ when we see how sinful we really are. Then – and only then – will we come to Christ for ‘eternal salvation’(Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 5:9).

 

When your suffering seems unbearable, remember this  – God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.

The Pharisees came to Jesus – ‘to test Him’(Mark 10:2). They asked Him about divorce (Mark 10:2). He spoke to them about marriage (Mark 10:6-9). We need to be positive, well grounded in the basic principles of God’s Word. When the thorny problems come – as they surely will – we will face them with maturity, and not as ‘children, tossed to fro and and carried about with every wind of doctrine’(Ephesians 4:14). Jesus loved the little children (Mark 10:13-16). Do we? Some say ‘No’ to the love of Jesus (Mark 10:21-22). Say ‘Yes’to Him. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is God’s doing, not ours (Mark 10:26-27). Don’t let ‘self’ take the place of Christ: ‘we have left everything…’(Mark 10:28). Don’t say, ‘I have given so much to God, done so much for Him, given up so much for Him’. God has given you more! God has done more for you! God has given up more for you! God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son … (John 3:16).

 

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Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost: Job 38:1-7, (34-41); Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c (or Isaiah 53:4-12); Psalm 91:9-16; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

 

Why? Why? Why? Even when we don’t understand, we can still say, ‘My help comes from the Lord.’

The Lord has listened long enough! He’s listened to a lot of ‘empty-headed words’. He has listened to a long, heated debate. There’s been a lot of heat and not much light. Everything seems to be as clear as mud (Job 38:2). Now, it’s His time for speaking! What does God have to say? He invites Job to look at the bigger picture. Being preoccupied with our own problems doesn’t really solve anything. ‘Why has this happened to me? Why did it not turn out that way? Why this? Why that?’- We go round in circles, thinking about these kind of questions. We don’t have all the answers. There are plenty of things we don’t understand. Even when we don’t understand what’s happening, we can still say, ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’(Psalm 121:1-2).

 

Are you drifting away from the Lord? It’s time for a new beginning. It’s time for an ‘all my life’ commitment to the Lord.

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

 

‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ Yes. We were there. It was our sins which He took with Him to the Cross

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

 

In Christ, we have the victory –‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

‘Surely He will save you from the traps of the hunter’(Psalm 91:3). God has given us His warning. We must ‘be alert’- ‘Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. He also gives us His promise – ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. How are we to resist the devil? – We are to ‘resist him, standing firm in the faith’(1 Peter 5:8-9; James 4:7). We must not try to resist the devil in our own strength. We will be defeated. He is much more powerful than we are. We must resist him in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have the victory – ‘Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’(1 Corinthians 15:57). Satan is out to get us. He’s trying to trap us. Let’s never forget this: Jesus is able to ‘deliver us from the evil one’(Matthew 6:13).

 

None of us ever reaches a stage when we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning.

‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. These words from Hebrews 3:7, 15, are repeated in Hebrews 4:7. Make sure that you don’t miss the point! These are words that we need to keep on hearing – again and again. None of us ever reaches a stage when we no longer need to hear and heed God’s words of warning. Reading God’s Word can be a very uncomfortable experience: ‘God’s Word is living and active… God’s Word judges a person’s thoughts and intentions. No creature can hide from God. Everything is uncovered and exposed for Him to see. We must answer to Him’(Hebrews 4:12-13). This may not be the kind of thing we like to hear. It’s what we need to hear. We will only pray for ‘mercy’and ‘grace’ when we see how sinful we really are. Then – and only then – will we come to Christ for ‘eternal salvation’(Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 5:9).

 

Never think, ‘Glory for me.’ Always think, ‘Glory to God.’ ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Jesus was ‘going up to Jerusalem’ – to the Cross (Mark 10:32). He came to die, ‘to give His life as a ransom for many’(Mark 10:45). The death of Christ lies at the very heart of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 1:23 1 John 1:7, 2:2 Hebrews 2:9). Don’t think, ‘Glory for me’(Mark 10:37). Think, ‘Glory to God’(Mark 10:43-44): ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’(Galatians 6:14). Bartimaeus cried out to the Lord for mercy (Mark 10:47). ‘How embarrassing’, some people thought – ‘how undignified’(Mark 10:48). When God is at work, some people don’t like it! They like everything to be dignified – dull and dead! When God is at work, people get converted. This may not please the ‘critics’, but it pleases God – and that’s what matters. Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard – and answered.

 

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Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost: Job 42:1-6. 10-17; Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) (or Jeremiah 31:7-9); Psalm 126; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 10:46-52

 

A happy ending – “salvation ready to be revealed at the last time … when Jesus Christ is revealed”

After so much suffering – a happy ending! Job has been brought closer to God (Job 42:5-6). His ‘friends’ have been forgiven by the Lord (Job 42:7-9). Everybody is happy about the way things have turned out for Job (Job 42:10-11). Is there always a happy ending? In this earthly life, we will never reach a stage where there will be no more problems and everything will be just fine. For God’s people, ‘redeemed with the precious blood of Christ’, there will be a happy ending – but not until ‘the last time’! For now, we must face many ‘trials’. Beyond our ‘little while’of suffering there is a happy ending – ‘salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’. We must pray that our ‘faith, more precious than gold, will be proved genuine and will result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed’(1 Peter 1:3-7,18-19).

 

Rejoicing in God’s salvation, we say, “I will bless the Lord at all times.”

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

 

We have wandered off into the far country. Even there, we hear the voice of God’s love. He is calling us home again.

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’(Jeremiah 31:3). So often, we have been like ‘the prodigal son’(Luke 15:11-24). We have walked away from our Father’s House. We have wandered off into ‘the far country’. We feel that we are far from God, yet still He draws near to us. The Lord is at work in our hearts. He is bringing us ‘to our senses’. He is reminding us of His love. He is drawing us back to Himself. In love, He is calling us home again. He is speaking to our hearts. He is saying to us, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love’. As His love reaches our hearts, ‘the prodigal son’becomes ‘the returning son’: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. ‘Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God!’(Jeremiah 31:18).

 

Building on Jesus Christ, the solid Rock, we are filled with true and lasting joy.

‘Those who trust in the Lord… cannot be moved…’. When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’(Psalm 125:1; Psalm 127:1; Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’is the ‘sure Foundation’upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’(1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10,411). ‘Christ died for our sins… He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

 

Let Jesus be your great Saviour. Comne to Him and receive His great salvation.

‘See how great He is!’(Hebrews 7:4). These words refer to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-3; Genesis 14:18-20). Melchizedek has ‘neither beginning of days nor end of life’. He ‘continues a priest for ever’. He ‘resembles the Son of God’. He is ‘like the Son of God’ (Hebrews 7:3). Let your thoughts move from Melchizedek to the Lord Jesus Christ – ‘See how great He is’! Jesus Christ is ‘the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 21:6; 22:13). ‘Jesus lives for ever’and ‘has a permanent priesthood’ (Hebrews 7:24). He is our great Saviour: ‘He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him’ (Hebrews 7:25). We look beyond Melchizedek. We look to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. We look to Him and we say, ‘There’s no greater Name than Jesus, Name of Him who came to save us’ (Mission Praise, 684). Let Jesus be your great Saviour. Come to Him and receive His great salvation.

 

Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard – and answered.

Jesus was ‘going up to Jerusalem’- to the Cross (Mark 10:32). He came to die, ‘to give His life as a ransom for many’(Mark 10:45). The death of Christ lies at the very heart of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 1:23 1 John 1:7, 2:2 Hebrews 2:9). Don’t think, ‘Glory for me’(Mark 10:37). Think, ‘Glory to God’ (Mark 10:43-44): ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’(Galatians 6:14). Bartimaeus cried out to the Lord for mercy (Mark 10:47). ‘How embarrassing’, some people thought – ‘how undignified’ (Mark 10:48). When God is at work, some people don’t like it! They like everything to be dignified – dull and dead! When God is at work, people get converted. This may not please the ‘critics’, but it pleases God – and that’s what matters. Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard – and answered.

 

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Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Ruth 1:1-18; Psalm 146 (or Deuteronomy 6:1-9); Psalm 119:1-8; Hebrews 9:11-14;  Mark 12:28-34

 

Let us follow Jesus all the days of our life..

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1:16-17). As we read these words, may we hear the voice of Jesus calling us to follow Him -  “”You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”” (John 6::67-69). Following Jesus Christ will not be easy. We see many people turning back from following Him. We are tempted to join them. We feel the pull of the world. We must not take our eyes off Jesus. We must not return to the world’s way of living. We must remember all that Jesus has done for us – ‘He loved us and gave Himself for us’(Galatians 2:20) – and recommit ourselves to following Him: ‘I have decided to follow Jesus… The world behind me, the Cross before me… Though none go with me, I still will follow… No turning back, no turning back’(Mission Praise, 272).

Let us praise God all the days of our life.

‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’(Psalm 146:2). Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’(Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’(Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).

 

Let us obey the Lord all the days of our life.

‘Hear’ and ‘do’ (Deuteronomy 6:1-3; James 1:22-25). Teach the children well so that the blessing of God may be ‘prolonged’ among us (Deuteronomy 6:7, 2). Our promised land – heaven (John 14:1-3) – is far better than Israel’s promised land. Through faith in Christ, we have received ‘eternal life’ (John 5:24; 6:40). The way of blessing is the way of obedience (Psalm 119:1). Many will choose the way of disobedience. We must choose the way of obedience.

 

Let us love the Lord all the days of our life.

In our obedience to God, there is to be the fear of the Lord and love for the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:2, 5). Fear and love: the two belong together. God is holy – fear Him. God is love – love Him. This is for every generation: ‘you and your son and your son’s son’(Deuteronomy 6:2). ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart’(Deuteronomy 6:5). Our ‘first’priority is love for God (Mark 12:29-30). Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour’ (Mark 12:31). Love for our neighbour is not, however, ‘the be-all and end-all’ of our life. There is more. We must not forget God. Jesus is ‘Lord’(Mark 12:35-37). Let it be: Jesus is my Lord.

 

All the days of our life, we have Jesus as our Saviour. He’s never out of date. He gives us His eternal redemption.

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

 

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Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Ruth 3:1-5: 4:13-17; Psalm 127 (or 1 Kings 17:8-16); Psalm 146; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

 

No more filthy rags. Christ has clothed us with His garments of salvation.

Ruth was covered by the ‘garment’ of Boaz, her ‘kinsman-redeemer’ (Ruth 3:9). Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He has become one of us. He shares our ‘flesh and blood’, our ‘humanity’. Through His ‘suffering’and ‘death’, we are brought to ‘glory’ (Hebrews 2:10-11,14-15). In Him, we ‘rejoice’: ‘He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness’(Isaiah 61:10). ‘Our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. Bring your ‘robes’ to Christ and let them be ‘washed’, ‘made white in the blood of the Lamb’ (Isaiah 64:6; Revelation 7:14). A ‘Moabitess’, Ruth was brought into the house of Israel (Ruth 4:10-11). In Christ, Jew and Gentile become one (Ephesians 2:11-18). Ruth played her part in leading us to Christ (Ruth 4:13-17; Matthew 1:1,5-6). May God help us to lead people to Christ.

 

No more falling apart. Christ is the solid Rock on which we build.

‘Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). When we put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘wise man who built his house on the rock’. His house ‘did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock’. When we do not put our trust in the Lord, we are like the ‘foolish man who built his house on sand’. His house ‘fell with a great crash’. (Matthew 7:24-27). ‘Jesus Christ’ is the ‘sure Foundation’ upon which our faith is built. He is ‘the solid Rock’, our ‘mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment’ (1 Corinthians 3:11; 10:3-4; Church Hymnary, 10,411). ‘Christ died for our sins… He was raised on the third day’. Let us rejoice in Him: ‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’(Psalm 126:3; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

 

“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”

Things were getting desperate: ‘Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him’ (1 Kings 16:33). What did God do about this? How did He respond to this situation? God sent His prophet, a man who would stand up for God against Ahab. ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’ (Isaiah 59:19). Where did Elijah come from? He came from God! All we know about Elijah’s early life is expressed in the words: ‘Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead’. There is something else we know about him. He was a man of God. He was a man with a message, a man who spoke in the Name of the Lord the God of Israel’ (1 Kings 17:1). Things happened when Elijah was around. This was the Spirit of God at work – in power!

 

Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who remains faithful for ever.

‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 146:2). Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’ (Psalm 146:5-6).

 

Thank the Lord for what He has done for you. Thank Him for what He will do for you.

We look back to what Christ has done for us. We look forward to what He will do for us. Looking back and looking forward: These are both found in Hebrews 9:28 – ‘Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him’. We remember our Saviour. We remember what He has done for us: ‘the Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us’ (Galatians 2:20). We eat bread and drink wine, giving thanks that our Saviour went to the Cross for us – His body broken for us and His blood shed for us. We are not only looking back. We are also looking forward: ‘As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Remember – and pray, ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’(Revelation 22:20). As we remember Jesus Christ, crucified for us, let us pray that we will look beyond the bread and the wine. Let us pray that we will see Jesus and love Him. We are not to be like the scribes – they had all the external trappings of religion – and nothing else (Mark 12;38-40)! We are to be like the ‘poor widow’  – she had very little, yet she had everything that really matters: she loved the Lord (Mark 12:41-44)!

 

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Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 1:4-20; 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (or Daniel 12:1-3); Psalm 16; Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25; Mark 13:1-8

 

Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord.

Hannah ‘wept’. Hannah ‘was no longer sad’ (1 Samuel 1:7, 18). What made the difference? No child had been born. She had not even conceived. These things did not happen until later (1 Samuel 1:21). Why was there such a change in Hannah? She believed. God’s Word had been spoken (1 Samuel 1:17). Hannah believed His Word. She rejoiced in Him. Jesus emphasized the importance of praying with faith (Mark 11:24). We are to ‘ask in faith’, to pray ‘the prayer of faith’ (James 1:6; 5:15). We are also to pray ‘according to His will’ (1 John 5:14-15). God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He ‘gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

May our attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: ‘There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God’ (1 Samuel 2:2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord’ (1 Samuel 2:1). May the Lord help us to be ‘His faithful ones’ who walk with Him (1 Samuel 2:9).

 

Choose Christ and be glad.

We read of two very different futures – ‘everlasting life’ and ‘everlasting contempt’ (Daniel 12:2). We receive ‘eternal life’ through ‘believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’. Through faith in Him, we ‘know that we have eternal life’. God gives us His promise: ‘He who has the Son has life’. To those who ‘overcome’, through ‘believing that Jesus is the Son of God’, God gives this promise: ‘I will never blot his name out of the Book of Life’. Alongside His promise, there is His warning: ‘He who does not have the Son of God does not have life’. To those who refuse to come to Christ for salvation, God gives this warning: ‘If anyone’s name was not written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire’ (John 20:31; 1 John 5:5,11-13; Revelation 3:5; 20:15). May the warning lead us to the promise: ‘Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11). In this earthly life, there are many difficulties. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come. We must look not only at the things which are happening now. We must look also to the glory which is yet to come. Our hope of eternal glory is based on Christ’s resurrection. David’s words (Psalm 16:8-11) are quoted by Peter in connection with ‘the resurrection of the Christ’ (Acts 2:24-33). ‘Christ has been raised from the dead…at His coming those who belong to Christ…will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 52). ‘The Lord is my chosen portion…Therefore my heart is glad’ (Psalm 16:5, 9). Is this your testimony? Choose Christ and be glad.

 

Let us press on to victory in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are ‘wars and rumours of wars’ (Mark 13:7). We must learn to look beyond all of this: ‘This day – the noise of battle’: Look beyond all that to ‘the victor’s song’ (Church Hymnary, 481). In human conflict, there is so much of self – ‘We are the people’. When Christ returns, nothing will matter but this: ‘When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there’(Mission Praise,759). We hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars’. Do we say, ‘This is part of our history. It’s always been this way’? We must remember: Preaching Christ’s Gospel is far more important than ‘defending’ our ways (Mark 13:10)! Let us seek the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ as we proclaim the glorious message of His eternal victory – His enemies will be made a footstool for His feet (Hebrews 10:13).

 

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Twenty Seventh (Last) Sunday after Pentecost (Reign of Christ the King): 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Psalm 132:1-12, (13-18) (or Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Psalm 93; Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37 

 

“By grace you have been saved …”

By birth, David was ‘the son of Jesse’. By grace, he was ‘the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Samuel 23:1). What we are in ourselves is nothing compared with what we can become through the grace of God! Look at David. Listen to what he says, ‘The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, His Word is upon my tongue’ (2 Samuel 23:2). What had David done to deserve this? What was so special about him? Nothing – This was the work of God, the work of divine grace. In ourselves, we are ‘godless’, good for nothing, ‘like thorns that are thrown away’ (2 Samuel 23:6). In ourselves, we are not ‘mighty men’ (2 Samuel 23:8-9). How can we be changed? – ‘The Lord wrought a great victory’ (2 Samuel 23:10, 12). Which of us can be described as ‘a valiant man… a doer of great deeds’ (2 Samuel 23:20) – apart from the grace of God? ‘By grace you have been saved…’ (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

Let’s give to God the praise of our lives as well as the praise of our lips.

‘Let us go to the Lord’s House; let us worship before His throne’ (Psalm 132:7). God is calling us to worship Him. We are to gather together as His worshipping people. As we gather for worship, we remember that ‘the Lord is King’. We do not only give Him the praise of our lips. We give Him the praise of our lives. We do not only sing to Him. We live for Him. We come ‘before His throne’ with this prayer, ‘Take my heart – it is Thine own; It shall be Thy royal throne’. God hears and answers our prayer. He gives us His strength. We rise to His challenge: ‘Rise up, O Church of God! Have done with lesser things; Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings’ (Church Hymnary, 36, 462, 477). The service of worship comes to an end. Let our service of living begin – and never end!

 

Looking forward to the Coming of Christ the King.

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

 

The Lord is exalted. Let us exalt Him in our worship.

“The Lord reigns, He is robed in majesty…”(Psalm 93:1-2). The Lord is ‘exalted’. We are to exalt Him in our worship. He is not exalted because we exalt Him. We exalt Him because He is exalted. He is ‘exalted far above all gods’. That is why we sing, ‘I exalt Thee, O Lord’. ‘He is exalted, the King is exalted on high’ – This is the truth concerning the Lord. ‘I will praise Him’- This is our response to His truth. We sing, ‘Jesus, we enthrone You, we proclaim You our King’. This is our response to the eternal truth concerning our Saviour: ‘The Lord is enthroned as King for ever’. ‘From all eternity’the Lord is ‘robed in majesty’. Let us respond to His majesty. Let us ‘magnify’ the Lord – ‘O Lord our God, how majestic is Thy Name’ (Psalm 97:9; 29:10; Mission Praise, 158, 217, 388, 507).

 

Christ is coming with the clouds. We must get ready for Him.

‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ (Revelation 1:1) comes from Christ and speaks of Christ. He loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood (Revelation 1:5). We rejoice in Him. Christ is ‘coming with the clouds’ (Revelation 1:7). We must get ready for Him. ‘The revelation of Jesus Christ’ calls for our response. It is not ‘for information only’. We are to ‘pay attention to what is written in it’. We are to ‘take it to heart’. We are to ‘do what it says’ (Revelation 1:3). Christ reveals Himself to us. Is it for our benefit only? Is it just to make us ‘feel good’? No! We are to share with others what the Lord is teaching us. Christ said to John, ‘Write what you see’ (Revelation 1:19). Don’t keep it to yourself. Share Christ. Tell others about Him. Tell them what the Lord has done for you. Speak His words of love: ‘Come…and learn from Me’ (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

Jesus Christ is the King of kings. He is the King of love, who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die. Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born…’ (John 18:36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross. As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas – ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas – ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12, 6).

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