Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Let Us Pray For More Of God's Blessing.

What God did for His people, Israel, was very great. There is a striking contrast between their slavery in Egypt and their abundance in the promised land. God had multiplied His blessing upon them, just as Jesus did when He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). If the blessing is to be maintained and increased, we must honour the Lord. We must cry to Him for blessing: "Hear my prayer, O God, listen to the words of my mouth." We must call upon Him with faith: "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me" (Psalm 54:2,4).

When Christ Returns, There Will Be Salvation - And Judgment.

Each of the tribes had their part in the promised land. Each of Jesus' disciples, whom He called to Himself at the outset of His ministry, had his part in the work of the Lord. What God did with Israel and with Jesus' first disciples will be surpassed when Christ comes in glory: "You shall see greater things ... You shall see the heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (John 1:50-51). On that Day, there will be both salvation and judgment: "The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead" (Proverbs 11:8).

Listen To The Lord - And Live For Him.

In our day, there are many who say, "Let us follow other gods." God says, "You must not listen" to such people (Deuteronomy 13:2-3). To follow the Lord's instruction is not popular. Nevertheless, this is what we must do: "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door" (Luke 13:24). Whatever the world may say, we must stand by the truth of God's Word: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).

When the Holy Spirit comes on you ...

‘When the Holy Spirit comes on you… you will be My witnesses… to the ends of the earth’(Acts 1:8). This great advance of the Gospel - Salvation reaches ‘the Gentiles’(Acts 10:45; Acts 11:1,18) - is a movement of ‘the Spirit’(Acts 11:12). The Spirit speaks through the Word (10:44; 11:15). In God’s Word, we read of (a) God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16); (b) God’s Son who died for ‘the sins of the whole world’(John 1:29; 1 John 2:2); (c) God’s command that ‘the Good News’ should be preached to ‘everyone’(Mark 16:15); (d) God’s purpose that there should be disciples of Christ in every nation (Matthew 28:19). ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the News that Christ can save… Here am I, send me’(Youth Praise,128). ‘Go forth and tell!’(Mission Praise, 178).

The Importance Of Prayer In The Advance Of The Gospel

Notice the importance of prayer in the advance of the Gospel. They were looking for a prayer meeting when Lydia was saved (Acts 16:13-14). They were going to a prayer meeting when the girl was saved (Acts 16:16-18). They were having a prayer meeting when the jailer was saved (Acts 16:25-34). They had gone to Philippi ‘to preach the Gospel to them’(Acts 16:10). Even when they were ‘in chains’, the Gospel proved itself to be ‘the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith’(Ephesians 6:20; Romans 1:16). ‘The Word of God is not bound’. It is ‘living and active’. ‘Sharper than any two-edged sword’, it is ‘the sword of the Spirit’(2 Timothy 2:9; Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17). Do you want people to ask the Salvation question and heed the Gospel answer (Acts 16:30-31)? ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit… with all perseverance’(Ephesians 6:18).

Devote Yourselves To Prayer.

God calls us to pray - ‘Devote yourselves to prayer’. We are to pray with concern - ‘watchful’. We are to pray with gratitude - ‘thankful’ (Colossians 4:2). We are to pray for those who preach God’s Word. Thank God for the past. Trust Him for the future. Remember - the important thing is the ‘message’ (Colossians 4:3). The messengers are just ‘jars of clay’. The message is the ‘treasure’ (2 Corinthians 4:7). The messengers must not draw attention to themselves. They must direct attention away from themselves to Jesus Christ - ‘We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). We are to pray that the message will be ‘clear’ (Colossians 4:4). Pray for good preaching - preaching which does you good, giving you good cause to say in your heart, ‘For me it is good to be near God’ (Psalm 73:28). Pray for preaching which glorifies God.

3 John

Some people do a lot of good. Others do a great deal of harm. Diotrephes thought he was a big ‘star’. He ‘loves to be first’. He ‘likes to put himself first’. He wasn’t a star. He was a disaster! He took ‘nothing to do with’ God’s servants. He did ‘not acknowledge’ the authority’ of Christ’s apostle. He was ‘gossiping maliciously about’ God’s servants. He did not make people feel ‘welcome’. He drove people ‘out of the church’(9-10). Demetrius was very different. He was ‘well spoken of by everyone - and even by the truth itself’. He wasn’t just popular. He was real, genuine, true. There was a ring of truth about him. These were no empty words of flattery. God’s ‘true’ servants said, ‘We also speak well of him’(12). What kind of person are you?

2 Peter

1:1-2:10a - God ‘has given us His very great and precious promises’ (1:4). God has a great purpose for us. He is preparing for us ‘a rich welcome into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (11). The pathway to heavenly and eternal glory is not an easy one. Often, we will be tempted to settle for being ‘ineffective and unproductive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There will be many distractions, drawing our attention away from Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him if we are not to become ‘blind and short-sighted’. We can so easily forget the most important thing - we have been ‘cleansed from our old sins’. It is so important that we keep looking to Christ, remembering what He has done for us and giving thanks to Him (1:8-9). ‘The Lord’ will not fail us in our ‘trials’ (2:9). Let’s not fail Him!
2:10b-3:18 - ‘Grow’ in Christ and give ‘glory’ to Him. Centred on ‘our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’, our life is filled with ‘grace’ and ‘glory’. From Him, we receive ‘grace’ - ‘From the fulness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another’. From Him, we receive ‘glory’ - ‘I have given them the glory that You gave Me’ (3:18; John 1:16; 17:22). Where does this life of grace and glory begin? It begins with God. In ourselves, there is sin. In Him, there is salvation. ‘He is patient with us’. He waits for us to ‘come to repentance’. He shows us our sin so that we might learn to look to our Saviour - ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation’ (3:9; 2 Corinthians 7:10). Turn to the Lord. Let it be real. Let Him lead you in His pathway - the pathway of grace and glory.

2 Kings 1 - 3

'He took up the mantle of Elijah'(2:13). Elijah’s ministry had ended. Elisha’s ministry was about to begin. It was the beginning of a new era. This may have been a new ministry. It was not, however, a new message. Both men preached the Word of the Lord. Elisha continued Elijah’s work. He took up where Elijah had left off. He brough the Word of the Lord to the people. Elisha was not exactly the same as Elijah. He was Elisha - not Elijah! There was, however, continuity. The second ministry built on the work done during the first ministry. The laying of the foundations - this was what Elijah’s ministry had been all about. Now, Elisha would build on this good foundation. He would take the work of God forward. Into the future, on to the second stage - this is what Elisha’s ministry was all about!
‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ (2:14). Elijah was no longer there - but God was still there! Don’t imagine that God goes away when there’s a change of ministry. While Elijah had been serving the Lord, Elisha was being prepared for his time. God is always one step ahead of us. We are living in the present day. He is planning for the future. With each succeeding generation, the question is asked, ‘Where is the Lord?’ In every generation, God is looking for those who will serve Him - ‘testifying of the Gospel of the grace of God, testifying of repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, declaring the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:24, 21, 27). This is ‘the mantle of Elijah’ (2:14) - the mantle of prophetic ministry. Will you ‘take up the mantle’ for God and the next generation?

2 Kings 4 - 5

Chapter 4
The situation seemed hopeless - ‘The child was lying dead on his bed’ (32). What did Elisha do? He ‘prayed to the Lord’ (33). What are we to do when everything seems hopeless? Pray: ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation … Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4, 6). When we are at our lowest ebb, God is waiting to hear from us. Our prayer may not be eloquent - but it must come from the heart! Perhaps, we can hardly put our prayer into words. God looks beyond our inadequate words. He looks into our hearts. If, in our hearts, we are saying to Him, ‘Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience’, He will hear and He will answer (Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 51:12). You can make a new beginning with God - right now!
Chapter 5
How are we to receive God’s blessing? Are we to ‘do some great thing’? Are we to prove ourselves worthy of His blessing? No! The Word of God gives this simple instruction: ‘Wash and be clean’ (13). Salvation is not something to be paid for or earned. It’s ‘the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23). We don’t come to God, saying, ‘Look at me. Look at how good I am. Look at my religion. Look at my morality. You’ve got to bless me. I deserve it’. We come to Him, believing His Word - ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ - confessing our sins and trusting in His promise of forgiveness - ‘If we confess our sins, He forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong’ (1 John 1:7, 9). Forget about ‘doing some great thing’. Obey the command that really matters: ‘Wash and be clean’.

2 Kings 6 - 7

Chapter 6
Elisha was ‘the man of God’ (6, 9, 15). This was the most important thing about him. More than anything else, he was ‘the man of God’. We find the same phrase in 1 Timothy 6:11 - ‘But as for you, man of God, … aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’. We are to be people who put first things first. There is nothing more important than this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.’ Does this seem too heavenly-minded? Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Luke 10:27). We are not to be super-spiritual. We are to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Let there be no conflict between loving God and loving our neighbour. Christ is our Lord. We serve others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
Chapter 7
We read in verse 2, of ‘windows in heaven’. Malachi 3:10 also speaks of ‘the windows in heaven’. Calling us to ‘bring the whole tithe(tenth)’ to Him, God invites us to look to Him to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down an overflowing blessing’. In verse 9, we read of ‘a day of good news’. What ‘a day of good news’ it will be when God ‘opens the windows of heaven and pours down an overflowing blessing’. All of our days of good news come from the day of good news: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day … a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11). ‘In Christ’, there is ‘every spiritual blessing’. God has given us so much. Let us give ourselves to Him: ‘Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1).

2 Kings 8 - 9

Chapter 8
‘Go and meet the man of God and inquire of the Lord through him’ (8). God’s servants, appointed by Him to serve the people in His Name, play a significant part in leading the people to a deeper knowledge of God. They bring the Word of God to the people. That is what they have been called to do. It is good to have faithful teaching from God’s Word. There needs also to be faithful hearing, reading and doing of God’s Word. God’s servants can take us so far - and no further. You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink! God’s servants say, ‘Here are the wells of salvation’. It is up to the people themselves to take the next step: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). God’s Word is provided for you. It is delivered to you. What are you doing with it?
Chapter 9
God’s judgment on Jezebel was awesome (30-37). Why does God’s Word speak to us so strongly of judgment? God is warning us. He is calling us to repent, to return to Him before it is too late, before our opportunity for repentance has gone. Make sure that you don’t reach the point of no return. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6). For you, this may be God’s time. The Lord may never be so ‘near’ again. You are in ‘the valley of decision’: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Joel 3:14; Hebrews 4:7). There is still time - to open your heart to Christ, to trust Him as your Saviour, to become a new creation in Him. Here is a prayer you can pray: ‘Restore us, O God, let Thy face shine, that we may be saved!’ (Psalm 80:3, 7, 19).

2 Kings 10 - 12

10:1-36 - Jehu was a proud man: ‘Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord’ (16). He was full of his own importance, a bit special, a bit out of the ordinary, a cut above the rest. God did not share Jehu’s opinion of himself - ‘Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord the God of Israel with all his heart…’(31). Jehu’s attitude was ‘I’m all right, Jack’. He didn’t bother to look too closely at himself. Let God’s Word search your heart: ‘The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). Let this be your prayer to the Lord: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24). Make sure that you mean it!
11:1-12:21 - Let us ‘make a covenant’ - to ‘be the Lord’s people’, to ‘do what is right in the eyes of the Lord’ (11:17; 12:2). Part of this ‘covenant’ will involve our use of ‘money’. Real covenanting with the Lord will always mean much more than how much money we give to Him. Real giving is a matter of the heart: ‘the money which a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the House of the Lord’ (12:4). ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). Our giving will only be cheerful when it comes from the heart. There are three types of giving: ‘Grudge giving’ - ‘I have to’; ‘Duty giving’ - ‘I ought to’; ‘Thanksgiving’ - ‘I want to’. What kind of giver are you? This is an important question. Is it just ‘the Church always looking for money’? No! There is more: God wants us to give ourselves to Him.

2 Kings 13 - 18

13:1-14:16 - We love making comparisons. ‘This one’s better’. ‘That one’s better’. Some kings were better than others. What’s the difference between a bad king and a good king? It’s really very simple. The good king does what is ‘right in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:3). The bad king does what is ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (13:11). This is not a matter of popularity. It is a matter of obedience. It’s possible to be popular among the people without being obedient to God. Obedience is more important than popularity. We must choose obedience - even when popularity doesn’t come into it. There is one King who stands head and shoulders above all other kings. Jesus Christ is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16). How does your life look ‘in the eyes of the Lord’? Pleasing Him - Nothing matters more than this.
14:17-15:22 - Throughout life, we are faced with choices. Some of our choices are very important. Some are relatively unimportant. Everything can seem so complicated. Even the less important decisions appear to be very difficult. It’s very confusing. You wonder what to do. You don’t know which way to turn. In all of life’s decisions, there is no more important choice than this: What will I do - ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:24; 15:9) or ‘right in the eyes of the Lord? (15:3). You’re wondering what to do. You’re looking for guidance. Here’s a prayer you can pray: ‘Send your light and your truth. Let them guide me’ (Psalm 43:3). Jesus is ‘the Light’ and ‘the Truth’ (John 8:12; 14:6). Keep looking to Him, asking Him to be your Guide. He will give you wisdom to know God’s will and strength to do God’s will.
15:23-16:20 - Within every one of us, there is conflict. It is the conflict between good and evil (15:34,24,28; 16:2). Paul experienced this conflict: ‘I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do… When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand’ (Romans 7:18-19,21). What are we to do when we feel this conflict tearing us apart? We are to confess our sin - ‘Wretched man that I am!’. We are to trust in Christ - ‘Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (Romans 7:24-25). While we are in this earthly body, the conflict rages on. We ‘wait in patience for deliverance by the Lord’. When He returns, we will ‘rejoice in His salvation’ (Lamentations 3:26; Isaiah 25:8-9; Hebrews 9:28).

2 Kings 17 - 19

17:1-41 - ‘The people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt’ (7). What happens when people reject the God of salvation? - They become ‘empty’ and ‘worthless’ because they have chosen to ‘pursue emptiness’ by ‘following worthless idols’ (15). If you don’t have salvation, you have nothing. Jesus makes this perfectly clear when He says, ‘What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36). You can have it all - all that the world thinks is important - and yet have nothing - nothing that really matters! The world has its ‘winners’. They have won ‘the praise of men’. We must be careful: ‘Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God’. It’s better to be ‘God’s friend’ (James 4:4; 2:23)
18:1-37 - Hezekiah ‘held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him…’ (6). We give up so easily. We start well, then we lose our way. We don’t stick at it. Some people are all smiles - when things are going well. When the going gets tough, they lose their smiles - and you can’t see them for dust! What’s the problem? - They’ve taken their eyes off Jesus. They’re looking around at everyone and everything - except Jesus. Notice how different Hezekiah was! He ‘held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him’. This is what makes the difference - Keeping your eyes on Jesus. What is it that keeps us going? We are ‘kept by the power of God’ - He ‘is able to keep us from falling’ (1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24). ‘Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:1-2).
19:1-37 - ‘Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard’ (6). Who are you listening to - the world or the Lord? Sometimes, the voice of the world seems to be so loud - so loud that we can hardly hear the voice of the Lord at all. We need to listen well if we are to hear the voice of the Lord in today’s world. When we are discouraged, we need His Word of encouragement: ‘The zeal of the Lord will do this’ (31). When you feel like saying, ‘I can’t’, remember this: ‘Our God is able’ - ‘able to help those who are tempted’, ‘able to provide you with every blessing in abundance’, ‘able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think’ (Daniel 3:17; Hebrews 2:18; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20). Don’t say ‘I can’t’. Say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me’ (Philippians 4:13)