Daily Readings – January 2017

This month we are going to go through the book of Ezra.

Sunday 1st January
Ezra 1
To understand this book of Ezra, we have to set it in its historical context. Having chosen Abraham to be the father of a new nation and having made a covenant with him, God promised that he would be their God and they would be his people. The promise passed through Abraham’s son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. During a long period of captivity in Egypt, Jacob’s twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. From a family, a nation was born. Moses led them out of Egypt, Joshua led them into the Promised land and for a long time the land was ruled by Judges. The last and most famous of the Judges was Samuel, who appointed the first king, Saul. King David came next, then King Solomon, then the kingdom divided into two parts, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. After many kings in these two kingdoms, both went into exile for disobedience to God. After 70 years, through Cyrus, God allowed some of them to return to Judah and its capital Jerusalem. That is when the story of Ezra begins.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Minister as he leads the services today, that he will receive direction through the power of the Holy Spirit to lead the Church in 2017.

Monday 2nd January
Ezra 1
As the story begins, the Babylonian empire had fallen, to be replaced by the Persian empire and King Cyrus is on the throne. From various contemporary records, as well as the Old Testament records, scholars believe that the first Jewish exiles returned to Judah in 538BC and more went back in 458BC. The book of Nehemiah tells a parallel story of the return of Nehemiah to Judah, shortly after Ezra’s return. King Cyrus made a great proclamation, as we see in verses 2-3, permitting any Israelite to go home. He provided all they would need financially and also gave back the treasures which had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians. We should not underestimate how astonishing it was that God would restore his people through this pagan king. The message is clear: God is the sovereign Lord and can do whatever pleases him.

Prayer Point
Pray for the many missionaries the church supports at this time of year, especially those who have left their family and friends. Pray they know the love and closeness of Christ in their journey for Him.

Tuesday 3rd January
Ezra 1
Not everyone wanted to return to Judah and Jerusalem. Remember, the city was in ruins, the walls were broken down, the temple had been destroyed, as had all the houses. It was not going to be easy to rebuild everything. Some Israelites no doubt preferred the life of relative security in captivity. Notice, however, verse 5: ‘Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites – everyone whose heart God had moved – prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem’. The crucial words here are ‘everyone whose heart God had moved’. God was not only arranging for Cyrus to send the people back to Judah, he was also working in the hearts of those he had chosen for this task. Once again, the message is the sovereign control of God in all the circumstances of the return after the Exile.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Scottish Bible Society that through their work of making Scripture available many would read and understand God’s Word.

Wednesday 4th January
Ezra 2
In any understanding of Israel as God’s people it is important to remember a distinction which existed from the very beginning between the blood descendants of Abraham and those who were truly God’s covenant people. During the period before and during the Exile, the prophets spoke about an ‘Israel within Israel’ which they called the Remnant. They taught that a Remnant of Israel would return to the land, not all of them. These were the faithful people of God. In this chapter, we are told the names of those who returned. The ones who returned were truly committed to God were willing and to involve themselves in the rebuilding. There is perhaps a lesson for us today. There seem to be many in our churches in Scotland who are like those who remained behind. They are content with their situation and are not prepared to engage in the hard work of rebuilding God’s church in our land.

Prayer Point
Pray that this week’s Midweek meeting is encouraging to all who meet, as they study the Word and seek God in prayer.

Thursday 5th January
Ezra 3
In Ezra 1 we learned of the decree issued by Cyrus that the exiles should return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. An overall glance at the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah shows us that the temple came first, then the walls of Jerusalem and then the remainder of the rebuilding. In Ezra 3, we see this principle extended even further. Not only was the temple built before the walls of the city but the altar was built before the temple. The sacrificial system which God had instituted, looking forward to that final sacrifice at Calvary, had to be reinstated. The Exile was a punishment for disobedience and running after other gods. Now that God was fulfilling his promise and allowing his people to return to their homeland, it had to be clear that the time of disobedience was over. It was no good God sending them back to Jerusalem if the whole process of sin, rebellion and punishment was going to take place again. The altar symbolised a right relationship to God, and that had to come first. The lesson here is that our relationship with God must be put right before anything else.

Prayer Point
Pray for the blessing office bearers of the congregation: Donald MacVicar (Session Clerk), George Campbell (Deputy Session Clerk), Minister (Chair of the Deacons’ Court), Duncan Fraser (Treasurer) and Calum Campbell (Fabric Convener). Be thankful for all that God has done, is doing, and will do in the church

Friday 6th January
Ezra 3
Another lesson to be learned in this chapter concerns obedience to Scripture in the matter of worship. We are told in verse 4 of our chapter that, when the altar was built, they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths). There were three great Feasts which the Jews kept: the Passover, the Feast of Booths and the Feast of Weeks. The point I want to underline is that they obeyed the Scriptures. God had commanded that they observe these various feasts and so they obeyed. As soon as they were back in the land, they sought to obey the teaching of God in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Their obedience extended to the place where the feasts were to be celebrated. The feasts (or festivals) were pilgrimage feasts and we are told that they were to be celebrated at ‘the place which the Lord will choose’ (Deuteronomy 16). This is an important element in these festivals and it has a lesson for us. We are not free to worship God however we like, but rather we must worship God in the way that he desires.

Prayer Point
Remember in prayer the meetings at The Shack at Raigmore. Pray for those who meet there on a regular basis and pray that we would see growth and development within the area of Raigmore.

Saturday 7th January
Ezra 3
We are told in verses 10-11 of this chapter that the foundations of the temple were laid and the people rejoiced. Do we rejoice and give thanks before God? In our worship, do we truly lift our hearts before God in thanksgiving and praise? It is so important. In our prayers, do we begin with praise and thanksgiving, or do we immediately begin to ask God for things? In our passage, there were some who found it difficult to praise God and give thanks (verses 12-13). The old people who remembered the former temple found it difficult to rejoice over this new temple. It just wasn’t the same and for them it never would be. Are you like that? Are you constantly thinking and talking about the great days of the past when the church was full and there were hundreds of children? Do you think back to what you remember as great days, either in this church or in the church where you grew up? Does looking back prevent you from giving thanksgiving to God for what we have today? Whether in days of revival or in a day of small things, whether the church is full or empty, we are called upon to give praise and thanks to God.

Prayer Point
Pray today for all those churches in the Highlands which are vacant, some of which have been trying to find a minister for several years. Pray that God would lead clearly and that all these vacant charges would be filled with Godly ministers.

Sunday 8th January
Ezra 4:1-5
As always, when God’s work is being done, there was opposition. Their enemies asked to join in the rebuilding, no doubt to damage and frustrate the work but Zerubbabel would not allow this. Then they ‘set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building’. They even hired people to work against the returning exiles and to hold back the work. Those engaged in God’s work have faced such opposition throughout the generations. In the New Testament, John the Baptist was imprisoned and then beheaded. Jesus himself was beaten and crucified. Many of the early Christians were imprisoned or killed. Paul often found himself beaten or imprisoned. Such persecution has followed the church down through the centuries. The Christian martyrs are many. Through it all, God vindicates his people.

Prayer Point
Pray for Rob and Gemma Duncanson as the Minister Baptises their daughter Sophia during the morning service. The Minister also takes the evening service. Pray for the Elder who takes the Raigmore service in the afternoon that all who come to the times of worship today would receive hope and direction for the year 2017.

Monday 9th January
Ezra 4:6-24
These verses describe some of the attacks which came against the Israelites. This is not a chronological account of the opposition faced but rather a selection of examples of the different tactics used. One thing is clear in all of this, namely, the malevolent character of all opposition to God and his ways. The devil hates God and God’s people and will do anything he can to damage or destroy the work. Unfortunately for him, he is a mere fallen angel whose freedom is curtailed by the power of the living God, as we see in Job chapters 1-2. That does not make the experience of opposition any easier, of course. It does mean that we can stand up under it knowing that God is with us.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Crieff Hydro Fellowship this week, as many in the ministry come to hear the Word of God through various speakers (Alistair Begg, Sinclair Ferguson) over a 2-day period.

Tuesday 10th January
Ezra 5
The last verse of chapter 4 said, ‘Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia’. As chapter 5 opens, we have come to that second year of the reign of Darius, King of Persia. The initiative to resume the rebuilding came from God himself. He sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to preach to the people. It would seem that their preaching brought about a revival among the people and was instrumental in getting things going again after sixteen years when nothing was accomplished. Originally the work had stopped through opposition but then the people had become lazy and apathetic. Into this situation come these prophets and the people are revived and re-engaged in the work.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Highland Theological College and for all the staff and students. Pray for the satellite campus in Glasgow and remember those who serve on the Board. Pray that God would continue to bless the work of the college as it becomes one of the major evangelical resources in Scotland.

Wednesday 11th January
Ezra 5
Today we continue to reflect on the revival of the work and commitment of the people under the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The main lesson here is that a word from God has the power to overcome all opposition and to revitalise the spiritual life. All through the Scriptures and indeed all through history, whenever the Word of God is preached, light breaks into darkness and situations are transformed. This might be at a personal level, when someone hears, understands and responds to God’s Word. Or it might be at a church level, when revival comes to a community or indeed a whole area, such as the revival in Lewis in 1949/50. Or it might be at a national level, such as in the Scottish Reformation of 1560. God’s Word always achieves the purpose for which it is sent.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Midweek meeting, that God would draw people together in corporate prayer.

Thursday 12th January
Ezra 5
The main story of this chapter is a letter which the opponents of the Israelites sent to King Darius, asking him to stop the work of rebuilding. First of all, they asked hostile questions: ‘At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorised you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?” They also asked, “What are the names of the men constructing this building?” There was a real threat behind asking for their authorisation and for their names. Nevertheless, God was with the builders, as we see in verse 5: ‘But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received’. It did not matter what the opposition did so long as God was on the side of the builders. Many Christians have discovered over the centuries that overwhelming opposition can be brought to nothing by our mighty God. So the opposition sent a letter to the king.

Prayer Point
Pray for Scripture Union Scotland and pray that God would bless the work in schools and assist those who write and distribute the Bible reading notes.

Friday 13th January
Ezra 6:1-12
Here in this chapter we receive the king’s reply to the letter from Tattenai and the others. It was not what they expected. Instead of stopping the work, Darius reaffirms what Cyrus had said and instructed that the building of the temple be completed. For the opposition, this was bad enough but worse was to come. Darius gave specific instructions to tattenai and the others, as we read in verses 6-7: ‘Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you, their fellow officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site’. It could not be more clear. They must not interfere in any way. If that was bad enough for the opposition, worse was still to come. As we read in verses 8-10, Darius instructed that Tattenai and the others were to pay for the rebuilding and provide the animals for the sacrifices out of their own resources! One lesson comes through all of Scripture: it is a dangerous thing to oppose God or his covenant people.

Prayer Point
Pray for the young adults in our Youth Fellowship, that the young in the church would gather together. Pray for Andrew and Liz McFarlane as they lead the work and that people would volunteer to help with the work.

Saturday 14th January
Ezra 6:13-18
The work was restarted and the building of the temple was completed. Verse 14 is important: ‘So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo’. Notice, it does not say that the building resumed with the benign support of Darius but under the preaching of God’s prophets. Darius was a significant power and assisted tremendously but only because he was an agent used by God to fulfil God’s purposes. Then we have the dedication of the temple with much celebration and many sacrifices. This was what they had come home to accomplish and now it was finished. No wonder they rejoiced before God. When God calls us to do something he sees it through to the end.
Prayer Point
Pray for Crossreach, the social care ministry of the Church of Scotland. Pray particularly for Cameron House, for the rehabilitation work at Beechwood and for Cale House.

Sunday 15th January
Ezra 6:19-22
The temple having been completed and dedicated, the people of God celebrated the Passover. The Passover reminds the Israelites of their deliverance from Egypt under Moses. It calls them to look back at all their God accomplished on their behalf. Above all, it reminds them that God redeemed them. The Passover was celebrated at some of the most significant points in the history of the covenant people. In numbers 9:5 it was celebrated after the dedication of the Tabernacle. In Joshua 10, after the crossing of the Jordan. In 2 Kings 23:21 after the rediscovery of the Law in the time of Josiah. In 2 Chronicles 30 after the accession to the throne of good king Hezekiah and the purification of the Temple. In each case, they were reminded that God is their Redeemer.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Sunday services this weekend that God would bless the coming together of His people. Pray that many may come to hear the Word of God preached.

Monday 16th January
Ezra 7:1-10
The return after the Exile was in three stages. First, under Zerubbabel from 538BC. Then Ezra arrived with others in 458BC and finally Nehemiah came in 444BC. The temple was completed in 516BC so between chapters 6 and 7 we have a break of about 60 years. Everything so far in the book is a description of the earlier period, now we have the part of the story in which Ezra himself was involved. He had travelled from Babylon, a journey which had taken him four months. We are told that he had been able to accomplish this journey, ‘for the gracious hand of his God was on him’. He gave praise to God for watching over him and bringing him to Jerusalem. As will become clear in the chapters following, Ezra was a man of God and the Lord was going to use him in Jerusalem. Those whom God prepares, he uses in his service.

Prayer Point
Pray for the sick and housebound in the congregation. Pray for those in Care homes. Remember also any who may be in hospital. May they know God healing hand and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday 17th January
Ezra 7:1-10
We read this passage again today to learn something more about Ezra. The first thing we learn is that ‘He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given’ (verse 6). Ezra knew God’s law and so was able to teach others. It is clear from the whole book and from references in Nehemiah that he not only knew God’s law and could teach God’s law but he also obeyed God’s law. We see that in verse 10: ‘For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel’. This devotion to God and to his Word brought blessing upon Ezra. Indeed, we are told that God was gracious to him. To devote ourselves to the study of God’s Word and to bring our lives into obedience to that Word is what attracts the gracious blessing of God.

Prayer Point
Pray for EMMS International’s Mziche Project in Malawi, that they would receive all aid and resources they need for the year ahead.

Wednesday 18th January
Ezra 7:11-28
Here we have a long letter from King Artaxerzes, the king of Persia, to Ezra the scribe. The king authorised Ezra to go to Jerusalem, with as many of his fellow countrymen as wanted to return. He was to inquire into the affairs of Judah and Jerusalem and the Jews were, once again, to be placed under the governance of the law of Moses. He was entrusted with money by the king for the House of God and the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates were to provide anything else which was needed. Those who worked in the Temple were to be exempt from taxation and Ezra was to appoint judges and magistrates. When you take all of this together, it is clear that the king wanted God’s law to be obeyed. Ezra had a similar experience to Nehemiah, as recorded in the first two chapters of that book. Both were men of God and both were entrusted b pagan kings to do work for God.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Midweek meeting as people gather around God’s Word, and seek God in prayer. Pray for the Elder who helps lead the services.

Thursday 19th January
Ezra 7:11-28
We read these verses again to highlight a remarkable example of the providence of God in action. A pagan king would not do all this, were it not for the sovereign over-ruling of God. Ezra understood what was happening. He realised that the king was showing favour towards him because of God’s work in the situation. Read again verses 27-28: ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honour to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way 28 and who has extended his good favour to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me’. Notice Ezra’s interpretation of these events. It was the Lord who ‘put it into the king’s heart’ to let him go and it was the ‘hand of the Lord’ which was on the situation. All the glory rightly goes to God.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Women’s Bible Study and ask that more may be drawn to it and so together benefit from the study of God’s Word.

Friday 20th January
Ezra 8:1-14
We come today to chapter 8, in which we are given a list of those who returned from Exile, together with the story of the journey. King Artaxerxes having said that any of the Jews who wished could return to Judah, Ezra assembled his company of volunteers. The list is given in vv.1-14 of our passage. If you are good at arithmetic, you will have calculated that there were approximately 1500 men together with their families. The list is similar to the genealogy in chapter two and it seems likely that the list in chapter two is a list of families not individuals, some of whom went up with Zerubbabel and some with Ezra. It must have been a great encouragement to Ezra that so many were willing to make this hazardous journey in order to return to the land of their fathers. When God plans to do something he always ensures that the right people with the right gifts are prepared and ready for service.

Prayer Point
Give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Thank him for loving the world so much that he sent his Son, even although we are sinners. Praise him for the salvation to be found in Christ.

Saturday 21st January
Ezra 8:15-20
There was, however, a problem. The problem was that there were very few Levites willing to return. If you compare the list in chapter two you will discover that under Zerubbabel only 341 Levites returned compared to 4,289 priests. Clearly this was inadequate for the proper worship of the Temple. For this reason, Ezra sent for more Levites. He contacted a man named Iddo at a place called Casiphia and urged him to release Levites to come with him to Judah (read verse 17). We do not know anything about this place or this man, although the commentator Matthew Henry suggests that this may have been a College of Levites, with Iddo as the president of the College. In any case, the appeal was successful and Levites joined Ezra and his company. Also 220 temple servants to assist them. Everything was now in place for the journey to begin.

Prayer Point
Pray for Presbytery Planning committee this morning. Pray for Our Annual Gift Day and Musical event in the hall this evening that many would come and enjoy the evening.

Sunday 22nd January
Ezra 8:21-23
Ezra proclaims a fast, so that the people might fast and pray in preparation for their journey. He is deeply conscious of their need for God to go with them and to protect them. There is also a somewhat delicate matter. He had spoken so confidently to the king about his God, that he did not feel able to ask the king for protection for the journey (verse 22). You can well imagine how the king might have reacted if, having been told that Ezra’s God was a great and powerful God, then to be told that they needed protecting on the journey. Ezra was deeply concerned about the journey and rightly so. One of the commentators tells us that it was ‘a time of great unrest, particularly in the western half of the Persian empire’. This time of prayer and fasting, however, achieved its purpose, and God answered their prayers, as we’re told in verse 23. Everything we do, whether easy or hard, needs to be committed to God.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Sunday services; pray that God blessings would come through the Holy Spirit.

Monday 23rd January
Ezra 8:24-30
Ezra also took good care of the Temple treasures, which had been given to him by the king for the Temple in Jerusalem. It has been estimated that these treasures were worth about a million pounds! The Persian empire was very rich indeed. Ezra entrusted the treasures to a group of priests and Levites who were responsible for them until they were deposited in the Temple. I have sometimes visited great cathedrals and churches only to hear people say that huge sums of money should not be spent on such buildings. Yet if we look at the Old Testament, we see that elaborate preparations were made for the Temple and large sums of money spent. The artefacts for the sacrifices as well as the decoration and ornamentation was very beautiful and was a fitting tribute to the glory of God. This is to say nothing of the garments for the priests, the choirs with their robes, the musicians and so on.

Prayer Point
Pray for those who deliver the Easterly and who are often the first points of contact for many in the congregation who are older and on their own. Pray that this ministry will benefit many.

Tuesday 24th January
Ezra 8:31-32
At last they set out and began this great journey. The scholars tell us that it was a journey of about 900 miles and remember, as we see in verse 21, they had children with them. In fact, they took four months over the journey, averaging about seven miles each day. Once again here we see the expression which dominates the story of Ezra, ‘the hand of our God was on us’. This is a marvellous way of teaching that God never left them nor forsook them but was with them every step of the way. In particular, Ezra tells us that God ‘protected us from enemies and bandits along the way’. I don’t know what circumstances are facing each person reading this. I don’t know if you have serious problems, illnesses or bereavement. What I do know is that, if you are a Christian, the Lord’s hand will be with you through it all. Look to him.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Minister as he attends the Assembly Council Strategy meeting in Edinburgh.

Wednesday 25th January
Ezra 8:33-36
Finally, they arrived. After resting for three days, they placed all the treasures in the Temple, carefully counting them out and weighing them to be sure that everything was accounted for. Then they worshipped God with various sacrifices and delivered the king’s orders to those in Trans-Euphrates. The lesson to be learned here is that Ezra was meticulously careful about the things of God. You can see this characteristic in everything he did. He invited the Jews to join him and while they were encamped at the canal he checked everything. On discovering the lack of Levites, he immediately took steps to put that right. He was also meticulously careful with the treasures, committing them into safe hands and checking them when they arrived in Jerusalem to see that none was missing. The picture we have is of a man who wanted everything to be done properly. This is an important characteristic of anyone who would seek to be a servant of God. Paul said that ‘everything must be done decently and in order’. If we are to be engaged on the things of God then we must act properly, with due care. To be sloppy or haphazard in the things of God suggests a carelessness which cannot surely be pleasing to God.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Midweek meeting as they meet together in pray and thanksgiving for greatness of God. May God be close in the gathering of His people.

Thursday 26th January
Ezra 8
We read again the whole chapter today in order to sum up some main lessons. First, Ezra trusted God and not human effort. We saw this in chapter 7, verses 6, 9 and 27-28. At every point, Ezra was totally dependent upon God and his leading. We see it also in this chapter in verses 18 and 31. This dependence upon God is also seen in the fact that Ezra was too embarrassed to ask the king for help because such a request might be taken as a sign that their God could not protect them. Ezra was determined to trust God and not the army of the king of Persia. This is a valuable lesson for us. There is an unfortunate and increasing tendency for the church to be treated like a business and for business practices and business management training to be applied to it. Indeed, many of the clever schemes to increase the church’s membership or its finances which we have seen in recent years, owe more to management consultants and advertising gurus than to the Word of God and prayer. We must rely on God, while not neglecting good practice.

Prayer Point
Pray for the CFS Trustees as they meeting to discuss the important work within the church at this time. Pray they receive direction and understand for the way ahead.

Friday 27th January
Ezra 9:1-4
The inter-marriage of Jews with non-Jews was forbidden. This was not to do with racial issues or blood descent because a Jewish convert who had an Arab background could marry a Jew who had Israelite background. The real issue was separation from paganism and from false gods. The Jews were to be a holy people set apart for God. It would seem that there had been a backsliding among the people since the time, sixty years previously, when there had been a great revival under the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah. Hence at the beginning of this chapter Ezra learns that there had been inter-marriage with the neighbouring, pagan nations. This command only to marry those who share faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is carried forward into the New Testament. Christians are only to marry Christians, those who share a common faith (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Prayer Point
Pray that on a busy day at the beginning of a Communion weekend, that God is blessed and glorified. At the MTN in the Minister’s manse, in the Kirk Session and in the Preparatory Service this evening.

Saturday 28th January
Ezra 9:5-12
Ezra was deeply upset by this situation which had been brought to his attention. Ezra turns to God in prayer. In this prayer, he speaks of the constant failure of the people and contrasts this with the constant faithfulness of God. Notice Ezra includes himself in the prayer, speaking corporately of ‘our guilt’ and ‘our sins’. God had brought his people back from exile and now they were falling into some of the very sins which had caused God to send them into exile in the first place! There are two lessons for us here. First, we are to be ‘separated’ from the world, the flesh and the devil and consecrated to God’s service. We cannot be Christians and live the lives we did before. Second, the importance of going on in the Christian life. It is not enough to start well, we must go on with the Lord.

Prayer Point
Pray that God would bless the weekend of services with the blessing of knowing him as Lord and Saviour. Pray people would turn to Him in praise and worship as people gather to pray for the services and all God is doing.

Sunday 29th January
Ezra 9:13-15
Ezra recognises the situation for what it is. He acknowledges that God could justifiably withdraw from them and leave them without a remnant. He affirms the righteousness of God and speaks of how a sinful people cannot stand in the presence of God. This recognition of God’s holiness and righteousness as opposed to the sin and guilt of the people, is something that is largely absent from the public face of our Christianity in Scotland today. Many years ago, some leading churchmen issued an ‘Urgent call to the Kirk’, recalling the church to its roots and to fresh obedience to God. Today, we hear of grand schemes and grand designs for renewal and rebuilding but virtually no talk of sin, repentance and the holiness of God. Without this, there is no hope.

Prayer Point
Pray for the service today and that the glory of God would fall down to earth as we gather round His communion table. Pray for the Minister as he leads the services today. May God receive all honour and glory due His name.

Monday 30th January
Ezra 10:1-8
At the beginning of chapter 10, we find a great crowd gathering around Ezra and this is very significant. Ezra had discovered that many of the Israelites had broken God’s law and intermarried with the neighbouring pagan nations. He mourned over them, he prayed and he wept bitterly. Soon many others joined him in this. Among those who gathered were the guilty men who had married the pagan women. Notice in verse 2, ‘We have been unfaithful to our God’. This was the beginning of the matter being put right. All true renewal begins with confession of sin and repentance. To come before God and admit our sin and guilt is the beginning. We must then seek the grace of repentance so that we can wholeheartedly turn away from our sin and turn back to God. That reconciliation cannot fully take place until the sin is confessed and repentance begun.

Prayer Point
Pray for Dougie as he prepares to be Ordained into the service of Word and Sacrament on Friday 3rd February 2017 at Barvas Church of Scotland, and then takes up his new role as Minister of the congregation. Pray for Dougie, Joan and Jack as they go forward in this new and exciting journey at Barvas.

Tuesday 31st January
Ezra 10
The results of all this were dramatic. There was a great separation and the foreign women were put away. The message was clear: God’s people must obey God’s Word. If they do not, then the judgement of God will fall upon them. The Israelites should have known this because the Exile in Babylon was fresh in their collective memory. They had taught their children the stories of God’s redemption of the people from Egypt and again from Babylon. They knew what was required of them and yet they slid back into sin. The lesson we must take from this concerns our own spiritual lives. We must stay close to God and we must be sure that we do not backslide. The Lord loves us and wants us for his own but he is also a jealous God and will not share us. We are his and his alone. Are we staying faithful to God?

Prayer Point
Pray for the Word at One as they meet for lunch, worship, and fellowship together. Pray for the Presbytery Business Committee as they meet tonight.