During the coronavirus shutdown, Sunday Services will be found here.
These are the Sunday services from late March 2020 onwards when we went into lockdown.
This page contains the latest information while we cannot meet together.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
31 March 2020
The Plot to Kill Jesus John 11 45-end (nsv)
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
30 April 2020
Acts Chapter 6
The Choosing of the Seven
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom; the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
A growing Family
Among our friends we know a young couple that have a baby boy. Starting a family is an exciting time and takes a wee bit of time to get used to it all. No sooner were they getting used to it all…. when they had twins!!!! The family of three suddenly becomes a family of five!!
Help is needed!
In a completely different context we read in Acts 6 that the family of disciples are growing. It was a known fact that many different ethnic races and religions were coming to Jerusalem to end their days.
What is the problem?
Amongst them were many widows and there was a problem sharing their food amongst this growing newfound family. There is internal wrangling going on and something needs to be done. So what is the problem? Verse 2 “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables”
Is there a solution? Verse 3 “ Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The result can be read in Verse 7 “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.”
Very early on in the birth and growth of the Church we see the need to organise. In this case the Apostles saw what the problem was and the knew they could not be tied down by this. So they delegated. And in doing this we know that “ this pleased the group”. They chose seven other people to help do other things and free them up and in verse 4 “ we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
The big issue here was the priority of God and Prayer. Yes there were tables to be laid and there were internal struggles and fights. There was a lot to do but nothing should ever distract from “ prayer and the ministry of the word” And even all these years later we find the same problems with the modern day church. People try and make big changes, other people try to bring in other priorities, people are concerned about what the church needs to function when it has been functioning for years. But above all of there is God and we need to talk to him, we need him to help us to delegate and we can only do this through prayer.
The BIG verse in this reading is the result. Verse 7 “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith”
So we know it worked for them and it should be a lesson to us all that The Word is still as relevant today and our priority should be taking it to God in prayer.
Father, we see from our passage this morning that we are called to care for others, to look out for the needy and the less fortunate than we are and to serve one another. And although this event happened 2000 years ago, we see today people during this current crisis, people who have taken on these roles of service to others. And it has been costly – as they have given their lives in that service. And so, as we remember again today the people who have given their lives because they cared for and served the weak and the vulnerable; whether in hospital, care homes or in their own homes, as well as others who worked in transport and the distribution of vital services to all our communities. They will be greatly missed by their loved ones and so, we pray for their families and friends, praying that your love will surround them as they mourn their loss. Amen
29 April 2020
Acts Chapter 5
Ananias and Sapphira
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Create in me a clean heart O Lord
So we have the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. It was quite a common practice in those days to sell off your assets and give the money to the temple. This couple were being a bit naughty and kept back some of the money for themselves. While it's possible they were telling everyone that they were selling it for the temple, they were also selling it for themselves by keeping some of the money.
There was a certain amount of hypocrisy going on. And I think that Ananias revealed something that we all struggle with. We fundamentally miss out on what God wants from us. We think that God wants our stuff more than He wants us. Or we think that God will love us more if we give Him more. Or we think that what other Christians think about us will increase the love that God has for us.
Think about what Ananias and Sapphira tried to do. They wanted to project an image of themselves to the church that they were generous, too. They wanted others to look at them and say - “wow look at those Christians - they are always giving, always serving. They are always there anytime the doors are open. They are always doing the right thing.” But at the heart of their actions there was a lie.
There is a lesson here. And that lesson is that God wants our hearts more than he wants our money. Oh sure the money is necessary to allow the church to function but God wants our hearts to be clean and pure
Psalm 51 verse 10 reminds us
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
The lesson of the day is this - God cares more about the heart behind your offering than He cares about the offering itself. God wants your heart in worship. He wants you to love Him and connect with Him and to have joy in knowing Him. And in doing so we should root out the hypocrisy in our own lives and present to God a purer heart and a cleaner self. Amen
28 April 2020
The Believers Pray
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.[b]’[c]
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
We are still on Acts 4. Yesterday morning when I sat down to prepare these words, it dawned on me when you look at some of the titles in the bible, for our readings, they are really hitting home at the moment. Never in the current generation and never in the history of our church has the bible been so relevant. (I read that in Winstons Churchill's voice?) An example of that would be today's titles which are “ believers pray” and “ believers share their possessions”
Peter and John are released and the church rejoices. His friends relieved and excited lift their hands to God in prayer and praise. They were aware that they were still in danger as the non believers were still around. They were aware that everything was scripture based, but look at verse 29 “ Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”….Talk about relevance for today…..And another important factor here is that " they shared their possessions" so another timely reminder of what we should be doing as a living church in society today. Then after all of this after all We are told that after they prayed .....the ground shook and they spoke the word of God boldly. Not just prayer but that " rocket fuel" prayer that I have spoken of before.
And of course this is a timely reminder that prayer is all important today and every day. Praise God for what we have, praise God for keeping up safe and Thank God for a new day that is about to unfold before us. Keeping him at all times “ on the menu” so to speak or even “ breaking news” as we go through our day. God is amongst us, we have him in our lives and in our hearts. Let's share Him with others. Amen
27 April 2020
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
4 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem.6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is“‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
I can remember the first time I ever preached in a pulpit outside my own home church. I was terrified. “ What am I doing?” I thought “ Why am I doing this?” These words came in waves. But the minister I was taught by, a man called Bill McAreavy in Kelvin Bridge filled me with confidence. I remember his prayers before we went out into the sanctuary they were like rocket fuel. I would walk out into the church telling myself “ I have a job to do and I can do it”
The confidence of Peter and John is amazing. They are arrested because of their teaching. The Sanhedrin intimidates them. But despite all that Peter and John put up a great case for their actions and they even reverse their roles from the accused to the accusers.
Peter indicts the Sanhedrin because they had crucified Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead and in whose name this lame man had been healed. Furthermore, Peter let them know that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).
The members of the council were amazed at the confidence of Peter and John, who had not been educated in the rabbinical schools. When the council saw the man who had been healed standing there (proof positive of his healing), they had nothing to say. After a private conference the council commanded Peter and John not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John replied that they had to obey God, because they could not stop speaking what they had seen and heard. After further warnings, the council let them go, since the crowd was glorifying God on account of this miracle.
Ask yourself today “ where does my confidence lie?” “ How can I be more confident?” “Why do I need this confidence?”
Confidence comes through prayer. Praying that the Holy Spirit will guide you and guard you. Praying that you have the necessary energy to make a difference.
Confidence through Jesus. Learning more and more about how he changed lives. What his relationship was like with his family and his friends the disciples.
Confidence through God. God is the rocket fuel that is going to get us from here to where ever we will find ourselves in the months to come. Things may seem huge and frightening at this point in time but the kids in the Sunday school sing “ our God is a great big God”. We owe it all to Him. Amen
26 April 2020
PETER SPEAKS IN SOLOMON'S PORTICO
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
25 April 2020
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Someone slipped and fell was that someone you
You may have long for added strength your courage to renew
Do not be this hearten for I bring hope to you
It is no secret what God can do what he's done for others he'll do for you With arms wide open He'll part anew it is no secret what God can do
Always feel at home wherever you may roam
There is no power can conquer you while God is on your side
Just take him at his promise don't run away and hide
It is no secret what God can do what he's done for others he'll do for you
With arms wide open He'll part anew it is no secret what God can do
What God can do
24 April 2020
Acts Chapter 2 from verse 42
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
23 April 2020
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
Acts Chapter 1 from verse 12
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters,[d] the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’[e]
“‘May another take his place of leadership.’[f]
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
Trust and obey for there is no other way.
These days all we seem to do is wait. Wait for the next set of instructions from the Government, wait at home or wait in queues at the shops and then go back home and wait. Wait until we can see our friends once more face to face in the flesh. Apart from waiting the other things we have to do, is be obedient. Don’t mix with friends, don’t go on unnecessary journeys, don’t drive to beauty spots just exercise in your own area and obey what we are being told on the radio, tv and in the newspapers. So we wait and we obey and above all else we depend. We depend on being told the correct information, we depend on taking this information and absorbing it and making it work for us. All of these rules as we appear to be locked in our own homes.
At this point in the book of Acts Jesus has left his friends. He has gone but just before that he gives them strength through his teaching and his presence and his advice. Yesterday we remember he said “don’t leave just wait” to his disciples and they did.
The disciples returned to the upper room and united in prayer they waited. Of course no one wants to wait unless they can help it but we know from this reading in Acts (v14) they all joined in prayer. They all waited and they all obeyed.
It was during this time that Judas was replaced by Matthias, the only time an apostle has had to be elected and we are told not just because Judas had died but also to fulfil the Scriptures. So the disciples are obeying Jesus and obeying the Scriptures. Time was not being wasted during the wait and things still had to be done. God was preparing them and he was teaching them and above all else he was nurturing them into a better place
And of course that’s happening today and during this current crisis we seek God in prayer and in Scripture, we remain obedient to Him and depend on His Word and of course we wait.
Let us Pray
Might and glorious Father we come before you today and we wait. While we wait, we ask you for forgiveness if we are not really following the rules. We ask that you give us the patience to remain at home and make our time resourceful. And that you give us the willpower to be obedient to your word Amen
22 April 2020
The book of Acts Chapter 1 verses 6-9
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
You will be my witnesses
There is one very powerful verse early on in the book of Acts and we find that in verse 8 …..” and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth”
Here we are talking about the founding of the church and the spread of the gospel not just locally but “ to the ends of the earth” The first four gospels told us about Christ's life and his teaching but now we are going on a journey to witness the very beginning of The Church and the spread of Christ's message to all.
…..” and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth
Tom Wright tells us that we should notice one thing in particular which will help us as we go through the book of Acts. Jesus gives the apostles an agenda. Jerusalem first, then Judea followed by Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. We are told that the journey will be so interesting that we don’t need to know “when He is “going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus has been appointed as the worlds true king, seated on his throne. One day the kingdom will come, Tom Wright says “ in the meantime we have a job to do”.
We all have a job to do. Even though we don't have our organisations and our buildings and our fellowship we still have a job to do. After all we are all witnesses and that has not been put in lockdown. As we think of the start of the early church we should be thinking of the day when we have to go back to our own churches and start again. How do we prepare for that? Well through the reading of the scripture and of course through prayer.
Let us pray “ Heavenly Father we are so grateful that you sent your son to die for us. To afford us this amazing grace. To allow us to leave our sins at the foot of the cross and as the hymn says “ stand amazed in His presence”
Father we pray this morning for the church. For the first time in a lifetime we are scattered. We are separated from a place we call our sanctuary and although we know its only bricks and mortar, it holds us all together in fellowship.
So as we pray for our “ missed” church we pray too for our fellowship. You know us all. You know our names and you know every hair on our heads. Today as we miss the sound of our choirs. As we miss the look on our friends' faces and as we miss the message given to us so clear and so nourishing. We thank you for keeping us safe. We thank you for giving us tomorrow and we thank you for the fellowship of Christ and the fellowship of each other Amen
21 April 2020
Acts 1 New International Version (NIV) Acts 1 verses 1-5
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
For the time being we will look at the book of Acts in the New Testament. To help me along this journey I am relying on Tom Wrights book” Acts for everyone” to make this more interesting.
In his book Tom Wright talks about the movie the madness of King George the third. Alan Bennetts script was bound to be a sure fire hit but there was one problem. The Movie makers had a problem with the title. Superman 1 had two sequels out at this time Superman 2 and Superman 3 what if people thought that The madness of King George was a trilogy and people went looking for the first two movies?
The book of Acts. This is of course the story of the early church with Jesus as the main character. It is authored by the physician Luke and begins by giving us the fact that this is a sequel and then goes to give us a brief resume of what has happened up until this point.
There are two strands to this book and the first is that it is the story is based on the resurrection of Jesus. At the end of Lukes gospel Jesus gave “many convincing proofs that he was alive” in fact Tom Wright goes on to say that Jesus’ “ transformed body is now the beginning of Gods new creation”.
The second strand of this book is that it introduces the power and the importance of the holy spirit.” For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
And you know? there is some important advice just at the end of this short reading we see that Jesus asked them to wait. “ do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised” Tom Wright comments in his book that “ Luke would tell us to wait and to pray for the presence and the power of the holy spirit. And that’s good advice for these changed days when we have to stay indoors and be patient. Patient while decisions are being made. Patient while keeping to the advice we are given. Patient while we heal, improve and get better.
On TV yesterday Detective Supt Catriona Paton was speaking in “ reflections at the key” a committed Christian her mother and father were missionaries in Africa. She said her work ethos comes from a painting on her fathers wall that stated “…keep working for the Lord. The pay isn’t much but the retirement plan is out of this world….”
From our homes today we can still work for the lord. We can do this with prayer…. So let us pray
Prayer: Father we pray this morning for all our loved ones and our church family. We pray for our ministers and for our church. We pray for patience during these darker days and as we wait for the light to shine over us once again we thank you for your son Jesus who taught us so much and can teach us so much more. Amen
20 April 2020
1 Corinthians 15:19-28 New International Version (NIV)
19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet. Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
19 April 2020
The Resurrection of the Dead
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
At the moment there is a lot of controversy surrounding corona virus. When will the lockdown end? Should we be wearing masks? What about the people that wear gloves? What about the NHS? Questions being asked but no real answers to satisfy the doubters.
Paul writes to the people of Corinth an important wealthy city between North and South Greece. Pauls would spend 18 months there to establish a church and then move onto Jerusalem among other places. After leaving Corinth, Paul wrote a letter after hearing about issues the Christians were having and decided to write to them with guidance for their problems. One of their main issues was who should they follow?
A few years ago I met someone who I used to work with. I was amazed and very pleased when they told me that they had become a Christian. They then went onto to tell me what parts of the bible they believed but then took longer to tell me the bits of the Bible that they didn’t believe in.
I remember parting from this person with the words “ if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then the whole of the bible is a hoax!” “ Christianity is a hoax” back came his retort “ well then your type Christianity is a hoax Alex”
There is no “type”. There is the Bible and there is Christianity
It might seem that Paul is struggling to convince people of the authenticity of the life of Christ but he is making it perfectly clear. If Christ did not rise from the dead then our faith is futile and more than that, Grace would not exist so we would all be drowning with sin. We might be living in strange times and some of the stories we are clearing might be unclear. But what is crystal clear is that Christ died for us on a cross and three days later he rose from the grave. Now I have been repeating myself over the past few days but it’s a point worth hammering home. Strange days and uncertain times deserve a clear message. Christ died for us! He rose from the tomb! Alleluia what a Saviour.
And now a short prayer
Father, we have just celebrated an Easter like no other – when we have not been able to gather together to praise and worship You and to remember Your great sacrifice for us on the Cross and give thanks for your glorious resurrection. And so we pray that whatever our individual circumstances, we give you thanks that the great truths of Easter are the same regardless of where and with whom we celebrated the Easter message.
When we think of the first Easter when the disciples had witnessed the crucifixion, they too felt isolated and lost without Jesus who had been their constant friend and companion for over 3 years. But praise God, because of the resurrection of Jesus, He is with us today. We give you thanks for the hope that the Easter message brings – not just in times of joy and gladness, but more importantly, in the times when we are anxious and concerned. In the Bible passage this morning, Paul exhorted the believers at that time to remain true to the centrality of their belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and, as we continue to ponder the Easter message in our hearts, we pray that we too may give you thanks and praise and continue to believe in Jesus who gave His life so that we may live.
18 April 2020
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Use the tool box!
Every time we turn on the television or the radio we are confronted by the latest statistics and facts and figures. But for me personally I am always asking myself “ what is the bigger picture?” “ How do we really explain to each other what is happening?”
In our reading today Mary was deeply disappointed, first by the shock of the crucifixion, but now by the fact that she wanted to see Jesus’ body. She was thinking, “If only I knew where they have taken him? But she didn’t understand the big picture, which included Jesus’ resurrection.
So often, we’re just like Mary. We’re disappointed because we don’t understand the big picture of what God is doing and what is going on in the world. We’re disappointed because God isn’t working as we think He needs to work. It seems that His promises aren’t true! But our faith has to be stronger than that. We have to use every tool in the tool box to repair what is broken in us and that includes prayer, scripture and reflection.
Mary thought that evil men had triumphed over God’s purposes. They had killed Jesus and now they had stolen His body.
We often suffer needless sorrow because we forget that God is so mighty that there is nothing that can overturn his purpose. And yes sometimes that can lead to an emotional struggle especially with the aftermath of what has happened and certainly not in our lifetime, will we get some answers.
Romans 8 verse 28 tells us that
“ we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
And yes that you and me. Our love for him is rewarded by the promise that He works, for the good of us. The Shepherd as always recognises the voices of his sheep. Through his Son Jesus Christ who was crucified and who rose from the dead, we are given answers we are given reassurance and we are given a friend. So if I had to give anyone advice today about what to do? it would be to build up our strength in prayer and scripture, hear the voices of our friends in the hymns that we shared while at Church and reflect on the fact that we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
17 April 2020
1st Corinthians 15 1-10
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
Is there enough evidence for a conviction?
Years ago I remember hearing a sermon and the main message was “ if you are accused of being a Christian is there enough evidence to convict you?”
I’ve just finished my eighth “Shetland “ book by Anne Cleeves what I like about her books is that at the end she seems to go over things that have happened in the book. ( my memory is getting worse so I like this)
She reminds you what the conviction was, who were the witnesses, who provided the evidence and finally what happened. She talks a lot about the evidence and hammers home the message of the crime.
This passage from Pau's letter is a bit like that for me. It breaks down the basics of Christianity. The conviction being that we have “ received the gospel and on it we have taken our stand. The case being that “ Christ died for our sins and after three days he rose from the dead” and the eyewitnesses being Cephas and of course the 12 disciples. There were a couple of special witnesses namely James and of course later to Paul. And of course all of this means that by this Gospel“ you are saved”
Today more than ever Christians are scrutinised for practising their faith, there is an increasing scrutiny on the belief system and its perceived “intolerance.” As a result, many Christians are fearful of offending others or worry about how they may be perceived if they are vocal about their faith. Yet Jesus Himself was not afraid to offend others. A reading of the gospels shows many instances when Jesus made people angry and hostile. Yet He always showed love, even toward those who rejected Him. Jesus was tried, convicted and killed for His teachings and beliefs. If you were to stand trial for being a Christian, what would your trial be like?
16 April 2020
Colossians 4 2-6
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
There are 82 words in this passage; you could say it’s quite a short passage. There are eight lines of text, that’s all that’s there. If you read it quick enough it might mean nothing. But then again if you look close enough?
Due to a scheduling problem, the words for life for today (as above) was published yesterday on Facebook.
So this morning I leave you with another simple story. I don’t know where it came from, the author is unknown.
With the hand of the Master .............
Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE." When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit." Keep playing." Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played. Only the classic, "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
Perhaps that's the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren't always graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life's work can truly be beautiful. The next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You may hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, "Don't quit." "Keep playing." May you feel His arms around you and know that His hands are there, helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces. Remember, God doesn't seem to call the equipped, rather, He equips the 'called.' Life is more accurately measured by the lives you touch than by the things you acquire.
Due to the lockdown we are selling the church society cards through this website and through Facebook.
31 May 2020
Luke 1 39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’
Treated with honour
Having learned from the angel that she will give birth to the Son of God, Mary hurries to visit her pregnant relative Elizabeth. The conversation suggests Jesus as more important than John. It also shows God already at work to overturn the world as it existed at that moment in time. The spotlight shines on Mary and Elizabeth, two women through whom God has chosen to begin the transformation of the world.
Though Luke clearly signals that the unborn child’s leaping is prompted by the Spirit, it is Elizabeth, John’s mother, who takes on the role of prophet by speaking the prophetic words “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear” Furthermore, through the Spirit she knows who Mary’s child will be, for she calls Mary “the mother of my Lord
Elizabeth greeted Mary with honour, and by doing so she overturns social expectations. Mary is an unmarried pregnant woman and Elizabeth knows from her own experience the cost of being shamed and excluded. In her culture a woman’s role in life was to bear children, so as an elderly infertile wife she had endured a lifetime of being treated as a failure. By being pregnant God had reversed her social status and emphasis Gods ability and his amazing grace.
So the pregnancy that might have brought Mary shame brings joy and honour instead. When Elizabeth welcomes Mary, she practices the same kind of inclusive love that Jesus will show throughout his life and his ministry. And like these women we too are blessed to have God in our life and the knowledge that he has come to free us from sin. Like these two women we belong to a community that supports each other as we hope and wait. Especially in these strange times.
Let us pray. Father God as we come to another Sunday, another Sabbath we remember your church today. As we are scattered in our own homes and in our own community we know that your church is wherever your people are praising and we praise you today. We pray today for all the people who we invite into our lives through social media, the Internet and television. People who have taken the time to share your word to us while we sit in our own homes. We pray too for Ramsay and John who carry on and share their thoughts and your scriptures each week while our church buildings are closed. And of course we pray for those of your flock who may, at this time, feel vulnerable and alone. May your Spirit fill them with the love and confidence to carry on while we make progress in what’s happening in our towns and cities. Amen
30 May 2020
Matthew 5 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount
5 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I read yesterday that one of the big criticisms of The Bible is that it is no longer relevant. It is full of rules and advice that is irrelevant and out of date. There are criticisms too of the language used. People say the KJV is not easy to understand and other translations are misleading. Personally I think the language used in the KJV is beautiful and I think some of the translations are great for Bible Studies and great too for injecting some fresh understanding. I could fill a book about the Beatitudes and what they mean for us and what the background is but today I thought I would address the critics about irrelevance and poor translations. I know I go on a lot about Eugene Peterson and his translation of the Bible but just for a moment think about what’s going on in your life today and the “ relevance” and read his translation of Matthew 5
Reading from Verse 4
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds!
Read that last bit again “ All heaven applauds” and that applause is for you and me. That applause is for the pain and the sorrow as well as the joy and the triumphs. That applause is for the person going through all of this alone as well as the big families living under the one roof in lockdown. That applause is because you are special…….Amen
29 May 2020
Romans 8:14-17 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to son ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
And so (as we read in John and in Acts) after the promise of eternal life and through the gift of the Holy Spirit we can call him Father and we can call ourselves Gods children. In Israel’s wilderness God went before them every day in a pillar of cloud but now it’s the Holy Spirit that provides our leadership. But there is one difference and that is we are not to become slaves to the law, Christ has freed us from slavery as well as sin.
The scripture then uses the word “ adopted” and when you think about the true meaning of those words it tells us that we have been welcomed into the family of God as a full member. I especially like the story of the mother of two children – one natural born and the other adopted. When someone asked, “Which child is adopted?” the mother gazed for a moment into the distance and then answered, “I can’t remember.”
So we have a relationship with God that enables us to call him Abba, Papa, Father. We can live as Gods children, led by the Holy Spirit and enjoy the full rights and privileges as sons and daughters. Our inheritance will be unbelievable through the good times and especially through the bad times. Amen
28 May 2020
Acts 2 New International Version (NIV)
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.
…..even to the remotest parts of the earth
In Acts chapter 1 Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father and that they would be “ baptized with the Holy Spirit” and they would receive power to be Christ’s witnesses even in the most remotest parts of the earth.
Just as Jesus’s ministry would depend on the Holy Spirit, the disciples too would benefit greatly from The Holy Spirit working alongside them with their work on earth.
And so in Acts chapter 2, we are witnesses to a historical event signifying a new period in God's dealing with His people. It is the dawning of the age of The Holy Spirit where people would be empowered to witness to all nations even in the remotest parts of the earth.
And today that’s what this all means for you and me. God is equipping His church with the power of His spirit so that he can be glorified throughout the whole of the earth. And the earth that was created by Him will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of The Lord.
And that’s up to us now! We have to bear witness to the crucified Christ and to show people that a spirit filled church is the answer to all problems that exist today.
Let us pray
27 May 2020
John 3:31-36 New International Version (NIV)
31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
You could fill up a whole library building with the books that have written about people who have gone to heaven and come back to tell the tale. I’ve even bought a few to my shame.
John is telling us in this text that only Jesus can testify about heaven, because he is telling us what he has seen and heard. In other words he is the key witness to all of this. Nowhere in this text does Jesus use the words “ I’ve heard” or “ I think” or “ it has been said”. No speculation or theorizing Jesus is speaking the very words of God and as far as being a witness he is 100% reliable and certain.
Eugene Peterson translates this as
“31-33 “The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heaven born is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth.”
John then repeats the promise from verse 16 in verse 36 “ whoever believes the Son has eternal life” which means if we accept the authority of Jesus unquestionably and trust in him with our lives has a complete life and forever. Petterson goes on to remind us
“And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that.”
Let's remember the great hymn “ Jesus is Lord”
Jesus Is Lord! Creation’s Voice Proclaims It,
For By His Power Each Tree And Flower
Was Planned And Made.
Jesus Is Lord! The Universe Declares It,
Sun, Moon And Stars In Heaven
Cry, ‘Jesus Is Lord!’
Jesus Is Lord! Yet From His Throne Eternal
In Flesh He Came To Die In Pain
On Calvary’s Tree.
Jesus Is Lord! From Him All Life Proceeding,
Yet Gave His Life A Ransom
Thus Setting Us Free.
Jesus Is Lord! O’er Sin The Mighty Conqueror,
From Death He Rose, And All His Foes
Shall Own His Name.
Jesus Is Lord! God sent His Holy Spirit
To Show By Works Of Power
That Jesus Is Lord.
26 May 2020
1 Peter 4:7-11 The Message (MSG)
7-11 Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
Someone recently commented that I live by the KISS concept,( really?) which apparently is “Keep it simple son!”. Well I don’t know about that but I do know that living with stress in your life dictates that a simple life is an easier life, rather than one that is bogged down with complicated issues and demands.
I read somewhere that one of the keys to an excellent life and an excellent church is simplicity and that is by doing a few simple things that can attain excellence. Many people and churches are not experiencing excellence because they are trying to accomplish too many things, and through a lack of urgency the important things are being set aside.
Today’s reading asks three things of us. All of these three things demand a sense of simplicity and yet these three things are the backbone of our Christian lives.
These three things are
Prayer (verse 7) “Stay wide-awake in prayer.” We should pray with a sense of vigilance, being aware of what and who we are praying for. More importantly keep it simple. Don’t send yourself to sleep with your prayers, keep it alive with the spirit within you.
Love (verses 8-9). “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything” Loving each other gives us a sense of purpose, makes us and others feel good and creates a better world. Simple love, without trying to emulate anyone from the pages of a magazine or the chapters of a novel
And finally. Serve (verses 10-11) “Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if its words, let it be God’s words; if it is help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, “
They say the secret to good mental health is routine. Pray, Love and Serve and we will not go wrong. Amen
25 May 2020
Peter 4:1-6 again from The Message (MSG)
Learn to Think Like Him
4 1-2 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
3-5 You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.
6 Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.
Get on with your short Life
Brian Kennedy is an Irish singer who has spent his life touring with Van Morrison. Alongside that, he has had his own career and at the height of his career he released a song “ you raise me up” which he sang at George Bes's funeral.
Just after 9/11 he was in America and couldn’t believe how things had changed. The people he knew were worrying about what was going on and what had happened. They were suffering and had made it into an art form.
Their life was slowly grinding to a halt. In response Kennedy wrote a song which became popular amongst his fans called “ Get on with your short life”, a warning to all that our time on earth is temporary.
I think that this passage in Peter was written for people who were suffering for their faith, who were known for their past and didn’t want to be remembered for it or by it. The words of this chapter ( to me) are saying “ you’ve be been there, you’ve done that but don’t listen to them. Instead listen to The Message, the words of God.
But now get on with your short life.
There is no point looking back. What we are going through at the moment will improve eventually, we have to show patience. Its human nature to look forward and plan things.
But what can we take from today’s reading? Four words :
“ Listen to the message”
That message tells us “ you are loved”.
I have a card on my desk and it never fails to make me smile. It’s a quote by Max Lucado
“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning... Face it, friend. He is crazy about you! ”
Let's have a good day. Amen
24 May 2020
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
Sometimes Words speak for themselves
If you are familiar with Dessert Island Discs you will be aware that as well as their favourite music the person gets to take The Complete Works of Shakespeare and The Bible. It always annoys me when some of the participants feel the need to say “ Oh I wouldn’t want the Bible” and I can hear myself saying “ well you're getting it anyway!”
Today’s reading again from the lectionary, probably planned for publication a few years ago. It’s a letter written mainly for the new Christians during the times of The New Testament. But on this day, that is Sunday 24th May 2020 has anything from the Bible ever been more relevant for us in Milngavie.
Eugene Peterson translates the first part of our reading as
“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” He then goes on to translate the reading as
“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good.
Sometimes in life its best to say nothing and let the words speak for themselves I hope they speak for you today. Amen
23 May 2020
22 May 2020
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea –
the Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.
Trust and Obey (still)
This is Psalm 93. Yesterday was Ascension Thursday when we read about Jesus ascending to his throne. Today we are reminded about God our creator “ robed in majesty and armed with strength” These are powerful words to describe a powerful God. The psalmist reminds us of the power of the sea, being lifted up and the pounding of the waves. The thunderous noise it makes, the impact it has as it crashes to the shore
But we know of a man who could calm the stormiest waters, who could direct the fisherman to their biggest catch and then defy nature by walking on the sea.
I’ve talked recently about the” constant” Christ in our lives never changing, always available and there for all.
The Psalm ends telling us the Lord's statutes stand firm. I had to have a think about what that means (statutes?) I read somewhere it means that by Loving God in such a way everything else will follow. We need to listen to His voice, focus on his commandments and walk in Gods ways. Amen
21 May 2020
While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me;
For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.
20 May 2020
John 16:16-24 The Message (MSG)
16 “In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me.”
Joy Like a River Overflowing
17-18 That stirred up a hornet’s nest of questions among the disciples: “What’s he talking about: ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? And, ‘Because I’m on my way to the Father’? What is this ‘day or so’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”
19-20 Jesus knew they were dying to ask him what he meant, so he said, “Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘In a day or so you’re not going to see me, but then in another day or so you will see me’? Then fix this firmly in your minds: You’re going to be in deep mourning while the godless world throws a party. You’ll be sad, very sad, but your sadness will develop into gladness.
21-23 “When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.
23-24 “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!
The late Scottish preacher, Alexander Whyte, observed that we all tend to hang heavy weights on the thinnest wires. He meant that we hang our happiness on fragile things that easily and quickly can be taken from us: health, friends, children, jobs, homes, or possessions. These are all blessings from the Lord. But they sometimes fail to give us lasting joy, because they’re all so uncertain and “transitory”.
At the last birthday celebration of the Queen, a famous Christian was heard on TV saying that the Queen was the one “ constant” in his life, she had been around for so long as a public figure and someone he admired. I remember looking at the screen waiting for next bit, but it never came.
You see I expected him to say “ as well as God and my friend Jesus Christ. But it was never said. Maybe I was being naïve but I became disappointed in his comments.
The disciples are confused over what Jesus is saying. They will have sad times but that doesn’t compare to the joy that will come later. The pain will be overwhelming just like childbirth but as soon as that passes there will be joy untold.
This joy will come from something that is not temporary or a passing phase. Peterson translates this as a “ joy that no one can rob you of”
I’ve said it before but I love Deuteronomy 28 v 15 “ And it came to pass” and that’s the reassurance we have in our lives today. This too will pass. Tough times, trying times sad times and hopeless times they cannot compare with the joy and the peace that passes all understanding. And that one constant thing in our lives?
Is God. Always there, always available, never too busy for a chat, never engaged ….always there.
19 May 2020
18 May 2020
Exodus 13:17-22 New International Version (NIV)
Crossing the Sea
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.
20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
God's people are on the move
One of my hobbies has got to be driving. Finding places out of the way, and discovering lovely things (normally coffee shops!). My dad used to say “ how did you find this place Alex?” That was easy as I had taken the scenic route.
People today are too busy, they want to get from A to B in the quickest time possible. Some people don’t like the scenic route as it takes longer, sometimes its quite difficult, certainly not the most efficient but its usually beautiful in the long run.
I think God took his people on the scenic route, on the desert road towards the Red sea. And through all of this, he gave them guidance in the form of a cloud of dust by day and a pillar of fire by night.
God was teaching his people the importance of trust. “Trust and obey for there’s no other way”
When God’s Son came to this earth and took on human flesh, God led Him on “the scenic route.” It was the most difficult way imaginable, the way of the cross. When Jesus began to tell the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the Jewish leaders and be killed and raised up on the third day, they thought that He had lost it!
If you are finding the route long and hard, rest assured because God is in front of us giving us light in the darkest of corners. All we have to do is Trust ( and obey) Amen
17 May 2020
16 May 2020
Genesis 8:13-19 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.
15 Then God said to Noah, 16 ‘Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you – the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground – so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.’
18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds – everything that moves on land – came out of the ark, one kind after another.
How many times have people said to you “ you must be mad !” or better still how many times have you said to someone else “ you must be mad?” Sometimes people astound you when they show grit determination and tenacity. Sometimes there’s just an odd notion behind their action but sometimes their actions are driven by God.
I remember many many years ago ( and I hope they don’t mind me saying ) when I heard about the Ferguson family were going to Japan I thought “ really?” and of course off they went and look at the life and experience they have had since then.
People can be an excellent example of faith. Faith in God. Faith in what God is telling them. Faith in their ability to deliver the goods for God.
We all know the story of Noah. His story covers many topics and examples of faith. But there is also another thing that it covers and that is “ obedience”. In our passage today, it wasn’t until God spoke did Noah remove the coverings protecting them in the Ark. It wasn’t until God spoke did they take possession of their and renewed world.
Today as we are bombarded with information it is important to remain obedient to God. And when all is said and done we will be like Noah and take off the covering and look at the new land, the new church. And of course all of this will happen when God is ready. Amen
15 May 2020
Acts 27:13-38 The Message (MSG)
13-15 When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm.
16-17 We came under the lee of the small island named Clauda, and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails. But rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.
18-20 Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.
21-22 With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, “Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there’s no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there’ll not be a single drowning among us, although I can’t say as much for the ship—the ship itself is doomed.
23-26 “Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.”
27-29 On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight the sailors sensed that we were approaching land. Sounding, they measured a depth of 120 feet, and shortly after that ninety feet. Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight.
30-32 Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, “If these sailors don’t stay with the ship, we’re all going down.” So the soldiers cut the lines to the lifeboat and let it drift off.
33-34 With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: “This is the fourteenth day we’ve gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You’ll need strength for the rescue ahead. You’re going to come out of this without even a scratch!”
35-38 He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily—276 of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard.
Fastened to the Rock.
I was listening to the radio yesterday and I heard someone asking a young parish vicar this question “ can we honestly say that anything good has come out of this pandemic ?. I don’t think there was a second between the question and his answer. His answer was confident, useful and very reassuring.
He said that when we are going through a storm we tend to focus on ourselves and what's going wrong but it was obvious to him that a lot of people today were focusing on others. The people that were at risk, the elder statesmen who needed special care and attention and the heroes and heroines from every walk of life who were still working and avoiding society to grind to a halt
We learn that Paul did not keep Gods encouragement to himself, he shared it with every single person on board, pagans and prisoners among them.
Today's reading, like the message from the young vicar yesterday is powerful useful and reassuring.
We can encourage others by being with them in the storm. It is said that often God puts people into the storm for the good of others.
We can encourage others by praying for them. When faced with rejection Paul put his feelings aside and prayed that they would all be delivered.
We can encourage others by ministering to their needs ( and yes, from a distance ) Paul encouraged the men to eat food so that they would have the strength to carry on. Remember our assistance does not have to be spiritual all the time.
And finally, we can encourage others by reminding them of Gods greatness.” You're going to come out of this without a scratch” Paul said. Now that’s not to say that we will all come out of this pandemic unblemished. But we can remind each other of Our God, Our Church, Our Fellowship and the fact that we have an anchor that keeps the soul “steadfast and sure while the billows roll”. Amen
14 May 2020
Acts 27:1-12 from Eugene Petersons The Message
A Storm at Sea
27 1-2 As soon as arrangements were complete for our sailing to Italy, Paul and a few other prisoners were placed under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, a member of an elite guard. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was bound for Ephesus and ports west. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us.
3 The next day we put in at Sidon. Julius treated Paul most decently—let him get off the ship and enjoy the hospitality of his friends there.
4-8 Out to sea again, we sailed north under the protection of the northeast shore of Cyprus because winds out of the west were against us, and then along the coast westward to the port of Myra. There the centurion found an Egyptian ship headed for Italy and transferred us on board. We ran into bad weather and found it impossible to stay on course. After much difficulty, we finally made it to the southern coast of the island of Crete and docked at Good Harbour (appropriate name!).
9-10 By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned, “I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship—to say nothing of our lives!—if we put out to sea now.”
12,11 But it was not the best harbour for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable. The centurion set Paul’s warning aside and let the ship captain and the ship owner talk him into trying for the next harbour.
We learn in some detail about an incredible storm that took place on Paul's journey to Rome and as always there’s something to learn from the scriptures today. And as we read through this we will learn how NOT to react to the storms of life and there are even more lessons to be learned if you decide to read further into the chapter.
Tom Wright tells us in his book on Acts that Luke tells us specifics about where exactly they sailed. When they left Caesarea they travelled along the coast of Asia, around the island of Cyprus. The next day they landed at Sidon, where the centurion Julius allowed Paul to go to his friends so that they could provide for his needs. Then they sailed on to Myra where the centurion found a larger grain ship that was sailing for Italy and transferred all 276 passengers onto this vessel. Verse 7 tells us that from there they made slow headway for many days and they finally made it to Cnidus. Because the wind wasn’t cooperating they sailed to the lee of Crete (which meant that the island was hit by the wind first and they weren’t as affected by it). They continued to move on, still with difficulty and arrived at Fair Havens. But Luke explains in verse 9 that a lot of time had passed and it was now past the Day of Atonement, which meant it was late September or October and past the time of year they should be sailing. So Paul told them in verse 10 that they should just stay in Fair Havens for the winter because the voyage was going to be disastrous if they continued on. But the centurion decided to listen to the pilot and the owner of the ship rather than Paul and they decided to sail on to Phoenix, which was a better harbour to spend winter in. And this is where we start learning from the negative example of the men on the boat.
So from this reading today what can we learn?
- Listen to God and seek his guidance and above all else obey him
- Sometimes we need to “ block out” the worldly advice of others and even ignore the majority vote and take matters into our own hands and pray. These actions will lead us back to number one above.
- John Ortberg has a great book called “ If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat” and it's all about our confidence in God. Negativity can be a killer but confidence can be the rocket fuel that we all need.
There is a lot of advice going on all around us today and it seems every day it changes. But sometimes the best thing is to shut it all down, find a quiet space and just sit. Listen to God and tell him about your day. Amen
13 May 2020
John 14 27-31
.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
I read an article yesterday in the newspapers that said that 25% of the people questioned said that they had “prayed for the first time”. All of these people said they did so because the believed in God. Most of them said that the prayers gave them Hope above everything else.
These words of Jesus in John chapter 14 were said just hours before he was going to be crucified. But what was in the forefront of his mind was those he was leaving behind. He was going to make sure that there would be others to look after his followers. He would not leave them “orphaned” and this message he was leaving behind was not from him but from his Father. He was giving them Hope. He was leaving them with Peace and that Peace is still with us today.
Damien Hirst the artist has painted a rainbow as well as a rainbow heart. Its seen as a sign of Peace. We think of Noah and the ark and the rainbow that he saw, And if you think about it we only see the rainbow after the rain has gone and there are brighter days ahead.
Yesterday was International Nurses day. Hirst wanted to thank the NHS staff for what they are doing all around the country. Today children are putting up rainbows on their windows waiting for better days when they can go back out with their friends and meet up with other members of their families, especially their grandparents.
As long as we have a Saviour we have hope.
12 May 2020
Proverbs 3 5-12
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.[a]
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
Honour the Lord with your wealth,
with the first fruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Just a spoonful of sugar
The meaning of the word proverb, according to the online dictionary is a short, well-known pithy saying, stating a general truth or piece of advice. I’m not sure that’s how I would describe the proverbs of the Old Testament but what I do know is that they give us rich medicinal advice coupled with some harsh realities.
I once heard someone sing this proverb to the tune of “ just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down” and afterwards when I thought about it, this all made perfect sense ( in a broad sense)
The psalmist is telling us that we should always put God first, and in every sense we will benefit by this action. The dangers are clear, don’t try and figure out everything on your own. Don’t assume you know it all, and above all else don’t resent God's discipline.
The benefits are clear, he will make our paths clear, keep us healthy in body and mind and our barns will be fit to burst with all the necessities in life. And why does He do this? Well just like the father who loves his child we are in a loving relationship that works two ways and does require us to knuckle down now and again. At the beginning I said a proverb contains the general truth or a piece of advice. Our parables are filled with Gods truth, his fruitfulness and his loving hand in our lives. Amen
11 May 2020
10 May 2020
09 May 2020
Acts 12 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
Peter’s miraculous escape from prison
12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. ‘Quick, get up!’ he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, ‘Put on your clothes and sandals.’ And Peter did so. ‘Wrap your cloak round you and follow me,’ the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.’
12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14 When she recognised Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’
15 ‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, ‘It must be his angel.’
16 But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. ‘Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,’ he said, and then he left for another place.
18 In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19 After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
Peter is going to be executed, so his friends thought. So they gathered in prayer. Then Peter's chains fall off and he turns up at this friends door. But they thought he must be an angel after all he should be dead. But behind that door they had all gathered to pray.
Finding peace during a struggle, is like trying to find calm in a hurricane. But just like there is calm in the eye of the hurricane, we can find peace and calm right in the middle of our struggles. Simply pray!
Tom Wright tells us that “Prayer works even when we mess up the words. Prayer works, even when you don’t know what to pray! When you don’t have the words to pray, you can pray in the Spirit, The Holy Spirit knows exactly what to pray for you and it works!
Prayer gives God free reign to do whatever it takes, to bring about not just your desired outcome, but His will in the situation, which works everything for your good!
That in itself is a miracle. And this story of Peter is yet another miracle all made possible through prayer. Even today God is working and changing lives so prayer in these darkest of days is a priority, it's your first resort not your last. Some people say “ I don’t know what to pray for. I don’t know how to pray” And if that’s the case you are not alone many people feel like that.
There is a great hymn that we sing in church
At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him King of glory now;
this the Father's pleasure, that we call him Lord,
who from the beginning was the mighty word.
These words ring out and remind us that we should pray that we should glorify his name and exactly who were are praying to. The Lord who from the beginning was the word
There's a story about a heart-broken little girl who began to kneel and pour out her heart to God in her local church. She did not know what to say. As she wept, she began to remember what her father had told her, "God knows your needs even before you pray, and he can answer when you don’t even know for what to ask." So she began to say her alphabet.
A concerned adult from that church came beside her and heard her sobbing and saying her ABC’s and inquired what exactly she was trying to do. The little girl told this caring adult, "I’m praying to God from my heart." But the adult answered, "It sounds to me more like you are saying the alphabet!"
"Yes," she said, "But God knows more about what I need than I do, and he can take all these letters and arrange them in just the right way to answer my prayer.
Lives were changed in the bible through prayer and all these years later lives are still being changed. So let us pray….
Father in heaven we come to you this day and we ask that you take the words from our heart and make sense of them and turn them into my prayer. I know you are an awesome God and you already know all my needs so today I ask for calm and confidence so that I can share this peace and this love that you give to us in abundance. Amen
08 May 2020
Acts 11 New International Version (NIV)
Peter Explains His Actions
11 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was.6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with[a]water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
It could be said that this is just a repeat of the previous chapter. I read somewhere if you see something repeated in the bible then we should take notice. In this reading this morning there is an important lesson to be learned. Our text shows how God changed the thinking of these Christians on a matter that was essential for the spread of the gospel. If the Gentiles had been required to adopt Jewish rituals and ceremonies to be saved, the gospel would not have spread around the Gentile world as it did, and it would be a different “gospel.” The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to include this story twice so that the Jewish believers especially would see that salvation is not a matter of adopting Jewish rituals, but rather of God saving people of every race through faith in Christ alone.
God had to change the thinking of His people and in just the same, sometimes, he needs to change the way we think. Sometimes the way we think, will stop people coming into our churches. It gives people the opportunity to label us as part of some exclusive club.
Verse 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
07 May 2020
Acts 10 verses 1-8 and then 17-23
Cornelius Calls for Peter
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.
The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
….17, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. 18 They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.
19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three[a] men are looking for you. 20 So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”
22 The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”23 Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”
27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
30 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. 32 Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.46 For they heard them speaking in tongues[b] and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
My very first General Assembly was a controversial one. There were two people going forward into the ministry and each had served a prison sentence. One for murder and one for fraud. In the small group of people I had to be with in the assembly there was certainly a fair bit of prejudice, each giving their own reason why these men should not be in Edinburgh that year.
Once again in the Bible we come across a story of opposites. In one corner we have Cornelius a centurion gentile and in the other corner Peter a Jewish apostle. This might be a story of Prejudice but God is about to bring these two parties together to teach us all a lesson.
It is said we all have a bit of prejudice in our selves, some say it’s a human disposition. We try and pigeon hole people into them, and us to show that we are not a part of their lives. We are all aware of our own prejudices and for most of us we try and work through them. Scripture and prayer are the best two antidotes to prejudice. God is the answer of course to all prejudice.
Thankfully, God works gradually and gently with us in spite of our many shortcomings and sins. He teaches us by putting us in uncomfortable situations, challenging us to be more like Jesus who befriended sinners and those that were prejudiced against.
This passage speaks for itself but the most important verses are verses 47 and 48 when Peter is talking about those originally against God
“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
So we are told that nothing can stand in the way of being baptized. John 3 v16 said that God so loved the world and that in itself should take away all prejudice from our hearts. So today in our prayers we should be praying for all our own prejudices and those that destroy the world that we are living in. A hymn also that brings this to mind is
Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There's power in the blood, power in the blood
Would you o'er evil a victory win?
There's wonderful power in the blood
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb
Would you be free from your passion and pride
There's power in the blood, power in the blood
Come for a cleansing to Calvary's tide
There's wonderful power in the blood
Let us pray
Heavenly Father, it has been a strange time for us as we come into another week of lockdown – a time when we have been prevented from meeting Sunday by Sunday to listen to your Word and to have fellowship with our brothers and sisters. We have also been restricted in our ability to travel to places near and far, in our socialising with family and friends, and in our visits to parks and restaurants. We confess Father that we miss these important times and pleasures in our lives, but we remember our Brothers and Sisters in the Faith, in countries where the regime is harsh, who have endured and been denied so much more than we have because of their faith and trust in You. We pray that you will be close to them at this time. We give you thanks Father that it was always Your plan that when Jesus, your Son, gave His life on the Cross it was not only for the Jew but it was for the peoples of all Nations, then, now and in the future. We know that this was a lesson that Peter needed to understand – and so we give you thanks that because of him and the other apostles that the Gospel was preached throughout the world. Thank you for making us part of your plan – Amen.
06 May 2020
Acts 9 from verse 19
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
26 When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Hellenistic Jews,[a] but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
One of the things that I think about is “ will the church ever be the same?” after the lockdown is over. Will the changes be too big to cope with. In fact it could be that over a period we will slip into the new norm as if it never happened.
Things according to Luke in the book of Acts are changing constantly. Stephen is stoned to death, Philip is converted and everyone is on the move. Meanwhile there appears to be a madman called Saul who stirring up trouble. No sooner is he doing that when we find him in verse
20 preaching “ that Jesus is the Son of God”. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?
So maybe this latest change is too much to swallow by the believers in Christ. One thing that has dawned on me since the lockdown is that God still wants us to serve Him and his church in whatever situation we find ourselves in and whatever changes we have made.
Paul teaches us that we must deepen our roots and prepare for the big comeback for it will be even more important to bear witness to Christ the King, than were before. I think there will be people that will tell us that the church has no priority over other outlets so we should be ready and face any opposition or rejection. And be like Barnabus who took Saul under his wing and convinced others confidently and without question. And as I think of these things I am immediately drawn to the Getty’s hymn
O Church Arise
O church, arise and put your armour on;
Hear the call of Christ our captain;
For now the weak can say that they are strong
In the strength that God has given.
With shield of faith and belt of truth
We'll stand against the devil's lies;
An army bold whose battle cry is "Love!"
Reaching out to those in darkness.
Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valour.
When faced with trials on every side,
We know the outcome is secure;
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations.
05 May 2020
9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 6 ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’
7 The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus, there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’
‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered.
11 The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’
13 ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord – Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptised, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
The chip van man
I think it was in 1992 that there was the Billy Graham Campaign in Scotland. I volunteered to work in the campaign and did so, with the great St Paul's Parish stalwart Moira MacAllan. I would meet Moira straight from work and we would go for a bag of chips at one of the many food vendors that were around the football stadium. I always remember the man in the chip van telling us how he was “raking it in” with all us folks going to see Bill. I think we would call this man a real Glasgow character both in looks and in his choice of language. For a few nights that week we tried hard not to listen to him as I bought my roll and chips. On the last night of the campaign the caravan was not there and after it was all over Moira and I saw him walking down the road with his daughter and in case you never guessed, he was carrying one of the bibles given out when you walked onto the grass at Billy’s invitation.
The conversion of Paul could fill more books that are in the biggest library the world has to offer. Its all been said in print and will continue to do so for many many years to come. But to me the conversion of Saul tells us that God is able to convert the unlikeliest of people. The bible tells us this and history shows us. Just look at people like John Newton slave trader and convert who told us “ I once was blind and now I see” (was he telling us about Paul?)
Another thing this reading tells us is that it’s not down to the will of man to seek conversion (or even avoid conversion). I’m sure conversion was the last thing on Saul’s agenda up to a point. All of this is down to the sovereign power of God and no one can escape from that.
Over the past two thousand years, who knows how many people have been converted no one can be sure. But there is one sure thing and that is people are not converted on their merit and what they have done but they are converted through the grace of God and the fellowship that comes from knowing Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
The result then is a conversion from spiritual blindness to spiritual sight.
04 May 2020
Acts 8 reading from verse 26
Philip and the Ethiopian
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.
An unusual baptism?
I know that as a child I was “ christened” as they called it then, when I was around three months old. But it's only when both of my parents died that I found a document that said I was “ christened" in Ward 4 of Ruchill Hospital at 02:40 am by the Rev John Macnaughton of St Brides Parish Church Rosevale Street Partick. (All I know is that I had contracted a bad case of Dysentery).
An unusual baptism you could say. As with the story of Philip, we are about to witness an unusual baptism. The man in question is a eunuch and Philip finds him sitting reading Isaiah the prophet.
The man asks Philip to explain the scripture that he is reading and Philip then tells him the good news about Jesus Christ. We are told they saw some water and the eunuch was baptized by Philip. No sooner had that happened when Philip is spirited away and the eunuch never saw him again. Philip reappears in other towns until he reaches Caesarea.
Philip had validation; he was guided at all times by the Holy Spirit. He had explanation. His revealing of the scriptures and sharing the good news led to the salvation of the man he met. The celebration was in the man being baptized.
Philip’s story gives us a prime example of how the gospel smashes through barriers - not only geographical but, more importantly, barriers of racial pride and prejudice, religion, nationalism, and any other barrier that people erect to keep people who are different out of the picture. And all these years later we must learn from the early church as we move forward on our journey of life. Amen
03 May 2020
Acts 8 using Eugene Peterson “The Message” translation.
Saul was right there, congratulating the killers.
8 1-2 That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day!
3-8 And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail. Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus. Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah. When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God’s action, they hung on his every word. Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way. And what joy in the city!
9-11 Previous to Philip’s arrival, a certain Simon had practiced magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry. He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him “the Great Wizard.” He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him.
12-13 But when Philip came to town announcing the news of God’s kingdom and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, they forgot Simon and were baptized, becoming believers right and left! Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. From that moment he was like Philip’s shadow, so fascinated with all the God-signs and miracles that he wouldn’t leave Philip’s side.
14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.
18-19 When Simon saw that the apostles by merely laying on hands conferred the Spirit, he pulled out his money, excited, and said, “Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price!”
20-23 Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable—trying to buy God’s gift! You’ll never be part of what God is doing by striking bargains and offering bribes. Change your ways—and now! Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money. I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust.”
24 “Oh!” said Simon, “pray for me! Pray to the Master that nothing like that will ever happen to me!”
25 And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God’s salvation, preaching in every Samaritan town they passed through on their return to Jerusalem.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church
Continuing with the many contrasts that Acts brings to us. Stephen has just been stoned to death. A martyr in the true sense of the word. While it’s a time to mourn for the disciples, perhaps even regroup and consider their options, there’s a guy called Saul who is wreaking havoc and persecuting all the believers. Dragging them from their homes and putting them in Jail. Two figures come into the story. First of all there is Simon who Peterson calls a magician. He has everyone in the grip of his hands as he entertains them with his tricks of the trade. The second character is Philip. He comes proclaiming the glory of the Messiah and in doing so heals the sick and cures the lame.
Another contrast here. One man “performs” with his sleight of hand tricks and sorcery. The other is filled with the Holy Spirit and wins over the crowds to a more permanent solution to their lives.
Simon is so enthralled by what Philip has and what he is doing…. he wants to buy it! But the glory of God cannot be bought it has to be lived. It has to be a way of life not a performance. It cannot be a bargaining tool in our approach to God. Simon asks for prayer and hopes that he can live a different life. Meanwhile the disciples scatter to spread the message of Gods salvation.
Maybe you have tried to make a deal with God at some point in your life. I know I have. Maybe, like me, you have been impressed with what other churches have to offer in terms of gizmos and different forms of worship. But the real job of the church (I think) is to spread the word of God and that includes outside the four walls of the church. The last verse of our reading “And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God’s salvation,”
That’s how the church will survive today by being reminded of the relentless journeys of the disciples and their mission to spread the word of God and increase their flock.
This morning let us pray for the church as it is today. In lockdown, with sanctuaries lying empty. But the family of God working on the outside using every tool in the box to continue fellowship and to fuel our hearts through the scripture and keep us amazed in His holy presence.
02 May 2020
Acts Chapter 7
Stephen is being held as he makes a very passionate speech. We pick up that speech from verse 48
48 The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’[l]
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
When the world gives its worst Christians show their best
Stephen, by accepting Jesus Christ and offering a new covenant is found to be guilty of blaspheming God, Moses the law and the temple. These were considered to be the big four so they brought him to trial before the council. Stephen is able to defend himself confidently and not only that he indicts Israel for the execution of the Messiah.
Someone once said “ when the world gives its worst, the Christian shows their best” So we read that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and all his accusers could do was gnash their teeth, they were speechless in their rage. It’s a good thing to point out here the comparison between the two. Stephen, he was calm and serene and they were grinding their teeth. Then Stephen looked up to heaven. There’s a lesson there. When things get tough…..look up.
Stephen draws their attention” behold” he says “ I see the heavens open and the son of man standing by the right hand of God” And that was the last straw. They dragged him away and stoned him.
And just at that point something interesting happens “Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul”. Some say that this showed that Paul was the ringleader and he was the one heading up all the charges.
And while they stoned Stephen “ he kneeled down”. He somehow got himself in the praying position and he cried aloud “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
6Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
I have loved learning more and more about Stephen In this chapter. In the arena of adversity he remained calm. When they looked down on him, he looked up. When they raged and hurled stones, Stephen prayed.
Augustine said “ The church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen.
Willie Barclay said, “Saul would never forget the way Stephen had died. The blood of the martyrs had begun to be the seed of the Church” Amen
01 May 2020
Acts 6 from verse 8
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
30 June 2020
Genesis 6 New International Version (NIV)
Wickedness in the World
6 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.
The big boat
We all know the story of Noah. The other day as it was pelting down in rain there was a man round the corner from where we live and in the middle of all this rain he was fixing a boat outside his house. I immediately thought “ I wonder what he knows?”
Quite a few years ago, I heard about a man who set out to build his own sailboat in his driveway. He worked diligently on the boat. He worked after hours when he was off work from his day job and most weekends. After several months, the boat began to take shape. People in the area begin to take interest in the sailboat and in their neighbour who had proven to be quite the craftsman.
All went well, until one day, someone asked him how he was going to get the boat to the sea. The poor man had never given a thought about how he planned to get his prize sailboat to the coast. His boat was too big to be moved down a public street. The backyard shipbuilder had thought about everything, except this! Folks in the community thought it rather humorous that a man would go to all the trouble to build a sailboat and never stop to think of how he was going to transport it to the water.
It looked as if the sailboat would never get the opportunity to prove itself seaworthy...that is, until
the right people happened to be watching the local news, telling of the man's predicament. Someone in the Navy heard about the man's problem and offered to help. The Navy contacted the man and through a training exercise they offered to airlift the boat with one of their giant helicopters.
The story made big news! Everyone turned out to see the boat lowered into the water. People cheered and applauded, as the captain took the wheel for the first time.
We all know the story of Noah. He, too, built a boat . And just like the man in the story before us, Noah's boat was nowhere near the water...but differently than our first story, God would bring the water to Noah. That would be a story for the evening news, wouldn't it?
Sometimes when we cant take things to God he can come to us, unlike the guy in the story we don’t need the local news or a helicopter all we need is prayer. God knew all about the ark, its purpose,its dimensions he may even have know about it weaknesses. And that , too, is the same with us. When we bring our prayers to him, he knows us, he’s been watching us and he is waiting for us to get it off our chests and feel better.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer
29 June 2020
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 New International Version (NIV)
9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the need for them to love one another. The apostle Paul writes to them about loving one another but tells them that he does not need to write to them about it because they have been taught by God. These Christians understood that loving one another was a critical characteristic. If we do not love one another, then we are not disciples of Jesus. Not only were they loving each other, they were loving Christians all throughout the region of Macedonia. But there are ways that we show love to each other that we may be neglecting. Sometimes we can have a shallow picture of what it looks like to love one another. Since Paul has no need to write about all the reasons why the Thessalonians need to love each other, since they are doing this already, Paul teaches them some deeper applications of what it looks like to love each other.
A different kind of touch love
Jesus said that the world would know that we are disciples of Jesus because of how we love one another. What this means is that how we live our lives Monday through Saturday has an impact on what people think about Jesus and about us. Loving one another is not something that only happens when you are at church. What we do when we are at home has an impact to the world. What we do while at work sends a message to other people. What we do when we are engaged in our hobbies and chores will say something to the world around us. Pauls ends by saying that what we do each day ,should win us the respect of outsiders. This is a different kind of tough love. It’s a big ask, it’s a hard ask but we are told that it is an essential ask for us to live our our lives as Christians. Let us Pray
Father in heaven you know us by the hairs on our head, you know how we appear in public as well as in how we appear to you. Help us to truly love each other and to show others our ability to show grace and to follow your Word and your ways. Amen
28 June 2020
40 years today
13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
Today we celebrate 40 years of being married. On this day in 1980 on what should have been a beautiful day, it poured. There was a leak in the church roof, the organ blew up. . We sang “ Love divine” in direct competition to the flower girl who decided to sing “ insy winsy spider” and then we had a reading from 1stCorinthians.We couldn’t take photographs outside because of the storm and there was a bus crash on the way to The Kessington Halls for the reception. On the plus side we,ve lasted 40 years.
In all those years I do not know how many times I have read and heard 1stCorinthians 13. At times I have thought it was a wonderful reading and there have been other times when I have thought “ why do we have that at weddings?”
We thought this year we would have a big celebration but of course the pandemic put paid to that, people said just delay it while other said “ wait till 2021. But in the sale of things a party is not important.
Looking at Petersons translation there are 5 lines that are relevant in a relationship and the same 5 lines are for anyone who is struggling whether in the pandemic or whether its just life in general.
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keep going to the end.
Have we all done this in life? Have I done that over the past forty years? I think you’ll have to ask someone else that.
27 June 2020
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 harbor 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.
Live Well, Live Wisely
Have you ever thought about what makes a person wise?
Often we have these ideas of what makes someone wise. Perhaps it’s someone that wears glasses. Or, someone with gray hair. Perhaps we think of owls when we think of someone who is wise. Maybe someone with a lot of degrees on his or her wall. Or, someone who likes to read a lot. Now, let me ask, “ do you think you are wise?”
The reading tells us that there is two types of wisdom. One is what I am calling, “human wisdom”. Trying to live wisely in the way we talk, sometimes twisting the words to make us look wiser than we actually are. We might even come across as cunning and using that as wisdom to fool others or look better than others. To benefit ourselves.
The other wisdom is what I am calling “ real wisdom” and the wisdom that comes through God. Leading a better Christ like life in dealing with others and at all times. Showing Christ like qualities and be reasoinable, gentle and showing mercy and grace to others.
Its only when we are displaying real wisdom and the wisdom of Christ, will we reap the true benefits of living a God filled life. Amen
26 June 2020
Luke 18 New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Persistent Widow
18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
The most important thing about this reading is in the opening line and “that they should always pray and never give up”. Sometimes we may feel our prayers are futile and empty, we might hear ourselves say “ here we go again the same old prayer”. You might even think to yourself “ why do I bother?”. Someone once told me that praying was like breathing. Its something we have to do to live, every breath is important no matter how big or small. In order to live we have to breath, in order to live a Christian life we have to pray too. No matter how little or how often, how eloquent or how simple, God hears our prayers and gives us the necessary faith to carry on. The last verse in this reading asks us “ when the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”….Only time will tell. Amen
25 June 2020
The Woman at the Well
Jesus realized that the Pharisees were keeping count of the baptisms that he and John performed (although his disciples, not Jesus, did the actual baptizing). They had posted the score that Jesus was ahead, turning him and John into rivals in the eyes of the people. So Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.
To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
“I have no husband,” she said.
“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshipped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.
Come and see a man
Today is one of my favourites days of the year, so I thought I would be a bit self indulgent and go back to my favourite story in the bible and that is “the woman at the well”. It’s a great story of comparisons. Here is a woman who is too ashamed to be seen with her peer group so she fetches water when the sun is at its peak. This woman is incomplete as she has had so many husbands and she sounds tired and weary as she meets this strange Jewish man who dares to speak to her. But before we can feel sorry for her everything is about to change. She challenges Jesus and he in turn challenges her, offering her water that will take away all her thirst for ever! And this woman who was afraid to mix with the public suddenly throws herself into the town and tells everyone “ come and see a man who knew all about the things I did and who knows me inside out. Jesus changed her life and is still changing lives. And I am guessing “ change “ is not a strong enough word and “ transformed” is a much better word and closer to the real thing.
Favourite story? And now a favourite hymn and the words are so appropriate for our story in Matthew today
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene
And wonder how He could love me
A sinner condemned, unclean
How marvellous, how wonderful
And my song will ever be
How marvellous, how wonderful
Is my Saviour's love for me
He took my sins and my sorrows
He made them his very own
He bore the burden to Calvary
He suffered and died for me
How marvellous, how wonderful
And my song shall ever be
How marvellous, how wonderful
Is my Saviour's love
Forever I will sing Your praise
Jesus, Risen King
Oh my God I stand amazed that You loved me
When with ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see
It will be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me
How marvellous, how wonderful
And my song shall ever be
How marvellous, how wonderful
Is my Saviour's love
How marvellous, how wonderful
And my song shall ever be
How marvellous, how wonderful
Is my Saviour's love for me
24 June 2020
Matthew 10:5-23 The Message (MSG)
5-8 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
“Don’t begin by travelling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighbourhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
9-10 “Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.
11 “When you enter a town or village, don’t insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.
12-15 “When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now.
16 “Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.
17-20 “Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favour, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.
21-23 “When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.
The little Commission
We’ve all probably read this reading before at some stage or even heard it in our churches. Learned people call it the “little commission” or the “mission discourse’ but for the purposes of today let's concentrate on the last few lines of this reading
“It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.”
I remember a famous quote by Terry Wogan when he said: “ if you live by your numbers you can die by your numbers”. He was talking about audience figures. Many Churches today can be obsessed with with “ bums on seats “ ( apologies) but the trick is survival. Especially as we move out of this pandemic. We can become impatient.
We all have a job to do but the lesson in Matthew 10 is quite clear. There is to be no drama, no lots of equipment and no luxury. Should you knock on a door and there is no response don’t make a scene cause they are no longer your concern just move on.
The important thing today is that we are presenting “ the living God” ( verse 21) and not a false idol and if there is hate, don’t give up! And when words fail you don’t worry, the right words will come.
If we do what it says on the packet then the cake we are baking will be a good one. If we read the map carefully we will get to where we are intended and if we adhere to the scriptures and the word of God we shall share in eternal life. Don’t live by the numbers, live by The Book. Amen
23 June 2020
To the Church in Smyrna
“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
He’s our best friend?
We are told that these are the words of the “ risen saviour” and he walks in the midst of his church, knowing every detail and situation that there is too know. But he comes to us in love and wants his people to be faithful and unafraid. There are thousands of books available to explain Revelations but this morning from this short reading we are made aware that God sees our pain and our poverty as well as our wealth. He is aware of the hypocrisy of some who are pretending, and warns us that the pain will not last for ever and that victory will follow.
He knows us better than we know ourselves.
Isn't it amazing that even down to the last book of the Bible there is still so much to be gleaned? People say not all of the Bible is relevant and some of it is simple folklore. Let's not worry about those types of people, for they don’t know the scriptures as we know them and God knows us.
Think of your best friend in the whole world. Do you know them? Do you really know them? Do you even know the hairs on their head? That’s how well God knows us and let's rejoice in that knowledge today that we have a friend and a saviour in Christ the King. Amen
22 June 2020
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.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
This prayer from the Psalmist and we read that he is suffering.
” For I am faint heal me, my bones are in agony and my soul is in deep anguish”.
The plea is clear “Turn Lord and deliver me, save me because of your unfailing love”. This person is clearly in trouble what my mother would call “ a poor soul” the wording of the Psalm suggests near death and certainly a painful emotional experience
But it’s the Lord he turns to, he cries out five times “ O Lord” and asks for the Lord to return as he assumes he has been left alone. The Psalmist does not ask for justice for his predicament he asks for this unfailing love that he knows exists and because of this he knows he can confidently say
“The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.”
Let's make our prayer today a prayer of thanksgiving for God's unfailing love. Let's pray for his mercy and the acceptance of our prayer today and for always. Amen
21 June 2020
Genesis 21 verses 8-21
Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away
8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[b]will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes.16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.
17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
Hagar and Ishmael
I love the old testament and the stories that are there. Sarah saw Isaac as their son and heir (and not Ishmael), so Hagar and her son were sent away. But God promised Abraham that he would look after both sons and just when Hagar thought her son would die God “ opened her eyes” and she saw a well of water. Because they drank from it we read that God was with the boy while he grew up.
Another story where water is mentioned and it is in this water that life is promised and given. Throughout the Bible water is mentioned many times and The Holy Spirit is never far away. Also, an important part of this text is God's promise to Abraham that though Isaac is the principal heir, God will not leave Ishmael and his mother in the lurch. They, too, will receive a blessing by becoming a great nation. And all because of God's faithfulness to the promise made to Abraham.
Today the promises and the faithfulness of God is still there and there for all of us to enjoy. Likewise it's up to us to enjoy God and keep our promises to Him and our faithfulness in His endless love. Amen
20 June 2020
19 June 2020
18 June 2020
17 June 2020
16 June 2020
15 June 2020
1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 New International Version (NIV)
So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labours might have been in vain.
Why Me Lord?
Over the past few weeks we have been talking about change. The changes that may be necessary to allow us all to meet up again as a church of God. In his reading Paul warns about people being “ unsettled by trials” and reminds the Thessalonians church that these trials were prophesied.
Sometimes change brings about confusion in the life of a Christian and we ask ourselves “ why me Lord” so instead of that surely our prayer should be “ what we really need are answers” and for that problem the solution lies in the Bible and in our prayers
Paul was trying to encourage the Thessalonians Church as well as establish it and trying to get people to work through their afflictions i.e. their hurdles. Today we should be praying for our Church leaders as they go about trying to establish the change that is required for us in this new arena we are about to enter. But at the same time we need to remind ourselves that Christ is our King and in Him we can find the answers and the grace and the rest when we need it. Amen
14 June 2020
Matthew 9:35-10:23 New International Version (NIV)
The Workers Are Few
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
10 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting.13 if the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
In reading this morning's reading it is clear that God has chosen us to tell the good news to everybody. We should answer his call as we have received his grace and Salvation. Jesus is giving the disciples and us practical advice and a step-by-step guide on what we should do.
We are not perfect and not ready. We have the authority from Jesus but nothing is guaranteed. We should show and tell that God is the King but many will reject our offers and services. Still we have to respect that and trust in God’s faithfulness and love. That is all God wants from us: faithful service. And so this morning a few questions for us to ponder and pray and about
With whom are you willing to share your faith story? What kind of preparation do you feel that you need to share your faith with others?
And finally what part of Jesus’ instruction is hard for you to swallow?
13 June 2020
Mark 7:1-13 New International Version (NIV)
That Which Defiles
7 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
Make sure your heart is in the right place.
The Pharisees are shocked when they see the disciples eating food. They are not doing it the traditional way or the way of the rulebook. They should have given their hands a ceremonial wash. In our church today (and I mean the church in general) people of a certain age like things to be done traditionally. Whether that is in the singing of the hymns or the reading of a bible or even the preaching of the word, some people like it done the old way.
The Pharisees were devoted to preserving the old law, it was a tradition. Tradition was used to apply the law, to explain the law and to interpret the law. But it’s a known fact that traditions get older as the years go by and they become more distant. Jesus’ rebuke was based on their wrongful emphasis on the human tradition above The Word of God. And for us, as a church, we need to remember this.
My mother had a great familiar phrase “ your hearts in the right place” it was usually to point out that in one way you were wrong, but on the other hand you were almost right. So we need to ask ourselves today “ are our hearts in the right place”. Do we place tradition over what's right in God's eyes? Something for us all to think about and pray about. Amen
12 June 2020
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he, who made us, and we are his [a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
The world is changing on a daily basis, some good and some questionable. In preparation for today I look to the lectionary and see readings from Psalms, Exodus and Acts. So I thought I would share Acts today but keep on getting drawn to Psalm 100 noted above.
In my head I could hear the people of my church singing Psalm 100 especially during the Communion Service
O enter his gates with praise
Approach with joy His courts unto
Praise Lord and bless his name always
For it is seemly so to do
And so today is Friday, darker days behind us and there is some light ahead as things begin to be relaxed. And so our thoughts turn to our church building and our church family as a process may begin to open our doors in the future. I think today is a good day to take stock, a great day to Thank God for bringing us so far and as the tune of the Old Psalm 100 is ringing in our ears let’s take a look at a modern translation of Psalm 100
On your feet now—applaud God!
Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn’t make him.
We’re his people, his well-tended sheep.
Enter with the password: “Thank you!”
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.
For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
And so today folks just enjoy God, Praise God, thank God and enjoy God and as the Psalm says, “ for it is seemly so to do” Amen
11 June 2020
Hebrews 3:1-6 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
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.
We read today that Jesus is greater than Moses. To understand this, you must realize that for the Jews, there was no greater leader than Moses. For them, he was the greatest man in history. God had miraculously preserved Moses’ life as a little baby. God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush and sent him to deliver His people from 400 years of bondage in Egypt. God used Moses to bring the plagues on Egypt and to part the Red Sea for the deliverance of the Jews. He struck the rock in the wilderness to provide water. He went up on the mountain to commune face to face with God and receive the Ten Commandments. God gave Moses the elaborate instructions for the Tabernacle. Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, showing Israel how to live before God.
Eugene Peterson titles this passage ” The centrepiece of All we believe” and that’s a great more modern way to put it. Here is his translation :
“So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centrepiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. Moses was also faithful, but Jesus gets far more honour. A builder is more valuable than a building any day. Every house has a builder, but the Builder behind them all is God. Moses did a good job in God’s house, but it was all servant work, getting things ready for what was to come. Christ as Son is in charge of the house.”
And yet again words that we need to take to heart as we go through these days of the pandemic and we may need to talk about changing the way we worship or how we will worship. Despite all our fears and opinions the last word has to go to Paul. Jesus has to get all the honour, we don’t have to worry about the building because God is the builder. Christ is in charge of the House not a committee or ambitious men.
10 June 2020
John 14:25-26 New International Version
25 ‘All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Staying with the themes of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit. We read here of Jesus and his final discourse. Soon he would not be with his followers physically so he is comforting his friends by telling them that help will be on hand. The Holy Spirit will represent Christ after he has gone and his support will be infallible.
Some people find it difficult to grasp what The Holy Spirit means in a Christian life but the fact that Jesus is telling us that the Father is sending The Holy Spirit in his name means it can be trusted. The disciples can fully trust the Helper. They can rely in all circumstances on the Spirit to lead, guide, and teach them. All this applies to us today. In our search for truth, the Spirit and the Word guide us. He will not lead us astray. All that He teaches will be in harmony with the Word of God. Tom Wright reminds us that
“This presence of the Spirit assures the progress of Christ's mission and the integrity of the message. The Spirit will teach them all things and bring the truth to their remembrance. The disciples can take great comfort from the presence of the Spirit. We are comforted and taught by that same presence today. Amen
09 June 2020
1 Corinthians 12:4-13 The Message (MSG)
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful: wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits and tongues, interpretation of tongues.
All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.
You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.
Last week we saw the horror of George Floyd and what followed on from that. We also saw an American President stand holding a bible in front of a church. When I saw this on TV my simple thought was “ what is God thinking when he sees this”. When the president posed in front of that Church awkwardly holding a bible, I imagined Jesus standing beside him, arms folded, head down nodding his head in disappointment.
Paul is telling the people of Corinth that all of their gifts come through Gods Spirit. As we read “God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is”
So let's ask ourselves this today. What are your gifts? Do we use them wisely? And let's have a look at Eugene Petersons closing in this reading
“Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.”
And yet again the relevance of a reading, comes screaming into our lives today as we see the violence and the carnage on the streets of America at the moment. Let's hope that enough people can use their God-given, spirit-filled talents and gifts to make changes and show that all lives matter. Amen
08 June 2020
1 Corinthians 12:1-3 The Message (MSG)
12 1-3 What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phoney god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say “Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say “Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.
We live in a society where the younger generation all follow each other in most things that they do. Not so much peer pressure but more doing things because “ everybody else is doing it”
Paul is talking to people like that, except they have stopped doing it and are now following Christ. This passage is a contrast between the Corinthians former and current lives with Christ. Before, as pagans they were misled to worship speechless idols but now their spirit filled lives lead them to a different conversation. Instead of damnation they now talk about “Jesus is Lord!” In this way, Paul reminds his Corinthian followers that the primary work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in Jesus Christ.
It is always better for us to be “ informed and knowledgeable” and remember the ways of our own lives in Christ. And yes, if it helps compare it to what we were before finding our Faith. Yesterday we read about The Great Commission and in order to carry that out we have to think about using that Spirit to work in our lives. Amen
07 June 2020
The great commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
As you can see this passage is commonly known as The Great Commissison. The arrest and crucifixion of Jesus was a deeply disorienting experience for his followers, dashing their hopes and dreams they all shared. They had lost one they loved and admired to a brutal execution. To see Jesus alive after his death, must have been astonishing. Nothing in their history or Jewish faith had prepared them for what was happening and they were struggling.
We all struggle to comprehend the astonishing work of God in Christ. Having reunited with Jesus in Galilee, the disciples' response is somewhat peculiar. They see Jesus and we read that they worshipped him . This part we understand; it makes sense given the circumstances of Jesus' resurrection and the recent events. But there is also doubt. Worship and doubt don’t exactly go together but you can forgive them for being like this because nothing was making sense.
Jesus' parting words here are commonly known as the Great Commission. We sometimes here this on special Sundays where mission is being talked and preached about but having said that it is the basis of who we are and what we are as a church.
There are four "alls" in this text: Jesus has all authority given to him, we are to make disciples of all nations, we are to teach that we should obey all that he commanded during his earthly life, and the promise that closes is that he will be with us always. These four "alls" are the central them of the gospel of Matthew, but it also one of the greatest “ toolkits” that we can have as a Christian to explain our role and purpose on this earth.
“And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Amen
06 June 2020
John 14:15-17 (NIV)
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you.
Someone asked me about “ words for life” and very politely asked what “ I was hoping to achieve”. The simple answer is not a lot. My original intention was and still is that its an opportunity first thing in the morning to be encouraged by words found within the scriptures. And it's with that in mind, that the reading today is intending to encourage all of the disciples living at the time of John and alive today.
These words were spoken just hours before the greatest event in world history- the greatest act of love in history - namely the death of the son of God. He died in the place of sinners so that everyone who receives him and believes in him will be forgiven and enjoy eternal life.
John's reading is to “ the sheep” the eleven precious apostles who at that moment are confused and fearful and in need of encouragement. This is what Jesus did for them, and can do for you and for everyone who believes in his name. The message is clear. When he dies, he will live again. He and the father and the holy spirit will come to us and be with us forever and never leave us. No matter where we are and what is happening to us.
When I read today's reading it took me back to The Billy Graham Crusade and Bryn Haworth who sang a song that is now a familiar hymn in our churches.
What kind of love is this
That gave itself for me
I am the guilty one
Yet I go free
What kind of love is this
A love I never know
I didn't even know How name
What kind of love is this
What kind of Man is this
That died in agony
He Who had done no wrong
Was crucified for me
What kind of Man is this
He laid aside His throne
That I may know
The love of God
Eugene Peterson translates today's reading by telling us “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you! Amen to that.
05 June 2020
2 Timothy 1:12-14 (NIVUK)
12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
Fight the good fight but Guard the good deposit!
By the time Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, the young pastor had been ministering to the church at Ephesus for four years, and it had been almost that long since he had received his first letter from Paul. Timothy had been a faithful servant to Paul since he had left home with the apostle more than a decade earlier. Since then, Timothy had ministered alongside Paul for the duration of both the second and third missionary journeys, in places such as Troas, Philippi, and Corinth.
Paul wrote 2 Timothy from a dark and damp Roman prison cell, just before his death in AD 67. With the residents of Rome in an uproar, Christians became a convenient target for Nero, who used believers as scapegoats for his city’s own lack of preparedness. Paul was one of those caught up in this persecution and was beheaded by Roman officials soon after writing this letter. This letter offers a picture of Paul at the end of his ministry, just before his death. You could say that this is the final instruction from the old Paul to the younger Timothy
You could also say that this is the final piece of the evidence that the Younger Timothy requires to carry out his ministry and it is still sound advice for us today.
It is telling us that we should not be embarrassed to speak up on behalf of God because he will give us stamina and fortitude as well as confidence and patience. The evidence is clear; now that Jesus has died for us on Calvary we have the grace to carry on and through the Holy Spirit we should feel entitled to spread the word of God.
Paul finishes this part of the reading by saying “ This is the message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher. It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.
Today we should pray that we have the confidence of Paul, the wisdom and the doctrine through the Holy Spirit and as Pauls says,
“But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end” Amen
04 June 2020
Thursday 4th June
2 Timothy 1:8-12 - (NIVUK)
8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
Are you a cracked pot?
Following on with the theme of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit, this second letter to Timothy is to remind him that he has to guard the truth that has been entrusted to him by the Holy Spirit. It is a cautious reminder to us never to be ashamed of what we have done or for that matter our love for our Saviour.
We are reminded that we all have a purpose even through our own suffering and shame, God still sweeps us up into his arms loving us for what we are, what we have achieved and the service we give. Even if that service is big or small…we are loved. And do you know? The best way to illustrate this love is to share a story with you which is an old folklore from India (stick with it friends it’s a good one!)
A water bearer in India had two large pots, hung on each end of a pole, which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house; the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "Why?" asked the bearer? "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaw, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry, and said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up the hill, the cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Every day while we walked back from the stream, you watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, my master would not have this beauty to grace his house."
Each of us has our own unique flaws. We are all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Father's table. As we seek to minister together, and as God calls you to the tasks he has appointed for you, don't be afraid of your flaws. Go on boldly, knowing that in our weakness we find His strength. You, too, can bring beauty to His pathway!
I know there are areas of your life that make you unhappy today. The good news is that He can and will still use you in spite of them! We are all just a bunch of cracked pots, but that is the kind He uses for His glory. Bring the things that burden you today and let Him take care of them. Amen
03 June 2020
John 7:37-39 (NIVUK)
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Down to the river to pray
The one thing I miss with the current lockdown is water. And by that I mean the sea or a loch or even a river. We love to drive to famous haunts with our books and sit and read beside “ still waters”. For me it’s a place to relax, to draw inspiration and find some peace in this world.
This festival mentioned in the scripture was a festival of special services prayers and holiday meals and it would have been a joyous and popular occasion. Our text today, takes place on the last day of the festival. It is thought that on such a day the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher, then carry it back to the temple and pour it into a silver bowl next to the altar, accompanied by musicians and choirs.
It is significant that on the last day of this festival, in which water is an important symbol, Jesus declares, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)” (Translation from The Message)
This is similar to what he says to the Samaritan woman in chapter 4: “those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (4:14).
You see it’s all about the Spirit, and that’s why this text comes to us in the week of Pentecost. The water and the Spirit seem to be everywhere. For example in John, when Jesus tells Nicodemus that “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (3:5). Again In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, living water is the symbol of the revelation of God in Christ, which satisfies all spiritual thirst.
Today, even if we can't get to a beach or a loch we are still able to “ draw water” from the scriptures. The water that takes away our thirst and will become in us, a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. Amen
02 June 2020
Romans 8:26-28 The Message (MSG)
26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Here we are again
I realise I am going on about this all the time but as these readings come up every day onto my computer I just keep thinking “ here we are again” a daily dose of what we need, the medicine for the day and a wee solution to our current problems. It's all so appropriate and of course that’s no accident.
Romans 8 tells us that those who are with Christ are more than conquerors. Those who are with God should not fear anything else of the world because God is greater than all things. He who gave his only Son in order to save all humans will surely give those (who have accepted) Christ great things.
But? (There’s always a but isn’t there?) But what if you find some day your glass is half empty? Your bounce has gone. And you have no words in you to pray. Paul’s words are a comfort to us all in this situation. Eugene Peterson's translation delivers it in simpler common terms “He does our praying in and for us, making prayers out of our wordless sighs and our aching groans”. And you know, that happens to us all in one way or another. When we are exhausted, when we are flat and the words just don't come and we feel helpless hopeless and prayer less.
What do I do? Well in times like that I just bring to mind a favourite hymn that I know is uplifting, reassuring, inspirational and yes, magical cause it does the trick. I say the words in my head and make it my prayer for that moment in time.
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene
A sinner, condemned, unclean
Singing, how marvellous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be
How marvellous and how wonderful!
Is my Saviour's love for me!
He took my sins and my sorrows
And He made them His very own
And bore the burden to Calvary
And suffered and died alone
Singing, how marvellous! How wonderful!
And my song shall ever be
How marvellous and how wonderful!
Is my Saviour's love for me!
01 June 2020
Romans 8:18-25 New International Version (NIV)
Present Suffering and Future Glory
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
This is the designated reading for today and when I look at what some people have had to say about this passage, it is daunting for me to just jot down a few meaningful words that will mean anything let alone give you some inspiration. Buts it’s not right to avoid a reading and move onto something easier to take in just because its easier.
Some of us reading this will be of a certain age when each day brings a new twinge or some new aches and pains. This letter from Paul to the Romans, to me, is saying that all our aches and pains, all our disabilities and illnesses will one day disappear. And all of this will come about, despite our past, despite our weaknesses and despite our sins.
And he is saying to you and me, that no matter what heartbreak we have endured there will come a day when heartbreak will end and we will be with him in all his glory.
I read in a book by Charles Swindoll where he was talking about old athletes who sometimes find themselves at a point in their careers where they can't do things that they used to be able to do, and it's enormously frustrating to them. Swindoll says “You know, the Christian kind of lives there all of life, because we know if we listen to God's word that says what He has made us to be, and what we ought to be, and then we look at what we do, and we don't measure up, we're frustrated. And the apostle Paul says, when that day comes, the frustration is gone, because the glory has been displayed not only to you, but also in you through his Spirit.
Let us pray. Father we pray for those who are struggling today. Those in pain, those who have doubts or regrets. Heavenly Father draw them closer to you and take away their anguish. Give them a confidence to carry on, work through their pain and their sorrow to a better life with you. Give them a glimpse of your glory, give them peace in their hearts and lift their spirits today and always. Amen
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
Back to Words for Life
31 August 2020
Luke 4 16-30
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”[f]
20 Then he rolled up the scroll gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.
Good news Jesus is going to Nazareth his hometown. Bad news they rejected him and he made them angry. The people of Nazareth were not receptive to Jesus’ teaching as they were over familiar with him as a person. He was Joseph’s son and that’s how they knew him. They did not recognise his sovereignty and the fact that he was Saviour and Lord
If you grew up in the church or if you’ve been in the church for years, it’s easy to grow so familiar with spiritual truth that you don’t let it affect your own heart. You begin thinking, “Repentance is something the non-Christian needs, but me? I’m a pretty good person!” “Salvation, and tender mercies of our God—ho hum!” Before you know it, you’re right there with those lukewarm Christians.
None of us know that if we reject Jesus, will we get a second opportunity to accept him.
A wise scholar writes, “Last year a man jumped from a plane and his parachute didn’t open. It took him more than a minute to fall 3,000 feet. Somehow, he survived. But what do you suppose he thought about in that long minute? Did he cry out to God? If you have not trusted Christ as Saviour and Lord, you’re right where that man was. You’re free falling toward eternity, but you won’t fare well when you hit the deck.
Jesus offers right now to release you from the downward pull of your sin that is plunging you toward God’s judgment. If you will respond by receiving Him as Saviour and Lord, then rather than going His way and leaving you, Jesus promises, “I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). Amen
30 August 2020
Matthew 16 v 21 to end
Jesus predicts his death
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.’
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
28 ‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
What cross do you carry?
In these few, powerful words, Jesus revealed the whole purpose of His earthly ministry, the Father’s divine plan for the salvation of all humankind and the good news. Jesus had come to suffer, die and be raised again for the forgiveness of our sins and the sins of the whole world!
Poor Peter couldn’t understand all that Jesus was revealing to them and he responded, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to You!”
But Jesus knew who He was and why He had come! Looking through Peter, Jesus said to the devil, “Out of My sight, satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Jesus knew that He had come to “take up His cross” and follow the will of His Heavenly Father. It was absolutely necessary that He must go to Jerusalem; suffer at the hands of wicked, hateful men; die a cruel death on the cross and three days later be raised again to life by the power of Almighty God. By doing so, He took on our sin and through His forgiveness and grace He has compounded our relationship with God.
And what “ cross” do you carry? What cross have you taken up? I'm not talking about self indulgent matters that we enjoy moaning about but the crosses that God puts before us and that we are willing to endure because we are His children and because we are His disciples.
29 August 2020
Matthew 25 v 14-30
The parable of the bags of gold
14 ‘Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 ‘After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.”
21 ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
22 ‘The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold: see, I have gained two more.”
23 ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
24 ‘Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”
26 ‘His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 ‘“So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For 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. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
While we wait
Another parable and we can probably guess the message behind this one. It seems the third servant has admitted that he was afraid to lose the masters money and he buried the bags to protect himself. The master is furious that the servant was unfaithful to carry out the masters work and it costs the servant dearly.
The master expected the servants to continue his business, to take risks and to make a profit. Two servants were found faithful, and they are rewarded. Their faithfulness had increased the master's wealth and expanded his estate.
Tom Wright reminds us that this was all to take place to prepare them for the days ahead when their faith will be tested. This parable depicts how the disciples are to demonstrate their faithfulness as they anticipate the return of the Lord.
What does faithfulness look like in a time of waiting? In Matthew's Gospel faithfulness is emulating the ministry of Jesus. Jesus has announced the arrival of God's kingdom by feeding the hungry, curing the sick, blessing the meek, and serving the least.
We need to ask ourselves what are we doing while we wait? Are we carrying out the work that is needed?
28 August 2020
Matthew 25 v1-13
The parable of the ten virgins
25 ‘At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 ‘At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”
7 ‘Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.”
9 ‘“No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”
10 ‘But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 ‘Later the others also came. “Lord, Lord,” they said, “open the door for us!”
12 ‘But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”
13 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Are you ready?
Yesterday we talked about the hope and the certainty of His coming. I read somewhere that Jesus is warning us in this parable that there are some people who look like Christians, who work with Christians but will be shocked to learn that they will not be welcomed when the Lord returns.
In this parable the foolish virgins thought they knew better and when push came to shove they would be able to share in the spoils of the other virgins. This was not the case. While they disappeared for the oil, the bridegroom appeared. Again, maybe, they foolishly thought the door would be open for them. But it was not
There should be no contingency plans for the coming of the Lord. There is no plan B if we feel we have not readied ourselves, no second chance. The last verse of this passage has the ominous message
Keep watch because you don’t know the day or hour. So ask ourselves “Are we ready?”
27 August 2020
Matthew 24 v 42 to end
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The certainty that he is coming!
It is so easy for us to get caught up in all the things that slow us down in life. There are always bills to pay, schedules to keep, struggles to overcome, difficulties to navigate, families to feed, and jobs to do. We can so easily get caught up in the routine of these things that we lose sight of our glorious hope that is out there on the horizon.
Since it seems so long ago to us that Jesus lived and died, we can easily lull ourselves into thinking that he won't return in our lifetime, much less at any moment. We lose our sense of urgency, and expectation. Jesus wants us always to be ready and more importantly to live with expectation. Tom Wright reminds us "He is forever at the door just beyond our boundaries of space and time waiting to usher in his fulfilled Kingdom in power and glory. Our job is not to know the day this will happen, but to be ready any day it may happen and to live our lives full of good deeds and the great anticipation of the certainty that He is coming!
26 August 2020
Mark 5 v 35-43
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
36 Overhearing[c] what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly.39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this, they were completely astonished.43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Don't be afraid Just believe
We take time out this morning to look at a well known story from the Bible about Jairus’s daughter and how she was “ brought back to life”. This is a story of faith and as Jesus said in verse 36 “ don’t be afraid just believe”
Just when Jairus seemed helpless and hopeless Jesus was the answer. Jairus put his trust on Jesus and Jesus brought life where there was death. Today, we know that in the kingdom of God there is no suffering, hearts are mended, wounds are healed and a new life takes the place of death.
Where is our faith today? Do we trust that Jesus’ way is the real way? When you have a problem do you bring it to Him? Sometimes there is a delay in our help coming but if you look back at that delay we see we have learned more about Him and maybe more about ourselves.
Faith is a free gift. If you don’t think your faith is strong enough, take it to the Lord in prayer and ask for a stronger faith. Faith to carry on. Faith to move forward. Faith to be a strong disciple. Don't be afraid just believe. Amen
25 August 2020
Matthew 23 25-28
25 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
A solution for every problem
In a few days Jesus will face his accusers and be crucified. Its probably his last encounters with the scribes and the Pharisees so there is one more lesson to be taught. He calls them hopeless, and stupid accuses them of being frauds. Why is that?
Just like the parables Jesus gives them an illustration of the problem.
Eugene Peterson translates this perfectly in verses 25 and 27 when he says “ You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. In this translation there is no doubt and what Jesus is trying to put across. So everything is exterior, it’s all for show and to impress but simply scratch the surface and the rot and hypocrisy are evident.
Jesus goes onto giving them a solution, again Peterson translates verse 26
“ scour the insides and the gleaming surface will mean something
Jesus does not criticize the outer cleanliness. Instead, he is furious with the Pharisees' preoccupation on the outside cleanness while ignoring the interior world of the heart, motives, intentions, and desires. As he did in the Sermon on the Mount in specific detail, Jesus once again reminds us that no amount of external preoccupation with cleanness will make the interior world clean. Greed and self indulgence must be addressed as issues IF you want the authenticity that God wants from us. Amen
24 August 2020
Luke 22 24-30
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
People out front?
There is always a struggle in life with the people who want to be out front. Of course there are people who deserve a place there, and inevitably there are others who are simply showmen or women who are maybe subliminally saying “ I am the greatest!”
But what is greatness? Greatness is doing the things that no one else wants to do. Great people are those who clean out our buildings, see children safely across the street and teach our children on a daily basis. Great people declare their love of Jesus and tell others about Him.
Greatness is not necessarily leading people in worship but in doing the things that are unseen that allow the worship to be a good thing.
We have so many great people in the church who are serving in such important ways, ways that you and I do not see. If the only service we will offer is something that is seen, then we are seeking greatness in a worldly way that is condemned by God. Jesus does not offer titles. He hands out towels to serve.
So I guess I am asking myself “ how do I serve?” “ how do you serve?”
Jesus is great, we are not. True greatness is not about power it is found through serving. Great people do great things that only God can see. Amen
23 August 2020
Matthew 16 13-20
Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
A declaration of faith from Peter
Imagine asking a friend “ who do people say I am?”. Not only would I want to ask that I wouldn’t want to hear the answer. At this point in his ministry Jesus was possibly being accused of all sorts and he wanted to know about the people that were following him. Peter declared his faith in Jesus, the Son of God and that in itself is important because
Christ declared that he was going to build His church on the apostles and they would proclaim the message of Christ, record it in Scripture, and establish the Church throughout the known world. Everything we do today is based on the work and the teachings of the apostles, who were commissioned by Christ and inspired by the Spirit.
Today we all have the keys of the kingdom. Our task is the faithful teaching of the truth of the Gospel, even though some will be offended and refuse it. The message is based on the person of Jesus and the Son of the Living God, and it's up to us to tell others about it and his amazing grace.
22 August 2020
Acts 5 v27 to the end
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
Put to the test?
The apostles are having a hard time of it and are being made to appear in front of the Sanhedrin, Someone suggests that they be put to death but a man called Gamaliel puts a suggestion before them. Gamaliel is literally saying to them “ let them go their own way and if they are just like the others before them, they will soon disappear. But IF God is really behind them, you will not be able to oppose them. For if that’s the case, you will be opposing God”
Because of this, the apostles got flogged and were allowed to go on their way as long as they did not “ speak in the name of Jesus”. The apostles ignored this and never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news. What can be said of Gamaliel? Was he man of faith? He was giving the Sanhedrin options. “If they are not of God they will fizzle out” or “ if they are of God are you going to fight Him?”
This week we have been talking about us together, being a body of God. When we are together as one, we can be an immovable force. When we are put to the test, yes we have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll. Fasten to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviours love. The apostles in the face of adversity were fastened to the rock and because the moved on and continued to teach in his name we are grounded firm and deep in the saviour's love. Amen
21 August 2020
Acts 5 12-26
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
THE APOSTLES PERSECUTED
17 THEN THE HIGH PRIEST AND ALL HIS ASSOCIATES, WHO WERE MEMBERS OF THE PARTY OF THE SADDUCEES, WERE FILLED WITH JEALOUSY. 18 THEY ARRESTED THE APOSTLES AND PUT THEM IN THE PUBLIC JAIL. 19 BUT DURING THE NIGHT AN ANGEL OF THE LORD OPENED THE DOORS OF THE JAIL AND BROUGHT THEM OUT. 20 “GO, STAND IN THE TEMPLE COURTS,” HE SAID, “AND TELL THE PEOPLE ALL ABOUT THIS NEW LIFE.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
When one or more are gathered.
Yesterday we talked about disputes especially between Christians and it could be said that we could be accused of being “ fake” Christians. Sometimes God needs to give us a reminder of who he is, and that he is God and that we need him and without him we are nothing. We are nothing without him.
In verse 12 we read “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade” When great things happen in the Bible especially between believers we find them all gathered together. It's really a recurring theme in the Bible. This tells us they were all together in one accord, and it’s a great sign that when all his people are together, one people and one vision, great things can happen.
And I guess that’s why it's important for us all to work together and be back together as a church. When God's people are together all with one accord it is a greater display of the power of the Holy Spirit than any particular sign or wonder.
Just when they thought they could imprison the apostles and hold them to ransom, suddenly they were free and standing in the temple courts teaching the people. At this point the captain and the officers did not use force as they were afraid, their confidence gone. Confidence belonged to the apostles who were all together and teaching. Let us pray this day that we will continue to work together as one body and one church, no ego, no competing just praising his name, getting back to the word in hand and sharing his word. Amen
20 August 2020
1 Corinthians 6 1-8
Lawsuits among believers
6 If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? 2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4 Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? 5 I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6 But instead, one brother takes another to court – and this in
7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters.
Another difficult one
Another difficult reading this morning, but while not avoiding this difficult subject lets try and give it some kind of understanding.
Have you ever taken your car to the mechanic because of a strange noise or squeak, only to be told that the noise you heard was just the symptom of a much bigger problem? What you thought was simply a brake pad that needed to be replaced turned out to be a cracked axle or a bad bearing or any number of things that added up to major damage.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul addressed a squeak in Corinth. Some believers were taking other believers to court before unbelievers. Now today, we might not think that was such a big deal. But today we belong to a society where “ if there’s blame there’s a claim. We are such a lawsuit-happy society, I read somewhere we have gone from “ in God we trust” to “ see you in court “.
The Corinthians neither understood nor lived the gospel. And I wonder, if we understood the gospel better, would we be more disturbed by Christian believers having disputes between themselves? When you consider how much we have been forgiven, why is it so hard for us to forgive? When you think about the grace that we have been afforded why do we think it costs so much to show grace to others. Something to think about and to pray about.
Let us pray :
Father, thank you for your continued presence with us – and not only for the good days when we feel things are going well but, more importantly, when things are difficult and we are not sure of the way to go and we need your presence to give us the courage to go forward. Father, we thank you for our families and loved ones who give us encouragement and support – especially through this time of uncertainty and limitation – and who have helped us in so many ways. How much we value human contact and this has been highlighted even more during this time of restriction. Human relationships can be very fickle and we pray for people in this country and throughout the world who don’t have the love and support of family and friends – some because of estrangement and some because family life is so difficult for them and they find it difficult to find time to be supportive of vulnerable family members. We pray for them and hope that the healing can begin to take place. Our scripture reading this morning speaks to us of forgiveness and grace – words which we see often in the bible where You, our Heavenly Father, give opportunities to us time and time again to gain forgiveness and grace in order that we can continue in our Christian life and we pray that the grace and forgiveness we receive from You will spark the same willingness in us to show the same to those who seek to heal relationships – may not always be easy, but we pray for your love and grace to allow us to carry out this command – in Your Name, Amen
19 August 2020
Matthew 20 1-19
The parable of the workers in the vineyard
20 ‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 ‘About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the market-place doing nothing. 4 He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” 5 So they went.
‘He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”
7 ‘“Because no one has hired us,” they answered.
‘He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”
8 ‘When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”
9 ‘The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.12 “These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”
13 ‘But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
16 ‘So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
( in my humble opinion) There are some things in the gospel of Matthew that don’t make sense firsthand. An example would be the Canaanite woman was considered “annoying”. The odd comment about the“ crumbs from the table”. And the lame man who was getting more than he bargained for.
We now come to the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The landowner has a weird sense of economics and pays everyone the same amount of money (even those who turned up an hour before finishing time). I remember last year preaching on this reading at the time of harvest and all that it taught us about the workers in the field.
But this morning lets look at this from a different angle.
So what about the people who turned up late? Who spends hours waiting to be hired and doesn’t find success till the end of the day? It could be these people were weak and or infirm. Perhaps they were elderly and slow to turn up or perhaps they were people who were discriminated against or even people with a bad reputation.
The parable teaches us about equality, generosity and graciousness.
Qualities that you would expect from a true disciple of Jesus and qualities you would expect from a brother or sister in church today. In the parable everyone was treated the same, the workers who were told what they would be paid, got what they expected. And those who turned up late for what ever reason they were all were paid the same.
Christianity is a great “ leveller”, we are all the same and we are all treated the same. Yes we have lawyers and dentists and CEO’s who are Christians just the same as we have the poor and the unemployed. But at the end of the day what we give to God, when we give Him our time and we give him our lives, His reaction to that is going to be the same. Our prayer for today is for all of the people affected round the world by this pandemic. Whether in a job or out of a job, whether struggling or surviving we pray for the people of God's Church as we work together to meet again. Amen
18 August 2020
Acts 4 v5-12
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
11 Jesus is
‘“the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.”
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’
A lame beggar is healed
Peter and John are being held to account “ by what power or what name did you do this “ they are asked.
Just like the lame beggar did not get the answer he expected (when he asked for money), I am imagining that Annas the high priest and all his cohorts were surprised when they asked Peter and co where was their authority was coming from.
Verse 11 tells us that
‘“the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.”
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’
Peters response came from the heart because of 4 reasons.
1. He was without doubt a confident witness filled with the Holy Spirit
2. He was confident because he learned from Jesus
3. He was confident because he testified on what he knew
4. Finally he was confident in that the only way of salvation was through Jesus Christ.
Today we should pray for that confidence, pray that we will continually learn and testify on what we know. And pray that we tell others that the only way in life is through Christ the King. Amen
17 August 2020
Acts 3 1-
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
A solution to a problem?
Sometimes we seek out things that are temporary, an answer to a problem that is immediate but not a permanent long-term fix. We rush to pray. Not thinking about the long road that stretches ahead,
The man who was lame from birth saw that his immediate problem was a lack of money so he asked Peter and John for the money.
“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
The man thought he knew the answer to his needs, but what he was given in the name of Jesus Christ was something quite different, unexpected and life-changing.
The next time we have a problem, the next time we take it to the Lord in prayer let him decide on the solution, let him give the answer. It might not be what you wanted, but it's probably the best thing for you and who knows it might even be life-changing. Amen
16 August 2020
Matthew 15 21-28
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
I think I might have said that when I worked I was surrounded by mainly students sharing many faiths and cultures. Muslim Sikh Hindu to name but a few. One of the things that surprised me was at Christmas; some of them would send us Christmas Cards. It wasn’t unusual for someone to ask about Easter or Holy week. We worked in an environment, like it or not where we had to embrace one another’s cultures and religious holidays. Even if sometimes it was uncomfortable it worked.
This reading from Matthew is uncomfortable as it presents us with a Jesus that we don’t understand. Jesus ignores this woman who is distressed, the disciples confirm with him “send her away, she won’t stop crying”
But the woman is determined and does three things
Kneels before him.
Calls him Lord
And asks, “Help me”
Maybe Jesus is impressed by her determination. Maybe he is moved that she talks bout “ the crumbs that fall from the table” Maybe it's just the fact that she knows who he is, knows what he can do and because of her love for her daughter and asks Jesus for healing
Jesus said to her “Woman. You have great faith, your request is granted” and her daughter was healed in that moment. Despite the adversary and despite their differences she had faith.
Sometimes we have to turn in prayer and be uncomfortable in what we are praying about. Sometimes it’s an uncomfortable request in our prayer or perhaps we have reached a point where we are uncomfortable with our relationship with God. The important thing is “ keep talking to God”. Keep praying
We should pray today for the determination of the Canaanite woman, who ignored what was going on around her and sat at the Lord's feet. Even if we are uncomfortable we can find some comfort in today’s reading. Amen
15 August 2020
Matthew 19 verse 16 to end
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honour your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
There have been books written on what this passage really means but on this day today I want to say that this passage has always been about commitment. Again it’s all down to people who can “talk the talk” and don’t “ walk the walk”. I appreciate that’s a very glib way of putting it but the young man in this passage is under the impression that as long as he keeps to the rules he can enter the kingdom of heaven. But Jesus is reminding him that it's not just his time and energy he has to give, but something more than that. Something that is very precious to him. Perhaps something that he worships more than God,
The young man is sad as he knows he is rich. Jesus then goes on to tell us, ”it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
So in a week when we have heard about allowing God to control our lives, placing our faith in Him and loving one another (even when there is a grudge) we know that following God is not as simple as people might think. But being rich (and not money rich) in your commitment to Him and to his people will bring you an eternal reward, eternal satisfaction and an eternal life. Amen
14 August 2020
Matthew 19 verses 3-12
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’
4 ‘Haven’t you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,”5 and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’
7 ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man gives his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’
8 Jesus replied, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.’
10 The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’
11 Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others – and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’
I’ve said before that I don’t like avoiding the suggested passages for the day. But sometimes I feel that the subject matter is far too contentious for a short message and potentially could be a minefield.
But what I will say is that marriage is a sacred vow between a man and woman and the Bible offers many verses that offer guidance for married couples, husbands, wives, newlyweds, and engagement.
Marriage is a beautiful covenant before the Lord and if you follow God in your relationship, you will experience a blessed life together~ Read these Bible verses from the Holy Bible about marriage and the importance of this covenant relationship. Use these Scripture quotes on a wedding card for a newly married couple. I have been married 40 years but I certainly don’t profess to be an expert or know the secret of a good and happy marriage. But should a marriage go wrong, it's very easy to focus on what's wrong instead of stopping to listen to God and ask Him for guidance.
Ephesians 4:2-3 tells us that "With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
And Psalm 143:8 tells us we should "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
But sometimes marriage can be a mystery to some Proverbs 30 tells us that "There are three things that amaze me—no, four things that I don't understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman."
All I can say is that a marriage that is made in the church, a marriage that is lived out within the church and a marriage that needs the church is a great marriage. Amen
13 August 2020
Matthew 18 v 21-
The parable of the unmerciful servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’
22 Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 ‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of goldwas brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 ‘At this the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.
28 ‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.
29 ‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.”
30 ‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 ‘Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’
The lectionary that I use that is used in most churches is not letting go of this theme of forgiveness this week. I am reminded about the story of Corrie ten Boom, who had heard an unbelievable speech by a person in reconstructed Germany, about how God had forgiven him. He put out his hand to her after the speech and said, "Sister, God has forgiven me." She recognized him as one of the guards in the concentration camp where her sister died. She said, in effect, "I could not raise my hand to shake his, but in that awful moment I realized how much God's mercy and grace had been extended to me. What I could not do by my own strength, I did by the strength of God."
I think that we should all extend forgiveness by as many times as possible. When we read that we should forgive not seven times but seventy seven times, that number could go up and up and up. When we think about the maths of forgiveness, and how much grace has been shown to us by God should we not extend that same amount of grace to others. The last verse of the reading tells us that after there was no sign of forgiveness the servant was given back to the jailers “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’”
Holding a grudge is definitely just like dragging shackles, refusing forgiveness can be just like a life sentence. Giving forgiveness can be like a light going on, a door opening or a new days sun rising.
Pray that you are not shackled by grudges or imprisoned by a lack of grace. Forgive seven times, or seventy seven times. Forgive always.
Our Dear Lord Jesus, we come into your presence this morning with grateful hearts for your love and mercy towards us. Thank you for this new day – with all its possibilities and challenges – which we commit to you, asking that you will be with us every step of the way. Father, thank you again for our surroundings which remind us of your creative power and your ability to create something out of nothing with all its beauty and diversity. We think of all the flowers – so many different colours, textures, perfumes and varieties. We think of the hills, mountains and rivers which live in harmony with one another. Thank you for giving us a sense of appreciation of your creation and also praise to you, the Creator of all that we enjoy. We continue to pray for the people of Lebanon – and the city of Beirut in particular. They are suffering such sorrow and heartache but we pray that you will ‘stay the hand’ of retaliation and revenge against the Government officials and those in positions of authority within the country and pray that the people will instead focus on the vital work that is needed to comfort the bereaved, care for the injured and work together to bring about a better future – without further bloodshed. Father, we know that this is a tall order in a country which has suffered much, but your word this morning speaks about people coming together to resolve differences – often deep rooted. Human effort often fails, and so, it is with a sense of pleading to you, on their behalf, that you will answer our prayer – Amen.
12 August 2020
Matthew 18 v15-20
15 ‘If your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.7 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19 ‘Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’
I’m not a fan of The Simpsons, but there is an episode I’ve seen where Marge suddenly falls to the ground “ and starts to speak in tongues”. Homer picks up a bible and looks inside and proclaims, “ There are no answers in this book”
Today’s reading tells us three things
If you're being hassled tell the person doing the hassle
If that fails get a couple of witnesses to take along for back up
If that fails take it to the church
Handling conflict is an expertise that some people have, for others all they can do is make matters worse. And yet the Bible tells us to “ love one another”
Love here does not mean wet, sloppy kisses, nor does it mean hearts and flowers. This kind of love is about care for the other person’s well being. Wanting what is best for the other person, even when he or she has made you angry. If we have that sort of love for each other, we will always want to be reconciled and will always accept each other’s apologies – because that’s what people who love each other do. That’s what Christ did – and does – with us every day.
If there is someone who you know holds a grudge against you for something you did, or were perceived to have done, either recently or ages ago, apologize and sincerely ask forgiveness. Likewise, if there is someone who comes to you and asks forgiveness for something that has caused you to hold a grudge against him or her, grant him or her forgiveness. To ask forgiveness is not weakness. And to grant forgiveness is not to condone what someone has done.
They are merely steps toward reconciliation – the thing that Jesus did when he reconciled the whole world to God by hanging on a cross. If He can do that for us, surely we can do this for each other, and for Him.
And I am sorry Homer Simpson the Bible has got answers but it's up to us to follow them through. Amen.
11 August 2020
Acts 1 v15
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, ‘Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as a guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.’
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 ‘For,’ said Peter, ‘it is written in the Book of Psalms:
‘“May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,”[e]
‘“May another take his place of leadership.”
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.’
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
There’s a lot said about making decisions in a church and the obsession to form committees and getting the right people to be in that committee. In this portion of The Acts of the apostles we see two things. The need to make decisions and the need to handle Gods business. But the odd thing is that after they prayed…. they drew lots.
“Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles”
I think the important thing here is that it’s all down to God's will. God's will shall be accomplished, helped along by prayer whether we draw lots or not. His will is carried out with or without us but at all times we have to be obedient to His will and his gracious way. Amen
10 August 2020
Matthew 17 v22-end
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
The Temple Tax
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”
26 “From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offence, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
In the Bible Jesus shows us three ways to proclaim that God is the King in all the decisions that we make daily.
First, Jesus had faith in God and he was willing to die for you and me and to forgive those who betrayed him. Jesus said, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands and they will kill him and on the third day he will be raised
We know that the disciples “were filled with grief”. Because we love to control our own lives sometimes it difficult to hand our lives over to
Secondly, Jesus acted out of love. Because Jesus was the Son of God, he did not have to pay temple tax at all. However, Jesus paid the tax “But so that we may not cause offence” verse 27,
With Jesus, everybody is God’s child. Jesus loved God and loved God’s people. He made the decision to pay temple tax out of love.
Thirdly, Jesus shared his power with others. Jesus commanded Peter to go out and catch a fish. When Peter opened the mouth of the fish he found a coin. Jesus wanted to use the coin to pay tax “for Jesus and for Peter.” We know he paid the tax for Peter also. In that way, Jesus showed that we should share what we have with others if we want to proclaim that God is the King.
Above all else we need to hand over our lives completely to God for him to be in control. Amen
09 August 2020
Matthew 14 22-36
Jesus Walks on the Water
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.”
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
If you want to walk on water?
John Ortberg has a great book called “ if you want to walk on the water you have to get out of the boat” It's not only a book about faith but a lesson in trust and obedience. But what the book brought out to me was the ability to be confident. Confidence today has been shaken. A lot has happened in the past 5 months and we now live in a very different world.
People have become obsessed with the fact and figures of the pandemic, what’s gone up and has anything come down. I heard one expert on TV say “ don’t take your eye off the ball where this menace is concerned”. Today maybe I have some other advice? And its “ don’t take your eyes off Jesus”.
Peter took his eye of Jesus as he was going to walk on the water and nearly sank. Jesus said “ you, of little faith!” and that’s what he is saying to us today. Now I’m not saying throw your mask off and run around Tesco but look at Jesus reaction to this situation “ he reached out and caught him”. So if you want to walk on water, yes get out of the boat but rely on Jesus, take his hand, be courageous and live in confidence, praise and prayer. Amen
08 August 2020
Continuing with Luke 24 from verse 36 (the Message)
36-41 While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.
41-43 He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.
44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”
45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”
50-51 He then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, took his leave, being carried up to heaven.
52-53 And they were on their knees, worshipping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes.
Can you believe it?
I still get tired when some people say to me “ do you believe everything in the bible?” with the emphasis on the word everything. My answer is always a simple one. “yes”. In my own wee head I always imagine that somewhere at some point the disciples sat down and said to each other “ did all of this actually happen?”
Jesus appears to them and they think they are seeing a ghost. You see that? There is still doubt. They didn’t say” its Jesus!” the scriptures tell us “ they were upset” But Jesus goes on to reassure them “ look at my hands, look at my feet, a ghost does not have muscle and bone” But they still thought it was too good to be true. So then he asks for food and ate it in front of them.
But his final revelation is the more important one as he opens the scripture for them. He opened their eyes and their understanding and of course reassured them that everything that was written has come true. He takes them outside the city and blesses them and then took his leave and here is the good bit “ they were on their knees, worshipping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God”
All doubt removed, replaced with Joy and with a lot of work that had to be done, they praised God. We praise God today for the scriptures and all the evidence therein of a great and glorious God and his son The Saviour of the world. And we are thankful for all the ministers and pastors who open The Word to us in such a way, that makes it real and makes it relevant and utterly believable. Amen
07 August 2020
Luke 24 verses 13-29
On the Road to Emmaus
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them;16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
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.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
A simple question?
A question to ask yourself today. Do you know Jesus? Have your eyes been opened to who he is and what he has done for you? Do you know that he walks with you and he talks to you? And more importantly do you tell others? Ask yourself another thing today. What will you do with Jesus today?
This reading from Luke could parallel your own journey with God in your own life. In today's reading Jesus did seek the disciples out and while he did not want recognition straight away, he wanted them to learn something about him first. And then while there was only a little faith Jesus took them through his own journey by using the scriptures eventually revealing himself to them. And finally in the breaking of the bread Jesus was recognised by them before he disappeared. But even although he cannot be seen they tell the others as their lives have been changed forever. Does this sound familiar? Thank God that you know Jesus. Thank God that he is with you on your journey. And finally don’t forget to tell others, Good news is worth sharing. Amen
06 August 2020
Luke 9 verses 28-36 ( from the message)
Jesus in His Glory
28-31 About eight days after saying this, he climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.
32-33 Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking.
34-35 While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.”
36 When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.
Up until now the Jewish leadership had rejected Jesus and planned his death. The disciples believed that he was the both the Messiah and the Son of God but they perhaps did not know the implications of these titles and at the same time maybe they were a bit uncomfortable about the prospects of Jesus impending death.
This part of Luke is known as The Transfiguration but what exactly is this? And what does it tell us?
The outward glory of Jesus was displayed, maybe for just a few moments but our reading tells us that “While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white.” On many occasions Jesus was provoked into revealing his splendour and majesty and here and now “ the veil of his humanity was lifted
In verses 34 and 35 we read “While he (peter) was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.” This is certainly the divine testimony, authenticated by a heavenly voice in the sky that truly Jesus was the son of God, the Messiah and soon to be the Saviour.
The transfiguration teaches us a lot, but can you imagine what it would have been like for the disciples? The visual aspect of it all is one thing but then to hear the voice of God validating in this manner would have been amazing for them.
A special prayer for Thursday
Heavenly Father, we come into your presence today and we bring to you our prayers for others – especially those in Beirut at this time. The pictures we have seen on our televisions screens have shocked and saddened us because of the devastation brought to the people who live there. We see how quickly their lives have changed and how quickly they are surrounded by loss – loss of loved ones, loss of homes, loss of friends, loss of community and neighbours. Everything that was familiar to them has been taken away and we confess before you that we cannot begin to know or understand how they are truly feeling at this time. We bring before you the rescue teams who have the harrowing task of sifting through the rubble in the hope of finding people alive. We pray for all the medical personnel in hospitals and pray that they will be given the equipment and medicines they need to treat the injured. We pray also that other countries in the world will be moved to give money and physical resources to help alleviate the suffering. We feel helpless in the face of something so huge and so remote from our own country, but we thank you that we can bring the most difficult situations to you – asking that you will bring healing, comfort, renewal and hope to the people who right now, think they have no hope and feel such loss. Our passage this morning speaks of your transfiguration – a time when you showed your glory to those closest to you – and they were left in no doubt that you were indeed the Son of God. We pray that something of your glory will be seen in that land, speaking to the people in their time of greatest need – Amen.
05 August 2020
Luke 23 v 32-49
Famous Last Words
32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
38 There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[e] When he had said this, he breathed his last.
47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Many famous people have said famous last words on their death beds. It is said that Winston Churchill’s last words were “ I’m bored of all this”. All of which have been remembered because of their flippancy and sarcasm.
But on a more serious note, the last words of Christ have more to tell us, remind us and to reassure us than any celebrity in our lifetime. Jesus’s final words “ Father into your hands I commit my spirit,” tells us so much about the characteristics of the man especially when we think about what happened to him on the way to the cross.
On his journey to his crucifixion the people stood and insulted him, rulers sneered at him and soldiers mocked him. Even the criminal on the cross beside him teased him but Jesus kept his strength for his final words.
Nailed to the cross he shouted aloud “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And when he had said this, he breathed his last.
The first thing we should notice is Jesus's loud voice -- scarcely what one would expect from a man about to die. But Jesus seems determined that his final words be heard. His words are firm and confident.
Let's examine three aspects of these words.
First, Jesus speaks to God with intimacy. His time of desolation expressed by the Fourth Word is past. He prays to the Father as he has done throughout his ministry. For Jesus, death is no out-of-control accident. No matter how bleak the moment, he knows his Father is present with him to receive his spirit.
Secondly, Jesus entrusts himself to his Father. In Psalm 31:5 the word "commit" is the Hebrew verb pāqad" to entrust to someone for safekeeping, give over, entrust. As he lets go of this life, Jesus trusts his eternal destiny to the Father's everlasting arms.
Finally, Jesus speaks a word of surrender. He gives up his human life to his Father who gave it to him 33 years before. The word "spirit" is the common word pneuma, "breathing, breath of life
Jesus prays his final prayer with this kind of equanimity and peace because he knows the Father, and knows that there is life with the Father beyond death. As a devout Jew he has prayed these words as part of an evening prayer all his life. Now at the end of his life he prays them one last time -- and lets go of human life in order to embrace the Life that the Father has to offer in his own presence.
Today we pray that we too are given this trust to place our lives into the hands of God so that we can live a life today of confidence and trust. And as we look at what is happening around the world we can know that He knows us so well, every hair on our heads and loves us. Amen
04 August 2020
1st Peter 2 verses 11-17 Using Eugene Petersons The Message
11-12 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cosy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.
13-17 Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.
True representatives of Christ
In my last year or so of my working life, I worked alongside people of many faiths. Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu and Jewish people. This suddenly made me aware of all the festivals and holidays that other religions hold and I always had to be mindful of other peoples faiths and needs.
Peter is reminding us that in this world where we live with God and other cultures we have to behave appropriately. In society today there is no place for prejudice and God is counting on us, as his children, to do his will while we pass through this earth.
While we might be free we are servants of God too and we should honour every single human being and while we love other believers we should honour The King of Love.
And while we are here on this earth we are representatives of Christ while mixing with other people, always reflecting his qualities and his gifts to us. And if we do this successfully I think Peter is telling us we might show other people a true reflection of being a follower of Christ. We then become an ambassador of God, serving him publicly, encouraging love and ignoring prejudice. Amen
03 August 2020
The living Stone and a chosen people
4 As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
‘See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.’[b]
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,’[c]
‘A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.’[d]
They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
My dad had an allotment in Broomhill and there were two things he hated most about the allotment. One was the weeds (which he said he could control as they were visible) but the other was stones that were always hidden underneath the soil and he would hit them with his spade.
In this reading the word “stone” appears in this reading six times and the word “rock” is thrown in for good measure. Having said that Stone was a very important and evocative word in biblical terms.
The hope was that God would return to Zion and live forever in the temple. There was a long tradition that the temple would be rebuilt on the rock or the “cornerstone” ready for God to return. In the Old Testament, God had made a promise to send his son and to build a house where he will come to live forever.
But here Peter is saying that Jesus is the “stone” and the temple is being built “in” him.
Tom Wright reminds us “ if we find it hard to keep up with the bewildering scriptural references imagine what it must have been like for the pagans in Turkey being told this for the first time” We have the advantage and the joy of knowing that scholars have come before us and explain these things to us, as well as our ministers in church.
And through all this we can “ fasten to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the saviours love. Amen
02 August 2020
1 Peter 1 22- chapter 2v3
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.[a]23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”[b]
And this is the word that was preached to you.
2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Taste and see the goodness of God
I love watching cookery programmes on TV. One of the programmes I like is “ the corner shop cook off”. Basically the chefs are given £15 and they have to go to a local corner shop and get enough food for a three course meal. Of course they cut corners and buy an odd array of foodstuffs to make the food as interesting as possible. Given that they substitute things like passata for tomato ketchup and maybe use budget cheese instead of parmesan. The end product looks good but as I watch this programme I cannot be convinced about the food that I see on the screen because I cannot taste it. In food it has to be about the taste, the presentation might be good but the taste has to make it a winner.
How do you convey taste to someone just by reading words or watching on tv? At the end of this reading Peter uses the idea of “taste” as one of the things in Christian living that we have to experience. The taste that The Lord is gracious. Like a baby who is tasting its mother's milk for the first time you will want more and more. Along with this you will grow, and in this reading we are told we will grow in our salvation.
Christianity is not just about reading the scriptures, it's not just about wearing the correct clothes to the kirk and its not about singing the loudest when your favourite hymn is being sung. It's about all the ingredients that you collect and enjoy in your Christian journey, through the living and enduring word of God. It's about the spiritual milk that you need and enjoy that will make you stronger
The hymns remind us that:-
Taste and see, O taste and see,
taste and see the goodness of God.
Taste and see, O taste and see,
taste and see the goodness of God.
01 August 2020
1 Peter 1:10-21
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’[a]
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
A Visit to the Junk Shop
Tom Wright tells a story of a man who goes into a junk shop and sees a cracked and dusty old bowl. When he wiped some of the grime off the bowl he saw that it was beautiful underneath. He took it to the shop owner and agreed a price. The man took the bowl home and washed it carefully. It was beautiful. Not only that he had some decorative eggs that looked as though they were just made for this bowl and set the whole thing off as a beautiful ensemble. But the next day the shop owner turns up, he found some flowers that originally sat in the bowl and he would like it back as he had changed his mind.
But the man was not having any of it. He had washed and cleaned the bowl almost back to its original state, not only that he had given it a new and fresh purpose, it was rejuvenated.
Tom Wright says we are just like the bowl, under God we have been rejuvenated and given a fresh purpose in life. Verse 18 Peter says that
“you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors” and the word “redeemed” here is the key word. You see we are just like the bowl. We have been bought back. In some translations the word is “ ransomed”. At one point we had a different purpose but God came into the junk shop and paid for us. The price he paid was through the blood of His son Jesus Christ. Have a good day today. Amen
Back to Words for Life
We believe in God Almighty, Creator of the Universe, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one eternal true God.
Our congregation is situated in Milngavie (pronounced 'Milguy'), a suburb to the north-west of Glasgow, and is one of the thirty-one Church of Scotland congregations in Dumbarton Presbytery. The congregation was established in 1841, and the present church was built in 'Scottish Gothic' style in 1906.