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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh


Sunday services in the Kirk
are suspended until January 2021

Bible Reading Notes


These notes were compiled by the Reverend Dr James A P Jack. You will find reading the Bible rewarding and encouraging, but reading the Bible is not always easy!

These guidelines may help you.











November 2020

The Church Leader


November 1      1 Timothy 3:1–7

A church leader must be without fault.
Since it is the work to be done that is important, it is essential that the person be fit for that work. Every tradesman knows that the work cannot be done without the proper tools. Equally, the work of Christ cannot be done without the proper leaders – and the first qualification is that he/she must be without fault.

November 2      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must have only one wife.
A church leader must be without fault, and this must start at the very centre of his home life. It is easy to say that this phrase comes from a time when polygamy was rife. This phrase goes deeper than that. A church leader’s life must even be above suspicion.

November 3      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must be sober, self-controlled and orderly.
A church leader’s personal life must be self-disciplined. How can a man exercise control within the Church if he cannot do it in his own life? There is no distinction between the private and public life of a church leader. Others might be excellent surgeons or bus drivers even though their public lives are in a mess. Such double standards are not possible in Christian leadership.

November 4      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must welcome strangers to his home.
This does not necessarily mean that every Christian home ought to be a free guest house! There are circumstances where that would not be wise. A church leader ought to present a kind of ‘openness’ to the community in which they live.

November 5      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must be able to teach.
This follows the Great Commission of Matthew 28:20 – ‘teach them to obey everything I have commanded you’. Within the Christian fellowship there will inevitably be some more ably gifted to teach others, but every church leader ought to be able to teach in some degree. This requires not only the ability to teach, but also a thorough knowledge of what is to be taught.

November 6      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must not be a drunkard or a violent man, but gentle and peaceful.
This might seem a duplication of ‘sober, self-controlled and orderly’. It is possible for a man to be self-controlled in his own emotional life, yet reveal a cold ruthlessness in his business life. Very often what a man is when with intimate friends can be quite different from what he is in the more competitive world of business or sport.

November 7      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must not love money.
Money is essential at every level of our lives – in the home and in the Church. Money, in itself, is not evil, but so often we come to love money and desire to have more of it. When this happens our judgement is affected. Decisions are then made which are influenced by the possibility of monetary gain. We can even reach the stage where we honour someone according to their wealth. A church leader must be above this.

November 8      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must be able to manage his own family.
Many church leaders fail to exercise their leadership where it must begin – in their own homes. Their children grow up without any spiritual guidance or help whatever. They are either bullied into going to church or they are left to come or go just as they please.

November 9      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He must be mature in the faith.
Unless our faith matures then we are in danger. Spiritual leadership exposes a person to many different temptations and anxieties. Faith must be such that it is unshaken by such troubles.

November 10      1 Timothy 3:1–7

He should be a man who is respected by the people outside the Church.
Incalculable harm has been done to the Church by those whose behaviour inside the Church does not square with their behaviour outside. A leader does great harm to the Church if outsiders find him a harsh boss, a poor workman, a rowdy neighbour, a bad loser on the golf course, a reckless driver.

November 11      1 Timothy 3:8–13

Helpers in the Church are expected to be of good character. Paul’s letters are an amazing mixture of theology on one hand and mixed with good practical advice on the other. Both are required, as advice that is not grounded in God is worthless and theology spoken with no action is useless.

November 12      1 Timothy 3:14–4:5

The Gnostics (from the Greek meaning ‘knowledge’) held a belief that Jesus was only a spiritual being and therefore the world and all that it contained was to be rejected as we waited to join God in an afterlife on a spiritual level. Such a belief led to thinking that to engage in this world was wrong. Paul rejects Gnostic teaching and reminds Timothy that it is not wrong to marry or eat food created by God. (Having flowers in church was the way to show that it was not a Gnostic service, as Gnostics believed that flowers were not of God’s creation).

November 13      1 Timothy 4:6–16

Paul, who recognised that some might reject him because of his youth, encouraged Timothy. Paul urges him that age has nothing to do with preaching and sharing of the Gospel, it is the level of faith that matters.

November 14      1 Timothy 5:1–16

Paul spells out the relationship that God expects to be found among those who call themselves followers of Christ. The model Paul uses is that of the family. We are to look upon each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, treating others in the Church as members of our own family.

November 15      1 Timothy 5:17–6:2a

Timothy is encouraged to receive from the believers his wages for carrying out God’s work. The ox that is threshing the corn must not be muzzled because it is allowed to eat while it is working. We see that Paul views the relationships between the Christians to be able to bridge across barriers that exist in society. Those things that divide us in the world, such as race, social class or wealth can be united through the Gospel.

November 16      1 Timothy 6:2b–10

It is the love of money that is the source of all kinds of evil, not money itself. Resources (in the form of our wealth) can be used greatly to the glory of God. Like most worldly things, it is how we view them that counts. All great discoveries and inventions can inspire us but the sinfulness of the human condition can always be so inventive as to find a way to divert our worship of God into more sinister things.

November 17      1 Timothy 6:11–21

Paul’s conclusion to his letter to Timothy is uplifting and challenging. These words are liberating for the spirit for they contain the sentiment of the Gospel. Discipline and obedience are necessary and essential ingredients in the Christian life. Leaves may scatter as the wind blows, but the man or woman of God is under divine control.


Faith

November 18      Mark 5:25–34

The desperation of faith! All other hopes of a cure had been tried and they had failed. Notice that the woman had no doubt that Jesus could heal. Her only doubt concerned her ability to get near enough to touch him. Notice the certainty. What justification did she have for this certainty? None – but there is never any justification for faith. Faith is stepping out into the dark unknown, confident only in God.

November 19      Mark 11:20–26

This is without doubt one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament. Verse 24 reminds us that prayer must always be the prayer of faith, for God is able to accomplish that which we ask. If God does not grant what we ask, it is not because God is unable to, but because God has something else for us in mind. Our prayers must be offered with the qualification, not ‘if you can do it’ but ‘if it be your will’.

November 20      Romans 4:1–12

The result of faith! Abraham was always seen as the great example of a man of faith. It was from such faith that God accepted him as righteous. How wrong to think that we will earn God’s favour by our generosity or our busyness. God accepts as righteous only the man or woman of faith.

November 21      1 Peter 1:3–12

Verses 3 and 4 tell us of the new life God has given us which fill us with a living hope as we look forward to possessing the rich blessings God keeps for us. Often we can be tempted to give up and take an easier way. But hold on! God has something better for you. Keep the faith!

November 22      John 6:1–9

Jesus and his disciples face an impossible task. There is a large crowd, the people are hungry, and there is no food. One of the disciples, Philip, assesses the situation, and concludes that even 200 silver coins could not buy enough food. It is into this situation that Andrew brings five small loaves and two small fish. Their inadequacy to meet the situation is almost laughable – yet a great truth is unfolded here. If each does the best we can, God can take our ‘little best’ and bless it in such a way that it is sufficient.

November 23      John 12:20–26

Again it is Philip and Andrew who are involved. Was there a special bond between these two within the group of disciples? Andrew had his brother with him, but sometimes a ‘spiritual brother’ can become closer than a natural brother. Just as we saw in yesterday’s reading, Andrew takes the problem to Jesus. How easily he could have pointed them towards Jesus and said ‘that’s him over there.’ Instead, he went to Jesus and sought his mind on the matter. If only we would learn to do that more often!

What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and grief to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer.

November 24      Mark 13:1–13

Again, Andrew is one of the group who comes to Jesus with a problem. Notice how Andrew seems to be the one who is able to get on with others. He is not an individual who demands personal attention. The true followers of Christ must always be in fellowship with others. This is what the Church is for – the fellowship of believers.

November 25      Acts 1:12–26

Andrew does not, so far as we know, do anything special in this incident. It is his brother who becomes spokesman and leader. Yet even the most brilliant leader would be rather useless if there were none to lead. Notice that although Andrew, and the others like him, are not recorded as having done anything special, they are by no means idle spectators. They were a group, and they prayed, and they shared in the election of Matthias. How sad it is to hear people say, ‘I won’t bother. They’ll manage fine without me.’ No one is indispensable, but equally no one is completely useless.

November 26      Acts 4:23–36

Andrew isn’t even mentioned in this passage, yet, knowing him as we now do, we know that he is present – and just look at what was happening. First, they all prayed (v.24); then they were filed with the joy of the Holy Spirit (v.31); then they began to proclaim God’s message with boldness (v.31); they were one in heart and mind, and they shared with one another (v.32); they gave witness to the resurrection with great power (v.33); God poured rich blessing on them all (v.33); the apostles were entrusted with the material needs of the believers (v.35). Andrew shared in all this – the young man who brought his brother to Jesus has come a long way.

November 27      Psalm 103:13–18

Verses 14–16 are not very complimentary to mankind. Yet, in all honesty we must acknowledge that this is really how it is. A loved one or a respected colleague seems absolutely indispensable. Life would be impossible without them. Then they are suddenly taken from us and we miss them terribly. The years pass, and in time they are almost forgotten, except by those nearest and dearest to who they are but a cherished memory.

November 28      Genesis 1:24–31

Yesterday we thought of man’s physical disintegration. Today we are reminded that there is also a divine element in us – see verses 26–27. ‘Making them to be like himself’ does not refer to physical similarity. It does mean that man and woman have been made in such a way that there is something of God’s divine nature in us. Of course, in many of us this divine nature is denied, and in all the rest of us it is so imperfect as to be almost unrecognisable for what it is; but God has placed in each of us something which can respond to God’s love and God’s will.

November 29      Galatians 3:23–29

We can become so conscious of all our differences – religious, political, social, and racial. How often one hears another say, ‘He’s not one of us’. There may well be some obvious difference – the way he dresses, speaks, behaves or looks – but in the eyes of God we are all the same; he loves us all. Notice that we also can be drawn into a unity with one another – but, first, each of us must be in union with Christ. When all men and women are truly in union with Christ, then all these other apparent differences will no longer be relevant.

November 30      Psalm 73:16–28

‘I tried to think this problem through, but it was too difficult for me’ – verse 16. How true that is. We try to understand ourselves, and the world in which we live, and why things are as they are. It is right and proper that we should think of such things, but very often we can find no satisfactory answer to our questionings – they are too difficult, too deep, for us. But now look at verse 17 – ‘until I went into your Temple.’ The ultimate answers to life’s problems will never be found in man’s cleverness, but only in God’s love. Because man is made after the likeness of God, he can only be properly understood when seen from God’s point of view.