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Sunday, 7 June 2020

Daily Devotions for Difficult Days [82] Forever Reign

Our Sunday Devotionals are written by assistant pastor Mike Loveridge

Forever Reign

The song for this week is ‘Forever Reign’ by Hillsong. You can listen to the song HERE.  Like previous weeks, I suggest you listen to the song, dwell on the words and then read through my brief comments. I hope this song blesses you as it has me.

You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You're the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life
In You death has lost its sting

I'm running to Your arms
I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I'm made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I'm letting go

I'm running to Your arms
I'm running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing no other Name
Jesus, Jesus

I don’t know about you, but I am often all to easily distracted by the things around me and the things of this world. This world is a place full of distractions. There is social media to scroll through endlessly, there is Netflix to binge watch or YouTube to aimlessly amuse us and fill our time. Or what about the dreaded mobile phone which is constantly drawing our attention to answer emails, text, WhatsApp messages or calls. I have probably just scratched the surface of the electronic distractions. And then there are all the other day to day distractions like kids, work, friends, food. All of these things are good things, but they can all too easily become bad things. They become bad when they begin to consume our lives and remove our focus from God. I am probably one of the most easily distracted people. When I sit down to work, I have to make sure that everything on my desk is in its correct place, right down to where I leave my pen.  If just one thing is out of place it distracts me from working. I constantly have to battle distractions especially when I want to spend time with God. To be able to spend undistracted time with God I have to find a quiet place, away from my desk, without my phone so that I can focus on God fully. Maybe some of you need to do the same.

In this world there are so many things that we run after rather that running into the arms of God. I wonder when you are stressed, upset, in turmoil, overwhelmed, or happy, excited what do you turn to?

As Christians the answer to where we should turn in all those circumstances is to God (Colossians 3:2). Why? Because he is the Creator God, the original source of all goodness we see around us! Why would we want to turn anywhere else? This song does it’s best to describe God in all his greatness. He is: good, love, light, hope, peace, true, joy, life. But ultimately, the song writer has to give up. He simply says that God is ‘more than words can ever say’. Our words can never fully describe God because our minds can never fully comprehend him. That is how amazing God is!

The reality is that nothing compares to the love and embrace of God. No matter how good the things of this world are, the satisfaction from them cannot and does not last forever. When you finish a series on Netflix what do you immediately want? To start another one. When you get that promotion you were after, the pride and the novelty soon wear off and you are left chasing after the next thing. But God, our loving and all-powerful creator, can and will fully satisfy our souls. As C. S. Lewis has famously put it, ‘If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world!’

Look back to the beginning of the world, in the garden of Eden. God made Adam and Eve to be in relationship with him. He walked with them every evening in the garden. And when our sin got in the way, it was God who saved us from our desperate state and put a new heart in us. The whole narrative of the Bible is a story of relationship. God sent his only Son to die so that we could return to our natural state – living life eternally in God’s presence. Psalm 16:11 says, “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore’.

So, my question to you today is, ‘Will you seek after the true satisfaction found only in God?’ As the chorus repeats, will you run to God’s arms, into his embrace? What’s even more amazing is that this embrace is offered to you freely through what Jesus accomplished upon the cross. So I exhort you, if you haven’t already, to run to God and ask him to forever reign in your heart. Ask the Spirit to show you where you are letting the world reign and ask for the strength to remove the reign of the world and fully surrender to God. My prayer for us all is that we may be able to say, with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on Earth” (Psalm 73:25).

PRAYER FOR THE DAY

Loving Heavenly Father,

We thank you for another day in which we can dwell in your presence. We thank you for who you are. That you are the one, true, awesome and powerful God. That you are a good and loving God who gives us hope, joy, peace and life.

Father we thank you for all the amazing gifts and abundance of blessings that you give us. We pray that these good things will not distract us from you but will cause us to praise and glorify your name because of your goodness to us. We ask today that you may show us where in our lives we are running after the things of this world. Show us the things that distract us from you and then give us the strength to remove them so that we focus more on you, because you are so worthy of all our praise and worship.

It is in your Holy name we pray,

Amen.

Photo by Elisey Vavulin on Unsplash

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Daily Devotions for Difficult Days [81] God at Work


"I can't feel God at Work in my Life"

If I had a pastoral pound for every time.....

The complaint, "I can't feel God at work in my life" is a common one, along with its sister, "I can't see God at work in my life."

We may feel this over a short span of time or experience it over a much longer season of our lives.

In today's blog we explore the two spiritual misunderstandings that lie beneath this all-too-common lament.

It is rare that an unbeliever makes this kind of protest, for knowledge of God has been suppressed by their unrighteousness. So the very fact that a believer laments the felt presence of the Lord in his or her life demonstrates the reality of their faith and should therefore bring them comfort that they do indeed belong to Him.

We walk by Faith and not by Sight

The first misunderstanding beneath this lament is that our walking with God is by sight.

Every aspect of our Christian walk in the present world is by sight. Jesus rebuked Thomas for needing proof with sight and touch in these words, "Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29)

For today we live through that astounding supernatural gift of faith - which enables us to believe and rejoice in that which we cannot see. "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:8)

Abraham wandered around powered by faith. For 25 of those years he waited for a promise to be realised. All the evidence was against that promise ever being fulfilled, and yet in God's good time a baby was born to Sarah because Abraham "considered him faithful who had made the promise." (Hebrews 11:11).

It's not that feelings are unimportant, "filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" does not sound cold or indifferent! God has given us feelings to be fulfilled. No, feelings are important, but feelings play second fiddle to faith.

When you ponder it for even a moment, faith is such an astounding gift. It enables us to believe and persevere through the most difficult circumstances over long stretches of time, sometimes with very little sight or feeling. Deep within us faith keeps us going, divine faith powers us along.

If you have faith, you have a most precious thing!

We Draw Near by Action

The second spiritual misunderstanding beneath the complaint "I can't feel / see God at work in my life" is how the Christian life works, how God's power is switched on, if I may put it that way. Here's our verse for the day:

"Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)

Few verses in Scripture combine human responsibility and divine sovereignity together like this one!

Paul says emphatically - God is at work in you, fullstop. It's a fact! Let's believe that. And most remarkably, he is at work within us not only to empower us (to act) but to make us want his ways (to will).

Before we ever do our part, God is at work within us. Grace is always prevenient.

But look how Paul starts his exhortation, "Work out your slavation with fear and trembling." You and I have to do our part. We are not spiritual robots. We have to read our Bibles, we have to meditate on them, we have to pray, we have to make friends of God's people, we, we, we we.

And we have to do our part with great energy and seriousness - that's the meaning of "with fear and trembling." No half-hearted religion here, folks!

Summing it all Up

When we feel God is not at work in our lives, let us remember that sight is for heaven where we will not exerperience one second of doubt. And then let us get cracking spiritually. Get serious. Get reading and praying and serving and fellowshipping. In the full and comforting knowledge that as we do so, God also is at work within us. 100% God  - but also 100% us.

A SONG FOR THE DAY
I've chosen this song because it brims with faith and trust in the God.

I Do Not Know What Lies Ahead,
The Way I Cannot See;
Yet One Stands Near To Be My Guide,
He’ll Show The Way To Me:

I Know Who Holds The Future,
And He’ll Guide Me With His Hand;
With God Things Don’t Just Happen,
Everything By Him Is Planned.
So As I Face Tomorrow,
With Its Problems Large And Small,
I’ll Trust The God Of Miracles,
Give To Him My All.

I Do Not Know How Many Days
Of Life Are Mine To Spend;
But One Who Knows And Cares For Me
Will Keep Me To The End:

I Do Not Know The Course Ahead,
What Joys And Griefs Are There;
But One Is Near Who Fully Knows,
I’ll Trust His Loving Care:

Eugene L Clark, Alfred B Smith

You can hear it HERE.

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

Our loving and faithful Father in heaven,

We come to you with thanksgiving and walk into your courts with praise. We bless your holy name.

We confess our many sins to you. We have done what we should not have done and not done what we ought to have done.

We thank you for full and free forgiveness through your Son.

We thank you today for the precious gift of faith. Help us to exercise discipline and zeal and determination in the things of God, remembering all the time that you are working powerfully within us by your Word and Spirit to accomplish your good purposes.

In Christ's Name we pray these things,

Amen.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Daily Devotions for Difficult Days [80] Everyone who Calls



Images from Another World

I remember, when we saw images from China earlier this year, of people walking down the streets wearing masks, thinking, "that will never happen here!" I also doubted we would put up with lockdown, but we did. I wondered if people would be prepared to go without car journeys for weeks on end, but they have.

I never imagined queuing outside of supermarkets or avoiding people in the streets - and having them coyly thank me for doing so. But all of this has happened!

A host of "never imagineds" have taken place to demonstrate how wrong we all can be.

Every Promise

Let's not be in error about the promises of God and remind ourselves that not every single promise of the Old Testament applies to you and I.

Some of those promises were made to the nation of Israel alone. In Ezekiel 11:17, we read these words, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again."

This promise to return the exiles to Canaan does not apply to us, of course. An obvious example, you say, but also a caution to thoughtfully apply the promises of the Old Testament.

The best test of whether or not a promise of the Lord is made to all of his redeemed people is whether it appears again in the New Testament.

Our wonderful promise for today, from Joel 2:32 does, and it reads like this:

"Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved."

Joel is looking forward to the Gospel Age, the day of Pentecost, when God promises to pour out his Spirit on all his people and to save both Jew and Gentile: in those days, says Joel, "Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved."

In Romans 10:12 Paul says that this promise applies to Jew and Gentile, so we can be sure that God's Word here is for all the world, until the end of time.

Two simple observations.

A Promise for Everyone

First, this glorious promise is for everyone and anyone. Everyone who turns to God, anyone who calls on him, will be saved from their sins and receive the gift of eternal life.

Black or white, eastern or western, young or old, male or female, rich or poor, lower class or upper class, Hindu or Sikh, good people and bad people, prisoners and free - every kind of person - are included in this Gospel embrace!

The arms of the Gospel stretch out to the whole wide world! Praise the wide-mercies God "who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4)

Oh, that the world might taste and see,
  The riches of His grace!
The arms of love that compass me,
  Would all mankind embrace.

This promise is for every one of my readers who has not yet turned to the Lord: the God who created you promises that if you will call on him, which means reach out to him with words of prayer, you will know your sins forgiven and possess the hope of eternal life.

Why don't you call on him Today?

"Lord, I turn to you today. I confess my wrongdoing. I sincerely turn from my old ways and sins and idols, and turn to you. I trust in your Son and the sacrifice he made for my sins on the cross."

A Promise for Preachers and Evangelists

Secondly, this is a promise for preachers and evangelists and for all believers to share with the world. On the day of Pentecost, Peter announced it to the crowd, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Acts 2:21)

We have many wonderful opportunities to share this Gospel Promise in our new interconnected world.

We need to put this promise "out there." Through the suffering our present pandemic has brought, folks are searching for answers, for meaning and for God. We can tell them about this promise. Did you know that God says "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved?"

Today I have put a "Free, please take One" sign in my porch along with three different kinds of Gospel tract. So many delivery drivers / postmen / etc. stop by; and they need to hear the Gospel too. May they take one and respond to the Gospel.

Evangelists and preachers of a past world would go further. They would press people with this promise, "Call upon the Lord" they would urge and exhort, "For he has promised to save all who do."

May the Lord restore some of that persuasive urgency to us today!
 
A SONG FOR THE DAY

As a primary-school aged kid living in Karachi during the 1960s, I attended an annual summer Holiday Bible Club. A large hall of children sang together this Gospel appeal every day, and whenever I hear it, my heart is filled with joy.

We've a story to tell to the nations,
that shall turn their hearts to the right,
a story of truth and mercy,
a story of peace and light,
a story of peace and light.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
and the dawning to noonday bright,
and Christ's great kingdom shall come on earth,
the kingdom of love and light.

We've a song to be sung to the nations,
that shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
a song that shall conquer evil,
and shatter the spear and sword,
and shatter the spear and sword.

We've a message to give to the nations,
that the Lord who reigneth above
has sent us His Son to save us,
and show us that God is love,
and show us that God is love.

We've a Savior to show to the nations,
who the path of sorrow has trod,
that all of the world's great peoples
may come to the truth of God,
may come to the truth of God!

I can't find a modernised version of this song, but you can hear it HERE.

A PRAYER FOR THE DAY

Our gracious and loving Father in heaven,

We exalt your holy name and worship you who sit above the circle of the earth.

We thank you for all your promises and for today's promise, that whoever calls upon your Name will be saved.

We thank you for your Son's sacrifice through which this salvation has come to us.

We pray that many will turn to you in these days. We pray for those in our families and among our friends who don't yet know you. May they call on your name and may they be saved.

Fill our own hearts with a renewed Gospel urgency.

We ask this in Christ's Name,

Amen.


Thursday, 4 June 2020

Daily Devotions for Difficult Days [79] Blessed Mourners

Blessed Mourners
(Sermon on the Mount 3)

Our Guest Devotional today is written by Mike Loveridge, assistant Pastor, Manor Park Church

Today we take a look at the next of The Beatitudes. The first four Beatitudes talk of our relationship with God and then the remaining four deal with our relationship with other human beings. So the Beatitude for today is:

 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ Matthew 5:4

 The word used for ‘mourn’ here is a strong word that is used to describe the type of mourning that follows the loss of a loved one. It is a profound and deep sorrow of the heart that leads to weeping and bitter tears. The natural thought then is that God is saying that he will comfort those who are mourning or in a time of grief. But whilst God does undoubtedly give us comfort in all circumstances (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-4) that is not the main teaching of this Beatitude. This is because The Beatitudes are first and foremost about our relationship with God, not with each other.

So, in this context, what then does it mean to mourn? The type of mourning Jesus is talking about here is the mourning that flows from being poor in spirit. Remember, to be poor in spirit is to recognise that we have nothing from ourselves to boast of and humbly come to Jesus for forgiveness. This humble attitude of the heart leads to two types of mourning:

A sorrow over our own sin

Every genuine conversion starts with recognising our own sin and failings and our desperate need for a Saviour. When we then realise what Jesus, our Saviour, did for us through the power of the Holy Spirit we despise sin because it separated us from God. Once we have faith in Jesus, our awareness of sin is so much greater and we develop a hatred of it that leaves us mourning the sin that still remains.

I wonder whether you have ever mourned over you sin? This deep awareness of our sin is helpful for our ongoing sanctification. Whilst we are still on this earth, we will always be in a battle against the sinful nature we as humans possess. Having a healthy, mournful attitude towards our sinful nature and tendencies will help us to daily put to death the sin which so easily entangles. I say healthy, mournful attitude because for some an awareness of sin leads to paralysis and for those people they need to remember that their sin was dealt with by Jesus upon the cross and He loves you. We mourn our sin because as believers we know that sin is the opposite of loving Jesus. A mournful attitude towards sin should therefore be the norm for every believer.

Ponder the question, ‘Do you mourn the sin in your life?’ and ask the Spirit to give you the power to overcome this sin. And as you do so, remember Jesus has paid the cost for all your sin, so use the mourning of you sin to lead to repentance in the knowledge of an all-forgiving, all-loving Father.

A sorrow over the sins of others

As brother and sister in Christ we not only mourn our own sin but also that of our fellow believers. There are many examples in the Bible where we see individual believers having a strong concern for the church as a whole. Jeremiah 13:17 and Ezekiel 3:18 are just two examples. Our mourning for our fellow brothers and sisters comes from a desire for them to be sanctified and to see them growing in their likeness of Christ. Romans 12:15 calls us to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. So, as our brothers and sisters mourn their own sin we should come alongside them to support, encourage and strengthen. That is how we disciple one another and help each other to grow in our faiths. My sin is different to your sin so just as I can help you, you can help me. Do you earnestly desire other Christians to be growing in their faith and putting sin in their lives to death? If you do then it will lead you to pray regularly for your brothers and sisters and mourn over the sin in their lives.

They shall be comforted

As you mourn is these ways take heart because the second part of this Beatitude is that you will be comforted. The result of mourning sin in ours and others’ lives is that it turns us back to God and God in turn grants comfort to those who seek his help. Sorrow that comes as a result of the Holy Spirit revealing our sin will cause us to look away from ourselves, knowing we are weak and feeble, and instead look up to our Saviour. We can take comfort in our Saviour because we know that it is Him who has justified us, hat upon the cross he dealt with our sin once and for all, so we no longer need to feel its sting.

1 John 1:9 reminds us, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. The moment we believe in God we are justified yet we continue to sin long after we are saved. Take comfort that as a believer in Christ your future is safe and secure as a citizen in heaven. You are loved and saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus. He has put His Spirit in you who is at work in you to reveal your sin and to give you the strength to deal with it.

A Song for today

Purify my heart,
Let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart,
Let me be as gold, pure gold.

Refiner's fire,
My heart's one desire
Is to be... holy;
Set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be... holy;
Set apart for You, my Master,
Ready to do Your will.

Purify my heart,
Cleanse me from within
And make me holy.
Purify my heart,
Cleanse me from my sin, deep within.

Refiner's fire,
My heart's one desire
Is to be... holy;
Set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be... holy;
Set apart for You, my Master,
Ready to do Your will.

You can listen to it here


Prayer for today

Loving and gracious Heavenly Father,

We thank you for all of your goodness to us. We thank you for Jesus who through his death made us right with you. Thank you that through faith in you we have been justified once and for all.

We pray today that the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to our sin and give us a godly sorrow for that sin. We pray that through the power of your spirit and with the support of your people you will help us to put sin to death and to live lives to bring glory to your name.

Amen

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on unsplash