31 January 2021

 

The other day would have been my mother’s birthday if she was still with us. She would have been 93 and she passed away 18 years ago.
 
Of course I remember the night she died as if it was yesterday, I can remember the kindness of nurses and the relief that I had, knowing that my mother was no longer in pain. I was relieved and guilty at the same time.
 
Over the past few months I have read, seen and discussed suffering and sorrow. We are aware that people who are grieving in this current problem, are doing so with many extra issues to deal with and that makes the whole process for them so much more difficult. So what can we say to them? More importantly what can we do for them?
 
A favourite verse in revelations 21 verse 4
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
 
This verse was presented to me today in my “Bible verse for the day” and I can not do it justice in this short offering. But the reassurance for me is that Christ knows the pain that we suffer. He has done this for us and taken the pain of Calvary so that we might be given the grace to carry on in our Christian lives. He did all of this for us by taking pain upon himself at Calvary.
 
He accepts our pain when we offer it to him in our prayers and in our living. I read somewhere that “we can present our pain to him as an offering”. As much as that does not make sense on first reading it, for me, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
 
So what can we do? Well we can know that Jesus is near to us and we can call on him and he can turn our pain into a blessing. That's another sentence that might not make sense but if we pray about it, it makes perfect sense.

 

And we can sympathise and reach out and pray for those who we know are suffering. Ask God to be near them and at the same time make them aware that you, yourself are there for them (even from a distance) in Christ’s name.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

30 January 2021

 

Luke 5 v27-32

27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

 


It's fairly obvious to us that we need Jesus as we are sinners. That isn’t confined to the small “easy to fix” sins. That applies to ALL sins. We put so much pressure on ourselves, but the truth is that really need Christ in our lives. We need him because we absolutely cannot live the way we are called to live on our own.

 

We shouldn’t look down on lost people for sinning. That’s the most hypocritical thing we could do. We can never forget that we, too, were once lost. We, too, were once drowning in our own sin. And I don’t know about you, but I still struggle to keep my head above water every day. We are broken and Jesus comes in and changes that. If we had the capability to change it ourselves, then we wouldn’t need him. He wouldn’t have had to die on the cross. None of that is necessary if we can “fix” ourselves on our own but we can't.

 

The thing that is so wonderful about Jesus is that he changes something inside of us. It cannot be described in words, it can only be experienced. You don’t have to change for Jesus because He is the one that changes you.

 

Even those of us who have accepted Christ aren’t perfect. We need to cut each other some slack. We need to recognize that, yes, we have to live to a certain standard to be Christians but that Jesus is about forgiveness first.

 

We have to remember that we are only human. We have to remember why we need Jesus; why his sacrifice was necessary. We have to remember that true change of heart requires supernatural intervention, not human intervention. We have to remember we are the lucky ones. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

29 January 2021

 

Ephesians 4 22-24

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.

 

I have a strange affinity with five t-shirts that hang in my wardrobe. They are all the same colour and I try my best to wear one each day. As it gets nearer to “ ironing day” (Tuesday) I panic that I might open the wardrobe door and there won't be one there for me to wear. I also have a spot on the sofa that no one must sit on as it's my “spot” and a chair at the dining table that’s definitely mine and no one else's. 

Sometimes lifestyle habits and choices are the same.

 

You may have indulged in a habit for so long that it becomes a part of who you are. You don’t know any other way. You’ve just accepted it’s ‘who you are’, as it tends to be your most natural outfit.

 

In today’s Scripture, Paul spoke to the believers in the Ephesian culture. In their day, part of the initiation process for a person involved in their pagan religion was to remove and discard their old clothing, signifying a total break with any previous association. So, when Paul asked the new Christians to “put off their old clothing”, he wasn’t just talking about their actual clothing each day. He was emphasizing the action of rejecting behaviours that were indicative of their old self, those that did not align with walking with the Lord.

 

Charles Swindoll tells us “To continue and take steps towards obedience and walking with God, we need to daily, rid ourselves of those pieces of clothing that are no longer serving us. Whether it’s habits, friendships, or associations we are involved in, Paul encourages us to then “put on” our new self. Put on attributes that align with a life in Christ and watch the Holy Spirit as He works in removing what was always a comfortable yet old outfit for you.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 28 January 2021

 

 

It was minus 4 degrees the other morning and it was cold as you can imagine. At the time I am preparing this, I am told that today Thursday it will be cold with a good chance of snow and sleet.

 

On a day like today, we can draw comfort from a verse from the Psalms.

 

Psalm 91 verse 1 “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High, will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” 

 

This verse is reassuring as we live in the shelter of the Most High but of course what about people who are struggling at the moment?

 

Every day I read the Facebook posting of Preshal and a smile comes to my face when I read what Alan is making for the many people who will come and pick up their lunch. On Burns day it was a traditional burns lunch and some days its mac and cheese or lasagne. The choice is always there and it's always tasty.

 

But then reality sets in, these people need somewhere to go. These people have nowhere to go. The doors of Preshal are closed at the moment and vulnerable adults have to fend for themselves. They know where they can go for their lunch but life is much more than that on a daily basis. And not just over in Govan but in every corner in every town there are homeless people trying to find shelter and comfort. We need more and more people to find that rest and that shelter that we know and love.

 

Further on in verse 9 we read “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You."

 

So in your prayers today please spare a line for those who are struggling and those who need shelter from everything that’s happening in life at the moment.

 

Let us pray

 

Our Heavenly Father, our hearts are heavy when we think of the sorrow that many people are feeling right now as they mourn the loss of a loved one to the virus - many gone 'before their time' and they are much missed and remembered,   

 

Father, it has also been a worrying time for so many - health professionals who work day in and day out to care for the sick, family members who are caring for a loved one with dementia or a physical or mental illness; police officers who are working tirelessly to uphold the law and keep us safe and, at the same time, putting their lives in danger; teachers who are providing lessons online;  parents who are home schooling as well as working from home; retail staff who work in supermarkets and small shops - keeping us fed; staff who work in essential services maintaining vital links to our homes and transport - Father, be their help and strength at this time.   

 

Father, so many of us have lived in a 'bubble' for the last few months - sheltering, as it were, from people and the outside world,   Some people have found this time of Lockdown harder than others and we give you thanks for the availability of Your Word in our homes and the Christian services which we have been able to access online and for the comfort and assurance that we have received.   Our Psalm this morning speaks about another kind of 'sheltering' - but one that is far more secure, trustworthy and loving - where we can 'shelter in the shadow of the Almighty'.    So, at this time, thank you, Father, for the great assurance we have that we are loved beyond measure, known by You in a unique and personal way and despite what is going on round about, we can feel secure in Your loving embrace.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

27 January 2021

 

 

Since I was a teenager I have had a strange affinity with music. Back then I became obsessed with certain recording artists and spent most of my formative years closed away in my room either reading a book or listening to music “ If it's no Agatha Christie he is plugged intae it’s them New Seekers” to quote my dad.
 
 
Music for me can "heal" it can "settle" and it can make me feel "safe" I'm not sure if everyone would understand that.
 
Today we are all encouraged to be mindful. It's not a new thing. The Bible has been encouraging this for centuries.
 
“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.” Psalm 104 33&34
 
Even getting up each day and doing these words for life is mindful and can lift my spirits up no end but there are other days, just like everyone else, I have my down days.
 
That’s when I turn to music. Listening to music can bring me from the depths of my boots to soaring above the trees, just by listening to the right piece. Sometimes it's maybe a classical style of music like The Missions Gabriele’s oboe played by Yo-Yo Ma or Scheherazade by Rimski Korsakov but 9 times out of ten just let me listen to some good old hymns and my mood can change in a heartbeat.

 

Taking a few minutes to worship God reminds us of the many reasons we have to praise Him. We can’t help but rejoice when we remember His faithful love, power, and unchanging character. Psalm 104 reminds us that if we sang our whole lives long, we still wouldn’t run out of reasons to praise God.  As we worship God, gratitude grows. We recall His goodness and care for us. Now that’s got to lift your spirits today?

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

26 January 2021

 

I love it when friends and family send me pictures of new babies being born into the family, they always bring a smile to our faces.

 

Each time I see pictures of new additions to any family I immediately think of the Bible verse that says (Psalm 139 verse 14 _“ I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful and I know that full well.")

 

Fearfully when translated from the Hebrew means with great reverence, heart-felt interest, and with respect, that means you were created with great reverence, heart-felt interest, and respect to be unique and set apart!

 

Good old Max Lucado tells us that God created us on purpose with love. 

 

He says:

 

You have the innate ability to discern right from wrong. Although, that ability is hindered somewhat until you connect with your Creator. He didn’t just design you to do your own thing. He created you so you would desire an ongoing relationship with Him.

 

You were made with a hole in the centre of your soul that only one thing fits. Until you find that very specific something, you will never be fulfilled. And that very specific something is God Himself. You were designed with an intense need of your Creator, God. Without a relationship with Him, you will always be searching for something to fill that void.

 

 

So the next time you think that are worthless or if you are feeling a bit down, just think you are fearful and wonderfully made.

The next time you feel small or if someone or something is getting you down just think you are fearful and wonderfully made.

The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, no matter how you see yourself just remember that we were all created by a God and in his image and that you are fearful and wonderfully made.  Amen

--

Alexander

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

25 January 2021

 

I wonder if, like me, you were impressed by Amanda Gorman and the amazing poem she recited at the inauguration of Joe Biden the other day. You could not help but admire this young woman who once had a speech impediment and still has an auditory processing disorder and is hypersensitive to sound.

 

Although she oozed confidence on that morning.  I wonder if she was at all nervous and was aware that her life could change overnight just by delivering a piece called The Hill We Climb. I later read that she was a Christian and she and her family attend a local Catholic Church.

 

It made me wonder as I watched her and knowing her background, where did she get her strength from?

 

Philippians chapter 4 verse 13 reminds us that, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength”. But just before that he recounts some of the most difficult circumstances he has found himself in. Hungry as well as well fed, poor as well as well off, Paul learned to be content with what he had. And how does he know all of this? Well, it's because he has gone through it himself. He is talking about the things he has personally done in his own ministry.

 

In context, "I can do all things" is the ministry that God has sent Paul to do. He can persevere, share the gospel, and be content in any situation. Not on his own, but through Christ who strengthens him.

 

Now before you start climbing a Munro, running a marathon, abseiling down a building or rowing across the Atlantic, we need to remember that God just doesn’t allow us to do anything. If you have God on your side that doesn’t make you superman or wonder woman. But if you succeed in a situation, if you want strength to make a decision or if the day is too dark and that hill is a difficult climb. Remember God is our refuge and our source of strength.     Amen 

 

 

If you want to read Amanda Gorman's poem read on 

 

 When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade
We've braved the belly of the beast
We've learned that quiet isn't always peace
And the norms and notions
of what just is
Isn’t always just-ice
And yet the dawn is ours
before we knew it
Somehow we do it
Somehow we've weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished
We the successors of a country and a time
Where a skinny Black girl
descended from slaves and raised by a single mother
can dream of becoming president
only to find herself reciting for one
And yes we are far from polished
far from pristine
but that doesn’t mean we are
striving to form a union that is perfect
We are striving to forge a union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and
conditions of man
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us
but what stands before us
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another
We seek harm to none and harmony for all
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew
That even as we hurt, we hoped
That even as we tired, we tried
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division
Scripture tells us to envision
that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid
If we’re to live up to our own time
Then victory won’t lie in the blade
But in all the bridges we’ve made
That is the promised glade
The hill we climb
If only we dare
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation
rather than share it
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy
And this effort very nearly succeeded
But while democracy can be periodically delayed
it can never be permanently defeated
In this truth
in this faith we trust
For while we have our eyes on the future
history has its eyes on us
This is the era of just redemption
We feared at its inception
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs
of such a terrifying hour
but within it we found the power
to author a new chapter
To offer hope and laughter to ourselves
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
Our blunders become their burdens
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might,
and might with a right,
then love becomes our legacy
and change our children’s birthright
So let us leave behind a country
better than the one we were left with
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest,
we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one
We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west,
we will rise from the windswept northeast
where our forefathers first realized revolution
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states,
we will rise from the sunbaked south
We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

24 January 2021



I love trees. We are so lucky in the town we live to be surrounded by them. They line some of our streets. They are in our town center.



Milngavie itself is surrounded by woodlands and moors full of trees. The flat we live in has a woodland grove behind it and we can sometimes see deer in the morning coming down for food from the greenery just a stone's throw from our window.



Genesis 2 we read.



“And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”



So straight away in Genesis we read about trees being formed for the purpose of food, for life and for good and evil.



When we read these words in the second chapter of the Bible, we see a setup for the plot. The second named tree, which God commands the humans not to use, they do use. Why? Well, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.”



Returning to the first quotation, we notice that God’s creation of the trees involved two goods: First, trees were pleasant to the eyes — beautiful. Second, they were good for food. Eve reverses God’s order.



For her, food is first, beauty second.
 
All through the bible trees are used for teaching and we do learn a lot from them. Also the variations of a tree, the burning bush being one that comes to mind. But perhaps the most prolific is the grapevine when Jesus tells his followers “ I am the vine you are the branches and my Father is the gardener."

 

As we look around our gardens and our street we have the visible reminder of the master gardener and what he has done for us. We can also see the strength and wisdom of the Son and what he has taught us to be. We are the branches, reaching out to others on this Sabbath day. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

23 January 2021

 

30 seconds of Calm

 

Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," had an unusual picture hanging on his office wall. It was a picture of a turtle on top of a fence post. When asked, "Why is that there?" Alex Haley answered, "Every time I write something significant, every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful, and every time I begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post. And remember that he did not get there on his own. He had help." 

 

And that must be central to our thinking on thankfulness, we only get where we are and do what we do with the help of God and He is the provider of every blessing we have.

 

Psalm 121 tells us 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip –
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
 indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

 The Lord watches over you –
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
 the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

 The Lord will keep you from all harm –
    he will watch over your life;
 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and for evermore.

 

If you are lucky to live in the Milngavie area you know that we are so blessed that after only a few minutes in the car we can be among the hills and glens and we are able to stand beside a Loch and be thankful for what we have and where we live.

 

It is said that this psalm was sung by the Levites at the temple of Jerusalem. People on a pilgrimage sung this psalm as they walked through the hills recognising that the Lord can keep them safe and in turn keep them safe.

 

We all talk about 30 seconds of Calm, we see Apps in social media with the sound of whales and the water cascading through the hills, but what more can give us some perspective than reading Psalm 121.

 

Philippians 4 verses 6 and 7  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

22 January 2021

 

A long long time ago, more than 40 years ago I used to work a stone's throw from Glasgow Cathedral. Quite often at lunch time I would go up there for a walk round and just take in the silence and the peace. I had a favourite spot in the cathedral and it was downstairs and a tiny white chapel. The musty smell was amazing. While I was there a verse would come into my head that my own minister used to say and it comes from Matthew 18 verse 20, “ For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them.”  And that was my problem verse. Was I doing the right thing sitting alone? There was a certain young assistant that took a lunch time service further down the cathedral. I could join him and whoever else had turned up and join them. But I enjoyed my alone time.

 

At that time I went to Belmont St Stephens Church in Belmont Street in the west end of Glasgow, for six months, training as a reader. One of the first things I did was take part in a prayer meeting and I quoted Matthew 18 verse 20. "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with  them.” It was then the Rev Bill McAreavie put me right.

 

The heading for Matthew 18 is, “If Your Brother Sins Against You, ” or “Dealing with Sin in the Church” in another translation. Not all versions include the phrase “against you,” but either way we can gather that this passage is about sin and discipline in the Christian community, specifically the church.

 

So I was corrected. This doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t hear our prayers when we pray alone or with two or three people etc. …He does. But it means that this particular verse is not talking about Jesus’ presence in prayer, it’s talking about His presence in church discipline.

 

My first week in training and I was being corrected. But here is the point as told to me by Bill. He told me it was good to make mistakes with the scriptures, its good to find out things that surprise you about the scriptures. Its only then will you go back and take a second look and learn more.

 

Isaiah 41 reminds us  “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”      Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

21 January 2021

 

 

I don’t know why, but we look at the weather forecast for the following day nearly every day and it's not as if we are going anywhere. But we all like to see the sun and the dry weather even if it’s a bit cold.

 

Winter and the bad weather are mentioned as early as Genesis 8, but in the early days, the word “winter” also meant feeling of disdain or to jeopardize. Today we link the word winter to colder weather but winter has a part to play if our mood is grey and the same colour as the sky above us.

 

Psalm 74 verse 17 : “It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you who made both summer and winter”  another translation is  “You have arranged the earth, set all its boundaries; You are the Architect of the seasons: summer and winter.”

 

Winter and Summer are completely different seasons, yet God has a handle on both of them …and us. He doesn’t rip the rug out from our seasonal barometer, taking us from hot summer nights to a cold blanket of snow. He eases us into the change, walking us from one season to the next with Autumn and Spring in between. God is so creative, He seized the opportunity to create a time for the beauty of transition.

 

Meg Bucher reminds us that “In an environment that experiences a full four seasons of change, we seem to constantly live in flux. Maybe that’s the lesson God is teaching us. The moment we linger too long in our comfort zone, we stop growing. Even challenging changes matures the human heart. “

 

Through all weather, He remains unchanged. We change, the earth shifts and groans, but He never does. He never changes. He never fails. When the winter blues threaten to steal our joy, remember that God reigns over all seasons, of the weather, and of our very hearts.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

20 January 2021

 

Over the weeks we have become ardent viewers of CNN and all the shenanigans that have been happening over there. Later this afternoon ( our time) a new American President will be sworn in while the former President will release all his power. In this instance I think we should pray for the situation.

 

We can see over the past few years power in the wrong hands can be very divisive and dangerous. It can also be deadly. Looking back at the Old Testament there is a deadly tale of power that is of the worst kind.

 

Exodus 1 Verse 15 we read that

“15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

 

Pharaoh did not realize the power of God and the Hebrew midwives when he set about to destroy the Israelite population by ordering the death of each new born boy. The King James Versions tells us that, “the people multiplied and waxed very mighty,” “wax” is a word we don’t use very often these days and the easiest way to describe its meaning is that it is the opposite of “wane”. Wax means to grow bigger, to become of more substance and multiply. So because of God and the midwives the children of Israel did not die but in fact grew.

 

Today it's trendy to talk about powerful people in life. Those "influencers" who make a fortune by wielding their power. But the power of God is something never to be predicted. It’s awesome to say the least and we should always be aware of it and pray about it.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

19 January 2021

 

Max Lucado tells a great story about going away on his first tour and before he went he gave all his kids a chore to do while he was away. All the middle children were given something to do but when it came to the eldest son he said,  "little Tommy and I have a game each night. He sits on the top bunk and I hold my arms out and he jumps from the bed to me and I catch him in my arms. Do me a favour and do this a couple of times before he goes down for the night."   When Max came home he was told all the kids had done their chores except Tommy and the game from the top bunk. “I hear you didn’t participate, Tommy,” Max said, “ what was all that about?”

 

Tommy said, “well I did try and tell him, I only jump into my father's arms.”

 

I’m guessing Tommy didn’t have the confidence in his eldest brother that he did with his dad and that’s a problem that we all have today. There is a lot of talk about mental health issues outside the doors of our homes but I think one of the biggest issues is Confidence. Well known celebs are bringing out books daily on the power of positive thinking, reaching our goals, and how to get yourself to just do things every day. 

 

Just when we need more and more confidence to do our daily chores we find that it wanes slightly as we read the newspapers watch tv and read social media. Now I'm not saying the celebs books are not any good but first think about…….

 

1 John 5 verse 14 says 

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

 

Now please bear with me in this analogy. But choosing other things to build your confidence and give you strength rather than the Bible and or prayer is a bit like going to the gym and only using the showers. It’s a bit like walking down to Greggs the bakers and standing outside looking at the cakes or smelling the steak bakes. In order to experience the full immersion of our sovereign God and his grace and the power of his Holy Spirit, we need to use the tools in the church tool box.

 

It's only when we do this we will be like little Tommy and allow ourselves to be held in our Father's arms.  Amen 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

18 January 2021

 

Sometimes I think I could write a book with some of the incidents I have found myself in with the church children. I remember once talking to the kids in the UF Church in Milngavie. I was talking to them about what we do in work, and just to confuse them I had brought in a phone in the shape of the Batmobile. ( I worked for BT)

 

“So what do I do then during the day?” I asked. A hand shot straight up “you must be Robin!!!” This made me curious, “so why could I be Robin?” I asked. No smirk on face, no malice intended but just the honest truth from a six year old, “cause you're too fat to be batman.” Immediately I burst out laughing immediately followed by a very relieved congregation. “Never work with children and animals still comes to mind."

 

Life as we know it has changed for many people. Adults are used to being faced with stressful situations, but one question that rings louder in my ears is, how are all of these changes impacting our children’s lives? Especially when it comes to their mental health and peace of mind.

 

We should make sure we are asking the Lord to help our children fix their minds on Him, first and foremost. Change can often be overwhelming and scary, especially for children, and there are so many studies done on the negative effects that chronic stress can have on the overall health of a child. Our children need God’s peace now more than ever.

 

Isaiah 26 

We have a strong city;
    God makes salvation
    its walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
    that the righteous nation may enter,
    the nation that keeps faith.
You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord for ever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

 

The third verse says :

  “You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.”

 

So as we hold together everything in prayer never forget the children of our churches. Let's remember the changes and the stress that they may feel with no contact with their friends, with their home schooling and the fact that they cannot attend our churches. As a church we will keep contact with the kids and engage them from time to time but our prayer will be from Isaiah where we put our trust in the Lord and pray for steadfast young minds that will learn to put their trust in God and have peace. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

17 January 2021

 

The minister's 5 year-old daughter noticed that her father always paused and bowed his head for a moment before starting his sermon. One day she asked him why?.

"Well, Honey," he began, proud that his daughter was so observant of his messages, "I'm asking the Lord to help me preach a good sermon."

"So how come it never works?" she asked.

 

OK so it’s a funny wee story about prayers and children but be reassured no minister was harmed during the telling of that story. Psalm 63 verse 4 tells us, “ I will praise You as long as I live, lifting up my hands in prayer.”

 

Do you see those 5 words “As long as I live”? It's not, “when I am in trouble,” nor is it, “when I really need you,” or is it, “only when I have time.” Clearly, the message is “as long as I live.”

 

A couple of tips for prayer as we begin a new week. 

 

Praise Him while you pray. Get the feel of God in your spirit by telling him what a mighty God that he is and what he has done for you.

 

Commit to prayer time. You could try the same time every day, you could decide to do it as soon as you get up first thing in the morning while it's quiet. But the point is you have to commit each day to pray.

 

Pray with the minimum of distraction. Self-explanatory.

 

Pray specifically, telling God what’s really on your mind and using language that you are comfortable using. Tell him what kind of week that you are having and what’s on your mind.

 

Be honest in your prayers. You are not praying for the sake of it, you are praying for yourself and others around you. Share your thoughts with the Lord and he will give you rest.

 

A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, "Would you like to say the blessing?"

"I wouldn't know what to say," the child replied.

"Just say what you hear Mummy say," the wife said.

The daughter bowed her head and placed both hands on the table and raised her head in a pained expression and said, "Dear Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner? Tell me what was I thinking?"

 

And if you have children in your life, start them out young and familiarise them with the purpose of prayer and how natural it can be, It might be beneficial to all around you.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

16 January 2021

 

Someone said to me a while ago, “Alex instead of talking about it you should pray about it.”  At the time that annoyed me but when I went away and thought about it, the advice was perfect. We like to moan to each other, it's in our make up but on a personal note when it comes to prayer I worry about the language that I am going to use and don’t give enough thought to the content.

 

Years ago another piece of advice I got from an old minister from Northern Ireland was, “try and be specific”. Don’t just pray for that prodigal person that’s in your life, pray about the relationship that caused the separation, what you could have done differently and give God all the details. Of course, someone could say, “God already knows so why go through it all again?”. In Galatians 5:25 Paul said, “if we live by the Spirit, let us stay in step with the Spirit.”

 

Chelsea DeMattels tells us that to stay in step with the Spirit means walking in the convictions God lays in our hearts, it's only then we can see the gift of conviction and what it's all about.

 

Conviction leads us to bear fruit in our lives. Conviction is the pruning process God uses to make us more like Him. This is an honour to know that God wants us to reflect Him to this world that so desperately needs to see people living lives of love and grace and that can come through talking about conviction. May we turn to the Word of God and to the gift of prayer as we walk boldly in the convictions He lays on our hearts.     Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

15 January 2021

 

 

I was surprised the other day to read that it was Alexander Graham Bell that said, “when one door closes another opens”. But what I didn’t know that the rest of the quote is, “but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which opens for us.”

 

"When one door closes another opens” but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which opens for us”

 

And that’s what we do, right? An opportunity fails and we can be so focused on our failure that we miss the real golden opportunity. 

 

Psalm 37 verses 23 and 24

  

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

 

 

The perception of God always opening doors for us is unrealistic as he will close the doors if necessary. But it does not end there. In Christ we can trust God to establish our path and yes if we stumble God is there. God delights in having the better plan for you, when he closes a door on you it's out of love and faithfulness. If you are waiting on something. Remember that faithfulness and give that faithfulness back to him while you wait.

 

An old Iona Community hymn that has a tune called The Bay of Harris tells us :

I waited patiently for God,
for God to hear my prayer;
and God bent down to where I sank
and listened to me there.

 

God raised me from a miry pit,
from mud and sinking sand,
and set my feet upon a rock
where I can firmly stand.

 

And on my lips a song was put,
a new song to the Lord.
Many will marvel, open-eyed,
and put their trust in God.

 

Great wonders you have done, O Lord,
all purposed for our good.
Unable every one to name,
I bow in gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

14 January 2021

 

2 Corinthians 10 1-11

 

We hear people say that we cannot wait to get back to “normal” but I think we would be more productive if we start thinking about a new normal. It's clear that we have to be positive about what's happened in 2020 and not be taken down by events that killed a lot of people. Easier said than done I hear you say, but we have to be bold. I can be very bold when it comes to writing emails etc. but when it comes to the main event I can be a bit hesitant. We read Paul's letter to the Corinthians :

 

10 By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away!I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are judging by appearances.[a] If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

 

Paul seems to be in battle mode but all the while admitting that perhaps he comes across sometimes as timid but not afraid to use words like battle ....war ....and weapons. Maybe it's just me but when I read this passage I think about the return to some kind of normality when the church doors are opened for all. It'll be a battle to rebuild, maybe reshape even renew people's ideas about this new norm we talk about.

 

When we are allowed to return in full, to our building, we will begin the biggest battle of our church lives. We will use the message of the gospel and show the love of Christ towards others when we battle to regain our place and try and bring people to the church and to Christ.

 

We need to remember that we have relationships with each other in Christ and it is easy to forget that we are family and we are to treat one another like family in Christ. We will show each other the love of Christ with all humility and gentleness while still declaring to each other the need to move forward and open our church doors wide for everyone to see...

 

And leaving with Pauls's words ringing in our ears “11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.”

 

We need to think for a minute and realise that it begins with ourselves. We need to plan accordingly for the church doors opening and make it right in our own heads. And just remember there is no winner in who comes up with the best ideas. We are not here to win but to engage ourselves and others in Christ. Amen 

 

 

 

 

A Prayer for Thursday

Father in Heaven, as we wake up to another day, with whatever it may bring, we are so grateful for the assurance that we feel that we will face it with You by our side - thank you! We are aware too, Father, that our world is a needy place where people, often through no fault of their own, are suffering hardship and want as well as being deprived of the basics of life. We think too, at this time of year, when the weather is at its coldest, that many people, both here and abroad, will be struggling to stay warm. We remember the people of Japan who have just experienced the worst snowfall for a number of years, and 16 people have died and many are injured. We remember too, the people of Spain who have also experienced a snowstorm which has left devastation in its wake and there is concern that it will hamper the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. As we can see, Father, our World needs You whether they realise it or not and so, we would ask You to answer our prayers on their behalf and help those in need to see a way through their situation. They too need hope, not a transient or fleeting hope but one that is embedded in You and in Your Word. Pray for all the Christians in countries throughout the world that You will enable them, even during this time of restriction, to be bold in their witness – both orally and practically – and may it demonstrate clearly that their hope and trust in You, our Lord Jesus and Saviour of the World – Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

13 January 2021

 

What's your idea of comfort food? 

 

You know the thing that makes you feel good and brings memories flooding back. With me, it’s a thing we call “cheese dreams,” we used to make them for the boys at BB camp. Basically, you make a cheese sandwich with white bread and then dunk it into a whisked up egg (just like French toast) out it into a pan and voila gooey melting “cheese dreams.” 

 

Historically January is a bad month, the low, coming after the high of Christmas (?), the weather is nasty outside while we are tucked up safe in our own homes. We are even persuaded to stay inside. Christmas is truly gone for the year. But has it? You do know we can celebrate the life of Christ every day. Each morning we can welcome him into our lives as though we are still celebrating Advent. Comfort is to be had if only we go and look.

 

The banner for our Facebook page reminds us “it's not over yet” and that’s the comfort. Isaiah 40 tells us :

 

Isaiah 40

Comfort, comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
    that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.

 A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;[a]
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.[b]
 Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’

 A voice says, ‘Cry out.’
    And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’

‘All people are like grass,
    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
    Surely the people are grass.
 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.’

 

On television and in the press, things change daily. Advice changes, regulations change and even the rules change and there is very little comfort in all of that. But as we look outside our windows today and see the ice melt and the trees bald and bending in the wind. The temperature seems to be going down when we want it to go up and it's on a day like today we need comfort. But soon enough our creator God will give us the buds on the trees and the green shoots in our fields and gardens. But for today .............

 

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
    but the word of our God endures forever.’       Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

12 January 2021

 

We watched “Songs of Praise” yesterday, we always try and catch it but yesterday I really wanted to see it as Steph Macleod was singing on it. Steph has a great story to tell, born into a normal home, gifted and educated but drugs and alcohol took over his life. He preferred to be homeless but eventually, he found Christ and became a Christian ( if you can get the chance watch it on catch up).

 

Today's reading is a psalm

Psalm 69:30-36  From the Message

 

Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.

 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.

The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!

 For God listens to the poor,
He doesn’t walk out on the wretched.

You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.

For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.

Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?

 No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.

 

 

You know the Psalms are great at painting a picture, but they are at their best when they are able to lift you up and boy do we need that these days. We are asked to stay safe at home but spare a thought for the homeless. Those suffering under domestic abuse and those who really need help and support in these days of enforced isolation. There is one line in today's psalm, it jumps out at me and that is “He doesn’t walk out on the wretched” and that is something for us to rejoice at but also it's important for us to pray about it as well. Yes Covid is out there and it’s a dangerous thing but everything else does not go away because of its presence. We still need to pray for the disconnected, those who are reaching out and are scared to put their hand up and say “help?”

 

So on this Tuesday as we read the Psalm let's pray for the “wretched” and hope that they find Christ in their lives. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

11 January 2021

 

I read a story the other day about a young girl who wore a cross to Church every Sunday, she would touch it from time to time during the service before going out to the Sunday School. On the way home, one day, her father said to her, “you do know the cross where they hung Jesus was not a beautiful cross like the one you are wearing?” Without skipping a heartbeat the young girl said, “I know that I’m not stupid. But we are taught in the Sunday School that everything Jesus touches…….he changes.”

 

In our reading this morning Saul is “touched” by Jesus and then for Paul everything changes.

 

Acts 22

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

10 “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

“ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ 11 My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

 

 

……..So why did Paul change? Well, the easiest answer is that Jesus went looking for him and the change for Paul was visible. On the inside and on the outside.  Jesus’s life touched Paul and he changed. 

 

Another question would be, “has he touched you?” Only you will know ( and God of course). 

 

Chuck Swindoll talks about - What does it mean to have your heart touched by God? It means that God is now at the center of your will and your being. It means that you have surrendered your life in totality unto Him.

 

How does God touch your heart? He does so by the gentle influence of His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us to the Word of God, and through the Scriptures, God touches our hearts. 

 

When God touches your heart, bitterness, anxiety and fears have to go. They can't stay in a heart that has been touched by God. Habits and vices that were destroying your life fall away. 

 

When God touches your heart, it fills with love and peace. Though the storms may rage, you have a glorious confidence in God's ability to control life's circumstances.

 

Jesus surrounded Himself with a group of men whose hearts He had touched - men who went out and turned a world upside down. When, and I am still quoting Swindoll when he says :

 

God touches your heart and you stop living just for today and you begin living for eternity.

Amen

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

10 January 2021

 

I think I have told the story before about giving out stickers in the seventies to kids from Sunday school. It was not my own church but I was helping out at another church in Partick at the time as they had no Sunday school teacher. Someone that I worked with had gone to America and brought me back a large box of stickers all centered around the Coca-cola logo the best of these was a red circular sticker that said, “Jesus Christ - the real thing.” 

 

I was then asked to go round every boy's house and collect the offending stickers that were considered blasphemous at the time. The moral of this story being as a church, we have moved on.

 

A reading from Acts 19 tells us 

19:1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples.
19:2 He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" They replied, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
19:3 Then he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They answered, "Into John's baptism."
19:4 Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus."19:5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Paul questions the disciples in Ephesus about their beliefs and their conversion. He asks them about The Holy Spirit. They were baptized by John the Baptist and seem to have no knowledge of the holy spirit.

 

Paul explains that they were baptized by the one who came to prepare the way for Jesus. They need now be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus and they were.

 

Maybe I was being a bit cynical when I was recounting the story of the coca-cola stickers but in these days where we cut corners and find new ways to do everything with God there can be none of that. Jesus Christ is the real thing, the real deal, make it as modern as you like. But we always look back to what the scriptures tell us, teaches us and reminds us. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

09 January 2021

 

“Tidy out that bookcase!” my dad would shout. “Why???” would be my response. “Because I said so!!” he came back at me. This was one of my dad's favourite shouts in our house and if he said it, you had to do it even for a quiet life.

 

This first week back after a new year. It’s a time for a new start, a clean slate and all that. We have read this week about being obedient to God, and that he is the only one that can judge us. In fact, we need to seek him out and set an example before him and it’s the will of God that will design our lives.

 

The reading this morning is from Luke 5

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

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

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

 

 

These fishermen are not amateurs but Jesus gives them some valuable advice “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”. Of course, we know the story and a record catch was pulled up from the sea. This was all possible because the disciple did what Jesus told them. When we question our faith and our beliefs, when we set out what we have read this week about judgment, obedience, setting an example and the will of God, you might want to cry out loud, “why??,” but the answer is easy and it's always the same from God, “because I said so." Right at the end of our reading Jesus reassures the disciples, “do not be afraid, from now on you will fish for people” and that’s what we can do today be following God.  Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

08 January 2021

 

I walked out of the supermarket a few months ago and was quickly followed by the security guard who then chatted to me at the car. It was all innocent stuff but the first thing that I did when he walked away was quickly scan the car park for anyone from the church. I was terrified someone would think that I had been caught shoplifting ( I wasn’t by the way! ).

 

No one said it was going to be easy being a Christian and there is so much to keep up that it can be stressful. But we can only make sure we do our best.

 

Looking at the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 4 

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

 

 

The point of my story at the beginning is, of course, it doesn’t matter what people see of you in the street and what you are doing, no one is there to judge you. We have said it before ......only God can judge.

 

But to be better Christians, to enrich our lives and our Christian commitment we can look no further than Paul and his life and his advice. Just from this reading we know that we should not let folk look down on us, we should set an example, we should devote our lives to the scriptures and encourage our gifts giving our lives over to using them and encouraging others.

 

The lesson clearly is you don't have to look over your shoulder, just look to your heart and be a better person. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

07 January 2021

 

I think I may have told this story before about working in the Billy Graham Crusade. Every night after the crusade was over Moira ( another member of St Paul's) would go to a burger van for a bag of chips. The man in the burger van boasted about the money he was making from the “crazy Christians”. The man was really annoying but I was hungry coming straight to the football ground from work.

 

Anyway on the last night we went to the burger van and his daughter was working alone, it turns out her father went into the stadium just as Billy was taking to the stage as he just loved the crowds singing “majesty”. At an update a few weeks later we were told that quite a few of the stallholders had come into the stadium through a special gate and had given their lives to God.

 

We read about Saul's conversion in Acts 9

 

 

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

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

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

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

 

I read somewhere that conversion does not depend on the will of man but the sovereign power and will of God. It doesn’t depend on a man's nature but on the grace of God and let's thank God for that. Many, many people have been “stopped in their tracks” and given a new direction, a new purpose, a new life and a new heart and we only have to look to the life of Paul to learn about that. Our prayer for Thursday is that this Christmas past people have come to know God and his son Jesus Christ.

 

Our Loving Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the season of Christmas which we have just celebrated and for the reminder of your great love to the world when Your only Son, our Saviour, was born as one of us to rescue us from our sin.  Although we were not able to have our usual Christmas services with lots of people gathered together, we thank You for the knowledge that the message of Christmas was not diminished or restricted and that the power of the Christmas message was still given and received.   We thank You that down through the years, regardless of the political or social climate of the times, regardless of what individual men and women were thinking and doing, You were still working out Your great purposes.   We think today of the Apostle Paul, who that momentous day, was out to do harm but You stopped him in his tracks because You had other plans for his life – and what a life and witness he was to become.   We thank You that you can break down the hardest of hearts to ‘put a new song in our mouths’.   We thank You for Paul and for all that was achieved in his ministry and for the legacy of that ministry – even today.  We pray that this Christmas many people will have heard the Christmas story in a new and personal way which will have ‘stopped them in their tracks’ and helped them come to faith in the Saviour of the world.   May this new year – this new decade - be a springboard when the power of Jesus will be felt in the lives of His people and in their witness – Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

06 January 2021

 

As a child one of the things I used to love was seeing the Christmas lights in George Square. My dad used to say that whoever found the manger scene could choose where to sit on the bus going home. (That was a cop out as my brother and I always loved going upstairs on the bus for a better view.)

 

It was easy to find the manger scene too as it was always fairly central and well lit for all to see. Then suddenly  in the late seventies there was an issue, the manger scene was deemed irrelevant and there was a possibility that it was going to be put elsewhere.  But sanity prevailed and it was returned to its rightful place. I don’t know if it's my imagination or not but in later years it has become more and more difficult to find Joseph and Mary and Jesus and the three wise men in George Square.

 

The lectionary tells us that today is The Epiphany of the Lord and the reading should be Matthew 2

 

The Magi visit the Messiah

 

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:

“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

People today and waiting for God. Where is God in all of this? If you don’t have God , if you cant find God, if God is not in your life then who is to blame?

 

The three wise men provide a great lesson in having God in your life.

 

The wise men did three massive things - they looked for God and they came and worshiped  Jesus (despite all sorts of opposition) and they gave to Jesus. They give these amazing gifts their time, their allegiance and gold, incense and myrrh.

 

The most important of these things cannot be bought in a shop or purchased on line. The most important of these gifts involve you and me doing something . If God is there we have to look for him. We have to put ourselves out for him, we have to head out on the journey of life with him and that means we have to give our whole life to him.

But there is great reward in doing that. Because if God is there – and he is. Then the whole world is different.

So as we embark on a new year, let’s be certain that God is there and let’s be sure we are responding to his longing for us to follow him. Amen

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

05 January 2021

 

Obedience is thicker than blood?

 

Neither of us come from what we would call big families, and we don’t come from a family that are familiar with the church. I remember a few months ago, when speaking about the church being closed, I said I missed my church family. The other person in this conversation thought I sounded sad by admitting that I looked upon people in my church as “family”. I thought then, maybe I should change the way I speak about my “pew pals” and refer to them as just that “pals in the church.”

 

Having read Matthew 12, fast forward to just the other day when I was talking to a fellow elder about the people that are not able to come to our church for health reasons. I had no issue then saying, “I miss them because they are my family." Sure I can phone them and I do, but it's not the same kind of fellowship chatting face to face with the minimum inhibitions.

 

Reading from Matthew 12 46-50

 

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

 

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

Some people could comment that Jesus is being disrespectful of his brothers and his mother but this is not the case. He was simply making a point, and a very good point at that. While the disciples pointed out that his mother and brothers were waiting to speak to him his response was direct,  “Who do you think my mother and brothers are?” He then stretched out his hand toward his disciples. “Look closely. These are my mother and brothers." Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother.

 

A slight change to the familiar phrase “blood is thicker than water,” what we are reading here is “obedience is thicker than blood.” Jesus recognises the fact that while we are all under God, while we are all under His grace and care, while we are all his sheep, we are family. Is it sentimental to say “I love my church family?” I don’t think so and that’s because the Bible tells me so. As Eugene Peterson says “The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother."

 

And if you happen to meet any of my church family out there today tell them I was asking for them.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

04 January 2021

 

 

I remember one day being in a group of people and we were discussing something quite important. I happened to give quite a strong opinion about our capabilities and was shocked when one of the group said “don’t say that! You are not that important!” Later they explained to me that there were several people in the group and not just me, there was no malice in the point that they were making but a gentle reminder that I was just a cog in the wheel. I was there to do a job and nothing else, I could easily be replaced”

 

Our reading today is from James 4 11-17

 

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbour?

 

Boasting About Tomorrow

 

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

 

 

The experts say that “Framing his letter within an overall theme of patient perseverance during trials and temptations, James writes in order to encourage his readers to live consistently with what they have learned in Christ. He wants his readers to mature in their faith in Christ by living what they say they believe.”

There is a danger when “we” judge. We judge using our opinion most of the time and that is wrong. For there is only one judge. James helps us out in this. 

 

James says, “Do not speak evil of your brother”. This includes slander gossip, bringing up faults. I have to put my hand up here and say that this is one of my failings. And for that reason, I struggle constantly with the battles that I have being judge and jury in some instances.

 

We must resist the temptation to criticize our fellow brothers and sisters, they have a judge and it is not me or you.

 

Not only is it wrong to judge our brothers and sisters but also it is wrong to judge our plans and ourselves. There is a certain President at the moment that takes pride in saying “we did it and we were the best” or “tomorrow we will do this and we will be the biggest and the quickest and the best. There is none like us!”

 

You see tomorrow we may do something, we may have planned it or arranged it but we cannot say we will be successful or that we will be the best at doing it. Because that means we are being the judge (and we are not). Our plans tomorrow must include God, as only he will see fit to make our endeavours fruitful and a success. We should never make promises that we cannot keep as we will then fail.

 

A lesson for me then is 

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Let us refuse to speak evil of one another and judge one another. Let us instead love one another. Let us consider how we may “stir up one another to love and good works.” (Heb 10:24)