25 January 2021
I wonder if, like me, you were impressed by Amanda Gorman and the amazing poem she recited at the inauguration of Joe Biden the other day. You could not help but admire this young woman who once had a speech impediment and still has an auditory processing disorder and is hypersensitive to sound.
Although she oozed confidence on that morning. I wonder if she was at all nervous and was aware that her life could change overnight just by delivering a piece called The Hill We Climb. I later read that she was a Christian and she and her family attend a local Catholic Church.
It made me wonder as I watched her and knowing her background, where did she get her strength from?
Philippians chapter 4 verse 13 reminds us that, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. But just before that he recounts some of the most difficult circumstances he has found himself in. Hungry as well as well fed, poor as well as well off, Paul learned to be content with what he had. And how does he know all of this? Well, it's because he has gone through it himself. He is talking about the things he has personally done in his own ministry.
In context, "I can do all things" is the ministry that God has sent Paul to do. He can persevere, share the gospel, and be content in any situation. Not on his own, but through Christ who strengthens him.
Now before you start climbing a Munro, running a marathon, abseiling down a building or rowing across the Atlantic, we need to remember that God just doesn’t allow us to do anything. If you have God on your side that doesn’t make you superman or wonder woman. But if you succeed in a situation, if you want strength to make a decision or if the day is too dark and that hill is a difficult climb. Remember God is our refuge and our source of strength. Amen
If you want to read Amanda Gorman's poem read on
When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We've braved the belly of the beast
We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promised glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with a right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it
24 January 2021
As we look around our gardens and our street we have the visible reminder of the master gardener and what he has done for us. We can also see the strength and wisdom of the Son and what he has taught us to be. We are the branches, reaching out to others on this Sabbath day. Amen
23 January 2021
30 seconds of Calm
Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, "Why is that there?" Alex Haley answered, "Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and every time I begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post. And remember that he did not get there on his own. He had help."
And that must be central to our thinking on thankfulness, we only get where we are and do what we do with the help of God and He is the provider of every blessing we have.
Psalm 121 tells us
I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you –
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm –
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and for evermore.
If you are lucky to live in the Milngavie area you know that we are so blessed that after only a few minutes in the car we can be among the hills and glens and we are able to stand beside a Loch and be thankful for what we have and where we live.
It is said that this psalm was sung by the Levites at the temple of Jerusalem. People on a pilgrimage sung this psalm as they walked through the hills recognising that the Lord can keep them safe and in turn keep them safe.
We all talk about 30 seconds of Calm, we see Apps in social media with the sound of whales and the water cascading through the hills, but what more can give us some perspective than reading Psalm 121.
Philippians 4 verses 6 and 7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
22 January 2021
A long long time ago, more than 40 years ago I used to work a stone's throw from Glasgow Cathedral. Quite often at lunch time I would go up there for a walk round and just take in the silence and the peace. I had a favourite spot in the cathedral and it was downstairs and a tiny white chapel. The musty smell was amazing. While I was there a verse would come into my head that my own minister used to say and it comes from Matthew 18 verse 20, “ For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” And that was my problem verse. Was I doing the right thing sitting alone? There was a certain young assistant that took a lunch time service further down the cathedral. I could join him and whoever else had turned up and join them. But I enjoyed my alone time.
At that time I went to Belmont St Stephens Church in Belmont Street in the west end of Glasgow, for six months, training as a reader. One of the first things I did was take part in a prayer meeting and I quoted Matthew 18 verse 20. "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.” It was then the Rev Bill McAreavie put me right.
The heading for Matthew 18 is, “If Your Brother Sins Against You, ” or “Dealing with Sin in the Church” in another translation. Not all versions include the phrase “against you,” but either way we can gather that this passage is about sin and discipline in the Christian community, specifically the church.
So I was corrected. This doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t hear our prayers when we pray alone or with two or three people etc. …He does. But it means that this particular verse is not talking about Jesus’ presence in prayer, it’s talking about His presence in church discipline.
My first week in training and I was being corrected. But here is the point as told to me by Bill. He told me it was good to make mistakes with the scriptures, its good to find out things that surprise you about the scriptures. Its only then will you go back and take a second look and learn more.
Isaiah 41 reminds us “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Amen
21 January 2021
I don’t know why, but we look at the weather forecast for the following day nearly every day and it's not as if we are going anywhere. But we all like to see the sun and the dry weather even if it’s a bit cold.
Winter and the bad weather are mentioned as early as Genesis 8, but in the early days, the word “winter” also meant feeling of disdain or to jeopardize. Today we link the word winter to colder weather but winter has a part to play if our mood is grey and the same colour as the sky above us.
Psalm 74 verse 17 : “It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you who made both summer and winter” another translation is “You have arranged the earth, set all its boundaries; You are the Architect of the seasons: summer and winter.”
Winter and Summer are completely different seasons, yet God has a handle on both of them …and us. He doesn’t rip the rug out from our seasonal barometer, taking us from hot summer nights to a cold blanket of snow. He eases us into the change, walking us from one season to the next with Autumn and Spring in between. God is so creative, He seized the opportunity to create a time for the beauty of transition.
Meg Bucher reminds us that “In an environment that experiences a full four seasons of change, we seem to constantly live in flux. Maybe that’s the lesson God is teaching us. The moment we linger too long in our comfort zone, we stop growing. Even challenging changes matures the human heart. “
Through all weather, He remains unchanged. We change, the earth shifts and groans, but He never does. He never changes. He never fails. When the winter blues threaten to steal our joy, remember that God reigns over all seasons, of the weather, and of our very hearts.
20 January 2021
Over the weeks we have become ardent viewers of CNN and all the shenanigans that have been happening over there. Later this afternoon ( our time) a new American President will be sworn in while the former President will release all his power. In this instance I think we should pray for the situation.
We can see over the past few years power in the wrong hands can be very divisive and dangerous. It can also be deadly. Looking back at the Old Testament there is a deadly tale of power that is of the worst kind.
Exodus 1 Verse 15 we read that
“15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Pharaoh did not realize the power of God and the Hebrew midwives when he set about to destroy the Israelite population by ordering the death of each new born boy. The King James Versions tells us that, “the people multiplied and waxed very mighty,” “wax” is a word we don’t use very often these days and the easiest way to describe its meaning is that it is the opposite of “wane”. Wax means to grow bigger, to become of more substance and multiply. So because of God and the midwives the children of Israel did not die but in fact grew.
Today it's trendy to talk about powerful people in life. Those "influencers" who make a fortune by wielding their power. But the power of God is something never to be predicted. It’s awesome to say the least and we should always be aware of it and pray about it. Amen
19 January 2021
Max Lucado tells a great story about going away on his first tour and before he went he gave all his kids a chore to do while he was away. All the middle children were given something to do but when it came to the eldest son he said, "little Tommy and I have a game each night. He sits on the top bunk and I hold my arms out and he jumps from the bed to me and I catch him in my arms. Do me a favour and do this a couple of times before he goes down for the night." When Max came home he was told all the kids had done their chores except Tommy and the game from the top bunk. “I hear you didn’t participate, Tommy,” Max said, “ what was all that about?”
Tommy said, “well I did try and tell him, I only jump into my father's arms.”
I’m guessing Tommy didn’t have the confidence in his eldest brother that he did with his dad and that’s a problem that we all have today. There is a lot of talk about mental health issues outside the doors of our homes but I think one of the biggest issues is Confidence. Well known celebs are bringing out books daily on the power of positive thinking, reaching our goals, and how to get yourself to just do things every day.
Just when we need more and more confidence to do our daily chores we find that it wanes slightly as we read the newspapers watch tv and read social media. Now I'm not saying the celebs books are not any good but first think about…….
1 John 5 verse 14 says
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
Now please bear with me in this analogy. But choosing other things to build your confidence and give you strength rather than the Bible and or prayer is a bit like going to the gym and only using the showers. It’s a bit like walking down to Greggs the bakers and standing outside looking at the cakes or smelling the steak bakes. In order to experience the full immersion of our sovereign God and his grace and the power of his Holy Spirit, we need to use the tools in the church tool box.
It's only when we do this we will be like little Tommy and allow ourselves to be held in our Father's arms. Amen
18 January 2021
Sometimes I think I could write a book with some of the incidents I have found myself in with the church children. I remember once talking to the kids in the UF Church in Milngavie. I was talking to them about what we do in work, and just to confuse them I had brought in a phone in the shape of the Batmobile. ( I worked for BT)
“So what do I do then during the day?” I asked. A hand shot straight up “you must be Robin!!!” This made me curious, “so why could I be Robin?” I asked. No smirk on face, no malice intended but just the honest truth from a six year old, “cause you're too fat to be batman.” Immediately I burst out laughing immediately followed by a very relieved congregation. “Never work with children and animals still comes to mind."
Life as we know it has changed for many people. Adults are used to being faced with stressful situations, but one question that rings louder in my ears is, how are all of these changes impacting our children’s lives? Especially when it comes to their mental health and peace of mind.
We should make sure we are asking the Lord to help our children fix their minds on Him, first and foremost. Change can often be overwhelming and scary, especially for children, and there are so many studies done on the negative effects that chronic stress can have on the overall health of a child. Our children need God’s peace now more than ever.
We have a strong city;
God makes salvation
its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
that the righteous nation may enter,
the nation that keeps faith.
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.
The third verse says :
“You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.”
So as we hold together everything in prayer never forget the children of our churches. Let's remember the changes and the stress that they may feel with no contact with their friends, with their home schooling and the fact that they cannot attend our churches. As a church we will keep contact with the kids and engage them from time to time but our prayer will be from Isaiah where we put our trust in the Lord and pray for steadfast young minds that will learn to put their trust in God and have peace. Amen
17 January 2021
The minister's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day she asked him why?.
"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages, "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon."
"So how come it never works?" she asked.
OK so it’s a funny wee story about prayers and children but be reassured no minister was harmed during the telling of that story. Psalm 63 verse 4 tells us, “ I will praise You as long as I live, lifting up my hands in prayer.”
Do you see those 5 words “As long as I live”? It's not, “when I am in trouble,” nor is it, “when I really need you,” or is it, “only when I have time.” Clearly, the message is “as long as I live.”
A couple of tips for prayer as we begin a new week.
Praise Him while you pray. Get the feel of God in your spirit by telling him what a mighty God that he is and what he has done for you.
Commit to prayer time. You could try the same time every day, you could decide to do it as soon as you get up first thing in the morning while it's quiet. But the point is you have to commit each day to pray.
Pray with the minimum of distraction. Self-explanatory.
Pray specifically, telling God what’s really on your mind and using language that you are comfortable using. Tell him what kind of week that you are having and what’s on your mind.
Be honest in your prayers. You are not praying for the sake of it, you are praying for yourself and others around you. Share your thoughts with the Lord and he will give you rest.
A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"
"I wouldn't know what to say," the child replied.
"Just say what you hear Mummy say," the wife said.
The daughter bowed her head and placed both hands on the table and raised her head in a pained expression and said, "Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner? Tell me what was I thinking?"
And if you have children in your life, start them out young and familiarise them with the purpose of prayer and how natural it can be, It might be beneficial to all around you. Amen
16 January 2021
Someone said to me a while ago, “Alex instead of talking about it you should pray about it.” At the time that annoyed me but when I went away and thought about it, the advice was perfect. We like to moan to each other, it's in our make up but on a personal note when it comes to prayer I worry about the language that I am going to use and don’t give enough thought to the content.
Years ago another piece of advice I got from an old minister from Northern Ireland was, “try and be specific”. Don’t just pray for that prodigal person that’s in your life, pray about the relationship that caused the separation, what you could have done differently and give God all the details. Of course, someone could say, “God already knows so why go through it all again?”. In Galatians 5:25 Paul said, “if we live by the Spirit, let us stay in step with the Spirit.”
Chelsea DeMattels tells us that to stay in step with the Spirit means walking in the convictions God lays in our hearts, it's only then we can see the gift of conviction and what it's all about.
Conviction leads us to bear fruit in our lives. Conviction is the pruning process God uses to make us more like Him. This is an honour to know that God wants us to reflect Him to this world that so desperately needs to see people living lives of love and grace and that can come through talking about conviction. May we turn to the Word of God and to the gift of prayer as we walk boldly in the convictions He lays on our hearts. Amen
15 January 2021
I was surprised the other day to read that it was Alexander Graham Bell that said, “when one door closes another opens”. But what I didn’t know that the rest of the quote is, “but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which opens for us.”
"When one door closes another opens” but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which opens for us”
And that’s what we do, right? An opportunity fails and we can be so focused on our failure that we miss the real golden opportunity.
Psalm 37 verses 23 and 24
23 The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
The perception of God always opening doors for us is unrealistic as he will close the doors if necessary. But it does not end there. In Christ we can trust God to establish our path and yes if we stumble God is there. God delights in having the better plan for you, when he closes a door on you it's out of love and faithfulness. If you are waiting on something. Remember that faithfulness and give that faithfulness back to him while you wait.
An old Iona Community hymn that has a tune called The Bay of Harris tells us :
I waited patiently for God,
for God to hear my prayer;
and God bent down to where I sank
and listened to me there.
God raised me from a miry pit,
from mud and sinking sand,
and set my feet upon a rock
where I can firmly stand.
And on my lips a song was put,
a new song to the Lord.
Many will marvel, open-eyed,
and put their trust in God.
Great wonders you have done, O Lord,
all purposed for our good.
Unable every one to name,
I bow in gratitude.
14 January 2021
2 Corinthians 10 1-11
We hear people say that we cannot wait to get back to “normal” but I think we would be more productive if we start thinking about a new normal. It's clear that we have to be positive about what's happened in 2020 and not be taken down by events that killed a lot of people. Easier said than done I hear you say, but we have to be bold. I can be very bold when it comes to writing emails etc. but when it comes to the main event I can be a bit hesitant. We read Paul's letter to the Corinthians :
10 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!2 I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
7 You are judging by appearances.[a] If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. 8 So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. 9 I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
Paul seems to be in battle mode but all the while admitting that perhaps he comes across sometimes as timid but not afraid to use words like battle ....war ....and weapons. Maybe it's just me but when I read this passage I think about the return to some kind of normality when the church doors are opened for all. It'll be a battle to rebuild, maybe reshape even renew people's ideas about this new norm we talk about.
When we are allowed to return in full, to our building, we will begin the biggest battle of our church lives. We will use the message of the gospel and show the love of Christ towards others when we battle to regain our place and try and bring people to the church and to Christ.
We need to remember that we have relationships with each other in Christ and it is easy to forget that we are family and we are to treat one another like family in Christ. We will show each other the love of Christ with all humility and gentleness while still declaring to each other the need to move forward and open our church doors wide for everyone to see...
And leaving with Pauls's words ringing in our ears “11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.”
We need to think for a minute and realise that it begins with ourselves. We need to plan accordingly for the church doors opening and make it right in our own heads. And just remember there is no winner in who comes up with the best ideas. We are not here to win but to engage ourselves and others in Christ. Amen
A Prayer for Thursday
Father in Heaven, as we wake up to another day, with whatever it may bring, we are so grateful for the assurance that we feel that we will face it with You by our side - thank you! We are aware too, Father, that our world is a needy place where people, often through no fault of their own, are suffering hardship and want as well as being deprived of the basics of life. We think too, at this time of year, when the weather is at its coldest, that many people, both here and abroad, will be struggling to stay warm. We remember the people of Japan who have just experienced the worst snowfall for a number of years, and 16 people have died and many are injured. We remember too, the people of Spain who have also experienced a snowstorm which has left devastation in its wake and there is concern that it will hamper the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. As we can see, Father, our World needs You whether they realise it or not and so, we would ask You to answer our prayers on their behalf and help those in need to see a way through their situation. They too need hope, not a transient or fleeting hope but one that is embedded in You and in Your Word. Pray for all the Christians in countries throughout the world that You will enable them, even during this time of restriction, to be bold in their witness – both orally and practically – and may it demonstrate clearly that their hope and trust in You, our Lord Jesus and Saviour of the World – Amen
13 January 2021
What's your idea of comfort food?
You know the thing that makes you feel good and brings memories flooding back. With me, it’s a thing we call “cheese dreams,” we used to make them for the boys at BB camp. Basically, you make a cheese sandwich with white bread and then dunk it into a whisked up egg (just like French toast) out it into a pan and voila gooey melting “cheese dreams.”
Historically January is a bad month, the low, coming after the high of Christmas (?), the weather is nasty outside while we are tucked up safe in our own homes. We are even persuaded to stay inside. Christmas is truly gone for the year. But has it? You do know we can celebrate the life of Christ every day. Each morning we can welcome him into our lives as though we are still celebrating Advent. Comfort is to be had if only we go and look.
The banner for our Facebook page reminds us “it's not over yet” and that’s the comfort. Isaiah 40 tells us :
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;[a]
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
A voice says, ‘Cry out.’
And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
‘All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.’
On television and in the press, things change daily. Advice changes, regulations change and even the rules change and there is very little comfort in all of that. But as we look outside our windows today and see the ice melt and the trees bald and bending in the wind. The temperature seems to be going down when we want it to go up and it's on a day like today we need comfort. But soon enough our creator God will give us the buds on the trees and the green shoots in our fields and gardens. But for today .............
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.’ Amen
12 January 2021
We watched “Songs of Praise” yesterday, we always try and catch it but yesterday I really wanted to see it as Steph Macleod was singing on it. Steph has a great story to tell, born into a normal home, gifted and educated but drugs and alcohol took over his life. He preferred to be homeless but eventually, he found Christ and became a Christian ( if you can get the chance watch it on catch up).
Today's reading is a psalm
Psalm 69:30-36 From the Message
Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.
For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.
The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!
For God listens to the poor,
He doesn’t walk out on the wretched.
You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.
For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.
Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?
No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.
You know the Psalms are great at painting a picture, but they are at their best when they are able to lift you up and boy do we need that these days. We are asked to stay safe at home but spare a thought for the homeless. Those suffering under domestic abuse and those who really need help and support in these days of enforced isolation. There is one line in today's psalm, it jumps out at me and that is “He doesn’t walk out on the wretched” and that is something for us to rejoice at but also it's important for us to pray about it as well. Yes Covid is out there and it’s a dangerous thing but everything else does not go away because of its presence. We still need to pray for the disconnected, those who are reaching out and are scared to put their hand up and say “help?”
So on this Tuesday as we read the Psalm let's pray for the “wretched” and hope that they find Christ in their lives. Amen
11 January 2021
I read a story the other day about a young girl who wore a cross to Church every Sunday, she would touch it from time to time during the service before going out to the Sunday School. On the way home, one day, her father said to her, “you do know the cross where they hung Jesus was not a beautiful cross like the one you are wearing?” Without skipping a heartbeat the young girl said, “I know that I’m not stupid. But we are taught in the Sunday School that everything Jesus touches…….he changes.”
In our reading this morning Saul is “touched” by Jesus and then for Paul everything changes.
Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
6 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’
8 “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 9 My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.
10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.
“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.
12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.
14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
……..So why did Paul change? Well, the easiest answer is that Jesus went looking for him and the change for Paul was visible. On the inside and on the outside. Jesus’s life touched Paul and he changed.
Another question would be, “has he touched you?” Only you will know ( and God of course).
Chuck Swindoll talks about - What does it mean to have your heart touched by God? It means that God is now at the center of your will and your being. It means that you have surrendered your life in totality unto Him.
How does God touch your heart? He does so by the gentle influence of His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us to the Word of God, and through the Scriptures, God touches our hearts.
When God touches your heart, bitterness, anxiety and fears have to go. They can't stay in a heart that has been touched by God. Habits and vices that were destroying your life fall away.
When God touches your heart, it fills with love and peace. Though the storms may rage, you have a glorious confidence in God's ability to control life's circumstances.
Jesus surrounded Himself with a group of men whose hearts He had touched - men who went out and turned a world upside down. When, and I am still quoting Swindoll when he says :
God touches your heart and you stop living just for today and you begin living for eternity.
10 January 2021
I think I have told the story before about giving out stickers in the seventies to kids from Sunday school. It was not my own church but I was helping out at another church in Partick at the time as they had no Sunday school teacher. Someone that I worked with had gone to America and brought me back a large box of stickers all centered around the Coca-cola logo the best of these was a red circular sticker that said, “Jesus Christ - the real thing.”
I was then asked to go round every boy's house and collect the offending stickers that were considered blasphemous at the time. The moral of this story being as a church, we have moved on.
A reading from Acts 19 tells us
19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples.
19:2 He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" They replied, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
19:3 Then he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They answered, "Into John's baptism."
19:4 Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus."19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Paul questions the disciples in Ephesus about their beliefs and their conversion. He asks them about The Holy Spirit. They were baptized by John the Baptist and seem to have no knowledge of the holy spirit.
Paul explains that they were baptized by the one who came to prepare the way for Jesus. They need now be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and they were.
Maybe I was being a bit cynical when I was recounting the story of the coca-cola stickers but in these days where we cut corners and find new ways to do everything with God there can be none of that. Jesus Christ is the real thing, the real deal, make it as modern as you like. But we always look back to what the scriptures tell us, teaches us and reminds us. Amen
09 January 2021
“Tidy out that bookcase!” my dad would shout. “Why???” would be my response. “Because I said so!!” he came back at me. This was one of my dad's favourite shouts in our house and if he said it, you had to do it even for a quiet life.
This first week back after a new year. It’s a time for a new start, a clean slate and all that. We have read this week about being obedient to God, and that he is the only one that can judge us. In fact, we need to seek him out and set an example before him and it’s the will of God that will design our lives.
The reading this morning is from Luke 5
5 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
These fishermen are not amateurs but Jesus gives them some valuable advice “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”. Of course, we know the story and a record catch was pulled up from the sea. This was all possible because the disciple did what Jesus told them. When we question our faith and our beliefs, when we set out what we have read this week about judgment, obedience, setting an example and the will of God, you might want to cry out loud, “why??,” but the answer is easy and it's always the same from God, “because I said so." Right at the end of our reading Jesus reassures the disciples, “do not be afraid, from now on you will fish for people” and that’s what we can do today be following God. Amen
08 January 2021
I walked out of the supermarket a few months ago and was quickly followed by the security guard who then chatted to me at the car. It was all innocent stuff but the first thing that I did when he walked away was quickly scan the car park for anyone from the church. I was terrified someone would think that I had been caught shoplifting ( I wasn’t by the way! ).
No one said it was going to be easy being a Christian and there is so much to keep up that it can be stressful. But we can only make sure we do our best.
Looking at the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 4
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The point of my story at the beginning is, of course, it doesn’t matter what people see of you in the street and what you are doing, no one is there to judge you. We have said it before ......only God can judge.
But to be better Christians, to enrich our lives and our Christian commitment we can look no further than Paul and his life and his advice. Just from this reading we know that we should not let folk look down on us, we should set an example, we should devote our lives to the scriptures and encourage our gifts giving our lives over to using them and encouraging others.
The lesson clearly is you don't have to look over your shoulder, just look to your heart and be a better person. Amen
07 January 2021
I think I may have told this story before about working in the Billy Graham Crusade. Every night after the crusade was over Moira ( another member of St Paul's) would go to a burger van for a bag of chips. The man in the burger van boasted about the money he was making from the “crazy Christians”. The man was really annoying but I was hungry coming straight to the football ground from work.
Anyway on the last night we went to the burger van and his daughter was working alone, it turns out her father went into the stadium just as Billy was taking to the stage as he just loved the crowds singing “majesty”. At an update a few weeks later we were told that quite a few of the stallholders had come into the stadium through a special gate and had given their lives to God.
We read about Saul's conversion in Acts 9
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 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. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 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.9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
I read somewhere that conversion does not depend on the will of man but the sovereign power and will of God. It doesn’t depend on a man's nature but on the grace of God and let's thank God for that. Many, many people have been “stopped in their tracks” and given a new direction, a new purpose, a new life and a new heart and we only have to look to the life of Paul to learn about that. Our prayer for Thursday is that this Christmas past people have come to know God and his son Jesus Christ.
Our Loving Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the season of Christmas which we have just celebrated and for the reminder of your great love to the world when Your only Son, our Saviour, was born as one of us to rescue us from our sin. Although we were not able to have our usual Christmas services with lots of people gathered together, we thank You for the knowledge that the message of Christmas was not diminished or restricted and that the power of the Christmas message was still given and received. We thank You that down through the years, regardless of the political or social climate of the times, regardless of what individual men and women were thinking and doing, You were still working out Your great purposes. We think today of the Apostle Paul, who that momentous day, was out to do harm but You stopped him in his tracks because You had other plans for his life – and what a life and witness he was to become. We thank You that you can break down the hardest of hearts to ‘put a new song in our mouths’. We thank You for Paul and for all that was achieved in his ministry and for the legacy of that ministry – even today. We pray that this Christmas many people will have heard the Christmas story in a new and personal way which will have ‘stopped them in their tracks’ and helped them come to faith in the Saviour of the world. May this new year – this new decade - be a springboard when the power of Jesus will be felt in the lives of His people and in their witness – Amen.
06 January 2021
As a child one of the things I used to love was seeing the Christmas lights in George Square. My dad used to say that whoever found the manger scene could choose where to sit on the bus going home. (That was a cop out as my brother and I always loved going upstairs on the bus for a better view.)
It was easy to find the manger scene too as it was always fairly central and well lit for all to see. Then suddenly in the late seventies there was an issue, the manger scene was deemed irrelevant and there was a possibility that it was going to be put elsewhere. But sanity prevailed and it was returned to its rightful place. I don’t know if it's my imagination or not but in later years it has become more and more difficult to find Joseph and Mary and Jesus and the three wise men in George Square.
The lectionary tells us that today is The Epiphany of the Lord and the reading should be Matthew 2
The Magi visit the Messiah
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
People today and waiting for God. Where is God in all of this? If you don’t have God , if you cant find God, if God is not in your life then who is to blame?
The three wise men provide a great lesson in having God in your life.
The wise men did three massive things - they looked for God and they came and worshiped Jesus (despite all sorts of opposition) and they gave to Jesus. They give these amazing gifts their time, their allegiance and gold, incense and myrrh.
The most important of these things cannot be bought in a shop or purchased on line. The most important of these gifts involve you and me doing something . If God is there we have to look for him. We have to put ourselves out for him, we have to head out on the journey of life with him and that means we have to give our whole life to him.
But there is great reward in doing that. Because if God is there – and he is. Then the whole world is different.
So as we embark on a new year, let’s be certain that God is there and let’s be sure we are responding to his longing for us to follow him. Amen
05 January 2021
Obedience is thicker than blood?
Neither of us come from what we would call big families, and we don’t come from a family that are familiar with the church. I remember a few months ago, when speaking about the church being closed, I said I missed my church family. The other person in this conversation thought I sounded sad by admitting that I looked upon people in my church as “family”. I thought then, maybe I should change the way I speak about my “pew pals” and refer to them as just that “pals in the church.”
Having read Matthew 12, fast forward to just the other day when I was talking to a fellow elder about the people that are not able to come to our church for health reasons. I had no issue then saying, “I miss them because they are my family." Sure I can phone them and I do, but it's not the same kind of fellowship chatting face to face with the minimum inhibitions.
Reading from Matthew 12 46-50
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Some people could comment that Jesus is being disrespectful of his brothers and his mother but this is not the case. He was simply making a point, and a very good point at that. While the disciples pointed out that his mother and brothers were waiting to speak to him his response was direct, “Who do you think my mother and brothers are?” He then stretched out his hand toward his disciples. “Look closely. These are my mother and brothers." Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother.
A slight change to the familiar phrase “blood is thicker than water,” what we are reading here is “obedience is thicker than blood.” Jesus recognises the fact that while we are all under God, while we are all under His grace and care, while we are all his sheep, we are family. Is it sentimental to say “I love my church family?” I don’t think so and that’s because the Bible tells me so. As Eugene Peterson says “The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother."
And if you happen to meet any of my church family out there today tell them I was asking for them.
04 January 2021
I remember one day being in a group of people and we were discussing something quite important. I happened to give quite a strong opinion about our capabilities and was shocked when one of the group said “don’t say that! You are not that important!” Later they explained to me that there were several people in the group and not just me, there was no malice in the point that they were making but a gentle reminder that I was just a cog in the wheel. I was there to do a job and nothing else, I could easily be replaced”
Our reading today is from James 4 11-17
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?
Boasting About Tomorrow
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
The experts say that “Framing his letter within an overall theme of patient perseverance during trials and temptations, James writes in order to encourage his readers to live consistently with what they have learned in Christ. He wants his readers to mature in their faith in Christ by living what they say they believe.”
There is a danger when “we” judge. We judge using our opinion most of the time and that is wrong. For there is only one judge. James helps us out in this.
James says, “Do not speak evil of your brother”. This includes slander gossip, bringing up faults. I have to put my hand up here and say that this is one of my failings. And for that reason, I struggle constantly with the battles that I have being judge and jury in some instances.
We must resist the temptation to criticize our fellow brothers and sisters, they have a judge and it is not me or you.
Not only is it wrong to judge our brothers and sisters but also it is wrong to judge our plans and ourselves. There is a certain President at the moment that takes pride in saying “we did it and we were the best” or “tomorrow we will do this and we will be the biggest and the quickest and the best. There is none like us!”
You see tomorrow we may do something, we may have planned it or arranged it but we cannot say we will be successful or that we will be the best at doing it. Because that means we are being the judge (and we are not). Our plans tomorrow must include God, as only he will see fit to make our endeavours fruitful and a success. We should never make promises that we cannot keep as we will then fail.
A lesson for me then is
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Let us refuse to speak evil of one another and judge one another. Let us instead love one another. Let us consider how we may “stir up one another to love and good works.” (Heb 10:24)
Alex is taking a short break from Words For Life and will be back in the New Year
Have a blessed season. See you soon........
26 December 2020
The family return to Nazareth
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.
So yesterday has come and gone and we have celebrated the birth of Christ. All the gifts have been opened and the wrapping has been binned and recycled. You are maybe trying to decide what to do with the leftover food or make a promise never to eat that much again. But what is this last gift? Again it isn’t wrapped or lying in a bag but (on a personal note) it is one of the most important gifts that can be found.
I am talking about church family, the people that you see each Sunday sitting round about you or dotted around the church. The people that make you smile, give you confidence, reassure you or even build you up. The people that you phone or meet up with when you get a chance to.
As far back as Ecclesiastes, the Bible says “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. Proverbs teaches us that “Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another” while Hebrews tells us that “let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works.”
In St Paul's we send out some cards each week to those in our church family that are perhaps ill or moving into a care home. On the front of the card there is a photograph of the church sanctuary with a Bible verse underneath. The verse gets changed every so often.
At the moment the verse on the card is from Galatians :
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
At the moment everything seems like shifting sands, things change and barriers are put in the way in which we live. But one thing remains the same and that is the love of Jesus Christ and the fellowship that you can find in your church.
So the gifts that we have unwrapped joy, light, peace, worship and the fellowship of your friends all sit side by side and we now leave the last word to the gospel of John as he tells us :
“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Amen
25 December 2020
Today's gift is the gift of a saviour. The saviour of the world.
I heard a hymn on the radio the other day and it was unfamiliar to me. Now that’s not to say that is it completely unknown and you may have sung it before. But after I heard it, I looked up the lyrics and found within this Christmas hymn the whole life of Jesus Christ, from the cradle to the cross. And so I present to you this Christmas Morning the words to this beautiful hymn.
Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
Whereon the Saviour of the world was born
Rise to adore the mystery of love
Which hosts of angels chanted from above
With them the joyful tidings first begun
Of God incarnate and the Virgin's Son
Then to the watchful shepherds it was told
Who heard the angelic herald's voice: "Behold,
I bring good tidings of a Saviour's birth
To you and all the nations upon earth
This day hath God fulfilled His promised word;
This day is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord."
He spake, and straightaway the celestial choir
In hymns of joy, unknown before, conspire
The praises of redeeming love they sang
And heaven's whole orb with alleluias rang
God's highest glory was their anthem still
Peace upon earth and unto men goodwill
To Bethlehem straight the shepherds ran
To see the wonder God had wrought for man
And found, with Joseph and the blessed Maid
Her Son, the Saviour, in a manger laid
Amazed, the wondrous story they proclaim
The earliest heralds of the Saviour's name
Let us, like these good shepherds, them employ
Our grateful voices to proclaim the joy
Trace we the Babe, who hath retrieved our loss
From His poor manger to His bitter cross
Treading His steps, assisted by His grace
Till man's first heavenly state again takes place
Then may we hope, the angelic thrones among
To sing, redeemed, a glad triumphal song
He that was born upon this joyful day
Around us all His glory shall display
Saved by His love, incessant we shall sing
Of angels and of angel-men the King.
I hope that today you leave some space to welcome Christ into Christmas. Amen
24 December 2020
Hark the herald angels sing Glory! To the newborn king. Now that’s a great hymn and I personally will miss hearing the choir belting it out this year as usual. But the gift that we unwrap is almost hidden in this hymn. All the gifts that we spoke off this week are included, light, worship as well as joy but right at the last verse is the greatest gift of all.
Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Risen with healing in his wings
Light and life to all He brings
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of…
John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that he gave us his son. But as we live on both sides of the cross we can see this gift of a King born on Christmas day will one day give us eternal life. Born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Light and life to all He brings.
These gifts that we have opened this week are tremendous and valuable but more than that they are unique. These gifts seal the relationship that we have with Christ. Up until this point we have been learning about him, what people say about him and what he says about us, but the joy and the light and the worship and now the eternal life is the glue that holds us together with him.
Hail the sun of righteousness. Hail the heaven born prince of peace. Amen
23 December 2020
Over the next four days we will unwrap four gifts that cannot be placed in a box or pulled from a gift bag. Each gift will be associated with the word as well as be accompanied by a Christmas hymn that you could find on YouTube if you are interested.
Our third gift this week is Joy. But what does it actually mean?
“Having joy includes feeling good cheer and a vibrant happiness. But joy, in its fuller, spiritual meaning of expressing God's goodness, involves more. It is a deep rooted, inspired happiness. The Holy Bible says, "The joy of the Lord is your strength."
Just look at those words for a moment “It is a deep rooted inspired happiness.” Now that is a great gift to have.
The Christmas story is peppered with the word "joy" so many times and rightly so as the coming king and all that He entails wasn’t just good news it was great news that was bringing joy into the lives of so many.
Luke told us that when “Gabriel went into the house and said to her, "Joy be to you, favoured one! the Lord is with you." You see that wasn’t just good news it was deep rooted and inspired.
Matthew reminds us that when the magi “saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” They were on the right track and their relief must have been deep rooted and Matthew later on tells us “Be glad and full of joy; for great is your reward in heaven.”
And so this gift of joy that is deep rooted within us is a truly wonderful gift and it is a gift that be passed on this Christmas and we can all “repeat the sounding joy.“ Amen
22 December 2020
Over the next five days we will unwrap five gifts that cannot be placed in a box or pulled from a gift bag. Each gift will be associated with the word as well as be accompanied by a Christmas hymn that you could find on YouTube if you are interested.
Today's gift can be found in Matthew 2 verse 11 and it is the gift of worship.
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
We are talking about the gift of “Worship”. This gift has been so relevant over the past nine months especially as the doors of the church have been closed. But that did not prevent us from being able to worship in our own homes with our own Bibles and the many media devices available to us. Over the past few months I have heard a lot of people say they even love to sing the hymns in their own homes along with the worship that they are watching on YouTube or on the television.
The great hymn “Angels from the Realms of Glory” ask us to come and worship Christ the newborn king and tell the story of the shepherds in the fields, the wise men and the saints inviting them all to come and worship
Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight through all the earth
Ye who sang creation's story
Now proclaim Messiah's birth
Come and worship Come and worship
Worship Christ the newborn king
Shepherds, in the fields abiding
Watching o'er your flocks by night
God with man is now residing
Yonder shines the infant light
But like all gifts this one comes with a warning and that is complacency. Worshipping in the comfort of our own homes is great but we must get back to worshipping together Matthew 18 v 20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” There is nothing like your own church pew and the sanctuary.
And so as we have “four sleeps” till Christmas morning we treasure the gift of worship, still available despite the lockdown.
Come and worship the new born King.
21 December 2020
Over the next six days we will unwrap six gifts that cannot be placed in a box or pulled from a gift bag. Each gift will be associated with the Word as well as be accompanied by a Christmas hymn that you could find on YouTube if you are interested. Today's gift is the gift of light.
It was a star in the sky that guided the magi to find Christ. That light in the sky can be found in many Christmas cards and posters throughout the world. In the Christmas hymn “Away in a Manger,“ we sing -
The stars in the sky
Look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay
There is a recurring theme throughout the Bible about light and how important it is to us. Of course the psalms tell us that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Mathew reminds us that “you are the light of the world." My favourite is again in Matthew “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
We all have the light, we all get that light and it's our responsibility to let that light shine, especially in the darkest of moments and the bleakest of days, Christ is the light of the world.
Tonight something important will happen in the sky.
The planets of Saturn and Jupiter and edging closer together by the day. Come December 21, (that is today) the two giants of the solar system will be just 0.1 degrees apart in the night's sky, making it appear as if they are one celestial body. When combined, the two planets will form what appears to be a bright star, appearing just above the Moon.
The rare phenomenon happens once every 20 years or so, as the planets which have a combined orbit of the Sun of 41 years rarely find themselves together. However, this time around they will be the closest they have been in 800 years, making the event extra spectacular.
If you are not able to observe that, don’t worry for we have a resource open to us all in the Bible and when we open that book, when we read those words the most radiant of lights is available 24/7 365 days each year indoors or out. John tells us that
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." Amen
20 December 2020
We all know that The New Testament is labelled The Good News. The good news of Jesus birth and life and all that it entails. But just before Jesus was born Zechariah got good news too. He would bear a son in his old age. This son would be called John and as soon as he announced this, Zachariah came out of his state of shock and began speaking after a long period of silence. “What then is this child going to be?” People asked...... For the Lord’s hand was with him.
To celebrate this news. Zechariah had a song
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
So here we are, back at the beginning of the life of Jesus. Advent is not over just yet but I hope you know and understand Jesus just a wee bit better. Who he is and where he came from. Who we should be and what we can give to him. Just as Zechariah had a song over the next 7 days we will look at other songs that heralded the birth of the new born King this coming Christmas. Amen
19 December 2020
I watched a television Evangelist on Sky the other day and I was really impressed about the way he talked about the "baby in the manger” and the lowliness of his birth. My problem at this stage was the vast arena that he was preaching from and the massive choir standing beside him. There was also a band as well as a small orchestra. The arena was massive and was full and you just couldn't help be impressed.
He then went on to recite all Jesus accomplishments and when he came to “and he walked on water”, he pointed out the training shoes he was wearing on the stage and told the arena that he was wearing Nike Air Max 97 that were commonly known as “the walk on water” because of their comfort. As is my want, I then went and asked Mr Google how much they cost and was shocked that these shoes cost $4000 dollars a pair. This guy had what my dad would call “a swagger”. He was pacing up and down on the stage with his perfectly coiffed hair and his gleaming white teeth and his expensive clothes and he was preaching about “humility” and “humbleness”
In our reading today Jesus asks them to explain why David speaks of the Messiah as his Lord? They didn’t see that the Messiah was to be God as well as man and then go onto become David's son. Their ignorance was exposed and they could not explain what their own scriptures said. Jesus goes on to criticise the teachers of the law and their “swagger”. "They devour widows houses and make lengthy prayers." Jesus then goes on to tell the story of the widow and her two coins.
Now I'm not saying that the telly evangelist is stealing houses but how can we preach, teach and learn about God and not know what the scriptures really mean. No one man is bigger than God. No amount of money and crystal cathedrals makes you know the scriptures any better. Just as wearing $4000 “sannies” (as my dad called all types of leisure shoe) doesn’t mean that you are walking in the feet of our Lord.
Love came down at Christmas, in all its meekness and majesty. There were no grand buildings and no grander attendants to fawn over him. Just his mother Mary and of course Joseph. They were looked upon by simple shepherds and their flock. This birth story teaches us that that we come as we are, we give what we can because nothing will impress him other than a pure heart and a good intent. This Christmas we have a lot to be thankful for as well as a lot to look forward to. It's not the shoes on our feet but the offerings in our heart that we bring to Him this Christmas time. Amen
The full reading
Luke 20 v41-Luke 21 v1-4
Whose Son Is the Messiah?
41 Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’
44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
Warning Against the Teachers of the Law
45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples,46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
The Widow’s Offering
21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
18 December 2020
So who is Jesus and what do people say he is?
If someone were to give details of your accomplishments, achievements and characteristics what would be said about you? God spoke to a lot of people and spoke about a lot of people but he speaks to us now through his son Jesus Christ. In Hebrews we read :
“ In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
So one of the answers to the question “who is this Jesus?” Hebrews tells us that he is The heir appointed and the radiance of God’s glory and superior even to the angels.
5”For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son; today I have become your Father”?
Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.”
8 But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
I have read somewhere that in Hebrews the author (Paul?) gives us amazing descriptions of who Jesus really is and what he is about. These include
He’s worthy of worship, The lover of righteousness,
The hater of wickedness, The everlasting conqueror of all enemies,
Crowned with glory and honour, The founder of salvation,
Our hope, The giver of rest, Sharper than any two-edged sword, Sinless, The giver of grace and mercy, The source of eternal salvation, An anchor of the soul , Able to save to the uttermost,
The once for all sacrifice, The opener of the new and living way to God, The rewarder of those who seek God, He never leaves and never forsakes, He’s the same yesterday and today and forever,
The great shepherd of the sheep, The equipper of everything good, The one who works in us,
And the recipient of honour and glory forever and ever, Amen
In yesterdays reading we were able to track Jesus’s line back to God and in today's reading, we see that he is the radiance of all Gods glory.
So we know more and more about the life that’s about to be. Let's prepare ourselves for the newborn king. Amen
The reading in full
God’s Final Word: His Son
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
The Son Superior to Angels
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”[b]?
6 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”[c]
7 In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels spirits,
and his servants flames of fire.”[d]
8 But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”[e]
10 He also says,
“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
13 To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
17 December 2020
Who do you think you are?
I love the TV programme where celebrities go way back and discover interesting things about themselves. I did a similar exercise and discovered that one of my ancestors’ was a failed cobbler. He decided to go into the business of working in a new kind of sport called ”football” and he made leather bladders for the inside of the ball.
How far can you go back?
We end Luke 3 with a kind of a “who's who” in the life of Jesus and no one can argue that this lineage is amazing. Amos, Zerubbabel, Joshua, Jesse, David, Abraham, Noah, Seth and then Adam and then of course God. All the descendants from Jesus back to God himself.
Luke 3 ends with “ 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.”
23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
So a defining moment for Jesus in rather unexpected circumstances. The people thought John might be the new messiah but no, it’s a man called Jesus. John warns the people that while he baptizes with water being baptized by Jesus is completely different. Never the less Jesus is baptized we hear the voice of God saying “ you are my son whom I love, with you, I am well pleased”
We started this Advent talking about the unexpected Christmas, and all the unexpected characters that gathered for his birth. This will be an unexpected Christmas. For most of us, there will be no watch night service and no going round the neighbours and relatives with Christmas cheer. You could even be forgiven for letting in just that wee chink of gloom and negativity. But just think about what God is saying to you, listen to those words he said to his son “ You are my son whom I love”
This Christmas he is saying them to you
“ You are my son whom I love” or “you are my daughter whom I love”
Love ( and a dove) came down that day to Jesus from God and Love comes to you today as well. “Who do you think you are?” Well, that one's easy as you are a child of God. Loved, blessed and full of grace. Amen
16 December 2020
The unexpected Messiah
My favourite Charles Dickens book is great expectations and the story of a young Pip. You could label Luke 3 “Great expectations” too as the people look to John with expectations in their heart.
Luke 3 tells us :
“5 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done,20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.”
We meet John in Luke 3 where there is an expectation of a Messiah. Could it be John the Baptist? We know it's not, we’ve followed the story thus far and we remember the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. We have the privilege of knowing the life of Jesus on both sides of the cross.
But the irony here is that the Messiah is just about to make his entrance and it seems as though people might have to manage their expectations. They were perhaps expecting an “apocalyptical” messiah all fire and thunder, perhaps a “political” messiah who is here to sort the big boys out.
John tells them that the Messiah that is about to appear is more powerful and of a higher status than John, in fact, John is not worthy to tie his sandals. John goes on to talk about “His winnowing fork and the threshing floor." All of this means when this Messiah comes he will separate people. The good and the bad. The redeemed and the unredeemed. The forgiven and the unforgiven.
And so the Messiah that is to appear is another kind of figure, approved of quietly by heaven, having the power to divide between good and evil, devoted to sinners and to his Father’s will.
There were great expectations of this Messiah but what do people think now? An expert said of the Charles Dickens book that it is a story of “ambition and self-improvement”, while others say that it is a story of loyalty and conscience. Are peoples expectations of the Church too high? Is that why pews are empty? Do people expect more for them personally from God? If you know Jesus, you know God. You know what our expectations are.
15 December 2020
The unexpected behaviour?
One of the positives of social media is when someone goes missing, especially children. The amount of coverage it gets is amazing and definitely one of the tools to trace missing people. I hear even the police will suggest social media is used immediately.
I am trying hard to understand, then, how Mary and Joseph felt when the young Jesus disappeared for three days. Luke is the only gospel writer that tells this story. It's sandwiched between two ordinary statements of an ordinary family. This child was growing and becoming strong and wise and then we are told that he increased in wisdom and in stature and favour with God and man. But in between these two statements, it appears Jesus does “a runner”.
That’s what we would say today about a kid that disappears but of course, this story is different. Again contrasts and differences come into play and of course, Jesus was exactly where he should have been and Mary and Joseph were the two misplaced characters in this story.
And you can imagine the state Mary and Joseph would get in. Blaming each other, asking everyone around them “have you seen him?” “Help he’s just a boy.”
But this story is a landmark in Jesus' life. It’s not about taking the eye off the ball or being disobedient. Some say this story shows Jesus “shifting from his earthly father to his heavenly father.”
And there he was, sitting in His Father's house. Mary and Joseph are astonished they are understandably annoyed about the treatment they have endured but Jesus answers “did you not know I would be in my Father's house?” And there’s the shift. Joseph is the earthly father but his real Father is God and that’s where he should be.
So where do we find Jesus today? People are still out there looking for him. They’ve lost him and they are searching frantically for him. Some have lost him during the pandemic blaming the church for closing the doors.
Jesus can be found in the pages of the Scriptures. His life is there, as well as his death and resurrection. He’s not in a building or exclusive to the minister or a pastor. He’s in the Bible for all of us to find.
Have you lost Jesus? Are you losing him day by day? You know where he is and you know where to find him. Do you know Jesus? They say If you want to know what the Father is like look to the Son. Part of Jesus’ role was to make the Father known throughout the world. For every one. Amen
Let's read about Jesus in the Temple
Luke 2 41-52
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
14 December 2020
Straight after Luke introduces us to Simeone he then shows us Anna the prophetess. But who was she? Well, we know that she was the daughter of Phanuel and was of the tribe of Asher. Asher was the eighth son of Jacob and his tribe was one of the ten lost tribes. As a prophetess, she would be regarded as being in contact with a divine being and would be an intermediary with humanity delivering messages or teachings from her source. As a devout asherite she would regularly practise prayer and fasting.
But what was she doing in the temple? She was a holy woman and the temple would be her “go to“ place. She would spend as much time with God as she could, so you can see why she would be overjoyed and would immediately praise God for she knew what had happened.
The Greek word used by Luke suggests recognition or intuition. She ‘sees’ what others cannot. Her reaction would be immediate and dramatic, speaking in as loud a voice as she can muster, telling anyone near her about this extraordinary child. Here, in front of their eyes, is the Being who will bring redemption to Israel.
So I hope that you see that in Jesus' early life there are a lot of unexpected characters coming into his life from the lowly shepherds, to the wisest of men and now two of Gods “right hand” people Simeon and Anna. This is Monday the 14th of December in 11 days it will be Christmas day. We will celebrate the long expected King of Kings, what we could never have expected this time last year would be the unexpected scenario we will be welcomed into.
Times change and sands shift but the celebrations must continue. We will welcome the new born King on Christmas morning as usual and be thankful that he chose us for the greatest gift of all. Eternal life
Let's read about Anna
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
13 December 2020
The unexpected was expected
You might have heard someone say “Oh well, I can die happy now”, its usually because something momentous has happened in their life and the long wait is over. It can be quite a morbid statement to make as it implies that everything in life has been achieved and you can die now as there is nothing else to achieve.
There was a man called Simeon, a resident of Jerusalem and had a reputation for being “righteous and devout”. Like a lot of people, Simeon had the hope that the Messiah would free his people from oppression and when this Messiah arrived he would save them, just like the Messiah saved the Israelites in Egypt.
Simeon was different from the rest. Luke tells us that the “holy spirit was upon him” and that allowed him the confidence that he would see the messiah in his life time. Luke 2v26 tells us that “it had been revealed to Simeon that he would not see death before he had seen Jesus.”
As was customary, Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem in order to present Him to God (Luke 2v22). It was on this occasion that Simeon saw Jesus and recognized Him as the Messiah. When Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he picked Him up in his arms and said, "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2v29–32).
Simeon spent his life anticipating Christ's arrival, and in a similar way, we should live our lives anticipating Christ's return. Jesus is a comfort to all who place their faith in His amazing grace. Tom Wright tells us that “Just as Simeon was an example of staying faithful to what God had told him in a world that had largely lost hope, we must stay faithful to Christ who has reconciled us to God and given us hope for a future with Him.” Amen
Now let's read what the bible says about Simeon :
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him.34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
12 December 2020
A man I didn't know
My father had a picture of his mother and father on the wall in his bedroom. I never knew my grandparents. I know that I went to my gran's every Friday for a bath and I always associate that with the smell of Coal Tar Soap, but the memory ends there. A picture on the wall of two people I didn’t know and regrettably never got the chance to ask.
All I knew was that my grandfather who was a wee man from Yoker was an eminent dock labourer in the field of men’s rights in the early days of unions. This impressed my dad so much he had it written on the back of the photograph." An eminent man"
A similar word cropped up the other day. I was reading about Paul and what he said in 1 Colossians about Jesus. He was painting a picture of who he was. Tom Wright tells us that Paul wants every Christian and every person to know that Jesus Christ is preeminent (meaning surpassing all others, the first above all others)
”He is preeminent over His natural creation, the universe. He is preeminent over His spiritual creation, the church. God’s settled purpose is “that He Himself will come to have first place in everything”
When you know Jesus then you know God. When you see Jesus then you have seen the invisible God. If you do not know Jesus then you do not know God. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus then you do not have a relationship with God.
You wouldn’t have a photograph on your wall of someone and when asked “who is he?” you would sound silly if your reply was “ eh? I don’t really know him, sorry!” So its always a good time to know Jesus better and again and again. In the reading we learn...
1 Colossians 15-21
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church, he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
11 December 2020
“Well, I’ll never watch him on the telly ever ever again”, I heard myself saying to the so called comedian that was on TV. He is a comedian, he tells funny stories about his life and his lifestyle so why take a knock at God? Then when that was finished he decided to take a shot at Jesus, which I found very distasteful.
Yes I know , free speech and all of that so as a point of protest I went to my computer and put on the first Christmas Hymn I could find :
The hymn O Come All ye Faithful is a great Christmas favourite.
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
O come and behold Him, born the King of Angels
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord”
Matthew 2 10-11 From the New King James Version
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And of course all of this calmed me down. So we are called not to just like Jesus , or love Jesus, but to adore him? But what does that entail?
Jesus once said :
‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules'.
Some of us are paying lip service to Christmas. We walk the walk and we talk the talk. We even attend church and be seen, we might even belt out the hymn the loudest in the building. But where is our heart?
Are we holding back? You know the person who knows you best knows when you are holding back. He knows each and every one of the hairs on your head and he can tell that the word “Adore” just isn’t in your current remit.
I am stealing a quote from a DL Moody teaching manual that says “We adore what is most precious to us. The miser adores his wealth; the evolutionist might adore his knowledge. We all have what C.S. Lewis called an “overwhelming first.” The New Testament teaches that this is the spot that should be reserved for Jesus. Adoration is our privilege, but it is also our obligation. He is worthy to be “first.”
We are not called to like, we are called to adore. So this Christmas leave all negativity aside and “come let us adore him Christ the Lord”.
10 December 2020
I wonder this year, because of the year we have had, people will look at Christmas in a different way? They are bound to. Will it be a permanent change or only temporary?
Suddenly to most people, gifts are not important. For it is not what’s on the table but who's round the table. Will Christ be at your table? Will you make time for him as the pressure builds for Christmas day?
As Christians, we have seen a huge shift in our Church’s life. The doors were closed and we had to seek out other means to share the word of God. But we managed it. The Church doors opened and the numbers were reduced to 50 and then 20. Was it worth it? Of course it was and we managed it. These are our accomplishments for God cc.
In his letter to the Philippians Paul says this (Philippians 3 7-11)
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
Paul is more or less saying to us that it doesn’t matter what our accomplishments are, all of that is unimportant compared to our relationship with Christ. Another thing he is saying is that our biggest accomplishment should be our relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul would gladly have traded his human accomplishments for more time and more fellowship with Christ.
Yes as we walk through Advent we should think of all of our accomplishments this year and celebrate maybe with alternative means with some of our family but there is no reason for us not to love and have Christ as our table this year. Amen
09 December 2020
When you think of all the characters in this Christmas story we have all kinds of people with all kinds of agenda. Mary and Joseph carrying out the will of God, the three “magi” following a star searching for this new born king and the shepherds guided by the heavenly choir and the angelic wishes “o come let us adore him”.
Now we have the heavyweights. Herod and his boys. All the chief priests and lawyers. The “know -it –alls” and the well qualified. They’ve all studied Hebrew scriptures and they all know where the child was to be born. Bethlehem (from Micah) So in reality that’s only around five miles away. Right? So why not go themselves? Why send the Magi?
There are some people that doubt the validity of this part of the nativity story. Why would a big man like Herod get some foreign “star gazers” to do his investigative work? Could it be he was trying to keep the whole thing “underground”? He wouldn’t want to spook the locals and then perhaps drive Mary and Joseph underground. That would make it even more difficult to carry out his plans. Remembering of course that God was in charge at all times.
As I said all kinds of plans and all kinds of agenda and all of it clearly labelled “unexpected”. But all of these people, moving around the chessboard making their moves, hatching their plans and going in for the kill.
“As soon as you find him,” said Herod “report to me so that I too may go and worship him,” (well we all know that wasn’t going to happen!).
As all of this is playing out the only person is that is in control is God.
Mary Joseph and Jesus are under his protection and guidance. None of the drama matters ….its God that matters. He’s the one that is in charge and as we know he will guide them all to safety.
And that’s what today is all about. The drama is playing out everywhere on the tv and on the radio. Social media telling us one thing and the newspapers telling us something different. We need to look to God for the answers. We need to speak to God about our fears. We need to listen to God for the words that will bring us much needed reassurance and a peaceful Christmas. Amen
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
08 December 2020
Today we are still staying with the Magi
Matthew 2:2, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
I’ve said it before but the Bible is full of contrasts and comparisons. These “wise men”, also called “magi”. They came looking for a king but they wouldn’t find him in a throne room but in a normal home. For it is said by the time they found Jesus he would be about a year old and living in a normal home.
I Want to bring something to your attention. They called him the King of the Jews, could they have guessed for a minute that the very title that they gave him that day would be written on a cross above this man around 33 years later?
Among the ancients, the appearance of a new star or comet was regarded as an omen of some remarkable event. Many such appearances are recorded by the Roman historians at the birth or death of distinguished men. They say that at the death of Julius Caesar a comet appeared in the heavens and shone seven days. These wise men also considered this as evidence that the long-expected Prince was born.
What this star was is not known. I read somewhere it is most probable that it was a luminous appearance, or meteor, such as we now see sometimes shoot from the sky, which the wise men saw, and which directed them to Jerusalem.
But it was no coincidence they were in the right place at the right time to see this new born son who was called Jesus.
Another clear example of how the light brought men out of the darkness, the angels and the heavenly hosts and the star that appeared heralded a new beginning and a new light to bring people out of the darkness. Will you have a star in your house over Christmas? Can you bring new light to someone this Christmas? Will you share this light with your own loved ones in what will be a never forgotten Christmas 2020?.
07 December 2020
Matthew 2 verse 1, “Behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem”
Wise men or Magi. They have been described in various ways.
“Magi” were known as pagan astrologers. An oxymoron. Pagan astrologers coming to find The son of God. The King of Kings.The saviour of the world being sought out by sorcerers and wizards. You could say they were the unexpected visitors that should have been avoided, but not God. That was his speciality. Bringing the unexpected, the outsiders, the people on the edge of society now that was his speciality.
All through the Bible magicians and sorcerers are condemned. Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Jeremiah all condemn them. Even in the New Testament, they get a bad press. Simon or Elymas to name but a few.
These men might not have been “three kings of orient” but they do come to worship Jesus the true King and they brought gifts. There are arguments about what the gifts represent. Gold to represent Jesus as a King, frankincense as a priest and myrrh as a sacrifice.
But the king they had come to worship was different, this was the servant king who “came not to be served but to serve." This king would serve everyone he met and his father would draw people from all extremes to be served. Advent marks the coming King.
The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King
The magi brought three gifts, our prayers today could be for three things. Our prayers should be for the unexpected Christmas, the one we could never have predicted. For the gift that nobody could put a price on and that is the saviour of the world. And closer to home the long-expected vaccine, pray that it is delivered to everyone who needs it.
06 December 2020
One of my all time favourite Christmas songs is “Mary Did You Know?” and it doesn’t really matter who sings it, it’s the lyrics that I love.
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you
Luke 2 verse 19 says
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed. Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
So the choir has gone and the shepherds decide to find out for themselves where this boy is. And if there was any doubt in their minds it was gone in an instant as Luke tells us “seeing is believing.”
I imagine this would be a busy scene with all the fuss being made by the shepherds telling all and sundry what they heard and even better what they had seen. But look at Mary. Mary sits still. She’s quiet. She’s taking all of this in “keeping all of these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.“ What was going through her mind?
Jesus’s life was about to be played in front of her, it was a lot to take in but a lot to cherish and this was possibly one of her first big memories. Maybe at this point, she thought “one day I will look back on all of this."
How could she know at this point the child that was in her arms, one day will give sight to the blind, calm the storm with his hand and be the King of all creation.
If you can, listen to the song “Mary did you know” and share with her all that Mary kept to herself, holding them dear, deep within. Amen
05 December 2020
Unexpected event, unexpected witness.
I was only in the choir for a short while. I loved it. But my problem was while I was sitting amongst the choir on a Thursday night and on a Sunday morning. I didn’t want to sing, I wanted to listen. On two occasions I can remember literally being struck into silence. The first time was when we sang the “The Irish blessing”. I had never heard anything so beautiful and the second time was when we sang “Behold the man”. Such powerful words rendered me powerless and I will never forget those two songs. The literally filled me with joy.
The choir in the dessert must have been something else. First, the shepherds were settling down for the night when suddenly an angel appears with an announcement. A baby was to be born in downtown Bethlehem and he was going to be special. A messiah and a saviour.
And then what followed can only be described as "the greatest choral presentation in the history of the world”. No tickets were sold for this event as it could not have been foreseen especially by the lowly shepherds.
And what about them being the audience? They were not wise and noble they were considered lowly shepherds, the kind of people that were looked upon as the lowest of the low. They were chosen for this kingly announcement. To share in this good news of great joy.
Joy, according to the dictionary means being filled with vibrant happiness. In the spiritual sense, it means being filled with God's goodness, having a deep-rooted inspired happiness.
In Nehemiah, Ezra said, "the joy of the Lord is your strength”. For him it was a time of restoration not only for the ruined city but also to the law of God.
As we march through December towards Christmas day make the joy of the Lord YOUR strength as we share with the shepherds the marvel of the new born king. Amen
Now lets read from Luke 2
There were shepherds camping in the neighbourhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met, what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
04 December 2020
Years ago we went to Howarth in Yorkshire on holiday. Previously I had rented the Bronte sisters' books at school and had enjoyed them. So it was great to be able to go to The Vicarage in Howarth and see where they lived and see how they lived. Seeing their clothes and their beds sent home how small they were and the sparseness of their living area helped understand their lives. We saw their pens and their notebooks and all of this put flesh on the bones of who we thought they were and how they lived.
Colossians 1 verse 9 tells us “In Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.“ Yesterday we talked about the word becoming flesh. Jesus walking amongst his fellow citizens but not everyone was a fan so to speak. We know from scripture that not everyone was a believer.
“My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world. Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God.”
In his book “The Christmas we didn’t expect” David Mathis tells us that we must avoid the same mistake.
We mustn’t think of Christmas just as tinsel and trees and all things nice and comfy. The humanity of Christ can be a challenge but it can be the beauty of being a Christian.
We follow a saviour who was human, who had emotions and who even had a human mind. But John 6 v 38 reminds us Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not only to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
The conflict is there. Jesus had a will of his own but he came to follow his Father's will and that’s what makes us love him all the more. He had his own failings, his own emotions but the Word that became flesh was here to carry out The Father's will. He was fully God but fully man.
“He became man in full so that he might save us in full.” Amen
03 December 2020
John 1:14 The word became flesh and dwelt among us
Many moons ago there was an expression used by other Christians that bothered me and that expression was “a personal relationship with Jesus”. I couldn’t get my head around it and in my naivety, I didn’t see why it was so important to have it. Its there and you believe it.
But just imagine that we didn’t have a nativity, a baby in the stable, a boy in the temple, a man who taught and healed. Just imagine there was no Jesus? No crucifixion and no resurrection. How would we fare with our faith and our understanding of God? And another thing. No Christ no Christianity.
Imagine having a friend. You love them and they live in the next town. You know they are there if you need them and will contact them from time to time only when you need them. How long would that relationship last?
A critical part of the gospel is the fact that Jesus was truly and fully physically human. This was no mirage or illusion. He was100% human, the Word became flesh. But why give us someone that was both human and divine?
The Word became flesh. We needed someone that has walked the walk before us. We need someone that has had all our human traits and has had tests and some failures. This incarnation that inspires us and interprets all the understanding we need to live this life as followers and believers. All of this was made possible because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Only then can we sit down and have a personal relationship with Jesus because we know him, we love him and we live through him. And we are lucky that each and every advent we get to think about and celebrate his coming. We will celebrate his birthday.
The Word became flesh. God became man. Christmas the time for a perfect gift. Jesus Christ.
02 December 2020
01 December 2020