Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! (Isaiah 64:1)

Thought

I have a growing desire to see the Lord move powerfully among his people in our time. The more I read the bible and get to know the word of God, the more I want to see his face and feel his strength in my life. I have recently come to realise that although I have developed a good habit of daily bible study, I have yet to match that discipline with a good habit of regular prayer. Today’s passage is a perfectly timed expression in scripture of how I feel about the situation. The passage expresses the desire to see God reveal himself in great and mighty acts just like the examples we read about in scripture. It acknowledges that God works for those who wait for him, which I have come to understand means, specifically, those who wait in faithful expectation that he will hear and answer their prayers. The passage also recognises our terrible unworthiness and state of utter sinfulness. And still, even though we so clearly need salvation and mercy, no one calls on the name of the Lord to ask for it!

Word:

Isaiah 64:1-9 NLT

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways. But you have been very angry with us, for we are not godly. We are constant sinners; how can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. Yet no one calls on your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins. And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. Don’t be so angry with us, Lord. Please don’t remember our sins forever. Look at us, we pray, and see that we are all your people.

Goal:

If we want the Lord to save the lost and build up the church – his bride, and if we want to see him extend his heavenly kingdom, then we must pray. My goal is to cry out to God in fervent prayer. I want to encourage those I know to join me in calling on the name of the Lord. I long to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit among us, working with real heavenly power to convict the hearts of all those who are seeking God.

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 62:6-65:25, Philippians 2:19-3:4, Psalms 73:1-28, Proverbs 24:13-14

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You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:5)

Thought:

Many times I have heard it preached that we need to try and be more Christ like. When I was baptised, my father gave me a copy of “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis (which I have often thought of as the ultimate Thought-Word-Goal.) The minister of my own church ran a study series earlier in the year entitled “The Like Jesus Life”. As much as I agree that to be like Jesus is the aim, I most often find myself discouraged by just how far short of that ideal I fall. Today’s passage begins, at first glance with exactly the same thought. However, crucially, it doesn’t say we must achieve like Jesus, only that we must have the same attitude as Jesus. And that attitude is essentially one of humility. Jesus was and remains God. He was with God during the creation, he sits with God in heaven now and will be there in majesty until he returns, bringing the new heaven and the new earth. But he became a man and humbled himself in the face of death, even one a terrible as crucifixion. And then God raised him up to glory, and every knee bows at his name, angels, men and demons alike confess that he is Lord.

Word:

Philippians 2:5-11 NLT

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Goal:

So I find that I must embrace humility as my goal today. I have come to realise, over and over again on this daily journey through the Bible, that it is not possible to do the work God asks us to by our own strength. I have learned that God’s glory only has space to shine through when he uses the poorest, most humble people to demonstrate his great strength. It is only when we are truly humble in the service of our Lord that he can lift us up and his true glory can be revealed. When powerful people win through the world despises them, but when the humble underdog wins through, the whole world stands on its feet and cheers. I pray for the humility of Jesus, that God might want to lift me up high enough and win through far enough, to grab the attention of some of those in the world who don’t yet know of his great power and boundless love.

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 60:1-62:5, Philippians 1:27-2:18, Psalms 72:1-20, Proverbs 24:11-12

Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)

Thought:

Today’s passage reminds me of a time, a few years ago, when I was in Birmingham on tour with the opera. It seemed to me that all the major faiths were out on the streets spreading their various messages. I particularly remember the heavy sense of disappointment I felt when I found a bunch of Christian street preachers taking turns to stand on a box and wave their bibles in the air. That they were preaching at all was lost on me. It was almost impossible to hear them over the happy din the Hare Krishna group were making right next to them. I was almost angry with the street preachers for making such a pathetic impact. One of them noticed me watching and scowling and came over to talk to me. I let my frustration out and really laid into him, asking what the point was and did they really think they were doing any good, etc etc… His response was calm, brief and utterly humbling. He said, “we have no power to persuade people on our own, we are here to serve the Lord whose message we are preaching. We trust that the Lord will convict people’s hearts, our job is just to believe that and preach the message.” Even if those brave street preachers didn’t touch another soul that Saturday, I certainly learned a valuable lesson from them and I hope I never forget it.

Word:

Philippians 1:12-19 NLT

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.

Goal:

Paul is keen to share that his imprisonment, far from hindering his ministry, has in fact enhanced it and arguably, made it more credible, more powerful even. My goal, therefore is firstly to trust that the business of converting people into believers is the Holy Spirit’s, not mine, and secondly, to have faith that my circumstances, however pathetic, can be used powerfully in the service of God. I must remember that all things are possible for God, especially when his followers obey his will. I hope my motives will always be pleasing to God, but above all, I hope I can stay as motivated as those street preachers I saw in Birmingham.

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 57:15-59:21, Philippians 1:1-26, Psalms 71:1-24, Proverbs 24:9-10

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of win e or milk— it’s all free! (Isaiah 55:1)

Thought:

These days I sometimes struggle to believe that Isaiah is actually in the Old Testament. It is stuffed full of the kind of things Jesus taught and demonstrated. This passage calls to my mind the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in the village of Sychar (John ch.4 – there are also echoes of Revelation.) You see I am still surprised to find that the whole bible is about Jesus, not just the New Testament. I know it’s a simple point but I think it bears repeating: the early church only had the old testament to work with. The whole new testament has come from the truth of the old covenant scripture being lived out in the light of Jesus by the apostles and their followers in the early church. Imagine many people, whole peoples in fact, running to obey the Lord because your example, the example of your own life, was such a great example of the glory and power of God!

Word:

Isaiah 55:1-7 NLT

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. See how I used him to display my power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.” Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

Goal:

My goal today is to take seriously Isaiah’s advice in verse 6 of today’s passage: Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him while he is near. I have realised very recently that all of this very earnest and worthy bible study that I have been engaged in all this year, if not combined with a regular and faithful calling out to the Lord in prayer, is all just ideas. I want to taste and share with others, this amazing and abundant free banquet that the Lord has promised us today in the book of Isaiah. I am genuinely seeking the Lord and I call out to him to come near and hear my prayer. I pray that all we who believe in Jesus
would cry out to the Lord together in the great hope that his spirit would fill us all to overflowing. Then perhaps, when they can see God’s power in us, perhaps nations of people who do not yet know the Lord, seeing his glory in us might come running to find him.

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 54:1-57:14, Ephesians 6:1-24, Psalms 70:1-5, Proverbs 24:8

And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely in my hand. (Isaiah 51:16)

Thought:

In todays passage we hear the Lord’s voice in a truly fatherly tone. He reminds us through his prophet Isaiah, that all our needs are met by him and him alone. Even the sky, which he made, is a protective canopy, the very ground upon which we stand with unquestioning security was created by him. Even the thoughts we have, and the words we speak have been given to us from God. Nothing is truly man made, he says, so why be afraid of mere humans? How can they possibly have the power to inspire such a dread of oppression? He reminds us that it is he, our father, that will comfort us and release us from our captivity. We are God’s own people, he reminds us, and as such, we will not be prisoners, we will not starve and neither will we die.

Word:

Isaiah 51:12-16 NLT

“I, yes I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear? Yet you have forgotten the Lord, your Creator, the one who stretched out the sky like a canopy and laid the foundations of the earth. Will you remain in constant dread of human oppressors? Will you continue to fear the anger of your enemies? Where is their fury and anger now? It is gone! Soon all you captives will be released! Imprisonment, starvation, and death will not be your fate! For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea, causing its waves to roar. My name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely in my hand. I stretched out the sky like a canopy and laid the foundations of the earth. I am the one who says to Israel, ‘You are my people!’”

Goal:

It is so easy to go through life trying one’s best not to draw attention to ones self. This is best achieved by blending in and doing what everyone else seems to be doing. This is really just a huge fear of the anger of those who we perceive as potential enemies. My goal is to realise that under the protection of God, while I am safely in his hand, those imagined enemies simply melt away. My new faith in Jesus acts like a genuine release from the prison of anxiety and fear that once held me in its grip. I can rejoice in the promise that in Jesus I will never again be imprisoned, starved or threatened with death again. But what is far more wonderful, is that the Lord has put his very own precious words into my mouth, and therefore I will serve him with my mouth. I will cry out in prayer to the Lord that he will greatly bless and empower me to speak his word boldly to his people.

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 51:1-53:12, Ephesians 5:1-33, Psalms 69:19-36, Proverbs 24:7

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. (Ephesians 4:22)

Thought:

I find more and more as I write these daily devotionals, that there are things written in the scriptures which although true, are extremely difficult to say to people who are not accustomed to hearing the Bible talked about often. I mean non believers, those who consider themselves not to be religious and those who have no place for church in their busy modern lives. To say to people who believe themselves to be good and morally upright, law-abiding citizens that actually, they have no sense of shame, live a life of lust and deception, all the while practicing impurity, would be to invite an extremely hostile response. But is the fear of a hostile response a reason not to try. After all, imagine the hostility the early Christians faced. Actually we don’t have to imagine it, we can read about it in the book of Acts and the letters of Paul. Those first believers faced sudden imprisonment, torture and execution. They took repeated public beatings and stonings. Why? Because they had seen the light of Jesus and the power of it in their lives and they passionately wanted those, whose minds were still full of darkness, to know the brilliantly good news of Jesus. Paul knew that if the believers could really stop living like they used to, then, wearing this new God given, God like nature, they would reveal true holiness to the Gentiles.

Word:

Ephesians 4:17-24 NLT

With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Goal:

My goal is simple and yet terrifying. I want to literally throw off my former way of life and the old sinful nature that comes attached to it. I want to believe in the new nature, the truly righteous and holy nature, that God has created for me to wear like a cloak. I know that my old way of life falls so far short of the life that Jesus teaches, that I must leave it all behind and let the Holy Spirit renew my thoughts and attitude from now on. I fear that this urgent goal will mean a complete overhaul of my life. But this passage begins with Paul’s specific assurance that he speaks on this point with the Lord’s authority. Therefore I will put my trust entirely in the Lord, and with prayer and in great faith, I will take steps to throw off my former way of life.

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 48:12-50:11, Ephesians 4:17-32, Psalms 69:1-18, Proverbs 24:5-6

lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. (Ephesians 4:1)

Thought:

All too often as we read the bible and hear the gospel preached we focus on how we can learn to be better individuals. We strive to resist temptation and pray that the Lord would deliver us from evil. But this letter to the Ephesians, as with all the letters of the New Testament, is addressed to a whole community of believers. They have each been individually convicted by the Holy Spirit but also, and just as importantly, they have been called together as a community of faith. Paul begs the whole community to live communally in a manner worthy of that calling. He cites three key virtues that can help maintain the unity of the church community: humility, gentleness and patience. These are the qualities that make it possible for us to make allowances for the faults of others. Paul makes the point that it is by making these allowances for the failings of others that true unity of spirit is possible. Without this unity there is no sense of church. Instead of a temple built out of living stones, (1 Peter 2:5) there is just a pile of rubble. God’s glorious hope for the future is one of harmony and unity among his people, when the Holy Spirit will flow through the community, live in all of us and hold us together in faith and love. (Philippians 1:27 and Revelation 21:3-4)

Word:

Ephesians 4:1-6 NLT

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

Goal:

I have been increasingly aware for some time that perhaps I am not leading a life that is altogether worthy of my calling. This is relevant in two main areas. I could try harder to rid myself of some old, non Christian practices and habits that still linger. And I could do much more to play a more active role in the church community to which I have become attached. My goal is to put my failures in to the context of the whole church. No one person is perfect and neither is any one church. So I will take each of the qualities in today’s passage: humility, gentleness and patience, and try to apply them more in my own life. At the same time, I will look for them and respect them when I find these qualities in the other members of my church fellowship. I will make allowance for the faults of others and hope that in return, they will make allowances for mine. I will seek to find, and encourage others to pursue, a true unity of fellowship at church.

Today’s readings:

Isaiah 45:11-48:11, Ephesians 4:1-16, Psalms 68:19-35, Proverbs 24:3-4