Daily Readings December 2018 – January 2019

Bible Readings & Prayer Points

In this, my final issue of the Easterly, we are going to look at the history of salvation. We’ll begin before the world was created and we’ll follow the story through prophecies until the coming of Christ. Then we’ll consider what Christ has done and its significance. Next, we’ll look at what salvation means and involves. We’ll finish with the promise of a new heaven and a new earth!

Saturday 1st December
Ephesians 1:1-8
The story of salvation begins before anything was created when all that existed was God. In these verses, we are told that God ‘chose us in him’, that is to say, ‘in Christ’ and that he ‘predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ’. In other words, it was always in the plan of God to choose a people who would worship and serve him. The amazing thing is that all of this planning took place ‘before the creation of the world’. Before the world existed, before any human being was created, God chose us. This should make us very humble, since it means that we are saved entirely by God’s gracious action and not because of anything in ourselves. As the hymn says, ‘he loved us from the dawn of time’.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Church’s annual Gift Day and the Musical Evening in the Hall tonight. The money raised will go towards the Fabric Fund.

Sunday 2nd December
John 17:1-5, 24
In this prayer to his Father, Jesus refers to a time before creation. As we see in verse 5, ‘Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’. Later, in verse 24, Jesus says to his Father, ‘you loved me before the creation of the world’. There is only one God but he is three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three persons live in an eternal relationship of love and are full of glory. God has no beginning and no end, he is the same yesterday, today and forever. It was in that time before creation, in the very heart of the Trinity, that a plan of salvation was established.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services today and Alex Stephen as he takes the service at Raigmore. Pray for the Music Group as they help to lead the morning service.

Monday 3rd December
Genesis 1:1-3
There came a time when God chose to create. There was no requirement on God to do this but he determined that he would create. As the very first verse of the Bible says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. There was nothing and now there was something. God created everything ‘out of nothing’. Later, as we read in verses 26-28, he created human beings. They were created in God’s image and were given responsibility for everything on the earth, as stewards. God did everything for their comfort and well-being. After all, they were to be his people and to freely worship and serve God. This is where the story of salvation begins but, as we shall see on Wednesday, trouble would come first.

Prayer Point
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.

Tuesday 4th December
John 1:1-5
These verses are very similar (deliberately similar) to the opening verses of Genesis. In Genesis we are told that in the beginning God created. In these verses, we are told that ‘in the beginning was the Word’ and as we read on it quickly becomes apparent that ‘the Word’ is the Son of God. When God created the world, he did it through his Son. Throughout the whole Bible and through the whole of God’s plan of salvation, the Son of God is at the heart of everything. He is the agent of creation, the agent of redemption and the agent of judgement. He was there in the beginning, he was there purchasing our salvation on the Cross and he will be there at the end, bringing all things to their conclusion on the Day of Judgement.

Prayer Point
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.

Wednesday 5th December
Genesis 3:1-15
This is the story of the fall of humanity. Having been created in the image of God and given a wonderful environment in which to live, our first parents had everything they could possibly have wanted. Their lives revolved around God and all their decisions were based on God’s commands. Unfortunately, they chose to disobey the clear command of God. Influenced by Satan, they chose the wrong way and were banished from the presence of God. There was now a breach between God and humanity. Even at this lowest moment, however, there is a word of hope in verse 15. This is the first promise of the Gospel. One day someone would come and defeat Satan. We know that this was fulfilled in Jesus.

Prayer Point
Pray for Don Macdonald in Zambia and pray for his wife Christine in London awaiting a transplant operation.

Thursday 6th December
Deuteronomy 18:15-19
We saw yesterday the promise that one day someone would come to defeat Satan. In today’s passage, God tells Moses something similar: ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him’. Moses had faithfully spoken God’s Word to the people of Israel but in due course someone would come who was greater than Moses. He too would speak God’s Word and people must listen to him. From then on, the Israelites were expecting a prophet like Moses. That is why, when John the Baptist appeared, they asked him in John 1:21 if he was ‘The Prophet’. Only later would it become clear that Jesus was the fulfilment of this prophecy.

Prayer Point
Pray for the two retired Ministers in our congregation, Fraser Turner and Douglas Horne, who are so willing to help in various churches. Pray that they will know the blessing of the Holy Spirit in their continuing ministry.

Friday 7th December
2 Samuel 7:12-16
At one level, this is simply a promise to King David that when he died, his son would succeed him as king and that the son who succeeded him would build a temple for the Lord. At another level, this is a promise that the legacy of David would be an everlasting kingdom. God says to David, in verse 16, ‘Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever’. When Jesus came, he was the fulfilment of this prophecy. As soon as he began to teach he declared, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand’. Throughout his ministry he spoke about the kingdom of God, including the parables of the kingdom. Even after the resurrection, in Acts 1:3, we’re told that he appeared to his disciples ‘over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’. His would be a kingdom that lasts for ever.

Prayer Point
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. Pray too for the induction of Scott Polworth to Kinmylies tonight.

Saturday 8th December
Psalm 2:1-12
Like many of the messianic passages in the Old Testament this Psalm speaks of an historical situation in Israel, where God elevated his king in Israel and subdued his enemies. It is clear, however, especially from the last few verses, that much more is at stake here: ‘Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him’. Who is the Son? Those who regard this as a messianic Psalm would say that this refers to the Son of God, who took flesh and became the man Jesus. He is the one in whom we must take refuge. He is the one who protects and saves us.

Prayer Point
Pray for our organist Jim Fraser, who so faithfully and sensitively leads our worship week by week.

Sunday 9th December
Psalm 16:8-11
In these verses we learn something more about Jesus. The Psalmist says, ‘You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand’. This prophecy speaks about the death of Jesus. It was not possible for death to hold him and his body did not see decay. In other words, this is a prophecy about the resurrection. More than that, it refers to Jesus at the right hand of God for eternity, enjoying eternal pleasures. This, of course, was wonderfully fulfilled. Jesu was raised from the dead and he is even now at the right hand of God making intercession for us.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister as he takes morning and evening services today, for Bill Flett as he takes the Raigmore service and for the Rev … as he takes the Gaelic Service.

Monday 10th December
Psalm 22:1-31
This is the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the Cross. He said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ This was the awful cry of dereliction, which comes at the very point when Jesus, bearing the sin of the world, receives the just punishment for sin, which was really due to us. This Psalm also says in verses 7-8, ‘All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him”’. This is what happened while Jesus was hanging on the Cross, as we see in Mark 15:31-32. Later in the Psalm, in verses 16-18 we read of how ‘they have pierced my hands and my feet’ and again, ‘They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing’. All of this happened to Jesus.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Board of the Rutherford Centre for Reformed Theology as they meet in Edinburgh today.

Tuesday 11th December
Psalm 110:1-4
The Psalm begins with the words, ‘The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”’. These were the words that Jesus used to challenge the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-46. He explained that they referred to the Christ and, of course, he himself was the Christ. The Psalm also describes messiah as ‘a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek’. This was the expression used for Jesus in Hebrews, especially chapter 7. Once again we have a Psalm which was looking forward to the day when messiah would come. God’s plan of salvation was taking shape and these prophecies would be fulfilled.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Girls’ Brigade and all that they do to develop Christian faith and life in the girls who attend. Pray that tonight they may enjoy a break from the work, as they have their Christmas party and as the Brigaders have a meal.

Wednesday 12th December
Psalm 118:22-24
The Psalmist says, ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes. 24 This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it’. Who is this stone the builders rejected? In Luke 20:17, Jesus challenged the chief priests and the teachers of the law to interpret these words of the Psalmist, making it clear that they referred to the messiah. Then in Acts 4:8-12, Peter states that the words of this Psalm refer to ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth’. He also notes that salvation is found in no-one else. Once again, a Psalm proves to be messianic and refers to Jesus.

Prayer Point
Pray for Fraser and Dawn Jackson in South Africa. Pray for the work in which they are engaged and pray too for their safety and health.

Thursday 13th December
Isaiah 7:1-14
The key verse here is verse 14: ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel’. For the fulfilment of this prophecy we must turn to Luke 1, where the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she is going to have a child. Mary’s response is in verse 34: ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ The virgin birth, foretold by Isaiah, was fulfilled when Jesus was born. Note also in today’s passage that the child would be called Immanuel. We see the fulfilment of that when Gabriel spoke to Joseph and said that his wife would bear a son. There in Matthew 1:22-23, we read, ‘All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us”’.

Prayer Point
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 Christ.

Friday 14th December
Isaiah 9:1-7
In this part of Isaiah’s prophecy, we have words which are often read at Christmas. First, in verse 2, that ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light’. Then in verses 6-7, ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. 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’. There are various New Testament passages which echo these words and the theme of light is very strong throughout John’s Gospel. Once again, the prophet is looking forward to the child who would be born and who would usher in the kingdom of God.

Prayer Point
Pray for Sheila Murray, our church secretary. She not only supports the administrative work of the church but also enables us to have a presence in the Church building, enabling others to use our buildings.

Saturday 15th December
Isaiah 40:3-5
Here we read of someone who would proclaim a message, the voice of someone calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’. Then we must fast forward to Mark 1:1-4: ‘The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way” – 3 “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’”. 4 And so John came, baptising in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’. As we can see, Mark takes the prophecy of Isaiah 40 and says that it was fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist. He was the voice calling in the wilderness, he was the one calling people to repentance, he was the one who prepared the way for the Lord.

Prayer Point
Pray for the church’s Multimedia Team, both in the church and at Raigmore and for all that they do to enhance our worship.

Sunday 16th December
Isaiah 53
When we are thinking about prophecies which foretold the coming of Jesus and explained what he would do, this is the most significant of them all. There was a suffering servant coming who would be despised and rejected and would suffer. He took our infirmities (he became a human being) and was ‘pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities’. That is to say, he would stand in our place and take our punishment. By his wounds we would be healed. This is precisely what happened to Jesus. As the hymnwriter said, ‘In my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood’. We have all gone astray (Isaiah 53:6) and God has laid on Christ all our sin. There is so much more we could pick up in this chapter but all of it refers to Jesus.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Christmas Family service this morning and for the service of Nine Lessons and Carols this evening. Pray too for the Family Service at Raigmore. Pray for the minister who is taking all three services.

Monday 17th December
Isaiah 61:1-2
What was the mission of the messiah. Isaiah lays it out here. Then we must turn to Luke 4:17-21: ‘The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. In this case it is not just a follower of Jesus making the claim about the fulfilment of a prophecy, it is Jesus himself. He is saying that Isaiah was speaking about him.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister as he attends a Council of Assembly meeting in Edinburgh today.

Tuesday 18th December
Hosea 11:1
We’ve just read one verse today, ‘When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son’. At one level, this might seem to speak about how God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt and, under Moses and Joshua, took them to the promised land. On another level, however, Scripture tells us that it refers to Jesus. In Matthew 2, Joseph is warned to flee from Herod who intended to kill Jesus. Then in verses 14-15 we read this: ‘So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son”’. The best way to understand a passage of Scripture is where another passage explains what it means and so it is here. This is yet another prophecy looking forward to the coming of the Son of God.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Minister as he takes a Raigmore School Assembly this morning and give thanks for this ongoing connection with the school.

Wednesday 19th December
Micah 5:1-5
Micah makes a prophecy about someone who was to come, in verse 2: ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times’. This was a prophecy which meant that the messiah would be born in Bethlehem. By the time of Jesus, it was commonly accepted that messiah would be born in Bethlehem, as we see in Matthew 2:5-6 and John 7:42. Indeed, one of the arguments which the Jewish leaders used to deny that Jesus was the messiah was that he had not (as they thought) been born in Bethlehem. The truth, of course, was that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and so this prophecy was fulfilled.

Prayer Point
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.

Thursday 20th December
Zechariah 9:9-13
In this prophecy, the way in which the messianic king would arrive is described: ‘See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’. This was a rather unlikely prophecy. After all, the kings would all have ridden on fine horses. Why would a king come riding on a donkey? The truth is that this king was a humble man. This is what we read in Matthew 21:1-5: ‘As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” 4 This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey’”’. Once again, a prophecy is fulfilled and the day is coming nearer for messiah to come.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Gathering as it meets for Christmas and pray for the children from Raigmore School who are coming to sing.

Friday 21st December
Zechariah 12:10-13
Look at verse 10 of our passage: ‘And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son’. Notice, they are going to mourn for the one they have pierced. If we now go to John 19:33-”, we read this: ‘But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced”’. The authoritative interpretation of the Zechariah passage is given by John. It refers to Jesus who was ‘pierced’ for our transgressions.

Prayer Point
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.

Saturday 22nd December
Malachi 4:1-6
The final prophecy we are to look at is found in Malachi 4:5-6. In these verses, Malachi says that Elijah will come before messiah. In Jesus’ day, this was taken to mean a literal return of the prophet Elijah. In Matthew 16:14, when Jesus asked the disciples who people thought he was, among other answers, they said that some people thought he was Elijah. The same question was put to John the Baptist in John 1:21. Jesus later explained that when Malachi spoke about the Elijah who was to come, this was a reference to John the Baptist. We see that in Matthew 17:10-13: ‘The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist’. Jesus said much the same in Matthew 11:14.

Prayer Point
Pray that all members and adherents of our congregation will take every opportunity at this time to help people understand the real meaning of Christmas and to encourage their family, friends and neighbours to come to a Christmas service.

Sunday 23rd December
Luke 24:13-32
Before we turn to think about the birth of Jesus, we read this story from the time immediately after Jesus’ death. These two disciples were deeply downcast because Jesus was dead. They had thought he might be the one sent by God to bring salvation. Jesus joins them on the journey but they do not recognise him. He asks them why they are so despondent and they explain. Then he says this in verses 26-27: ‘“Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’. We have read that passage to confirm what we have seen over these past few weeks, as we looked at passages from the Old Testament. The Scriptures of the Old Testament are full of prophecies about Jesus. If only we had a copy of what he said to these two disciples!

Prayer Point
Pray or the minister as he takes both services in church today.

Monday 24th December
Luke 1:26-38
On this Christmas Eve we have read the beginning of the story of Jesus. The angel Gabriel has told Mary what is to happen. She will have a son, despite being a virgin and this son will be special. Just how special is described in verse 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’. The time for prophecies is past, the looking forward and waiting for messiah is past. Soon the Saviour of the world will be born. The godly Mary completely accepted her situation and what the angel had said, as we read in verse 38: ‘“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her’. As you look forward to Christmas Day, take some time to reflect on what the birth of Jesus means to a lost world.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Watchnight service in our church and for the many Christmas services across the country. Pray that this evangelistic opportunity would not be missed.

Tuesday 25th December
Luke 2:1-20
Today we turn to the traditional words read at almost every Christmas Day service. Joseph and Mary have been in Bethlehem all day, searching for somewhere to stay. The town is mobbed with people who have all come to register in the census. Mary, about to give birth, is tired and worried until finally a kindly innkeeper lets them sleep in the bottom of the house beside the animals. It is there, in a cold and dirty stable that Jesus is born. Unnoticed amid the business of the town, the most important birth which ever took place. Then the story takes us outside the town of Bethlehem to the nearby hills. In the hills we find some shepherds. For these shepherds it was a night like any other night, staying near the sheep to protect them and watch over them. Then the angels appear! The announcement is made: A Saviour is born, he is Christ the Lord. Praise God for that glorious day and all that it means.

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.

Wednesday 26th December
Luke 2:21-35
The confirmation of the child’s identity is given here by Simeon. He had received a promise from the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the Christ. When Mary and Joseph bring the child into the Temple, it is revealed to him that this is the child he had been waiting for. He then makes this statement in verses 30-32: ‘For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel’. The key word here is ‘salvation’. Simeon had seen the salvation provided by God. The events leading to the completion of that salvation would take another 30 years or so but it had begun. No wonder that Mary and Joseph ‘marvelled’ at what Simeon said.

Prayer Point
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.

Thursday 27th December
Matthew 2:1-12
The net witnesses to the child Jesus were the Magi (or wise men) who had travelled a great distance to visit a new-born king. They asked Herod where the child was born and, having called his advisers, they were told that the king of the Jews was to be born in Bethlehem, based on the passage from Micah 5 which we read on the 19th December. They travelled to Bethlehem, found the child and his parents and were ‘overjoyed’. We’re told that they bowed down and worshipped him. This action demonstrates the conviction that the child was indeed the king of the Jews, the messiah. As we read these stories the evidence is growing and the witnesses speak with one voice. God has done something remarkable.

Prayer Point
Pray for EMMS and for the work they are doing in various parts of the world. Pray for John and Tina Bruce as they lead our efforts to support this work.

Friday 28th December
John 1:1-14
We read the first five verses of this chapter at the beginning of the month but now we read verses 1-14 because the full story is emerging. The Word who is God and who was with God in the beginning, becomes flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. That is clear from verse 14: ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’. These verses also highlight the reason for his coming, as we read in verses 12-13: ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’. Jesus came so that we might become the children of God.

Prayer Point
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.

Saturday 29th December
Mark 1:1-11
We have seen how the angels testified to Jesus’ identity, followed by Simeon and by the Wise Men. Now another witness appears, John the Baptist. His mission was to prepare the way for the Lord by calling people to repentance. He then baptised people as they confessed their sins. He did not speak of himself but instead spoke of the one who was to come, as we see in verses 7-8: ‘After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit’. Then Jesus appears and was baptised by John in the Jordan river. The story ends with another witness to his identity, God himself, who declares: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’. This is the greatest testimony of them all.

Prayer Point
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.

Sunday 30th December
Luke 4:38-44
Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and this led to a large crowd of people gathering at the door, asking for healing. Jesus healed them and cast out evil spirits. Early the next morning he went away by himself to a solitary place. They came to find him, so that he could continue where he had left off the night before. Jesus reply must have shocked them: ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent’. Jesus tells us that his purpose was to preach about the kingdom of God. The healing and the other miracles were only to identify him as the Son of God and to prove his authority. His real purpose was to preach.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister as he takes both services today. Pray too for all those who will preach in churches in Inverness today, asking for God to use their preaching.

Monday 31st December
John 1:35-42
As we saw earlier in the month, the Jews had been waiting for messiah to come for many hundreds of years. In this passage we find Jesus identified as messiah. Two of John the Baptist’s disciples were with him when Jesus passed by. John pointed to Jesus and called him ‘the Lamb of God’. The two disciples left John and followed Jesus. One of them was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. He immediately went and found his brother and said this in verse 41: ‘“We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ)’. The Jews knew that one day messiah would come but imagine the excitement when Andrew realised that they had found him. The disciples would waver in their convictions and would eventually run away when Jesus was arrested but ultimately they never lost sight of Jesus’ true identity as the Christ.

Prayer Point
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.

Tuesday 1st January
Mark 15:25-39
Jesus was not only the messiah as we saw yesterday, he was also the Son of God. As he was being crucified, this became clear to the centurion in charge of the execution. This was a battle-hardened Roman soldier, a tough man but he gave this famous testimony to Jesus, as we see in verse 39: ‘And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”’ As we go through the Scriptures we can add to this testimony and say that he was the ‘eternal’ Son of God. He did not become the Son of God when he was born in Bethlehem, rather he was the Son of God from all eternity. Now he had come to this earth in order to bring salvation.

Prayer Point
Pray for China. There has been an extraordinary growth of the church in that vast country. Pray for all the Christians and ask that they might have freedom and opportunity to preach the Gospel and grow the church. Pray for the many Chinese students in our Colleges and Universities and ask that they might hear the Gospel while they are with us.

Wednesday 2nd January
2 Timothy 1:8-14
As well as being messiah and Son of God, Jesus is also the Saviour of the world. Paul testifies to the salvation which God has given to us as a free gift in verse 9: God ‘has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace’. He then goes on to speak of Jesus as the one through whom this salvation came and describes him as ‘our Saviour, Christ Jesus’. We are well aware in everyday life of stories of people who have been pulled from burning buildings or rescued from certain death by someone who is described as their saviour. When we describe Jesus as ‘saviour’, of course, we are thinking of salvation from sin and death and Hell. Is he your saviour?

Prayer Point
Pray for the Deacons of the congregation, as they manage the finances, the fabric and all the other practical matters, to enable the life of the congregation.

Thursday 3rd January
Mark 6:1-6
We have spoken of Jesus as messiah, Son of God and Saviour but, in these verses, we learn that he is also a prophet. Jesus went on a visit to his home town of Nazareth where he grew up. On the sabbath day he read the Scriptures and expounded them. The people were amazed at his learning and his teaching but they found themselves unable to accept him. Why? Because they had known him as a child, they knew his family and they only knew him as a carpenter. Indeed, they took offence at this carpenter preaching to them. As a result of their lack of faith, Jesus was not able to do many miracles there and he said this: ‘Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honour’. Jesus knew that he was a prophet. A prophet is someone sent by God with a message.

Prayer Point
Pray for Jack MacDonald from our congregation, who is now studying for the ministry in New College, University of Edinburgh. Ask that God would bless his studies.

Friday 4th January
Hebrews 4:14-16
In addition to being a prophet, the Scriptures tell us that he was also a priest. In our passage, he is described as our ‘great high priest’. This is spelled out in later chapters of Hebrews. The Jews always had a high priest and his particular duty was to offer a sacrifice on the Day of Atonement for the all the Jews. To do this he had to go into a ‘holy of holies’ in the temple. He had first to offer a sacrifice for his own sins, then a sacrifice for the people. This sacrifice had to be repeated every year. Jesus, as our great high priest offered one sacrifice, on the Cross and that was sufficient. He did not offer a sacrifice for his own sins, for he had none but the sacrifice he offered once for all is sufficient to achieve the forgiveness of all who will put their faith in him.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Scottish Bible Society and for Elaine Duncan, its Chief Executive. Pray that the distribution of Scriptures would enable many to read and understand God’s Word.

Saturday 5th January
John 1:29-34
Jesus was not only the great high priest who offered a sacrifice for sins, he was himself the sacrificial lamb. In our passage, John the Baptist cries out, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ At the Exodus, Moses told the people of God to take a lamb and kill it, then to spread its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. If they did that, then when God brought judgement upon the firstborn of every house in Egypt, they would be spared. The Israelites sheltered under the blood of the lamb and were saved. In the same way, we shelter under the blood of Christ and so find forgiveness.

Prayer Point
Pray for the office bearers of the congregation: Donald MacVicar (Session Clerk), George Campbell (Deputy Session Clerk), Marlene MacRae (Clerk to the Deacons’ Court), Duncan Fraser (Treasurer) and Calum Campbell (Fabric Convener).

Sunday 6th January
Matthew 27:35-43
We have seen that Jesus was prophet and priest but he was also king. When they crucified him, they mocked him by placing a sign over his head which said, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’. Those who did this did not believe for one moment that Jesus was a king. This was a huge joke and they took pleasure in laughing at him. The truth, of course, is that Jesus is king. One of Jesus’ earliest disciples understood this, as we read in John 1:49: ‘Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel”’. In John 18:33-37, Herod challenges Jesus as to whether or not he was a king. This was Jesus’ reply: ‘Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth”’.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister leading both services today and for Iain Macdonald taking the Raigmore service.

Monday 7th January
1 Corinthians 15:42-49
Another way of explaining the identity of Jesus is found in today’s passage. These verses draw a parallel between Adam and Christ and Christ is described as the ‘last Adam’. The point being made here (and it is also made in Romans 5:12-21) is that through the actions of the first Adam, sin and death entered the world, whereas through the actions of the second (or last) Adam, salvation and forgiveness have come into the world. All human beings are born as sinners because the sin of Adam has been ‘imputed’ (or reckoned) to us. In the same way, if we have faith in Christ, his righteousness is ‘imputed’ to us. This means that if we are ‘in Adam’ we shall die but if we are ‘in Christ’ we shall be made alive.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister as he attends a Council of Assembly meeting in Edinburgh today.

Tuesday 8th January
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Another description of Jesus is found in today’s passage, he is a ‘mediator’. In order for there to be reconciliation between God and human beings, we needed someone to mediate between ourselves and God. The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is the mediator who brought about reconciliation. We see that in verse 5 of our passage: ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…’ What is a mediator? It is someone who is able to bring together two parties who are estranged. A good mediator will be able to represent both parties and identify with both parties. Jesus was able to do this because he is both God and Man and therefore, he was uniquely placed to be Mediator. Jesus exercises his role as Mediator by means of a new covenant, a covenant sealed by his blood. We see that in Hebrews 8:6-13. As Mediator, Jesus brought reconciliation between human beings and God and he is the only one who can restore our relationship with God. That is why Jesus said this in John 14:6: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’.

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

Wednesday 9th January
1 Peter 1:17-21
As well as being mediator, Jesus is also our redeemer. Redemption is a theme that we find throughout the Scriptures. It has the sense of being delivered from slavery, or captivity or some other kind of bondage. Moses used the word ‘redemption’ to describe what God did for his chosen people by delivering them from slavery in Egypt (see Deuteronomy 7:8; 15:15). In Paul’s day, the word ‘redeemed’ had all the connotations of the slave market and the idea of a slave being bought out of slavery (or redeemed) into freedom. In the New Testament, the price which God has paid for our redemption is spelled out. Peter explains the meaning of this in verses 18-19 of our passage: ‘For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect’. Do you see what Peter is saying? He is making the point that Christ is the Redeemer and he redeemed us by the shedding of his blood.

Prayer Point
Pray for all the Fellowship Groups, remembering those who lead the meetings and those who host the meetings. Pray that God would use these informal times of study and fellowship to nurture many.

Thursday 10th January
Matthew 16:13-20
During the time that the disciples spent with Jesus he taught them a great deal but it was only when God opened their hearts and minds to understand that they really grasped the truth. We have an example of this here. They were in Caesarea Philippi and Jesus opened up a conversation about his identity. He wanted to know what people were saying about him and who people thought he was. Peter summed up the various ideas which he’d heard but then Jesus puts him on the spot. What do you think? At this point gives his famous answer, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. Jesus commends Peter and says, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’. There is an important lesson here: we can only know the true identity of Jesus when God reveals it to us.

Prayer Point
Pray for Scripture Union Scotland and for Andy Bathgate, its chief executive. Pray that God would bless the work in schools, assist those who write and distribute the Bible reading notes, and help the planning for the Easter camps.

Friday 11th January
Acts 4:1-13
Peter and John had, in the name of Christ, healed the man begging outside the gate of the temple. This caused an uproar and they were brought before the Jewish leaders. Peter boldly declares the truth about Jesus, as we see in verse 12: ‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’. Earlier in this Easterly, we have seen how various people gave testimony to Jesus: prophets, angels, even God himself. Now the testimony is being given by the disciples Jesus chose. The message of Peter is simple: we all need to be saved because we are lost sinners and there is only one way to be saved, which is through Jesus Christ. Have you been saved?

Prayer Point
Pray for the Christian church in Malaysia. Remember particularly the Rev Teck Wah Low, a graduate of HTC, working in Kuala Lumpur.

Saturday 12th January
Acts 9:1-8
One of the key events in the history of salvation is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. This man was to become the greatest evangelist in the early period of the church and the author of thirteen books of the New Testament. The story is well-known. Saul had been present when Stephen was martyred and approved of his death. He was now travelling great distances to persecute Christians. On one of these journeys, on the road to Damascus, he is confronted by Jesus. As a result, he is converted, becomes Paul and is called into the service of the Lord who confronted him. Not everyone will have a dramatic ‘Damascus road experience’ but all of us, like Paul, must come to the place where we give our lives totally into the service of the Lord.

Prayer Point
Pray for our former probationers and their families: Ross Macaskill, Scott McRoberts and Dougie Wolf.

Sunday 13th January
John 16:1-15
Towards the end of his life, Jesus made it clear to the disciples that he was going to be betrayed, arrested and killed. He also told them that he would rise again from the dead. They did not fully understand all this at the time but they were very concerned about a future without him. In today’s passage, Jesus reassures them that he would not leave them alone. He promised to send the Holy Spirit and describes what the Spirit would do: ‘he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you’. The history of salvation is about to enter a new phase, with Jesus returning to heaven and sending the Holy Spirit.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister as he takes morning and evening services today, for Alex Stephen as he takes the Raigmore service and for the Rev… as he takes the Gaelic service.

Monday 14th January
Acts 2:1-21
We saw yesterday the promise of Jesus to his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit. Today we see that promise fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus has ascended to the Father and now he sends the Holy Spirit. This was a dramatic and supernatural event, with tongues of flame and the disciples speaking in languages they had never learned. Everyone who was present heard the good news about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Peter explains what had happened and, following his sermon, 3,000 people believed and were baptised. From this point on, the believers were dependent upon the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would guide them, empower them for service, challenge and rebuke them and would open the hearts and minds of unbelievers to see and believe in Jesus. We today are also dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Highland Theological College and for all the staff and students. Pray for the new extension campus in Paisley and remember also those who serve on the Board.

Tuesday 15th January
Romans 1:1-17
Jesus has died, he has been raised from the dead and has ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit has come down in power upon the church. Now the task is to go into all the world with the message of the Gospel. In verses 16-17 of this passage Paul speaks about the Gospel: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith”’. Notice that. The Gospel is not just a message or a story, it is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe. Sometimes we forget about God’s power and imagine that conversions come through our witness. The truth is that God uses our witness but it is ultimately his power at work in the Gospel which saves sinners.

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.

Wednesday 16th January
Romans 3:21-31
We saw yesterday in our passage that righteousness comes by faith. After writing that, Paul spends two chapters explaining that we cannot obtain righteousness either by obeying God’s law, or by following conscience. Now in today’s passage Paul explains in detail the way of salvation. In order to be right with God (or ‘righteous’) we must have faith. Faith is the only way to obtain the righteousness which will enable us to stand before God on the day of judgement. The word righteous’ and the word ‘justification’ come from the same root. Paul is saying that we are justified by faith. Elsewhere in Scripture this is spelled out. As sinners, when we come to faith in Jesus, he takes our sin and gives us his righteousness. Now clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we can stand before God, ransomed, healed, restored and forgiven.

Prayer Point
Pray for all the young people who, as children, had a connection with our church, through Sunday School, the Ark, Girls’ Brigade or Holiday Club. Pray that they would come to know Christ personally.

Thursday 17th January
Romans 5:1-11
Having seen yesterday that justification is by faith, we now see some of the consequences of that justification. The first consequence of justification is peace with God. As Paul says in the first verse of our passage: ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The second consequence of justification is access to God. As we read in verse 2, ‘Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ The third consequence of justification is rejoicing. It is our access to God which leads to this rejoicing. Paul speaks of how we rejoice in our hope of the glory of God. The fourth consequence of justification is an experience of the love of God. As Paul says in verse 8, ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Our passage concludes with a fifth consequence of justification, namely by assuring us of God’s power to save. Paul tells us that what God has started, he will finish.

Prayer Point
Pray for the new Youth Group being led by Sheila Murray and ask that God would put it into the hearts of more young people to attend.

Friday 18th January
Romans 5:12-21
When we looked at 1 Corinthians 15 and the ‘last Adam’, I mentioned this passage. This, for me, is not only one of the most important sections of the Epistle to the Romans, but one of the most crucial passages in the whole Bible. Here is a passage which helps us to understand the Christian Faith, and helps us to see how everything fits together. I would not be exaggerating if I said that this passage is the centre around which my whole theology revolves. Here we see that every human being is either ‘in Adam’ or ‘in Christ’. If we are ‘in Christ’ then we obtain all the benefits which his death brings. This passage helps us to understand why we are born as sinners and why we are fallen creatures. If we understand what Paul is saying here, we shall understand the gospel better, and we shall understand our own condition better.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and for all the Christian Unions which they support, especially the one here in UHI. Pray that many young people might come to Christ during their student years through the witness of the CU.

Saturday 19th January
Romans 6:1-14
This chapter begins in response to an imaginary objector who, having read 5:20, responds by saying: ‘If God’s grace so abounds when we sin, then why not sin and let it so abound?’ In other words, if God is going to forgive all of our sins because we have been justified by faith, why shouldn’t we just carry on sinning? Paul declares the foolishness of such thinking. He explains in verses 3-4, that we have died to sin and been made alive in Christ and so we now live a new life. This is very important because it underlines the fact that God does not simply forgive us, he also changes us. If he simply wiped away our sins but left us in our fallen, sinful condition, then very soon we would be in as bad a condition as before. In fact, however, he enables us to die to one way of life and rise to another.

Prayer Point
This is the week of prayer for Christian unity. Pray that the various denominations would work together and pray together.

Sunday 20th January
Colossians 1:15-23
The key to understanding the history of salvation is to be sure that we understand who Jesus is. Paul tells us in verse 15 that Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God’. This reminds us of Genesis 1:27: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’. Sadly, that image of God in human beings was damaged by the Fall. In Jesus, however, the image is complete and undamaged. Second, to say that Jesus is the image of God means that Jesus is himself God. That is to say, he is the second person of the Trinity and as such, is the living embodiment of God himself. He does not simply bear the image of God, as Adam and Eve did in the beginning, he is the image of God in the sense that he is God. This point is made even more forcibly in verse 19, when Paul says this, ‘For God was pleased to have all his fulness dwell in him’. As Jesus said, ‘if you have seen me you have seen the Father’. Those who looked at Jesus were looking at 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.

Monday 21st January
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Paul says, ‘I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.’ There were many things about which Paul could have spoken, there were many themes he could have addressed and there were many issues he could have raised. Instead he focussed on that which is most important. Paul understood that all the knowledge in the world would not save a single human being. He understood that only through that man on the Cross, can forgiveness and eternal life be obtained. Paul refused to try and win them for Christ with clever arguments or human wisdom. Instead, he depended upon the Spirit’s power. In the same way, we must focus on the message of the cross and pray for the Holy Spirit to use that message to save souls.

Prayer Point
Pray for Christian publishers and bookshops who are finding it more and more difficult to survive at a time when people seem to be reading less. Pray that Christians will realise the importance of good Christian books.

Tuesday 22nd January
Ephesians 2:1-10
This passage divides nicely into three parts. First, it describes the natural human condition. Second, it describes the new condition of the believer. Then third, it highlights the reason for the change. We could put it another way by saying that the first subject is sin and death, the second subject is salvation and the third subject is grace. Notice that in the fist few verses Paul deals with the condition of unbelievers: they are spiritually dead because of sin. Then he shows that believers have been ‘made alive with Christ’. Finally, he demonstrates that this salvation is by grace (verses 5 and 8). The whole Gospel is here in these few verses.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister’s last assembly at Raigmore School this morning. Pray that we might find ways of continuing our involvement in the school until a new minister comes.

Wednesday 23rd January
Ephesians 3:14-21
This passage is Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians. Notice the way in which Paul begins here. He says that he ‘kneels’ before the Father. When we draw near to God we should come with reverence and with awe, since we are coming into the presence of a holy God, the Creator of all things. It is very difficult to get the balance between reverence, dignity and joy in our worship but this should be our aim. In verses 16-19 Paul prays for the Ephesians. Notice the things Paul prayed for. He does not pray for health or material blessing or advancement. Instead he concentrates on spiritual life and growth. Do we pray like this for our families and friends, colleagues and neighbours? Spiritual blessings are so much more important than anything else. This demonstrates the things that Paul felt were most important.

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.

Thursday 24th January
Philippians 2:5-11
The attitude which Paul commended to the Christian was first seen in Christ, and so, in verses 5-11, we are led into this tremendous hymn in praise of Jesus. Paul is saying that if we want to know how to behave towards one another, we should be like Christ. What a passage this is! We have the doctrine of the incarnation; the doctrine of the humanity of Christ; the doctrine of the two natures of Christ; the doctrine of the atonement; the doctrine of the ascension and exaltation and so on… There are many ways in which we could draw the truth out of this passage but one of the most helpful is the way in which one of the commentators, Dr Mounce, compares Adam and Christ. He writes, ‘Unlike the first Adam, who made a frantic attempt to seize equality with God (Genesis 3:5), Jesus, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47), humbled himself and obediently accepted the role of the Suffering Servant.’

Prayer Point
Pray for Richard and Barbara Davies, working in Marseilles among the people from the Comoro Islands.

Friday 25th January
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
In these verses we are given a picture of a young church which has become a centre for evangelism, despite the fact that Paul had to leave after only three weeks and before, in his eyes, they were properly established. It is clear however, that although Paul had been forced to leave, God had not left and was working among them by his Spirit. As Paul says, ‘Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction’. He speaks in glowing terms about their faith, their love and their hope. It is also clear that their witness was sustained and effective: ‘you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Here is a model for every church.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Kirk Session meeting tonight and for the Communion Preparatory service. Pray that some might come to the Table.

Saturday 26th January
John 3:1-21
In order to understand salvation, there are two verses here which are critical. First, Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in verse 3: ‘I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again’. Then verse 16: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. We are all sinners but God, because of his great love for us, sent his Son into the world so that we might believe in him and receive the gift of eternal life. When we believe in him, we are brought to life through a miraculous work of his Spirit, called the new birth. The love of God in sending his Son and the new birth. If we understand these two things, we are well on the way to a proper understanding of salvation.

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 27th January
1 John 3:1-10
In this passage we are reminded of the great truth that Christians are the children of God. The Bible teaches us that adoption is the climax of the process whereby God changes an unbeliever into a believer, a lost sinner into a Christian. Much is same teaching is given by the apostle Paul in Romans 8:12-17. Notice especially verse 14, which teaches that only those who have the Spirit of God in them are children of God in this biblical sense. If we ask the question ‘How can we become the children of God?’ the answer is found in John’s Gospel: ‘to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. Here is the great call of the gospel, believe and you shall be saved, and you shall be adopted into the family of God.

Prayer Point
Pray for the communion services in the church and at Raigmore today and for the Thanksgiving service in the evening. Pray for the minister as he preaches at all three services on this, his last Sunday as minister.

Monday 28th January
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
We began these readings in the history of salvation by going back to the beginning, to God’s electing love before creation. Now, as we come towards the end, we are thinking about the end times. The main point to make about the end times is the assurance that we will be with the Lord for ever (verse 17). In Genesis 2, our first parents lived in unbroken fellowship with God. The separation from God was caused by sin. This sin led to banishment from the Garden and thus from the presence of God. In due course, God acted to restore fellowship by sending his Son to die in our place. As a result, all those who have been justified through faith in Christ, will be in the presence of God forever. The unbroken fellowship between God and humanity will be restored, as we read in Revelation 21:3: ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’.

Prayer Point
Pray for Hugh Watt, the Interim Moderator for our church and pray that the Lord would bless his ministry as he supports our congregation through vacancy.

Tuesday 29th January
John 20:19-31
The resurrection of Jesus remains a critical event, without which there would be no Christianity. It is not possible to speak about salvation without emphasising this. In this passage, Jesus appears to his disciples, showing them his wounded hands and side, the marks of his crucifixion. He then commissions them for service, grants them the gift of the Holy Spirit and the authority to declare the forgiveness of sins. Thomas was not with the other disciples on Easter Sunday evening and when they told him what had happened, he would not believe it. A week later the disciples were again in the same house and this time Thomas was with them. Jesus came into the room and confronted him, challenging him to ‘stop doubting and believe.’ John also tells us here why he wrote his Gospel: that we might believe and that we might have life (verse 31). This is a good message for all of us. God wants us to believe in Christ and, if we do, we receive life.

Prayer Point
Pray for the Word at One service today and for the fellowship lunch afterwards.

Wednesday 30th January
1 Peter 1:1-5
We spoke yesterday about the resurrection and its significance. One major effect of the resurrection is that we have a promised eternal inheritance. That is what Peter says here in verses 3-5. He tells us that God ‘has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time’. Do you see the point? We have an inheritance, which we shall receive at the last day. Meanwhile God has secured that inheritance so that it cannot be lost. No matter what we endure now, a great day is coming which will bring eternal blessings in the presence of God.

Prayer Point
Pray for the minister on this his retiral day! Ask that God would use him in his new part-time work with the Rutherford Centre for Reformed Theology.

Thursday 31st January
Revelation 21:1-4
John here sets out a magnificent vision of the final state of things. The holy city, the New Jerusalem represents the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’. This teaching is found elsewhere in Scripture (Isaiah 65:17-19; Isaiah 66:22 and 2 Peter 3:10-13). Note the comparison between the first few chapters of Genesis and the last few chapters of Revelation. In Genesis we have a description of how God created heaven and earth. In Revelation we are told of the new heaven and earth. In Genesis, paradise is lost. In Revelation, paradise is restored. In verses 3-4 we are painted a wonderful picture: ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Notice here the closeness of the relationship between God and his redeemed people. On that coming day, our relationship with God will be permanently restored. May God bless us as we look forward to that day.

Prayer Point
Pray for Andrew and June as they move house today and give thanks for the way in which June has quietly but solidly supported Andrew through his ten years as minister in Inverness East.