Sunday 28th April

Read Psalm 54

If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as or an app such as YouVersion

Have you ever felt let down by someone, or even more, really betrayed by people who ought to have helped you?  How does it feel?  Pause and think about it before you read this Psalm.  It is from the pen of David when he was betrayed by the Ziphites who sent word to Saul saying that they would hand David over to him (The story is in 1 Samuel 23:19).  The Ziphites came from the same tribe as David (Judah) and you would have thought would be helpers and supporters of him while he was being pursued by Saul, but they weren’t.

David has no doubt that they are ruthless and arrogant, and he says so to God. Unlike David, they have no regard for God, and he desires that their evil would recoil on them.  However, his first request is that God would hear his prayer and save him.  He has no doubt that God will sustain him (v4) and he declares that in the end he will praise God. Go back to your feelings about anything similar in your own life and then take David with you as you consider that hurt.  In 1 Corinthians Paul speak about the hardships and difficulties that Christian people suffer in their lives and J.B.Phillips translates his words in Chapter4 this way, that we are, “Puzzled but never in despair .. knocked down but never knocked out”.  That’s it, as with David, we are never knocked out no matter what.  Amen.


Monday Romans 8:18-22

The end of Roman 8 is one of the most marvellous passages in the whole of the Bible and well worth memorising by heart.  Paul speaks of the ‘sufferings’ of this present time.  In the age Paul was living, Christian people were suffering persecution from many sources, the Jews and the Romans as well as others but the sufferings the believer faces is not just from physical opponents but also the hardship and temptations of leaving their human nature behind in order to put on the divine nature of Christ.  Colossians chapter 3 is all about this where the apostle tells the believers to put to death their earthly nature and to be clothed in the righteous nature of Christ.  Putting to death our human nature?  Yes, and there is suffering and pain there but, says the apostle, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (v:18).

If you walk into a carpenters workshop you will see a lot of shavings and dust on the floor, but then look at what has been made and all the mess will seem worth it.  God works on us as well as in us and at times it is painful but the outcome will be beautiful.  Ruth Graham, while travelling through some road works pointed to a sign and said to her husband, “I want that on my gravestone”.  What was it?  “End of construction. Thank you for your patience” and Billy took her at her word, her gravestone contains those words.

In v19 he explains that the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  What does this mean?  He appears to be referring to the time when Christ returns in glory and his people are gathered to him.  What we are now – which is hidden, or only partially revealed – will be seen in glory at the return of Christ.  J.R.R. Tolkien has a story, “Leaf by Niggle” in which Niggle is painting a leaf but at the end his leaf is turned into a real leaf. I recommend the whole story –  Microsoft Word – LEAF BY NIGGLE ( That is the idea behind this life and the life to come.  What we are here is but a 2-dimensional thing but in the resurrection, when Christ returns, what we are here in a lesser state will explode into a grand multi-coloured, wonderful being of God’s creation.  It is beyond our imagination other than in glorious hope.  However it will not just be us who are changed, but the whole of creation which will be, “liberated from its bondage to decay and  brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”.  Everything, plants, animals, minerals, all that is creation, will mushroom into a life and existence that is impossible for us to imagine just now.

Notice that the Apostle speaks of the present position of creation as being “subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of him who subjected it”.  Here we are seeing the results of the fall which means that the creation we see now is, like us, in a lower state, or a frustrated state.  As we see our bodies heading in a decayed state before death so also does creation around us.  We will see more of this in the next verses.

Tuesday Romans 8:22-25

Paul continues his theme about creation being frustrated by adding that it has been groaning as a woman in childbirth waiting for the end to come and says it is similar with us who have the Holy Spirit.  The word for groaning has a root that means compressed or constricted but is looking forwards to release, the pressure is directed forward.  He says that we mustn’t think of our lives as merely being about us for we are part of creation and the whole creation feels the pain and frustration of not being what it should and could be.  Our salvation has a connection with the whole universe.

Paul doesn’t leave it there but speaks of what it is that we are waiting for and it is adoption to sonship and the redemption of our bodies (v23).  The apostle has spoken of the state of the natural person being in bondage to sin, in other words slaves, but united to Christ we are bought out of slavery into the family of God.  Verse 15 has already told us but here he speaks of the full completion of that position when our bodies will be bought out of that decay and made glorious in the resurrection.  What that will be remains to be seen.  We oughtn’t to be foolish in our understanding of this, the nearest we have of such change is the resurrected body of Jesus but even there the control and manifestation of that was entirely in his hands.  I would suggest reading Tolkien or C.S. Lewis for those with allegorical minds.  Someone once said that “Mere Christianity” was Lewis on the Christian faith, Narnia was his introduction to how it feels.

The salvation that Paul speaks about is hidden in the word Hope which isn’t a wistful longing for something that might or might not be, it is a sure expectation which we wait for.  This is the Christian’s expectation and we glory in it.

Wednesday Romans 8:26-30

“The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness” – ah, how we like to hear that.  At anytime that assurance is well worth while, but the reason for Paul saying this now is because we are not sure what we ought to pray for.  In the context of what he has been saying about the frustration of the present and the desire for the future, we can wonder what to do or pray.  When Paul was writing to the Philippian Church he found himself in a quandary when he spoke of the possibility of seeing them again saying, “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:22-24).  We understand his predicament, he wants to be with Christ but knows that his presence on Earth is still required as an apostle.  There are many times when we will not know for sure what to pray for and it is here that he says the Holy Spirit will help.  He uses the same ‘groaning’ word of the Spirit’s utterance as the inward groaning of the people of God waiting for redemption and we are almost reminded of Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Spirit, says Paul, intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  Some have linked the inexpressible words with prayer in tongues though it isn’t necessary that we become cognisant of the Spirit’s prayers for us, it may be that we have become unable to pray, even in tongues.

What we do know is that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (v28).  It is not that some things work together for our good but that “all things” do.  It doesn’t mean that all things are good but that God makes all things, whatever they are, work together for our good.  He links everything together by saying, God foreknew us, predestined us and conformed us to be in the image of his Son, that is, to have the same essential nature as Jesus.  Jesus would be the template upon which we would be shaped.  With all this being the case, our history is laid out under the hand of God – predestined, called, justified, glorified.  In preparing this the words of Jenn Johnstone’s song, “The Goodness of God” came to mind.  Listen to the words and give thanks for his goodness to you.

Thursday Romans 8:31-39

If you haven’t listened to it go back to hear “The Goodness of God” because the closing verses of Romans 8 are just about that goodness.  Paul says if God is for us who can be against us?  If he did not spare his own son but gave him up for us, would there be anything he would withhold from us?  His answer is no as he begins to go down a list of things to show the truth of that.

If God has chosen us, which his previous verses have said, then no-one can condemn us.  It is God who justifies us. He speaks of Jesus having been raised to life being at the right hand (the place of power) of God and making intercession for us.  James echoes this in his letter when he says that he writes so that his listeners will not sin but if they do they have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (James 1).

He goes on to list all sorts of things which people might think would be blocks in the road of their presence with God but brushes them all aside saying that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. No commentary is needed on these marvellous words but a commitment of them to memory and regular recitation of them is much to be valued.

A Prayer:  Almighty God, whose giving is beyond assessing, we praise you now and forever for your great goodness to us in Christ Jesus.  May our lives be shaped in his image and reflect your glory now and for ever. Amen.


The next three chapters of the letter to the Romans deals with the position of the Jews in the New Testament era but they also look into the subject of the sovereignty of God

Friday Romans 9:1-13

The first verse of chapter 9 tells of Paul’s anguish over the position of the Jews who at the time of his writing were generally resistant and hostile to the gospel he and other apostles were preaching.  They did not accept Jesus as the Messiah the New Church was proclaiming.  Paul says he has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (v2), and in fact, he goes even further saying he would rather be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his people.  These are strong words: imagine these words coming out of your own mouth for the sake of some others.

He goes on to tell why they have much going for them as God’s chosen people in verses 4,5.  In case any would be inclined to say that God had failed with them he says that is not the case and begins to say that Israel, true Israel, is not just the physical descendants of Abraham as some of Jesus opponents, such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, would say.   He tells them, “do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’, I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Matt 3:9).  Paul reminds them of the history in Genesis which was that God’s promises would be through Abraham’s descendants by Sarah (via Isaac) and not through Sarah’s servant, Hagar, with whom Abraham had Ishmael. it was the children of promise who were regarded as Abraham’s offspring and, to show that it was God who made the decisions, he also refers to Isaac’s children through Rebekah.  She had twins and God chose the younger, Jacob, not the elder, Esau saying that God decided it was going to be through the younger that the line of promise would run.  Jacob’s other name, Israel, was to become the name of the people thereafter.  God’s choice was paramount in both Abraham’s and Isaac’s children.

Saturday Romans 9:14-29

Just as he did in Chapter 2 Paul wants to silence those who would boast of themselves.  At this point it is as though he hears some objectors saying, “Hey, that’s not fair of God, choosing Jacob, the younger over Esau, the elder.  Shouldn’t Esau be first in line?”.  Paul wants to remind them that God is God and he quotes God saying to Moses (Ex 3:19) – “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (v15) and adds emphatically that human desire and effort plays no part in God’s mercy.

How often do we hear children cry, “It’s not fair”, at their parents?  It is not because the parents are some Ogres but the parent calls the tune not the children.  God is God, Paul is saying, not you.

He goes on to say that Pharoah was raised up and given the power he had because God had decided to show His power to the world by defeating this mighty warrior who thought he should rule.  His critics come back at him and say, “Why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?”.  At this point Paul is not going to continue playing a kind of philosophical tennis, trying to justify God before men and he simply says, “Who are you to talk back to God?” (v20). If this ‘game’ could continue it would imply that there was some standard, some truth above and beyond God to which He was responsible.  If that were the case, then that ‘superior’ standard would be God, not God. In the next verses he pictures God as a potter, able to shape and make what he likes with the clay under his hands.

He says that God called not just Jews but also Gentiles to be his people (v24) and introduces a few quotations from the Old Testament to prove his point.  He quotes from Hosea and Isaiah showing that it is God not the selfish Jewish objectors who will decide who he will be his people and in so doing he shows “the riches of his mercy” (v24).  If the children complain that they haven’t got their party invitations until the street urchins outside are brought in then so be it, it is not them who are in charge of the invitations. Think back to Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son and his elder grumbling brother.  Who was Jesus hinting at?