Bible Readings & Prayer Points
Since we celebrate Christmas in December, instead of going through a book of the Bible, we are going to think about Jesus and all the Bible teaches us about him. Then in January, we are going to go through the book of Ezra.
Thursday 1st December
We begin by considering the teaching that Jesus is God’s Son. In this account of the meeting between Mary and the angel Gabriel, we read these words from Luke 1:35: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’ This belief that Jesus was the Son of God is vital to any proper understanding of the New Testament. When Mark came to write his Gospel he began with these words, ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’ Near the end of his gospel, John gives his reason for writing: ‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ (John 20:31). The fact that Jesus is God’s Son is vital to Christianity.
Pray for the mission of the church, that all who come and visit the church through the many different services, outreach and times of fellowship would know God’s presence.
Friday 2nd December
We continue today to consider how important it is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. As we see from verses 66-70 of our passage, Jesus was happy to accept this title. This conviction that Jesus was the Son of God also formed an important theme in the preaching of the Early Church. In Acts 9:18-20 we’re told that after Saul was converted on the road to Damascus, he ‘spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.’ Having only just become a Christian, this was his theme: ‘Jesus is the Son of God.’ In 1 John 4:15, John says that to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God evidence of true salvation. He says the same thing again in 1 John 5:5. All of these Scriptures, taken together, should leave us in no doubt that, as far as Jesus and the apostles were concerned, he is the Son of God.
Pray for the Open Doors today, for those who come on a regular basis and those passing by may be drawn into the warmth of friendship in the church.
Saturday 3rd December
Today we note that Jesus is not only the Son of God but is the ‘eternal’ Son of God. This is a more complicated issue. The question to be answered is this: Did the second Person of the Trinity become the Son of God when he was born on this earth as Jesus of Nazareth, or was he always the Son of God? This question takes us deep into the heart of the doctrine of the Trinity. The early church said that God is (and has always been) three persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit. They also said that God is eternal and so all three persons in the Godhead must be eternal. This view was challenged in the fourth century when some argued that Jesus was not the eternal Son of God but was a created being. The church spent a long time resolving this but ultimately declared that to be heresy and insisted that Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
Pray that the Elders and Deacons away day is a great time of refreshment, through fellowship and the oneness of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday 4th December
Before we leave this theme of Jesus as the Son of God, we should note that this has implications for our own relationship to God. Although Jesus is God’s only ‘natural Son,’ we ourselves can become the sons and daughters of God because of what he accomplished on our behalf. I remember hearing an Irish evangelist say this: ‘The Son of God became a Son of Man, that the sons and daughters of men might become the sons and daughters of God.’ That is surely the thrust of the verses we read today from John 1:10-13. Notice especially verse 12: ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’. Take time to read two other passages which also say the same thing: Romans 8:12-17 and 1 John 3:1-10.
Pray for those leading worship today: The Minister taking the morning service, Dougie Wolf taking the Raigmore service and the evening service.
Monday 5th December
Our next theme is ‘Jesus is Lord’. To understand this, we need some Old Testament background. What do we mean by this? In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words which came to be translated as ‘Lord’ in our English Bibles. The first is the word ‘Adonai,’ which means ‘master’. This is a general word which is used sometimes to refer to God but is also used to refer to human beings. If you are using a modern translation of the Bible, then when you see that word in your Bible it will have a capital ‘L’ but the other letters will be in normal lower case. The second word translated as ‘Lord’ is the Hebrew word ‘Yahweh’. This word consists of four Hebrew letters and no-one is quite sure how it should be pronounced. When this word ‘Yahweh’ appears in our Bibles it is rendered in capital letters. In Exodus 4:10, you will see that the first time the word ‘LORD’ appears it is in capital letters. That is because the Hebrew word is ‘Yahweh.’ But then when Moses speaks to God, the word ‘Lord’ appears with only a capital ‘L,’ because it is a translation of ‘Adonai.’
Pray for the sick and housebound in the congregation and also those in Care Homes. Pray that the Lord would make himself known and that all of them would be looked after with love and compassion.
Tuesday 6th December
According to Paul’s teaching here, particularly in verses 9-10, to confess that Jesus is Lord is the way of salvation. Now is Paul saying that we should confess Jesus as our Master or is he saying that we should confess Jesus as our God (see yesterday’s reading)? The answer is found in verses 11-13: ‘As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’ Paul here quotes a passage from Joel 2 which is also quoted in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2. Joel is saying that everyone who calls upon the name of Yahweh will be saved. Paul is saying that everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved. If we understand that Jesus is Lord, meaning that Jesus is God, then there is no contradiction between these statements.
Pray the Girl’s Brigade as they have their Christmas party this evening, and after tonight, may enjoy a break from the work. Also for the Presbytery meeting held at Inshes Church, may all who gather receive guidance through God and the work of the various leaders and committees.
Wednesday 7th December
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
In thinking about the truth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ we must not forget about the work of the Holy Spirit. This passage from 1 Corinthians makes it clear that we can only affirm Jesus’ Lordship through the work of the Holy Spirit. We see that most clearly in verse 3: ‘Therefore I tell you that no-one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no-one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit’. This is pointing to the fact that Christianity is a supernatural religion and not simply a human society. To become a Christian requires the action of God through his Holy Spirit. When that happens, we become Christians and we acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Without that supernatural act of God, we cannot truly have Jesus as our Lord. Is Jesus truly our Lord and Master? Do we follow him in our daily lives?
Pray for the Midweek meeting and all who meet together for teaching, prayer and fellowship.
Thursday 8th December
2 Peter 1:1-10
We have spent several days considering what it means when we say that ‘Jesus is Lord’. We must now try to understand out the significance of this for our daily lives. When we say ‘Jesus is Lord’ we are affirming two things. First, when we say ‘Jesus is Lord’ we are saying that Jesus is God, the second Person of the Trinity, to be worshipped along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as one God. Second, when we say ‘Jesus is Lord’ we are affirming that Jesus is Lord of our lives, in the sense of being our Master, the one before whom we bow, the one we must follow and the one who leads and guides us in everything. Following the Lord in faith and obedience is the key to Christian growth and discipleship. As we read in verses 2-3 of our passage, ‘Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’.
Pray for the Senior Citizen Christmas Lunch which takes place this afternoon in the Raigmore Community Centre, that many might come and know the blessing of Jesus as Dougie Wolf speaks.
Friday 9th December
1 Timothy 2:1-7
We have read this passage to move on to our next theme: ‘Jesus the Mediator’. In verse 5 of our passage we read this: ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…’ A mediator is someone who comes in when relationships break down, to help the two parties sort out their differences. This can be at the level of family relationships, where organisations like Family Mediation Scotland work with divided families. A mediator is also useful when relationships break down in industry. ACAS is an organisation which is often used to mediate in such situations. A mediator must be able to understand and identify with both parties. Jesus is our Mediator. He is God and he is also a human being. For that reason, he understands and can identify with both parties. He is uniquely placed to be Mediator. Indeed, that is why he came.
Pray for the Minister as he travels to Edinburgh for various council meetings in 121 George Street.
Saturday 10th December
We saw yesterday that Jesus is the Mediator between God and human beings. Today’s passage speaks about a new covenant which God has made with human beings in and through Jesus Christ. The meaning of this is summed up in Hebrews 9:15: ‘For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant’. This passage of Scripture teaches that Christ is Mediator of a new covenant. In other words, God has done something completely new, which he had not done before. The covenant he made with his people in the Old Testament has now been replaced with a new covenant. Christ is the Mediator of this new covenant. Now we can be freed from sin and receive eternal life. Read chapters 8 and 9 of the letter to the Hebrews for a deeper understanding of this truth.
Pray for the Macdonald family and their continued work with ‘Old Macdonald’s Farm’ in Zambia.
Sunday 11th December
We have been thinking about Jesus as the Mediator. Today we emphasise that he is the ‘only’ mediator. In our passage, Peter is preaching about Jesus. He made some startling claims about Jesus. In particular, as we see in verse 12, Peter said, ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’ It was not only Peter who said this, Jesus made the same claim for himself. In John 14:6, Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’. This claim was substantiated by certain miracles, reported by a number of eye-witnesses. Ultimately it was proven true by his resurrection from the dead. As we have seen from the Scriptures, Jesus claimed to be God. If this is true, then it affects everything. It means that he is not only the Mediator, he is the only Mediator. There is no way to God except through Jesus.
Pray for all the services today: for Dougie Wolf who will take the morning service, the Minister who will take the evening service, the Rev Roddy Mackinnon leading the Gaelic Service in the afternoon and Alex Stephen taking the Raigmore service. Dougie preaches for the last time this morning in his probation period with us, and after the morning service there will be a congregation lunch and presentation for the Wolfs.
Monday 12th December
1 John 1:1 – 2:2
We have been considering the teaching that Jesus is Mediator between God and human beings. In this passage, we find one element of that mediation spelled out for us. Jesus Christ speaks to us from God and he speaks to God on our behalf. He stands between us as the one who brings us together in reconciliation because he has established a new covenant by which we are saved. Notice particularly the second last verse of our passage: ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One’. This is a wonderful statement. Jesus speaks to the Father on our behalf. He is the one who stands between ourselves and God as Mediator but he is also our advocate before God’s throne.
Pray for the Minister as he takes part in the Raigmore School Assembly, how important it is to have this connection with the schools in Inverness.
Tuesday 13th December
In these Bible readings, we are thinking about the various things the Scriptures tell us about Jesus. Today we move on to think of ‘Jesus the Messiah’. In our Bible reading today, Andrew, who was one of the disciples of John the Baptist, met Jesus and realised who he was. We are then told that, ‘The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ)’. This verse is very helpful to us because it helps us to understand the meaning of the word ‘Messiah’. When we speak about our Saviour, we often use the name ‘Jesus Christ’. It is important to remember, however, that ‘Christ’ was not his surname. Rather, ‘Christ’ is a title. It means ‘Messiah.’ It would probably be more accurate to say ‘Jesus the Christ’ or ‘Jesus the Messiah.’ Based on certain Old Testament prophecies, the Jews had been waiting for Messiah to come. Imagine the joy of Andrew, Peter and the others when they discovered that Jesus was the awaited Messiah.
Pray for the Presbytery Business Committee as they meet to discuss various subjects within the churches of Inverness.
Wednesday 14th December
The word ‘Messiah’ means ‘God’s anointed’. In the Old Testament, there were three offices to which men were appointed by anointing (either literally or symbolically) and we’ll think about these over the next few days. First, there was the prophet. In Isaiah 61:1, the prophet makes this declaration, ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’ The function of the prophet was to be a spokesman for God. He was given a message to communicate to God’s covenant people, usually calling them to obedience and faithfulness to their God. Some of the prophets were sent into the most desperate of situations, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, where the people of God were soon to go into exile having fallen under the judgement of God. Nevertheless, each one faithfully spoke God’s Word to God’s people.
For the Midweek meeting as we come together for teaching and prayer, that many more people may be drawn together to pray in such crucial times.
Thursday 15th December
The second person to be ‘anointed’ was the priest. If you remember the story of how Moses consecrated Aaron and the other priests, you will know that they were anointed. We read this in Leviticus 8:30: ‘Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and some of the blood from the altar and sprinkled them on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments and his sons and their garments’. The priest was a most significant person in the religion of Israel because he was the one who offered sacrifices to God for his own sins and for the sins of the people. The sacrifices were laid down by God, when he gave them the Law through Moses. Without these sacrifices, there would be no forgiveness. As we read in Hebrews 9:22: ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness’.
Pray for the Gathering as it meets for Christmas, that all may know the Peace of God at this time.
Friday 16th December
1 Samuel 16
We are thinking about Jesus as Messiah, which means ‘the anointed one’ and have seen that the prophet and the priest were anointed in the Old Testament. The third person to be anointed in the Old Testament was the king. When God told Samuel that Saul was finished and a new king was to be appointed, he was led to the house where David lived. After looking at his brothers, David was brought in. Then we are told in 1 Samuel 16:12-13 that Samuel, ‘sent and had him (David) brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power’. The prophet, the priest and the king were all anointed by God. Over the next few days, we shall see the significance of this for an understanding of Jesus as Messiah.
Pray for Open Doors, as it meets for the last time this year. May the team know the blessings of Christ as they have a rest over the Christmas period. Also, for the Minister as he meets and runs this month’s MTN group.
Saturday 17th December
When Jesus came as the Messiah he was anointed by God. We see that in today’s passage. Peter said, ‘You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him’. The writer to the Hebrews says something similar in Hebrews 1:8-9. Comparing Jesus to the angels he says, ‘But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”’ If we ask which of the ‘anointed offices’ that Jesus fulfilled, we discover something very remarkable. As the Messiah, he was fulfilling all three of the offices which required anointing. In other words, he was prophet, priest and king. Over the next few days, we’ll look at each of these in turn.
Pray for Neil and Rachel Rae in the Philippines. Give thanks that they continue to have the necessary support to work and pray that God will bless them and their family.
Sunday 18th December
As we have seen, a prophet is someone who speaks to the people on behalf of God. In Deuteronomy 18:15 it was prophesied that the Messiah would be a prophet – ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him’. Those who heard Jesus preach believed that he was a prophet. We see this in Matthew 21:45-46: ‘When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.’ The disciples said this too in Mark 8:27-28. In today’s reading, after Jesus raised a young man from the dead, we read that, ‘They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.’ In John 9 a blind man whom Jesus healed was asked about Jesus. He said, ‘He is a prophet’. We’ll think more about this tomorrow. Jesus was, however, a special prophet. He spoke on behalf of God but was himself God. The difference between himself and the earlier prophets is clear in the way he spoke. He did not say, ‘Thus says the Lord.’ Instead he says, ‘I say to you.’
Pray for the Minister as he takes the Family Service this morning, the Raigmore Family Service and the Lesson and Carols in the evening. Pray for the many who usually don’t come to church, that they would know the presence of God through the gospel message.
Monday 19th December
We saw yesterday that the people believed Jesus was a prophet. Today we see that he claimed that title for himself. In today’s passage, Jesus went to his home town of Nazareth. He taught in the synagogue but the people were not willing to accept him. Indeed, we’re told that they ‘took offence at him’. After all, they knew his family so how could he be a prophet of God? Jesus also found that he could do few miracles there because of their lack of faith. In response, Jesus said, ‘Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour’. Jesus was, however, a special prophet. He spoke on behalf of God but was himself God. The difference between himself and the earlier prophets is clear in the way he spoke. He did not say, ‘Thus says the Lord’. Instead he says, ‘I say to you’. Jesus is the Word of God as well as the one who proclaims the Word of God. In other words, the prophetic Word finds expression not only in his teaching but also in his Person, because he is the revelation of God. His Word bears authority to which we must submit
Pray for the Minister as he attends the Assembly Council meeting in Edinburgh, for the drafts of proposals being approved for the General assembly next year.
Tuesday 20th December
We have seen that Jesus was a prophet, now we see that he was also a priest. A comparison of Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 9 shows us that Jesus came to be our great High Priest. He offered a sacrifice to God for our sins, not every year like the High Priest of the Old Testament but only once, on the Cross. As we see from today’s passage, Jesus understood his ministry in priestly, sacrificial terms. We see that in verse 45, ‘For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’. The need for a priest presupposes estrangement from God. It was because of sin that human beings were separated from God. Jesus, as High Priest, offered a sacrifice that we might be forgiven and reconciled to God. Paradoxically, Jesus was not only the priest but also the sacrificial offering. As John the Baptist said, he was the ‘Lamb of God’. Jesus as priest, provides us with access into the very presence of God as we see in Romans 5.
Pray for two Ministers in our congregation: Fraser Turner and Douglas Horne both currently in retirement, for blessing of the Holy Spirit as they preach in various congregations.
Wednesday 21st December
The Old Testament prophesies said that Messiah would be a king. Today’s passage is one which is often read at Christmas. It affirms that the Messiah would be a king, ‘He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever’. The same prophecy is found in Zechariah 9:9. These prophecies were partially fulfilled when Jesus came. They will be completely fulfilled at his second coming. We also know that the kingship of Jesus was an issue at the time of his birth. As we read in Matthew 2:1-2: ‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him”’. On top of that his mother Mary was told that she would have a son and ‘The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end’. Jesus was born as king.
Pray for the Midweek meeting, as people draw together seek the Lord for areas of prayer within the congregation and teaching from the Word of God.
Thursday 22nd December
As we see from today’s Bible reading, Jesus began his public ministry in this way: ‘After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”’ He was declaring that the kingdom of God was at hand. The problem Jesus had was with people who misunderstood the nature of his kingdom, especially those who wanted to start a revolution and appoint him as a human king. We see this in John 6:14-15: ‘After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself’. Jesus was a king but his kingdom was different. We see this in John 18:36, where Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place’.
Pray for Fraser and Dawn Jackson in Jos, Nigeria. Pray for the work in which they are engaged and pray too for their safety and health.
Friday 23rd December
We have been discussing the teaching of Scripture that Jesus is the Messiah and that he fulfilled this office as prophet, priest and king. Today we finish that theme. In today’s passage, we find Jesus and his disciples at Caesarea Phillipi, where Peter makes this famous declaration: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ In saying this, Peter was identifying Jesus of Nazareth with the promised Messiah, of whom the prophets had spoken and for whom Israel had long been waiting. There had been many false messiahs and more would come. In fact, Jesus warned his disciples about this in Matthew 24:5. Peter had identified Jesus as the messiah because God had enabled him so to do (v.17). His eyes were opened and he saw. There are many people today who believe that a man called Jesus lived but they do not recognise him as the Messiah, God’s anointed one. When he is recognised, however, a transformation takes place. Notice what Jesus said to Peter: ‘On this rock (the confession of Jesus as Messiah) I will build my Church.’
Give thanks to God for our Sunday School teachers and pray that they might enjoy a refreshing break, as others lead ‘children’s church’ over the holiday period.
Saturday 24th December
So far in these Bible readings we have thought about Jesus as the eternal Son of God, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as Mediator and Jesus as Messiah. Now, on Christmas Eve, we go on to think of Jesus as ‘Immanuel’. Matthew 1:18-25 begins with the words, ‘This is how the birth of Jesus came about…’ and it goes on to describe in a very simple way, the story of Joseph and Mary, her pregnancy, Joseph’s anxiety about the situation, the angel of the Lord appearing to him in a dream, the resolution of the problem and the birth of Jesus. The critical point that most people miss, is the name given to Jesus in this passage. Despite the many Christmas cards which use the word ‘Immanuel’, many fail to understand its meaning. Quite simply, it means ‘God with us’. This is the astonishing claim, namely, that God came down and lived among us.
Pray for the Watchnight service in East Church this evening and pray for all similar services throughout the city. Some people will be in churches tonight who never go at any other time. Pray that they might be challenged by the Gospel.
Sunday 25th December
We read today the famous story of the birth of Jesus, as recorded by Luke. Here is the description of how Immanuel came to be born. On Christmas Day, we remember the birth of Jesus but we must look behind the story to approach its true meaning and significance. God has always existed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons. At a certain point in time and at a particular geographical location, the second person of the Trinity took human flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary and was born as Jesus of Nazareth. There is no greater miracle than this, that God should become man. Why did he do this? He did it for our salvation, to forgive our sins and reconcile us to God. On this great day, remember all that God has done for us and give him thanks and praise.
Pray that, while we might have food and presents and cards, that Christ is not forgotten. Pray for those who are without homes and the love of families. Pray that the perfect peace of God would be with all people.
Monday 26th December
We have been thinking of Jesus as ‘Immanuel’ (God with us). Yesterday we read the story as it is told from the perspective of earth, the story of a young woman, a new baby, shepherds and angels. If we turn to Philippians 2:1-11, especially verses 6-11, we find the story told from the perspective of heaven. Here we begin in the very counsels of the Trinity. The Father loves the world so much that he chooses to send his eternal Son to earth. The Son does not count his equality with God a status to be held on to but expresses his willingness to take the form of a servant, to become a man and to die on a cross. If we are to understand what happened in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, it is vital that we have this double perspective, from below and from above. It is important to know the story of the trip to Bethlehem, the manger, the shepherds and so on. It is also important to know what was actually happening – God had become a man.
Pray that, as Boxing Day is usually a time of rest and family get-togethers, the many who mourn loved ones would know the comfort of Christ through his Holy Spirit.
Tuesday 27th December
We are considering the meaning of Jesus as ‘Immanuel’ (God with us). One important point to be made is that Jesus did not stop being God when he became man, he remained the second Person of the Trinity. He was God incarnate but he was still God. This was what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:9: ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’. In today’s Bible reading he also said, ‘I and the Father are one’. On another occasion, recorded in John 8:58, he said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’. The Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is no less than the living God himself, who came among us for a time and who, through all time, remains the God-man. The theological significance of this is apparent when we consider the purpose of God in becoming a man. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in the dream, he was told, ‘you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’.
Pray that all who return to retail work for a busy period would feel refreshed and loved by their time off. Pray that many would come to know the greatness of God’s love in their lives.
Wednesday 28th December
We are spending time this month thinking about Jesus. Today our theme is ‘Jesus the Saviour’. The main reason for choosing John 4 today was, of course, the last verse, which calls Jesus ‘the Saviour of the world’. What a remarkable discovery these Samaritans made! Jesus is the Saviour of the world. This was the same discovery made by the shepherds when the angels came to them on the hillside when Jesus was born. In Luke 2:11 we are told, ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord.’ To understand this, we must ask the obvious question, ‘What is a saviour?’ This is language that we understand in ordinary use. I read in the newspaper of a fire which began in a house. A neighbour spotted the fire, raised the alarm and then climbed up the outside of the burning building to get two children out of an upstairs window. He then carried them to safety. He was the saviour of those children. Were it not for him, they would have died. Were it not for Christ we would be without hope.
Pray for the Midweek meeting as we come together for the last time in 2016, that the gathering together in worship and prayer might be a truly blessed time.
Thursday 29th December
Having considered yesterday the meaning of the word ‘Saviour’ we must now ask the most important question, ‘In what way is Jesus a Saviour?’ The best way to express this is to say that the salvation which Jesus came to bring is not physical or financial but spiritual. In Matthew 1:21, Joseph is told to give the baby the name ‘Jesus’ because he will save his people from their sins. In other words, Jesus comes to save us from death and Hell. He takes on himself all the punishment due to us for our sins and bears God’s wrath in our place. That having been done, we can go free. Paul put it very simply in Acts 13:23. He spoke about King David and then said, ‘From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Saviour Jesus, as he promised’. The wonderful thing is that Jesus was not only a Saviour during his earthly ministry, he continues to be a Saviour today. He becomes our Saviour as we put our faith in him. I recall when Jesus became my Saviour. Is he your Saviour?
Pray for the Church of Scotland and ask that God, by his Holy Spirit, would reform the Church in line with Scripture. Give thanks for all the good things that are happening in the Church up and down the country, despite the troubled times.
Friday 30th December
Another aspect of the biblical teaching about Jesus is found in today’s passage. Jesus is divine, sharing the very image of the Creator and is the one through whom God created all things. We see this clearly in verses 15-17 of today’s passage. There are many points we could make from this chapter in order to emphasise that Jesus Christ is the Creator God but we shall consider just three of them. First, Jesus is divine. We are told that he is the ‘image of the invisible god’. In other words, the very being and nature of God have been revealed in him. Second, Jesus was pre-existent. The passage says that, ‘He is before all things’. To say that he is the ‘firstborn over all creation’ does not imply that he is a created being, merely that he has the pre-eminence, having always existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit in Trinity. Third, Jesus was the instrument of creation. We’re told, ‘For by him all things were created…’ All of this demonstrates that Jesus is God.
Pray for the Elders of the congregation. Pray for them as they exercise pastoral care and as they provide leadership and direction. Pray too for the five Elders who preach at the Raigmore services. Pray for the Deacons of the church that they would know recuperation over the holiday period.
Saturday 31st December
The other thing we learn about Jesus in this passage is that he is the Head of the Church. We see this in verse 18: ‘he is the head of the body, the church’. This is a most important contribution by Paul to our understanding of Jesus. One of the commentators on this passage, F.F. Bruce, puts it like this: ‘Christ and his people… are viewed together as a living unit; Christ is the head, exercising control and direction; believers are his body, individually his limbs and organs, under his control, obeying his direction, performing his work. And the life which animates the whole is Christ’s risen life, which he shares with his people’. We see this teaching also in 1 Corinthians 12: ‘The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it’.
At the end of the year, let us look back and confess our sins, our faults and our failures before God. Then let us pray that God would grant us the grace of repentance and would take us into the New Year with a new enthusiasm to serve Christ.