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21st January: Genesis 4:1-5 - True faith is always faith in Christ, and never 'faith' in anything we can ever offer to God.

The name of Abel appears among 'the heroes of the faith' (Hebrews 11:14). The story of Abel is a story of grace, faith and obedience. Abel's sacrifice was a blood sacrifice while Cain's was a fruit sacrifice (3-4). The blood sacrifice points forward - via the Old Testament sacrificial system - to the greatest sacrifice of all - 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin' (1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:12). The blood sacrifice points to salvation by grace - 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness' (Hebrews 9:22). Abel's sacrifice was an act of faith: 'By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did' (Hebrews 11:4). The blood reminds us that true faith is always faith in Christ, and never 'faith' in anything we can ever offer to God. Abel was obedient, bringing 'the firstborn' to God. 'In the course of time Cain brought some...'.

21st January: Joshua 16:1-17:18

Compromise is a poor substitute for obedience. Fail to obey God, and you may have to live with the consequences of your disobedience: 'they did not drive out the Canaanites...so the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day (16:10). Settling for anything less than God's very best will surely lead us far from Him and His blessing: 'He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them' (Psalm 106:15). If we are to make real spiritual progress, we must not rest on our laurels' - 'We are a numerous people'. We must do the work of God: 'you shall drive out the Canaanites'. Our obedience must be more than 'empty words'. We must not live as 'the sons of disobedience'. We must 'live as the children of light' - 'God's own people' (14,18; Ephesians 5:6-10; 1 Peter 2:9).

Lord, You're calling us to be spiritual leaders. Help us to be faithful in hearing Your Word and doing Your Word.

1 Chronicles 12:8-13:14  "The kingdom of Saul was turned over to David according to the Word of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 12:23). Lord, You're calling us to be spiritual leaders - "let us bring again the ark of our God" (1 Chronicles 13:7). We're to call the people to return to You and rejoice in You (1 Chronicles 13:4,8). We're to warn the people that failure to do Your will leads to the withdrawal of Your blessing (1 Chronicles 13:9-10). Where Your Word is honoured and given its rightful place, there will be blessing among Your people (1 Chronicles 13:14). Help us, Lord, to be faithful in hearing Your Word and doing Your Word. This is the way of obedience and blessing (James 1:22,25).

Help us, Lord, not to be content with superficial work which does not lead to changed lives.

Proverbs 25:1-28
‘The Lord will reward you’ (Proverbs 25:22). Lord, the work, done by Your servants, is tested by fire: ‘the fire will test what sort of work each one has done’. There is work of real ‘quality’ – ‘gold, silver, precious stones’.  There is work which has no real value – ‘wood, hay, straw’. Lord, You want us to think about the work we do in Your Name. We are to ‘remove the dross from the silver’ (Proverbs 25:4). Help us not to be content with superficial work which does not lead to changed lives. Our words are to be ‘apples of gold in a setting of silver’. They are to be words of wisdom, words which are ‘better than fine gold’, words which ‘surpass choice silver’ (Proverbs 25:11; Proverbs  8:19). Help us to bring Your Word – ‘good news’ – and Your Spirit -‘rivers of living water’ – to our hearers (Proverbs 25:25; 1 Peter 1:12,23-25; John 7:37-39).

The God Of Abraham

Genesis 12:1-3 Our concern is not so much with Abraham. Our chief focus of attention is on “the God of Abraham.” The story of Abraham is both the story of Abraham and the story of God’s grace and power. We see the grace of God, revealed in the promises of God. We see the power of God, revealed in the fulfilment of His promises: “God can do anything; God can do anything; god can do anything but fail; He can save. He can keep. He can cleanse, and He will. God can do anything but fail.” God’s promise to Abraham has three parts: (a) personal – “I will bless you; (b) national – “I will make of you a great nation”; (c) universal – “by you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As the fulfilment of God’s promise moves forward from Abraham to Israel to Christ, we hear God’s Word speaking to us: “I will bless you” – saved, kept, cleansed. As we receive the blessing of God’s salvation, we discover how faithful God is, in His love towards us. “God can do anything but fail”…

"The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say ... Listen to the Word of the Lord.”

“The Lord’s glory rose from the angels” (Ezekiel 10:4); “The Spirit lifted me” (Ezekiel 11:1 - These prophecies of Ezekiel bring us into the presence of God. “the sound of the Almighty God when He speaks” (Ezekiel 10:5); “The Lord’s Spirit came to me and told me to say” (Ezekiel 11:5) - When we are in the Lord’s presence, He speaks His Word to us. He speaks to us, so that we might speak for Him. “The Spirit lifted me up” (Ezekiel 11:24); “The Lord spoke His Word to me” (Ezekiel 12:1) - The Word and the Spirit belong together. The Spirit inspires the Word. The Word expresses the mind of the Spirit. “This is the divine revelation” (Ezekiel 12:10); “This is what the Almighty Lord says, Everything that I say will no longer be delayed. Whatever I say will happen, declares the Almighty Lord” (Ezekiel 12:28). Through His Word and His Spirit, the Almighty Lord is leading us on to His future. He is lifting us up to glory - His heavenly and eternal glory. “Listen to the Word of th…

20th January: Acts 6:8-8:3

In life and death, Stephen was Christlike. In life and death, he made a great impact. In life, we see him, 'full of grace and power', doing 'great wonders and signs among the people'. People noticed that 'his face was like the face of an angel'. Even his enemies took notice of him. Unable to 'withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke', they decided that he needed to be silenced. (6:8,15,10-11). In death, we hear him praying, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord, do not hold this sin against them' (7:59-60). In Stephen's words, we hear an echo of Christ's words from the Cross (Luke 23:34,46). Stephen was dying. Stephen was praying. Saul was watching. Saul was listening (8). God was working. The seeds were being sown. Saul would be born again as the Apostle Paul (9:4-6)!