Family Worship 'Helps'

Day 1


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — John 1:1-14


Message Scott Woodburn 


These are troubled days and all of us are without answers and often without comfort. Yet today God's people may have trouble but they are not without comfort. We trust in Christ. Who is this Christ? Some today say they like Jesus, He was a great teacher, if only His followers could be as good as He was. The same individuals however see Jesus as merely a good man, an example to be followed. Who is this Christ really? We are given the answer in the magnificent opening chapter of John's Gospel. He is God (v1-2), everything that has ever been made was made through Jesus (v3), in Christ there is life and light (v4) and Christ has not and will never be overcome by the darkness in this world (v5). His arrival was announced by John the Baptist (v6-8) because Christ is the King of kings and because God Himself was taking on flesh and dwelling among us (v14). Don't miss how important the coming of Christ was in human history. There has never been another moment like it. The Son of God came to that which He had created, He humbled Himself by taking on flesh and submitting Himself to our weakness and to the law of God (Galatians 4.4). This is extraordinary and amazingly He wasn't received by His own (v11). Yet today Christ remains our only hope and to all who receive Him, who believe in His name, He saves them and welcomes them into His family (v12-13). These are troubled days but Christ is still our only comfort in life and in death.


Pray (ac-ST)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.


Day 2

Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 46
Message Alan Burke
This time last week many of us were going about our business as normal, most of us could never have imagined that today we would be in a ‘lockdown’. The world has been thrown into chaos by something that we can’t even see.
At this time I direct our attention to the opening words of Psalm 46 (1-3). They remind the people of God how He is their strength and refuge, a very present help in trouble and as a result, they need not fear.
Fear what?
Well the picture given in v2-3 is of nature convulsing, an apocalyptic scene, creation is coming undone. Even so the
Lord though the psalmist is reminding those who are his that they have nothing to fear. For He is the eternal refuge of those who are His, He can provide help and strength in any circumstance, no matter what comes, even if the earth were to end, we can have confident trust in God. The one who made the earth by the power of His word.
And as we were reminded yesterday the Word of God, who was with God and was God (John 1:1), humbled Himself by taking on flesh and submitting Himself to our weakness so that as John 1:12 ..all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Through faith we are the children of God and whatever comes in the days and weeks that lie ahead nothing can change that, we need not fear for we can know God is our strength and refuge, a very present help in trouble.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.


Day 3
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Matthew 10:24-31
Message Scott Woodburn
Matthew 10.24-31
As Christians in this part of the world we have grown accustomed to peace and prosperity. Persecution and trouble is for the church in other parts of the world, but certainly not us. The Lord however gives us a different perspective. Jesus tells His disciples that we can expect difficulty in this life. Staggeringly there were those who claimed that Jesus was in league with the devil (v25). If they believe this about Jesus then the members of His house can expect no different treatment. Elsewhere Jesus makes it clear that in this world we will have trouble (John 16.33). Today our trouble is called Covid19, tomorrow it may be something else but it will come. What is our response? To rest in Christ and to have no fear of those who seek to silence the witness of the church (v28). We are to take what Jesus tells us and to shout it from the rooftops (v27). All the while fearing only God (v28). Our enemies can trouble us today but only God controls eternity. God is sovereign, He is the King, and He alone can destroy both body and soul in hell. We fear God today (Proverbs 9.10) with a filial fear - a fear a child has for their parent. We know how powerful He is and we know He will one day pour out His anger upon those who stand against Him, but He loves His church. God is so amazing that He knows how many hairs are on your head (v30) and even when one little sparrow falls to the ground (v29). So fear not, this mighty, awesome God, is for you, He loves you and if He knows when a sparrow dies, imagine just how much He cares for you.  
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.


Day 4
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 63:1-7
Message Alan Burke
‘Thirsty for God’
I can imagine if we were in the desert as David in this psalm, foremost on our minds would be a drink of cool refreshing water. Not David though, as he cries out to God (v1) it is clear that what he longs for, what is foremost in his mind in the day of trouble that he faces, is the Lord. He longs more than anything to worship God in the sanctuary with the people of God (v2). David in the desert fleeing from either Saul or Absalom is concerned not for his life but for closeness and fellowship with the Lord.
It a thirst that is in all of us, some people try to satisfy it with things this world tries to offer but only the Lord Himself can give us a spring of water welling up to eternal life. This spiritual thirst that can be only be satisfied in the Lord Jesus, that’s what we are reminded of in John 4:7-12. Knowing this should lead us to respond with our lives, and should lead us to yearn more for God’s goodness, because v3 His love is ‘better than life'.
He is the one (v5) that brings satisfaction, the one who is worthy of praise, in the midst of the sleepless nights (v6) that we now face, just as David thought upon his God, knowing his confidence was in the Lord, his help is to be found it Him(v7). We too through faith, no matter what we face with Covid-19 in the days that like ahead, can look to our Saviour Jesus Christ who satisfies like nothing else can, look to Him who is our help, trust in Him above all else.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.


Day 5
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Matthew 11:25-30
Message Scott Woodburn
There is much to be discouraged about in these days. Everything is uncertain and people seem to acting in aggressive and uncaring ways. I suspect we are seeing the world as it truly is. God's sovereignty is once again a great comfort for us. He is God and it is His gracious will to reveal what He wants to who He wants when He wants (v25-26). We are incredibly blessed that the sovereign God has opened our eyes to see what is really important in this life and unsurprisingly it isn't found on a shelf in Poundland. The Gospel of Christ has been revealed to us not because we are wise or powerful or have all the answers but because our eyes have been opened by God Himself. We have received Christ like little children (v25) because we know that apart from Jesus we have nothing. We needed Him and He graciously drew us to Himself revealing truth to our souls. We need Him now and He graciously is in the midst of His people. These words may seem like idle nonsense to the self-sufficient man but to us they are more valuable than gold. Jesus alone has the authority to reveal the things of God to whosoever He chooses to reveal them (v27). Why would we look anywhere else today? Today He calls the tired, the sinful, the depressed, the worried, the fearful to Himself. "Come to me" says Jesus "and I will give you rest." (v28) What a promise in an exhausting world. Not a fortnight in Portrush but rest from sin, rest from guilt, resting in God knowing that His wrath no longer abides on us. True rest. Soul rest. Coming to gentle and humble Jesus (v29) will see us saved and joining His school to learn from Him. Fear not, come to Jesus, there's none greater.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 5. Are there more Gods than one?
A. There is but one only, the living and true God.


Day 6
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 51:7-12
Message Alan Burke
This Psalm of David, is a prayer for forgiveness. A longing for forgiveness that only came after Nathan had brought him face to face with the heinousness of his sin, following his elicit affair with Bathsheba and subsequent actions (2 Sam 11:1-12:25). In the opening verses he had prayed for restoration (1-2), confessed his sinfulness (3-6) and in these verses (7-12) he prays for cleansing (7), creation (10) and once more for restoration (12).
Cleansing, David is asking the Lord to cleanse him, because he knew that he could not do it for himself (7), he had no power, no merit, no worth in himself to bring about this cleansing. For he longed for this so that joy and gladness would be his once more (8). Asking that the Lord would hide his face so that his sin would not be exposed.
Creation, he begs that the Lord would create in him (10), a pure heart, knowing that it could only come about through the intervention of the Lord himself. In the midst of it he knew that the Lord had not really left him (11) and prayed then for…
Restoration, then he asks that the Lord would restore him (12). David he had experienced spiritual dulness because of his own moral bankruptcy.
All of this David found in the Lord when he called out to Him
Ultimately through faith, we have ‘cleansing’ because of what Christ Jesus has done for us, His blood has cleansed us from our sin (1 Jn 1:7). He has worked his ‘creative’ power we are a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). And in the midst of all our sin and failures, when we are broken by it we know that it though Jesus alone that we have restoration, that we can become the children of God through faith (Gal 3:26) and can have joy of salvation.
Pray (ac-ST)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A. There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.


Day 7 - The LORD’s Day
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever
comes to pass.


Day 8
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Matthew 6:27-34
Message Alan Burke
Just a few weeks ago many of us were preoccupied with the normal everyday stuff that each of us had to deal with and off course along with that there were those worries and anxieties. Now our worries and anxieties are over something as insignificant as toilet roll and on the other extreme over the real threat that coronavirus is to us. But Jesus challenges His followers to make a choice when it comes to our outlook on life, choosing between faith or worry.
These verses we look at from Matthew, forms part of the Sermon on the Mount. Just before them, Jesus had just taught his followers to choose between God and wealth (v19-24) and this is key to help us to understand what Jesus says here in v25-34. Verse 25 begins with the word ‘therefore’, the thing is if we trust in God not wealth, then in all aspects of life we should trust God. Trust God because of who He is, because of who he is we don’t need to be anxious, after all He is the God who created the world and all that is in it and upholds it by the power of his word (Heb. 1:3).
To make the point, Jesus gives us two examples from the natural world, He tells us to look to the birds (v26), consider the lilies (v28-29), and the grass of the field (30). He is telling us that we are more valuable than any of these things, after all we are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:28). What is more, is that God in His grace has given us more than we deserve in that He did not spare His own son but gave Him up for us all (Rom. 8:32). What we need more than anything right now is to remember who God is, and put Him and his Kingdom at the very centre of our lives (v33), knowing that through Christ Jesus we are his, and making His rule and our relationship Him our priority. For every day He has planned for us (Ps. 139:16), and nothing we can do, worry and anxiety cannot add a single day to our lives, neither can stockpiling toilet roll (v27), let tomorrow bring what it will bring (v34), the Lord reigns over it all.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A. God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.


Day 9
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 34.1-8
Message Scott Woodburn
At age 40 I'm glad to say that I still have all my own teeth. Perhaps a day is coming that I won't be able to utter that boast but today it is true. I have no need as yet for dentures but if I ever do I want to be like those people in the adverts. They apply new cream to their dentures and suddenly they are living life, eating all sorts of food and finishing by water skiing in the Mediterranean. No fear! Yet life is not like the adverts. Fear and worry are unwelcome but often constant companions. We fear Covid19. We fear getting old. We fear our children getting sick. We fear the state of the world. We are not alone. David wrote Psalm 34 after pretending to be insane to avoid the vengeance of Achish the king of Gath (David had killed Goliath of Gath). In it he is a man of fears and troubles (v4&6&17). He also speaks of the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (v18). I've heard it said that life is only the good bits in-between the bad news. What a bleak picture of life! Today we cannot be magically made unafraid but David speaks of another fear that enables us to bless the Lord at all times (v1). It is the fear of the Lord (v7&9&11). The one who fears the Lord knows Him, loves Him and seeks to honour Him above all else (v2&3). The Christian life was never promised to be without trouble and yet in this Psalm we read that our God delivers us from our fears and troubles (v4&6). He will never put us to shame (v5). He hears us when we cry (v6). We are called blessed because we have taken refuge in Him (v8). Indeed Christ Himself (called here THE angel of the Lord) camps around us and will deliver us (v7). My brothers and sisters today your cheeks may be wet with tears and your soul my be burdened with the weight of fear but can I invite you to do something with me? Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together (v3). Let us taste and see that the Lord is good (v8).      
 
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 9. What is the work of creation?
The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.


Day 10
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — John 14:1-6
Message Alan Burke
Trouble can come at any stage in our lives, the diagnosis of an illness, the loss of a loved one, the unexpected situation. Today our trouble is the Coronavirus, something that we cannot see, that has us living in fear, Trouble has come in a way none of could have imagined. Today we look to John 14:1-7, the disciples were with Jesus in the upper room, reclined at the table, trying to wrap their heads around Jesus’ own words that He would die (12:20-36). Their hopes and expectations had been thrown into disarray and they were troubled.
To this Jesus tells them not to be, instead to trust in God and Him (v1). Directing them, as well as us to the means by which one can overcome a troubled heart, that we can be free from much of the anxiety in all of life’s circumstances. In the midst of Coronavirus, lockdown what ever it may be Jesus gives us the means to overcome trouble and that is to have ‘Have Faith’.
Each and every day, troubled or not this is what we need, what our nation needs, what our world needs, to ‘Have Faith’. Have faith in Jesus because ultimately everything else will fail us. For Jesus went to the cross to deal with our sin, so we could have the steadfast assurance at life end we will go with Him too. That’s what He reminds His followers (v2-3), He has gone to prepare a place for all who have faith, we know the way (v4), even though at that time Thomas didn’t understand (v5), and that way is faith in Jesus (v6) and if you know Him, you know the Father. What does this mean, well it may not be popular but there is only one way to the Father, to eternal salvation and that is through faith in Jesus. So in trouble look to him, in your self isolation, look to him, in your fear, worry, anxiety because in Him we know the way.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 10. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.


Day 11
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 90.12-17
Message Scott Woodburn
As I sit to write today's devotional it is after two days with two funerals. Unfortunately funerals are not rare or new. This week's funerals have been my 14th and 15th respectively since September and my 141st since the 1st July 2005. Death called the enemy in Scripture is the wages of sin and whilst it is always there, the events of these days have brought it more to the fore. In Psalm 90, the only Psalm we have by Moses, he pulls no punches. He speaks of our frailty (v3-6&9-10) and the shortness of our lives (v10) but he doesn't allow us to wallow in the bad news. He prays that the Lord would teach us to number our days and that we would have wise hearts in the midst of our weak condition (v12). We could approach life with an attitude that says "Life is short so live it up because you are a long time dead!", such an attitude is not new. Paul when discussing the resurrection says that if we are not raised to life then we we may as well eat and drink for tomorrow we die (1 Corinthians 15.32) BUT in Christ we will be raised to life. A great day is coming when Christ will come and the faithful will be raised imperishable. Today though, a pandemic is everywhere, the coming of our Lord seems distant, so how are we to live? Moses prays. He asks God for mercy and pity (v13). The Lord knows that we are dust filled with frustration and frailty. "Have pity on us!" Moses cries. Have mercy on us and return to us O Lord! He continues by praying that God's steadfast love, His covenantal love, would satisfy us everyday (v14). We know that life is fleeting and the joys of this life can be short lived. O Lord! May our souls be saturated and nourished by the knowledge of Your steadfast love! "I will be your God" says the Lord "and you will be my people." THE LORD IS FOR HIS BRIDE! His love for us will not be diluted, it will not wane, He loves us steadfastly. Knowing the difficulty of life Moses prays that we would see good days (v15). We will see evil, we will weep at gravesides, we will feel the weight of our frailty but Moses asks that we will see good, we will rejoice at the birth of our children, we will love and be loved, that the evil days would be tempered with God given gladness and that future generations will see the glorious power of the Lord (v16). We are all short sighted people. We think about today, my life, my family, my health. Yet Moses prays for the generations to come that they will know the Lord. Edengrove is almost 250 years old. It has stood through wars, empires, pandemics and it still stands. The Lord has been our dwelling place throughout many generations, may there be many more to come! Finally he prays that the Lord would establish the work of our hands, that our lives would have a significance (v17). You are one individual out of billions on this earth, yet in Christ your life is not in vain. We are favoured by the Lord because we have trusted Christ. Your deeds unheralded and unseen in this life are known by the Lord. O Lord, establish the work of our hands! So in fear and frailty we cry "teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom!"
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 11. What are God’s works of providence?
A. God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.


Day 12
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — John 15:1-5
Message Alan Burke
We are familiar with many different symbols that we recognise just at a glance, they can be of a brand, organisation, while others are symbols that represent an idea, covey something to us, like that yellow daffodil worn in march, or the poppy in November, or even the ring on the third finger of the left hand.
In Jesus’ day on the temple In Jerusalem there were golden vines with grape clusters that were symbolic of the nation of Israel (Is. 5:7). Here Jesus takes this imagery and applies it to Himself, Israel’s place has now been taken by Jesus (v1) and those who are in Him are the people of God though faith, the branches of the vine (v1). No branch that is Christ can be wholly fruitless, the warning is given to those who have not trusted in him, who do not bear fruit that it will be cut of, and those that do remain in Him will be pruned to increase their yield, just like a grape vine must be pruned (2). If we are His, cleansed by Him (v3), then he will work spiritual fruit in us, for without him we can do nothing of eternal significance (4). So the reminder is thus today, in what we face, in trials, remain in him (v5), knowing the warning for those that do not remain in Him, who show that they never had a saving relationship with Christ, their destiny is described with the language of the judgement of God (v6).
If you know Him in what we face this day, abide in him, know you are justified in Him alone. If you don’t know him, then turn to him, for judgement will come.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.


Day 13
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 95.1-6
Message Scott Woodburn
The Lord's Day is tomorrow. A day that once again our church building will remain firmly closed and you and I will remain firmly isolated at home. There will be good in this pandemic and I pray we will see a new appreciation for our local fellowships. A teacher once told me "Familiarity breeds contempt" and I wonder sometimes if we see that in the church? We do the same things every week, the same preacher preaches every week, the same people annoy us every week, if only we could join the perfect church! Truth be told, the perfect church isn't perfect and we would soon grow bored there too. May we grow in appreciation for our local fellowship. May these days of isolation cause us to long to meet again! Why? Well for one, think on what the preacher does at the start of the service. Not the welcome and certainly not the announcements. I'm thinking about what we Reformed types describe as the "Call to Worship". We see that here in Psalm 95. "Come" we are told. "Come". The Lord in His Word calls us to sing unto Him, to make a joyful noise before Him, to come into His presence with thanksgiving and to sing His praise (v1-2). God Himself calls us to gather before Him. You and I are currently not calling with anyone anywhere, we are to isolate, stay away, keep our distance and yet the thrice holy God calls us to draw near. What an invitation! But at the minute we perhaps don't feel like answering it. Times are tough and frankly we are struggling. Yet why would we say no? We don't worship a plastic god but a great God (v3a), He is a great King ruling over the earth and above all other so called gods (v3b). Indeed He is the God of creation who holds the earth, mountains, sea and land in His hand (v4-5). This same God invites you and calls you to worship. This is not a chore but a privilege. The Lord says "Come". Our response? "Let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!" (v6).
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.


Day 14 - The LORD’s day
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.



Day 15
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Luke 9:57-62
Message - Scott Woodburn
A Scottish Presbyterian called Samuel Rutherford once urged us to consider that Christ is in the land and the wind is in His face, therefore, because we are at His side we cannot expect the sunny or the sheltered side of the hill. To paraphrase...the Christian life is not going to be easy. This immediately causes us to tremble. Who among us wants difficulty? Who among us woke this morning and prayed for the worst day and worst circumstances possible? Not me and I suspect not you. Yet in three conversations the Lord tells us to understand the cost of following Him. An unknown voice speaks and boasts that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes (v57). The Lord replies reminding this individual that foxes and birds have homes but Jesus had nowhere to lay His head (v59). To an individual who had just lost his father, Jesus urged him to be about the work of the kingdom and to allow the dead to bury their own dead (v59-60). To another who wanted to say goodbye to his family before following Christ, Jesus urged him to understand that the one who takes up the work of the kingdom (putting his hand to the plow) and then looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God (v61-62). Elisha once did this when called by Elijah (1 Kings
19.19-21) but Christ is the greater Elijah. These seem like incredibly harsh and uncaring words from the Lord and yet His point isn’t that He is an anti-mortgage, anti-funeral and anti-family Saviour. These short conversations instead teach us that Christ is our greatest joy and greatest treasure. There is no one like Him and in eternity we will understand His true worth. He is more precious than gold, His sacrifice was of a magnitude that we cannot grasp and His love for us is steadfast and deeper than the Mariana Trench. The late Johnny Cash once sang that you could have all his wealth, all his belongings, everything, he knew that it was all an empire of dirt that wouldn’t last. Have we counted the cost of following Christ? Are we prepared for the mocking and shame? To be considered as being on the wrong side of history? Are we prepared to lose all things, knowing that they are rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ and being found in Him and sharing in His suffering (Philippians 3.8-11)? As I examine my own heart there is much reformation required. May God have mercy on His stumbling servants!
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein thy were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.


Day 16
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 100
Message Alan Burke
Not many of us feel that we have reason to give thanks or be joyous, the sun may be shining but we are stuck in the house not able to go for an ice cream, head to AJ’s for a fry, take the kids to the beach or have friends and family over for that roast lamb on Easter Sunday. Well Psalm directs us beyond ourselves to God, it is a Psalm for giving thanks, it beings by calling us to make a joyful noise (v1) a noise that would be more familiar at the final whistle at the Kingspan stadium than when we come before the Lord. But that is what this psalm calls us to, to make an exuberant, triumphal noise to the Lord of the earth, to sing to Him, serving Him (v2). The why is then explained (v3) because the one we come before is God indeed, our maker, and we come before this God as His people.
How are we his people, though faith in Christ Jesus we are the children of this God (John 1:12). So we come before Him (v4), praising His name for the privilege of being His, knowing the blessing that it is. For He is a good and faithful God, who’s love endures. So we can be assured that whatsoever He has promised it will be be fulfilled, that eternal hope we have that when this life ends we will go to be with Him. A hope based not in our endeavours but though the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. Calvin rightly points out this psalm prophetically, looks to the time when the church would be gathered out of different nations, a hope that looks beyond our present, that keeps our eyes firmly fixed upon Jesus. So what ever you face, remember the reason to be joyous, our Great God!
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation,
sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.


Day 17
Pray (AC-st)
Read - Luke 10.38-42
Message - Scott Woodburn
This extended time of isolation has changed the pace of life dramatically. Life once had its structure, working hours, exercise time, runs to and from church, school buses etc Suddenly we have been urged to stay at home and every day has taken on a unfamiliar hue. We’ve become home schoolers and DIYers and sofa sitters! Yet one thing is necessary...fellowship with the Lord. With more time on our hands may we spend more time at Christ’s feet. That’s where we find Mary. Christ has come to her house (v38) and she plants herself at the feet of Jesus and listens to His teaching (v39). Her sister Martha on the other hand is busy. She’s distracted with much serving (v40a) and understandably so. Christ has come, there’s work to do, food to prepare, guests to serve. Martha is attending to the work in front of her and calls upon the Lord to get Mary to help (v40b). Jesus answers her with gentleness, He is not making a fool out of her and he isn’t belittling her work ethic. Instead with a concern for her soul He answers “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” Christ knows this woman’s heart, she is a worker and Jesus knows her troubles. What she needs is a bit of help. Surely Jesus will now tell Mary to get up. She’s had enough teaching, its time for her to get her hands dirty and take the weight from her sister’s shoulders. Yet Christ’s reply is to tell Martha that “one thing is necessary” (v42a), Mary is attending to the good portion and it won’t be taken from her (v42b). What is this necessary thing? Fellowship with the Lord. Martha needed help and Christ told her where that help could be found. Fellowship with the Lord. These are days with new realities and new responsibilities. Who teaches the children? Who cooks the meals? Who goes to Tesco? Who checks-in with elderly parents? Who apologies first when everyone’s nerves are getting frayed? My friends, one thing is still necessary. Fellowship with the Lord. If we can be thankful for this isolation and dramatic change to life then surely we can be thankful for the slower pace. It doesn’t mean that we will become lazy, there is still work to do. Yet there is more time. May we use it for the necessary thing. Fellowship with the Lord. Your hands are dirty from work. Wash them and sing Happy Birthday twice! Then find a quiet corner and sit at Christ’s feet. It is always the best seat in the house.    
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.


Day 18
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 124
Message Alan Burke
How do we respond in the midst of all of this? How do we respond to coronavirus, or the message that we are told every day to ‘stay home - protect the NHS - save lives’, how? Well Psalm 124 gives us a framework for how we respond, it begins as the people of God, sing and shout with their hearts running over with thankfulness to the Lord, not because life was the preverbal walk in the park, everything had gone swimmingly, no, it was because they knew the Lord as their God and that in what ever they faced that He was on their side (v1-2). His presence with them wasn’t dependant on them but the Covenant of Grace that God had made with them.
And here His people acknowledge how in all that they faced God was there (v2-5). They do not blame God for what they faced, the war, human wickedness, cruelty, natural disaster, rather they shout in joy, praising His name (v6-7) acknowledging that He has been with them. The Lord had been their saviour and redeemer in the situation that they found themselves they sing of this truth, how their help is in the creator God (v8). How do we respond, well we know that no matter what we face nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 35-39), nothing can! So in the midst of all of this, we know He is with us, no matter what and He is our help. Our response to Him the Creator God should be one of praise in all that we face.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.


Day 19

Pray (AC-st)

Read - John 10.7-11
Message - Scott Woodburn
I am not a farmer or a son of a farmer. At one of my early funerals in Ballynahinch I brought unintentional laughter to a grieving family. I was leading them at home in prayer before the funeral and told them that a relation was running late and so he would meet them at church. I explained that he had been held up on the farm as one of the sheep was calving. The family glanced at one another and giggles turned to laughter as I stood wondering what I had said that was so funny. I’m no farmer and yet Scripture teaches us about the noble work of those involved in agriculture. Jesus here calls Himself the door of the sheep (v7). It would have been a familiar image for His hearers. The sheep gathered into the pen with the shepherd spreading his body across the entrance. Any sheep trying to get out would have to cross the shepherd and likewise any wolf trying to get in would have to cross the shepherd. It is an image of the shepherd’s care and protection for his flock. Jesus is our shepherd (v11a). He is good and He lays down His life for the sheep (v11b). Who protects the church? Jesus. Who guards us against our enemies? Jesus. Who gathers people into His church? Jesus. He is the door (v9) and anyone who wishes to be saved must go through Jesus (v9). There is no other way and there is no possibility of sneaking past Him. Jesus gathers, guards and defends His church. What a comfort this is! You see we live in days of war and not of peace. We have an enemy who rages against the church for he knows his time is short (Revelation 12.12). Admittedly he has been defeated at Calvary (Colossians 2.13-15) and today is bound until the end of the age (Mark 3.27, Revelation 20.1-3). But like an angry dog on a chain he rages and will destroy whoever he can sink his teeth into (1 Peter 5.8). Resist him and he will flee (1 Peter 5.9). The enemy is active and real and comes only to steal and kill and destroy (v10a). Christ, the good shepherd, comes to give abundant life (v10b). It is this Jesus who is the door to the sheep. The storm may rage and the enemy may growl but Christ remains triumphant. The Lord is for us!  
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind, by their fall, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.


Day 20
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 136:1-5, 23-26
Message Alan Burke
The meaning of word can mean one thing when said in one context and something totally different in another, like love. I love Tayto cheese and onion crisps and I love my wife. The word ‘love' in this context conveys two different ideas. The Hebrew word that is used in this psalm for love is ‘Hesed’, what it coveys to us is a love that is not like our love and it is a key attribute of the Lord, but what does it covey? It conveys His love shown in His faithfulness towards His people, an unfailing love, a faithful love, a steadfast love, eternal, limitless, a love that is unlike our love a love that remains the same, that does not diminish of increase. Because of this his people give thanks (v1), they know His love endures, no matter what they faced in this life, the  one who is God of gods (v2), Lord of lords (v3), the creator God (v4-5) all because of His covenant of Grace that He bound Himself to His people. Bringing salvation (v24), who provides (v25) give thanks to this God who’s love endures forever, this psalm builds a picture of God’s steadfast love. For us wherever we are, the fullness of God’s hesed love is seen in the cross, if we have trusted in Jesus Christ then we know that love, for though Christ we have been saved, for ”In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:9-10). Know His hesed love and praise His name!
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

A. God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.
Day 21 - The LORD's Day
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q21
Who is the Redeemer of God’ s elect?
The only Redeemer of God’ s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Tim. 2:5–6) who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, (John 1:14, Gal. 4:4) and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever. (Rom. 9:5, Luke 1:35, Col. 2:9, Heb. 7:24–25)

Day 22
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Genesis 3:1-15
Message Alan Burke
Why is it all like this, why are relationships hard, why is their pain, why do we face heartbreak, why is there chronic illness, why coronavirus, why, why, why?
Only the Word of God can give us the answer.
Today we look to the account of the fall in the book of Genesis, the book of begins. It alone gives us a framework to understand the situation we now find ourselves in, the answer to why this life far from how we would want it or desire it to be. And the simple answer to why is because we live in a fallen broken world, it was never supposed to be like this.
When God created man, He created him in His image, male and female He created them (1:27), and all that God had made was ‘very good’ (1:31). The Lord God entered into a covenant of life with His image bearers, He forbid Adam (2:16-17) to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God had given freedom and fulfilment they were created to rely on Him but the Serpent offered autonomy, to go their own way. They chose to go their own way (v7), their eyes were opened (v8). That moment everything changed, they had sinned against God (2 Cor 11:3) and all of humanity fell that day with Adam’s first transgression, all have sinned (Romans 5:12-21). God’s perfect world was now marred by original sin and we lost communion with God, relationship with Him. Adam’s sin has had disastrous consequences which we all live in the shadow off, the result is that every child is born is fallen and born into a fallen sinful world and as a result suffering, pain, physical death are a reality for all of us here today. That’s the why, why it’s like this, why life is far from how we would want or desire it to be.
But that wasn’t the end, in Eden, God pronounced Grace (15)! One day ‘the seed’ of the woman who would crush or brush the head of the Serpent. This is the first announcement of the Gospel, it points forward to the one, who would come from the line of the woman who would defeat the serpent. God out of his mere good pleasure entered into a covenant of grace to deliver His image bearers out of the estate of sin and misery, to bring them salvation, how? Through the Redeemer of his Elect the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5-6), who being the eternal Son of God became man (John 1:14, Gal 4:4) fully God and fully man and took the punishment that sin deserves (Rom. 6:23). In Adam all die, even so in Christ all are made alive though faith (1 Cor. 15:22). In Jesus we have hope though faith that when this life is over we go to be with Him and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for these things will be no more (Rev. 21:4). That is the great hope we have in the midst of this Pandemic, that is the hope we have in this fallen broken world, a hope that was first pronounced by God in the midst of the fall. 
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, (Heb. 2:14,16, Heb. 10:5) and a reasonable soul, (Matt. 26:38) being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, (Luke 1:27,31,35,42, Gal. 4:4) yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15, Heb. 7:26)
Day 23
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Job 1.1-22
Message - Scott Woodburn
The book of Job is one of the oldest in the entire Bible, a substantial book with 42 chapters and a book that is a difficult read. We meet Job in the very first verse and he is described as blameless, upright, someone who turned away from evil and a man who fears God (v1). He was a family man (v2) and a successful business man (v3). Indeed he would often intercede for his family just in case they sinned against God in their hearts (v5). However, by the end of the chapter Job has lost everything due to the malice of Satan. We are told various things about the enemy in this passage. He is a wanderer with no place to call home (v7). He is limited in his power (v12). He is accountable to the Lord (v6). He hates the church of Christ and wishes to destroy it (v10-11). How can any of us stand against such a foe? Thankfully this chapter also shows us that the Lord is in control of our trials. If Satan was in charge we would be utterly undone. Yet here we see the enemy having to present himself before God - when God calls, Satan must answer. Satan is not given a free reign but is limited by the Lord - when God commands, Satan must obey. We have all probably grown up with an image of Satan as God's equal. These two great beings are locked in a cosmic battle with the outcome unknown. None of this is true. There is only one God and His name is Yahweh (Deuteronomy 6.4). Satan is not God but was part of God's creation before rebelling against the Lord (Ezekiel 28.11-19). God is sovereign over Satan, over us and over our trials. I'm keenly aware that what I have just written can seem very distant from the sting of our trials. We know that God is sovereign, we believe that He is for us, we know that He is good, but why does He allow me to suffer? What is His purpose in the sickness of my child? What is His purpose in the collapse of my marriage? My brothers and sisters I will not patronise you by offering you an incomplete answer. In my limited mind I simply cannot fathom the purposes and plans of Almighty God. But I offer you Biblical certainties to close. Firstly, our faith is not a guarantee of struggle free living. The Christian can expect trials of various kinds (1 Peter 1.6, John 16.33). Secondly, sometimes Satan plays his part in our struggles (1 Peter 5.8), sometimes they come as a result of our sin (1 Corinthians 11.27-30). Thirdly, the Lord does have a purpose in our trials, we may not see it, it may seem incomprehensible to us, but the Lord does have a purpose in our trials and it is good (Romans 8.28). Finally, this fallen world is collapsing in on itself. It cannot and will not last (Romans 8.19-22). All that blights us will one day be put under the feet of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15.25-26). Not yet, but soon. Oh Lord! Speed that day we pray! Until then, with broken hearts, dashed dreams and tears in our eyes, we worship. “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (v21)
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.
Day 24
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Isaiah 6:1-7
Message Alan Burke
If Isaiah was from down the road we might hear someone say ‘thon fella’s a good’n’, or ‘he’s a good lad’. In truth Isaiah was a good man, a righteous man and a holy man. Here Isaiah describes a visible manifestation of The LORD, seated on His throne (1) ruling ruling over the heavens and the earth, there His seraphs serve Him (2), praise is given to Him, proclaiming how He is ‘holy holy holy’ (3).
What is most striking is that instead of coming with praise, being filled with joy before the Lord, Isaiah is filled with terror. For want of a better term, he was bricking it. This wasn’t the terror that is experienced by a pupil coming before the headmaster after some incident, this is fear more like excruciating agony and Isaiah exclaims “Woe is me!” (4).
Why was he filled with a sense of woe, because he knew that he came before the holy God of heaven and earth and before Him he was morally corrupt. Isaiah wasn’t being melodramatic, a bit theatrical, before the Lord God Almighty was a filthy sinner. Once Isaiah confessed his sin something amazing happens, one of the seraphim flew toward him, with a burning coal form the altar and places it on his lips (6). The LORD by His grace took Isaiah’s guilt and atoned for his sin, Isaiah was cleansed not by his own endeavours but by the grace of God (7).
The only way a sinner can approach of the LORD God is by His grace. His grace though faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9), and we have a righteousness that is given to us through faith (Rom. 5:19), we have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). In a legal sense, God has declared that we can come before him, that we are righteous not by our own endeavours but through faith as the righteousness of Christ has been imputed (1 Cor 1:30).
Even if people say about us ‘thon fella’s a good’n’, or ‘he’s a good lad’ are nonetheless sinners before the LORD but by His grace, He has made it so that we can come boldly before Him, entering into the presence of the Living God though faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:2).
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 24
How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (John 1:18, 1 Pet. 1:10–12, John 15:15, John 20:31)
Day 25
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Matthew 5.17-20
Message - Scott Woodburn
What does the Christian life look like in days of isolation? Exactly the same as the days before Covid19. The Christian life is one of daily discipleship, picking up our cross and following Christ and obeying His commands. Perhaps you have no problem with any of that except the last bit. Obeying His commands? That sounds a bit legalistic! The Christian life is about grace not works! I know what you are saying but in this extraordinary passage Jesus outlines our relationship with the Law of God. He begins by stating that He has come to fulfil the Law and the Prophets (v17). For those listening to Christ they would have understood what He meant. The Law was the first five books of the Bible (also called the Torah or the Pentateuch) with the Prophets being everything else. The Law was God's commandments and everything else was the Prophets commentating on God's commandments. For Jesus to say He was coming to fulfil the Law and the Prophets was a declaration that He was going to fulfil the entire Old Testament. He didn't come to overturn it but fulfil it. Why would He overturn it? It is all about Him (Luke 24.27,44). Indeed Jesus makes it clear that the Law will not fall until all is accomplished (v18). Jesus would accomplish it. It's important to note that the Law was more than the Ten Commandments (also called the Decalogue). God's Law can be divided into three. The civic, the ceremonial and the moral. The civic told the people of God how they were to live as national Israel. The ceremonial told them how they were to worship. The moral told them how to follow God daily. Jesus kept every inch. We speak of Christ's passive and active obedience. He actively obeyed the Law's requirements and He passively received it's punishments. A Presbyterian by the name of Gresham Machen on his deathbed said "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." He was right. Christ has fulfilled the Law completely and utterly. Without His obedience there would be no hope for sinners and yet all who have received Christ by faith have His righteousness credited (imputed) to their account. Our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because we have received Christ's righteousness (v20). The scribes and Pharisees tried to obtain righteousness by works, the believer obtains it by faith. How do we respond to Christ's love? By obedience (v19). Jesus tells us if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14.15). Does that mean we should still sacrifice lambs and refuse to wear mixed fibres? No. The ceremonial and civic law have been fulfilled. The Church is no longer within the borders of Israel with a king in Jerusalem. We no longer approach God bringing a little lamb to a high priest. These types and shadows have been and gone. Christ the fulfilment has come (Colossians 2.17). He is our King (1 Corinthians 15.25) who reigns on high and the Church (called the Israel of God (Galatians 6.16)) is worldwide. He is our Prophet (Hebrews 1.1-2) speaking into our lives on a daily basis by His Word. He is our Priest (Hebrews 10.21) who offered Himself a once and for sacrifice and then sat down. Yet the moral law still stands. We are still to love God and love our neighbour (Matthew 22.37-40). Memorising the Ten Commandments was not an exercise in futility. The moral law restrains evil, it shows us our sin and the holiness of God and it shows us what is pleasing to God. We call this the threefold use of the law. The law is from God and is therefore good (Romans 7.12). We should love it. We should do what it says.  What does the Christian life look like in days of isolation? Jesus says "If you love me, keep my commandments."
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q25 How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.
Day 26
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Romans 8:12-17
Message Alan Burke
Adoption in the first century was nothing like it is today, an adopted son was chosen. By his adoption the son was given his fathers name and would inherit his estate, he was in no way inferior to a son by birth. What normally happen was that the adopted son would seek to please the father, showing that they were worthy of the fathers deliberate choice. This understanding of adoption helps us as we think about this passage here in Romans 8:12-17. God though Paul was teaching the blessings of what it is to be in Christ Jesus, how there is no condemnation (1), how we have been declared not guilty even though we are guilty, how we have been set free from sin and death(2). To help us to live in this new life we have the indwelling Spirit of God (9), guaranteeing us eternal life (11).
And as a result of God’s choosing us, we we are to live in a certain way, we have an obligation as debtors to God for what he has done for us (12). But this isn’t something we do in our own strength but by the Spirit we are to put to death the deeds of the body (13). We are not passive in this, we don’t simply let go and let God do it all for us, nor do we do it in our own strength, instead the Spirit helps us, as we take up the cross and deny ourselves daily (Luke 9:23). We mortify sin in our lives, die to the flesh, this process is called sanctification as we are made holy, conformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
The thing is, we live in this way because it is befitting for a child of God, after all we are chosen, adopted by Him. God by His grace has saved us and we it should lead us to respond rightly to Him putting to death things of the flesh because of the privilege and blessing that we now have, our gratitude should be see in how we live. For we are sons of God (14) though faith, this is the privileged status we now have by the work of the Spirit of God within us, we are His son, his children (which of course includes daughters). This is how we can come before God as our Father, as adopted heirs though Christ Jesus, this is the privilege of those who are His children. Think of the amazing transformation that has taken place, we who by our very nature are sinful, enemies of God (Rom.5:10), but God in His grace (Eph 2:8-9) has saved us, and it means that we can now draw near calling out ‘Abba Father’ (15). As we experience the struggle with indwelling sin what ever that might be we are to know the Spirit of God is living within us helps us daily to overcome it, it should give us the confidence that God will help us in what we face, when we feel like giving up know that He is at work, and we have hope of new resurrection bodies that will be free from sin (16-17).
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 26
How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, (Acts 15:14–16) in ruling, (Isa. 32:22) and defending us, (Isa. 32:1–2) and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (1 Cor. 15:25, Ps. 110)
Day 27
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Revelation 1-3
Message - Scott Woodburn
"Strange days!" is the word on the street. If I've said it once, I've said it at least four times. These indeed are strange days, the likes of which none of us have ever seen. There is much we can't say for certain about these days or indeed any day. Thankfully the Lord in His grace has revealed plenty to us. He has spoken the final word in Christ (Hebrews 1.2) and the last book of the Bible shows us what the days we live in are going to be like. The name of the book of Revelation comes from the greek word "apocalypsis" which simply means "to reveal". So Revelation isn't a book of deep mysteries unlocked by deciphering numbers and codes, it is a revealing of that which must take place from Christ's ascension to His return. It speaks clearly of the days we are in, days that all too often will see tribulation. The apostle John shared in those difficulties (v9) but the book isn't about him. Wonderfully it begins and ends with Christ. He is revealed as the firstborn from the dead, a faithful witness and one who is reigning over the kings of earth (v5). This same Jesus loves us and has set us free from our sin by His precious blood (v6) and He is coming back in the clouds and every eye will see Him (v7). These are strange days but here we are reminded of our familiar Saviour. The Saviour described as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (v8). The Saviour who is and was and is to come (v8). Jesus is among His church (v13,20) and in chapter two and three He speaks to His bride. Indeed if this wasn't enough to inspire confidence, chapter one finishes by showing Jesus dressed in His high priestly garments (v9-20). We know from Hebrews that Jesus is our great high priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7.25) and lest you think "Well no one understands what I'm going through.", we are told in Hebrews that Jesus knows exactly what we experience (Hebrews 4.15) an yet without sin. So, again, these are strange days but it isn't a stranger who is at the right hand of the Father. Flesh and blood is at the right hand of God, our elder brother, our Saviour, our King. Jesus is His name! To the saved of God there is no greater comfort than to remember that we belong to Jesus. Therefore "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4.16).  
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q27 Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist? Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
Day 28
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein thy were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.
Day 16
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 100
Message Alan Burke
Not many of us feel that we have reason to give thanks or be joyous, the sun may be shining but we are stuck in the house not able to go for an ice cream, head to AJ’s for a fry, take the kids to the beach or have friends and family over for that roast lamb on Easter Sunday. Well Psalm directs us beyond ourselves to God, it is a Psalm for giving thanks, it beings by calling us to make a joyful noise (v1) a noise that would be more familiar at the final whistle at the Kingspan stadium than when we come before the Lord. But that is what this psalm calls us to, to make an exuberant, triumphal noise to the Lord of the earth, to sing to Him, serving Him (v2). The why is then explained (v3) because the one we come before is God indeed, our maker, and we come before this God as His people.
How are we his people, though faith in Christ Jesus we are the children of this God (John 1:12). So we come before Him (v4), praising His name for the privilege of being His, knowing the blessing that it is. For He is a good and faithful God, who’s love endures. So we can be assured that whatsoever He has promised it will be be fulfilled, that eternal hope we have that when this life ends we will go to be with Him. A hope based not in our endeavours but though the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. Calvin rightly points out this psalm prophetically, looks to the time when the church would be gathered out of different nations, a hope that looks beyond our present, that keeps our eyes firmly fixed upon Jesus. So what ever you face, remember the reason to be joyous, our Great God!
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation,
sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Day 17
Pray (AC-st)
Read - Luke 10.38-42
Message - Scott Woodburn
This extended time of isolation has changed the pace of life dramatically. Life once had its structure, working hours, exercise time, runs to and from church, school buses etc Suddenly we have been urged to stay at home and every day has taken on a unfamiliar hue. We’ve become home schoolers and DIYers and sofa sitters! Yet one thing is necessary...fellowship with the Lord. With more time on our hands may we spend more time at Christ’s feet. That’s where we find Mary. Christ has come to her house (v38) and she plants herself at the feet of Jesus and listens to His teaching (v39). Her sister Martha on the other hand is busy. She’s distracted with much serving (v40a) and understandably so. Christ has come, there’s work to do, food to prepare, guests to serve. Martha is attending to the work in front of her and calls upon the Lord to get Mary to help (v40b). Jesus answers her with gentleness, He is not making a fool out of her and he isn’t belittling her work ethic. Instead with a concern for her soul He answers “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” Christ knows this woman’s heart, she is a worker and Jesus knows her troubles. What she needs is a bit of help. Surely Jesus will now tell Mary to get up. She’s had enough teaching, its time for her to get her hands dirty and take the weight from her sister’s shoulders. Yet Christ’s reply is to tell Martha that “one thing is necessary” (v42a), Mary is attending to the good portion and it won’t be taken from her (v42b). What is this necessary thing? Fellowship with the Lord. Martha needed help and Christ told her where that help could be found. Fellowship with the Lord. These are days with new realities and new responsibilities. Who teaches the children? Who cooks the meals? Who goes to Tesco? Who checks-in with elderly parents? Who apologies first when everyone’s nerves are getting frayed? My friends, one thing is still necessary. Fellowship with the Lord. If we can be thankful for this isolation and dramatic change to life then surely we can be thankful for the slower pace. It doesn’t mean that we will become lazy, there is still work to do. Yet there is more time. May we use it for the necessary thing. Fellowship with the Lord. Your hands are dirty from work. Wash them and sing Happy Birthday twice! Then find a quiet corner and sit at Christ’s feet. It is always the best seat in the house.   
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
Day 18
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 124
Message Alan Burke
How do we respond in the midst of all of this? How do we respond to coronavirus, or the message that we are told every day to ‘stay home - protect the NHS - save lives’, how? Well Psalm 124 gives us a framework for how we respond, it begins as the people of God, sing and shout with their hearts running over with thankfulness to the Lord, not because life was the preverbal walk in the park, everything had gone swimmingly, no, it was because they knew the Lord as their God and that in what ever they faced that He was on their side (v1-2). His presence with them wasn’t dependant on them but the Covenant of Grace that God had made with them.
And here His people acknowledge how in all that they faced God was there (v2-5). They do not blame God for what they faced, the war, human wickedness, cruelty, natural disaster, rather they shout in joy, praising His name (v6-7) acknowledging that He has been with them. The Lord had been their saviour and redeemer in the situation that they found themselves they sing of this truth, how their help is in the creator God (v8). How do we respond, well we know that no matter what we face nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 35-39), nothing can! So in the midst of all of this, we know He is with us, no matter what and He is our help. Our response to Him the Creator God should be one of praise in all that we face.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Day 19
Pray (AC-st)
Read - John 10.7-11
Message - Scott Woodburn
I am not a farmer or a son of a farmer. At one of my early funerals in Ballynahinch I brought unintentional laughter to a grieving family. I was leading them at home in prayer before the funeral and told them that a relation was running late and so he would meet them at church. I explained that he had been held up on the farm as one of the sheep was calving. The family glanced at one another and giggles turned to laughter as I stood wondering what I had said that was so funny. I’m no farmer and yet Scripture teaches us about the noble work of those involved in agriculture. Jesus here calls Himself the door of the sheep (v7). It would have been a familiar image for His hearers. The sheep gathered into the pen with the shepherd spreading his body across the entrance. Any sheep trying to get out would have to cross the shepherd and likewise any wolf trying to get in would have to cross the shepherd. It is an image of the shepherd’s care and protection for his flock. Jesus is our shepherd (v11a). He is good and He lays down His life for the sheep (v11b). Who protects the church? Jesus. Who guards us against our enemies? Jesus. Who gathers people into His church? Jesus. He is the door (v9) and anyone who wishes to be saved must go through Jesus (v9). There is no other way and there is no possibility of sneaking past Him. Jesus gathers, guards and defends His church. What a comfort this is! You see we live in days of war and not of peace. We have an enemy who rages against the church for he knows his time is short (Revelation 12.12). Admittedly he has been defeated at Calvary (Colossians 2.13-15) and today is bound until the end of the age (Mark 3.27, Revelation 20.1-3). But like an angry dog on a chain he rages and will destroy whoever he can sink his teeth into (1 Peter 5.8). Resist him and he will flee (1 Peter 5.9). The enemy is active and real and comes only to steal and kill and destroy (v10a). Christ, the good shepherd, comes to give abundant life (v10b). It is this Jesus who is the door to the sheep. The storm may rage and the enemy may growl but Christ remains triumphant. The Lord is for us! 
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind, by their fall, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.

Day 20
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 136:1-5, 23-26
Message Alan Burke
The meaning of word can mean one thing when said in one context and something totally different in another, like love. I love Tayto cheese and onion crisps and I love my wife. The word ‘love' in this context conveys two different ideas. The Hebrew word that is used in this psalm for love is ‘Hesed’, what it coveys to us is a love that is not like our love and it is a key attribute of the Lord, but what does it covey? It conveys His love shown in His faithfulness towards His people, an unfailing love, a faithful love, a steadfast love, eternal, limitless, a love that is unlike our love a love that remains the same, that does not diminish of increase. Because of this his people give thanks (v1), they know His love endures, no matter what they faced in this life, the  one who is God of gods (v2), Lord of lords (v3), the creator God (v4-5) all because of His covenant of Grace that He bound Himself to His people. Bringing salvation (v24), who provides (v25) give thanks to this God who’s love endures forever, this psalm builds a picture of God’s steadfast love. For us wherever we are, the fullness of God’s hesed love is seen in the cross, if we have trusted in Jesus Christ then we know that love, for though Christ we have been saved, for ”In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:9-10). Know His hesed love and praise His name!
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
A. God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.
Day 21 - The LORD's Day
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q21
Who is the Redeemer of God’ s elect?
The only Redeemer of God’ s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Tim. 2:5–6) who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, (John 1:14, Gal. 4:4) and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever. (Rom. 9:5, Luke 1:35, Col. 2:9, Heb. 7:24–25)
Day 22
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Genesis 3:1-15
Message Alan Burke
Why is it all like this, why are relationships hard, why is their pain, why do we face heartbreak, why is there chronic illness, why coronavirus, why, why, why?
Only the Word of God can give us the answer.
Today we look to the account of the fall in the book of Genesis, the book of begins. It alone gives us a framework to understand the situation we now find ourselves in, the answer to why this life far from how we would want it or desire it to be. And the simple answer to why is because we live in a fallen broken world, it was never supposed to be like this.
When God created man, He created him in His image, male and female He created them (1:27), and all that God had made was ‘very good’ (1:31). The Lord God entered into a covenant of life with His image bearers, He forbid Adam (2:16-17) to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God had given freedom and fulfilment they were created to rely on Him but the Serpent offered autonomy, to go their own way. They chose to go their own way (v7), their eyes were opened (v8). That moment everything changed, they had sinned against God (2 Cor 11:3) and all of humanity fell that day with Adam’s first transgression, all have sinned (Romans 5:12-21). God’s perfect world was now marred by original sin and we lost communion with God, relationship with Him. Adam’s sin has had disastrous consequences which we all live in the shadow off, the result is that every child is born is fallen and born into a fallen sinful world and as a result suffering, pain, physical death are a reality for all of us here today. That’s the why, why it’s like this, why life is far from how we would want or desire it to be.
But that wasn’t the end, in Eden, God pronounced Grace (15)! One day ‘the seed’ of the woman who would crush or brush the head of the Serpent. This is the first announcement of the Gospel, it points forward to the one, who would come from the line of the woman who would defeat the serpent. God out of his mere good pleasure entered into a covenant of grace to deliver His image bearers out of the estate of sin and misery, to bring them salvation, how? Through the Redeemer of his Elect the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5-6), who being the eternal Son of God became man (John 1:14, Gal 4:4) fully God and fully man and took the punishment that sin deserves (Rom. 6:23). In Adam all die, even so in Christ all are made alive though faith (1 Cor. 15:22). In Jesus we have hope though faith that when this life is over we go to be with Him and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for these things will be no more (Rev. 21:4). That is the great hope we have in the midst of this Pandemic, that is the hope we have in this fallen broken world, a hope that was first pronounced by God in the midst of the fall. 
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, (Heb. 2:14,16, Heb. 10:5) and a reasonable soul, (Matt. 26:38) being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, (Luke 1:27,31,35,42, Gal. 4:4) yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15, Heb. 7:26)
Day 23
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Job 1.1-22
Message - Scott Woodburn
The book of Job is one of the oldest in the entire Bible, a substantial book with 42 chapters and a book that is a difficult read. We meet Job in the very first verse and he is described as blameless, upright, someone who turned away from evil and a man who fears God (v1). He was a family man (v2) and a successful business man (v3). Indeed he would often intercede for his family just in case they sinned against God in their hearts (v5). However, by the end of the chapter Job has lost everything due to the malice of Satan. We are told various things about the enemy in this passage. He is a wanderer with no place to call home (v7). He is limited in his power (v12). He is accountable to the Lord (v6). He hates the church of Christ and wishes to destroy it (v10-11). How can any of us stand against such a foe? Thankfully this chapter also shows us that the Lord is in control of our trials. If Satan was in charge we would be utterly undone. Yet here we see the enemy having to present himself before God - when God calls, Satan must answer. Satan is not given a free reign but is limited by the Lord - when God commands, Satan must obey. We have all probably grown up with an image of Satan as God's equal. These two great beings are locked in a cosmic battle with the outcome unknown. None of this is true. There is only one God and His name is Yahweh (Deuteronomy 6.4). Satan is not God but was part of God's creation before rebelling against the Lord (Ezekiel 28.11-19). God is sovereign over Satan, over us and over our trials. I'm keenly aware that what I have just written can seem very distant from the sting of our trials. We know that God is sovereign, we believe that He is for us, we know that He is good, but why does He allow me to suffer? What is His purpose in the sickness of my child? What is His purpose in the collapse of my marriage? My brothers and sisters I will not patronise you by offering you an incomplete answer. In my limited mind I simply cannot fathom the purposes and plans of Almighty God. But I offer you Biblical certainties to close. Firstly, our faith is not a guarantee of struggle free living. The Christian can expect trials of various kinds (1 Peter 1.6, John 16.33). Secondly, sometimes Satan plays his part in our struggles (1 Peter 5.8), sometimes they come as a result of our sin (1 Corinthians 11.27-30). Thirdly, the Lord does have a purpose in our trials, we may not see it, it may seem incomprehensible to us, but the Lord does have a purpose in our trials and it is good (Romans 8.28). Finally, this fallen world is collapsing in on itself. It cannot and will not last (Romans 8.19-22). All that blights us will one day be put under the feet of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15.25-26). Not yet, but soon. Oh Lord! Speed that day we pray! Until then, with broken hearts, dashed dreams and tears in our eyes, we worship. “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (v21)
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Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.
Day 24
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Isaiah 6:1-7
Message Alan Burke
If Isaiah was from down the road we might hear someone say ‘thon fella’s a good’n’, or ‘he’s a good lad’. In truth Isaiah was a good man, a righteous man and a holy man. Here Isaiah describes a visible manifestation of The LORD, seated on His throne (1) ruling ruling over the heavens and the earth, there His seraphs serve Him (2), praise is given to Him, proclaiming how He is ‘holy holy holy’ (3).
What is most striking is that instead of coming with praise, being filled with joy before the Lord, Isaiah is filled with terror. For want of a better term, he was bricking it. This wasn’t the terror that is experienced by a pupil coming before the headmaster after some incident, this is fear more like excruciating agony and Isaiah exclaims “Woe is me!” (4).
Why was he filled with a sense of woe, because he knew that he came before the holy God of heaven and earth and before Him he was morally corrupt. Isaiah wasn’t being melodramatic, a bit theatrical, before the Lord God Almighty was a filthy sinner. Once Isaiah confessed his sin something amazing happens, one of the seraphim flew toward him, with a burning coal form the altar and places it on his lips (6). The LORD by His grace took Isaiah’s guilt and atoned for his sin, Isaiah was cleansed not by his own endeavours but by the grace of God (7).
The only way a sinner can approach of the LORD God is by His grace. His grace though faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9), and we have a righteousness that is given to us through faith (Rom. 5:19), we have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). In a legal sense, God has declared that we can come before him, that we are righteous not by our own endeavours but through faith as the righteousness of Christ has been imputed (1 Cor 1:30).
Even if people say about us ‘thon fella’s a good’n’, or ‘he’s a good lad’ are nonetheless sinners before the LORD but by His grace, He has made it so that we can come boldly before Him, entering into the presence of the Living God though faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:2).
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 24
How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (John 1:18, 1 Pet. 1:10–12, John 15:15, John 20:31)
Day 25
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Matthew 5.17-20
Message - Scott Woodburn
What does the Christian life look like in days of isolation? Exactly the same as the days before Covid19. The Christian life is one of daily discipleship, picking up our cross and following Christ and obeying His commands. Perhaps you have no problem with any of that except the last bit. Obeying His commands? That sounds a bit legalistic! The Christian life is about grace not works! I know what you are saying but in this extraordinary passage Jesus outlines our relationship with the Law of God. He begins by stating that He has come to fulfil the Law and the Prophets (v17). For those listening to Christ they would have understood what He meant. The Law was the first five books of the Bible (also called the Torah or the Pentateuch) with the Prophets being everything else. The Law was God's commandments and everything else was the Prophets commentating on God's commandments. For Jesus to say He was coming to fulfil the Law and the Prophets was a declaration that He was going to fulfil the entire Old Testament. He didn't come to overturn it but fulfil it. Why would He overturn it? It is all about Him (Luke 24.27,44). Indeed Jesus makes it clear that the Law will not fall until all is accomplished (v18). Jesus would accomplish it. It's important to note that the Law was more than the Ten Commandments (also called the Decalogue). God's Law can be divided into three. The civic, the ceremonial and the moral. The civic told the people of God how they were to live as national Israel. The ceremonial told them how they were to worship. The moral told them how to follow God daily. Jesus kept every inch. We speak of Christ's passive and active obedience. He actively obeyed the Law's requirements and He passively received it's punishments. A Presbyterian by the name of Gresham Machen on his deathbed said "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." He was right. Christ has fulfilled the Law completely and utterly. Without His obedience there would be no hope for sinners and yet all who have received Christ by faith have His righteousness credited (imputed) to their account. Our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because we have received Christ's righteousness (v20). The scribes and Pharisees tried to obtain righteousness by works, the believer obtains it by faith. How do we respond to Christ's love? By obedience (v19). Jesus tells us if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14.15). Does that mean we should still sacrifice lambs and refuse to wear mixed fibres? No. The ceremonial and civic law have been fulfilled. The Church is no longer within the borders of Israel with a king in Jerusalem. We no longer approach God bringing a little lamb to a high priest. These types and shadows have been and gone. Christ the fulfilment has come (Colossians 2.17). He is our King (1 Corinthians 15.25) who reigns on high and the Church (called the Israel of God (Galatians 6.16)) is worldwide. He is our Prophet (Hebrews 1.1-2) speaking into our lives on a daily basis by His Word. He is our Priest (Hebrews 10.21) who offered Himself a once and for sacrifice and then sat down. Yet the moral law still stands. We are still to love God and love our neighbour (Matthew 22.37-40). Memorising the Ten Commandments was not an exercise in futility. The moral law restrains evil, it shows us our sin and the holiness of God and it shows us what is pleasing to God. We call this the threefold use of the law. The law is from God and is therefore good (Romans 7.12). We should love it. We should do what it says.  What does the Christian life look like in days of isolation? Jesus says "If you love me, keep my commandments."
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q25 How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.
Day 26
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Romans 8:12-17
Message Alan Burke
Adoption in the first century was nothing like it is today, an adopted son was chosen. By his adoption the son was given his fathers name and would inherit his estate, he was in no way inferior to a son by birth. What normally happen was that the adopted son would seek to please the father, showing that they were worthy of the fathers deliberate choice. This understanding of adoption helps us as we think about this passage here in Romans 8:12-17. God though Paul was teaching the blessings of what it is to be in Christ Jesus, how there is no condemnation (1), how we have been declared not guilty even though we are guilty, how we have been set free from sin and death(2). To help us to live in this new life we have the indwelling Spirit of God (9), guaranteeing us eternal life (11).
And as a result of God’s choosing us, we we are to live in a certain way, we have an obligation as debtors to God for what he has done for us (12). But this isn’t something we do in our own strength but by the Spirit we are to put to death the deeds of the body (13). We are not passive in this, we don’t simply let go and let God do it all for us, nor do we do it in our own strength, instead the Spirit helps us, as we take up the cross and deny ourselves daily (Luke 9:23). We mortify sin in our lives, die to the flesh, this process is called sanctification as we are made holy, conformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
The thing is, we live in this way because it is befitting for a child of God, after all we are chosen, adopted by Him. God by His grace has saved us and we it should lead us to respond rightly to Him putting to death things of the flesh because of the privilege and blessing that we now have, our gratitude should be see in how we live. For we are sons of God (14) though faith, this is the privileged status we now have by the work of the Spirit of God within us, we are His son, his children (which of course includes daughters). This is how we can come before God as our Father, as adopted heirs though Christ Jesus, this is the privilege of those who are His children. Think of the amazing transformation that has taken place, we who by our very nature are sinful, enemies of God (Rom.5:10), but God in His grace (Eph 2:8-9) has saved us, and it means that we can now draw near calling out ‘Abba Father’ (15). As we experience the struggle with indwelling sin what ever that might be we are to know the Spirit of God is living within us helps us daily to overcome it, it should give us the confidence that God will help us in what we face, when we feel like giving up know that He is at work, and we have hope of new resurrection bodies that will be free from sin (16-17).
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 26
How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, (Acts 15:14–16) in ruling, (Isa. 32:22) and defending us, (Isa. 32:1–2) and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (1 Cor. 15:25, Ps. 110)
Day 27
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Revelation 1-3
Message - Scott Woodburn
"Strange days!" is the word on the street. If I've said it once, I've said it at least four times. These indeed are strange days, the likes of which none of us have ever seen. There is much we can't say for certain about these days or indeed any day. Thankfully the Lord in His grace has revealed plenty to us. He has spoken the final word in Christ (Hebrews 1.2) and the last book of the Bible shows us what the days we live in are going to be like. The name of the book of Revelation comes from the greek word "apocalypsis" which simply means "to reveal". So Revelation isn't a book of deep mysteries unlocked by deciphering numbers and codes, it is a revealing of that which must take place from Christ's ascension to His return. It speaks clearly of the days we are in, days that all too often will see tribulation. The apostle John shared in those difficulties (v9) but the book isn't about him. Wonderfully it begins and ends with Christ. He is revealed as the firstborn from the dead, a faithful witness and one who is reigning over the kings of earth (v5). This same Jesus loves us and has set us free from our sin by His precious blood (v6) and He is coming back in the clouds and every eye will see Him (v7). These are strange days but here we are reminded of our familiar Saviour. The Saviour described as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (v8). The Saviour who is and was and is to come (v8). Jesus is among His church (v13,20) and in chapter two and three He speaks to His bride. Indeed if this wasn't enough to inspire confidence, chapter one finishes by showing Jesus dressed in His high priestly garments (v9-20). We know from Hebrews that Jesus is our great high priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7.25) and lest you think "Well no one understands what I'm going through.", we are told in Hebrews that Jesus knows exactly what we experience (Hebrews 4.15) an yet without sin. So, again, these are strange days but it isn't a stranger who is at the right hand of the Father. Flesh and blood is at the right hand of God, our elder brother, our Saviour, our King. Jesus is His name! To the saved of God there is no greater comfort than to remember that we belong to Jesus. Therefore "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4.16).  
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q27 Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist? Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
Day 28
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 15. What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?
A. The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein thy were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.
Day 16
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 100
Message Alan Burke
Not many of us feel that we have reason to give thanks or be joyous, the sun may be shining but we are stuck in the house not able to go for an ice cream, head to AJ’s for a fry, take the kids to the beach or have friends and family over for that roast lamb on Easter Sunday. Well Psalm directs us beyond ourselves to God, it is a Psalm for giving thanks, it beings by calling us to make a joyful noise (v1) a noise that would be more familiar at the final whistle at the Kingspan stadium than when we come before the Lord. But that is what this psalm calls us to, to make an exuberant, triumphal noise to the Lord of the earth, to sing to Him, serving Him (v2). The why is then explained (v3) because the one we come before is God indeed, our maker, and we come before this God as His people.
How are we his people, though faith in Christ Jesus we are the children of this God (John 1:12). So we come before Him (v4), praising His name for the privilege of being His, knowing the blessing that it is. For He is a good and faithful God, who’s love endures. So we can be assured that whatsoever He has promised it will be be fulfilled, that eternal hope we have that when this life ends we will go to be with Him. A hope based not in our endeavours but though the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. Calvin rightly points out this psalm prophetically, looks to the time when the church would be gathered out of different nations, a hope that looks beyond our present, that keeps our eyes firmly fixed upon Jesus. So what ever you face, remember the reason to be joyous, our Great God!
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation,
sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Day 17
Pray (AC-st)
Read - Luke 10.38-42
Message - Scott Woodburn
This extended time of isolation has changed the pace of life dramatically. Life once had its structure, working hours, exercise time, runs to and from church, school buses etc Suddenly we have been urged to stay at home and every day has taken on a unfamiliar hue. We’ve become home schoolers and DIYers and sofa sitters! Yet one thing is necessary...fellowship with the Lord. With more time on our hands may we spend more time at Christ’s feet. That’s where we find Mary. Christ has come to her house (v38) and she plants herself at the feet of Jesus and listens to His teaching (v39). Her sister Martha on the other hand is busy. She’s distracted with much serving (v40a) and understandably so. Christ has come, there’s work to do, food to prepare, guests to serve. Martha is attending to the work in front of her and calls upon the Lord to get Mary to help (v40b). Jesus answers her with gentleness, He is not making a fool out of her and he isn’t belittling her work ethic. Instead with a concern for her soul He answers “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” Christ knows this woman’s heart, she is a worker and Jesus knows her troubles. What she needs is a bit of help. Surely Jesus will now tell Mary to get up. She’s had enough teaching, its time for her to get her hands dirty and take the weight from her sister’s shoulders. Yet Christ’s reply is to tell Martha that “one thing is necessary” (v42a), Mary is attending to the good portion and it won’t be taken from her (v42b). What is this necessary thing? Fellowship with the Lord. Martha needed help and Christ told her where that help could be found. Fellowship with the Lord. These are days with new realities and new responsibilities. Who teaches the children? Who cooks the meals? Who goes to Tesco? Who checks-in with elderly parents? Who apologies first when everyone’s nerves are getting frayed? My friends, one thing is still necessary. Fellowship with the Lord. If we can be thankful for this isolation and dramatic change to life then surely we can be thankful for the slower pace. It doesn’t mean that we will become lazy, there is still work to do. Yet there is more time. May we use it for the necessary thing. Fellowship with the Lord. Your hands are dirty from work. Wash them and sing Happy Birthday twice! Then find a quiet corner and sit at Christ’s feet. It is always the best seat in the house.   
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
Day 18
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 124
Message Alan Burke
How do we respond in the midst of all of this? How do we respond to coronavirus, or the message that we are told every day to ‘stay home - protect the NHS - save lives’, how? Well Psalm 124 gives us a framework for how we respond, it begins as the people of God, sing and shout with their hearts running over with thankfulness to the Lord, not because life was the preverbal walk in the park, everything had gone swimmingly, no, it was because they knew the Lord as their God and that in what ever they faced that He was on their side (v1-2). His presence with them wasn’t dependant on them but the Covenant of Grace that God had made with them.
And here His people acknowledge how in all that they faced God was there (v2-5). They do not blame God for what they faced, the war, human wickedness, cruelty, natural disaster, rather they shout in joy, praising His name (v6-7) acknowledging that He has been with them. The Lord had been their saviour and redeemer in the situation that they found themselves they sing of this truth, how their help is in the creator God (v8). How do we respond, well we know that no matter what we face nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 35-39), nothing can! So in the midst of all of this, we know He is with us, no matter what and He is our help. Our response to Him the Creator God should be one of praise in all that we face.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.
Day 19
Pray (AC-st)
Read - John 10.7-11
Message - Scott Woodburn
I am not a farmer or a son of a farmer. At one of my early funerals in Ballynahinch I brought unintentional laughter to a grieving family. I was leading them at home in prayer before the funeral and told them that a relation was running late and so he would meet them at church. I explained that he had been held up on the farm as one of the sheep was calving. The family glanced at one another and giggles turned to laughter as I stood wondering what I had said that was so funny. I’m no farmer and yet Scripture teaches us about the noble work of those involved in agriculture. Jesus here calls Himself the door of the sheep (v7). It would have been a familiar image for His hearers. The sheep gathered into the pen with the shepherd spreading his body across the entrance. Any sheep trying to get out would have to cross the shepherd and likewise any wolf trying to get in would have to cross the shepherd. It is an image of the shepherd’s care and protection for his flock. Jesus is our shepherd (v11a). He is good and He lays down His life for the sheep (v11b). Who protects the church? Jesus. Who guards us against our enemies? Jesus. Who gathers people into His church? Jesus. He is the door (v9) and anyone who wishes to be saved must go through Jesus (v9). There is no other way and there is no possibility of sneaking past Him. Jesus gathers, guards and defends His church. What a comfort this is! You see we live in days of war and not of peace. We have an enemy who rages against the church for he knows his time is short (Revelation 12.12). Admittedly he has been defeated at Calvary (Colossians 2.13-15) and today is bound until the end of the age (Mark 3.27, Revelation 20.1-3). But like an angry dog on a chain he rages and will destroy whoever he can sink his teeth into (1 Peter 5.8). Resist him and he will flee (1 Peter 5.9). The enemy is active and real and comes only to steal and kill and destroy (v10a). Christ, the good shepherd, comes to give abundant life (v10b). It is this Jesus who is the door to the sheep. The storm may rage and the enemy may growl but Christ remains triumphant. The Lord is for us! 
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 19. What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind, by their fall, lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.
Day 20
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 136:1-5, 23-26
Message Alan Burke
The meaning of word can mean one thing when said in one context and something totally different in another, like love. I love Tayto cheese and onion crisps and I love my wife. The word ‘love' in this context conveys two different ideas. The Hebrew word that is used in this psalm for love is ‘Hesed’, what it coveys to us is a love that is not like our love and it is a key attribute of the Lord, but what does it covey? It conveys His love shown in His faithfulness towards His people, an unfailing love, a faithful love, a steadfast love, eternal, limitless, a love that is unlike our love a love that remains the same, that does not diminish of increase. Because of this his people give thanks (v1), they know His love endures, no matter what they faced in this life, the  one who is God of gods (v2), Lord of lords (v3), the creator God (v4-5) all because of His covenant of Grace that He bound Himself to His people. Bringing salvation (v24), who provides (v25) give thanks to this God who’s love endures forever, this psalm builds a picture of God’s steadfast love. For us wherever we are, the fullness of God’s hesed love is seen in the cross, if we have trusted in Jesus Christ then we know that love, for though Christ we have been saved, for ”In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:9-10). Know His hesed love and praise His name!
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
A. God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.
Day 21 - The LORD's Day
Westminster Shorter Catechism Q21
Who is the Redeemer of God’ s elect?
The only Redeemer of God’ s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Tim. 2:5–6) who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, (John 1:14, Gal. 4:4) and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever. (Rom. 9:5, Luke 1:35, Col. 2:9, Heb. 7:24–25)
Day 22
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Genesis 3:1-15
Message Alan Burke
Why is it all like this, why are relationships hard, why is their pain, why do we face heartbreak, why is there chronic illness, why coronavirus, why, why, why?
Only the Word of God can give us the answer.
Today we look to the account of the fall in the book of Genesis, the book of begins. It alone gives us a framework to understand the situation we now find ourselves in, the answer to why this life far from how we would want it or desire it to be. And the simple answer to why is because we live in a fallen broken world, it was never supposed to be like this.
When God created man, He created him in His image, male and female He created them (1:27), and all that God had made was ‘very good’ (1:31). The Lord God entered into a covenant of life with His image bearers, He forbid Adam (2:16-17) to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God had given freedom and fulfilment they were created to rely on Him but the Serpent offered autonomy, to go their own way. They chose to go their own way (v7), their eyes were opened (v8). That moment everything changed, they had sinned against God (2 Cor 11:3) and all of humanity fell that day with Adam’s first transgression, all have sinned (Romans 5:12-21). God’s perfect world was now marred by original sin and we lost communion with God, relationship with Him. Adam’s sin has had disastrous consequences which we all live in the shadow off, the result is that every child is born is fallen and born into a fallen sinful world and as a result suffering, pain, physical death are a reality for all of us here today. That’s the why, why it’s like this, why life is far from how we would want or desire it to be.
But that wasn’t the end, in Eden, God pronounced Grace (15)! One day ‘the seed’ of the woman who would crush or brush the head of the Serpent. This is the first announcement of the Gospel, it points forward to the one, who would come from the line of the woman who would defeat the serpent. God out of his mere good pleasure entered into a covenant of grace to deliver His image bearers out of the estate of sin and misery, to bring them salvation, how? Through the Redeemer of his Elect the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5-6), who being the eternal Son of God became man (John 1:14, Gal 4:4) fully God and fully man and took the punishment that sin deserves (Rom. 6:23). In Adam all die, even so in Christ all are made alive though faith (1 Cor. 15:22). In Jesus we have hope though faith that when this life is over we go to be with Him and there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for these things will be no more (Rev. 21:4). That is the great hope we have in the midst of this Pandemic, that is the hope we have in this fallen broken world, a hope that was first pronounced by God in the midst of the fall. 
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, (Heb. 2:14,16, Heb. 10:5) and a reasonable soul, (Matt. 26:38) being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, (Luke 1:27,31,35,42, Gal. 4:4) yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15, Heb. 7:26)
Day 23
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Job 1.1-22
Message - Scott Woodburn
The book of Job is one of the oldest in the entire Bible, a substantial book with 42 chapters and a book that is a difficult read. We meet Job in the very first verse and he is described as blameless, upright, someone who turned away from evil and a man who fears God (v1). He was a family man (v2) and a successful business man (v3). Indeed he would often intercede for his family just in case they sinned against God in their hearts (v5). However, by the end of the chapter Job has lost everything due to the malice of Satan. We are told various things about the enemy in this passage. He is a wanderer with no place to call home (v7). He is limited in his power (v12). He is accountable to the Lord (v6). He hates the church of Christ and wishes to destroy it (v10-11). How can any of us stand against such a foe? Thankfully this chapter also shows us that the Lord is in control of our trials. If Satan was in charge we would be utterly undone. Yet here we see the enemy having to present himself before God - when God calls, Satan must answer. Satan is not given a free reign but is limited by the Lord - when God commands, Satan must obey. We have all probably grown up with an image of Satan as God's equal. These two great beings are locked in a cosmic battle with the outcome unknown. None of this is true. There is only one God and His name is Yahweh (Deuteronomy 6.4). Satan is not God but was part of God's creation before rebelling against the Lord (Ezekiel 28.11-19). God is sovereign over Satan, over us and over our trials. I'm keenly aware that what I have just written can seem very distant from the sting of our trials. We know that God is sovereign, we believe that He is for us, we know that He is good, but why does He allow me to suffer? What is His purpose in the sickness of my child? What is His purpose in the collapse of my marriage? My brothers and sisters I will not patronise you by offering you an incomplete answer. In my limited mind I simply cannot fathom the purposes and plans of Almighty God. But I offer you Biblical certainties to close. Firstly, our faith is not a guarantee of struggle free living. The Christian can expect trials of various kinds (1 Peter 1.6, John 16.33). Secondly, sometimes Satan plays his part in our struggles (1 Peter 5.8), sometimes they come as a result of our sin (1 Corinthians 11.27-30). Thirdly, the Lord does have a purpose in our trials, we may not see it, it may seem incomprehensible to us, but the Lord does have a purpose in our trials and it is good (Romans 8.28). Finally, this fallen world is collapsing in on itself. It cannot and will not last (Romans 8.19-22). All that blights us will one day be put under the feet of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15.25-26). Not yet, but soon. Oh Lord! Speed that day we pray! Until then, with broken hearts, dashed dreams and tears in our eyes, we worship. “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (v21)
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Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.
Day 24
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Isaiah 6:1-7
Message Alan Burke
If Isaiah was from down the road we might hear someone say ‘thon fella’s a good’n’, or ‘he’s a good lad’. In truth Isaiah was a good man, a righteous man and a holy man. Here Isaiah describes a visible manifestation of The LORD, seated on His throne (1) ruling ruling over the heavens and the earth, there His seraphs serve Him (2), praise is given to Him, proclaiming how He is ‘holy holy holy’ (3).
What is most striking is that instead of coming with praise, being filled with joy before the Lord, Isaiah is filled with terror. For want of a better term, he was bricking it. This wasn’t the terror that is experienced by a pupil coming before the headmaster after some incident, this is fear more like excruciating agony and Isaiah exclaims “Woe is me!” (4).
Why was he filled with a sense of woe, because he knew that he came before the holy God of heaven and earth and before Him he was morally corrupt. Isaiah wasn’t being melodramatic, a bit theatrical, before the Lord God Almighty was a filthy sinner. Once Isaiah confessed his sin something amazing happens, one of the seraphim flew toward him, with a burning coal form the altar and places it on his lips (6). The LORD by His grace took Isaiah’s guilt and atoned for his sin, Isaiah was cleansed not by his own endeavours but by the grace of God (7).
The only way a sinner can approach of the LORD God is by His grace. His grace though faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9), and we have a righteousness that is given to us through faith (Rom. 5:19), we have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). In a legal sense, God has declared that we can come before him, that we are righteous not by our own endeavours but through faith as the righteousness of Christ has been imputed (1 Cor 1:30).
Even if people say about us ‘thon fella’s a good’n’, or ‘he’s a good lad’ are nonetheless sinners before the LORD but by His grace, He has made it so that we can come boldly before Him, entering into the presence of the Living God though faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:2).
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 24
How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation. (John 1:18, 1 Pet. 1:10–12, John 15:15, John 20:31)
Day 25
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Matthew 5.17-20
Message - Scott Woodburn
What does the Christian life look like in days of isolation? Exactly the same as the days before Covid19. The Christian life is one of daily discipleship, picking up our cross and following Christ and obeying His commands. Perhaps you have no problem with any of that except the last bit. Obeying His commands? That sounds a bit legalistic! The Christian life is about grace not works! I know what you are saying but in this extraordinary passage Jesus outlines our relationship with the Law of God. He begins by stating that He has come to fulfil the Law and the Prophets (v17). For those listening to Christ they would have understood what He meant. The Law was the first five books of the Bible (also called the Torah or the Pentateuch) with the Prophets being everything else. The Law was God's commandments and everything else was the Prophets commentating on God's commandments. For Jesus to say He was coming to fulfil the Law and the Prophets was a declaration that He was going to fulfil the entire Old Testament. He didn't come to overturn it but fulfil it. Why would He overturn it? It is all about Him (Luke 24.27,44). Indeed Jesus makes it clear that the Law will not fall until all is accomplished (v18). Jesus would accomplish it. It's important to note that the Law was more than the Ten Commandments (also called the Decalogue). God's Law can be divided into three. The civic, the ceremonial and the moral. The civic told the people of God how they were to live as national Israel. The ceremonial told them how they were to worship. The moral told them how to follow God daily. Jesus kept every inch. We speak of Christ's passive and active obedience. He actively obeyed the Law's requirements and He passively received it's punishments. A Presbyterian by the name of Gresham Machen on his deathbed said "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." He was right. Christ has fulfilled the Law completely and utterly. Without His obedience there would be no hope for sinners and yet all who have received Christ by faith have His righteousness credited (imputed) to their account. Our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because we have received Christ's righteousness (v20). The scribes and Pharisees tried to obtain righteousness by works, the believer obtains it by faith. How do we respond to Christ's love? By obedience (v19). Jesus tells us if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14.15). Does that mean we should still sacrifice lambs and refuse to wear mixed fibres? No. The ceremonial and civic law have been fulfilled. The Church is no longer within the borders of Israel with a king in Jerusalem. We no longer approach God bringing a little lamb to a high priest. These types and shadows have been and gone. Christ the fulfilment has come (Colossians 2.17). He is our King (1 Corinthians 15.25) who reigns on high and the Church (called the Israel of God (Galatians 6.16)) is worldwide. He is our Prophet (Hebrews 1.1-2) speaking into our lives on a daily basis by His Word. He is our Priest (Hebrews 10.21) who offered Himself a once and for sacrifice and then sat down. Yet the moral law still stands. We are still to love God and love our neighbour (Matthew 22.37-40). Memorising the Ten Commandments was not an exercise in futility. The moral law restrains evil, it shows us our sin and the holiness of God and it shows us what is pleasing to God. We call this the threefold use of the law. The law is from God and is therefore good (Romans 7.12). We should love it. We should do what it says.  What does the Christian life look like in days of isolation? Jesus says "If you love me, keep my commandments."
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q25 How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.
Day 26
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Romans 8:12-17
Message Alan Burke
Adoption in the first century was nothing like it is today, an adopted son was chosen. By his adoption the son was given his fathers name and would inherit his estate, he was in no way inferior to a son by birth. What normally happen was that the adopted son would seek to please the father, showing that they were worthy of the fathers deliberate choice. This understanding of adoption helps us as we think about this passage here in Romans 8:12-17. God though Paul was teaching the blessings of what it is to be in Christ Jesus, how there is no condemnation (1), how we have been declared not guilty even though we are guilty, how we have been set free from sin and death(2). To help us to live in this new life we have the indwelling Spirit of God (9), guaranteeing us eternal life (11).
And as a result of God’s choosing us, we we are to live in a certain way, we have an obligation as debtors to God for what he has done for us (12). But this isn’t something we do in our own strength but by the Spirit we are to put to death the deeds of the body (13). We are not passive in this, we don’t simply let go and let God do it all for us, nor do we do it in our own strength, instead the Spirit helps us, as we take up the cross and deny ourselves daily (Luke 9:23). We mortify sin in our lives, die to the flesh, this process is called sanctification as we are made holy, conformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
The thing is, we live in this way because it is befitting for a child of God, after all we are chosen, adopted by Him. God by His grace has saved us and we it should lead us to respond rightly to Him putting to death things of the flesh because of the privilege and blessing that we now have, our gratitude should be see in how we live. For we are sons of God (14) though faith, this is the privileged status we now have by the work of the Spirit of God within us, we are His son, his children (which of course includes daughters). This is how we can come before God as our Father, as adopted heirs though Christ Jesus, this is the privilege of those who are His children. Think of the amazing transformation that has taken place, we who by our very nature are sinful, enemies of God (Rom.5:10), but God in His grace (Eph 2:8-9) has saved us, and it means that we can now draw near calling out ‘Abba Father’ (15). As we experience the struggle with indwelling sin what ever that might be we are to know the Spirit of God is living within us helps us daily to overcome it, it should give us the confidence that God will help us in what we face, when we feel like giving up know that He is at work, and we have hope of new resurrection bodies that will be free from sin (16-17).
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 26
How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, (Acts 15:14–16) in ruling, (Isa. 32:22) and defending us, (Isa. 32:1–2) and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies. (1 Cor. 15:25, Ps. 110)
Day 27
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Revelation 1-3
Message - Scott Woodburn
"Strange days!" is the word on the street. If I've said it once, I've said it at least four times. These indeed are strange days, the likes of which none of us have ever seen. There is much we can't say for certain about these days or indeed any day. Thankfully the Lord in His grace has revealed plenty to us. He has spoken the final word in Christ (Hebrews 1.2) and the last book of the Bible shows us what the days we live in are going to be like. The name of the book of Revelation comes from the greek word "apocalypsis" which simply means "to reveal". So Revelation isn't a book of deep mysteries unlocked by deciphering numbers and codes, it is a revealing of that which must take place from Christ's ascension to His return. It speaks clearly of the days we are in, days that all too often will see tribulation. The apostle John shared in those difficulties (v9) but the book isn't about him. Wonderfully it begins and ends with Christ. He is revealed as the firstborn from the dead, a faithful witness and one who is reigning over the kings of earth (v5). This same Jesus loves us and has set us free from our sin by His precious blood (v6) and He is coming back in the clouds and every eye will see Him (v7). These are strange days but here we are reminded of our familiar Saviour. The Saviour described as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (v8). The Saviour who is and was and is to come (v8). Jesus is among His church (v13,20) and in chapter two and three He speaks to His bride. Indeed if this wasn't enough to inspire confidence, chapter one finishes by showing Jesus dressed in His high priestly garments (v9-20). We know from Hebrews that Jesus is our great high priest who ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7.25) and lest you think "Well no one understands what I'm going through.", we are told in Hebrews that Jesus knows exactly what we experience (Hebrews 4.15) an yet without sin. So, again, these are strange days but it isn't a stranger who is at the right hand of the Father. Flesh and blood is at the right hand of God, our elder brother, our Saviour, our King. Jesus is His name! To the saved of God there is no greater comfort than to remember that we belong to Jesus. Therefore "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4.16).  
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q27 Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist? Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
Day 28
Q: Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation? A: Christ's exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.
Day 29
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Exodus 20:1-3
Message Alan Burke
Most of us at Sunday school learnt about the The ‘Ten Commandments’ or rather “Ten Words” of the covenant. The Anchor boys were working their way through them here in Lissara before ‘Lockdown’ but do we really still need them, the simple answer is a resounding YES! God gave these expressions of his eternal law that should give order in society and they transcend the Old and New Testaments, the teaching of Jesus and the NT letters the law is set forth (a few examples Mk. 10:17-22, Rom. 13:8-9, 1 Tim 1:8-10, Matt 22:37-40).
The first four deal with how we relate to God the remainder then how we relate to one another in response. Look though to whom they come from (1), they come from God. Their source is God, they are for a purpose and their content is governed by the nature of God Himself. Then He reminds His people that He is Yahweh, (personal name of God denoted in Capital letters) the covenant keeping God, reminding them how He has redeemed them from Egypt. This is how the Ten Words of the LORD, the covenant keeping God begin, all to stress the gravity of what He now speaks to them and how they should live accordingly.
To start (3) no other God’s. Sounds simple enough no other God’s before the one who calls us to obedience and devotion, no other God before the one and only God. And for us, after all we worship the God of the bible don’t we, so this is pretty easy. Think again, what does it mean that we are to have no other God’s before our God it means, that we are to know and acknowledge God to be the only living and true God, to be our God, to worship and glorify Him accordingly, by thinking, mediating, remember Him, holding Him highly, honouring Him, adoring Him, choosing Him, Loving Him, desiring Him, fearing Him, believing Him, trusting Him, hoping in Him, delighting in Him, rejoicing in Him, being zealous for Him, calling upon Him, giving all praise and thanks to Him, giving all obedience and submission to Him with our entire being, doing all that we can do, in all things to please him and sorrowful when in any thing we offend Him and finally walk humbly with Him (proof texts at the bottom of the post). Nothing should rule our lives or become the centre of our attention other than our Creator, our marriages, work life, home life, our shopping, our free time, our money, that romantic interest, that football game (not like they will be happening for a while), the list goes on and on.
Hands up who thinks it’s simple now? We can’t do this, yet we have a saviour who has done it for us, (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:6, 11, 10:3), we have right sanding with God because of the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us, so that when God looks at us He doesn’t see our sin but the perfect righteousness of Christ. We should as a result desire as adopted heirs to live (Rom. 8:12-17) in a way that is befitting to our status as His child (Jn. 1:14). In the midst of lockdown, when life goes back to a kinda normal we should seek to live with no other God’s before our Great God!
Proof texts: I Chr. 28:9; Deut 26:17; Isa. 43:10; Jer. 14:22, Psa. 29:2; 95:6-7; Matt. 4:10, Mal. 3:16, Psa. 63:6, Eccl. 12:1, Psa. 71:19, Mal. 1:6, Isa. 45:23, Josh. 24:15, 22, Deut. 6:5, Psa. 73:25, Isa. 8:13, Exod. 14:31, Isa. 26:4, Psa. 130:7, Psa. 37:4, Psa. 32:11, Rom. 12:11; Num. 25:11, Phil. 4:6, Jer. 7:28; James 4:7, I John 3:22, Jer. 31:18; Psa. 119:136, Micah 6:8
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Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 29
How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us, (John 1:11–12) by his Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5–6)
Day 30
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Psalm 1
Message Alan Burke
What category do you fall into? The way of the righteous or the way of the wicked? After all this psalm is all about two different ways to live, isn’t it? So compare yourself to the words of this psalm. I’ll start; Blessed am I, I do not walk in the council of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, sit in the seat of scoffers (1). Well I reckon I don’t take council from the wicked, gather with sinners, hang out with scoffers. Do I delight (2) in the law or instruction of the Lord? Kinda, don’t get me wrong I love God’s word, it’s what He has given to direct me how to glorify and enjoy Him (Ps 119:105), but there are bits that mean sacrifice and teaching that goes against what our culture believes, so maybe not delight. What’s next, meditate on God’s word day and night? Alright this ain’t me, I like my sleep, sometimes I meditate on His law. And finally, am I like a fruit producing tree (3), prospering? Mmm, I wish it were the case but that’s just not how life is for me.
I really must be doing something wrong, I mustn’t be trying hard enough, I need to do a better job that’s it, of avoiding the wicked, sinners, scoffers, I need to sleep less, read God’s word more and maybe then I’ll be like that tree and everything I do will prosper. In truth no matter what I do I’m never going to be the Blessed man of this Psalm, if this is about two ways to live then I’m on a hiding to nothing, maybe it’s time for a career change. The truth is no matter how hard any of us try, we will be unable to do what this Psalm calls for, thanks to all those people who taught us this was two ways to live and just made us feel like a wretch.
If we are not the righteous of this Psalm then there is only one other option, we must be the wicked. For we are sinners who fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Who is this Psalm about then, as it contrasts the righteous and the wicked. Well look to Psalm 2 where we see war between the righteous King and the wicked. What we need to understand is that the man of Psalm 1, is in fact none other than the righteous King of Psalm two. So the man of Psalm 1 is the anointed one, literally the Messiah and what are we told in Psalm 2:12 is ‘Blessed are all who take refuge in Him!’ If we take refuge in Him through faith, then His righteousness is imputed to us and we join in the congregation of the righteous (5) but the wicked who have not sought refuge in Him will perish (6). Let us know that through faith, taking refuge in this righteous man of Psalm 1 we will escape the wrath of God, we will not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)
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Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 30
How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, (Eph. 1:13–14, John 6:37–39, Eph. 2:8) and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling. (Eph. 3:17, 1 Cor. 1:9)
Day 31
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Jeremiah 29.10-14
Message - Scott Woodburn
There are probably very few of us who don't know Jeremiah 29.11 off by heart. It is surely a beautiful verse and one that lends itself to a Facebook quote or a fridge magnet. Sometimes however we miss the bigger story. By this stage of the book the Lord is speaking to a people (not an individual) in exile. Jeremiah had warned consistently that God's judgment was coming and inevitably after they refused to listen, God used Nebuchadnezzar to carry the people of Judah to Babylon. So Jeremiah 29 comes on the heels of that situation and the Lord tells His people to settle down. They are to make lives for themselves in Babylon (v5-7) because their stay there isn't going to be as short as the false prophets are making out (v8-9). Indeed the people will be away from home for seventy years (v10). Seventy years? Who can wait seventy years? Yet God's timeframe is not unfair. How often do the people of God go astray? How often do they not heed His warnings? The Lord could have left the exiles in Babylon for one thousand years and still not be unjust, and yet He isn't going to do that. He promises these exiles that after seventy years He will revisit them and take them home (v10). His plan for them is good (v11), they were suffering the due punishment for covenant breakers but God would not forget His covenant and ultimately His grace would abound (v14). So how do we apply this verse to ourselves? Is it a promise of earthly health, wealth and prosperity as some claim? Is our responsibility to claim these promises or have more faith? Simply no. This passage isn't about you, it is about Jesus. Jesus is the offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3.16), He is one true Israelite who never failed in His covenantal obligations (Romans 5.19), He knew exile and trial here on earth and after His work was completed He was restored to His heavenly home. This famous promise finds its fulfilment in Christ and because we are in Christ by faith then we can rejoice in this promise too. We are aliens and strangers on this earth (1 Peter 2.11), we will know days of trial (John 16.33), we will be raised again to life (1 Corinthians 15.52) and will spend eternity at home (Revelation 22.1-5). This is how verse eleven can be applied today, God knows the plans that He has for us and they're greater than health, wealth and prosperity. "Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8.31-32)
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
Day 32
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Mark 2:23-28
Message Alan Burke
The ministry of Jesus was raising eyebrows, it was making an impact so much so that he couldn’t openly enter a town as a result (1:45). It hadn’t gone unnoticed either with the Pharisees, they say that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked why (2:16), then they challenged about his disciples disregard for fast days (2:18). Here we see probably the greatest offence that he could have given to the Pharisees by his treatment of the Sabbath, as he is accused of being a Sabbath breaker.
It doesn’t seem to be that big of deal, not today at least, after all our shops normally open on the Sabbath. Sunday for most before the pandemic anyway was just a day like any other, the worship of God had been replaced with the worship of consumerism. That’s not how it was in Jesus day, here the Pharisees point the finger at Jesus because his disciples were plucking ears of corn as they pass through a field (23-24), they were getting something to eat on the way through. In response to they accusation of Law Breaking Jesus reminds them of what David did (25-26) in 1 Sam. 21:1-6. He is making the point that their interpretation of Sabbath doesn’t take into account need or necessity. Then he makes it clear the intention and purpose of the Sabbath, ‘it was made for man and not man for the Sabbath’ (27). What does this mean, well the Sabbath was a gracious gift from God, it wasn’t meant to be a burdensome obligation, it was given for our benefit, not to do what we like with, to treat it like any other, rather it is because we need a Sabbath, we need rest. Our society seeks to normalise the Sabbath, make it like any other day but physically, mentally, spiritually we need it, maybe in the midst of lockdown we realise how much we needed a rest, well God gives us one day in seven, before the fall God gave us this day, His day for our benefit and as a response we should worship and thank him for his gracious gift of rest.
But then Jesus said something that would have been shocking to them, he declared His authority as the Son of Man, he is Lord over all and he is lord even of the Sabbath (28) for he is the one who gave us and institution of the Sabbath. This was a claim to be God, blasphemy, all of this lead to the decision of the Pharisees that Jesus must be destroyed (3:6). The Sabbath has been given to us for our benefit and Jesus reminds of that. So when this is all over what will you do with the Sabbath that he has given you, return to normal or respond with thanksgiving to the lord of the Sabbath?
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 32
What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, (Rom. 8:30) adoption, (Eph. 1:5) and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them. (1 Cor. 1:26,30)
Day 33
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Message - Scott Woodburn
Good morning! It's a glorious new day in isolation and the potential of the next twelve hours lies before us like a blank canvas waiting for the paint! Sieze the day! Live your best life! Bake scones! Paint walls! Walk for miles! Fired up yet? Off to climb the Mournes yet? Dusting off your roller skates yet? Probably not. You didn't sleep too well last night. The Mournes can be classed as non-essential travel. Your bad ankle means you'll never skate again. Depressing isn't it? Life is rarely like the movies or the adverts and perhaps all of this extra time makes you realise exactly that. So let's start again with a reminder. If you have trusted Christ then a radical shift has occurred in your life. You are a new creation (v17a), your sins have been nailed to a cross and you have a new standing with God (v17b). When we look at our lives through this Gospel lens then suddenly our inability to "live our best life" doesn't seem to matter as much. We have been saved from the wrath of God by the Son of God. Let those words refresh you today. Your mortgage still needs to be paid but your debt with God has been paid, in full, forever. How? God took the initiative. We didn't run to Him, He moved towards us. The language in this passage is of reconciliation or in plain terms "the restoration of friendly relations". God through Christ has reconciled us to Himself (v18-19). God takes the initiative. Salvation belongs to God. Christ has done the work. The glory belongs to the Lord. We have been saved! Christ was sinless but was made to be sin (v21a) so that His death at Calvary was sufficient for the sins of many. Therefore whoever has received Christ by faith, has Christ's righteousness credited to their account (v21b). We call this "crediting", imputation. So you may be the worst home schooler in Ballynahinch and your back might stiffen after even moderate exercise but rejoice in Christ's imputed righteousness! The old has gone and the new has come! Finally as part of Christ's church we have been given the message of reconciliation (v19). It is the responsibility of the church to proclaim the Gospel and so to any readers who do not trust Christ - we urge you to be reconciled to God. As a Christ rejecter you are not God's friend. Your relationship with God is not a wee bit frosty but positively hostile. His wrath abides upon you as a due consequence of your sin and hell awaits. Be reconciled to God (v21)! Repent of your sin, receive Christ by faith and you will be saved! You may not make the most of today. The grass may remain uncut. The recipe may remain unfollowed. The bedroom may remain unpainted. But you must not remain unsaved. Do not receive this message in vain. Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6.1-2).
Pray (ac-TS)
Song
Q33 What is justification?
A33 Justification is an act of God's free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Day 34
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Revelation 1:4-8
Message - Scott Woodburn
It isn't an unusual thing to hear someone lament the state of the world. We have lived through dramatic changes in every sphere of life and as the change doesn't stop perhaps you have muttered "It's my grandchildren that I worry about." You are not alone. Change is always unsettling and as the tried and tested ways of the past are dug up and abandoned we can rightly wonder "What is the world coming to?" In these strange days the Word speaks. The book of Revelation is sometimes called the Apocalypse of John. Apocalypse is the english version of a greek word which means "to reveal". In chapter one of Revelation, Christ is revealed to us. He has been raised and glorified. Our Saviour is no longer on the cross but alive forevermore and the vision of Him causes John to fall before Jesus like a dead man. Christ then speaks to His church in chapters two and three. His words are full of challenge, rebuke, exhortation and grace. His church on earth is not perfect, she knows trial and trouble but Christ is in the midst of her and His precious saints will overcome by the power of the Lamb. As chapter four begins, a vision of heaven is revealed to us. It is simply extraordinary. The dazzling beauty of God and His throne is described (v3) and this throne is surrounded by 24 elders (v4). These heavenly beings represent the Church of Christ worshipping God in heaven. 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles make 24, the complete church, the Israel of God, Christ has destroyed the dividing line of hostility and the Church is one (Ephesians 2.14) We meet four strange living creatures (v6-7) representing all of creation and elders and creatures together pour our praise upon God. But in chapter five a question arises. God has a scroll in His hand. It has been perfectly sealed with seven seals. It is full of writing front and back (v1). This scroll represents the things that must soon take place. The closing chapters of history are written here. "What is this world coming to?" You might ask, the answer is written on this scroll. But who is worthy to open and reveal such a scroll? Not me, not you but who? Jesus is the answer. John weeps (v4) because the scroll remains unopened but is told “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (v5) Jesus will open the scroll. History opens in the wounded hands of Christ. Such joyous comfort! The church will know struggle, you will know struggle, there will be wars and rumours of wars, pandemics, false teaching and division but history is drawing to a close at the hand of Christ. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We do not know the future but we know the One who does. We cannot predict how we will reach the end but we know that when we get there, God's will be done! No wonder then that chapter five closes with the elders and the creatures falling down in worship. We join them. “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!”
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Q34 What is adoption?
A34 Adoption is an act of God's free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the Sons of God.
Day 35 - The LORD’s day
What is sanctification?
Sanctification is the work of God’ s free grace, (2 Thess. 2:13) whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, (Eph. 4:23–24) and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. (Rom. 6:4,6, Rom. 8:1)
Day 36
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Leviticus 10:1-7
Message Alan Burke
Strange fire
“I just didn’t get anything out of it” or “I didn’t enjoy it today”. How many of you have uttered those or similar words or heard them said after a Sunday service. The passage today warns us about the attitude with which we come before God in worship. Initially on reading it, it may seem shocking, Nadab and Abihu the eldest sons of Aaron consumed by fire sent by God. Why, what had they done that deserved God’s wrath? Well chapter 8 and 9 clearly outline how they were to worship God. Chapter 9 closes with the fire of the LORD consuming the offering made and when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown (9.24). These men, immediately after choose to ignore the clear instructions of God. They thought that they knew better, it’s a pattern repeated from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden. It’s something we are all guilty of today too, thinking we know better than God, thinking that worship on a Sunday is more to please us and leave us feeling warm and fuzzy inside than it is about coming before the living God in humble adoration.
Perhaps you are thinking, but that was the God of the Old Testament, the God of the New Testament is a God of love. Well take a look in Acts 5 1-11, Ananias and Sapphira are similarly destroyed for their lack of respect before God. We are warned throughout the New Testament against coming before God in an unfit state (Acts 5:1-10, 1 Cor. 11:29,30). We know that Christ took the wrath of God in our place so that we may escape the wrath we deserve, but the Bible is clear, those who reject His work will face His wrath (Heb 10:26-31).
Our worship should be God centred it is what he requires and deserves, our pleasure and enjoyment in worship is only a byproduct, not the goal, there are always going to be times that our minds drift to the roast in the oven or thinking “I love this song”, but when or focus becomes or own enjoyment, what we like, what’s culturally relevant then it is not worship.
As we live in a consumeristic society, we need to examine our focus, is on what we want, and what makes us feel good, our own enjoyment or God? The Bible is very clear, our focus should not be on ourselves but on God. So when we sit down on our sofa, or round the kitchen table, or when we are finally able to gather in the pews again on a Sunday morning, where is our focus? Is it on our Sunday lunch, on whether we’ll like the hymns picked today, on whether the sermon will be any good? Or will it be rightly on the God who is worthy of worship? You may have noticed we start each service with a pause, a moment to move our focus onto God, and then there is a to worship because we are called by God from his word to worship him, a reminder of the God we come before. Use those times to stop, to remember how seriously God takes the attitude of those who come before Him in worship and adjust our focus accordingly. He is worthy of all honour and glory and praise forever and ever.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 36
What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’ s love, peace of conscience, (Rom. 5:1–2,5) joy in the Holy Ghost, (Rom. 14:17) increase of grace, (Prov. 4:18) and perseverance therein to the end. (1 John 5:13, 1 Pet. 1:5)
Day 37
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Proverbs 1.1-7
Message - Scott Woodburn
The book of Proverbs is usually a book that most of us spend little reading. We all know Proverbs 3.5-6 but ask us about King Lemuel or Agur the son of Jakeh and we are left scratching our heads. Hopefully you don't avoid the book. It is more than just a verse about a straight path. Indeed as it begins, Solomon makes it clear what his goal for Proverbs is. He wants us to know wisdom and instruction (v1). To understand words of insight (v3). To receive instruction in wisdom filled living (v4). To help the simple and the young to make wise decisions (v5) and to help the wise to grow in their learning (v6). That all sounds great. Who doesn't need a healthy does of wisdom in their lives? Fools might despise wisdom and instruction (v7b) but certainly not us. Where can we sign up? Another quite well known verse from Proverbs tells us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (v7a). The fear of the Lord? Indeed. Knowing and trusting the Lord, fearing Him, is the wisest move any of us could make. Yet we don't fear Him the way a servant fears his master. We call this a servile fear. A servant fears the judgement and punishment of his master. Instead the Christian's fear is a filial fear. The fear a child has for his/her parent. Zacharias Ursinus helps us see the distinction between the two. He writes "Filial fear arises from confidence and love to God; that which is servile arises from a knowledge and conviction of sin, and from a sense of the judgment and displeasure of God. Filial fear does not turn away from God, but hates sin above every thing else, and fears to offend God: servile fear is a flight and hatred, not of sin, but of punishment and of the divine judgment, and so of God himself. Filial fear is connected with the certainty of salvation and of eternal life: servile fear is a fear and expectation of eternal condemnation and rejection of God, and is great in proportion to the doubt and despair which it entertains of the grace and mercy of God." So the beginning of knowledge is a filial fear of God. There will be many who roll their eyes at such a statement. Our faith is a source for scorn, trusting Christ seems like foolishness. We shouldn't be surprised. The Lord tells us "the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1.18) The Gospel has opened our eyes, we have received Christ by faith and we have come to realise that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2.3) So as the Covid-19 storm blows around us, clinging to Christ is the wisest course. Indeed even in the sunniest of days "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1.25) It was the Christian missionary Jim Elliot who wrote in his diary "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Soon Elliot's life was taken by those he was seeking to serve. Was he a fool? Are you? No. There's no one wiser than the one who has called upon Christ. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q37 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death? The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.
Day 38
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Lamentations 3:22-27
Message Alan Burke
All is not well. Many of us are feeling like prisoners in our own homes, many of us are struggling. When we get out for that weekly shop or some exercise when people see us coming towards us they cross the street, they avoid us like we are a leper, we back off if someone gets to close to us, telling them to ‘keep their distance’. While most days we keep an eye on the telly for the latest new, wondering to ourselves ‘what’s next’, ‘will things get better’, ‘when will I get to see my family again’. We are lamenting our current situation longing only for homework, not homeschooling, longing for a meal out so we can forget the dishes for a night, longing for handshakes and hugs from those whom we love, longing to sit in that pew once more, longing to just go back to normal. All is not well, we lament, we are filled with grief and sorrow.
As we look to Lamentations the writer finds himself in a situation that makes what we face look like a day at Barrys in Portrush. God had brought his wrath against his people because they had sinned grievously against Him, they had been warned but were unrepentant (Amos 5:18), so He acted and brought terrors painful even to describe (2:4,5,20-22). As the writer cries out in agony at what he sees, bewildered at what has taken place, filled with sorrow lamenting over the fall of Jerusalem. BUT hope and not despair is the final word of this book. In the midst of it all, the writer is able to affirm the LORD’s great love (22), His ‘Hesed’ love that is shown in His faithfulness towards His people, that is an unfailing love, a faithful love, a steadfast love, eternal, limitless, a love that is unlike our love a love that remains the same, that does not diminish of increase. This love means that He is their God and they will not be consumed for his compassion and his faithfulness towards them (23). There would be an end to all that they faced as Jeremiah had prophesied (Jer. 25:11). Their hope as a people in the midst of their present circumstances was in the character of God. The writer has learnt to take one day at a time, reflecting on God’s goodness new every morning (23), waiting on the LORD (24), knowing His goodness (25-27).
Despair had moved to Hope in the LORD God. The writer knew that in what ever he faced, God was still God who reigned over all, his confidence was in God, in the midst of adversities, sorrow, weariness sadness and anguish the people of God had hope in Him. We also have hope in the midst of all, hope in God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5.1), in the midst of this pandemic and all of life we can look to God knowing that for His faithful people though faith, He will bring salvation, that is the security of His people as we trust in Him (Col. 3:3). This hope doesn’t mean everything will go back to normal, but it does mean that ‘neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39). That is our hope that should help us to see past our present circumstances to our great God.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 38
What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?
At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, (1 Cor. 15:43) shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, (Matt. 25:23, Matt. 10:32) and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God, (1 John 3:2, 1 Cor. 13:12) to all eternity. (1 Thess. 4:17–18)
Day 39
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Luke 6.17-23
Message - Scott Woodburn
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that all is not right with our world. We see it on the news and we see it every time we look in the mirror. We are fallen people who live in a fallen world. Foolishly we sometimes forget this reality. Today is all we can hope for and frustration comes in droves when today falls short. In the beatitudes Christ lifts his follower's eyes away from their present circumstances and gives them a reminder of what is to come. As this passage begins, Jesus is surrounded (v17) by those who have come for healing (v18a) or to be set free from unclean spirits (v18b). Indeed the push must have been extraordinary as the crowd sought to touch Jesus (v19). It is in this setting that Jesus begins to preach to His disciples (v20). He pronounces four blessings upon them, famously called "beatitudes". This word is taken from the latin "beatitudo" which means "blessed". Please note that this is more than a feeling of being happy, indeed the blessed are those favoured by God. As Jesus looks upon His disciples He sees young men who have left everything to follow Him. They are poor in pocket and they are poor in spirit. They have no earthly riches and they know their need of Christ. So they follow and by following they have received the kingdom of God (v20). To be saved is to understand that we have nothing of worth before a holy God. Our bank balance may be full but our depravity is greater. Blessed is the one in such poverty and who looks to Christ for they have entered into the kingdom. With poverty comes hunger and sorrow and yet Jesus turns these upside-down as well. The one who knows such trouble will be satisfied (v21a) and their tears will be turned to laughter (v21b). The faithful saint will feast at the table of the King when all that breaks their hearts today will be washed away. Indeed even if we are hated for Christ's sake (v22) we can look forward with confidence to a heavenly reward (v23). The young men receiving this teaching are named in this chapter (v13-16). Judas would betray the Lord but the other eleven would understand the reality of Christ's words to them. It is said that only John died in old age (despite imprisonment) with his fellow disciples knowing torture, crucifixion, beatings and the sword. All is not right with this world. The modern Christian can expect trouble as countless generations past have already experienced. But as we realise the difficulty of "now" may we long for the joy of the "not yet". By faith in Christ we are the blessed ones, the favoured of God. We may be beset by various kinds of trials "now", but we are assured of rest when the fulfilment of the "not yet" comes. I could write thousands of words in an attempt to explain our situation and still fall short. Instead, the Word speaks..."Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1.3-9).
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 39
Q39 What is the duty which God requireth of man? The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.
Day 40
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Galatians 4:1-7
Message Alan Burke
The world talks a lot about freedom, we like to be free to make our own choices, our own way in life, we don’t like to be bound by what others tell us to do, we don’t like the limits that have been put on our freedom. But the bible does not talk about us having freedom before Christ instead slavery, slavery to sin.
Here Paul explains how that this son, this heir, is no different to a slave (1) because he had been put under guardianship of others, trustees ran his estate. All aspects of the child’s life were under their guardians control, they would have disciplined when needed, given guidance, teaching all that this child needed to know. Helping them to stand on their own two feet when they are old enough. That’s what we hope for if we have children isn’t it. Yet the point that Paul is making by using this illustration that we likewise “…were in slavery under the basic principles of the world” (3). What does this mean, well there was a time that we were no different than salves, we may not have seen it that way but our sin enslaved us, this world enslaved us.
What changed, How did slaves become sons? In the fullness of time God acted, He sent His eternal Son the pre existing Son who was commission by God to set slaves free and make them the children of God. John Calvin puts it better than I could, when he says, Christ “by putting the chains on himself, he takes them off us” that’s what happens thought faith. Our lives are changed, transformed by this salvific work of Christ Jesus on our behalf. Because of it, we have the full rights of sons, we are adopted heirs with Christ, this is what having the full rights of sons means (4-5).
In the ancient world, inheritance was only for sons, but Paul is speaking of all believers, daughters are elevated and have the same rights as sons, our status has been transformed we are accepted through Christ Jesus as sons, set free through the work of God in Christ Jesus by faith. We have entered into a new relationship. Our status is secure not in what we have done our can do but in Christ as God sends the Spirit into our hearts though faith, so that by the Spirit that moves us to call God our Father (6) and become heirs, His children, His sons and daughters by faith (7).
Know who you are now, know that you can cry out to God ‘Abba, Father’ just as Jesus did in the hours before His death (Mk 14:36), knowing that He is our God our Father, nothing can ever change that.
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 40
What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law. (Rom. 2:14– 15, Rom. 10:5)
Day 41
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Revelation 6
Message - Scott Woodburn
The book of Revelation has often appeared off-limits to the average Christian. It is beyond the understanding of all but the wisest theologians. The mysteries of the book of Revelation can only be deciphered by those who have cracked the code. Yet none of this is true. Remember that the book of Revelation was written to be read aloud to the church. It's message was to bring comfort to Christians facing the persecution of the Roman empire. In the same way it isn't out of date. Revelation speaks to the church about the period of time between Christ's ascension and His return. In the Bible this period is called "the time of the end" by Daniel, "the last days" by Paul and in Revelation "the one thousand years". Revelation is relevant and it is for you. In chapter one we meet the glorified Christ. In chapters two to three, Jesus speaks to His church and in four to five we get a glorious glimpse to the heavenly throne room where the question arises "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" (5.2). Jesus is worthy and in chapter six He begins to unfold the pages of history. From chapter six to eight we see the opening of the seven seals, chapter eight to eleven shows the blowing of the seven trumpets and chapter sixteen teaches us about the seven bowls. All of these judgements describe the same period of time from different perspectives and the judgments intensify until the return of Christ. As Jesus opens the seals we meet the famous four horsemen of the apocalypse. Just as we have already met the four living creatures (4.6) there are four horsemen to symbolise that these judgements will reach the four corners of the earth. The horsemen bring conquest (v2), bloodshed (v4), famine (v5-6) and death (v7-8) upon the earth. The colours of the horses paint a picture. The first horse is white denoting conquest, the second is red denoting bloodshed, the third is black denoting scarcity and the last horse is pale denoting death. As Jesus opens the fifth seal (v9-11) we meet the church in heaven and those who have lost their lives because of their faith. They have come alive and reign with Jesus but they cry out "How long?". The answer is until the full number have been brought in. Even in the midst of turmoil Christ gathers and protects His bride. The sixth seal (v12-17) shows us the return of Christ and the terror that this brings to His enemies. In Revelation six we receive a comprehensive description of what these last days will be like. The church in John's day knew these things to be true and as we live today they are still true. We shouldn't be surprised. Jesus told us “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains." (Matthew 24.4-8) As Jesus rose from the dead and then ascended into heaven the last days arrived. We are still in them and they will be days of trouble on this earth. Today we can be comforted by the knowledge that these judgements are poured out at the command of Christ. The inhabitants of the earth have been put on notice, Christ Jesus has been raised from the dead and will one day judge in righteousness (Acts 17.31). As the world convulses with these birth pains, every person sees with their own eyes that all is not right. Covid19 is another reminder that a greater day of trouble is on the horizon. Thankfully, these are days of grace when whosever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10.13). What joy it is to know these things! Our eyes have been opened to the truth and we can be sure that regardless of the trouble that today may bring, in Christ we will be kept until the end. Evil is not winning. The world is not out of control. Instead history unfolds according to the will of Almighty God. His judgement is already kindled upon this earth but in Christ we will stand in the final judgement to come. Come quickly Lord Jesus! Come quickly! 
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Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q41 Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended? The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.
Day 42 - The LORD’s day
Shorter Catechism question is Question 42
What is the sum of the ten commandments?
The sum of the ten commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves. (Matt. 22:37–40)
Day 43
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Numbers 6.22-27
Message - Scott Woodburn
A stranger to a local reformed church would be forgiven for some confusion. Kirk Session is not a man, Dawn Service is not his sister and the blessing found in Numbers 6 is not ironic. Numbers is another little read book but as always in books that we rarely read there are some verses that we know off by heart. We find in the middle of chapter 6 the beautiful Aaronic blessing. It has this title because it is given by God to Moses for Aaron who is to pronounce this blessing upon the people of God (v22). That in itself is extraordinary. Aaron had shaped a golden calf for the people (Exodus 32.4) which they consequently worshipped (Exodus 32. and here the Lord in His grace uses the same Aaron to communicate a message of grace. Grace upon grace upon grace. These people will soon make their way into the desert. Their journey will be long, difficult and hazardous and so before they go, the Lord blesses His people. They are exiles and sojourners but they receive the blessing of God. They will struggle in the days to come but they receive the blessing of God. My friends this is day 43 of lockdown and it is hard to imagine the end but as a new week begins, receive the blessing of God. "The Lord bless you and keep you." (v24) Today is the 4th May and the Lord announces that He is for His people. He blesses them. He loves them. He meets their need. He will keep us secure until the end. Brothers and sisters this may be a rotten day for you, the worst of days, but may you remember and know the Lord's love for you. "The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you." (v25) Today is not a competition for the Christian. We didn't wake this morning with a list of activities to complete for the Lord or else. By faith we are in Christ and so the Lord is pleased with us and His face shines upon us. Thankfully we know too that when the inevitable stumbles come we worship a God of grace. He is gracious to us. It isn't earned. The Lord is a God of grace, we deserve nothing from Him but His wrath and instead He stoops to bless us.  He answers our repentance with forgiveness. "The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." (v26) The Lord's eye is upon us. He doesn't slumber or sleep. He knows what this day holds for us and He watches us like a mother watches her child. Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble (John 16.33) but today the Lord blesses us with peace. "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I shall bless them." (v27) We are blessed because we belong to Jesus. Not one will be lost. Not one is deemed insignificant. Not one goes un-noticed. You belong to Christ, bought and paid for. Not with perishable silver or gold but by the precious blood (1 Peter 1.18). How then will you slip through His grasp? The last act of our worship service is when the minister with outstretched arms pronounces the benediction. This word comes from the latin and literally means a good (bene) word (diction). So our final prayer doesn't ask God for anything, it doesn't call upon Him extolling His virtue. Instead it is a pronouncement of God's blessing upon YOU as another week begins. It may be some time before the next in person, live, benediction, but today, Church of Christ, "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."
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Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 43. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A. The preface to the Ten Commandments is in these words, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Day 44
Pray (AC-ts)
Read — Ecclesiastes 3:1-13
Message Alan Burke
We are stuck in the house all going a bit daft, what makes it all the worse is that we have so much time to think how this life is far from how we would want it or desire it to be. Even before Covid-19, before the ‘lockdown’, before social distancing we knew that to be the case even if we tried to ignore it or put it to the back of our minds. Then today we read from Ecclesiastes, a book that just seems to paint a picture of how this life is meaningless, that starts with "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (1:2). Not the kind of message most of us wanted to hear and not one that we needed. But it is a message that we need to hear, even if we don’t want to hear! So listen up, why does the writer of Ecclesiastes begin in this way and why does he in these verses go through the ebb and flow of life? To help us understand that life has meaning only when we understand who God is and our place before Him. That’s why he reminds us here in chapter 3, how there is a season for everything (1), then confronts us with our own mortality how one day we are born and one day we will die (2), then how everything comes in its proper time (3-8). As he asks the question, what do we gain from our toil, from all of this (9), it is to remind us all that our burden is of no eternal significance (10). It is to give us perspective, to help us see how God has placed set eternity on our hearts (11), He gives us joys and sorrows (12), enjoyment, satisfaction, all of it is a gift of God (13).
God is the one who gives life meaning, without Him life is meaningless, utterly meaningless (1:2). If you are looking to find fulfilment in the good times, the stuff you own, the experiences you have sooner or later you will realise if you haven’t already that they do not bring fulfilment. When we have God at the centre of our lives, through faith in Jesus Christ every thing else will have its proper place, that will give us enjoyment, true enjoyment and fulfilment in this life looking forward to how we through faith in Jesus Christ we will be able partake in the joys of eternity. As we wait for that day when we will go to be with our Lord and Saviour, know that we can do nothing to add or takeaway a single day from our lives, God has it planned out. Until we go to be with our Heavenly Father, whatever we do, whether we eat or drink we should do it for the Glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), as life ebbs and flows, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, family worship, sharing the gospel, our lives should be lived for the Glory of God. Since it is God’s eternal purpose that we His people are to live to praise His glory (Eph. 1:6). Let us therefore purposefully live to the glory of God in our lives and enjoying Him!
Today we know that just as our times are shaped by the Almighty, so all of history is, and in the fullness of time God sent His Son Jesus that we might become His children though faith (Gal 4:4-5). We live in these in-between times, knowing Christ has come and will return and when He does all will be held account to God (Rom 14:12) and we will be judged either in Christ or in Adam, in the perfect righteousness of Christ or in our own sin (Rom 5:12-21). There is a time for everything, a time to live and a time to die, when Christ returns if we know him through faith we have nothing to worry but if you don’t know the saviour you will have to give an account for your sin, are you ready?
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Westminster Shorter Catechism
Question 44
What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?
The preface to the Ten Commandments teacheth us, That because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments. (Luke 1:74–75, 1 Pet. 1:15–18)
Day 45
Pray (AC-ts)
Read - Daniel 7.13-14
Message - Scott Woodburn
Saturday's devotion and Sunday's sermon focuses on the book of Revelation. I've made much with the children about how it is an "apocalypsis", a revealing. When we hear the word apocalypse we immediately think about the end of the world. Apocalyptic movies and apocalyptic books speak of zombies or giant tsunamis or a meteor hurtling toward the earth. Biblically however when we speak of apocalypse we are referring to a "revealing". God pulls back the curtain and reveals to his servants what must take place. Revelation is by far the most famous apocalypse but Daniel is also an apocalyptic book. In Daniel 7, Daniel receives a vision.

He looks and sees "one like a son of man" (v13). Our ears immediately pick up because this is a familiar title. We know that Jesus referred to Himself consistently as the son of man. But what does it mean? Biblically the phrase "son of man" can point to ordinary humans. The prophet Ezekiel is called "son of man" 93 times. Yet the son of man in Daniel 7 is no mere human. He comes with "the clouds of heaven" (v13a), something that God alone does (Isaiah 19.1). He is given an everlasting kingdom (v14c) and all the people of the world will serve Him (v14b). This passage doesn't speak of an earthly king - it speaks of Jesus. He comes to the Father, described here as the "Ancient of Days" (v13b) and the Father gives the Son "dominion and glory and a kingdom" (v14a). Christ is the King of kings. Daniel saw a vision of this great King in the middle of Babylon and Persia, two great world empires. The Greeks would soon have their turn and eventually Rome would be the top dog. Today few would argue that the Americans and Chinese are the two centres of power on this earth and yet all of them from Nebuchadnezzar to Trump don't come close to the King of kings. Another world leader of the modern age is Russia's Vladimir Putin. Putin's public image is carefully managed to make him appear as the "strong man". There is a famous photo of a shirtless Putin riding his horse, projecting strength and vigour and power. Today the Christian's comfort is that we know the One who rules over them all. It is the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. He came in humiliation and weakness. God stooped and took on flesh. We call this the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ was fully God, fully man and without sin. Amazingly there was a day that Jesus would have spoken His first word. At some stage He would have taken His first step. There would have been moments of hunger and thirst. His feet would have ached after a long walk. Jesus knew physical tiredness and the need for sleep. He knew the pain of loss, weeping at His friend's death. Here is our King. The Son of Man comes not on horseback with tanks and bombs behind Him. He comes as a servant to seek and save that which was lost and when it is all said and done the world's gaze will not rest on Putin, Trump or Xi Jinping. Only Christ's kingdom will endure and only Christ, the Son of Man will sit in judgement on the last day. The Christian is on the right side of history and "I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8.38-39)

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q45 Which is the first commandment? The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Day 46

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — John 5:19-24

Message Alan Burke

Many people have this idea of God the Father full of wrath, the Judge, whereas the idea they have of Jesus is that he is all loving forgiving everyone. Maybe that’s the idea you have in your head. Here though we are taught how Jesus’ had come in judgment, how he separates believers from unbelievers and for those who believe they receive eternal life wears those who do not face his Judgement. Lets look albeit briefly at these verses.

The Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because of Sabbath-Breaking (9) and Blasphemy (17). They understood Jesus to be making the claim that he was equal with God, this appalled them (18). Look though at the response of Jesus as he deals with their accusation, here by emphasising the complete unity between the Father and the Son, how in all they do they are working together. For Jesus can only do the things he sees his Father doing because they One (19). Their relationship is distinctive as between a son and a father but not one of independence, rather dependance. As Jesus is coeternal with the Father as his only begotten Son. The Father’s love is shown for his Son in all that he has done, all that Jesus has done and will do shows his obedient submission to the Father’s will, this obedience ultimately is shown to us in his substitutionary  atonement on the cross. All the things that Jesus had done and would do were so that they  who accuse Him of being a Sabbath Breaker and Blasphemer would see, they would marvel (20) at his equality with God because he has the power to raise men from the dead and give them life. The teaching of the Old Testament says that God and no other can do this (Deut. 32:39, 1 Sam 3:6, 2 Kings 5:7), it is only possible for God, revealing to them that Jesus does what only God can do (21) fully God and fully man.

Then comes the remarkable assertion that as Jesus is the one who gives life and he is the one who Judges. As judgement is God’s (Gen 18:25, Jud 11:27) it is another claim by Jesus to his deity, a claim that he is God, here we are told how the Father has delegated the work of final judgment to the Son (22). The role of Jesus as the sent Son, highlights to us both his equality with the Father in purpose, and nature and his subordination to the Father in carrying out his mission. Jesus came as he did to accomplish what was entrusted to him by the Father. Those who fail to honour Jesus fail to honour the Father, for this Jesus is God (23). And for those who hear Christ and believe in the Father, they can have eternal life, they can be saved (24). Why are we told it this way because if we really believe the Father, we accept Christ, it is impossible to believe in the Father and reject the Son, but to have heard and believed means to have eternal life now, and secure throughout eternity, we are to hear Christ and take the step of faith. If you have not yet accepted Christ and believe in the Father then be warned, the Jesus of your imagination is not Jesus the Son of God who will Judge you.

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 46

What is required in the first commandment?

The first commandment requireth us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; (1 Chron. 28:9, Deut. 26:17) and to worship and glorify him accordingly. (Matt. 4:10, Ps. 29:2)

Day 47

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Philippians 2:1-11

Message Alan Burke 

Zoom, Group FaceTime, WhatsApp Group calling,  things that before the lockdown we maybe knew existed but never imagined that we would be using them. Technology has in the midst of lockdown eased our sense of isolation from friends and family members, I’ve heard of family table quizzes, bingo, charades (although I’m thankful that one hasn’t arrived in our home yet). Lockdown for some families has been a blessing, families are spending more time talking to each other, people are on the phone to family members just for a yarn when they would have only seen each other at weddings and funerals. Relationships with one another almost seem easier now because we have the time to maintain them but when it all goes back to a new ‘normal’ will those relationship continue? Lets be honest, normally relationships are hard, and in the church that is no different, its fine when we can put the minister on mute on a Sunday, the kids aren’t running a muck up and down the isles, wee Sadie isn’t there to give you a telling off, we don’t have to pretend we like Frank, we don’t have to get annoyed because the sweets going down the pew didn’t make it as far as us, and we don’t have to make small talk after the service.

Here though Paul writes to the Philippians and the thrust of what he tells them is, if you really know Christ, if the Spirit is working in you (1), then love one another, be united (2), be humble, think of others better than yourself (3). Wow! Paul may have said it more tactful that I. When we are not on the phone, when we can’t simply mute the minister or just turn him off, when we see all those people again, when we are tired, then what we are to do this. It’s not easy, we are more use to pointing the finger, being critical because its not what we would want, or it's not good enough. Well if we really know Christ, if the Spirit is at work in you, sit up and pay attention, for love, unity, humility, that’s how we are to treat each other as the church. When this all ends, when we get back in that pew and relationships are hard again remember; love, unity, humility!

How? Look to Christ and have the attitude of Christ! He is our example (5), not of selfish ambition, not conceit, not the desire for supremacy, but of humility. Humility that is shown a deep love for God and one another. This is what we need to reflect on, to think on, to model our lives upon, in order to love one another, to have unity with one another and to have humility. The one who rules over the heaven and the earth, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, came, giving up the highest pinnacle of glory to take on our humanity, instead of exalting himself he humbled himself, it is an example to us. He who had the privileges that were rightly his as king of the universe, gave them up to become a baby bound for the cross (5-8). Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that we by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). He who humbled himself for us, who exemplified humility to us will be exalted over all (9) and everyone whether willingly or unwillingly will bow the knee and confess the truth of who he is (10-11). Let us look to Christ our Saviour, let us love one another, have unity with one another and to have humility.

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 47

What is forbidden in the first commandment?

The first commandment forbiddeth the denying, (Ps. 14:1) or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, (Rom. 1:21) and our God; (Ps. 81:10–11) and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone. (Rom. 1:25–26)

Day 48

Pray (ACts)

Read - Revelation 7.1-8.1

Message - Scott Woodburn

A cry goes up as Revelation chapter six ends "the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” Perhaps you've pondered that. You are a Christian but not one of those really good ones. You don't always understand the Bible. Your mind doesn't grasp the Trinity. You have never "brought anyone to the Lord". Will you stand in the judgement? Beloved of the Lord, remember what Christ has done. His work was all sufficient. He was crucified for sin and raised for our justification. All who believe in Him WILL be saved. Your obedience is imperfect, your life hasn't met your own standards let alone those of the Lord BUT you have trusted in Christ. You have been saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. God has declared you to be righteous in His sight and He will never revoke His declaration. In Christ you will stand in these troubled days and in the judgement to come. The Bride of Christ will persevere until the end. Chapter 7 shows us how this will be. In summary because God knows and protects His Church. Four angels go to the four corners of the earth and hold back anything to harm the people of God (v1). Not only that but the people of God are sealed, showing that God knows exactly who belongs to Him and they have His protection (v3-4). How could you possibly slip through His fingers? What follows is an image of the Church of Jesus Christ numbered as 144,000 (v4). Numbers are important in Revelation. We have heard about the sevenfold Spirit of God (7 denotes perfection), the four living beasts (4 denotes creation) and the twenty four elders (12 tribes + 12 apostles denotes the church of Christ). Here 12 is multiplied by 12 and multiplied again by 1000 giving 144,000. 1000 denotes a number of great size and scale, for example the period we are living in until Christ's return is called the 1000 years (Revelation 20.2). So here is a picture of the Church enduring until He comes. But, you might ask, this is a list of the 12 tribes of Israel. Surely this must be something to do with the Israelites? Not quite. This list is unique in the Scriptures. Compare it with Genesis 35.23-26. Notice here that Judah comes first (v5). Notice that Manasseh is included (v6). Notice that Dan is nowhere to be found. Why? Judah comes first because this a picture of Christ's Bride. He is the Lion of Judah and these men and women have been sealed by his Name. Manasseh is included to show that the Church is made up of Jew and Gentile. Manasseh was born in Egypt to an Egyptian mother. Here we see the bringing in of the Gentiles. The church is one olive tree (Romans 11.17) with the dividing line of hostility abolished (Ephesians 2.13-14). Dan is excluded because of idolatry (1 Kings 12.28-20; Judges 18.30). So here is the Church with Christ at the head, outcasts brought in and idolaters put out. In the final verses of the chapter John sees the Church again but this time from a heavenly perspective. He sees a great multitude from every corner of earth (v9). Their sins are forgiven and their robes are white because they have been washed by the blood of Christ (v9,14). They sing His praises (v10). They have gone through great tribulation (v14). This isn't a reference to certain period of time, instead the church can expect tribulation until the final day. If you doubt this then try and preach the Gospel in North Korea. Try and start a church in Saudi Arabia. Yet they are numbered, protected and their tears are washed away (v15-17). Who can stand in the judgement? The church will stand. You, by faith, will stand. Finally the seventh seal is opened and there is silence in heaven for half an hour (8.1). History has come to an end, the day of God's wrath has come, there is nothing else to say. What comfort Christians find here. Our days will see trouble, God's judgement is already kindled on this earth and the church is despised and rejected BUT we are kept by Christ. We will stand! But for those who reject Jesus? Now is the time to raise your voice and call upon Him before the day of silence comes.  

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q48 What are we specially taught by these words, "before me," in the first commandment?These words, "before me," in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.

Day 49 The Lord's Day 

Question 49

Which is the second commandment?
The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thy self to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exod. 20:4–6)



Day 50

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Message Alan Burke 

Life’s gone a bit mad for some of us at least, while for others life has very much gone on as normal. The kids may be off school, but they still have home work, the farm supplies shop might be shut but the milking still needs done, we may have to keep our distance and avoid going out but we need to put food on the table. Before it all changed, I wonder what people saw as our priorities, what they saw mattered to us?

Here the Lord through Moses was teaching his people how they were to live as they prepared to enter the promised Land. As he does so he teaches them that He is one (4), revealing his very nature, his unity and uniqueness. Unique as he was not, nor is he merely first among a number of gods as some would like to believe or as some teach, no he is the LORD God and he is one. How should the people of God, how should we today respond to this truth of how the Lord God is one?

Well he tells us, to love Him with all our soul with all our strength (5). God desires his people to keep him at the centre of who they are and all that they do. Only then will their lives be rightly orientated. Jesus in the Gospel of Mark when speaking to the pharisees said that this is the great and first commandment, he emphasises though much more of the completeness of what it means by saying... ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' (Mk 12:30). This should be at the forefront of who we are and all that we do, seeking to love the Lord our God will all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind and with all our strength as we have a right view of who God is. 

It doesn’t take a fool to realise that the total devotion required is something we cannot give. The good news is that there is a Saviour who has done what we cannot do, the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though we fail miserably we can give thanks, that through his work, by the Spirits work of faith in us, (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:6, 11, 10:3) his righteousness is imputed to us. So that when God looks at us He doesn’t see our sin but the perfect righteousness of Christ. We will always fall short but Jesus has perfectly lived this out. 

How then should we respond in our lives to who God is and the knowledge of our Saviour? Well we should teach our children who he is and his commandments, this isn’t the churches job for that hour on Sunday that we send them to Sunday school, this is your task if you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, foster parent, to teach the truth of God making it an every day conversation, at the centre of your lives. Family worship, meeting together, reading, praying together as a family, sharing with your kids, when you’re homeschooling, at the dinner table, bath time, out for a cycle, every day in every way (7). How we respond should also be seen clearly to our neighbours and community (8-9). I’m not saying we should be getting the paint out and painting a mural on our gable wall even though it’s that time of year, but what about hospitality, when we can do that kind of thing again, inviting our neighbours in sharing food and still giving thanks to our Lord for that food, there are many other ways and I’ll leave it up to you.

What did people see as your priorities before the lockdown, what did they see matter to you? Maybe this is the time to hit the reset button so that the answer will be God!

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 50

What is required in the second commandment?

The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word. (Deut. 32:46, Matt. 28:20, Acts 2:42)

Day 51

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Job 38

Message Alan Burke 

What is going on, like really, we were all eagerly awaiting Boris to come and say life can go back to normal, so we could go see our families, have a party in the back garden, what ever it was we wanted but it hasn’t come. If you watched Sunday nights address to the nation you were probably left scratching your heads, left none the wiser. We may not have the answer to ‘why’ it’s all like this, ‘why’ it hasn’t gone back to normal but instead of the ‘why’ maybe we need to look the the one ‘who’ is sovereign over it all, sovereign over every part of this world and every part of our lives, the LORD God.

Today we look to Job once more remember how, He is blameless, upright, someone who turned away from evil and a man who fears God (1:1). He was a family man (1:2) and a successful business man (1:3). Indeed he would often intercede for his family just in case they sinned against God in their hearts (1:5). However, by the end of the chapter Job has lost everything due to the malice of Satan. Then three friends and Elihu pointed the finger at Job, assuming that in one way or another his circumstances and/or response revealed a rejection of the God whom he claimed to serve faithfully. They told him to repent or expect further judgment.

Finally (Ch. 38) the Lord responds to Job, out of the whirlwind (1), but instead of God answering his questions, Job must answer God. Here the Lord God takes Job by the hand as such, taking him on a tour of the universe, to consider the beauty, the wonder and order of the created world. As Job had lamented his birth and life (Ch. 3), the Lord asks him about the birth of the universe itself (38:4-11). Then the Lord asks the question of Job, have you governed creation that you benefit from (12-38)? The magnificence of all that is described, its unfathomable glory may not have been the answer Job wanted or expected never mind us and we may have been left asking, ‘but what has this to do with the suffering of Job, why his this innocent man suffered?’ But this answer of God reveals our own limitedness, our ignorance, even the most wise and learned of the human race cannot begin to understand the mystery of the universe or its creator. Paul in Romans 11 reminds us;

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34  “For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counsellor?”

35  “Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

Job had been invited by God to consider these things, instead of answering the 'why’ to his questions, God answers ‘who’ and it left him speechless (4:1-2). Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (6:24-34) tells us to look to the birds, consider the lilies, and the grass of the field for what we need is to put God and his Kingdom at the very centre of our lives, knowing that through Christ Jesus we are his, and making His rule and our relationship Him our priority. For every day He has planned for us, and nothing we can do, worry and anxiety cannot add a single day to our lives, let tomorrow bring what it will bring, the Lord reigns over it all. We may not have the answer to ‘why’ Boris didn’t give us what we wanted, the ‘why’ we can’t go to beach, the ‘why’ we can’t have family over, what we need is not the answer to ‘why’ instead we need to look the the one ‘who’ is sovereign over it all, sovereign over every part of this world and every part of our lives, the LORD God, Father, Son and Spirit the Triune God. “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:11

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 51

What is forbidden in the second commandment? 

The second commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, (Deut. 4:15–19, Exod. 32:5,8) or any other way not appointed in his Word. (Deut. 12:31–32)

Day 52

Pray (AC-ts)

Read - Joel 2.28-32

Message - Scott Woodburn

The Holy Spirit was not silent or inactive in the days of the Old Testament. He was there in creation (Genesis 1.2). Moses was filled by the Holy Spirit and we see that gift shared among 70 others (Numbers 11.16-17). Those involved in the construction of the tabernacle were also filled by the Spirit (Exodus 31.1-6; 35.30-36.2). The Spirit rushed upon David anointing him and equipping him for the work ahead (1 Samuel 16.13). Indeed if anyone was to be saved in the days of the Old Testament, the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit was required. In Hebrews 11 we read that without faith is is impossible to please God (11.6) and this comes in the midst of a list of Old Testament believers all described as being "of faith". We know that faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2.8) and so we see the necessity of the Spirit's work in the Old Testament. However just as Old Testament believers looked forward to a Saviour who they could see in the shadows (Hebrews 10.1), so too the Spirit's work would be magnified after Jesus had completed His work. Sinclair Ferguson argues that in the Old Testament the Spirit's work among the people of God was "enigmatic, sporadic, theocratic, selective and in some respects external." In simple terms it was there but wasn't on a scale of what we enjoy today. We see a longing for more in the prayer of Moses "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!" (Numbers 11.29). That cry would be echoed in Joel 2.28-32 in a word of prophecy that would be fulfilled at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2.1-21). As Peter stood to preach he was aware of the significance of what was going on. In verse 16 he is clear that what is taking place was a fulfilment of Joel's prophecy. The Spirit had been poured out and a new age of special revelation had arrived. Dreams and visions would be received, the Gospel would be preached and the message would be authenticated by signs and wonders which were the true sign of an apostle (2 Corinthians 12.12). The Bible would be completed and the church of Jesus Christ would grow, made up of all flesh, Jew and Gentile alike trusting in Christ. As the last Apostle was called home, these amazing days came to a close. Signs and wonders would cease and God's prophetic Word was finished. Some today long for another Pentecost, but it is a misguided longing. Pentecost could no more be repeated than Calvary. Yet we do not despair because the impact of Pentecost can still be felt. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved and everyone who has been saved receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We don't need to seek a so called "second blessing" and today the Spirit's work is not just among a certain few. Paul tells us in Romans 8.9 "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." If you belong to Christ, by faith, you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. How blessed are we! John Owen once said that the greatest privilege of the Old Testament church was to hear news of the things that we now enjoy and take for granted. We have the Spirit. We have the completed Word. We have a full picture of redemption. We see Christ and His work played out fully and today we are fully equipped for the work that is ahead. The Spirit prays for us (Romans 8.26). He makes our evangelism effective as He convicts sinners (John 16.8). He leads us in all truth. He declares the things of God to us (John 16.13-15). He produces fruit in us (Galatians 5.22-23) and most of all He glorifies Christ. What a privilege it is to be on this side of Calvary & Pentecost, but what a greater joy it will be when faith becomes sight and we sing the praises of the Lamb in the company of Believers from every age. None of it would be possible without the work of our Triune God, working throughout eternity, in perfect unity, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. So in response to these realities "let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." (Galatians 5.26) and let us flee the works of the flesh "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like." (Galatians 5.19-21) Instead, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5.25)

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Confession of Faith

Q52 What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment? The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God's sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.

Day 53

Pray (AC-ts)

Read - Acts 9.1-19

Message - Scott Woodburn

It has been a long time since you last shared the Gospel with Stephen. You still love him, he is your brother after all, but what's the point? He seems so hard against Jesus and the last thing you want is another fight. The same could be said for your old friend Jane. As teenagers you guys lived in each other's pockets. You went on all the youth weekends together and you even served on an overseas team. You've still got the hooded sweatshirt from that trip but Jane "doesn't do God" anymore and the last time you saw her was an awkward accidental chat in Asda. Hopeless isn't it? We all know Stephens and Janes. We all know the pain of loved ones who no longer or never did believe. What's to be done? Firstly a reminder. The situation isn't hopeless. We remain convinced and unashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for all who will believe (Romans 1.16). Who would have thought such a man as Saul could have been saved? Breathing out threats and murder against the church with letters in his pocket to have Christians bound and brought to Jerusalem (v1-2). Hopeless, utterly hopeless, until he was confronted by the crucified and risen Christ. None of us will be saved as dramatically as Saul (v3-9) but don't lose sight of what is going on when the Gospel is preached. The Gospel isn't being nice to your neighbour and cutting their grass. It is a declaration of the good news. "Christ crucified for sin and raised for our justification" (Romans 4.25) we cry or "Christ died for the ungodly"(Romans 5.6) we proclaim. As the Gospel is shared, sinners are being confronted by the crucified and risen Christ. Many a meeting passes with no response, many a conversation ends with no repentance, but then, wonderfully, the scales fall from the eyes of a broken sinner and with eyes of faith they see Jesus. No wonder we are unashamed of the Gospel. "Faith comes through hearing and hearing the word of Christ." (Romans 10.17). If you or I can be saved then even those we consider "Saul" can be saved. Secondly, salvation is a supernatural work (John 3.8). If anyone is to be saved it requires the work of the Holy Spirit. Don't miss this! Your carefully constructed Gospel meting may have the right hymns, the right lighting and the right books on a wee table at the back but if the Spirit doesn't work no one will be saved. As the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to the world, the church devoted themselves to the things of God and the Lord gave the increase (Acts 2.42-47). This isn't a call to laziness in our evangelism, or the old attitude that says "God will convert the heathen without you or me." Not at all. But if your mission team spends more time on the colour of the hooded sweatshirt than calling upon the Lord in prayer, I humbly suggest it's focus is entirely wrong. Finally, to close, another reminder. If your husband is never converted or your best friend doesn't trust Christ, this isn't on you. Again this isn't a call to laziness but a call to remember who you are in Christ. Like Saul who soon became Paul, you have been converted to Christ and your standing with the Lord is radically different (Ephesians 2.11-13). God has declared you righteous in His sight and this declaration was not dependant upon you seeing 100 sinners converted in your lifetime. Be much in prayer. Be zealous in evangelism. Be faithful in the things of God. But always remember that your loved one's lack of faith isn't because you didn't do enough. Do not allow the enemy to rob you of your joy by convincing you that salvation is all about you. It's not and never has been. "Salvation belongs to the Lord!" (Psalm 3.8) As Saul set out for Damascus he had no notion that his life was about to change. He had no plans to be converted to Christ. Yet in this episode and in our imperfect evangelistic efforts we remember that God is sovereign. He would save Saul and use him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (v15-16). So weep about your loved ones but not in despair. Instead, rest in the saving sovereignty of God and be always ready to declare "Behold the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world!" (John 1.29)

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q53 Which is the third commandment? The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Day 54

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Colossians 2:6-15

Message Alan Burke 

Since the end of March some of you may have noticed especially if you have walked past the manse the pile of brambles, branches and even a bath lying at the side of the house. I’ve been using some of my evenings to clear out a bit of the back garden, even taken a couple of trees down that were looking worse for wear. Chopping the trees down was the easy part, the hard part came when I tried to remove one of the stumps, chopping, digging, pulling, pushing and I still haven’t got very far. The trees were firmly rooted which they need to be to withstand the assaults of the good Norn Irish weather, the winds and storms that they have been battered with throughout the years. Today as we look to Paul and Timothy letter to the church in Colossae the failed attempt at removing that tree stump struck me as I read these verses, hopefully you will understand why in a moment.

This letter is one that Paul wrote in response to some of the nonsense that was being spouted by false teachers and to act as a corrective as well as an encouragement to the beliers in their growth towards maturity. He had just warned them about deceptive teaching, the dangerous threat that were in their midst, it may have sounded reasonable, persuasive to them (4). In response to this threat, here Paul teaches them and us how to withstand and avoid the nonsense that was and continues to be spouted by some, by encouraging them to continue on, on the basis of what they have already come to know in Christ. Look at the wording that he uses, as you have received Christ Jesus as ‘Lord’. As ‘Lord’, what Paul is saying to the church is, as they have received Christ Jesus as ‘Lord’ they have submitted to Jesus as their Lord, as they accepted his rule, His lordship over their entire lives, in every situation, in every aspect of it they are to continue in him, walk in him, embracing the truth and the implication of that truth. 

They are also to be firmly rooted, if that tree stump wasn’t firmly rooted I’d have had no problem tearing it out, actually the wind and the storms would have taken care of it for me long before now, but when a tree is firmly rooted, it can take a hammering from the wind and storms. For believers the in Colossae as well us us, what is needed is to be firmly rooted in Christ to be able to deal with the winds and storms of this life, rooted in Christ Jesus as ‘Lord’ rooted in the teachings that were given to us by him and his apostles. We are also to build up in him and establish the faith, another analogy by Paul to emphasise this point, we are to build up, the opposite of tear down, building each other up on the truth of scripture not in the nonsense that so often comes as we try to keep a foot in the culture and a foot in the church, we should be very careful of who we listen to, who we are reading, just because the book claims to be ‘christian' doesn’t mean its not filled with nonsense, we need to walk in what we received, rooted in what we received, built up in what we received, to be established in the faith, and what did we receive, Christ Jesus the Lord of all, and when we do this we will abound not with gurning but with thanksgiving. 

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Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 54

What is required in the third commandment?

The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’ s names, (Matt. 6:9, Deut. 28:58) titles, (Ps. 68:4) attributes, (Rev. 15:3–4) ordinances, (Mal. 1:11,14) Word, (Ps. 138:1–2) and works. (Job 36:24)

Day 55

Pray (AC-ts)

Read - Revelation 10&11

Message Scott Woodburn

After Christ opens the seventh seal the trumpet judgements begin. They mirror the events outlined during the opening of the seven seals but this time from the perspective of the unsaved world. God's judgement burns against sinful humanity and yet tragically the response isn't one of repentance (9.20-21). Just as seal six was followed by an interlude, so too the pattern is repeated after trumpet six. As chapter ten begins a mighty angel comes down from heaven (v1). We have reason to believe this messenger of God is none other than Christ Himself. He is described as being robed in a cloud (v1), used elsewhere to describe God alone (Psalm 97.2). He has a rainbow above His head (v1), we remember similar in Revelation 4.3 around God's throne. His voice is like a lion's roar (v3), we recall that Christ is the Lion of Judah. He comes speaking a true word, God swearing by Himself showing the authenticity of the message (v6; Hebrews 6.13). All that God wills, will be accomplished (v7). Christ gives John a little scroll (the same scroll that Jesus took from the Father's hand) and urges Him to eat it (v9), to devour it and then to preach its message (v11). As God speaks, much of what we receive is sweet like honey, but much tastes bitter (v10). Nevertheless, let God be true and every man a liar (Romans 3.4) as the message goes forward to the people of the earth (v11). Before the seventh trumpet blows, chapter eleven shows us the church, here described as the temple and as two witnesses. The language of the people of God being a temple is not new (Ephesians 2 v19-22) and biblically the authenticity of a message is established by the testimony of two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19v15). So here in the interlude is another picture of the Bride. She takes the message of the Gospel into the world and faces persecution as she goes (v2). Indeed as the ministry of the church comes to an end it seems as if the world (described here as a great city called Sodom & Egypt (v8)) and Satan (v7) has triumphed over the people of God. The church appears defeated and left dead in the street. The world celebrates that the message of the Gospel seems to have been snuffed out but vindication comes as Christ returns and His people are raised again to life (v11-12). What are we to make of these two vivid chapters? In a word my brothers and sisters, confidence. Confident in the message, which is God given. Confident in the mission, as we go forward into the world. Confident in the church, vulnerable yet victorious. Confident that evil, though appearing rampant, has lost, is losing and will lose. Confident in Christ, who sends us, protects us and one day will receive us to Himself. I won't pretend that life for the Christian will be easy but these verses again show us that God knows His people as He measures the temple (v1). How we need that comfort! As this world moves towards the end the church can expect the world to rage against it with an increasing ferocity. But child of God it will only be for a short time, described here as 42 months (v2) or 1260 days (v3). What do these numbers mean? If 7 denotes perfection, then 42 months/1260 days is half of 7 years. The church must therefore endure for a little while and then rest forever, utterly confident that God is in charge of the clock. So Church of Christ, keep on, press on and speak on, for "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8v18)

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Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q55 What is forbidden in the third commandment? The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Day 56 - The LORD’s Day

Question 56

What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
The reason annexed to the third commandment is, That however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment. (1 Sam. 2:12,17,22,29, 1 Sam. 3:13, Deut. 28:58–59)

Day 57

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Genesis 12:1-9

Message Alan Burke

Up to this point in Genesis the narrative was primarily focused on the terrible consequences of sin after the fall. Adam broke the covenant of works and all mankind faced alienation from God, but that wasn’t the end of the story, remember that God had pronounced Grace to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15), that one would come to crush or bruise the head of the Serpent, this was the first announcement of the gospel, there is a sense that the Old Testament is the outworking of this promise. God out of his mere good pleasure entered into a covenant of grace to deliver His image bearers out of the estate of sin and misery. Here God reaches down to call Abram to himself. God by his mere good pleasure, by his own divine election, his choosing was calling Abram. It wasn’t that Abram was a cracking lad, upright among his community, who everyone knew was destined for great things, of course not. Abram was a sinner, just like you and I, he would make some terrible errors in judgment, sin heinously but God called this sinner to himself in his grace. God’s call was not because he deserved it. 

Abram was called to leave his pagan ways behind, leave everything he knew, a home where he would have been comfortable , follow the Lord of all and enter into a covenant relationship with him, he declared the blessing that would come if he would put his faith in the God of these promises (1-3). These promises were that he would be a great nation, that he would be blessed and those who bless him would be blessed, those who curse him would be cursed. Abram trusted in God, and the Lord counted him as righteous on account of his faith in Him (Gen. 15:6). Later this promise given to him was clarified, God said, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This promise is further clarified, when God said to Abraham: “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) The apostle Paul, identifies this “offspring” as Christ. So we have God’s immutable promise that through Christ all the nations of the world will be blessed. Like Abram, God today counts us righteous, he justifies us not because we are great specimens of humanity, we are pillars of the community, rather it is only if we trust in His promises through Christ Jesus alone, through faith in Him alone (Gal. 2:15-16).

I want to take you to the words of Jesus as we finish in Luke 13:33, where he says… “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple”, we must be willing to put God first in our lives, when we put more importance in our comforts, homes, families, what ever we hold dear and put him above all else, for most of us that will not mean we have to leave everything to follow the Lord but it should mean that we are putting God above all other things serving him not ourselves.

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 57

Which is the fourth commandment?

The fourth commandment is, Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day, and hallowed it. (Exod. 20:8–11)

Day 58

Pray (AC-ts)

Read - Psalm 2

Message - Scott Woodburn

It's hard not to shrink when we watch the news. The preacher tells us that God is sovereign but it certainly doesn't seem like it in North Korea or Syria. There is all too often a disconnect between what we know to be biblically true and how we react when the latest headlines appear. I wonder how the Lord views the headlines? We are told in Psalm 2. The nations rage and the peoples plot (v1). The kings of the earth set themselves against the Lord and His Anointed One Jesus (v2). They say let's throw off God and His demands (v3). Nothing has changed since the garden. How does God respond? Amazingly, with laughter (v4). He holds them in derision (v4b) - God mocks the rebels. It's like an adult laughing at the bold claims of a toddler. God is utterly sovereign and laughs in the face of his opponents. Sometimes however laughter comes as a result of nerves. Perhaps the Lord's laughter hides His worry? Not one little bit. The Lord speaks in His wrath (God's righteous anger) and His opponents are utterly terrified (v5). What does He say that is so terrifying? He has set His King in place (v6). Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. In simple terms, it is a Psalm about the Messiah who is Jesus and it is Jesus the nations need fear. We see the Covenant of Redemption in the next verses. We know from Scripture that our God deals with sinful humanity by means of a promise or covenant (Genesis 15). Lesser known is the promise made between Father, Son and Spirit to redeem a people from the world. We call this promise the Covenant of Redemption. In simple terms, the Father chooses the people (Ephesians 1v4), the Son dies for the people (John 6v38) and the Spirit calls the people (John 3v5). Here the Covenant of Redemption is fulfilled as the Triune God works in perfect unity. The Father speaks to His only begotten Son (v7). Jesus is begotten not created. He is the eternal Son. The Father promises the Son a people (v8) and a throne from where He will rule with an iron rod (v9). This news should warn the rebels (v10). Their response should be the fear of the Lord and trembling worship (v11). The Psalm ends with a call to "kiss the Son" to avoid His wrath (v12). It is an image of submission to the divine King. In ancient times the ambassadors of a ruler or king would wear the king's ring on their hand as a visible symbol of authority. A sign of your submission to that ruler would be to kiss the ring on the hand of the ambassador. Today we must "kiss the Son" to be saved. We must receive Him by faith and submit to the divine rule and reign of Christ. Those who do this are to be called "blessed", in Christ they will find refuge in this life and the next (v12b). It's hard not to shrink when we watch the news but today "Christ executes the office of King in  calling  out  of the  world  a  people  to  himself,  and  giving  them  officers,  laws,  and  censures,  by  which  he  visibly governs  them;  in  bestowing  saving  grace  upon  his elect,  rewarding  their  obedience,  and  correcting them  for  their  sins,  preserving  and  supporting  them  under  all  their  temptations  and  sufferings, restraining  and  overcoming  all  their  enemies,  and  powerfully  ordering  all  things  for  his  own  glory, and  their  good;  and  also  in  taking  vengeance  on  the  rest,  who  know  not  God,  and  obey  not  the gospel.” (Larger Catechism, Q45) Christ must reign until all His enemies are destroyed (1 Corinthians 15v25) Sleep well Christian.

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q58 What is required in the fourth commandment? The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as he hath appointed in his word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy sabbath to himself.



Day 59

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Jonah 3

Message Alan Burke 

Have you ever wanted a second chance, to try and prove yourself, that relationship that ended so horrendously, a second chance so that you can show that you are sorry, show that you have learnt from that indiscretion, or your stupidity or failing. We all have! There are times that we have been given a second, third, fourth, lots of second chances even when we have been undeserving of them. Well when the word of the LORD came to Jonah, telling him to go and preach against Nineveh, Jonah went on the run, he fled (1:3). I get what he was trying to do, after all the word of the LORD was to tell people that they were evil, wicked, sinners, reprobates, pagans, scumbags, however you want to put it and for Jonah he was going to have to be the one who took the message, was tasked with telling it how it was. Running sounds like the easier option, but it wasn’t, it never is.

Here Jonah is given a second chance to go and take the message to Nineveh, the LORD had dealt with Jonah as a father would his child, he had allowed Jonah to go his own way, letting him realise the misery, the consequences of his choices, then corrects the rebellious Jonah telling him once more to go and preach that message that God had given him (3:1). The message was both simple and frightening, in forty days would be overthrown (3:4). The word overthrown is the same used of what was to take place and did take place against Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:21), what Nineveh faced was total destruction for their sin.

Jonah was to preach the message of judgement upon the Ninevites, when he does the most remarkable thing happens, more remarkable than Jonah inside the belly of a big fish for three days (1:17), it was that the people of Nineveh heard the message of the Lord and repented, they believed God (3:5). From the greatest to the least, both men and beasts were to wear sackcloth, and fast, calling out to the mighty God, turning from evil, hoping the Lord would show mercy (3:6-9). The king and all the people turned from evil, they repented, turning from their sin to God, affirming the truth of God’s word. Our Father will always freely forgive those who turn to Him, and they had shown that their repentance was genuine (Acts 26:20). Jonah was given a second chance but he was resentful of the second chance given to the Ninevites, in the object lessons that follows in the wideness, the Lord's mercy and compassion is revealed (4:5-11).

I want to draw out some implications from this, Jonah the second chance prophet experienced the grace of God, he did not hold Jonah's sin against him, neither does God hold our sin against us through Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:19) and he corrects us just as he had corrected Jonah (Heb. 12:7-11). Secondly Jonah was called to do what, to show by his actions that God is love, to have a puppet ministry, start a drama group or preach, to declare God’s judgement? Remember Jesus opening words were repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15), Jesus himself on numbers occasions said go and preach this message to his disciples, remember the words of Jesus in the great commission, we are to Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation, to proclaim to speak, like a herald to announce publicly (Mark 16:15) that’s what we are called to do, the gospel is good news for all who repent. This is the message that our nation needs, we did not need a ‘UK Blessing’ we needed to call the UK to repentance, because we are worse than the Ninevites, we killed 1 in 4 babies in the womb last year, as a nation we commit genocide, this is a godless nation who needs to be called to repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15). Likewise God calls his people to repentance (2 Chron 7:14), we must humble ourselves before God, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ remembering The Lord is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon him (Ps 86:5).

I close with the words of Revelation 3:1b-3 that are a challenge to us the church …I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 59

Which day of the seven hath God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?

From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath. (Gen. 2:2–3, 1 Cor. 16:1–2, Acts 20:7)



Day 60

Pray (AC-ts)

Read - Matthew 6.5-15

Message - Scott Woodburn

Put your hand up if prayer is always easy. Keep it up if prayer is always a delight. Raise it higher if prayer is a constant in your life. If your hand is still in the air then blessed are you. "Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of  Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies." The catechism makes it sound so simple but I can't honestly say that this has always been my experience. Nevertheless I'm always thankful for the Lord's teaching on prayer. Christ begins by warning us that prayer is not an exercise in being seen (v5). This isn't to say that we shouldn't meet together to pray, instead it is a warning against a heart attitude that wants to show the world how holy we are. Instead find a quiet corner and call upon the Lord (v6). Another warning is to avoid overcomplicating prayer. I've sometimes urged our prayer gatherings "not to pray a sermon". A sincere prayer of four stumbling words is perfectly acceptable. A prayer that is focused on saying all the right theological phrases is more about the one praying rather than the Lord (v7). Thankfully Jesus helps us in our prayers. The whole bible guides us in prayer but the Lord's prayer is particularly helpful. We approach the Lord in prayer reverently, approaching the thrice holy God (v9a), praying that His name will be "hallowed" or glorified in all things (v9b). We pray that His kingdom will advance at the expense of the enemy (v10a). We ask that He would help us to obey His will in all things as it is done in heaven (v10b). We pray that He would graciosuly meet our daily needs (v11). We cry that He would forgive us our sins and that He would help us to forgive others (v12). Perhaps this verse highlights why prayer is so often difficult. We have no problem asking for daily bread and we absolutley want to be forgiven, but forgiving others? After what they have done? After what they have said? No way. But let the Word of God challenege you today. This isn't a Presbyterian prayer but the Lord's prayer. This comes from the mouth of God. "Teach us to pray Lord" we ask, and teach us He does. When you pray, ask that the Lord will forgive you, as you forgive others. The Lord has no regard for your confession if you remain hard against your neighbour (v14-15). Imagine when lockdown is over. You haven't seen "that person" in months, but there she is, standing in Poundland. There he is, drinking coffee in Montalto. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Finally we pray and recognise that the Christian engages daily in a spiritual battle. We ask that the Lord would keep us from temptation and sin and that He would help us and deliver us when we are being tempted (v13). We have been praying the Lord's prayer each week in our online services. We can't hear each other but I think it is a wonderful thing for us to connect by saying these familiar words together on the Lord's day. God is wonderfully gracious in giving us His Word and by teaching us in this manner. The Lord's prayer can be prayed everyday word for word and we can learn from the pattern it sets to influence all of our prayers. Prayer is rarely easy but it is always essential. So don't be the guy who says he wants to get fit as he reaches for another biscuit. If prayer is hard or a consistently small part of your Christian life...pray.

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q60 How is the sabbath to be sanctified? The sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.



Day 61

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Message Alan Burke

We are use to hearing ‘what goes around comes around’ as people rightly or wrongly hope that there will be some kind of recompense and some kind of just comes. There is part of us at least that we like people getting their just rewards, people who have hurt us being hurt themselves. For the believer though, we who have escaped our just rewards through faith in Jesus Christ, we should be longing and praying that many others will escape their just rewards, the wrath of God as we have. Here Paul recalls his conversion sharing his testimony with Timothy and the believers to whom he writes. In doing so he presents himself as a model for them to follow and by it there are several essential qualities revealed to us that should be found in the life of a believer and especially should be evident in those who lead in both how they lead and live.

How does the testimony of Paul start, not by focusing on himself like many of ours do, but by focusing on Christ. For it wasn’t some decision that he had made, it wasn’t the education that he had, it wasn’t the methods that he used or his personality that had enabled him to do all that he was doing, it was Christ who gave him strength to do all that he had done (1:12). Remember who Paul was before his conversion, he was Saul, persecutor of the church extraordinaire, he breathed out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples and he had a licence to do pretty much what he wanted against the church (Acts 9:1), his raison d’être, his entire purpose in life before his conversion was to persecute the church, he was an anti-Christian fanatic and Christians lived in fear off. You wouldn’t have want this fella arriving in Crossgar, Ballynahinch or wherever you live, but he encountered the risen Christ and repented of his sin.

It was Christ who called Paul to himself, it was Christ who had given him strength and considered him to be faithful to be appointed to service (1:12). Paul had experienced the Grace and mercy of God and was saved not because he deserved it, but by the mercy of God, neither does he give us our just rewards, Christ took the wrath that we deserve upon himself (1:13-14). Now Paul was committed to the gospel and makes the point that the faithful teacher stays true to the gospel in comparison to the false teacher (1:3-11). He encourages Timothy and all who believe to do likewise, for the basis of salvation is faith. Paul is an object lesson in the grace of God, if someone like him ‘the worst of sinners’ can be transformed by that grace (15-16) likewise there is hope for those family members who reject the gospel, who dismiss it as nonsense, who are hostile to it. Remember with conversion there is transformation, faith produces a new manner of life, that is seen! Knowing the living God, having received his unmerited favour and not our just rewards should lead us to worship for Paul could not reflect on what had happened to him without worshiping the living God (1:17). Let us be praying for those whom we know that they may likewise escape the wrath of God, that they can like us know his abundant and amazing grace, It is the work of Christ in us not what we have done, and it must be shown in how we live, leading us to worship. 

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 61

What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, (Amos 8:5, Mal. 1:13) and the profaning the day by idleness, (Acts 20:7,9) or doing that which is in itself sinful, (Ezek. 23:38) or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations. (Jer. 17:24–26, Isa. 58:13)



Day 62

Pray (AC-ts)

Read - Revelation 12-13

Message - Scott Woodburn

At secondary school we had a teacher who for a multitude of reasons had our complete respect. We knew he wasn't to be messed with and he had a fabulous turn of phrase that saw many of his words becoming quotes from our own lips. On one particular occasion however we were amazed to find him reading a book by an individual who many of us considered to be a "goat". We challenged our teacher as to why he would read such a book. His reply became another soundbite that would echo around the halls of our school until the day we left. "To defeat your enemy," he said "you must know your enemy." For teenage boys this seemed to be the height of wisdom and we applied it and misapplied it for months. It probably originated with Sun Tzu rather than a teacher in an East Belfast school, but I think it stands the test of time. These chapters show us the enemy of the church so that we need not be overcome. We have heard that the church can expect trouble as she continues her witness in the world. Chapters twelve and thirteen zoom into the character of our enemy. Firstly we meet Satan, described as a great red dragon (12v3), constantly defeated but endlessly hateful against the people of God. He has rebelled in heaven and carried many fallen angels with him (v4). He tries to destroy Christ (v5) and when he fails he tries to destroy the church (v17). His activity is summed up by a loud voice in heaven "Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short” (v12) Our enemy is defeated but filled with hate.

How does he attack the church? Supported by his two allies the beast from the sea (13v1-10) and the beast from the earth (13v11-18). The beast from the sea represents oppressive state power wherever it if found. It is given authority to rule (v7-8) and demands the worship of the people (v8b). In John's day the church saw this clearly in the Roman Empire with her "god" emperors demanding worship. Today we see the beast's hand in places like North Korea and wherever the state demands adoration and tramples the church. 

The second beast represents false religion and it wields the authority of the first beast (v12) doing miraculous signs (v13) striving to deceive the inhabitants of the earth (v14) with the goal of bringing all to worship the first beast and ultimately Satan. Indeed the power of the these acolytes of Satan will be such that unless you bear their mark your ability to do the basics of life will be greatly curtailed (v17).

As we read this startling truth we begin to quake. Certainly in our land we have been spared the excesses of Satan and his minions. We can be thankful today for freedom of religion and a stable government. Certainly we can criticise our institutions but we shouldn't take for granted the liberty we enjoy. Yet Revelation points to the trouble that the church will face and as the seals are opened, the trumpets blown and the bowls poured out we can expect an increase of Satanic hostility until the return of Christ.

"There's no comfort here." you cry, "I'm off to build a bunker in my back garden." Slow down child of God. Again we see that Satan's time is limited. The beast has authority for 42 months (13v5). The church is protected and nourished for 1260 days (12v6) and a time, times and half a time (12v14). This is the same period we discussed last week, 3 and a half years. The church will know trouble but it will not last forever. Just as these numbers encourage us, we meet the most famous number of all as this section ends. The beast's number is 666 (13v18). Many theories abound to explain the number but again I believe well intentioned Christians have clouded the matter. God is perfect and a number to describe Him is the prefect number 7. Father, Son & Holy Spirit = 777. Satan and his allies are not perfect. He and the two beasts mimic God, but they are a poor imitation, an unholy trinity if you will. Their number is 666. Always angry, always vengeful but always falling short. 

So today we know our enemy and we will overcome him. Not by might but "by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death." (12v11) Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q62 What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment? The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God's allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the sabbath-day.



Day 63 - The Lord’s Day

Question 63

Which is the fifth commandment?

The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. (Exod. 20:12)


Day 64

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Exodus 20:4-6

Message Alan Burke 

You may wonder is the second word of the Lord (better known as second commandment to most of us) really necessary, after all the first was pretty clear. Why is this second word needed, why are we told “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.… you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (20:4-5). Well for two reasons. Firstly the Lord God is far beyond our comprehension, he is greater than we can fathom, he is infinite (Job 11:7-9), he is the one  after all who put the stars in their place, the one who brings forth each new day, the one who sustains all of life by the power of his word (Heb 1:3). Our desire is to reduce him to a size that we can understand, this command prevents us from doing that, preventing us making God man sized. No idols, no images, nothing can compare to his greatness and they limit is infinite nature so we are prohibited from doing this. Secondly the self revealing God is Spirit and we are to worship him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23-24). When we come before him we must worship him as he has been revealed (Deut. 4:12, 15-19, 25-28). His word must dwell within us in all wisdom for this is the root of true and acceptable worship (Col. 3:16).


So in this second word the Lord God gives a comprehensive prohibition against idolatry, there is no distinguishing between the worship of other gods, with our without images, and the worship of Lord God using images, for God hates idolatry (Deut 6:14-15, 32:21, Jer 2:5). Instead we must look to the Lord God who has revealed himself and not subject him to our own imaginations. There are consequences for obedience and disobedience. For the Lord God is a Jealous God (20:5b), When we hear the word ‘jealous’ today, we automatically think negatively. But here the perceived negativity that the word connotes are not what is being portrayed here (20:5), an alternative way of saying it would be that the Lord is zealous towards his people, he has a passion for them, they are his people and he is their redeemer, and is committed to showing his exclusive relationship with them. 


For the people of Israel were his, and through faith we are his, they were as we are a redeemed people, his servants and if his people turn to other gods then God will be jealous of them as a husband is of a wife that turns to other men. For God is passionately committed to his people, he has established a covenant relationship with them (Gen 17:1-8). If you think that the warning that comes for the future generations is severe think about it for a moment, children learn from their parents, there are times I look at my children and see a little mirror of myself, often children grow up and whether we want to admit it or not have copied the values our priorities, values and if we are honest we can all see it and it will either be a blessing to them as they look to God or bring his judgment as they look to anything but God.


What does this mean practically for us, well it means that we should worship God how he has instituted, being careful not to add to it or take from it, receiving tradition from others or looking to the ‘likes’ of others no matter how good intentioned they may be (Footnote 1). Neither should we make any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshipping of it, or God in it or by it (Footnote 2). And we must look to God, who provided his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the true image of the invisible God, so that we might know him (Col. 1:15; 2:19), he is our Saviour who has lived a perfect life of obedience it for us so that we might be saved (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 4:6, 11, 10:3).


Footnote 1 Numb. 15:39, Deut. 13:6–8 Hosea 5:11, Micah 6:16 1 Kings 11:33, 1 Kings 12:33, Deut. 12:30–32, Deut. 4:2, Ps. 106:39, Matt. 15:9, 1 Pet. 1:18, Jer. 44:17, Isa. 65:3–5, Gal. 1:13–14,1 Sam. 13:11–12, 15:21, Acts 13:44–45, 1 Thess. 2:15–16


Footnote 2 Deut. 4:15–19, Acts 17:29, Rom. 1:21–23,25, Dan. 3:18, Gal. 4:8, Exod. 32:5


Pray (ac-TS)

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism 

Question 64

What is required in the fifth commandment?

The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to every one in their several places and relations, as superiors, (Eph. 5:21) inferiors, (1 Pet. 2:17) or equals. (Rom. 12:10)



Day 65


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Proverbs 3:1-12


Message Alan Burke 


Parents try as best that they can to pass on their wisdom to their children, pass on life’s lessons so that they don’t make the same mistakes. If you are a parent then I’m sure that there are times you have wished that you had done a better job, and for all of us there are likely things that our parents tried to teach us that we wish we had listened too. Here in this passage a father is trying to pass on to his son, pass on what he has learnt for his sons best, because he cares. As we look to the fathers instructions to his son, we should know and understand that the Lord God through Solomon is speaking to his people, he is speaking to us, he is showing us the way to live through what is said (1-2). So as we come as God’s beloved children, adopted heirs with Christ, what we learn from the fathers words to his son will help us to be fully alive for the Glory of God. 


The Lord in his self revelation declares his ‘steadfast love and faithfulness’  (Ex. 34:6-7). These attributes throughout scripture are used to describe God, so the father is teaching the son if you want this fulfilled life, then what you need is the LORD God. The father is teaching his son that he needs to not only know about God but know him in his heart (3). What we need to do is to know him, all people and we know him through faith in the Jesus Christ (Rom 5:6-10). What are we to do in response, how are we to live, we are to trust in him with all our heart (5). The idea is that we completely rely on him, not some kind of half hearted trust, or a trust when it suits us and we are warned not to lean on our own understanding (5). When we let the bible be our rule and guide, then we allow the Lord through it to challenge our inner most thoughts and desires, it challenges our feelings, and it will work itself out in our lives, we need his truth first then look at the practical out-workings of that, we need his truth first to know how to live.


In all our ways we are to acknowledge him, to trust in the Lord completely and acknowledge him rightly, in how we love each other, how we care for those who grieve, how we care for those who are unable to be with us because of age or infirmity, supporting each other in all ways. And as we do this, as we acknowledge him rightly and he will make straight our paths, he will help us on the way, its a wonderful assurance for us, that in this life as we live for him, desiring to trust in him with all our heart that he will lead us helping us to turn from this worlds ways to God (6-7). 


Again proverbs tells us to fear the Lord which is to know and trust him, this is the wisest move any of us could make (7). We don’t fear the Lord like that of a servant to his master but that of a child towards their parents. When we fear the Lord we turn from evil to him, instead of facing a lost eternity, we find salvation in the LORD’s amazing grace toward us, this will be of benefit to our entire being (8). We are also to honour God in the recognising that all that we have comes from Him, turning from the temptation is, of honouring ourselves (9-10). Why, because of how he has treated us, “for you know that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sake became poor, so that we by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Knowing that in what we face just as a parent disciplines his child the Lord will do that for us his children (11-12), so that we will grow and know that we have a saviour who is able to empathise with our weaknesses, who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Heb 4:15) so the bible tells us what we do in times of suffering, we are (Heb. 4:16) to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 65

What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

The fifth commandment forbiddeth the neglecting of, or doing any thing against, the honor and duty which belongeth to every one in their several places and relations. (Matt. 15:4–6, Ezek. 34:2–4, Rom. 13:8)



Day 66


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Micah 6:6-8


Message - Scott Woodburn

How does one approach Almighty God? With what will He be pleased? These questions are not new. We see similar asked in Micah 6v6-7. At first glance we can imagine a worshipper crying to the Lord out of sincerity. "Lord what will please you? I want to know because You are my heart's desire. I want to praise You and extol Your name, so please Father what can I bring?" But that's not it at all. Earlier in this chapter God has charged the people with being tired of the things of God (v3). They're fed up with Yahweh. They've heard all the stories before and they've sung all the Psalms. They need a wee break. With this background suddenly we see verses 6 and 7 in their proper context. 


The people are essentially asking "What will it take to get God off our backs?". Perhaps burnt offerings and calves will do it (v6)? Maybe a little bit more will be necessary. How about thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil (v7a)? No? Still not pleased? Well what about my firstborn child (v7b)? If I offered my son will that please the God who tires my soul? Imagine someone from Ballynahinch or Crossgar who offered all these things. They'd be considered fine members of our church and yet what many in our fellowships fail to realise is that we don't get to bargain with God. He doesn't listen to the self righteous who tell Him that they pay into a church. He has no regard for the Orangeman who defends the reformed faith on one Sunday per year just before the 12th. He has no interest in the one who tolerates the Word of God only at funerals. My friends if any of this describes your "faith" then may I humbly suggest you have believed a lie. Christianity is not a "I'll scratch God's back and He'll scratch mine" faith.


To be saved is to repent of one's sins and to put your faith in Christ and His finished work. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Salvation when it comes, sees lives transformed and we can expect visible evidence of a renewed heart. What sort of evidence? The sort that the Lord requires, justice, kindness and a humble walk (v8). Please remember that the evidence doesn't save us but instead flows from a God given born again heart. 


We are to deal justly with our neighbour. Just as God is righteous in all His dealings so we are to reflect that in how we deal with one another. No more playing fast and loose with our tax return. No more slander in B&M as we share the latest whispers. No more filling our handbag with supplies from the work stationary cupboard.


Walk justly says the Lord and deal kindly with those around you. It's much easier to punish those who have wronged us. We refuse to speak to them. We see them coming down the street and we look away or we are suddenly engrossed in an imaginary text message. Kindness costs. It requires us to put aside our grumps and to pour out grace on those who we feel don't deserve it, just as it has been poured out on us. 


Walk kindly says the Lord and in all of this walk humbly. We do not live out our faith on Facebook hoping our friends see our good deeds and give us a "like". Instead we know that every breath is dependant upon the grace of the Lord and so in all we do we cling to and lean on Christ with "Soli Deo Gloria" as our cry. 


None of us will master this and yet our imperfect good works will be received by God because we are in Christ. The Confession puts it this way, our "good works also are accepted in Christ, not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight; but that God, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections." 


Jesus is the one who fulfilled Micah 6v8 perfectly. Today we look to Him and in response we do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before the Lord.       


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q66 What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment? The reason annexed to the fifth commandment, is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.


Day 67

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Mark 7:1-13

Message Alan Burke 

Hyacinth Bucket, remember her? Or rather Hyacinth Bouquet as she preferred to be known. She was the lead character in the early 90’s sitcom ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ (available on Britbox just incase you’re interested). If you are unfamiliar with who Hyacinth is you may be able to guess from the title of the show what it’s about, as Hyacinth’s main mission in life is to impress others with her refinement and pretended affluence but the truth was somewhat different, she was trying to keep up an appearance. There is a point to this honest, I’m not just talking about Hyacinth because of the likeness my granny shared with her both in appearance and character but I hope I have your attention and if you haven’t read the passage you should really do that now. 

What’s going on in Mark 7:1-13. Well once more the Pharisees were on a scouting mission to try to build a case against this Jesus who was causing a stir (1) and they spotted how Jesus’ disciples did not follow the tradition and practices of the elders by ritual washing (2-4). These Pharisees were effectively asking Jesus what the craic is, how could he allow this to happen (5), and look at the response, Jesus calls them out for being ‘hypocrites’ (6), telling them that everything they hold on to (7) is not from God but man (8). Effectively they were more concerned about the external than they were with the internal, they were more concerned with what was seen than unseen. The problem was that everything they were doing to keep the word of God has actually made it worthless to them (9), they had used the Word of God as a tool for their own purposes (10-13). These pharisees had substituted the truth for a lie, they had subsided the word of God for their own traditions. 

Hyacinth made me laugh countless times, it provided many a family joke at my granny’s expense but sadly there are many people who are simply 'keeping up appearances’. Maybe you are one of them, just as the Pharisees who honoured God outwardly, who did all the right stuff yet they were spiritually dead. Your neighbours may look at you and think ‘great Christian there’ but are you simply just keeping up appearances? What does your private devotion say about you? Could it be that you are able to talk a good talk but are spiritually dead? If that’s the case then turn to Jesus   know that through faith you will be saved (Eph 2:8-9). On the other hand you may be given a hard time because you are a rubbish Christian, your husband or wife may point the finger reminding you of your failures, your friends may mock you because of what you did that last night when you were out, you may feel like you are the worst Christian ever, but you trust in the saviour, you love him, you pray to him, you read his word even though you struggle to understand it, then know you are his and nothing can separate you from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39)

Finally for the Church the Jewish church should be a warning to us, we can be excessively religious and not excessively in relationship with Christ. We must never consider the word of God as trivial, as unimportant and its teaching and doctrine outdated, we must beware of false teachers and teaching that will lead us away from God and his word. If we add to it or take away from God’s word then we are on a hiding to naethin and will end up with absurd and ridiculous practices that are as worthless and we too will end up honouring the Lord with our lips, but our hearts will be far from him, our worship will be in vain and our teachings are but rules taught by men and not God (Is. 29:13, Mk 7:6-7).

Pray (ac-TS) 

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 67

Which is the sixth commandment?

The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill. (Exod. 20:13)





Day 68


Pray (AC-ts)


Read (Heb 4.14-16)


Message (Scott Woodburn)

Sometimes we all need a friend, someone who has our back and isn't going to leave our side. Unfortunately sometimes those individuals are hard to find. The Christian however never stands alone. We have someone who is constantly for us and even as we read, He stands as our advocate in the heavenly places. Jesus Christ is, as we see in today's passage, our great high priest (v14a). In the Old Testament we meet the prophets who stood and proclaimed "Thus says the Lord". We also meet the kings who took the throne to govern God's people. There too are the priests. The men who would offer sacrifices daily to the Lord and chief among them was the high priest. He would be allowed to enter the holy of holies just once a year. Christ is our prophet, our king and our great high priest who offers no further sacrifice. His sacrifice was once and for all and never to be repeated and today Jesus stands in the holy place. He doesn't go there once per year but he stands there permanently. Therefore we are to hold fast our confession (v14b). We are to persevere in the faith. That sounds straight forward enough until we are hit by a major storm. We believe that Christ is coming again but sometimes we wonder when. We believe that our sins have been forgiven but sometimes we are crippled by guilt. We believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God but the critics have caused us to doubt. My brother and sister Christ is our great high priest, he is for us, and when we feel our fingers losing their grip, hold fast. But sometimes those who we look to have no idea what we are actually going through. A millionaire politician can't imagine what it is like to worry about the next mortgage payment. Thankfully we know that Christ understands fully what it is to be human. He knows and sympathises with our weaknesses (v15a). Indeed Jesus experienced temptation as we face every day (v15b) but at no point did he fall into sin (v15b). Christ alone is able to represent us in glory. He has no skeletons in His cupboard, no mud thrown at Him will ever stick, He has never broken lockdown by driving to visit family. Christ is sinless and spotless and stands as our great high priest in heaven. As a result we can draw near to God's throne with confidence (v16a). It was another high priest called Joshua who wore filthy garments (Zechariah 3). Joshua was a man like any other and found himself accused by the enemy. The wonderful picture we then see is Christ taking Joshua's side and rebuking Satan. Indeed he declares "Is Joshua not a brand plucked from the fire?" In other words "Is Joshua not a hell deserving sinner? And yet I have plucked him from the fire. I have redeemed him. I am for him." Christ clothes Joshua with new garments and Satan in Joshua's case and in yours is left with nothing else to say. In Ulster we don't name our sons Jesus but we often call them Joshua perhaps not knowing that it is the same name. Joshua (Yeshua) the high priest is defended by Jesus (Yeshua) the great high priest and Jesus is called Yeshua because He would save His people from their sins. So with confidence we draw near, knowing that we can, because Jesus stands for us. At the throne we do not find condemnation but instead mercy, grace and help (v16b). Sometimes we all need a friend...Jesus is His name.


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q68 What is required in the sixth commandment? The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others.



Day 69

Pray (AC-ts)

Read - Revelation 15&16

Message - Scott Woodburn

We have already discussed that Revelation reveals to us what must take place between Christ’s ascension and His return. It is a book of encouragement for the church of Jesus Christ, from the well known churches of the earlier chapters to your little known church in your little corner of the world. There are three cycles of judgement in the book, each describing the same period of time but from different perspectives. As we reach this part of the book the final cycle of judgement comes as God pours out the seven bowls of His wrath on the world. These bowls show us that trouble will intensify before the return of Christ and with them God’s wrath is finished (v1). Yet before the judgement we see again the peace in heaven (v2-4). The victorious saints are there, they have overcome the unholy trinity of Satan, the beast and the false prophet and they praise God with the song of Moses (Exodus 15). Revelation does this constantly. We marvel at what must take place but the Lord gives us precious interludes to catch our breath and focus on His majesty. The saints have been brought out of the captivity of this world and have reached the promised land of glory. No wonder they sing the song of Moses! Yet even as the church is kept safe above and below, the bowls are poured out and judgement is loosed upon the earth. We see echoes of Moses in Egypt. The first bowl (16v2) is like the sixth plague in Egypt (Exodus 9v8-12) and physical pain and torment is promised for those in league with Satan. The second bowl (16v3) is like the first plague in Egypt (Exodus 7v21) and judgement is brought upon the world’s oceans, symbolising Satan's kingdom of chaos. The third bowl also mirrors the first Egyptian plague with fresh water sources becoming undrinkable. Indeed the enemies of Christ who had become bloodthirsty will be given blood to drink (16v6). The fourth bowl (16v8-9) has no Egyptian comparison but the sun scorches the earth and still the enemies of God do not repent. The fifth bowl (16v10-11) is like the ninth plague in Egypt (Exodus 10v21-23) and is poured directly upon the throne of the beast. Satan delights in spiritual darkness but now a deeper darkness falls upon his kingdom causing anguish among his followers. Still they do not repent. The sixth bowl (16v12-16) sees the Euphrates river drying up. The Euphrates was often seen as a strong border against Israel's enemies but here symbolically we see God removing His restraint and the enemies of God gathering to destroy the church. This is the famous battle of Armageddon. We shouldn’t expect a literal battle with two armies facing off. Rather this shows us that in the last days the enemies of the church will be so fierce, so angry and so outnumber the church that all will seem hopeless. Satan pulls the strings, the beast persecutes the church, the false prophet urges worship of the beast and in the last of the last days that man of sin, the Antichrist will rise. He will be the visible representation of the unholy trinity on this earth. The foe is strong and yet the armies of Satan do not win, indeed they have rushed forward to their defeat. As the seventh bowl is poured out (16v17-21) that defeat comes as Christ returns. All that the world has built falls as God acts in His just wrath. So what are we to make of all this? Today I am thankful for God's long-suffering patience. He may seem to move slowly but this "slowness" is so that all would reach repentance (2 Peter 3v9). Today is a day of grace. A day for preaching and proclamation. A day for prayer asking the Lord to save. A day that the call "flee the wrath to come" can be posted on Facebook and find its way to whomsoever the Lord wills. Time is short but as I write there is still time to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. Christian, remain watchful (v15). Christ rejecter, repent while you may. Now is the favourable time, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6v2). 


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q69 What is forbidden in the sixth commandment? The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.


Day 71


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Leviticus 19v1-4


Message - Scott Woodburn

What if I told you that without holiness you will never see God? Sounds rough doesn't it? You know what you're like and how far short you often fall. Holiness? For you? That's a tall order. Yet the call still stands. We are told in Hebrews 12v14 "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Why is this so important? Simply because our God is holy. He is perfect and pure and set apart from that which is common. I suspect none of us really understand just how holy He is. We assume that He is just a better version of us. He is holy but perhaps not completely holy, after all your Granny was a very holy Brethren woman but in anger would throw her slipper at Granda. Let's dispel these myths. God isn't a certain percentage of holy, He is holy, in all His ways, utterly, completely, uncompromisingly holy. In Isaiah 6 we are told that God is "holy, holy holy" and when confronted by God's holiness Isaiah cries out "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" That's how holy the Lord is. If you were confronted by His holiness today you would be undone. It troubles us then when God calls us to holiness. "Be holy, for I am holy." (v2). But how we cry? Do we believe in vain and will we fall short because we will never be holy? Thankfully no. The Lord calls us to holiness and by His grace equips us to pursue our goal. The process by which we are made holy is called sanctification with the shorter catechism defining it like this "Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness." Because we are in Christ we are already definitively sanctified (Hebrews 10v10) but we are also being sanctified everyday. The Holy Spirit is instrumental in this work as He dwells within us. Peter speaks of the sanctification of the Spirit (1 Peter 1v2) with Paul echoing this thought (2 Thessalonians 2v13). What a comfort to know that our sanctification doesn't depend on our own efforts! If left to our own devices none would see the Lord. The Spirit works and produces fruit in us (Galatians 5v22-23) and He will not fail. However it would be wrong to adopt a laissez-faire attitude to sanctification. Sanctification is not helped with bottoms planted firmly to sofas. In Leviticus 19 the Lord speaks to this issue. His people are to active in their sanctification. They are to love their parents (v3a), to keep the Sabbaths (v3b) and to flee from idols (v4). In this sense the moral law of God helps us in our sanctification. The ten commandments show us what is pleasing to God and as we love Him, we obey Him. We've also got what we call the ordinary means of grace. You may not always think it, but the Word preached is a means of grace. The gift of prayer is a means of grace. The sacraments are a means of grace. It is by these means that God has promised to fortify the faith of His children. It is by these means that He makes us more and more holy. I bumped into one of the holiest men I know the other day. He was missing church greatly but had been active in listening to at least four preachers per week! I thank God for examples like this in my life. As we walk together we encourage and call one another to the pursuit of holiness. This is why the local fellowship is so important. It is the place where we grow in holiness, iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27v17). So my brothers and sisters, be holy for the Lord is holy, confident of this, "that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1v6).

 

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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q71 What is required in the seventh commandment? The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behaviour.


Day 72


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Ecclesiastes 9v1-6


Message - Scott Woodburn

I marvel at some of the preachers I see on Christian TV. God speaks to them directly before breakfast. They meet angels before lunch. They are able to discern exactly what God's sovereign purpose is in every event. I don't believe that any of this actually happens to them. There are many so called prophets in the world today and I didn't hear one of them predict Covid-19. Yet the Word is clear as we try to navigate this life. Ecclesiastes 9 speaks of God's common grace. Christians alone experience God's special or saving grace as He opens our eyes to our need of Christ and supernaturally brings us from darkness into light. But everyone experiences His common grace. The lives of everyone are in the hands of our God (v1) and sometimes the same event happens to the righteous and to the wicked (v2). Let me give you a fictitious example. It is a beautiful sunny day and a man sits in his garden thanking God for the warmth on his face. Just over the hedge another man sits in his garden. He has just beaten his wife because she dared suggest he was drinking too much. He too feels the warmth on his face and wonders when his wife will come and apologise. Jesus said "The Father makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5v45) This seems like a great evil to us (v3). I meet many people (even Christians) who trust in the false concept of karma. In simple terms, if you put good out into the universe then you will get good back. Yet this, as we know from bitter experience, isn't how things work. My friends we need to become more comfortable with mystery. The secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29v29) and you and I were never supposed to understand all of life's turns. The wicked seem to prosper. The righteous seem to get nothing but bad news. Why is it so? Why do bad things happen to people? Their sin? Sometimes (1 Corinthians 11.30-31). Sometimes not (John 9v1-3; Luke 13v1-5). We should therefore tread carefully before trying to solve every conundrum we face. We are limited in our understanding and must accept, that from our perspective, sometimes life makes no sense and bitter is the taste. There do exist some certainties though. Humanity is blighted by sin (v3) the consequence of which is death (v3b). I cannot guarantee anything that you will face today but I am certain that each one of us will someday die. There is great wisdom here. A great many rage against any notion of growing older. Watch the ageing celebrities, now well into their sixties or seventies, but with plastic looking faces locked permanently in a smile. As we grow accustomed to uncertainty may we also grow accustomed to death. Death comes and memories fade (v5b). Death comes and we no longer play any part in life under the sun (v6). I can almost hear the cry of thanks from around Ballynahinch at such an encouraging devotion! Well let me finish with a bit of sugar. You are blessed today because you have received this devotion. You've read it with eyes that work in a body that still draws breath. The one who is living has hope (v4a) for you know the realities of life and death (v5a). You may not understand the difficulties you face but God has been gracious in giving you another day. You may feel like a dog but better to be a living dog than a dead lion (v4b). So I'm not going to try any answer the mysteries of the universe today and I'd counsel you to do the same. Instead in a world of sin, uncertainty and death we take the path of wisdom. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." (Proverbs 9v10) Not knowing everything is human. Not knowing Christ is foolishness. Therefore today we will rejoice because we have come to know Him or rather be known by Him (Galatians 4v8) and with that we have come to know the richest truth in the universe.


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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q72 What is forbidden in the seventh commandment? The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.



Day 73

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Habakkuk 2:2-5

Message Alan Burke 

You look around at the world, and you think to yourself what is going on, Covid-19 has left us reeling. As the days pass by, it seems that life will never go back to normal! Covid-19 though is only a symptom of a much greater problem and that is, that this world is a fallen world and there is not one part of it that is unaffected. Before there was Covid-19 the world was still fallen, we were still sinners and many a time we wondered what was going on, because of people who living as they saw fit without fear of the consequences, sin was and is celebrated and its consequences prevail throughout this land and this world. For those who believe we have been left wondering what is going on, how has a Holy God who hates sin seem to allow evil to continue unchecked. 


Well today we look to the book of Habakkuk, as the prophet Habakkuk cried out to the Lord wanting to know what was going on, he was left wandering how a Holy God who hates sin seemed to allow evil to go unchecked. His exasperated cry of ‘O Lord, how long shall I call for help but you do not listen?’ (1:2) says it all. Habakkuk persisted in prayer because he believed in God and couldn’t understand why the Lord had remind silent to his cries. The crux of the problem was that God’s people were living as they saw fit, without fear of the consequences, sin was celebrated and the righteous believers suffered because of it, sin and its consequences prevailed throughout the country. 


In the response of the Lord (1:5-11) what is striking is that in no way does the Lord dispute the analysis of Habakkuk, but the Lord’s prognosis is grave, for what they need is not the salvation that Habakkuk so longed for (1:2), rather it was His judgement for their sin (1:5-6). If God’s people would not fear him, then they would indeed fear the Babylonians (1:7-11). The verdict was in and as Habakkuk responds, it is clear that he had confident trust in the character of God (1:12-13), but he wants to know how could the Holy God use such a people as the Babylonians (1:14-17), yet he waits on the Lord (2:1). As the Lord responds once more, he wants his people to know that he is at work, so Habakkuk is write down the revelation, to make it clear so that it could not be forgotten or ignored (2:2). The judgment of God was coming, and his people needed to have confident trust in their Lord, for he was very much at work in the midst of it all (2:3), and for the righteous who were his in faith, they needed to look to God for ‘the righteous will live by his faith’. (2:4). The righteous will live by his faith and not loose trust in the LORD God. 


The ‘righteous living by faith’ is a motif that is repeated throughout the scriptures, In the letter of Hebrews these words, that the righteous would live by faith are applied to all of those who steadfastly looked to the Lord. For God’s people throughout every age the righteous will live by his faith. The believing community in Habakkuk’s day as well as for us, it is is by grace we have been saved though faith… not by works so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9). There is nothing that we can do to earn it, there is nothing that we can do to deserve it but God in his grace freely gives it. 


We may look around and wonder what is going on, wonder what God is doing in the midst of Covid-19 or how he seems to tolerate the sin of our society, but for the people of God we are to live by faith. We just like Habakkuk are living between times, waiting the Lord’s judgement to come because of sin and when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1), then we will either be judged righteous by faith or we will be judged with the wicked and face the wrath of God on the unrighteous (Rom 1:18). My hope and prayer is that if you don’t know the Saviour then today you would turn to him and flee the judgement that comes. And if you do, then take confidence that the Lord is at work in the midst of that we face, he is at work in us and through us and at work in Covid-19.


Pray (ac-TS)

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 73

Which is the eighth commandment?

The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal. (Exod. 20:15)




Day 74

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Luke 9:10-17

Message Alan Burke 

The view from what was our family home was breathtaking, especially on a clear day. You looked out over the rolling country side towards the sea and you could see Portstewart promenade with Portrush behind it. Then further round to the right you would see the giants causeway and if the weather was just right as you looked out across the sea you could see one of my favourite places, Islay with the paps of Jura visible behind it and I’d remember the holidays I had there and had dreams of fishing of the pier at the Jura Hotel once more. Visitors to our home would stand and stair, with fresh eyes they were filled with the wonder that I once had but with familiarity the view to me had lost much of that wonder. How easily we forget, how often do things that once filled us with awe and wonder, now don’t even give a second thought. Today we look together at what one could call ‘histories most famous picnic’. Most of us learnt about it in Sunday school, we are so familiar with it dare I say that it has lost its wonder to many of us, we have just taken its truth for granted, we have lost the amazement that we should have when we read of it. This miracle, the feeding of the five thousand is one of only two miracles mentioned in all four gospels (the other is the resurrection). 


Here the disciples have just returned from preaching about the Kingdom of God (9:1-2). While they were preaching they had experienced the power of God and his provision in all that they did and now they with Jesus going to take stock of what happened (9:10). The disciples may have hoped for a few quiet hours with their Lord but crowds followed and Jesus took time to teach them the  same message that he had sent the twelve out to preach (9:11). With time marching on the disciples start to scratch their heads, telling Jesus to send the crowds away (12a). Honestly I get their concern, from a human perspective there were loads of people there, five thousand men (15) not including women and children so likely closer to fifteen thousand people and they were in the back end of beyond (12b). Their concern was genuine but how quickly had they forgotten the greatness of the one that they were with, his power to do miracles, after all he was the one whom the wind and waves obey and they had witnessed firsthand Jesus power over the storm (8:22-25). Not only that, in his name as they went out preaching about the Kingdom of God they had the power to heal in Jesus name (9:6). The disciples unable to do anything, looked to their Master and obeyed him (13-15). Then Jesus looked up to heaven dependant on his heavenly Father and just as God provided his people manna in the Desert (Deut 8:3,16) so here Jesus provides food in a deserted place (16-17). 


Truly amazing, it should fill us with wonder, but our focus should not on the miracle, rather our focus should be on the one who preformed the miracle. Jesus showed his super abundant provision towards all those who were there, his provision was more than they needed, more in abundance (17). In the gospel of John, Jesus accused the crowds of only are seeking him because they ate their fill of the loaves (Jn. 6:26), they had missed the point. He had met their temporal needs but Jesus came for a greater purpose than to simply hand out free lunches. For Jesus is the living bread, who came down from heaven, and for all who eat of this bread they will live forever, the bread that he gave for the life of many was his flesh (Jn 6:51). In his atoning death on the cross and resurrection he provides for our greatest need, let us not forget the significance of this truth, let us not simply take it for granted, instead rejoice in it daily, delight in him the one who has provided for us. 


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Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 74

What is required in the eighth commandment?

The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. (Gen. 30:30, 1 Tim. 5:8, Lev. 25:35, Deut. 22:1–5, Exod. 23:4–5, Gen. 47:14,20)




Day 75


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — 2 Peter 3:8-10


Message Alan Burke 


I want to tell you a riddle, you may be familiar with it if you are a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Hobbit , here it is;


This thing all things devours;

Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;

Gnaws iron, bites steel;

Grinds hard stones to meal;

Slays king, ruins town,

And beats mountain down.


Do you know the answer? Tick tock, tick tock, goes the clock, the answer is of course time. The seconds turn into hours, days, weeks, months, years, our whole life is governed by time, maybe seventy, eighty or ninety years but not so many more. Peter here in this letter had been addressing false teaching that had made its way into the church and how scoffers (3:3) were challenging the truth of scripture of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ  (2 Thes 2:2, 1 Cor. 1:8, 5:5, Phil. 1:6, 10, 2:16), how Jesus will come again to act as Judge on His Father’s behalf (Matt. 13:40-43; 25:41-46; John 5:22-30; Acts 10:42; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 9:27; 10:25-31; 12:23; 2 Pet. 3:7; Jude 6, 7; Rev. 20:11-15).


The expectation was that the Jesus would return in the apostles lifetime and this was now past, so Peter teaches them and us how there is a fundamental distinction between God and us. We measure our lives according to the passing of time, we are measuring lockdown by counting the days we are reminded how to God the passing of time is not the same as with us. The passing of a thousand years from God’s perspective is like a single day to us (3:8), His relationship to time transcends our finite minds, for he has always existed (Job 36:26). He knows from beginning to end (Isa. 46:10), reminding us of this great truth that God’s perception and experience of time is not like ours, should encourage us.


Why is this important for us as believers to understand? Well Christ will return, we are so use to having short term expectations, we evaluate everything by what is tangible for us, but as Calvin rightly says, ”when the coming of Christ is talked about, believers are to raise their eyes upwards, for by dong so they will not subject the time appointed by God to their own ridiculous wishes”. Christ will come again in judgement his coming will be neither late or early, rather it will be at the predetermined timing of God. Why has he not come already, its been two thousand years after all, our society doesn’t seem to care about their sin and its consequences, well he has waited because “The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, who is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, (Ex 34:6). He holds back his wrath, he refrains from intervening in judgement even though sinners deserve it. His patience provides a period of respite for all, this is a last opportunity for repentance, this is why the Lord has not intervened in judgement (3:9). 


Although the Lord is patient, it will not last forever, like a thief it will come (3:10). We do not know when but we are told to be ready, we are to expect his arrival, the end is certain, Jesus himself warned us of this (Matt. 24:42-44) when speaking of his return that we are to keep watch because we do not know when the Lord will come, or at what hour to expect him, but we are to be ready. For all those who remain unrepentant when the day of the Lord comes it will be a fearful prospect, for they will know the wrath of God.


Let us be ready, be ready for his return, and not to be caught off guard. For each day that passes the Day of the Lord is coming closer, and when comes He is going to bring about the glorious day of redemption, giving all believers the wonderful privilege of living with Him forever and ever. That should ever be in our minds as believers. If you haven’t already repented of your sin, if you don’t know the Saviour Jesus Christ then know that there is time for you to repent and believe and escape the wrath of God, do not leave it, the Lord’s patience will not last for ever, it will end, for when he returns again it will be to serve his justice and wrath against sinners (Acts 17:30-31).


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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 75

What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour’ s wealth or outward estate. (Prov. 21:17, Prov. 23:20–21, Prov. 28:19, Eph. 4:28)




Day 76


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Revelation 17


Message - Scott Woodburn

Once upon a time Dorothy clicked her heels and whispered "There's no place like home, there's no place like home." In her case she was on her way back to Kansas. I'm sure Kansas is lovely but it doesn't compare to the home that waits for Christians. Until then we are aliens and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2v11). May we never forget this as Revelation 17 shows us the nature of the world in which we live and it isn't all sparkles and unicorns. The world is like the glossiest apple in the bowl that when sliced is full of rot. We've already seen in Revelation that Satan mimics the Lord at every turn. He is part of an unholy trinity with the beast and the false prophet and just as the Lord has His people, so Satan has his. If Christians look forward to the City of God, here we see the City of Man, called Babylon (v5). Babylon is a picture of our fallen world, always in rebellious opposition to Christ. The City of Man looks appealing (v4). The City of Man despises the Church of Christ (v6). The City of Man is all about idolatry symbolised here as sexual infidelity (v2). What is it we are seeing here? Babylon represents the Godless, pleasure centric, luxurious, vice filled, glamorous, self aggrandising and ultimately Satan worshipping world around us. While John looked to Rome and her famous seven hills (v9) as the obvious manifestation of Babylon in his day, we don't need to look too far. We live in a world that demands you believe certain things or else. We live in a world that calls sin good and good sin. We live in a world that requires you to conform or risk being "cancelled". We don't need to look too far today, Babylon is all around us. It has always been this way. No soon as one manifestation of Babylon seems to fall another rises to take her place. We are moving to the moment in history when the Antichrist will rise (v8). John lived under the sixth king symbolising Rome and you and I in this present age live under the rule of king seven (v10) before the coming of Antichrist (v11). We have met the ten kings before (v12). They are ones who believe Satan's lies and join in a last vain attempt to destroy the church. It is a bleak picture and we can understand John's wonder (v7). And yet this mystery is revealed to him and us. Biblically a mystery is something that once was hidden but now is revealed. So today we know what the enemy looks like and we know the seductive power of the world we live. We will be tempted to compromise. We will know the seductive pull of Babylon. We will hear the temptation of going along to get along but we must resist. This world is not our home. Indeed this world hates the things of God. If the enemy seems great, do not fear. Satan throws everything at Christ and Christ remains victorious (v14). Indeed Babylon cannot last. She collapses in on herself. Ironically the beast hates Babylon and ultimately turns on her (v16). In Revelation 18 those who were made rich by Babylon mourn her loss. But there is no mourning in heaven for in Babylon was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on earth (18v24). Satan promises everything and delivers nothing. The unholy trinity isn't united and for Babylon all that glitters isn't gold. As I read these verses I think of the necessity of watchfulness (1 Corinthians 16v13). We are at the same time justified yet sinful, or if you fancy a wee bit of Saturday morning latin, simul justus et peccator. Our hearts are idol factories that are so easily seduced and nothing seduces like this world. Money. Career. Prestige. Sex. These are all offered in abundance by Bablyon. Yet the Christian understands that this world is passing away and instead we look to the city with foundations whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11v10). As Babylon in our age seems so strong, so powerful and so hostile we remind ourselves of Christ. He has and will overcome all His enemies and ours. Babylon, the City of Man, will fall. The City of God will last forever. Dorothy longed for Kansas, we long for glory because "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3v20)


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q76 Which is the ninth commandment? The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.



Day 77 The Lord's Day 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 77

What is required in the ninth commandment?

The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, (Zech. 8:16) and of our own and our neighbour’ s good name, (3 John 12) especially in witness-bearing. (Prov. 14:5,25)


Day 78


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Numbers 9:15-23


Message - Scott Woodburn

The lockdown has been long and it is getting longer but thankfully it has come in the midst of a period of beautiful weather. The sun and the heat have been a blessing and have helped make a frustrating time a little bit more bearable. However, as I was up sitting in Alan Burke's garden the other night socially distancing around his fire pit, it felt more like September than June. This past weekend has been wet and cold and the beautiful blue sky has been lost behind grey clouds. Whilst we don't delight in dark clouds rolling over the horizon, the cloud we meet in Numbers 9 is altogether more welcome. The cloud (v15) that covered the tabernacle was a visible reminder that God was with His people. Cloud by day (v16a) taking on the appearance of fire by night (v16b). What grace! Regardless of how the day was going a visible and tangible cloud covered the tabernacle. God's people with their own eyes could see that God was with them. But what about night? Surrounded by darkness with unknown enemies hiding in the shadows, was God still there? Of course. The cloud took the appearance of fire and shone in the darkness as a testimony to God's nearness. But there would be times on their travels that the cloud would lift and when it did the people would know it was time to continue their journey, stopping only when the cloud descended once more (v17). Their captain and navigator was the Lord (v18). Sometimes the delay was for a short time (v21), sometimes longer (v19-20) and sometimes longer still (v22), but regardless of the waiting the people knew God's presence, protection and leading. Numbers isn't high on the favourites list for many Christians but regardless these verses are a delight. We are unfamiliar today with a cloud symbolising God's presence descending upon our meeting house but we still enjoy the presence, protection and leading of the Lord. It is flesh and blood at the right hand of the Father. Jesus Christ is our prophet, priest and king and today He subdues us, rules and defends us and He restrains and conquers our enemies. Yet wouldn't it be lovely to have a reminder of this truth with a cloud by day and fire by night? I know what you mean, but be confident because Christ is not cloudless. We are told in Acts 1v9 that Christ ascended to heaven and a cloud took him out of the disciples sight. Then in verse 11 an angel told the disciples that Jesus would return in the same way. The angel echoed Christ's own teaching when challenged by the high priest "tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." (Matthew 26v63). Jesus replied "You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." This response was enough for the high priest to tear his clothes and accuse Jesus of blasphemy. Only the Lord can say that the clouds are His garment (Psalm 97v2). By speaking in this manner, by declaring His coming on the clouds, Jesus was announcing His divinity, He was God. My brothers and sisters your life will often be surrounded by dark and foreboding clouds, the Christian is not promised an untroubled and stress free life. Indeed there will be moments when the trouble you face will be so hard and so heartbreaking that perhaps you may wonder if you have believed in vain. You haven't. You have trusted Jesus, the Son of God and one day He is coming again on the clouds. Until then rest in Him and trust His daily and nightly presence, protection and leading. Today and until He comes "we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5v7).


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Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q78 What is forbidden in the ninth commandment? The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour's good name.



Day 79


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Job 40:1-5


Message - Scott Woodburn

I have never preached through the book of Job but by God's grace one day I will. If I ever begin to plan a sermon series on Job I suspect I'll not come close to John Calvin who preached 159 sermons on the book. This ancient text is a treasure and one that deals with one of the most fundamental questions we will ever experience. Why do Christians suffer? You've probably had moments in your life that you've asked that exact question. The heartbreak you've experienced, mixed with the depression, underlined by the divorce and topped off by your father's alcoholism. What's the purpose in it all? 


Job had lost everything and yet still refused to curse God, but he did believe he was entitled to some answers. In Job 38, the Lord answers Job from the whirlwind and what follows is an extraordinary few chapters. I'd urge you to take time today and read 38 & 39. If I ever doubt the majesty and sovereignty of God I take a journey to this very place. Famously the Lord asks his servant "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Of course Job cannot answer any of the questions the Lord puts to Him. Nor could you or I. Yet the Lord asks in 40v2 "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it." 


What would you say? The Lord has spoken to you directly in answer to your complaints. What would you say? The Lord has spoken and reminded you of His incomprehensibility. What would you say? The Lord has spoken and shown you the scale of His power. What would you say? The Lord has spoken. What would you say? 


Job's response is full of humility. All of us like to believe that the universe centres around us. "I'm the most important person in the world." we say "My needs and my comfort must come first". It is by the grace of God that we remember this isn't true. Job is humbled, he says "I am of small account; what shall I answer you?" (v4a). As we mature and grow in Christlikeness we see the truth of John the Baptist's words in John 3v30. "Christ must increase and I must decrease." I have various reminders written in my pulpit and this is one of them. It is one of the last things I read before going to that terrifying place of the front door. It is at the door that a minister can be filled with the arrogance of pride or fall to the other extreme of despair. At the door you are told how wonderful your preaching is, that you are a breath of fresh air and that this church is fortunate to have someone like you. It is at the same door that someone refuses to shake you by the hand, they take another exit from the building to avoid you or with well rehearsed harsh words they cut you with their tongue. How does one respond? Sometimes, sinfully, with anger, pride, ego or harsh words of my own. In my better days I remind myself "Christ must increase and I must decrease." 


Job realised the majesty of God and therefore his own small account. He then lays his hand upon his mouth and promises silence (v4b-5). I don't want to give you the wrong impression today, this isn't a devotion describing you as a worm in the sight of a disinterested God. No. Child of God, you are loved and cherished by the Lord. How could it be any other way? Christ laid down His life for such as you. Would He have died for you if He was barely interested? We are united to Christ by faith and therefore we are precious in God's sight. I suspect none of us truly understand the depth of the Saviour's love, just as how we don't often understand the twists and turns of life. I have one of the biggest mouths in Ballynahinch but sometimes my mouth has had to remain closed as I lack any adequate response to the days that have come upon us. 


So in light of this passage I gently remind you, as I remind myself, that we won't always have neatly packaged answers to all of life's questions. It is absolutely true "that for those who love God all things work together for good" (Romans 8v28) but it won't always be possible to counsel someone with a bible verse that makes everything okay. Instead, sometimes, we are forced to remember that the secret things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29v29). Then with humility and stuttering words we pray "I believe, help my unbelief." (Mark 9v24) before placing our hands over our lips and falling silent before the Lord.         


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q80 What is required in the tenth commandment? The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all that is his.


Day 80


Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Isaiah 12


Message Alan Burke 

The weather has been great, it’s been the sunniest and the driest spring on record and we’ve had the BBQ out more than in the entire 2019, and its only the middle of June. It’s just a shame that we haven’t been able to go anywhere, out for wee trips out that normally wouldn’t have caused us a second thought. But it seems that the sun only needs to think of shining for there to be talk of a water shortage and were warned of a hosepipe ban, the Republic has one already. We take water a bit for granted, we normally have it in abundance even when there is a hosepipe ban but it's not the same everywhere. For the people of God in the near east, water was so valuable, it was used to represent the blessing of salvation and here it is used to speak of the Salvation of the Lord. 


So far in book of Isaiah, the Lord had warned his people of the coming judgement, how a day was coming that would be a feared a dreaded day because of the sin of the people (2:20, 3:18, 4:1, 7:18,20,21,23). They had abandoned the truth of God for a lie, yet in the midst of the warning, there is a wonderful promise of God, that by his grace (6:1-13) their guilt will be taken away and sin atoned for (6:7), through a child that will rule forever on the throne of David (9:6-7). Now in Isaiah 12 it turns to a song of praise for the day that comes, but for those who have faith it is not a feared and dreaded day, rather it is the day of salvation, as the anger of the Lord has turned away (1-2). This song looks forward God's anger turns from a sinful people to his Son. That day we will draw water from the wells of salvation, that will overflow meeting the deepest need of the people of God (3). 


To understand fully this we need to look to the words of the promised Child of chapter 9, Jesus Christ who in John’s gospel says…“if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink, whoever believes in me as the scripture has said ‘out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (Jn. 7:37-38). To know the salvation of the Lord is to come to Jesus, it is to drink of this life-giving water, it is to believe in him, to trust in him. This is how we are to know salvation, through Jesus Christ. For he is none other than God himself in the flesh providing salvation for us, the well spring of salvation who will make our hearts flow with rivers of living water. 


Through his salvation we will give thanks call on his name (4), make him known what he has done (5), sing his praises to him and be filled and with joy (6). This is a what it is to drink from the well of salvation, to know that in Jesus we find salvation (Ats 2:21). We look as the people in Isaiah’s day, to a future day, not to the salvation of the Lord through the promised Child but to the great and final day when he returns. Then he will be exalted over all the earth, when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. For some of you this should be, if it is not already a feared and dreaded day, but there is still time for you to trust in him and his salvation, repent of your sins so that his anger will turn from you. And for those of us who know the salvation through Jesus Christ know that that day will be a day filled with even greater joy, it will be a day that will be filled with the praise of the Lord that will last eternally. This song of Isaiah is a song that is a picture of the triumph of God’s amazing grace, how his anger turns away and how salvation is received. For all of us who know the Lords Messiah, Jesus Christ it should encourage us, for the certain confidence that we can have in the midst of all we face, no matter what struggles we have in the here and now, God is God and he is at work in the midst of it all.


Pray (ac-TS)

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 80

What is required in the tenth commandment?

The tenth commandment requireth full contentment with our own condition, (Heb. 13:5, 1 Tim. 6:6) with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all that is his. (Job 31:29, Rom. 12:15, 1 Tim. 1:5, 1 Cor. 13:4–7)



Day 81


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — John 8:12-20


Message Alan Burke 


Were you afraid of the dark? Many of us when we were children were afraid of the dark, there is something about it about it that we don’t like, surroundings that were familiar to us during the day seem different, eerie, unnerving even frightening. Light reveals the world to us, it governs our biological clocks, it supplies the energy for plants to grow, gives us rainbows and sunsets, each day we are dependant on the light that shines forth from the sun. 


Here in John 8, Jesus while speaking to the people said "I am the light of the world…” (8:12) but what does it mean that he is the light of the world, what was he saying? Jesus said this during the Feast of Tabernacles, during which a lighting ceremony took place at the temple every evening, where sixteen golden bowls that were reached by ladders, were filled with oil and lit. It was said all Jerusalem was illuminated by their light, in a world with no street lighting it was a wonder to behold. This ceremony was a visual reminder to them all of how the Lord, ‘I AM’ (Ex 3:14) who had revealed himself to his people in the Exodus (Ex 13:21) going ahead of them in pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light. So the words of Jesus were a claim of his divinity "I am the light of the world…” (8:12) for God is light. Throughout Old Testament light is used to refer to God’s presence, (Num. 6:25, Ps. 4:6, 104:2, Ezek. 1:4, 27-28), light was also used to speak of God’s salvation (Ps. 27:1, 44:3, 67:1-2, 80:1,3,7,19, Is. 60:19-20) and light was also use to speak of his revelation (Ps. 119:105, 130, Pro. 6:23). In the midst of the festival Jesus as claiming to be the divine presence of God that saves his people from their slavery. And whoever follows him, will have that light of life (8:12).


Jesus had just revealed himself as the long awaited Messiah, the response of the Pharisees to this revelation was rejection (8:13). They had heard but not listened, they determined he was in error and they had condemned him for it. In response Jesus explains to them how they are culpable for their rejection of him and for their alienation from God, they had eyes but they could not see the light. But instead of condemning them, Jesus bears witness to them (8:14-18). In the midst of it all, Jesus the light of the world, shining in this world of darkness, revealing the Father (8:19), but was rejected by his own people, yet they could not stop him. For his hour had not yet come (8:20), for the Father to offer his own Son to die for the sin of all who believe.


Think how this world has advanced, how we have light at the flick of a switch that illuminates the dark, yet we are still dependant on the light that shines forth from the sun. for all the light we have, natural and electrical this world is in darkness, spiritual darkness, and the light it needs is Jesus Christ. So as we end I ask, have you committed yourself to him without ever following him the light of the world, are you still walking in darkness, are you holding on to the values of this evil dark world, judging your life by morality of a world in darkness, dreaming the dreams of this world of darkness. Or have you looked to the true light, which gives light to everyone Jesus Christ (1:9), committing yourself to him and following him. If you have then know that he is the light, look to him not this dark world to guide your path in every way. 


Pray (ac-TS) 


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 81

What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?

The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, (1 Kings 21:4, Esther 5:13, 1 Cor. 10:10) envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, (Gal. 5:26, James 3:14,16) and all inordinate motions and affections to any thing that is his. (Rom. 7:7–8, Rom. 13:9, Deut. 5:21)



Day 82


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — 1 John 1:1-10


Message Alan Burke 


Normally when you write a letter you being with something like ‘Dear John,’ or ‘To my dear Elsie,’ if it is a formal letter and you don’t know to whom you write then you would start ‘Dear Sir/Madam,’ after which you would write the reason for your letter. These preliminaries help us as readers to know the purpose, the intention for the correspondence. Look though to how John opens, he begins by pouring out his thoughts on the page, it reminds me of a child who has ran to their parent in a state, trying to communicate something important, something urgent but their words just spill out until they run out of breath or are told to slow down. As John just spills his thoughts on the page, he reminds us of the preexisting Christ, echoing the words of John 1:1, and John has heard, seen, touched him and now proclaims the truth concerning him (1). Verse two reinforces what he has just said, he has seen, testifies to it, proclaims it, that Jesus that has appeared to us (2). John wants his readers to know that everything he says is not based on his own imaginations but what he has seen and heard, what he knows to be true about Jesus Christ, saying all of this so that these believers to whom he writes may have fellowship with God. That fellowship which is eternal life (Jn 17:3), for if they have come to saving faith then they are in fellowship with the John because he is in fellowship with the Father and the Son (3). The purpose of why he writes is now given (4) John sought his readers’ joy, but that their joy would be his, and that joy would be filled as they were established in Christian faith and fellowship (similarly expressed Jn 15:11, 16:24). John is testifying to the realities of our faith that is grounded in the preexisting Jesus Christ who died on the cross, that through faith we may share fellowship with one another and joy. 


What does it mean though to know the one ‘which was from the beginning’, the ‘Word of life’, it means to be a disciple, to follow his teaching, his truth, that’s what John now makes clear for God is light (5). Throughout Old Testament light is used to refer to God’s presence, (Num. 6:25, Ps. 4:6, 104:2, Ezek. 1:4, 27-28), light was also used to speak of God’s salvation (Ps. 27:1, 44:3, 67:1-2, 80:1,3,7,19, Is. 60:19-20) and light was also use to speak of his revelation (Ps. 119:105, 130, Pro. 6:23). Light shows us the way in darkness, light guides our path, John gives us a yardstick to evaluate the profession of all those who claim to be a Christian and that is do they walk in God’s light they are his, if not they are liars (5-6). For those who walk in this light, for the true believer, although we are sinners, we are purified from sin by the blood of Jesus (7). Whereas those who think that they are without sin, all you good people of the world then you deceive yourself, the truth is not in you (8,10), in contrast those who know God, know their sin, and confess it, the more we know God the greater our knowledge of our sinfulness will be but he will purify from all unrighteousness (9). If you are filled with the knowledge of your sin, confess it, know that forgiveness and cleansing come because of his righteousness, he is faithful, do not burden yourself with it, as the hymn writer puts it;


What a friend we have in Jesus

All our sins and griefs to bear

And what a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit

Oh, what needless pain we bear

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 82

Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, (Eccles. 7:20, 1 John 1:8,10, Gal. 5:17) but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed. (Gen. 6:5, Gen. 8:21, Rom. 3:9–21, James 3:2–13)


Day 83


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Revelation 20


Message - Scott Woodburn

As we have walked our way through Revelation we have met the enemies of Christ and His church. Satan is the power behind the throne, the beast represents anti-Christian state power, the false prophet represents false religion and ideology and Babylon represents this current world, drunk on luxury, sex, prestige and everything else that seduces humanity and leads away from Christ. As the book comes to an end the fate of our enemies is revealed. Last week we met Babylon who collapses in on herself. The beast and the false prophet are captured and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 19v20). But what about Satan? Will he escape the wrath to come? Not long ago I watched a TV show called "Hunting Hitler" which was based on the premise that Adolf Hitler escaped Berlin in 1945 and fled to South America where he lived out his days. If such a story were true (I don't think it is) it would seem so incredibly unjust. Here is an architect of great evil growing tomatoes in Argentina. Thankfully Satan doesn't get to board a submarine to Brazil. This chapter shows us his fate but begins by teaching us about Satan's current condition. He has been bound for one thousand years (v2). This "binding" took place when Christ crushed Satan's head at Calvary and is spoken about by Christ in Mark 3v27 and Paul in Colossians 2v15. Satan today is angry and full of wrath but he cannot stop the advance of the Gospel. He has been bound by Christ and so the church is built even in the midst of darkness. 


This period of Satan's anger is called the one thousand years. This term has been the source of much discussion in the church about how to understand the 1000 years. For what it is worth I'm in the "amillennial" camp and so I believe this phrase describes the current age we live in. We have met the number 10 throughout this book. Satan is described as having ten horns symbolising great power. So if we take 10 times 10 times 10 we arrive at 1000. A great period of time. It is also described in Revelation as 3 and a half years, 42 months, 1260 days or a time, times and half a time. It is half of a perfect 7 years and therefore whilst the 1000 year period has already lasted for 2020 years, it will not be forever. 


However there will come a future time at the end of the age when Satan will be loosed. We've already heard about how he deceives the nations and prepares them for one final assault on the church called the battle of Armageddon. We see the story again in this chapter (v7-10). The ending remains the same. Satan gathers his allies, they march against the church, called here the city God loves (v9), but finally they are destroyed as Christ returns. Satan then receives his true reward. He joins his allies in the lake of fire where they endure eternal punishment (v10). Indeed this will be the abode of all who have rejected Christ (v15). They will not stand in the judgement to come (v11-12). But what about the Christian? Revelation 20 is like a treasure trove. Christians have experienced the first resurrection (v5). They have been made alive by the Word preached and the Spirit's work. They have embraced Christ by faith. They have moved from death to life. For the Believer these can be days of delight as they meditate upon the phenomenal transformation that has occurred in our lives. 


Today we know trial and trouble but we have been raised with Christ by faith. Indeed as we spend too much time in too many graveyards we have hope for our brothers and sisters who have gone on before. Where is your mother? Where is your friend? Where is your child? All of these who died in faith, where are they? Glory is the answer. They have come alive and today reign with Christ for one thousand years (v4b). There are many dear saints that I miss. One in particular is my wife's late grandfather Samuel Bunting. He was such an extraordinary man of grace. Always composed. Always exuding a peace that passes all understanding. I remember on the boat home from Scotland in the middle of a storm, there was Mr Bunting reading what seemed like an endless supply of Christian tracts that he had in his pocket. He is missed and yet today he reigns with Christ which is better by far. 


None of the church triumphant (heaven) or the church militant (earth) have anything to fear from the second death (v6) which is the lake of fire (v14). We are the blessed and holy ones spoken of in verse 6. Certainly this book has prepared us for difficulty. Certainly we already know from bitter experience that life isn't always sunshine and rainbows. But beloved of the Lord, rejoice today in the extraordinary change worked in you by Christ. "Remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh...remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Ephesians 2v11-13) Amen, amen, amen.


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q83 Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous? Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.


Day 84 The LORD’s day 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 84

What doth every sin deserve?

Every sin deserveth God’ s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come. (Eph. 5:6, Gal. 3:10, Lam. 3:39, Matt. 25:41)


Day 85

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Deuteronomy 8

Message Alan Burke 

We’ve now had 85 days since lockdown began, We have gotten used to the new normal, even though we would love things to go back to the way the were, most of us have all resigned ourselves to how this could be the way life is for a good while yet. It’s nothing compared to the 14,600 the Israelites had been in the wilderness, 40 years! Here they are on the verge of entering the Promised Land, the time in the wilderness was not only a punishment, it was also a test (8:1-5). This new generation were urged not to repeat the mistakes of their parents, their hardness of heart, their sin. For their time in the wilderness was preparing them for their future, they were difficult years but they were not wasted ones. For they had learnt that life was about more than eating or drinking, for “…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word, that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (8:3). Words that are familiar to us because Jesus uses them (Matt 4:4, Lk 4:4), they teach us that even more basic to life than physical food is the sustaining Word of God (Heb 1:3). Only by living by the word of God could they live, truly live, live life that gives lasting satisfaction and eternal security. They instead they should keep the LORD’s commands, walk in his ways and fear Him (8:6).

The Promised Land that they would enter will be one of abundance ‘flowing with milk and honey’ (8:7-9), this is what awaited them and their response was to be the praise of the LORD their God (8:10). But there is a warning, when they have eating and are satisfied, that they are to be carful not to forget the LORD, his commands, his decrees, the LORD gives them a guide ‘how not to forget Him (11). They were not to allow their property be a means of forgetting the LORD (8:12-14), they were to be careful that they do not repeat what had happened in the wilderness (8:14-16), they were to be careful not to place their trust in their own strength, letting pride consume them and as a result take credit for what the Lord had done (8:17). Because if they forgot, it would lead them to forget the LORD their God and to idolatry and ultimately to destruction (8:18-20). Sadly we know that happened, the people did not obey the LORD their God.

What do we learn from this, what should we take away from this warning of the LORD to his people, it may be 85 days since lockdown but we’re not in the wilderness waiting for the promised land? Well likewise we will face times of testing of our faith just as the people did in the wilderness, this testing is to produce steadfastness (Jam 1:3). When life is hard, when lockdown stressful, when that argument is had with a loved one, all of these things and the circumstances we face do not make us who we are, rather they reveal who we are, so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be proven. Sadly there are many who have the appearance of godliness but deny its power day in day out (2 Tim 3:5). Know that God is using our trials to refine us (1 Pet 1:7). Also be careful not to let the prosperity we enjoy in the West lead you to forget God and to idolatry and ultimately to destruction, Hell awaits, all deserve this (Rom 3:23), but Jesus message was one of repentance (Matt 4:17, Luke 5:32, Matt 12:41 etc.), if we believe in him we will be saved from what we deserve (Acts 16:31), do not trivialise what awaits the unrepentant because Scripture doesn’t trivialise it, instead they should know, like we should know “…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word, that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (8:3, Matt 4:4, Lk 4:4). Only by living by the word of God can anyone live, truly live, live life that gives lasting satisfaction and eternal security.

Pray (ac-TS)

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism 

Question 85

What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and cursedue to us for sin?

To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, (Acts 20:21) with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption. (Prov. 2:1–5, Prov. 8:33–36, Isa. 55:3)



Day 86


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Proverbs 8


Message Alan Burke 


We spend our lives caught up in the everyday things, we place our hopes and our dreams in our family, our children, our friendships, our finances, our homes, our jobs, our success, our retirement, for some it can even be the football team that they followed since a child, or the horse that they put every penny they have left on. And on all these things often depends our emotional wellbeing. When things don’t work out how we had hoped for or how we imagined, then our world comes crashing down and we despair because we are preoccupied with the things of this life. Here in Proverbs 8, wisdom is calling out, looking for our attention, in all places, everywhere inviting all to embrace her, it doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, what your education, whether you are the farmer in the field or the academic in the lecture hall, wisdom calls out to you. Why? So that you may gain understanding, that you may stop focusing on the things that will let you down the things that you have placed your hopes and dreams upon and instead look to wisdom (1-5). What is this wisdom, well this wisdom is the wisdom of the LORD God that is personified here, depicted to us as Lady Wisdom. 


This wisdom doesn’t desire to mollycoddle us, it calls a spade a spade, it makes clear what is right and wrong in sincerity of speech (6-7). Wisdom’s words lead to righteousness, that is right standing with God as it directs us from crooked or perverse ways, enabling is hearers to grow in God’s wisdom (8-9). What it offers to us should be far more desirable than even the most precious metals or jewels, it is to be desired above all else (10-11), for it will help those who know this wisdom in their dealings with others (12). Once more we are reminded of how those who have wisdom fear the Lord (13). What does this mean, to fear the Lord? To fear the Lord is to know him and to trust him, not the fear of a servant towards their master, but a child towards their parents. When we fear the Lord we will turn from evil and to turn to Him. For when one has wisdom, true wisdom then they come to know and to understand what sin is, they are convicted by it, they know the judgement and displeasure of God towards it and instead of turning from him, they come to know him through Christ crucified, the power of God and the wisdom of God. God showed his wisdom and power in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus so that we might know him, it the wisdom of God unto salvation, and he calls us to respond to his call (1 Cor 1:24, 30, Rom 1:4, 16, Col 2:3). 


When we know this wisdom, when we fear the LORD and know him through the Son, we will hate evil. How should the believer respond to evil, hate it. What does it mean to hate, to dislike intensely, to have an aversion to something to detest it, well we are to hate every false way, we are to hate pride and we are to hate arrogance, hate evil behaviour, hate perversive speech, we are to hate sin (13). This will align our heart with what the Lord loves, it will help our lives to have a right orientation, orientated on God first so that we won’t be preoccupied with the things of this life. For we are to examine our hearts and guard them, but I ask do you hate the sin that you see, the sin of this nation, how it celebrates evil, or does it not cause you a second thought? Or what about your own sin, do you hate it? You know what I’m talking about, those secret hidden things, what you watch, what you enjoy, what you do, you should hate what is evil. As we close look with me to verse 35-36, we are told that for those who find this wisdom of God they find the Lord himself (35) but then there is a warning those who fail to find wisdom, they harm themselves, what is more they hate wisdom and love death. Ultimately they have rebelled against the Lord God, they have not accepted his wisdom shown in Christ Jesus, his life, teaching, death and resurrection and therefore they hate God himself and their punishment will be just for they love death (36). If that is you then turn to the way of wisdom, turn to Christ and find life! 


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 86

What is faith in Jesus Christ?

Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, (Heb. 10:39) whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel. (John 1:12, Isa. 26:3–4, Phil. 3:9, Gal. 2:16)



s based around the word covenant. We believe that God deals with people by way of covenant, it is a "bond in blood, divinely administered.". The first covenant, the covenant of works, was between God and Adam in the garden. Adam had all the tools at his disposal to keep this covenant and enjoy everlasting fellowship with the Lord. As we tragically know, Adam fell and with him died man's ability to keep the covenant of works. What followed in Genesis 3 was the covenant of grace. God took the initiative, promising a seed of a woman and vowed to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and that "I will be their God, and they shall be my people." 

In Jeremiah 31 the Lord restates the benefits of the covenant of grace. It is an immutable or unchanging covenant. This delights us as we realise that the Lord is faithful to His promises and will not change. Also the covenant of grace is a covenant of faith and not works. It promises inward renovation and doesn't call on us to "be good" and "maybe" we might be saved. The Lord says He will write His law on our hearts (v33). Indeed, elsewhere he has promised to give us new hearts, hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36v26) and how we need them! The people brought out of Egypt were stiff necked and rebellious (v32). Despite the Lord acting as a husband to them (v32b), they still saw fit to grumble. How like them we are! Thanks be to God for transformed hearts and His abundant mercy.

We are additionally promised an immediate knowledge of the things of God (v34a). How can this be so? Because the Holy Spirit is the one who causes us to be born again. He opens our eyes to realise our sin and to look unto our only Saviour Jesus. When the work of the Gospel comes home in a sinner's life, they are moved from death to life immediately. Their sins are forgiven and they are remembered no more (v34b). 

It is interesting that we read here about a "new covenant". Such language makes us think of something brand new, something that has never existed before. Yet by the time Jeremiah 31 was written the new covenant was already a reality. So in what why was it to be new? At Mount Sinai, Moses and the people gathered before the Lord. He gave them His law written on stone tablets. They were to obey Him as they lived in His land. They were to worship Him in ways directed by Him. They would have prophets, priests and kings and they would be constantly pointed to a coming Saviour.

Please note that the Lord did not usher in an new path of salvation under Moses. Old Testament believers were saved by grace alone, faith alone and Christ alone (Hebrews 11). The covenant of grace was still in full effect during the days of Moses but the church of Christ (of which Moses was part) in the Old Testament was organised as national Israel. And yet all of this has gone. The people of God no longer worship at the Jerusalem temple. The nation of Israel exists but it is not the one founded by the Lord. There is no priest offering sacrifices today and no king on a throne in Jerusalem. These things came to an end with Christ. Christ is the true Israel (Hosea 11v1) and because we have trusted Him, we too are the Israel of God (Galatians 6v16). Jesus brought to a close the "old covenant" made with Moses and brought fullness to the covenant of grace. It is the same covenant of Genesis 3 and the one spoken to Abraham, but it is "new" because the types and shadows have gone. Christ the fulfilment has come and the full glory of the covenant of grace, the new covenant is realised. 

This all sounds very technical for a Wednesday morning so here is a simple thought to begin the day. How blessed are we that we no longer need to journey to Jerusalem to worship? How blessed are we that we no longer need the blood of animals and an earthly priest to intercede? How blessed are we that we don't worship in types and shadows? How blessed are we that we can enter the most holy place by the blood of Christ?

Today we are men and women of the new covenant. A new covenant that is ancient in years but fulfilled in Christ. Today all the promises of the covenant of grace are yes and amen in Jesus. Certainly we don't know everything but we know an awful lot more than Abraham or Moses or any other Christians living before the birth of Christ. Yet both believers before and after Christ's death have been made one (Ephesians 2v14). Truly the old has gone and the new has come! I'm thankful too that it is the covenant of GRACE. God's unmerited favour to those who deserve His wrath. The covenant of grace is fulfilled by Christ, the ancient promises are realised in Christ and by faith we are made new in Christ! Praise the Lord!

Pray (acTS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q87 What is repentance unto life? Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience.


Day 88

Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Acts 11:1-18


Message Alan Burke 


There are divisions amongst us, we all know it, look at our own wee county and it’s clear. Our names, the sports that we play, how we say the letter ‘h’, where we live, what school we went to, what tradition we grew up in, the churches that we go to or don’t go to, divisions are everywhere. Some of those divisions are inconsequential, what school we attended doesn’t really matter its the education we received, the house that we live in doesn’t really matter whether its a two up two down, a bungalow, semi or apparent what matters is that we have a roof over our heads. For some though arbitrary divisions do matter, social and cultural boundaries matter. 


We see a similar division in this passage in Acts today as the good news of the Gospel was spreading. Chapter 10 gives the account of the conversion of Cornelius and we know others had received the word of God (1). The reaction of the Jewish Christians (circumcised believers) is all important though, it reveals a deep rooted division as they criticised Peter (2). To know what’s going on we need to remember how the sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace was circumcision (Gen 17:9-14), that sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace was replaced with Baptism for believers and their children in the household of faith, but these Jewish Believers were still of the mind that believers had to follow institutes and traditions of their forefathers, they believed Peter had broken the law by by eating with the unclean Gentiles (3). 


To this, Peter responds by giving an account of all that had happened, first his vision that shows how dietary laws that once marked a distinction between Jew and non-Jew are abolished. There is no distinction now between Jewish believers and Gentile believers for all are one in Christ (11:4-10). Then God led him to go to Cornelius immediately after this vision, as three men arrived and he heard a message from the Spirit to go (11-12). They entered the house of Cornelius who had received an angelic message that Peter would bring him a message of salvation (13-14). Then just as at Pentecost the Spirit came upon them (15-16). After recounting all that had happened, Peter challenges his critics, that no-one should try to prevent God’s expanding of the church to the Gentiles, for Cornelius and his household were baptised because of God’s saving grace that extended to Cornelius and his family just as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their families for God (17, Gal 3:28). In response the Jewish Christians praised God for what he had done (18). 


What is the take home message for us? Well firstly, divisions like that in the church in Acts 11 remain. We only need to look around to see how many churches or fellowships their are across our land, remember thought if someone is saved, it doesn’t matter where they go the Gospel Hall, Free’s, CoI, Baptist's, PCI, etc etc, what matters is, if they are our brother or sister. If they are then we can share fellowship with them. I’m not belittling the difference in belief that there are, the distinctions between us that mean we cannot worship together but if they are manifested in cultural snobbery, sexism, racism, tribalism etc they have no place among us, we have to learn that God does not show favouritism just as Peter learnt ( Acts10:34). Next, God works by his Word and Spirit in the lives of sinners, salvation is the gift of repentance, we may expect the ‘outsider’ to meet our standards, our criteria but God has called sinners to himself that if we are honest we would not have. Our response always should be the praise of God for the salvation he has brought. But are we too comfortable to want God to move among the perceived undesirables no matter who they are or their history?


Pray (ac-TS) 


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 88

What are the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to usthe benefits of redemption?

The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation. (Matt. 28:19–20, Acts 2:42,46–47)


Day 89


Pray (ACts)


Read - Jude 1:17-23


Message - Scott Woodburn


When trouble arises in a local church it is always tragic, rarely wanted but always expected. Did you read that right? Trouble in a church is always expected. Probably though we never expect trouble. Our churches are filled with nice people. They wear nice clothes and say nice things. They drive nice cars and have nice children whose names are Melchezidek, Moses and Malachi. Yet when something doesn't go according to their plan, the tanks are dusted down, the camouflage is put on and war is called and let's be honest no one does war like a local fellowship. False teaching is proclaimed. Lies are told. Rumours are spread. Baseless accusations are thrown. Our communities are filled with gossip about "that church". Always tragic, rarely wanted but always expected. 


This is nothing short of the "predictions of the apostles" (v17) who made it clear that in our day there would be scoffers led not by the Spirit but by their own ungodly passions (v18). These men and women are part of the visible church (the one that gathers on Sunday) but have not trusted Christ. They cause division (v19a), they are of the world (v19b) and do not have the Spirit (v19c). Is it any wonder that trouble should always be expected?


What should we do? Jude tells us to build yourselves up in the faith (v20a) and pray in the Holy Spirit (v20b). In other words we are to stand in the face of opposition and false teaching by cementing ourselves in the Word of God. The doctrines of our holy religion are to be our bread and water. Allied with the Word is a passion for prayer. What do we do when division rocks a church? We pray. We call to the Father, in the name of the Son and in the power of the Spirit. It is frustrating when your side of the story can't be told. It angers when your name is slandered and you know lies have been told, but Jude urges a response of prayer. 


As the passage continues Jude urges us to keep ourselves in the love of God and wait for Jesus (v21). When you believe that you are unloved, you rest in the steadfast and unchanging love of God and when your situation seems hopeless, wait for Jesus, wait for Jesus, wait for Jesus. Wait for His mercy, look and long for His coming. The insults of your enemies will fade like snow from a ditch, but your hope in Christ isn't in vain.


Our focus is also to be outward, responding to those around us. In our churches we will meet men and women who have trusted Christ but are plagued by doubt (v22). False teaching and division haven't helped. They are not to be belittled or scorned in their weakness but instead we must have mercy on them. There will be others living in rebellion and sin (v23a). They have believed the lies and their lives seem set on a path away from Christ. We are to snatch them from the fire. We are to reach out to them urgently, praying for them and trusting that the Spirit can restore our wayward friend. To others caught in sin, we are again to be merciful but also careful. We are not to fall into the same snare as them, hating their sin but having mercy on them (v23b).


An old friend once told me of his church fellowship that in the 1950s was split down the middle by a new preacher. The preacher over several years gathered his supporters around him and it seemed that he was working towards an engineered split. The elders spoke to the preacher about the increased division and he met their concerns with scorn before walking out during a service and taking many followers with him. A new fellowship was organised and relationships between families and friends were strained and destroyed. Several years later the preacher left the new fellowship, departed from the faith altogether and emigrated from Northern Ireland. Sadly some of the individuals who followed the preacher never recovered from the turmoil but many returned to the original fellowship. They had said awful things and had done their best to cause as much damage as possible on the way out the door and suddenly here they were back home. "What happened?" I asked this older Christian. "We welcomed them with open arms." my friend said. "It was hard and many tears were shed, but how could we not forgive them?"


We shouldn't be surprised when trouble comes to a church, but may the world always be surprised at how we deal with it.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q88 What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption? The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation


Day 90


Pray (ACts)


Read - Revelation 21


Message - Scott Woodburn

Imagine living in a place where you could keep your doors open all night long and no one would hurt you. Imagine your children roaming free and you wouldn't have a single worry over their safety. Imagine a city that didn't require any apprentice boys because its gates were always open. It isn't Portballintrae. It's heaven. When we think of heaven, we imagine a cloud, angels, harps and Peter with full control over the gates. Revelation 21 gives us the true picture, and heaven will quite literally be heaven on earth. The chapter begins by telling us exactly that, God makes all things new (v1-2). The bliss and peace of Eden will be restored and once more the dwelling place of God will be with man (v3). Things will be so categorically different, that all the troubles of this world will have gone (v4). This will be the heritage of anyone who has trusted Christ (v7), but conversely, Christ rejecters have no hope of seeing the glory of heaven (v8). There will be no more sea (v1b) and consequently no place for Satan and his minions to hide.


A few weeks ago, we met Babylon, the city of man, the false church. She may look the part, but she is like a glossy apple whose insides are rotten. The true church now appears, she is called the new Jerusalem (v10) and she is beautiful (v11). She will never fall as she has twelve foundations (v14) with the names of the Apostles written on them. She will never be defeated as she has twelve walls (v12) with the names of the tribes of Israel written on them. Here is the church, 12 + 12 = 24. An image of the people of God from every age and they will be people of all skin colours. We live in days of racial tension but in the city of God there are gates on each point of the compass (v13) highlighting that God's people are a multiracial people from North, South, East and West. Therefore, racism of any form is repugnant before the Lord.


The city is described as a giant cube, 12000 stadia or 1500 miles in length, width and height (v16) with walls that are over 200 feet thick (v17). This picture speaks of God's people as measured, known, safe, secure. Their city will stand for eternity, no army will ever take it, nothing outside can pluck God's people from His hand. The church is secure, and the church is of staggering beauty. We read of golden streets, pearly gates and precious stones of various kinds in walls and foundations (v18-21). The church today may seem small and hated but when Christ returns the beauty of His Bride will dazzle like the brightest star in the sky.


Yet the most glorious aspect of the new Jerusalem isn't the beauty of the walls but the reality of the One who dwells in the city. The Lord is there. He is the city's temple (v22) and He is the city's light (v23). This wonderful, glorious and God filled place is our eternal home. A place with constantly open gates (v25). A place where night never comes (v25b). A place that nothing unclean will enter (v27). A place where God's people walk by God's light (v24). Utterly magnificent and yet our imaginations still fail to comprehend the magnitude of what is to come for the one who has trusted in Christ.


If I were to die today my soul would be made perfect and I would go to be with Jesus which is better by far (Philippians 1v23). We call this the intermediate state and describes where our deceased brothers and sisters go after death. But while the intermediate state is glorious, it isn't the complete story. What we meet in this chapter can be described as our final state. Christ will raise us again to life and with resurrected bodies reunited with our souls we will dwell in the new heavens and earth forever more. Our destiny isn't to float disembodied on a cloud, but to live and walk and eat and drink and talk and sing, on a restored earth, with Christ, for eternity. I can only dream of the wonder of heaven, I can only dream of the unspeakable joy of that day, but today as I live in dark Babylon, I choose to dream. Come quickly Lord Jesus! I want to go home.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q90 How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation? That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation and prayer; receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice it in our lives


The Lord's Day -- Day 91

Westminister Shorter Catechism 
Question 91
How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, (1 Pet. 3:21Matt. 3:111 Cor. 3:6–7) and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them. (1 Cor. 12:13)
Service 21 June


Day 92

Pray (ACts)

Read - Genesis 15:1-6

Message - Scott Woodburn
Abram is reaching the end of his life. He is old and getting older and has no heir to carry on his name.  All of his goods would go to Eliezer of Damascus (v2) who would then be duty bound to look after Abram and Sarai until the day they died. So, when the Lord urges him to “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” (v1), Abram answers with a very practical concern. “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” (v3). Abram was a very wealthy man and none of these material blessings would pass to his own flesh and blood. More than that, God had made some extraordinary promises to Abram. In Genesis 12 we read "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'" It seemed to Abram that these wonderfully rich promises were in danger of falling flat. As we read the book of Genesis all these years later we know how the plan unfolds. We know that we are spiritual descendants of Abram (Galatians 3v29) and more importantly we know that Christ is the seed promised (Galatians 3v16). He is in the family tree of Abram and the fulfilment of the promises made. All of this collapses if Abram remains childless.

But the Lord is not in the habit of allowing even one of His promises to fall short. He graciously reveals to Abram that Eliezer of Damascus is not going to be celebrating when Abram dies. He will not be the heir, instead Abram's very own son will have that title (v4). Indeed if one son seemed like a miraculous promise at this stage of Abram's life, the Lord takes it further. He leads Abram outside and shows him the stars. "Number the stars, Abram" says the Lord. "So shall your offspring be." Here is an elderly man and his elderly wife. They've received remarkable promises from the Lord that seem too good to be true, but once more the Lord draws near and promises that His covenant will not fail. There will be a son, there will be a people gathered, there will be a Saviour from this line called Jesus. It's interesting that God graciously gives Abram something visible to underline His promises. He knows our weakness, He knows that we prefer to walk by sight and not by faith and here Abram receives a picture of the stars. I can only imagine the beauty of that sky. No light pollution in those days, just a canopy of sheer brilliance above Abram's head to assure Him that God's Word would not return void.

A promise of such scale might cause most of us to scoff and yet Abram's response is faith. He believes God and it is credited to him as righteousness. Bring anyone who wonders about Abram's salvation to this place. This wasn't a man saved by works, he was a man of faith (Hebrews 11v8). Righteousness was credited (imputed) to his account by faith. He looked forward to the day that he would hold his own son and indeed he looked beyond that to a day that the promised seed would come (John 8v56) and remarkably Jesus tells us that Abram got to see that day.

The ancient covenant outlined to Abram is still in force today. Every time you become aware of a sinner coming to Jesus remember that God promised Abram that this would be so. Indeed every time you wonder if God will keep His promises, look to the sky and remind yourself of that glorious picture of Abram looking up into the night. The Lord is faithful. The Lord is working out all His promises. The Lord will not forget and the Lord will not fail. Today as men and women of faith we have trusted in Christ and His righteousness has been credited to our account. "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1v6-9)

Pray (acTS)

Sing

Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q92 What is a sacrament? A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers


Day 93


Pray (ACts)


Read - Ecclesiastes 3:18-21


Message - Scott Woodburn

In 2017 a man called Frank Stephens asked a congressional sub committee in the USA "Is there really no place for us in the world?" What brought such a question? Mr Stephens has Down Syndrome and he was reacting to an increasing movement, that in Iceland for example, has seen Down Syndrome virtually wiped out. And why? Because almost 100% of Icelandic children who are found to have Down Syndrome in the womb, are aborted. There are many who believe that this is progress. There's no point living life unless it is the right kind of life. As a father of three girls I find it tragic that more girls are aborted than boys. Why? Because they are girls. No other reason. Such progress. Such liberation from the evil patriarchy.


Whilst we like to think that humanity is constantly on the upward curve towards a bright, shiny and golden future, I disagree. If a man and a woman landed on Mars and started fresh, they would still encounter the same behaviour in their new utopian society. Why? Because where humans are, there too is sin. Later Solomon will say "the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil." (8v11). It's no wonder that he compares us to beasts (v18) as we have a lot in common. Like the beasts we will one day die (v19) says Solomon. Both understand that life is vanity (v19b). It is short, fleeting, fragile and like the beasts we are from the dust and to the dust we shall return (v20). Perhaps though I need to raise a flag for our animal friends. Our nation's problems have nothing to do with those pesky dogs or those angry giraffes or those vindictive koala bears. The decisions that have changed this country were not signed into law by a dolphin. Our situation is still summed up by GK Chesterton's reply to the question "What is wrong with the world?", "I am." he answered.


Yet there is a difference between man and beast and thankfully there is a hope. Verse 21 causes difficulty for smarter men than me but I am convinced by those who argue that it shouldn't be phrased as a question. Therefore Solomon isn't holding his hands up and saying "Who knows?" but rather the verse should be seen as a statement of confidence. In other words he states that there is a difference between man and beast. The beast dies and its spirit goes to the earth (v21b), but for the human, his or her spirit goes upward (v21a). The tiger has no judgement to fear but the beastly man will give an account to the Lord. Until then he should work hard, because who can bring him to see what will come next? (v22)


Thankfully the Spirit can. He opens the eyes of beast-like humans to see their sin and consequently their need of a Saviour. We flee from sin in repentance and we flee to Jesus in faith. If human sin knows no bounds, then thanks be to God for His grace. At Calvary our sins were nailed to a cross and at that beastly place, unworthy sinners like you and I were set free. Today your pet dog cares nothing about this good news, but you and I should see it as the greatest treasure in a world of vanity. It is a Gospel of saving grace to perishing sinners.


I think Palmer Robertson, commenting on Joel not Ecclesiastes, puts it beautifully “Have you made a number of serious mistakes in your life? Did you make some hasty decisions that you now regret? Do you often muse about those decisions and the effect they have had on your life? Did you  leave  school  too early?  Did  you  make  a  hasty  choice  in marriage? Did you  fail to  recognise the  perfect  partner  for  you?  Have  you  gone  through  a  divorce  or  an  abortion?  Did  you  conceive  a child out of wedlock? Did you make a bad business decision? Did you lose a large amount of money in  speculative  investments?  Did you  miss  out  on  the investment  opportunity  of  a  lifetime? Did  you move your family when you should have stayed where you were? Did you lack the faith to move out when the opportunity presented itself? Did you fail to buy a house when the market was right? Did you buy a house when you really couldn’t afford it? Did you rebel against the wise counsel of your parents when you were a teenager? Did you commit a moral crime at one point in your life, a crime that  haunts  you  even  today?  Do  you  live  in  mortal  terror that  somehow  people  will  discover  the great mistakes of your past? Look your failures straight in the eye, and listen to Satan’s accusations no more. Trust fully in God’s ability to restore the years the locust has eaten."


So here is our conclusion, here is our song, here is our hope - Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Thanks be to God.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q93 Which are the sacraments of the New Testament? The sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord's supper.



Day 94


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Lamentations 5:19-22


Message Alan Burke


Often we are left unsure how to respond to a personal tragedy, the loss of a loved one, the diagnoses of underlying health issues, a terminal illness and the list goes on. People can say the most hurtful things when all they intended to do was to comfort us, saying things like ‘everything happens for a reason’. Then others don’t say anything, they avoid it and us and it makes it worse. But how do we respond to tragedy in the midst of life, as we live in a fallen sinful world, in fallen sinful bodies, with fallen sinful relationships. Well we can lament, cry out to God in the midst of it all knowing that he hears. That’s what Jeremiah does in the book of Lamentations, crying out to God in the midst of all that he faces. 


The book of Lamentations itself deals with deep emotions, chapter one depicted the devastation of Jerusalem, the people were left in shock. They knew that ultimately they had sinned against God and he had brought his wrath upon them for they were unrepentant, they were warned but they did not listen (Amos 5:18). In the midst of the authors cries, his despair, as he laments there is still hope, not in themselves, not in what they can do, rather there is hope in the very character of God (3:22-27). In this last chapter of Lamentations the author, continues in prayer (5:1), he knew that no matter what God was still God. These concluding verse (19-22) confess God’s permanence and kingship (19), they decry their ongoing suffering (20), they ask for renewal (21) and they wonder when the renewal will come, given God’s justifiable anger (22). 


In them the author does not dwell on the past sin of the people but looks forwards in the Sovereignty of the Lord (19). The very character of God can give them confidence, they have nothing left to trust in, they have been humbled but they are right to remember that the Lord who first loved them was and is sovereign. Even though the present circumstances that they find themselves in are hard to bear and that there is no easy exit from what they are experiencing (20). So he pleads for the Lord to restore his people in faith and to renew them (21). The closing verse is key, although it is a cry of anguish the complete and final rejection was impossible on the part of the Lord who had promised to love Abraham’s see forever (Gen. 12:1–3), it is a pointer to two who will see it of the steadfast love of the covenant Lord (22). 


There is in all that we face, today and every day there is hope, not in ourselves, not in what we can do, rather there is hope in the very character of God. He does not immunise us from tragedy, but when disaster hits us on a personal level just as Job, when we face national disasters, we need to continue to trust in God, reminding ourselves that he is in control and knows what he is doing (5:19). Lamentations teaches how to lament in the midst of all that we face, that we can cry out to the LORD God. And ultimately we know that he is at work redeeming a people from slavery to sin (Rom 6:20). When Jesus returns in judgement it will to make all things new, the renewal of the entire created order, the heaven and the earth, and the dwelling place of God will be with man (Rev 21:1-5). His victory shall be our victory and when tragedy strikes have confidence in his coming victory. 


Pray (ac-TS)

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 94

What is baptism?

Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, (Matt. 28:19) doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’ s. (Rom. 6:4, Gal. 3:27)


Day 95


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Matthew 7:1-6


Message Alan Burke 


‘Who are you to judge me, remember Judge not, lest ye be judged’. Ever had something like this said to you? I have heard this from both Christians and non Christians when someone has tried to challenge or correct their sin and shortcomings. Used and utterly abused, misunderstood, misapplied, this passage that we look to today in Matthew 7 has been used to justify and excuse behaviour that is sinful, whether it is fiddling ones taxes, spousal abuse, false testimony, adultery, gossip, homosexuality, abortion the list goes on and on, for after all, who are you to judge me, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’. Anyone who challenges the thinking or behaviour of another falls under condemnation, the church it seems must be utterly tolerant towards all. The irony is of course that in judging the one who has judged them they themselves violate this command that they have used.


If you have your bibles open, look back to chapter 6, where Jesus had been challenging the outward acts of righteousness that are misleading, the hypocrites who gave to the poor so they may be praised by others (6:2), those who pray to be see by others (6:5), hypocrites who fasted to be noticed (6:16). No one who was there, who had heard the words of Jesus and took them seriously would have felt much like judging others. After this Jesus says, that we will recognise others by their fruits, ie we can see if people live in truth or error (7:20), nor does Jesus oppose offering correction (18:15-17). Here in chapter seven ’Don’t judge’ does not mean ‘don’t think’, this is not a requirement to be blind to sin but a plea to be generous. To be sharply critical of other is to invite that criteria upon ourselves (7:1). Remember it is God who who will call all to account, he will judge, the measure you give will be the measure you get. We rationalise our sin, we justify it, we are even blind to it, but double standards are inexcusable. As Jesus continues with a plank and a spec, it is not the meaning that the one passing the judgment is a worse sinner but that what he has found wrong is a small matter compared to his own sin (7:3-4). It is not that the spec is unimportant, rather the hypocrite who is ignorant of their own sin should first deal with the log in their own, deal with their own sin before helping others for only then would they be qualified.


We should not judge others to harshly but Jesus also warns us here about being too lax, by giving dogs what is holy, throwing pearls to pigs. The dogs and pigs are those who are antagonistic to the gospel, in the immediate context the pharisees and the hypocrites, today its a long list! Well we are to be careful, we are to be discerning when it comes to the dogs and pigs, those who are antagonist to that which is of real value, the truth of God, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When they will not listen, shake the dust of our feet and move on (Matt 10:14). We read in Proverbs 9:7-8, "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”


Pray (ac-TS) 


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 95

To whom is baptism to be administered?

Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; (Acts 8:36–38, Acts 2:38) but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized. (Acts 2:38–39, Gen. 17:10, Col. 2:11–12, 1 Cor. 7:14)


Day 96


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Romans 8:31-39


Message Alan Burke 


Genghis Khan, was one of the greatest if not the greatest conqueror of all times. He united the Mongolian tribes, conquered territories as far as Afghanistan and Northern China, in what became the Mongol Empire which was almost five times larger than that of the Roman Empire at its peak. He had exceptional military success but he was a ruthless and brutal man who was to be feared. There have been many other conquerers before him and since but no compares to the greatness of Khan. Your probably wondering has this Burke fella lost the plot? Well hopefully you will see where I am going in a moment or two. But before we get there remember that to conquer means to overcome by military force, to vanquish, a conqueror like Genghis Khan is one who overcame by military force. 


Here as Paul brings Romans chapter eight to a conclusion, it is not a doubtful questioning rather it is a joyous retort, in effect he is saying, God is for us, no one can be against us (31), look how God gave his Son up for you (32), Satan’s slander won’t stick against you even when you mess up, for God has justified you through faith (33), all your condemnation was put on Christ Jesus who died, rose who now sits at God’s right hand as your advocate (34). So know that no matter what you face, when your world is tumbling down around you, what you’ve gotten yourself into, how you feel, the unknown around the corner, that in all these things you are a conqueror through Christ (37)!


You may not feel that way right now but know this, it's not dependent on you it's all dependant on what he has done that makes you a conquerer. We are conquerors by virtue of Christ’s victory we share in it. We don’t conquer people in bloodbaths like Genghis Khan did once upon a time as an invading conquer. Instead we conquer, we overcome trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger and the sword, not in our own strength but through Christ who gives us strength. And remember that nothing that we face, not even ourselves can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. So in the here and now, know that you are a conqueror, you can over come all that you face because it is God at work inside you by his Spirit, even when if doesn’t feel like it he will sustain you and also know that through faith nothing you face, nothing you can do or have done can separate you from his love. We are conquers, all because of Him who loved us, we can do all this not in our own strength but in Him.



Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 96 

What is the Lord’ s supper?

The Lord’ s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’ s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace. (1 Cor. 11:23–26)



Day 97


Pray (ACts)


Read - Revelation 22


Message - Scott Woodburn

I was only in the staffroom at my high school on one occasion. I had fallen into some trouble and was sent to speak my year supervisor. She hadn't had her lunch and so told me to follow her to the staffroom. She lectured me the whole way there and finished the lecture within the confines of the off-limits sanctuary for Grosvenor's staff. I couldn't tell you what the room was like. I kept my head down as my teacher finished her rebuke while I tried not to make eye contact with anyone else. I left the hallowed ground vowing never to go there again. As Revelation finishes I have the opposite desire. This chapter begins by showing us, what once was off-limits, will in heaven be open to us once more.


In Genesis 2v10 we read that a river flowed from the garden of Eden and it flows again in the new Eden (v1). In Genesis 2v9 we meet the tree of life and it stands again in the new Eden (v2). The blessings once enjoyed in Eden and put off-limits as a result of the fall (Genesis 3v24) are restored. The leaves of the tree have brought healing to the nations (v2b) and the curse has been lifted (v3). Only those who have trusted Christ will enjoy these renewed blessings (v3b). They will live forever, they will walk with God, they will see His face (v4) and His name will be written upon them. Everything put wrong by the fall will be put right by the return of Christ. Just as the first Adam was barred from Eden, so Jesus (the second Adam) opens the gates and beckons us in.


None of this takes place until Christ returns, but behold, He is coming soon (v7). John's response to all of this is to fall down in worship and he almost gives that worship to the angel who has revealed this vision (v8). He is rebuked and reminded that worship belongs to the Lord and not to the Lord's servants (v9). It is a useful reminder to those who elevate the place of angels today. There is a growing market that encourages prayer to angels and staying in tune with your guardian angel. How do we answer such foolishness? Worship God (v9b).


We further respond by making sure the words of Revelation are opened, read and understood (v11). Indeed we can apply this verse to all of Scripture. The pandemic stricken world needs a vaccine for Covid-19, but most of all it needs a vaccine for sin. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10v17). As the end of all things draws near the righteous will continue to display that righteousness as they seek to follow Christ in dark days. Conversely the wicked will continue to be wicked (v11). It has always been this way as the city of man strives to topple the city of God.


The Lord Jesus speaks in v12 and offers another reminder that He is coming soon. He is the beginning and the end (v13) and He is coming in judgement. He can do so because He is the Messiah, the One promised. He is the root and descendant of David and He is the bright morning star (v16) spoken of by Balaam (Numbers 24v17). In other words Christ is the one towering figure over human history who absolutely must be reckoned with. Is He your Saviour or is He your enemy? He is one or the other and in the final state you will either be in bliss inside the city (v14) or in torment outside (v15).


No wonder we are not to add or remove anything from the book of Revelation (v18-19). It's message is much too important to be trifled with. It is a revealing, an apocalypse, of what must soon take place and as the book ends we are reminded once more that Jesus is coming soon (v20). To this good news the Christian cries "Come, Lord Jesus" (v20b). But to those who still reject Christ, today, He calls you to come to Him (v17). Come if you are thirsty. Come if you are weak. Come if you are weary in this world. Come if you are burdened by the crushing weight of sin. Come if your disappointments mount. Come if you are lonely. Come if you desire rest. Come to Jesus and be saved. He is the Saviour and friend of sinners and the one who comes to Christ in repentance and faith will never be cast out (John 6v37).


What a book this is. What a revelation this has been. Come, Lord Jesus and may the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (v21)     


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q97 What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper? It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord's supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves



Day 99


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 62:1-4


Message Alan Burke 


When things in life are a mess, when we are having to deal with things that are just hard, when it’s all got on top of you, I wonder how you respond? In truth when life gives us a curve ball, when the unexpected comes our way, when things are hard, if we are honest most of us don’t deal with it very well. It may not be clear for everyone else to see but for those closest too us they can see it, the broken sleep, not being able to sit still for any length of time, our every waking hour seems to be tormented, we either comfort eat or we loose our appetite, get headaches, feel fatigued, feel anxious, we lack of motivation, the list goes on an on. 


Well here in this psalm David is facing calamity, he’s facing great adversity, really his life is a shambles and he’s on the run from those who would pursue him. But look to how it begins; depending on what translation you use you will either read in verse one my soul ‘finds rest’ or my soul 'waits on’ (1). The idea here being conveyed is that David in the midst of it all is able to have silent rest from everything that is going on, he is able to have confident assurance not in himself, what he can achieve in his strength, by his hand, but in the LORD. The contentment that David has is true contentment that can be found only in a right relationship with God. There are many things that we will face, trail adversity, sometimes caused by our own sin, at other times it is because of the sin of others or circumstances beyond our control but if we know the Lord as our salvation then we can have true contentment in the midst of it all. 


How do we know the Lord’s salvation through Jesus Christ, for he is the way the truth and the life, if we want to know salvation it is through faith in Him (Jn 14:6, Acts 4:12). Knowing the Lord as your salvation means knowing Jesus, knowing that eternal safety comes from him just as David did. He knew God has his place of security (2), a mighty fortress is our God that cannot be moved, and no matter what we face in this life (Rom 8:35-39) nothing can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Even though David continued to know opposition, even though he was being kicked when he was down (leaning wall, a tottering fence) (3-4), his life was still a shambles, he was able to know that inspire of what he faced he could trust in God (1-2). Trust in God this day with what ever you face, all in this life, resign in him requires waiting and patients for all other things will let you down. What ever we face, we through faith in Christ can know this confident assurance that David himself experienced, silent rest, confident assurance in God.


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism 

Question 99

What rule hath God given for our direction in prayer?

The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; (1 John 5:14) but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’ s prayer. (Matt. 6:9–13, Luke 11:2–4)




Day 100


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 102v25-28 & Hebrews 1v10-12


Message - Scott Woodburn

Not so long I was in a Christian bookshop which was selling a book about angels. Nothing wrong with that you might say. Angels are part of creation, they're in the Bible and therefore we have every right to learn about them. I'm not against any of that. If the Bible speaks about any topic we would do well to listen. My problem with this particular book was that it gave angels a place they don't want and Biblically speaking don't have. I would suggest that the book in question was more "new age" rather than Christian. Honestly though I'm not surprised. There is always a market for "spiritual" things devoid of Christ. It has even crept into Ballynahinch's own Poundland. As I stood in the queue one day I noticed little guardian angel figures. These would bring you good luck and protection and these guardian angels would even answer your prayers. This isn't a minor issue, it is spiritually dangerous nonsense.


Here's the thing. Why would we seek out the creature rather than the creator? Why we would turn to a human or an angel to answer our prayers (they can't) when we have a great high priest over the household of God? Why would we swap the living God for an idol that cannot save? Today I do not belittle angels. They are ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of God's elect (Hebrews 1v14), but they are not to be worshipped (Revelation 22v9) and they would certainly agree with me if I were to say that they (and us) do not compare to the glory of Christ.


We find this in Hebrews 1. The Apostle compares Christ and the angels and there is no comparison. The angels are not belittled in this chapter but they are not the only begotten Son of God (v5). They are not Christ who is to be worshipped by the angels (v6). They do not have an eternal throne like Jesus (v8-9) and they are not like Jesus by whom all things were created (v10). Verses 10 to 12 quote directly from Psalm 102v25-28. It is a Psalm that speaks of Christ the Messiah, therefore we call it a "Messianic" Psalm. We'll look at these verses through the week and I'll preach on them this Sunday, by the grace of God. But today be encouraged.


We may be unaware of angel activity in our towns and churches but we can be thankful that the Lord is the Lord of the angelic hosts. His heavenly host is active in service and today we can praise God for unseen angelic help. But we finish by looking beyond the angelic legions to their commander. Jesus is much superior to the angels and his name is more excellent than theirs (Hebrews 1v4). The angels aren't annoyed by this statement! As we will see in Psalm 102, Jesus is the eternal Christ, the creator Christ, the Christ who will still stand when the mountains fall down into the sea. If we need help today we don't need to vainly search for an angel "feather" on our pillow or falling from the meeting house ceiling. Instead we walk the tried and trusted path. We look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12v2). 


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q100 What doth the preface of the Lord's prayer teach us? The preface of the Lord's prayer, which is, Our Father which art in heaven, teacheth us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.



Day 101


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 62:5-8


Message Alan Burke 


When we were children there were those people and things that gave us a sense of safety and security, the arms of a loving parent, that teddy or the blanket that we had. As we have gotten older those things do not give us the same sense of safety and security, now more often than not the things like our homes, bank balance, health and strength become our safety blanket. But when things go wrong when our lives is a mess these things are always lacking, they don’t give us any real sense of safety and security especially not when our lives come to an end. As we pick up this psalm, once more David looks to the Lord, in whom he finds rest in (5). Lets not forget this is the same David who was being pursued by others, who were seeking to topple his reign, to end his life (3-4). Yet David is able to affirm in the midst his confidence in the Lord.


It almost seems inconceivable that with people pursuing him, looking to kill him that he is able to find rest. Simply he is able to affirm once more his confidence in the Lord even when he is facing calamity, he is facing great adversity, and his life is a shambles because David had faith in the Lord, declaring that ‘God alone is my rock and salvation’(6). Faith is the antidote to despair. When our lives our a mess, when things are falling apart, when our health and strength have gone faith is the antidote to despair. Faith in the Lord, knowing who the Lord is. David’s hope was in the Lord (5), that mean that he would not be shaken, that nothing would assail him. He knew that God alone was his hope, not only in this life but in what he faced when his earthly life would come to an end, for God was his rock and refuge. But look to verse 8 as David urges all who hear these words, in the midst of all of life, that in what ever we face, we should trust in the Lord at all times, not only when things are a shambles but when life is going swimmingly, trusting in the Lord and also, ‘pour out our hearts to him, for God is our refuge’ (8). The idea here of pouring out (Lam 2:19) is to empty oneself, to unburden oneself to the Lord. We can come to God much more freely than any earthly parent knowing that we can pour out our hearts to him, troubles great and small, pour them out to him, knowing that he hears our prayer though faith in Jesus Christ, we know that we have confidence approaching him and that he hears us (1 Jn 5:14).


So as we close today I ask do you know what it is to have faith, to have trusted in the salvation freely offered through Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6, Acts 4:12). If so then know that in the midst of it all, your hope is in Him. In this life in all you face your hope is in him and when this earthly life will one day come to an end our hope is in him. Know also like David that God is our rock and refuge and we can pour your heart out to him. I’ll finish with some words from a hymn, it goes 'Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer’. Take it to the Lord this day, every day. 


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 102-3

What do we pray for in the second petition?

In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come, (Matt. 6:10)) we pray, That Satan’ s kingdom may be destroyed; (Ps. 68:1,18) and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, (Rev. 12:10–11) ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; (2 Thess. 3:1, Rom. 10:1, John 17:9,20) and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened. (Rev. 22:20)

What do we pray for in the third petition?

In the third petition, (which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, (Matt. 6:10)) we pray, That God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, (Ps. 67, Ps. 119:36, Matt. 26:39, 2 Sam. 15:25, Job 1:21) as the angels do in heaven. (Ps. 103:20–21)


Day 102


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 102v25-28


Message - Scott Woodburn


There has long been a heresy (false teaching) in the church that seeks to make a difference between the God of the Old Testament (full of wrath and judgement) and the God of the New Testament (full of grace and love). A passionate advocate of such theology was Marcion of Sinope who put forward his thinking almost 2000 years ago. There's nothing new under the sun and amazingly Marcionism is alive and well in the world (and church) today. But make no mistake, it is false. We worship a Triune God. One God, three persons, all equal. I don't pretend that the Trinity is an easy doctrine to grasp but it is a Biblical doctrine and it stands against Marcion amongst others. The God we meet in the Old Testament is the same God we meet in the New and as we read today's Old Testament verses they are speaking about Jesus. We can prove this because Hebrews 1v10-12 take us to Psalm 102 and apply these verses to Christ. In Hebrews 1 the Apostle reminds us that no angel laid the foundation of the earth and no angel can say that the heavens were the work of their hands. Jesus can, because He is the eternal Christ.


Certainly there was a moment in history that Jesus took on flesh but please do not believe that this was the moment that Jesus came into existence. John tells us that Jesus was the eternal Christ, who in the very beginning was God and was with God (John 1). Jesus is the ageless and timeless one (Psalm 102v27). Indeed He is the same (Psalm 102v27a), or in other words He doesn't change, He is immutable. What a comfort to know that Jesus doesn't waver. He is not swayed by mood. His attention towards you is constant and He doesn't look over your shoulder for someone better. He is the eternal Christ. No beginning, no end, the eternal Jesus.


But consider your age. There are things you can't do anymore. Remember when you played hockey for Ballynahinch? You are now 30 years retired. Remember when you laid bricks? You haven't done that in 50 years. Remember when you jumped out of bed and seized the day? Now you seize the bannister as you slowly descend the stairs. Jesus is ancient of days, the eternal Christ, but His power hasn't faltered or weakened. A day will come when He will roll creation up like a worn out garment (Psalm 102v26a). Jesus will bring a monumental change to this earth as He returns. Everest will fall, the moon will fall, the seas will be drained but the eternal Christ will remain (Psalm 102v26a).


Indeed, the one who trusts in the eternal Christ will never be put to shame. There is security for the one who trusts Jesus (Psalm 102v28). They are established by the power of His eternal hand. How could it be any other way? Jesus who watched the Roman empire rise and fall. Jesus who saw the Egyptians build their mighty works. Jesus who knows every contour of this planet and indeed every planet. How could He ever lose sight of those whom He loves? He could not. Perish the thought! The Lamb will receive the reward for His suffering. He remains the eternal Christ and He remains as timelessly awesome as He has always been. Praise Him!  


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q102 What do we pray for in the second petition? In the second petition, which is, Thy kingdom come, we pray that Satan's kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.




Day 103


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 62:9-12


Message Alan Burke 


I’m not a great reader of the Papers or News Magazines, partly its because I am able to get the news at the click of a button or a touch of a finger. Even so there are two publications that I know of because once a year they publish a list. The first of which is ‘The Sunday Times Rich List’, that list that the Sunday Times newspapers publishes once a year with a list of the 1,000 wealthier people or families resident in the United Kingdom ranked by net wealth. The other one is Time magazines ‘Time 100’, their list of the perceived most influential people in the world. Both these publications elevate those in positions of power and influence as well as those who have great wealth, they individuals that are more often than not placed on a pedestal. 


Look though to what we are confronted with here in this Psalm, it doesn’t matter whether you have power, influence or wealth, if we are lowborn or highborn, pauper or prince, down and out or a billionaire, or anything in-between, we are nothing, only a breath (9). What is more is that the highborn, those who are in positions of power, influence who have wealth are but a lie. What we need to understand that before the Lord God, the infinite (Job 11:7-9), preexistent eternal God (Ps 90:2) that all of this in this life, what ever our station, what ever we have when weighted on the balance of eternity, we are nothing only a breath. James 4 reminds us of this truth, how we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, what is our life, for we are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes (James 4:14). People think that they are in control of their lives but it is the Lord who gives life to all, he is the one who sustains life, the universe and all that is in it. In all that we do we must not put our confidence in ourselves but place our confidence in the Lord God who made us. Statues will fall or be torn down, monuments will lie in ruins, let us not set our hearts or our hopes in things that will not last (11), instead have confidence in the Lord.


Lets not forget David’s life was still a shambles, he is being perused by his enemy, he has nothing left but he has God and reminds us all that we need to know that power belongs to God. People no matter who they are will always be found wanting, they may be rich and powerful, they may have nothing but the shirt on their back but ultimately they are only a breath, knowing that God will reward each one according to what he has done. What have we done, well we have all fallen short of his glory, but if we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Let us have confidence in the Lord, God is able to deliver us his people for all power belongs to him (11), his deliverance is an act of love (12), the covenantal God is just in his rewards as well vindicates us, he will richly reward those who trust in him (Matt 16:27), the wicked will also receive their just rewards (Rom 2:6-9, 2 Ti 4:14). When this life comes to an end we know that our hope is in him. 


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 105

What do we pray for in the fifth petition?

In the fifth petition, (which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, (Matt. 6:12)) we pray, That God, for Christ’ s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; (Ps. 51:1–2,7,9, Dan. 9:17–19) which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others. (Luke 11:4, Matt. 18:35)



Day 104


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 102v25-28


Message - Scott Woodburn

What did we ever do without Ikea? Where did we put our books before Billy built a bookcase? How poverty stricken were our cups when they had to rest in ordinary cupboards, not knowing the joy of a Snorgenforst kitchen? I love Ikea or specifically, I love building Ikea things. None of it is difficult, but it is a great joy to smell the carboard and to soon be up to your eyes in allen keys and polystyrene. Even as I write, I look up and see two bits of furntiure that "I" built and so far they haven't fallen over due to the weight of my feet or my TV.


Many of you will share my joy in "making". How pleased were we when granny hung our drawing on her fridge? It was a good feeling wasn't it? Yet put me in a workshop with a pile of wood and tools and I can guarantee Billy won't be getting a bookcase. I'm limited in ability and skill and marvel at those who can build structures and houses. Yet even the most talented and skilled individual cannot compare to the eternal Christ.


We read today that Jesus is the one who laid the foundation of the earth, with the heavens being the work of His hands (v25). Amazing isn't it? Everytime we marvel at the beauty of this world - Jesus made that. Everytime we've named a star after our girlfriend - Jesus made that star. Every awe inspiring sunrise, every fierce winter wind, every planet, every atom - Jesus made it all.


Paul puts it this way "For by Jesus all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." (Colossians 1v16) If you've ever seen me in person reading this passage, you will know that I subconsciously do hand movements when I read "through" and "for". I do a big sweeping forward motion for "through" and I pull my hand back to symbolise "for". With that helpful image (!) let me state that all creation was made "through" Jesus. The eternal Christ was there in the beginning and was instrumental in creating everything that has been made. Visible or invisible, it doesn't matter. All things were made through Jesus. 


Not only that, it is all for Him. When I do a good job in putting together a Dublehurst coffee table from Ikea, I love nothing more than a pat on the back from Mrs. Woodburn. But I'm not the star of history. This show isn't all about you or me. Creation was "through" Jesus and it is "for" Jesus. We are moving to the conclusion were our attention will be fixed on Christ forevermore. We will sing His praise for eternity. The old will go, the new will come and the people of God will see the eternal Christ without fear or failure to blight us. What a grand story of redemption! Not invented or built by sinful hands but entirely the work of our Trinue God.


Here is our eternal Christ. "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1v17-19) Praise Him!


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q104 What do we pray for in the fourth petition? In the fourth petition, which is, Give us this day our daily bread, we pray that of God's free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.



Day 106


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 64:1-6


Message Alan Burke 


There are millions across this world who live in constant fear. It’s not the fear of Covid-19 but that of a totalitarian regime, of the army or the police bursting through the doors of their homes all because they are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. For others it is the fear of rejection, abandonment, attack, torture that is constant, unceasing, that from a human perspective inescapable and insurmountable. For believers across this world, who live in countries like Iran, India, Egypt, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, and the list goes on and on, they know what it is to fear. This psalm echoes their cry and of many believers thought the ages who likewise have lived in terror.


As it begins, it does so with the emphatic plea of David, ‘Hear me, O God’. He comes to the Lord in prayer appealing that his complaint would be heard, for he fears that those against him would take his life and he asks for protection, that the Lord himself would preserve him in what he faces (1). Praying that the Lord would ‘Hide’ him, from the secret schemes and pots of the wicked (2), as they conspire together, like they are preparing for war against him (3-6). From a human point of view, the psalmist has every reason to be consumed with anxiety and dread. I don’t know about you but if it was me facing what he was facing I’d likely be in pieces. We may not be facing the fear of a totalitarian regime, we may not have fear of the doors busting open, persecution, we may not as the psalmist fears the threat of the enemy (1), the conspiracy of the wicked the crowd of the evildoers (2), but there is something we learn that should be a comfort to us in what ever we face. 


What is that, well we wherever we are facing, what ever we have done if we know God in faith (Matt 21:22, Jam 1:6) through Jesus Christ, then we can come before him with confidence knowing that he hears our prayers. Whether it is a complaint, a lament, confession of sin, praise, supplication, adoration, we can confidently come before him. We also know that he hears us in what we ask (1 Jn 5:15). We may not receive all the things that we ask for but in the midst of it all, we can know that in all that we face we are forgiven though Christ Jesus (Heb 9:15-22) and that in all that we face, death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39).


Secondly there are those who live as there are no consequences for their actions, they believe that the unseen things will go unseen, but know this, nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:13). Do not fool yourself into thinking like those who plotted against David that no one sees, for God sees all. For those who live without fear of the consequences, fear of the Lord (4), one day all will have to stand and give account before the Lord (Rom 14:12). When that day happens they will receive the judgement that their sins deserve. The only escape from the wrath of God is through trusting in him, for the Lord is merciful to those who fear him through Jesus Christ (Lk 1:50). If you haven’t really turn to him, trust in him, trust in the Saviour and know that there is no condemnation through Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1)



Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism 

Question 1

What is the chief end of man?

Man’ s chief end is to glorify God, (1 Cor. 10:31, Rom. 11:36) and to enjoy him for ever. (Ps. 73:25–28)





Day 107


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 89v1-2


Message - Scott Woodburn


There are moments in our lives that it is easy to "sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; and with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations." (v1). Everything is going well at home and at work. We wake in the morning filled with enthusiasm. The relationships we have are fulfilling and the achievements of the workplace are deeply satisfying. In church every sermon feeds you and every song is a delight. Things couldn't be much better, but then, suddenly, everything comes crashing down.


It doesn't matter how. Might be a work issue, might be home, but the crash comes and it comes hard. This Psalm mirrors our experience, beginning with a note of praise but then turning to despair. In the background to this Psalm there is no Davidic king on the throne and the people find themselves in exile. In response, the Psalmist, a man called Ethan the Ezrahite asks "Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?" (v49) and "How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?" (v46)


We've perhaps never phrased our frustration in this way but maybe in weakness you've cried "How long, O Lord?". It's easy to sing God's praise in sunny days, but much more difficult when nothing goes right...and yet it is possible to sing and indeed it is essential.


Ethan the Ezrahite sings of God's stedfast love and His faithfulness to all generations (v2). Ethan is perplexed with the current circumstances but he is still able to raise a trembling voice in praise of His God. My friends we know all too well that life is full of peaks and troughs. Perhaps more troughs than peaks and yet it can be said with confidence that God's love for us is steadfast. The troubles we face are not evidence that God has forsaken us. They aren't evidence that He no longer loves us. Perish the thought! God's love for His people is steadfast, constant and certain. He is faithful. 


You have trusted in Christ. It was for your sins that Jesus suffered and died. He was raised for your justification. He loves you in the sunny days and certainly in the dark. He has promised and He is faithful. It may not always feel like this and often you may struggle to believe it, but may the Lord give us the strength to always "sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations."


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q2 What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.




Day 108


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 64:7-9


Message Alan Burke 


In the films, television shows that we watch or the books that read the majority of the time the good guy wins, justice prevails in the end and people get their comeuppance. Think about it, how often have we watched a film or television show or read a book that in the end the bad guy prevails? Can you think of any? I can name only a few films and books where the bad guy prevails. Normally the storyline of the film, television show or the novel is the classic ‘David vs Goliath’ story that captures our imagination, the nobody takes on the corporate giant and wins, the villain is defeated by the unlikely hero. Sometimes the ending is more bittersweet but we expect the good guy to triumph in the end. Is it like that today? The good guys always triumph, is that what we see, I don’t think so. Instead we see corruption and evil that goes on, men like Jeffrey Epstein and Jimmy Savile may be dead but the damage that they have caused to countless lives remains.


In this psalm, David had cried out to the Lord ‘Hear me’, he had brought his complaint to the Lord (1). He was he facing the wickedness of the people, their evil purposes (5), and injustice at their hands (6). They lived without fear of the consequences, yet the Lord would bring his judgment, the tables would be turned, their would be no escape, they had lived without fear but no longer for the instruments they used would be the means of their ruin (7-8).  Nothing that was hidden would  remain that way, God has seen and knows it all. We may look around and see corruption and evil, how men like Jeffrey Epstein and Jimmy Savile once acted with impunity but even though people live autonomously, living as they wish, living with out fear of the Lord, boasting to each other who will see us, God will one day act whether it is in the here and now or when this life comes to an end. Galatians 6:7 reminds us, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." And in God's time, he will quickly and swiftly act to bring ruin upon them and their own speech will be their own downfall. 


Today there are many those who live as there are no consequences for their actions, they do not see the seriousness of sin, do not believe that they are sinners, they think that the things done in secret will go unseen. Yet everything will be uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:13). All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), this is true, there is not one good. God sees all, he knows the human heart, for all those who live without fear of God there may not be temporal consequences for your sin but there will be eternal consequences. Because one day all of us will have to stand and give account before the Lord (Rom 14:12). When that day happens they will receive the judgement that their sins deserve. The only escape from the wrath of God is through trusting in him, for the Lord is merciful to those who fear him through Jesus Christ (Lk 1:50). If you haven’t really turn to him, trust in him, trust in the Saviour and know that there is no condemnation through Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). If you have trusted in the Lord then take heart that even though corruption and evil continue on, The Lord Jesus will one day return to bring all to account. 


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 3

What do the scriptures principally teach?

The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man. (2 Tim. 1:13, 3:16)


Day 109


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 89v3-4


Message - Scott Woodburn

We've already heard that Psalm 89 is one in which Ethan the Ezrahite wonders how long it will be before the he sees the promises of God fulfilled. Things are not good. The people are in exile and there is no Davidic king on the throne, but Ethan remembers the promise of God. The Lord has sworn to David that his offspring will be established forever (v3-4). A descendant of David will sit again on the throne.


Of course Ethan wouldn't see the fulfilment of this promise. It would be many years before the mystery would be revealed with Christ the descendant of David fulfilling all that was promised. Nevertheless Ethan had a certainty that these things would take place. The language of verse 3 is God swearing to David. In Hebrews 6v13 we are told that God swears by Himself because there is none greater to swear by. This is a tremendous encouragement. The promises of God are not in doubt. They are not dependant on the works of humanity. They can't be overturned by a stroke of a pen. If you ever doubt God's promises, remember He swears by Himself that all will come to pass as He has planned.


It is certainly the case with the kingship of Christ. Jesus is the son of David (Matthew 1v1). He is the root of David (Revelation 5v5). He comes as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Ethan's questions were all answered in the promised Christ. 


I love how the shorter catechism describes Christ's kingly office. The question asked is "How doth Christ execute the office of a king?" with the answer "Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies." Even in David's best day he couldn't have lived up to this.


Jesus subdues us to Himself. He breaks our stubbornness and makes us willing to call upon Him (Psalm 110v3). He rules over us by His Word, He is the lawgiver (Isaiah 33v22). He is today reigning and working to put all our enemies under His feet (1 Corinthians 15v25). Even death will find itself under the feet of Jesus.


Out of all the Old Testament kings, David was certainly one of the finest. Yet he was a man of sin and weakness and death eventually visited Him. Indeed Peter was able to remind his listeners that David's tomb was with them to the very day of his sermon (Acts 2v29). None of this is true of Jesus. He is the promised Christ. He is the King on the throne. He is the sinless sovereign. He is the One who died yet lives forevermore. It doesn't matter if we were like Ethan and waiting for the coming of the King or like us who are waiting for the King's return. Jesus never disappoints, He is always worth the wait.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q4 What is God? God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.




Day 110


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 64:10


Message Alan Burke


Whether you are one of those who live across this world with constant fear of a totalitarian regime, of the army or the police bursting through the doors of their homes all because they are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you live with the constant fear of rejection, abandonment, attack. Or whether you look around and you wonder how corruption and evil seems to go on unchecked and you live a life that has been scared by the sin of another. What ever you are facing this day, whether it is the struggle of living in a broken sinful world, hearing the news of how their is a spike in Covid-19 cases in Crossgar and Ballynahinch, or on the other hand you are filled with joy at the good news of the lockdown easing, how you are able to embrace that loved one once more, or the news that your wedding can go ahead even though you have to observe social distancing. What ever we face, in the highs and lows we have reason to rejoice. It may not seem like it but as this psalm draws to a close it reminds us of that truth. 


What is the reason, it comes down to what the Lord has done for us, this should be the reason why the righteous rejoice. For as David draws this psalm to a close he has been moved from a prayer of complaint to the confident assurance, exclaiming, let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him, let all the upright in heart praise him (10). He is able to encourage the righteous to look to the Lord in hope in the midst of all that they face for the Lord will vindicate his servants the righteous, who take refuge in him. Who are the righteous that this psalm speaks of, who are they, they are those who live by faith. Throughout the scriptures this is the truth that is repeated time and time again, the righteous, those who have right standing with God live by faith. In their own endeavours, efforts, works they haven’t a leg to stand on but through faith we are made righteous. In every age the righteous people of God are those who live by faith, for it is by grace we have been saved though faith… not by works so that no one can boast (Eph 2:8-9). There is nothing that we can do to earn it, there is nothing that we can do to deserve it but God in his grace freely gives it. 


All of this, how the Lord hears, how the Lord hides should lead us to rejoice for in all that we face, we can come before God in prayer knowing that through faith he will help us, sustain us, free us from the fear and dread, that he has the power to keep and preserve us in all that we face, hiding us from evil. What a comfort in the midst of it all, to know that we have a God who hears our prayer, who hides us. And it should lead us to rejoice, to praise him knowing that we have our refuge in him. We should know that the Lord has the power to keep or preserve us in the midst of what we face, we can trust in and know that all things are working out together for his purposes, for the good of those who love him. Now I know that for some of you dealing with things that you never imagined you would have to deal with, you may be sitting trying to come to a decision or even trying to put off making decisions. Yet God is at work in it all, regardless of what we are facing, if we have enemies who are shooting arrows at us, or just discouragement abounds we know that there is nothing that can happen to us that is outside God’s providential care, and we know that whatever comes God will use what ever we face, what ever decision we make. 


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 5

Are there more Gods than one?

There is but One only, the living and true God. (Deut. 6:4, Jer. 10:10)



Day 111


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 89v1-4 & Matthew 1v1-17


Message - Scott Woodburn

I'm told by those who explore their family tree that there comes a point in history that finding out anything about your ancestors becomes incredibly difficult. If memory serves you can get to the mid 1800s and then everything starts to slow. The records start to become more and more limited, obviously no one is around who remembers your great-great-great-granny and you are left wondering where you actually came from. As a family we're pretty sure that we have a bit of Scotland and a bit of Holland, but don't ask us for proof.


Scriptually you will no doubt be aware of how Matthew begins his Gospel. He outlines Christ's family tree with Luke doing the same in Luke 3v23-38. These are passages that are often skipped. We don't have time to read a list of names and we much prefer to get to something a little less dry. Yet Matthew's list of names is utterly extraordinary. We could take all day to work our way through each generation. The outcasts are there, the foreigners are there, the wicked are there. Nothing is hidden from view.


Today though we consider the first verse. Matthew reminds us that the Christ was the son of David and the son of Abraham. In simple terms, Jesus was the child of promise. The Lord had told Abraham to expect a multitude of descendants and that in Abraham all the nations of the world would be blessed. Christ is the fulfilment of these Abrahamic promises. Long after Abraham was called to glory David was promised that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever. Once more, Christ the son of David is the fulfilment of the promises made to His ancestor David.


This may seem like a trivial point but we are reminded that nothing with the Lord is left to chance. There are no accidents when it comes to the provision of the Lord. Jesus was the promised Christ spoken of to David and Abraham. Indeed Luke traces the Lord's family all the way back to Adam. The sin of the first Adam would be paid for by Christ the second Adam. 


Paul puts it wonderfully when he writes "when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4v4-5) By faith, we have received this adoption, only possible because the sovereign God always keeps His promises and in Christ "all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." (2 Corinthians 1v20)


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q6 How many persons are there in the Godhead? 

There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory. 


The Lord's Day 

Shorter Catechism question is Question 7

What are the decrees of God?

The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. (Eph. 1:4,11, Rom. 9:22–23)



Day 113


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 65:1-4


Message Alan Burke 


For all who are citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland they are subject’s of Queen Elizabeth II. It doesn’t matter how we feel about the monarchy or her reign the fact of the matter is that she is our Queen, our Monarch. If we are ever we invited to a reception with the queen one would have to follow the established protocols, dress appropriately (so pyjamas are defiantly out) and there would be no chance of getting close enough to bend her ear about the state of things here. The likelihood is that it will be a while before anyone gets invited to come see the Queen with the current Pandemic. I suppose if any of us wanted a word with her we could always just give her a wee call the Buckingham Palace number is 03031237300 although I think that’s just the ticket office, I suppose one could send her a wee letter; Her Majesty The Queen, Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA. But I checked the on the ‘http://royal.uk' website that make it clear that ‘Correspondence which will not receive a response’. 


Today we look at the opening four verses of Psalm 65, the people are gathered before the temple, ready to praise the Lord (1) and we are reminded of a marvellous truth, even though Queen Elizabeth II and all world leaders are beyond our reach our efforts to communicate with them will be in vein, we come before the God who made the universe and all that is in it and he hears our prayer (2). Our God, the God whom we come before is the ‘Prayer-Hearing’ God. What a description, what a marvellous truth that we can come before the creator God, the God of the universe, who is far beyond what our finite minds can grasp and we can knowing that he is the hearer of prayer, the hearer of every whim, complaint, lament, confession, praise, supplication that we direct towards him through faith. His ear is ever open to the cries of the guilty, the suffering, the sad, the troubled, the dying, we have the assurance that God is a prayer-hearing God. What a wonderful assurance that in the midst of it all we have a prayer hearing God, who cares about me a nobody, he hears my prayers, he cares about you and he hears your prayers. 


All of this should give us reason to praise him, to Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendour of holiness (Ps 29:2). Even though his people had sinned grievously against him (3), the Lord forgave them. They didn’t deserve the forgiveness they received, but here David is expresses his confidence, in spite of their sin, as they come to worship, has been dealt with, it has been atoned for, covered, forgiven. They knew that the Lord had chosen them (4), and it is because of this that they can draw near, for he hears the prayers of whom he has chosen (Dt 7:6-7, 14:2, Jn 6:44, 15:16). And all of these things should cause them to delight in him.


Likewise for us this day, wherever we are, we know that we come before the prayer hearing God, that even though we are altogether sinful, that we are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (Gen 6:5, Rom 3:23), that we can come this day, drawing near to the Living God in Praise, in Prayer, in Worship even though we are scattered. For he chooses us so that we can come not only as guest but that we can come as his children, heirs with Christ Jesus (Jn 1:12-13). He has shown us his abundant grace even though we don’t deserve it, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, our sin has been atoned for (1 Jn 2:2), he has graciously removed the guilt of sin, and lift off the burden, cleansing the soul, given us peace, and joy, and hope for he remembers our sin no more (Heb 8:12). So when we come before him, when we pray to him, he sees not our sin but the perfection of Jesus Christ, and as a result we can come boldly as his children to the Prayer-Hearing God. 



Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism 

Question 8

How doth God execute his decrees?

God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.




Day 114


Pray (ACts)


Read - Hebrews 2v5-9


Message - Scott Woodburn

Baptisms, weddings and funerals - I do them all. But perhaps there is no moment as tense as when the invites for the wedding go out. I'm the minister, I usually always get invited and sometimes I even get a seat at the top table, but how many cousins should come to the dinner? Where should aunt Vera get to sit? Should mums, aunties, next door neighbours, doctors, sisters friend get an invite? I've lost count of how many noses have been put out of joint by a "wrong decision" in the organisation of a wedding. None of us like to be put out, we're all very special we think, each one of us deserves the best.


Today consider Christ. This week we will speak of the condescension of Christ. At first glance you may think that condescension is entirely negative. No one likes a condescending person, always acting and talking like they are far superior. We don't use it in that manner with Jesus. When we speak of His condescension we mean that He willingly lowered Himself to a humble estate.


Jesus wasn't filled with arrogance because He didn't get the right seat at the wedding feast. He came not to be served but to serve. He came and took on flesh and submitted Himself to our weakness, yet without sin. I love to speak of the hypostatic union, or in other words Jesus was fully God, fully man and without sin. He nursed at Mary's breast. He was embraced by Jospeh. He played with His brothers and sisters. He knew hunger and thirst. He took a first step. He said a first word.


Can you imagine? The One by whom all things were created, stepping into that creation? This was no small event but one of the grandest moments in human history. God Himself becomes like us. Jesus is the condescending Christ.


In today's passage Psalm 8 is quoted as pointing to Jesus (v5-8) and we will return to that Psalm later in the week, but this morning consider verse nine. There we are told about Christ's condescension. For a little while He was made lower than the angels. These majestic beings are different from us in many ways but like us they are created. Here their creator is willingly made lower than them for a time. Indeed the purpose of this condescension is spelt out. Jesus came to experience the "suffering of death". This is simply remarkable. That the God man, Jesus, would be brutalised and murdered at Calvary "tasting death for everyone" so that we might know everlasting life.


We do not fill a gap in God. He needs nothing. He lacks nothing. He isn't the God of a popular Christian song who "doesn't want heaven without us". He is Almighty God who somehow, someway is mindful of humanity. He stoops in loving condescension and with nail pierced hands offers forgiveness to all who will believe. The next time we're far from the top table with pouting lips and hearts filled with self-righteousness...consider the condescending Christ.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q9 What is the work of creation? The work of creation is God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.


Day 115


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 65:5-8


Message Alan Burke 


When was the last time that you hit the pause button, not on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sky+, Disney+ or the like I mean in life. Hit the pause button and just stop in the midst of it all. Lockdown to a certain extent did that, we all adjusted to a different way of life, some of us had great hopes for lockdown that we would finally clear out that spare bedroom, practice that piano piece, learn a new skill, etc etc and they largely came to naught. When was the last time that you just stoped in the midst of your day to marvel at the beauty of God’s creation, to wonder at it all, the prominence of the Mournes, the song of the birds, the clouds floating in the sky, the unfolding of the flower.  


Here the Psalmist reflects on majesty and power of God, in how he has revealed his awesome deeds throughout the history of his people, his mighty acts,  how he had brought his people out of slavery, how he had brought salvation to them, how he is their saviour (5). But the psalmist also reminds us how God is also the hope of all the earth, of all people everywhere. There is salvation in no one else; there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). The hope of all people everywhere is in the Creator God (6) that has exhibited his strength, in all of creation. The imagery that is used here conveys His power and His might, how he has ordered all creation as he pleased, setting the mountains so they could not be moved. He has the power to still the chaos of the roaring seas (7). The storm subsides at his command, and the sea is still. No human, no nation has the power of God. This psalm reminds us that there is not one place where the knowledge of God’s wonders will not reach and there people will come to fear him. All over the world God praise will rise filled with joy as people come to know and acknowledge him.


No matter how remote a location, how far off the grid people live, or a wondering people in the amazon, the Lord God, the creator God has revealed himself though his great signs. All people everywhere have seen the evidences of the divine presence and power to fill their minds with awe. The thunder, the storm, the raging sea, the earthquake, the eclipse of the sun or the moon, fill the minds of all. They are signs which really indicate the existence, the presence, and the power of God. For nature itself reveals to all that he is God. There is nowhere over all the earth where he has not revealed himself, as poetically it shouts for joy as it rise and sets. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Rom 1:20 also Ps 191-2).


This God is only hope of salvation, all have sinned and are justified freely, without their own works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, in His blood (Rom 3:23–25). One day all boundaries of nation, race, language, ethnic origin, or geographical location are gone and for those who know him they have a hope that goes beyond this life, to a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 7:9, 21:1-4) . And as David speaks that there is a prophetic element to what he says, looking to that hope the time when all people will come, when the turmoil of the nations will need, war, strife, conflict, oppression will be ended (Ps 46:9), when we will be with our God. The God of Creation.



Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 10

How did God create man?

God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures. (Gen. 1:26–28, Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24)



Day 116


Pray (ACts)


Read (Psalm 8v1-9)


Message - Scott Woodburn


H.L. Mencken once wrote that "even the most sincere man...makes a poor showing beside the average dog." I think I know what Mencken was trying to get at. A dog is man's best friend, full of loyalty and a constant friend. Sometimes we don’t match up to the commitment of our favourite pooch. Biblically speaking however, humanity has a privileged position. Admittedly we are not like the angels, they are unseen and have access to the heavenly place. We've been made a little lower than them (v5a) but nevertheless the Lord has crowned us with glory and honour (v5b). We have been made in God's image and He has entrusted us with dominion over His creation. Dogs may be loyal and lions may be mighty but they have not been given authority over the sheep and oxen, beasts of the field, birds of the air, fish of the sea and whatever else passes along the paths of the seas (v7-8).


God has given humanity a greater dignity than the rest of His creation. Therefore we should never doubt the preciousness of life. All life. It is horrific to think of the brutality of the Nazis who treated humans as a commodity. Millions were killed and stripped of their hair, their teeth, their glasses...anything that could be reused for the so called "master race". The Lord provides not for any fictional "master race", but the human race, and all humanity made in His image has value.


It is a humbling thought. Tonight look to the stars and think on this truth. "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?" (v3-4)


Yet as we have discovered, in Hebrews this passage is taken and applied directly to Christ. Jesus is the "Son of Man". He is the condescending Christ who became like us in every way, yet without sin. He came as the humble servant who had nowhere to lay His head. He was even handed over to sinful men who put Him to death on a cross.


We meet the phrase "Son of Man" in Daniel 7v13 as well. Here we see that the Son of Man is fully God. He is presented before the "Ancient of Days" and given a kingdom that would last forever. The Son of Man is a perfect title for Jesus. In Christ we see "that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man." (Westminster Confession of Faith 8:2)  Today He remains the God Man. Flesh and blood is at the right hand of the Father and there is nothing left outside his control (Hebrews 2v8).


What are we that God is mindful of us? Why would He continue His interest with our constant sin and rebellion? What are we? By faith, we are in Christ. We are in an unbreakable union with Jesus. Nothing compares to this. Just as the humiliated Christ is now glorified so too one day He will return and take us to be where He is. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (v9)       


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q11 What are God's works of providence? God's works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions.


Day 117

Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 65:9-13


Message Alan Burke 


Every day after school I got to go to the Thompson’s farm at Tamnakeery, after homework’s were done I got to go out and generally make a nuisance of myself. The only other place that I wanted to be was at my Grandparents farm at Liskinbwee. Most weekends I got to go up, which was great, but I knew that in the summer I’d be there for two whole amazing months, no school, no having to go to the shops, grannies cooking and the only time I had to get cleaned up was for the weekly trip to church when I’d more often than not leave with a cauliflower ear because I couldn’t sit still. All summer I hoped in vein that mum wouldn’t drive into the yard to pick me up when the summer ended and force me to get new shirts, shoes, jumpers and trousers, what was wrong with my boiler suit, ok it could stand by itself at the end of the summer but that didn’t matter to me. Those days are but a distant memory now. I didn’t realise at the time how much I learnt from my grandad, ‘Tick’ as he was affectionally known was a towering man with hands the size of shovels. Come hail or shine when it came to the Lord’s day we were at church, because he knew what many today don’t that all that we have stored in our cupboards, in our fridge, that milk that arrives in the container, wasn’t dependant on farmers like him who worked the ground, shed their blood sweat and tears, it was dependent on God. 


As this psalm closes, it reminds us that despite how farming has revolutionised since the turn of the twentieth century, despite the machines that we have the methods that we have learnt that all of it is reliant on the goodness of God to make the rain fall and the sun shine. It is the Lord who visits the earth, who cares fo the land, who attends to its needs, caring for his creation, the world and all that is in it, supplying the needs of those whom he has created to dwell upon it. All of this is an image of God’s grace, the blessing of God, how the early rains prepare the ground for sowing, while the later rains in mid winter soften it and allow the crops to grow. The rains come, soften and loosen the ground, the furrows are filled with water by the rains, all dependant on the mighty acts of the Lord, causing it to grow and producing abundance (9-10). God is the one who crowns each year with his goodness; with the harvest, the fruits, the flowers year after year. God, in the advancing seasons, passes along through the earth, and rich abundance springs up wherever he goes (11). The waste places, or the waste parts of the land; the uncultivated places he passing along giving fertility and beauty, causing grass and flowers to spring up in abundance, and clothing them. The valleys and the hills alike seem to be made glad (12). The pastures are clothed with flocks, standing so thick together, and are spread so far, that they seem to be a clothing for the pasture; or, the fields are entirely covered with them and valleys covered over with grain. All of creation shouts for joy (13). 


All that is described in these four verses is what is called ‘common grace’. Common grace is all that God does for his creation, that these verse explain are things that he does for all that we do not deserve. He shows this common grace on all people, this is the grace that leaves with all people without an excuse before him, for all of creation testifies that there is a God (Ps 19:2, Rom 1:20). My grandad knew this fine well, he saw it every day, it was inescapable for him to know that there is a God and it means none of us have an excuse when one day we stand before him and say we do not owe him everything. Yet it pleased the Lord to reveal himself to us though the Word incarnate (Heb 1:1-2), he alone is the way of salvation (Jn 14:6), freely offered to all who will believe (Rom 6:23).


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 12

What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?

When God had created man, he entered into a (covenant of life) with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death. (Gal. 3:12, Gen. 2:17)



Day 118


Pray (ACts)


Read - Philippians 2v1-11


Message - Scott Woodburn

None of us I'd imagine are famous enough to utter the famous phrase "Do you know who I am?" It's perhaps only for the rich and powerful, but while we would never say it, many of us live it. We are 2020 people, with rights and privileges that we will absolutely assert. Yet the apostle calls the church to a different road in today's passage.


If you are encouraged in Christ, comforted in love, participate in the Spirit and have any affection or sympathy (v1) then live in full accord and one mind (v2). Everything in verse one was true of the Philippians, just as it is true of us and therefore they were to complete Paul's joy by striving for unity. There was to be no room for selfish ambition or conceit (v3a). Others were to be counted more significant than self (v3b) and the Philippian church was to look after their own interests and the interests of others (v4). Where could such an idea come from?


Consider Jesus. The condescending Christ. We are to respond to His grace in our lives by striving to emulate His mindset. Verse six to eleven is called the Carmen Christi or the Christ Hymn. It tells us that Jesus was God (v6) but He emptied Himself by taking on flesh (v7). This doesn't mean that He stopped being God whilst He was here on earth. Instead here we speak of Jesus emptying Himself by taking on a true human nature, in the form of a servant (v7). Indeed Christ doesn't count equality with God as something to be grasped (v6b). So He doesn't make the nails that pierce Him soft. He doesn't call upon the angels to destroy His enemies.


Instead the condescending Christ become flesh and blood and is obedient to death on a cross (v8). Certainly Christ is now exalted with the name above every name (v9) He deserves all the glory that is due to Him (v10-11) but first came the humiliation, mockery and scorn of this harlot world. As we read the Carmen Christi we are humbled. We are the centre of our own world. We are more selfish than any of us would care to admit but here is a call to go another way. A road marked with humility and condescension. Putting the needs of others before our own. Fighting not for our own way but instead fighting for unity in the local church. Fellowships marked with accord and Christ likeness. All of it in loving, thankful response to the condescending Christ.


So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy...consider Jesus.


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Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q13 Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created? Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.


Day 120


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Matthew 27:45-50 and Psalm 88


Message Alan Burke 


There are times that I cannot even begin to imagine what the person I pastor is going through, I do not try to give the answers, I do not try to give advice, all I do is listen. When there is opportunity to do so I take them to the one who can sympathise with all our weakness Jesus Christ our Lord (Heb. 4:15). He can sympathise with our weakness because he lived as one of us, experienced the things that we experience. In all the hardships that befall on us, whatever our weakness, we know the compassion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who will accompany us through it all. Not only that, in whatever we face he has concern for us and he can relieve our sufferings, helping us through all that we face. Knowing this should be an encouragement to us all, that God incarnate, Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man can sympathise with our weakness. 


What is more Jesus experienced the wrath of God so that we may escape it. We read from Matthew 27:45-50, a passage that is normally used at Good Friday services and more often than not the focus is on how he was spat on (Mt 26:67), flogged, received a crown of thorns (Jn 19:1-2) and was mocked (Mt 27:31) and nailed to a cross (Mt 27:35). As awful as these things were, they were nothing in comparison to what happened on the cross, for after several hours, when the end was near, Jesus cried out …“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Mt 27:46). There he experienced something worse than we can even begin to imagine, he was forsaken, for there he bore upon himself our sin so that we can have his righteousness, he suffered in our place, the wrath of God. He who knew no sin became sin for us ( 2 Cor 5:21), he bore the curse for us (Gal 3:13). We cannot fully grasp this cry, how the trine God suffered separation, yet in it we know that we have a saviour who knew what it was to be forsaken, who can sympathise with our weakness. 


I do not know what you face this day but I know that in what ever we face we have a Saviour who is compassionate towards us, is concerned for us, who is with us through it all. If you feel forsaken at times then know if you have trusted in the saviour your are not forsaken, he will never leave us nor forsake us. Man of sorrows what a name, for the Son of God, who came, ruined sinners to reclaim: Hallelujah, what a Saviour! 


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 15

What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein thy were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit. (Gen. 3:6)


Day 121


Pray (ACts)


Read - Hebrews 10v1-10


Message - Scott Woodburn

Many years ago I read an article about a girl who raised a great amount of money for charity. She had been involved in many commendable activities and unquestionably her efforts helped many people. I take no issue with any of that but what caused this article to stick in my mind all these years later was the girl’s comment. "That's me into heaven." she stated. I hope that there was someone close to her who was able to share the Gospel. No one sees heaven without faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11v6)


It has always been this way. Before Christ came, the people of God were pointed forward to Jesus by God's law. It was a shadow of the good things to come (Hebrews 10v1) but the sacrifices offered year after year were not able to make the worshippers perfect (10v1b). Indeed the yearly sacrifice would remind them of sin each and every year (10v3). The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin (10v4).


What was required was a perfect sacrifice. The believer before Christ's birth knew this. They looked forward in faith to the arrival of a Saviour. Yet then, as now, there were also many who believed that by going through the motions, doing good things, showing up to worship would be enough to somehow please God. Have you convinced yourself that by your church attendance, your charitable acts, your "paying in", that that's you into heaven? Please waken up!


Our works will never be enough, we could never keep God's law perfectly. What we need is a substitute. We need a Saviour who can meet the requirements of God perfectly and thankfully we know who that is. Jesus is the lamb of God who comes to take away the sin of the world. He kept the law of God 100%. The Covenant of Works made with and failed by Adam, has been kept perfectly by Christ. Here in Hebrews 10, Psalm 40 is applied directly to Christ. Jesus is the One who comes to do the will of God (Psalm 40v7). As we will see this week he is active and passive in His obedience. His sacrifice is perfect, it is sufficient, it is once and for all, it is enough.


Doing charitable things doesn't get you into heaven and please don't fall for the lie that keeping the commandments will save you. You will not be able to keep the commandments perfectly and they are supposed to teach you your need of Christ. Only Christ's works are perfect, only Jesus is righteous. What then must we do to be doing the work of God? This is the work of God, believe in the One whom he has sent. (John 6v29)


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Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q16 Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression? The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.



Day 122


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 88:1-8


Message Alan Burke


Our emotions play a big part in who we are, they are all part and parcel of one’s everyday life. We all face times of sadness, torment and brokenness as well as joy, elation, happiness. Yet there is a stigma around emotions that are deemed negative. Instead of being honest with those around us, how often do we hide away what we are feeling, how often when we are asked how we are do we simply say I’m… ‘grand', ‘good’, ‘alright’ and then quickly ask the other person how they are, never really opening up. On the odd occasion that we have verbalised how we feel, we’ve probably been told, ‘just get on with it’, ‘man up’ ‘stop being a kill joy’, ‘are you a man or a mouse’. I have a friend who is a GP, it’s something, he sees the effects of, that bottling up of ones emotions, I quote what he has said; 


“…they come though my door confident and successful, smiling and chipper – and as soon as the door closes, the face falls, the tears start, the truth comes out. In this country, we have a problem with being honest about how we are feeling, and about who we are. We don’t open up about our struggles to our friends, our elders, our ministers, or our family. You know what? You need to be honest. You need to let people in on who you are fundamentally, you need to be vulnerable – because the ultimate exposing of our weakness and flaws will come out despite our best efforts to keep up appearances.”


Today we have read some of Psalm 88, Heman brings his song to God. He emphatically calls out to God, the God of his salvation (1), but this is the only glimmer of hope in this entire psalm that is full of hopelessness and despair, it is totally bleak, for the psalmist feels forsaken. He does not deny that God remembers him, that God knows his trouble but rather he speaks, expressing how he feels in the midst of all that he faces. When one is in the throws of deep depression, the mind forgets all, it is consumed by darkness, the weight and the burden of which make everything else seem far off and that there will be no return, that there will never be anything but what is faced in the present. The weight of what he carries, of what he feels weights heavily, so much so he can barely take it any more. 


Heman’s song, this song to God, psalm 88 it not what we would expect to hear sung today in many of our congregations and we are poorer for it, because these words, this song, help us by giving us language that allows us to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship. We will think about this more later in the week, but I want you to know that in what ever you face you can come like Heman before the Lord and can express your deepest agonies with honesty before him. And remember what we thought about from Matthew 27 earlier this week, how Jesus is able to sympathise with our weakness because he came as one of us and lived as one of us, being totally forsaken on the cross (Mt 27:46).



Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 17

Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?

The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery. (Rom. 5:12)




Day 123


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 40v6-8


Message - Scott Woodburn


Gresham Machen was an American Presbyterian of the last century. If you have never heard of him then perhaps this summer is the time to pick up one of his works. In the final days of his life he sent a telegram to his friend stating "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it." Perhaps such a statement strikes you as odd. Little time in your life left, every breath could be your last and you speak of an obscure sounding bit of doctrine? But Gresham Machen was right.


Psalm 40 speaks of Christ. As we have heard this week, Jesus is the only One who keeps God's law perfectly. We speak of Jesus actively and passively obeying. But what do we mean? Today we'll think about His active obedience. As the phrase suggests Jesus in every moment of His life actively obeyed God. From the cradle to the end of His life Jesus was active in obedience.  


In Luke’s Gospel we read that Jesus "grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2v52) This verse causes us to remember that Jesus lived around 33 years on this earth. He didn’t begin life at age 30. He was born in a lowly estate and from childhood to manhood He perfectly obeyed God. Do you remember that Jesus was circumcised? Do you recall His baptism? Do you consider that He celebrated the Passover? Why? Because Jesus was obedient to all that God required. All of this was as he said to John the Baptist "to fulfil all righteousness." (Matthew 3v15) But sometimes we do things with unwillingness in our hearts. Perhaps Jesus obeyed grudgingly. Not at all. It was our Lord's great pleasure and duty to "fulfil all righteousness" down to the smallest part of the Law. Jesus said "I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (John 6v38).


It is incredibly good news when we understand Christ's active obedience. Have you ever promised that the biscuit in your hand will be the last one? Have you ever been determined to never fall into that particular sin ever again? How's that working out for you? Praise God that His disobedient children are counted as obedient because they have trusted Christ. A body was prepared for our Lord (Psalm 40v5), a body that was completely and actively obedient to all that God required. It is Jesus who says “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.” (Psalm 40v7)


We look to Christ's obedience in our sin and weakness and know that because of Him, there is no one to lay any charge against God's elect. Have you done enough to win God’s favour? Never! But do not despair because Christ has done it all. Machen was right "I'm so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it."


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q18 Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell? The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.




Day 124


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 88:6-18


Message Alan Burke 


How are you? A simple question that we often ask each other when we meet. In all likelihood there have been times that you have either tried to deflect the question by asking the other person how they are or by talking about the wether, something like that or you have lied through your teeth. That may not be the case, but how often have we admitted to others that we are having a bad day, that things are hard, that we are struggling with sin, when we are asked ‘How are you?’. We may feel that we have to deflect, lie or put on a front before our family and friends but we do not need to do that before God. 


Here as the psalmist continues his lament, he turns to accusation, he sees that the Lord has cause it, crying out, you have put me (6), your wrath lies heavy about me (7), you have caused (8), you have made me a horror (8). Utterly helpless, without encouragement, close friends, the situation that the Psalmist finds himself in is reminiscent to that of Job. Even in the midst of all, in the depths of his despair, the faith of the psalmist has remained, evident as he make clear his earnest desire that the Lord would answer (9), his faith is not apathetic, instead he wrestles with the Lord in prayer, the depth of his faith is expressed by his earnest calling on the Lord that arise out of his experience of abandonment (9b-12). Again he blames the Lord, it is his doing (13-14), for in all that he experiences it is of ‘dying in life’ (15-18). Its end seems a hopeless one but thought it all one thing remains and that his faith. Even in the depths of dispart for the psalmist has learnt to look to the God who saves even in the midst of his darkness. This psalm is of realism of Biblical faith even though darkness has become his closest friend. 


If the bleak features of the psalm have been known to you or are known to you or if you find them in the future, this is how to respond. When life is seemingly hopeless and full of despair, to cry out to God, draw near to Jesus, reach out for help and remember that Jesus as we thought about earlier in this week, took the ultimate darkness of God’s wrath (Mt 27:45-50). If someone ever tells you that Christians don’t suffer or shouldn’t suffer, they are a liar, there is no truth in them, do not believe what they say. We only need to look to the life of our saviour Jesus and to the apostle Paul to see that the life of a Christian is one that is often denoted with suffering. Remember though that since Jesus took the abandonment we deserve, we know that God will not abandon us as he has promised that he will never leave us or forsake those who are his (Heb. 13:5). He is there with us, even when we can’t feel him at all.


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 19

What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?

All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, (Gen. 3:8,10,24) are under his wrath and curse, (Eph. 2:2–3, Gal. 3:10) and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever. (Lam. 3:39, Rom. 6:23, Matt. 25:41,46)


Day 125


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 40v6-8


Message - Scott Woodburn


We have heard this week about the active obedience of Christ. Jesus "did" what the law required, but if active obedience speaks of this "doing", what do we mean when we speak of His passive obedience? He passively obeyed by willingly receiving the punishment for law breakers. Someone might try to belittle Christ's passive obedience. He wasn't the first to be humiliated, tortured, slandered and killed, why do Christians makes such a fuss? We make much of Christ's sacrifice because not only did He experience everything we've just mentioned but also Jesus became a curse for us. You've no doubt heard the word "propitiation" and a wonderful word it is too. Jesus is our propitiation or in simple terms He is the sacrifice that turns away the wrath of God.


Imagine it this way. The rain begins to fall one July day. It's raining with all the fury the heavens can muster, yet you are safe and dry under your giant umbrella. The rain beats down but not a drop touches your face because it lashes off the umbrella instead. Put that picture aside and now consider Jesus. In His passive obedience the wrath of God is poured out on Christ. Every drop of God's anger against sin pours down upon the head of our precious Redeemer. Sure there have been many who have experienced similar trials to Christ. Many unjust beatings, many slanderous remarks, many innocents who have lost their lives to the State. But none. But none. But none, except Jesus, has faced the righteous fury of a Holy God for every single sin ever committed by the elect people of God. Here is the passive obedience of Christ.


Jesus knew the weight and horror of what He was about to face. For this reason, our Lord prayed in Gethsemane, "Lord, if it is possible, take this cup from me." And yet, even in the face of divine judgment, when He would bear all the sins of all His people, He still prayed, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done" (Matthew 26v41-43). Again, I’ve heard those who mock Christ’s supposed lack of bravery in Gethsemane. How dare they! Consider your sin for a moment. Just you. Every sin you have ever committed was paid for by Christ. Now add to that the sin of every Christian in your church. Add to that the sin of every Christian in your town. Do you see where we are going? You and I would have been crushed under such weight, but not Jesus. His knees lift Him from prayer in Gethsemane and His feet carry Him to the place of the skull. Jesus becomes sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5v21).  


This obedience was voluntary. Christ was neither cajoled or forced. Jesus said "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep…No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father" (John 10v14-18). Christ’s voluntary obedience even unto death, means that His sacrifice is sufficient and acceptable in God’s sight. Only Jesus can say “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40v7-8)


Remember our friend Gresham Machen about to go to glory and thinking upon the obedience of Christ? No wonder. Christ's active obedience sees us counted as righteous. Christ's passive obedience means that the wrath of God no longer abides on us. Thanks be to God for the obedience of Christ. "By the obedience of the one man many shall be declared righteous," (Romans 5v19). 


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery? God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.



Day 127


Pray (ACts)


Read (Matthew 27v32-56)


Message - Scott Woodburn

I’m sure we’ve all had moments of humiliation in our lives. Moments that we wish the ground would swallow us up. They are moments that tend to stick with us, causing our anger to rise and our cheeks to redden even years later. But as always the scale of Christ’s humiliation makes those harsh words spoken about us ten years ago seem so insignificant. The catechism speaks this way about Christ’s humiliation. “Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.”


This week we’ll think especially about His “cursed death of the cross” and how the Psalms were on Christ’s lips on that terrible day. But lets go slowly to Golgotha today as recorded for us in Matthew’s Gospel. The events and beatings of the past hours begin to take a toll physically on the Lord and Simon of Cyrene is compelled to carry His cross (v32). Jesus refuses the wine mixed with gall (v34) as He would not allow the suffering He was about to endure to be diluted with drink. There would be no softening of the torture that was about to be poured out on Jesus. They would take Christ and hammer nails into Him. They treated the Son of God like He was a fence post, nailing Him to a cross (v35) to ensure that He would hang over His tormentors. As He hung over them they continued to mock. They took His garments and cast lots for them (v35). They hurled insults at Christ (v40-44) and even those crucified with Him took turns to revile the Lamb of God (v44).


Creation responded to the events unfolding in Jerusalem as darkness fell over the land (v45) and yet this seemed to have little impact on the spectators. As Christ cried to the Father (v46), the bystanders were interested to see if Jesus was calling Elijah (v47) and wondering if perhaps Elijah would come to rescue Christ (v49). This was sport for them. Entertainment. A blasphemer was getting what He had deserved. They were confident that they were entirely in the right and certainly God would be pleased with their scheming and lying and plotting. To them Jesus wasn't an innocent man but a troublemaker. A thorn in their side who had caused them much embarrassment over several years. There are none so blind as those who will not see.


The Christ who was breathing His last was the One who had come to open the way. Symbolically the temple curtain was torn in two (v51). Christ’s sacrifice had made it possible to enter the holy place by His precious blood. Indeed, so monumental was this event that the earth shook and the dead were raised to life (v51-53). I wonder how well His captors slept that night? Were they so filled with self righteousness, so pleased with the removal of a trouble maker that they slept like babies? Or did some of them far from the crowd begin to wonder “who was that man?”. We can only speculate, but we do see the response of a Gentile man, he was a Roman,  a foreigner, an invader. Here was a sign of things to come. The news of the cross would soon spread around the world and many Gentiles would be saved through faith in Christ. As the Roman centurion considered the events of the day, he could only conclude “Truly this was the son of God.” (v54).


Indeed.


As we slowly walk through this familiar passage, may its weight strike us new. This was the Son of God and human hands showed Him no mercy. I am thankful today that the Lord is not like us. “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103v10-12) And where do we see the mercy of God most clearly? At the place called Golgotha where Christ was crushed for our iniquities. Bow before Him today for it was in your place He stood.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Question 22

How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.


Day 128 



Pray (ACts)


Read Ps 101:1-3a


Message - Alan Burke 


If you can remember back to 2009 the news was filled for months with political scandal, there was resignations, sackings, de-selections and retirements along with public apologies all over Members of Parliament fiddling their expenses. Four parliamentarians were later jailed as a response. Politicians failing to live up to their promises is not a new thing, anyone not only our elected representatives can make a mess of things and remember that we all make a mess of things too. What is different for those who lead us, is that we expect them to behave in a certain way, act in accordance with their position. The King of God’s people was to live in a certain way, God himself had set forth the standard by which those who ruled over his people were to live by and lead by, that they would rule with love and justice over his people, ruling by the law of God, so that the king may continue long in his kingdom, as well as his children in Israel (Deut 17:14-20).


I want you to set aside all that you know about David, as he here publicly commits himself to excellence (Ps 101:1-3a). Declaring that he would ‘Sing of love and justice’ (1a). That same love and justice that had been shown to him by the Lord God, that same love and justice that the Lord God had shown to his people (Ex 34:7). This was a public declaration for all the people, that this is the way that he would live. He would make music (1b) as a response to the grace of God. What is more, he would  live as King in a way that was blameless ((2a) also see Mic. 6:8). For the one who walks blamelessly is the one who does what is right (Ps 15:2-5). In all of this he knows he is dependant on God in everything praying for his help (2b). Knowing that only as he led righty in his own home, could he do that in the public sphere and his desire was to walk with integrity of heart within his own home, that is where godliness was to begin (2c). His personal commitment to excellence would mean that he set no worthless think before his eyes (3a). Literally the term worthless means without profit, its the quality of being useless, good for nothing, and David is saying that looking upon things without profit is worthless, it is not neutral, it is evil in the sight of God (Ps 119:37).


The ‘Ideals’ that David committed himself to, we know that he did not live up to, neither did the kings that followed him. The people nonetheless looked to this ‘Ideal’ and longed for a King that would come who would meet these Ideals. This King has now come, it is the Lord Jesus Christ the King who rules over all (Ps 110:1, Matt 22:41-46). How should the words of this psalm impact us? Firstly know that Jesus is the King who has come and in him was no sin (1 Pet 2:22), he did what David did not. Secondly these opening verses give us a model to live by, living lives of steadfast love and justice should be our commitment (1). Pondering what it is to be blameless and live accordingly, that is according to the Word of God not this world (2a), relying on God every day (2b), living rightly in our own homes (2c). Finally, putting nothing worthless before our eyes (3a), that is anything without profit, the implication is what we spend our time doing matters, so a whole boxset on Netflix tonight is worthless (without profit), instead we should set our hearts on what is eternally valuable (Ps 119:33-40). 


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Question 23

What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?

Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.



Day 129


Pray (ACts)


Read (Psalm 22)


Message - Scott Woodburn

The events that took place at Calvary were no tragic accident. Christ’s crucifixion wasn’t the result of events getting out of God’s control. How can we be certain? Because the Bible tells us so. As we read Psalm 22 today we realise that it is extraordinarily Messianic. This is a Psalm originally penned by David and describes his despair, hurt and sense of forsakenness. Yet as we discover in the Gospels this Psalm finds its full realisation in Christ.


Jesus is the one who cries unto God “Why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22v1 & Matthew 27v46). He is the One who finds no answer and no rest at Calvary (Psalm 22v2). As the crowds gather around Him, Jesus is the one who knows the mocking tones of His accusers (Psalm 22v6-8) Indeed the words of Psalm 22v8 find their way into the mouths of those at the foot of the cross (Matthew 27v43). They stare and gloat over Christ (Psalm 22v17) and they divide His garments (Psalm 22v18 & Matthew 27v35).


Scripture speaks to Scripture. Old and New Testament agree. Nothing is left to chance. Indeed it is as Jesus says to Pilate “you would have no authority over me unless it was given from above.” (John 19v11) The extraordinary story of redemption has been written completely by the hand of God. If this doesn’t humble us then perhaps we have not understood. It was for our sake and our sin that this story was written. As the words of Psalm 22 left the mouth of David, the Lord already knew that one day they would leave the mouth of Christ. Jesus was the promised One. He would come to pay the price for His people’s sin.


I’ve heard the misguided on several occasions lamenting the cross. “If only Jesus hadn’t died” they say. “Imagine what He would have accomplished.” No. Jesus came to die. No mistake occurred at Calvary. Indeed “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Isaiah 53v10) It was a story that absolutely would be told the way God had ordained it. And yet Psalm 22 moves from prayer to praise. David promises that he will tell of God’s name to his brothers (Psalm 22v22). In Hebrews 2v12 this same verse is put into the mouth of Christ. He is unashamed to call us His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2v11). Stop here for a moment. Christ underwent the agonies of hell. He endures the wrath of God. He cries out on the cross before breathing His last and all of it, all of it, is for our sake. He is unashamed of His people. He does not regret His suffering. He does not hold it against us.


What good news! What comfort! What joy! The crucified Jesus has paid the price for our sake and today He has left the cross and the tomb behind and calls upon us to receive and rest in Him by faith. His agony has turned to glory and by His stripes we are healed. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3v1)


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Question 24

How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?

Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.


Day 130


Pray (ACts)


Read Ps 101:3b-6


Message - Alan Burke 


Hate is a word that I think is used often thoughtlessly, when a child says that they hate their teacher or their homework, or I hate when it rains, I hate the way you don’t use enough butter, really what they are saying is that they don’t like their teacher and they don’t like homework, they don’t like it when it rains, they would prefer to have more butter on that slice of toast. Whereas to hate means to dislike intensely, to have a great aversion, to detest. 


Here David tells us that as God’s King he will hate those who fall away, some translations put it as ‘faithless men’. The idea is that the palmist will not tolerate that which is wicked, he will not tolerate those who fall away, faithless men in his presence (3b). For he is seeking to emulate God, who will not tolerate an unrepentant sinner in His presence (Hab 1:13, Ps 5:4), for sin is like putrefying sores (Is 1:6), iniquities that have separated the sinner from God and he hides His face from it and will not hear the sinner (Is 59:2 see also 13:11, Jer 5:25). Not only that as King will shun evil in every form, for his loyalty is to the Lord God who has shown his steadfast love and Justice towards him, not on the things of this world or the ways of this world that have been corrupted by sins (4-5). 


The contrast is given between the evil sinners and the faithful, his eyes will be on them (6). Those who are faithful and blameless are directly opposed to those who are wicked in the land. This King will invite all those who are faithful and blameless to approach him, to dwell with him and to serve in his presence as appointed courtiers. This is how the Davidic King strengthens the Kingdom of God, they come into the presence of the King. Who are the faithful that this psalm speaks off? They are those who believe, who rely upon God (Gen 15:6, Ex 4:8) they are those who have faith (Ex 4:31). It is those who have faith who dwell with their King. 


Again we know that David failed to live to this ideal, yet the Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of this Psalm, he is the King, who hates those who fall away, faithless men (3b), the King who has shun evil (4-5), for in him there was no sin (1 Pet 2:22). Yet he came into this world to save sinners (Matt 9:13, 1 Tim 1:12-16) like you and I, for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Rom 3:23), so that we might be saved and be seen as the faithful of this psalm. One day Jesus will return this time it will with the winnowing fork in his hand separate the wheat from the chaff (Matt 3:12), the faithful and the evil, the repentant and the sinners, you are one or the other. But one last thing, again this psalm sets out a model for us to live by, it reminds us to continue to turn from evil and walk with the Lord, turn from a perverse heart, know nothing of evil, sander, a haughty look or and arrogant heart.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Question 25


How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?

Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.


Day 131


Pray (ACts)


Read (Psalm 31)


Message - Scott Woodburn


Psalm 31 is yet another messianic Psalm. As we read through I imagine that verse five jumped off the page. It is after all the verse that leaves the Lord's mouth before His death (Luke 23v46). Jesus commits His spirit into the hand of God. What does that mean? What happened to Jesus between His last breath and His resurrection? Some argue that Jesus went to the physical place that we call Hell. The theory goes that He became sin for us and also needed to go to Hell so that we wouldn't have to. Indeed a popular American preacher has famously stated that in Hell the demons trampled over Jesus. She reckons that they mocked Him and beat Him and His torment continued until He was raised. I reject all of this.


The Reformed view argues that Jesus knew the full weight of God's wrath on the cross. It was on the cross that He knew the agonies of Hell. Therefore when He cried that it was finished His work was done. He had no need to go to hell because He had already experienced it. He had no need to be trampled by the demons because He had completed His work. 


Instead Jesus commits His spirit into the hands of God and Christ promises the thief on the cross that "today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23v43) So we have Biblical reason to believe that Christ's body remained in the tomb while His spirit went to the paradise of heaven. We know that miraculously, Christ's body does not see decay or corruption in the grave (Psalm 16v9) and we know that on the third day He stood again on this earth. Indeed Christ is called the "firstborn of the dead" (Colossians 1v18).


In all of this there is tremendous comfort. Jesus is the "firstborn of the dead" because His resurrection is a guarantee that we too will be raised to life. Job was able to say "for I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 19v25-27) We have the same hope.


Certainly those who die before Christ's return will have their bodies placed in a grave. In that grave their bodies (unlike Christ) will see corruption. But like Jesus (between His death and resurrection) their souls will rest in paradise. It was this truth that enabled Paul to long to die and be with Jesus which is better by far (Philippians 1v23). Yet when Christ returns He will raise us to life. As Paul writes, this mortal body must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15v53). Just as Christ died and rose again and lives forever more, we too will know the same experience. Today Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and as surely as the resurrected Christ intercedes for us there, we too can look and long for the day that the perishable puts on the imperishable.


So the one who commits their spirit to the Lord must know that there is no safer or more certain place. "In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!" (v1). It will be so.


Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 26

How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling, and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.



Day 132



Pray (ACts)


Read Ps 101:7-8 


Message - Alan Burke 


Did you know that the Northern Ireland Assembly has a ‘Commissioner for Standards’, or rather it should have. I only discovered this recently because there was something in the news about MLA’s and how the post for Assembly Commissioner for Standards is currently vacant, how convenient. We all have expectations of our elected representatives although for most of us are expectations are relatively low. David in this psalm had set out his stall, his manifesto of how he would rule as King over Israel but the ideals that are given in it we all know that he failed to live up to. If he was an MLA he would have lowered our already low expectations of our rulers. The thing is that all the King’s that followed David failed to live to this standard, that is until his Greater Son the Lord Jesus Christ the King who rules over all (Ps 110:1, Matt 22:41-46). 


So today we start with Jesus because this psalm is ultimately fulfilled in him alone. If we have faith, we believe then we are the faithful of God (6) through faith, for his righteousness has been imputed to us, our sins have been pardoned though faith in Jesus (Rom 3:22, 24-25, 27-28, 4:5-8, 2 Cor 5:19,21). It means that when this life ends that we can have hope for what lies ahead, that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Ps 23:6). What a great and glorious hope that we have this day. Not so those who are counted among the worthless(3a), faithless (3c), perverse (4a), slanders (5a), haughty and arrogant (5c), deceitful (7a), liars (7c), wicked (8b), evildoers (8c). These are those who are not counted among the faithful, they are the ‘faithless’. The Kings vow is that daily, morning by morning (8a) that he will dispense justice (8c), the wicked will have no place in the city of the Lord (7a), and the king will bring an end to them for they do not share in the goal of the Kingdom of God.


This will be the outcome of all who are not counted among the faithful, they are those who in our communities are seen as upright, those who are actively involved in good works, they are those who are alcoholics, they are those who are teachers, they are those who are labourers, they are those who are unemployed, they are those who are employers. What sets them apart is that they do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and they are not saved. Jesus is the way the truth and for those who know him he has prepared a place in the Father’s house (Jn 14:1-6). Today if you are the faithful, if you have faith and are saved then a place has been prepared, you will dwell with King Jesus, David’s greater son (6b), but if you do not, repent or know that you will be cut of from the city of the Lord (8d).

Pray (acTS)


Sing



Question 27

Wherein did Christ’ s humiliation consist?

Christ’ s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross:; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.



Day 134


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 102:1-11


Message Alan Burke 


Cries of anguish can come both from physical as well as emotional pain, I have seen both. There are two such cries that will stay with me as long as I live, first the cry of physical anguish coming from a man who was in severe physical pain as he reached the end of his life. The other was that cry of emotional pain as a wife buried her her husband of many years. Both these cries portrayed to all who heard, some of that which was felt by them. What has struck me at the time was that the man was able to smile with his wife and children who were with him in his last hours even in the midst of his pain, whereas that wife who had buried her husband for a long time after did not smile, for she only felt grief and anguish, the pain of her loss still gripped her.


Here the psalmist cries out to the Lord, a cry of desperation (1), we do not know what he as facing but the title of this psalm paints a vivid picture of how this is a; “Prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD”. He feels that the Lord has turned his face from him, desiring that the Lord would in his mercy respond, that he would release him from the abandonment that he faces (2). In the midst of it all the psalmist describes what he feels amid his distress, he leaves out the specifics and instead focusing on the deep sense of affliction that he feels . His bones burn (3), his heart is struck down, he forgets to eat (4), he groans loudly because of the anguish he faces (5), his bones clinging to his flesh loosing his appetite (7), sleeplessness and uncontrolled weeping (9), for he faces the taunt of his enemy. This vivid imagery portrays a terrible sense of being alone, this is how the psalmist feels, consumed by sorrow and tempted to despair, the whole of his person has been effected by these things. There is no escape and as the psalmist comes to terms with the suffering he faces he begins to understand his own mortality. Just like the psalmist when we face such things we own mortality like never before. Here the psalmist explains that our days or like smoke (3), they are like an evening shadow (11) which like the grass are soon gone (11). 


I hope that you never feel anguish like this, I hope that you never have to cry out either with physical or emotional anguish but if you do, know that the Lord God will not forget those who are his, and you can come to him with your troubles with confidence, knowing that God can use our weakness in the midst of what ever we face (1 Cor 1:27). Also before the living God, even in our weakness, even when we know not what to pray the Spirit of God is at work in us answering our prayers (Rom 8:26-27). In this life, God is our only refuge the psalmist knew that hence he came before him, bringing his cries of anguish. Knowing that God is our refuge should give us confidence even though Covid-19 has reminded of the fragility of it all, how our days or like smoke (3), they are like an evening shadow (11) which like the grass are soon gone (11). One day this earthly journey will come to an end, for we are but sojourners traveling though. Through faith, as the psalmist, even in darkness we can have hope through Jesus Christ, it is the only for all who believe (1 Jn 5:13-14, 1 Pet 1:3-6, Eph 2:8-10).


Pray (ac-TS)


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 29

How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us, (John 1:11–12) by his Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5–6)


Day 135


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Psalm 34:1-22


Message - Scott Woodburn

There are thirteen Psalms which have titles describing the time and place in which they were written. Psalm 34 is one of those with the title "Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away." What was the problem? David was becoming famous. The women would sing “Saul has slain his thousands, but David, David has slain his tens of thousands!” David's growing popularity would kindle King Saul's anger. He wouldn't allow any pretender to his throne and so he decided that David would have to die. In response David did the unthinkable. He ran from Israel and sought refuge in the Philistine city of Gath. Surely there he would find peace? Not quite. His fame followed him. David had already killed one of Gath's famous sons Goliath and so the King of Gath's servants whispered to him "Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?” (1 Samuel 21v11)


David is understandably afraid and so pretends to be insane to avoid the wrath of King Achish. He caused damage to the city gates and allowed spittle to run down his bread. The ruse was a success with Achish wanting nothing to do with a liability like David. What flows out of David's experience is this extraordinary Psalm which sings of God's care for His people. David even with spittle on his beard realises that at home or abroad the Lord is a refuge for His people (v8). David's experience of trouble is not unique to him. To this very day Christians of all ages and stages know daily difficulty and turmoil. Your experience even as you read may be exactly that. You would give anything for a bit of peace or for a night were you didn't have to toss and turn. Indeed you discovered that the fortnight in Donegal did you no good as you weren't able to outrun your thoughts. David understood this and wrote "many are the afflictions of the righteous" (v19). Dearly beloved do not be surprised if your days are filled with unrelenting difficulty but equally do not be surprised when help comes, when strength rises, when the strong arm of the Lord holds you fast.


This Psalm promises that the eyes of the Lord are on His people and His ears are turned to our cries (v15). When we cry unto Him, He both hears and delivers us (v17). Indeed when our hearts are broken and our spirits crushed it is the Lord who draws near (v18). Jesus told us that in this world we certainly would have trouble but we are to take heart because our Saviour has overcome this world (John 16v33). How will we overcome? By the fear of the Lord (v11). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 9v10). What is the fear of the Lord? Knowing God and seeking to serve Him in all your ways. Knowing God and seeking to honour Him as a child seeks to honour their father.


No one who fears the Lord will ever be put to shame. The one who fears the Lord will be redeemed and will certainly know no condemnation (v22). Even today in the midst of trial Christ Himself, the angel of the Lord, is the One who camps around you and will deliver you (v7). I pray today that the most troubled among us will find Psalm 34 is like a spoonful of honey when all we have tasted for a while is bitterness. May our eyes be lifted to Christ and as this devotion ends may we remember His sacrifice. Psalm 34 is Messianic because as we will see in the Gospels not one of Christ's bones is broken (v20). The thieves beside Christ had their legs broken to speed their death but when the Romans came to Jesus, He was already dead and so they did not break His legs (John 19v32-36).


David became something he was not (insane) and his life was saved. Jesus became something He was not (sin) and His life was taken as a ransom for many. How will you get through these days? How you cope with the nightmares that are still to come? You will because you have trusted the crucified and risen Jesus. You have received Him by faith and so have become something you were not (righteous).  Jesus encamps around you and as certain as He keeps His bones, not one of them broken, so too He will keep His people, not one of them will be lost. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! (v8-9)


Pray (ac-TS) 


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.



Day 136


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 102:12-17


Message Alan Burke 


Drive though Crossgar, Ballynahinch or any village, town or city and you see buildings under construction, new buildings only a few years old, some replace buildings that once stood there, others built on green fields. I remember as a child running though fields that have now been replaced by homes, the memories flood back every time I drive past and I see how things have changed. Yet there are buildings like that of our meetinghouse give us a tangible connection with the past. Here in Lissara our meetinghouse first opened its doors on April 14 1867, it has seen very few changes since, across the Square the Crossgar Market House was built in 1829, but these are new buildings when one compares them to the village of Crossgar which likely dates one thousand years beforehand, 800 AD. When one compares our lives, even the things that give us a tangible connection with the past we soon begin to realise how small and insignificant we are, our lives are short the psalmist had already expressed that sentiment in his anguished cry to the Lord, how our days or like smoke (3), they are like an evening shadow, which like the grass is soon gone (11).


The Lord though, is enthroned forever, ruling over all the earth (12). Not only when I was a wein running through those Fir Trees in Strabane, but for ever, before the Lissara meetinghouse was built, before Crossgar was thought off, before the Great Wall of China (214 BC) before the Great Pyramid was built (c2500 BC) before all of history, before the foundations of the world. There there has never been a time that he had not ruled over it all, the God who has no beginning and no end (Rev 1:8). The Psalmist prays that the Lord would have compassion, to show favour on Zion (13), his prayer came as Jerusalem lay in ruin, longing for a time that the nations will fear the name or the Lord once more, giving him glory, that the Lord would restore the Glory of Zion so that all may see (15-16). His desire and prayer here is clear, he wants the Lord to do it now, for now is the time (13, 17). The psalmist here is praying with expectation that the Lord would do this, although he did not have is prayer answered in the way that he wanted or he expected. The city would be restored, when the city of God, the holy habitation of the most high, far greater than the psalmist could have ever imagined, a heavenly Jerusalem depending to earth (Rev 21-120, 24-25, see also Mic 4:1-2, Heb 12:22). This God, the Lord God, our God is at work, for in all of this God is at work, he hears the prayer of those in need (17). 


For us I want to draw out a few things, firstly our days, they are like smoke (3), they are like an evening shadow, which like the grass is soon gone (11), but we come before the eternal Lord God, enthroned forever through faith (Eph 3:12) and know that though faith we have eternal life (Rom 6:23). When this life goes to an end we will dwell with him for eternity (Jn 10:1-18), we may find that hard to grasp especially when our days are so short but this is the promise given to those who know salvation through faith. Also we know that just as the prayer of the psalmist our prayers are heard, they may not be answered the way we want or in our timeframe, but scripture teaches God promises that he will her the prayer of his people, we are to pray in Jesus name (Jn 15:16, 16:23, 26, 1 Cor 1:2, Eph 5:20). Finally remember that God rules, he is the supreme ruler over all, there are times that we look around and wonder what is going on in our society that seems to no long know what is right and wrong, we may wonder about corona and how it seems to go unchecked, but God is at work in it all, for he preserves (Heb 1:3) and governs all that he has made (Gen 45:5, Acts 1:16). Know this in the midst of it all, your heavenly Father is at work and knows even the hairs on your head (Matt 10:26-33)


Pray (ac-TS) 


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism


Question 31

What is effectual calling?

Effectual calling is the work of God’ s Spirit, (2 Tim. 1:9, 2 Thess. 2:13–14) whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, (Acts 2:37) enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, (Acts 26:18) and renewing our wills, (Ezek. 36:26–27) he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. (John 6:44–45, Phil. 2:13)


Day 137


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 16v1-11


Message - Scott Woodburn

One of the great wonders of the ancient world is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The Emperor Justinian commanded it to be built in 532AD. It wasn't the first Hagia Sophia, there had been two previous, but Justinian's effort was to be bigger and grander than anything before. Remarkably it has stood ever since and during it's history it has mostly been used as a Greek Orthodox cathedral. There was a brief period that the building was claimed for Roman Catholicism and from 1453 to the 1930s it was used as a Mosque before becoming a museum. In recent days the Turkish government have decreed that the Hagia Sophia will become a Mosque once more, much to the dismay of those who believe that such a building should be a shared space for the various traditions that lay a claim upon it. If you were to visit the Hagia Sophia today you would see how divided a house it is. Texts from the Koran adorn the interior while ancient Christian frescos adorn the ceilings and walls.


I hope to visit the Hagia Sophia one day and drink in the history whilst reminding myself that the grand edifice before me is merely a building. Christians should always have been looking forward to a city with foundations whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11v10). As Reformed Christians we have deliberately called our church building the meeting house. This is a reminder that the bricks and mortar and the colour of the walls has never been important but our focus should always have been Christ. I hope for as long as our meeting house stands we will always proclaim Christ and Him crucified. 


Tragically this isn't a message that will sound currently in the Hagia Sophia. Islam proclaims that Jesus was not crucified and Jesus did not die, indeed someone else (perhaps Judas Iscariot) took Christ's place. The Koran states "They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself."


Today we proclaim the truth. No one took Christ's place. Jesus was crucified. Jesus did die. On Tuesday we heard that the not one of Christ's bones was broken because the Roman soldiers realised that He was already dead when they came to break His legs. The Scriptures tell us too that Christ's body was removed from the cross and placed in a brand new tomb owned by Jospeh of Arimathea (Matthew 27v57-61). Islam teaches falsely and those who mourn over the ownership of an ancient building weep in vain. The hope of humanity is found in the crucified and risen Jesus. He is the one who promised in John 2v19 "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.". The Jerusalem temple would be destroyed by the Romans and has never been rebuilt. Christ is the true temple, torn down at Calvary but raised again on the third day.


The events of Christ's death and resurrection have always been the most significant in human history. In Christ the Messianic Psalm 16 is fulfilled. The Lord's soul was not abandoned to Sheol. Sheol is the Hebrew word for the place or the realm of the dead, we might speak of the grave. Jesus' body was placed in the tomb but He is not there today. Christ Jesus is risen, He is alive and He is coming back. Hallelujah!


So my friends, look forward to the time that the planes will fly once more and you'll get to force your family to stand in front of ancient buildings like the Hagia Sofia for a photo. Yet remember that this world and all of its structures are fading away, they will not and cannot last. But the one who trusts in Christ can with confidence say "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 19v25-27)


Pray (ac-TS))


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?

A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.


Day 138


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 102:12-22


Message Alan Burke 


What are you looking forward to right now? The day a Vaccine comes for Covid-19, how about the end of homeschooling, maybe a day just to put you feet up, or a few days holiday when you can just switch off, it could be a night when you don’t have to do the dishes. We all have things that we are looking forward to, the top of my list right now is to have just one full nights sleep waking up feeling rested, maybe I am hoping for too much and it will have to wait until the kids are in their 30’s, but right now that is it, that’s what I want, that’s what I’m looking forward too! 


None of these things are wrong, but the Psalmist who has cried out to the Lord in his affliction (1-11), is looking forward to something far greater, a day that the people of God would return to Zion, when generation to come that would praise the Lord (18). His desire is that there would be a record of God’s faithfulness, how he looked down (19), brought salvation after hearing the groans of the prisoners (20). The psalmist in the mist of his present trouble, was looking forward not to having a nights sleep rather that in his present affliction, in the peoples present trouble there would be a glorious future. The time will come when the praise of the Lord shall fill Jerusalem once more (21) that the present troubles will one day be gone, all nations will join the in the worship of the name of the Lord (22). Even so he desires in the mist of affliction (23), the Lord would cut it short (24), knowing that his affliction will not last forever and the Lord who laid the foundations of the earth (25-26. For in the midst of it all, God is the same forever (Num 23:19, Heb 13:8, Jam 1:17), his years have no end (27). Thus the psalmist closes with confidence in the midst of his affliction that goes well beyond the individual worshipers’ lifetime, expecting God to keep his promises to many faithful generations descended from the faithful (28). Looking with hope to those of future generations able to live in the presence of God, although he suffers now in this present, he sees a brighter future.


What ever you are looking forward to or what ever you are facing you can turn to God knowing that there is a bright future, a glorious hope for all who believe, knowing that our God is a covenant God. And this last verse reminds us of that also he is faithful to those who fear him from one generation to another. Jesus promised to Peter that what ever comes not even the gates of hell will prevail against his church (Matt 16:18). God has been at work throughout the history of the world, he in every generation will work by his grace (18), he has worked his salvific work in us (1 Pet 1:3), he has chosen us (Eph 1:4), here the psalmist speaks of those who are praising God through his salvific work, realising the prisoner, those condemned to death (20), yet God has in his great mercy showing this salvation to the gentiles though Jesus christ, so that the is no condemnation, we have escaped the penalty of sin.


Pray (ac-TS))


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 33

What is justification?

Justification is an act of God’ s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, (Rom. 3:24–25, Rom. 4:6–8) and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, (2 Cor. 5:19,21) only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, (Rom. 5:17–19) and received by faith alone. (Gal. 2:16, Phil. 3:9)



Day 139


Pray (AC-ts)


Read — Psalm 16v1-11


Message - Scott Woodburn

There are some statements that are accepted as being categorically true, with one of those being "Your health is your wealth.". Perhaps with a mouthful of morning coffee you're nodding in agreement. But what if I were to tell you that this statement has never been true? I'm just back from holidays and can gladly say I spent little time on the beaches of the North Coast. I'm not a fan of the sand and certainly I don't appreciate the little piles of sand that fall from your socks months after you've been to the beach. But bear with me. Next time you are on the beach, build a castle down near the water and try to stop the tide from destroying your creation. If that's too much like hard work, take a handful of dry sand and try to stop it running through your fingers. It's an impossible task. "Your health is your wealth." they say, but your health is running through your fingers every single day.


Thankfully, as always, our faith speaks to the futility of life. We have been considering Christ's death and resurrection this week. Jesus is the one who fulfilled Psalm 34. Not one of His bones were broken at Calvary and He is the One who fulfilled Psalm 16. His soul was not abandoned to the grave and remarkably in the grave Jesus saw no corruption (v10b). What do we mean by this? If you have ever been to a funeral the familiar words of committal give understanding. The preacher stands at the graveside and declares "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust". It is a poetic way of describing what will happen to our body in the ground. If we die in faith our souls are immediately made perfect and go to be with the Lord but our bodies enter the grave and slowly but surely see corruption, they disintegrate, they fade away. It gets worse. We already know this corruption. We see it in Covid-19. We feel it in our arthritic joints. We understand it when we struggle to catch a breath. Corruption is all around us with more to come. 


No wonder death strikes terror in the hearts of so many. I was listening to the great American TV interviewer Larry King recently. He knows fame and fortune. He has been married eight times to seven different women. He openly admits to having had a great life full of wonderful experiences. He has interviewed kings and queens, the rich and famous, presidents and politicians and yet at age 86 Mr. King also says that he is terrified of death. He comes from a Jewish background but has left Judaism behind and he hasn't found answers anywhere else. Sadly, Larry King has "everything" but he doesn't have Jesus.


Why is this so important? Because all men will die but Christ is the only one who has conquered the grave. His body was placed in the tomb but was kept by God's power from corruption. His body didn't rot, disintegrate or fade and indeed when He rose again it was to live forever more. Today age has no grip on Jesus. His memory doesn't fade with the passing of time. His muscles don't ache after strenuous exercise. He was kept in the grave from corruption and was raised  "no more to return to corruption" (Acts 13v34) and by faith so it will be with you. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians of the change that is to come "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality." (1 Corinthians 15v52-53) When this comes to pass so the saying that is written will be proved true “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”


It is Jesus who has conquered death and the grave. It is Jesus who we will stand before when the last trumpet sounds. It is Jesus who we will be made to resemble and in a world full of futility, frustration and fear it is in Jesus that we find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is coming and the corruption of life and the grave will be put away by the One who lives forevermore.  


Your health isn't your wealth no matter what the Avon lady might say. Jesus is. 


Pray (ac-TS))


Sing 


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 34. What is adoption?

A. Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.



Day 141


Pray (AC-ts)


Read - Acts 1v6-11


Message - Scott Woodburn

When it comes to our understanding of the Gospel we rightly proclaim Christ and Him crucified. This good news is followed by even more as we boldly declare that Christ is risen. Yet that is often where we stop. There's another important bit that comes after the resurrection called the ascension. Ah yes! The ascension! The going up of Jesus to heaven. It immediately rings a bell but perhaps the purpose of it has escaped our attention. This week we will consider the ascension of Christ.


Amazingly it was predicted in the Psalms (68v18) but we find a full description of it in Acts 1 thanks to the pen of Luke. Jesus commissions His disciples and sends them out to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth (v8b). He also promises that the Holy Spirit will come upon them empowering them for the mission ahead (v8a). Just as He had told them this, right before their eyes, Christ was lifted up from the earth, before disappearing in the clouds (v9). So far, so wonderful, but what are we to make of this remarkable event?


The power of the ascension isn't so much the miraculous nature of it, after all people don't just lift off from the ground and ascend into the heavens everyday. The disciples were amazed by what they had witnessed but angels come with a gentle rebuke and ask "why do you stand looking into heaven?" (v11). They have work to do and need to get on with it because Jesus will return in the clouds (v11b). So although we didn't get to witness this awesome event we are not hard done by.


The catechism reminds us that that the ascension was part of Christ's exaltation. His humiliation is over and now He is exalted to the highest place. Paul puts it this way "God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." (Ephesians 1v20-21) In these verses we find our encouragement and the importance of the ascension.


Where is Christ today? At the right hand of the Father. What is He doing? Reigning. There isn't a power on earth that can topple Christ. There isn't a kingdom that will defeat the Kingdom of God. There isn't an authority with the ability to silence the Gospel. Jesus is our great high priest and while no further sacrifice is necessary, we shouldn't believe that Christ is inactive. As American Presbyterian Kevin DeYoung puts it "Christ is reigning, so we can rest."


These are fearful days. Days of riots and rage. Days of pandemic and potential second waves. Days were good is called evil and evil called good. We struggle to make sense of these days. We struggle to make sense of the events that rock us personally. Where is our comfort and hope?


At God's right hand.


We trust a crucified, risen and ascended Saviour. He intercedes on your behalf. He gathers His church. He defends His bride. He defeats and restrains His enemies. Nothing hides from His vision. Nothing escapes His notice. 


May our focus today become a little bit less tethered to the troubles of this world. May our fears shrink as we gaze upon the sovereignty of Christ. May we remember that "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3v20)


Jesus is the ascended Christ and even as we read, Christ reigns.


Pray (ac-TS)

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q. 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.



Day 142

Pray (AC-ts)

Read — Psalm 103:1-3a

Message Alan Burke 


There are days that we need to motivate ourselves, exhorting ourselves to action, can be hard, that job that we have been putting off that needs done, that phone call that we really should make, that apology that we need to give that would have been better done before now. Sure those things can all wait, just put them on the long finger, they can be added to the to do list for next week, maybe the week after. I know, I’ll just sit here five minutes more, I deserve a break after all and those things aren’t really that important. The problem is, we can then be guilty of forgetting, months down the line we bump into that person we had said we were going to call with, that wee job that we had intended to do or get done is no longer a wee job but a big one, that apology that we had intended to make and never is now to late. 


Here the Psalmist motivating himself, exhorting himself to praise the Lord with all that is within him (1a). He is motivating himself, exhorting himself to praise the Lord with everything that he is, not only with his lips but also with his life. For in Hebrew thought, the inmost being means in our entirety. So the psalmist is saying with my entire life, I will give praise the Lord my God, in what I say, in how I live, all of it will be lived to his glory. I don’t know about you, but there are times that with the business of this temporal life, the stuff that we end up trying to juggle, work, family, hobbies, that things just get the in the way of living in this way, with our inmost being praising the Lord. It’s very easy to say thanks, isn’t it, but its another thing all together to show that you are thankful in how you respond, in how you live. But the psalmist is exhorting himself, urging himself, encouraging himself to in every way live to the praise of God, living for his glory, that will overflow into the rest of his life. For we like the psalmist come before the God who is known to us, who has revealed himself in creation (Ps 19:1-6, Rom 1:18-21) and to us through his word (2 Tim 3:16, Heb 1:1-14). That’s the significance of LORD in capital letters, this is the personal name of God, that teaches us that God is a personal God, who is over all, ever present, accessible, near to those who call on him and who are directing their praise to him, and this personal name of God is used eleven times in this psalm. So the praise of the psalmist as well as his people today in in response for what God had done, we to be in awe at all that he has done though creation, thought-out history, for all the benefits of God that come to the individual that overflow to the whole community.


Today as we come before the God who is known, though Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah of God. That is how we are able to enter the joy of this psalm, in the praise of God, through Jesus Christ. He is our Saviour though him, God has shown more of His goodness and Kindness to us, we know far more than the original hearers and singers of this psalm knew and understood, and we look forward now to the great and glorious day that he returns or that we go to be with him for eternity. The knowledge of  this, knowing who he is and all that he has done for us, should lead us to responding with praise, praise to him with our entire being, in all of our lives. Remember his benefits, the blessings that he has shown to us each day and by his grace through Jesus Christ. We can find it hard to motivate ourselves, to exhort ourselves to the praise of God, because we are forgetful people, we forget the goodness of God to us, but remember the forgiveness of sins (3a) that we have received though Jesus Christ that means we have eternal security, not in what he have done but he has done for us, this alone is reason to Praise him with our soul, our inmost being, praising his holy name. 



Pray (ac-TS)

Sing 

Westminster Shorter Catechism

Question 37

What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?

The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, (Heb. 12:23) and do immediately pass into glory; (2 Cor. 5:1,6,8, Phil. 1:23, Luke 23:43) and their bodies, being still united to Christ, (1 Thess. 4:14) do rest in their graves, (Isa. 57:2) till the resurrection. (Job 19:26–27)


Day 143


Pray (ACts)


Read - Psalm 68


Message - Scott Woodburn

As a child one of the highlights of my year was the trip into Belfast with a pocket full of birthday money. The first stop would have been Elliott's to buy some fancy dress or magic tricks or plastic pranks before heading down to SS Moore. If I went with my mum we'd get the number 17 bus into the city centre. If it was my dad he would tell us we were getting the bus but inevitably he would walk us all the way into town. I remember trying to keep up with him as he marched us down the Beersbridge Road and over the Albert Bridge. I would have much preferred the bus, but I put up with the march because I knew what was coming at the end.


We spoke on Monday of Christ's ascension, His going up into heaven and we see it predicted in Psalm 68. The Psalm begins by calling the people of God to worship. When God arises His enemies are scattered (v1), therefore we are to sing praises to His name (v4). This is another Psalm of David and it is thought that is written when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). It was a time of victory and a time for a triumphant procession into the city. God had acted on behalf of His people in the past. He had led them through the wilderness (v7) and He had scattered Kings before them (v14). He was the God who on a daily basis would bear up His people, He was the God of salvation (v19). And so you can imagine this victory march as it made its way into the city. David writes of the singers and the musicians in the procession of God towards the sanctuary (v24-25). It is a scene full of singing, noise, colour, joy and victory.


Later in Ephesians Paul takes verse 18 and applies it directly to Christ. Jesus is the greater David whose victory march sees Him ascend to heaven. At the transfiguration Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah of His coming departure (Luke 9v31). His procession leads Him to Golgotha and the grave and while to many it seems that this is a march that ends in defeat, Christ instead wins the great victory. He stands again on the third day and finally ascends to glory in full sight of His disciples.


Jesus is the fulfilment of verse 18. He is the victorious King who leads a host of captives to freedom (v18b). Christ doesn't bring us freedom with a military campaign, instead He has bound Satan and plundered his house (Mark 3v27). Christ has set the captives free from sin and will lead them home. He today receives what He is due, the praise of His people who know that Christ is their greatest treasure (v18c). We sing "Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!" (v35). Even the rebellious cannot stand (v18d). Jesus has triumphed over them, disarming the rulers and authroities and making a public display of them (Colossians 2v15).  


As Moses led the people from Egypt to the wilderness to the promised land, so Jesus leads us out of exile. He has broken our chains and remains constant as we aliens and sojourners travel this barren land. The road may be long and fraught with danger and trouble but our destination is not in doubt. Christ leads our procession "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 35v10) 

      

Pray (acTS)


Sing


Westminster Shorter Catechism

Q38 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? At the resurrection, believers, being raised up to glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.