This month, we continue our readings in John’s Gospel.
Monday 1st January
In this passage is to be found one of the most important verses for the Christian doctrines of salvation and assurance. Jesus says, ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand’ (verse 28). This means quite simply that once a person has become a Christian, nothing in all the world can change that. It is not possible to be a real Christian and then later to abandon the faith.
Give thanks for a New Year in which to serve God. Pray that we will be useful in God’s service during 2018.
Tuesday 2nd January
These verses show something of Christ’s knowledge and power. He obviously knew that Lazarus was going to die and also that he was going to be raised from the dead. The disciples, on the other hand, were confused. One of Jesus’ closest friends was very ill and yet he waited two days before going to Him! Perhaps we can learn from this that God’s timetable is always better than our own.
Let us confess our sins before God today, asking for forgiveness and inner spiritual renewal. Pray for the grace of repentance.
Wednesday 3rd January
I have always been astonished at the faith of Martha in this passage. She was utterly convinced that if Jesus had been present when Lazarus was ill then he would not have died. She was also prepared to believe that he could be raised from the dead (verse 22). Later Mary shows the same faith (verse 32). In response to this faith, Jesus makes a statement which gives us hope that men and women of similar faith have eternal life (verses 25-26).
Pray today for the work of Scripture Union, in schools and camps and elsewhere. Pray too for the Bible Reading notes which SU prepare.
Thursday 4th January
The raising of Lazarus from the dead. This was different from the resurrection of Jesus, of course, because Lazarus died again later. It was, however, a forceful testimony to the power of Jesus over death. This event more than any other in the Gospels stirred up the opposition. Caiaphas, who wanted Jesus killed, made a prophesy without realising it (verse 50). Indeed, Jesus did die so that others might not perish.
Pray for Iain Macdonald, our Sunday School leader and all the teachers. Pray for Sheila Murray and those who help with the Ark.
Friday 5th January
In this passage we see two things. First, the self-sacrificial love and devotion of Mary for her Lord, as contrasted with the greed of Judas, the thief and traitor. Second, we see the continuing effect that the resurrection of Lazarus was having on the people. We read, ‘for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him’ (verse 11).
Pray for Susan Mackenzie and our Girls’ Brigade officers and leaders. Pray for Jennifer Morrison and Sheena Fraser as they transition into leadership.
Saturday 6th January
In Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Scripture was fulfilled, although the disciples didn’t realise it until later. One of the astonishing truths of Christianity is that the prophesies in the Old Testament about the messiah were perfectly fulfilled in Jesus. This is strong evidence. It was clear to many that Jesus was messiah and the Pharisees became worried. They said, ‘look how the whole world has gone after him!’ Christ was (and is) the answer for those who are seeking.
Pray for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship and for the Christian Unions. Pray for the UHI Christian Union.
Sunday 7th January
When these Greeks came to Jesus it seemed to be a sign to him that his death was soon to take place, and he recognises that his death was the very purpose for which he had been born (verse 27). He tells his disciples what their duty is: to hate their lives and seek eternal life and also to follow Jesus. Read verse 25 and spend some time thinking about what it means for your life.
Pray for the services in church and at Raigmore today.
Monday 8th January
Despite everything we have seen in this Gospel so far, the Jews, by and large, still refused to believe. John explains that God had blinded their minds and hardened their hearts. They had passed the point of no return. God will not always offer men and women the gift of faith and salvation. Be careful that by putting off the day of decision you do not pass the point of no return.
Pray for the mission and outreach of the congregation in this year that is opening up before us. Pray that we might find innovative ways of sharing Christ.
Tuesday 9th January
In verse 1 of chapter 13 we read these words, ‘Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love’. John then goes on to describe the washing of the disciples’ feet. This was normally a task for the lowest of servants but yet it was here performed by the Master. Once again Jesus upsets the normal pattern of the world telling his disciples (and showing them) that they must serve each other. Do we serve one another?
Pray for the Crieff Ministers’ Conference which begins today. Pray for Liam Goligher, the main speaker.
Wednesday 10th January
This passage tells of Judas and his betrayal. We should take particular note of verse 18: ‘I know those I have chosen’. In some mysterious way, even the betrayal of Judas was part of God’s sovereign plan. This is a doctrine which we can see clearly throughout the Scriptures but has been denied by many. There is no doubt that the Bible presents a God who is in control of everything and everyone. Praise him that this is so.
Pray for those Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. Pray for organisations which work to support our brothers and sisters in Christ and who highlight their situations.
Thursday 11th January
Notice three points in this passage: first, Jesus spoke of his impending death as his being ‘glorified’, not a matter for sadness but for joy. Second, the disciples were to be recognised in the world by the love they had for one another: a lesson for the Church today! Third, Peter was quite confident that he would never let Jesus down but he did. We must never become too self-confident, trusting in our own strength but only in the strength of God.
Pray for the worship of our church, asking that we might worship with joy and do so in spirit and in truth.
Friday 12th January
Jesus promises his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them and that he will return and take them to that place. This promise of an eternal home is for every believer today also. Yet we must take seriously what we read in verse 16: ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’. This means quite simply that there is no way to God and to heaven other than Jesus Christ.
Pray for the work of WEC and for all the missionaries that are serving with them on the mission field. May they see fruit for their labours.
Saturday 13th January
In this passage and several other passages in this part of the Gospel, we find the Holy Spirit described as the ‘Counsellor’. In verse 17 he is also called the ‘Spirit of truth’. These names tell us something of his work. Verse 17 also tells us that the world cannot recognise him but we can because he lives in us. Spend some time thinking about what the Spirit is doing in your life.
Pray for the homeless, the refugees and all who face an uncertain future. Pray that all the churches might reach out in compassion and serve Christ by serving those in need.
Sunday 14th January
The illustration used by Jesus here is of the vine and the branches. This means that we are branches and cannot live unless we remain in the vine (Jesus). This is similar to what Paul says about us being the Body of Christ. What it amounts to is that we can do nothing without Christ. The promise given is that if we remain in Christ we will bear fruit, the fruit of the Spirit. Are we living in Christ drawing life from him?
Pray for the services in church today, including the Gaelic service. Pray too for the service at Raigmore.
Monday 15th January
John 15:18 – 16:4
Jesus warns his disciples that they will be hated and rejected by the world ‘without reason’ (verse 25) but that the Holy Spirit will enable them to testify faithfully through it all. This kind of passage always seems so far from our own experience in a society where Christianity is accepted but yet, if we faithfully stand for Christian principles in daily life, business etc., we will be treated badly. The message is ‘no compromise’, stand firm in the cause of Christ whatever happens.
Pray for TEAR Fund and for the many areas of the world in which it is involved. Pray for the partner churches and organisations with whom it works.
Tuesday 16th January
Having looked in an earlier reading at the Spirit’s work, we now come to a more detailed statement of what he does. There are three particular points: first, he will convict people of sin and guilt; second, he will guide us in the way of truth; and third, he will bring glory to Christ. This last is the most important. The work of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ and not to himself. Where there is a lot of talk about the Spirit and little about Christ then people have gone wrong.
Pray that God would stir the hearts of all Christians to engage in personal evangelism by sharing their faith with family, friends and neighbours, with colleagues and others.
Wednesday 17th January
At this stage the disciples began to be concerned by Jesus’ words about going away and leaving them, although they were obviously reluctant to ask him to explain. He tells them that they would grieve and mourn but that later this would be changed to joy. This, of course, is precisely what happened. When Jesus was crucified, the disciples were devastated but just three days later they were rejoicing in his triumph over death. These words of his were designed to encourage the disciples, especially the last few words, ‘take heart, I have overcome the world’.
Pray for the tracts that are given out at Open Doors and on the streets. Pray that they would be read and that some would be converted.
Thursday 18th January
Today we begin what has been called the ‘High Priestly prayer of Jesus’ and we read just a few verses. In this first part of the prayer, Jesus prays for himself, asking that God will glorify him. Perhaps the most interesting part of this prayer is the definition of eternal life in verse 3: ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’. Do we have this eternal life?
Pray for the many families who are struggling in our city: those with financial problems, struggling to make ends meet, those who are having relationship difficulties and those who are unemployed.
Friday 19th January
In the second section of the prayer, Jesus prays for his disciples. He tells how he has protected and cared for them and entrusts them to his father. He is clear that believers do not belong to the world. This is an important truth, think about it. Note also verse 17 which tells us that sanctification (holiness) comes through the ‘word’ which is truth. What does this mean for our understanding of Scripture?
Pray for the Elders and Deacons of the congregation. Give thanks for their willingness to serve and pray that God would uphold and guide them.
Saturday 20th January
The last part of the prayer is for all believers, including those not yet born when Jesus was praying. In other words, this is a prayer of Jesus for us! Isn’t that encouraging? It is also a prayer for unity. This is vital in a day of such division, schism and separation. At the same time, we do not compromise the truth of God in order to achieve some kind of unity. Truth is as important as unity. There are some people and some organisations who would compromise every doctrine of the faith in order to get ‘unity’, but that is no use. We must seek unity among Christians but the basis of our unity must be the living God as revealed in his Word.
Pray for the Africa Inland Mission and for other mission agencies working on that continent. Pray for those missionaries in Nigeria who face challenging conditions and the danger of attack.
Sunday 21st January
We now move into the events surrounding the death of Jesus. Here we read of the betrayal and arrest of the Lord. Note the position of Judas and compare with chapter 17, verse 12. Here we see also the Peter who had a fierce temper and always jumped in with both feet! He was soon to change. Above all, we see Jesus quelling Peter’s violence and simply accepting that this was God’s way (verse 11). All through the Gospel we have seen the Lord following his father’s timetable, and he knew that the end was near.
Pray for the services in church today and at Raigmore.
Monday 22nd January
Jesus was arrested and taken to Annas, followed closely by Peter and another disciple, perhaps John, the writer of this Gospel. Here the brave and violent Peter begins to shrink away. When asked about his association with Jesus he denied it outright, as Jesus had prophesied. I wonder how many of us have denied Jesus in our own way by refusing to take a stand. How many times have we stood by while something wrong was taking place and said nothing? How often have we neglected to tell someone about Christ when we ought to have done?
Pray for Andrew and June McGowan as they go away for a few days to the Church of Scotland pre-retirement conference.
Tuesday 23rd January
It would seem that this first trial took place before Annas, despite the slightly confusing introduction in verse 19. At this first interview, Jesus demands to know what he has said or done that is wrong and is struck. This was a mockery of a trial, as indeed was the whole thing from beginning to end. The passage for today ends with the second and third denial of Peter. He was later to learn that in his own strength he was weak and useless but in the power of the Spirit he could stand firm.
Pray for the girls in the Girls’ Brigade. Pray that each one of them would learn about Jesus and go on to follow him. Pray that God would protect and care for each one.
Wednesday 24th January
Having been before Annas and Caiaphas, Jesus is now led before Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate is portrayed here as being unwilling to become involved and trying to find a way to release Jesus, but the Jews were not to be put off. Even when Pilate offers them Jesus as the prisoner to be released under amnesty at the Passover, they refuse and instead demand a rebellious criminal be released instead. There is no justice to be seen here and it is already clear that Jesus is to die. If it were not for the fact that God intended such things to happen, then this would be pure tragedy.
Pray for the Shack and ask that God might use it to help the people in the Raigmore estate.
Thursday 25th January
Having said yesterday that God intended that Jesus be crucified, we find Jesus himself spelling out this message (verse 11). Pilate had no wish to be a party to the death of Jesus but he was a weak and spineless man who was bullied into submission. The final straw was when the Jews told him that to free Jesus would be an offence against Caesar. Meanwhile the crowd were shouting ‘crucify him’, ‘crucify him’. Isn’t it astonishing that the crowd turned so quickly against him?
Pray for the Highland Hospice, giving thanks for the wonderful care they provide to so many.
Friday 26th January
And so to the place of crucifixion. Pilate had one final act: he placed the sign ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ above the cross. The Jews were angry and wanted it changed but for once he stood his ground. Notice in verses 23-24, the fulfilment of Scripture. Every part of the Old Testament which speaks of the messiah was fulfilled in Jesus. Finally here, see the very practical and caring love of Christ: at the very time of his worst pain and suffering he made provision for the welfare of his mother.
Pray for the Highland Theological College and for all the staff and students. Pray for Dr Alistair Wilson as he leaves HTC to teach in the Edinburgh Theological Seminary and pray for Dr David Kirk as he takes Alistair’s place at HTC.
Saturday 27th January
These verses serve to underline what was said yesterday about the fulfilment of Scripture. Look at the detailed prophesies mentioned in verses 28-29, 36-37, all of which came true. We do not believe the Bible because of evidence like this, rather we believe it because the Holy Spirit testifies to our hearts that it is the Word of God but yet such fulfilment of prophesy should increase our confidence in the inspiration and authority of the Bible in a day when many question these matters.
Give thanks today for the goodness of God and for his gracious providence.
Sunday 28th January
Jesus was dead and for many the story was over. Then suddenly there began another chapter. Jesus was not in the tomb when the women went early on the first day of the week and this was confirmed by the disciples. Then he appeared to Mary Magdalene. When she rushed to the disciples with the words ‘I have seen the Lord’, Jesus’ promise that their mourning would be changed to joy (16:17-24) began to come true.
Pray for the Far East Broadcasting Association, especially their radio ministry, which is able to reach people with the Gospel, even when their countries are closed.
Monday 29th January
Jesus appears to the disciples and promises them the Holy Spirit, but Thomas was not there and would not believe. A week later, Jesus came again and gently scolded Thomas for his lack of faith. The words which follow are for us today: ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (verse 29). The passage finishes by telling us why John wrote his Gospel: ‘these are written that you may believe… and that… you may have life’ (verse 31). Do we believe in Jesus, and do we know the life that John is speaking of?
Pray for the many congregations in the Church of Scotland who do not have a Minister at present. We have been asked to pray particularly for Ullapool and for Sandyford in Glasgow.
Tuesday 30th January
Another appearance of the risen Lord to his disciples and the famous story of how he told the men who had caught no fish to throw the nets over the other side and how they caught 153 large fish. This may not seem a lot of fish in the light of what a purser might catch today (!) but to those men in their little boat it was a great morning’s work. The morning was made even more complete when they realised it was Jesus. He even made their breakfast!
Pray for the Word at One service today.
Wednesday 31st January
Three times Peter denied that he knew Jesus, and here he affirms his love three times to the risen Saviour. Peter, the wild, reckless and unpredictable one was about to become a tower of strength to the Church. The last words of the Gospel make it clear that John’s record only begins to scratch the surface. Much more could have been said. Nevertheless, it must be hoped that this brief look at John’s Gospel has helped us to see the important themes of the faith: salvation, new birth, eternal life and so on. More importantly, let us pray that someone who was unaware of these things may have come through to a living faith in the living Lord.
Pray that we might take every opportunity to witness to Christ, whether by word or by action. Pray that God would enable us to live such good lives that men and women may want to know our God.