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.
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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).
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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).  
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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).
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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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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!
Pray (ac-TS)
Sing
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. 
Pray (ac-TS)
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)
Pray (ac-TS)
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.