‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ 1 John 4:10 (NIV)
The ad campaigns have started, the shop windows are being dressed and the shops are getting busier and busier as people buy gifts and presents to be given to family, friends and colleagues. Millions will be spent on gifts across our land and the burden will be felt by many families yet in the midst of all the business and spending there will be a gift that is ignored by many. Imagine if you were offered a gift that is priceless, a gift that is so precious that people have died to protect it, a gift that brings what the world cannot give; peace, love and joy, would you not grab it with both hands? Yet this gift that lies at the very heart of the season is, in so many cases, ignored and not even considered. That gift of course is not an ‘it’ but a ‘who’, in the person of Jesus Christ. God sent his Son into this world to reconcile the world to himself, Jesus was the wonderful gift graciously given by our Heavenly Father to make this possible because there is nothing we can give, no price we can pay, no amount of work we can do that makes this possible. As John Piper writes:
‘…if you want what Jesus has to give, you can’t buy it. You can’t trade for it. You can’t work for it. He already owns your money and everything you have. And when you work, it is only because he has given life and breath and everything.’
There will be a small fortune spent on things that are passing and fleeting this Christmas yet the greatest gift that we can receive is given freely to those that are willing to receive it. The relationship between ourselves and a Holy Heavenly Father can only be restored in one way. No amount of money, no amount of good deeds, no amount of living a good life or works will restore what is broken. The only one that can do that is the one who came in the form of an infant, and whose arrival we celebrate at this time of year. However as we look at the manger this year let us not lose sight of the cross where Jesus died for our sins. Let us remember the high cost the gift cost our Heavenly Father and how freely he offers it to us.
May the Lord bless you in His service over this festive period.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.’
John 15:12-14 (ESV)
At the end of October we gathered at the Lord’s Table on our communion Sunday to remember the great sacrifice, that as believers, we have been bought at. The body of Christ broken, the blood of the Saviour shed all so that we could know and be known by the living God. As we go into November we have an opportunity to remember the sacrifice given in two world wars and multiple conflicts since then. It is a reminder not only of those that lost their lives but of the cost of the freedom we experience as a nation. So why do we need to meet regularly at the Lord’s Table? Why do we meet annually on a Sunday where we remember and give thanks for those that have died in service to their ? We do these things because we can so easily forget. We hold and express opinions freely, we live in a place where we choose those that govern over us, we live in a nation that seeks to protect the weakest in society, and so I could go on, but it is easy to forget the cost that brought these freedoms and privileges. In the same way the human mind can quickly forget and the human heart quickly become cold to what Christ did on Calvary’s cross and the freedom and privileges that he brought to all who trust and obey him. As Dustin Crowe writes ‘…in the Bible, a call to remember—especially when tied to a covenant sign or ceremony—is a vibrant, powerful, and participatory concept where we recalibrate our lives according to what’s being remembered. According to Herman Ridderbos in his outline of Paul’s theology, “It is not merely a subjective recalling to mind, but an active manifestation of the continuing and actual significance of the death of Christ.”’ As we move forward from again meeting at the table of our Lord may we remember all that it means but more than that may we recalibrate our lives for the next leg of our earthly journey according to what we remember there. May the Lord richly bless you in his service.
(Sorry this is more than a little late)
‘And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’ Luke 10:2 (ESV)
‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’
James 1:22 (ESV)
We have just celebrated harvest with the front of the church looking wonderful with all the food and produce, the flowers, the nets and fish boxes all creating a wonderful display of God’s good provision. It helped us rejoice in all the good things given by our Lord and to celebrate how he is sovereign over all creation as he brings the seasons and causes the harvest to grow. However on that Sunday morning we also reflected on the fact that if we have food in a fridge, a roof over our head, a bed to sleep in and clean water to drink we are better off than 75% of the world’s population. This is an astounding figure that makes us stop and think. Some will ask where is God in this situation but the Lord may give in abundance however the sinful human nature is to look after oneself. A small number of the world’s population live in great affluence whilst others struggle to feed themselves and their families and we can equally be guilty of looking to our own comforts instead of seeking to help others. There are opportunities, if we take them, to reach people with the love of Christ in very real and practical ways and to make a difference in people’s lives. The gospel is not theoretical, it calls for us to act, to be doers not just hearers. What does that mean for us each Sunday as we leave our churches and live within our communities? Yet there are many places where people are poor in material terms but are rich in the greatest way possible in that they know and love the Lord and rest upon his Word. We may not experience famine in this country in the terms of the crops but we are seeing that fewer people are hearing and responding to the gospel message. Just as God brings the seasons so we pray for a season within our land where as the seeds of the gospel are sow then the Lord would be pleased to water them and so through the Spirit bring many to faith in Christ. Will we be the Lords labourers sowing seeds so that in time and by God’s will there will be a great harvest, will we be doers of the word and not simply hearers? May the Lord continue to bless you in your endeavours for the kingdom.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)
After much planning and preparation we will, this month, be celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the church. It is not a celebration of bricks and mortar but of the faithfulness of God down through 80 years of our fellowship. Over the weekend of the 9th and 10th of September we will have the opportunity to gather together as a fellowship to give thanks for how the Lord has been at work in the lives of His people down through the generations since the founding of the church and the establishment of a place of worship. It is a time to look back over the years that have gone by and the faithful servants that have gone before us. It is also an opportunity to give thanks for the Lords leading and guiding in these years and His many blessings but it is, importantly, an opportunity to think of what the coming years will hold. None of us know what the future holds and what blessings we will experience and what challenges we will face but looking to the Lords faithfulness in the past means we can be sure that He is trustworthy for whatever the future holds. We seek to continue to build on the bedrock of the ministries and work that have been and to establish ways to connect with a new generation or generations. As plans come together for the celebration so other plans are being considered for the life of the church beyond these celebrations. In many ways it is these plans that are important because we cannot rest on the past victories and successes but must be continually pushing forward in our life and witness to the world around us. We seek to be faithful to the Word of God, to the unchanging Lord and the call to be His witnesses in an ever changing world. We continue to look to the Lord and we ask that He will give us a vision of what He would have us do and how He would have us do it. Great steps of faith were taken in the past as the church stands testament to and great steps of faith will be needed in the days ahead but as the verse above declares ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ In this joyful period of celebration in the life of our congregation please take time to reflect on the faithfulness of the God we serve and in the business find time to be still before Him and see glimpses of His glory.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
This week I sat one evening and looked through the options of films to watch on Netflix. As I scrolled through the options there was something for every taste, the action movie, the romantic comedy, the documentary and so the list went on. There was so much to choose from that I struggled to make a choice at all. I started one and then part way through changed to another before finally watching a sports documentary. Why do I share this with you? Let me explain. I was struck by the sheer number of different options to choose from and if I didn’t like one I could simply try something else. It is a bit like going into a sweet shop as a child and being able to pick and mix what you want. We live in a world that says life is like this. You can chose one path one day and if you don’t like that you can choose another the next. Even our young folks look at TV and films and think that’s what real life looks like and are left disappointed when it doesn’t work out like that, but it’s ok because we can just choose another path in the worlds understanding. The scriptures do not set out before us a plethora of different options or paths; they simply give us two roads that the verses above speak of. However the world tries to sell us a lie that we can just mix and match and see what works, maybe find a middle road. There is no such road, it is just a hopeful fantasy, and we all have a decision to make. Too many options can be unhelpful but in a world where we are bombarded by choice this seems too few. Even believers can be sucked into this kind of thinking trying to straddle both roads but to be on one road is not to be on the other. One road is a life of service and submission to Christ that leads to a glorious eternity in the presence of the Lord God Almighty the other is the road of worldly pleasure, rebellion to God and pleasing self but this leads to an eternity forever separated from a loving God, a truly terrible thought. Let me leave you with the words of John Piper: ‘May God give us in perfect proportion the fruitful balance of loving heaven and fearing hell.’ May the Lord help us guide more around us towards the narrow path.
And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:6-7 ESV)
At our recent family service we considered these verses from Acts which we have been working our way through in our evening services. Acts as we have discovered is a book with the mission to spread the good news of the gospel as its heartbeat. It charts the growth of the early church and the amazing spread of the message of salvation from Jerusalem, to Samaria and Judea and on to the ends of the earth. It is the beginning of a work which we as a church, even today continue, that of bringing the message of salvation to the end of the earth. The unprecedented spread of this truth and growth of the early church shows the power of the gospel and the work of the Spirit which was poured out to Jews and Gentiles alike. That gospel message that was proclaimed then should be the same one as we proclaim today and that same Spirit that led and guided the early church is the same Spirit that leads and guides us today and who works in the hearts and minds of people as we seek to faithfully proclaim the saviour. The verses above talk of the accusation brought against Paul and Silas in Thessalonica of ‘turning the world upside down’. I find it a wonderful accusation, some would say, a back handed complement. It is the accusation of turning everything a different way up. The world claims it to be the wrong way up whereas we see it is the right way up for the world we live in is in turmoil, it is the wrong way up. Recent events that have rocked our nation and events further afield just confirm this truth and people continue to search for answers and some sort of hope. Imagine for a moment the difference that we would see in this world if every believer could face the same accusations and be found guilty, of turning the world upside down or in God’s eyes, the only ones that matter, the right way up. Over the summer period our organizations finish which allows us, even more, to move our focus from within the walls of our church to out with and to those around us. I hope you have a wonderful summer and I ask that you consider how to use it for the glory of God and the work of turning the world upside down.
Every blessing in your labours for the Lord
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. (Psalm 148:1-5 ESV)
As we have journeyed out of winter through spring and into summer proper it has been an opportunity for me to get out and explore more of this beautiful part of the world we live in here in Lossiemouth. Myself and Laura have enjoyed walking the dog in new places and discovering places we have not been before to enjoy, whether it be in the peace of the woods, the beauty of the coastline or watching the sun setting as we finish a walk along the beach. Each sunset is different, the tides are constantly changing the shore line and the variety of flowers and wildlife always make for interesting pictures and memories. Sometimes life can become busy and we miss the opportunity for such experiences but when we have time to slow down and appreciate our surroundings we discover the beauty and wonder of the creation which continuously points to its creator. Whether it is the sheer power of the sea or the delicate flowers it reminds us of the God we serve. He is the one that controls the oceans, that keeps the earth spinning or that puts the colours in the leaves and the plants as they bloom. We see the power of our God in creation, we see the gentleness of our God in creation and we see the creativity and beauty of our God in creation. He has created a world we can enjoy that is not black and white but full of vibrant colours, not static but ever changing beauty, we can smell, touch, taste, hear all that is around us but if we enjoy the creation, as many do, but do not acknowledge the creator we will be left wanting. Everything is designed to bring praise to God, all creation, including us. We are designed for worship and bringing praise but often that worship is directed at the wrong things. Our aim in mission as we reach out is to see that worship directed towards God. As John Piper notes ‘Mission exists because worship doesn’t’. Let us as we enjoy the creator point others to him so that they too can rightly direct their praise and their worship to a wonderful, holy and perfect God. The Lord bless you as you enjoy him and his goodness in these days.
Just a reminder to all that it is the Moderators visit this weekend. Rev. Alexander Ritchie and family will be with us for our morning service at 11am which he will lead after which there will be a congregational lunch in the church hall. It is great to have Alexander, as the former minister, and the family visit us in Lossiemouth and I’m sure we will enjoy catching up with him. All welcome.
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14 ESV))
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow. (Psalm 144:4 ESV)
I don’t know about you but the beginning of this year just seems to have rushed by. Others have said to me how they don’t know where the time has gone or how we are into May already but as the saying goes ‘Time waits for no man.’ The verses above describe the brevity of life which you may think is a fairly depressing topic to choose as we go into the summer months but bear with me. These verses would be thoroughly depressing reading without the hope and promises we have as believers but in actual fact they are of great encouragement to us. Our lives could seem insignificant in light of these verses and the universe we live in but the wonderful thing is that if we trust in Jesus and follow him then the Bible tells us we are known and loved by the God of the universe. This means our lives, short as they may be are important and what we do with them and the choices we make are important. It is what we choose to use that time for that will make a difference. Our lives in this world might be short but we are eternal beings yet many spend so much time concentrating on this life that passes like a mist, choosing to ignore the life that lies beyond and where they will spend it. The passing attractions of this life may seem desirable now and give short term satisfaction and the road we are called to walk as believers look unappealing but the wonderful truth is that whatever this world has to offer and whatever we may suffer in it will pail in the light of an eternity spent in the presence and glory of God. Equally whatever pleasure and gain is made still living not knowing and trusting in the Saviour will seem worthless in an eternity separated from the love and glory of God. Our purpose in this life and the next is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever and when we make the decision stirred by the work of the Holy Spirit to do just that then we will live satisfied and fulfilled lives on this earth. As we enter another summer let us remember that this life is a passing season but one passing into something better and more glorious for those that trust and believe all that the scriptures have to teach and who follow the Master. It is not the message the world wants to hear but it is a message it needs to hear. May the Lord equip us and grant us boldness to do just that.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam. 3:22-23)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb.13:8)
As we approach Easter once again we do so knowing and experiencing that we are living in an ever changing world. We live in times of constant cultural flux and just when you think you have a handle on technology, culture, politics and a myriad of other things the goalposts seem to move. Yet in the midst of all this people are looking for constants, for something to hold onto that won’t move or change direction. One senses how unsettled our society is and people, many well-meaning people, point to a raft of solutions but even then they point to things that have no more as solid foundation than the next but there is a constant that we can look to, that constant is the love of the Lord. It is a love so great that the events of the first Easter are what we celebrate as God’s people. It is at Easter that we celebrate the defining truths of our beliefs, it is here we see:
- That we are sinners in need of a Saviour
- That God gave us a saviour in the form of His only begotten Son.
- Jesus, God’s son, took upon himself our sins and put them to death in His death.
- Jesus rose from the dead and brought new life in his rising to those who trust and obey Him.
- And from the God’s right hand, now ascended into heaven he now rules and reigns over His kingdom, through His church.
Yet these truths are not simply for Easter they are what define our lives and the life of our fellowship. It is these constants that we rejoice in at Easter, these actions of an unchanging God that show that he does not love us today and will abandon us tomorrow. They show that his steadfast love never ceases and that in a world in change there is one who is unchanging and unchangeable, that there is one who in the midst of our troubles, our trials, our joys and celebrations we can call upon, not as some genie in a bottle who is there at our beck and call but the one who will be there for those that love and trust him. In a world of shifting sands Christ is the solid rock for as the hymn declares ‘All other ground is sinking sand’. We pray many would hear and accept these truths for themselves this Easter.
May the Lord bless you at this wonderful time of year for the believer.