JAM Kids’ focus: The Virtual Sunday School – ‘Abraham & Sarah’
JAM young adults have a separate programme 11:30am-12:30pm looking at the character of David in the Old Testament. Please contact Gary Torbet on email@example.com for more details.
Call to worship
Praise the Lord.
How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;Psalm 147:1-6:
He gathers the exiles of Israel.
3 He heals the broken-hearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
His understanding has no limit.
6 The Lord sustains the humble
but casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
make music to our God on the harp.
Our opening song of praise and worship is: ‘This is Amazing Grace’
We thank You once more for the privilege of gathering together on Your day to praise and worship You. We are so conscious that we have so many blessings for which we are deeply grateful.
The blessing of family and friends and church families; the blessing of food on the table each day, a roof over our heads and warm homes here in winter; the clothes we need along with many other ordinary things of life that we can so easy take for granted.
Thank You God for the provision of our daily needs. Thank You too for the opportunity we have to encourage other people by our assistance with their needs as well. Most of all today, we come with gratitude that we can come directly into Your presence through the aid of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name to bring before You our praises and petitions. Once more we ask afresh for the forgiveness of our sins and a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit to empower us for the week that lies before us. We bring our prayers in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Let us say together the words Jesus taught His disciples when He said:
All-Age Talk Helen R
What is Love?
Today is the 14th February which is Valentine’s day. A day which has traditionally been a day to celebrate Love and affection. You might have received or given a card today or you might see it all as a bit commercial … But what is Love??
I’ve enjoyed the weather this week because I LOVE snow and I LOVE sledging and we’ve had great fun as a family. In society we say things like..” I love chocolate” or “I love football” and we say to our family and special friends, “I love you”.
But if I asked you to tell me what love is, what would your answer be?
In 1 John 4 verse 19 it says this, “We love because God first loved us.”
So I think if we really want to know what love is, the best place to find the answer is in the Bible. God not only told us what love is, he showed us. Here’s a short video with some verses from the bible telling us about Love and God’s love for us.
Let us pray – Dear Father, we thank you for loving us even when we did not deserve it. Help us to love others in the same way. Amen.
Can I encourage you this week to think how you can share God’s love? It might be making and sending a card or a picture or helping someone or giving someone a phone call or a message to let them know you care and that you are thinking of them.
Worship Song – God’s Love is Big
Prayers for others
Once more we come to thank You for the blessings in our lives that we enjoy day by day. On this day in the calendar when many in our midst focus on ‘Valentines’ Day’, and the enrichment to their lives that loving relationships can bring, we give thanks for the gift of love and those special individuals in our families and circles of friends that are so precious to us.
We are particularly aware just now that so many people are unable to spend time with others who have been a major part of our lives. We ask that You would encourage and strengthen those who are feeling so alone or are who are struggling with their emotional and mental health.
We continue to pray for the many people putting in extra hours in their places of work or online at home to ensure that essential services in our communities are provided for those who need them. We ask that You would give them the strength that they need to continue week by week in providing these services for us. In particular, we pray for those handling paperwork in businesses involved in the movement of goods across borders, especially to and from Europe and the same to and from Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom; that a way may be found to address the difficulties that have arisen following the Brexit agreement.
We pray for the following churches:
Bridge of Don BC, Aberdeen – We give thanks as the church continues to serve the community and witness for Jesus in the midst of the challenges of Covid-19. We pray for those in the community of Bridge of Don who might be asking big questions about life just now that they will come to know Jesus.
Bristo BC, Edinburgh – We give thanks to God that theyhave held together fairly well during this pandemic and have had a few new people join them. We would ask that God gives them wisdom to know how to keep connecting and witnessing effectively to the community around them at this difficult time and that their current Alpha course is fruitful.
We come to pray for the needs in our own congregation:
We are pleased that Helen S has now got a date fixed for her operation in hospital. We pray that all may go well as she undergoes surgery next week. We pray for Henry and Sheena G and other members of their family as they attend the funeral service for Henry’s mother in Castle Douglas next Thursday. We also continue to remember Ali T and other members of the T family at this time.
We are conscious of so many people with ongoing health needs and remember particularly the R family, Fiona and Frank K, Alva and Hamid D, Dorothy and Jim G, and Mary D with ongoing problems with her left hand.
We continue to pray for a restoration of health for other members of our congregation or members of their families…
We continue to pray for anyone else with ongoing health conditions and bring them before You now…
We pray for the people whom we cannot visit in residential care, and others who are at home on their own, together with others in our church family who are feeling the effects of increasing age and infirmity…
We pray for those who have been bereaved and ask Your comfort for them …
We now pray silently for anyone else known to us who is in need of our prayers at this time…..
We pray also for our own needs…
We bring all these prayers before you in Jesus’ name, Amen.
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.
15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.II Corinthians 3:7-18
Before we come to listen to God’s Word let us sing: ‘All I once held dear’
II Corinthians 3:7-18 Becoming what we are in Christ
What did you as a child dream of being when you grew up? What hopes or aspirations motivated you in your studies at school or in some other area of your lives? Almost all of us have our hopes for the future of our lives. Is the thing that came to mind something that became a reality for you? Or was it an aspiration you decided not to pursue as you entered adulthood? Or did you hope to do it but the opportunity never arose. Some of us struggle to articulate what is in our hearts and minds, while a few people can vocalise their hopes so clearly.
One of the greatest speeches in modern American history was that of Martin Luther King on 28 August 1963. One hundred years earlier President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the African American slaves. Now a different young man climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to proclaim his vision for the future of America. A large crowd of people had marched to demand equal rights for black people in America. They heard an incredibly powerful call for justice and equality, a dream they were happy to own as their own.
The ‘I have a dream’ speech included these words:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together… [many sources online]
I come back to asking the question: what is your dream? What are your aspirations for yourself, your children and your family, your community, your country and for your church family in 2021 and on into this decade? What is it that motivates you and me to get up in the morning and get through the day, especially in those really tough days that come to us all at times, and for some people, sadly, for much for their lives?
Paul’s dream or hope was articulated in the last verse of II Corinthians 3 when he declares what God is doing in the lives of His children and what we shall be like one day beyond this life. One day, young and old and those in-between; boys and girls, men and women of every racial and social background who have put their faith and trust in Him will be transformed to be perfect like their Lord and Saviour. It is a work that God has begun in your life and will bring it to completion of the on the day of Jesus Christ when He returns in glory as the King of Kings. Let us look briefly at what he has to say in this section of his letter to the church in Corinth.
1. The glory of Paul’s ministry (II Corinthians 3:7-11)
7 Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
The background to Paul’s letter is of course the self-promoting Jewish apostles who had come from Jerusalem to encourage the churches Paul had planted to refocus their lives so as to follow many Jewish religious and cultural practices. They were not denying that Jesus was the Messiah or Lord and that all were called to follow Him. However, they did want these non-Jewish followers of Jesus to live effectively as good Jewish followers of Jesus. These individuals were ignoring the decision of the Council of Jerusalem in AD48 that had unanimously decided not to make such demands upon them.
Luke in Acts 15 records the proceedings from that Council and his report included these words in Acts 15:28-29: It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
There was clarity that the coming of Jesus had opened a new chapter in God’s relationship with us as His people. They could not go back to the old ways when Jesus had brought in the New Covenant through His sacrifice in our place on the cross. It was a resetting of our relationship with God, and His with us. Paul’s ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jews) was to explain what this meant as He proclaimed the good news of the gospel in the synagogues and marketplaces of the Roman world. Paul needed to remind them what in God’s purposes was temporary about how His people worship Him and live for Him and what is permanent. He will move on to reference two times of major transition amongst Jewish believers with respect to their relationship with God.
Paul’s message in II Corinthians 3:7-18 is effectively a commentary on Exodus 32-34, the account of God’s response to Israel breaking its commitment to keep God’s law, an agreement made when God gave to them the Ten Commandments. Paul is defending his ministry in the new covenant, and thus makes a comparison to the experience of Moses. See Exodus 34:29-35:
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.
31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterwards all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.
34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with Him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.
What is Paul communicating to us here? First of all, that the Israelites could not handle being in the unmediated presence of the glory of God, even when it was merely reflected in the face of Moses!
Secondly, II Corinthians 3:7 states that this glory was fading or diminishing: …Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was… [or fading]
The Old Testament ways of worshipping were good and proper in their day, but God has something so much better for us in Christ, II Corinthians 3:8-11 states: …will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
If we truly grasp this says Paul, then we will not be looking back at the past, instead looking forward to the greater glory, the greater blessings God has in store for us as His people. What God has in store for us is of eternal duration. It is so easy to be fixated on the lesser things (which sometimes can seem enormous!) and lose sight of what is more important.
However, he wants to remind them and us that in the purposes of God for His people in history there are times of transition and change.
For them, it was an end to the constant repetition of animal sacrifices in the Temple. Jesus’ once for all time sacrifice paid in full for our sins, past, present and future. Instead of entering God’s presence exclusively through a priest, now we can enter directly into His presence in prayer and call God ‘Our Father’.
The opponents of Paul who had gone to Corinth would have rejected this last point. But they had forgotten why Jesus came. Remember what happened in the Jerusalem Temple when God the Father accepted Jesus sacrifice in our place.
In Matthew 27:50-51 it states: And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up His spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
The presence of that huge curtain was to symbolise that God could not be approached directly by the people. It was the High Priest, alone who went into the Holy of Holies behind it. But now all had changed. There was no going back. The gift of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was a temporary blessing for selective believers and at particular times.
After the Day of Pentecost the gift of the Holy Spirit within us is the gift of all God’s children, who trust their heavenly Father through faith in Jesus. In addition, praise and worship using the Book of Psalms was supplemented with hymns or songs in praise of Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Now replacing the ceremony of circumcision exclusively for baby boys, baby boys and girls could be welcomed in a service of infant presentation or dedication to God (see Luke 2:21-24).
The baptism of believers, formerly for Gentile converts to Judaism, was now for all believers, Jews as well as Gentiles (Acts 2:38, 41: Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.)
Although Jewish followers of Jesus continued to celebrate the Passover Festival, all followers of Jesus now partook of the new ordinance or sacrament to signal the commencement of the New Covenant by Jesus (Luke 22:17-20).
Some churches, like our own celebrate Communion, sharing the symbols of bread and wine, each week, though other families of churches practice it less frequently. What is most important is that we honour Jesus’ command: Do this, in remembrance of Me’ (I Corinthians 11:24b);
We look back and see the glory of Paul’s ministry, and that of other followers of Jesus, as the new patterns for worship and witness were put in place two thousand years ago. Undoubtedly, in the times of Moses and the giving of the Old Covenant at Sinai there had also been major changes then in the worship practices of God’s people.
By comparison, our change to [currently] mostly online zoom services is a minor change. It feels so big. However, we have had blessings as well as challenges through this time. For example, new people participate in one of the forms of our Sunday service in many geographical locations. Our introduction to Christianity courses are accessible anywhere in the world, and are much easier to attend on zoom. We must recognise that God will bring good out of this situation that none of us had sought.
These times of change can be difficult to negotiate as we are removed from our comfort zones and are likely to be unclear as to how things will work out for the future. At the heart of the matter is to answer this question: How much do I trust God to help me, and to help us, navigate through these times of major changes?
The two examples cited here from Moses’ day and the start of the Christian Church at Pentecost were the biggest times of change in their history. The super apostles now living in Corinth and seeking to influence the local Christians to turn away from the approach to Christian were advocates of the old way of worshipping and witnessing to their faith represented by Moses.
By contrast the way of the Holy Spirit that transformed the Jewish people of God on the Day of Pentecost was God’s new way forward. In this smaller time of change, with what am I most struggling at this time? How might I in prayer ask God to help me focus on the positive things that have happened in the last year, rather than primarily on the setbacks or difficulties I have gone through?
2. The challenge of Paul’s message (II Corinthians 3:12-18)
12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:12-18)
(a)What to avoid There are two things Paul raises for us to avoid:
(i) Be careful that you do not maintain ‘a veil’ so you cannot clearly see what is really important by focussing on things that are not as important. This will differ from person to person; so what may be something to lessen as a priority for you or me may be different to another Christian, because God deals with us personally. Anything in our lives that diminishes our love for Jesus or our time for Him needs to be looked at. What am I most passionate about? Take time to reflect on that personally this week
(ii) Recognize the personal presence and ministry of the Lord in your own life through His Spirit which leads to genuine glory which is not fading, but is ever-increasing. Remember we are all a work in progress. No-one has arrived! We are all on a faith journey and growth in holiness and maturity in Christian character are progressive not instantaneous.
(b) What to remember
(i)We have a hope which emboldens. When one sees clearly, without a veil, our hope is clarified. Dull minds become sharp, blurred vision becomes clear. This clarity of vision, this foundation of hope, is possible only in Christ, for only in Christ is the veil removed. What is your perspective on your own life? Does it correspond with what Paul has in mind here for His own life and that of the people of that day? Is Jesus Lord of your life? Paul wrote these words to the church at Rome in Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
The fundamental issues are not about our commitment in terms of what we do, but a heart issue of what we care most about. We sing the song ‘Jesus, All for Jesus ….’ by Robin Mark, but it is so much easier to sing than live in daily life. The challenge to us all day by day till we leave this life is this: Where is your heart? Where is your loyalty, allegiance, commitment, priority? This boldness Paul proclaims comes from hope. Perhaps one explanation of the decreased level of evangelism by many churches in this land is that too many Christians are less certain of the message of Scripture and the power of God to transform lives than in some previous generations.
Hope generates boldness. Clarity of vision and message emboldens. We see the possible. We have, hopefully, a growing desire to share with other people the salvation which is only in Christ. It is too easy to become distracted with all manner of other things or the relativism that is riddled throughout our cultural context: ‘that may be your truth, but this is my truth’. We are individuals who need to make choices for ourselves, but ‘the good news is Jesus’ is objective truth that gives us the foundation we need to become more of what we are by faith in Jesus Christ.
For example, now that our introduction to Christianity courses are online, the range of people we can pray about inviting to attend will be greater. We will have more running after the present ones finish. Maybe in 2021 you will invite someone to attend for the first time and consider coming on the course with them? We also organise home group Bible studies and when possible times of prayer and fellowship together. Why not be open to joining a home group in the church when the lockdown restrictions are over.
(ii) In the Lord, we have the Spirit which liberates us. This is an essential second truth. We must not only see the possibilities clearly, we must claim the power. We are freed from the power of sin so that with God’s help we may become more clearly the person He created us to be.
It is true that some may not understand why we behave as we do. Some people may question our motives, others may question our methods. Some may question our message. But Paul’s point is clear. We have freedom in Christ to live a life wholly dedicated to Him.
In John 8:31-32 Jesus said these words to a Jewish audience in Jerusalem: To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
What are we liberated from or to? There is obviously a calling to liberation from sinful attitudes, speech and actions. Under the enabling power of the Spirit we can be overcomers of things that previously might have enslaved us, for example, bad habits of whatever kind. But there is also a freedom to be the person God created us to be as children of God.
We are loved and precious to God, of infinite worth. Therefore, my life is of great value and purpose. My existence on this planet is really significant, not so I can walk around with a sign saying: ‘I’m special’, but so I can point beyond myself to the One who is truly special who wants to give us all life in its fullness. It is a freedom to live for God, not liberty to do our own thing. Are we willing to live this way this week? Our freedom also points us forward to the purpose of our freedom.
(iii) God is working in us a glorious transformation. We are being changed. We are becoming who God created us to be. II Corinthians 3:18 states: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
This is not: You have been changed and we sit back and let God ‘do everything’. This message is to Christians who need to be reminded that living the Christian life is an ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to experience the process of inner transformation that starts when we put our faith and trust in Jesus.
When we have ‘unveiled faces’ we begin to see more clearly the Lord’s glory, that is we grasp more of how He wants us to live; we walk boldly in imitation of the way Jesus lived, in His attitudes and priorities, in our own social and cultural context, either beholding or reflecting the Lord’s glory. The reference is either to the clear vision which the absence of the veil permits, or is a transition to the next phrase which affirms our continuously changing lives. We do not have the luxury of staying as we are in Christ.
We do not have the possibility of satisfaction, of sitting idly as spectators. On the other hand, we do not bring about the transformation. In seeing the Lord’s glory, we are transformed to become more and more like Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. We are reflecting Him, and His glory in our life is something that increases as we grow in our faith. This increasing glory is not from us, but is from the Lord, through the Holy Spirit who works in us moulding and shaping us to become more like Jesus.
Our calling is to recognise that we are becoming what we will be in God’s new creation. May we rejoice in it; may we participate in it with anticipation of what the Holy Spirit will do in us personally, in our families and in our church family in the coming weeks, months and years, for God and for His glory, Amen.
Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Jesus all for Jesus’
Our song before we come to communion is: ‘Jesus all for Jesus’
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: Happy Day (The Greatest Day in History)
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for what You have called me to be. One day I will be changed to be perfectly like You. However, in the years left to me here on earth, help me to make the choices that help me to reflect more clearly Your likeness in me. Help me in my attitudes, priorities and aspirations to be increasingly in line with Your plan for my life. Guide me by Your Holy Spirit to honour and glorify You in each area of my life, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
Benediction: The Grace