The Last Word? Job 25-26. RBT Notes 18th, January

One more word from Bildad, and one more (lengthy) response from Job, and then the book will take a different turn. Unsurprisingly, much the same ground is gone over. Bildad savages this poor wounded sheep again. His words are true, and there is much in them which should lift our hearts to worship. God is full of dominion, and His greatness should fill us with awe (25.2). Noone can be righteous before Him (vv.4-6). Well said, preacher. But one of his servants is again being kicked when he’s already down. This “maggot” Job knows his maggotiness all too well: now Job needs balm, not bruises. Bildad’s not the man to give the medicine, though he should be.

Hear the scorn in Job’s voice. He looks for comforters, and there are none (26.1-4). And yes, Job has his worship, too, his exalted vision of a magnificent God. Job’s Lord rules death and the dead (vv.6-7), moves on the clouds and rules the sun, moon and seas (vv.5-11), strikes His enemies (vv.112-13), and possesses a majesty which even His own worshipers have barely, barely even started to comprehend. A word to make our praise flow. A word, too, to stifle the hasty arrogance with which we claim to speak knowledgeably about God. Bildad, take note. Other would-be Bildads, watch your tongues, too.


A Prayer to Pray

Lord of Glory! There is a time to be quiet, to consider my thoughts, and my words. Your holiness and Your might should be marshaled to strike me down, sinner as I am; and yet You have displayed Your holy might in working my salvation at the cost of Your precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. May my words be few, my speculations about You clothed with reverence, and my worship be marked by wonder and delight,. You are God, and all that You do, though so often misunderstood by me or kept from my sight, is good. Amen.

The Counsel of Perfection which we all need – 2 Corinthians 13. RBT Notes, 17th February

Arrogant Christians might not actually be Christians. Nor lazy ones, loveless ones, nor hard-hearted ones. Appearances can deceive, and convictions can be found to be misplaced. Paul, who has spoken so transparently of his love for these Corinthians, extends that love as he urges them to check that they are actually true believers. His test is one we need the courage and integrity to apply to ourselves: “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (v.5).

He’s not doing that to undermine their faith, but rather, to help them, as he asks them whether they have a real, saving faith. Notice, the test is given to them to encourage a positive assessment (vv.5-6)  – “we are believers” – in order to encourage right behaviour – “we must listen to the Apostle, and live godly lives.” Any Christian who feels that they’re above applying this test to themselves maybe deep down knows that their claim of  Gospel faith isn’t actually real. And, just maybe, they want to resist the test because they refuse to let go of sins they prefer to Jesus Christ.

“Our prayer is for your perfection” (v.9). Paul isn’t depressing or mocking them, saying that he’ll only be satisfied by their sinlessness. Paul is realistic, and gently patient with all he serves with the Gospel. What he’s saying is that he’s striving to see them perfect (the same word in Greek as ‘mature’), and won’t rest until he sees ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Do we have this ambition for ourselves, and for those we claim to love in Christ? If we do, it’ll make us humble. We will be humbly ready to recognise our sins, and to repent of them. We’ll also be eager to pray for and serve others, as we seek their growth in Christ. “Aim for perfection” (v.11) is not a suggestion for the keen minority in the church, but an apostolic command for all Christians. And for that we will need the grace, love and fellowship of God Himself (v.14).


A Prayer to Pray

Lord God, I am complacent, and arrogant. I ignore my sins so often, and lazily claim to belong to you. Wake me up, Lord. Teach me the Gospel all over again, and bring it afresh to my heart, Spirit of God. Give me all grace to lay claim to You, and to know the embrace of Your love. May I adore the perfection of the Son, and offer myself again to His Spirit’s work. Amen.

No small Life – 2 Corinthians 6. RBT Notes, 8th November

You can waste grace. Yes you can. We can treat grace as something we relied on once, but now we can manage life relying on our own experience and skills. We can feel that grace is something for the future, when we’re old, or when a crisis comes. Either way, if that’s you, then heed the warning; you might be wandering your way out of the Christian life. Discipleship is a moment by moment reliance upon the grace of God. The day for trusting and following is today (v.1-2).

This message couldn’t be more urgent. And so its messengers cannot work too hard, or sacrifice too much, for others to grasp it. Look at Paul. What you read in vv.3-10 is no misery-fest. Paul isn’t seeking pity, nor applause, nor a pay-rise. He’s saying, “this is how the Gospel compels me. This is the life I’m privileged to live. It’s not easy – in fact, it often feels terrible; but I can do nothing else, because the message of Christ is so important. And what I do, I do in the power of the grace of God.”

Read back over that list, and let those hardships register: violence, prison, slander, rejection, poverty, insecurity. And then trace of life of Christ in Paul, and see endurance, love, joy, eternal wealth. Be realistic, not romantic, about your discipleship: if you want to love and serve Jesus much, you must be prepared to suffer much. You will. But thereagain, your love for Jesus will find depths of reality you didn’t know were possible. Paul has no greater joy than when God’s people open their hearts to the Gospel and join its servants in sacrificial living (vv.11-13). How about you?

If the Gospel is this precious, and compelling, we must be sure to guard our hearts for Christ alone. For all that we share with those who aren’t saved, if a love for them steals our hearts, we really are in trouble (vv.14-15). This is not a council of separation, of believers having only Christian friends. What nonsense, and what a disaster if that happens! It is, though, a command that we keep our hearts for Christ first. God is not glorified when we give our hearts and lives to anyone in His place (vv.16-18). All true children of the Father hear His command.




No Other Lord – Amos 3. RBT Notes, 3rd June 2016



1.     Vv.1-.2: what is the connection between God’s choosing Israel, and His judging them? What do you learn about His character?

2.    A Lion, and a Lion whose roars the prophet brings to the people (vv.3-8). What had Amos’s people forgotten about God, and what are we tempted to forget about Him, too?

3.    Why is Israel being punished, in vv.14-15? Compare Isaiah 42.8 and 48.11, and ask yourself if this is bad or good news.


A Prayer to Pray

Lord God Almighty, You are so utterly removed from the vague, washed-out, come-and-go gods of our day, or of any day. You alone are God! Teach me awe, reverence, humility, and the fear of the Lord, above all. Amen.



Zeal – Psalm 101. RBT Notes, 23rd May

1.  Read the Psalm slowly. David is zealous for his God! How can you, even with your struggles with sin, learn from his example?

2.   Jesus is the true Servant of God. How does He model holy seal to us, and how is He our confidence when we fall short?

3.   Is God more committed to seeing final judgment on sin now, or its judgment through Gospel repentance and faith? And which are you looking and working for?


A Prayer to Pray

Lord Jesus, You are my refuge when I fail, fail, fail and fail again. And how thankful I am that You are! May Your forgiveness be the fuel for my zeal. As the old preacher once prayed, Lord, make me just as holy as a pardoned sinner can be. Teach me to want that, and shape me by Your Spirit to be a holy servant of God. Amen.



When Rivers clap their hands – Psalm 98. RBT Notes, 19th May

1. Read vv.1-6 three times. Then ask yourself, could you love a God who could smash you to pieces? Why? Why not?

2. Heaven loves God’s holiness (v.6). Why does Man prefer idols? Which idols are you tempted to worship at the moment?

3. What are the commands and comforts of vv.10-12? How do they make you feel about being a Christian?


A Prayer to Pray

Lord, You are awesome. Your holiness is overwhelming, and should damn me. Your mercy in Your Son is overwhelming, and has saved me. Teach me never ever to be lukewarm, for You are worthy of the fire of my love. Amen.