Church at Home – 29 November 2020 (1st Sunday of Advent)

Intimations

  • Baptist Union of Scotland Prayer Livestream – The monthly prayer livestream takes place on Sunday, 6 December, 7.00–7.30pm. You can access the prayer livestream by going to the Baptist Union of Scotland YouTube channel.
  • Dundee Evangelical Christian Alliance (DECA) is holding its annual service on zoom this evening, Sunday 29 November at 6:30pm from St Peter’s Free Church. The service will be led by Jim Turrent, Minister of Central Baptist Church, Dundee. The service can be viewed online here.

Jam Kids

The older JAM Kids might like to check out some Bible stories about people who also experienced ‘lockdown’. The videos along with a link to some questions to think about together, can all be found here.

JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:30am.  Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details.


Call to Worship

Before the World was created, the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

John 1: 1-5

We are grateful to Alison and Isdale for selecting the songs for worship for this service


Baptist Union of Scotland – Video on the theme of Hope

The Baptist Union of Scotland is producing four Advent videos. In total there will be four videos, each around 5 minutes long, on the themes of Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. Each video will contain an introduction, scripture reflection, a story from one of our churches and a spoken carol. This week’s video is on the theme of Hope:


Opening Prayer


Opening prayer

Heavenly Father at the start of Advent we come in the name of the One who said: I am the light of the World. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12). We come as men and women, boys and girls, who are seeking to follow in His footsteps in living in a way that reflects God’s call on our lives to honour Him as our Lord and to show His grace and kindness to other people with whom we journey through life week by week.

We are living in a deeply challenging world that at times takes all the emotional, mental and physical energy we possess to keep going in our workplaces; or to battle through the health or family issues some of us are currently experiencing. Yet we come before You today with confidence because we are reminded that The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5).

Purify us afresh of our sins of the past week and empower us by Your Holy Spirit for the week that is now commencing, as we continue in our worship, in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son our Saviour, Amen.

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”      
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever Amen.


Prayers for Others

Heavenly Father, we thank You once more for the privilege of coming to You with all the concerns on our hearts today.

We come aware that so many people are exhausted physically, emotionally or mentally as a result of all the strains of the virus pandemic in their workplace. We bring each one before You today, whether in the health or social care services, schools or higher education, or a wider range of other forms of employment that have kept us going as a society over the last year.

We pray too for the many people in the retail and hospitality sectors as well as in travel and tourism who have genuine fears about the loss of their employment or the failure of their businesses as a result of the restrictions imposed by governments to curb the spread of the virus. We ask for wisdom for our politicians as they finalise the relaxation of guidelines for the Christmas holiday period that they will get the balance right under great pressure from some who wish to enjoy their traditional festivities at this time of year.      

We come with gratitude for the progress in production of possible vaccines, and marvel at the speed with which this progress appears to be being made. We pray, though, with our concerns that corners might be cut and safeguards ignored in the rush to be the producers of the first vaccine approved for use and the financial benefits for the companies concerned. We ask that all necessary health checks are in place to ensure that all may go well when vaccine use amongst the general public begins in the coming weeks.   

We pray too for people in other countries more severely affected by the economic disruption, particularly in the two-thirds world, where so many workers live on subsistence wages and have a very difficult task in providing for their families at the best of times. We pray that their governments can become more able to provide the basic necessities of life in these communities. We have particular concerns also for those in war zones in Syria, Yemen and increasingly in Ethiopia where the threat of civil war is very real, together with the many communities ravaged weekly by Islamist militias in North Africa and Christian civilians bear the brunt of these atrocities.  Lord have mercy…    

We now bring before You the particular things of concern to us personally in the wider world …  

We also bring before You other churches including:

We pray for all the other Churches here in Broughty Ferry as each one seeks to plan for a very different kind of Christmas; that You would help us all to proclaim clearly the good news of the Christian gospel at a time when for so many people Christmas will be very different to our usual celebrations. 

St Ninians Community Church, Stirling – We give thanks for their varied ways of meeting during this time using Zoom, and for the sense of community they are maintaining. We pray for those who have had recent health issues, and for the ability to maintain a presence in their community during this time.

Stenhouse BC, Edinburgh – We pray for their neighbours who have been affected by job losses and poor mental health. We pray that as a community, Stenhouse is able to rally together to get through these months. We pray that as a church they can shine Jesus’ light. 

Stirling BC – We give thanks for all the ways the church fellowship has been able to reach out to the local community through The Haven Centre, where local families can find support, children’s group, debt counselling and more. We pray that through this help, more people in Stirling will come to know Jesus.

Stonehaven BC – We give thanks for the church now meeting in person again (with all the Covid-safe measures in place). We pray that despite facemasks and restrictions there will be a sense of fellowship, community and worship of God.

We also remember in our prayers other people with particular needs that are connected to our own families or congregation:

Lord we thank you for the good news that Garry A has been able to raise all the funds required for his Christian Leadership course at the Teen Challenge Academy in Nottingham which he will start in January. We pray Your guidance and blessing upon Garry as he discerns Your leading and guidance on his life for the future.

We remember at this time Peter and Maureen S and pray for recovery of their health and strength at this time. We pray too for John C and his ongoing health challenges. We also continue to remember Lawrie, Nicola L’s Dad, Betty W, Alva D and Anne M as they seek to make further progress in the recovery of their health and strength, together with the Steer’s niece Rachel and Ann W’s sister Margaret at this time as well. We pray also for other with ongoing health needs that You would grant them the strength that they need at this time.  

We continue to pray for those of our number who even without the virus-pandemic restrictions would be unable to meet with us for worship.  We pray Your blessing upon them at this time.  In particular, we bring before You …     

In addition, we bring our own and other needs on our hearts to You today…, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.


Bible Reading

21 At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything in advance.

24 ‘But in those days, following that distress, ‘“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” 26 ‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 

27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. 28 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 

30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’

Mark 13: 21-36

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing:


The Message


Holy Suspense: The ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ of Advent

Introduction

As a football fan of a team that likes to keep its supporters on the edge of their seats, it can be a very stressful experience watching a live game, particularly when promising performances peter out into disappointment. This is a familiar experience for most sports fans though as no team is invincible. For other people the suspense in a film you are viewing in the cinema or on your television at home can be equally gripping. A well-written novel may also have this magic quality keeping you turning the pages to find out what happened next!

Of course some tension can be a good thing. An archer using a bow and arrows would be unable to operate the bow adequately without it. Or a musician with a stringed instrument or a drummer with a traditional drum kit; in these contexts it is essential to have the right tension. Yet there are contexts where we can feel deeply uneasy with tension. For example, human relationships where two people are not getting on very well, but the matter is not resolved or begun to be addressed so the experience of being together in a home or a workplace could become decidedly unpleasant at times. 

In the Bible there is definitely a holy suspense at times as individual men and women seek to discern God’s will for their lives in the midst of the complexities of daily life. It is not so much the times when we know what we ought to say or do but don’t want to do it, instead it is those circumstances where we are open to making different possible choices, but cannot get our head around which way to go or option to accept. The message of Advent is definitely part of this suspense.   

1. The first and second comings of Jesus

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day had a strong belief that God would send a special person, His anointed king to rule over them. It was a message that would have been delivered with regularity in synagogue services. At a time when the country was occupied by the mighty Roman army, the idea that one day God would transform their situation through the Messiah was most encouraging.

The principle of the Messiah coming was agreed by the vast majority of the people and greatly welcomed, but few took the time to study the Bible for insight into the characteristics of this special person and how they would carry out their work on earth. The Bible references a few people like Simeon and Anna (Luke 2:25-40) who were prayerfully expecting this person in their lifetime. Luke tells us this of Simeon in Luke 2:25-33:

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 ‘Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss Your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 which You have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.’ 33 The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about Him. 

What a remarkable man whom God chose to tell ahead of time that he would not die before this special child was born. Simeon spent some of his time in his senior years praying for this event to happen. Jesus’ first coming happened on time although God didn’t give enough information for anyone to work out a date for this event. This small group of people faithfully trusted that God would keep His Word and He did! The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming back. Does your heart respond –‘Come Lord Jesus!’ Do you pray believing that God will do what He has promised? I hope and pray each one of us will do that.

Simeon and Anna are two individuals of whom we know very little, but in these difficult times maintained their trust in God and their faithfulness in daily devotions and in living for God. They did not allow the difficult circumstances around them to detract from their dedication as believers. In an increasingly secular world there are places where Christians and others find it difficult to stand in public for their convictions. What many people have forgotten is that freedom of speech and religious liberty are two sides of the same coin.

If I want the opportunity to share my convictions then I have to allow other people with different views to share theirs as well; obviously this covers a wider range of opinions than over matters of faith. When influential voices in a society call for denying others the right to speak their views then it is a dangerous way to go. Just as Simeon and Anna did in their day so we should continue to serve God in ours with grace and with wisdom.

Times of change in a country like the present time are very difficult to negotiate. There is so much uncertainty as to how things will play out. The covid-19 virus pandemic has impacted every country across the globe, and this has a serious economic impact that no-one had anticipated a year ago. In Western Europe we had faced uncertainties over how the Brexit changes would impact relationships between the United Kingdom and the European Union; other countries in the world have faced increasingly severe extremes of weather patterns largely attributed to climate changes. However, whatever our particular challenges God has not changed and we can trust Him with our futures. 

The season of Advent that begins today allows us to reflect on the bigger picture of God’s work in His world over a much longer timescale than our own lifetimes. Advent means ‘coming’, in particular in this context it is a reference to Jesus’ first coming as a baby two thousand years ago. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus brought in a new chapter of the Kingdom of God on earth.

This was the beginning of the kingly rule and reign of God which had been long promised by the prophets. It might have looked very different to what people had expected, but it made a transforming difference in the lives of everyone who responded to it. Did everything begin to happen then that was prophesied of the special king or Messiah. The answer to that is clearly ‘no’. In His first coming Jesus came to show us how to live God’s way and in particular to die on the cross in our place so as to open up the way for us to enter into God’s family through His amazing grace and love to us. At the same time, the fullness of Jesus’ kingdom won’t be complete until He comes again.

As well as the first coming of Jesus as a human baby, there is also a second Advent, a ‘second coming’ of Jesus. This is a clear expectation which the New Testament church had: that Jesus would come again. Shortly before the Last Supper and His crucifixion Jesus gave an extended message to His first disciples about His second coming, recorded, for example, in Mark 13, Matthew 24 or Luke 21. The start of the Christian Church two thousand years ago could be described as ‘the beginning of the end’ or the launch of the countdown towards the start of God’s eternal kingdom over which Jesus will reign. We, unlike those first disciples, live much closer to the second coming of Jesus. What did Jesus want to highlight to His followers and to us in preparation for His return? 

2. Signs of the Times (Mark 13:21-36)

What did Jesus say in this summary overview of the times before His second coming? What should we expect to look out for?

(a)Religious confusion (Mark 13:21-23) 21 At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Messiah!” or, “Look, there he is!” do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything in advance.

All kind of voices will appear claiming that Jesus is directing them to hold certain views or conduct ministries that seem so contrary to the Bible. A very small proportion of individuals make messianic claims. The majority want still to be recognised as Christian or even Evangelical Christian while denying biblical truth or promoting lifestyle choices that go against the Bible. There is very little that is new in the world in terms of beliefs or lifestyles compared to previous centuries. The way in which these heretical views are presented or the vocabulary used to describe it may change, but there is nothing new under the sun. The gospel, God’s good news, does not change, because God does not change. The application of it will vary in different cultural contexts, but the message is unchanged.  

(b) Severe environmental change (Mark 13:24-25) 24 ‘But in those days, following that distress, ‘“the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”

In the centuries towards the end of the Old Testament era up to the first century AD Jewish religious leaders used very dramatic language to picture the end times, in the Bible the book of Revelation is a good example. It is clear that not all the word pictures they use were intended to be taken literally, but the message about the future convey a clear sense of the times to come. The events Jesus is pointing to here certainly describe severe disruption of the natural world in which we live that will be particularly bad immediately prior to His return.

We speak about climate change and some speakers and writers certainly use quite extreme apocalyptic language about us being near the point of no return or complete disaster if there are not drastic changes in the way humanity lives. God alone knows the details of the future, but it suggests life on this planet will be considerably tougher for many people in the years leading to Jesus return.  

(c) Yet a time of hope (Mark 13:25-26) 26 ‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Jesus is coming soon. There are so many other passages that point to His return. For example, Hebrews 9:27-28:  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

The question to answer is this: Are you ready if it happened today? Or if it happened in the next few weeks months or years? Have you put your faith and trust in Him? Or are you currently away from God and need to get back on track with Him? There is no second chance of salvation. The time is now which we must seize while the gift of salvation from God is available to us.

(d) The promise (Mark 13:27-32)28 ‘Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: as soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 

How many times does the second coming of Jesus get mentioned in the New Testament? I havn’t counted, but it has been suggested that it is at least 300 times (John Blanchard, Read Mark Learn, p.43). On the day when Jesus ascended back to heaven, the angel who spoke to those first disciples could not have been clearer. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:11)  God has not told us when only to be ready at any time! Are you ready?

(e) The task (Mark 13:33-36 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.35 Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’ This belief in the return of Jesus shapes the whole of the New Testament understanding of what it means to be a Christian, and how we are to live in the world as we anticipate it. The aged apostle John in I John 2:28 wrote: And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.

3. Knowing what time it is 

The New Testament has two words for time. ‘Chronos’ refers to the time you example on your watch or phone or other device, chronological time. We are most familiar with that reference.  However, there is also another word ‘Kairos’ used of the right time for something. We all know there are contexts where we can speak about something, but sometimes we have to wait for the right time, to pick our moment. It has a sense of priorities of what really matters in life. Do I, do you, prioritise the things that are most important? In the New Testament we see this emphasis in the preaching and writing of the leaders of the Early Church. For example, Paul in his letter to the church in Rome:

And do this, understanding the present time: the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light (Romans 13:11-12). 

Imagine that you wake up early the day of a great party – it could be your birthday, a wedding, or Christmas day. The night before is almost over, the sun is just beginning to come up. You’re full of excitement – and yet the party itself has not yet started. In this situation, you begin to live with both the anticipation of the day being almost here and frustration that it has not yet fully begun. You would begin to put on your party clothes and do all you could to make final preparations. But you would hold that in tension with knowing that the party in all its fullness was still a few hours away.

This is the ‘time’ we live in as Christians. The night is almost gone and the day of Jesus’ kingdom has started to dawn. And yet, that kingdom ‘day’ has not yet arrived in all its fullness. We live with the suspense that the full party has not yet started. Paul tells us to be aware that we are living in this ‘time’, this in-between daybreak stage. This is a huge tension in the Christian life, sometimes called the ‘now and not yet’ of the Kingdom:

‘Now’ Jesus is King, and at the same time his Kingdom is ‘not yet’ here in its fullness.

‘Now’ Satan is defeated, and at the same time we are waiting for all evil to be finally overcome and so our lives are ‘not yet’ free from temptation.

‘Now’ Jesus has healed the sick and has given us authority to do the same in his name, and at the same time we live in an era where sick people are ‘not yet’ healed.

 ‘Now’ Jesus is resurrected from the dead and we are seated with him in the heavenly places, and at the same time we live in the ‘not yet’ where all creation groans to be healed and resurrected.

This ‘now’ and ‘not yet’ calls us to a radical form of living. It asks us to be both hope-filled and also realistic. Life is not all roses and sunshine this side of Jesus’ second coming. We all struggle with pain, temptation, disappointment and loss. The earth continues to groan, the oppressed continue to cry ‘How long?’ And yet in the middle of these challenging realities we have seen the sun beginning to rise and we are called to live in its light.

4. How do we live at this time?

If the New Testament mentions so many times that we need to be ready for the second coming of Jesus, how are we advised to conduct our lives? There are two things to remember.

(a)Be clear what we expect to happen in the future (I Thessalonians 4:13-18) 13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 

16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Our focus today is on the broader picture regard the first and second coming of Jesus. Paul provided this summary of ‘what will happen’ to reassure these new believers that what they needed to know was not a detailed timetable of the end times, rather a reassurance that God had already planned out and taken care of the future. 

(b) Be clear about how we ought to live now In the light of the assurance of the future Paul urged the various churches he had planted to use their time wisely and effectively and not to waste it with frivolous activities or in appropriate lifestyle choices. In Romans 13:12-14 he wrote:

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

When we know a party is coming, we need to put on our party clothes and prepare all we can for the coming celebration. Similarly, when we know Jesus is coming we need to put on our ‘Jesus clothes’, for example the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) and attitudes like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12b).

It is a calling to keep our focus to live in a God-honouring way.  His words were similar to the those uttered by Jesus around two decades earlier. He reminded the first disciples that their task was not to try and fix dates for His possible return, instead to avoid distractions and keep a clear focus on pleasing God through the way we choose to live. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ message on the end times he included these words in Luke 21:34-36:

34 ‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’

In other words live now in a way that you will be comfortable accounting for when we meet with Jesus when our lives here have been completed. In effect, we are being asked to live in holy suspense knowing how to live now following the example of Jesus in His first coming, but equally wanting to honour Him and be found faithful in His service should He come back tomorrow. Are you prepared for eternity? If not please put your faith in Jesus today as Lord and Saviour. As a Christian, are you living in the light of His imminent return? I trust each of us could echo the words of Revelation 22:20 at the end of the Bible: He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ [and can give this response] Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Our song before we come to communion is:


The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’


Our last song is:


Closing Prayer

Lord Jesus recalling Your first coming fills us with joy as we love to celebrate at Christmas the extraordinary events of two thousand years ago. Yet today we also want to thank You that our Father in heaven has also taken care of our future and planned Your return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Help us to be bold witnesses for You in the coming days, assured that despite all the challenges we face in daily life that Your Holy Spirit will strengthen and encourage us through them in our remaining time on earth until You return or until Your call us home, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Wednesday @ 11 – 18 November 2020

Welcome to the online version of our midweek service of worship which was held in our building in Panmurefield

Opening Scripture verses: Psalm 121:1-2:

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.

Opening praise: Here is Love

Here is Love, vast as the ocean,
loving-kindness as the flood,
when the Prince of life, our ransom,
shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He will never be forgotten
throughout Heaven’s eternal days

On the mount of crucifixion
fountains opened deep and wide;
through the floodgates of God’s mercy
flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers
poured incessant from above;
and Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
kissed a guilty world in love.

Opening Prayer:

Our great God and Saviour once more we thank You for the privilege of entering Your holy presence in the wonderful and all-prevailing name of Your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. We rejoice that we have direct access into Your presence in His name, the name above all names through the blessed Holy Spirit. We are eternally grateful that His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary paid in full the debt we owed so that we might be redeemed and set free to serve the living God each day of our lives. Thank you that when we come before You in prayer with our praises and petitions that You hear and answer us. Once more we seek the forgiveness of our sins and the fresh enabling by the Holy Spirit to be the men and women You have called us to be. Meet with us we pray here today in this act of worship, in Jesus’ name, Amen

Bible Reading:  Psalm 121:

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.

Intercessory prayer using Psalm 121

Lord we come thankful for the freedom we have to turn to You with all our needs as well as the expressions of our appreciation for your goodness to 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. Thank you Lord that I am never alone, even if sometimes it feels that way. I thank You that I can turn to You at any time in prayer. What a privilege that is. Today, I also want to thank You for …. 

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. Thank you Lord that you don’t work office hours or take the weekends off! I can talk with You at any time. Today I want to pray particularly for…

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. Lord, I am deeply grateful for the people who have encouraged me on my faith journey over the years. I want to take time this morning to mention their names to You, and for some who are still alive to pray for …., for Your blessing upon them at this time. If we are blessed by other people supporting us over the years, how much more are we grateful to the Lord for His constant care and watchfulness over us. Thank You.  Lord, I particularly want You to watch over …. Who is going through a really tough time now….

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. Thank You Lord that our future us secure in Your hands. I thank you for the amazing guarantee: and for evermore. I bring before You the things I am worrying about at the moment or know other people are anxious about today …

Thank You Lord for hearing and answering our prayers in Jesus’ name, Amen

Message from Psalm 121 The Source of my help

Introduction

On Tuesday 17 November 2020 media including the BBC were reporting the heroic actions of a British national who saved the life of a twenty-four year old Chinese student who couldn’t swim who had fallen into the fast-flowing water of a local river. Stephen Ellison, aged sixty-one, who is the British consul-general in the city of Chongqing, was walking by the unnamed  river in a nearby village when he saw the woman struggling in the deep water. ‘Mr Ellison said jumping into the water was a “split-second” decision after he was the first to get his shoes off.’

Public relations between China and Britain have been strained in recent months due to the treatment of Uighurs in the north of China and over governance in Hong Kong. However, many social media commentators in China have contrasted the inactive crowds of local onlookers and the heroic action of the older British man who stepped in to save her life. What the crowds didn’t know was that Mr Ellison is a keen participant in triathlons and was very capable of carrying out this rescue. [BBC News website 17.11.20]

This event was unplanned and the young woman’s fall was an accident, but she was in such difficulty that she didn’t have time to call for help. Thankfully there was a happy ending to this story. But where do you and turn for help in a time of crisis? It is a question worth pondering.

All of us have in our lives many ordinary days of regular routines, but there are also some happy days of successes and celebrations for which we thank God. However, no-one can avoid other days of problems and difficulties and even a few situations that might be genuinely called crises. To whom do we turn in those moments? Even more seriously, none of us can escape the reality of death when those most precious will be taken from us.

If a person has faith in the Lord we know they are in heaven and we will meet them again after our own home call, but as far as this life goes it can be a painful loss. To whom do we turn for comfort? We can think that some other people are having an easy life compared to our own or the other way round, but only God really knows all the details of what is happening in someone’s life.

The Book of Psalms is a real encouragement to us, because the authors of these songs have lived through the things they describe and with God’s help have come through to the other side. As a result, we can identify with these words and use them in our prayers or our praises as we come before the Lord. Let us look briefly at this precious Psalm 121.     

1. The proclamation of our heavenly helper (Psalm 121:1-2)

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.

This Psalm from the time of the godly king Hezekiah, and possibly written by him, but we cannot be certain. It is a time of national crisis. Hezekiah looks out beyond the city walls of Jerusalem to the ring of hills that surround this city. Normally, it is beautiful view from the heights of that capital city looking down to the valleys below. Looking at the hills can be peaceful.

However, on this occasion it is not an inspiring view of God’s wonderful creation that catches his eye. On this occasion it is not an encouragement to take in the view. We should take delight in God’s creation because there is so much beauty to appreciate. I know that in my family during 2020 when we have been limited in where we can go due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic restrictions that walks down to the beach or alongside the Dichty River have been a real blessing.

For a short time we can escape into the world of nature and enjoy seeing the birds and the trees and occasionally other wild creatures experiencing the same natural surroundings.  But that is not what Hezekiah was thinking when he penned or inspired these words in Psalm 121:1. I lift up my eyes to the mountains and saw a vast army of Assyrian soldiers surrounding the city. All escape routes had been cut off. Thankfully, the Assyrian advance had been signposted ahead of time and this allowed Hezekiah and his officials to divert the water supplies in the area to ensure that Jerusalem would have a secure water supply in the event of a siege. (See II Chronicles 32:2-4, 30: 

When Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that he intended to wage war against Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military staff about blocking off the water from the springs outside the city, and they helped him. They gathered a large group of people who blocked all the springs and the stream that flowed through the land. ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come and find plenty of water?’ they said… It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channelled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook.) 

Looking to the hills was to see the source and scale of his problems. It was a terrifying sight. When you and I face big problems we can sometimes be so terrified that we are frozen into inaction. But here Hezekiah asked himself a key question: where does my help come from? (Psalm 121:1b) You and I can also ask ourselves this same question. It is important to have something with which to respond. If the answer is ‘no-one’ then we are really in big trouble. Can you answer this question with confidence? What would your answer be? If you have put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, then you can be confident in coming to God through Him.

What is Hezekiah’s response? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2). It is a clear testimony of a ruler of this nation who leads with clarity and courage in extremely troubled times. Many others of God’s people down the centuries have taken comfort from this Psalm in their own particular times of crisis.

Here for us in the Covid-19 virus pandemic, on top of many other challenging situations with respect to our health or our relationships or a vast range of other potential needs, we come to the Lord with an assurance that He will help us to keep going through these difficult months when we cannot see for certain how things will turn out in the end. Have you put your faith and trust in the Lord as Hezekiah did? It can make a world of difference as to how you look upon what you may even be going through just now. There are no completely hopeless situations when God is involved in their resolution. The child of God can have complete confidence in God’s taking care of our future. This does not mean every trial goes away. Or that every illness has a happy resolution.

Sadly, we live in a fallen world when sickness and death itself are a part of the human experience, even with the remarkable advances in health care in the NHS. Our confidence is placed in the Lord and we seek the grace and strength to accept what He has determined or permitted in our particular circumstances. There are lots of situations where this side of eternity we will have no answers to our ‘why’ questions. We have to be honest with people about that. Sometimes God’s answer to us is similar to that given to the apostle Paul in II Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’.

The challenge for us is whether we can come to the place the apostle Paul reached some time later. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (II Corinthians 12:10)

(a)The background to this Psalm (II Kings 18:19-22, 28-30)

The field commander said to them, ‘Tell Hezekiah: ‘“This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: on what are you basing this confidence of yours? 20 You say you have the counsel and the might for war – but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 21 Look, I know you are depending on Egypt that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it! Such is Pharaoh King of Egypt to all who depend on him. 22 But if you say to me, ‘We are depending on the Lord our God’– isn’t He the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem’? (II Kings 18:19-22)   

Then the commander stood and called out in Hebrew, ‘Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! 29 This is what the king says: do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. 30 Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, “The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” (II Kings 18:28-30)

Things had got much worse not only had Hezekiah seen the soldiers from Assyria surrounding the city, but they had come close to its walls and were demanding the city be surrendered to them. However, in the speech of the Army field commander his logic was only partially correct. Egypt, was the most powerful local neighbour to Israel, but was at that time in history extremely unreliable. The Pharaoh was not confident that his army could take on the Assyrians in open battle. As a result, any pleas for help from neighbouring countries would go unheeded.

However, the field commander was incorrect in this instance. Hezekiah’s army was small and would get beaten easily in an open battle, but they were in a walled city with strong fortifications that required far less men to maintain its defences. Yet it was not Hezekiah’s army the field commander challenged but the God of Hezekiah. To declare so arrogantly: He cannot deliver you from my hand (II Kings 18:29b) was a direct challenge to the God of Hezekiah. Our God then and now is able to do more than we ask or even imagine.  What did Hezekiah do in response to this challenge?

(b)The prayer of Hezekiah (II Kings 19:14-19) Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: ‘ Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 ‘It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.’

Hezekiah did what we must do each day of our lives and take our circumstances to God in prayer. He recognised the greatness and power of God, that nothing is too difficult for Him. The God who spoke the word and brought the universe into being can handle any situation that you or I might be facing today. We too need to acknowledge how great is our God! We need not be paralysed with fear. Then Hezekiah raises the fact that the official has given a direct challenge to God:

open Your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God (II Kings 19:16b).

When someone directly challenges God we have a powerful point to raise with the Lord. He doesn’t do ‘score draws’! God Almighty may permit the wicked to triumph for a time, but they will ultimately fail. Their empires’ ruins gather dust awaiting archaeologists’ future discoveries. There was a missional purpose too in his prayer – see II Kings 19:19: …so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.’ God has not changed. May we also come to Him with boldness and confidence in our prayers today.

2. The promise about our heavenly helper (Psalm 121:3-8)

What does it mean to say that our help comes from the Lord? How did the author of this Psalm understand this statement? In the remaining verses of this Psalm he sketches out a description of what this means for us. It means first of all:

(a)His constant care for us (Psalm 121:3-4)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. You and I need time out to take a break from our work. Although you may work some long hours at particular times it cannot go on indefinitely or your health will be increasingly affected. By contrast, God watches over us every hour of day and night. This does not mean that He prevents all bad things happening to us.  Sadly we live in a sin-damaged world and the choices of other humans can be life changing for us.

A drunk driver, for example, can cause mayhem and a serious tragedy could occur when they have inadequate control of their vehicle. Yet on other occasions some of us can testify that we felt extremely fortunate to escape unharmed out of difficult situations. We must be very careful here not to suggest that Christians will have an easier time in economic or social circumstances if we are in a right relationship with God. Christians in the Philippines, for example, along with fellow citizens face many typhoons every year and in 2020 there has been dreadful flooding in some parts of the country. Similar comments could be made about those living in warzones or where terrorist atrocities are a regular occurrence.

Life on earth in 2020 is far from ideal for most people, but in a growing number of countries it is getting much harder to obtain even the basic necessities of life. However, the Psalmist would remind us of God’s care watching over us and giving us the strength we need to ensure the tough times we experience. In the New Testament Peter expressed it this way in I Peter 5:7: Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 

(b) His constant protection of us (Psalm 121:5-6)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 language is different in these verses, but a very similar point is being made of God’s care and protection of His people. It is a reminder that we are never alone. He never switches off. Whether it is day time or night His love and mercy is constant towards us. Psalm 34:6-8 states: This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. 7The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

God’s provision and protection can come in very different ways. In Jonah’s case it was a giant plant that gave welcome shade in the fierce Middle-eastern heat (Jonah 4:6-7); for Daniel miraculously surviving in the lions’ den overnight it was definitely protection. In Daniel 6:22 Daniel explained to the surprised King why he was still alive: My God sent His angel, and He shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in His sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.’  

The Psalmist’s point is that God provides for our needs and protection in many of our times of need.  Who knows what they might be in practice for you and me in the coming days?

(c) His constant assurance to us (Psalm 121:7-8)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. The message here is remarkably similar to that in Hebrews 13:5b-6: God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’

It is a message of assurance to us to entrust our uncertain future into the hands of a loving and all-powerful God who cares for and watches over us. I pray each one of us commits our lives to follow Him and the day by days seeks to walk closely with Him through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, Amen

Closing Song: Tell Out my soul

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of His word;
in God my Saviour shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His Name!
Make known His might, the deeds His arm has done;
His mercy sure, from age to age to same;
His holy Name–the Lord, the Mighty One.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of His might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of His word!
Firm is His promise, and His mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children and for evermore!

Closing Prayer:

Thank you Lord that You are with us each day of our lives, each step of the way. Even in uncertain years like 2020 we can have total confidence in You our amazing God. We are so grateful that You will never leave us nor forsake us. We now commit ourselves and the rest of this week into Your trustworthy hands, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen

The Benediction:

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God
and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore, Amen

Church at Home – 22 November 2020

Intimations

  • Baptist Union of Scotland Prayer Livestream – The monthly prayer livestream takes place on Sunday, 6 December, 7.00–7.30pm. You can access the prayer livestream by going to the Baptist Union of Scotland YouTube channel.

Jam Kids

The older JAM Kids might like to check out some Bible stories about people who also experienced ‘lockdown’. The videos along with a link to some questions to think about together, can all be found here.

JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:30am.  Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details.


Call to Worship

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.

5Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
    He is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.
My salvation and my honour depend on God;
    He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to Him,
    for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62 selection

We are grateful to Alan McRobbie for selecting the songs for worship for this service


Opening Prayer


Opening prayer

Heavenly Father, we come into Your holy presence today with deep gratitude that as Your children we can come freely and boldly into Your presence in the wonderful and precious name of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

We come as those whose sins have been forgiven, past, present and future through His once for all time perfect sacrifice in our place on the cross. We thank You that Jesus endured in our place the separation from You our sins merited in those dark hours on the cross so we might have life in all its fullness, and to have the incredible privilege of addressing You as our Father in heaven.

Once more we confess our sins of the past week and seek the fresh empowering of Your Holy Spirit as we begin another new week. Speak to us we pray from Your Holy Word as we read and reflect on it today, minister to us in our lives in accordance with our needs whether of challenge or encouragement or comfort or whatever it may be, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”      
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever Amen.

All Age talkAlan McRobbie

What is the most powerful muscle in the human body? Would you be surprised to know that it’s your tongue? We all fail in many areas especially with our words, but it is possible to control our words so that they reflect our beliefs and God’s plan for our lives. 

As an example, in the book of James in the Bible, James tells us that horses don’t start out their lives as gentle trained animals. They are wild creatures with huge powerful bodies but with some training and something as small as a bit and bridle in their mouths we can control the direction in which these big animals go. By controlling our words, we can control the power and direction of our lives as well. 

James continues describing how sailing ships cross huge bodies of water. Though these ships are driven by wind they can be directed by a tiny rudder steered by a single person at the helm. We can accomplish good things in stormy times if we control the words we speak.  

The tongue we use to speak is small but, in many ways, it is the most powerful and dangerous part of our bodies. James tells us that just as a tiny spark can set a whole forest on fire, a single wrong word the tongue spits out can cause unimaginable damage. 

Next, James asks us to consider animals. People have trained many kinds of animals. The only thing people haven’t been able to tame are their own tongues to keep them from speaking in a wrong way. Imagine this example. On Sunday we go to church where we use our tongues to speak and sing praises to God and then a few hours later we speak words against another person who was made in God’s image. One minute our tongues are doing what they were created to and the next they act out in a way displeasing to God. However, this said, just as our words can cause harm, they can also do incredible good demonstrating love and compassion.

Our words should honour God and reflect a godly life. The Bible tells us that Jesus was the Word of God who became human. Jesus is our example to follow and our lives should speak and live out the good words of God. 


Prayers for Others

Lord Jesus we thank You for the privilege of praying for others. We are deeply saddened by the vast numbers of people in the Philippines flooded out of their homes as a result of recent typhoons.

We pray for wisdom for the national and local government leaders there as they seek to organise a clean-up operation at the same time as feeding, clothing and housing so many in need. In the same way we bring before the hundreds of thousands of Armenian civilian families who have now lost their homes and most of their possessions at a time when winter is beginning in the mountains of Nagorno-Karabhakh and the surrounding provinces of that region.

We are deeply saddened that a century after the Armenian genocide that another major tragedy is taking place as they are driven out of yet more of their historic lands. We thank you for the aid-workers seeking to support and provide for those in so much need. But Lord we ask for Your mercy, as Western and other governments once again profess to believe in human rights and principles, but do little to uphold them when thousands are killed and many more are terrorised into fleeing wherever they can find some shelter and safety.        

With relief, we are grateful for the advances in vaccine research and pray that the test results from the other vaccine trials may also be as encouraging when they report in the coming weeks.  We pray for wisdom for world governments that they might share the successful vaccines fairly across the world to ensure that the poorer nations are also able in time to protect their citizens from this health pandemic that has done so much damage around the world.

We continue to pray for the necessary health and strength for all our health service workers caring for those who have contracted this illness, as well as their care for other patients. We also pray for all other workers and carers facing heavier responsibilities and pressures at this time. We are also concerned to remember the increasing number of people struggling with emotional and mental health problems. We ask that You would uphold and strengthen them and assure them of Your love and care at this time.    

We now bring before You the particular things of concern to us personally in the wider world …   

We also bring before You:

The Baptist Union of Scotland Trustee Board as they meet online this coming week to discuss various matters regarding the governance of our Union and good stewardship of our resources.

Pray also for the following churches:

Southside Christian Fellowship, Ayr – We pray for ways of keeping the church family together – not having a building is often a blessing in disguise! However, this may not be one of those times. We pray for them as they prepare for Christmas, seeking to build on some great community engagement in the past few years but in these very different circumstances. We pray that they would use this time wisely and listen well to the Spirit’s leading and teaching as they seek to move into new and unknown seasons still to come. 

Springburn BC, Glasgow – We give thanks that although a small congregation, and although in a vacancy situation, they have managed to re-open their premises for worship at an early stage in lockdown. We pray for guidance for their short and long term future, and pray that this very multicultural fellowship will continue to feel togetherness in the love of Jesus.  

St Andrews BC – We give thanks to God for His grace that is reaching more and more people throughout this pandemic through their witness. We pray for their newly appointed Students and Youth Workers as they find ways to engage with these groups in this current climate, as well as for the decisions to be made at their church AGM on 25 November for the advancement of God’s Kingdom here and beyond. 

St Mary’s Community Church, Dundee – They are praising God for a very real sense of His presence as they worshipped “together apart” online through lockdown, and as they now worship together again in person. They are thankful that God’s presence overrides the restrictions. We pray for them navigating their way into a different future, and building on the community contacts they have to share the good news of salvation in Christ.

We also remember in our prayers other people with particular needs that are connected to our own families or congregation: Lord today we particularly want to remember Nicola L and her family as her dad is making encouraging progress in his recovery from surgery. We continue to pray for a restoration of health and strength for Betty W and Anne M at this time and thank you for the progress they have made so far. We thank You too for the preservation of those we know who were recently involved in a car accident. We pray for others in the congregation who are recovering from surgery and for healing too for the person who has tested positive recently for the virus, as well as for other known to us who are coping with ongoing health challenges at the present time.

Lord we are conscious of those like the Steer’s niece Rachel and Ann W’s sister Margaret in the most difficult of times and ask for your peace and strength to uphold them and their families at this time. We continue to remember others in the congregation like Alva D undergoing medical treatments or facing surgery in the near future and pray that they may be restored to health and strength once again.

We continue to pray for those of our number who even without the virus-pandemic restrictions would be unable to meet with us for worship.  We pray Your blessing upon them at this time.  In particular, we bring before You …     

In addition, we bring our own and other needs on our hearts to You today…, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.


Bible Readings

‘As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. 13 ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14).


 31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 34 ‘Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was ill and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.” 37 ‘Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You ill or in prison and go to visit You?” 40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:31-40)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins…19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:9-14, 19-20)

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing:


The Message


Waiting for the coming King (Daniel 7:9-14 & Colossians 1:9-20)

Introduction

In the United Kingdom we are considered one of the best nations in the world for waiting patiently for things. Why is this so? There are other countries where it is the ‘every person for themselves’ for goods in stores, something that used to be tried by a proportion of citizens here in the post-Christmas sales. Anyone remember the dreadful images on the BBC news of people fighting over the large flat-screen televisions on offer a few years ago?

It happens with other ‘bargains’ as well, no doubt, but most of us doubt that is an appropriate way to do our shopping. The old-fashioned thing we are apparently good at is queuing. Now of course in 2020 we need to add, two metres apart for everyone’s safety until the virus goes away, but we can do it successfully. Silently or engaged in conversation we can wait until our turn comes to enter the shop to purchase some kind of goods. It seems to be a British kind of virtue that we can display patience in that context!   

It is now in the second half of November. What season of the year are you looking forward to you next? I assume that if we were to do some socially-distanced opinion polling in the streets that the vast majority of people would mention the word ‘Christmas’.

After all our governments in Edinburgh and London are both advocating stricter virus prevention measures at the moment with a view to allowing us some time with at least some of our relatives in the later part of December. Normally, many of us groan at the sound of ‘Christmas’ music beginning to appear in garden centres or shopping centres in the later part of September. What happened this year is anyone’s guess, as the majority of us were spending a lot less time in the shops, apart from food shopping.

However, in other parts of the world Christmas starts a lot earlier. In the Philippines, for example, it is particularly popular with the first preparations starting in September and the decorated tree up in some homes by the middle of October, rather than early December in the United Kingdom. However, over many centuries Christian Churches have observed a different period of time prior to Christmas called Advent. This word literally means ‘coming’. Who or what is coming? Why is that particular event marked? And what is it that historically Christians have waited for? Like fellow citizens an honest answer might be the Christmas holidays from work and a chance to rest!

However, Advent has traditionally been the season of looking back to the events of the first coming of Jesus and looking forward to His second coming. This season in the year is a declaration that God’s plans to send a Saviour for the world are on track. We may need to wait patiently for a while longer or equally Jesus may come again soon, but God will deliver on the promises He has made.  We can be certain that in waiting for the coming King we will not be disappointed. Ahead of the formal start of advent next Sunday we continue in looking forward to what God has prepared for us. The prayer of Advent is – come, Lord Jesus. Come, King Jesus.

As 2,000 years ago we are living in a time of rapid and unsettling change. Our societies in the Western world no longer have agreed common values and perspectives on the way society should operate. It is much deeper than ‘left’ or ‘right’ political agendas. It is visible, for example, in the conflict between some of the Western and others of the Eastern European states at the moment in the European Union. There are no easy solutions to resolve these differences.  The Christian hope is: ‘Come Lord Jesus’. May Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!  

1. We are waiting for the coming King (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14)

The book of Daniel contains a series of visions about empires and their rulers. Each in turn appeared invincible and certainly all-powerful compared to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel or Judah. At the time of writing his book, Daniel, although personally in an influential post in the Babylonian government, was acutely aware that the Promised Land was a wasteland underpopulated and without any functioning state.

Any notion of a coming king or ruler seemed utterly pointless as there appeared to be no functioning country to rule over. Although God had promised that the exile was temporary it took a big step of faith to trust and to pray believing that things could be turned around. The powerful empires described had been brutal in enforcing their rule, many died, and even more were uprooted from their homelands. The world hasn’t changed; the major powers kill at will and enforce their decrees at the expense of millions suffering hunger and deprivation of medical care and a decent way of life. The list is alarmingly long. The idea that in the twenty-first century humanity is more civilised than in previous millennia is seriously in question, not least because the most brutal century in history has only recently been concluded.

Waiting for a better ruler, a Prince of Peace seems ever more attractive. This was also the case for Daniel. As an older man he receives the dramatic vision recorded in Daniel chapter seven. Using the imagery of wild animals, the empires in turn were portrayed in less than flattering terms. However, in the midst of this information we catch a glimpse of a heavenly alternative. The rulers who have gone before will be replaced by a completely different coming king whose rule will be altogether different to theirs. What do we see here in Daniel 7?      

(a)The ‘Ancient of Days’ (Daniel 7:9-10):‘As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat.  His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of His head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing,  coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

What do we sense in this word picture of heaven? Is it the feverish activity and the panic that often is a fair description of modern governments when out of their comfort zones? It is absent from this scene. It is a picture of serenity. It is a scene of things being under control. There is a calmness and control. The visual representation of God the Father is of a being who knows all that is happening and knows what can be done about it. However, as well as serenity there is also solemnity. The fire imagery points to judgement on sin and those who wilfully choose to disregard His plans for our good and His glory. God will not be mocked.

In our context, in the twenty-first century, a visual image of an aged person is viewed as one of physical weakness and of a person retired from work and the big decisions of life. This was far from the perception of the first recipients of this book. In those cultural contexts age brought wisdom and insight, qualities we need so much of today. The scene also would have been viewed as depicting God’s sovereignty. He reigns over all! Whatever humans may think, say or do, God will have the final word. Have you entrusted your life and your future to Him?

(b) The Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14) 13 ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed

This scene in heaven turns away from God the Father to look at a second figure, a ‘son of man’ yet who is a heavenly figure. This mysterious figure is greater than all the individuals whose empires ranged across the known world. Their kingdoms came and went, but His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:14b).

We are waiting for this coming King was the message of this dream or vision that Daniel experienced. His rule or reign will be totally different to that of the earthly rulers already referenced. Because of this prophecy, Israel had something to hope for, something to wait for. They had a vision of a time when someone sent from God would establish an everlasting Kingdom. This and many other prophecies gave Israel the sense that their new King was coming, that God was sending His Messiah who would liberate them from captivity.  Eventually, the Israelites were released from Babylon, yet they remained for the most part under the oppression of the Persians, and then the Greeks, and then finally the mighty Roman Empire.

These Roman Caesars called themselves the “sons of God” and demanded that all their subjects pledged allegiance to Caesar as Lord. Anyone who resisted was crushed under the military weight of the Roman Army. Six hundred years had passed, and yet for Israel, two thousand years ago, the Messiah establishing His new Kingdom seemed further away than ever.

This royal figure would not only rule forever, but also over all nations and peoples of every language (Daniel 7:14a). The question we need to answer is this? Did Jesus view Himself as identifying with this heavenly figure in Daniel 7? The answer is a definite ‘yes’. His self-designation in public ministry was ‘the Son of Man’. Most importantly when on trial before the Jewish High Priest and asked to explain His identity, prior to His crucifixion, Jesus said these words, recorded in Mark 14:61b-62: 

Again the high priest asked Him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ 62 ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’

Everyone present knew that Jesus was self-identifying with the king they were waiting for, the heavenly figure of Daniel 7:13-14. The tragedy was the majority of those present that day rejected His claims.  What is your response to Jesus’ claims on your life? Have you put your faith and trust in Him? Are you waiting for the second coming of the King? 

2. We are waiting for a different kind of King (Matthew 25:31-46)

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on His left. 34 ‘Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was ill and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.” 

37 ‘Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You ill or in prison and go to visit You?” 40 ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”

41 ‘Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was ill and in prison and you did not look after Me.” 44 ‘They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or ill or in prison, and did not help You?” 45 ‘He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” 46 ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.’

With this and many other statements Jesus shows Himself to be the promised Messiah and King. And yet, there is a twist to this tale. Jesus’ idea of a ‘king’ is almost the exact opposite to the kind of king that anyone in His audience was expecting. Israel was anticipating a powerful ruler who would defeat Rome and establish a political kingdom on earth. But Jesus announces that His kingly rule, the Kingdom of God, will be a paradoxical and subversive Kingdom. When He is being questioned by Pilate, a powerful Roman leader, Jesus answers him by saying: Jesus said, 

My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now My kingdom is from another place (John 18:36).

Pilate, the Roman procurator, understands Jesus’ claims as those of one self-identifying as a king, but not in the way Rome claimed sovereignty over its subject peoples and Empire. Sadly at different times in the history of the Christian Church there have been churches that claimed power co-extensively with the state; or in the case of the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period over nation states or secular rulers in Europe. But this is not what Jesus was claiming. He is the coming King for whom the Jewish people were waiting two thousand years ago, of whom only a minority recognized His true identity.

He is the coming King we are waiting for today, that the Bible refers to as His second coming and invites us to be prepared and ready for Jesus’ return. Are you waiting expectantly for the coming of the king? In Matthew 24 prior to this passage Jesus stated: 

And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory…  ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him (Matthew 24:30, 42b-44).

Have you committed your life to Him?  He is coming soon; please don’t delay taking this step.

3. We are waiting for a different kind of Kingdom (Colossians 1:9-20)

 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. 

13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 

18 And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

(a)The nature of the kingdom The Kingdom of Jesus is an upside-down Kingdom. The first are last, the poor are blessed, outcasts are welcomed, light shines from the darkness, life comes out of death, and victory comes from sacrifice. Powerful and religious people can’t accept this kind of King, but the ‘least’, the downtrodden and those whom society rejects come to see that they are invited to be part of this very different kind of kingdom. In this letter to a congregation in a town in a place called Colossae, in what we call today Western Turkey, Paul reminds these believers, young in the faith, what they have become a part of.   

And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves (Colossians 1:12-13).

We have been welcomed by the plan and purpose of God the Father. We are His wanted children. You are not a Christian by some kind of accident!  If you are a Christian, you belong to a new kingdom. You have been set free from the captivity of the dominion of darkness. Your identity is not primarily about your country of birth, your family, or your politics. You are first and ultimately a citizen of Jesus’ kkingdom. What is more our work in this kingdom is a calling to service. At the Last Supper Jesus spelt this out to His first disciples in Luke 22:24-27: 

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

In the earlier passage in Matthew 25 there is an illustration of some of the forms of ministry people in this kingdom will exercise towards one another. In other passages of the Bible we are recommended to serve in this way to people in the wider community as well. However, in Matthew 25, the emphasis is clearly on our calling to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Being in God’s kingdom is not about status; instead it is a call to service. I want to say a big thank you to each of you who served someone else or some other people this week in all manner of different practical ways.   

(b) The vision for the Kingdom (Colossians 1:20) through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:20) There is no bigger vision or mission statement than this.  

This Kingdom is bigger than a political or geographical area, because this King is the one who created politics and geography in the first place! Colossians 1:15-16 describes Him: 

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. How was this kingdom launched? … by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:20).

What is the ultimate goal of this kingdom? To create the most exciting church leaders’ or members’ business meetings ever? To produce the best sounds ever produced in worship in Sunday services? To experience the most eloquent and inspiring sermons ever preached? No! It is to reconcile to Himself all things. The perfect world and universe that existed when God created it for our good and for His glory will one day be our experience, not just for a summer holiday but for ever! It is beyond my ability to imagine a world as good as this at the present time. Martin Luther King eloquently proclaimed: ‘I have a dream’, in his famous speech. God declares to us today I have a plan for the perfect future kingdom of My Son that you can all be a part of.

Two thousand years ago the world was taken by surprise at His first coming as a baby at Bethlehem. Soon, yes very soon, the King for whom we are waiting will return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Please make sure that you have trusted the king as your Lord and Saviour and, therefore, will have something to look forward to that is truly out of this world, Amen       

Our song before we come to communion is:


The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’


Our last song is:


Closing Prayer

Thank you Lord once more for the blessing of worshipping You today. We thank You that as we are approaching the season of advent when the Christian Church recalls the first coming of Jesus to earth two thousand years ago, we can also look forward with anticipation to Your second coming to usher in Your eternal Kingdom. Heavenly Father we thank You that You have fulfilled the promises You made regarding past events and trust You for the future. Grant us the strength we need for this new week.  We bring our prayer in the name of Jesus, Amen. 

Church at Home – 15 November 2020

Intimations

  • Baptist Union of Scotland Prayer Livestream – The monthly prayer livestream takes place on Sunday, 6 December, 7.00–7.30pm. You can access the prayer livestream by going to the Baptist Union of Scotland YouTube channel.

Jam Kids

JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:30am.  Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details.


Call to Worship

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name;
make known among the nations what He has done.
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.
Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.

Psalm 105: 1-4

We are grateful to Moraig Piggot for selecting the songs for worship for this service


Opening Prayer


Opening prayer

Lord we come so conscious of our weakness and at times our sense of inadequacy in the face of all that is going on in the world. The all-pervasive impact of the Covid-19 virus pandemic has taken its toll on the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of so many people both in our homeland and around the world.

Many of us come today feeling exhausted at the demands of the week that has passed, but we come with confidence to the God who loves and cares for us and who in previous months and years has provided the grace and strength we have needed to carry on through good times and tough.

We confess that it is difficult to see how things will go in the coming months, but we know that nothing takes You by surprise. Thank you Lord that throughout history You have been a faithful God. We come with real gratitude for the particular blessings we have received over the years.

In particular as we come to the season of Advent and remember the coming of Your Son our Saviour the Bible tells us that it was at just the right time that He came. However, we acknowledge that it is only with hindsight that we see the significance of how you worked at that time. Help us to catch a glimpse of how You are at work in our world in these momentous times today. Cleanse us afresh from our sins of the past week and equip us we pray for the challenges of the week before us, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”      
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever Amen.

All Age talkMoraig Piggot

Today’s bible story that Brian will share with us today is about growing up. Boys and girls, I wonder if there are things you can’t do yet or are not allowed to do yet that you really want to be able to do? I remember when I was a wee girl I wanted to be allowed to pick my own clothes to wear, I also wanted to be able to go to the shops with my friends, I really wanted to have my own house so I could get a dog and I also really wanted to be teacher and I played schools in my bedroom all the time.

Today’s story is all about a time in which growing up had great significance in society, religion, and the law. Sometimes as children we are desperate to grow up and sometimes as parents, we can be desperate for our babies to sleep all night, walk, talk, become more independent and eventually move out of home!!

But do you know sometimes when we become old enough to get all these things we think we wanted to be able to do, we can after a while want to go back to when we were younger and we had someone to help us, someone to make the decisions for us, someone to sort things out when it all goes wrong and someone to be there all the time to listen. Basically, what we had when we lived at home.

In Galatians 4 Paul, who wrote this part of the bible talks about and describes how God sent his son Jesus to earth to make right our relationship with God so that we could become his children. God wants you to be his child. God wants that kind of relationship with you. He wants you to experience the kind of relationship you would have as child with your mum and dad and the privileges that come from being his child. “Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you” Galatians 4:7

So sometimes we are desperate to grow up and sometimes once we are grown up we are desperate to be young again. As Christians we have this amazing opportunity to have a forever ‘childhood’ we have the reassurance of a heavenly father who wants to love us, wants to be there for us always, wants to help us, wants to listen to us, wants us to need him, wants us to always talk to him, wants us to be HIS child!

So this week let’s remember how fortunate we are to be part of this amazing family that God invites us into, young and old. We have this wonderful friend, this fantastic father and the opportunity to share this good news with everyone around us.

Boys and girls do you think you could draw a picture or make a list of everything being part of Gods family means to you?

We continue in worship as we sing an all age song: ‘Father God I wonder’


Prayers for Others

Lord Jesus we thank You for the privilege of prayer. We are very aware of how much time in Your earthly ministry that You spent in prayer and we are conscious of our own needs so we come to seek the guidance of our heavenly Father to work by the Holy Spirit in a world of so much need. We come today to bring before You so many needs on our hearts.

In our world we are aware of mass killings of Christians in Tigre and Mozambique in east Africa together with the emerging picture of atrocities by other Islamists in Nagorno-Karabakh, alongside the terrible flooding in areas of the Philippines after a series of typhoons and that is just a fraction of what is going on in the world. We bring before You the particular things of concern to us today…  

Lord we are thankful that the first concrete signs of a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus is emerging. We pray that the scientists involved will be able to resist the political pressures to rush all the necessary testing and safety procedures and only issue the vaccine for use when they are certain it is safe to do so. We pray too that when the time comes to offer vaccines that the world’s poorer countries will be able to have their needs met as well as the richer and more powerful ones. 

Our Father we also continue to pray for the necessary strength and resilience for our health service and social care workers as we enter the colder months of the year when there are always greater demands for their services. We pray too for those in education and other spheres where the heavy ongoing demands are causing many to struggle with the demands of their workplace and the loss of adequate time to relax and restore lost energy, as well as for those in hospitality and travel & tourism industries where there are genuine fears about future employment and business prospects.

We give thanks that God calls us all to be ministers of the good news of Jesus wherever we are. We pray in particular for those people who may be exploring a particular call to ministry in some form or another. We pray that God’s clear direction and leading will be found by those that seek it.

We pray for the Baptist Union of Scotland Board of Ministry which takes place online this coming week. We pray for the candidates exploring a call to accredited ministry and for the Board as they seek to conduct interviews through an online platform. We pray that the candidates and Board have a good time together despite the restrictions of an online meeting and trust that they can discern Your leading and guidance with clarity this week.

Pray also for the following churches:

Sheddocksley BC – We give thanks with them for the growing opportunity they have to love God and love their neighbours through the work of a local foodbank, providing emotional support to the vulnerable, and through their relaunched parent and toddlers group. We pray for wisdom and creative direction for their online ministry, through which God seems to be moving beyond their imagination.

Shettleston BC, Glasgow – At Shettleston they give thanks to God for His guidance in these difficult times. They thank Him that they have managed to negotiate the guidelines so that they could open their doors and start holding physical services. They continue to look to Him for wisdom for new ways to engage with the community around their church, especially under the present restrictions. They praise God that none of their members have succumbed to the virus and continue to pray that none will.

South Leith BC, Edinburgh – God has blessed the church with considerable growth over the last two years, and has sent Pastor Marinho from Brazil along with his associate Moises and their families to work with this congregation. Marinho will be installed as Pastor after the Pandemic restrictions are eased. We pray that the church will be effective in an extensive new project of outreach which has been launched in the community and for the Brazilian team as they adjust to language and culture.

We also remember in our prayers other people with particular needs that are connected to our own families or congregation: Lord today we particularly want to remember Nicola L and her family as her dad seeks to recuperate effectively from major surgery. We continue to pray for a restoration of health and strength for Betty W and Anne M at this time and thank you for the progress they have made on the journey to recovery.

Lord we are conscious of those like the S’s niece Rachel and Ann W’s sister Margaret in the most difficult of times and ask for your peace and strength to uphold them and their families at this time.  We continue to remember others in the congregation like Alva D undergoing medical treatments or facing surgery in the near future and pray that they may be restored to health and strength once again.

We continue to pray for those of our number who even without the virus-pandemic restrictions would be unable to meet with us for worship.  We pray Your blessing upon them at this time.  In particular, we bring before You …     

In addition, we bring our own and other needs on our hearts to You today…, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.


Bible Reading

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir. (NLV)

Galations 3: 26-4:7

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing:


The Message

Galatians 4 v 4 God’s work in God’s way in God’s timescale

Introduction

‘What good timing’ or words to that effect are common in our speech. It could be the golfer in the manner in which they address the ball with their club or putter; the cricketer with their angled bat responding to the rapidly approaching delivery from the bowler, attempting to place it out of reach of the fielders to enable them to score runs from that delivery.

But it is not only professional sportspeople who may exhibit this quality. A stand-up comedian skilled in that trade can make the most ordinary facts of life appear funny to an audience by the timing and nature of their utterances. Poor performers need smut and bad language to cover their limited abilities, but a gifted communicator is a joy to experience as they deliver well-chosen words. In everyday life all of us have to make choices that can exhibit this quality –or not as the case may be!

If we are honest some of the good choices we have made look far better with hindsight than they did at the time. The reason for this is simple. We see only part of the bigger picture and have to base many of our life choices on limited information. God, by contrast, knows the end from the beginning, and gives life its meaning and purpose.

The One who spoke and brought the Universe into being is the same God who planned the coming, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, and at the right time will invite Him to return to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The same God has His hand on your life and mine and on this congregation. Our times are within His control. God leaves nothing to chance. There is no luck or good / bad fortune in the world, even though it can look that way at times, all that happens is either permitted or directed in His providential care. Therefore, these verses that refer to the first coming of Jesus ought to be a great encouragement to us in our relationship with the Lord in the twenty-first century.

    At the current time, in the midst of the Covid-19 virus pandemic, the world feels very unstable. More people around the world will feel incredibly insecure. In the two-thirds world no work for day labourers means a struggle to get any food for millions of families in parts of Asia and Africa. In the Western world starvation is not an issue, but potential loss of careers or employment, especially but not exclusively in industries like travel and tourism can cause all kinds of financial worries. Even those in secure jobs, for example, in the health service and education the constant changes required in the working environment, even without considering increased personal health risks bring significant added pressures on the working day.

Many of us are aware that the restrictions on personal travel, and on meeting other family members or friends is increasingly affecting the emotional or mental health of a growing number of people. You may even be thinking is anything secure or guaranteed? The answer of course is ‘yes’. God’s work in His world continues in His way on schedule. The best example of this good news was the coming of Jesus into the world two thousand years ago.  

1. The Right Time (Galatians 4:4a) But when the time had fully come

In what way was the time right? (a) Political circumstances General security in the Roman Empire was at its best level in years. The Roman Emperor and his administration were in complete control over their realm and could see no significant threat to the Pax Romana (Roman peace) which was an incredible achievement at that time. The basic infrastructure of society was also at an incredibly high level. The Romans built high quality roads that outlasted their Empire in many places –possibly the best roads constructed prior to the twentieth century.

In addition, there were no local frontier crossings where taxes and bribes had to be paid. A citizen of the empire could freely travel wherever they wished within its borders. Only in the European Union in the present era was such a scenario experienced by European citizens. The advantages of this for businessmen and women was obvious; It was not just the military who gained from these arrangements; in fact the free flow of goods and ideas made it eminently suitable for the travel arrangements of the first Christian missionaries. Only the lack of finance could deter a person from travelling where they wished in the first century Roman world.

However, it has to be said that the vast majority of people lived all their lives in the same communities with no attempts to travel outside their own country. There is no doubt that the political time was ‘right’ for the coming of Jesus.  

(b)Cultural circumstances Since the extraordinary success of Alexander the Great in founding the previous military superpower the main culture and common language of that part of the world had been Greek. Greek philosophy and language had penetrated down to the ordinary people who spoke their own simplified ‘Koine’ (Common) Greek. In the law courts and Romans civil service the official language was Latin, but in ordinary conversations and in popular culture Koine Greek was the language of choice for the majority of the citizens.

In addition, many people who lived outside the borders of the empire also spoke Greek, not least the traders who passed through the empire. The gift of a common language was priceless. The first Christians in Jerusalem and Antioch had big decisions to take about the language in which they would evangelise and in which the New Testament books would be written and in which their Bible, the Old Testament would be quoted. I suspect it was a decision taken in multi-cultural Antioch first where the missionary movement was officially launched. The Bible of choice was the Septuagint, a standard Jewish translation of the Old Testament produced (or at least started as early as) the third century BC, in Alexandria, Egypt.

Septuagint specialist H J St John Thackeray wrote: The Jewish commercial settlers at Alexandria, forced by circumstances to abandon their language, clung tenaciously to their faith; and the translation of the Scriptures into their adopted language, produced to meet their own needs, had the further result of introducing the outside world to knowledge of their history and religion. Then came the most momentous event in its history, the starting-point of a new life; the translation was taken over from the Jews by the Christian church.

It was the Bible of most writers of the New Testament. Not only are the majority of their express citations from Scripture borrowed from it, but their writings contain numerous reminiscences of its language. Its words are household words to them. It laid for them the foundations of a new religious terminology. It was a potent weapon for missionary work, and, when versions of the Scriptures into other languages became necessary, it was in most cases the Septuagint and not the Hebrew from which they were made (H.J. St John Thackeray, ‘The Septuagint’, International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, 1915)’. 

In contrast to Mohammed and the formation of Islam, six centuries later, who insisted that the Arab language and Arabic cultural superiority be retained for Muslims around the region, the early Christians believed that their faith transcended any particular culture and could be proclaimed in any language and lived in any cultural context. However, possessing the common Greek language was a substantial aid to spreading the faith in the first few generations of the Christian Church. 

(c) Religious circumstances When the Romans conquered nations or people-groups as long as they paid their taxes and remained loyal to their Emperor there was no particular interest in their religious beliefs. The many local gods and goddesses could be worshipped as before. However, there were increasing attempts to claim that some of these local deities were actually the same ‘gods’ as the Romans worshipped under a different name. By the time of the birth of Jesus there was a growing sense of disillusionment with these gods. Increasingly people questioned their morality, or even their existence. After all, the lifestyles of their followers showed no discernible difference to the wider population. It was only the Jewish people whose family values and strict moral code won the respect of many good-living Gentiles. However, although they were willing to attend services in the synagogues and follow the ethical practices of the Jews, these ‘God-fearers’ did wish to adopt all the laws and traditions of Orthodox Judaism.

In the major urban centres of the Roman Empire there were dozens, possibly several hundred of these people who were very open to the good news of Jesus when Paul and his fellow missionaries preached in the synagogues. Luke, repeatedly in the book of Acts makes reference to them. Athens, as a stronghold of the old gods, was an unusual setting for the outreach ministry of Paul. His standard approach of beginning in the synagogue was not possible as so few Jews lived there. His lecture to the philosophers on Mars Hill was a very different kind of proclamation quoting not the Bible but their own authorities as credible witnesses to the points he was making.

All that learning of poetry and philosophy in school had come in useful! They were most surprised that the Jew Paul was familiar with their culture and beliefs. This earned him their respect. It was only near the end of his presentation when Paul turned to the themes of God’s judgement and the death and resurrection of Jesus- all absent from their world view – that the criticisms of his position were made. What is abundantly clear is that there was an opportunity in the first century AD to present the Gospel in a way that might not have been possible in previous centuries –the right time had come. 

2. The Right Person (Galatians 4:4b) God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law

There was a sense of expectancy that someone, a Messiah, a great leader, would emerge and do something to change the world. This was a common theme in many of the cultures of which the Roman Empire was composed. It was not merely wishful thinking amongst the oppressed slaves alone- things could only get better for them! But even amongst the elite of the establishment such as the poet and writer Juvenal and the Philosopher and formative Educational thinker Cicero, who was the Emperor Nero’s tutor in his earlier years.

No-one could pretend that the expectations of this mass of people were clear and consistent –this would be far from the truth, but a recognition that they were living in a time of change and openness to believe and do things differently provided an extraordinary opportunity for those who were claiming to offer a new message of hope for the future.

Therefore, the sense of timing of the birth of Jesus is abundantly clear. We must admit that most Jewish people at the time did not see it that way and as far as we know the religious leaders in Jerusalem never made a trip to Bethlehem to ascertain whether what they had heard concerning Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus was true or not! Given that the journey was no more than twelve miles it is truly astonishing if this assumption is correct. This is especially so when it is recognised that the wise men had travelled for weeks, if not months, to see the special child that had been born.

However, we too often only see things with hindsight. Looking back so many things are now obvious and we wonder how we could have missed them at the time. God’s timing is perfect. His planning of the coming of Jesus –first and second times- is a big encouragement to us regarding our own lives. We can otherwise be puzzled as to why things happen too slowly (or very occasionally too quickly) in our lives. He sees the bigger picture –we only see it in part.     

How did it happen? It was the fulfilment of prophecy. The nation of Judah in the eighth century BC was deeply troubled by the growing power of Assyria. At the time a weak secular ruler Ahaz was on the throne. The prophet Isaiah went to see him and offered to pray with him and to bring a message from God –and most remarkably reported that God wanted to give the King a miraculous sign to confirm that He was in control of things that were far from being controlled by the local earthly king Ahaz. It is astonishing that Ahaz did not accept the offer of miraculous intervention, seeing as he had no ‘plan B’ available at the time.

It was clear both that he had no time for the God of Israel, or His earthly representatives, and that he was totally pessimistic about the future for the nation. As a result he rejected the offer from God through Isaiah. If he foolishly though God would take his ‘no’ for an answer then he was in for a surprise. Isaiah 7:13-14 states: 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virginwill conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

It was though more than seven centuries later that this prophecy was fulfilled. This fact reveals that God’s plans operate on a much larger timescale than ours and often what we see as a major crisis requiring urgent attention in the present, sometimes, is less significant that we had assumed. When the time was right in the first century AD God sent His Son…(Gal.4:4b); One commentator translated this phrase as: ‘God sent His Son on a mission’.

I suspect that this rendering would be more accurately viewed as a paraphrase, but one that is spot on in terms of its meaning. Only God had the power and ability to intervene in the human predicament in this way. God the Father sending His unique gift to the world, His beloved Son, the One with whom He had had unbroken fellowship from eternity past; Yet if this person was to intervene in our world there were two conditions that had to be fulfilled. First of all:

(a)Born of a woman (Galatians 4:4) To reconcile God to humanity and humanity to God was a unique challenge. Was there anyone who could meet the conditions required here, truly divine and yet born of a woman and therefore truly human? Hebrews 1:1-3 states these incredible words concerning Jesus:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

At the Last Supper Philip one of His disciples made an amazing request to Jesus. He asked to see God the Father with his own eyes. John 14:6-10 records the exchange:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really know Me, you will know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”Jesus answered: “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?

Yet this same person, the creator of the Universe, fully divine, came to earth at a moment in time to be born as a helpless baby. How in the midst of a people tainted by sin could the perfect and holy Son of God be born in our midst? Mary asked that question and received a clear answer from Gabriel in Luke 1:34-38:

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Jesus became truly human at the time of His miraculous conception. He lived a life that experienced the full range of challenges we may experience, yet never succumbed to the pressures upon Him. Now as the perfect man in heaven we can come to Him in prayer with confidence because He understands everything we experience:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

These are amazing and encouraging words to strengthen our resolve to pray to Him. Jesus fulfilled this condition. There was a second condition:

(b) Born under the law The Messiah was prophesied in Scripture as being a descendant of Abraham and therefore Jewish, a descendant of the great King David, of the tribe of Judah, and therefore, likely to be born in Bethlehem. His family were devout orthodox Jews. Their attendance at the local synagogue and when possible in Jerusalem at national festivals was regular and sincere; Jesus kept the Old Testament laws concerning the Jewish faith, but opted out of the requirement to follow the additional rules of the Pharisees.

Naturally, this decision provoked the negative reaction which most Pharisees had towards Jesus –at least in the early part of His ministry. The problem was that though later more of their number sensed something special about Jesus they were too afraid to speak out because the official line in their ranks was to oppose Jesus. The pressure on the blind man who was healed and his family in John chapter nine is a hint of the greater pressures that would have been brought to bear had a teacher of the Law been so vocal in recognition of Jesus. The conditions for His coming were fulfilled in Jesus.

God’s timing in the fulfilling of His will for His people on earth is perfect. He knows the fuller picture in the course of history whereas we catch only glimpses of it through what He has revealed to us. What is abundantly clear is that the course of events on earth in very confusing times of change was the right time for the coming of Jesus. It was the right era in which to launch the Christian Church both in fulfilment of biblical prophecy and in terms of the social and religious changes that were happening. The year 2020 has been a year of remarkable changes. Their impact will be profound and more evident in the coming years.

However, as Christians we need to focus more on asking what opportunities God may be giving us to do His work more effectively so we can communicate His Gospel to more people who don’t yet know Him. Likewise, as disciples of Jesus, to ask God how in these times of upheaval and rapid changes can we become more effective as His followers in living out our faith, both as individuals and as a congregation.

I believe that one generation from now, should the Lord delay His return that long, that observers will note a significant spiritual harvest will be reaped by those churches that focussed on going forward in faith expecting great things from God and attempting great things for Him, for Jesus’ name sake, Amen 


Our song before we come to communion is:


The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’


Our last song is:


Closing Prayer

Lord we rejoice that no problems are too difficult for You to handle. As we have reflected today on Your planning for the coming of Your Son our Saviour to earth two thousand years ago, we are also grateful that You have plans for our good in the coming days and through Your Holy Spirit will provide the strength we need for this coming week. We bring all our prayers and our praises to You today, in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Remembrance Sunday online service – 8 November 2020

Intimations

  • The sessions from the online annual Assembly Canopy will be available on the BUS website and the BUS YouTube channel.
  • Baptist Union of Scotland Prayer Livestream – The monthly prayer livestream takes place on Sunday, 6 December, 7.00–7.30pm. You can access the prayer livestream by going to the Baptist Union of Scotland YouTube channel.

Jam Kids

JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:30am.  Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details.


Call to Worship

1  By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3  for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4  How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

Psalm 137: 1-4

1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.  2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?  3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”  4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty Onewith shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.  5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 

Psalm 42: 1-5

As we come to worship this morning, we like the Israelites can ask “How can we sing the song, while in a foreign land?”

They had lost their freedom, their economy – and The Temple, their place of worship, it is a song of homesickness.

As we contemplate today in our Act of Remembrance, coming through in particular the 2nd World War – and now all our struggles amidst COVID

Like the Psalmist in Psalm 42 says “Why are you so downcast my soul. Put your hope in God. For I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God”

Help me/us to follow you in this strange, new, uncertain landscape that I find myself in.

Jesus I choose to follow you again in the potential of this present moment – because whatever the circumstances – I can trust your faithfulness!


We shall begin our worship today by singing about and focussing on God’s faithfulness and love


Opening Prayer


Our God,

We thank you that we have the freedom that we can come to you in worship, but help us Father to become aware again today that we can only come into your Holy presence – because of your son Jesus – and his sacrifice on the cross.

How amazing is your grace and mercy to us “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  

We confess to you afresh, when we fail to acknowledge you in our lives, in our actions, and our lips – your Lordship over us.

We thank you God – that as we remember today the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in war &  conflicts, and as we have this continuous struggle with the pandemic – That you are always faithful to us.

We can we see and experience this in so many ways, but ultimately in how you sent Jesus to die for us.

Help us afresh today to choose to follow you, to choose to sing our praises to you.

This is love, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us.

Come by your Holy Spirit, touch our lives today, break us free from wrong thinking about you, about ourselves and others – to live for you in these times. In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.


All Age talkGod’s love is immeasurable!

Objects –

A measuring cup, a tape measure, and a watch

Scripture

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”
– John 3:16 (NIV)

One of my favourite Bible verses begins, “For God so loved the world.” I was thinking about that verse and wondering — just how great is God’s love and how could we measure it? This morning I brought several things that we often use in measuring other things. I thought they might help us measure God’s love.

Sometimes we use a measuring cup to measure things. If I were making some cookies, I would use a measuring cup to make sure that I put in exactly the right amount of flour, sugar, and milk. I wonder if we might use a measuring cup to measure God’s love? The Bible says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….my cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:1,5) Well, if our cup runs over with God’s love, I don’t guess we could use a measuring cup to measure it.

If we were building something, we might use a tape measure to measure the length, width, and height of different things. I wonder if we might use a tape measure to measure God’s love? The Bible tells us that “God’s love is higher than the heavens.”(Psalm 108:4) If God’s love is higher than the heavens, I don’t think we could use a tape measure to measure it, could we?

We use a watch to measure time. There will probably be some people here this morning who will use their watch to measure how long the pastor’s sermon lasts. I wonder if we could use a watch to measure how long God’s love will last. The Bible tells us that “God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 103:17) Wow! If God’s love is from everlasting to everlasting, I don’t guess we could measure it with a watch.

For God so loved the world, that he gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” How do you measure a love like that? We can’t measure it — we don’t need to — but we do need to experience it.

My prayer for you today is, “That you may understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience it, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)

Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love — a love so great that you gave your one and only Son so that we could have eternal life. Amen.


Bible Reading

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.  2 Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.  3The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.  

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “LORD, save me!”  5 The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.  6 The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.  7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.  

8 For you, LORD, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,  9 that I may walk before the LORDin the land of the living.  10 I trusted in the LORD when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”;  11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”  12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?  

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD.  14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORDin the presence of all his people.  15 Precious in the sight of the LORDis the death of his faithful servants.  

16 Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.  17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD.  18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,  19 in the courts of the house of the LORD— in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD.

Psalm 116

Prayers for Others

Today we remember those who ‘for our tomorrow, gave their today’. We pray for those on active service in many parts of the world. We long, dear Lord, to see an end to conflict and instead see a healing balm of peace overflow in the world. We pray for those who have served our country in past years in the Armed Forces, who now live with the physical, mental or emotional injuries suffered in the course of fulfilling their duties. We pray that You would strengthen and encourage them at this time, and reassure them that they have not been forgotten.


We continue to remember in our prayers the many conflicts around the world that continue to cause such suffering to ordinary people in places like Nagorno-Karabakh, Syria and Yemen or those who suffer from the constant violence caused by Islamist militias in northern Nigeria and other countries in the region.

We also pray for scientists working on a vaccine for Covid-19 and we pray for breakthroughs in this area. We continue to pray for frontline workers in all settings, particularly in hospitals, and especially for any who may be experiencing anxiety or burnout.

We also bring before You:

We pray for the Mission Initiative Group of the Baptist Union of Scotland as they meet online this week to discuss ways in which they can support churches in their local mission.

We pray also for the following churches:

Sanquhar (St Ninians) BC – We give thanks for the fellowship in Sanquhar and pray for them as they seek to continue worshipping and witnessing for Jesus in this part of Dumfries & Galloway. 

Selkirk BC – We give thanks to God for the thirteen years of ministry they have enjoyed under Rev Brian Talbot who moved on at the end of September. We pray for them as they put a new leadership structure in place, and that God strengthens the whole church, and draws them together during this period of vacancy

Rutherglen Baptist Community Church – We give thanks for the fellowship in Rutherglen and pray for the church as they seek to be salt and light to the town.  

Saltcoats (South Beach) BC – We’re thankful to God that He is ever present and faithful when our current circumstances are ever changing in these times of pandemic! We pray for them as they seek to refresh their vision & strategy. Their new vision statement declares: “By the grace of God, we aim to be a community that is epitomised by joy, love and rest.” May God help them to be such a people!

We also remember in our prayers other people with particular needs that are connected to our own families or congregation: Lord today we particularly want to remember Nicola L and her family as her dad came through major surgery successfully on 3 November. We pray for wisdom for the medical team that will assist him in his recovery process and Your peace for the family through this difficult time. We pray also for Betty W as she recuperates in Royal Victoria Hospital after surgery. We continue to pray for a restoration of health and strength for Anne M and thank God for some improvements in her situation.

We continue to remember others going through cancer treatments or facing other health problems at this time. We remember particularly the Steer’s niece Rachel and Ann W’s sister Margaret. We ask for Your strength for them as they face uncertain futures despite the blessings we have of an excellent National Health Service. 

We continue to remember all the members of our congregation and members of some of our families in residential care or confined to their homes through age or infirmity or who are currently unwell and signed off from their work. We pray that You would meet with them where they are and assure them that they are remembered.

In addition, we bring our own and other needs on our hearts to You today…, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.


Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘Abide with me’


The Message

Psalm 116 God’s deliverance: From the storm to the sunshine

Introduction

The book of Psalms has been the main songbook of the Jewish people in worship over the centuries as well as an important contributor to Christian acts of worship over the last two thousand years. Although the singing in the Jerusalem Temple may have been more choral like in a cathedral, rather than the full congregational participation in Evangelical Churches today, it is so natural for us to use these songs in church worship services as the first followers of Jesus who started the Christian Church were all Jewish.

The Psalms contain such a rich mixture of emotions that they appeal to believers going through the full range of experiences of life from the heights of happiness to the depths of despair. Some Psalms have been associated with particular acts of worship.

In the Church of England 1662 Prayer Book, it is interesting that Psalm 116 was deemed the appropriate song to sing after childbirth (D. Kidner, Psalms 73-150, p. 407).  Prior to the availability of modern medical services giving birth was a dangerous and risky process for many women. But this Psalm was written by its unknown author for use during the celebration of the Passover Festival. This was the Festival of Remembrance of the lamb’s blood that was shed for the redemption of the people of God in the Old Testament, prior to leaving Egypt under the leadership of Moses 

When was Psalm 116 sung? It was part of the Hallel, Psalms 113-118, that were sung during the Passover feast celebrating God’s miraculous rescue of the Israelites from Egypt. It included the saving of the firstborn through the shedding of the lamb’s blood sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of Jewish homes (Exodus 12:7, 12-14, 22-23), but Egyptian homes that chose to ignore God’s requirements lost their first-born sons.

In the festival meals over the week or so set aside for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Passover cups of wine were drunk during these meals mentioned here in Psalm 116:13. For the Jew the cost here is of redemption from slavery and the gaining of physical freedom in Egypt. Jesus in the Upper Room transformed the meaning of the Passover meal by pointing to Himself in place of the lamb as He became the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The Jewish people at that time of year sacrificed countless numbers of lambs reared mainly around Bethlehem and southern Judea to cover the cost of their sins.  

What is our perspective today? From a Christian perspective we remember a Saviour who was betrayed by a friend (Judas); denied by another friend (Peter); deserted by His other friends (disciples); ridiculed by religious leaders; mocked by unbelieving crowds; reviled by a dying thug on a cross besides Him; put on the cross by your sins and mine. At the heart of the gospel are the agonies of the cross –yet out of death came resurrection; out of total despair and darkness came victory and the triumph over death.

Paul in I Corinthians 10:16 wrote: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? The coming of Jesus marked a transition to a new kind of relationship with God from a land and nation-based faith community to a called-out people living in every country on the planet! It is therefore no longer a territorial faith as O.T. Judaism and Islam down the ages; on the contrary our faith is worked out in the footsteps of the suffering crucified risen and ascended Saviour Christ the Lord. It is in the light of the eternal perspective of Calvary that we can look back and read Psalm 116.

1. An Overview of Psalm 116

(a) Danger (Psalm 116:1-4) 3.The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow

(i) Reality (vs3-4) It was not a broken finger nail, or a flat tyre on the car; or a disappointing or frustrating day at work. It was a desperate situation in which loss of life was more likely than not. The prayer was v4 O Lord save me!  It was not long prayer. It was an anguished cry. The psalmist was at the end of himself, but he turned to the one who alone could help him; v4 Then I called on the name of the Lord. 

(ii) Confidence (vs1-2)1 I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. 2Because He turned his ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. The bottom line for the Psalmist is that God hears our prayers. We cannot guarantee the answers, but we can have the assurance that He hears us –all the time not just in a crisis. Let us determine to pray daily and regularly on good days as well as tough ones 

(b) Deliverance (Psalm 116:5-9)

(i) Based on the Character of God (v5) 5The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. God unlike humans is consistent with His character in His actions. He is always righteous yet incredibly gracious.

(ii) Evidence of the Goodness of God (vs6-9)The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. 7Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. 8For You, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. 

Can you and I testify of God’s answers to our prayers? Are there some special moments that caused praise to God to well up inside you as you experienced His amazing love? Sometimes in the midst of the tears because His deliverance is to walk with us through the valley not to lift us out of it. 

(c) Devotion (Psalm 116:10-14) it involves

(i) Honesty (vs10-11) 10I believed; therefore I said, I am greatly afflicted. 11And in my dismay I said, All men are liars he does not say I believed, therefore I have no more problems such as ill-health, financial challenges or problems at work. Instead he declares: I am greatly afflicted. The severity of these trials led to a loss of confidence in other people, but although others disappoint us and let us down God never fails us. David in Psalm 27:13 revealed: I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 

(ii) Worship (vs12-14) 12How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. 14I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. 

The promises made were kept. Too often we say Lord if you help me get out of this crisis or answer this prayer in this particular fashion then I will do ….for you. There was a story told of an unknown rabbi earnestly praying in his car for a parking space as he travelled towards a busy car park.

On his arrival he immediately saw a space and exclaimed: ‘It’s okay Lord you don’t need to do anything I’ve found one myself.’ Jesus in Luke 17:11-19 healed ten men who were lepers, healings confirmed by the priests. 

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him –and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no-one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? (Luke 17:15-18) Are you / Am I among the nine or are we like the one thankful worshipper?

(d) Delight (Psalm 116:15-19)

(i) Recognition (v15) Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. In the valley of the shadow we can live for long years with our trials. Our heartaches do not go away with prescription medication and may not either with the laying on of hands in prayer. God’s healing and deliverance can sometimes be by taking us from this life into His nearer presence. After all this life is preparation for a more glorious eternity. Too often in the West we are so comfortable that we don’t want God to disturb us. Our faith has to be as real at the bedside as a loved one departs this life as when we are singing joyful songs in church and in many more other contexts as well.

(ii) Response (vs16-18) O Lord, truly I am Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant; You have freed me from my chains.17I will sacrifice a thank- offering to You and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord  — in Your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord. 

In Philippians 4:6 it states: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. May the Lord enable us always to be a thankful people who will seek to cultivate the habit each day of thanking God for something –even if the blessing is something small. 

2. Living in the Light of this Gospel as Christians

Does it work in practice? This is a question people are thinking sometimes when we share our faith with them. The answer of course is ‘yes’, but not always in the ways we hope for or indeed were praying for. Here are some examples.

(a) Deliverance from Terrorists Sarah Carson was an American missionary in Haiti in the 1980s. She faced a paramilitary death squad who had invaded her family home, angry at American military intervention in their country. Prior to that home visit all the younger male members of the church including her husband had been abducted by this group and taken to an unknown destination. She was frightened, but welcomed them in which surprised the terrorists.

She read aloud verses from the Bible concerning Jesus’ love for enemies as stated in the Sermon on the Mount. ‘That’s impossible’ burst out the leader of the group. She replied that humanly it was not possible but with God’s help it was and insisted that even if he killed her she would still love him. The man was so astonished and impressed that he disobeyed orders and allowed her to live.

On the following Sunday in full combat gear, complete with weapons, this man and his death squad turned up at church. Sarah was leading the service in the absence of her husband and invited them to the front of the church for a welcome –normal practice for guests in that culture. The men were nervous suspecting a trap and went forward with guns ready for action.

Eventually an old man went up to the leader of the group and as was the custom gave him a hug and said; ‘We don’t like what you have done to our village, but God loves you and you are welcome here’. A line formed of the rest of the congregation, including the women whose eyes were red with crying for lost husbands, who hugged the terrorists in turn. The leader then took the pulpit –overwhelmed by what he had experienced and confessed he had been an atheist, but could no longer deny the existence of God having witnessed Christians loving their enemies. He promised to take care of any future needs of that village and to do all in his powers to get the hostages returned.

(b) Deliverance from Evil Governments Ugandan pastor Kefa Sempangi obtained a Ph.D. in art history in the UK. He returned to his country at independence excited at the future for his country. However during the reign of terror organised by President Idi Amin the country was brutalised by the regular killings and torture of his political opponents; wealth and possessions of members of tribes other than the ones associated with Amin were taken at will.

During this time Sempangi became pastor of a large Christian congregation. The church spent much time debating and praying concerning how to respond to their government. They rejected violence, instead preaching the gospel and caring for the poor and needy remained top priorities.

In the week after Easter Sunday 1973 Sempangi was exhausted after many hours of praying and preaching and the emotional impact of watching a man being brutally killed by Amin’s thugs. Into his church office strode five of Amin’s assassins announcing: ‘We are going to kill you. If you have anything to say, say it before you die’. Instantly Sempangi felt weak with fear and sadness that he would never see his family again. In the deafening silence he heard a voice speaking: ‘I was astonished (he said) to realize that it was my own. ‘I do not need to plead my own cause’, I heard myself saying. ‘I am a dead man already. My life is dead and hidden in Christ. It is your lives that are in danger; you are dead in your sins. I will pray to God that after you have killed me, He will spare you from eternal destruction.’

The leader was amazed lowering his gun he asked his comrades to do likewise and asked the pastor to pray for them. Sempangi thinking it was a trick kept his eyes open and prayed for their salvation and rescue from death. Their faces visibly changed by the time they left the vestry. On the way out the leader observed; ‘I saw widows and orphans in your congregation. I saw them singing and giving praise. Why are they so happy when death is so near?’ he asked. Sempangi replied: ‘Because they are loved by God, who has given them life.’

(c) Deliverance from Weapons of Mass Destruction Christians have had a variety of responses to nuclear weapons and arguably different perspectives can be reached over the causes of the ending of the ‘Cold War’ between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries and their leaders US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

A strong case can be made that a resolute stance made by Reagan and his British counterpart Margaret Thatcher brought the Soviets to the negotiating table –we must be fair on that. However on both sides there were Christians campaigning against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. American Christian pacifist Dorothy Day in her native New York refused to participate in the compulsory nuclear tests in the city, in which the metro was used as a shelter in a hypothetical nuclear attack, instead handing out leaflets on the streets attacking the sense of even contemplating a winnable nuclear war.

In her prison cell she read the Psalms to keep her spirits up. Other Christians in the West and in Russia had links across the divide including some working behind the scenes in the Russian politburo who argued that it was possible to co-exist with the West in peace. Who knows which influences had the greatest effect but our reliance for our security is in God not in weapons of warfare. 

(d) When Deliverance does not come and God appears not to intervene Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Although we thank God for the miraculous interventions, it is true that in the majority of times He allows us to face ill health and consequent trials; 1st September each year in schools throughout the former Soviet Union is ‘knowledge day’ when parents and children in their best clothes celebrate the start of the school year.

However 1 September 2004 for Beslan’s School Number 1 in North Ossetia, Southern Russia was everyone’s worst nightmare unfolding before our eyes when thirty-two Chechen terrorists determined to highlight their struggle for independence in their homeland from Russia took 1200 people, children, parents and teachers  hostage.

A three day siege ensued in which fighting erupted between terrorists, fathers of children and Russian special forces troops before they brought this carnage to a halt, by which time 344 people including 186 children were dead with many more seriously wounded. Psalm 116 speaks of deliverance from death when death was expected.

In Beslan there was a real possibility that this community was targeted because of the Evangelical Christians there, in particular the powerful witness of the Baptist Church and its dynamic pastors Taymuraz and Sergei Totiev. As Christians what do we have to say in such contexts when evil seems so triumphant? 

We cannot deny that God permits His people to undergo events that we would not wish on our perceived ‘worst enemies’. Irina Gigoueva and her two sons Mark aged nine and Arthur aged eight were singing hymns in the sweltering heat of the school gym in Beslan. A terrorist with a machine gun stood over them as she prayed for him.

Later in the siege shrapnel hit Arthur in the head and killed the little boy in her arms. But she and the other Evangelical Christians in that school kept on praying; in the days that followed the Evangelical Christians in that town, possibly singled out for attack, as they and particularly the Baptist Church there had been the base for humanitarian aid efforts in Chechnya organised by Hungarian Baptist Aid. Islamic terrorist in Chechnya wanted to portray all non-Muslims as evil and the presence of some Christians doing good works dented their propaganda.

This was not the first attack on people associated with the aid initiative. Many in Beslan after the deaths were preparing for vengeance and an escalation of the conflict. The Baptist pastors preached at the mass funeral, following the deaths of six of their seven children, the remaining one was blinded in the school. Sergei got up to speak to that crowd of thousands who were audibly cursing and vowing revenge at the service and said; ‘Yes we have an irreplaceable loss, but we cannot take revenge. As Christians, the Bible teaches us that we must forgive. Vengeance is in God’s hands.’

Beslan’s Evangelical Churches rapidly organised people to visit the wounded in hospital and distributed aid to hostages’ families. They also arranged to deliver Bibles to homes and expand Sunday school outreach. A trauma counselling centre was set up with a plan to use it to teach young people peace-making skills. Sometime after the tragedy a Christian leader in the area told a visitor from outside the region: ‘People are looking to Christians because they have hope.’

It was in such a context that Taymuraz Totiev had declared: ‘I think God wants to do a miracle here through the Christian community’. Words spoken after his children and all the others had been murdered, not before. Many people in the UK and in many other countries have lost faith in their politicians.

Too often they have lost faith in the churches too as they see a lack of credibility. We need afresh to regain that respect from the community so that here in the UK also the Christians may give the lead and a sense of direction and purpose to a fractured and divided society in a time of crisis, in this case a virus pandemic. Will we rise to the challenge to be that man and that woman or that community of faith in the twenty-first century?

Remembering that we walk in the footsteps of One who gave His life on the cross for us. As we come to the Lord’s Table today, we remember the words of this Psalmist in Psalm 116:12-13:How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. 

Have you received the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus? I hope and pray each one of us has done so. But as Christians we know that is just the start of the walk of faith and witness for Jesus. May each of us be faithful disciples of Jesus even in the storms of life as well as in the sunshine, for Jesus’ sake, Amen


Our song before we come to communion is: ‘When peace like a river attendeth my way’ 


The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’


Our last song is: ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’


Click here to join us for an Act of Rememberence

Wednesday @ 11 – 4 November 2020

Welcome to the notes from our midweek service of worship in our building in Panmurefield

Opening Scripture verses:

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2

Opening praise: How Deep the Father’s Love

Opening Prayer:

Thank you Lord once more for this opportunity to gather in Your house to worship You. We know as King Solomon of Israel many centuries ago declared in I Kings 8:27-28: 

But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to Your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that Your servant is praying in your presence this day. 

Lord unlike us You are not constrained by space and time and are able to hear and answer the prayers we bring to You today. We ask Your blessing on our time together in the wonderful and precious name of Jesus, Your Son, Our Saviour, in whose name we pray, Amen 

Bible Reading:

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.

How long will you assault me?
 Would all of you throw me down this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.


My salvation and my honour depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.

Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
10 Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.

11 One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
‘Power belongs to You, God,
12  and with You, Lord, is unfailing love’;
and, ‘You reward everyone
according to what they have done.’

Psalm 62

Intercessory prayer using Psalm 62

Heavenly Father as we come with our prayers of intercession today, we are conscious of so many needs within our congregation, community and country and that is before we come to consider the wider world. Yet we remember that the Scriptures ask us to offer our prayers with thanksgiving.

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken. Lord, I want to thank You today for…   

Our Father, we are very conscious of people or circumstances that for us or for others are very difficult. We are aware that for King David it was other people who had caused deep hurts to him. How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down – this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Lord, I want to bring before You the person or people or the circumstances with which I am struggling today….

Lord, we come deeply aware that sometimes our commitment to You or to Your service is not as it ought to be. We remember David’s challenge to himself in Psalm 62:5: Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Lord, I am aware of my need to renew afresh my life into Your hands today, as David did long ago, in particular, I want to ask You to help me with…

Thank you Lord that our faith is a missionary faith and the needs of others to trust You will be on our hearts, week by week. David appealed to those not yet committed to God in His day to take that step of faith. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. I want to bring before the following names of people I want to see You bring to faith or bring back to You…

David reminded us of the shortness of life. Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. Lord, we are currently concerned about the ongoing virus pandemic in our city and in other places.  We want to bring before You the following Health Service or Social Care workers…

We also want to bring before You the following people who are unwell or who have been bereaved in the recent past…

We also want to bring before You these other needs… or particular personal needs ….

Thank You Lord for hearing and answering our prayers in Jesus’ name, Amen

Message from Psalm 62 ‘Trusting in God’

Introduction

This Psalm was written at the time of Absalom’s rebellion against his father King David with a view to taking the throne as the new King of Israel nearly 3,000 years ago (See II Samuel chapters 15-18 for more details). There was real uncertainty in the King’s household as to who had remained loyal to the aged king and who had sided with the young claimant in what became a short civil war.

At first Absalom in having the element of surprise had the upper hand. It seemed likely that had he made the right strategic decisions in the first few days that he would have been successful in this military coup. Even some of David’s closest friends and acquaintances sided with Absalom.

We won’t go into the reasons for that here as it would take us away from the point of this Psalm, but it asks the question to all of us – in whom do you put your trust? How many people do you know whose words you would trust 100%? How many individuals would you trust with the most personal and sensitive information about your life, of your strengths and weaknesses, your successes and your failures? This is a very hard question to answer.   

Let us look here how in the most difficult of times David comes to terms with the very serious predicament he was facing of the possible loss of his throne and with it the danger of also losing his life as well.  

1. Trust in God our choice despite adversity (Psalm 62:1-4)

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken. How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down – this leaning wall, this tottering fence?Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. 

Who can you depend on when you need help? Whose presence with you gives you a sense of security and an assurance that things will be okay? When we were little children of course for the vast majority of us the answer would be our parents.

They were amazing people who knew ‘all the answers’ to sort out all the difficulties we were facing in our childhood.  As we grow we come to a point where we know that our parents are not able to resolve all the problems we face or put right all the wrongs done to us. In fact, there are circumstances in many people’s lives that no other person can make right. It doesn’t have to be as extreme a situation as David was facing where he had a genuine fear of losing his life. 

Can you say as David did here: Truly my soul finds rest in God (Psalm 62:1a)? All of us have our genuine worries and concerns in life, if not for ourselves then for other people around us. But worrying about something does not resolve anything, the situation remains as difficult as before and on top of that we may struggle to get adequate sleep; we may be unable to concentrate adequately at school, college or our workplace; it can rob us of pleasure and joy in the good things of life that we experience and give us nothing positive in return.

Worry or anxiety is a thief that takes from us our sense of wellbeing and if we remain in this state it will damage our emotional and mental health and sometimes even our physical health as well. David’s secret to the long life he lived was the revelation he shares here in this verse. Truly my soul finds rest in God (Psalm 62:1a). He also explains why he turned to God in the first place. My salvation comes from Him (Psalm 62:1b).

Have you put your faith and trust in God? There is no-one more able to save us than God. As a Christian I would add through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour; the One who died in our place on the cross to take the punishment for your sins and mine so that instead of condemnation we might have a welcome into God’s family through His amazing undeserved kindness to us. The security of God’s love makes all the difference to His children. David goes on to say in Psalm 62:2L Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.  Is God your anchor in the storms of life? Is He your reference point when you lose your sense of direction in life? He invites you and me to follow Him. If you have never put your faith in God the Father through Jesus, then I would encourage you to take that step today.

In Psalm 62:3-4 David turns to the people whose actions have caused so much distress for him. How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down – this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless,but in their hearts they curse. 

Are there people who have made promises to you and broken them? Are there individuals who betrayed your trust or who took advantage of your goodness to them? David now as an aged man acutely aware of his bodily weakness feels righteous indignation rising up within him. How could they do…? Sadly it happens all the time, but it doesn’t make it any easier to understand why someone would act in this way. Each of us will recall examples of this kind of behaviour. However, David’s point here is that even when other people are unaware of wrongdoing that God will see it and act in response to it.

Have you ever been falsely accused of doing something wrong? Or aware that another person has wrongly treated you? Never forget that God sees all these things. Therefore, says David, Truly my soul finds rest in God despite all the adversity that may come my way today or tomorrow or sometime in the future.                                                                       

2. Trust in God brings a sense of security (Psalm 62:5-8)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. My salvation and my honour depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people;pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.

Notice how these words build on the earlier verses one and two. In Psalm 62:1-2 there is a statement of David’s practice. But here in Psalm 62:5 there is a personal exhortation to practise more seriously the message he proclaimed to other people. All of us know how easy it is to give advice to other people about how they should act in particular contexts. But do I follow my own advice in practice? We are familiar with the pattern in many of David’s Psalms.  He has gone through some great trials with God’s help and afterwards writes a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving to celebrate answers to prayer. Somewhere in the Psalm he will invite or exhort the reader or hearer to do what he did in trusting God. 

What can we learn from David here? I may have put my trust in God for the first time many years ago. I may have read the Bible, prayed and attended church for decades, but sometimes we can drift in our commitment to following Him. There are times when we need to come to God and ask Him to help us get back on track in our spiritual journey. We can have times of self-pity.  God it is not fair.  I have served You faithfully. I have been a good neighbour, a diligent worker and a person who helped others in need. This bad situation ought not to happen to me! Unfortunately life is not that simple.

We need to accept that there is much in life that we will never understand. Our ‘why’ questions may never get answered to our satisfaction; sometimes we need to stop and challenge ourselves not to be weighed down completely by the trials we face that we forget to keep our eyes on the Lord. Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him (Psalm 62:5). Actually, a more accurate translation of David’s words in verses 1 and 2 and here in verse 5 and 6 includes the word alone. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I shall not be shaken. 

God is not just a person to whom we turn in our times of crisis, but the One on whom we depend and with whom we seek fellowship in good times as well as tough ones. His sufficiency in our times of need is something we need to remind ourselves of on occasions.       

Notice that whereas in the first few verses of this Psalm (Psalm 62:3-4) David feels the need to address those who had made his life so difficult, but in these next few verses his focus is entirely on God. The Bible in quite a few places challenges us to keep our focus on the Lord and on what He has called us to do. Jesus, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount said these challenging words in Matthew 6:31-33 to His followers when they were tempted to worry about the future.  

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Are you, am I giving God the first place in our lives. In a time of the worst virus pandemic for a century it is no surprise that many people are worried about their health, or worried about their job or their business. God through David invites us to commit our day, our week and our future into His hands. The implication David gives if we don’t follow his advice is that instead of rest we will become increasingly weary and very vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed with all that we might have to face in times like these. 

Therefore, in Psalm 62:8 David gives a challenge to us, his readers and hearers: Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Notice he says at all times not some times. God is sufficient to meet our needs in every situation so that we can find a place of rest and peace of mind through Him. His words here are in effect a testimony of God’s goodness in helping him.

Never underestimate the power of your story. Your account of how you came to faith in Jesus or your memory of answered prayers. A person may disagree with your opinions on many subjects. However, it is so much harder to challenge lived experience. There are many people in country after country looking for a way to handle all the pressures that have come their way in the last six months. You might be the person God uses to speak a word for Him later today or later this week. Please pray for opportunities to share your faith story with others. Who might you want to share the good news with that God is our refuge?      

3. Trust in God gives a right perspective (Psalm62:9-12)

Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. 10 Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. 11 One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard:‘Power belongs to you, God, 12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love’; and, ‘You reward everyone according to what they have done.’

Have you ever been somewhere and got well and truly lost? I can recall car journeys over the years where it was incredibly frustrating, trying to find places because the road signs were inadequate for a visitor to the area. I have also been walking on a few mountains when the mist came down and visibility was almost non-existent for a while. It can be quite scary to be in that position. Here our author wants to remind us that trust in God enables us to have a right perspective on so many things. First of all is a reminder of our weakness. Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath (Psalm 62:9). Presidents and Prime Ministers come and go. Even dictators and tyrants who may not face general elections will eventually depart this life. 

We ourselves will not be here for ever either. God knows the bigger picture. He knows how the pieces of the ‘jigsaw’ fit together. Our ultimate hope must not rest on, for example, which politicians are in office. They may try their best, but will rarely accomplish more than a fraction of what had been promised in an election campaign.

David also reminds us not to take integrity shortcuts when under real pressure in daily life.  Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them (Psalm 62:10). There are plenty of people who will falsify tax returns, or give misleading information about products they are selling to maximise their business profits. There are others who in hard times engage in theft or trade in stolen property.  Don’t do any of these things and others that your conscience and mine has concerns about. Be known as a man or woman of integrity who cannot be bought and who always endeavours to the best of your ability to do what is right. 

David then comes to his concluding remarks in verses 11 and 12: One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard:‘Power belongs to you, God, 12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love’; and, ‘You reward everyone according to what they have done.’ What is his concluding advice to us?

Remember: (i) God is strong Power belongs to you, God… We at times are acutely aware of our weakness and inadequacy but He: is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21). There is nothing too difficult for you to do today with His help.

(ii) God is faithful … and with you, Lord, is unfailing love. Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations 3:22-23: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. David understood afresh something of the character of God as he rejoiced in the faithful covenant love between God and His people. You may feel alone, but God will never leave you alone because He always keeps His promises.

(iii) God is fair You reward everyone according to what they have done. Paul reminded some fairly new Christians of this truth in Galatians 6:9-10: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.In our city in the last six months it has been great to see people coming together to serve their communities during this virus pandemic. However, I have been particularly pleased to see the number of churches that have stepped up to play their part as well. We have only one life to live here on earth and then after this life we will stand before the Lord to give an account of the way we have lived. May He help us to do what is right and live each day in a way pleasing to Him, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Closing Song: I will sing the Wondrous Story

Closing Prayer:

Thank You Lord for Your amazing kindness to us as Your people. We come with grateful hearts again and again to express our thankfulness to You. Help us at this time to rest in God alone, and not to worry about the issues that are beyond our control. Help us to commit our future to You, both individually as well as in our families and here in our church family, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Benediction

Wednesday @ 11 service – 21 October 2020

Please find below notes of our midweek service of worship in our building in Panmurefield

Opening Scripture verses:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before Him with thanksgiving
and extol Him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.

Psalm 95:1-3

Opening praise: ‘Be Thou my vision’

Opening prayer:

Lord we come with Your joy in our hearts today for the privilege of worshipping and glorifying Your holy name. We are an incredibly privileged people with so many things for which to praise You our great God and Saviour. The apostle Paul in Romans 8:31-32 declared: What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Father, forgive us for those times when we doubted Your good ness to us or failed to display a thankful spirit for all our blessings. Help each one of us to honour and truly worship You each day of our lives as You desire, for Jesus’ names’ sake, Amen.

Bible Reading

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before Him with thanksgiving
and extol Him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to Him.
The sea is His, for He made it,
and His hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for He is our God
 and we are the people of His pasture,
the flock under His care.

Today, if only you would hear His voice,
‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested Me;
they tried Me, though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known My ways.”
11 So I declared on oath in My anger,
“They shall never enter My rest.”’

Psalm 95

Intercessory prayer using Psalm 95

Heavenly Father, We come with confidence in Your holy presence today because we come in the precious name of Jesus, Your Son, our Saviour. When we look at the suffering in our world and the many crises around the globe with our confusion, it forces us to come back to the cross to see how much love You have for us as creatures created in Your image when You sent Jesus to die in our place so that we may have life in its fullness as Your children here on earth.

We do recognise that although our scientists and medical specialists are working so hard to care for patients who have been infected with the Covid-19 virus, or seeking to find a suitable vaccine to use to reduce its devastating impact on most people’s daily lives, we know that we must be patient for some time to come before we will be free once again to live in some form of our previous normal ways of living. We ask that You would help us as the human race to appreciate how we might live better on our planet as stewards of the natural resources entrusted to us, as well as share more appropriately the wealth so unfairly distributed into fewer and fewer people’s hands or held by a very small number of global corporations.

We come to use the words of Psalm 95 in our prayers today:  

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.

Father forgive us when our minds are so fixed on what is wrong in the world that we fail to honour and thank You for all the blessings and good things we enjoy. The wonderful blessing for most of us of close family and friends and church family; in particular today I want to thank You for ….   being a blessing to me…. 

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.

Lord thank You for the beauty of creation around us. We are so blessed to live near the seashore where many of us at times can walk on the beach or paddle in the water, or simply listen to the sounds of the waves or the birds all around us. Thank you too for the mountains and hillsides and valleys inland, some places we can visit on foot or others to which we must travel to walk or in other ways to enjoy the scenery. In particular, there are special memories of places precious to me, I want to thank You for ….   

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before theLord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.

Lord, we come individually as well as collectively to worship You today. In particular, I want to thank You for what I have learned as I read and study Your Word or as I seek You in prayer…..

 Thank you Lord that there is nothing too big for You to handle, no situation too difficult or beyond hope. Today I want to bring before You …. with their particular need for prayer….

 Lord we thank You that Betty Watson had her hip operation last week and we pray she makes a full recovery of health and strength. Lord, I am also aware of  …. in need of prayer and I bring them before You now…. 

Today, if only you would hear His voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,where your ancestors tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known My ways.” 11 So I declared on oath in My anger, “They shall never enter My rest.”’

Lord forgive me my sins, both those I know of and those of which I am even unaware.  Lord, we bring before You the sins of our nation and its leaders. Where they have put personal or party interests before others, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable citizens; forgive the sins of our country in its foreign policy that has too often focussed on selling arms or other goods that make great profits here, but too often cause misery and disaster for vulnerable people in other places. We are distressed at the astonishingly long queues for even basic food items like bread in places like Syria caused entirely by Western sanctions and the deliberate destruction of their ability to produce sufficient food in their own land. Lord have mercy…  

In particular, I want to bring …. (world issue) to You to work in resolving things we cannot change.

Thank you Lord for hearing and answering our prayers, in the name of Jesus, Your Son our Saviour, Amen.  

Psalm 95 An invitation to worship

Introduction

This psalm was written after the return from exile in Babylon (Iraq) by the small group of exiles that returned in different groups after the seventy years with no functioning nation in the land of Israel. However, now the situation has changed, homes have been built and occupied and businesses and lives re-established in the land.  The Temple in Jerusalem has been restored and rebuilt so that it can be a place of worship once again.  

The city too has seen its basic infrastructure rebuilt, including its walls, in the time of Nehemiah as governor. There is much to give thanks to God for in the nation. The generation that lived through times of despair and utter hopelessness, has largely passed away, but a tiny number remained to see the promises of God fulfilled before their eyes in Jerusalem. 

The challenges we are facing today are nothing like as severe as the ones they passed through. However, in many countries around the world millions of people are enduring life-threatening difficulties on a scale that is distressing to see.

The starving people in Syria in lengthy queues for basic food supplies and missing out on all kinds of medical supplies in their National Health Service, due to the theft of some supplies by America and Turkey from the north of the country and more generally as a result of unjust sanctions against the Syrian government by certain Western nations including our own. The problems in Yemen and Nagorno-Karabakh, likewise, caused by military weaponry sold by a handful of countries including our own that makes large profits for the sellers at the expense of heartache and tragedy for many ordinary people. Lord have mercy upon us.

However, we are aware that alongside so many people in our city volunteering to help their neighbours and others in the wider community, there are still people struggling with the pressures of daily life, including as yet unaddressed health needs, or the pressures of work responsibilities. The uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 virus pandemic will be with us for some time to come and it is taking its toll on the emotional and mental health of an increasing number of people.

Our politicians, scientists and health professionals are doing their best to help our country through this time, like their counterparts in other countries, but there is so much that they cannot control. Ultimately there is only one person to whom we can turn at a time like this and that is to the Lord as our unknown author directs us in Psalm 95. What does the Psalmist direct us to do in our worship service today?        

1. The joy of worship (Psalm 95:1-2)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. ‘If only’ might be the cry of our heart when we are currently not permitted to sing out loud in public worship services! We will certainly appreciate it when the day comes when we can return to joyfully singing our loud God’s praises and being blessed by the contributions of our excellent musicians. It does raise the question for me; did I always appreciate enough what a privilege it was to come before the Lord with praise and worship with His people as we gathered Sunday by Sunday? How often do we take for granted the things we expect to be available for us week by week?

Since lockdown restrictions began back in March 2020 we have had to be creative utilising other resources. Many Christians have sung at home in their own homes using hymnbooks they possess. Others have utilised Christian radio or television services online or as we in this church do in services, taking links from earlier recordings of hymns or other songs being sung that we can then use in our services each Sunday on zoom, or via the church website or via the email version of the service.

But just mentioning these different ways in which we offer a Sunday service to people, and I had not mentioned the CDs or DVDs prepared for a smaller number of people, or the paper copies of services printed off for other people in their homes or residential care! God’s praises can still be offered and our thanksgiving expressed for the blessings we enjoy that are received from His hands. We are thankful that we can also gather in smaller numbers on church premises like today. We miss greatly our fellowship with one another that the pandemic restrictions have brought about, but through forms of technology such as phones or computers, or meeting people in public places the majority of us have had some contact with others over recent months.

Our author highlights some different ways to offer our worship to the Lord. In fact, it appears he is concerned that some of the recipients of this Psalm might not have been taking the opportunities to worship open to them as regularly as they might. Therefore, he issues a strong invitation to join with God’s people to honour and glorify His name. How should or might we offer our worship here? 

The first exhortation is this: let us sing for joy to the Lord;(Psalm 95:1a) It is part of the human experience of life to want to sing. It is not just in churches that people like to gather to sing. In all kinds of concert halls or theatres, football grounds and in so many more places singing is a part of bringing pleasure to ourselves and to others in daily life. We might also want to add our homes or even our cars as places where we enjoy singing! However, the Psalmist here is specifically speaking about singing God’s praises. He is also exhorting us to do it with joy.  That is, to do it with our hearts and emotions as well as our minds and our vocal chords!

We are called in the Bible to be a praising people who take delight in expressing our delight at the privilege of worshipping our great God and Saviour. In the book of Nehemiah there is an account of a worship service held in Jerusalem by a large group of Jewish people who had returned to the land of their ancestors to live when they were free to do so. They had been addressing seriously issues relating to living their lives for God and some of those present had clearly had a sense of failure to live up to God’s standards to the extent that they were weeping in the service.

However, Nehemiah the governor of the land and a real man of God said these words to them, recorded in Nehemiah 8:10: This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strengthHad you ever thought that in praising and worshipping God, not only does He benefit from our adoration, but we are strengthened in our faith as a result of this activity?  

The second exhortation is more surprising: let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. (Psalm 95:1b) In most Western Christian Churches worship can be fairly solemn and respectful and that is viewed as the way all services ought to be conducted. However, in many African or African American Churches worshippers may shout out ‘Amens’ or equivalents during the sermon or in the times of praise. It is clear that there is evident biblical sanction for their more vocal expressions of worship and in heaven we may have to get used to some more lively worship than is customary in most churches here in Scotland! After all we have a gospel that is incredible good news that is worthy of being proclaimed to anyone who will listen to us! Praise the Lord!  

The third exhortation is expected: Let us come before Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 95:2a) This statement matches Paul’s teaching in I Thessalonians 5:16-18: Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. It also complements the apostles’ advice regarding prayer to the church at Philippi in Greece, stated in Philippians 4:6-7: 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. 

There is something of a pattern in the Bible of the blessing of God being attracted to His people when we are modelling a thankful spirit towards God and other people in daily life.  It helps us flourish as people. It is a challenge, in my daily life how easily do I look for reasons to be thankful in various situations ahead of being critical of things that need to be addressed. God desires us to cultivate a thankful spirit towards Him for all the blessings He has given us.   

The fourth exhortation is: and extol Him with music and song(Psalm 95:2). We are blessed with a good number of gifted musicians in our church family and we thank God for each one of them and the way their ministries have enriched our worship services, together with thankfulness to God for the team of people who have or continue to lead some of our worship services. Psalm 150, a latter Psalm, is a celebration of the many instruments we can use to glorify God in our praises. Our list of musical instruments today might differ from this list compiled more than two thousand years ago, but it is easy to grasp the point. The worship of Almighty God is meant to be enthusiastic as we raises our voices in praise and thanksgiving and that singing is enriched by the musical instruments that assist us in exalting His holy and majestic name.

2. The reasons for worship (Psalm 95:3-7a)

We could state that the first part of this Psalm is speaking about how ‘how’ we praise and worship God, something we can do on our own, in a small group or with a larger congregation of believers in a more structured worship service. The middle section of the Psalm answers the questions as to ‘why’ we should want to worship God. It is not something we consider when we have nothing else to do.  On the contrary, it is the most important human activity on this planet. The older catechisms of Protestant Churches in unison declared that our ‘chief end’ or our most important activity on earth is: ‘to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever’. Now to the average citizen of our country such a thought would be foreign to their patterns of thinking or their daily lives, but not to the author of this psalm. He would have offered an ‘Amen’ or even a ‘hallelujah’ to such a claim. He gives us two reasons why this is the case.   

(a)The greatness of God (Psalm 95:3-5) For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it and His hands formed the dry land. 

All of us are brought up to appreciate the kind actions of other people. As children the vast majority of us were taught to always say ‘thank-you’ to a person who gave us a gift or carried out an act of kindness for us. Appreciation for the good works of others is an essential part of the character of every human being.

However, there are times when some people assist others in ways that are worthy of particular praise. For example, a teacher or sports coach that has helped a young person develop their musical skills or sporting talents over many years and now sees them achieve their goals is worthy of praise and public acclamation.

An even greater sense of gratitude might be due to a person who donated a healthy kidney to someone whose kidneys had failed enabling them to continue to live. But, infinitely higher than that is our obligation to acknowledge the greatness of God.  

The One who spoke and brought the universe into being out of nothing! The One who upholds and sustains it by His mighty power year by year; how great is our God!  We rightly get excited by parts of the creation, for example, the views from a mountain-top, or the sight of the flowers in our garden, and so much more, but we are invited to lift up our eyes and worship the One who brought all this into being. The One who positioned the planet earth so perfectly in its orbit in our galaxy that life of all kinds could flourish is worthy of infinite praise and adoration for His greatness. How great is our God?  Will you give the glory to Him for all He has created?  It certainly didn’t happen by chance that is impossible!

Psalm 8 focusses exclusively on this topic and includes these verses:  Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants You have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars,  which You have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?.. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-4, 9)  

It gets even more awesome in the New Testament when we read in John chapter one that the being who carried out that act of creation through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit entered our world as a baby at Bethlehem two thousand years ago in order to become the Saviour of the world. More than half a century after these events the aged disciple of Jesus, John, wrote in John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. How great is our God! Have you put your trust in Him as your Lord and Saviour? I hope each one of us has done so.

God could have created the world and left us to look after ourselves, but amazingly the Bible teaches us clearly about the amazing love and care of God for us as His children.  

(b) The care given by God (Psalm 95:6-7a)Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. 

There are many passages in the Old Testament that speak of God as the Shepherd of His people. Many people, even some non-churchgoers are familiar with Psalm 23. That Psalm begins: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing (Psalm 23:1).

Ezekiel chapter 34 is a lengthy chapter using the same imagery of God as the shepherd of His people. Christians will naturally turn in the New Testament chapter ten where Jesus describes Himself in this way in John 10:11, 14-16: 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep… 14 ‘I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me – 15 just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 

We should naturally want to worship God because of His amazing love and care for us. His modelling of care in the person of Jesus is the pattern given to Christians in general and church-leaders in particular in I Peter 5:2: 

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; 

Do I genuinely care for other people in our church family to pray for them regularly and in other practical ways when and where appropriate? To a lesser degree do we care enough to pray for and in a more limited way support Christian work in other places in our country and overseas? We need to reflect the loving caring God who has done and is doing so much for us. 

3. The warning given by God (Psalm 95:7b-11)

The third section of such a beautiful psalm is such a real shock to read. It is like a musician playing beautifully at a concert and then striking some discordant notes that no-one could miss. Why does God through the psalmist need to give such a challenge in a psalm about worship and our invitation to honour the Lord as we ought to do? It is because of the repeated patterns in history of people in earlier generations drifting away from giving God the honour that is due to His holy name. This is why we notice here:  

(a) A danger to be heeded (Psalm 95:7b-8a) Today, if only you would hear His voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts… Don’t assume it is only a reminder to other believers to keep their focus on God. It is a constant challenge to my own heart and to yours to maintain our focus on praising and glorifying God, not just when all is going well but also in the midst of a Covid-19 virus pandemic or any number of other adverse circumstances. Do you need to address this issue today and need to ask God for forgiveness for not giving Him the first place in our lives as a Christian? Have other things crept in and you now have a greater joy in participating in lesser things? Nothing should be a greater priority in our lives than in giving Him the worship and adoration He deserves. If this is an issue for you, take the necessary time today to plan how to get your life back on track.  

(b) A pattern to be avoided (Psalm 95:8b-10) ‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested Me they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known My ways.” 

Our author illustrates his message with two examples from Israelite history from the generation that had seen so many extraordinary miracles from God as they were released from captivity in Egypt and forged a new future as a nation under God. The first reference is chronologically later than the second one, but we will reference them in that order following our author here. Meribah – the reference here is to Numbers chapter 20:1-13.

The Israelite community had got themselves into a dreadful state of constant complaining that life was hard and claiming that God was not looking after them properly. The particular cause for complaint on the day in question was the lack of a satisfactory water supply.

God told Moses that He would provide a miraculous intervention to ensure an adequate supply of water that duly happened. But it appears that very few of those present really expected it to happen, including the leaders of the nation Aaron and Moses. What we the consequences of this lack of belief? Numbers 20:12-13 states: 

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in Me enough to honour Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’ 13 These were the waters of Meribah (quarrelling) where the Israelites quarrelled with the Lord and where He was proved holy among them. 

We will not truly worship God when we do not trust Him as we ought to provide for our needs in the present and the future. Time and again God is portrayed in the Bible (for example Genesis 22:14) as the One who provides what we need.

The second example was at Massah, a story recorded in Exodus 17:1-7. The events there had taken place many years earlier in the desert wanderings before the Israelites entered the Promised Land under Joshua. As they did in the example above, the nation had become ungrateful to God and was habitually complaining about their lot; on the day in question the particular cause of complaint was the quality of the water supply. The incessant waves of constant complaints became all too much for Moses. But God intervened and utilised Moses as the means of transforming the situation.

The last verse of that account, Exodus 17:7 states: And he [Moses] called the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [quarrelling] because the Israelites quarrelled and because they tested the Lord saying, ‘Is the Lord  among us or not?’ 

These people had lost their trust in God to provide for their needs and also lost a thankful spirit for all the blessings they had received from God. Tragically they had lost their joy by taking their eyes off the Lord. This is why in whatever setting we must find time to prioritise the worship of Almighty God. What were the consequences in that setting?   

(c) A punishment to be dreaded (Psalm 95:11)11 So I declared on oath in My anger, “They shall never enter My rest.”

For them it was the generation who missed out on entering the Promised Land. Their children would inherit this blessing. The challenge from the psalmist to each generation of people, including his own, was this: will I covenant to God to cultivate a thankful spirit for all my blessings and to focus on that more than my struggles and difficulties? Will I ensure I find the necessary time to prioritise the worship of Almighty God, both individually on my own and collectively with God’s people? No-one can do it for us, each of us must make our choice. May God help us to give Him the first place in our lives, for Jesus’ sake, Amen  

Closing Song: ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’

Closing prayer:

Thank you Lord for the blessing of gathering to worship and glorify You today. Please give us expectant hearts to desire to worship You more fully in the coming days and to cultivate a heart overflowing with gratitude to You and to other people for the blessings You have given to us, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

The Benediction:

Church at Home – 1st November 2020

Intimations

  • You may want to use some of the Engage Worship resources for daily worship during this week
  • JAM Kids’ focus: Here is the link for Sunday 1 November Virtual Sunday School on “The Widow’s Offering”.
  • JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:15am.  Please contact Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details.
  • The sessions from the online annual Assembly Canopy will be available on the BUS website and the BUS YouTube channel.
  • Baptist Union of Scotland Prayer Livestream – This Sunday. Our monthly prayer livestream takes place this Sunday, 1 November, 7.00–7.30pm. We have some guests who will be reflecting with Ali and Martin on what God was saying at Canopy and focusing our prayers on this. You can access the prayer livestream by going to the Baptist Union of Scotland YouTube channel or by using this link:

Call to worship

 My heart, O God, is steadfast;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise You, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of You among the peoples.
For great is Your love, higher than the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let Your glory be over all the earth.  

Psalm 108:1-5

We are grateful to Helen Rice for selecting the songs for worship for this service

Our opening song of praise and worship is: This I believe (The creed)                             

Opening prayer

Almighty God, we thank You once more for the privilege of entering Your holy presence in the name of Jesus, Your Son our Saviour, through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit who encourages us to bring our praises and our prayers to You.

We recall the words of the heavenly beings in Isaiah’s vision of You in the Jerusalem Temple more than 2,750 years ago. They were calling: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.

We acknowledge that You are truly holy and we are sinners in need of Your forgiveness. Purify us afresh in our thoughts and words and deeds so that we might come before You with a pure heart and a right attitude as we seek to offer our praises and offering of thanksgiving. Help us when there are particular blessings to acknowledge to be a thankful people and individuals that appreciate Your goodness to us. Speak into our lives and circumstances today as we gather in Your presence today, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

‘Our Father in heaven, 
hallowed be Your name. 
Your kingdom come, 
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread, 
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”       
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever Amen. 

All Age Talk Helen and Fergus Rice

How we live is a reflection of what kind of person we are inside. Matthew 7:15-20; see also Luke 6:43-45

In Matthew 7 verse 20 Jesus Teaches about Fruit in People’s lives. Watch this video to find out more.

So what does all this mean to us? In Luke 6:43-45 Jesus teaches this,

43 “A good tree does not produce bad fruit. And a bad tree does not produce good fruit. 44 Every tree is known by the kind of fruit it produces. You won’t find figs on thorny weeds. And you can’t pick grapes from thornbushes! 45 Good people have good things saved in their hearts. That’s why they say good things. But those who are evil have hearts full of evil, and that’s why they say things that are evil. What people say with their mouths comes from what fills their hearts.”

When Jesus says that good people produce good fruit, he doesn’t mean the kind of fruit that we eat. 

He means that if we are following him, we will want to do the things that make God happy. We will do good things, we will help people, we care for one another, we will share what we have with others, and we will treat other people with respect. 

So ask yourself this, what kind of fruit tree do I want to be? A good tree producing good fruit or an evil tree producing evil fruit?

With this in mind can you draw or doodle what kind of fruit tree you want to be? And if you wish you can send your creations to me and we can put them on our church Facebook page. My details (Helen Rice) are in the church directory.

Let us pray – Father, we want to be identified as a good tree, producing good fruit. Help us to do the things we know will be pleasing to you. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

We continue in worship as we sing an all age song: ‘Shine from the inside out’

Prayers for others

Heavenly Father, we come very aware of the growing fears and concerns for the future that many people in our community and country have at the present time. We come to bring before You our Governments in Westminster and Edinburgh as they grapple with the increasingly serious responsibilities associated with the choices they make over restrictions related to the Covid-19 virus pandemic. We pray for all the health service workers and social care workers in our congregation and our city at a time when the virus has been significantly increasing in our city, resulting in a significant increase in numbers in our local Ninewells Hospital. We pray for wisdom and strength for all concerned as they carry out their duties at this time.

We pray for all other workers in various forms of education that they can maintain a good level of support to the young people in our academic institutions. We pray for those working in the hospitality sector who are facing a grim Christmas and possibly into the New Year as they are so limited by what services they can offer. Help them to discern how they and other businesses can survive until the end of this virus pandemic.  

We are mindful of the troubles in the wider world and plead with You that a ceasefire and a peaceful solution can be found to the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, that the international community will stop turning a blind eye to all the suffering civilians in that conflict. We pray too for the city of Nice in France that has suffered so much over the years from Islamist violence and killing and now last week the three people murdered in a church by a terrorist. Lord we remember Hamish Rice and the church with which he works in that city, together with other Christians there that they together might be able to promote the gospel of the Prince of Peace and bring hope and peace into that troubled city.

We also bring before You:

Baptist World Alliance – We pray for the BWA staff team. In 2020, a new President and new officers began their five-year terms of service, so we join in praying for God’s wisdom, vision, and protection for these global leaders. We remember that several new team members have joined the BWA staff, and together we stand with many around the world seeking to provide Christ-honouring leadership while adjusting to the realities of working virtually and balancing family and ministry responsibilities.

We pray for the ongoing global response to Covid-19. As part of the “Standing Together” Global Response Plan, BWAid has sent 132 emergency grants to 82 countries this year, but we offer our continuing prayers as they continue to respond to the many needs around the world resulting from the pandemic. 

We pray too for the 22nd Baptist World Congress scheduled for July 7-10, 2021. We pray for wisdom as they consider options for this global gathering that will best ensure a safe, accessible, and affordable celebration for our global Baptist family. In the midst of so many challenges in our world, we pray that the Baptist World Congress will be a renewing experience that sparks greater unity and missional impact. 

Pray also for the following churches:

Queen’s Park BC, Glasgow – We are so grateful to God – Jehovah Jireh – for His wonderful provision of financial resources for them over the last six months. This is a real answer to prayer as they, like many, had anticipated a downturn with their church doors being closed for so long. We pray for Jamie Sweet the director of their Point Project as he engages in new initiatives within their surrounding community. We pray that the ministry of the Point, in bringing practical help and support alongside pointing people to the Good News, will bring light in the darkness. 

Renfrew BC – We pray for Renfrew Baptist as they meet in their church building in a Covid-safe way as well as streaming their services online. We pray for the church as they seek to navigate how best to share Jesus in Renfrew at this time. 

Rosyth BC – They began the year with the words Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? (Isaiah 43:19, The Message Bible) Like everyone else they have had to embrace the way the pandemic reduced their resources, curtailed their activities and toppled their plans. We pray that in the midst of these challenges they will truly discern the new thing the Lord wants to do. 

We pray also today for churches within our Baptist Union who may be in a pastoral vacancy and looking for a minister. We pray that these churches would know God’s guidance during their vacancy and wisdom for the way ahead.  

We also remember in our prayers other people with particular needs that are connected to our own families or congregation: Lord today we particularly want to remember Nicola Livie and her family as her dad goes through major surgery on 3 November. We pray for wisdom for the medical team that will carry out this procedure and Your peace for the family through this difficult time. We pray also for Betty Watson as she recuperates in Royal Victoria Hospital after surgery. We continue to pray for a restoration of health and strength for Anne Maltman and thank God for some improvements in her situation.

We continue to remember others going through cancer treatments or facing other health problems at this time. We remember particularly the Steer’s niece Rachel and Ann Walker’s sister Margaret. We ask for Your strength for them as they face uncertain futures despite the blessings we have of an excellent National Health Service. 

We continue to remember all the members of our congregation, and members of some of our families in residential care or confined to their homes through age or infirmity or who are currently unwell and signed off from their work. We pray that You would meet with them where they are and assure them that they are remembered.

In addition, we bring our own and other needs on our hearts to You today…, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.

Bible Reading

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, ‘This is the one I spoke about when I said, “He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.”’) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 1:1-4, 9-19;

Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all

II Corinthians 13:14

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty’

The Message

The Trinity: I believe in One God Father Son and Holy Spirit

Introduction

Does it matter what we believe about God? Is it important to address God accurately? I hope the answer all of us would give is yes! After all at the human level, getting the names right of other people is important, especially if they have a significant place in our lives. If you as a married person repeatedly called your spouse ‘Jane’ when her name was ‘Mary’ or ‘Fred’ when his name was ‘Mike’, there might be some offence taken –with good reason! Using appropriate words in our communications is very important. Imagine you are attending a community event with a work colleague and you come across some close friends and introduce that person to them as your ‘partner’. Now you might be a teacher and your colleague your stage-partner in the school, but referring to them in an introduction to friends as a ‘partner’ would convey the wrong message in twenty-first century Britain! Using correct names and conveying an accurate impression of our relationships with others is very important.

Our society at the moment is also struggling to know how to handle the heated debate over claims of misgendering with particular reference to the Transgender community. When we get it wrong or we don’t know how to describe or address someone, it can be quite stressful because it matter to us to get it right.

Who we are and our relationships with one another are important, but symbols are also important. For example, a married person who stops wearing their wedding ring and declares to all who will listen that they have discarded it is making a bigger statement than a choice of jewellery! It is a very sad but powerful indicator about their relationship with the person they had married. It is even more important that we understand who God is and how we relate to the Creator of the universe and the Redeemer of humankind.    

What is God like? He is different in kind to us, a being that is beyond our understanding yet in His love He has chosen to reveal to us something of what He is like. The Bible’s presentation of God, in contrast to the representations of some other religions, is a living God (Psalm 115:3-8).

He is a personal God who desires fellowship with His creatures and was incarnated in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). He is a spiritual being (John 4:23-24) who desires us to worship Him in spirit and truth. Yet it is something we struggle to understand because God is so much greater than us. However the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not an explanation of God, it is a description of what we know about Him. Our subject today is as central to the Christian faith as the backbone is to the skeleton in the human body. What does the Bible say about it and what difference does it make to our daily lives and our collective witness as a church?

1.  Old Testament pointers to the Trinity

There are quite a lot of things in life that are not straightforward. We have clues or indications of the choices we might make, but we are conscious that we don’t always have all the information required to make an informed decision. Whether it is a police officer seeking to solve a crime or a scientist engaged in practical research to provide a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus all kinds of options will be explored to get a better understanding of the subject under investigation. When we come to the Bible to find out what it is teaching on this subject we must look in quite a number of different passages to get the bigger picture. 

‘We believe in One God, in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ 

This statement is the historic Christian declaration of our understanding of God.   

In contrast to the polytheism (many gods) of Hinduism, for example, we believe in only One God (Monotheism). Deuteronomy 6:4 states: Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Idolatry, that is worshipping other gods, was forbidden in the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. Deuteronomy 5:7 is very clear: You shall have no other gods besides Me.’ This fundamental belief in the oneness and unity in the Godhead we share with Jews and Muslims. Even in the O.T., however, there are pointers that suggest a Trinitarian understanding of God, even if it is not made explicit until the New Testament. Interestingly enough, the word ‘Allah’ in the Qu’ran is also plural in form. 

What are the clues we need to locate in the Old Testament?

  • God is more than one person

There are three statements by God in Genesis 1-11 that indicate the plurality of beings within the One true God. They are in Gen.1:26 Let us make man in our image in the Creation account in Genesis 1.  Then after the act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden, God declared in Gen.3:22 the man has now become like one of us. The third reference comes many years later when some people rebelled against God and built the Tower of Babel. 

 Genesis 11:7 records God as stating: let us go down and confuse their language. 

Another passage where the same phenomenon occurs is: Isaiah 6:8 Who will go for us?

In this last passage, Isaiah 6:1 states what Isaiah the prophet saw in the vision he had in the Temple in Jerusalem: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. In effect saying that he saw God on the throne in this vision; but who did Isaiah actually see? John gives the answer in John’s Gospel chapter 12 vs 37-41, specifying that it was Jesus. 

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him. 38 This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn – and I would heal them.’ 41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about HimThis is powerful confirmation of the Old Testament testimony to the deity of Jesus.

(b) The Angel of the Lord is identified with God yet is distinct from Him

Exodus 3:2-6, 13-14 – encounter of Moses with God at the burning bush. 

Is there anyone in the Bible who referred to themselves as the ‘I AM’, the eternally present one. In John 8:24 Jesus in debate with other Jewish religious leaders who contested His identity claims used this title: … if you do not believe that I AM [He –God’s anointed King], you will indeed die in your sins.  No ordinary human being could make such a claim with any credibility.

In John 8:28a Jesus referenced His future death by crucifixion at their hands, in collaboration with the Roman state who had control of all executions. So Jesus said, When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM[He]…  Even more remarkably in the final section of the debate Jesus declared that Abraham, the founding father of the nation who had lived thousands of years earlier, had been delighted as he reflected with anticipation on what the future anointed King would accomplish. The majority of those present rejected this claim outright as impossible. How did Jesus respond?  ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I AM!’  

Here in John 8 we find Jesus referring to Himself as ‘I AM’, the very name God uses for His self-designation in Exodus 3:13-14: Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is His name?” Then what shall I tell them?’ 14 God said to Moses: I am  who I am. [ or I AM the eternally present One] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’  It is, therefore probable that it was Jesus whom Moses met.

The second example comes from Judges 13. This chapter is about an encounter of Manoah and his wife with the Angel of the Lord. Judges 13:9 states: And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of the Lord came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field.’ When the whole matter was concluded, Manoah reflected on what had happened and in Judges 13:22 came to this conclusion: We are doomed to die!, he said to his wife. We have seen God!

Another piece of the puzzle to remember here comes from the New Testament. We need to remember the words of I Timothy 6:15-16 with reference to God the Father that describes Him as one ‘whom no man has seen or can see’, ie invisible. The Angel of the Lord here, and in the other references to this person in the O.T., must be referring to Jesus as evangelical commentators have agreed over the centuries. 

(c)The Spirit of God is identified as the personal representative of God

The first reference refers to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the creation of the world.

Genesis 1:2: ‘The Spirit of God moved across the face of the waters’. The next two speak of the part played by the Holy Spirit in helping the Israelites in their desert journeys from Egypt to Israel. Nehemiah 9:20 states: [in the Wilderness wanderings] You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them.’ And Isaiah 63:9-10 records a reference to: the Angel of His presence [who] saved them’ but in response the Israelites in the desert ‘rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.’ In the remarkable Psalm 139:7 we have these concluding remarks on the significance of the work of the Holy Spirit. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or, Where can I flee from Your Presence?

(d) The creative power of the Word of God is declared (Psalm 33:6, 9; Genesis 1)

Here the writer of this Psalm echoes the words of Genesis chapter one in declaring that God spoke and brought the world into being.

Psalm 33:6: By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.

Genesis 1:3: And God said, Let there be light… 

(e) There is an identification of the Messiah with God

 The term Messiah means God’s anointed or special King or ruler. In the cultural and religious context in which this Psalm was written, it had been assumed that the Messiah would simply be a very special but exclusively human person. However, this Psalm indicated that these expectations needed to be changed.

Psalm 2:2: …the Lord and His anointed…and Psalm 2:7: The Lord has said to Me, You are My Son, Today I have become Your Father. This is especially true in the job description in Psalm 2:8: Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,   the ends of the earth your possession. Which King has subjects who swear allegiance to Him around the globe? This is straightforward King Jesus has people committed to follow Him in every land across the globe 

This point is reinforced in the Messianic Psalm 110. The first verse pictures God the Father and the one who is His anointed King on the same level in heaven. Psalm 110:1 ‘The Lord said to My Lord, sit at my right hand.’ We also remember these familiar verses from Isaiah that we read every Advent and Christmas time from Isaiah 9:6 where the Messiah is called: Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. It is impossible that these words are describing an ordinary human being.

2. New Testament evidence of the deity of Jesus 

There are many verses and passages that could be cited here in support of this biblical truth.

In Hebrews 1:3 the author states this concerning Jesus and His relationship with God the Father: He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.  Jesus teaches the same thing when He said, Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father (John 14:9), and the apostle Paul says: For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form  (Colossians 2:9).

The writer of Hebrews reinforces this when he quotes Psalm 45:6 and recorded that God the Father was saying: But about the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; It cannot get clearer than that.

Probably some of the best know verses in the New Testament that refer to the deity of Jesus are from John’s Gospel. John reminds us that unlike ordinary human beings like us, Jesus existed from eternity with the Father before He was born as a baby in Bethlehem.

John writes in John 1:1-2: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodHe was with God in the beginning. There was never a time when the Second person of the Trinity was not divine. After the resurrection of Jesus from the dead His followers grasped His true identity.  

In John 20:28, the formerly sceptical Thomas declared: My Lord and My God. Jesus received this worship because it was rightly offered. Paul and Barnabas, Early Church leaders declined similar worship when it was offered in Acts 14 at a place called Lystra, because as Paul declared in Acts 14:15: We too are only men, human like you. Jesus reminded His first followers of the importance of getting this right in our worship of God the Father and Him. In John 5:23 He stated: … that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent Him. Do you give Jesus the honour and worship He deserves to receive from you and from me?

3. New Testament evidence for the deity of the Holy Spirit

Some people and some religions, for example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses that see the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force, but this is not the biblical understanding. The Holy Spirit is a person, and speaking of Him, rightly must take that into account. Verses such as Mark 3:28-29 are inexplicable if the reader is unaware that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. Mark 3:28-29 states: he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation. What is this sin that has the most serious penalty of all in the

Bible? We need to grasp what the Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus to do here in the lives of people on earth. John 15:26 records Jesus telling His first disciples that He will send the Holy Spirit in His place to assist them in their future work of founding the Christian Church. When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – He will testify about Me.).

In John 16:8-10 Jesus outlined the work of the Holy Spirit: When He comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in Me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see Me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. The Holy Spirit’s work is to show human beings that we are sinners who need a Saviour, the Lord Jesus who died in our place on the cross, two thousand years ago. He speaks to our minds and consciences and directs us to Jesus. If we wilfully reject His promptings then after this life God will eternally honour the choice that we have made. He will never force anyone to believe in Him or spend eternity with Him.

The significance of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the first Christian Church in Jerusalem is seen in Acts chapter 5. A couple in the church called Ananias and Sapphira, at the time of what we might call a time of fund-raising to meet the basic needs of people living in Jerusalem, lied about the price of the field they sold. Why was that important? They claimed they were giving all the proceeds to the appeal and wanted the praise for that. But it was not true. The Apostle Peter was delegated to challenge them about what they had done. In Acts 5:3-4 Peter told the husband Ananias: Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit … What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’ A lesson in accountability was learned from the very start of the Christian Church.

Christians in our prayer times, both individually and collectively ask God the Holy Spirit to prompt and guide us in our daily lives. One of the most remarkable outcomes of a prayer time in the church at Antioch in Syria was the calling of Saul and Barnabas to be missionaries around the Roman world sharing the good news of the Christian Gospel.  

In Acts 13:2: While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ He enables us to honour Jesus in the choices we make in our lives. He gives us a freedom, an ability to make the right choices when we seek His assistance in our daily lives.

The apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 3:17: ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit: And where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.’ The word translated ‘Lord’ is understood as a term of address for one who is truly God in the Bible. He also pointed out some personal implications of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives in I Corinthians 6:19-20, where he wrote:’ your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God’.

How we care for our bodies and how we use them is something He is deeply interested in. The relevance of a sensible diet and appropriate exercise and getting enough sleep are part of that self-care He desires for us. But it also informs our relationships and sexuality. If our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit then causal or inappropriate sexual relationships are out of bounds. It is not just my choice or my call, God the Holy Spirit has an investment in my life for my good. 

4. The practical importance of this doctrine

Does it really matter whether we believe in the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead, of the One that we worship ? Yes it does profoundly. Some basic matters depend on it. 

Our salvation If Jesus died on the cross as merely a human being His perfect sacrifice would

have been good for Him but insufficient for the rest of humanity. As one who was truly God and truly man, He reconciled God to us and us to God through His sacrifice of infinite worth. 

He did it in fulfilling the plan of God the Father (John 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…); a task He willingly accepted (Matthew 26:39); and through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14: … who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God…). 

His sacrifice specifically for His Church, that great multitude of people who by faith would receive the benefits of His death in our place, but it is sufficient for everyone who wants to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Remember in Mark 2 the story of the paralysed man brought by his four friends for Jesus to heal him. In Mark 2:5 it states: When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven. Our salvation is secure because of who Jesus truly is.

Our prayers Prayer is hard for most Christians but it is God’s gift to His Church to influence the plans of heaven for people on earth. Remember what Jesus is doing in heaven. Hebrews 7:25 states: Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them. The good news gets even better. We can always come directly to God the Father in prayer. The line is never engaged! Paul writes in Ephesians 2:18:  For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is directly involved too. He strengthens and enables us to live for Jesus each day. It is because He is God, not merely a messenger of God that He has unique insight into the will of God (I Corinthians 2:11) and can help us in our prayers, especially when we do not know how to pray (Romans 8:26-27, because He does it: in accordance with the will of God, encouraging and strengthening us in our faith.

The Bible’s teaching on this doctrine is so important as it is central to our faith. No wonder, we conclude most services saying this Trinitarian prayer: ‘Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (II Corinthians 13:14) Amen 

Our song before we come to communion is: ‘His mercy is more’

The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’

Our closing song is: The splendour of the King (How great is our God)                                                              

Closing Prayer: 

We give thanks to our triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the privilege of being Your children by faith in Jesus. As creatures we will never fully understand You; but we are so grateful to be sure that Your love for is eternal and Your grace day by day sufficient for our every need. As we enter another new week we enter it with confidence that You will go with us each step of the way, providing the help and strength that we need, in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen. 

Benediction:  The Grace 

Church at Home – 11 October 2020

Intimations

– You may want to use some of the Engage Worship resources for daily worship during this week

– Christianity Explored course starting 20 October 2020 – Would you like to know more about Jesus in a way that is easy to understand in a small group? We are offering 8 weekly evening sessions on Zoom which will help you understand the One who is at the heart of the Christian faith. Find out more here or e-mail webmaster@broughtybaptist.org

– The Messy Church At Home information is now available on our church website www.broughtybaptist.org

– The Baptist Union of Scotland will be continuing the Prayer Livestream at 7.00pm on Sunday 1st November, 2020.  This will be another significant time of national prayer for our family of churches. Click here to access the event.

JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School. Here is the video for this week’s session “The Parable of the Talents”.

– JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:15am.  Please contact Gary Torbet – garytorbet@btinternet.com for more details.

Call to worship

Vindicate me, Lord,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord 
and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of Your unfailing love
and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness.

8Lord, I love the house where You live,
the place where Your glory dwells.

12My feet stand on level ground; in the great congregation I will praise the Lord.

Psalm 26

We are grateful to Moraig Piggot for selecting the songs for worship for this service.

Our opening song of praise and worship is:

Opening prayer:

Lord we come once more into Your holy presence today with a sense of the privilege and honour we have at our access to You through Your Son our Saviour Jesus.

It is not something we ever want to take for granted, but to come with deep gratitude to You for all Your goodness to us. Once more at the start of another week we want to meet with You today as we sing or listen to Your praises in an on line service and as we bring our prayers and requests to You for Your assistance to us in our times of need.

We come to ask afresh for the forgiveness of our sins and the blessing of the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for whatever we face in the coming week. Speak to us from Your Holy Word in accordance with what we need to hear today, in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen. 

Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'”
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever Amen.

All Age Talk – Moraig Piggot

I am going to ask you some questions this morning about things that you really love the most.

  1. Which type of chocolate do you love the most? I would have to say Smarties, but then I also really love Mini Eggs and yeah Cruchies are good too. Difficult decision.
  2. Where in the world do you most love to visit? I love visiting Cornwall, but then I also really loved New York and Lake Garda in Italy is a favourite too. Can’t decide that one easily.
  3. Who in your family do you love the most? Now this is one of these questions you really shouldn’t answer or best to say I love them all the same!!

Last week when Brian was speaking to us I was reminded of a bible verse in Mark and it says:

Mark 12:30 – “The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 

When I asked you the questions before maybe like me you found it difficult to pick just one thing or person. But when we think about our faith and being a Christian the answer to what/who we love the most is a very easy and simple one- God. Let’s just think for a moment though about what this actually means and how we love our Lord the God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. 

We Are to Love God with an Exclusive Love
If we want to love God, we must love Him exclusively. Exclusive means only him. We are not to worship any other Gods or any other things. 

We Are to Love God with a Surpassing Love
This means we love God most. The love for God that Jesus describes causes us to give up anything and everything that stops our love for Him. Our love for God must surpass not only our love for other people, but also for the things in the world.

We Are to Love God with an Obedient Love
To obey God is to honour Him, something we do for the ones we love. Obedience delights God and shows that we have confidence in Him.

We Are to Love God with a Persevering Love
One of the greatest examples of love is commitment. God wants us to love Him with a love that perseveres. It is easy to love people whom we can see and touch and hear and hug. It is far more challenging to love a God we can’t see, who allows us to go through challenging trials, and who has made us promises that we’ve yet to see. Perhaps this is why Jesus reminds us to love God with all our strength. We must actively engage our minds and hearts to persevere in loving God when the rest of the world tells us we are foolish

We love God with all our heart when we love Him exclusively, Him and Him alone.

We love God with all our soul when we find our satisfaction in Him more than any other person or thing.

We love God with all our mind when we make decisions to obey His every command.

We love God with all our strength when we persevere in the difficult times.

How are you loving God today? Let’s all take time this week to think and pray about this. 

We continue in worship as we sing:

Prayers for others

We give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. (Psalm 136:1) We give thanks for God’s goodness and faithfulness even in the challenges and struggles of life. Thank you Lord that Your love endures forever.

We come to You today living in a world of growing problems and challenges. Here in the United Kingdom, and many other countries in Europe, the challenges of the Covid-19 virus pandemic are on the increase again and increasingly tight restrictions are being placed on many people’s movements in the locations with the fastest increase in numbers and some further restrictions on the rest of the country.

We continue to ask for wisdom for our politicians in Government in Edinburgh and London as choices are made that for some people have very serious possible consequences for their livelihoods or businesses. We realise, Lord, that the pressures upon our national leaders grow as each passing month of restrictions has increasingly tough consequences for many people. Lord help us as a country to ensure that everyone has their basic needs met at this time.

Heavenly Father we also continue to remember the public health professionals together with those working in the NHS and Social Care services. We ask that they might have provided for them this autumn and coming winter all the personal protective equipment they need to protect not only the people they treat or care for, but also for themselves and their families. As the numbers of Covid-19 virus patients are increasing in hospitals we pray that this will not mean other services have to be halted for patients who have already waited in some cases many months more than might have been the case.   

We also hope that those taking time off for holidays at home or elsewhere in the country may be refreshed from their time away from school or work.

In our Baptist Union of Scotland we also remember to pray for:

We pray for the Regional Pastors who are meeting online this week to encourage one another as they seek to provide pastoral support for Baptist ministers across Scotland.

Oban BC – They are so thankful to God for the freedom to worship Him and the ability to gather (albeit virtually) over these past months. We thank God that they have been able to welcome so many people through their online platforms, and for that they praise God! We pray that You would show them how best to be God’s Church and Christ’s Body through these challenging times, so that many people might see His reality and respond to His grace. They are so aware of their limitations, but also so aware of His limitless power. We join with them in thanking you Lord for Your help to them at this time!

Oxgangs Community Church – We thank God with them for the many people in their local community that they have been practically serving in recent months. We pray for them as they invite these people to hear and respond to the hope of Jesus through a new Sunday evening service.

Paisley Central BC – We give thanks with them for the fellowship at Central Baptist Church in Paisley. We pray for the church as they work, witness and worship God in the town. We pray for the outreach opportunities open to the church within the local area.

Peebles BC – We pray for the church family in Peebles as they continue to worship online and seek to serve the community in creative ways during this time.

We now pray for other people with particular needs that are connected to our own families or congregation: Father we pray for those struggling with reduced or no income in recent months that You would enable them to find alternative forms of income in the coming weeks and months to provide for their needs.

We remember those struggling with physical, mental or emotional health needs at this time and bring them before You now …

 We also remember to pray for other people or circumstances that are particularly on our hearts at this time …

 In addition, we bring our own needs to You today…, in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.

Bible Reading

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

Romans 8: 18-28

Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing:

The Message

Matthew 5:9 A new approach to our relationships

Introduction

Jesus said: Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9) However, human history records very clearly how seriously we have failed to put this beatitude into practice. From wars in former centuries some of which had a significant religious influence to those of the last century motivated by secular concerns, the carnage of violence and wars is a shocking indictment on humanity.

Now in the early years of the twenty-first century it appears that the world is becoming a more violent and unpredictable place rather than what it ought to be if we followed the maker’s instructions. Writing these words this week with the tragedy of the war in Armenia to add to the lengthy list of ongoing wars is deeply disturbing

But the problem goes much deeper. It is a problem of individual human hearts. How much do I want good quality healthy relationships with other people around me? Bible peace ‘Shalom’ is so much more than the absence of conflict, it speaks about a quality of relationships that blesses and enriches ones another so that the collective blessing is much greater than the individual parts.

The challenge to me and to each one of us at times is this: do I want this God-honouring perspective on inter-personal relationships enough in a context where other people might not share that same desire? Am I will to invest the time and emotional input when there is a real risk that this investment might not be realized if collectively other people are not equally open to being and doing what it takes to ensure progress in this situation or relationship? It can be in marriage or family relationships; amongst friends or work colleagues; or a multitude of other social contexts. What matters in each setting is the heart of each participant –do I want it enough for this relationship to flourish as God desires?   

However, it is not a new problem in the world.  It has been a feature of human history over thousands of years. In the early chapters of Genesis there is a brief reference to an obnoxious individual called Lamech who boasted about killing someone who had unintentionally injured him in some way (Genesis 4:23-24). Then prior to the flood in the days of Noah, a summary of how bad things had got was given in Genesis 6:5:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

This pessimistic assessment of human society was reinforced in Genesis 6:11: Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence In the centuries that followed there was no evidence that humanity had gained a better approach to settling their differences with one another. By the time of the ending of the AD66-70 war between the Jews in Israel and the Romans probably the majority of the Jewish citizens of that land had either been killed or enslaved –and that was only one dreadful example of violence in the region. In the early modern period Islam spread out of its heartland by military conquest or jihad and various popes of the Roman Catholic Church sought to extend their powers through the launching of crusades –often against other Christian groups not just against Muslim rulers and their empires.

It had been reported that between 1480 and 1941 Great Britain has been involved in 78 wars, Spain in 64, Russia in 61, Austria in 52, Germany in 23, France in 16,  the USA  in 13, China 11 and Japan 9 wars [John Blanchard, Blessed, p.212]. What about the last century, the most secular in human history. Did the decline in religious influences on Governments make matters better in terms of war and peace? Most certainly not!

In World War One alone eleven million military personnel and seven million civilians were killed, with an incredible twenty million others suffering various degrees of injuries. In World War Two, although the total figures are still being debated, at least fifty to sixty million people died in the conflict. There is no doubt that in terms of absolute numbers it has been the most violent in history. It is proof that humanity doesn’t need a religious reason for conflict there are plenty of non-religious ‘reasons’ to behave in abominable ways to one another.        

The good news is that the major powers have not been at war with each other since World War Two, but that is due to the creation of the atomic bomb. A nuclear war might be the last for our species! The war to ends all wars, but not in a good way!

1. The source of the problem

Jeremiah stated very clearly where the source of the problem lies. Jeremiah 17:9 states:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it? 10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Jesus used some graphic imagery to make people stop and think about the problem of human sinfulness in Mark 9:43-47: If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46]  47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.

Jesus is not advocating a bit of limb chopping to strengthen our spiritual wellbeing. He was wanting His hearers and readers, then and now, to recognize that the human predicament is not primarily about addressing inappropriate words and actions, although this may be necessary at times, but fundamentally it is about correcting inappropriate ingrained sinful attitudes in our inner being.

A person whose heart is fully focused on living the way they should, will display a control of their speech and actions that reflects what is going on within them.  We are now coming into Spring and the first weeds are in evidence in our gardens. If we ignore them it is certain that within a few months we will have seen them multiply, creating a lot of work to put our gardens in order.

The same principle is found within the human heart. If we allow wrong attitudes to fester; if we permit inappropriate trains of thought to go unchallenged, then we may have a much bigger issue on our hands than was originally the case. Proverbs 16:32 makes this value judgement: Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

This kind of statement goes completely against much of our present culture where people’s private lives and public lives are deemed to be completely separate spheres. The Bible is abundantly clear that we are whole people and our attitudes, speech and actions in public and private fit together to build a profile of who we really are in the sight of God. It is, therefore, no surprise that there is such an emphasis on being right in our inner person in the Bible.

To a group of Pharisees who were over concerned about whether Jesus’ disciples washed their hands properly before a meal, He explained (in Mark 7) to them that there are much more important issues to work through in life than the ones they were majoring on. In summary Jesus declared:  Again Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this.15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’ (Mark 7:14-15). 

In the same way James in his letter to new Christians wrote these words in James 4:1-3: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within youYou desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  

We tend to focus on choosing the right words to say in difficult situations, or the right words to write in an email or letter or text message. We may even focus most on the actions we take or don’t take in particular situations. Now these things are important, but the Bible is repeatedly clear that the major work takes place in our hearts and minds.

If we win the battle there then the rest will fall into place. We will then find it easier to chose winsome words of grace in which we will be more concerned with winning over a brother or sister than winning an argument; we will be more desirous of how God views our input then whether we have had sufficient time to get our point across! When our attitudes and then our speech is in line with how Jesus wishes us to behave, it will be significantly less difficult to make the right choices in terms of our actions.   

2. The source of the solution  

The Bible has a lot to say about peace and peace-making. There are around 400 references to peace. In the Hebrew Old Testament it is shalom– a rich word that means so much more than the absence of conflict. It has the idea of wholeness and wellbeing. It contains an understanding of desiring not only to avoid a conflict with someone, but rather to wish a constructive and fruitful quality relationship with the other person or people; it describes ‘right personal relationships that are characterized by intimacy, fellowship, and uninterrupted goodwill’ between two people. 

When the Psalmist in Psalm 122:6-7 wrote: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’  He was not simply asking God to ensure that there was an absence of war in the vicinity of this city, but that every good blessing would be the experience of the residents of that place.[William Barclay, The Plain Man Looks at the Beatitudes p. 82-3] In the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, and the New Testament the word is eirene– from which we get the name Irene. According to William Barclay [p.83] this word is found in all of the New Testament books and is used in a variety of ways.

It does refer to peace agreements between nations. In Acts 12:20 the people of Tyre and Sidon wanted to improve their relationship with King Herod and asked for peace. It is used in Acts 24:2-3 of a period of social harmony within a nation. Here Paul is on trial before the Roman Governor of Judea, Felix. The prosecuting counsel for the Jewish religious leaders, a lawyer called Tertullus, began his speech with these words: 

We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation.Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 

Luke also uses this word to describe a period of real blessing and spiritual prosperity amongst the young Christian Churches in Acts 9:31: Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Of course the Bible uses this word to speak of inter-personal relationships. Jesus stressed to His disciples that if the credibility of their witness was to be seen and demonstrated to the wider watching world then it was essential that they: be at peace with each other (Mark 9:50). 

Naturally we should pray for personal inner peace as the aged Simeon did after seeing the baby Jesus. He prayed these words, recorded in Luke 2:29-31: Sovereign Lord, as You have promised,  You may now dismiss Your servant in peace.30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 which You have prepared in the sight of all nations.

Why is this so important? It is because we worship the God of peace (I Thessalonians 5:23). His Son our Saviour is described in the prophetic words of Isaiah 9:6 as the Prince of Peace… In the words of Zechariah produced to express his joy at the birth of his son John the Baptist there are some words about the calling of the One for whom John is the forerunner.

In Luke 1:79 Zechariah prophesied that Jesus will come to guide our feet into the path of peace.  In His last detailed message to His disciples before His crucifixion Jesus said:  Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).

Paul in his magnificent letter to the Christians in Ephesus explained how in Christ Jews and Gentiles who would have had no dealings with one another quite happily, but who though the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross became brothers and sisters as followers of Jesus. Jesus took away the penalty of our sins and the consequences of them.

The great apostle expressed it in this way in Ephesians 2:13-14: But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… And Peter in his message to the household of Cornelius in Acts 10 explained to them what it was Jesus proclaimed to the Jewish people in Israel during his earthly ministry. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all (Acts 10:36).

That is in Christ the quality of relationships between believers should reflect however faintly the relationships of Father, Son and Spirit in the triune godhead. That we should then by implication, never be satisfied in accepting lesser qualities of relationships with one another than the constructive and fruitful quality relationship with the other person or people.

The shalom of God should be observed by people coming into a gathering of the local expression of the Church of Jesus Christ. How evident is that in our worship services to guests who join us? How evident is it in Church Meetings and other meetings in our congregation?

3. Working to create a solution Blessed are the peacemakers

Notice what Jesus does and doesn’t say here in Matthew 5:9. It is very important to note that Jesus does not say: ‘Blessed are the people who love peace’. Anyone who loved conflict with other people and rejoiced in broken relationships was either mentally impaired or seriously morally deficient in their thinking processes.

Every person in their right mind prefers good quality relationships with other people! What is it that Jesus is saying here? Blessed are the peacemakers… The bar Jesus is setting for us is not that we are characterized by being peaceful people who seek to have good quality relationships with other people and will not settle for less- as much as it is up to us. It is not that we are characterized by being peace-loving –as that is taken for granted with respect to a child of God.

Our calling is to be peace-makers. That is, such a person who Jesus has in mind here may become aware, for example, of a relational problem in their family circle, in their Church family; in their workplace or in some other setting where they have significant ties with other people. He or she may know that someone needs to do something to rectify the difficulty that has arisen.

They may also be aware that if they seek to get involved in attempting to bring about a reconciliation of relationships or resolving of differences that it may be a difficult path to tread, that may take up a lot of time and effort, and what is more, the participants may not necessarily be grateful to a third party for seeking to assist them. Jesus calls such people blessed because there is an emotional and physical cost, as well as a spiritual one, in giving of ourselves in this aspect of ministry. This is your calling and mine.

There are too many Christians in churches up and down the land whose attitudes, choice of words and actions reflect ‘a bull in a china shop’ mentality, rather than exercising the calling which Jesus called ‘blessed’ here in the Sermon on the Mount. How would other Christians and other people describe you and me with respect to our calling here? This is an intensely serious matter when to live outside our calling risks the loss of the blessing offered by our Lord. Each of us as God’s people in His service need regularly to look into our hearts and ask: ‘how am I getting on in this aspect of Christian discipleship?’ Are relationships around me enriched or strengthened by my presence and contributions or are there other outcomes being experienced too often?  If the latter is true then we need to ask how we can change to be as our default position peacemakers.    

When the United Church of South India began in September 1947 Bishop Lesslie Newbiggin made a point of visiting all the churches in his diocese. Village by village the congregations met with their bishop. In one village an extraordinary sight greeted Newbiggin. An aged Indian man called Sundaram dressed in old RAF equipment carrying a stainless steel baton in his hand led the procession.

With the baton the older man directed the congregation in kneeling and rising. Later he told Newbeggin his story. He was a missionary in Burma when World War Two began. He was captured by the advancing Japanese army and taken to a guard post. All his possessions were taken from him and he was bound and tied up in a corner of the room. A Japanese army officer later came into the room and examined the small pile of personal possessions belonging to the prisoner. He recognised the Bible, but not the Tamil language in which it was written.  He walked over to Sundaram and on his palm of one hand performed the sign of the cross while looking at the prisoner. It was clear that he was asking was the man a Christian. Sundaram nodded.

He had been tied up with his arms outstretched in the shape of a cross. In silence the officer cut the ropes that bound him, gave him back his belongings and pointed to the door. As a token of Christian friendship to a fellow-believer he handed over his officer’s staff.  In a brutal war zone two believers experienced a form of fellowship that reflected the blessed model of interpersonal relationships commended here by Jesus [W. Barclay, The Plain Man Looks at the Beatitudes, p.92]. 

What the Japanese Christian did was a high risk activity given that few fellow officers would have shared his faith, but the gospel of Jesus showed him how he ought to treat another believer even in such a difficult setting as a war zone. There are risks to us modeling this kind of Christ-like behavior; however, are we willing to take a chance and step out in faith to honour our precious Lord and Saviour in the way we relate to other people?     

4. Working to prevent problems arising

In Colossians 3:15 Paul wrote: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful… This word ‘rule’ has the idea of acting as an umpire or referee in a game or sporting contest. In a game like football, for example, the referee only takes action when the rules of the game have been infringed; otherwise it can keep on going for the agreed duration of that half of the game.

Paul’s point was that Christians should live day by day in the light of the rules or boundaries established by our heavenly ‘referee’ and thus avoid Him taking direct action to penalize inappropriate conduct. Proverbs 6:16-19 reminds us of seven things that God detests.  They include: a false witness who pours out lies  and a person who stirs up conflict in the community (Proverbs 6:19). There is something very seriously wrong in the life of a professing Christian who goes around looking for opportunities to criticise the speech and conduct of fellow believers; What sort of things ought we to look out for to avoid problems arising in our relationships with fellow believers? Two particular issues:

(a)Pride (Proverbs 13:10) Pride only breeds quarrels. Behind most acts of sin is a wrong view of self by the person or person who acts in this way. A person may have an inflated view of their self-importance. Pride comes before a fall  Proverbs 16:18 states: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Paul cautioned against appointing people to leadership positions in the church too soon after conversion for this reason. In I Timothy 3:6 he wrote: He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He is referring back to the fall of Lucifer (Satan) in Isaiah 14:12-15. 

(b) Anger (Proverbs 15:18) A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.  At the beginning of that chapter is the same truth taught in a positive fashion. A gentle answer turns away wrath,  but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1). Yet there is a place for righteous anger in the light of sinful misconduct. Paul in Ephesians 4:25-27 gave this advice: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body. 26 ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold… I think it would be helpful if we echoed David’s prayer in Psalm 141:3: Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

5. The blessings that flow from peace-makingwill be called sons of God.

The wording here is carefully chosen to make a theological point. It is helpful to quote Paul’s words in Romans 8:14-17 to enable us to grasp what Jesus is saying. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the [Greek ‘huioi’ sons]children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children [Greek ‘tekna’ children]17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Jesus is uniquely the Son of God, but through His sacrifice on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit within us, bring us to faith, we are brought into God’s family and in a lesser sense inherit the privileges and responsibilities of  ‘sonship’ as God’s children; we earnestly desire to live like Jesus and do not want to be satisfied with falling short in this aspect of our Christian discipleship. We want to be perfect like Jesus –and one day shall be beyond this life.

Romans 8:22-24a states:  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.

Do we grasp what Jesus is challenging us to be like and which Paul is reinforcing here? It is a challenge to be truly Christ-like in our humble and gracious dealings with one another. I John 3:2 confirms this truth for us: But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Being willing to think of others ahead of ourselves and to leave ultimate judgement to God is our calling. I close with these words of the remarkable J.C. Ryle, Anglican Bishop of Liverpool in the late nineteenth century.

‘Those who try to do good must look forward with patience to the Day of Judgement.. They must be content in this present world to be misunderstood, misrepresented, vilified, slandered and abused. They must not cease to work because their motives are mistaken and their characters are fiercely assailed. They must remember continually that all will be set right at the last day. The secrets of all hearts will then be revealed…The purity of their intentions, the wisdom of their labours and the rightfulness of their cause, shall at length be made manifest to all the world [J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew, pp. 102-103] , Amen.

Our song before we come to communion is:

The Lord’s Supper

Jesus invites all Christian who have committed their lives to follow Him to participate in this act of worship. The apostle Paul wrote these words of Scripture in I Corinthians 11:23-26 to guide our observance of Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ 25 In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 

Prayer: Choose your own words of prayer to give thanks for the bread and wine that represent the costly gift of His body and blood for us.

Take the bread: Jesus said: ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.

Take the wine: Jesus said: This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’

Our closing song is:

Closing Prayer:

Lord, You have called us to be active peacemakers in the gatherings of people we may call our homes or our workplaces, our churches or other social settings; when we are with family members or friends or with acquaintances or amongst those we have not previously met. We are conscious that living this way is at times extremely difficult.

However, You have called us to live this way and with the help of the Holy Spirit we will seek to be people who will attempt to build and maintain flourishing relationships with the people around us. Guide us and grant us the wisdom and strength to live this way in this coming week, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

Benediction:  The Grace

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God
and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore, Amen