‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.’ Isaiah 11:6 (ESV)
In November we take time to remember the fallen of past conflicts and those that remain but bear the scars of war as we gather around the country on Remembrance Sunday. It is a sombre and important time as we remember the cost that our way of life and our freedom has been bought at. As a town with a military base we have a constant reminder of the need for a readiness amongst our armed forces and it stands as a reflection of the world we live in. We live in quickly changing world where conflict amongst nations and individuals is the norm. However as believers we look to a time when there will be no more conflict, no more strife between nations or individuals. We look to the future glory when Christ’s kingdom that has broken in and we see in parts, is consummated at Christ’s return and we see it in its fullness. This is not some abstract hope of world peace or obscure thought of everybody being accepting of everything and everyone, this is about the promise of the new heaven and the new earth where God’s people will dwell in perfect harmony with each other and with a Holy God. The passage above with the animals protecting what they formerly devoured paints an image of the peace the new age ruled by Christ will bring. It beautifully illustrates the reality of the future hope that we have and should encourage us in the present age. Our relationship with a Holy God perfectly restored, the creation re-created perfectly and the love between God’s chosen people made perfect. All this made possible by the sacrifice of one who laid his life down for the many. We remember the fallen as we should but having recently celebrated Communion together we took time to consider the one that said, this do in remembrance of me, the one that gave his life not for the purpose of our earthly freedom but for the purpose of securing our eternal freedom. It is a freedom that many have no thought of and give no consideration to but we pray that in the days ahead many would turn to Christ and know true peace and reconciliation with a righteous God. May the Lord encourage you today as you look to the future and may he equip you in His service.
‘…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’ Ephesians 5:8-11(ESV)
As the nights draw in and the leaves change colour, our minds begin to turn to the months ahead. Each October brings the knocks on the door of those guising in costumes that are at times impressive and others quite disturbing. Halloween has become ingrained in our culture as a bit of fun for the kids but it is also something that points to a much darker truth. Halloween has increasing come to be associated with things the Bible tells us to separate ourselves from such as witchcraft, demons, sorcery, magic and things associated with darkness. As believers we are aware that there is a very real battle going on between the powers of darkness and light, it is a conflict that many live ignorant of and that’s exactly what Satan wants. He wants people to live in ignorance so that he can keep hold over their lives but we have, as 1 Peter teaches, been ‘called out of darkness into His (that is God’s) wonderful light’ and we are called to walk as children of light as the verses above teach. That means we seek what is good and right and true, all that is found in Christ and we are called not simply to ignore the unfruitful works of darkness but to expose them. Thankfully many churches are doing just that and holding alternatives such as light parties for young folks that focus on what is good, right and true whilst making a statement against, or exposing Halloween for what it actually is. It is showing that it is not simply a bit of fun but a dabbling, sometimes quite innocently, in things that we should avoid. As a church we continue to pray for the influences that young folks experience today and we pray that there would be Godly influences in their lives whether it be parents, grandparents, friends or others that God places around them. Let us not be fooled by what is of darkness and let us seek what is of the light found in the person of Christ. May the Lord continue to use you and bless you in His service.
‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
Over the summer months this year we have had our after service teas as an opportunity to fellowship together whilst the organisations are off for the summer break. Due to how popular these have been they are carrying on throughout September. Through conversations and thinking on these times together I was reminded of the importance of Christian fellowship and how vital it is to our lives as believers. We are not called to be believers in Christ in isolation but instead we are called to meet together regularly as we wait on the return of our Lord and Saviour. In our own day when so much rests on being an individual, of being able to manage by ourselves and of our identity being distinct we see that as believers we find our strength on being in Christ and doing life together with His people. It allows us to share in the ups and downs of life together, to stir one another to love and do good works as the passage above tells us. We are able to encourage one another in running the race that is set before us in this life and there are times that we all need a little help or can be a help to others. The notion of being a Christian but not wanting to be with God’s people is an idea alien to the teachings of the scripture and those that try this will soon see the pitfalls. Hearing what the Lord is doing in others can lift our week and as we display the bonds of love that bind us as we meet what we learn together can help others. It may seem like simply a cup of tea after the service but it is so much more in the light of what we read above. It is another opportunity to meet together, so that relationships amongst believers mature and deepen and do not remain simply superficial. We give thanks for these times together and look forward to each of the organisations beginning again. We pray that each time of meeting together would be a blessing and would bless others in the days ahead. ‘Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…’
‘My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.’ Psalm 121:2-4
In our evening services of late we have considered some of the psalms including some of the psalms of ascent that were used by the people of God as they made their pilgrimage to the city of Jerusalem. We recently considered psalm 122 which talks of the joy that comes from seeing and being inside Jerusalem’s walls and finally being near the house of the Lord but the psalm above also a psalm of ascent looks to the earlier time of looking to the journey ahead. The words not only speak to the physical journey that had to be undertaken but speaks to life’s journey as well.
As it gets to that time of year when the weather improves, when holidays are taken whether at home or abroad, when the organisations of the church stop for a time and we seek to enjoy the longer days and lighter nights it is good to remember that we serve a God who never sleeps nor slumbers. Even as we enjoy the good weather and some time for ourselves the old fears can creep in, the lingering struggles persist and new troubles arise along life’s journey yet we can take comfort that whilst we rest and recuperate or take time away, that the God we serve is still at work. He continues to sustain the world around us, He continues to pour out his grace, listen to the prayers of His people, comfort the hurting, give hope to the lost and so much more besides. We, in our finite bodies, weary, we falter and we fail. However the God of the universe, the God we serve, never wearies and needs to take a break from the cries of His people, He never needs to go on holiday to recharge His batteries, never sleeps as we lay down our heads each night. If we wake through the night He is there, if we struggle in the business or the quietness of the day He is there and when we reach the end of our own strength and understanding He is there. May you know times of rest in the Lords service and may you find comfort in the truths of these verses. May you know God’s blessing over the summer months and beyond.
‘O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.’ Psalm 8:1 (ESV)
As we enjoy the good weather we have been experiencing I have tried to get out and take some photos around the area. Some of these are sweeping panoramas looking across the Firth with the water in the foreground and the mountains in the background. In other cases it has been close ups, maybe of flowers, in their bright colours and delicate design. Then there are sunrises and sunsets, each one different to the last, as the light shines and the colours illuminate the sky. In the city when we walk about much of what we see is man-made but living where we do we don’t have to walk far to experience the grandeur and beauty of the creation around us. Even looking into the evening sky at night we can see the stars sparkling away or we can, on occasions, experience the northern lights, as the creation performs a spectacular light show for us. Some say all this happened by chance yet through the eyes of faith we see the hand of the creator God at every turn, not only that but all creation reflects, like a mirror, the majesty of God. Recently we have studied the Psalm above that declares ‘O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.’ In that psalm we see how David too looked at the moon and stars and recognised God’s handiwork and was aware of his majesty but how often in the business of life do we miss the Lords hand not just in the creation around us but in our lives. We miss God’s majesty as he works out his great plan of redemption but also as he works out those plans within our lives. David saw the great privileges that the almighty has given mankind yet this psalm points forward to one whom God would ‘put all things under his feet.’ We not only see the majesty of God in the creation but we see the majesty of God at the cross where he displays his power in weakness of the saviour, declares his will in the silence of the saviour and brings life through the death of the saviour. As John Piper notes ‘We find our everlasting joy not in usurping the majesty of God but in saying with all creation: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name—not ours—in all the earth.”’ May the Lord help you to see His majesty in the creation and in His gracious dealing with us His people.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.’ John 15:18-20 (ESV)
It is Monday afternoon as I sit in the sun and write this. I am reflecting on the weekend just past and all that’s taken place. It hasn’t been a weekend much different to any other but as I look back I remember how at each of our services of worship I walked into a dry warm church, at our prayer meeting I walked down the aisle of the church and into the vestry without anybody challenging me, at both our services I climbed the steps to the pulpit with no fear for my life and with the freedom to preach God’s Word and as I looked around the church each pew had a least one Bible sitting waiting to be picked up and studied. As I sit and write now I realise that my experience is very different to many of my brothers and sisters in Christ who face persecution for their faith. For too many they have no church building to call their own, some have to meet in secret, others that teach God’s Word do so knowing it could cost them their freedom, even their lives and for some they do not have the Bible in their own language or only have parts of the Scriptures. Yet with all the opposition and persecution they continue to meet, the church continues to grow and they continue to rest upon and trust in the Word of God. They realise what it is to be the people of God and that to live distinctively and follow Jesus means following the path that he walked as he experienced opposition and persecution yet wonderfully they see that it is all worth it for the Kingdom of God. How much this challenges us as we seek to be the people of God within our communities. Sadly apathy has become the enemy of the church in the West as we have become too comfortable so we must again ask: What makes us distinctive? What sets us apart? What are we known for as a fellowship? Is it our zeal for the Lord and the growth of the kingdom? Or do our priorities as a fellowship lie in other places? We pray that together and by the Lord’s leading that we would fan into flame a desire to reach the lost and the seeking in our community. Only as we focus outwardly will we achieve the commission Christ has called us too and together bring glory to God and His Kingdom. May the Lord equip, encourage and bless you in His service.
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’ Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)
As we go into the month of March the plans for our upcoming children’s holiday club are well under way. Last year we had the wonderful opportunity to share the good news of the gospel for a week with young folks from our community. Through bible stories, games, crafts and much more we were able to tell kids about the wonderful saviour we serve through the sports themed holiday club, Champions Challenge. This year we look forward to another week, between the 9th -13th April, where we again share the gospel with the young people that come along for this year’s holiday club. Going Bananas is our theme as we look at characters from the Bible that appeared to go bananas for God, meaning those that were found and changed by God and those that obeyed, worshipped and praised Him even in the most unusual of circumstances. It promises to be a great week for the kids and adults taking part and we ask that you join with us in praying that all the plans will come together, the kids will come along and enjoy themselves and most importantly that they will leave knowing more about Jesus and his love for them. One of our memory verses during that week will be Deuteronomy 6:5, that is written above, which talks of loving God with our all, every part of us. We pray that in time God will use seeds that are planted during this week and bring them to fruition so that these young folks would know and love the saviour and come into a relationship with our Heavenly Father. We seek that the next generation would love the Lord our God with all their heart and with all their soul and all their might so that God might be glorified and a new generation enjoy Him. We know that there will be other holiday clubs, services and events going on over the Easter holidays we pray that up and down our land the true meaning of Easter, that of a risen Saviour would be heard loud and clear and young and old alike would respond to the message our world so desperately needs to hear.
‘Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!’ Psalm 96:2-3 (ESV)
At the end of this month we will have our Mission Sunday service where we will focus on the theme of mission and consider the mission work we support and how we as a congregation can be mission minded. Some of the mission fields we will hear updates on are many miles away in places we will never visit and people we will never meet and it is great that we can support these works but we must also remember that there is a mission field all around us. This might be in our homes, it is certainly within our community, it might be with the young, for some it is amongst the elderly and housebound all hugely important. A church that is inwardly focused has lost its way for the Lord calls us to reach out with the good news of the gospel to those around us. Gone are the days (if there ever were) of expecting people to come through our doors without an invitation, or being accompanied by someone in the church or without the establishment of a relationship first. We need a new mindset as we seek to do mission in our communities and in our culture. It is a task that every member of the congregation needs to be involved in because to each God gives their own mission field. You may have a relationship with, or access to people, that others won’t have the opportunity to witness too. How wonderfully the verses of the Psalm above reminds us that there is not a day goes by that we should not speak of our Lord or that there are people that should not hear the Good News of the gospel. As we reshape for mission as a church we seek that it is not the focus of merely one Sunday but that it is intrinsic in every aspect of our life as a fellowship. We are making some very practical changes around our buildings but these too need to be tools to help us engage with those around us. We look forward with anticipation to see what the likes of new kitchen will allow us to do as we invite people in to share in fellowship. May the Lord use you mightily in His service.
‘Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’ Isaiah 46:8-10 (ESV)
After all the business and excitement of Christmas, life is returning to normal for most of us as we enter another New Year. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead and so we enter 2018 with hopes, expectations, maybe some trepidation or even fear depending on our circumstances. Yet as we step forward into the unknown we, as believers, do so with an assurance and comfort that comes from knowing and resting in the Lord. He has carried us as individuals and as a fellowship through 2017 with all its ups and downs. It was a year when we celebrated 80 years of God’s faithfulness to our fellowship and it was a year where we mourned the loss of loved ones called home to glory yet in the midst of it all our God was at work and showed his grace and love. As we enter another year with all its unknowns why should we think we will find the unchanging and unchangeable God any different. As the well-known hymn declares:
I know Who holds the future, And He’ll guide me with his hand.
With God things don’t just happen; Everything by Him is planned.
So as I face tomorrow, With its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles, Give to Him my all.
The verse above from Isaiah shows that our God is great, there is none like Him and that he knows the beginning from the end, He knows what 2018 will bring. Yet nothing will happen outside His will or understanding and His purposes will be accomplished. If that is the God we serve then we can certainly go into another year, indeed every year, with a peace that whatever comes, good or bad, joy or sorrow he is in control and is using it all for the good of His people and the glory of His name. So take heart, take confidence and trust in the Lord for He is good and His steadfast love endures forever.
May I wish you all a happy and blessed New Year and I pray that 2018 will be a year where you feel the Lords leading and one in which you will be used mightily in His service.
‘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.