Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

14 December 2019

Luke 1:67-80

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us –
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.’

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, at Your first coming You sent Your messenger to prepare the way before You: grant that the ministers and stewards of Your faith may likewise make ready Your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the ways of righteousness, that at Your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in Your sight; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

13 December 2019

Revelation 11

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, ‘Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshippers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.’ They are ‘the two olive trees’ and the two lampstands, and ‘they stand before the Lord of the earth.’ If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city – which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt – where also their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

11 But after the three and a half days the breath[b] of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.

The seventh trumpet

15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

‘The kingdom of the world has become
    the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
    and he will reign for ever and ever.’

16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God, 17 saying:

‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
    the One who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
    and have begun to reign.
18 The nations were angry,
    and your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead,
    and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
    both great and small –
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’

19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a severe hailstorm.

Prayer: Thank You Lord that in the chaos of the world around us we have the comfort that You have always been and will always be. Thank You that You never change and that we know that the covenant You made with us, through the death and resurrection of Christ, has defeated Satan once and for all.

Lord, as I read about the two martyrs in verse 7 who are killed by the forces of Satan, I’m drawn to the persecuted church and Christians throughout the world who suffer and die for Jesus – Thank You Lord that they are now in glory with You. Lord, You have power beyond our comprehension, and even as persecution is rife in many parts of the world, we hear that in those self-same countries, the gospel is spreading through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Lord we look forward to the time when that great power is fully displayed to the entire world, when Christ returns and the whole created world is restored to perfect order with You.

Come Lord Jesus come. Amen

12 December 2019

Revelation 10

Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars. He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke. And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.’

Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, ‘There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.’

Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: ‘Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, ‘Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but “in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.”’ 10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. 11 Then I was told, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.’

Prayer: Lord, as we read of this mighty angel coming down from heaven and planting his feet on the sea and land, so it gives us assurance that You have control over all the created order – land, sea and space. Help us to fully understand and grasp the fact that, even in a chaotic world of extreme poverty, gender violence, discrimination, corruption and cruelty, that You are in control.

We read about Christians who are facing persecution and yet they can taste the sweetness of Your Word like honey. Rebuke us Lord, when we become so used to the privilege of having easy access to the bible and good preaching that our ‘taste buds’ are no longer excited by Your Word. Help us through Your Spirit to regain our appetite for Your Word, help us to become hungry and help us to share this sweet fruit with the world.  Amen.

11 December 2019

Jeremiah 31

‘At that time,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.’

This is what the Lord says:

‘The people who survive the sword
    will find favour in the wilderness;
    I will come to give rest to Israel.’

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again,
    and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your tambourines
    and go out to dance with the joyful.
Again you will plant vineyards
    on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
    and enjoy their fruit.
There will be a day when watchmen cry out
    on the hills of Ephraim,
“Come, let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.”’

This is what the Lord says:

‘Sing with joy for Jacob;
    shout for the foremost of the nations.
Make your praises heard, and say,
    “Lord, save your people,
    the remnant of Israel.”
See, I will bring them from the land of the north
    and gather them from the ends of the earth.
Among them will be the blind and the lame,
    expectant mothers and women in labour;
    a great throng will return.
They will come with weeping;
    they will pray as I bring them back.
I will lead them beside streams of water
    on a level path where they will not stumble,
because I am Israel’s father,
    and Ephraim is my firstborn son.

10 ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you nations;
    proclaim it in distant coastlands:
“He who scattered Israel will gather them
    and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.”
11 For the Lord will deliver Jacob
    and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.
12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion;
    they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord –
the grain, the new wine and the olive oil,
    the young of the flocks and herds.
They will be like a well-watered garden,
    and they will sorrow no more.
13 Then young women will dance and be glad,
    young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into gladness;
    I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
14 I will satisfy the priests with abundance,
    and my people will be filled with my bounty,’
declares the Lord.

15 This is what the Lord says:

‘A voice is heard in Ramah,
    mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.’

16 This is what the Lord says:

‘Restrain your voice from weeping
    and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,’
declares the Lord.
    ‘They will return from the land of the enemy.
17 So there is hope for your descendants,’
declares the Lord.
    ‘Your children will return to their own land.

18 ‘I have surely heard Ephraim’s moaning:
    “You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
    and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
    because you are the Lord my God.
19 After I strayed,
    I repented;
after I came to understand,
    I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
    because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”
20 Is not Ephraim my dear son,
    the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him,
    I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
    I have great compassion for him,’
declares the Lord.

21 ‘Set up road signs;
    put up guideposts.
Take note of the highway,
    the road that you take.
Return, Virgin Israel,
    return to your towns.
22 How long will you wander,
    unfaithful Daughter Israel?
The Lord will create a new thing on earth –
    the woman will return to the man.’

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: “The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.” 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns – farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.’

26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me.

27 ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,’ declares the Lord. 29 ‘In those days people will no longer say,

“The parents have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes – their own teeth will be set on edge.

31 ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord,
    ‘when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
    though I was a husband to them,’
declares the Lord.
33 ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,’ declares the Lord.
‘I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbour,
    or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,’
declares the Lord.
‘For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.’

35 This is what the Lord says,

he who appoints the sun
    to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
    to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
    so that its waves roar –
    the Lord Almighty is his name:
36 ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’
    declares the Lord,
‘will Israel ever cease
    being a nation before me.’

37 This is what the Lord says:

‘Only if the heavens above can be measured
    and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
    because of all they have done,’
declares the Lord.

38 ‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the Lord. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.’

Prayer: Thank You Lord that You are patient with us when we rebel again and again. Thank You that Jesus is the new covenant, and through Him we have a glorious promise of a new life. Lord, as Israel of old looked forward to returning to Jerusalem and physically rebuilding the city, so we look forward to a new city which You have built. A city made so wonderful and glorious because You, in all Your triune glory will be there dwelling with us.

Thank You for Jesus and giving us hope in world which seems out of control.  Amen.

 

10 December 2019

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

I read this passage a number of times in preparation for the blog. And then I read it slowly as Denzil keeps reminding us, and then I slowly read it again thinking about Jesus. What a humbling passage and what a rebuke! The Creator and Sustainer of the universe made Himself human, and not a strong and powerful human (although He did many wonderous things with great power). He could have descended and sat on a throne and ruled His subjects with an iron fist. But He came as a servant and brother, He offered Himself as a price for our sin and He provides the way through His death and Holy Spirit for us to have eternal peace with Him, our Father and brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christmas approaches and the busyness of life hems us in, take time to reflect on how Jesus in all His might and power came to the world as a precious baby to serve us. He came to take on the sins of all who turn to the Father and repent and call upon His precious name.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that You love us and forgive us when we forget that this time of year is meant to celebrate the birth of our Redeemer, forgive us when all we can see is the god of consumerism and materialism.  Help us the remember what Christ died for us by becoming a man and taking our punishment so that we can be called Your children.

Thank You Father.  Amen.

9 December 2019

Isaiah 52

Awake, awake, Zion,
    clothe yourself with strength!
Put on your garments of splendour,
    Jerusalem, the holy city.
The uncircumcised and defiled
    will not enter you again.
Shake off your dust;
    rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
    Daughter Zion, now a captive.

For this is what the Lord says:

‘You were sold for nothing,
    and without money you will be redeemed.’

For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

‘At first my people went down to Egypt to live;
    lately, Assyria has oppressed them.

‘And now what do I have here?’ declares the Lord.

‘For my people have been taken away for nothing,
    and those who rule them mock,’
declares the Lord.
‘And all day long
    my name is constantly blasphemed.
Therefore my people will know my name;
    therefore in that day they will know
that it is I who foretold it.
    Yes, it is I.’

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    ‘Your God reigns!’
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
    together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
    they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
    you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
    in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
    the salvation of our God.

11 Depart, depart, go out from there!
    Touch no unclean thing!
Come out from it and be pure,
    you who carry the articles of the Lord’s house.
12 But you will not leave in haste
    or go in flight;
for the Lord will go before you,
    the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

The suffering and glory of the servant

13 See, my servant will act wisely;
    he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him –
    his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
    and his form marred beyond human likeness –
15 so he will sprinkle many nations,
    and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
    and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Dear Lord, awaken our zeal for You and love for Jesus. Thank You that You love us even when we get side tracked by the busyness of life and ignore You.  Thank You that You never ignore us and that You call out to us again and again to repent and turn back to You.  

Lord, cause our hearts to be as overjoyed as the watchmen at Zion when Your presence returned to the ruins of Jerusalem. Cause us to be overjoyed when Your Holy Spirit returns to our ruined hearts and makes us whole again.  

Lord as You promised to return the exiles to Jerusalem, so we look forward to returning to be in Your presence for all eternity in the new earth, which is made possible by Jesus, who was wounded and died for us. Amen

7 December 2019

Luke 1:46-56

And Mary said:

‘My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants for ever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.’

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Prayer: Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and absorb them, that, encouraged and supported by Your holy Word, we may clasp and not let go the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

6 December 2019

Revelation 9

The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss. And out of the smoke locusts came down on the earth and were given power like that of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes. During those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. 10 They had tails with stings, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months. 11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek is Apollyon (that is, Destroyer).

12 The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.

13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the four horns of the golden altar that is before God. 14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ 15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number.

17 The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. 18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury.

20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

Both Revelation 8 & 9 are not easy chapters to understand. However, once you have completed reading these two chapters you are left with a sense of dread. Especially after you read in chapter 9 that the three plagues kill one third of mankind. Despite this clear judgement, we read in versus 20 & 21 that despite the plagues and the deaths, they did not repent. What a damning picture of the stubbornness of mankind and the evil in our hearts.

Prayer: Lord, we pray for mercy. Be merciful to us because we are sinners. Be merciful to our country because we sinners. Be merciful to the world because we are sinners. Lord, we pray for You to continue to be patient – so that You might not at this point exercise Your judgement – to allow men, women and children time to turn back to You. We pray for all those proclaiming Your Word to do so boldly and without fear, knowing that at any time You could return to judge the living and the dead.

We pray that You might bring many people to come and know You soon. Soften people’s heart to hear the gospel. Transform our minds, our families’ minds, our friends’ minds, our nation’s minds through the power of the gospel. Amen.

5 December 2019

Revelation 8

When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

The trumpets

Then the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to sound them.

The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down on the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

The second angel sounded his trumpet, and something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea turned into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

10 The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – 11 the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.

12 The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night.

13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in mid-air call out in a loud voice: ‘Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!’

Prayer: Father, when we read a passage of Scripture like this, we admit that we don’t understand everything that is in it. We pray therefore for a better understanding of Your Word. We thank You for teachers and preachers who You have gifted to explain Your Word. We thank You especially for Luke, Graham and Denzil and the preaching they have done this year at TCC. We also thank You for the many authors You have gifted so that we can read commentaries on Your Word that help us to understand Your Word better.

Open my eyes, open my heart, open my mind to understand Your Word I pray. Amen.

4 December 2019

Isaiah 12

In that day you will say:

‘I will praise you, Lord.
    Although you were angry with me,
your anger has turned away
    and you have comforted me.
Surely God is my salvation;
    I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defence;
    he has become my salvation.’
With joy you will draw water
    from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:

‘Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
    make known among the nations what he has done,
    and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
    let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
    for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.’

Prayer: Father, I give You thanks because though You were angry with me because of my sinfulness, You have turned away Your anger because of Christ’s work. Help me to share what You have done for me through the Lord Jesus Christ. Give me opportunities to share what You have done for me with my family, my friends and my work colleagues.

Father, help me to trust in You in all situations. When I am afraid, for whatever reason, I pray that I might trust in You because you are my strength, my comfort and my salvation. Amen.

3 December 2019

Isaiah 9

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan –

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and for ever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

The Lord’s anger against Israel

The Lord has sent a message against Jacob;
    it will fall on Israel.
All the people will know it –
    Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria –
who say with pride
    and arrogance of heart,
10 ‘The bricks have fallen down,
    but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig-trees have been felled,
    but we will replace them with cedars.’
11 But the Lord has strengthened Rezin’s foes against them
    and has spurred their enemies on.
12 Arameans from the east and Philistines from the west
    have devoured Israel with open mouth.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

13 But the people have not returned to him who struck them,
    nor have they sought the Lord Almighty.
14 So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail,
    both palm branch and reed in a single day;
15 the elders and dignitaries are the head,
    the prophets who teach lies are the tail.
16 Those who guide this people mislead them,
    and those who are guided are led astray.
17 Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men,
    nor will he pity the fatherless and widows,
for everyone is ungodly and wicked,
    every mouth speaks folly.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

18 Surely wickedness burns like a fire;
    it consumes briers and thorns,
it sets the forest thickets ablaze,
    so that it rolls upwards in a column of smoke.
19 By the wrath of the Lord Almighty
    the land will be scorched
and the people will be fuel for the fire;
    they will not spare one another.
20 On the right they will devour,
    but still be hungry;
on the left they will eat,
    but not be satisfied.
Each will feed on the flesh of their own offspring:
21     Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh;
    together they will turn against Judah.

Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away,
    his hand is still upraised.

Prayer: Lord, we walked in darkness but we have seen the light. We dwelt in darkness but the light of Your Son has shined upon us. We rejoice with gladness because You have broken our oppressor. You have trampled Satan underfoot.
 
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
 
We rejoice because true peace comes through Jesus Christ. We rejoice because You have established Christ’s rule forever. We rejoice because Christ brings justice for the downtrodden. We rejoice because we have a King who rules in righteousness. Through this advent season, help us to proclaim that true peace is only found through Jesus Christ.
 
Amen.
 
 
 
 

2 December 2019

Isaiah 7

When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.

Now the house of David was told, ‘Aram has allied itself with Ephraim’; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.

Then the Lord said to Isaiah, ‘Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. Say to him, “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smouldering stubs of firewood – because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, ‘Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.’ Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

‘“It will not take place,
    it will not happen,
for the head of Aram is Damascus,
    and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
    Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
    and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
    you will not stand at all.”’

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’

12 But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’

13 Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah – he will bring the king of Assyria.’

Assyria, the Lord’s instrument

18 In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the Nile delta in Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thorn-bushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River Euphrates – the king of Assyria – to shave your heads and private parts, and to cut off your beards also. 21 In that day, a person will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, there will be curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey. 23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Hunters will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for reminding us that You are in control of all things. When we look at world events we are sometimes disquieted by what we see taking place. But just as You told Isaiah to tell Ahaz, remind us to be careful, keep calm, not to be afraid and not to lose heart, because to You all leaders are simply smouldering stubs of firewood. 

Thank You that You are faithful to Your Word and always keep Your promises. You promised Immanuel and You did send Him, born of a virgin just as prophesied here in Isaiah. As we enter the advent season, help us to be reminded daily that You keep your promises to us. Most of all, remind us that Immanuel came with a purpose to redeem us and to free us from the bondage of sin. Amen.

 

30 November 2019

Deuteronomy 31:1-22, 34:1-12

Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: ‘I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The Lord has said to me, “You shall not cross the Jordan.” The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the Lord said. And the Lord will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The Lord will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’
The reading of the law
So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel. 10 Then Moses commanded them: ‘At the end of every seven years, in the year for cancelling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people – men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns – so that they can listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. 13 Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.’
Israel’s rebellion predicted
14 The Lord said to Moses, ‘Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.’ So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting.
15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: ‘You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, “Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?” 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.

Prayer: Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which Your Son Jesus Christ came among us in great humility; that on the last day, when He comes again in His glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

29 November 2019

Revelation 7

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: ‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
The great multitude in white robes
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’
11 All the angels were standing round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, 12 saying:
‘Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!’
13 Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?’
14 I answered, ‘Sir, you know.’
And he said, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
‘they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 “Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,”
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
“he will lead them to springs of living water.”
    “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Clothed in white robes. These simple words are filled with so much meaning. What a wonder to be perfectly right before God, to be completely without sin, to be acceptable in God’s presence. Jesus has done everything needed so that we can wear the white robes.

The good news of the gospel shouts out all through scripture reminding us of God’s love. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, the perfect Lamb and the only one who could bring about our salvation. As a result he is truly worthy of our praise. I often wonder why it seems that in heaven we will continually be offering praise to Jesus – when we look at what He has done for us, the answer is clear. Jesus should be central in our thoughts, our thanksgiving and our worship. Let us keep celebrating Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

Prayer: O Holy God, what a wonderful picture this must be of multitudes of Your chosen people contently serving and worshiping You. People from all ages, tribes and tongues in numbers too numerous to count. What a privilege it is to know as Christians that we will be part of Your heavenly community. We so often look at the world around us, rather than look up to You and consider our wondrous future. Help us to be like Paul who was so focused on the goal – to be glorified and to live in Your presence.

We pray that we will rejoice daily in the promise of an eternity with You. We get so bogged down in our present circumstances that we don’t really appreciate what our future will be like. Help us to live here and now realising that our true citizenship is in heaven. Help us too, to be loving and encouraging to fellow Christians; our true eternal family. Lord, we pray that You will prepare us for heaven and as a result give witness to Jesus, drawing others to You. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

28 November 2019

Revelation 6

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, ‘A kilogram of wheat for a day’s wages, and three kilograms of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!’
When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, ‘Come!’ I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a quarter of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.
12 I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig-tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.
15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’

What a picture of God’s judgement and punishment. These passages may be difficult to interpret; however my response in reading these verses in preparation for the blog was one of immense gratitude. While as a child I had a strong fear of hell, today this fear is probably stronger as I consider the ferocity of God’s wrath. Today we tend to focus more on what we are saved to rather than what we are saved from. Both should fill us with such a sense of gratitude that we continually thank God for Jesus. We should be praying this all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17,18). I was really convicted by this passage and this led me to the following prayer.

Prayer: Almighty and sovereign God when we read these words in Revelation we wonder what this means. We contemplate whether this is what the pouring out of Your wrath looks like. Such vivid pictures terrify us, and yet we know from this and other parts of scripture that falling under Your wrath is a dreadful thing. In response we want to say thank You for Jesus, thank You that Jesus appeases Your wrath on our behalf. We cannot express sufficient gratitude for taking our punishment upon Himself to gift us with freedom and an eternity that no gift on earth could ever equal.

Today we want to not only thank You for our salvation, but we want to truly delight in You, consider You with such amazement that our love for You will just overflow. We are greatly blessed – way beyond what we can ever know.

As Your dearly loved children we give You all the honour, thanks and praise. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

27 November 2019

Isaiah 6

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.’
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’
He said, ‘Go and tell this people:
‘“Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.”
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.’
11 Then I said, ‘For how long, Lord?’
And he answered:
‘Until the cities lie ruined
    and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
    and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away
    and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
    it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
    leave stumps when they are cut down,
    so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.’

Many books have been written about the opening verses of Isaiah 6 on God’s attribute of holiness. I have found JC Ryle and RC Sproul’s books on holiness to be uplifting and convicting as they have expounded on our holy God; I would encourage any Christian to read these books.

When I read these verses I am more amazed at the actions of the angels than that of Isaiah. To think that these heavenly beings need to cover their faces and feet in God’s presence, reveals to us how great God is and the reverence with which we should approach Him. I find it quite chastening when I read passages like this. I pray ‘Almighty God’ without even thinking about the real meaning of the word ‘almighty’ – I just use the familiar title. The added challenge is that we are called to be holy just as God is holy. In many respects this is an impossibility, but what is impossible for man is possible for God, and so we need to pray for God’s help.

Prayer: O Lord God we can’t comprehend the feeling that Isaiah experienced when he had this vision of You. This is a vision that we are aware of but easily forget the impact that it had on Isaiah. Being in Your presence must be such an awesome and fearful thing, and yet when we come to You in prayer we should realise that we are coming before the throne of grace to commune with You.

When we pray we should also realise our sinfulness and depravity and seek Your ‘cleansing’. Forgive us Lord when we don’t do this.

We should also respond in obedience to You and open ourselves up to do Your will. We so easily pray the Lord’s Prayer but don’t really consider what we are asking of You or ourselves. We pray for Your strength to enable our obedience and for wisdom to know what is from You and what is not. Lead us along the path of righteousness each day, irrespective of the trials that we face, so that we will be truly distinctive and give witness to You.

Holy Spirit please help us to be holy.

We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.



26 November 2019

Job 42

Then Job replied to the Lord:
‘I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?”
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
‘You said, “Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.”
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.’
Epilogue
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.’ So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.

Prayer: Almighty God as we consider the life of Job and all he went through, we see Your hand upon him even through his trials and tribulations. At the end of his suffering, Job sees You for who You are and his life is changed. While his faith remained strong through his trials, he realised his sinfulness despite his ‘obedience’.

We confess that we too may take pride in our faith and think that we are being obedient, however when we take an honest look at ourselves, and look at the standards You require, we fall far short. Please forgive us for our arrogance and self-sufficiency.

Lord God, fill us with a deep sense of awe of who You are rather than familiarity, keep us grounded in Your truth so that we may glorify You and enjoy You forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

25 November 2019

Job 41

‘Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
    or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
    or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
    Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
    for you to take it as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
    or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
Will traders barter for it?
    Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its hide with harpoons
    or its head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on it,
    you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
Any hope of subduing it is false;
    the mere sight of it is overpowering.
10 No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
    Who then is able to stand against me?
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
    Everything under heaven belongs to me.
12 ‘I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
    its strength and its graceful form.
13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
    Who can penetrate its double coat of armour?
14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
    ringed about with its fearsome teeth?
15 Its back has rows of shields
    tightly sealed together;
16 each is so close to the next
    that no air can pass between.
17 They are joined fast to one another;
    they cling together and cannot be parted.
18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
    its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
19 Flames stream from its mouth;
    sparks of fire shoot out.
20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
    as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
    and flames dart from its mouth.
22 Strength resides in its neck;
    dismay goes before it.
23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
    they are firm and immovable.
24 Its chest is hard as rock,
    hard as a lower millstone.
25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
    they retreat before its thrashing.
26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
    nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
27 Iron it treats like straw
    and bronze like rotten wood.
28 Arrows do not make it flee;
    slingstones are like chaff to it.
29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
    it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
    leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing-sledge.
31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron
    and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
    one would think the deep had white hair.
33 Nothing on earth is its equal –
    a creature without fear.
34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
    it is king over all that are proud.’

This week we will look at the impact of God’s presence. We will read of Job’s confession when he sees God for who he truly is; Isaiah’s response to his vision of God, and the multitudes praising God in heaven. Both Job and Isaiah felt the immensity of their sinfulness, while the multitudes rejoice in their freedom from sin. When we consider God, most of the time we are moved toward prayer – either in confession, thanksgiving or praise. This week this is definitely going to be the case.

Prayer: Dear Father God, when we consider Your creation, the works of Your hands, we realise how insignificant we are. While we are able to build mile high buildings and nanotech medicines we can’t come close to Your creative power. More importantly we can’t create life. Help us to see nature around us and praise You for who You are. As we contemplate Your significance help us to realise that we are fully dependent on you.

We know we need to surrender to You, but find it so difficult. So we pray that, as we contemplate Your creation, it will be a reminder to us to bend the knee before You and truly worship You. Help our prayers to be said out of reverence and gratitude, and our daily lives to be lived for Your honour and glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

23 November 2019

Deuteronomy 30

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.


The offer of life or death
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?’ 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Prayer: Lord, our refuge and strength, the only God; hear the earnest prayers of Your church, and those things we ask for faithfully, grant we may surely obtain; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

22 November 2019

Revelation 4-5

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the centre, round the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and behind. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all round, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
‘“Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,”
who was, and is, and is to come.’
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11 ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.’


The scroll and the Lamb
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:
‘You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
    and they will reign on the earth.’
11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honour and glory and praise!’
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honour and glory and power,
for ever and ever!’
14 The four living creatures said, ‘Amen’, and the elders fell down and worshipped.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we come before you today in utter humility after yesterday’s reading about the three churches mentioned, and how Jesus sees us, the church. We recognise that we have failed you. Please have mercy on us.

You require true and faithful worship of us – both in Spirit and in truth. Please help us Lord, to worship You aright. Thank You for the marvellous picture the apostle presents to us in today’s reading (4:2) – the fact that the throne in heaven can still be seen! And not just that, but that the throne in heaven is not empty, but occupied!!

O Lord, thank You for the reminder that You, and no one else, are ruling from Your heavenly throne as Lord and King. You are indeed worthy of our worship. We ask that our worship of You today will be acceptable. Help us Lord, like the elders of Chapter 4:10, to fall down in humble submission. To down our ‘crowns’ – whatever that might look like in our own lives – and to say ‘You are worthy our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power’!

And may our words of worship translate into works of faithful service today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

21 November 2019

Revelation 3

‘To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


To the church in Philadelphia
‘To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.


To the church in Laodicea
14 ‘To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Three churches: two are strongly rebuked; one is commended.

Which are we at TCC? Are we the one with the reputation to be alive but in fact are dead? Are we a church that has kept the Word (and strive to “do” the Word) of God? Are we a church that’s about to be spit out because we are neither hot nor cold?

These are very important questions that we need to bring before the LORD in this time of personal, quiet, devotion. Which one of these churches do you think we identify with?

Talk to God about it by formulating a prayer that is informed by these 22 verses of Revelation chapter 3.

20 November 2019

Job 40

The Lord said to Job:
‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!’
Then Job answered the Lord:
‘I am unworthy – how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer –
    twice, but I will say no more.’
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
‘Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
‘Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
    and can your voice thunder like his?
10 Then adorn yourself with glory and splendour,
    and clothe yourself in honour and majesty.
11 Unleash the fury of your wrath,
    look at all who are proud and bring them low,
12 look at all who are proud and humble them,
    crush the wicked where they stand.
13 Bury them all in the dust together;
    shroud their faces in the grave.
14 Then I myself will admit to you
    that your own right hand can save you.
15 ‘Look at Behemoth,
    which I made along with you
    and which feeds on grass like an ox.
16 What strength it has in its loins,
    what power in the muscles of its belly!
17 Its tail sways like a cedar;
    the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
18 Its bones are tubes of bronze,
    its limbs like rods of iron.
19 It ranks first among the works of God,
    yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
20 The hills bring it their produce,
    and all the wild animals play nearby.
21 Under the lotus plant it lies,
    hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
    the poplars by the stream surround it.
23 A raging river does not alarm it;
    it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
    or trap it and pierce its nose?

In the face of God’s questions (there are loads in these three chapters), Job couldn’t help but acknowledge his own unworthiness and insignificance as He was confronted by majesty he saw in God.

Job’s only response was to shut up and be quiet (literally).

Dear friends, I wonder how much less talking there would be if we adopted Job’s attitude and a continual awareness of the presence of God. We all have questions about life. Questions, mind you, that God has chosen, even in His Word, not to reveal the answers to.

It is my experience that the longer I am a Christian, striving to walk faithfully with the LORD, the more questions I have and the more I become aware that I will not get all the answers this side of heaven.

Here in the Book of Job, God was pointing out Job’s lack of understanding on so many fronts about 2 types of animals in 40v15 and 41v1.

Human beings cannot control animals like these, but God can and does. The first is called Behemoth and the second the leviathan. Whatever the species, whatever its size and power, God can control it as easily as an ant.

So, is God capable of taking care of our problems today? Indeed He is.

PRAYER: Thank You, LORD, for Your power and protection on us this day. We entrust our lives to You. AMEN

19 November 2019

Job 39

‘Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
    Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young;
    their labour pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
    they leave and do not return.
‘Who let the wild donkey go free?
    Who untied its ropes?
I gave it the wasteland as its home,
    the salt flats as its habitat.
It laughs at the commotion in the town;
    it does not hear a driver’s shout.
It ranges the hills for its pasture
    and searches for any green thing.
‘Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
    Will it stay by your manger at night?
10 Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
    Will it till the valleys behind you?
11 Will you rely on it for its great strength?
    Will you leave your heavy work to it?
12 Can you trust it to haul in your grain
    and bring it to your threshing-floor?
13 ‘The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
    though they cannot compare
    with the wings and feathers of the stork.
14 She lays her eggs on the ground
    and lets them warm in the sand,
15 unmindful that a foot may crush them,
    that some wild animal may trample them.
16 She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
    she cares not that her labour was in vain,
17 for God did not endow her with wisdom
    or give her a share of good sense.
18 Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
    she laughs at horse and rider.
19 ‘Do you give the horse its strength
    or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
20 Do you make it leap like a locust,
    striking terror with its proud snorting?
21 It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
    and charges into the fray.
22 It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
    it does not shy away from the sword.
23 The quiver rattles against its side,
    along with the flashing spear and lance.
24 In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
    it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
25 At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, “Aha!”
    It catches the scent of battle from afar,
    the shout of commanders and the battle cry.
26 ‘Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
    and spread its wings towards the south?
27 Does the eagle soar at your command
    and build its nest on high?
28 It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
    a rocky crag is its stronghold.
29 From there it looks for food;
    its eyes detect it from afar.
30 Its young ones feast on blood,
    and where the slain are, there it is.’

Job has suffered tremendously. He is desperate for an audience with God. He wants answers as to why God has allowed such suffering on him.

When the LORD finally spoke to Job, He asked questions that Job was not able to answer.

For example, we read that God questioned Job about his knowledge of animal behaviour, including the migration instincts of birds. God was asking whether Job was able to or could do anything to sustain God’s Creation. The truth is, Job had neither the understanding nor the ability to.

One of my favourite channels to watch on TV is BBC Earth – a channel that makes my jaw drop every time I am confronted with God’s creative genius. By His design, some birds fly thousands of kilometres every year between the North and South Pole. BBC Earth once documented the life and behaviour of the Arctic Tern, a bird that could travel pole-to-pole twice a year covering around 23 000 kms in the air!! “The Arctic tern is an incredible traveller. Look beyond that jaunty black hat, the lipstick red stockings, and a fame for pooping on tourists visiting their summer residence, and you will recognise an intrepid explorer that spends much of its life chasing the trajectory of our sun”. http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160603-mystery-migration-solved

The Bible reminds us that everything in God’s creation was made with a plan and a purpose – and that includes human life. That should be a comfort to us when it seems that everything is flying out of control around us. We are faced with all kinds of trouble from all sides. We don’t know what’s coming at us today, tomorrow, next week, or next year. Although we cannot be sure of what to expect, we can be sure of the character of the Creator who tells us that He has it all under control as we read here in the Book of Job.

Dear Christian, you and I must stop worrying, stop complaining and grumbling. Instead, we must grow to trust God and serve Him, remembering His promise that ultimately everything will turn out exactly how He has ordained it.

PRAYER: Father God, Creator of heaven and earth please forgive us for some times missing how amazing and powerful and great You are when we are in the midst of trouble. Please help us to let go of the control we think we have on our lives. And as we do that, please give us patience as we wait on You. In Jesus’ name. AMEN

18 November 2019

Job 38

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
‘Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone –
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?
‘Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
11 when I said, “This far you may come and no farther;
    here is where your proud waves halt”?
12 ‘Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
    its features stand out like those of a garment.
15 The wicked are denied their light,
    and their upraised arm is broken.
16 ‘Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
    Tell me, if you know all this.
19 ‘What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
20 Can you take them to their places?
    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
21 Surely you know, for you were already born!
    You have lived so many years!
22 ‘Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?
31 ‘Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
    or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
    Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?
34 ‘Can you raise your voice to the clouds
    and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
    Do they report to you, “Here we are”?
36 Who gives the ibis wisdom
    or gives the cockerel understanding?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
    Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
38 when the dust becomes hard
    and the clods of earth stick together?
39 ‘Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
    and satisfy the hunger of the lions
40 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in a thicket?
41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry out to God
    and wander about for lack of food?

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, we are always humbled when we are reminded that Your wisdom and understanding is infinite and unknowable, and yet, in Your grace You have shared Your plan of redemption with people like us. Thank You once again for Your Word to us this morning. Dear LORD, when we don’t understand the difficulties that we go through in our lives, help us; point us to pray to You. We pray that we may trust You in all things and never doubt Your perfect plans and purposes – knowing that You are sovereign, and Your way is best. Help us all to live by faith and not by sight – for Your greater praise and glory. We pray in name of Jesus. AMEN.