‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.’ John 15:13-14 (ESV)
On the final Sunday of last month we were encouraged to be Ordaining and Inducting a new Elder to the Kirk Session. It was lovely to be able to make that part of our Communion Sunday and as we gathered there was a real sense of the Spirit being present in a very special way. In the month ahead we will have our Remembrance Service as we remember the fallen of conflicts past and present. It gives us time to reflect on the sacrifice that has been given for the freedom we enjoy and as we took Communion together it gave us the time to stop and remember the high cost of our freedom from sin bought with the precious blood of Christ our saviour. In a day and age when the right to freedom in different forms has become so important to so many we see that true freedom is not found in the thinking and teaching of this world which only ensnares us in false promises. Being able to do whatever we want, to depart from rational think, allowing us to be whatever we want to be or identify as is not real freedom. Paul could write from prison as someone who, although constrained by the great Roman Empire, was in fact free in the truest sense of the word. He knew that within the bounds and boundaries of God and his people true freedom was to be found and eternal life, even in the face of death, was a reality because he believed and trusted in Jesus. Remembering also calls us to action so that we do not repeat the horrors of the past in global conflict but our remembering as believers, especially at the table of our Lord, also calls us to action to share the good news of hope and freedom that is available to a broken and hurting world. We are to go into all the world and make the name of Jesus known, we are to tell of a friend so loving and dear that he has laid down his life for those that would follow Him, the Saviour who is risen and reigning and has overcome death and the grave itself. May we never forget the high cost of our salvation or the hope and freedom it brings and that we can tell others of this good news.
‘Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.’ John 4:35
As this copy of What’s On goes out we will be having our Harvest Service where we give thanks for God’s good provision throughout the year and for the harvest having been gathered in. It is always wonderful to see the church at harvest with all the different foods and produce that fill the front of the church. It is a very visual reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness over another year and we also give thanks for all the hard work, early mornings and late nights that have been endured to bring us what we can enjoy at our tables. Yet in it all we also remember that there is another harvest that as believers we need to be concerned about. The Bible talks of the harvest not of food or grain but of people won for the kingdom of God. Many seeds were planted at the beginning of the growing season and we saw the fields ripen and mature ready for the gathering in of all that God watered and gave life to. We pray that as the seed of the gospel is planted and scattered in our own day and in our own town it will bear fruit, that we will see people come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As I was recently reminded at a conference, during the harvest season there is no room for idleness. In days past whole communities were involved in the work and everyone had to do their part so that people did not starve. It was literally a matter of life and death and so it is with the kingdom of God and the great harvest that will endure not for a season but for eternity. The whole body of Christ, the church, must work together as one, working in sowing the seed of the gospel in our own places and spaces as God waters and blesses this work. We pray that as we see the fields as white as snow in our own community that people might come to the foot of the cross and lay down their burdens and sins as they rise in Christ and go forth as new and redeemed people. Let us all enter into the work as labourers for the kingdom and recognize it as a matter of life and death and so do all that we can to share the good news of Christ with others. We long to see people who are spiritually starving in these times be filled with the bread of life, the Saviour himself who alone can satisfy. May the Lord bless you in your labours.
‘But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.’ 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV)
As we go into September we begin a new session with the organisations restarting after the summer break with events and speakers being arranged. It is encouraging to look forward to a full season of activities especially after the disruption of the past few years and we look forward to how the Lord will use and bless these activities. Some of the momentum we achieved before the pandemic was lost but with Gods leading I pray that we can move from the maintenance model that we have largely had to adopt through that difficult time to a more missional focus where we look outwardly as a church to the work the Lord has, the mission fields he is leading us into and the workers for the harvest he is calling. Mission is often a word associated with overseas work but mission is a vital component of the local church and as such we need to make it a focus within our fellowship and each of the organisations within the fellowship. Each person and each organization has a vital part to play in the work of the Kingdom. On the front of every What’s On there is our church’s mission statement that reads ‘A fellowship of God’s people worshipping together, striving to serve and proclaim Christ faithfully, growing in knowledge and understanding of His Word, serving the people of Lossiemouth and beyond.’ It is my hope that these will not simply be words that sound good on our monthly bulletin but that they will be the reality of who we are and what we are about in Lossiemouth United Free Church. We live in challenging times for the work of the gospel within our land with increasing pressures for us to conform to the ways of the world but only by being salt and light in our communities and offering the hope of the gospel will we see change. Within the life of the church we have opportunities beyond the Sunday Services to pray and learn together and I encourage as many of you as possible to find something within the life of our church to tap into so that you may grow and learn together. Only by being fervent in prayer and by seeking the Lord and growing together will we be effective and equipped for the mission each of us is called to. Each of us have God given gifts and talents to use for the glory of God and by working together in harmony, each part of the body doing its bit, we will become a church that is Christ glorifying and God honouring. May the Lord bless our fellowship in the coming days not for our sake but for the sake of God’s eternal name and may you be encouraged in your service to the Lord.
(Apologies for this instalment being a bit late to the website)
‘And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.’ Mark 16:5-6 (ESV)
During Holy Week I was looking at some material to use over the Easter season and I came across these words by Tim Chester: ‘If you look at Jesus without the cross and you’ll misunderstand him. But if you’re proud, then you won’t like the cross. Because the cross says that you can’t save yourself. Your goodness, your wisdom, your respectability are not enough. You’re desperately needy. You’re helpless and hopeless on your own. The cross humbles us.’ Reading this was a stark reminder in the midst of Holy week of the high cost of our salvation, the inability we have to save ourselves and the purpose Jesus came amongst us for. As we again get to Easter we are reminded of the cross and all that it means. Many in our day will miss its significance, some will try and make the Christian message about being nice to others or something else our culture approves of but as Chester goes on to say ‘the cross won’t allow that. The cross doesn’t fit our culture. It’s too bloody and brutal. It reveals our sin and our helplessness-and it humbles us.’ As we think of the passage above we see the truth that the tomb is empty. The resurrection is the triumph of the cross, it is why Easter Sunday means the offer of forgiveness is real because through Christ’s death and resurrection sin has been atoned for and death has been defeated and forgiveness is to be found. As the final verse and chorus of the hymn The Power of the Cross declares:
Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.
This, the pow’r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.”
May you have a wonderful Easter and see afresh the wonder of the cross and the empty tomb.
‘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.
‘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.