Needing, and Asking – Psalm 86. RBT Notes, 6th May

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1.    What are the clues to David’s life situation, as well as state of mind and heart in vv.1-4? Why is it so important to ask God into our anguish, as well as to celebrate His grace in our joys?

2.    Reflect on the worship and the resulting prayers of vv.8-13. What specific steps can you take to help make thanksgiving lead to intercession?

3.    Note v.17: are you asking God – and expecting Him – to show His help when you pray? And what ‘help and comfort’ are you already certain of through Christ?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, You have given me all Gospel help and comfort in Your Son. Yet in my struggles they sometimes seem far off. Please draw close by Your Spirit: surprise me, reassure me, give me a sign of Your goodness. Restore to me the joy of my salvation, and give me an undivided heart. For Your glory, Amen.

Where Wrath and Mercy Meet – Psalm 85. RBT Notes, 5th May

1.   List the blessings God has shown His people in vv.1-3. How have you experienced them?

2.  Does the Gospel mean that God can never be angry at our sin (vv.4-7)? Why / why not?

3.   Meditate on the Cross, as the place of salvation (v.9), and the place where v.10 becomes gloriously true. How does that meditation shape how you feel about God, and how you need to pray to Him?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Thankyou, Father, that You are slow to anger, and rich in mercy. Yet how I walk on the edge of danger, in belittling Your glory, and slighting Your holiness. Please give me grace to fear You, to love You, and to stay close to You. Thankyou that because of the Cross You are my rock and my refuge. Amen.

 

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The Rock in the Storm – Psalm 77. RBT Notes, 26th April

 

  1. When was the last time you felt desperate, like the Psalmist in vv.1-9? Did you take those thoughts to God, or keep them from Him?

 

  1. What attributes of God does he focus his heart on, to help him deal with his problems (vv.10-15)?

 

  1. What steps can you take (be specific!) to reflect more on God’s power and goodness when life is hard (vv.16-20)?

 

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, teach me to be honest with You. So often I’m happy to grumble to my friends about my problems, but I’m so slow to bring them to You. Please soften my heart, so that I will be more and more aware that You are good, powerful and loving. Please use my troubles to bring my mind and heart to You. Amen.

 

 

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Curious Incidents – Acts 16. RBT Notes, 18th March

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So much of authentic Christian ministry is  about surprises. That is the wonder of giving our lives to the very work the Holy Spirit has sovereignly pledged to direct and grow. This chapter gives us at least four surprises:

 

A surprising decision          vv.1-5

Paul’s first trip to Lystra (recorded in ch. 14) bore the fruit of the conversion of a young man, Timothy. Paul now returns, and takes him on mission. Probably to everyone’s surprise, and Timothy’s most of all, Paul has his young partner circumcised (v.3). An act of cowardly compromise in the face of Jewish sensibilities and prejudices? No, instead this was a brave decision (not least, for Timothy!), so that no anti-Gentile prejudices would get in the way of the sensitive work of bringing Christ to both Jew and a Gentile. Paul knew exactly what he was doing. Sometimes, if we are to reach people, the most effective route will raise a few eyebrows. That’s fine.

 

Surprising guidance          vv.6-10

Paul and his companions lay their plans to go deep into the Province of Asia, and presumably pray them through. God graciously blows a hole in them! Turned away from their path by the Spirit Himself (v.7), their vision of a European is the Spirit’s guidance for them to set foot on that continent, and so begin European mission (v.10). Surprising guidance always leads us to solid Gospel work.

 

A surprising conversion          vv.11-15

A simple prayer meeting leads to the first convert in Europe, at Philippi. Who knows that state of Lydia’s heart before she met Paul? The Lord knew, though, and opened it by grace, and for grace (v.14). She straightaway shows two marks of genuine conversion, baptism and fellowship (v.15). If God can do this with Lydia in an instant, what more did He have in store for Europe; and what might He be planning for our needy continent now?

 

A surprising everything!        vv.16-40

A fortune-telling slave who discerns the truth of the gospel; a flogging and imprisonment because a slaveowner is suddenly out of pocket; the grace of God filling the hearts of Paul and Silas, so that they can sing God’s praises when beaten black and blue; an earthquake which opens prison doors; and a jailor whose despair turns to vibrant faith in Jesus, and his whole household with him. Which is your favourite surprise? Which details most thrill you with the astonishing power of God in this breathless sequence? And wouldn’t you want to involve yourself in the work which God has pledged Himself to?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord God, forgive me when I get angry or downcast because You don’t fulfill my plans. Teach me to relax my proud and often anxious grip on what I want to do. Put me at Your service, and make me humble and sensitive to Your leading when Your paths surprise or scare me. Amen.

Faithful, and Fearless – Acts 4. RBT Notes, 4th March

The life of the authentic church is marked by four things: preaching, persecution, prayer and practical generosity. Our chapter today is a snapshot of  life in the Spirit, with lessons for all believers.

FearlessJesus is a controversy. If we think otherwise, we’re either not thinking about the real Jesus, or we’re not living the real Christian life; or probably both. The Book of Acts plunges us back into the controversy which is Jesus, and urges us to live for Him with a wise boldness.

Peter and John must have known that healing and preaching in Jesus’ name would mean persecution for them for the sake of Jesus’ name. So when the crowds came running, they must have known that trouble was racing to meet them, too. And it did. They were put in jail for their troubles – though five thousand men know the loosening of the chains of sin (vv.1-4).

The religious leaders know exactly what the Apostles were doing, so more fool them when they have to listen to Peter’s Spirit-filled proclamation of Jesus (vv.5-7). He tells them what they must have been dreading to hear, that the power of Jesus Christ healed this man, and that He, though rejected by them, is God’s only appointed Saviour (vv.8-12).

Just think about the courage of Peter and John. In a city which idolised religious learning, these “unschooled, ordinary men” (v.13) spoke up, and spoke into the faces of men who had crucified their Lord, and who hated their message. The facts, though, silenced them (v.14). And no threats or commands can silence the church and her message: “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (v.20).

After the Gospel is preached, the believers now pray: they are joyfully convinced that their Jesus is Lord, and realistic that the world will rage against Him – and none of that without the Sovereign will of God (vv.24-28). Now they pray for God’s power, for their ministry to be emboldened, and for grace to save lost people in Jesus’ Name (vv.29-30). And where prayers like that are prayed, God will be at work (v.31).

God will be at work within the true church, too. As the Gospel brings more converts, so the Gospel unlocks believing hearts in acts of incredible generosity (vv.32-37). As Christians, we want to lay our lives before the cross, to share all that we are and all that we have in true service of the Gospel. He only is worthy of all.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Search me, O God, and know my heart. Give me that thrilled, captivated joy in knowing that Jesus is Lord. Give me boldness, boldness to speak, to pray, to risk and to sacrifice. Shake what I hold dear, that I may hold Jesus most dearly of all. Amen.