And Joy Everlasting- Nehemiah 8. RBT Notes, 8th December

The wall’s up, and people’s heads are soon down in the stuff of life. Houses need to be built, wells dug, orchards planted, fields ploughed up and sown, children looked after and taught. And on and on. Life is never still, never without its demands, and there are never enough hours in the day. Busyness is as old as time, and our lack of time.

In life’s busyness we fight for time. We must fight for the time to listen to God’s Word. If we don’t, the thistles and thorns of work and worry will choke our souls. Our souls need time, time for the Word. The jobs will have to wait, and some jobs need a careful and principled neglect.

So God’s people come together (8.1). Ezra is called to bring out the Law of Moses, and to read it before the community, and what a reading, from dawn to lunch! Also, what a rapt attention (v.3). People know that these are not just words – they are, as Moses said, “your life” (Deut. 32.47).

God’s Word brings joy and sorrow. Joy, in that we see the grace of God once more; but sorrow, in that we see how we disobey that Word, consciously and unconsciously. The people praise God with their preacher (v.6), but there are tears, too (v.9). Maybe this community was feeling as they needed to the weight of God’s anger which had swept their parents’ generation off to exile as the punishment for their sins.

Nehemiah, like any good leader, is alive to the feelings of his people. He speaks up, with tender words, and wonderful counsel. He knows that God is a God of grace. He knows that the joy of the Lord – joy shared and tasted by grace – is our only lasting and real strength (v.10). He calls his people to rest and rejoice.

This is the true joy of God’s Word. Are you experiencing it? When our hearts enthrone the Lord as He truly is, and bow before Him, relying on His mercy alone in Christ, there is always joy. Faith comes through hearing God’s Word, and through understanding it. Ezra had devoted himself to being an expert student and teacher of Holy Scripture (Ez. 7.10), and he and Nehemiah were totally committed to the people grasping the grace of God in His Word. What servants. In fact, apostolic ministry has exactly the same mandate, to be workers with God’s people for their joy (2 Cor. 1.24).

Enjoy the scenes of festivity in vv.12-18. The community celebrates the feast of tabernacles – the first time for many years (centuries, in fact, v.17). They are rediscovering the joy of being God’s people, and obeying His Word. God has no other will for our lives. We should have no other ambition, either.


A Prayer to Pray

Lord God, what a world of joy awaits me as I bow before You. What a world of misery I stumble through when I focus on myself. Lift my eyes, my heart, my mind, Father, to Your care and loving authority in my life. Teach me to tremble at Your Word. Amen.

A thousand trumpets – Psalm 100. RBT Notes, 21st May. Notes by Graham Thomson


1.  What does the Psalmist suggest should be our basic attitude of heart as we approach the Lord in praise and worship?  Why is this?

2. In what ways do vv. 3 and 5 give us confidence and comfort, and an ability to praise God, even in tough times?
3. ‘The joy of the Lord is your Strength’ (Nehemiah 8.10)  In what ways does this psalm encourage and help us to know the truth of this?
A Prayer to Pray
Father, I thank You that You have made me and saved me.  Thankyou that You have made me Yours and shower Your love on me in Jesus.  Please help me to live out that love in the joy of who You are, as I love You and others. Amen

Sing! Psalm 96. RBT Notes, 18th May

1.     What is true about God, and about none else, which makes His people sing, in vv.1-6?

2.     How does recognising the glory and strength God possesses bring us joy and life (vv.7-9)?

3.     The Psalm closes with a picture of all creation rejoicing in God’s judgment (vv.10-13). Compare this with the joy of heaven, as the New Testament shows it. Are you looking forward to heaven? Be honest!


A Prayer to Pray

Lord, show me how majestic You are. Teach me joy in Your Presence, and joy in the anticipation of heaven. Make my heart, lips and life sing for You. Amen.




All my days – Psalm 92. RBT Notes, 13th May

1.    Why do we sing God’s praises (v.1)? Duty; delight; encouragement of others; discipline; habit? Use v.2 in your answer, then think, and sing with true motivation!

2.    “Evildoers” are lost in a delusion that they will last forever; godly people are lost in the wonder of the eternal God (vv.4-7). Which are you, and why?

3.    Look at vv.12-15; who in your life models this truth, and encourages you about God’s grace in the lives of older people? Pray for them, and then pray that God would captivate you with His grace – for all of your days.


A Prayer to Pray

Father, You are robed in majesty! And You have robed me with the righteousness of Your matchless Son. Teach me to live with a contented and even overflowing heart. May grace by my song all of my days. Amen.



Mission Unstoppable – Acts 13. RBT Notes, 15th March

After Peter’s story, it’s now back to Saul, who’s been on mission with Barnabas in Antioch for a whole year (11.25-6). Now as the Spirit guides them, they strike out to the Island of Cyprus.


Unstoppable-posterThere, as so often happens in Gospel ministry, they want to share the Good News, but find themselves dealing with opposition, and a very Satanic opposition. Elymas tries to keep the proconsul in the darkness of a Christless life, and his reward is that Paul now puts him into a blindness of sight (vv.8-12). And at that, the proconsul believes (v.12).


Paul and Barnabas next make their way deep into the province of Galatia, in modern-day Turkey. Luke records at great length Paul’s sermon, because he wants us to be sure that Paul’s gospel is exactly the same as Peter’s. His whole address exalts Christ as the fulfilment of the Scriptures, the Promised One in whom there is “this message of salvation” (v.26). At its heart is the innocent suffering and full vindication of the Christ in His death and resurrection (vv.26-31). Now exalted in His ascension, He is qualified to bring the forgiveness of sin (v.38).


This glorious news is also urgent news: gospel hearers must understand, and must respond (v.40). Many do want to take this message further. What happens next will be the course of much apostolic ministry, interest and outrage (vv.42-45). Still, Paul and Barnabas aren’t thrown by the opposition, not even when it gets worse (v.50). Their Saviour is now in glory, but was once held in derision: so they, and we today, must expect both opposition and saving responses to the Gospel. This is Gospel life. And to follow Jesus means joy and the Holy Spirit (v.52).



A Prayer to Pray

Lord of the Harvest, send me to those who need to hear about Jesus. Give me courage and perseverance in bringing Your truth. Make my heart tender to the lost, but strong in facing discouragement and opposition. Thankyou that Your Kingdom shall never end. Amen.



A River, and a Promise – Revelation 22. RBT Notes, 29th February

This is it. This is home. This is life, delight, triumph, rest, endless joy. This is the Presence of God. Its name is heaven.

All the images are sketched for us to show all that heaven is: there is endless life, just as the river flows from God’s throne, and right through the city (vv.1-2). God rules, and from His Lordship comes endless life. The tree of life, from which Adam and Eve were banished, now bears superabundant fruit, bringing forgiveness to the nations (vv.2-3). That tree (the same as the word sometimes used in the New Testament for the Cross) means that the curse of the old creation is now reversed, as all the redeemed fellowship with God and the Lamb (vv.3-4). He is their light, joy and confidence (vv.4-5). Is all this too good to be true? Of course. But it is true (v.6).

John is desperate for us to trust what he reports. His vision is confirmed by an angel (v.6), and the angel commands him to let the message run, since it is such an urgent one (v.10). The nearness of God’s Kingdom – and its final consummation – demands a response, before God comes in final judgement (v.11).

If Jesus is returning, then we must face up to His promises. He promises to reward all, according to how we have lived (v.12). He promises that those who have been made clean through faith in His blood are blessed (v.14); likewise, He promises that those who have spurned His grace will be spurned (v.15). Where will we be?

A deep longing for heaven comes from the hearts of all the redeemed. We want to reply with all that we are to the Bride’s invitation (v.17). We want to be with Him, and we want to receive the gift of life from Him (v.17). Until that great day we pray, watch, believe and wait in faith. He is coming soon. He really is. Amen, come, Lord Jesus (v.20).


A Prayer to Pray

Lord Jesus, what do I say? Your promise is staggering. Dare I believe that Your bitter cross is my sweet source of life? Dare I believe that one day You will roar into this world to bring it to its judgment, and bring Your own to Your joy? Lord, I do believe, and I worship. Give me the grace to believe deeply, joyfully, expectantly. Amen.