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1)# ’It is time to seek the Lord.’
Hosea 10:12 (9-12)
The people of Israel had once again turned away from the Lord and were suffering the consequences. But the Lord was graciously calling them, yet again, to turn and repent in the face of further judgement. It was time to seek the Lord.
There will never be a better time to seek the Lord than now. He is ever ready to be found by those who seek him. There is no need to make an appointment; no need to form an orderly queue. Don’t wait for things to get worse. Don’t wait for things to get better. Just come as you are, where you are, right now and discover Jesus to be the bread of life and living water, so that you never go hungry or thirsty again.
It is easy to let regrets from the past keep us from coming today, but it is only the Lord who can forgive and restore those wasted years. As the prodigal son discovered (Lk 15), we are never too far from home not to start walking back. As we take steps to seek the Lord, we’ll be met by the open arms of a loving Father. Let’s seek the Lord, today, whilst he may be found.
2)# ’They told Jesus about her.’
Mark 1:30 (29-34)
Peter’s mother-in-law was probably out of sight, in another room of the house, but she was not forgotten. A fever had put her out of action, so she was unable to be involved in the visit of Jesus to their home. We can imagine how she felt, especially as she was a senior member of the host family. Her disappointment and embarrassment would have added to her sickness. But other relatives told Jesus about her. He went in to her room and made her well. In response, the lady was able to provide the hospitality that she wanted to give.
Families matter to Jesus and whatever the needs of those we know and love, we can tell Jesus about them, knowing that he cares and will help. When it’s hard to talk about things amongst ourselves, we can still talk to Jesus about our loved ones - especially those with particular needs.
3)# ’Give careful thought to your ways.’
Haggai 1:7 (2-11)
The Israelites had been pre-occupied with sorting out their own homes and lifestyles and had neglected their worship of God. It had left them always wanting more and never satisfied.
God’s words to his people long ago are just as pertinent for his people today. Consumerism is one of the gods of our society. One of the biggest pastimes today is shopping, especially on-line with its ease and convenience, but however much we have, there is always more we want and more on offer. It’s easy for us all to be sucked into this way of living, and neglect more important aspects of life. All too quickly, looking after ourselves becomes a, if not the, priority and this is incompatible with living for Christ.
God calls his people to live with a different mindset, different priorities from those of the world (Col 3:1&2). If we do, then he has promised to provide for all our needs (Matt 6:33). The way we live, whether we have much or little, should indicate our love for the Lord above all else. True worship is not just about gestures, but about lifestyle. Careful thought may lead to necessary change.
4)# ’Remember those in prison…those who are ill-treated.’
Hebrews 13:3 (1-6)
It can be easy to forget those in prison. Out of sight, out of mind. People are sent to prison to keep them out of the way. Locked gates and high walls allow the outside world to forget about them and carry on as if they do not exist. But Hebrews tells us not to forget, but to remember.
Easier to ignore the ill-treated, than to get involved. Life is busy and we have matters closer to home to deal with. But Hebrews tells us to care ‘as if...you were fellow-prisoners…were suffering’. Not detached, but involved.
Many turn to Christ whilst stuck behind bars through the ministry of Christian groups. People are freed from slavery, given food and shelter, a new start through the work of various NGOs. We can all pray for, and support these groups, especially those who work in Christ’s name. ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' So let’s do whatever we can to help those who are in prison and ill-treated.
5)# ’On that day a fountain will be opened.’
Zechariah 13:1 (12:10-13:3)
What a promise! In the face of opposition from political factions and lethargy amongst the Jews, the re-building of the temple seemed unlikely to happen let alone anything else. False prophets had spoken lies in the name of the Lord and the religious leaders had looked after themselves instead of looking after God’s people. But the promise of restoration was made, the date set, and one day, as dawn broke, forgiveness and healing flowed for all in the Person of Jesus Christ.
The new covenant of Christ’s blood is the fountain spoken of here and ever since Christ’s death the fountain has remained open to give cleansing from sin and impurity. It’s a fountain that Christ spoke of to the woman he met beside a well that reaches deeper than any water this world might offer. If you have not drunk from this fountain or your spirit is dry within you, then come to Christ today and know the satisfaction he gives. ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.’
6)# ’The LORD reigns for ever.’
Psalm 9:7 (7-12)
Firstly, it is the LORD. Not just any lord, nor any god. It is the LORD; the one and only LORD God Almighty. He has no equals, no peers, no rivals. He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. He is the eternal self-existent one.
Secondly, the LORD reigns. His throne, his authority, his power are established, set in place, immoveable. His plans and purposes will be fulfilled despite the chaos created by earthly rulers. He reigns with righteousness and justice. His reign gives comfort and hope for the oppressed and afflicted. His reign is over all things in heaven and earth.
Thirdly, his reign is for ever. His kingdom has no beginning and no end. It is eternal. ’Rulers’ of this world come and go, but the LORD reigns for ever. And to top it all, we will reign with him when Jesus comes again (Rev 5:10; 20:6)! Shout it out. The LORD reigns for ever!
7)# ’So that men are without excuse.’
Romans 1:20 (18-23)
An omniscient God knows what we are like. Ever since Adam and Eve, we have always had an excuse for our wrongdoing. From the young child to the octogenarian, we’re quick to pass the blame when things go wrong. And we are no different with God. Adam even blamed God along with Eve when he said, ‘The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit and I ate it.’ We do the same to excuse our failings. ‘It is how I was made. It’s in my nature.’
It’s only when we stop making excuses and admit our wrongdoing before God that we can be reconciled to him. Since the creation of the world God has made his salvation known, ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ - God incarnate. As a result of his death and resurrection, there is no excuse, but there is forgiveness. Whoever we are, whatever we’ve done, let’s not hide behind excuses. Let’s repent for our wrongdoing and then know the cleansing and healing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
8)# ’Busy with his own house.’
Haggai 1:9 (7-12)
Despite being busy, the Israelites found that all their hard work was proving futile. The more they did, the less they achieved. Whilst rebuilding the temple, the people had become distracted with building homes for themselves and their priorities had changed. The house of the Lord could wait. Concern for self had replaced attention to God, and as a result life was empty.
It is easy to let busy lives distract us from giving attention to the Lord. We can be so focussed on getting things sorted, achieving certain goals, that we give the Lord a back seat. The excuse offered by the Israelites was that it was not yet time. Other things had priority and needed to be done first. Big mistake. But if we put Christ first, and live to his honour and glory, then he will help us sort out the rest of life.
9)# ’Seek peace and pursue it.’
Psalm 34:14 (11-16)
Peace does not come easily. You only have to look at situations around the world to realise this. The smiles and handshakes cover up the hearts of selfishness and greed. Peace is costly and the price is too high for many. The psalmist t ells us that if we are to seek peace, then we must turn from evil.
Evil actions stem from evil intentions. Good actions come from a good heart. When our hearts are changed we can then be those who look for peace and are not deterred by others. Irrespective of what those around us might want, those who have the Spirit of God within them will seek peace wherever it may be found and whatever it takes to obtain it. When we seek peace, we follow the example of the Prince of Peace who has reconciled us to God. Let’s be peacemakers today and not let it out of our sight.
10)# ’Why bother the teacher any more?’
Mark 5:35 (35-40)
Human logic and reasoning can squash faith. Jairus’ daughter was now dead, so why bother Jesus any more? Any hope of healing had also died. So near and yet so far. If only.... Why bother?
Here was a pivotal moment for Jairus - and his daughter. Does he listen to human logic and reasoning or does he listen to Jesus? ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’ Sometimes the simple can be so hard. But Jairus had just heard a lady’s testimony and Jesus had declared that it was her faith that had healed her. That which had caused delay, now provided the encouragement Jairus needed.
Why bother the teacher? Because the ‘teacher’ is Jesus! He is the creator of all things. In him is life; in him is resurrection; in him is hope, even in the face of death. Jairus chose to listen to Jesus and life returned to his daughter. We must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and pay attention to God’s Word, so that we can be ‘sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Heb 11), especially in the face of doubt and disbelief. Faith will be rewarded - sooner or later.
11)# ’And told them to give her something to eat.’
Mark 5:43 (40-43)
It had been a long day and a lot had happened. Yet the small matter of giving this girl some food was not missed by Jesus. It shows the importance of providing for both the spiritual and physical needs. On two other occasions, after Jesus’ teaching, the disciples wanted to dismiss the crowds so that people could buy themselves some food. They discovered that they had a responsibility to look after the physical as well as the spiritual needs of those people.
Declaration and demonstration of the Christian gospel must go hand-in-hand. The ministry of the Church of Jesus must not neglect the one in favour of the other. Just as Christ ministered to the whole person, so he asks us to follow his pattern. Whether it’s providing a drink or some food, a listening ear or a helping hand, let’s attend to people’s physical as well as spiritual needs.
12)# ’The report I heard….is true.’
2 Chronicles 9:5 (1-6/8)?
In a society where so-called spin-doctors distort, exaggerate or even deny the truth, it is difficult to know what to believe. Such was the report about Solomon’s fame, that when the Queen of Sheba heard it, she did not believe it. But her curiosity was aroused. She put Solomon to the test and discovered that the reality was more than twice what she had been told!
Many people have been told about Jesus and about the new life he gives. Claims of forgiveness for sin, peace with God, purpose and hope for the future and a new start in life now. But is it just spin? The reality can only be proved through personal experience and that comes by an encounter with Jesus Christ. Many churches run programmes such as Alpha or Christianity Explored which give opportunity to find out if what is claimed is true.
Following Jesus is costly, but well worth it. So, if like the Queen of Sheba you are not sure about what you have been told about Jesus, why not find a church near you that runs one of the above courses and check things out for yourself.
13)# ’First go and be reconciled.’
Matthew 5:24 (21-26)
Jesus knew the importance of being right with each other, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we want to be right with God, then we cannot allow disputes between us to remain unresolved. The apostle John wrote that anyone who loves God must also love his brother. This is love, not based on feelings or emotions, but of our will. It can be easier to try and forget, to say it does not matter, or let the other person make the first move. But Jesus says that whether or not it is our fault, we must decide to act, to go and sort it out, as a matter of priority.
‘First go’ - before we make any offering of worship to God. Otherwise our offering is in vain. Upsets unreconciled are fuel for the enemy to stir up, or cause to simmer, animosity in our hearts. Effort is required. The intent of the heart must be right and nothing must deter us from achieving the goal. Reconciliation brings peace, not just with the other person, but also with God. Let’s act today as the Holy Spirit prompts us.
14)# ’From this day on I will bless you.’
Haggai 2:19 (15-19)
This promise is for all who obey the Lord. God’s words to the Israelites accompanied his call on them to return to him. Living outside God’s pattern for life had proved futile. It was time for them to think carefully and change the way they lived, so as to enjoy the goodness that God had for them.
God pours out his goodness in many ways. For the Israelites, God promised an abundant harvest. For others, like you and me, it may be his provision for our daily needs or healthy relationships with family, friends or at work. His blessing comes with assurance, joy and peace, even in difficult times. His blessing is not dependant on our circumstances or material wealth. God’s desire to bless, reflects who he is and is not weakened over time.
Then his blessing is inexhaustible. ‘From this day on...’ There is no end to what the Lord offers his people. Undeserved, impartial, unending. The Lord’s blessing is available to all who walk in obedience to him and that includes you and me. In Christ we share in this blessing given by God, all those years ago, which still stands.
15)# ’Return home and tell.’
Luke 8:39 (34-39)
It may not be the place we would choose, but it is the best place to tell what Jesus has done for us. The man who had been set free from demons by Jesus wanted to go with him, to be part of Christ’s itinerant ministry. But Jesus knew that this man could be most effective back home.
An experience at the Christian convention or holiday can be dramatic and exciting, but the reality of any change in us is proved at home, where we live and work. In the everyday situations and run-of-the-mill events we must make known what Jesus has done for us. Those who know us, will be the best to see the difference Jesus makes.
The need to tell others is also key to this directive. Keep quiet and nobody needs to know. But if our experience of Jesus is real, then we will want to tell others. It is not about either speaking or living as a Christian, it’s about both living for and speaking about Jesus. So let’s do both today.
16)# ’Floodgates of heaven.’
Malachi 3:10 (6-12)
So different from the Israelites. They had become tight-fisted, concerned that they should have enough for themselves rather than giving to the Lord. As a result, even what they had was destroyed and their hearts were now far from God. Putting ourselves first distances us from God and will always leave us short.
But God loves to give and he doesn’t change. The God who wants to throw open the floodgates of heaven is the same heavenly Father who lavishes his love on his children (1 Jn 3:1). Our reluctance to put God first at times, can deny us these blessings.
God loves a cheerful giver because God himself delights in giving. As we give ourselves afresh to the Lord today, give cheerfully, give generously and give everything. We’ll not go short; our heavenly Father will make sure of that.
17)# ’Set apart Christ as Lord.’
1 Peter 3:15 (13-17)
Setting apart is a deliberate action. A decision is taken to separate something from everything else. A clear distinction is made.
There are many things that can have ‘lordship’ in our lives. It may be a relationship, job aspirations, a new image or a particular lifestyle. The desires of the heart can be many and varied. But for the disciple of Christ, Peter gives this advice. Just as we have been set apart unto God by the Spirit, so we must make sure that Christ is set apart as Lord - first and foremost in our hearts and lives.
There can be no sharing of first place. There can be no ‘both…and’ here. If Christ is to be Lord then all else must be subject to him. It is a decision you and I have to make, day by day, as we offer ourselves as those living sacrifices.
18)# ’Remember the poor.’
Galatians 2:10 (6-10)
This is more than simply watching a news bulletin or responding to an appeal. More than a passing thought and then getting on with life as usual. This is to be mindful of the poor to the point of empathising with them, feeling for them in their situation.
Remembering in this way will have an impact on our lives. It will affect the way we live, our attitudes to what we have and how we use our wealth. It will lead to action, just as it did in the early Church. Possessions and goods were sold so that no-one was in need. With the help of Christian relief agencies, we can still do the same today. The less we need, the more we can give to others.
Jesus blessed the poor and hungry and warned the rich and well-fed. Remember the poor now and it will not be forgotten by Jesus.
19)# ’Seek the Lord and live.’
Amos 5:6 (4-6)
The people of Israel had yet again drifted away from the Lord even whilst enjoying his blessing and provision. They felt secure and were spiritually smug. They had begun to add their own rules and places for worship and took liberties with God’s law, reinterpreting it to suit their own desires. They were playing with holy fire and judgement was coming, even whilst they enjoyed a life of ease.
What a warning this is for us as the Church of Jesus today. Enjoying the blessings of our life in Christ must not become an excuse for unholy living. Some in the Corinthian Church had misinterpreted their freedom in Christ and were rebuked by Paul. It’s easy for us to do the same and allow worldly attitudes and lifestyles, that are incompatible with Biblical teaching, to become acceptable within the Church. We are not called to please men or accommodate popular culture. We are called to ‘seek the Lord and live.’ Sadly many Israelites did not heed the warnings or respond to the invitation from God, and suffered the consequences of their sin. Let’s not be like them.
20)# ’Right in front of Jesus.’
Luke 5:19 (17-26)
There is no better place for us to be. These four friends knew that, only too well, and so were willing to go to any lengths to get their sick friend into that place. Mary from Bethany also knew it and was willing to take the scolding of her sister, Martha, rather than miss out on what Jesus had to say. Whatever it takes to get to Jesus, it is worth it. Some, like Bartimaeus had to shout; some, like Zacchaeus climbed trees; others, like Nicodemus came at night; but all ended up right in front of Jesus and each one experienced the healing and wholeness he gives.
Whenever we come, whatever we need, we’ll always be welcomed by Jesus and find that he has something more that we can know, learn or receive. Let’s aim to make it a priority each day. Let’s not be put off, let’s not be discouraged. Let’s not stop until we are there, right in front of Jesus.
21)# ’ “Even now” declares the Lord.’
Joel 2:12 (11-14)
However far we may have gone from the Lord, ‘even now’ we can start coming back. Despite the persistent sin of the Israelites, and their continual desire for other gods, the Lord calls them back to himself and gives them another opportunity to enjoy his blessing.
It may be that things have gone badly wrong in our lives and we wonder if there is a way back to God. Well, however deep the pit is, in which we find ourselves, God’s love is deeper still. ‘Even now’ we can call out to the Lord and he will lift us up and set our feet on solid ground. We may have to deal with the consequences, but we won’t be on our own.
Joel reassures the people of the Lord's graciousness, compassion and love and of his offer of salvation to all. So come, even now, as the Holy Spirit urges, to receive the welcome, forgiveness and restoration that the Lord Jesus alone can give.
22)# ’I will also acknowledge him.’
Matthew 10:32 (26-33)
This is no mere nod of the head. This is a specific mention by name, deliberate and personal. Just as we deliberately speak of Jesus as our Saviour and Lord to those around us, so Jesus will openly declare us to be his children to his Father in heaven. What a precious promise this is and one not to be missed.
To be mentioned by name is special. To be named by Jesus is salvation. The Shepherd knows his sheep and calls them by name. We’re not simply one of a flock, we’re individuals and Jesus speaks of us to his Father one by one, by name. If we want to have our names mentioned in heaven, then we need to speak to others of Jesus being our Saviour.
But a cautionary note follows, that if we disown Christ he will disown us. To follow Christ is not passive, but active. So let’s be active in speaking of Christ today.
23)# ’But only in pretence.’
Jeremiah 3:10 (6-10)
From the outside, everything seemed alright. The people of Judah said the right things, did the right things and under King Josiah, appeared to turn back to the Lord. But it was all show, all talk, all pretence. The Lord knew that their hearts were still going after other gods and he was not fooled by the outward appearance.
The danger of pretence for all of us is that, given long enough, we can come to believe it ourselves. We can think that so long as we obey God in most things, that is enough. We convince ourselves that one or two misdemeanours won’t affect our relationship with God. Judah ‘had no fear’ and as a result, went after other gods. A lack of respect for the Lord can lead to a casual approach in the way we live. So let’s resolve to be honest with the Lord, with others and with ourselves - and not to pretend.
24)# ’Remember Jesus Christ.’
2 Timothy 2:8 (1-10)
With the pressure of everyday life, it can be easy to forget or grow weary. Paul wrote these words to Timothy as an encouragement to keep going. Timothy was finding out that to live as a servant of Christ was not always easy. It can be the same for us, and the reason to remember Jesus, is because he is the reason to keep going. Remember what he has done for us. Remember he became poor so that we might become rich. Remember he died so that we might live. Remember his resurrection so that we too might be raised to new life.
Paul encourages Timothy to ‘be strong, endure hardship’ then states the reward for all who do. ‘If we endure, we will also reign with him’. Jesus gave us a simple meal to help us to remember him whenever we meet as Church. Recalling the past gives us reason to press on for the future – until he comes again.
25)# ’Keep your gifts for yourself.’
Daniel 5:17 (13-17)
Belshazzar wanted to influence what Daniel said. But Daniel was not open to a bribe. He knew that the gifts of man are nothing compared with being right before God. His service for God was not going to be compromised by the riches offered by the king. Belshazzar had set himself up against God. He had no regard for what was holy and now faced God’s judgement. In contrast Daniel feared God more than he feared the king and chose to lose the temporary rewards of the world in order to remain right before God.
For all who want to live in obedience to the Lord, there will be times when the offers of the world must be rejected. Whatever might cause us to surrender our integrity before God must be spurned. Society will ask us to compromise, to tolerate, to be reasonable, to ignore Biblical truth. Daniel’s example is there for us to follow, so whether it’s in the home, amongst friends or at work, let’s make the right choices, today.
26)# ’Humble yourselves before the Lord.’
James 4:10 (7-12)
This is something we must do for ourselves. It speaks of an attitude of the heart. Others can humiliate us, but that causes hurt and shame. But for those who humble themselves before the Lord, the promise is that he will lift them up. Jesus said, ‘everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’
A right view of ourselves comes as we bow before the Lord. A few verses earlier, James encourages us to submit ourselves to God. We do this knowing that God wants the best for us, long-term. His Spirit will reveal those areas of our lives that need attention and his forgiveness brings healing to all who ask. Cleansing is needed each and every day and is available for all who will humble themselves before him. So let’s bow before the Lord today, then let him lift us up and reaffirm us as being chosen ‘in Christ’.
27)# ’Close to the broken-hearted.’
Psalm 34:18 (15-22)
A broken heart cannot be repaired by the surgeon’s skill or set in a plaster cast. Broken hearts don’t always show on the outside and they can last for years. Disappointments, damaged relationships, angry words, can all cause hearts to break. When the psalmist wrote these words he did so on the basis of his own personal experience, little knowing that the Lord, of whom he wrote, would one day die of a broken heart on the cross of Calvary, forsaken by his Father, for a broken world. But his wounds now bring healing and his resurrection gives hope to those who despair.
Christ knows what it is like and so can draw close to those who hurt deep inside. He alone can bind up the broken-hearted and bring healing from the past. Let’s come to him today so that he can begin to restore us deep within.
28)# ’All she had to live on.’
Mark 12:44 (41-44)
This was in sharp contrast to everyone else. They had all kept something back for themselves, but not this widow. Unnoticed by many, she was seen by Jesus and is recorded as an example to us all.
It can be relatively easy to give, so long as we have enough for ourselves. Far harder to give when it will leave us short or even without. This widow gave everything she had because God was everything she needed. Her very life now depended on him. It was emptied of everything else.
Only an emptied life can be filled by the Holy Spirit. What we give or keep back will be a measure of our love for God or for other things. Such was her love that this lady gave all she had and kept nothing back. Since God in Christ gave everything for us, let us follow this lady’s example and give our all to him.
29)# ’We have heard.’
Joshua 2:10 (8-14)
Thank God for those who told Rahab. Who was it? We don’t know. Perhaps they were unaware that she was listening or maybe she’d heard several people speak about what Jehovah God had done. We are not told. What we are told is that Rahab responded to what she heard.
Throughout the Bible, there are certain women who make their mark because they take action when others around them don’t. Rahab is one of these women and, not only does she save her family, but she becomes an integral part of God’s bigger plan.
We may not be aware of who is listening, but God can take what we say about him and make it count for his glory. What you may say today in passing, God may use to change a person’s life forever and fulfil another part of his plan. So let’s talk about Jesus and all that he has done for us, as much as we can. It won’t be wasted.
30)# ’Where is the one…?’
Matthew 2:2 (1-8)
It helps to know who or what you are looking for. Better still is to know where to look. The Magi from the east had little to go on other than their knowledge of prophetic records and the siting of an unusual star. But drawn by the Holy Spirit, they came in search of the promised Messiah.
Today there are people searching for the One who alone can satisfy the longings of the heart. Yet many do not know who they long for or where he can be found. They can spend many years looking in the wrong places for the wrong one. As the Holy Spirit stirs their hearts, so we need to be ready to help them come to Christ. Getting people to church may be a start, but that’s not it. Encouraging them to be good and religious is not the answer. They need to encounter the One, the Messiah, the Christ, who alone can forgive sin and give peace with God. Be alert to those who are seeking spiritual truth and lead them to Jesus today.
31)# ’Break up your unploughed ground.’
Hosea 10:12 (9-12)
We all have areas of our lives that need to be broken up. Areas of stubborn resistance to the work of the Holy Spirit; habits and attitudes from the old nature that we are content to leave unattended. Well, listen to what God says.
Unploughed ground becomes waste land. It no longer produces a harvest but gives room for weeds and thistles to grow. The danger is that weeds can spread into other areas and begin to pollute the productive ground. Areas of our lives that are not given over to the Holy Spirit can affect our whole being and prevent us from enjoying the fullness of life in Christ.
Just as the Lord longed to give the Israelites the very best, so he wants the very best for his people today. So let’s give the Holy Spirit access to those unploughed areas of our lives, that righteousness might grow.