You might not be aware of this, but this blog is the result of our church (Reconciliation Road Church – http://www.recroadchurch.co.za) having an in-house Bible Reading Plan where for the last 7yrs each month we choose a book of the Bible or a theme that we read through together as a church. These devotionals on this blog are just a support to that personal Bible reading.
For the next 10-weeks, we as a church (starting today) are following the NEW CITY CATECHISM designed by Tim Keller and Redeemer Church (NY). So these devotionals will pause until that is finished.
However, I can highly recommend that you download the free APP and follow along with the Catechism which we believe is going to help our congregation grow deeper in God and they contemplate and pray into the truths of Scripture regarding our faith.
You can download the app on the Google Play Store or Apple Store by clicking on this link – http://newcitycatechism.com/mobile-apps/
We will resume our normal BRP and devotionals after the Catechism ends around the 1st of April 2020.
Why is the birth of Jesus so important?
I think many people cherish Christmas for different reasons. The unbelievers will be excited because it is a time where families come together and gifts are opened. Christians might feel that Christmas is important as it is Jesus’s birthday and it is important to celebrate the birth of someone special in your life.
You see, the birth of Jesus Christ was not like the birth of anyone else. We do not only celebrate the birth of Jesus because this is the day He was born. No, we celebrate the birth of Jesus because of what it means to us and the world around us.
What does the angel say to the shepherds in the midst of the glory of God? (Verse 10 and 11)
Verse 10: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.”
Now what is this great joyous news?
Verse 11: “For unto you is born this day..a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
This is the reason the multitudes of heavenly hosts praised God by saying “glory to God in the highest”; for it is by God’s gracious mercy that He sent His son, His only son, that we might be saved. Oh, how He loves us!
This, I believe, is the main reason why the shepherds walked away from the birth of Jesus by “glorifying and praising God”. Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour of Israel, the one everyone has been prophesying about for thousands of years, was born!
I don’t know about you, but I have too many times before only celebrated Christmas by rejoicing in the birth of Christ and not also in what His birth has meant for me.
Salvation is possible because God decided to send His Son! Hallelujah ! Praise the Lord !
As we celebrate the birth of Christ today, let us also thank God for the reason He sent his son to us. Take some time out of your day to sit down for 5 minutes and focus on the real reason for Christmas: Jesus Christ. Do not let another Christmas slip away without doing as the shepherds did, for when they heard the news they went hastily to God. Go to Him for He is worthy to be praised, salvation is in his name!
When starting to read a new book, it is always helpful to contextualise what is being said. The second book of Timothy is written by Paul in a very challenging time. Paul is writing this book out of captivity, in a time where many other believers have distanced themselves from him because they are ashamed of being associated with a prisoner.
Paul thus starts of by affirming his own identity: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”. Paul makes a statement saying: I am not what others think of me, neither am I what I think of myself, but I am who Jesus says I am. This might sound arrogant, but it is not, it is beautiful.
Paul then proceeds to give us a beautiful picture of his relationship with Timothy and the relationship spiritual parents should have with their spiritual children:
- Timothy is deeply loved by Paul (even as much as a “beloved child”) (verse 2)
- Paul prays for Timothy (verse 3)
- Paul is thankful for Timothy in his life
- Paul sees his relationship as joyous, not a burden or something that steals his time (4)
- He affirms Timothy and the faith within him (verse 5)
What a beautiful picture of spiritual mentorship!
Now, back to what Paul actually wants to say to Timothy. I think verse 8 encapsulates what Paul is trying to say to Timothy here:
‘…do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord (the Gospel), nor of me his prisoner (associating with Christians), but share in the suffering for the gospel…”
Paul starts of the book of 2 Timothy focussing on the gospel of Christ, the core of the christian faith. Verse 8-10 is a beautiful rendition of the gospel and Paul uses this to remind Timothy what this is all about, what all the suffering is for.
He encourages Timothy to ‘fan into flame the gift of God’ given to him and to not be afraid to spread the gospel ‘for God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”.
This challenges me, you see Paul was a well esteemed man, he was known throughout Israel, he was educated and revered, yet He was willing to lay his life down for the gospel of Christ.He is not writing in a time where everything is going his way. No, he is writing out of a prison in the middle of a trail. He has been stripped of everything he had and he chooses to preach the gospel in and out of season. (You see suffering is not void of Christ and the things of Christ)
2 Timothy 1: 11 & 12
“ I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed , for I KNOW whom I have believed”
Paul knew God, he had His desires and that is why he went. Just like Paul we have been appointed, let us flame into fire our gifts and not be afraid or ashamed of being associated with the Christ.
1. Do you believe what Christ says about you: that you are chosen and called, that your sins are forgiven and that you will be raised from the dead as Christ was raised from the dead to spread the good news?
2. Are you ashamed of God and His people?
3. Are you willing to sacrifice all you have so others might know God?
Christ gave it all for us and sacrificed Himself on a cross.
Romans 12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers, through the compassions of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy to God, well-pleasing, which is your reasonable service.
God has been Israel’s God since the exodus when He delivered them from Egypt (vs4). Israel knew no other God’s but Him. God looked after Israel in the Wilderness (vs5) but when they entered into the prosperity of the Promised Land they did the very thing God warned them not to do (Deuteronomy 7-8) – ‘they forgot me’ says God (vs6).
Israel’s sin, compromise & idolatry has lead them to this place they are in now and have been in for hundreds of years – Baal worship (idols) and even child sacrifice (vs1-3).
And this is why God speaking of being is like a lion, leopard or a bear towards Israel (vs7-8), this is why God promises to ‘destroy you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper’ (vs9).
God traces the problem back to the days when He warned Israel of not forgetting him when He brought them into the Promised Land, and God also traces it back to the time when they rejected God as their king and clamoured for an earthly king like the nations around. At that time, God warned them that those kings would make their lives a misery and lead them astray – and this is precisely what happened when you read the history of Israel (vs9-10).
Israel refuses to let go of its sin & repent like a baby who refuses to be born (vs12-13). And so ‘Samaria shall bear her guilt because she has rebelled against her God” (vs16).
Here as elsewhere in Hosea’s prophecies, we have what Mark Dever calls the riddle of the old testament; “God is Holy, and we are not!”
We cannot be faithful to God; our kings will fail us, our prophets & priests will let us down. We need a better Saviour; we need a better prophet, priest and king – we need Jesus!
As believers, we have an ancient faith with a modern face! Even though this letter is nearly 2000yrs old, the contents of it still apply today, and the practices and problems of these early Christ Followers are still essentially the same for us today in 2019.
So, what can we learn about our ancient faith from these 6verses? And what is God speaking to you about from them today for your life?
In vs2 we read that Paul and his team were constantly in prayer for these believers. He had shared the Gospel with them but then after only 2-3 weeks had to leave Thessalonica.
So now, separated from them, he continued with what he could do – Paul kept on praying for them. An incredible amount of impact can be made simply through being on our knees in prayer!
Paul knew that he could not assist these believers physically, but he knew that prayer was not just some blessed thoughts but essential for their growth in God and their protection in what was a hostile situation.
Paul was, therefore, constant in prayer for them. How about your life? Is prayer a constant in your life? Prayer is ‘weakness leaning on omnipotence’ – WS Boyd. Are you leaning on God through prayer for others who’s life situations vitally need you praying for them?
“Prayer is an ordinary means to accomplish supernatural ends.” – Mark Dever
Paul goes on to recount how these believers in Thessalonica responded to the Gospel (vs3-5)
The Gospel didn’t leave them unchanged; rather it resulted in three things;
- Work/effort that resulted from their faith in Jesus
- Labour motivated by love for God & people
- And steadfastness inspired by their hope in Jesus
When we are genuinely saved, we are not left unchanged. Thorough changes begin from deep within us but in time become evident to ourselves and to others.
Our energy is diverted & directed towards the things of God. Our efforts become motivated by the new central love in our hearts – love for God. And our lives become secure and stable because our eyes are fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
Think about the Gospel’s impact on your life. How has the Gospel redirected your life’s energy? How has your life-motivation changed? And how has your vision of the future been impacted because of what you know about Jesus?
Lastly, (vs5) Paul knew that these believers were truly saved because of the way that the power of God broke out amongst them when they believed. As Christ followers they were filled with the Holy Spirit and also filled with conviction.
Pray for greater demonstrations of the power of God in your life and in the life of your church. And pray for a real sense of conviction regarding the truth of the Gospel.
Numbers 13-14 are a sombre moment in the story of the Bible. A moment that the book of Hebrews reflects on over and over again, warning believers in Jesus to not be like these Israelites.
Israel’s unbelief and grumbling against God, so provoked God that eventually, God said; “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Numbers 14:11-12)
In His righteous anger, God declared that He would blot out His people and start again.
However, fortunately, God’s people had a leader who knew how to pray! And because He prayed, God relented. God didn’t wipe out the whole nation in an instant. Instead, God punished the 10 spies who brought a false report and then also punished the generation that didn’t believe – so that they never entered into their inheritance.
But in the midst of all of this, God also made a promise that wicked generation’s children – they would inherit the Promised Land.
So how did it come to pass that God relented, changing His mind by not instantly wiping out this generation? Moses prayed, and in his prayer, we can learn some things that we can imitate in our prayers;
- Moses Prayed for God to the Glorified: Moses prayed that God would protect the glory of His name, His glory. Moses urged God not to destroy His people because if He did, that would be misunderstood or derided, by the onlooking nations (Numbers 14:13-16). Moses called on God to act for the sake of the fame of His name.
- Moses Prayed based on who God is: As Moses prays, he recalls the encounter he had with God. When God revealed Himself by passing before him speaking the words that Moses now quotes in his prayer (see Exodus 34:6-7). God is the one who is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, who forgives sin yet remains just and righteous as the judge of the earth.
- Moses Prayed appealing to the Immutability of God: When Moses prayed; “As You have promised”(vs17) he was appealing to the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God. Moses knew that He could stand on the promises of God since God could not lie and would not change. And then in vs19 when Moses asks God to pardon His people, He asks God to merely continue being gracious to the people of Israel just as He had been consistently from their deliverance from Egypt to the present. Moses’ prayer is founded on the confidence of who God is, how God has acted in the past and in that God can not change (God is immutable).
- Moses Prayed that God would Forgive: On the back of these prayers for God’s name to be glorified, these prayers that appeal to the nature of who God is & how God has acted in the past Moses then makes his appeal and asks God to be gracious and merciful, Moses asks God to pardon His people (vs19).
And because Moses prayed, God changed His mind. Our Father God loves it when we pray when we come to Him, confident in the relationship that we have with Him through faith in Jesus. God loves it when we pray asking with confidence because of what we know about Him, WHO He is and HOW He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture and through our very own encounters of Him.
Why not use this structure that Moses prayed with to help form some of your prayers?
- How can you pray for God to be glorified in this situation?
- How does WHO God is, connect with this need/prayer?
- How does God being immutable help you pray with confidence now?
- Bring your request to God on the basis of these three things.
Twenty encounters with Jesus in 20 days of Bible Reading! That’s what we will be tracking with in September so join us.
As you read and meditate on God’s Word this month, our prayer is that you would learn about God from these encounters & that you yourself would encounter God as you spend time with Him in His Word.