“I am filled with the power of the Lord’s Spirit” (Micah 3:8).
This is what makes true ministry of God’s Word so different from ‘prophecy’ that doesn’t come from the Lord. Without the power of the Lord, there can be no Word from the Lord. We need the Word, and we need the power.
“Let’s go to the mountain of the Lord… He will teach us His ways so that we may live by them” (Micah 4:2).
We are taught by the Lord so that we might live for Him. Teaching and living: they belong together. We do not learn from God’s Word so that we can amass more head-knowledge. We pray for a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ: a life-changing knowledge that gives us the strength that we need to live for the glory of God.
Teach us, Lord, to live for You.
In Ruth 2, there’s a beautiful picture of harvest. Look back to Ruth 1:1, “There was a famine in the land.” The Christian life’s like that. It’s not always harvest. Sometimes, it’s famine. Sometimes, we feel like we’re on the mountain-top. At other times, we’re in the wilderness. Whatever your circumstances, remember this: God knows what’s best for you. In the happy times and the testing times, be sure of this: God is not far from you, He’s with you, He loves you and He wants to bless you. When it seems like nothing’s going right for you, take time to think about what the Lord has done for you and give thanks to Him.
When things are going well, don’t take God’s blessing for granted. He can withdraw His blessing from us if we don’t give thanks to Him. That’s the warning Jesus gives us in the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21).
When things are going badly, don’t let your head go down. Don’t start thinking that God’s blessing will never return
In the happy times and the testing times, let’s count our blessings. Sometimes, we think that we can decide when we’re going to rejoice and when we’re going to complain. God says, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). This is joy in the Lord. It doesn’t depend on us. It comes from the Lord. Good things may happen to us. Bad things may happen to us. In the good times and the bad times, let us “rejoice in the Lord.”
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” What we’re saying is this. We depend on the Lord. Every good gift comes from Him. Without His blessing, our life is empty. Our life may seem to be full of good things. If Christ isn’t living in us, our life is empty. Don’t be like the rich fool. He lost everything that mattered to him. Life is more than things. We can’t take them with us. Real life is Jesus living in us. It’s the beginning of eternal life.
Help us, Lord, to keep looking forward and upward. Help us to keep looking to You. Help us to keep pressing on “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
Following the triple tragedy of the deaths of Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion (Ruth 1:3-5) and the departure of Orpah (Ruth 1:14), there was a new beginning for Naomi and Ruth. This new beginning came to them when “they came to Bethlehem” (Ruth 1:19). The town of Bethlehem marked a new beginning for them. It marks a new beginning for us: Bethlehem was the place where our Saviour was born. “They happened to enter Bethlehem just when the barley harvest began.” The timing of their arrival turns our thoughts towards fruitfulness. We come to our Saviour, born at Bethlehem, and He makes us fruitful in His service. Without His help, we cannot even begin to see a harvest gathered in for Him. We must look to Him, putting our trust in Him, if we are to see His blessing in the work that we do for Him. The story of Ruth and Boaz leads us on to David (Ruth 4:22). It leads us beyond David to Christ. In this love story, we have the fulfilment of Naomi’s words: “May the Lord bless him” (Ruth 2:20). It’s a story which prompts the response: “Praise the Lord” (Ruth 4:14). It’s a story which points beyond itself to the Story of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ – the Story of the greatest blessing of all: salvation, the Story which inspires our worship, causing us to say, with heart and voice, “Praise the Lord.” From this short story of Ruth and Boaz, we learn an important lesson: As we read the many stories that we find in Scripture, we must learn to see, in each of them, the Story of our Saviour.
We thank You, Lord, for the greatest story ever told. It’s a love story. It’s the story of Your great love for us. Your love is the greatest love of all. It’s the greatest love that’s ever been. It’s the greatest love that there ever will be. Thank You, Lord, for Your love for us. Your love is very wonderful. Help us never to forget Your love. May we always remember Jesus. He’s the greatest gift that You have ever given to us. What a great Saviour He is!
Life is full of ups and downs. There are high-points: “The fire of the Lord fell” and “all the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’” (1 Kings 18:37-39), and there are low-points: ”O Lord, take away my life” (1 Kings 19:4). Lord, we are so changeable. Sometimes, we’re full of joy. At other times, we’re at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused and confusing emotions. What are we to do? What can we do? Can we pull ourselves together? We try, but we fail. Lord, help us to look beyond our own efforts. Help us to look to You, to believe that You can change us, You can come to us in our weakness, You can give us Your strength, the strength that we need to love You more and bring more glory to Your Name, the Name of our salvation.
When we’re down, Lord, You lift us up. Help us to receive Your strength. Help us to walk with You in victory. Help us to bring glory to Your great Name.
Am I going to heaven? This is the most important question of all.
Jesus says, “Unless one is born anew, again, from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Here, Jesus is speaking about the new birth, the second birth, the heavenly birth.
His words weren’t spoken to the publican in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. They weren’t spoken to the woman caught in adultery. They weren’t spoken to the thief on the cross. They were spoken to a “Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1).
Nicodemus said to Jesus, “You are a teacher come from God” (John 3:2), but this didn’t take him far enough. He still needed to hear the words, “You must be born again.” He needed to be shown his need of the Saviour.
Jesus’ statement concerning the new birth is His supreme message to the world. It’s a message that runs counter to human pride.
The new birth is a divider of the human race. Either you are born again or you are not born again. Jesus tells us, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).
Are you born again? If you can answer, “Yes” to this question, you can also answer “Yes” to the question, “Am I going to heaven?”
You may say, “I don’t understand.” We are not called upon to understand. We are called to believe (John 1:12).
The new birth comes when I believe and submit to His Word: “You must be born again.”
The new birth comes when I believe in the love of God (John 3:16). God loves us. In love, He calls us to be born again.
God wants you to go heaven (John 3:17). Accept His way of salvation: faith in Jesus, His Son, faith in Jesus, our Saviour.
Thank You, Lord, for Jesus, Your Son. He is the way to You. He is the way to heaven. He’s leading us on a wonderful journey. Many times, we stumble and fall. Jesus picks us up. He sets us on our feet. He fills our hearts with praise to You, our heavenly Father.
Here, on earth, there is spiritual warfare. We do not fight in our own strength – “The Lord will go out and fight against those nations” (Zechariah 14:3). When the Lord returns, there will be His triumph over all His enemies: “The Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones will be with Him” (Zechariah 14:5). We must not lose sight of the eternal perspective. This is what gives us encouragement: “the Lord will be King over all the earth. On that day, the Lord will be the only Lord, and His Name the only name” (Zechariah 14:9).
Help us, Lord, not to fight in our own strength. Help us to fight in Your strength. Help us to see that we are not strong. We are weak. May we find our true strength in Your Son: Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. May we be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
‘Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard’(2 King 19:6). Who are you listening to? Are you listening to the world? or Are you listening to the Lord? Sometimes, the voice of the world seems to be so loud. It feels like it’s so loud that we can hardly hear the voice of the Lord at all. We need to listen well if we are to hear the voice of the Lord in today’s world. When we are discouraged, we need His Word of encouragement: ‘The zeal of the Lord will do this’(2 Kings 19:31). When you feel like saying, ‘I can’t’, remember this: ‘Our God is able’ (Daniel 3:17). ‘He is ‘able to help those who are tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18) He is ‘able to provide you with every blessing in abundance’ (2 Corinthians 9:8). He is ‘able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think’(Ephesians 3:20). Don’t say ‘I can’t’. Say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’(Philippians 4:13).
“Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:118). Lord, Your love is the only perfect love. May your love take a hold of us. May our lives be controlled and shaped by Your love, not our fears.
The call for humility: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
The call to go out to the people and bring them into the Lord’s House: “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full” (Luke 14:23).
The call for humility and the call to go out to the people and bring them into the Lord’s House: How are they to be related to each other?
* First, humility doesn’t mean that we rest content with saying, “I couldn’t do this” or “I couldn’t do that.” With humility, we must rise to the challenge of doing what God wants us to do.
* Second, going out to the people doesn’t mean that we go in our own strength. We don’t go, feeling full of our own importance. We go with our faith in the Lord. We go in His strength.
We need both: the humble attitude and the active commitment to serving the Lord.
Lord, give us humility. Help us to remember that we will never achieve anything for You without Your enabling grace. Lord, give us courage. Enabled by Your grace, may we stand up for Jesus, making it known that we belong to Him and are committed to living as His servants.
The visitor gave the invitation, “We’re from the local church, We’d like to invite you to join us at our church services. The reply was unhesitating: “I can worship God without going to church.” The visitor, continuing to extend the invitation, said, “We’d like to strengthen your worship by giving you the opportunity to share in fellowship with other worshippers.” The conversation continued, “I can be a good Christian without going to church.” Determined not to be put off, the visitor replied, “Isn’t that a bit like saying, I can be a good footballer without playing in a football team?”
A young boy can kick a football against a wall for hours. He can play “keepie-up” all day long. But, until he joins a team, he’s not really playing the game of football. Football is a team game.
We need one another. If we’re to grow in faith, worship and Christian living, We need the encouragement which comes from sharing in fellowship with other people who are also committed to growing in faith, worship and Christian living. We cannot go it alone. We weaken ourselves when we go it alone. we dare not isolate ourselves from the fellowship of God’s people. Fellowship with God and fellowship with one another: they belong together. They are not to be separated. Personal worship is to be strengthened by public worship. Worshipping together, learning together, growing together: never forget the word, ‘together.’ Alongside our fellowship with God, there is fellowship with one another. The two are to grow together: not the one without the other, but both together. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are brought into fellowship with God. He also brings us into fellowship with one another. If our fellowship with God is to grow strong, we need to continue in fellowship with His people.
Our fellowship in Jesus Christ is a special kind of fellowship. It is grounded in Christ. It is centred on worship. It’s not just getting to know other people better. It’s getting to know God better, as we worship in the company of His people.
What are we doing when we gather together to worship God? Worship can be described in a variety of ways. Let me suggest to you three words which, together, describe our gathering together for worship: proclamation, praise and prayer. They are words which teach us that our worship must never be separated from our witness. Worship leads to witness.
(1) Our worship is a proclamation. It’s a declaration. We are declaring our faith. We’re making a confession of faith.
In his well-known words concerning the Lord’s Supper, the apostle Paul writes, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” What does this mean? Does it refer to preaching? or Is there something more than that?
* “You proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” When Paul wrote these words, he was writing to the whole congregation: “You proclaim the Lord’s death … “
Every time you come to church, you preach a sermon. Your neighbours see you, making your way to church. This lets them know that you intend to keep on worshipping God and remembering the Lord Jesus Christ. You take your place in church. Your presence in church conveys a message of encouragement to your fellow-worshippers and your minister. We encourage one another when we meet together for worship.
* “You proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Paul’s words refer directly to the Lord’s Supper. They also direct our attention to the message that’s preached: “we preach Christ crucified … I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:2). Together with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, there’s the preaching of the Lord’s Word.
Remember the feeding of the five thousand. Before the feeding with bread and fish, there was the feeding with the Word of God – “the crowds … followed Him; and He welcomed them and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:11).
* “You proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. “The Gospel story tells us what has happened: the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It also tells us what is happening: “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
True worship is more than remembering something which happened a long time ago.
It is participating in the reality of the risen and living Lord. It’s being changed by the Lord, learning to love Him more and going out into the world to show His love to others.
In the context of praise and prayer, “we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” As we worship the Lord, our faith grows and we are equipped for witness, for proclaiming Christ’s love to the world, outside of the church. This is very important – those who worship the Lord Jesus Christ are to go on to become His witnesses.
(2) Our praise is directed towards God. Our prayer is directed towards God.
We do not, however, forget the world out there. When we praise God, we also call upon others to praise Him: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands” (Psalm 100:1). When we pray, we do not only pray for ourselves. We also pray for others. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there” (2 Chronicles 7:14-16).
This is more than personal prayer. This is the prayer of God’s people, gathered together for worship. This is more than prayer for the church. It’s prayer for “the land.” We may expand this to “lands”, since the God to whom we pray is “exalted over all the peoples” (Psalm 99:2). He “makes known His victory … in the sight of the nations” so that “all the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God” (Psalm 98:2-3).
As we call on men and women to praise the Lord, as we call upon the Lord on behalf of men and women, what are we to expect?
There are two extremes we need to avoid.
(a) An unrestrained optimism which imagines that a kind of spiritual “Utopia” is just around the corner, a kind of spiritual fantasy world in which there are no problems and difficulties, and everything is just fine. Such an unrestrained optimism is not realistic. It doesn’t take account of the real world in which we live.
(b) A gloomy pessimism which has become completely resigned to the idea that the church will become increasingly irrelevant to today’s world. Between these two extremes, there’s a third way: the realism of faith. We need realism, and we need faith. We need realism if we are not to be taken aback when difficulties come our way. We need faith if we are to overcome the obstacles and move in the victory of the Lord.
If our society, the wider society, the world out there, is to be changed, then we, in the church, need to be changed. We need to grow stronger in our commitment to both worship and witness.
* Who is going to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes, if we, the church, fail to do so?
* Who is going to call the world to praise the Lord if we, the church, do not keep on praising Him?
* Who will pray for our needy world, if we, the church, stop praying?
We are called to worship God. We are called to be Christ’s witnesses in the world.
How can we do this? We can do it with the help of the Lord: “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
We will receive help from the Lord, as we learn to look to Him. Looking to Him, we will receive strength to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
* We must look backward, with gratitude, to the cross.
* We must look onward, with hope, to the crown.
* We must look upward, with confidence, to the Christ.
As we learn to look to Him, we will be given His strength to be His true worshippers and His faithful witnesses, He will help us to praise Him, to pray and to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
Lord, You have been with us in our worship. You will be with us in our witness. We thank You that You will keep on giving us the strength to be Your true worshippers and Your faithful witnesses. When, Lord, we take our eyes off You, help us to come back to the cross of Jesus, where we will receive Your forgiveness and the empowering that we need for living as Your redeemed people.
“His dominion shall be… to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10).
God’s purpose was moving on. He had begun with Israel. Their deliverance from bondage in Egypt was a mighty demonstration of His saving power. This was only the beginning. God was moving on to Jesus, “the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). In Jesus Christ, crucified for us, God was reaching out, in love, to “the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The Gospel is not only for the Jews: “It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Jesus is calling us, His redeemed people, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to take His message of salvation to the ends of the earth: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Lord, we have come to worship You. Help us to go out and be Your witnesses, winning others and bringing glory to Your wonderful Name.
“Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’ ‘The Lord bless you!’ they answered” (Ruth 2:4).
“The Lord be with you! The Lord bless you!” There’s nothing more important than this. This is more than saying “I hope that you’re things are going well for you.” Things are going well – what does this mean? Are things really going well for us, if we’re leaving the Lord out of our lives? or Is there something missing in our lives? If it seems that “things are going well for you”, why not take time to give thanks to the Lord? If things are not going so well for you, why not take time to ask the Lord for his help? In our happy times, let us not forget to thank the Lord. In our hard times, let us not forget to ask for his help. The Lord be with you! The Lord bless you!
Keep on praying for our troubled world, and don’t forget to thank the Lord for answers to prayer.
God bless you all.
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