Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh
Sunday Services at 10 am and 11.30 am
Stillness Services every Wednesday at 10 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.
May 1 Deuteronomy 16.13–17
Christians must learn to handle the ordinary things of life in a way that honours God. This is not easy, yet it is something we dare not avoid if we are to be true to Christ. Nowhere is this more important than in our attitude to money and possessions. These verses were written for a rural community. Note (a) they were to ‘enjoy the fruit of the harvest; (b) they were to share that fruit ‘with foreigners, orphans and widows who live in your towns’; (c) they were to be joyful because God had blessed their work; and (d) they were to give in proportion to the blessings they had received from God.
May 2 Matthew 6.1–4
It is a very real temptation to do good works in such a way that wins the approval and admiration of others Many do not really want to do good, but they want to be seen doing good! Christ’s command is that our giving, whether of money, or time, or effort, should be done quietly and modestly, avoiding the glare of publicity
May 3 Matthew 10.5–15
We almost naturally think of reward when asked to do something. Yet what we do for God must be done without any such thought of reward, whether on earth or in Heaven. We cannot work or earn our way into Heaven. Everything we do must be done freely and all of this for a very good reason; God has given freely to us.
May 4 Romans 12.1–8
How often do we give grudgingly, because we feel under a certain compulsion, either of duty or honour? What is given to the work of God must be given generously and undeservedly.
May 5 1 Corinthians 16.1–4
When Paul was in Europe and Asia Minor, he heard that the Christians in Jerusalem were suffering in a famine. He organised a collection of money that would be sent to Jerusalem to alleviate the distress there. Notice that there are two rules about how that money is to be given. First, it is to be given in proportion to what each earns. No mention here is made of what the proportion would be, though elsewhere we know that a tenth was the generally accepted amount. Secondly, each member of the Church was to give regularly.
May 6 2 Corinthians 9.1–15
Christian liberality ought to be ‘straight’, that is, without the need for functions or gimmicks to persuade us to give. There is something wrong with our concept of generosity when we must be enticed to give. And when there is something wrong with our concept of generosity, it is almost certain that there is something wrong with our grasp of faith.
May 7 Malachi 3.6–12
Malachi was accusing his fellow Israelites of cheating God. They were shocked. How could they possibly cheat God? They were cheating God in the matter of tithes and offerings (tithe means one-tenth). Our lack of Christian liberality is not only a sign of personal meanness, it is also an insult to the God upon whom we rely for our very life itself.
May 8 Leviticus 22.17–24
The Jews had a system of offerings and sacrifices. It would be very tempting to offer in sacrifice an animal that was defective in some way – weak, sickly, unsuitable for the purpose for which it was intended. Whatever we offer to God must be what is acceptable to God and not merely what we feel we can spare. There is something inherently wrong in giving to God’s work that for which we have no further use.
May 9 Micah 6.6–16
We have been discovering that there is a very real connection between WHAT we give to God and WHY and HOW we give it. But God is far more interested in our inner attitudes than in what we actually give. We are so used to external impressions that we often fail to grasp that God sees the very heart and mind of us all. God sees our motives and our affections.
May 10 Hebrews 11. 1–4
Why should God prefer Abel’s lamb to Cain’s harvest? The answer to that problem is found in today’s reading, ‘It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain’s’. The difference did not lie in the motive by which it was offered. God sees into the heart.
May 11 Romans 12. 1–8
Today we learn that the New Testament concept is of a total offering – not 10% but 100%. When a man or woman comes to see his or her life as having been redeemed from the power of sin by the blood of Christ, then such a person knows that the whole life belongs to God.
May 12 Matthew 3.1–12
What a mysterious character John the Baptist was! What power that made such crowds come and confess their sins! Such a response could so easily have made him proud, but he was ever conscious that there was another whose power was greater even than his.
May 13 Luke 11.9–13
Jesus had been speaking to his disciples about prayer and of how God is willing to give those who ask him. The Holy Spirit comes from God and no other; the Holy Spirit is given only to those willing to receive. If the power of the Holy Spirit is noticeably absent in the Church today, then the fault lies with us and our reluctance to ask for, or to receive, rather than with God’s inability to give.
May 14 Luke 24.36–49
Note how the disciples were told to wait until that power came upon them. The Holy Spirit is ever a gift from God; we cannot make the Spirit come. We can only make ourselves available and, by faith in Christ, make ourselves fit to receive God’s Spirit.
May 15 Acts 1.6–11
The Holy Spirit is given for a purpose. God does not give the Holy Spirit to make our lives easier, but to enable us to do God’s work. Many, even in the Church, will never know the enabling power of the Holy Spirit for the simple reason that they are not prepared to do the work that God is calling them to do.
May 16 Acts 2.36–42
Those hearing the sermon had been deeply impressed and asked for advice. Peter makes it plain that they too may know the power of the Holy Spirit but, first, ‘each one of you must turn away from his sins and be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ’. We cannot make the Holy Spirit come to us, but we can prepare ourselves in readiness for the Spirit’s coming.
May 17 Matthew 28.16–20
Critics point out, correctly, that the word ‘trinity’ appears nowhere in the Bible. Yet, as we have already seen, the Bible speaks quite clearly of (a) God the Father, (b) Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, and (c) the Holy Spirit. These are not three Gods – they are three persons of the one God.
May 18 John 14.22–31
Here we see something of the relationship between those three persons of the Godhead. Note how they relate together – the Father sends the Holy Spirit in the name of Christ. Three persons, but there is a unity of action and of purpose. They are working together. Moreover, the Holy Spirit enables the believer to remember all that Christ has taught.
May 19 John 15.18–27
The Holy Spirit comes from the Father, and he will be sent by the Son. We learn also today that the Holy Spirit reveals the truth about God.
May 20 Acts 1.4–5
Jesus encourages his disciples to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is that part of God that is mentioned right at the beginning of the book of Genesis. The working of God’s Spirit is found throughout scriptures. Here, Jesus is promising God’s Spirit as a gift to those who believe. That Spirit came upon those who believed at Pentecost, which we will be celebrating in a few weeks.
May 21 Acts 1.6–8
Even at this late hour, in Jesus’s presence with his disciples they seem to ask him a political question. His reply to them is not a political answer but a spiritual one. Often we can ask God for an answer that may come but not in the way we expect. Jesus’s answer is to remind them that when God’s Spirit comes upon them they would become witnesses to God’s love.
May 22 Hebrews 9.23–28
Christ ‘now appears on our behalf in the presence of God’. Christ is not in Heaven basking in glory, He is there as our Advocate before the throne of Grace. Also note, ‘He will appear a second time’. Here is a truth that many of us tend to ignore. There is considerable controversy regarding the time and manner of Christ’s return, and no one can speak with any accuracy on this matter. But Christians can be confident that, one day, and somehow, Christ WILL return.
May 23 Hebrews 4.14–16
Today’s verses hardly need any comment. What a joy and a comfort verse 16 must be to every devout follower of Christ!
May 24 Luke 10.17–20
What is Heaven like? It is impossible for us, on this side of death, to answer such a question. However, God has given us several ‘clues’ throughout the Bible so that, although we will be unable to build a clear and accurate picture of Heaven, at least we may have some kind of idea of what it is like. Jesus had sent his followers out to visit all the towns and villages around. It had been a successful mission, and so they had returned in great joy. Jesus told them that they should be joyful, not on that account, but ‘because your names are written in Heaven’. That tells us that what happens here on earth is noticed in Heaven.
May 25 John 14.1–7
Heaven is God’s home. A farmer may own many fields and cattle sheds, but the privacy of his own home is very special. The whole world belongs to God, but Heaven is God’s ‘special home’. We think of all God’s people who have lived since the very beginning of time, and we wonder – how can they all possibly manage to get into Heaven? Jesus says, ‘there are many rooms and I am going to prepare a place for you’. By the grace and mercy of Christ, every true believer has a place reserved.
May 26 Acts 7.54–60
Stephen was the first Christian to be martyred for his faith. At the very moment of dying he was able to look right into Heaven, yet he still had sufficient physical strength to speak out what he saw – God’s glory, and Christ standing at the right hand side of God. It is often said by skeptics that ‘no one has ever come back to tell us what Heaven is like’. Here is the record of one man who, at the very moment of death, was given a glimpse into the very presence of God, and was still able to relate to those around his impression of that glimpse.
May 27 2 Corinthians 4.16–5.5
Here we see the truth that this physical life is a decaying life – it will not last forever. Paul speaks of life being like a tent, a temporary structure, whereas God is preparing for us ‘a house in Heaven’, a permanent abode. We live among man-made items, most of which we can understand, but when we think of Heaven, we must think in a completely different dimension. The concept of Heaven cannot be understood in human or physical terms. It is spiritual, and can be understood only in spiritual terms.
May 28 Revelation 7.9–17
Not only will there be an enormous crowd of people in Heaven, but they will be ‘from every race, tribe, nation and language’. Heaven is not reserved for any one national or ethnic group. They have known tears because of what they have had to endure, but now those tears will be wiped away by God, and they will know peace as they have never known it before.
May 29 Revelation 22. 6–15
Heaven is likened to a city. Those who enter are those who have washed ‘their robes clean’. This phrase refers to those who, through faith in Christ, share his purity.
May 30 Acts 1.6–10
Today is the day in the Christian year when we remember the Ascension of Christ. After Jesus died, he rose again in his resurrection body. For forty days he appeared to his disciples in various ways. After that period, he returned to the Father from whom he had come at his incarnation. This return to Heaven, or Ascension, had to be done in such a way that the disciples understood what had happened – otherwise Jesus would simply have disappeared! That is why the Ascension occurred in this manner.
May 30 Peter 3.18–22
Where is Jesus NOW – at this very moment? Jesus, at this very moment, is in the presence of God in Heaven. We think back to Christ’s early life in Jerusalem and by the shores of Galilee. That was real. It happened, but it was a long time ago. Now, at this very moment, Jesus is alive and he is with God in Heaven.