Hard hearts – and broken ones – Micah 6. RBT Notes, 25th November

“What have I done to you?” (v.3).

Do you have a problem with God? Has He failed you? Has His grace not been enough? Are His commands a burden? Is your redemption tedious? Is heaven a drag?

Israel was bored of God. And God knows it. He is bringing heaven and earth as His witnesses, that for all He has done for His people, they just can’t rouse themselves to get excited about God, and certainly can’t manage to obey Him (vv.1-2). Just look ahead to verses 9-16. Sin and warning are presented to this lazy people. The Spirit of God brings the same warnings to us. I wonder, are we guilty of just the same sins? Are we slouching our way through life, hard-hearted towards others, cold-hearted towards God, and excited only for our own pleasures? We have been warned.

Beware of how your heart murmurs. Your sighs and complaints say everything about your real spiritual condition. Take some time today: write a list of the things you’ve heard yourself complaining about recently. Then write a list of reasons why you have no mandate to complain – ever. You are a child of God in Christ. He has won you at a great price. You belong to Him, heart, mind and body. Complaining hearts are cold hearts, and need the fire of Gospel grace again.

The heart that knows this, that it belongs to grace, lives in awe. We know that we can bring God nothing, we can earn no favour, we can never out-sacrifice Him, make Him our debtor, or feel that anything we do merits His love. He is the Lord, holy, majestic, awesome. We come, and we worship. Simply that. And then we rise off our faces to go and do His revealed will, in the power of the Spirit, to the praise of the Son: “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (v.8).

 

A Prayer to Pray

Oh Lord my God. You are truth, life, righteousness, love and peace. And You give all that You are to me through Your Son. Forgive me granite heart, and break it open in praise and humble thankfulness once more. Teach me to love You, to serve others, to be humble, to delight, really delight, in Your grace. For You are delightful. Amen.

No Easy Message – Micah 1. RBT Notes, 18th November

You’re called to be a servant of God’s Word. How thrilling! What an exciting lifestyle, what privileges, what affirmation, what joy lies ahead. Who wouldn’t want to be called to minister the Word of the Living God? Except you’re Micah. Your godly parents have given you a wonderful name – Micah means, “who is like the Lord?” – and by grace you’ve come to know the truth of that question. But you’re discovering that the Lord has given you a hard ministry. There will be glimpses of light and joy, but this is a hard road you must walk. You will have to confront, and you will have to care.

God is not silent, and He’s always serious. God is bringing the witness of His truth to the world. Micah lived in the 8th Century BC, and was called to warn both Israel and Judah that God was against their greed and corruption. God wants the world to hear the charges He is bringing against His people (v.2). The church must never forget that He is the God of the whole earth, of those who do not acknowledge Him as much as of those who do. He comes like fire and earthquake, and He comes in judgement (vv.3-7). He is moved to anger by the sins of those who profess His name. Let the church beware.

A call to minister in the name of a Holy God like this is a call to care. Micah weeps over his people’s sins (vv.8-10). Feel the force of his words. Have you wept for other people’s sins? Have you wept for your own? Could you call others to see the depth of their sins, and to repent over them (vv.11-12)? Would you warn those you claim to love of the wrath to come, which only Jesus and a living, wholehearted faith in Him will save them from (v.13-16)?

Micah calls us to face hard realities. The hardest is God Himself. He doesn’t ignore sin. He sent His Son, to warn of sin, to weep over sin, and at the Cross to pay for our sin. In Him God is real. Will we trust Him, and serve Him? Who is like Him?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, in a world and a church which doesn’t want to take You seriously, I confess that I am often just the same. I love the trivial, and the easy. In myself, I’m not ready for the hard call of obedience and faith. Your Spirit alone, Lord, can forge faith and strengthen discipleship. I am Yours, Lord, just as surely as in Christ You are mine. Make me a believer and servant of Your Gospel. 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.

 

 

 

Don’t you dare! 2 Samuel 6. RBT Notes, 7th October

Everything’s going my way. So it felt for David. More than that, God was going his way, and had done so, all the way to the palace doors of Jerusalem. How wonderful it is to worship God when the sun is shining, and all our plans are going well (vv.3-5).

Then disaster. Thunder strikes, almost literally. As David makes his joyful way with the people to Jerusalem, one of David’s men, Uzzah, reacts entirely naturally to the slipping oxcart and tilting Ark of God, and is struck down for the presumption of touching it (v.6-7). Joy gives way to horror. How could God do this? It was His Ark, this was about His Glory, and in a blink a man lies dead, a people are terrified, and a king is confused, and furious (v.8).

Months go by, the Ark stowed away somewhere (hopefully) safe. And news comes that that place and those who live there are blessed (v.12). So the Ark is brought out, the Jerusalem procession starts up again, and David’s joy returns. But, like before, joy gives way to humiliation. Michal, Saul’s daughter,  mocks his praise (v.20). She, in turn, comes under David’s anger, and God’s (vv.21-23).

This is not a happy, easy chapter. God will protect His king, and His holiness, however hard people find that. He is still doing the same. “I am the Lord, that is my name. I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to idols” (Is. 42.8). Jesus can’t be tamed, or even blamed. He is the Lord, He is holy, He works for His Kingdom. Guard your heart, and guard your steps.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Lord, my words are unthought-through, and so are so many of my actions. Lord, order my life. Show me how to think, and how to feel. Teach me a godly caution, and then a bold decisiveness as I serve your Glory. Amen.

 

This God Speaks – Amos 1. RBT Notes, 1st June

amos2

 

1.     God is a pussycat; God doesn’t really care about justice; faith is a waste of time. How does this chapter challenge those false positions? Which challenge do you especially need?

2.    God’s judgment ranges throughout all the nations who opposed Israel. Is His response to their violence mean, vicious, or just, and why?

3.    How does God’s care and jsutice for His people encourage you to press on in faith in Christ?

 

A Prayer to Pray

Sovereign Lord, what You declare, You will bring to pass. Give me grace to beleive Your promises, and to show my belief by persevering obedience to Your Son. Teach me to be one who trembles at Your Word, and to love it all of my days. Amen

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

6746240-md

 

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.