23 April 2020 – Finished

In John 19:28-30 it states: Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’ 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished. With that, He bowed his head and gave up His spirit.

This is the most exciting of the words of Jesus from the cross. Other words and cries we value so highly as precious and important from our Lord and Saviour and each in their own way cause us to look within our own hearts at our own relationship with our heavenly father.

However this cry of Jesus, one word – tetelestai – meaning finished or‘accomplished’ is a declaration of joy, a statement of reality that no-one can deny. God has fulfilled in Jesus Christ His plan of redemption prepared before the creation of the world, but now executed in time with an impact on the past, present and future of His people for all eternity. God had declared that He would redeem a people to Himself for His own glory. Here was evidence of the length to which He would go to achieve His goal. Here was the cost to Himself in the person of His precious and beloved Son that sinners might be saved, that you and I might know our transgressions forgiven, our debts wiped out and the barrier to fellowship with the living God obliterated –Hallelujah! This cry of victory is the ground of our assurance of salvation –because of what Christ has donenot based on what we hope we can do. It is an objective fact not dependent on our feelings and emotions but on the finished work of Christ.

Hebrews 10:10 states: We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…but when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy. What an honour, what a privilege is yours and mine as sons and daughters of the living God to know this wonderful truth. However do you here still need to put your trust in Jesus? Can I encourage you to take that step without delay!

You and I engage in projects of various kinds. For some people certain work projects completed are particularly satisfying; for young people passing the assessments or exams that take them to the next stage of their education may be most encouraging. For an older person maybe making a last mortgage payment on your home was a poignant moment to remember. For me my memory is directed to September 2019 when I completed the manuscript of the official history of the Baptist Union of Scotland after work over the previous eight years was a great day.

What project in your life brings particularly happy memories of a task completed? Here John reminds us in John 19:28 of Jesus’ happiest moment on earth, in the midst of His greatest anguish and suffering, knowing that everything had now been finished… The work that God the Father has asked Him to come to earth to do was accomplished. His victory over sin and death and the evil one was complete. It was now only a question of when the final triumph of God in human history would take place. The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Easter Sunday would be God’s reminder to humanity that death was not final, that eternal life beyond it in His presence is our goal.

Triumph over the Covid-19 virus will happen – but when is quite uncertain. Scientists can tell us clearly what needs to happen before triumph over it is announced, though none can speculate on a date.  Here Jesus said, ‘It is finished (John 19:30). Your salvation and mine was guaranteed for all eternity. All we had to do was accept God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus to have it credited to our personal account with Him. Our immediate present may be very uncertain due to this virus, but thank God the future at the end of this age is certain because Jesus won the victory on the cross 2,000 years ago.

Our song for reflection today is ‘The greatest day in history’ 

Brian Talbot

22 April 2020 – John 19:28 I Thirst (weekly prayer update)

Today is Wednesday the middle of another week with an opportunity once more I suggest for an hour to take time out to reflect and pray at 7:30-8:30pm or whatever time is suitable for you in the midst of your daily schedule. There are also pointers for prayer to assist us in our intercessions to God for other people 

There are seven statements attributed to our Lord from the cross. The first three are centred on other people: firstly his enemies Father forgive them…, secondly a dying criminal today you will be with Me…; thirdly to Mary and to John here is your son…here is your mother.

In the middle is the cry to His Father concerning the temporary loss of their special relationship that had existed from eternity past why have You forsaken Me? 

The last three sayings as the time prior to His physical death was drawing near were about the circumstances of Jesus focussed on His humanity. This is clear particularly first of all in the words of John 19:28: I am thirsty. It was the only statement that was centred on His physical suffering on the cross.

Often we can be guilty of minimising Christ’s physical sufferings that somehow it was easier for Him than for other people who had been crucified, in fact the truth is that it was harder for Him. His dignified manner was covering the agonies He went through. The separation from the Father was what he struggled with most on Calvary, more than the awful agonies of the physical trauma of such a death. In His case he could have spoken a word and asked to come down from the cross but His taking of a human nature and flesh was a real and true unity with humankind and so he refused to take any easy options. 

The New Testament does not downplay His humanity. The Gospels record His birth like any other human as a baby, in His case at Bethlehem. He passed through all the natural and normal stages of child development. Luke 2:52 records that: Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and men.  

As a twelve-year-old Jesus was asking the religious leaders genuine questions and His understanding increased with age and study. As a man John records (John 4) that Jesus was exhausted and sat down by a well at Sychar in Samaria. His disciples who were less tired went to by some lunch in the town, leaving Jesus alone –time for some peace and quiet that He needed.

Jesus was hungry in the desert when tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:2). He slept in a boat (Mark 4:38), his head on a cushion when exhausted. Even a serious storm that had waves crashing over the boat which must have soaked His clothes did not cause Him to wake up, how tired was that! He was astonished at the level of unbelief, their lack of faith in Him and in God in His home town of Nazareth following a preaching engagement (Mark 6:6);

He was angry with the traders in the temple (John 2:16-17) and wept over the unbelief of the citizens of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42). He also wept at the grave of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35) and groaned within His spirit (John 11:38) at the pain caused by the separation of loved ones in a bereavement. He also rejoiced with His disciples when they came back following a successful time of mission (Luke 10:21) and took pleasure in the company of little children (Mark 10:13-16).

Yet He felt a great need for time in prayer (Mark 1:35). At the time of choosing His twelve disciples Luke 6:12 records: One of those days Jesus went out into the hills to pray and spent the night praying to God. 

Hebrews places a significant focus on the humanity and suffering of Jesus. Hebrews 2:9-10 states: 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferingThat same chapter goes on to say in verses 17-18: For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.18Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. Can we have confidence in knowing that He truly understands our weaknesses and problems? Hebrews 4:15-16 provides the assurance we need: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin.16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  

Some of us in the last few weeks will have struggled with our emotions.  Our mental and emotional health may have taken a battering and we long for a normality that may be a while yet in coming? Others fears for the future concerning our health, particularly if treatment has been delayed at this time; yet others with real concerns about getting back to school or going to university or whether returning to the workplace you left will even be possible? Whatever your questions – Jesus understands and cares because of what He has endured as a human being.    

Out song for reflection as we come to prayer is: Jesus paid it all

Points for Prayer

Points for Prayer    
1. Pray particularly for our governments; in particular for our leaders Boris Johnson & Nicola Sturgeon, for much wisdom & courage. For all the various government departments – financial, medical, scientific, social – in coping with the pandemic.

2. Pray for the NHS and Social Care workers for strength to keep going when under pressure and particularly for the procurement of all the necessary personal protective equipment they need at this time.

3. Pray for the local government agencies working in new partnerships with many voluntary agencies to ensure those in need have all their basic needs attended to, not just food to eat.

4. Pray for the leaders and volunteer teams of the twenty-three Food Banks in Dundee, that includes our Broughty Ferry Food Bank, that we may have the resources and ability to carry out all the duties entrusted to us. 

5. Pray for the people struggling to continue in lock down and finding their emotional and mental health deteriorating at this time.

6. Pray for our educators from nurseries to universities that staff and students can adjust in a satisfactory way to the changed learning environment. In particular the children from disadvantaged homes that they may not slip too far behind in their learning compared with others in their respective classes  

7. Pray for Gary and the Youth Ministry Team in keeping the young people connected with each other and with God. Giving thanks to God for the range of opportunities for engagement on the zoom platform and the numbers of young adults taking part in them

8. Pray for Claire and the Children and Families team as they plan what might be possible in terms of further activities online for younger children and their families.

9. Pray for us as a church – that we will all be “Looking to Christ”, pray for wisdom for Brian & the Deacons as they plan to lead and guide the congregation at this time. 

10.Pray for those with ongoing health issues in our church family at a time when medical support may not be as easy for them to obtain.

11. Pray for God’s comfort for those who have been recently bereaved, especially remembering Betty and Scott R and their family, together with Betty W and her family after the recent deaths of Ian R and Betty W’s granddaughter Paula, respectively. We also remember Eloise P and Elizabeth F and their families after the loss of family members. We ask that you would uphold and strengthen them all at this time. 

12. We thank God for the success of the Zoom platform service once again on Sunday and pray for His guidance over the planning and preparations for future services.  

13. We bring whatever other issues are on our hearts today to God in prayer concerning either ourselves or other people.

Brian Talbot

21 April 2020 – All we need to know you will be with Me…

Luke’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus contains an exchange of views between the three men hanging on the crosses outside the city walls of Jerusalem. The fact that differences of opinion were still held despite the extreme circumstances all three were enduring is a testimony to not only the authenticity of the account, but also the ability God gives to each one of us about the choices we make regarding faith in Him as well as in countless other matters in other aspects of our daily lives.

What did Luke say? Luke 23:38-43 states: 38 There was a written notice above Him, which read: this is the king of the jews. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’40 But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42 Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’ 43 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’

One convicted criminal continued his anti-social behaviour till the bitter end. There was nothing even his friend could do to open his closed mind to the claims of Jesus. However, the other man in the last hours before his death saw things very differently. He wanted to sort his life out with God and so asked for the forgiveness of his sin so that he might have the wonderful gift of eternal life. Did Jesus say’ ‘No chance’ you wicked sinner you deserve to really pay for your crimes, even though the man genuinely at the end of his life wanted to change direction and go God’s way? Of course not, the graciousness and love of Jesus was amazingly present.

It was, and is, never too late for someone to commit their life to God while they are still alive here on earth. Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus? I hope each one of us reading these notes has taken that step. What was Jesus’ response to him?

1.An immediate response today… It was not –‘I hope you make it to heaven’, a kind of holy wish. Instead there was a certainty to it. The moment a person puts their faith and trust in Jesus the gift of eternal life is credited to their account. What wonderful news! Have you taken time to consider following Jesus as Lord of your life? 

2. A personal declaration you will be with Me in paradise The gospel invitation is specific and clear. But to have an impact we must recognise it is personal too. Each of us by faith must invite the Lord Jesus to be the Lord of our lives. It doesn’t happen in our sleep. There is a conscious deliberate choice to be made once the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see our need of Him.   

3.A wonderful assurance you will be with Me in paradiseWhen you are a child of God you are never truly alone, even if sometimes it feels that day. To a people going through extremely difficult times, Hebrews 13:5-6 records: 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?’ This is really important to know that we go forward into the future with confidence because He is with us. One of most popular Christian songs of a few decades ago contains these memorable words: ‘Because He lives I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone…’ Is that your experience too?

4. A glorious future you will be with Me in paradise The details of life beyond the grave are really not that important. All I need to know is that God has it all in hand – that is enough for me. Do you need to take a step of commitment to start following Jesus today?  If you do, simply invite God to take charge over your life and begin the wonderful and at times daunting life of faith. Jesus will help you to live for Him here on earth until the day our time here ends and our future is certain. I hope and pray Jesus’ words here can be said of each one of us as we enter another new week with Him, Amen 

Our song for reflection is ‘Because He lives (God sent His Son)’

Brian Talbot

Church at Home on Zoom!

You are welcome to attend our church service in person at Panmurefield Baptist Centre on Sunday at 10.30am.

We meet for a hour long service with worship songs, prayers, children friendly talk and a message from our minister Brian Talbot.

For those who cannot attend in person you can join via Zoom.

If you would like to be able to join with us online please Contact Us with your email address and your full name. We can then arrange for a weekly email invitation to be sent to you.

Important – During the service you must keep yourself on mute unless asked to speak. Thank you.

20 April 2020 – Father forgive them…

We have now had approximately five weeks of necessary restrictions on our liberties and nearly four of lock down. Sunday 15 March, the last time we were able to hold a service in our church building seems a long time ago.

I am sure that coping with these difficult circumstances is challenging for us all in different ways. We are aware in particular of the courage of the front-line workers who see at first hand the devastating impact this virus can have on some who contract it and the extent to which medical services are required to help other people come through to a recovery from it over a period of time.

However, I want us to reflect today on other pressures and struggles that can affect our sense of well-being and our ability to relate well to other people. For some individuals forced by this crisis to spend considerably more time on their own, there could at times be an acute sense of loneliness as family and friends are unable to visit due to the distances that separate them and those without internet access might feel cut off from much of what is going on at this time. Let us be sensitive to each other’s situations and from time to time make a point of phoning or making contact with others to check how they are getting on.

 In other cases family members may be spending considerably longer with each other at home than at any time previously. Home schooling and home working are great when it is possible to operate that way, but habits and lifestyle patterns that might irritate us a little, prior to lock down,might seem more glaring under the microscope of much closer interaction! 

For others, the stress of worry about their employment status going forward or for those of more senior years a fear of a lengthy lockdown might cause us to become more irritable than we might care to admit. Finding ways to be more patient and understanding of each other in our relationships is going to be important as we make our way through these next few weeks and months. 

 On the cross outside the city wall in Jerusalem Jesus made some statements in the hours before He died. One of the most remarkable and deeply challenging to us are the words recorded in Luke 23:34.

Let us read these words in context in Luke 23:32-34:  Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 

The context is revealed in the wider passage of Luke 23:26-43 in which some people present contributed some ill-considered words to Jesus. These were words that would have hurt and wounded. How did Jesus respond at a time when He was enduring serious physical pain and anguish as well as the acute mental anguish of separation from the felt presence of His Father in heaven? 

1. The one addressed Father… There are times when we want to give someone ‘a piece of our mind’. This is a British expression that politely explains we are really angry and are seriously tempted to shout or use words or expressions that we may or may not regret later!

However, although we might feel better at the time saying it exactly how we feel – in the majority of cases we would have to admit that this is rarely the wisest course of action if we want to get a situation resolved satisfactorily. We can win an argument and lose a friend- which is not a ‘win’ at all but a sad loss for all concerned.

Jesus had every right to be angry at some of the comments made to Him, but notice how He responded. He brought it to God in prayer asking Him to take charge of the situation. In the situations where we feel the pressure mounting in the coming days, try and take a step back and after a deep breath take it to God our heaven Father in our prayers. If Jesus chose to pass on the responsibility for handling His concerns that day to God the Father then we would be wise to consider the same choice today in many situations we might face.

2. The request proposed forgive them… a natural human response when we have been wronged is to want revenge or to get even, or when in a calmer frame of mind to want to sort things out. The latter motivation is good, but it is the ‘how’ we do that matters! The proposal Jesus made in His prayer to the Father was probably shocking to many onlookers. He was a relationship builder. For us to seek to put ourselves in another’s shoes and understand where they are coming from does not mean we have to accept what they say or agree with the points made.

What is crucial here is our motivation for engaging with the other person. A person whose normal disposition is to seek to end disputes not inflame them will more often than not succeed in what they attempt to do. However, there are times when it takes extraordinary effort and self-control together with the grace of God to do something similar to what Jesus did here.   

3. The reason for the request for they do not know what they are doing Please note this is not ‘diminished responsibility’, the legal expression that might be used to allow a lesser sentence to be imposed on someone convicted of a crime because they were not deemed entirely responsible for their actions.  Jesus was not saying that the people who shouted hurtful things to Him were ignorant of the meaning of the words they used, nor of the significance of them in that particular context. However, He was rightly convinced that they did not grasp God’s perspective on this matter. They were too quick to judge and called it wrongly.

Let us be careful at times like this in how we respond to the words or actions of others. Remember we too might have misjudged someone! Jesus was on the cross to die in our place as the Saviour from our sin, but in His earthly life He modelled for us a way of life to follow. May God help us to live constructively, seeking to encourage others this week, identifying and acclaiming good practice, much more than criticising something we disapprove of. If Jesus could do it on the toughest day of His earthly life surely we can as well today. 

Our song for reflection today is Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me’

Brian Talbot  

Sunday 19 April 2020 – Church at Home

Welcome once again to our Church at Home online service. We are glad you could join us.

Intimations

  • Morning worship online has moved to start at 10am and JAM at 11:15am on the Zoom platform.
  • You may want to use some of these resources for daily worship during this week – Engage Worship
  • Sunday Evening Prayer Livestream 7.00pm – We will be continuing the Prayer Livestream at 7.00pm on Sunday, celebrating the theme of Resurrection Hope with live prayer and news from churches around the country. This will be another significant time of national prayer for us. Please join in and, if you don’t already do so, would you let your fellowship know about this and put it on your social media. To access the event visit Facebook.

Call to worship

Let us be still in the presence of our amazing God who is with us as we gather to worship in His name. Psalm 145:1-7 is a powerful song of praise that focusses our minds on our amazing God

1I will exalt you, my God the King;
I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty –
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works –
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

We thank David for choosing the songs for our worship service today. Our opening song of praise and worship is: ‘Praise is Rising’   

Paul Baloche – Praise is Rising

Our second song of worship reminds us that:  ‘Your Grace is enough’

Matt Maher – Your Grace is Enough

Grace stands for God’s riches available at Christ’s expense for us. We are privileged to come into our Father’s holy presence through Christ alone. He opened up the way for us as God’s children to come both reverently and with confidence because He has invited us.

Our third praise song is a wonderful declaration of our faith:  In Christ Alone.

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend – In Christ Alone

Opening prayer

‘Holy holy holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is full of Your glory’ –these words uttered by the heavenly beings in the prophet Isaiah’s vision remind us that You are so awesome and majestic, The God who is above all; we come in our weakness, but acknowledge Your great power and authority over all Your created order.

No wonder the Psalmist in Psalm 145 declares: One generation commends Your works to another; they tell of Your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendour of Your majesty – and I will meditate on Your wonderful works. They tell of the power of Your awesome works – and I will proclaim Your great deeds.

We come as creatures to our Creator, but equally as Your children to our Heavenly Father. Thank You for the incredible privilege of being welcomed into Your family. Thank You that because Jesus died in our place on the cross we have free access to all the privileges of being Your children. Thank You Father for Your love to us each day of our lives. We are sorry once more for our thoughts words and deeds that are not pleasing to You.

We come confessing our sin, thankful for Your forgiveness obtained through Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  At the start of this new week fill us afresh with the power of Your Holy Spirit to equip and enable us for what lies 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.

JAM Kids’ focus

There is the fifth of a series of five Bible based activities for children on the Out of the Box website.   This series looks at the Armour of God from Ephesians 6.

Activity sheet available here for Episode 5.

JAM young adults Ignite Live have a separate programme at 11:15am on the Zoom platform –parents of teenagers can get a link code by contacting Gary Torbet on garytorbet@btinternet.com

All Age Talk

(Transcript of video) So it will have been back to home schooling and learning for a lot of you on Monday, if you are in Angus you are still on holiday I think. I want to tell you a little story about my experience of home schooling. Most of you know that I am a teacher but I am also a mummy. So the very first Monday the school were closed I was asleep in my bed and I was woken up by Hamish saying come on Mummy its time to start school and we need to do PE first with Joe Wicks on the TV.

If you don’t know who Joe Wicks is he is a fitness coach who has been filming daily PE workouts for kids while they aren’t able to be at school. I got out of bed went downstairs in my PE clothes and joined in with 30 mins of exercise that then meant I was in pain for the rest of the day! Before I could even get my breath back Hamish had the laptop open and we were on to maths, fractions and decimals- yuck! Then French, then art and so on.

At 10.30am it was finally time for playtime. I was just sitting down to enjoy my coffee when Hamish announced playtime was over and we better get started again. So I thought for a moment and said to Hamish that we were going to have an extended playtime that would last until 9am the morning when daddy would be taking over as the new home school teacher!!

Learning at home is very different and maybe you are loving it or maybe you are like me and not enjoying it at all. As I said last week we are all having to get used to a very different way of life at the moment. This morning I would like to especially mention our children and young people because they have very suddenly had to get used to a very different way of life. Learning online, staying in the house most of the day, not able to see their friends from school, for those in S4, S5 and S6 you will be unsure about what will happen with exam results and those in university will have had to return home sooner than they thought.

But do you know these wee heroes are taking it all in their stride, they are a whiz at getting online, finding new ways to keep themselves entertained, eating their parents out of house and home, camping out in their back gardens and so much more. I would like us to give all our children and young people a big round of applause.

You see this is what God needs us to do at the moment, help, encourage and support each other through. We need to do this within our church fellowship and beyond into our families, our friends, our neighbours and community. It says in the bible in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.” Hebrews 10.24 says “We should keep on encouraging each other to be helpful and do thoughtful things.” We won’t all be front line workers or key workers, and most of us will not really be able to leave our house right now unless it for our daily walk, but we can all pray for each other, encourage each other and show love to each in these difficult times.

Last Sunday we were celebrating the good news that Jesus has risen. This was the greatest act of love our world has ever seen. We can’t match what God did when he gave Jesus for our forgiveness, but we can think of small ways we can show love, support and encouragement to each other.

So here are just a few simple ideas that you can try this week:

1. I would like everyone on here today to think of someone they could send a card, an email or make a phone call to this week. Boys and girls you might want to pick an older person in the church and those of us that are older might want to pick a younger person.

In the card, email or phone call ask the person how they are getting on, tell them some of the things you are doing to keep busy, encourage them with a bible verse that has really inspired and supported you at this time. Remind them how much God loves them.

2. Last week I encouraged you to make pictures that included the word hope. This week I would like you to do the same again but include the word love. Cut out love hearts, decorate them and write the names of places/or people who are really making a difference at the moment on the heart. Stick them in your window. This might be our NHS, people working in food shops, the police, lorry drivers, someone in your family or your street who is going above and beyond.

3. Again, last week I asked you to try leaving stones on your daily walk with the word hope on them and this week do the same again but put the word love on them. You could even do a really big stone for your front garden with the word love on it.

4. As well as making cards for people in the church you could make a card or a picture for someone in your street to cheer them up, this is a great way to show you care and bring a smile to their face.

We worship and serve a heavenly Father who says that nothing will separate us from his love, who sent is own son to die to express how much he loves us, he is always with us and can do more than we could ever hope or imagine, he is calling on HIS people here in Broughty Ferry to show His love through simple acts of kindness, support and encouragement. Let’s pray for opportunities to that this week. Amen 

Our next song that is a favourite with some of the younger members of our congregation

Cave Quest – My Hope is in the Lord

The Bible reading for today is Philippians 1:12-30:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved – and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Prayers for Others

Thank You God for the privilege of praying not only for our own needs but also for many other people at this time. Thank you that You hear and answer our prayers. We thank You that we have an opportunity as Christians to share the hope they have in Jesus. We do sincerely pray that many people will take this time to seek You and come to a living faith in Jesus.

We thank You too for the blessing of the internet and social media platforms that allow us to keep in touch with families and friends and church family as well as sing Your praises and hear and receive Your Word online through sermons and devotional thoughts. However, we are very aware of those people who are not online and connected via technology.  We pray that You will help us to think of them and keep in touch by telephone or written form by card or letter that can be used to bring comfort and cheer to those feeling isolated.

We continue to pray for our national leaders who must feel the pressure of their inadequacy to alleviate all the suffering and hardship many people are experiencing. We are very conscious of the many small businesses that are struggling to get loans from the banks to keep them afloat and their workers in employment. Lord we pray this difficulty can be overcome this week or in the near future.

We are deeply grateful to the many lives saved through our dedicated healthcare staff in recent weeks. We pray for continuing strength for those who under great pressure have put in many long and difficult shifts in hospitals and care homes and for their continuing service to those in need of their care. We also remember others who are serving in unfamiliar work settings in paid or voluntary capacities to assist our country through this time of crisis.    

We thank you too for the wider network of Christian Churches at this time as they seek to serve their local communities. We thank you within our wider Scottish Baptist Church family for:

Al Nicoll (RAF Chaplain) – Please pray for him and his colleagues at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre as we move the facility from Hampshire to Wiltshire. Pray for those who will lose their jobs as a result. Please pray for me and my family as we prepare for our next posting in the summer, with all the upheaval the move will entail.

CBC Community Church, Crookston, Glasgow – We praise God and give thanks for the provision of their new building, and how He is leading them through this transition period when they are without a Pastor. That God would reveal to them how He wishes them to use their new home to grow as a family of His people. That God would also reveal to them more effective ways to reach out into the community He has placed us in with His message of hope and salvation.

Crown Terrace BC, Aberdeen – We praise God for the new people who have been joining them on a Sunday morning, prior to the present crisis, and those who are now regulars at their Tuesday lunchtime pop-up Cafe. We pray that God would supply the abilities and skills required to support and help those who join them for their Sunday services or midweek activities.

Culduthel Christian Centre, Inverness – We join with them in thanksgiving for new life in Christ, baptisms and growth in commitment to Christ. We pray for wisdom for them in developing their Christian discipleship, equipping of leaders and outreach to youth and children. After the recent appointment of a youth and children’s worker we ask God to guide the development of their team ministry.

In our own congregation:

We continue to remember those families who have gone through recent bereavements, in particular Betty W and her family after Paula’s funeral last Friday and Betty and Scott R after Ian’s funeral also last Friday, together with Eloise P and Elizabeth F and their families after their own family bereavements. God of all comfort at this distressing time when families are not free to attend funerals or gather to comfort one another as they would wish we pray for particular strength to cope with these additional causes of stress and sadness.

We are also aware of other people with ongoing health problems, in particular Jim and Jan F, in the silence we name those particularly on our heats at this time… Lord we also come with our own needs and in the silence state them to You…

Lord, we have our ‘why’ questions and are acutely aware of so much we don’t understand at this time, but we bring our prayers to You with confidence that You will hear and answer our prayers as we bring them in the wonderful and precious name of Your Son our Saviour Jesus, Amen.  

Before we come to God’s Word we will sing one of the most moving hymns penned by a Christian man who was experiencing the toughest time of his life.  You may want to view an account of what led to the writing of this hymn- and realise the difference Jesus Christ can make as we go through the most difficult days of our lives

The Spafford Family Story

Let us sing:  It is Well With My Soul  

Audrey Assad – It is Well with my Soul

The Message

Philippians 1:21: For to me living is Christ

If you had to write one sentence only to state what mattered most to you; what motivated you for living and what you were most passionate about in life –what would you say? Many people would find a paragraph easier to write than a phrase or a sentence but honing it down to one sentence is the task in hand.

This verse is an incredible statement of what motivated the greatest Christian missionary to the non-Jewish world in the first century AD. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21: For to me, living means living for Christ and dying is even better.

This letter was not written from the comfort of a nice armchair with a beautiful view on a sunny evening in the Mediterranean, instead it was probably dictated to a Christian scribe who could write for Paul, whose arms were chained to a Roman soldier or more probably to one on either side, who were on guard duty for their work shift with this political prisoner sent from the province of Syria (which included modern-day Israel, the Palestinian territories together with the western part of Jordan).

The apostle is in prison for his faith, an extreme form of lock down, but this is problematic territory for the Romans who were thoroughly confused as to how to treat someone who was a Roman citizen and loyal to the Government on the one hand, but who was practising a form of a legal faith (Judaism) that was not accepted by its official religious leaders. Almost certainly Paul would be released the first time he was imprisoned in Rome, but he was later executed the second time a few years later when the Emperor Nero, by then suffering from serious mental health issues, was executing as many Christians as his forces could conveniently arrest in the capital city of the Empire between 64 and 68AD.

The Roman army like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ruled by terror. The majority of subjects in occupied countries simply wanted to live and so put up with whatever rules the occupying power had imposed. However, the Christians were not afraid to die and what is more had different priorities to the majority population of the empire. Significant numbers of them were prepared to say with Paul that For to me, living means living for Christ and dying is even better. What would your personal mission statement say? Our Church statement is: Building a Christ centred church: Looking to Christ – Growing in Christ – Sharing Christ. Can each of us identify with this declaration of our convictions?

1. It means something personal to me  

(a)The context of his claim Anyone can make theoretical claims about their convictions but it is only when they are tested and especially when put under severe pressure that we find out whether we truly hold to them or not. Here it is the apostle’s testimony based on what he has experienced that is the basis for this extraordinary statement. Philippians 1:12 states: Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.

Personally he has been disadvantaged by the loss of his liberty and although he doesn’t know it he actually has very little free time left before his execution in Rome. However, Paul’s mind set is more focussed on what is happening to the Christian Church as a whole rather than any hardships which he may personally have had to endure.

In II Corinthians 11:23b-28, written late 55 or early 56AD, he gives a quick summary of the kind of pressures he has endured year after year as a ‘free’ man.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

The letter from prison in Rome to the Philippians was dated probably between 60 and 62AD, only four or five years later. It is in this context that Paul writes: For to me, living means living for Christ and dying is even better Do we share his passion for the cause of Christ? Have we come to faith in Christ or is that the step you need to take at this time? Are you here as a Christian but your enthusiasm and passion for Christian service has been dimmed in recent years? If so this is the ideal time to ask for prayer for a fresh empowering of the Holy Spirit to reinvigorate you in His service.

(b) Illustrating his claim This passion is not only for Paul but for each and every believer in each and every generation. In the eighteenth century in Saxony, Germany, lived a young Lutheran nobleman, who encountered Jesus Christ in a way that not only transformed his life but led through an extraordinary ministry amongst Moravian Christian refugees for whom he cared on his estates and through whom the Moravian missionary movement was formed that took the Gospel to many countries in the eighteenth century, decades before William Carey and the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792.

What motivated Count Zinzendorf to undertake ventures that took over his life? He declared: ‘For me living is Christ’. In effect nothing matters more to me than my faith in Him and my desire to give Him my very best in daily life, in my priorities and in all that I am and seek to do. Years earlier as a young man Zinzendorf had seen a picture of Jesus on the cross with a caption underneath it that said something like this: ‘All this I have done for you –what are you doing for me?’ If that question was being addressed directly to you today –what answer would you give? Would it be one that you were comfortable with?

2. It means something practical living

(a)Overcoming Obstacles Sometimes people profess allegiance to a cause but there is little evidence to show for their claims. Each football team has different levels of support from the dedicated few who travel to all the games; a greater number who attend home fixtures; a larger number who watch their games on television and a significance number of others who notionally support them ahead of any other team looking out for their results most weeks. We are all well aware that in every area of life and workplace there are different levels of commitment on display by the people associated with that activity or workplace.

By personal example Here it is very clear that Paul is modelling a way of life that is centred on His relationship with and service for Jesus Christ. In fact his dedication has been inspirational for other Christians in Rome. In Philippians 1:13-14 it states: As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.

What amazing words these are. All of us have our concerns about how we witness whether our words are adequate, appropriate or even whether we will have the courage to say anything at all when opportunities arise. Yet Paul’s boldness under challenging circumstances had so encouraged his fellow believers that they had been inspired to more effective levels of witnessing through his example. When our priorities are set in order we are then able to assess the context in which we are working and invest our time and other resources in a way that reflects our priorities both individually and as a church.

(b)Making spiritual investments (Philippians 1:18b-20) And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 

There are always forms of ministry that each one of us cannot do. However, it does God’s people no good at all to dwell on such things as our heavenly Father expects us instead to focus on what we can do for Him and on what He has called us to do.  There are countless examples of Christians who accomplished far more for the Lord than their fellow Christians thought was possible in both home service and overseas mission. The majority of the China Inland Mission workers who served as pioneer missionaries amongst the vast numbers of Chinese who had never heard the Gospel in their native land in the later nineteenth century would have been rejected as unqualified by existing Christian agencies working in that country at the time.

Our skills and qualifications are important, but our availability and our dedication to living for Jesus are the most important factors required. The two provinces of China in which they focussed are the most strongly Christian areas of China today. Gladys Aylward, who served in the last century in the same country was another example of someone turned down as unsuitable, but God’s call enabled her to accomplish a specific work for Him in that land.

How did Paul believe that the ordinary Christians of his day through their work and witness for Jesus could accomplish their work for Him? Philippians 1:19 gives the answer: 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ… Are these resources open to us as well in 2020?  Yes they are!

The second resource Paul highlights is given in the same verse: God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ… It is not simply God’s people giving every ounce of effort and energy in His service that will make the difference. We do need to work hard and offer dedicated service for the Lord, but the honest reality is that neither you nor I can convert a single person. However, if we are available to the Holy Spirit then what we might accomplish is far greater than we might even be praying for or expecting to happen.

Remember Paul’s amazing words of prayer for the Christians in Ephesus in Ephesians 3:20 –our Bible verse of the year for 2020: Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! If you can quantify what that means then I am seriously impressed! However, it is what Paul was praying for the members of that congregation because it was in the light of His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20b).

3. It means something possible for Christ

(a)The equal desirability of life and death (Philippians 1:21-23) 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

In our relatively comfortable lives in Broughty Ferry we struggle to identify with Paul’s words here –if we are honest. Unless we are extremely old or seriously nearing the end due to a major health condition we are likely to have an overwhelming preference for life rather than death. Yet in a world where many Christians live with a realistic possibility of serious discrimination, imprisonment, torture or death for themselves or a family member how they might view life might be very different to us. Paul has lived out what he is commending to his readers in Greece.

His words in each generation come across as a challenge to us. Am I truly open to God and willing to be wholly available to Him? Will I acknowledge His lordship over my personal affairs; my family, my career or work, my social life –everything? To say ‘yes’ and mean it is to take a radical step that many Christians took in the Roman world and this meant that the growing Church outlasted the empire which expired a few centuries later. Let us pray these words: ‘God You are sovereign please direct my life in whatever way You choose’.

b) The reason why life had to be embraced (Philippians 1:24-26) …but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.  

However, Paul was consistently pro-life and entrusted his life into God’s hands. While God grants me the gift of life I will embrace it because there must be things I can do for the benefit of other people by remaining alive. What is more, he declared: I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

You know what circumstance you are currently going through; what pressures you may be facing; what trials may be coming your way in the coming months. Or even what tests of your faith might arise. Can you declare this same conviction as Paul that I can do all this through Him who gives me strength? (Philippians 4:13) If you share with Paul his core conviction that living means living for Christ then it is entirely possible through the equipping and enabling power of the Holy Spirit, Amen

Our closing hymn is a wonderful song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord

Matt Redman – 10’000 Reasons

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

Remember tonight the national online prayer service at 7pm in Scotland.

18 April 2020 – Why have You forsaken Me?

Life some days is so tough we struggle desperately to hold things together. We may keep that watery smile in public that communicates a please don’t ask me how I am doing or I willburst into tears. It is actually part of being genuinely human to admit that some things that happen in life are too much for us to handle; that our emotions just overflow at the enormity of what we are facing, or others around us are facing. For those of us used to being in control of our emotions and our daily circumstances and our work commitments such times make us feel very vulnerable and inadequate. 

Over these last few weeks many of us will have privately shed tears over our own circumstances or those of others around us. At a time like this of serious social restrictions it is particularly hard to support others going through hard times or to receive support ourselves in these circumstances when we are not free to visit and spend time with other people.

Although there are snatched moments of conversations on the street or in shops when we are allowed outside our homes to buy food it is not the same as our normal social interactions. In addition, the fear of not knowing how long these abnormal times will continue will be something that will cause a number of people to struggle with their emotional wellbeing.

On the cross 2,000 years ago Jesus uttered a series of short statements which the Gospel writers have recorded. It is clear that Psalm 22 is in His mind at that time and the saying highlighted today is a direct quotation from it. It is the most solemn of all and is cited in Matthew 27:45-46.

It states: From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?’). 

The felt experience of Jesus that day was of abandonment. For the first time in His life He felt completely alone as He bore our sin on the cross. We can never understand the depths of what He went through that day. We must not tone down the anguish suffered as it was absolutely real. Equally, we must also affirm that there was never a time in His earthly life when Jesus was loved more by His heavenly Father. He had lived a perfect life of obedience to the will of God on earth modelling for us an example to follow.

The uncomfortable fact this teaches us is that we too can live a God-honouring life in a sin-damaged world and face all kinds of heartaches and fears, ill health and premature deaths as part of living in this world. We would rather focus on the good things of life, and rightly so, but in the present time they are overshadowed by the difficulties caused by this Covid-19 virus crisis.

The message God wants us to hear in the midst of our tears and our fears for the future is one that became in time an immense comfort to the apostle Paul as he came through a personal time of crisis. We need not detain ourselves looking at the details of his struggles to appreciate his desire for their removal and his struggle to accept God’s answer to him.

In II Corinthians 12:8-10 Paul wrote: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong

God’s promise to Paul and to us is that in the midst of our heartaches and tears, our struggles and our fears, that He will sustain and strengthen us to keep going for as long as it takes.

Our song for reflection today is one I have greatly appreciated in recent years and probably some of you have also valued it too.    ‘Blessed be Your name’

Brian Talbot

17 April 2020 – A dreadful choice

In Western countries we have grown up with endless choice options from clothes and fashion to footwear; from incredible food options from around the world in our supermarkets, and nearly all the year round too – not just when it is in season. Too often it can be assumed that a world of such luxury is our ‘right’. Could it be possible that this Covid-19 crisis will raise questions about the extravagant use of the world’s resources in the wealthier countries on the planet?

Yet in life there are many other choices we have to make. The most important one of all is our attitude towards the person of Jesus Christ and His claims on our lives. Have you taken time to reflect on His call to you and me to follow Him? That first Easter, though, there was another choice made in the judgement hall of Roman governor Pontus Pilate. The details of the story are recorded in Matthew 27:15-26. Let us read through these verses this morning:  

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. 19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’ 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor. ‘Barabbas,’ they answered. 22 ‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’ 23‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’ 25 All the people answered, ‘His blood is on us and on our children!’ 26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26)

1.The Governor’s question ( Matthew 27:17b) ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah? When the criminal justice system of a country turns into ‘a reality TV’ style show with audience participation it is obvious something is seriously wrong. I won’t spend time explaining how this came about, instead focussing on the question Pilate asked. The two men shared a first name Jesus which means ‘Saviour’ or ‘God saves’. But they were offering very different kinds of ‘salvation’. The man officially on trial that day with two of his gangster colleagues was in Roman eyes a terrorist. He was a violent man and a killer. The other Jesus offered a message of Peace with God and love for one another.  This was a costly way of life that few were choosing to follow at that time. The man on trial had as his second name Barabbas ‘Son of the Father’. The other man claimed God as His Father and repeatedly declared: truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19) It was a remarkable scene. It was a travesty of the legal process, yet it is also a challenge to us about our response to Jesus of Nazareth. He wants us to follow Him. What response have you made to Him up to today?    

2. The people’s responses (Matthew 27:21) ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor.‘Barabbas,’ they answered. Some people make a big mistake in interpreting this passage and assume it was the same people as sang hosannas to Jesus a mere five days earlier on Palm Sunday. It could not be further from the truth. Those that sang Jesus’ praises were mostly Galileans whereas this gathering was largely people from the south of the country. What is more the vast majority had come because their gangster hero was on trial. The idea of turning up randomly and sitting in the public gallery of a courthouse might be possible here but how many of us have ever even contemplated such a choice? It never enters our heads to do so.  Pilate the Roman Governor was not known for his intellectual powers, on the contrary, he had the greatest of difficulties following the lines of evidence in a court of law and had previously presided over other disastrous cases.  So Pilate asking the hard-line followers of Barabbas whom they wanted him to release was a forgone conclusion. 

The question comes back though to us. What is your response to Jesus Christ? Have you put your faith and trust in Him or are you living your life another way? This is the most important question you will ever have to answer because it determines where you and I will spend eternity. The men and women that day made a dreadful choice in choosing Barabbas. Now the baton is passed to you and me – What is your response to Jesus Christ?

Our song for reflection today is: ‘There is a green hill far away’

Brian Talbot

16 April 2020 -…it must happen in this way

‘It all ended happily ever after’. The typical younger children’s story books want to present upbeat and encouraging accounts of the primary characters’ lives and although they may go through tough times, things usually come to a happy conclusion. I am giving away my age when I admit as a child enjoying many of the adventure stories of Enid Blyton.

Idyllic worlds were portrayed in many of the stories and why not, we want children to be children and to enjoy reading storybooks and exploring the wonderful world around us. Unfortunately, life is rarely quite so straightforward as we know from painful experience. All of us are aware of people we greatly loved who were taken from us, from our perspective prematurely,and whose contribution to our lives and those of others has been sorely missed. 

There is a part of the Easter story, a dark side that we would rather not dwell on, but it is there and there is a place for acknowledging some of the painful aspects of living in the real world too. One, for example, in the current Covid-19 virus crisis has been the cost of the lives of dedicated health care professionals who died caring for their patients. It will be an incredibly bitter-sweet moment for a patient who recovers their health to know that one of the professionals caring for them died of that illness, possibly contracted while carrying out their vocation. Let us read and reflect on this short part of the Easter story from Matthew 26:47-54:  

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ 49 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.50 Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’ Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 52 ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’ (Matthew 26:47-54)

1. The dreadful choice (Matthew 26:47-50) How many boys do you know that are given the first name Judas? None! I expect will be the answer from us all. The dreadful choice made by this follower of Jesus was recklessly foolish. For the record, Judas was probably a supporter of the Jewish Freedom Fighters movement (Zealots) who wished to evict the occupying Roman Army from Israel. He wanted to force Jesus into leading a military rebellion in support of this cause. He did not want Jesus to be killed. However, his thoughtless actions, humanly speaking, contributed to the course of action that led to Jesus’ death on the day we now know as ‘Good Friday’ in April AD33.  We all are aware of wrong choices people made that had tragic consequences for others. The name of Judas is infamous for what he did that day.  Let us ask God to give us the wisdom we need in the choices we make so that we may never say or do something that causes harm or in the worst case scenario devastation in the lives of another person or other people.

2. The impulsive action (Matthew 26:51-53) ‘Count to ten before you…’! Rash impulsive actions can have the right motivation, but do much more harm than good. Simon Peter, the disciple of Jesus who wore ‘his heart on his sleeve’ was a very emotional impulsive man. He could be so loyal and committed to the cause, but still needed to learn to stop and think through a course of action before opening his mouth. Here he is unnamed, but this Galilean fisherman who was probably as much of a danger to himself as to others when holding a sword, was so grieved at what Judas and his accomplices were doing that he swung a sword recklessly injuring a servant of the Jewish High Priest.

Violence is not a solution to problems then or now, it only leads to an escalation of a problem. Jesus came to model a different way of living as the Prince of Peace and invited His followers to walk in His footsteps.

Then and now control of our tongues and the actions we propose are so important. When we get things wrong we must be quick to put our hand up and apologise. It is best of all to seek God’s help to avoid making the mistake in the first place.   

3. The will of God (Matthew 26:54) But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way? Human beings freely made inappropriate choices in Jerusalem two thousand years ago. Yet what took place was not a tragic accident but the will of God. This was confirmed in the words of the prayer of the first Christian Church in Jerusalem, some weeks after these events took place.

Acts 4:27-28 states:  Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.  

The events in themselves were evil because a man known to be innocent of the charges brought against him was executed. However, God brought something incredibly good out of what happened that week. It is one of a number of examples in the Bible where a greater good triumphs.

What can we say about the current crisis? There is no good in what the virus is doing. People are going hungry around the world, economic difficulties are all around and many people have died. However, the Easter story reminds us that out of the darkest days some good can come. It is too early to tell what that might be in our present circumstances, though some good suggestions have been made. Christians can be assured that God is ultimately in control of His world and when we acknowledge that then we have real confidence and hope for the future. May we continue to pray: ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’

Our song for reflection today is a modern Christian song by Rend Collective – ‘Build Your kingdom here’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcSWpVKKMcs

Brian Talbot

15 April 2020 – The priority for prayer

There have been quite a number of occasions as a minister when I have been aware that someone I was going to visit was going through a situation that I had no experience of, or even any real understanding of what it was like to be in that position. It is something that probably all of us have experienced at one time or another. We can by our presence express our sympathies, but feel helpless to do any more than that.  

There is absolutely no doubt at all that Jesus’ disciples had not the slightest idea of what was going on in the evening and night prior to Jesus’ crucifixion. At one level we cannot blame them because they simply had no categories in which to place these events to give a framework of understanding. God was never more honoured or glorified in human history than in these extraordinary few days in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. On earth to this group of men what happened was probably the most confusing time of their lives. Yet in heaven there was absolute clarity about what was going to happen to Jesus. In their darkest hour God’s light would ultimately shine its brightest.

In our lives today we too sometimes feel confused, maybe even experience the darkness, but the brightness of God’s light and love may suddenly appear on our horizon to give a sense of meaning and purpose.

Take a few moments to read Luke’s account of this event that demonstrated the priority of prayer for our Lord, recorded in Luke 22:39-46). Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 ‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’ 

Here we see Jesus as:

1.The disciplined Saviour (Luke 22:39) Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives I hope and pray that for each of us like our Lord and Saviour here we will have our regular routine of prayer and seeking God through His Word. Jesus’ followers knew His prayerful routine when in the Jerusalem area. This quiet olive grove on the edge of the city was a place of refuge and peace where time alone with God could be spent in the absence of the hustle and bustle and the demands of the crowds. He could not withdraw into a bedroom or other home venue to be alone with His Father, but instead he creatively found another setting for seeking the presence and will of God the Father.   

2. The obedient Saviour (Luke 22:40-42) He did not neglect the needs of His followers that night. Luke tells us in Luke 22:40 On reaching the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’  What Jesus did was not only something for His benefit but also for ours. He said to His disciples: Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’Temptation to do what?  Surely it was to avoid being too spiritually weak to stand when the tests of adversity would come that night. Jesus would stand firm adhering resolutely to His calling, but the disciples would flee or deny Him under the pressure of the unexpected circumstances. 

Jesus led by example here. Luke 22:41-42 illustrates this fact in Luke 22:41-42: He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 ‘Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’  Clearly Jesus was visible to them, but almost certainly the vast majority of His words were not audible at this kind of distance. It was private prayer alone with His heavenly Father. It was an agonising prayer because He knew that to follow through on what God the Father had asked Him to do would be the hardest thing He had ever done.

3. The supported Saviour (Luke 22:43-44) Luke tells us: Anangel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him (Luke 22:43). We do not live for God on our own. We do not stand for God on our own.  We sometimes say to someone ‘I don’t know how you did that. I couldn’t do that.’ Now it may be not humility but truthfulness being uttered here.

God only gives the strength we need to do what He asks us to do or allows us to pass through. It was an agonizing time for Him as Luke reminds us in Luke 22:44.  And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Life as a Christian is not easier than life outside of faith in Jesus Christ. Sometimes it will be harder and more challenging as our goals and ambitions may be quite different to many people around us. In terms of our prayer life there will be agonising times as we cry out to the Lord when some particularly tough situation presents itself before us. Yet we have the reminder here that the Lord has not called you and me to do anything He did not expect first of His beloved Son.

4. The disappointed Saviour (Luke 22:45-46) 45 When He rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, He found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.46 ‘Why are you sleeping?’ He asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’ (Luke 22:45-46) Our faith can so easily be spoken and the language of faith commitment can pass our lips with ease at times, but how will Jesus view your commitment and mine to His invitation to follow Him?  I sincerely hope we are choosing to live as His followers. Amen

A hymn that we can use to help in our reflection is ‘King of my life I crown Thee now’

Points for Prayer    

• Continue to pray for our governments and the chief medical and scientific officers as they seek to plan a way forward through this crisis situation

• Pray for the people struggling most to adjust to our new situation of lock-down and for some the loneliness of isolation

• Pray for relationships in homes that might be strained from the amount of time people have to spend together, that creative ways may be found to adjust to it. 

• Pray for those who have lost their jobs or struggling financially that ways may be found to provide for the needs of everyone.

• We give thanks for each worker on the frontlines in the battle against the Covid-19 virus. We pray that each one may get all the equipment they need to carry out their duties effectively and the wisdom to operate as safely as possible.

• We remember the families of those who died in this covid-19 crisis. Please comfort and uphold them. 

• We pray for those with ongoing health issues in our church family at a time when medical support may not be as easy for them to obtain.

• We pray God’s comfort for those who have been recently bereaved, especially remembering Betty and Scott R as they prepare for Ian’s funeral service on Friday. We ask that you would uphold and strengthen them all at this time.

• We thank God for the success of the Zoom platform service on Sunday and pray for His guidance over the planning and preparations for future services. 

• We bring whatever issues are on our hearts today to God in prayer concerning either ourselves or other people.

Brian Talbot