Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh
Sunday Services at 10 am and 11.30 am
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.
The Gospel of Luke
April 1 Luke 12:49–53
These verses seem to go right against all that we take the Gospel to stand for. Normally we think of Christ bringing peace, reconciliation and harmony, but here is talk of division, even within families, because of him. Every follower of Christ knows of times when they must decide whether they are to stand for Christ, or stand by loved ones who have no discernment for spiritual values.
April 2 Luke 20:27–47
Jesus must have watched with sadness the religious leaders of his time. They were basically good men, and they really were trying their best, but they had lost their spiritual direction so that, in fact, they were leading their followers in ways that would bring no peace. How do you think Christ will view the direction in which many of his people are being led today?
April 3 Luke 19:41–48
No one likes to see a man cry, yet here is Christ weeping as he sees the city of Jerusalem stretched before him. He was not weeping because of what he was to endure there. He was weeping, and suffering, because he knew the terrible punishment the people of that city were bringing upon themselves, a punishment that came with such devastating power in ad 70.
April 4 Luke 19:28–40
Jesus enters the city at the beginning of that fateful week. One thinks of the enthusiastic welcome he received that day; the crowd did not know how that week would end. They were unaware of the evil plotting that was going on in their very midst. Is it possible that even today we are living in a fool’s paradise, unaware of what is really taking place within our society?
April 5 Luke 20:1–8
The very Son of God is being challenged by those who were supposed to be the religious leaders of the people. They were challenging his authority. A Church and a nation have indeed landed on evil times when the authority of God, the Son of God, the Holy Spirit of God, and the Word of God, is challenged and doubted!
April 6 Luke 20:9–19
In this parable Jesus was, as it were, holding up a mirror reflecting the whole history of God’s dealings with humanity. First, the whole universe belongs to God (the owner of the vineyard). Second, those who live in the ‘vineyard’ have a moral obligation to pay rent, tribute, to the owner. Third, God has repeatedly sent his prophets to remind his people of this obligation. Fourth, the people have consistently rejected that call. Fifth, God finally sent his own Son. Sixth, this Son was killed. Seventh, those who did this foul deed will be evicted and they will lose their place forever in God’s world.
April 7 Luke 21:34 – 22:6
This passage begins with a warning. God sees the path his children are taking, and where it will lead them, so he tries to warn them of the consequences of what they are doing. But people seldom listen to such a warning. Those who did not like what Jesus was saying were seeking a way to silence him. This still happens today. There are those who are made uncomfortable by God’s Word, and so they plan to ‘improve’ it, ‘adapt it to the twenty-first century’, ‘apply the light of modern scholarship’ – so they say. What they really mean is that they are trying to remove that which makes them aware of their own sinfulness.
April 8 Luke 22:7–23
The sacrament of Holy Communion has become so vested with all kinds of pomp and ritual that we forget that it was first of all a meal shared under the shadow of a cross. For the disciples gathered that night there was the significance of what the Passover had originally meant; it was deeply imagined into the whole way of life and of thinking of their people. Still today, past, present and future are bound in one unity around the Lord’s Table.
April 9 Luke 23:32–49
Jesus did not die in the comfort of his bed; he died in a way deliberately designed to inflict the greatest possible agony before merciful death intervened. He died after a night of torture at the hands of those commissioned to keep peace and dispense justice; he died in the company of criminals; he died amongst those who gambled for his clothes; he died amidst the jeering of foreign soldiers and the mocking of his own people. Darkness truly covered the whole country.
April 10 Luke 23:50–56
After death, the body of Jesus at least got a decent burial. Joseph of Arimathea was a good and devout man, but he had never stood up for Christ before. John’s Gospel tells us that Nicodemus, who also assisted at the burial, was the one who came to Jesus under cover of darkness. Here were two influential men who were secret followers of Christ. One cannot but wonder what might have happened if only they had declared their allegiance to Christ sooner. They waited until it was too late. Still today, many decisions in the Church are made by unspiritual men and women, while those who have some grasp of the divine truth remain silent – until it is too late.
April 11 Colossians 1:1–8
Today we begin a series on Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colossae. We will only be looking at some of his more significant sayings, and today we look at the latter half of verse 5: ‘So your faith and love are based on what you hope for, which is kept safe for you in heaven’. Paul’s use of the word ‘hope’ causes difficulties. It is not a hope that is full of ‘maybes’ and ‘perhaps’, ‘keep your fingers crossed, just in case’. It is ‘hope’ in the sense of a confident expectation of something that will certainly be fulfilled.
April 12 Colossians 1:1–8
Our Christian faith and love are based on what will surely come to pass, something that is kept safe in heaven for us. Note also the growth of the Christian Gospel. It not only grows in the sense of spreading across the world, but it also spreads in the sense of a deepening faith within the individual.
April 13 Colossians 1:9–14
The first half of verse 10 is a perfect summing up of the objective of Christian living: to live as God wants us to live and to do what pleases God. But how can we live in such a manner? By being filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and possessing the wisdom and understanding that God’s Spirit gives. This can only come through asking God in prayer.
April 14 Colossians 1:15–20
All else that we say about Christ stems from this profound truth. Christ is only Saviour, Redeemer, Lord, et cetera. because he is the visible likeness of the invisible God. See also verse 18: ‘He (Christ) is the head of his body, the Church; he is the source of the body’s life.’ How often reference is made to the authority of the Church! The Church has neither power nor authority, save that which is given it by its King and Head.
April 15 Colossians 1:21–23
Verse 21 reminds us of how people have been separated from God by their own sinfulness; verse 22 tells of how ‘God has made you his friends in order to bring you, holy, pure and faultless into his presence’. This was done ‘by means of the physical death of his Son’. We cannot begin to appreciate what the Christian Gospel is about until we have understood that verse. Look also at the verse which follows: ‘You must continue faithful on a firm and sure foundation’. The Christian life is not the decision of a moment, but an ongoing process, and it must be founded on the truth, not on the opinion of some well-meaning teacher, however sincere.
April 16 Colossians 1:24–29
In verse 28 we see the duty and responsibility of every preacher, elder, Sunday School teacher, Bible Class leader, every office-bearer within the Church whatever his or her particular title, ‘to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ’. Our task is not to bring people into the Church, but to bring them into union with Christ. To achieve this great goal of winning all men and women for Christ, Paul ‘toils and struggles, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies’. Those of us who would seek to be servants of Christ, in whatever capacity, must likewise be prepared to toil and struggle.
April 17 Colossians 2:1–5
From the very beginning of the Christian Church there have existed, side by side, those who proclaim the true Gospel of Christ, and those who present their own version of that Gospel. Very often such false gospels are extremely attractive and many Christians are led astray by false teachers. It is the duty of every Christian to ensure that he or she is not deceived, because false teachers abound to this very day. In order to avoid such deception it is necessary for every Christian to make every effort to study the Scriptures for him- or herself.
April 18 Colossians 2:6–10
Read verse 7 again and again until its very essence saturates your whole being and ask God in prayer to open your heart to grasp the meaning of verses 9 and 10 in all its fullness.
April 19 Colossians 2:11–19
Every generation of Christians has been plagued by those who believe that in order to be a ‘proper’ Christian it is necessary to undergo certain ceremonies or adopt certain practices. Paul himself was followed by those who tried to persuade his converts that they must be circumcised. To be a Christian only one thing is necessary and that is union with Christ. Our spiritual life is not based on spiritual acts but on faith in Christ. Nothing else.
April 20 Colossians 2:20–3:4
Every Christian longs for some kind of ‘proof’ that he or she has now ‘made the grade’, become a ‘bona fide’ Christian. Such ‘proof’ is often sought for in patterns of behaviour, dress, hairstyle, abstention from certain foods, pilgrimages to holy places and the list is almost endless. Yet all of these are nothing more than human inventions. To be a Christian, faith in Christ is all that is necessary.
April 21 Colossians 3:5–11
A certain style of life does not make one a Christian, but once one has become a Christian through faith in Christ, then a certain style of life becomes the visible expression of the invisible faith. Having become Christians we become Christ-like in our behaviour, and there are certain practices which are, quite simply, incompatible with Christian life.
April 22 Colossians 3:12–17
Today we read of those practices which are a natural expression of Christian faith; compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, love. Notice that these qualities are not actions but attitudes. If Christ’s message really does live in our hearts then our attitudes will be right, and our actions can be no other than right also.
April 23 Colossians 3:18–4:1
Here is a code of conduct for home and industry. How sad that one part of that code has been taken out of context and, therefore, misunderstood. Whether we be husbands or wives, parents or children, employers or employees we have, each of us, a responsibility towards the others. Whether at home or at work, so many relationships are soured because of an unchristian emphasis on our ‘rights’. Christians must ever be more concerned with their responsibilities towards others than the rights they think are theirs.
April 24 Colossians 4:2–6
If there is one area of the spiritual life which is woefully neglected it is the area of prayer. Prayer ought to be the very atmosphere we breathe. It is impossible to pray too much. We have also to be careful in our attitude to those who are not Christian. It is so easy to become impatient with them because they cannot grasp what seems so obvious to us. Our constant desire must be to seek by every means available to win them for Christ. But we must also remember that it is possible for us to drive them further from Christ by our tactless or crude behaviour.
April 25 Colossians 4:7–18
The Christian life is not only the development of Christ-like attitudes. It is also a fellowship between real flesh-and-blood people – Tychicus, Onesimus, Aristarchus and the others were real people known to Paul and loved by him as brothers in Christ. Look at Epaphras in verse 12. Who can measure the value of saints such as Epaphras? Is it possible that someone, somewhere, is praying for you like that? Is it possible that you are praying for others in that fashion?
Characteristics of Christianity
April 26 John 3:1–12
The Christian life is characterized by a new beginning. This is not simply an improved version of the old life but a radical change in direction that is not based on human planning but upon spiritual principles.
April 27 2 Peter 3:10–18
A baby does not remain a baby but grows into an adult. The Christian life not only is a new life but has to grow and mature. Sadly, so many lose sight of what, by the grace of Christ, they could be.
April 28 Isaiah 61:5–11
It is always easy to pick out a bride at a wedding. Her air of supreme happiness distinguishes her from the guest. In the same way the radiance of the Christian life distinguishes it from the non-Christian life. As the bride’s happiness comes from a knowledge of her husband’s love for her, so we are radiant by our knowledge of God’s love of us.
April 29 Matthew 5:3–16
Christian radiance should never draw attention to the Christian, but to Christ. Nor should such radiance be hidden as embarrassment. It should be held forth to glorify God and an eagerness to testify for Christ should be another characteristic of the Christian life.
April 30 Matthew 7:21–29
Moral strength is another characteristic of the Christian life. The Christian may from time to time be in the minority; they may be unpopular, even criticized, but they stand firm because they know that it is their faith that is built on a solid foundation – Christ.