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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

Services: Sundays 10.30 am, Wednesdays 10 am

Numbers are limited – advance booking essential

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 2021

The Ascension

May 1      Acts 1:6–11

To the person who prefers to rely on human wisdom and human experience, this passage is sheer nonsense, but to the spiritually mature man or woman of faith it is full of precious truth. Here we find the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit (verse 8); here is the commission for us to be witnesses throughout the entire world (verse 8); it is here that our Lord returns to the Father’s Heavenly Presence (verse 9) and here is the promise that Christ will one day return (verse 11).

May 2      Hebrews 8:1–6

Two great doctrines of the Christian faith are the Resurrection and the Ascension. If Christ rose from the dead, it means that he is alive now at this very moment. If Christ rose to the presence of his Father in Heaven, it means that he is there now at this very moment. To put it crudely, we have, at the very throne of God, one who is aware of all human life – its pain and its fear.

May 3      Hebrews 7:23–28

Today we read of some of the great statements of the Faith:

(a)  Jesus lives forever

(b)  Jesus does not pass on his work to someone else

(c)  he is able to save those who come to God through him

(d)  he lives ever to plead with God for us

(e)  he is Holy

(f)  the sacrifice he offered was himself

(g)  he has been made perfect forever.

May 4       Hebrews 4:14–16

The Ascension means that the risen Christ is now in the eternal presence of the living God. If we look to Christ as our Lord and Saviour, then it means that the one who is the Lord of our life is continually in God’s presence. This fundamentally influences the relationship between God and the individual believer.

May 5      Hebrews 1:1–3

Today we see Jesus being portrayed as the one who came from God and the one who has returned to God. There is difficulty in understanding this passage. It usually stems because we think only of Jesus as blessing little children and telling parables but here is the risen Christ.

May 6      Hebrews 10:19–25

In Jewish thinking, God was always shrouded in mystery. It is as though a curtain was placed so that God was always shielded from the eyes of the believer. At the Ascension of Christ, a new way had been opened through that barrier. This gives an added assurance to all who believe through faith. A Christian believes all of history is moving towards the day of Jesus’ return, and that that moment may not be far away!

May 7      Hebrews 13:11–19

Study carefully verse 14. While Christians are not expected to neglect this life and all that it stands for, our ultimate hope does not rest in this life alone but in God’s eternal presence. This hope must influence all our attitudes and ambitions in this present life.

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

May 8      Acts 2:1–13

Without spiritual perception this passage does not make sense. Jesus promised his Disciples that the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon them. To what extent they understood his words we will never know but on the day of Pentecost that promise was fulfilled. Even the strangers outside knew beyond all doubt that something had happened.

May 9      Acts 4:23–31

The early Church experienced two developments. There was a tremendous growth in numbers and there was also the beginning of persecution. Note what particularly preceded this coming of the Spirit and what followed it. There was first of all a tremendous time of prayer and there followed a bold proclamation of God’s message. If we lack the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and we must ask if our prayer life is such that God would bless us in this special way. Secondly, are we willing to allow the Spirit to drive us to a bold proclamation of God’s work in our own lives?

May 10      Acts 10:44–48

Today we read of the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon those who received the Gospel of Christ. Many in the early Church wondered if Christianity was only for Jews. This became a vexing problem. Here we read of the Holy Spirit empowering non-Jews – Gentiles. As Peter said, these people have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, ‘All are equal in the sight of God’.

May 11      Acts 19:1–10

In his travels Paul met groups of believers. They had heard the Gospel of Christ and they had thought to honour him by the quality of their lives. They had turned away from their evil ways and were trying to live Christ-like lives. But they were doing it in their own strength and lacking the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul enables them to grasp the faith and to open their hearts and minds to the power of God’s Spirit. Here we are touching on both the greatest weakness and the greatest need of the Church in our own time.

May 12      1 Corinthians 12:1–11

When the Holy Spirit comes upon a person then certain gifts of that power are imparted. There are many gifts of this Spirit. Gifts are imparted to the use of the individual for the good of all. Christ has given each of us a gift and we have discovered each our own particular gift or gifts. We must then endeavour to exercise these gifts within the local congregation and not use that gift for personal advantage to gain personal esteem but for the strengthening of the body of Christ.

May 13      Ephesians 4:11–16

It is God who gives gifts and these gifts vary. They are given to build up the body of Christ, that is, the Church. Notice how this leads on to spiritual growth and development. We are not meant to remain spiritual children, not even in spiritual adolescence, we are meant to be mature and Christ-like. That is why these gifts of the Holy Spirit have been given to us. We dare not neglect them.

May 14      Galatians 5:16–26

Verses 19–21 describe the life in which the Spirit is absent. By contrast, verses 22–24 describe the life in which the Spirit is in control. Study these verses and decide which list more accurately describes your own life and notice that there is no neutral ground, no middle way.

The Holy Trinity

May 15      John 14:1–14

A doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not always easy to understand. Some, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, point out correctly that the word Holy Trinity does not occur in the New Testament. Nevertheless, there are many passages in the Bible which point to an inter-relation between God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In some mysterious way these three are separate and yet they are also united in one common purpose.

May 16      John 14:15–26

We read today of Jesus introducing the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, Father and Holy Spirit (or helper) can be seen here as three separate persons. Look at verse 26 – the Holy Spirit will be sent by the Father in the name of Christ and the Holy Spirit will enable us to remember all that Christ has ever taught us.

May 17      John 16:4–15

Again, Jesus speaks of himself and God the Father and God the Spirit as though they were all separate, yet Jesus is under the authority of God while he has authority over the Spirit. ‘I am going to Him who sent me. I will send Him (the Spirit) to you.’

May 18      1 Corinthians 2:10–16

This passage underscores the deep relationship between the Father and the Spirit. Only God’s Spirit knows all about God. It appears that by the power of the Spirit we are enabled to grasp in some measure the truth about God. Again, this baffling mystery – the Spirit is separate in that God sent him; yet it is through the Spirit that we know what God has given.

May 19      Romans 8:12–17

We have been reading passages which show the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to be separate persons yet all inter-related into one common mind or purpose. Today we see that we also may be drawn into this divine unity or harmony. There is a sense in which we are all Children of God simply by the very act of creation. Yet there is also another sense in which, by obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit within us, we are drawn into an ever, and even deeper, relationship with the Divine Father.

May 20      John 17:20–26

This is part of a prayer by Jesus. Again, we see the close relationship that exists between Christ and the Father. But how amazing to discover that Christ prayed that his followers might also have that same relationship. The incredible truth revealed in these verses is that Christ is in God and God is in Christ. Jesus goes on to pray that we, his followers, might also have a share, and part, in that unity.

May 21      Ephesians 1:3–14

The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult to grasp, but without some understanding of it we shall never really know the plan and purpose of Almighty God. As we have seen in our readings, the whole matter becomes increasingly wonderful or mysterious when we come to see that God wants us to have some kind of share in that divine unity. ‘You believe in Christ and God puts his stamp of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit he had promised’.

The Psalms

May 22      Psalm 86:1–17

The marks of true prayer are:

(a)  awareness of one’s weakness (verses 1–2)

(b)  a plea for God’s mercy (verses 3–7)

(c)  acknowledgment that there is ‘No God like You O Lord’ (verses 8–10)

(d)  a willingness to follow in God’s ways (verses 11–14)

(e)  a sense of trust and reliance on Almighty God (verses 15–17).

May 23      Psalm 108:1–13

The very first words of this Psalm sum it up. The Christian is not spared the pains, sorrows and trials of this earthy life as some quite wrongly suppose. There is a sense in which the believer is more aware than others the pains and sorrows and trials of this life. But those who believe have a great advantage – because they know that through these tribulations they will be supported and can trust in the one who will not fail them. They can walk through the dark shadow of this life serene in the light of God’s love.

May 24      Psalm 91

The theme of this Psalm is the same as yesterday’s, but there is one difference. Psalm 108 was about what might be called the difficulties of life whereas this Psalm is about the one who is engaged in a real spiritual warfare. It does us well to remember that these Psalms were written, not by someone in a sitting in a study, but by someone who had in their own lives the spiritual struggle in all its pain and all its danger.

May 25      Psalm 34

How many people have stopped worshipping in church because they say ‘I got nothing out of it’? In worship the emphasis must always be on the one who is worshipped and never on the one who worships. God is the focus of our spiritual life – not self. In this Psalm we see clearly how God is placed at the centre. When God is at the centre of our lives then and only then will we begin to understand and enjoy the glory of God’s blessing.

May 26      Psalm 112

This Psalm describes some of the blessings a God-honouring believer may enjoy. How many blessings can you count in this Psalm?

May 27      Psalm 147

One of the wonders of our God is that God created the vast Universe and yet God also cares for the least important of us. God heals the broken-hearted and also God decided the number of stars in the sky! God raises the humble; but God also spreads clouds over the sky. Our God is the creator of all, yet God’s ear is open to every cry of the vilest sinner.

May 28     Psalms 130 and 131

Perhaps verses 3–4 of Psalm 130 sums up the whole of our Christian life. If we could understand fully what these two verses mean, then so much else of our faith would become clear to us.

David the Shepherd King

May 29      1 Samuel 17:1–11

How many today are stricken because there is a ‘Goliath’ somewhere in their lives? It may be the memory of some dreadful mistake in the past; or the fear of some unknown danger in the future; or some temptation or weaknesses, which threatens to ruin the whole of life. Whatever it is, it dominates the whole of life and we can be afraid of our own private ‘Goliath’.

May 30      1 Samuel 17:12–27

Into the situation of terror comes a young shepherd boy who had been sent by his father with provisions for his brothers serving in the army. To the fearful soldiers the young visitor is no more than a minor distraction – even an irritation. They did not recognize him as a deliverer sent by God. Sometimes God’s help comes in unexpected ways!

May 31      1 Samuel 17:28–32

The innocence of youth! David was as sincere as he could be, but his brothers saw him as a brat whilst the others laughed at him. Children have great imaginations and sometime we too need to allow ourselves to be open to simple possibilities that our adult minds can often dismiss as irrelevant. The limits of our faith are often our lack of belief in what God can really do.