Give thanks to the Lord!

The aim of the devotional study is to reflect on the year (or recent season), recognize God’s goodness and render him the thanks and praise due to him.


Psalm 100:1-5

1  Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!

2  Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

3  Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5  For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.


Note the outline: A call to worship (verse 1-2) | Worship God for Who He is (verse 3) | A call to worship (verse 4) | Worship God for what He is like (verse 5)

  1. What is the mood of the psalmist? (note the adverbs or descriptive words in verses 1 and 2)
  2. What is the key theme or call of this Psalm? (verse 4)
  3. To whom does this call go out? (verse 1)
    • Why could this universal invitation be considered strange?
    • Why does the Psalmist think it is appropriate that this call to thanksgiving and praise is appropriate for “all the earth”? (hint: consider verse 3)
    • Considering the pastoral parable in verse 3, for what would “all the earth” give thanks to God? (hint: what does a shepherd do for sheep? compare Psalm 23)
  4. Can you identify seven ways given in this Psalm of how God should be worshipped?
  5. We should praise God for who he is:
    • Who does this Psalm say God is? (identify five… verses 1 and 3)
    • What does this Psalm say God’s character is like? (verse 5)

Personal Reflection

  1. Thanksgiving benefits the believer: how does the discipline of stopping to think of and thank God for what he has done impact a person?


  1. In which ways have you recently experienced the Good Shepherd’s
  • guidance,
  • protection, and
  • provision?
  1. Are there other ways in which you have experienced the Lord’s faithful, loving goodness during this year?
  2. Take time to respond with appropriate worship
    • joyful thanksgiving: declaring what God has done for you
    • prayer of praise: declaring who God is to you
    • worship God with other believers.


REVELATION 4 – A Throne set in Heaven

In approximately AD 96, during his exile to the island of Patmos John the Apostle received instructions to record what Jesus revealed to him in a book (Revelation) including this chapter of the throne set in Heaven, the nature and character of the One seated the throne, and the response of those around this throne.


Revelations 4:1-11

1  After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2  At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

3  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5  From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God,

6  and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7  the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8  And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” 9  And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10  the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

Observation and reflection questions

Notes: After recording the seven letters to the congregations (chapters 2-3) John saw a vision: of a throne in heaven, of Him on the throne, and of the response of those around the throne. “jasper” probably refers to a diamond-like stone (refer to Revelation 21:11) while “carnelian” is a deep red stone.

  1. John writes the same command twice in verses 1 and 2 – did you notice it? What does he call the reader to do, and why?
  2. Record what you learn from John’s vision about:

(a) the throne (verse 2)

(b) the One who sits on the throne (verses 3-5)

(c) the response of those around the throne (verses 6-11)

  1. What do you learn from the character and nature of “the one seated on the throne” by each of these descriptions?
  • Like the biggest and clearest jasper (think diamond) and carnelian (verse 3)
  • Encircled by a rainbow (verse 3; hint: think Noah, Genesis 9:15)
  • With many righteous rulers on the thrones around His throne (verse 4; hint: think of these representing the church through the ages)
  • With flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder” (verse 5; hint: this phrase appears another three times in Revelation (8:5; 11:19; 16:18), each time before God’s judgment is poured out on rebellious people)
  • With “seven torches” lighting evening before the throne (verse 5; hint: seven implies perfection – so what could perfect light imply here?)
  1. What could these responses to the One on the Throne mean or imply?
  • Before the throne was “a sea of glass, like crystal” (verse 6; hint: sea in Jewish writing usually refers to uncertainty, danger, and elsewhere chaos among the nations – see Psalm 93 below)
  • Four living creatures covered with eyes (verses 6-8; hint: could more eyes observe and take in more beauty and glory…?)
  • The four living creatures creaming “Holy!… Almighty!… [Ever-Living!]” (verses 7-8; hint: consider the mightiest domestic animal, mightiest wild animal, mightiest creature on earth, mightiest bird in flight, mightiest angelic being (Isaiah 6), yet what is their response to Him on the Throne…?)
  • The 24 rulers casting their crowns, prostrating themselves before Him on the Throne in Heaven (verses 10-11; hint – what is implied in the church falling down before God?)

Personal Reflection questions

  1. The first recipients of John’s Revelation were severely suffering congregations, being tried for their faith by an egotistical ruler (Cesar Domitian) and tempted by their perverse societies. What would this vision of God seated on his heavenly throne have meant to them? (consider the throne, him who sat on it and the response).
  2. How does this vision of the heavenly throne, the nature and character of God, as well as the response around the throne (a) comfort and (b) challenge you personally?

Prayer and Worship

Read Psalm 93 to note the similarity with Revelation 4, and respond in prayer and praise of our God who reigns!

Psalm 93:1-5

1  The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. 2  Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.

3  The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.

4  Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! 5  Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.





While exiled as political prisoner to the island of Patmos John the Apostle received visions from Jesus for seven congregations in Asia minor.  The message below is addressed to the church in the city of Pergamum


Revelations 2:12-17

12  “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword:  13  “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.  14  But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.  15  Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.  16  Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.  17  “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” ‘

Observation questions

Notes: At the end of the 1st century Pergamum (north of present-day Bergama in Turkey) was the Roman Capital of Asia. Here the Romans worshiped especially Zeus, Aesculapius (a serpent-god whose image Christians identified with Satan himself), and many altars to Rome (Roma) where citizens had to confess “Cesar is Lord” or face the wrath of Rome. Here their pastor Antipas was martyred, being roasted to death in a big bull-shaped cauldron. For “doctrine of Balaam” consider Numbers 25:1-5.  The Nicolaitans refers to a sect or group of people within the church who derived their name from their behavior: conquerors (“Nico”) of the common people (“laity”) and is thought of as people within the church who lead by fear and oppression instead of love.  

  1. What do you pick up from the tone of this letter about Christ’s attitude towards this congregation?
  2. From your reading of this letter, what is the context (situation) of the congregation in this city?
  3. Why would Jesus reveal Himself as “the One who has the double-edged sword in his mouth?” (v12) What does Christ want to accomplish by revealing Himself as such in this congregation?
  4. Complete the Revelations series table below by answering these questions (2:12-17):
  • How does Christ reveal himself to this congregation?
  • What does Christ commend in this congregation?
  • What does Christ condemn in this congregation?
  • What does Christ exhort in this congregation?
  • What does Christ promise to this congregation?
  • What does Christ warn this congregation?
  1. What behaviors and attitudes in this congregation did Christ refer to by using the phrase “the doctrine of Balaam”? (verse 14; consider Numbers 25:1-5)


Reflection questions

  1. What trends were present in the church in Pergamum, which you can also identify in your own congregation?  Why would you say that?
  2. Which things did Jesus condemn which are present in (a) your congregation’s and (b) your personal live?
  3. What was this congregation called to “overcome”?
  4. What hope does Christ’s message in this letter give you?

Application and Prayer

The compromising church in Pergamum was called to “repent”. Considering Christ’s warning, what compromise in your life do you need to repent of?  Pray that prayer now.


The Apostle John was banned to hard labour on to the Island of Patmos for refusal to worship the emperor Domitian.  There he saw visions he recorded for the churches in his day in Asia minor, including the message to the church in Smyrna.


Revelation 2:8-11

8  “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

9  “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  10  Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

Observation notes and questions

Notes: The city of Smyrna (today Izmir in Turkey) was big and prosperous due to a safe sea port. It was filled with idolatry, notably the worship of Cybele (“the Mother of the gods) and Dionysus or Bacchus. This city also hosted temples for the goddess Roma and for Emperor worship (built for Tiberius in 28 A.D.). During the first century Smyrna hosted a big population of Jews were and they were hostile towards the Jews. The phrase “The First and the Last” has specific reference to Jesus’ rank and authority, rather than his life span or origin.  “Ten days” was the (maximum) time period commonly given to a condemned prisoner in the Roman empire, before execution.

  1. What do you tick up from the tone of this letter about Christ’s attitude towards this congregation?
  2. From your reading of this letter, what is the context (situation) of the congregation in this city?
  3. Note how Jesus reveals Himself to this persecuted congregation. Why would these phrases “the First and the Last” and “He who died and came to life” comfort and encourage the church?
  4. Complete the Revelations series table below by answering these questions (2:8-11):
  • How does Christ revealhimself to this congregation?
  • What does Christ commendin this congregation?
  • What does Christ condemnin this congregation?
  • What does Christ exhortin this congregation?
  • What does Christ promiseto this congregation?
  • What does Christ warnthis congregation?

Reflection questions

  1. In which way could you identify with the suffering church Smyrna?
  2. In which way did (or would) you find comfort during seasons of hardship with the knowledge that Christ is “the First and the Last.”
  3. How does (a) your congregation’s and (b) your personal attitude towards suffering and death compare with this congregation?
  4. What hope does Christ’s message in this letter give you?

Application and Prayer

Pray about your attitude and experience in suffering, especially towards God.  Ask the Lord for hope – in this life and the life hereafter. Then pray for a persecuted and oppressed congregation – find some insights here on Open Door’s World Watch List.

Find hope in Christ during times of suffering.

How can leaders grow in courage?

Elijah was intimidated by Jezebel. Timothy was intimidated by the elders in Ephesus. Peter was intimidated by a servant-girl. As long as a leader succumbs to timidity he or she will be ineffective and unable to complete his or her mandate from the Lord. Every leader in life – whether on the battlefield, in the courtroom or in the boardroom – needs to overcome timidity and take courage in the face of conflict.

Look at this short introductory video where De Waal Esterhuizen shares on ho to grow in leadership courage.


Daniel 3 [selected verses]

1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold… 6  [and declared that] whoever does not fall down and worship [the golden image] shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

9  [Some Chaldeans] declared to King Nebuchadnezzar,  12  “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

14  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15  Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of [the musical instruments] to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

19  Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated 20 …and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace… 22  Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23  And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24  Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25  He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” 26  Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27  And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29  Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30  Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Observation and reflection questions

  1. What do you suspect did these three men felt when they were arrested and brought before the king?
  2. Why did the three men refuse to bow down to the golden image Nebuchadnezzar has set up? [verses 16-18]
  3. What is the reason why these three had to take courage? [hint: why did they not bow down…?]
  4. The three men were not alone in the fire. What does that suggest about their ability to be remain courageous? (verses 24-24)
  5. Look at verses 24-30 and note what was the effect of these three men’s courageous faithfulness to God on:
    1. The emperor Nebuchadnezzar:
    2. The civil servants working in and around the palace:
    3. The Babylonian empire:
    4. The Jews:
    5. The three men:
  6. What was the cost of these three men’s courage?
  7. What was the reward of these three men’s courage?

Personal reflection and prayer

Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego courageously refused to bow down to an idol the emperor threw into the fire, but the Lord Himself strengthened and preserved them in the fire. As result the king and his entire palace saw God’s power and a decree was written that God should be honored in the entire empire.

  1. Were you ever challenged to stand for what is right got flack for it? What was the challenge and what was the effect of that courage?
  2. What or who intimidates you? Why?
    1. Timidity usually leads to not standing up for what is right. What is the potential cost of this timidity?
    2. Confess your timidity to the Lord.
    3. Confess with Paul “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) [fear here means the “timidity”].
    4. Pray that God will fill you with the spirit of power and courage to stand up for what is right, and to represent the Lord well.
    5. Plan and prepare a response for this person or situation which usually intimidates you. It might be good to rehearse the response with a friend. Pray that the fear of God will be greater that the fear of man.

The Character of a leader: Compassion

“Love is not a feeling – it’s an act of the will.” Or is it?

Allow this short introductory video to give you a wider scope to the importance of compassion in the leader’s character before we reflect on today’s Scripture reading (


Matthew 9:35-10:1

35  And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.  36  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38  therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  10:1  And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

Observation and reflection questions

  1. Reflect on the text by answering the following questions briefly:
    • What is the context of this text? I.e. what was Jesus busy with at the offset of this text? (verse 35)
    • What did Jesus notice during his itinerant ministry? Say this in everyday language. (verse 36)
    • What did this observation caused Jesus to feel? (verse 36)
    • How did Jesus respond to his disciples? (verse 37-38)
    • How did Jesus respond to the need? (10:1)
  2. What then was Jesus’ motive for the instruction and commissioning of his disciples?
  3. As you reflect on the text try to visualize the events. How and why was Jesus’ heart moved with compassion?  What allowed him to notice the need in the towns and synagogues?
    • Based on this observation, what is necessary for one’s heart to fill with compassion for people?

Personal reflection and Application

Jesus leadership was always motivated by compassion – love that wells up in our hearts and stirs up to fulfill a need.  To read more about compassion as the motive of Jesus’ ministry, read this article What is Love?. (

  1. Consider the condition of your heart. Have your heart grown harder or softer for people in the last six months?
    • How do you measure it?
    • Why did it grow harder or softer?
  2. Recall one instance in your life where you were moved with compassion to do something for someone or a community. When and where was this? Who did you feel for?  What was the need and how did you respond?
    • WHY did you feel for him/ her/ them?
  3. Consider the people you lead (such as your small group or family or people at work). Reflect on one or two of them: their past, their current situation and struggles, their ambitions.
    • In which way can you identify with his/her past?
    • In which way can you identify with his/her current situation and struggles?
    • In which way can you identify with his/her ambitions?
    • Can you understand what they feel? Can you how you are quite alike?
    • Now pray for him/ her from your heart and afterward send a message of encouragement.


Thank God for the compassion he has on you and kindness he extends towards you. Pray that the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thessalonians 3:11).



The Character of a Leader: being candid, authentic

A Barna Group study revealed that non-Christians American primarily associate Christians with the word “hypocrite”.  Truly, there is a dire need for vulnerability and authenticity in the church – especially among leaders.  After all – nothing ruins trust in a leader as the discovery that he or she is a fake.

Before starting with today’s devotional leadership study, look at this inspirational talk by Dr Dale Cilliers on the need for leaders to be candid (real, authentic, truthful). []


Luke 12:1-3

1  In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  2  Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  3  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Observation and refection questions

Context: Jesus and his disciples just had dinner in the house of a Pharisee and the crowds gathered in and around the house to hear him speak.

  1. When would someone usually be labeled as a hypocrite? From your knowledge of the Bible, why did Jesus call the Pharisees “hypocrites”?
  2. Note whom Jesus addresed in this conversation (verse 1).  Could you think of someone among Jesus’ disciples whom might have rightfully been called a hypocrite?  Why would you say this?
  3. Jesus referred to hypocrisy as “leaven”; what is leaven, and how is hypocrisy similar to it? How do you understand this metaphor then?
  4. How are verses 2 and 3 related to the “Beware…”-statement of Jesus?

Personal reflection and Application

The Pharisees were devoted to the literal observance of Moses’ Law and traditions of the elders.  Yet Jesus repeatedly referred to them as “hypocrites” or actors – pretending to be morally upright and religiously observant but only as long as people see them.

  1. Which aspect of your life if “brought to light” or “proclaimed from the housetops” (especially in your local church) would cause your much shame?
    1. What are the effects of leading publically with pretense while struggling with a private weakness or sin? What have you experienced?  Think and reflect.
    2. Write your private flaws on a piece of paper. Then read it to the Lord, as though he is sitting in front of you.  Confess the sin and ask for mercy for forgiveness and grace for overcoming the temptation (1 John 1:7-9; Hebrews 4:16).
    3. Next, overcome the shame of hypocrisy by telling a mature Christian friend whom you trust. Commit to be transparent and accountable with him/her weekly about this. Take their counsel in the matter!
  2. Name the great Biblical leaders whose flaws were well recorded. What do you learn form that?
    1. How can you still lead in authenticity and truth while being weak in a specific area?


Pray for the grace to live a humble and honest life as a leader, safeguarded in true friendships where you can be absolutely honest about your struggles and flaws.  Ask God for grace to lead and live with authenticity while growing in holiness.


Reference: Kinneman, unChristian, Barna Group, 2007

Growing your leadership capacity

Leaders are neither born nor made.  They are summoned.  They are called into existence by circumstances.  Those that rise to the occasion are leaders.” – Leonard Sweet [i]

Our world is not well and everyone knows it.  When people seek a solution they always look for methods to fix a problem, but God is looking for a willing person.  Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Deborah, David, Jeremiah, Esther, Nehemiah, Paul…. These all heard the call and responded, and their world – our world – was forever changed.

In this sense Maxwell is right when he says “everything rises and falls on leadership.” [ii] Will you be ready to respond when God calls?

On Monday 15 February 2016 we will launch a leadership growth series comprised of daily devotional studies, aided by short video talks and workshops to help you build your leadership capacity.  We will focus on developing your leadership context, character, competencies, charisma and compulsion.

Watch this short introductory video clip to get an idea of where we are heading with this series.

We suggest you invite one or two friends along on this journey so that reflect as you discuss your thoughts with them. It will especially prove helpful as we will post some workshops that will help you practice what you learn.  Who will join you?

In closing, take Mark Sanborn’s comment to heart as you prepare for our first session on Monday: “You don’t need a title to be a leader in life.  And the simple fact of having a title won’t make you a leader … everyone has the opportunity to lead, every day… anyone at any level can learn to be a leaders and help shape or influence the world around them.”[iii]

Note: To automatically receive the daily updates, blog posts and video links, follow this blog post.

[i] Sweet L., Summoned to Lead (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004).

[ii] JC Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998)

[iii] Sanborn M., You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader (Calorado Springs, Calorado: Waterbook Press, 2006).