31 July 2020
1stPeter 1 verses 1 to 12 using The Message Translation
1 1-2 I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!
A New Life
3-5 What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over the future and us. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.
6-7 I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.
8-9 You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.
10-12 The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamoured to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!
Is it time to shift?
I know I have said this before and I dare say I will say it again sometime soon. And I’m going to say it now and that is each and every verse from the bible sometimes screams out “ This is for today!”
Straightaway Peter the Apostle praises God and then gives us almost ten reasons why it’s necessary to follow God :
1. He is the father of the Jesus (verse 3)2. He gives us new life ( v3)3. Through this new birth we are given mercy (v3)4. The result of this mercy is hope5. The means to this hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ6. As a believer we are shielded by the power of God7. This shielding requires faith to hold on to the promises of God
I read only today “The best time to trust in God is when crisis and trouble relentlessly strike our state of peace. That is the appointed time to believe in the power of the Lord God our Saviour Jesus Chris. The strength of God can overcome the weakness caused by the seeming crisis of the pandemic.” Now while that sounds like a good idea, what happens when the pandemic lessens? Do we reduce our grip on Christ? Do we begin to put God on the back burner ready for the next wave? I don’t think so. We really need to be thankful for the grace of God in your everyday life. While it may be a good idea to find the little things to be thankful for that can help you cope during the crisis. Thankfulness is a great virtue and should be offered to God in every day and in every situation. Do not be like the Apostle Peter who took his eyes off the Lord and began to sink.
God can advance his purpose through those times of crisis and adverse experiences, but maybe its time to shift focus from the crisis of the pandemic to the peace and stability that our God freely gives to us. Amen
30 July 2020
James 5 v13-20
The prayer of faith
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you ill? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
We are staying with James for the time being.
I don’t know if you have noticed but each Thursday we have a special extended prayer and in St Paul's we have a prayer group that meets each Thursday evening. Despite the lockdown the Prayer Group is still in contact with each other and are still praying from their own homes each Thursday evening. SO what about Prayer? Is there a special way we should pray? What are the “go to “ passages in the Bible? We all know that you could fill shelves and shelves of books on how to pray and what the Bible says about prayer but for now, let's stick with James.
This passage tells us that there are four things James wants to remind us about prayer.
We should pray for ourselves (in other words) our prayer should be personal. In verse 1 James tells us that if we are suffering we should pray, if we are happy again we should pray. Prayer is the best way to speak to God and we should be telling him how we feel and express our feelings.
We should pray for others. Verse 14 reminds us when others are ill we should share our concerns with our church folk. The word “elder” appears in this translation but that could mean the pastor or minister. But the important thing here is that we should all pray for one another, that’s the important thing.
Thirdly, our prayers should be genuine. James tells us that “ we should pray in righteousness and faith” that is faith filled and from the heart. Verse 15 “ and the prayer offered in faith” tells us that we should pray with the faith that God can do anything! Verse 16 “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” We should get close to God as he hears and answers our prayers.
Our Prayers should be powerful. Verse 17 “He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” All prayers should be earnest and here we are given the example of Elijah and how he prayed. We are also reminded that Elijah was just an ordinary man and yet he prayed from the heart.
So this morning we ask ourselves “ how is our prayer life?”. There never has been such a greater need for prayer than today and where we find ourselves in the world, in Scotland and in Milngavie. But wherever you are in this world we should pray for ourselves, pray for others, pray in faith and above all else prayer with the full power of knowing God. As Willie Barclay once said
“ Live the way He’s called you to live and pray the way He’s called you to pray”
Let us pray
Heavenly Father, thank you for this new day and for sustaining and encouraging us through these days of uncertainty, of anxiousness and of loss. We think of how, during this time, we have been unsure of how we will cope if we venture out and how we sometimes get anxious over little things, which, in the past would not have bothered us. We are also living with a sense of loss – the loss of freedom to meet together in Your House to worship You; the loss of freedom to travel to places in our country as well as throughout the world where we have friends and loved ones who we would love to meet up with and spend time together. We freely admit to You, that we have found these restrictions difficult to cope with. And so, it makes it all the more important that we hold on to our faith and trust in You – the One who truly knows how we feel and ask that You will continue to encourage us and bring to mind all the blessings we have in our lives because of You and Your love and sacrifice for us. We also give You thanks for Your Word which is often so practical as it tells us of people long ago who were also going through similar things and they too had anxious thoughts and fear. Thank you for the life of James the Apostle who saw You do wonderful things during Your earthly ministry; who shared the good times and the bad and kept his faith in You to the end – we pray that You will give us today – with all that is going on – the same steadfast and unshakeable faith and trust in You to walk with us and before us and surround us with Your peace and Your love – Amen.
29 July 2020
James 2 1-10
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
A tale of two churches
I can remember years ago being in the Q for the bank. I wasn’t walking particularly well at that time and I was visibly struggling. I was eyeing up a chair which was sitting against one of the walls when a bank teller who recognised me brought me up to the front of the Q and opened up another of the counters for me. I could feel the daggers in my back as I stood there. A clear case of favouritism in their eyes.
James is warning us against such favouritism. He is warning us against judging people ( he does that later in the chapter). He is ruling out pulling rank in the church and he even goes further to hint that the rich are likely to be oppressors and even persecutors of the church. Tom Wright comments on verse 7 of this reading and tells us that "it is most likely “ the rich” who were anxious about the dangers of this new messianic movement, these raggle taggle Jesus followers making a fuss about an executed mad man and thinking that God's new world was born”. These rich people were not going to be usurped by those poorer than themselves.
I guess favouritism still goes on, perhaps in churches, perhaps in committees and perhaps in the church nationally. But let's be clear, and that message is hammered home by James. No one is above anyone else, no one should be exploited or judged by their fine apparel or even for the lack of it
We all might have a favourite church but we should all be aware that in God's eyes no church is more special than the rest.
I am reminded about the story of the Presbyterian who is shipwrecked on an island for about thirty years. He was a resourceful man and spent his time well on the island. 30 year later people arrived on this deserted island and were shocked to see a beautiful wooden church on the hill. Inside they found the man, who was grateful to see them. He told them he spent his thirty years wisely as the only person on the island. As they were coming out of the door of the church someone noticed another church further on, in the island. “what’s that ?” the man was asked. “ Oh” he said “ this here is the church that I attend on a Sunday. This is the church I go to”. He looked at the other church raising his nose slightly in the air “ that’s the one I don’t ”.
28 July 2020
James 1 verses 12 -18
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Trials and Temptations
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
Leaning on the everlasting arms
We are staying with James for the next few days.
We looked at this reading a while back just as the lockdown was enforced. It was quite a bleak time when we didn’t know if things would get better. People were anxious as they realised what they could and could not do. But now we see our community going through the different phases and restrictions are being lifted gradually. Perseverance has won the day so far.
Of course, it's important for Christians to trust God. You could say it is in our trials we learn to trust God even more. Maybe you have felt that during the past few months of uncertainty, you have prayed more to God and you have searched more in the scriptures. Or maybe you are the lucky one that has a rock solid faith and you are immovable and steadfast in your faith in God.
Tom Wright says that James is reminding us that “one day God's word will transform the whole of creation filling heaven and earth with his rich wonderful light and life”. What a wonderful vision those words bring to our minds and in the meantime (as the old song says ) we can lean on his everlasting arms. Amen
What a fellowship, what a joy divine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning on the everlasting arms
What have I to dread, what have I to fear
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms
Safe and secure from all alarms
Leaning on the everlasting arms
27 July 2020
James 3 13-18
Two kinds of wisdom
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
I have said often enough, that the bible is one of the greatest self-help books, if not the greatest. But in every walk of life, we have to demonstrate what we have learned. If we were to learn the French language and then never use it, what would be the point? If we learn how to be a wonderful artist and never show the beauty of our works off, then who would benefit?
I think James is reminding us that some people “ talk the talk but don’t walk the walk”. Its all show and backed up by self-promotion and false witness. However James goes onto remind us about the wisdom that comes from God (not necessarily from books). This wisdom is pure, considerate and submissive and produces a wonderful harvest.
Let's look at that reading again but this time its Eugene Peterson’s translation :
13-16 Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour.
Let's pray today for each other, for those who struggle in the light of this pandemic. For those who work for the church and try to hold us all together in a time when people are wary of going outside their own front door. And finally pray for our ministers, give them wisdom and clarity, patience and understanding in the days ahead. Amen
26 July 2020
25 July 2020
James 3 13-18
Live Well, Live Wisely ( but pray always)
James 3 tells us
“ Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.
Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honour.”
All the advice in the world should be backed up with prayer ( a quote by Alex McEwan)
When using a modern translation it is sometimes easy to forget that you are reading the bible and in some cases you would think you are reading a modern self-help book. The book of James is just like that. This selection from James 3 gives us advice on living as well as ambition. It reminds us about community and how we should treat each other. It all sounds so easy.
But then if you look closer it's not as easy as you think. James talks about mean spirited ambition and twisting the truth. In this translation, he talks about animal cunning and trying to look better than others and suddenly the self-help book becomes a self-awareness exercise. We all have these things from time to time and we are aware of our failings. We all have questions and sometimes we ask where are the answers?
Max Lucado gives us a great quote about looking for answers. He reminds us when we are looking for answers we have to turn to prayer. We may not feel like praying, we may even feel awkward but Max reminds us -
"Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference." - Make sure we pray today. Amen
24 July 2020
Psalm 119 129-136 Translated from the message.
Every word you give me is a miracle word—
how could I help but obey?
Break open your words, let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see the meaning.
Mouth open and panting,
I wanted your commands more than anything.
Turn my way, look kindly on me,
as you always do to those who personally love you.
Steady my steps with your Word of promise
so nothing malign gets the better of me.
Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
so I can live life your way.
Smile on me, your servant;
teach me the right way to live.
I cry rivers of tears
because nobody’s living by your book!
With 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest psalm as well as the longest chapter in the Bible. Some experts call it a “ hymn psalm”. It is a prayer of one who delights in and lives by the law. Unlike most other psalms the author did not include his name in the text. It has been set to music often. British Politician William Wilberforce would recite the entire Psalm, while walking back from Parliament, through Hyde Park on the way home.
I have said this before and I am sure many people have said this before me but the Psalms are a great respite when you find you need a prayer, when you find you need to pray and sometimes there are no words. I particularly love this translation as each line stands alone and reminds us of our relationship with God. Read it again and you will see what I mean.
23 July 2020
1stCorinthians 4 14-20 King James Version
Thy testimonies are wonderful:
therefore doth my soul keep them.
The entrance of thy words giveth light;
it giveth understanding unto the simple.
I opened my mouth, and panted:
for I longed for thy commandments.
Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me,
as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
Order my steps in thy word:
and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
Deliver me from the oppression of man:
so will I keep thy precepts.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant;
and teach me thy statutes.
Rivers of waters run down mine eyes,
because they keep not thy law.
We are known by our fruits
We see Paul writing as a father. A father wants his children to do what is right. A slave could take a child to school. He might even teach him to behave but a child can only have one natural father.
We see Paul here as a father, the spiritual father of the Christians in Corinth. Some proud Christians in Corinth did not believe that Paul would visit them himself. But Paul intended to visit Corinth as soon as possible. He would go if Christ wanted him to go. Then Paul would discover whether the Christians had the power to live in the right way. They had plenty to say. Jesus had said, ‘You will know them by their fruit" (Matthew 7:16). A person might say that he belongs to Christ. But his actions will prove whether his words are true. Paul asked whether he should come to punish them. He could be like a father whose child had not obeyed him. Or they could change their behaviour because of Paul’s letter and Timothy’s visit. Then Paul could come gently to share his love with them.
Just think for a minute about those words “ you will know them by their fruit” and let us ask ourselves are we known by our fruit?
Let us pray
Heavenly Father, as we come into your presence this morning, remind us again that we come into the presence of the Holy One, the Lord and Creator of the Universe and that we can only come to you because of what your son, our Saviour, did for us at Calvary – by dying in our place and rising again to give us new life in Him. We thank you that although you are ‘high and lifted up’ you are pleased when we, your children, come to you; whether it be in the morning, or in the evening, whether we are happy or sad, whether we are in plenty or in want, you want us to come and have fellowship with you. This is indeed a mystery as well as a joy to us. Thank you that each day is a new day with you, whenever we come and ask your forgiveness for the things we have said and done which have brought dishonour to you and have not helped to be a loving witness to our faith in you. Father, we admit that we have missed meeting up with our brothers and sisters and having fellowship Sunday by Sunday during this time of restriction and so we are especially glad that we have access to your Word which teaches and challenges us and reminds us what we have because of our faith and trust in you. Paul reminds us in the passage today how important it is to remember what Jesus did and taught, and we pray that we too will remain close to Jesus and that we will never take what we have now and what is promised to us in the future lightly but will, through the encouragement and love of Jesus continue in the faith, for Jesus sake, Amen.
22 July 2020
Matthew 12 15-21
God’s chosen servant
15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 ‘Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.’[a]
I believe that this passage in Matthew is a verse of “ Hope”. I would go further and say it is a verse of “ hope for all”. Remember that John 3 v 16 tells us that God so loved the World. There was no special focus on one particular race or culture. John doesn’t say that God so loved the Jews, or the gentiles. It was the World.
Matthew reminds us that Jesus is a servant of God as well as a Saviour of sinners and like John 3 v 16 there is no singling out. Verse 21 tells us that “the nations” put their hope in Him. The point of verse 21 and verse 18 as well, is that the hope Jesus brings is not limited to just the Jewish people.
The Jewish people were not only wrong about what type of Messiah Jesus would be, they were also wrong about the scope of His Messiahship, ( I hope that’s a word!).
He brought hope for the nations! The gates to the kingdom of God are wide open for anyone to come to Jesus. Red, yellow, black, white, or brown. Young and old. Man and woman. African, Asian, European, North American, South American, Australian, and that includes people who have yet top be discovered in the undiscovered parts of the world. “ All” nations can put their hope in the name of Jesus: the servant of God and the Saviour of sinners. Amen
21 July 2020
Matthew 26 verses 36-46
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Are we soldiers of Christ?
This morning we find ourselves in Gethsemane and in the final days of Christ's life. In Gethsemane grief and anguish seem to come over Jesus and he prays to be spared the coming ordeal. This is a very moving story and the last supper has just been shared. It is moving, for me, for it shows the humanity of Christ. Here is this son, anticipating the end of his life, perhaps feeling abandoned but literally submitting to his fathers will.
The disciples don’t come out of this story well. At the moment of his greatest need, Jesus has asked them to ‘Stay here and keep watch with me’ (verse 38). Instead, they sleep. Again this shows that the disciples were suffering too. Perhaps exhausted and overwhelmed, never the less they sleep and leave Jesus
There was nothing they could really do for him, practically speaking. But knowing they were awake, thinking of him and praying for him would have helped. Sometimes that’s all we can do for someone; even if it’s very costly for us, it’s friendship or duty, and it needs to be paid.
Sometimes we’re called to be involved in another person's suffering, just so they know they are not alone. Similarly how many times have we said ‘I’ll pray for you’, and neglected to do it?
We are not called to be super humans neither are we flawless but as soldiers of Christ we must be mindful of others and as the great hymn reminds us
From strength to strength go on;
Wrestle, and fight, and pray;
Tread all the powers of darkness down,
And win the well-fought day:
Still let the Spirit cry
In all His soldiers, “Come!”
Till Christ the Lord descend from high,
And take the conquerors home.
20 July 2020
Psalm 139 ( from the Message translation)
13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvellously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
17-22 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!
God, I’ll never comprehend them!
I couldn’t even begin to count them—
any more than I could count the sand of the sea.
Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!
And you murderers—out of here!—
all the men and women who belittle you, God,
infatuated with cheap god-imitations.
See how I hate those who hate you, God,
see how I loathe all this godless arrogance;
I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.
Your enemies are my enemies!
Who are you?
I am always struck by the comparison of my two favourite programmes. “ Who do you think you are” is a programme where celebrities research their family history. The other programme I like is “ long lost families” where people who were adopted or abandoned find their birth parents or siblings. People looking for answers about who they really are and some of them having an identity crisis and need to know more.
“ who am I?” would be a great title for this Psalm, and it’s a question a lot of us ask. We all know that we are but a tiny speck in a vast universe and we all struggle on this planet. If you think like this, and think that you are irrelevant or insignificant then Psalm 139 will give you the answers. And as insignificant as we feel we are God knows us inside out, he knows every bone in our body and how we were made bit by bit.
To use my two programmes as an analogy. We know who we are, and rather than a long lost family we belong to the family of God which goes back thousands and thousands of years. And to bounce back to the NIV version of this reading, verse 14 tells us that :
I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, Amen
19 July 2020
The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Another parable is being taught this time it's about “weeds”. The weeds are growing alongside the wheat and the solution for the servant is to pull them up. But the man who planted the wheat explains that they will grow together until the harvest. It is only the harvesters who will pull out the weeds first and then burn them.
We all know about weeds, they are tricky, they can be a nuisance and grow where we least expect them to. I think the lesson here is that there is room for the weeds as well as the wheat. It is only through the judgement of God who can decide what is the weed and what is its fate. Amen
18 July 2020
Matthew 7:15-20 The Message
15-20 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.
And the rain came tumbling down............
All week we have read about Christian Living, learning through parables and stories and the unshakable promise of Gods love but today we come onto something a bit more sinister. The false preacher. It could be so easy for a preacher to preach sunshine and rainbows all year round and ignore the storms, the sin and the cruelty of Calvary. But in order for us to lead a balanced Christian Life we must have the balanced teaching of a God-given teacher. It all goes back to the old Sunday school song
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the rock stood firm
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the sand fell down
If our church is built on preaching that comes from the very essence of God. If it includes everything that is necessary with no short cuts or false substitutes. If no ingredient is left out then that Church and the people that are in it will have a firm foundation, protected, steadfast and strong. Of course of the preacher only talks about the sunny side of life, if he only talks about what he feels he needs to then that church will fall in the first storm, exposing the people to all the elements that can harm them. Praise God that in our own church we have preachers who preach The Word, only the Word and nothing but the Word. Amen
17 July 2020
Hebrews 6:13-20 New International Version
The certainty of God’s promise
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.’[a] 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.
How many times have you heard someone make a promised and follow that up with the words “ swear to God”. It’s a rather foolish statement to make, it is usually made to make the other person believe that the promise is especially binding when sometimes more often than not…its not.
Eugene Peterson tells us that when God made his promise to Abraham, he backed it to the hilt, putting his own reputation on the line. He said, “I promise that I’ll bless you with everything I have—bless and bless and bless!” Abraham stuck it out and got everything that had been promised to him. When people make promises, they guarantee them by appeal to some authority above them so that if there is any question that they’ll make good on the promise, the authority will back them up. When God wanted to guarantee his promises, he gave his word, a rock-solid guarantee—God can’t break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable.” Through this reading we are reassured that Jesus has run ahead of us and for us and because of that we must hold onto that unshakable promise for our very lives. Amen
16 July 2020
Psalm 86:11-17 The Message
11-17 Train me, God, to walk straight;
then I’ll follow your true path.
Put me together, one heart and mind;
then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you, dear Lord;
I’ve never kept secret what you’re up to.
You’ve always been great toward me—what love!
You snatched me from the brink of disaster!
God, these bullies have reared their heads!
A gang of thugs is after me—
and they don’t care a thing about you.
But you, O God, are both tender and kind,
not easily angered, immense in love,
and you never, never quit.
So look me in the eye and show kindness,
give your servant the strength to go on,
save your dear, dear child!
Make a show of how much you love me
so the bullies who hate me will stand there slack-jawed,
As you, God, gently and powerfully
put me back on my feet.
A time for prayer and praise
I love the Psalms. They are my “ go-to” books whenever I am stuck in a rut and don’t know what to read. They help me when I find I cannot pray and need to pray. They are a great example to help you praise God when you're finding it difficult to be positive.
I read somewhere that Psalms are beautiful poetic songs of prayer. I also read that they remind us that God is active even through history. They also remind us that it is necessary to respond to God through praise and prayer. The focus each Thursday has been on prayer.
Let us pray :
Heavenly Father thank you for all your goodness to us this past week – for your presence with us – especially at times when we struggled with things which would not normally have troubled us. We also thank you for helping and encouraging us through your word and for helping us to focus on you and your promises. When we think of our lives and our homes in such a lovely part of the country, we realise that we are, indeed a fortunate people. We are also grateful that our lives are enriched by the love and friendship of family and friends, as well with books and music. It is when we think of this and the wealth of our blessings, that we become mindful of other people who are not as fortunate as us – living in places where they have no running water, poor sanitation and lack the basic comforts of life. We pray especially for them at this time where the Coronavirus will be running rampant because of lack of proper hygiene facilities. They will be in a desperate situation and, so, we pray for them and their families and for the relief agencies who will be working hard to try and protect and care for them. We pray for the people of Yemen, Syria, South Sudan as well as other countries and pray that you will keep them safe from the virus and from danger. Like the Psalmist who cried out to you and acknowledged that he had nowhere else to go, we are reminded of the verse in John’s Gospel where Peter says ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life’. Keep us safe, keep us faithful and keep us in the palm of your hand – for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
15 July 2020
Matthew 13:10-17 New International Version
The story teller
10 The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’11 He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
‘Though seeing, they do not see though hearing, they do not hear or understand 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:‘“You will be ever hearing but never understanding you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes hear with their ears,
understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
After having visited a church in Dumbarton several times to preach, a wee lady said to me on the way in “ Oh here he is….the story teller” I smiled and walked on. I worried about that for quite a while, was it a compliment? I wasn’t sure. After another few visits her husband told me that she liked to hear the stories that I came up with to illustrate a point in the bible and she loved to recount these stories to their grandchild who did not attend church.
My first experience of a story teller was the Sunday programme that David Kossof appeared on each week and told a story from his book. The book was called “ the book of witnesses” and to this day I still have the book. It’s a book about the characters in the bible all told from a witness perspective.
The parables are an important part of The New Testament as they illustrate the message that Jesus is trying to get across. People can be “ blind” to what they are being told and “ deaf” to what they should hear but through a simple analogy or story the message can be opened up and all its wonder and beauty is there to be experienced.
Jesus told the disciples that they had “ God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! “ He went on to say “A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance”
In our church lives we must pray for eyes that can see and ears that can hear the message. The parables are just the starting point for some but through a simple message and story people can find God, find forgiveness and grace and can find healing. Amen
14 July 2020
Ephesians 4:17-5:2 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
Instructions for Christian living
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
The Bible is definitely a handbook for life. It can’t be called a “self-help” book, but a “Gods help book”. Someone asked me the other day about “ words for life”. Was there something I was hoping to achieve? The answer to that is “ no not really”. When I set out to compose my thoughts from the reading I am continually “ pulled up” by myself, about what I continually strive to achieve and sometimes ultimately fail to do. But I keep on trying. I keep on reading the scriptures. I am continually reminded, not about my failures but more importantly that I am forgiven. And as this reading tells me “I am a dearly loved child and trying to live a life of love.
13 July 2020
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 The Message
One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life. Keep yourselves from promiscuity. Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God. Don’t run roughshod over the concerns of your brothers and sisters. Their concerns are God’s concerns, and he will take care of them. We’ve warned you about this before. God hasn’t invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful—as beautiful on the inside as the outside.
if you disregard this advice, you’re not offending your neighbours; you’re rejecting God, who is making you a gift of his Holy Spirit.
Our God is a great big God
As we go through the lectionary for today's reading we find ourselves in Thessalonians. In the past few days we have talked about living in the dark as well as the light. Yesterday we read about people not accepting the scriptures that unfold in the Bible but would rather choose what to believe. Today we are continuing this theme about Us and God and we read about “ keep on doing what we are doing to please God”. The children sing “ Our God is a great big God” and it's true our Christian lives are a great big fulfilled life that we have to juggle. And at all times make sure what we are doing is pleasing to God. Paul is warning us not to run roughshod over the concerns our brothers and sisters, their concerns are His concerns and He will take care of them. We must lead an orderly life because anything else is rejecting God and the gifts that he so freely gives. Amen
12 July 2020
Matthew 11:16-19 New International Version (NIV)
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the pipe for you and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Eugene Peterson translates this reading as:- “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a lush, a friend of the riffraff. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
Many of those Jesus preached to would find this message too much for them, it wasn’t what they wanted and it was too much of a challenge. Jesus seemed to be calling them out from their comfort zone. Does that sound familiar even today? When we like someone they can do no wrong. If we don’t like them they can do no right but at all times we must ask God for understanding. He never asks more than we can give and we must trust him completely at all times. It doesn’t suit us to be too choosy about how the scriptures are presented to us and if we only look to prayer we may find our hearts will open to new things as well as old. Amen
11 July 2020
John 12:44-50 New International Version (NIV)
44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
I always “see” Jesus as the image of God and as the light of the world but we are always reminded in the bible of “ the opposition”. Light and darkness sight and the blind, action and inaction and the lame and those who can walk. We all know that life can be a struggle and sometimes we find ourselves, not where we would like to be. Sitting in that darkness, crippled by inactivity, lost or alone.
This passage reminds us that wherever we find ourselves we will not be judged as long as we believe. This passage comes at the end of Jesus’s public ministry and once again is an assurance of eternal life with Jesus. Amen
10 July 2020
Hebrews 3:1-6 (NIV)
Jesus Greater Than Moses
3 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. 2 He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honour than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
Anchored to the rock that cannot move
Yesterday we left Moses at the burning bush and in today's reading Moses is being compared to Jesus. We know that Moses was a great leader but people considered him as a member of Gods house but now we have Jesus, He is the builder. The reading is not being demeaning to Moses we are just saying here that Jesus is in a completely different class. Moses is worthy of honour while Jesus is worthy of far more glory. But let's look at that last verse in today's reading “But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.”
We are reminded that we are his house and that house is built on glory but also in confidence and hope. If we have no hope or no confidence then his house would be nothing, a shaky building not fit for purpose, not fit for worship.
And so if we are his house, let's stand up strong. Let's make sure that even down to the foundations of the church we are immovable and anchored to the rock. …….Amen
09 July 2020
Exodus 3:1-6 (NIV)
Moses and the Burning Bush
3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb,the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”And Moses said, “Here I am.”5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father,the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
There's no place like home
After being chased out of Egypt and away from his Hebrew people, Moses is out shepherding sheep for his father-in-law. Out in the wilderness, Moses stumbles upon "the mountain of God" known as Mount Horeb. In the ancient world, mountaintops were the traditional dwelling places for the divine. There, at the mountain, Moses encounters an unquenchable burning bush. Some say that the inextinguishable flame is “a sign of God's awesome and powerful holiness, a fiery holiness that is both dangerous and attractive, frightening and comforting, untamed but reassuring”.
God instructs Moses to remove the sandals from his feet. The gesture is an ancient practice when entering a holy place of divine presence.
Moses is not fully "home" in any community. Taking off your sandals is a gesture in many traditional cultures that is associated with entering not only a worship space but also a home. Here at the foot of the mountain of God, Moses the "alien," has at last found a true "home." Moses finds his true home not with humans but with God, the God of his ancestors,
Where is home for you? Is it the bricks and mortar in the street where you open your door and feel its “home”. Or is it the place you were born maybe the town or the village, it may even be your church, the pew you sit in with all your friends and neighbours all around you. The Church of Scotland gives us the burning bush in its logo but more importantly we have the motto “ Nec tamen consumebatur” which roughly means “ it was not consumed “. For our church today there has never been a more appropriate emblem and motto. Suddenly we have many many churches using social media and other tools to spread the word of God to their congregations throughout lockdown. We have ministers, elders and members turning their hands to make available the Word and the scriptures to people that cannot have access to the internet and other modern media. (In St Paul's we currently have Chris Scott, Hugh McGurn, Stephen Thoms and Derek Norval all producing an excellent church service for us and of course thanks also to our minister himself Fergus!)
Despite this pandemic “ we will never be consumed” we will still be found at home in the House of God wherever that maybe in whatever shape or form we can access it.
Let us pray
Heavenly Father, thank you for this new day – for some of us it may be ‘just another day’ in this period where our lives are still restricted, but it can also be a day of possibilities and opportunities. We never know what each day may bring – there may be people that we contact or who contact us; there may be something that we read that challenges us or disturbs us; or there may be a specific task which we need to do. When we think of our Scripture reading this morning, we see that Moses must have had days when he wondered what his life was all about. After all, he had been an important person in Egypt and had everything life had to offer, but now he is in a period of waiting, a period when he is limited in what he can do whilst he is a shepherd for his father-in-law. We know that this period was a time of preparation for Moses whom You called to deliver Your people from bondage into freedom. Moses was reluctant to take on such a task, and we can understand why when we think of the enormity of it all, but we give You thanks that when you asked Moses, you went with him every step of the way and helped him fulfil your command. We pray that, whatever our circumstances today, that You will give us a spirit of trust in You in order that we may be able to undertake whatever task – however big or small – that you have laid on our heart – and that by being obedient to that leading serve you and a benefit to the one who needs it, Amen.
08 July 2020
John 13:1-17 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
The new obsession
The world has become obsessed with reality television. TV programmes about first dates, reality programmes about people getting married having never seen each other, reality programmes about people watching people watching reality television. You could be forgiven for thinking we have all lost the plot! But we have “diluted” the word reality and it begs the question what really is the reality of our lives.
The reality for the disciples was that soon their friend and master would be leaving them and they could not follow him. The reality was that he was going to be betrayed by one of the disciples that had once been a friend. But before this all takes place Jesus goes on to tell them he intends to wash their feet, but this seemed up for debate. Why would Jesus want to wash their feet, surely it was their job to wash his feet ?
Jesus tries to explain to them why it is important for him to wash their feet. Peterson translates these verses as
"12-17 Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life."
This is a clear example of Christ’s humble service. He was doing it for them, he was doing it to them, in order to be a part of them. And in turn we have to be the same. We are not “ above” helping others in our service to Christ and the Church we are all part of the one body, we all have a function to carry out and that should be the reality of our Christian lives. Amen
07 July 2020
Romans 1 1-7
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly lifewas a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes fromfaith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you ever had a calling? Some people are called to be teachers while others are called to the medical profession and as we know some are called to ministers of the scriptures and the word of God. Whatever and who ever does the calling there is one thing for certain and that is, if its you that’s called you must know your passion.
With Paul it is more than a passion, some translations tell us that he is called to be an apostle and is called to belong to Jesus Christ.
This reading is from Romans, the sixth book of The New Testament, composed by Paul to explain that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul gives the qualifications for his calling by explaining the gospel he is commissioned to preach (Romans 1:2-5). Paul introduces himself as a servant -- or slave -- of Jesus Christ whom God has called to be an apostle, which means he has been set apart for the gospel that comes from God. Then Paul explains more about this gospel: “it was promised beforehand in the scriptures about God’s son”. And then he explains more about this son: “he was born of David’s seed according to the flesh but appointed Son of God in power according to the Holy Spirit by resurrection from the dead, so that he is now Jesus Christ our Lord (verses 3-4)”.
Finally, Paul returns full circle to his qualifications: this Jesus -- the man who lived and died as one of us but became Lord though resurrection He is the one through whom Paul received grace and apostleship
This morning I would like you to pray for those who are called. Those who are in the ministry who , never in a million years, could prepare for what is going on in the church today. Those who have had to manage social media and the many forms and tools of the trade to be in touch with their people . But in your prayer be confident. Confidence in the ones that are called, confidence in the scriptures being even more vibrant in these times and confident that more and more people are hearing the word of God for the first time. Amen
06 July 2020
30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”
32 His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”
“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”
33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”
34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”
35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”
36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob[a]? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”
37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”
38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.
39 His father Isaac answered him,
“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”
41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”
46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”
The grudge match
Today we hear of something that is very powerful. Something that is debilitating can even described as rancid and very definitely destructive. And that folks is a thing called a “ grudge”. You hear of sportsmen and teams having a grudge match and that doesn’t sound helpful at all , it conjures up scenes of hatred and retribution and nothing to do with sport at all. Of course in this reading we are talking about the grudge between Esau and Jacob. In verses 41 we read “ Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
But Esau forgives and the grudge is gone.
I know that it's not easy to forgive sometimes. But we need to remember that the Bible teaches grace and forgiveness. Sometimes we can forgive and still hold the grudge. If someone holds a grudge against you and you forgive them it takes all the power from their grudge.
There are extreme circumstances where a person isn't going to be able to forgive or let go of a wrong without therapy, or professional counselling. For those of us who have or maybe are holding grudges now, I hope you understand how destructive it is for you. It's impossible to love those you hold a grudge against. Please. For your sake. Let it go. If Esau can do it, you can too. Amen
05 July 2020
Luke 18 31-42
Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time
31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”
34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
During the pandemic a few weeks ago my spectacles snapped in two, couldn't be repaired and panic immediately set in. How would I cope with no glasses. The had snapped at the bridge and could not even be super glued. A drama ensued. Eventually , believe it or not , later that day I got new glasses as my lenses could be fitted into an existing frame a local optician had. He definitely was the hero of the hour.
Vision is so important. Some people have good vision but there is also a thing called tunnel vision. To a certain extent the disciples had tunnel vision. Jesus tried to explain what was going to happen to him when they arrived in Jerusalem but the disciples could not see it, they didn’t understand it and we are told they had no idea what he was talking about. It's possible they thought that Jesus would overthrow the Roman occupation that existed.
In our reading we go from tunnel vision to inner vision. The blind beggar did not want money or food. He called out Jesus because he believed that this son of David could heal him and when he did the beggar praised God and those that saw it praised God as well.
This morning's question is how is your vision today. Tunnel vision? A close follower of Jesus but you are just not sure exactly how you fit into God's plan? Or do you have a deeper faith knowing that your faith will see you through and when you trust God you have a strong sense of who Jesus really is.
We are called to have 20/20 vision. To see Jesus in full focus and to trust that he will be with us through every situation and more than that to believe in his saving power for all of humanity. Amen
04 July 2020
Romans 7 15-25
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
What would Jesus Do?
There is a lot of the Christian faith that contradicts the expected order of the world. The king who arrived on a donkey. God who sent his son to be crucified like a common criminal to name but a few.
At the moment the world is full of contradictions. Opposing events and words and actions that challenge each other. Life has become complicated and we are being pulled in different directions. Some of us are struggling.
Pauls speaks of his struggle. His will says one thing but his actions do another. He wants one thing but there are other things he doesn’t want. He wants one thing to happen but then something else happens. He wants to follow the law of the Lord but he is blown off track again and again. Does this sound familiar to you? It does to me!
Paul then goes on to say that there is an answer to all of these conflicts and contradictions. There is answer to all the internal battles that rage within us. The answer, of course, is Jesus. We are called to follow him and to learn from him. He is the one that keeps us on the straight and narrow way.
03 July 2020
James 5:13-20 New International Version (NIV)
The Prayer of Faith
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
You and me and prayer
Yesterday I talked about a reading that “ summed up” your relationship with God. Today’s reading is all about US and the power of prayer. The writer asks us “ is anyone among you in trouble?” then pray and what about if your happy? Well that too deserves prayer. Pray also when you are sick and when you’ve sinned and always remember to make it common practice.
We know that prayer can be powerful, look at Elijah as an example. For more than three years he prayed for rain and eventually it did and notice that he never gave up he prayed till he felt he had the answer. And what about the people that have stopped praying, you know the ones that have wandered off from Gods House. We all know that someone? Well pray for them too, even if you know that they have stopped praying. And pray that they come back to the family of God and pray that they will receive the gift of eternal life. Amen
02 July 2020
01 July 2020
Genesis 7 verses 15-22
15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”
18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though[a] every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
22 “As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”
Following on from yesterdays story of Noah we find him at the end of his adventure and the earth has been dried out, God instructs Noah to come out of the Ark with every creature that he took on board. I think Noah was so happy that he had been delivered safely he built an altar ( as the scripture tells us) and made an offering to God. God was pleased with Noah’s reaction and made a promise to never again destroy all living creatures. This was no simple promise, it was the promise that as long as the earth exists the simple things in life will continue. Planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter and day and night.
God had a purpose in Noah. Just as God was there for Noah and guided him through this part of his life, Noah acknowledged his thanks by building the alter and giving thanks and in return God made a promise to him. Today God has a purpose for you and me and he is standing beside us unseen and guiding us. We may not know the purpose that God has for us but we must thank him for making us a child of His and above all else giving us his son Jesus. The promise for us is written in John 3 v16 and as long as we believe in Him we are guaranteed and eternal life. Amen
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