Our congregation is situated in Milngavie (pronounced 'Milguy'), a suburb to the north-west of Glasgow, and is one of the thirty-one Church of Scotland congregations in Dumbarton Presbytery. The congregation was established in 1841, and the present church was built in 'Scottish Gothic' style in 1906.

This page contains the latest information while we cannot meet together.

During the coronavirus shutdown, Sunday Services will be found here.

These are the Sunday services from late March 2020 onwards when we went into lockdown.

Our minister, Fergus Buchanan has started a phased return to work, although still under "shielding". He keeps in touch with his blog.  

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

31 March 2020

The Plot to Kill Jesus John 11 45-end (nsv)

  

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
 
 
 
 
 
This reading is straight after the raising of Lazarus and as Jesus’s profile is getting more and more noticeable the question for The Sanhedrin was “ what do we do next?”. Let's face it Jesus was proving to be a very imposing threat. On the face of it there was nothing he couldn’t do. Among other things that he had proved to be the Lord of nature by calming the storm, the Lord of darkness by allowing the blind man to see, the Lord of death by raising Lazarus from the grave and to feed 5000 people didn’t seem to be a problem. So this problem that Jesus presented seemed insurmountable….what to do with him…..whats going to happen next?
 
“What's going to happen next” is something today we are all asking ourselves, so many questions so many deadlines. Will it be three weeks?, will it be six months?
 
As we move along this Lent journey going towards the hill at Calvary we know what happened next. Jesus proclaimed “ I am the resurrection and the Life”. So the answer to our question of “ what happens next?” is simple “ whatever happens next is in the hands of our Father God. The Father who gave us his son. This man who gives us so much that when we sing " alleluia what a saviour" gives us so much security and confidence and grace. So what happens next? He knows and it's in his hands. Amen

 

  

 

30 April 2020

Acts Chapter 6

 

The Choosing of the Seven

6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen Seized

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom; the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

 

 

A growing Family

Among our friends we know a young couple that have a baby boy. Starting a family is an exciting time and takes a wee bit of time to get used to it all. No sooner were they getting used to it all…. when they had twins!!!! The family of three suddenly becomes a family of five!!

Help is needed!

In a completely different context we read in Acts 6 that the family of disciples are growing. It was a known fact that many different ethnic races and religions were coming to Jerusalem to end their days.

What is the problem?

Amongst them were many widows and there was a problem sharing their food amongst this growing newfound family. There is internal wrangling going on and something needs to be done. So what is the problem? Verse 2 “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables”

Solution?

Is there a solution? Verse 3 “ Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

Result?

The result can be read in Verse 7 “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”

Very early on in the birth and growth of the Church we see the need to organise. In this case the Apostles saw what the problem was and the knew they could not be tied down by this. So they delegated. And in doing this we know that “ this pleased the group”. They chose seven other people to help do other things and free them up and in verse 4 “ we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

The big issue here was the priority of God and Prayer. Yes there were tables to be laid and there were internal struggles and fights. There was a lot to do but nothing should ever distract from “ prayer and the ministry of the word” And even all these years later we find the same problems with the modern day church. People try and make big changes, other people try to bring in other priorities, people are concerned about what the church needs to function when it has been functioning for years. But above all of there is God and we need to talk to him, we need him to help us to delegate and we can only do this through prayer.

The BIG verse in this reading is the result. Verse 7 “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”

So we know it worked for them and it should be a lesson to us all that The Word is still as relevant today and our priority should be taking it to God in prayer.

Father, we see from our passage this morning that we are called to care for others, to look out for the needy and the less fortunate than we are and to serve one another. And although this event happened 2000 years ago, we see today people during this current crisis, people who have taken on these roles of service to others. And it has been costly – as they have given their lives in that service. And so, as we remember again today the people who have given their lives because they cared for and served the weak and the vulnerable; whether in hospital, care homes or in their own homes, as well as others who worked in transport and the distribution of vital services to all our communities. They will be greatly missed by their loved ones and so, we pray for their families and friends, praying that your love will surround them as they mourn their loss. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

29 April 2020

Acts Chapter 5

 

 

Ananias and Sapphira

 

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

 

 

 

 

Create in me a clean heart O Lord

 

So we have the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. It was quite a common practice in those days to sell off your assets and give the money to the temple. This couple were being a bit naughty and kept back some of the money for themselves. While it's possible they were telling everyone that they were selling it for the temple, they were also selling it for themselves by keeping some of the money.

 

There was a certain amount of hypocrisy going on. And I think that Ananias revealed something that we all struggle with. We fundamentally miss out on what God wants from us. We think that God wants our stuff more than He wants us. Or we think that God will love us more if we give Him more. Or we think that what other Christians think about us will increase the love that God has for us.

 

Think about what Ananias and Sapphira tried to do. They wanted to project an image of themselves to the church that they were generous, too. They wanted others to look at them and say - “wow look at those Christians - they are always giving, always serving. They are always there anytime the doors are open. They are always doing the right thing.” But at the heart of their actions there was a lie.

 

There is a lesson here. And that lesson is that God wants our hearts more than he wants our money. Oh sure the money is necessary to allow the church to function but God wants our hearts to be clean and pure

 

Psalm 51 verse 10 reminds us

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

 

The lesson of the day is this - God cares more about the heart behind your offering than He cares about the offering itself. God wants your heart in worship. He wants you to love Him and connect with Him and to have joy in knowing Him. And in doing so we should root out the hypocrisy in our own lives and present to God a purer heart and a cleaner self. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

28 April 2020 

The Believers Pray

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

26 The kings of the earth rise up

and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.[b]’[c]

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

The Believers Share Their Possessions

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

 

Breaking News

We are still on Acts 4. Yesterday morning when I sat down to prepare these words, it dawned on me when you look at some of the titles in the bible, for our readings, they are really hitting home at the moment. Never in the current generation and never in the history of our church has the bible been so relevant. (I read that in Winstons Churchill's voice?) An example of that would be today's titles which are “ believers pray” and “ believers share their possessions”

Peter and John are released and the church rejoices. His friends relieved and excited lift their hands to God in prayer and praise. They were aware that they were still in danger as the non believers were still around. They were aware that everything was scripture based, but look at verse 29 “ Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”….Talk about relevance for today…..And another important factor here is that " they shared their possessions" so another timely reminder of what we should be doing as a living church in society today. Then after all of this after all We are told that after they prayed .....the ground shook and they spoke the word of God boldly. Not just prayer but that " rocket fuel" prayer that I have spoken of before.

And of course this is a timely reminder that prayer is all important today and every day. Praise God for what we have, praise God for keeping up safe and Thank God for a new day that is about to unfold before us. Keeping him at all times “ on the menu” so to speak or even “ breaking news” as we go through our day. God is amongst us, we have him in our lives and in our hearts. Let's share Him with others. Amen

 

 


 

 

27 April 2020

Acts 4

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin

4 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is“‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

 

 

Rocket Fuel.

I can remember the first time I ever preached in a pulpit outside my own home church. I was terrified. “ What am I doing?” I thought “ Why am I doing this?” These words came in waves. But the minister I was taught by, a man called Bill McAreavy in Kelvin Bridge filled me with confidence. I remember his prayers before we went out into the sanctuary they were like rocket fuel. I would walk out into the church telling myself “ I have a job to do and I can do it”

The confidence of Peter and John is amazing. They are arrested because of their teaching. The Sanhedrin intimidates them. But despite all that Peter and John put up a great case for their actions and they even reverse their roles from the accused to the accusers.

Peter indicts the Sanhedrin because they had crucified Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead and in whose name this lame man had been healed. Furthermore, Peter let them know that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).

The members of the council were amazed at the confidence of Peter and John, who had not been educated in the rabbinical schools. When the council saw the man who had been healed standing there (proof positive of his healing), they had nothing to say. After a private conference the council commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John replied that they had to obey God, because they could not stop speaking what they had seen and heard. After further warnings, the council let them go, since the crowd was glorifying God on account of this miracle.

Ask yourself today “ where does my confidence lie?” “ How can I be more confident?” “Why do I need this confidence?”

Confidence comes through prayer. Praying that the Holy Spirit will guide you and guard you. Praying that you have the necessary energy to make a difference.

Confidence through Jesus. Learning more and more about how he changed lives. What his relationship was like with his family and his friends the disciples.

Confidence through God. God is the rocket fuel that is going to get us from here to where ever we will find ourselves in the months to come. Things may seem huge and frightening at this point in time but the kids in the Sunday school sing “ our God is a great big God”. We owe it all to Him. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

26 April 2020

PETER SPEAKS IN SOLOMON'S PORTICO

 

ACTS 3

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
 
 
 
Faith in the one who speaks the name.
 
Yesterday Peter and John healed the lame man. The man was overcome by his healing and literally leapt for joy at the transformation of his life. As they are all gathered, Peter reminds the crowd that the man was not healed by him or John but by Jesus, or rather the God of Abraham who was, and is still at work through him.
 
Peters quote “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers” is actually from the book of Exodus (3:6). He would have used this quote so that the people who were listening to him would be familiar with the reference point. Exodus 2 was when God called Moses from the burning bush and tells him to go back to Egypt and lead the people from slavery.
 
You see Peter is quoting a scripture that they would be familiar with. He is also trying to explain to the crowd something really important and that is, it was Jesus who healed the man. He repeats this point to rub it in and uses the name Jesus.
 
Tom Wright reminds us that “ there has to be faith, faith in the one who speaks the name and faith in the one who hears it”
 
Verse 16 is the all important verse here 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. Tom Wright goes on to say “ that’s what’s on offer through the gospel message which announces the powerful name of Jesus. Believing in him and in the power of his name is the way to wholeness even in the 21stcentury as it was in the 1st.
 
Tom Wright said this in his book in 2008 it is even more relevant in 2020.
 
Lift high the name of Jesus. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

25 April 2020

Peter Heals a Lame Beggar

 

 

3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
 
 
The outsider
 
In the Bible Luke told us how the church was formed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and baptism and gathered around the apostles’ teaching but now we move onto narrate examples of the apostles’ ministry in Jerusalem.
 
This scene is part of a larger story: the healing is really the set up for the sermon Peter gives to the crowd of witnesses in Acts 3. The healing and sermon together, in turn, set up the first instance of persecution of the church in Acts when Peter and John are imprisoned and tried for their actions.
 
So the scene is set for the book of Acts. Let's look at this man who receives healing. The first thing we learn about him is his history. Lame from birth and needed carried. The people who carried him, left him at the temple gates in order for him to beg from those going inside. It's at this point her engages with Peter and John hoping to receive money.
Peter goes on with the famous verse “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” You see, if the man had been given money it would only be a temporary fix, it would be spent in hours but what Peter gave him was everlasting. Not only was it everlasting, he was healed after all, definitely a new life for the man lame from birth but what else was he given? Well he was definitely enthusiastic walking with them to the temple courts walking and jumping and praising God. So this man, now filled with the holy spirit had a new purpose, a new energy and he was a new man. He was also living proof of what God can do. All the people saw him, recognized him and were filled with wonder and amazement.
 
Isn’t that marvellous? Living testimony what God can do and we all know he is still doing that today. If you're feeling a wee bit sad or a wee bit vulnerable its good to know that God is there for us and through the Good News of Jesus Christ we can be reassured that “ this too shall pass” it's only temporary and we will get through it together.
 
As a young child I went to the Baptist Church in Partick to The Good News Club, every Thursday night 6:30 till 8pm. At the end of each evening we got a glass of Lemonade and a biscuit and we always sang the same song
It is NO Secret
 
The chimes of time ring out the news another day is through
Someone slipped and fell was that someone you
You may have long for added strength your courage to renew
Do not be this hearten for I bring hope to you
It is no secret what God can do what he's done for others he'll do for you With arms wide open He'll part anew it is no secret what God can do
There is no night for end his light you'll never walk alone
Always feel at home wherever you may roam
There is no power can conquer you while God is on your side
Just take him at his promise don't run away and hide
It is no secret what God can do what he's done for others he'll do for you
With arms wide open He'll part anew it is no secret what God can do
What God can do
 
Amen

 

  

 


 

 

24 April 2020

Acts Chapter 2 from verse 42

 

 

 

The Fellowship of the Believers

 

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 
 
 
 
An out of date message?
 
A while back I preached on this passage in a church in Dumbarton. So I decided to look up my preaching notes and had to do a double-take when I read them. You see if I had to preach the same sermon this coming sermon that would not be possible as everything has changed.
 
Back in the day I was talking about the purpose of the local church and being a healthy church. In the reading from Acts we are being told that after Jesus had left them and they were left to their own devices they had to plan what was important to them.
 
Verse 42 devoted to the teaching and to the fellowship and the breaking of the bread. Verse 44 everybody being together all with a common bond that was Jesus. 45 tending to those in need 46 meeting together and finally in verse 47 praising God.
 
You see my sermon was all about being a healthy church and having a purpose( just like the followers of Jesus found in the book of Acts). My sermon was all about the importance of fellowship and finally I talked of the importance of prayer. But as I put the old sermon down I picked it up and re-read it and thought that although everything has changed dramatically since I wrote it we can still follow the same principles.
 
Through social media and other sources we still have the teaching of God's word. More than ever, fellowship from a distance has become not only a reassuring thing but a healing thing as some of us feel lonely. Finally we can all pray on our own or share a prayer on social media and even on here.
 
Here’s an unusual twist today as we leave these words. If you have minute think about “ the fellowship” of your own church and try and reach out to someone today that you might never have done in the past. Phone someone, not in your fellowship circle that would maybe appreciate a phone call or even an email. And in your prayers today think about them and the others who are struggling at the moment and who more than ever need contact and care.
 
Let us Pray
 
Heavenly Father, thank you for this new day. Thank you too for walking with us – especially so just now when things are so strange; when we can no longer meet with our loved ones. We remember especially people who live alone and who may feel even more isolated just now. Thank you for all the expressions of love and help which are being made in order to help others. We pray that these will keep happening when this crisis is over as we see the benefits of caring for others within our communities. Thank you for prompting people to look out for others. We give you thanks for all the people who go above and beyond the call of duty to care for the most vulnerable – thank you for them and pray that you will continue to keep them safe. We ask all this in Jesus Name – Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

23 April 2020

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

 

Acts Chapter 1 from verse 12

 

12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters,[d] the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;

let there be no one to dwell in it,’[e]

and,

“‘May another take his place of leadership.’[f]

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

 

 

Trust and obey for there is no other way.

These days all we seem to do is wait. Wait for the next set of instructions from the Government, wait at home or wait in queues at the shops and then go back home and wait. Wait until we can see our friends once more face to face in the flesh. Apart from waiting the other things we have to do, is be obedient. Don’t mix with friends, don’t go on unnecessary journeys, don’t drive to beauty spots just exercise in your own area and obey what we are being told on the radio, tv and in the newspapers. So we wait and we obey and above all else we depend. We depend on being told the correct information, we depend on taking this information and absorbing it and making it work for us. All of these rules as we appear to be locked in our own homes.

At this point in the book of Acts Jesus has left his friends. He has gone but just before that he gives them strength through his teaching and his presence and his advice. Yesterday we remember he said “don’t leave just wait” to his disciples and they did.

The disciples returned to the upper room and united in prayer they waited. Of course no one wants to wait unless they can help it but we know from this reading in Acts (v14) they all joined in prayer. They all waited and they all obeyed.

It was during this time that Judas was replaced by Matthias, the only time an apostle has had to be elected and we are told not just because Judas had died but also to fulfil the Scriptures. So the disciples are obeying Jesus and obeying the Scriptures. Time was not being wasted during the wait and things still had to be done. God was preparing them and he was teaching them and above all else he was nurturing them into a better place

And of course that’s happening today and during this current crisis we seek God in prayer and in Scripture, we remain obedient to Him and depend on His Word and of course we wait.

Let us Pray

Might and glorious Father we come before you today and we wait. While we wait, we ask you for forgiveness if we are not really following the rules. We ask that you give us the patience to remain at home and make our time resourceful. And that you give us the willpower to be obedient to your word Amen

 

  

 


 

 

 

22 April 2020

The book of Acts Chapter 1 verses 6-9

 

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

 

You will be my witnesses

There is one very powerful verse early on in the book of Acts and we find that in verse 8 …..” and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth”

Here we are talking about the founding of the church and the spread of the gospel not just locally but “ to the ends of the earth” The first four gospels told us about Christ's life and his teaching but now we are going on a journey to witness the very beginning of The Church and the spread of Christ's message to all.

…..” and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth

Tom Wright tells us that we should notice one thing in particular which will help us as we go through the book of Acts. Jesus gives the apostles an agenda. Jerusalem first, then Judea followed by Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. We are told that the journey will be so interesting that we don’t need to know “when He is “going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus has been appointed as the worlds true king, seated on his throne. One day the kingdom will come, Tom Wright says “ in the meantime we have a job to do”.

We all have a job to do. Even though we don't have our organisations and our buildings and our fellowship we still have a job to do. After all we are all witnesses and that has not been put in lockdown. As we think of the start of the early church we should be thinking of the day when we have to go back to our own churches and start again. How do we prepare for that? Well through the reading of the scripture and of course through prayer.

Let us pray “ Heavenly Father we are so grateful that you sent your son to die for us. To afford us this amazing grace. To allow us to leave our sins at the foot of the cross and as the hymn says “ stand amazed in His presence”

Father we pray this morning for the church. For the first time in a lifetime we are scattered. We are separated from a place we call our sanctuary and although we know its only bricks and mortar, it holds us all together in fellowship.

So as we pray for our “ missed” church we pray too for our fellowship. You know us all. You know our names and you know every hair on our heads. Today as we miss the sound of our choirs. As we miss the look on our friends' faces and as we miss the message given to us so clear and so nourishing. We thank you for keeping us safe. We thank you for giving us tomorrow and we thank you for the fellowship of Christ and the fellowship of each other Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

21 April 2020

Acts 1 New International Version (NIV) Acts 1 verses 1-5

 

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

 

 

For the time being we will look at the book of Acts in the New Testament. To help me along this journey I am relying on Tom Wrights book” Acts for everyone” to make this more interesting.

In his book Tom Wright talks about the movie the madness of King George the third. Alan Bennetts script was bound to be a sure fire hit but there was one problem. The Movie makers had a problem with the title. Superman 1 had two sequels out at this time Superman 2 and Superman 3 what if people thought that The madness of King George was a trilogy and people went looking for the first two movies?

The book of Acts. This is of course the story of the early church with Jesus as the main character. It is authored by the physician Luke and begins by giving us the fact that this is a sequel and then goes to give us a brief resume of what has happened up until this point.

There are two strands to this book and the first is that it is the story is based on the resurrection of Jesus. At the end of Lukes gospel Jesus gave “many convincing proofs that he was alive” in fact Tom Wright goes on to say that Jesus’ “ transformed body is now the beginning of Gods new creation”.

The second strand of this book is that it introduces the power and the importance of the holy spirit.” For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

And you know? there is some important advice just at the end of this short reading we see that Jesus asked them to wait. “ do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised” Tom Wright comments in his book that “ Luke would tell us to wait and to pray for the presence and the power of the holy spirit. And that’s good advice for these changed days when we have to stay indoors and be patient. Patient while decisions are being made. Patient while keeping to the advice we are given. Patient while we heal, improve and get better.

On TV yesterday Detective Supt Catriona Paton was speaking in “ reflections at the key” a committed Christian her mother and father were missionaries in Africa. She said her work ethos comes from a painting on her fathers wall that stated “…keep working for the Lord. The pay isn’t much but the retirement plan is out of this world….”

From our homes today we can still work for the lord. We can do this with prayer…. So let us pray

Prayer: Father we pray this morning for all our loved ones and our church family. We pray for our ministers and for our church. We pray for patience during these darker days and as we wait for the light to shine over us once again we thank you for your son Jesus who taught us so much and can teach us so much more. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

20 April 2020

1 Corinthians 15:19-28 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet. Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

 
 
 
The persecuted church.
 
One of the things that has come out of this pandemic is the publics use of ZOOM. It’s an audio visual app that’s available so that a crowd of people can see and speak to each other. Don’t get me wrong, people love it, are using it and it’s making their life a whole lot better at this time. But me? I don’t like it at all. I might be OK using it audibly but I have no desire to see my “ Halloween cake” face on a screen. ( an ex-colleague once said that of me while using something similar)
 
So the other day when I was flicking through the paper I came upon a headline all about zoom. But I literally pulled myself up as I started to read the article. Several members of China’s heavily persecuted Early Rain Covenant Church were arrested by communist authorities for participating in an online Easter worship service on Zoom and ordered to cease all religious activity.
 
The 5,000-member Sichuan house church, ( yes that’s right 5000!) led by pastor Wang Yi, has not been able to gather in person since the communist regime shut down the church in 2018 and arrested their pastor and other leaders. Since then, it has opted to gather online.
 
She added that in addition to Wang, other key church leaders including Guo Haigang, Wu Wuqing, Jia Xuewei, Zhang Jianqing and Zhang Xudong were also taken away. One member’s home had its electricity cut off, while others received phone calls that “police were coming to visit them soon.”
 
Like Christians all over the world, Paul suffered extreme persecution for his faith. But his faith was so important and so secure that he really wanted to hammer home the message of the resurrection. After all what would be the point of a version of Christianity in which Christ was never raised from the dead. I read somewhere that the picture is bleak for those who do not believe in the resurrection. If the resurrection did not take place the gospel is false and those who teach anything else are liars. Strong stuff indeed but when we think that 2000 years later people are still being persecuted for their faith we must be like Paul and share the real gospel, the only gospel and that’s the gospel of the risen Lord.
 
If none of this was true then the physical and emotional abuse Paul suffered was pointless.
 
2 Corinthians 11 24-28 reminds us that
 
23-27 I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, and beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummelled with rocks once. I’ve been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard travelling year in and year out, I’ve had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I’ve known drudgery and hard labour, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
 
28-29 And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.
 
30-33 If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus. The eternal and blessed God and Father of our Master Jesus know I’m not lying. (Eugene Peterson Message)
 
And so this morning as we praise the risen saviour who did rise victoriously from the grave we remind ourselves of the pain of Paul and the persecuted church yesterday and today.
 
Let's pray for the persecuted church
 
Our father in heaven we remember Paul this morning and the pain that he had to endure convincing people of your son's life, his resurrection and the amazing grace freely available for all. We pray today for the church in all the corners of the globe. We thank you that in some of these corners your church is growing and thriving but at the same time we bring to your attention those who risk their lives for your church and your son. Bless your church wherever your people meet even in these difficult days when we meet using social media. We pray for your people who are persecuted and in pain. We pray for your church wherever and however it meets. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

19 April 2020

The Resurrection of the Dead

 

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,

 

 

 

A Hoax

At the moment there is a lot of controversy surrounding corona virus. When will the lockdown end? Should we be wearing masks? What about the people that wear gloves? What about the NHS? Questions being asked but no real answers to satisfy the doubters.

Paul writes to the people of Corinth an important wealthy city between North and South Greece. Pauls would spend 18 months there to establish a church and then move onto Jerusalem among other places. After leaving Corinth, Paul wrote a letter after hearing about issues the Christians were having and decided to write to them with guidance for their problems. One of their main issues was who should they follow?

A few years ago I met someone who I used to work with. I was amazed and very pleased when they told me that they had become a Christian. They then went onto to tell me what parts of the bible they believed but then took longer to tell me the bits of the Bible that they didn’t believe in.

I remember parting from this person with the words “ if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then the whole of the bible is a hoax!” “ Christianity is a hoax” back came his retort “ well then your type Christianity is a hoax Alex”

There is no “type”. There is the Bible and there is Christianity

It might seem that Paul is struggling to convince people of the authenticity of the life of Christ but he is making it perfectly clear. If Christ did not rise from the dead then our faith is futile and more than that, Grace would not exist so we would all be drowning with sin. We might be living in strange times and some of the stories we are clearing might be unclear. But what is crystal clear is that Christ died for us on a cross and three days later he rose from the grave. Now I have been repeating myself over the past few days but it’s a point worth hammering home. Strange days and uncertain times deserve a clear message. Christ died for us! He rose from the tomb! Alleluia what a Saviour.

And now a short prayer

Father, we have just celebrated an Easter like no other – when we have not been able to gather together to praise and worship You and to remember Your great sacrifice for us on the Cross and give thanks for your glorious resurrection. And so we pray that whatever our individual circumstances, we give you thanks that the great truths of Easter are the same regardless of where and with whom we celebrated the Easter message.

When we think of the first Easter when the disciples had witnessed the crucifixion, they too felt isolated and lost without Jesus who had been their constant friend and companion for over 3 years. But praise God, because of the resurrection of Jesus, He is with us today. We give you thanks for the hope that the Easter message brings – not just in times of joy and gladness, but more importantly, in the times when we are anxious and concerned. In the Bible passage this morning, Paul exhorted the believers at that time to remain true to the centrality of their belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and, as we continue to ponder the Easter message in our hearts, we pray that we too may give you thanks and praise and continue to believe in Jesus who gave His life so that we may live.

Amen

 
 

 

 


 

 

18 April 2020

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

 

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

 

 

Use the tool box!

Every time we turn on the television or the radio we are confronted by the latest statistics and facts and figures. But for me personally I am always asking myself “ what is the bigger picture?” “ How do we really explain to each other what is happening?”

In our reading today Mary was deeply disappointed, first by the shock of the crucifixion, but now by the fact that she wanted to see Jesus’ body. She was thinking, “If only I knew where they have taken him? But she didn’t understand the big picture, which included Jesus’ resurrection.

So often, we’re just like Mary. We’re disappointed because we don’t understand the big picture of what God is doing and what is going on in the world. We’re disappointed because God isn’t working as we think He needs to work. It seems that His promises aren’t true! But our faith has to be stronger than that. We have to use every tool in the tool box to repair what is broken in us and that includes prayer, scripture and reflection.

Mary thought that evil men had triumphed over God’s purposes. They had killed Jesus and now they had stolen His body.

We often suffer needless sorrow because we forget that God is so mighty that there is nothing that can overturn his purpose. And yes sometimes that can lead to an emotional struggle especially with the aftermath of what has happened and certainly not in our lifetime, will we get some answers.

Romans 8 verse 28 tells us that

“ we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

And yes that you and me. Our love for him is rewarded by the promise that He works, for the good of us. The Shepherd as always recognises the voices of his sheep. Through his Son Jesus Christ who was crucified and who rose from the dead, we are given answers we are given reassurance and we are given a friend. So if I had to give anyone advice today about what to do? it would be to build up our strength in prayer and scripture, hear the voices of our friends in the hymns that we shared while at Church and reflect on the fact that we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

 

  


 

 

17 April 2020

1st Corinthians 15 1-10

 

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

 

 

Is there enough evidence for a conviction?

Years ago I remember hearing a sermon and the main message was “ if you are accused of being a Christian is there enough evidence to convict you?”

I’ve just finished my eighth “Shetland “ book by Anne Cleeves what I like about her books is that at the end she seems to go over things that have happened in the book. ( my memory is getting worse so I like this)

She reminds you what the conviction was, who were the witnesses, who provided the evidence and finally what happened. She talks a lot about the evidence and hammers home the message of the crime.

This passage from Pau's letter is a bit like that for me. It breaks down the basics of Christianity. The conviction being that we have “ received the gospel and on it we have taken our stand. The case being that “ Christ died for our sins and after three days he rose from the dead” and the eyewitnesses being Cephas and of course the 12 disciples. There were a couple of special witnesses namely James and of course later to Paul. And of course all of this means that by this Gospel“ you are saved”

Today more than ever Christians are scrutinised for practising their faith, there is an increasing scrutiny on the belief system and its perceived “intolerance.” As a result, many Christians are fearful of offending others or worry about how they may be perceived if they are vocal about their faith. Yet Jesus Himself was not afraid to offend others. A reading of the gospels shows many instances when Jesus made people angry and hostile. Yet He always showed love, even toward those who rejected Him. Jesus was tried, convicted and killed for His teachings and beliefs. If you were to stand trial for being a Christian, what would your trial be like?

 

  

 


 

 

 

16 April 2020

Colossians 4 2-6

 

 

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

 

 

82 words

 

There are 82 words in this passage; you could say it’s quite a short passage. There are eight lines of text, that’s all that’s there. If you read it quick enough it might mean nothing. But then again if you look close enough?

 
It is a universal message for Christians.
 
It is packed full of words that are so clear and so positive it could be your motto for life.
 
It is a prayer about prayer and arguably,.. It's “chicken soup for the soul”
 
Paul's message to the Colossians was relevant then and it's relevant now. It’s relevant as we are in lockdown and it will even more relevant when we find ourselves being allowed to do more
 
It reminds us to devote ourselves to prayer. To be alert at what’s around us and at the same time to be thankful.
 
We must always be aware of opportunities that will allow us to share God's message
It’s reminding us to pray for others who are also involved in prayer. And at the same time make it simple and make it clear. And in order to present yourself with grace and wisdom……..remember the great bible verse Matthew 5 verse 13 “You are the salt of the earth”
 
And so it might be appropriate to end today’s words for life as we started
 
Dear Heavenly Father allow us to devote ourselves to prayer. Let us be watchful as well as thankful and at the same time open doors for us for the message of your son Jesus Christ. Let my words flow clearly and wisely while dealing with others. Give us conversations that are full of grace seasoned with salt and allow us to share your light with others. Amen

 

                                         -----------------------------------

 

 

 

 

Due to a scheduling problem, the words for life for today (as above) was published yesterday on Facebook.  

So this morning I leave you with another simple story. I don’t know where it came from, the author is unknown.

 

 

With the hand of the Master .............

Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE." When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit." Keep playing." Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played. Only the classic, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Perhaps that's the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be beautiful. The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't quit." "Keep playing." May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces. Remember, God doesn't seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the 'called.' Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by the things you acquire.

 

 

Due to the lockdown we are selling the church society cards through this website and through Facebook.

 

31 May 2020

Luke 1 39-45

 

Mary visits Elizabeth

 

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’

 

Treated with honour

Having learned from the angel that she will give birth to the Son of God, Mary hurries to visit her pregnant relative Elizabeth. The conversation suggests Jesus as more important than John. It also shows God already at work to overturn the world as it existed at that moment in time. The spotlight shines on Mary and Elizabeth, two women through whom God has chosen to begin the transformation of the world.

 

Though Luke clearly signals that the unborn child’s leaping is prompted by the Spirit, it is Elizabeth, John’s mother, who takes on the role of prophet by speaking the prophetic words “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear” Furthermore, through the Spirit she knows who Mary’s child will be, for she calls Mary “the mother of my Lord

 

Elizabeth greeted Mary with honour, and by doing so she overturns social expectations. Mary is an unmarried pregnant woman and Elizabeth knows from her own experience the cost of being shamed and excluded. In her culture a woman’s role in life was to bear children, so as an elderly infertile wife she had endured a lifetime of being treated as a failure. By being pregnant God had reversed her social status and emphasis Gods ability and his amazing grace.

 

So the pregnancy that might have brought Mary shame brings joy and honour instead. When Elizabeth welcomes Mary, she practices the same kind of inclusive love that Jesus will show throughout his life and his ministry. And like these women we too are blessed to have God in our life and the knowledge that he has come to free us from sin. Like these two women we belong to a community that supports each other as we hope and wait. Especially in these strange times.

 

Let us pray. Father God as we come to another Sunday, another Sabbath we remember your church today. As we are scattered in our own homes and in our own community we know that your church is wherever your people are praising and we praise you today. We pray today for all the people who we invite into our lives through social media, the Internet and television. People who have taken the time to share your word to us while we sit in our own homes. We pray too for Ramsay and John who carry on and share their thoughts and your scriptures each week while our church buildings are closed. And of course we pray for those of your flock who may, at this time, feel vulnerable and alone. May your Spirit fill them with the love and confidence to carry on while we make progress in what’s happening in our towns and cities.  Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

30 May 2020

Matthew 5    New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

 

 

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

 

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

 

The Beatitudes

 

He said:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

 

 

I read yesterday that one of the big criticisms of The Bible is that it is no longer relevant. It is full of rules and advice that is irrelevant and out of date. There are criticisms too of the language used. People say the KJV is not easy to understand and other translations are misleading. Personally I think the language used in the KJV is beautiful and I think some of the translations are great for Bible Studies and great too for injecting some fresh understanding. I could fill a book about the Beatitudes and what they mean for us and what the background is but today I thought I would address the critics about irrelevance and poor translations. I know I go on a lot about Eugene Peterson and his translation of the Bible but just for a moment think about what’s going on in your life today and the “ relevance” and read his translation of Matthew 5 

 

Reading from Verse 4

 

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds!

 

Read that last bit again “ All heaven applauds” and that applause is for you and me. That applause is for the pain and the sorrow as well as the joy and the triumphs. That applause is for the person going through all of this alone as well as the big families living under the one roof in lockdown. That applause is because you are special…….Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

29 May 2020

Romans 8:14-17 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

 

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

 

Adoption

 

And so (as we read in John and in Acts) after the promise of eternal life and through the gift of the Holy Spirit we can call him Father and we can call ourselves Gods children. In Israel’s wilderness God went before them every day in a pillar of cloud but now it’s the Holy Spirit that provides our leadership. But there is one difference and that is we are not to become slaves to the law, Christ has freed us from slavery as well as sin. 

 

The scripture then uses the word “ adopted” and when you think about the true meaning of those words it tells us that we have been welcomed into the family of God as a full member. I especially like the story of the mother of two children – one natural born and the other adopted.  When someone asked, “Which child is adopted?” the mother gazed for a moment into the distance and then answered, “I can’t remember.”

 

So we have a relationship with God that enables us to call him Abba, Papa, Father. We can live as Gods children, led by the Holy Spirit and enjoy the full rights and privileges as sons and daughters. Our inheritance will be unbelievable through the good times and especially through the bad times. Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

28 May 2020

Acts 2 New International Version (NIV)

 

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost

 

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.

 

…..even to the remotest parts of the earth

 

In Acts chapter 1 Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father and that they would be “ baptized with the  Holy Spirit” and they would receive power to be Christ’s witnesses even in the most remotest parts of the earth.

 

Just as Jesus’s ministry would depend on the Holy Spirit, the disciples too would benefit greatly from The Holy Spirit working alongside them with their work on earth.

 

And so in Acts chapter 2, we are witnesses to a historical event signifying a new period in God's dealing with His people. It is the dawning of the age of The Holy Spirit where people would be empowered to witness to all nations even in the remotest parts of the earth.

 

And today that’s what this all means for you and me. God is equipping His church with the power of His spirit so that he can be glorified throughout the whole of the earth. And the earth that was created by Him will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of The Lord.

 

And that’s up to us now!  We have to bear witness to the crucified Christ and to show people that a spirit filled church is the answer to all problems that exist today.

 

Let us pray

 

 

 


 

 

 

27 May 2020

John 3:31-36 New International Version (NIV)

 

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

 

Heavenly visitors

 

You could fill up a whole library building with the books that have written about people who have gone to heaven and come back to tell the tale. I’ve even bought a few to my shame.

 

John is telling us in this text that only Jesus can testify about heaven,  because he is telling us what he has seen and heard. In other words he is the key witness to all of this. Nowhere in this text does Jesus use the words “ I’ve heard” or “ I think” or “ it has been said”. No speculation or theorizing Jesus is speaking the very words of God and as far as being a witness he is 100% reliable and certain.

 

Eugene Peterson translates this as 

 

“31-33 “The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heaven born is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth.”

John then repeats the promise from verse 16 in verse 36 “ whoever believes the Son has eternal life” which means if we accept the authority of Jesus unquestionably and trust in him with our lives has a complete life and forever. Petterson goes on to remind us 

“And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”

 

Let's remember the great hymn “ Jesus is Lord”

 

 

 

Jesus Is Lord! Creation’s Voice Proclaims It,
For By His Power Each Tree And Flower
Was Planned And Made.
Jesus Is Lord! The Universe Declares It,
Sun, Moon And Stars In Heaven
Cry, ‘Jesus Is Lord!’

 

Jesus Is Lord! Yet From His Throne Eternal
In Flesh He Came To Die In Pain
On Calvary’s Tree.
Jesus Is Lord! From Him All Life Proceeding,
Yet Gave His Life A Ransom
Thus Setting Us Free.

 

Jesus Is Lord! O’er Sin The Mighty Conqueror,
From Death He Rose, And All His Foes
Shall Own His Name.
Jesus Is Lord! God sent His Holy Spirit
To Show By Works Of Power
That Jesus Is Lord.

 

Amen

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch "Jesus is Lord" - Hymn

 

 


 

 

 

 

26 May 2020

1 Peter 4:7-11 The Message (MSG)

 

7-11 Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

 

KISS

 

Someone recently commented that I live by the KISS concept,( really?) which apparently is  “Keep it simple son!”. Well I don’t know about that but I do know that living with stress in your life dictates that a simple life is an easier life, rather than one that is bogged down with complicated issues and demands.

 

I read somewhere that one of the keys to an excellent life and an excellent church is simplicity and that is by doing a few simple things that can attain excellence. Many people and churches are not experiencing excellence because they are trying to accomplish too many things, and through a lack of urgency the important things are being set aside.

 

Today’s reading asks three things of us. All of these three things demand a sense of simplicity and yet these three things are the backbone of our Christian lives.

 

These three things are 

 

Prayer (verse 7) “Stay wide-awake in prayer.” We should pray with a sense of vigilance, being aware of what and who we are praying for. More importantly keep it simple. Don’t send yourself to sleep with your prayers, keep it alive with the spirit within you.

 

Love (verses 8-9). “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything” Loving each other gives us a sense of purpose, makes us and others feel good and creates a better world. Simple love, without trying to emulate anyone from the pages of a magazine or the chapters of a novel

 

And finally. Serve (verses 10-11) “Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if its words, let it be God’s words; if it is help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, “

 

They say the secret to good mental health is routine.  Pray, Love and Serve and we will not go wrong. Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

25 May 2020

Peter 4:1-6  again from The Message (MSG)

 

Learn to Think Like Him

 

1-2 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

3-5 You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.

Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.

 

 

 

Get on with your short Life

 

Brian Kennedy is an Irish singer who has spent his life touring with Van Morrison. Alongside that, he has had his own career and at the height of his career he released a song “ you raise me up” which he sang at George Bes's funeral. 

 

Just after 9/11 he was in America and couldn’t believe how things had changed. The people he knew were worrying about what was going on and what had happened. They were suffering and had made it into an art form. 

 

Their life was slowly grinding to a halt. In response Kennedy wrote a song which became popular amongst his fans called “ Get on with your short life”, a warning to all that our time on earth is temporary.

 

I think that this passage in Peter was written for people who were suffering for their faith, who were known for their past and didn’t want to be remembered for it or by it. The words of this chapter ( to me) are saying “ you’ve be been there, you’ve done that but don’t listen to them. Instead listen to The Message, the words of God. 

 

 But now get on with your short life.

 

There is no point looking back. What we are going through at the moment will improve eventually, we have to show patience. Its human nature to look forward and plan things.

 

 But what can we take from today’s reading?   Four words :

 

 “ Listen to the message” 

 

That message tells us  “ you are loved”.

 

I have a card on my desk and it never fails to make me smile. It’s a quote by Max Lucado

 

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.  If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.  He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning... Face it, friend.  He is crazy about you! ”

 

Let's have a good day. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

24 May 2020

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11


Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.

 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.

 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

 

Sometimes Words speak for themselves

 

If you are familiar with Dessert Island Discs you will be aware that as well as their favourite music the person gets to take The Complete Works of Shakespeare and The Bible. It always annoys me when some of the participants feel the need to say “ Oh I wouldn’t want the Bible” and I can hear myself saying “ well you're getting it anyway!”

Today’s reading again from the lectionary, probably planned for publication a few years ago. It’s a letter written mainly for the new Christians during the times of The New Testament. But on this day, that is Sunday 24th May 2020 has anything from the Bible ever been more relevant for us in Milngavie.

Eugene Peterson translates the first part of our reading as 

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”  He then goes on to translate the reading as 

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. 

 

Sometimes in life its best to say nothing and let the words speak for themselves I hope they speak for you today. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

23 May 2020

John 8:21-30 New International Version (NIV)
 
 
 
Dispute Over Who Jesus Is
 
21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
 
22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
 
23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
 
25 “Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
 
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”
 
30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.
 
 
 
 
 
The Voice
 
While I was reading for this passage I came across a website about the sermons on Dr Martin Loyd Jones. In fact the page was about this passage and while I was reading the words, suddenly the voice of Martin Loyd Jones came over the speakers of my computer. Stern Welsh and very powerful. It made me think about the people who were listening to his sermons and verse 30 of this reading “even as he spoke many believed in him”.
 
Martin Luther, another historic preacher, once said that this passage was “ a dreadful sermon and a dreadful word of farewell”. Maybe not so much dreadful but uncomfortable. There is a lot of hope in our Bible and there is a lot to despair about. There are many many words of encouragement and that is our “go to” default. But we usually try and ignore the doom and gloom and the “ hell, fire and thunder”
 
There is a time when people who once rejected Jesus will earnestly seek him out, but will it be too late. In this reading there is a glimmer of hope right at the end in verse 30 “ even as he spoke many believed in him”
 
In the unlikeliest of moments, after some of the darkest and hardest teaching from Christ, many believed and were saved. Hard hearts were softened by the hard preaching of Christ.
 
Today more than any other time I hope and pray that people who once shunned Jesus, people who wrote him off as a fable will hear his voice. Today more than ever we can find comfort in his voice and the words from the scriptures fall off our pages and make us believe more in the God of grace and the Son of Man who we lift every day in our thoughts and in our prayers.  Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

22 May 2020

Psalm 93

 

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
    the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
    indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
    you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, Lord,
    the seas have lifted up their voice;
    the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
    mightier than the breakers of the sea –
    the Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
    holiness adorns your house
    for endless days.

 

Trust and Obey (still)

 

This is Psalm 93. Yesterday was Ascension Thursday when we read about Jesus ascending to his throne. Today we are reminded about God our creator “ robed in majesty and armed with strength” These are powerful words to describe a powerful God. The psalmist reminds us of the power of the sea, being lifted up and the pounding of the waves. The thunderous noise it makes, the impact it has as it crashes to the shore

 

But we know of a man who could calm the stormiest waters, who could direct the fisherman to their biggest catch and then defy nature by walking on the sea.

 

I’ve talked recently about the” constant” Christ in our lives never changing, always available and there for all.

 

The Psalm ends telling us the Lord's statutes stand firm. I had to have a think about what that means (statutes?) I read somewhere it means that by Loving God in such a way everything else will follow. We need to listen to His voice, focus on his commandments and walk in Gods ways. Amen

 

 

  

 


 

 

 

21 May 2020

Acts 1 1-11
 
1:1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me;

For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.
 
 
 
 
The Here and Now
 
 
Forty days have passed since Easter and today is Ascension Thursday.  The days that Jesus Ascends into Heaven? Forty days and nights is seen as a time of preparation.
 
So what has been happening? Just after Jesus was crucified the women find two men dressed in white standing at the empty tomb early in the morning, but when they tell the other disciples that the Lord is risen, those disciples don’t believe them. Then Jesus appears to a couple of discouraged disciples on the road to Emmaus, and after he reveals himself to them while breaking bread, he disappears, and they hurry back to Jerusalem to tell the others. While they are all together, Jesus appears to all of them, and eats a piece of fish to prove he isn’t a ghost. Then he takes them out to Bethany, commissions them, and disappears in a cloud.
 
The writer Timothy Tennent tells us Jesus did not just ascend from here to there. Because he ascended into the Heavens, he ascended from here to everywhere. Because he went to be with the Father, he went to be where the Father is, and God is everywhere. Which means that Jesus is right here, right now.
 
It’s time to stop staring into the clouds. It’s time to become apostles who are witnesses to God’s grace. Christ is here and now, calling us to be witnesses to his here again her and now. But you can only be a witness to what you have seen and heard and experienced for yourself. Pentecost is just round the corner so let's share the good news however we can in these different days, let's be witnesses for Jesus here and now
 
 
 
Let Us Pray
 
Heavenly Father, we give you thanks this morning for Your word and for the way it challenges, teaches, comforts and directs us. We also give you thanks for the wonders of your creation and for the beauty of the countryside round about us and for all the pleasure that we derive from it. When we are feeling down or perplexed, we are grateful that we can read your word and gain comfort and strength to face each new day. And so, as we think of this day in the church’s calendar and also on the passage which we read from Acts, we see that the disciples would be feeling confused and would wonder what would happen now that you had Ascended and been taken from their sight. And because you knew that they would be feeling vulnerable, you gave them instructions – to stay together; to go to Jerusalem; and to wait. We give you thanks that they did what you asked, even though they did not fully understand all that you had planned for them and for the generations who would follow. We are in a perplexing time just now Father, where we have to stay together and to wait – it is not easy, we want to break free and relax and meet our families and our friends. Help us at this time Father to know that despite our concern and anxiety, help us to maintain our faith and trust in you – the Risen and Ascended Lord – who is our Saviour and our Redeemer. Amen.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

20 May 2020 

John 16:16-24 The Message (MSG)

 

16 “In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me.”

 

Joy Like a River Overflowing

 

17-18 That stirred up a hornet’s nest of questions among the disciples: “What’s he talking about: ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? And, ‘Because I’m on my way to the Father’? What is this ‘day or so’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”

19-20 Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, “Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You’re going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You’ll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness.

21-23 “When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.

23-24 “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

 

 

The late Scottish preacher, Alexander Whyte, observed that we all tend to hang heavy weights on the thinnest wires. He meant that we hang our happiness on fragile things that easily and quickly can be taken from us: health, friends, children, jobs, homes, or possessions. These are all blessings from the Lord. But they sometimes fail to give us lasting joy, because they’re all so uncertain and “transitory”.

 

At the last birthday celebration of the Queen, a famous Christian was heard on TV saying that the Queen was the one “ constant” in his life, she had been around for so long as a public figure and someone he admired. I remember looking at the screen waiting for next bit, but it never came.

 

You see I expected him to say “ as well as God and my friend Jesus Christ. But it was never said. Maybe I was being naïve but I became disappointed in his comments.

 

The disciples are confused over what Jesus is saying. They will have sad times but that doesn’t compare to the joy that will come later. The pain will be overwhelming just like childbirth but as soon as that passes there will be joy untold.

 

This joy will come from something that is not temporary or a passing phase. Peterson translates this as a “ joy that no one can rob you of”

 

I’ve said it before but I love Deuteronomy 28 v 15 “ And it came to pass” and that’s the reassurance we have in our lives today. This too will pass. Tough times, trying times sad times and hopeless times they cannot compare with the joy and the peace that passes all understanding. And that one constant thing in our lives? 

 

Is God. Always there, always available, never too busy for a chat, never engaged ….always there.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

19 May 2020

1 Peter 3:8-12 New International Version (NIV)
 
 
Suffering for Doing Good
 
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,
 
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous  
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
 
 
 
The lectionary
 
Each day when it comes time to chose a bible reading for Words for Life I use a resource called The Lectionary. Its really like a diary that tells you what you should be reading about on a specific day of the year in The Christian Calander.
 
It comes as no surprise to me then when I look at the readings and think how appropriate these readings are with what we are going through at the moment. God moves in mysterious ways indeed.
 
This letter from Peter is considered a short letter and it is thought he was writing this while in Babylon.
 
This letter has much to say about Christian life and duties and it was relevant as it was possibly written only 60 years after the death of Jesus.
 
But looking at the letter and thinking about what’s going on today it has a lot to tell us. Peter is talking to brand new, fresh experienced, Christians. How would you describe yourself today? Peter is writing from Babylon all those years ago while today most of us reading this are sitting in the United Kingdom. So what can it tell us? Is it relevant?
 
Just look how Eugene Peterson translates this for today's people he tells us
“Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
 
Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth.
 
God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he’s asked; But he turns his back on those who do evil things.”
 
 
Every word, every line and every sentence is an experience shared. Its advice for us all. It’s a demonstration of the pitfalls that are before us while in lockdown. Trust Peter to get it so right all these years later. Trust God to see us all through these times.
 
And Remember
 
…this too shall pass.

 

 

 


 

 

 

18 May 2020

Exodus 13:17-22 New International Version (NIV)

 

Crossing the Sea

 

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

 

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.

 

20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

 

God's people are on the move

One of my hobbies has got to be driving. Finding places out of the way, and discovering lovely things (normally coffee shops!). My dad used to say “ how did you find this place Alex?”  That was easy as I had taken the scenic route.

People today are too busy, they want to get from A to B in the quickest time possible. Some people don’t like the scenic route as it takes longer, sometimes its quite difficult, certainly not the most efficient but its usually beautiful in the long run.

I think God took his people on the scenic route, on the desert road towards the Red sea. And through all of this, he gave them guidance in the form of a cloud of dust by day and a pillar of fire by night.

God was teaching his people the importance of trust. “Trust and obey for there’s no other way”

When God’s  Son came to this earth and took on human flesh, God led Him on “the scenic route.” It was the most difficult way imaginable, the way of the cross. When Jesus began to tell the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the Jewish leaders and be killed and raised up on the third day, they thought that He had lost it! 

If you are finding the route long and hard, rest assured because God is in front of us giving us light in the darkest of corners. All we have to do is Trust ( and obey)   Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

17 May 2020

John 14:15-21
 
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
 
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
 
This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.
 
In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
 
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."
 
 
 
A simple approach
 
As far as the bible and explaining it I appreciate I am not everyone’s cup of tea. I take a rather “ Janet and John” approach to the message and struggle sometimes when the scriptures are tough. In this passage Jesus is saying that if we love him through God we will be provided by something that will never leave us. This friend being The Holy Spirit.
 
Through his love, this spirit is within us, unseen so it cannot be stolen. It's with us 24/7.
 
It's because of this spirit within us that we are able to “see” Jesus. We have the faith to see him at work, we have his love to see it in each others lives and because he has been given to us by God our father we can see that he is an important member of our family. Because of all this we will never be alone.
 
The last verse of this reading informs us that “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.” Now that cannot be any simpler. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

16 May 2020

Genesis 8:13-19 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

 

13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

15 Then God said to Noah, 16 ‘Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.’

18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds – everything that moves on land – came out of the ark, one kind after another.

 

How many times have people said to you “ you must be mad !” or better still how many times have you said to someone else “ you must be mad?” Sometimes people astound you when they show grit determination and tenacity. Sometimes there’s just an odd notion behind their action but sometimes their actions are driven by God.

I remember many many years ago ( and I hope they don’t mind me saying ) when I heard about the Ferguson family were going to Japan I thought “ really?” and of course off they went and look at the life and experience they have had since then.

People can be an excellent example of faith. Faith in God. Faith in what God is telling them. Faith in their ability to deliver the goods for God.

We all know the story of Noah. His story covers many topics and examples of faith. But there is also another thing that it covers and that is “ obedience”.  In our passage today, it wasn’t until God spoke did Noah remove the coverings protecting them in the Ark. It wasn’t until God spoke did they take possession of their and renewed world.

Today as we are bombarded with information it is important to remain obedient to God.  And when all is said and done we will be like Noah and take off the covering and look at the new land, the new church. And of course all of this will happen when God is ready. Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

15 May 2020

Acts 27:13-38 The Message (MSG)

 

13-15 When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm.

16-17 We came under the lee of the small island named Clauda, and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails. But rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.

18-20 Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.

21-22 With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, “Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there’s no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there’ll not be a single drowning among us, although I can’t say as much for the ship—the ship itself is doomed.

23-26 “Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.”

27-29 On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight the sailors sensed that we were approaching land. Sounding, they measured a depth of 120 feet, and shortly after that ninety feet. Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight.

30-32 Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, “If these sailors don’t stay with the ship, we’re all going down.” So the soldiers cut the lines to the lifeboat and let it drift off.

33-34 With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: “This is the fourteenth day we’ve gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You’ll need strength for the rescue ahead. You’re going to come out of this without even a scratch!”

35-38 He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily—276 of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard.

 

Fastened to the Rock.

 

I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard someone asking a young parish vicar this question “ can we honestly say that anything good has come out of this pandemic ?. I don’t think there was a second between the question and his answer. His answer was confident, useful and very reassuring.

 

He said that when we are going through a storm we tend to focus on ourselves and what's going wrong but it was obvious to him that a lot of people today were focusing on others. The people that were at risk, the elder statesmen who needed special care and attention and the heroes and heroines from every walk of life who were still working and avoiding society to grind to a halt

 

We learn that Paul did not keep Gods encouragement to himself, he shared it with every single person on board, pagans and prisoners among them.

 

Today's reading, like the message from the young vicar yesterday is powerful useful and reassuring.

 

We can encourage others by being with them in the storm. It is said that often God puts people into the storm for the good of others.

 

We can encourage others by praying for them. When faced with rejection Paul put his feelings aside and prayed that they would all be delivered.

 

We can encourage others by ministering to their needs ( and yes, from a distance ) Paul encouraged the men to eat food so that they would have the strength to carry on. Remember our assistance does not have to be spiritual all the time.

 

And finally, we can encourage others by reminding them of Gods greatness.” You're going to come out of this without a scratch” Paul said. Now that’s not to say that we will all come out of this pandemic unblemished. But we can remind each other of Our God, Our Church, Our Fellowship and the fact that we have an anchor that keeps the soul “steadfast and sure while the billows roll”.  Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

14 May 2020

Acts 27:1-12  from Eugene Petersons The Message 

 

A Storm at Sea

 

27 1-2 As soon as arrangements were complete for our sailing to Italy, Paul and a few other prisoners were placed under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, a member of an elite guard. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was bound for Ephesus and ports west. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us.

The next day we put in at Sidon. Julius treated Paul most decently—let him get off the ship and enjoy the hospitality of his friends there.

 

4-8 Out to sea again, we sailed north under the protection of the northeast shore of Cyprus because winds out of the west were against us, and then along the coast westward to the port of Myra. There the centurion found an Egyptian ship headed for Italy and transferred us on board. We ran into bad weather and found it impossible to stay on course. After much difficulty, we finally made it to the southern coast of the island of Crete and docked at Good Harbour (appropriate name!).

 

9-10 By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned, “I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship—to say nothing of our lives!—if we put out to sea now.”

 

12,11 But it was not the best harbour for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable. The centurion set Paul’s warning aside and let the ship captain and the ship owner talk him into trying for the next harbour.

 

We learn in some detail about an incredible storm that took place on Paul's journey to Rome and as always there’s something to learn from the scriptures today. And as we read through this we will learn how NOT to react to the storms of life and there are even more lessons to be learned if you decide to read further into the chapter.

 

Tom Wright tells us in his book on Acts that Luke tells us specifics about where exactly they sailed. When they left Caesarea they travelled along the coast of Asia, around the island of Cyprus. The next day they landed at Sidon, where the centurion Julius allowed Paul to go to his friends so that they could provide for his needs. Then they sailed on to Myra where the centurion found a larger grain ship that was sailing for Italy and transferred all 276 passengers onto this vessel. Verse 7 tells us that from there they made slow headway for many days and they finally made it to Cnidus. Because the wind wasn’t cooperating they sailed to the lee of Crete (which meant that the island was hit by the wind first and they weren’t as affected by it). They continued to move on, still with difficulty and arrived at Fair Havens. But Luke explains in verse 9 that a lot of time had passed and it was now past the Day of Atonement, which meant it was late September or October and past the time of year they should be sailing. So Paul told them in verse 10 that they should just stay in Fair Havens for the winter because the voyage was going to be disastrous if they continued on. But the centurion decided to listen to the pilot and the owner of the ship rather than Paul and they decided to sail on to Phoenix, which was a better harbour to spend winter in. And this is where we start learning from the negative example of the men on the boat.

So from this reading today what can we learn?

  1. Listen to God and seek his guidance and above all else obey him
  2. Sometimes we need to “ block out” the worldly advice of others and even ignore the majority vote and take matters into our own hands and pray. These actions will lead us back to number one above.
  3. John Ortberg has a great book called “ If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat” and it's all about our confidence in God. Negativity can be a killer but confidence can be the rocket fuel that we all need.

There is a lot of advice going on all around us today and it seems every day it changes. But sometimes the best thing is to shut it all down, find a quiet space and just sit. Listen to God and tell him about your day. Amen

 

  

 


 

 

 

13 May 2020

John 14 27-31

 

.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

 

I read an article yesterday in the newspapers that said that 25% of the people questioned said that they had “prayed for the first time”. All of these people said they did so because the believed in God. Most of them said that the prayers gave them Hope above everything else.

 

These words of Jesus in John chapter 14 were said just hours before he was going to be crucified. But what was in the forefront of his mind was those he was leaving behind. He was going to make sure that there would be others to look after his followers. He would not leave them “orphaned” and this message he was leaving behind was not from him but from his Father. He was giving them Hope. He was leaving them with Peace and that Peace is still with us today.

 

Damien Hirst the artist has painted a rainbow as well as a rainbow heart. Its seen as a sign of Peace. We think of Noah and the ark and the rainbow that he saw,  And if you think about it we only see the rainbow after the rain has gone and there are brighter days ahead.

 

Yesterday was International Nurses day. Hirst wanted to thank the NHS staff for what they are doing all around the country. Today children are putting up rainbows on their windows waiting for better days when they can go back out with their friends and meet up with other members of their families, especially their grandparents.

 

As long as we have a Saviour we have hope.

 

 

 


 

 

12 May 2020

Proverbs 3 5-12

  

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.[a]

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

 Honour the Lord with your wealth,
    with the first fruits of all your crops;
 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
    and your vats will brim over with new wine.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.

 

Just a spoonful of sugar

 

The meaning of the word proverb, according to the online dictionary is a short, well-known pithy saying, stating a general truth or piece of advice. I’m not sure that’s how I would describe the proverbs of the Old Testament but what I do know is that they give us rich medicinal advice coupled with some harsh realities.

I once heard someone sing this proverb to the tune of “ just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” and afterwards when I thought about it, this all made perfect sense ( in a broad sense)

The psalmist is telling us that we should always put God first, and in every sense we will benefit by this action. The dangers are clear, don’t try and figure out everything on your own. Don’t assume you know it all, and above all else don’t resent God's discipline.

The benefits are clear, he will make our paths clear, keep us healthy in body and mind and our barns will be fit to burst with all the necessities in life. And why does He do this? Well just like the father who loves his child we are in a loving relationship that works two ways and does require us to knuckle down now and again. At the beginning I said a proverb contains the general truth or a piece of advice. Our parables are filled with Gods truth, his fruitfulness and his loving hand in our lives. Amen 

 

 

 


 

 

 

11 May 2020

Psalm 102
 
Hear my prayer, Lord;     let my cry for help come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me;     when I call, answer me quickly.
3 For my days vanish like smoke;     my bones burn like glowing embers. 4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;     I forget to eat my food. 5 In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. 6 I am like a desert owl,     like an owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me;     those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath,     for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like the evening shadow;     I wither away like grass.
12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;     your renown endures through all generations. 13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,     for it is time to show favour to her;     the appointed time has come. 14 For her stones are dear to your servants;     her very dust moves them to pity. 15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord,     all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;     he will not despise their plea.
18 Let this be written for a future generation,     that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: 19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,     from heaven he viewed the earth, 20 to hear the groans of the prisoners     and release those condemned to death.” 21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem 22 when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.
23 In the course of my life[b] he broke my strength;     he cut short my days. 24 So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;     your years go on through all generations. 25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,     and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you remain;     they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them     and they will be discarded. 27 But you remain the same,     and your years will never end. 28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;     their descendants will be established before you.”
 
 
 
Psalm 102 is also known as The Prayer of the Afflicted.
 
The person in this psalm is truly afflicted as they cry out in pain and desperation. They are scared “ don’t turn your back on me, I am desperate” And their afflictions are many. “ wasting away to nothing, a ghost of their former self, jaws aching from grinding their teeth and an insomniac". It's an A to Z of afflictions. They are impatient and the source of their pain is coming from many directions. They feel grieved and abandoned.
 
But in their darkness yet again there is a light. They acknowledge that our Sovereign God is there and he won't dismiss their prayer. They acknowledge that God hears the prayer of the afflicted and that he even opens the cell doors of the imprisoned. And as everything changes and the many are gone, the afflicted acknowledges that “ year after year, God is as good as new, and that the servants children will always have a good place to live.
 
You may think today, you are afflicted. You may even feel lonely and abandoned. But everything is changing and changes will come faster and faster. But the lesson this morning from Psalm 102 is despite what's happening to you in this ever changing world we find ourselves in, take Hold of Gods unchanging hand. Remember this hymn?
Guide me, O my great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand. Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me now and evermore, feed me now and evermore.
 
Ask him to guide you and feed you for evermore.
 
Amen

 

 

 


 

 

10 May 2020

James 1:19-27 New International Version (NIV)
 
 
Listening and Doing
 
 
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,          slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
 
 
 
 
 
It's knowing when to listen?
 
A change of tact today as we leave Acts and move onto James. This morning I am specifically looking at verses 19 and 20. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
 
There are three things that this passage teaches me
 
Firstly ‘ everyone should be quick to listen” when I worked for BT as a manager to new customer service advisors I would say ‘ you have two ears that you physically cant close so use them’ and you have only one mouth that can be closed and must be closed sometimes
 
Jesus tells us in Luke 8 verse 18
 
He who has ears let him hear’ James is trying to tell us that if we want to be receptive to Gods word that we are quick to hear the word after all Jesus told the Jews in John chapter 8
 
‘He who is of God hears the words of God, for this reason you do not hear them because you are not of God
 
So if we want to be included as god’s people we must hear god’s words that are the words contained in the bible and the words that we hear of each week from our pulpit.
The apostle Peter said ‘ like new born babies we long for the milk of the word so by it we may grow in respect to salvation.
 
So that’s hearing the word and the second thing is to be slow to speak often out of pride some believers love to spout how much they know about the bible. The book of proverbs tells us to ‘ slow down and hold our tongue’
 
‘ Even a fool when he keeps silent is considered wise when he closes his lip he is considered prudent’
 
James is not telling us to always remain silent he is talking about the people who are never silent before god. …Remember Eli taught the young Samuel‘ Speak Lord for your servant is listening’
 
Just as you won't hear what a friend is saying while you do all the talking…. you’ll never hear what God is saying unless you control your tongue and more importantly patiently listen.
 
So we’ve dealt with the ears and then the tongue now we move onto the emotions of it all and its quite easy the way that James puts it
 
For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God’ so if we want to grow in righteousness we need to stop fighting gods word and submit to it.
 
Paul warns us that unchecked anger gives the devil a foothold in your life -Ephesians- Jesus labels anger as the root of all evil and god did say to Cain before he murdered his brother ‘ why are you so angry’
 
Sometimes when I am angry I ask myself ‘ whose needs are being met here? Beng angry some times gives power to the wrong people. We are angry and it debilitates us and the person who made us angry is sometimes not even aware of how debilitated we have become
 
So all of the old proverbs that we grew up with and know and love all come somewhere from the bible and even after all the years even since new testament times and through the lessons of the fathers of the old testament and Jesus and James there are things to be reminded of and things to learn
 
Just like today. ‘ everyone should be quick to listen’ – two ears- sometimes we need to be slow to speak – one mouth- and even slower to anger
 
If any of this is a problem for you, then the answer has to be prayer. Pray to God for the patience to listen, the confidence only to speak when you have thought about what you have to say and if you feel anger? prayer for the peace that passes all understanding in your life today and always
 
Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

09 May 2020

Acts 12 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)

 

Peter’s miraculous escape from prison

 

12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.

Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11 Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.’

12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognised Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’

15 ‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, ‘It must be his angel.’

16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. ‘Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,’ he said, and then he left for another place.

18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

 

Peter is going to be executed, so his friends thought. So they gathered in prayer. Then Peter's chains fall off and he turns up at this friends door. But they thought he must be an angel after all he should be dead. But behind that door they had all gathered to pray.

 

Finding peace during a struggle, is like trying to find calm in a hurricane. But just like there is calm in the eye of the hurricane, we can find peace and calm right in the middle of our struggles. Simply pray!

 

Tom Wright tells us that “Prayer works even when we mess up the words. Prayer works, even when you don’t know what to pray! When you don’t have the words to pray, you can pray in the Spirit, The Holy Spirit knows exactly what to pray for you and it works!

Prayer gives God free reign to do whatever it takes, to bring about not just your desired outcome, but His will in the situation, which works everything for your good!

 

That in itself is a miracle. And this story of Peter is yet another miracle all made possible through prayer. Even today God is working and changing lives so prayer in these darkest of days is a priority, it's your first resort not your last. Some people say “ I don’t know what to pray for. I don’t know how to pray” And if that’s the case you are not alone many people feel like that.

 

There is a great hymn that we sing in church 

 

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him King of glory now;
this the Father's pleasure, that we call him Lord,
who from the beginning was the mighty word.

 

These words ring out and remind us that we should pray that we should glorify his name and exactly who were are praying to. The Lord who from the beginning was the word

 

 

There's a story about a  heart-broken little girl who began to kneel and pour out her heart to God in her local church. She did not know what to say. As she wept, she began to remember what her father had told her, "God knows your needs even before you pray, and he can answer when you don’t even know for what to ask." So she began to say her alphabet.

 

A concerned adult from that church came beside her and heard her sobbing and saying her ABC’s and inquired what exactly she was trying to do. The little girl told this caring adult, "I’m praying to God from my heart." But the adult answered, "It sounds to me more like you are saying the alphabet!"

"Yes," she said, "But God knows more about what I need than I do, and he can take all these letters and arrange them in just the right way to answer my prayer. 

 

Lives were changed in the bible through prayer and all these years later lives are still being changed. So let us pray….

 

Father in heaven we come to you this day and we ask that you take the words from our heart and make sense of them and turn them into my prayer. I know you are an awesome God and you already know all my needs so today I ask for calm and confidence so that I can share this peace and this love that you give to us in abundance. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

 

08 May 2020

Acts 11 New International Version (NIV)

 

Peter Explains His Actions

 

 

11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was.I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a]water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

 

It could be said that this is just a repeat of the previous chapter. I read somewhere if you see something repeated in the bible then we should take notice. In this reading this morning there is an important lesson to be learned.  Our text shows how God changed the thinking of these Christians on a matter that was essential for the spread of the gospel. If the Gentiles had been required to adopt Jewish rituals and ceremonies to be saved, the gospel would not have spread around the Gentile world as it did, and it would be a different “gospel.” The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include this story twice so that the Jewish believers especially would see that salvation is not a matter of adopting Jewish rituals, but rather of God saving people of every race through faith in Christ alone.

God had to change the thinking of His people and in just the same, sometimes, he needs to change the way we think. Sometimes the way we think, will stop people coming into our churches. It gives people the opportunity to label us as part of some exclusive club.

Verse 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

 

 

 


 

 

 

07 May 2020

Acts 10   verses 1-8    and then 17-23

 

Cornelius Calls for Peter

 

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

….17, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

 

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

 

 

My very first General Assembly was a controversial one. There were two people going forward into the ministry and each had served a prison sentence. One for murder and one for fraud. In the small group of people I had to be with in the assembly there was certainly a fair bit of prejudice, each giving their own reason why these men should not be in Edinburgh that year.

 

Once again in the Bible we come across a story of opposites. In one corner we have Cornelius a centurion gentile and in the other corner Peter a Jewish apostle. This might be a story of Prejudice but God is about to bring these two parties together to teach us all a lesson.

 

It is said we all have a bit of prejudice in our selves, some say it’s a human disposition. We try and pigeon hole people into them, and us to show that we are not a part of their lives. We are all aware of our own prejudices and for most of us we try and work through them. Scripture and prayer are the best two antidotes to prejudice. God is the answer of course to all prejudice.

 

Thankfully, God works gradually and gently with us in spite of our many shortcomings and sins. He teaches us by putting us in uncomfortable situations, challenging us to be more like Jesus who befriended sinners and those that were prejudiced against.

 

This passage speaks for itself but the most important verses are verses 47 and 48 when Peter is talking about those originally against God

 

“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

 

So we are told that nothing can stand in the way of being baptized. John 3 v16 said that God so loved the world and that in itself should take away all prejudice from our hearts. So today in our prayers we should be praying for all our own prejudices and those that destroy the world that we are living in. A hymn also that brings this to mind is 

 

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood
Would you o'er evil a victory win?
There's wonderful power in the blood

There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb

Would you be free from your passion and pride
There's power in the blood, power in the blood
Come for a cleansing to Calvary's tide
There's wonderful power in the blood

 

Let us pray

 

Heavenly Father, it has been a strange time for us as we come into another week of lockdown – a time when we have been prevented from meeting Sunday by Sunday to listen to your Word and to have fellowship with our brothers and sisters. We have also been restricted in our ability to travel to places near and far, in our socialising with family and friends, and in our visits to parks and restaurants. We confess Father that we miss these important times and pleasures in our lives, but we remember our Brothers and Sisters in the Faith, in countries where the regime is harsh, who have endured and been denied so much more than we have because of their faith and trust in You. We pray that you will be close to them at this time. We give you thanks Father that it was always Your plan that when Jesus, your Son, gave His life on the Cross it was not only for the Jew but it was for the peoples of all Nations, then, now and in the future. We know that this was a lesson that Peter needed to understand – and so we give you thanks that because of him and the other apostles that the Gospel was preached throughout the world. Thank you for making us part of your plan – Amen.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

06 May 2020

Acts 9 from verse 19

 

Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem

 Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.

 

26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.

 

 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

 

31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

 

 

One of the things that I think about is “ will the church ever be the same?” after the lockdown is over. Will the changes be too big to cope with. In fact it could be that over a period we will slip into the new norm as if it never happened.

 

Things according to Luke in the book of Acts are changing constantly. Stephen is stoned to death, Philip is converted and everyone is on the move. Meanwhile there appears to be a madman called Saul who stirring up trouble. No sooner is he doing that when we find him in verse

20 preaching “ that Jesus is the Son of God”. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? 

 

So maybe this latest change is too much to swallow by the believers in Christ. One thing that has dawned on me since the lockdown is that God still wants us to serve Him and his church in whatever situation we find ourselves in and whatever changes we have made.

Paul teaches us that we must deepen our roots and prepare for the big comeback for it will be even more important to bear witness to Christ the King, than were before. I think there will be people that will tell us that the church has no priority over other outlets so we should be ready and face any opposition or rejection. And be like Barnabus who took Saul under his wing and convinced others confidently and without question. And as I think of these things I am immediately drawn to the Getty’s hymn

 

O Church Arise

 

O church, arise and put your armour on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We'll stand against the devil's lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is "Love!"
Reaching out to those in darkness.

Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valour.
When faced with trials on every side,
We know the outcome is secure;
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.

 

 

 


 

 

 

05 May 2020

Act 9 

 

Saul’s conversion

 

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’

The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus, there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’

‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.

11 The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’

13 ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

 

 

The chip van man

 

I think it was in 1992 that there was the Billy Graham Campaign in Scotland. I volunteered to work in the campaign and did so, with the great St Paul's Parish stalwart Moira MacAllan. I would meet Moira straight from work and we would go for a bag of chips at one of the many food vendors that were around the football stadium. I always remember the man in the chip van telling us how he was “raking it in” with all us folks going to see Bill. I think we would call this man a real Glasgow character both in looks and in his choice of language. For a few nights that week we tried hard not to listen to him as I bought my roll and chips. On the last night of the campaign the caravan was not there and after it was all over Moira and I saw him walking down the road with his daughter and in case you never guessed, he was carrying one of the bibles given out when you walked onto the grass at Billy’s invitation.

 

The conversion of Paul could fill more books that are in the biggest library the world has to offer. Its all been said in print and will continue to do so for many many years to come. But to me the conversion of Saul tells us that God is able to convert the unlikeliest of people. The bible tells us this and history shows us. Just look at people like John Newton slave trader and convert who told us “ I once was blind and now I see” (was he telling us about Paul?)

 

Another thing this reading tells us is that it’s not down to the will of man to seek conversion (or even avoid conversion). I’m sure conversion was the last thing on Saul’s agenda up to a point. All of this is down to the sovereign power of God and no one can escape from that.

 

Over the past two thousand years, who knows how many people have been converted no one can be sure. But there is one sure thing and that is people are not converted on their merit and what they have done but they are converted through the grace of God and the fellowship that comes from knowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

 

The result then is a conversion from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight.

 

Alleluia

 

 

 

 


 

 

04 May 2020

Acts 8 reading from verse 26

 

Philip and the Ethiopian

 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
 and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
 so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
    Who can speak of his descendants?
    For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

 

 

An unusual baptism?

 

I know that as a child I was “ christened” as they called it then, when I was around three months old. But it's only when both of my parents died that I found a document that said I was “ christened" in Ward 4 of Ruchill Hospital at 02:40 am by the Rev John Macnaughton of St Brides Parish Church Rosevale Street Partick. (All I know is that I had contracted a bad case of Dysentery). 

An unusual baptism you could say. As with the story of Philip, we are about to witness an unusual baptism. The man in question is a eunuch and Philip finds him sitting reading Isaiah the prophet. 

The man asks Philip to explain the scripture that he is reading and Philip then tells him the good news about Jesus Christ. We are told they saw some water and the eunuch was baptized by Philip. No sooner had that happened when Philip is spirited away and the eunuch never saw him again. Philip reappears in other towns until he reaches Caesarea.

Philip had validation; he was guided at all times by the Holy Spirit. He had explanation. His revealing of the scriptures and sharing the good news led to the salvation of the man he met. The celebration was in the man being baptized.

 Philip’s story gives us a prime example of how the gospel smashes through barriers - not only geographical but, more importantly, barriers of racial pride and prejudice, religion, nationalism, and any other barrier that people erect to keep people who are different out of the picture. And all these years later we must learn from the early church as we move forward on our journey of life. Amen

 

 

 


 

 

03 May 2020

Acts 8 using Eugene Peterson “The Message” translation.

 

Saul was right there, congratulating the killers.

 1-2 That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day!

3-8 And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail. Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus. Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah. When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God’s action, they hung on his every word. Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way. And what joy in the city!

9-11 Previous to Philip’s arrival, a certain Simon had practiced magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry. He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him “the Great Wizard.” He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him.

12-13 But when Philip came to town announcing the news of God’s kingdom and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, they forgot Simon and were baptized, becoming believers right and left! Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. From that moment he was like Philip’s shadow, so fascinated with all the God-signs and miracles that he wouldn’t leave Philip’s side.

14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.

18-19 When Simon saw that the apostles by merely laying on hands conferred the Spirit, he pulled out his money, excited, and said, “Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price!”

20-23 Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable—trying to buy God’s gift! You’ll never be part of what God is doing by striking bargains and offering bribes. Change your ways—and now! Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money. I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust.”

24 “Oh!” said Simon, “pray for me! Pray to the Master that nothing like that will ever happen to me!”

25 And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God’s salvation, preaching in every Samaritan town they passed through on their return to Jerusalem.

 

 

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church

Continuing with the many contrasts that Acts brings to us. Stephen has just been stoned to death. A martyr in the true sense of the word. While it’s a time to mourn for the disciples, perhaps even regroup and consider their options, there’s a guy called Saul who is wreaking havoc and persecuting all the believers. Dragging them from their homes and putting them in Jail. Two figures come into the story. First of all there is Simon who Peterson calls a magician. He has everyone in the grip of his hands as he entertains them with his tricks of the trade. The second character is Philip. He comes proclaiming the glory of the Messiah and in doing so heals the sick and cures the lame. 

Another contrast here. One man “performs” with his sleight of hand tricks and sorcery. The other is filled with the Holy Spirit and wins over the crowds to a more permanent solution to their lives.

Simon is so enthralled by what Philip has and what he is doing…. he wants to buy it! But the glory of God cannot be bought it has to be lived. It has to be a way of life not a performance. It cannot be a bargaining tool in our approach to God. Simon asks for prayer and hopes that he can live a different life. Meanwhile the disciples scatter to spread the message of Gods salvation.

Maybe you have tried to make a deal with God at some point in your life. I know I have. Maybe, like me, you have been impressed with what other churches have to offer in terms of gizmos and different forms of worship. But the real job of the church (I think) is to spread the word of God and that includes outside the four walls of the church. The last verse of our reading   “And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God’s salvation,”

 

That’s how the church will survive today by being reminded of the relentless journeys of the disciples and their mission to spread the word of God and increase their flock.

 

This morning let us pray for the church as it is today. In lockdown, with sanctuaries lying empty. But the family of God working on the outside using every tool in the box to continue fellowship and to fuel our hearts through the scripture and keep us amazed in His holy presence.

 

 

 


 

 

02 May 2020

Acts Chapter 7 

 

Stephen is being held as he makes a very passionate speech. We pick up that speech from verse 48

48 The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
    Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’[l]

51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

 

The Stoning of Stephen

 

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

 

 

When the world gives its worst Christians show their best

 

Stephen, by accepting Jesus Christ and offering a new covenant is found to be guilty of blaspheming God, Moses the law and the temple. These were considered to be the big four so they brought him to trial before the council. Stephen is able to defend himself confidently and not only that he indicts Israel for the execution of the Messiah.

Someone once said “ when the world gives its worst, the Christian shows their best” So we read that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and all his accusers could do was gnash their teeth, they were speechless in their rage. It’s a good thing to point out here the comparison between the two. Stephen, he was calm and serene and they were grinding their teeth. Then Stephen looked up to heaven. There’s a lesson there. When things get tough…..look up.

Stephen draws their attention” behold” he says “ I see the heavens open and the son of man standing by the right hand of God” And that was the last straw. They dragged him away and stoned him.

And just at that point something interesting happens “Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul”.  Some say that this showed that Paul was the ringleader and he was the one heading up all the charges.

And while they stoned Stephen “ he kneeled down”. He somehow got himself in the praying position and he cried aloud “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

6Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

I have loved learning more and more about Stephen In this chapter. In the arena of adversity he remained calm. When they looked down on him, he looked up. When they raged and hurled stones, Stephen prayed.

Augustine said “ The church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen.

Willie Barclay said, “Saul would never forget the way Stephen had died. The blood of the martyrs had begun to be the seed of the Church”       Amen

 

 

 


 

 

01 May 2020

Stephen Seized

 

 

Acts 6 from verse 8

 

8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
 
 
 
Shine Jesus Shine
 
I read somewhere that the gospel singer Matt Redmond wrote one of his best works “ Blessed be your name ” straight after the 9/11 attack. Although he comes from the UK he was in America visiting at the time. His inspiration came from Job 1:21 “ The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.''
Only yesterday I was watching something from the great gospel writer Kirk Franklin and he was talking about the times that we are in at the moment. He said “the time was right for us to shine! for only in the deepest darkness do we shine brightest”
Stephen is a living example of this in our reading from Acts today.
It appears everyone is against him as the opposition rose.
They even convinced other men to lie about him and stir up others to say that he had broken the law. Eventually they seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin. The liars are out in force as they accuse him. But how does Stephen react? Verse 15 tells us that “ his face was the face on an angel” To me, that means the light was literally shining out of him. And you know today we need that light.
We need to have it, use it and shine like we have never shone before.
 
But where did Stephen get this light? Where did he get this “ supercharge “ from?
 
We are told in verse 8 he was a man full of God’s grace and power. In verse 10 we are told that when his back was up against the wall “they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit as he spoke”.
And that should be our prayer today that in this present darkness we are still able to shine for Jesus Christ. Just like Stephen we should be full of faith, we should seek words of wisdom and faithfulness and be a beacon of light with Jesus Christ in our lives. Amen
 

Words for Life, March 2020

Words for Life, April 2020