“In the beginning, God … ” (Genesis 1:1).
“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start… ” (from the film, The Sound of Music).
When we go back to “a long time ago”, do we go back far enough?
The first four words of the Bible takes us back beyond “a long time ago.”
Here, we are taken back to God – “the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
“Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1).
Who let the people of Israel go?
Was it Pharaoh, the king of Egypt? or Was it more than Pharaoh? Was it God?
Who led the people of Israel out of Egypt?
Was it Moses? or Was it more than Moses? Was it God?
In the book of Exodus, we have much more than the story of Moses and Pharaoh.
This is the story of God. He set his people free. He led them out of the land of slavery.
Lord, You call us to love You – and to love our neighbour. Help us never to think that we can grow in our love for You if we are not also learning to love our neighbour with the love that You give to us. Help us never to forget You. Help us always to rejoice in the love that You have for us – and to let Your love shine out through us to others. May our love for our neighbour never become a substitute for loving You.
Lord, we thank You that You don’t give up on us – even when we don’t pay much attention to You. We can become so self-centred. Everything revolves around ourselves. You keep on coming to us. You come to us in love. You’re calling us back to Yourself. You’re calling us to bring You back into the centre of our lives. Lord, may it be less of self and more of You.
Again and again, Lord, Your blessing comes to us. In Your blessing, we see Your love. Time and time again, we have failed You. When did You ever fail us? – Never! You are completely faithful, entirely trustworthy and absolutely reliable. You keep on loving us. Help us to keep on loving You.
Lord, there are two ways of looking at every situation. There’s the way of faith – and there’s the way of unbelief. We can look up to You – and be lifted up by You. We can look at our circumstances and fail to see that You are there, waiting to lift us up, to raise us above our circumstances and make us “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
“Be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).
The call to holiness – where does it come from?
Does it come from the church? Does it come from the preachers? or Are we to look beyond the church and the preachers?
Are we to look to the God of perfect holiness?
When God reveals to us his holiness (Isaiah 6:3), there will be many times when we will need to confess our sin (Isaiah 6:5).
As we confess our sin to God, he will speak to us his word of forgiveness (Isaiah 6:7).
As we hear his word of forgiveness, we will receive the strength that we need to say to God, “Here am I!” (Isaiah 6:8).
Lifted up by the love of the Lord, we say to him, “Send me” (Isaiah 6:8), and he sends us out into the darkness of this world – sent out to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and bring the love of God to the people we meet.
“Only do not rebel against the Lord” (Numbers 14:9).
The people of Israel had been redeemed – but, still, they rebelled against him.
That was their story.
It had been a story of slavery. It became a story of salvation.
Often, it became a story of sin, shame and sadness.
That was their story. What about our story?
Deep down, we know that our story has become a story of salvation – out of slavery and into salvation.
Sadly and shamefully, we drift away from the pathway of salvation – back into the pathways of sin.
What does God think of us? What does he say to us?
In love, he’s calling us back to himself – back from the pathways of sin, shame and sadness, back to his way of salvation, strength and gladness.
Lord, our situation seems hopeless – but it’s not! You are there with us, every step of the way. This is what gives us hope: knowing that You’re always there – even when the going gets tough!
Lord, help us to put You first in our lives. No-one is more important than You. Why do we forget this – again and again? When we forget You, Lord, bring us back to the Cross of Christ. Show us – all over again – that You have not forgotten us, that You never will forget us.
Lord, we make everything so complicated. We go our own way – and everything gets very messy. Everything would be so much simpler – if we kept our eyes on You. When we are tempted to turn away from You, help us, Lord, to keep on looking to You – and to know that we are “loved with everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Lord, Your Word challenges us, “What do you want to get out of life?” Help us to look, carefully, at what is important to us. Are we ‘looking after No. 1’? Lord, give us ambitions that do not centre on ourselves. Give us a deep persistent desire to glorify You in all that we do – and to find that this is the way of true and lasting joy!
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Before our love for God, there is always his love for us.
His love for us is, always, so much greater than our love for him.
We must never think about how much we love God.
The moment we start thinking like this, we start to forget what we really are – sinners who need to be saved by God’s grace.
Again and again, we must think of how much God loves us.
When we think of his love for us, there arises, in our hearts, a stronger desire to love him.
When we hear the call to a real love for God, let us never forget this: our love for God can never be anything more than a response to his love for us.
“Be strong and courageous … for the Lord your God will be with you” (Joshua 1:9).
How can we be strong and courageous?
Does strength and courage come from within ourselves?
We may like to think that we’re strong and courageous – but we’re not.
Again and again, we’re reminded of how weak we really are.
Often, we’re filled with fear rather than strength and courage.
What are we to do when we feel like this?
Are we to deny our feelings, and say to ourselves, “I’m really all right. There’s nothing much wrong with me – nothing that I can’t sort out”?
We need to stop telling ourselves that we’re doing okay – and start listening to what God says to us.
He tells us that strength and courage come from him – “the Lord your God will be with you.”
Lord, we need the cleansing that only You can give to us. Without this cleansing of our hearts, we have nothing but empty religion. Help us not to be content with saying the right words. Help us to be the right people – people who are being cleansed, people who are being changed, people who are bringing glory to You, our Lord.
Lord, we thank You that Your Son, Jesus, has risen from the dead. His enemies tried to get rid of Him. They failed. He succeeded. On the Cross, He fulfilled Your perfect plan of salvation. After His death on the Cross, You raised Him from the dead. This was Your way of showing us that death has been defeated. Thank You, Lord, for the triumph of Your Son, Jesus.
Lord, You give us more than religion – You give us salvation. We cannot, through our religion, bring ourselves back to You. Every attempt to bring ourselves back to You is doomed to failure. The problem is our sin. No matter what we do, we cannot get rid of our sin. You must do this for us. You have done this for us. Your Son has taken our place – He has died for us. He brings to us the forgiveness of our sins. This is salvation. It’s not what we do for You. It’s what You have done for us. Thank You, Lord.
Lord, we thank You for the mountain-tops – but we’re not always up there! Often, we’re down in the valleys. When everything’s going well for us, help us to remember to say, “Thank You, Lord.” When things aren’t going so well, help us to keep on looking to You, to keep on receiving strength from You.
“In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did what what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
Let’s move forward from Israel’s sad situation – no king, people doing whatever they liked.
Let’s move forward to today’s world. We have kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents
Is there not someone else that we need, someone else that we should not forget?
What about God?
What happens when we forget about him?
There’s no more right and wrong. We do what we like. We do what pleases ourselves.
Often, we forget God – but he never forgets us.
He remembers us – and he calls us to remember him.
“Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
These words were spoken by Ruth. She was speaking to her mother-in-law, Naomi. What comfort Ruth’s words brought to Naomi. Ruth was not going to abandon her. She was going to stand by her.
In the love that Ruth had for Naomi, we see something of the love of God for us.
How comforting it is to know that God does not abandon us. How much strength we receive from knowing that he stands by us.
So often, we fail You, Lord – but You never fail us. You are the faithful God. We often let You down – but You never let us down. You don’t let us down. You lift us up. Help us, Lord, to grow in faith – the faith that is learning to say, “Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22).
Lord, You alone are great. When we start thinking that we are great, we set ourselves up for a a great fall – the greater we think we are, the greater will be our fall! Teach us, O Lord, to see ourselves as we really are – and help us to see the greatness of Your love for us (Psalm 57:10).
Lord, show us Your holiness – and show us Your love. In Your holiness, we see our sin. In Your love, we see our salvation. Lead us, O Lord, to confess our sin and receive Your salvation.
Lord, what we cannot do for ourselves, You do for us. Before we can be exalted by You – exalted to the glory of eternal life with You, we need to be humbled by You. You alone can show us our need. You come to us in holiness. You show us how far we have fallen short of Your glory. You come to us in love. You lift us up into Your presence. In Your presence – the presence of Your love, we receive blessing upon blessing. For all Your many blessings, given to us through Your Son , Jesus, we give thanks. May we, in the spirit of true thanksgiving, move forward in You and for You, bringing more and more glory to Your great Name, the Name of our salvation.
“Appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5).
Why did the people of Israel want to have a king? – They wanted to be like “all the other nations.”
Why do we do the things that we do? Are we trying to impress other people? or Are we seeking to please God?
Again and again,we need to be reminded of the words of Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
As you listen to this song, think of Jesus, and be blessed.
When we gather together to hear the preaching of Your Word, show us, Lord, that we need more than the “words” of the preacher. Show us that we need “the power of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Help us, when we hear Your Word, to know that it is more than “the word of men” – it is “the Word of God, which is at work in us believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Lord, we need both “love” and “holiness” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). Our love is to be holy. Our holiness is to be loving. Where do we learn to be loving? Where do we learn to be holy? We learn from Jesus, our Saviour – Jesus, Your Son. Jesus says, “I don’t condemn you” – This is love. He also says, “Go and sin no more” – This is holiness (John 8:3-11). Help us to be more like Jesus – in love and in holiness.
Lord, there are times when we feel like giving up. You never give up on us: “He who calls you is utterly faithful and He will finish what He set out to do” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). You don’t lead us on a wild goose chase – a long and winding road that takes us nowhere. You’re leading us on to a great future – Your glorious future: “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven … We shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Help us to “encourage one another” – to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 & 4:18).
“Who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9).
The king was called to be more than a political leader. He was called to be a spiritual leader.
To be a spiritual leader, he needed to remember that the people of Israel were God’s people.
Sometimes people say, “Everything is politics.” Here, we’re reminded that politics isn’t everything.
We need to remember the Lord.
“His throne will be established forever” (1 Chronicles 17:14).
A king or queen can have a short reign or a long reign. Only God can have a “forever” reign.
Here’s something we should never forget – it’s the Lord who on the throne that really matters, the only throne that is established forever.
Lord, we thank You that Your Son, Jesus, is coming again. For “all those who have believed”, “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” will be a great Day, the Day of celebration, the Day of our salvation, the Day of “our being gathered together in Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1 & 1:10). You speak to us about this great future. You’re inviting us to have a heart-to-heart talk with You. From Your heart, You speak to us of Your love for us – and “Your desire for us to be saved” (John 3:17 & 2 Peter 3:9). Help us to say, from our hearts, “Yes, Lord. I believe in the Lord Jesus. I trust in Your promise – ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’” (Acts 16:31).
“They realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).
With the help of our God – this is something we should never forget.
When we’re tempted to think too highly of ourselves – to think too much about what we have achieved, let us remember this: “with the help of our God.”
“Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Rev George Philip preached a series of sermons on 1 Samuel 1-7, with the title, “For such a time as this.”
This title is taken from this verse in the book of Esther.
The name of God is never mentioned in the book of Esther – but God is there, working out his plan.
In Esther’s day, God was there. In Samuel’s day, God was there. In our day, he is, still, “the God who is there” (the title of a book, written by Francis Schaeffer).
Go back to the days of Samuel – “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation” (1 Samuel 3:1).
Go back to the days of Esther – the name of the Lord was conspicuous by its absence.
Come forward to our day. Do you see what we have in common with the days of Samuel and Esther?
How are we to respond to a situation where the word of the Lord and the name of the Lord mean so little to so many people?
Let us keep on believing that “for such a time as this”, God is, still at work, raising up his people, who will be faithful to him in both their speaking and their living.
Even when we are surrounded by “Death in the City” (the title of another book, written by Francis Schaeffer), let us keep on believing that the words of prophecy, from Ezekiel 37:1-14 can, still, be fulfilled in this generation –
The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.”
4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” ’ ”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.
9 Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” ’ ” 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11 Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’
We may feel like we’re living in a valley of dry ones – “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” (verse 11) – but let us take encouragement from this: “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live … ” (verse 14).
Keep on praying for ourt troubled world – and don’t forget to thank God for answers ro prayer,
“I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).
We read these words of faith and hope, and our thoughts move forward, from Job to Jesus. As we think of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we recall the words of the angelic messenger: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6).
“Praise the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
When we read these words, we find our thoughts moving beyond the Psalmist to our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We remember the words of Paul – “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20), and we join, with him, in giving thanks for our Saviour – “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
‘Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed on and triumph among you’ (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
Lord, we pray for those who have been called to bring Your Word to Your people. May their words help us to be “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). May their words be a living echo of the words of Jesus our Saviour: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel” (Luke 4:18). May their words help us to “hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation 2:7). May their words help us to “worship You in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). May their words help us to “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). May their words help us to say, “The Lord has blessed us. Praise His holy Name.”
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in all ways” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Where does true peace come from? It comes from You, Lord. You are “the Lord of peace.” Peace doesn’t depend on good things happening to us. It doesn’t come to us because we have plenty of the good things of this world. Real peace is Your peace. Help us, Lord, to “be still and know that You are God” (Psalm 46:10).
God bless you all.
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