A moveable altar

2019-09-07
Exodus 27:8 NCV

The altar in the tabernacle was a place where sacrifices were offered in worship to God. And He knew exactly how it was to be built: ‘Make the altar out of boards and leave the inside hollow.’ A stone or metal structure would have been heavy to transport, whereas a hollow wooden altar could be carried on poles and travel along with the Israelites. The image of a moveable altar is a reminder that while we should be part of a local church, we are not restricted to worshipping God in a particular location. We can do it anywhere. The Bible tells us to ‘continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise’ (Hebrews 13:15 NIV). Wherever we are we can worship Him. And that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to sing; we can worship Him by making sure the attitude of our heart, no matter what we are doing, is positive and that we are focused on Him. Whether we are at home, at work, in the supermarket, at the gym, or in the classroom, our everyday activities can become ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:5 NIV). By sharing a word of encouragement, giving our time and money to help someone in need, or making a decision based on integrity instead of what will make us popular, we are honouring God. Jesus said, ‘Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16 NIV). When others see that we are willing to do the right and godly things in a world that often does the opposite, they will see God in us. His glory will shine through our worship.

Ezek 40:10-42:20; Matt 24:15-25; Ps 78:17-31; Prov 20:15-19

Our life’s purpose

2019-09-05
John 18:37 NKJV

Standing before Pilate, Jesus said, ‘For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.’ Jesus knew why He was born and what He was called to do; He was focused on His purpose. Do we know our life’s purpose? Are we focused on what God’s called us to do? It can be so easy to drift through life without really ever finding our purpose. We just get on with living our lives and don’t stop to consider that there might be something more for us. Equally, we can fall into the trap of living for the wrong purposes. We can end up striving for worldly things like success, fame, money, and approval. We can become so focused on those things that we lose sight of God and His purposes for our lives. We are too busy doing our own thing. The Bible tells us that ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21). When we value things like money and success above God, our heart will be focused on the wrong things. We may even think that we need those things in order to be valuable. But when we know for sure why we were created and Who created us, we will be focused on fulfilling the purpose God gave us. Living for our purpose is the only thing that brings a God-given assurance of success. The Bible tells us that ‘we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). He has things for us to do. Are we willing to set aside our own purposes and desires to do them?

Ezek 34-36; Matt 23:23-39; Ps 78:1-8; Prov 20:7-10

Prayer

2019-05-30
Colossians 4:2 NIV

What do we do when we’re under pressure, stressed, overwhelmed, and facing challenging circumstances? Do we turn to God or do we turn away? As life becomes more and more pressurised, we need to pray more, not less. Jesus rose before dawn to pray. Sometimes He prayed all night. Other times He left the crowds to pray (take a look at Luke 5:16 and Matthew 14:23). He valued time with God, even above doing the things God had called Him to do. Our kingdom work is hugely important, but time spent deepening our relationship with God is even more important. Our power, peace, joy, and effectiveness are directly related to the time we spend in God’s presence, and we do that through prayer. It isn’t just about listing off all the things we need or desire. It’s about cultivating a close relationship with a Father and a Friend. Through that relationship, we learn to trust Him when things get hard. But, just like any friendship, it needs to be prioritised. We can’t expect to feel close to God in the hard times, if we haven’t spent time talking to Him in the good ones. But we can often struggle to pray every day. Prayer requires discipline that only we can put in place. It’s up to us to decide to prioritise prayer. The Bible says: ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.’ How devoted are we? How much do we desire to spend time talking to God? How willing are we to sit and listen to what He wants to say to us? It doesn’t matter about the words we use, God’s interested in the heart we come with. We need to wholeheartedly seek God and bring our problems to Him.

Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11; Eph 4:7-10

Friends with God (3)

2019-04-13
Psalm 103:7 NIV

Moses said to God: ‘If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you’ (Exodus 33:13 NIVUK). Israel was in a crisis that threatened their relationship with God, but Moses didn’t pray, ‘Lord, please resolve it for me’. Instead he prayed, ‘Teach me Your ways so I may know You.’ He wanted more than just information about God, he wanted intimacy with Him: to know His heart and mind – how He thought and felt about the situation. Knowing God and having His favour would bring all the other things he needed, including a solution to the crisis. And God gave him what he asked for. ‘He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.’ God responded to Moses’ request, saying, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’ (Exodus 33:14 NIV). In the Hebrew text ‘you’ is singular. God promised to accompany Moses and give rest only to him. But this wasn’t enough for Moses. His prayer went beyond his own concerns: ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here’ (v. 15 NIV). Are our prayers bigger than ourselves and our own needs? The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world’ (John 3:16 NIV). Do we love the world too? Do we care that people are struggling and need God? Do we have a heart for people who don’t yet know Jesus? Are we willing to make sure our prayers don’t always focus on our own needs but that they focus on our family, our town, and the world?

Dan 5-7; Luke 22:47-53; Ps 103:1-12; Prov 10:13

Be ready. Be wise. Be clear.

2019-02-09
Acts 8:35 CEV

In Acts chapter eight we read the story of a high-profile leader who was won to Christ. This man held a position similar to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain and the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States. And he was led to Christ by a low-profile person called Philip, a church deacon (See vv. 26-40). Let’s look at how it happened and see what we can learn: (1) Philip was ready. When this man needed someone to explain the gospel to him, Philip was ready to do it. Could you have done that? When God has a job that needs to be done, could He call on you? Would you be prepared? And willing? “If anybody asks you why you believe as you do…tell him” (1 Peter 3:15 TLB). (2) Philip was wise. He didn’t barge in and start preaching, or put this man on the spot by asking “gotcha” questions. Note two things about Philip: (a) He was led by God’s spirit (See Acts 8:29 CEV). (b) He recognized the right moment (See v. 35 CEV). Good soul-winners are sensitive and strategic. (3) Philip was clear. Instead of a vague dialogue about religion, he spoke directly about Jesus. That’s what people need – a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ! They need to know He’s alive, and that He loves them. That He’s powerful enough to run the universe, yet personal enough to forgive their sins, break their habits, and resolve their doubts. Your job is to extend the invitation, and let Jesus do the rest. Do you need a soul-winning strategy? Try this one – it works!

Soul food: Isa 53:1-12; Acts 8:26-40