No Easy Calling – Psalm 95. RBT notes, 17th May

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1.    Who or what do you want to sing about, right now? Examine your heart – what or who makes it delight?

2.    What are the reasons in vv.1-7 for praising God? How are these reasons seen clearly in the Lord Jesus Christ?

3.     What is every believer’s danger, in vv.8-11, and how can we guard ourselves against it? Check Colossians 1.22-23 to remind yourself of God’s calling in Christ to us.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, I barely know my heart at all, but what I do know scares me. I am full of greed, self-centredness and a terrifying ability to hide from the unpleasant truths about myself. And yet in Christ I find You to be the Lord who speaks His truth in love, and always for my good. Please teach me to tremble at Your Word. Please teach me to know that I need the Gospel. May Your Son grow increasingly glorious in my sight, that I may esteem Him above everything and everyone, and so arrive safe in Heaven, through His power. Amen.

Journey’s End? Ecclesiastes 12. RBT Notes, 14th April

1.  Enjoy the moving poetry of vv.1-8, but get the lesson: what is the command of these verses, and why does it matter?

2.  Read 1 Corinthians 1.30. What is there in Jesus which we need for life under the sun? And who ultimately is the Shepherd who has given us the wise words of Ecclesiastes (vv.9-11)?

3.  Why not memorise vv.13-14? How would knowing these words in your heart help you are tempted to anger / greed / despair / worldliness?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, You know the end from the beginning. You are my Creator, and You have appointed the day of my death. And for all of my sins You appointed Your dear Son, my Saviour. Hide me in Him! Clothe me with His wisdom, His humility, His perseverance. As I walk with Him, may my journey be like the dawn’s light, which grows ever brighter til the full light of day.

 

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Problems and Progress – Acts 14. RBT Notes, 16th March

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Today we see a three-fold pattern of radical, apostolic ministry. “Radical” is, of course, a vastly overused word today, especially when it comes to ministry. Neverthless, look at what these men are doing, and the pattern that their work lays down for us; what other word would you want to use?

So here’s the pattern, and in it the prescription for our ministries:

 

  1. When persecuted, carry on preaching the Gospel                 vv.1-7

Effective preaching and evangelism always get reactions. Here in Iconium there is belief as well as fury (vv.1-2). Notice that it’s the latter which convinces Paul and Barnabas to stay in the city, since they know that their message is getting through (v.3)! That doesn’t mean, though, that the apostles are seeking a quick promotion to heaven. They’ve proved that they’re no cowards, but reason that they’re more useful to the Lord alive than dead, so take news of further persecution as a sign to leave. Just so, the Holy Spirit makes us brave, and persevering, as well as wise. And there is no such thing as persevering without persecution!

 

  1. When misunderstood, carry on preaching the Gospel          vv.8-20

We quickly get discouraged when people don’t understand the Gospel, and are tempted to give up. Here, deep into pagan territory, misunderstandings were almost inevitable when the Bible’s message is opened up, so when a man is healed by God’s power through Paul, these pagans almost inevitably think that they’ve had a visit from a First Century divine version of Batman and Robin, and prepare sacrifices in their honour (vv.8-13).

Embarrassing; comical? Yes, both; but also a great opportunity, in all the mess, for preaching the Gospel. So here’s God’s truth in Jesus, skilfully presented for pagan ears. Luke either doesn’t give us the full address, or Paul got cut off in the furore before he could open up God’s grace in Jesus. Certainly, the Jews who came into the town knew that the apostles had a message about Jesus for everyone, and they didn’t want any more converts. Again, they come with zeal, and leave with shed blood. They’ll soon learn that their policy is futile: the Gospel and its servants, will carry on – and triumph.

 

  1. When you’ve done your share of the work, carry on preaching the Gospel         vv.21-28

Of course, that’s a misnomer. We have no ‘share’ of the work, if that means we’ve got permission to leave the battle because we’ve wielded the Gospel sword for a while. The Apostles return to places of success as well as hardship, and they carry on their ministry there, preaching, praying, and establishing leadership in the churches. What is the mark of a Christian? We keep on keeping on, believing, serving, preaching Christ.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord of the church, thankyou for the lives which blaze across the Book of Acts, modelling Christ and testifying to His truth. Father, I just long that You will use my life, and empower me to spend it proclaiming the majesty of Your grace. May I never waste a day, and may Your Spirit keep me trusting, serving and sacrificing til Christ comes or calls. Amen.

 

 

Open Door – Revelation 3.7-21. RBT Notes, 5th February

If Jesus has opened up both death and eternal life (1.18), then no situation, crisis, suffering or heartache can remain closed against Him (3.7). Those at Philadelphia are clearly exhausted disciples. Our Master knows this, encourages them (v.8), and urges them to take the opportunities He is opening up for them. Better still, He will open a place in His Father’s Presence to them for ever (v.12). He is coming soon to do that (v.11). It’s not our strength or faith or mind, then that counts; our confidence is in Jesus. He holds the keys.

Light_on_door_at_the_end_of_tunnelMaybe you are a believer who is longing to serve God, and longing to be with Christ in heaven. Some Christians, though, are looking for the door out of the Christian life, and they aren’t always aware of it. Take the church at Laodicea. Like the tepid, unhealthy spring water which ran into the city, believers there were dangerously lukewarm (v.16). They were so confident in themselves, they felt they didn’t need the Gospel. Christ sees a smugness which is trying to push Him away, and which is close to disqualifying them from heaven (v.16). They need to open the door again to their Saviour by a sincere repentance (v.20). Self-sufficiency can lead us to despair, or to complacency. Either way, we need to come back to Jesus.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Father, Your grace in Your Son is amazing! Thankyou that in Him You give without measure. Lift me both from despair and complacency, as you teach me that Jesus is truly mine. Open the door of my heart to Jesus again, today, and may I know His fellowship. Amen.

 

All the Way to Heaven – Revelation 2.12-3.6. RBT Notes, 4th February

myoldbootsonshelfBW_blogIt’s not enough to love Jesus and keep your head down when there are problems in the church. You can keep true to your beliefs, but when others around you are losing theirs, the Lord is calling you to be involved, not to be a pious bystander. The church at Pergamum has some shining Christians, who have endured persecution and come through with flying colours (vv.12-13); but their Lord charges them with tolerating false belief and immoral living in their church (vv.14-15). Deal with it, is the command of Jesus (v.16).

Thyatira has similar problems. Although the church is faithful (vv.18-19), she is tolerating a faithless woman amongst her, who is leading some believers into sexual sin (v.18). Jesus knows (v.19), and will act swiftly (vv.22-24). He is a King, afterall (v.27), and He rewards those who actively live under His Kingship (v.28).

Among the tests of faith, we must never take our eyes off the goal of our faith. Heaven is a place for those who love their Lord, and stay faithful until the end (v.5). Do we need to wake up from a sleepy attempt at faith, like those at Sardis, one which fixes on our problems rather than on our Lord? The Gospel promises us persevering grace. And those who love Jesus day by day? “They are worthy” (v.4).

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, it pains me when I think that You see and know all that I really am. Thankyou, though, that You love me, and that grace covers my every sin. By Your Spirit’s power, work a deep repentance in me at my laziness and cowardice. Fill me with zeal to live entirely for you, whatever the cost. Amen.

First Loves, and Few Regrets – Revelation 2.1-11. RBT Notes, 3rd February

The King now addresses His subjects. Here, Jesus speaks to His church, to seven local churches. John has seen how Jesus walks among them, and holds their servants (2.1, compare 1.12,16). Now as He speaks, He gives both judgement and grace, cutting through sinful behaviour and false belief, and promising grace for those who receive His Word (1.16). When we’re tempted to believe that Jesus isn’t with us, doesn’t care, or doesn’t speak, these words are a great challenge, and a comfort.

Hard work for the Lord might be a cover for hard hearts. Knowing the right truths doesn’t mean having the right love. This is the problem with the church at Ephesus. It is a particularly evangelical church sin. No amount of labour and doctrine can make up for an absence of love for Jesus (vv.1-4). We’re not saved by our soundness, but by the love of Jesus, known and responded to. Do we need to come back to Him (v.5)?

And when the Christian journey is costing us so much, we need the reminder that we’re not losing, but winning. We believe in a Resurrection God (v.8). We need to weigh our problems in the scales of eternity. We are not home, yet, and things might get even worse (v.10). But there is a crown of life to come, and not even death can take it from us (vv.10-11). Hallelujah!

 

A Prayer to Pray

My Saviour, You are all I need. But You know how I get distracted, and discouraged. Fix my heart on You and Your promises, Lord. Grab my heart, strengthen my faith, purify my love. For Your sake. Amen.

 

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