31 October 2020

 

I have tried to stop watching the news or read anything about what’s going in the medical world at the moment. But I fail on a daily basis. It's just not possible. You would have to walk about with noise cancelling headphones or lock yourself in a darkened room. 

 

I am the world's worst worrier. I worry when there is nothing to worry about.

 

I have to admit I am still thinking about those going back to Church this coming Sunday ( and I will be one of them). I mean, what do you actually pray for when there is so much going on, so much to be aware of and so many new practices to be aware of?

 

Then I was glancing through a book by Max Lucado when a verse jumped out from the pages, its from the book of James (chapter 1 verses 5-8)

 

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all, generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubt, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord”

 

After I read the verse, I stopped and read it through one more time just to make sure I was getting the gist.

 

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

 

To me, this verse tells me, even when you don’t know what you are doing you should pray. It doesn’t really matter if you're mixed up, confused or scared, God will listen, He will help and never judge us for our insecurities. 

 

Eugene Peterson then tells us from this passage  “People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

 

And so tomorrow is a new week, a new Sunday and a new opportunity. Don’t be adrift at sea, but rest in the harbour of His peace remembering to stand tall and confident in His Love. Amen 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

30 October 2020

 

 

I made a confession to someone the other day. “I am rubbish at having an opinion”.  You see, I read something and then think ”yep I agree!”, and a few minutes later I might hear someone on TV and think “wait a minute? No! that’s really what I think !”.  Every day I have shifting opinions about politics, what I see on TV, read in newspapers or even talking to friends.

 

I’m a bit like that with the bible. No sooner do I say “wow that’s my favourite verse in the bible”, then I go and read something else and frantically write that down “my new favourite verse”.

 

My “latest favourite verse in the Bible is Romans 15 verse 13”.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

In the last church I visited on a Sunday I used it as a part of a  benediction. A few people on the way out commented on it and it kind of stuck with me over the last seven months. I can see it, not only as a benediction but maybe inside a card and it would be great to see it on the side of a bus one day as you go along the road.

 

If you look carefully there are so many words in such a short verse that reassures us as Christian words like “hope” “fill” “joy” “peace” “trust” “overflow” and finally “power”. That’s just about 25% of the verse uses some thought provoking words.

 

Our church goes back to an open Sunday Service this coming week. Someone of us will be there. Most of us won’t. Over the next 48 hours I will be thinking and praying about the people I will not be able to see on Sunday. I call them Pew Pals and Pew neighbours and an extended Pew Family. I’ll also be thinking about Fergus and all the changes as well as the familiarisation he has to deal with. So what can you say to those who can't be there on Sunday? What can we say to our minister on this most unique event of 2020? 

 

Well above all else it could be the words of Romans 15 verse 13

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

29 October 2020

 

 

If Walls could talk

 

I am reading at the moment about Thomas Telford. The Telford kirks are a series of Presbyterian churches built in Scotland with money from the  Parliament of that time. The Church of Scotland act of 1824 provided a grant of £50000 for William Thomson to design a series of churches, built by Thomas Telford who was a Scottish stonemason. In total 32 churches were built and many are still there to be seen, some have been destroyed and many are still in use. Most are recognisable by their bell tower. These churches are a testament to a wise designer/architect and builder and to the many congregations who packed into these buildings over a long period of time.

We all know the analogy that Jesus makes about the wise man who built his house upon the rock.  The church is beginning to change in its practices and procedures, it's changing the way it is communicating to most of its congregation and the sanctuaries are taking on a new form and a new design. But looking to the words of Matthew we must remember the Church is built on the words of God, not bricks and mortar and to ensure that our buildings remain in their rightful place we need to continue teaching that word, nurturing our ministers and pastors and teaching our congregation that the Word of God is everything. That message comes to us with authority and grace. Amen

 

 

 

Matthew 7 24-29

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

 

 

If you are interested here are the churches that were built.

The churches are/were

  1. Acharacle (Acharacle Church Of Scotland Parish Church)

  2. Ardgour

  3. Berneray (converted to artist studio and featured on UK Channel 4 show 'The Restoration Man')

  4. Berriedale (out of ecclesiastical use)

  5. Carnoch (Strathconon Parish Church)

  6. Croick

  7. Cross (in use to 1905, since demolished)

  8. Duror

  9. Hallin (Waternish Parish Church, Hallin - in use as artists studio)

   10. Iona

   11. Keiss (Keiss Village Church of Scotland)

   12. Kinlochbervie

   13. Kinlochluichart

   14. Kinlochspelve (Kinlochspelvie Church of Scotland - in use as self-catering holiday       accommodation)

   15. Knock (since demolished)

   16. Lochgilphead (demolished, replaced by new church on same site in 1885)

   17. North Ballachulish (demolished, replaced by new church on same site in 1900)

   18. Risabus or Oa (in use to 1930, now derelict)

 

   19. Plockton

   20. Poolewe

   21. Portnahaven

   22. Quarff

   23. Shieldaig (rebuilt using Telford's foundations)

   24. Steinscholl

   25. Stoer (in use to 1963, derelict since 1970, plans lodged to covert to holiday accommodation)

   26. Strathy (converted to house)

   27. Strontian (key features altered - only Telford Church to not be listed)

   28. Tobermory (demolished, replaced by new church on same site in 1895)

   29. Tomintoul (unrecognisable as Telford Church, key features altered in 1900)

   30. Timsgarry (Baile na Cille Church - disputed as Telford Church, built in T-shape with additional alterations for climate)

   31. Ullapool (in use to 1935, now museum)

   32. Ulva (privately owned, remains in occasional ecclesiastical use)

 

 


 

 

 

 

28 October 2020

 

Missing believed Lost

 

I read an article the other day about an 18 year old boy who ran away from university and his hometown. For three days and nights, he slept in hostels afraid of exam results and being judged by his parents. In Kent, he came across a pastor in the hostel who told him the story about the lost sheep and mixed that up with the story of the prodigal son.

 

The eighteen year old gave him a face that summed up a lack of understanding and puzzlement, why a bible story seemed appropriate.

 

The pastor explained that his parents were not sitting waiting to judge him, they more than likely were looking for him and would be concerned that he was missing. Their reaction to him coming home would not be one of anger but happiness. It didn’t take him long to come to his senses and three hours later he was reunited with two very happy and relieved parents.

 

 

We all stray from time to time. We might be coaxed or swayed, we might even be coerced. But if you look over your shoulder you will find the shepherd, looking our for you, bringing you home to the peace and quiet of his ever loving presence.

 

And as the reading says in verse 14 our Father in heaven will find us and save us and we will not perish but have everlasting life.

 

 

Matthew 18 v 12-14

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

27 October 2020

 

The authority of the Son

 

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defence Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’ 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

 

19 Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.

 

24 ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

 

28 ‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

26 October 2020

 

 

 Does Jesus measure up?

 

 

Yesterday's reading still has something to say to us and so stay with this for a few moments longer.

 

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

An interesting fact is that when harnessing two beasts into a yoke, one of the beasts will always be more experienced than the other, the second animal would be “the learner” while the more experienced would be more “tuned into” the master's commands. This animal providing experience, leadership and training for the less experienced one.

 

Charles Swindoll suggests that when Jesus says “come to me” he actually means “to me alone” and nobody else. He goes on to use words like “gentle” “my yoke” and “my burden” and in doing this Jesus is demonstrating his meekness and humility and contrasting the religious leaders of his day.

 

For 33 years Jesus did what we could not do. He met God’s standard. He made the grade. He measured up. Through his sinless life and subsequent death and resurrection, he earned the right to become the experienced member of the team in the yoke. Now, like then, He invites individuals to come get in his yoke and let Him be their credentials for acceptance by God!   

Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

25 October 2020

 

Take my yoke.

 

My aim now for the next few weeks is not to mention the pandemic but to lead up to Advent with some insight into the words and actions of Jesus.

 

So I’m guessing this is the last time I will mention the current situation we find ourselves in with the lockdown.

 

A well-loved verse from Matthew 11 reassures us   28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

The “yoke” is part of the harness to pull a cart or a plough, it was necessary to control the animal working the field. But here it has a deeper meaning.

 

The yoke is designed for two animals, bringing the strength of two together while being impossible with only one. Jesus is speaking to people with an impossible load. Being “heavy laden” suggests that these people were exhausted with what’s going on.

 

Many people carry that same burden today. The pressure often manifests itself in strained relationships, depression, stress, being bullied, and other conditions that tell people they don’t measure up. They seek to get rid of the burden, by impressing other people, taking on more jobs and usually suffering in the process. Jesus used the yoke to show people the impossibility of measuring up to God’s standard. The yoke continues to speak to us today. Telling us to seek that help, ease that burden and take that rest

 

While so many people are demanding,  Jesus is gentle. While competing with others can be exhausting, being yoked with Jesus is easy. And while our anxiety is on the rise?. He promises to make it lighter.

 

Take that step with him today, share the yoke, enjoy the rest and your burden will then become light. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

24 October 2020

 

They announced yesterday that it could be “a digital Christmas”. Really? To me that sounds dull, dead and deeply depressing. It seems this crisis is getting hotter.

In the book of John, the messianic crisis moved from Galilee to Jerusalem and the crisis became hotter there too. There were divisions, doubts and dashed hopes there too but these words of Jesus tell us of something that’s very alive and active and actually moving.

"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:38)

Even in the doubts, in the midst of a crisis when people were arguing Jesus tells us that if we believe in him we will be streams of living water. Bringing sustenance, rehydration, encouraging growth and be fully alive with him.

Nine weeks today we will look back on the 2020 Christmas day that was yesterday. Will it be digital? Well, we may have to see people through Zoom, we may not have some people round our tables but as Christians, it will be our job to celebrate the birth of a king, the great story of a Saviour born in a stable. Yes, and be streams of living water, pouring out, reaching out, refreshing and alive. 

Please. Please. Please, let's ditch the word "digital" and tell others we will have a Living, Loving Christmas.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

23 October 2020

 

Someone was describing a friend who is “shielding” at the moment and they described them as “strong as an ox”.  Now this person that is being shielded is 4 foot 11 inches, 92 years of age and around 7 stones, and a smile crossed my face thinking of them being described as an ox.

 

 

Proverbs 14 verse 4 tells us “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.” 

 

This verse from Proverbs could fill a few bookshelves in its content and as a resource for sermons and children's addresses.

 

We all know that the oxen are huge strong animals and a much needed tool in biblical days to bring in the harvest. We all know that the manger was a deep trough for the food to feed the cows and other animals. The writer of this proverb warns that if there are no oxen to work the fields, there is no food for the manger and no sustenance for the animals. If we don’t have any strong oxen in the church our resources will soon disappear and as a church we would have no sustenance either.

 

Are you as strong as an ox? The lady at the top of the story might only be  4”11 but she was as strong as an ox. She was known in her church as a “prayer warrior” and she loved the well worn pages of her bible. So strength comes in many ways and comes from many places but none so fruitful as the Bible on our shelf and the prayers in our heart.

 

Let's all be strong as an ox and let's all bring in a great harvest for our church.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 22 October 2020

 

Matthew 5 13-16

 

Salt and Light

 

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

 

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

As we think about returning to our churches we think of all the constraints that have been placed upon us while we are there. Wearing masks, no singing, no cushions and no socialising. But think of what we can do. Sharing the sanctuary with our brothers and sisters, worship while listening to the music and listen to the prayers. Hear the word as its being said by our minister and more importantly its public worship of a God that has always been there for us even during the bad times of the past few months.

 

You. The person that is reading this right now. You are the salt of the earth. You have unique properties that effect those around you. You enhance flavour and you can be a preservative if you are strong enough. And, in being salt, means that you deliberately seek to influence the people in your life by showing them the unconditional love of Christ through good deeds.

 

Whether it's inside the sanctuary or our in the street we have a job to do, more than ever to shine our light and move forward “with the cross of Jesus going on before” 

 

Let us pray

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for this new day – and for some of us, we may have wakened up and thought that ‘it’s just another day’ because we may feel that we are very limited in what we can do in this period of restrictions.  For some of us, this has been a difficult time as we miss sharing times with our families and friends, as well as missing being spontaneous and just doing things that we love.  But as your children, we are also aware that, however we are feeling, each day can also be a day of possibilities and opportunities – we may feel led to contact someone to offer a word of encouragement or undertake a specific task for someone in need.  Or there might be something that we have read that challenges us or disturbs us.  When we read our scripture reading this morning, we see that we are called as your children to be of value and be visible to others in our world – necessary ingredients for the nourishment of our physical lives, and a light in the darkness for others who may need to be led to the true light – the Lord Jesus.   Some days this may be a tall order for us to carry out, and, so, we give you thanks that your word also tells us that we will be given all that we need in order to be your witnesses each day.  As always, we pray that you will be our strength and comfort as we seek to be your salt and light today and every day. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

21 October 2020

 

Waiting for the Dance

 

Isaiah 40 v28

 

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

 

My favourite season by far is Autumn. The nights get darker, there is that autumn feeling in the air and of course, the leaves turn spectacular colours and fall from the trees.  Most mornings my car is covered in leaves and the results can be beautiful.

 

Everything changes and it is a good time for renewal. But that’s not a thing for us to worry about. Today’s verse reminds us that God is the one constant in our lives and the autumnal changes that we see and feel are down to him, preparing us for renewal and growth and a new beginning. And that is irrespective of any age we find ourselves to be. And so as we look to the trees this day and we see them lying on the ground in all their autumnal splendour don’t think of them as dead, but they are waiting for the wind and a chance to dance.

 

Our verse reminds us that He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding? No one can fathom. So let's give thanks this day for the one constant in our lives. Hallelujah what a saviour

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

20 October 2020

 

Feathers flying through the air

 

A verse in Proverbs 18 v 21 tells us that 

 

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Another one of those verses that can rest uneasy on your mind if we are completely honest. I watched a film the other night, I had seen it before, “Doubt” starring Meryl Streep. There is some gossip involved and she is told to empty a feather pillow out of her window to help her understand this proverb. Once that’s been done she is then advised to go and get all the feathers back and put them back in the pillow. Of course, it's impossible.

At the moment there are many tongues in this world and they are wagging. Whether it is politics, pandemic or just simple “put-downs” once they are out there the damage has been done and the proof of that is out in the air.  Paul had something to say about all of this in Ephesians 4 when he said

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 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.

 

 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

Someone once told me that you have two ears and one mouth, and we should use them in that ratio. Listen twice as much as talking. Let's use our words this day to praise the name of Jesus and all that we have to be thankful for and pray for others unlike ourselves who need our words, not of gossip or trouble, but of comfort and healing. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

19 October 2020

 

2nd Peter 3

 

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

 

A newspaper article this week suggested that some people were “desperately trying to find their old Bibles to see if there were any answers to the current problems of the world”. Where would they start? I wondered and how would they know?

When I think of the Bibles I have on my bookshelf, I sometimes think I should clear some of them out. But then I pick one up and see that I was presented it in 1967 for reciting all the books of the Bible, another old battered one belonged to my dad who was given it in 1955 the day he got married. I may have an abundance of Bibles but there is an abundance of memories that come with them.

As old as my Bibles may seem, this reading from 2ndPeter comes from the pen of an eye witness to the work and the words of Jesus. This verse in particular tells us about the relevance of the scriptures. Within the pages of any Bible lies, not only answers, but food to nourish your body, fuel to give you energy and wings to make you feel that with God all things are possible. Here are some of my favourites….

 

Mark 10:27 “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’”

 

Philippians 1:6 “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

 

Psalm 37:23-24 “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”

 

Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 

 

I will leave the last word to Charles Spurgeon and his thoughts on the Bible

 

Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

18 October 2020

 

Aye Ready

 

A friend called me this week to check when we first became elders and it wasn’t too difficult to tell him that the year was 1977. I can remember that year because I was 21 and a very young elder in the Church of Scotland. It was a testament to the faith of our minister John Jolly who knew that some young elders would inject some needed changes in the church.

In our reading Jesus said to Simon “don’t be afraid! from now on you will fish for people, so they pulled their boats up on the shore, left everything and followed him”.

Maybe you're reading this passage this morning and think that maybe life has taken a turn that’s too bad to recover from? The pandemic, the church being closed, the promise of no singing when we get in there and no cup of coffee and biscuit at the end of the service.

In today's reading Jesus knew better. He told them to move their nets where they would find a better catch. He called them warts and all and still calls us today. Even through the roadblock that the pandemic is, he still calls us and needs us more than ever. And certainly we need him more than ever.

As I type this I was aware of a motto that I was going to mention. I imagined in my head it was something from a Scottish clan, I was careful that it would not be a political party motto. So I researched this motto and discovered it was a well known Glasgow Football club.

So my motto for today is “aye ready”.  We should be, we need to be, we have to be. The church is still there waiting and Jesus is calling You.

 

 

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

 

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 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.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

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.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 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.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 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.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

17 October 2020

 

Many many years ago we agreed to give a lift to a friend's sister to SelbyYorkshire (just to make it clear we offered she didn’t ask). We were not even out of her street making our journey when said sister ( who we had only met once before) said, from the back of the car, “so tell me? When were you two saved?”  I thought she was asking me how much money we had saved for the holiday to York but I was wrong.

It was clear to Nicodemus that Jesus had “come from God” and because of what he had witnessed, “the signs” that Jesus was doing it was clear that God was with him. It is clear for us today that we must “come from God” and may do so at any age young or old.

Many people today can claim the hour and the minute they were “born again”. But there are many many people that for them, it was just a gradual coming to the realisation that they were true Christians. And for all of us ”the wind blows wherever it pleases, we hear the sound but cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going”.

One of the new phrases born from this pandemic is the “care bubble” whose care bubble are you in? Some of us are lucky about our care bubble, some of us have no physical person in our care bubble.  

The salvation of being “saved”, the comfort of being “a Christian” and the joy of having a huge church family means we are in many many peoples thoughts and surely in one of the most important and unique “care bubbles” around. And that too comes from God.   Amen

 

 

John 3 verses 1-9

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

16 October 2020

 

The wedding disaster

 

“ NO son of mine is having steak pie peas and potatoes at his wedding”

That was my mother's war cry during the preparation for our wedding.

A disaster at a wedding will always be remembered. The disaster at our wedding was legend. Due to a mix up the caterers turned up with the wedding feast. And you’ve guessed it. It was steak pie, peas and potatoes. You can still see my mother’s tears in our wedding album.

The disaster here is announced by Mary, mother of Jesus. “They have no more wine!”. Now that was a disaster. In those days and even today, eastern land's lavish hospitality was a sacred duty and disgrace was about to ruin everything.

To make wine one needs a good vine. There is water involved then flowers and insects. Little clusters of grapes then appear, picked, crushed and put into vats. Then there is the slow process of fermentation and only then is it ready.

Jesus simply telescoped the whole process into a miracle and as John Philips tells us “The simple water touched by grace divine,

Owned its Creator and blushed into wine”

Even today miracles are still being performed, you just have to look around you. Better still go and find a mirror, have a look at one of the best miracles in your life. Yes…you!!!

 

 

John2 1-11

 

Jesus Changes Water Into Wine

 

1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

15 October 2020

 

A quick tale of two prayers

 

Prayer is so important in a Christians life but sometimes its possible for us to get it wrong. Take the prodigal son for instance. Some say that this is the story of two prayers. The first prayer is  “Father give me”. The son is tired of all the restrictions and tired of his relationships in his family. Maybe it was an overbearing father or perhaps it was the smug other brother. So his prayer was answered and with some money in his pocket, he was off!

But like a lot of things we are taught in the Bible, there is a comparative lurking in the background. The second prayer.  John Philips calls this “the homecoming prayer”. It's not “give me” any longer. That’s been replaced by “just make me one of your hired hands”

Clearly, the prodigal son did not anticipate what would happen when he returned. He was not made a servant, he wasn’t served up the pig swill but caught up in his father's embrace. The dirt and grime and fear was gone. The robe and the ring and the fatted calf were for him.

And this “whole priceless story from the lips of the Lord is the parable of God's dealing with us”. Amen

 

 

Luke 15 17-24

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

14 October 2020

 

Getting through the day unscathed

 

I would have to say that the current situation with the pandemic increases my anxiety levels to almost unbearable levels at times. We are bombarded with a terrific amount of advice as well as the dos and don’ts of getting through the day unscathed.

In our reading Jesus has been crucified and some of the men are talking about that day's events. Jesus joins them on the road and joins in on their chat. “What’s up?” he asks them. It seems the men are disappointed that Jesus has left them. It’s been three days since he was crucified and he’s even left the tomb?” Jesus then puts them right and chastises them for their “dip” in their faith.

As Jesus goes on to continue his journey, they ask him to stay a while but sadly there is no account of the conversation that took place that night. I bet it was a great evening.

Today we have the scriptures set before us with all the stories that can make us feel better. It’s a veritable treasure chest of positive thinking, antidotes and family genealogy. Don’t get me wrong there are some danger, warnings and dark stuff in there too. But every day we can settle down with our Lord and Master and forget just for five minutes what the others in the world are doing.

 

 

Luke 24: 25-29

 

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

13 October 2020

 

 

Let's do some entertaining at home!

Luke 7:44-47

 

Entertaining people in our homes seems to be a thing of the past for us at the moment, but this story in the Bible makes you wonder why the Pharisee invited Jesus in the first place.

Peterson calls her “ the town harlot” she appears in the story and using expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus she then dries them with her hair. Could the story get any worse? It did for the Pharisee as Jesus told him about his lack of manners. But this woman? This woman who had ill repute?

Jesus says “I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.”

 

You see that’s what He does, it doesn’t matter what you have done in the past, it doesn’t matter what you are up to at the moment even the thoughts in your head, he is well aware but as long as you have faith you can be saved. You see the pharisee pretended to know Jesus, pretended to entertain him but the woman knew. She knew her place, she knew the power of the Lord and set about to anoint his feet and crown him Lord of All. 

 

Today we can ask Christ into our homes ( and you won't be breaking any lockdown rules) Call to him in prayer, give him his place and the glory that he deserves and by your faith you will be saved.

 

 

 

Luke 7 44-47

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little, loves little.”

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

12 October 2020

 

Matthew 14: 22-33  -  Peter walking on water

 

 

Peter did something he had never done and probably would never do again. He walked on water! 

Immediately you would want to ask why?, or better still “how?”  Look at those words “ Take courage”  “ Don’t be afraid” and lastly “come!”

Peter had doubts just like the rest of us. He knew what he was capable of and what he could not do. “ Get out of the boat?” walk on the water?” “ are you mad?”

But there was the advice given to him by his friend Jesus “ Take courage” and then that was followed by “ Don’t be afraid” and finally “come!” Just like the best of us Peter doubted but just like the rest of us he knew that this was the son of God.

Today let's listen to what he has to say to us, take courage in these days ahead, trust in Him always and walk beside Him. Even if it feels choppy like the water or it's narrow like the tightrope or if your steps feel like wellies in the mud…..walk with him today and always.  Amen

 

 

 

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

11 October 2020

 

 

Psalm 8

 

We end the study on Psalms today with Psalm 8

 

A few of the sources I have used tell me that this Psalm 8 was probably written around the time of Goliath being slayed.

 

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?[c]

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honour.
 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
 the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

 

 

But what does this Psalm say to us today, well it reminds us of his position. (Verse1) “Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth” reminding us that God is all-important in all that is going on in the world, despite all the things competing against each other, our God is an awesome God and the most important thing in our lives.

 

The Psalm also tells us about God's power. (verses 2&3) “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place. We live in a world that is so finely tuned with the stars and the galaxy all around us, we know that we have a creator in God who created this beautiful place for us to admire and to worship.

 

Finally, Psalm 8 reminds us of his presence. ( verses 4-8)

 

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels 

     and crowned them with glory and honour. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

 

In all that we are going through, the Lord's presence is always before us behind us and beside us.  Feeling lonely? Call him in prayer.  Feeling vulnerable? Call him in prayer. Feeling that you are truly thankful for his position, his power and his presence? Call him in prayer and thank him. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

10 October 2020

 

 

Psalm 23

 

David wrote this Psalm but we cannot be sure when. Some think he wrote it as an old man looking back on his life others thought he wrote it as a young man out on the fields rejoicing in the knowledge that HE had a shepherd in the Lord.

 

John Philips tells us that this Psalm is divided into three parts. In the Psalm David takes us to the glen, then he takes us to the gorge and finally he takes us to the glory.

 

The Glen

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
   he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

 

The Gorge

 

 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 

 

The Glory

 

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

 

 

 

The question this morning is “ what is a good shepherd”? 

 

Now we can go on for months talking about what a shepherd does and means to his flock. But this morning its good for us to know that The Good Shepherd shares his life with us. He also gives his life for us. Thirdly he puts his life in us. And its in that journey to the glen, the gorge and the glory that all of this becomes apparent when we read the 23rdPsalm and go on that journey that leads us to Glory.

 

So what about Glory? What about “ I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

 

Let me tell you a story

 

In 1572 John Knox died. As he lay dying his friends gathered round him and one of them begged that if all was well “ when he crossed the river of death” that Knox would give them a sign. A poem tells us what happened......

 

 

Grim in his deep death-anguish the stern old champion lay

And the locks upon his pillow were floating thin and grey,

And, visionless and voiceless, with quick and laboured breath,

He waited for his exit through life's dark portal, Death

  

“ Has thou the hope of Glory” they bow to catch the thrill

That through some languid token might be responsive still,

Nor watched they long nor waited for some obscure reply,

He raised a clay-cold finger and pointed to the sky.

 

Thus the death-angel found him, what time his bow he bent,

To give the struggling spirit its last enfranchisement.

Thus the death-angel left him, what time earth's bonds were riv’n

The cold, stark, stiffening finger still pointed up to heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

09 October 2020

 

Psalm 6

 

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
    they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil,
    for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
    they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

 

 

This is what we call a “penitential Psalm” and it is one great cry of anguish. Here David is in such distress that he cries all night long. He has sinned, seduced Bathsheba, arranged the murder of Uriah and then married the widow Bathsheba. The Psalm tells us that David is weak and he is asking God for some consideration in his plea. In the Psalm he is telling God what has been happening to him and how low he has gone. But there is hope at the end of the Psalm and that comes with the confidence that he knows that  “ the Lord has heard my weeping, has heard my cry for mercy and the Lord accepts my prayer”

 

David has not gone and consulted anyone else, he has turned to the Father and on him alone.

 

Max Lucado tells a great story about leaving home to go on a tour and gives all of his children chores to carry our while he is away. He tells his eldest son that his youngest son loves to jump off his bunk bead each night and Max catches him “ don’t play that game too long or he’ll never go to sleep. When he comes home he discovers that the game didn’t work for the eldest and the youngest sons, so he asks the young one what went wrong. His response was “ I only jump into my father arms”

 

Wise words indeed from one so young, but wise words for all of us when we don’t know where to turn.     Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

08 October 2020

 

 

Psalm 5

Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to you I pray.

 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.
 For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
 The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
    you, Lord, detest.
 But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.
 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.
Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.
 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

1Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favour as with a shield.

 

 

Wikipedia tells us that “Psalm 5 is the fifth psalm from the Book of Psalms. Its authorship is traditionally assigned to king David. It is a reflection of how the righteous man prays for deliverance not only for freedom from suffering, but to allow himself to be able to serve God without distraction.

So there is our first task of the day. How do we serve God without distraction?

Psalm 5 is looked upon as a  morning prayer, because the morning was very important in the religions of the ancient Near East. Hence the verse 4 (3 in some versions).

 “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly”

An interesting fact is that in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 5 is appointed to be read on the morning of the first day of the month.

 

It is clear that in this Psalm David is asking God to listen, John Philips comments on this as an “admonishment to God” and he suggests it’s a bit of an insult. But he goes on to say that actually all that David was saying was “ Right! I have something important to say to you and I would like your undivided attention”

 

David's Psalm reminds us that God is a hearing God. “ In the morning you hear my voice” David's heart was heavy, he was talking to God about his situation and was being very detailed about those who were against him and how he personally felt.

 

God is a holy God.  Verse 4  “For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome.” David talks about those who are lawless and Absolem was living that kind of life and David knew that God would not bless that kind of life. It was Gods power that made all the difference for David because it was the uniqueness of this power that made God Holy.

God is a loving God verse 7   But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

 Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.

 

All of these things should contribute to our morning prayers. We love a God who is a Holy God, who is aware of our situations and who hears us in our prayers. He is a loving God and no matter what we give to him, it will never compare what he gave us. He gave us his Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross on Calvary. Halleluiah what a saviour!

 

A Prayer for Thursday

 

Father, thank you for this new day with all its opportunities and, for some of us, we know that there are challenges ahead that we need to deal with, but no matter how we may start today - whether we are anxious or not, we are grateful for the knowledge that you walk each day with us.   Thank you for this assurance which is a great comfort to us.   Father, we also come with thanksgiving for your Son, our Saviour, and for the love He demonstrated so clearly at Calvary by being willing to give His life for us.  Jesus is indeed your gift to us and we thank you for Him.    

 

Father, there are so many situations in our world which are of concern to us – the people in countries where the virus is spreading and they have little or no medicines and medical staff to care for them.   Some too live in countries with no proper sanitation and clean water – all necessary to keep the virus at bay.   There are others Father, who live in countries with political unrest; whilst others have had years of civil war.   All this has taken its toll and there are new generations of people who have never known peace in their own land.   Father, that is something that we cannot begin to imagine and so we pray for them just now and ask that you will work in the hearts and minds of the political and national leaders so that they will turn from their ways and seek to serve the people wisely, justly and mercifully so that the people may be able to live in a peaceful and stable environment.   With this in mind we pray that we will never take what we have and where we live for granted and continue to remember in prayer those who are not as fortunate and blessed.   In Jesus Name – Amen 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

07 October 2020

 

 

Psalm 4

 

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

 

Answer me when I call to you,
    my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

 How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous

    and trust in the Lord. Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
 Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.

 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

 

 

Useless fact first, this is the first of the Psalms to have a musical instrument mentioned in its title.

 

Psalm 4 is the 4th psalm from the Book of Psalms. Its authorship is traditionally assigned to king David, but his authorship is not accepted by modern scholars apparently.

 

We are told that this psalm's text is a reflection of David speaking to all sinners while addressing himself to Absalom. The message in the psalm is that the victories of sinners are only temporary and meaningless, and that only repentance can bring true happiness.

 

It is a request to God for deliverance from the past.

 

But in the midst of all the turbulence between David and Absolem what do we know of David and how he reacts to this? Absolems forces for what they hoped would be a knockout blow. The armies that David had himself trained for Israel were now with Absolem and against him

 

So what does David do? He went to sleep! He enjoyed the personal peace that he had found with God. David was confident and secure, more secure than he would be in a palace full of guards. So out in the hiss [sic] he was even safer his security was in Gods hands.

 

Isn’t that a great example of confidence in God?

 

Cannon Gibbon of Harrogate preached on this passage and was so taken by it he wrote a hymn reflecting his thoughts on the passage. The first line of the hymn was a question and the second line was the answer.

 

Peace perfect peace? In this dark world of sin?

The blood of Jesus whispers peace….within

 

Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

06 October 2020

 

Psalm 3

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
 I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

 I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side.

Arise, Lord!
    Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
    break the teeth of the wicked.

 From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

 

 

 

Psalm 3  is the third Psalm of the Bible. 

It is a personal thanksgiving to God, who answered the prayer of an afflicted soul. Psalm 3 is attributed to David, in particular, when he fled from Absalom his son. David, deserted by his subject, pursued for his crown and life by his ungracious son, turns to his God, makes his supplications, and confesses his faith. (The story of Absalom is found in the 2 Samuel, Chapters 13-18.)

Writers like Martin Luther felt that, overall, the goal in this Psalm is to impart the confidence of those who consider themselves followers of YHWH to call on him. The reader is encouraged to consider how God rescues someone like David, who was at that time very in distress, saved and later raised to be king over all Israel.

But what does this Psalm tell us as Christians living in 2020.  John Phillips tells us that this psalm is a psalm of trial trust and triumph and that surely must speak to us today. In the midst of treachery and torment David was outnumbered by those who were on Absolems side. Absolem had the numbers but David had God.

As the psalm comes to an end there are some words that we can but read and not act upon “Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.”

These days salvation doesn’t come from physical violence. Salvation is not in ourselves, it's not about charitable donations and good works alone. Salvation does not come from the church alone. The last lines of this psalm

From the Lord comes deliverance.
    May your blessing be on your people.

 

Real help comes from God and it is his blessing that we wear as the armour that protects us. Real Salvation comes from the relationship that we have for him and nurtures on a daily basis. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

05 October 2020

 

Psalm 2

 

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
‘Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.’

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
‘I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.’

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, ‘You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron[b];
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.’

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

 

 

John Philips tells us that there are four voices behind this second Psalm. First there is David and then there is God the Father. Following them its God the Son and the fourth person is God the Holy Spirit

 

The Psalmist David ( verses 1-3) is seeing a conspiracy as the nations rise up against God. David is asking the question ”why?”.

 

God the Father ( verses 4-6) is almost laughing as he answers David’s question, but behind that laughter there is anger as the very thought of a conspiracy or uprising is ludicrous.

 

God the Son ( verses 7-9) reassures David and tells him that there should be no doubt that David has been chosen by God and there should be no doubt about the outcome.

 

Finally God the Holy Spirit ( verses 10-12) reminds them of Gods sovereignty and the fact that the path they are taking will lead to destruction but right at the end the reassurance that those who take refuge in him will be saved.

 

John Philips in his book reminds us that there has always been rebellion against God ever since Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit. But when we delve into the Bible we can always find the words of determination that can reassure us. There are words of the utmost authority that define the way we live. And there are words of Grace that keep us on the path of righteousness and love.

 

The last word goes to the last line of this Psalm “ Blessed are all who take refuge in him”        Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

04 October 2020

 

Psalm 1  NIV UK

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.

 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither –
    whatever they do prospers.

 Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

 

 

Today more than ever the media and especially social media are obsessed with our lifestyle. What we wear, how we live and that’s before we go on about eating, drinking and exercise. 

 

But of course the lifestyle experts are only interested in the superficial. How we look to the outside world, how we appear to our friends and neighbours. There is nothing fashionable about looking how we really are, what our real lifestyle is like on how we judge other people and how we compare to those who walk on the “wild side”.

 

Psalm 1 looks at the “saint and the sinner”.

 

 In his book “ Exploring the Psalms” John Philips calls this an emotional psalm, he uses the term saint and sinner and tells us that it’s the story of those who walk with God and those who chose to ignore him.

 

Those who walk with God do not listen to the “ungodly” man, they don’t linger with those who do not have a kind word. Eugene Peterson translates this as 


    you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
    you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
    you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.”

 

Those who choose not to walk in God's path are the people that “leave God out of their lives” Again Philips reminds us that we are either “ married or unmarried, happy or sad, grateful or ungrateful and either Godly or ungodly. We are told by John Philips “ then ungodly man is driven, doomed and damned”.

 

Those who walk with God are driven by God and what’s more they delight in the word that is put before them. Philips tells us that “ the word of God has captured his full attention and in doing this they prosper and grow like the tree planted by the riverside". This is the person that proves to be fruitful, is generous with the harvest.

 

Eugene Peterson tells us “ Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
          you chew on Scripture day and night.
          You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
          bearing fresh fruit every month,
          Never dropping a leaf,
          always in blossom.”

 

So in finishing with Psalm 1 we see a world of comparisons, a choice of two roads. Saint and Sinner and the God like and the ungodly, but what road should we take? Eugene Peterson makes it easy by telling us in his translation of the last verse of Psalm 1

 

God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.

 

 

Further reading Eugene Peterson's translation of The Message Psalm 1

 

How well God must like you—
    you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
    you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
    you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.

 Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
    you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
    bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
    always in blossom.

You’re not at all like the wicked,
    who are mere windblown dust—
Without defence in court,
    unfit company for innocent people.

 God charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.

 

 

Robert Burns’s take on Psalm 1

The man, in life wherever plac'd,  Hath happiness in store,  

Who walks not in the wicked's way,  Nor learns their guilty lore! 

Nor from the seat of scornful pride  Casts forth his eyes abroad, 

But with humility and awe Still walks before his God. 

 That man shall flourish like the trees,  Which by the streamlets grow;  The fruitful top is spread on high,  And firm the root below.  

But he whose blossom buds in guilt  Shall to the ground be cast,  

And, like the rootless stubble, tost  Before the sweeping blast. 

  For why? that God the good adore,  Hath giv'n them peace and rest,  But hath decreed that wicked men  Shall ne'er be truly blest. 


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