When I was a child, I often walked into churches and wondered why everything felt dead. As I became a man, I realised that the problem was not the church, but my heart. God was present; the aridness did not come from without, but within. Slowly, as I learned what it meant to come to Jesus and drink of His every-flowing grace, my entire experience of church changed. Church shifted from feeling like a desert to being an oasis. Worship became an experience of gulping grace and bathing in love. The shift was transformational.
For us to serve and bear the weight of each other’s burdens, we need be aware of what others are facing, on a personal level. We seek to live out this life together, daily, with the difficulties, and the joys. This takes a high priority because when we love and serve each other as scripture calls us too, we display the gospel to a lost and dying world. The advancement of God’s kingdom is what He commands us to participate in (Matt. 28:19-20), more than the advancement of our own lives.
A sign of authentic faith is when a person stops asking the question, ‘what do I want from life?’ and begins to ask a different question, ‘what does God want from me?’ This shift is a sign that the idol of self has been dislodged and that there is room in the heart for Jesus to be Lord. Only then can life-planning become productive because only then is planning an act of obedience.
Part of the reason why I want us to look at the horizon is because I genuinely believe we are headed in an exciting direction. Last Sunday morning we thought together about the gospel imperative to “enlarge the place of your tent” and “strengthen your stakes” (Is. 54:2). This is a timely word to us.
We find it difficult because it is difficult, but it is worth fighting daily for as being nourished by God’s Word over the long haul will bring vitality, life and joy in the Lord Jesus.
Imagine what it would look like for you to live a life consecrated to God – not just in the morning when you have a devotion, or at church on Sundays – but with everything, all of the time. This, after all, is the deep intent and purpose of God. His will is not just that we praise Him occasionally, but that our entire lives are summed up in a single word, worship.
When we think back to Jesus being scourged by the Roman guards, or having to carry the cross-beam to Golgotha, we need to own the truth that he did this so that the curse of sin could be lifted from our shoulders. Jesus was not a victim; he was a sacrifice. He willingly gave his back to the whip of justice so that our guilty souls could be pardoned.
What we need to remember is there are two sides to the tapestry, we might not be able to makes sense of the back, but God is the master weaver who is producing a glorious picture on the front using the good, the bad and the ugly threads of our lives to produce his masterpiece.
We left Malawi when I was five years old, under difficult circumstances and landed on the doorstep of my British grandparents with only the clothes on our backs. Raised in a small rural mining village in Lanarkshire, we were the first black kids that many of the villagers had ever met. It was certainly a culture shock for both parties.
One of the great dangers of being an adult is feigned competence. After having lived several decades, we slip into thinking that we have the wisdom and strength needed to manage our lives. Without being fully aware of what is going on, the attitude of dependence evaporates and we are left in a hardened state of self-reliance.
One of the ways we can avoid this threat is by meditating on Jesus’ words, “I am the light of the world”.
Last week marked 25 years since David and I arrived in Singapore to attend OMF’s Orientation Course before heading to Japan a few weeks later…As Christians we are not just to remember God’s works on special occasions or at the Lord’s supper. We are to meditate on them in our daily lives.
One of Satan’s favourite tactics is to convince us that we’ve exhausted God’s willingness to show grace to us. We imagine that the grace of God is a finite reservoir. To draw from it is to deplete it, and to deplete it is, eventually, to run dry. Yet, to think this way is to twist the beauty of the divine nature into a ludicrous gargoyle. With God, grace is not finite, but infinite.
We all land in desperate situations. Sometimes it comes through a diagnosis; sometimes through a surprising tumble into sin; sometimes through a family, social, or even political crisis. Yet, one thing we can be sure of is this: at some point, each of us will ask the question, “Is there still hope for me?”
A lot of people don’t know much about Holyrood Evangelical Church. Do you want to know more about us? This will help.
As we live in this fallen world, we are surrounded by brokenness. We experience brokenness in our own lives too. Jars of clay can crack and break easily. Yet Psalm 147:3 tells us that the Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”. God is like the master kintsugi artist.
Church life is great until suddenly things go sour. Far too often, silent friction among members is undetected until a fire breaks out. The best way to avoid such interpersonal disasters is to press into the Scriptures again and again in order to glean the wisdom that we need to order to live out an ethic of love in the midst of unavoidable tension and frustration.
The past is filled with hidden treasures. One of these is the Christian tradition of prayerfully following the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. The idea behind the practice is to use physical movement and a series of gospel readings to slow down time and imaginatively retrace the events that led finally to Jesus dying on the cross.
We do not need to do purification rituals to be made clean. Our faith is not based on what we do, but on what Jesus has done for us. Jesus took our uncleanness and made us clean, acceptable in God’s sight, and to be sons and daughters of the king. And that is worth talking about.
In order to escape the individualist mindset, one type of relationship we ought to pursue in life is that of mentorship. Mentorship is a unique type of friendship that is based on wisdom rather than pleasure or affection. Whereas most friendships are based on a kind of symmetry of status, mentorship is intentionally asymmetrical.
Proverbs 12:15 tells us that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” If we want to be wise, we must ask for advice, but we must also be discerning about who we listen to. I think there are at least four traps that we might fall into…
Although it is true that the sin of a believer is washed away once-and-for-all through a single act of salvation, there is another sense in which we must bathe our consciences regularly in order to maintain a sense of freedom and intimacy before God. How does a person do this? What is the process that we need to go through in order to be freed from a reoccurring sense of the shame and guilt of sin?
From beginning to end, the Bible mentions peace as one of choice blessings that the LORD reserves for his people. Yet, any honest Christian will admit that each day presents new worries that threaten to disrupt the repose of a heart resting in the love of God.
One of the marvels of the gospel is that it reveals Jesus to be the husband of the church. In saying this, we need to understand just how surprising this insight is. According to Paul, Jesus and the church are the ground, end, and fulfilment of what it means to be bride and groom. All other marriages are a pale reflection, at best, of the covenant between the Saviour and his bride.
In February, we will be heading into a new study as home groups. Our curriculum will be a guide to the book of Acts called ‘Dangerous Faith’, which has been produced by Open Doors. My hope and prayer is that this study will unsettle us in a good and healthy way. In the West, we are too easily surprised by suffering, angered by opposition, and disheartened by cultural friction. We need a shift of perspective.
I hope that in my weekend at Holyrood from the 28-29th January, I will have the opportunity to thank many of you face to face. But even if not, please know how thankful I am to God for all of you and for that special partnership from “the first day”, 25 years ago, until now.
HEC currently enjoys a remarkable spirit of unity and stability as a congregation. We should give thanks for this. As the Psalmist notes, it is a divine blessing when brethren dwell together in unity (Ps. 133). At the same time, we should not be naïve. A ship on the open seas will eventually encounter choppy water.
The danger of this logic is that we begin to think that God’s love is dependent upon our love. If we falter in our feelings toward God, the relationship between us and Him crumbles. Thus, when we adopt this mindset, we lose our ground of confidence before God. Instead of knowing the security of being an adopted child, we feel the anxiety of an employee facing a daily performance review.
Given, then, that there were no positive additions to the experience of the Son, but only negative ones, why would he do it? Why would the perfect joy of divine life be relinquished in order to be publicly executed as a loathed criminal? There is only one answer. Love.
There is one passage that each of us will hear a dozen times over Christmas: ‘For unto us a child is born, for unto us a Son is given…And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Is. 9:6). There is a puzzle in this verse that a lot of Christians never pause to figure out. What does it mean that Jesus is ‘Everlasting Father’?
The work of the incarnation is not complete until each and every adopted child of God is perfectly refashioned into the image of the Maker. Jesus did not live a perfect life simply so that he could enjoy communion with the Father. He lived a perfect life so that you and I could be restored in communion with the same Father. His work is not finished until he has resurrected the beauty of our nature from the ashes of our sin.
The glory of Christ is non-competitive. To see Christ mirrored in the life of a friend does not leave me with less light to enjoy. The opposite is the case. The more I see of Jesus in you – and rejoice in the vision – the more capacity I have to reflect Jesus to someone else.
We all need to be prayerful and excited as we cross into the season of advent. In case you haven’t noticed already, we have a full schedule of events, all focused on the objective of making the light of this world visible to a people walking in darkness around Montgomery Street.
Chastity is the resolve to keep a heart pure and on fire for Jesus. It is not just the virtue that protects us from sexual sin. Chastity is the watchman that guards the heart from any passion that would douse or misdirect the love that belongs to the bridegroom himself.
There’s an old hymn that says, ‘Sometimes a light surprises a Christian while he sings’. The word ‘sometimes’ needs to be highlighted. The hymn-writer is being honest in using the word. The truth is that, more often than not, church services are a ho-hum experience.
Although all of us are prone to fear, in Christ we need not be content to live in fear. We serve a God who repeatedly tells us, ‘Do not fear!’ His consistent word to us is that, if we recognise who He is, and if we put our trust in His steadfast love, our hearts can find rest from agitation. Rather than anxiety, we can experience the peace of being still and resting in His care.
Our faith is only as firm as the amount of weight that we are willing to put on the ground of our trust. A lot of Christians live in fearfulness because they are only willing to put half of their weight on the promises of God. Their instability is not due to any deficiency in God, but a spiritual reluctance to place absolute trust in Him.
There can be nothing more ravishing than the worship of the Holy One. This, of course, is why from the beginning of creation God has used His servant beauty in order to manifest His presence. For a very long time, God has worked hard to communicate the point that His presence is the fullness of joy.
The real hope of October is not to have intellectual discussions or to provide formal training. The real goal is for us to be inspired to show love and concern for people who we might otherwise overlook due to the busyness of life. So here is my challenge to members of Holyrood in October…
How do you turn an ordinary life into a life of holy devotion? Is there a way to take the burning love of the heavenly seraphim and to translate it into a mundane routine of making porridge, doing laundry, and filling out spreadsheets? Is there a spiritual alchemy by which we can turn acts too trivial for human notice into deeds of worship that bring delight and honour to the throne of glory?
There are no more exciting words in the Bible than these: ‘Behold, I will do a new thing’ (Is. 43:19). None of us can outthink God. His creativity is as limitless as His power. Thus, as children of God, we need to feel as if we are on the eve of a cosmic Christmas morning. The trees that we see in this world are but stick-figures of what God can do with the class, ‘tree’. The mountains and hills of the Western Highlands are just the wet clay of the better sculptures that an almighty hand will one day cast. Are we amazed at sunsets in this world? Brothers and sisters, these are just primary colours of fiery skies yet to be painted.
As Christians, we need to avoid being prudish regarding death. Although there is no reason to fixate on the topic, now and again, we need to think soberly about the reality of death since it is the final and, for some, greatest trial of faith. In past days, Christians used to talk about ‘dying well’. There is some merit in this thought. Death is something we must all be prepared to face. Yet, how do we do this? One critical step is making sure that we understand how Jesus’ death was both similar and different to what we will experience at the end of our lives.