THE KINGDOM HAS ARRIVED

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”.

Matt 3:2 NIV

The Revd Trevor Hudson recounted an embarrassing experience he had when seeking to enter the ministry. “It was a nerve-wracking moment. I had resigned from secular employment and offered myself as a candidate for the ordained ministry. The first requirement involved passing an oral examination before the annual Synod. Examining me was a bishop well known for his direct and stern approach. His first question seemed simple enough. ‘Tell me, Mr Hudson’, asked the bishop, ‘what was the central message of Jesus?’ ‘Forgiveness of sins, sir!’ I shot back immediately. ‘No’ responded the bishop, matter of factly.

‘Peace on earth, sir’ I tried again, remembering a line from the chorus of the heavenly host that startled sleepy shepherds in the middle of the night. ‘No’ said the bishop again, as my face I’m sure began to redden. By this time, I thought it would be best for me to give up trying and I said so. Leaning over his desk the bishop caught my eyes in his solid gaze and said, ‘I want you never, never to forget that the main message of Jesus was, the kingdom of God is at hand’”(T. Hudson, Signposts to Spirituality, p47)

It was not only the key to Christ’s own message. It was the thrust of John the Baptist’s call as well. There were other kingdoms competing for people’s allegiance. The Roman Empire was one. Herod the King’s rule was dominant at that time. And other empires were clamouring for people’s loyalty as well, including other religions.

Never forget that John called people to observe and serve the kingdom of God. So did Jesus. Decide now that you will serve God and no other king.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, make me a servant of the king of kings.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

I pray Lord for those families where a family member suffers from Alzheimer’s. Help the other people to generate extra sensitivity to the sufferer’s condition and enable them to love and care with gentleness and endurance. Help scientists to find medications that will reduce the suffering. I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 15:23–33

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

REPENT!

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’”.

Matt 3:1,2 NIV

To repent means literally to re-think, or to see things differently. It can have many variant shades of meaning. Above all else it implies “change”. It can involve a deep sense of remorse or regret for the things we have done. Sometimes one big mistake or sin can bring us to the need to repent. It also implies to start again.

“Repentance means more than remorse (though remorse may well be included in it); it means more than resolving to ‘do better’, in the manner of making New Year resolutions. Repentance means having a change of heart, an entirely different attitude to life; it means adopting God’s viewpoint in place of our own. That is why repentance is central to Christianity and why, when Jesus commenced his ministry, he began to preach ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel (Mk 1:14 RSV). If we don’t start with repentance, we don’t start at all. But the proof of repentance is a radical change of heart” (The Soldier’s Armoury, 1971 p16).

Take a long, hard look at yourself in relation to God and what God wants you to be. Be honest about your faults, your attitudes, your use of time, of money, and your relationships. Is the pattern and standard of Christ reflected in your life and your character? Look also at your strengths – sometimes this is where we come a cropper and fail God completely. We tend to be blind to ourselves and our strengths tend to hide our weaknesses. Then engage yourself in a radical change of mind.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to undergo this radical change of mind and life.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

I lift up to you those parts of the world where there is war or armed incursion. Prompt the authorities to provide adequate protection to the local inhabitants and to take steps to avoid bloodshed as much as possible. Help politicians to make wise decisions and to direct the affairs of government with courage. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 15:14–22

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

JOHN THE BAPTIST

“John the Baptist came preaching”.

Matt 3:1 NIV

John the Baptist was no “Doom-Jonah”. In some ways it is easy to denounce what is wrong. There is so much of it! Some pulpits pour out negative messages about what is wrong. People want to know, “Is there a word from the Lord?”

“John urgently summoned people to righteousness. His message was not a mere negative denunciation; it was a positive erecting of the moral standards of God. He not only denounced people for what they had done; he summoned them to what they ought to do. He not only condemned people for what they were; he challenged them to be what they could be. He was like a voice calling people to higher things. He not only rebuked evil, he also set before people the good.

John came from God. He came out of the desert. He came to people only after he had undergone lonely years of preparation by God. One commentator said, ‘John leapt, as it were, into the arena full-grown and full-armed’. He came, not with some opinion of his own, but with a message from God. Before he spoke to people he had companied long with God.

John pointed beyond himself. The man was not only a light to illumine evil, a voice to rebuke sin, he was also a signpost to God. It was not himself he wished people to see; he wished to prepare them for the one who was to come” (W. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, p36).

Odd figure that he was, John filled a vital role. He prepared people for Jesus with his message of the kingdom. He was a bit like a trailer that whets people’s appetites for the real movie.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, let me be ready for Jesus.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, thank you for all the technological advances of the modern world. Thank you that they enable us to talk to friends and family members at the other end of the world as if they are in the same room as us. Help me to master the things I need to live a competent and full life. Deepen and enrich my days. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 15:1–13

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening

JOHN THE BAPTIST

“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea”.

Matt 3:1 NIV

“The emergence of John was like the sudden sounding of the voice of God. At this time the Jews were sadly conscious that the voice of the prophets spoke no more. They said that for four hundred years there had been no prophet. Throughout the long centuries the voice of prophecy had been silent. As they put it themselves, ‘There was no voice, not any that answered’. But in John the prophetic voice spoke again. What then were the characteristics of John and his message?

He fearlessly denounced evil wherever he might find it. If Herod the king sinned by contracting an evil and unlawful marriage, John rebuked him. If the Sadduccees and Pharisees, the leaders of orthodox religion, the churchmen of their day, were sunk in ritualistic formalism, John never hesitated to say so. If the ordinary people were living lives which were unaware of God, John would tell them so. Wherever John saw evil – in the state, in the Church, in the crowd – he fearlessly rebuked it. He was like a light which lit up the dark places in society; he was like wind which swept from God throughout the country. It was said of a famous journalist who was great, but who never quite fulfilled the work he might have done, ‘He was perhaps not easily enough disturbed’. There is still a place in the Christian message for warning and denunciation” (W. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, p35).

When leading churchmen utter words which question and denounce wrongs in society or government, believing Christians should support them. It takes courage to speak truth to power. But when God demands it, men of God should hear and obey.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, move your servants to speak truth to power today.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, on this day of worship and praise grant that your people everywhere will take their minds off the problems besetting the world and bend their every thought to worship and the glorification of Jesus. Help them to find peace of mind and a deepening faith in you. Fill them with joy and increase their love. I ask it in Christ’s name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 14:13–23

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

DANGER IS ALWAYS AROUND

“An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up’, he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him’”.

Matt 2:13 NIV

Life is hazardous. Death stalks the roads. Planes crash and people are killed. Criminals attack people in their homes. Various diseases break out in different places. The world is never free from war. Civil unrest is a common problem. Terrorism is widespread – sometimes striking in what are usually regarded as “safe” countries. Recently a news bulletin reported that eight million people are starving in one African country with a population of no more than fifteen million people.

In the days of the Bible wars were common. And wild animals roamed in many places. And Jesus was in danger the moment he was born. The threat from Herod reminds us that Jesus was in imminent danger. In this regard he was subject to the normal conditions and hazards of human life. There were jealous enemies around. And when he embarked on his life’s ministry there were soon people plotting to kill him – for religious reasons!

Christian believers too have to cope with the normal dangers that pose risks to life and limb. Floods and earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and many more risks are ever near. Don’t ignore them. Take wise precautions. Form “Neighbourhood Watches” for defensive protection and offer help to others. Trust in God and use your “savvy”. Consider keeping a big dog to deter would-be intruders. Form telephone networks to warn others and to keep yourself “in the know” when trouble is around. Make sure you have proper insurance against storm damage.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, protect me and my family from danger.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord be with all the business people who are trying to get their enterprises back into viability, to restore jobs to those who have gone empty-handed for months, and to get their customers back into normal routines again. Help the movement and interest of people to flow again and activity to flourish. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 14:1–12

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

A DESCENDANT OF DAVID?

“Jesus Christ, a descendant of David”.

Matt 1:1 GNB

The human race is a strange mixture of the bright and brilliant, the slow and stupid, the good, the bad and the ugly. And Jesus was a member of this community of human beings. Many have thought it strange that anyone would want to portray Jesus as a descendant of King David. While David was the greatest king of the Israelites – and they revere him to this day – he was also a man “with feet of clay”.

In the middle of his reign as king, David succumbed to that temptation which has been the downfall of many. Observing a married woman, Bathsheba, while she was bathing, David used his authority to order that she be sent to his palace and there he committed adultery with her. In a callous move, David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be killed in battle. Then he married her, and she gave birth to a son. And the comment of the Bible is “The Lord was not pleased with what David had done” (2 Samuel 11:27 GNB).

So Jesus was descended from a man who was an adulterer and a murderer! In other words, he was descended from a blatant sinner. We see in David something of that strange mix in human nature – good and evil. And some of the psalms he wrote – that are included in our Bible – are beautiful prayers that have been used for centuries. This all goes to show that Jesus was fully human, that he became part of the human race and knew its sadness and understood its duplicity and its fallen nature.

And he died to lift it up, to redeem it and save it. And he redeems you with your frailties and faults as well.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to resist all temptation.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

I pray today Lord for all those desperately poor people who have been rendered even poorer by the devastating effects of the pandemic in these difficult months. Help them to keep hoping despite the knocks they have suffered. Grant them help and encouragement for the future. May suffering end and hope return. Please Jesus. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 13:8–14

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

 

GOING BACK TO ABRAHAM

“This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham”.

Matt 1:1 GNB

A young man who was candidating for the ministry had to appear before his church’s synod to give an account of his “Christian experience”. He began by saying, “My father is a lay preacher. My mother is the secretary of the women’s league. My grandfather was –”. At this point he was interrupted by the bishop who said, “All right brother, we can all go back to Adam, now tell us about yourself!”.

The origins of the Israelite faith went back to the event when God called Abraham to leave his place of birth and go out to a new land. It is told in Genesis 12. “The Lord had said to Abraham ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you’” (Gen 12:1 NIV). Abraham was the founder and father of the Israelite people in the same sense that Jan van Riebeeck was the founder of the white community of South Africa. It was a further “feather in his cap” in Matthew’s way of seeing things that Jesus could trace his ancestry back, not merely to David, but to Abraham.

Abraham’s greatness was that he both heard and obeyed God’s call. He epitomised hope as he set out to look for the country God had promised him. Christian believers cherish the story of Abraham – it urges them to look forward and to strike out towards the future to which God is pointing them. Hebrews says that Abraham “left his own country without knowing where he was going” (Heb 11:8 GNB). Faith is putting your life in God’s hands as Abraham did and trusting him for everything.

 

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, help me to follow you wherever you lead me.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

I pray today Lord for your world, in all its tension, anxieties and fears. Grant that all leaders may be given exceptional wisdom and confidence in action as they try to plan for the future. Encourage them when they are low and guide them in all decisions they have to make. Help them to remain calm and collected. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 13:1–7

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

SON OF DAVID

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David”.

Matt 1:1 NIV

The great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The great question for Christians in the twentieth century is ‘Who is Jesus Christ for us today?’” At first that sounds like a simple question. On reflection it becomes more complicated. It was the great question the early Christian teachers and apostles wrestled with twenty centuries ago as well. Was Jesus just a wandering prophet with some nice stories to tell? Was he an upstart – there had been many in Israel? Was he an enemy of the Roman Empire, secretly planning to overthrow the ruling power? Much of the teaching of the New Testament assumes the need to respond to the question Bonhoeffer posed.

One of the responses Matthew made, in an attempt to help his Jewish readers to become Christian believers, was to “anchor” Jesus in Jewish history. David was Israel’s greatest ever king. He lived about a thousand years before Christ and under his military conquests the boundaries of the Israelite state reached to the widest extent known. Under David they “ruled the roost” as at no time before or since. To this day (three thousand years later) tourists to Jerusalem are shown the hallowed “tomb of David”.

By tracing his ancestry through David Matthew was saying, “Jesus was a thoroughbred Jew”. Christian believers today do well to bear in mind the tradition through which Jesus came and in which he was brought up. He did not come to throw away all that had gone before. He came to build on it and enlarge the world’s understanding of the God the Jews had worshipped for centuries. Jesus was and is truly “Great David’s Greater Son”. Love him and adore him for it!

PRAYER THOUGHT

Thank you Lord, for the human heritage of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

I pray today Lord, for those people who have lost their employment through the extra-ordinary measures that have been taken to control the spread of the virus. Help them to know that their predicament is not their fault, neither are they being punished for anything they have done wrong. Renew hope in them. I ask it in Christ’s name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 12:14–21

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

JESUS THE MESSIAH

 “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah”.

Matt 1:1 NIV

 The Bible has many titles for Jesus. Messiah is one. Matthew’s gospel is the story of Jesus told from a perspective that is coloured with Jewish thoughts. It was told by Matthew to show his fellow Jews how Jesus was rooted in the Old Testament faith and Matthew frequently quotes verses from the Old Testament to show the link-up.

The figure of the Messiah was prominent in the Old Testament. God had promised the Israelites that they would be his special people, but they were often in trouble from their national neighbours and it frequently seemed that things had gone horribly wrong. Thus, there developed the idea that to put things right God would have to send his special envoy. The word Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning “Anointed” and the Israelites hoped and dreamed that God would intervene on their behalf by sending his special man – the Messiah – to help and lift them up. He would be a royal figure and they hoped for centuries that he would come direct from God and lead them to national triumph.

When Jesus came he was not the fulfilment of their messianic hopes. Instead of being a military conqueror he was a gentle person, full of love, teaching about God and his kingdom and saving his people from their sins. They didn’t find it easy to adjust their hopes and see that God had ideas other than what they had always hoped for.

We always want God to intervene – to answer our prayers, sort out our problems, and give us salvation. We now look beyond the Jewish idea and find the role of Saviour is more appropriate for Jesus. Look for Jesus to fulfil all your hopes.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, intervene in this world and save your people.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, you have been with your people through all the agonizing months of Covid-19 danger and death. Thank you for guiding us. Be with us in this new month. May the start of a new month bring new hope to people everywhere. In particular give new strength and patience to tired health workers everywhere. I ask it in Jesus’ name. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 12:9–13

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
On Face Book follow this link to start listening.

GOD THE HELPER

“You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways”.

Isa 64:5 NIV

The Bible had many different ways to depict God. In Genesis, he is the creator. And he is often depicted in the role of creator. He is also a judge, law-giver, guide, and warrior. One of the most common roles he fulfilled was that of Shepherd. They did not have policemen in Old Testament times otherwise they might have seen him in that position as well. Father was a common way of understanding God. He is also seen as a mother, but not nearly as often as Father. Saviour and redeemer have frequently used descriptions as well. Amongst this wide-ranging repertoire of titles and metaphors, God appears as husband and as a husbandman. Underlying many of these roles or descriptions is the thought that God has helped the Israelites, and that is one of his foremost roles. Feeding them in the wilderness, guiding them through to the Promised Land, providing them with a leader such as Moses and calling them to the fertile land of Israel were all ways in which he helped them.

When Christ came, showing love, care, and concern he was soon helping the sick, the lonely, and the outcasts. Calling Zacchaeus down from his tree and showing him a new and generous way of life was a well-known incident in which he came from nowhere and helped. On the lake when the storm threatened to drown them, his word of command and calm helped to save them – and teach them. And he helped them to see God in a new way.

Christians should be helpers, after the example of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Keep your ears and eyes open for where help is needed.

PRAYER THOUGHT

Lord, make me your helper – and also for other people.

PRAYER OF INTERCESSION

Lord, thank you for my friends, especially for those whom I have known for many years. Thank you for all the good times we have enjoyed together, and for the support we have given and exchanged in dark and difficult days. Thank you for the understanding, the sense of solidarity, comradeship and encouragement. Thank you, Lord. AMEN

I.B.R.A. Readings

Romans 12:1–8

LISTEN TO TODAY’S DEVOTION

If you received our daily emails, please listen to today’s devotion on our website www.ffdl.co.za
else click on audio to start listening.