Ale & Teviot United Church


Monthly Archive for March, 2011

Holidays and Hebrews!

29 January 2011 : Hebrews 10 : 1-18

It’s great to be back. Or so I keep telling myself and eventually I’ll believe it. Maybe. Anyway, since we last saw you we have had 2 weeks of doing precisely nothing in our usual holiday hideaway of Caleta de Fuste. It is not a resort, or an island, of spectacular natural beauty, nor is it exactly bouncing with exciting on-the-edge things to do. And maybe that’s why we like it, especially after Christmas. Especially after last Christmas, when so many of the celebrations had to be, literally, put on ice.

Happily, no epic journeys through hard-packed snow to the airport this time, no need to de-ice the plane to escape the blizzard that enveloped north-east England within a few hours of our 2010 exodus. No delays on the flight, no episodes with the luggage or the transfer to the resort. No surprises with the accommodation, in fact we even got the very room we had requested. No problems with the weather, indeed actually sunnier than it had been in June and not a drop of rain while we were there.

The reason we chose our room was simple. It is one floor up, has a balcony about the size of our living room at home which gets the sun from morning till mid-afternoon, and we plopped our lazy selves out there day after day, me with my whodunits and Alexis with some rather more wholesome reading material, Joyce Meyer etc. A quick stroll to the shopping mall at lunchtime for freshly baked rolls from Hiperdino Express, a trot round to the Chinese takeaway at night, and we maintained a healthy diet!

Do not imagine, however, that the fortnight of idleness, however blissful, was entirely without incident. On the very first day, we had cause to wonder about the wisdom of our chosen room 350. We got in all right, but when I tried to get back out again to pop round to the shops for such life essentials as water and tea – no, not brandy, that wasn’t till the second shopping trip – the door handle wouldn’t work. Locked in!

I phoned reception, but being the patient man I am, I gave it 10 minutes and then took non-violent direct action. Out on to the aforementioned balcony, climbed over the wall, and jumped for it. Trotted round to reception to explain the situation – then saw the look of shock and horror on the receptionist’s face. But sir, your room is top floor! Clearly the poor soul was visualising this old guy with the beard leaping like Superman from the top of high buildings, and the ensuing compensation claims for broken legs.

I did point out that my escape route wasn’t quite as dramatic as that, and if I was careful I could manoeuvre myself from the balcony over the wall and on to the steps leading to the apartment without undue risk to life and limb. I’m not sure if this news was comforting, but let’s just say the repair was effected within about five minutes. Tea-making supplies duly acquired, the kettle at last went on, but wouldn’t go back off again. Not only that, but the handle over-heated. For the second time in that first hour, a trip to reception. A new kettle, and a complementary bottle of red wine, soon appeared!

Being painfully deprived of live football action during the preceding weeks, I also took the opportunity to attend a game on the island. It was odd to be sitting in t-shirt and shorts, basking in sunshine, on a January afternoon, enjoying a Spanish 3rd Division match between Corralejo and Realejos. It was, I guess, of a similar standard to the games I’m usually actively involved in here and I think I could happily fit in at that level as the assistant refs appeared to be of roughly the same age, fitness and competence as me – which is not necessarily, shall we say, a compliment to them!!

I noticed the spectators were at least as animated as they are here, and overall I’m quite relieved that my few words of Spanish did not include the more heated exclamations directed at the arbitro. A good game, a nice ride on the bus there and back, and that night a trip to the improbably-named Aberdeen Steak House for a good Sunday dinner, served on a plate about the size of a tractor wheel.

One encouraging feature of the trip was the pair of doves that visited our balcony just about every day. There is something oddly comforting about relaxing in the sunshine, with a dove, as it were, guarding over you. In the scripture, the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and of peace, and indeed the spirit of peace that surrounded us throughout our stay was wonderful. The dove was also a reminder of the wonderful promises of God’s Word, an acted parable of Father God’s constant vigilance over His children.

Father guards all our ways, keeps us safe from all harm, from secret traps and deadly diseases, releases us from fear of any sort of disaster. Although thousands may fall by the wayside all around us in unbelief, God has declared that none of these things will touch those who confidently trust in Him These are covenant promises God makes to His children and He commands His angels to enforce His care and protection.

We made a quality decision to set aside a Bible Study time each morning, going through the book of Hebrews during the fortnight. I commend that practice, and it’s one we’ll continue now we’re back home, but today I just want to share with you a few brief thoughts sparked off by Hebrews ; if we manage to complete Matthew before Jesus comes back for us, Hebrews is likely to be next for our Sunday services.

Scholars have debated for centuries who wrote it, without coming to a conclusion, but that doesn’t matter nearly so much as the content. It’s meaty stuff that goes right to the heart of the New Covenant between God and the believer, a new covenant of pure and unconditional grace, based 100% on what Jesus has done for us.

The letter addresses a situation where, it appears, Christ-followers are coming under a great deal of pressure to compromise in their radical cutting-edge faith in Christ alone, and to come back into the fold of the Jewish religion. Yes, have a bit of Jesus if you like, but you must keep all the Jewish practices and rituals and traditions. The unnamed author of Hebrews systematically and ruthlessly demolishes this bad teaching, and does so by reference to the Jewish scriptures themselves.

Our lesson today is a long one, but it sets out the climax of the argument. It starts by pointing out the futility of religious practice that simply goes through the motions time and time and time again without actually changing the heart. The liturgy of the temple, with animal sacrifices, basically did nothing more than remind the people how sinful they were and always would be. It created a sin-consciousness [v.3] – but Jesus came, as it says in v.10, so that by the holy will of God we could be made perfect through the physical sacrifice of Jesus once and for all time. And we all shout hallelujah!

Except that it is painfully easy for Christians to slip back into sin-consciousness, and to beat ourselves up over our mistakes, and if we’re not careful, what we do in church can contribute to that. I’m no longer convinced that it’s a good idea to have a regular slot in the Sunday service for prayers of confession of sin. Let me explain that. It’s not that I’m suggesting sin doesn’t need to be taken seriously. Far from it.

When we mess up, it’s good to fess up, and do it as quickly as possible. Lock ourselves in the loo and tell God : sorry, Lord, that was not clever : and then, as best we can, go and apologise to whoever we’ve hurt and, if possible, repair the damage. That is a good and godly thing to do, of course it is. What I’m not keen on is the 5 minute catalogue of human failings I used to present here on a Sunday morning in an attempt to catch all the slip-ups all of us had made since our last trip to church. All that does is remind us of our past failure. It creates sin-consciousness, which is basically self-consciousness.

Worship should not engender self-consciousness, but Christ-consciousness. It should not focus on how sinful and unworthy we are, which does precisely nothing to nourish, encourage or inspire the human soul, but always on how wonderful and generous and gracious Jesus is. The more Jesus is proclaimed and glorified, the more His Spirit lifts and infuses our spirit. The church has no authority to act as travel agent for a guilt trip.

Hebrews 10,10 : We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus once for all. Note that sentence is in the perfect tense. The transaction is complete, in and of itself, and guilty feelings on our part do not add to it, they detract from it. Also Hebrews 10.12 : When Jesus, our great High Priest, had offered, for all time, one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Job done.

Hebrews 10.14 : By one sacrifice Jesus has made perfect, for ever, those who are being made holy. Unpack that. Already, 2,000 years ago, Jesus paid in full for all human sin for all time, and anyone who puts their trust in Jesus HAS been made perfect … AND is being made holy. In other words, we are already, totally and irrevocably, perfect in the sight of God, BUT we are in an ongoing process of becoming more Christ-like, being changed, as Paul says, from one degree of glory to another, and God is much more patient about that, and much less stressed about that, than we usually are.

Make a decision today to stop beating yourself up about what’s still not right in your life, trust in the total forgiveness of Jesus, and let His free gift of grace be the power in your life to change you – gradually – into a person more and more like Him.

Walk in the Light

27 February 2011 : John 11: 1-20 [p. 1077]

It’s been four months since we last looked at John’s gospel and at that time we began our study of one of the most remarkable of all the miracles, even by Jesus’ own very high standards. We noted from the opening verses of John 11 that Jesus described what was happening to Lazarus as being for the glory of God – not in the fact that he was seriously ill, as illness is the domain of the devil and God can never be glorified by the devil’s work, but rather in what Jesus was about to do to change that situation.

We noted that disease was part of the curse attached to human disobedience, and that the purpose of Jesus coming into the world in the flesh was to shatter that curse forever and release upon the human race the blessing God had always wanted for His people. We saw that when Adam and Eve blew it in the Garden of Eden, they opened the door for the devil to march into the life of every human being, stick his muddy feet up on our sofa, and unpack his suitcase of horrors, including illness.

In this passage, Lazarus is the latest in a long line of people who has fallen foul of the curse, the unpleasant side-effect of human sin. And how Jesus ministered to Lazarus would be an immensely powerful sign of how His ministry was to affect the entire world. Jesus, as we noted already, takes His time over it. He appears to be in no rush to get back and sort things out for his pal Lazarus, and we might think that was unkind.

But it wasn’t. The clue to his thinking is seen in the snippet of conversation we find in vs.7-8. A couple of days have passed, then Jesus announces they’re going back to Judea where Lazarus was. The disciples instantly panic : Hang on, Jesus, have you forgotten you narrowly escaped being stoned to death back there? [reference John 10.31]. The disciples didn’t want to go anywhere near Jerusalem for a long time. Understandably, they weren’t keen to face the lynch mob the Pharisees had got stirred up against Jesus.

Jesus Himself wasn’t worried about going back. He knew that His Father’s hand was upon Him, that there was still unfinished business, and the Pharisees and their spiritual father the devil could huff and puff, and paw the ground and snort, and throw their toys out of the pram, till the white of their eyes turned green, but not one hair on Jesus’ head would be harmed until He was able to cry out with absolute certainty : it is finished.

It was for the sake of His disciples that Jesus took this time out. It was for their benefit. Jesus was spending this time with them in the country, out of the pressure cooker that was Jerusalem, so they could calm down and not crack up under the strain they would undoubtedly face. These guys still had a lot to learn, and not much time to learn it, and Jesus had to be sensitive to their limited ability to handle the pressure.

But still we must address the plight of poor old Lazarus. Was it not a bit harsh on him for Jesus to stay away in his hour of desperate need? Actually no. Consider, first, the timetable of events, and second, the fact that communications then were very different from today. In v.17 we see that when Jesus did turn up, Lazarus had been dead 4 days.
The place where John had baptising was at least a full day’s journey from Jerusalem. That’s how long it would have taken the messengers to bring Jesus the bad news about Lazarus – no phone, no fax, no e-mail – and how long it would have taken Jesus to get back there. In addition to the two days Jesus stayed put, that means, by my calculations, that Lazarus was already dead by the time Jesus was informed of the situation.

This was never going to be just another routine run-of-the-mill healing, if indeed we may describe any such outpouring of God’s love and grace in such understated terms. It was always going to have to be a much more spectacular miracle, even if Jesus had been able to take a Learjet back to Bethany. I don’t know if you’d ever thought of it in such practical terms, but does show that Jesus wasn’t just being mean and callous.

And Jesus makes good use of the journey time to do a bit of teaching. He told them : those who walk in the daylight will not stumble. And I’m sure he watched their eyes cloud over with total incomprehension, yet only a short time ago, at the time in John 9 when Jesus healed the man born blind, Jesus had said : As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no-one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. What is Jesus trying to tell them?

Just this. As long as He was around, and they stuck by Him, they were safe. No-one could touch them. The time was coming, faster than they dared imagine, when Jesus would be taken away from them, and they would experience a devastating darkness the likes of which they could not even begin to contemplate. But it would be a very short time of darkness until He would rise again, and even when the time came for Jesus to go back to the Father, He would send His Holy Spirit to encourage and guide them.

And I think we who follow Jesus today need to know that the same promise, and the same power, that was made available to the original disciples is offered in its entirety to the disciples of the third millennium. Jesus is still around, on the presence of His Holy Spirit. We’ll learn in later chapters exactly what that means, but in essence everything that the Father is, came into the world in the person of Jesus, and everything that Jesus is, comes to us through the Holy Spirit. I am with you always, to the very end, He said.

You and I, therefore, if we truly believe that Jesus is who He says He is, have nothing to fear. We are one with Jesus, and as long as we stay bound close to Jesus, sheltered in His strong arms, in the secret place of Most High God, then if the devil and his stinking minions want to have a go at us, they have to tackle Jesus first. And as I said to the folk at Ancrum and Lilliesleaf a couple of weeks ago, the devil’s thick, but not that thick!!

As long as you and I choose to live by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ ; as long as we decide to put all our faith and trust in His promises and not in our circumstances ; as long as we remain confident in who and what we are in Jesus, and let Him take care of us in His supernatural strength, as He delights to do, rather than try to fight our own battles in our own puny natural weakness, we’re fine, we’re sorted.

As long as we stay in the presence of Jesus, whenever the devil looks in our direction he sees Jesus looking back at him, and so he slinks away to pick on someone else his own size, like a rat or a cockroach or a midge! But if we make the mistake of NOT casting all our cares upon him ; if we insult His grace by indulging in worry and fear and stress ; we’ re effectively driving without insurance. Not a smart move.

What is it about human beings, especially us Scots, that we’ve got this stubborn streak, this thrawn attitude that hates to be dependent on anyone else? But the whole essence of faith is precisely to recognise our total 100% dependence upon what Jesus has done for us, and the 100% irrelevance of what we think we have done to earn his favour? Little wonder Jesus said, probably shaking his head ruefully, that unless we come to Him like little children, we just can’t receive revelation of what His Kingdom is about.

Moving on to vs.11-12, we see another textbook case of Jesus grasping what’s going on, and the 12 not having a clue. Jesus is only too well aware that Lazarus has died, but in giving a wee trailer for what’s about to happen, He does try to act with a bit of tact and diplomacy – Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m going to wake him up. His friends pipe up : Don’t do that, Jesus, a good sleep will help him shake that nasty bug off.

The subtlety being wasted on them, Jesus then just lets it go. Read my lips. Lazarus is dead, ok? Sound of 12 jaws hitting the ground in unison. And it’s just as well I wasn’t there, because now I’m going to use this opportunity to build up your faith, so let’s get this show on the road. The ever-tactful giant of the Reformation, John Calvin, observes Christ’s kindness in putting up with such stupidity in the disciples was remarkable.

It is also very encouraging for us, because let’s face it, you and I have missed it time and time again, in so many different ways – some just plain stupid, but some downright malicious – and yet Jesus never ever gives up on us, never stops rebuilding the bridges of grace that our crazy actions, words and thoughts have torn down.

However slow we might think the disciples were at times, the fact remains that Jesus hand-picked these guys, saw the potential in their hearts rather than their qualifications, invested three precious years of His life in them, did the work of His Father in their presence, taught them such marvellous things which such authority that no human ear had ever heard before … and you know what? 11 of the 12 did pretty well in spite of what we – spiritual giants of such high repute as we are, aye right – might think of them

And that gives me hope, I can tell you. When I see Peter bluster under pressure, James and John bicker for attention, Philip pass the buck, and Thomas make an art-form out of negativity – as we see in his almost comically bleak statement in v.16 : oh well, we may as well go back to Jerusalem and get bumped off with Lazarus – whenever I see these guys, and the other great heroes of scripture, in their honest human frailty, I am just so grateful that it is Christ in me that’s the hope of glory, and not my performance. None of us – NONE of us – is too late to receive grace and start again. There is time to walk in the light of Jesus, and live long, and finish strong. Today’s the day to go for it.

Three big words and a dish of fruit

6 March 2011 : Matthew 12 : 30-37

I promised – or should I say threatened? – to return to these verses today as we pick up Jesus in feisty form. Last time we learned that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was the unforgivable sin – that is, stubbornly holding on to the traditions and superstitions that we’ve been brought up with, and the beliefs and the opinions and the attitudes that we have chosen to hold, when Jesus plainly teaches something different, is the very thing that has the potential to keep us out of heaven. When what we choose to believe differs from what Jesus teaches, one of us is wrong – and it isn’t Jesus. Got that?

Right, moving on. You may recall that, in this passage, Jesus is having a disagreement, shall we say, with the Pharisees. Not for the first time, not for the last. I wonder what they made of the comment about the tree? For some time, I have tried to emphasise the fundamental all-or-nothing spiritual truth that it’s not what you have done that makes us righteous in God’s sight, but what Jesus has done for us.

The New Testament makes it abundantly plain that being a nice person, who always tries to do our best, and never does anyone any harm, will not get you into heaven. To stand in the presence of God for eternity demands absolute 100% sinless perfection and holiness, not just trying our best, and not one of us comes anywhere close to that. As Paul puts it in Romans 3.23 : all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

But if we put our entire faith and trust in Jesus, and in the blood sacrifice He made once, for all people, for all time, then the next couple of verses of that same chapter come into play for us : All are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favour and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, by His blood [the cleansing and life-giving sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation, to be received] through faith.

In Christ alone, our hope is found, as that wonderful hymn states. So, you may ask, if being good doesn’t buy brownie-points with God, is it OK to be bad? If our behaviour doesn’t affect our standing with God – and it doesn’t ; nothing we can do or fail to do can make God love us one bit more or less – then what does it matter if we act like a hellcat for the rest of our days? This is not a new question.

If you read Paul’s letters you’ll see that his radical preaching of radical grace brought huge criticism from the traditional religious control freaks, the thou-shalt-not junkies, who were afraid that the preaching of grace gave church people a license to sin – all the while quietly ignoring the fact that the people were sinning quite happily without a licence, thank you very much. So, let’s face the question. Does it matter how we act?

Of course it does, and at two levels. First, remember we said that we are ambassadors for Christ. We are the first point of contact people outwith the church have with Jesus. And if we are rude, unhelpful, judgemental, and so on, we are painting a picture of Jesus that is, to say the least, unflattering. How must Jesus feel about that?
And this leads us to the second and – actually – fundamental point. Do you not think, in the light of all that Jesus has done for us, that it would be nice to demonstrate our gratitude by seeking to become like Him? Remember everything Jesus went through : the beating by whips and sticks, the piercing by spear and nails, the insults and profanities of Roman soldiers and everyday passers-by, the lies and manipulation of the religious authorities, the rejection by the people, the desertion by his friends, and all of that to bring us over from the realm of the devil, death, darkness and despair, to the kingdom of God, of life and light and hope : and remember it was all for you.

Don’t you think, in the context of all that, it makes you want to step up to the plate and become all that He has called us to be – just to say Jesus, I thank you ; just to say, Jesus, I love you? And for no other reason than to bring a smile to His face? If you love someone, that should be reason enough. You don’t need payback.

But here’s the vital point we can’t afford to miss. How we act MUST flow out of who we are. The person who is always trying to his best, without a living relationship with Jesus, will always be frustrated and disappointed, because he will never be able to rise above the limitations of his own human ability. He will exhaust himself, and in the end his slip will show. Anyone here know how demoralising it is to bust a gut trying to be what, in essence, you’re not? You can bark, sit up and beg, and try to wag your tail as much as you like, you won’t succeed trying to act like a dog, because you’re not a dog.

Just the same way, if you have never truly received the life-giving, life-changing grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ ; if you’ve never, to use the expression that I know annoys a lot of folk, if you’ve never been born again, you can try to be a good Christian till the cows come home, but that attempt is doomed to failure because you don’t have Jesus in you. The picture Jesus uses here is at tree. A fir tree can try as hard as it likes to be an apple tree, but apples will not grow on it. The tree and the fruit go together.

If, in your heart, you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, you’ve received His grace to forgive you and put you in right standing with Father God, you’ve chosen to embrace the gift of new life and set off on that exciting pilgrimage of faith, if all that is true of you, then the Holy Spirit – the living presence, power and personality of Jesus Himself – is inside you, and the inevitable consequence of that is that you will begin to bear good fruit as you mature in your walk of faith and love.

This will happen just as naturally as an apple tree will, in due time, bear apples. If you are into arboriculture – and there’s a good word for you before Sunday lunch – you may be aware that some of the fruit on a young tree might be small and a bit sour, but given time, it will become bigger, juicier and more appetising. So it is with new life in Jesus. I have pointed out before that the Holy Spirit acts in two quite distinct ways.

We saw that in Hebrews 10.14 : By one sacrifice Jesus has made perfect, for ever, those who are being made holy. Two distinct spiritual blessings in Jesus, and since we’re on a roll with big words today, you can sit back and enjoy this pair.
The first is justification – a one-off legal transaction. Jesus HAS made you perfect, forever. The minute you truly and honestly give your life to Jesus, you are forever in right standing with God. Your human spirit is permanently united with the Holy Spirit and nothing and no-one can reverse that. That’s your spirit sorted, once and for all, by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. Full stop. Whatever happens, you’re heaven-bound.

But, like the God in whose likeness we were created, we are three-part beings, and although that once-for-all act of justification deals with our spirit, the part of us that is truly everlasting, we have a soul and a body to consider. And so there is the lifelong process, also driven by the Holy Spirit, of sanctification – we are being made holy.

It doesn’t usually happen overnight, in fact for 99.9% of us we are a work-in-progress till our dying day. That’s why sometimes, even when we’ve been true believers for a long number of years, we have days when we get it wrong, when the fruit in our life isn’t all that appetising. So here’s how to handle that. Don’t get into condemnation over it. Say sorry to God, and to anyone you have hurt, as quickly as possible, deal as best you can with any consequences of your action, but then walk in His forgiveness.

Don’t beat yourself up today over the mistakes of yesterday, last week, last year, 1944. Jesus forgave every one of them at the cross, and if you follow Him, He does not hold it against you. Ask His help to be stronger in the face of temptation in that particular area of your life, and then relax. Trust in His sanctifying grace. Good fruit will grow. One dodgy apple doesn’t make you a bad tree that needs cut down, though a wee bit of pruning here and there might help – but as the Holy Spirit guides you, not human guilt.

You may not be aware of it, but over time, the Holy Spirit within you is bringing forth more and better fruit. Over time, your witness for Jesus Christ in ordinary, everyday life is becoming better and consistently better as you learn to stand firm in His grace and nourish yourself on good spiritual food. Now let’s keep this in balance.

You don’t need to come to church, pray, read your Bible, go to Bible Study groups, or watch Christian TV to get to heaven – Jesus has already arranged all that the minute you gave your life to Him – but as you know, if you starve your body, or feed it on nothing but junk food, you become weak and ill and unable to function properly.

Likewise, if you starve your soul, or feed it on nothing more substantial than TV soap operas, Sky Sports or glossy magazines, your soul will become weak and ill and you’ll be unable to function properly in your life as a disciple and an ambassador of Christ. As they used to say in computing, garbage in, garbage out. Or, to put it another way, you don’t need to feed on God’s Word to go to heaven, but you’ll get there a lot quicker than you need to, and you won’t enjoy the journey nearly as much!

One of the areas of our lives that gives God most concern is how we speak., but I think we’ll leave that till next week. Bet you can hardly wait! .

Unforgivable sin versus radical over-the-top grace

20 February 2011 : Matthew 12 : 30-37
Last week we spoke of the privilege and responsibility of being ambassadors for Jesus, and before we move forward I’d like to spend a few more minutes developing that, because you and I may be the first and only Bible some people will ever encounter.

Let me explain. The truth is that many people today do not have a Bible in their home, or if they do it’s an elderly King James version with tiny print. The KJV, which is 400 years old this year, was revolutionary in its day and has served the church well. But, let’s be brutally honest, it’s not really accessible to today’s text-message generation – the ones who are overwhelmingly unchurched, the ones who will lead this nation and this world, and for whom, I hope, we have a heart of love and a sense of mission.

The future of this nation and this planet depends on them accepting Jesus, but if the Word is not speaking to them with power, how is that going to happen? Through the church? Well, that’s precisely what we’re here for, but at present we are not, by and large, making much of a positive impact upon this present generation, and we need to understand why. To most people under 60, make no mistake, what they have seen of the Church of Scotland as an organisation does not do it for them.

The Kirk does not come over as having a radical cutting-edge message with real impact on their everyday lives in the 21st century, and I have to say that we have, to a considerable extent, been architects of our own downfall. We tend to do what we do, the way we do it, because we are comfortable with it. It doesn’t challenge or threaten us, and what I see of the mindset of the denominational church is survival mode.

Cling to the familiar, don’t rock the boat, and it will last long enough to see us out. And so the gospel of radical and costly grace poured out through the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus, to be appropriated by a personal decision to love and trust in Jesus in every area of life, and to believe that in the Bible, especially the New Testament, God speaks and we ought to listen, is seen by many as too controversial, too exclusive.

So Biblical truth is watered down in the hope of making it more user-friendly, more relevant, more in synch with the spirit of the age – and those very words were used in a recent General Assembly report. At the same time as we’ve soft-pedalled the life-changing content of the message, we have become very conservative as to how it is presented. Immense passions have been expended on, and people have fallen out over, tiny matters such as hymn tunes, or the colour of the church loo, or whose turn it is to make the tea. We have strained at procedural gnats and swallowed theological camels.

At a human level, I understand the motivation behind that mindset. We don’t want to alienate the people who are already on the church roll. We want to provide for them a safe haven in a time of uncertainty in the world, a time and space to re-create in this one peaceful hour the innocent days of our childhood, when it genuinely seemed that all things were bright and beautiful. So we become anxious not to frighten the horses.
But here’s the bitter irony. In an age when there is so much uncertainty and insecurity, we are not helping anyone to look forward in faith if we don’t address, with integrity and boldness, the real issues with the power and authority of God’s Holy Word. What people need is not for the church to nod sagely and say that we understand and accept and sympathise with your doubt, and try to find some lowest common denominator on which we can all agree, but to proclaim the evangelical certainty of Jesus Christ.

You see, at the same time as the doctrinally liberal traditional churches like the C of S are in the business of managing decline, there are churches which are growing, which attract the new generation. What’s their secret? They tell the truth in love. They don’t pull their punches. These growing churches, by and large, are what’s called word-faith churches, and they bsaically do what it says on the tin. They have faith in the Word, as brought to life by the Holy Spirit. They believe, as it says in Hebrews 13.8, that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever. We believe that too, don’t we?

And if we believe that, then it means that the same free and unconditional grace of Jesus that embraced the woman caught in the act of adultery, and the wee tax-collector who’d been on the fiddle for so many years, and the woman at the well who had gone through five husbands and was now shacking up with someone else, and the thief at his side on the cross, is available NOW to anyone and everyone who will receive it.

If we believe that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, then it means that the same healing power that Jesus exercised toward the centurion’s servant, the cripple who’d been moping beside the pool at Bethsaida for 38 years, Jairus daughter and the wee woman who grabbed his coat on the way to see Jairus’ daughter, is available NOW to anyone and everyone who will receive it.

If we believe that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, then it means that every single promise in the Scriptures that found its fulfilment in Jesus is available NOW to anyone and everyone who will receive that promise. And if we don’t believe exactly the same forgiving, reconciling, healing, delivering, life-giving, life-changing power is available NOW to anyone and everyone who will receive it then – logically – we cannot truly claim to believe that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Matthew 12.30, then, is an urgent word addressed to the church right here in Scotland, right now in 2011 : He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Our calling as the church, the body of Christ, at this time and in this place, is straightforward, to gather with Jesus. This we do by being totally committed to the revelation of God’s supernatural love that He has brought into the world.

Anything that gets in the way of that, any watering down of the message, any reversion from radical grace to rules and rituals and traditions of men that, as Jesus says, make the Word of God ineffective, does not gather but scatters. Our recent visit from presbytery highlights some areas in our church life that we do need to address in the near future, especially in terms of our mission to the unchurched generation.
Pray that we will have the obedient heart to do what it takes, and pay what it costs, to open the door for the Kingdom to come to people in this parish who, up to now, may have written us off as a quaint little club with nothing worthwhile to say. That we will be bold to put forward New Testament Christ-centred Spirit-led answers to the real and pressing questions that people are asking.

And as we move from v.30 to v.31, we must deal with another massive challenge to the church, and that is to take seriously the very strong warning Jesus sends out here about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which He describes as the unforgivable sin. Two questions stand out. What exactly is this, and why can it not be forgiven?

Firstly, what is the work of the Holy Spirit? In John 16, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, and will bring glory to Jesus by taking all that is His and giving it to us. That’s good, isn’t it? So blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would be to say what is not the truth about God and Jesus but claim that it is, or to say that what Jesus did is not God’s will for us today, or to take the devil’s stuff and claim that it is God’s will for us. Blasphemy against the Spirit is to call good evil, or evil good.

Things like : God sends sickness and suffering to humble us and teach us patience. God sends earthquakes and hurricanes and 9/11 as a judgement against the world. God took away my husband, my wife, my child, because he must have needed them more in heaven than I needed them on earth. Healing and other miracles were only for Biblical times but God took them away when the Bible was written. There are many ways to God, and it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something

We’ve all heard that sort of stuff. Religious-sounding garbage that is completely and utterly against what the Bible actually teaches. What the Bible teaches is that the devil is a thief who comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus came so that we might enjoy life, in abundance, to the full, till it overflows. To ascribe to God the stealing, killing and destroying that’s actually the work of the devil is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Plain and simple. And if people hear that trash from people associated with the church, no wonder they get turned off God. Scattering, not gathering.

We all quite clear what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is? We all quite clear how much it breaks God’s heart? But to step it up to a whole new level, what does it mean to say that it is an unforgivable sin? Simply this. Most people who make comments of that sort do so just because they don’t know any better, because they’ve been taught wrongly since 19-canteen. That in itself is not unforgivable, which is just as well for people like me who have opened our mouths and spouted such drivel in ignorance.

And when someone comes along and explains it, and exposes the wrong teaching, and gives you a revelation of the true nature of God as we see in Jesus, unconditional love and grace, and suddenly a light goes on in your head, and suddenly the spiritual penny drops – as Paul writes in Romans 12.2 : you do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …
Instantly you receive the complete forgiveness that Jesus died to release into your life.
The difficulty is when someone hears the right teaching but steadfastly refuses to accept it, who obstinately rejects the truth and continues to embrace the lie, who will not allow the Word of God to change their carnal, wrong, opinions. That attitude gives the devil a spiritual foothold in your brain, and the longer you close your ears to the truth and cling to the traditional religious junk that the devil is happy to spew forth at any time of day and night, the more that foothold hardens into a stronghold.

And if eventually it gets to the stage that you stop going to church because you can’t stand the truth of the Word that contradicts your opinion, or start going to some other religious thingy, it could even become a stranglehold. There is only one thing that can make a sin unforgivable. You ready for this? It is when somebody hears the truth, loud and clear, over and over, knows deep down through the witness of the Holy Spirit that it is the truth, but absolutely and consistently and stubbornly refuses to accept that truth and gets to the stage of believing that they are right, and the Bible is wrong.

God will never give up trying to get the truth through, but at the end of the day, it is up to each and every one of us to accept – or not – the free gift of His grace, His truth, His forgiveness, His blessing, His healing. And if not, although Jesus died not just for the sins of the church but of the whole world [1 John 2.2], and it is not the Father’s will that any be lost but rather that all be saved through faith in Christ [2 Peter 3.9], God will not cosh us over the head and drag us kicking and screaming into heaven. One of the unique features of being human is freedom of choice, and God respects it.

Today we have dealt with 3 verses. We’ll return to this passage next time and see if we can push on a little bit further. But I make no apologies for spending considerable time on this today, nor for the uncompromising nature of the message. I hope you will find it convicting – not condemning – and help you to be stronger and more resolute in that life of faith as an ambassador of Christ in a world that needs to meet Him.

Ambassadors of Christ

13 February 2011 : Matthew 12 : 22-30

Once again we see Jesus engaged in a difference of opinion, to put it mildly, with the religious establishment. This is a recurrent theme throughout the gospels, and as we noted last time it is the street-map to the cross. What has happened here?

First, Jesus has performed a mighty miracle. Nothing new there, then. By this action of love and power, Jesus is making a very strong claim to be listened to. Here’s a point we need to bear in mind. Though our standing with God, our righteousness, owes not one tiny little bit to any actions of our own but is 100% down to the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ who went to the cross in our place, our standing with people is affected by our conduct toward people. And because of who we are and what we are in Jesus, this means that our reputation and the reputation of Jesus are inextricably linked.

Paul describes the church as ambassadors of Christ. What are ambassadors? They are people who represent one sovereign nation in and to another nation. I think it was Bill Winston who spoke of visiting a dirt-poor Central American country, where the people ground out a miserable existence, and keeping body and soul together on a daily basis was a demoralising uphill struggle. In the midst of the slums and shanty towns of that nation there stood a handsome building, the residents of which dined handsomely on fresh produce flown in daily. Amid the poverty, they lived in luxury.

The ordinary people of that poverty-stricken nation would look through the high fence surrounding that building with a real sense of longing that they too could share in that prosperity over the wall. It was obvious to them that the people on the other side of the fence had a better life, and the people wished they could have it too. That building was the United States embassy. It spoke to the people of that other nation – it may have been Haiti, I don’t recall for sure – of the wealth and prosperity of the USA.

Now I know that picture immediately creates a certain moral ambiguity, but if you stick with me and follow the reasoning through, I’m sure you’ll agree that two things arise out of that scenario. First, when we see someone who has something good that we don’t have, the natural reaction is to think : how can I have that too? Second, from the other side of the fence, as it were, when we see people who don’t have the good things we have, we ought to be very powerfully motivated to share our blessings.

Let’s translate that into spiritual terms. You and I, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, are called to represent the Kingdom of God to and in the kingdoms of this world. We are called to represent Kingdom values of love, compassion, generosity and power in the Holy Spirit, to put into effect the policies pursued by the Kingdom of God, in and to a society, a culture, a world without Christ – a world creaking and collapsing under the dead weight of greed, lust, hatred, perversion, negative thinking, wacky beliefs – the policies pursued by and, I may add, ruthlessly enforced by, the kingdom of darkness.

Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians 6 : be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Whether we like it or not, we are in a spiritual war, and there is no neutral territory, no politically correct safe middle ground.

In our text today Jesus spells it out [v.30] : He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. It’s quite simple. We’re either with Jesus, or against Jesus, and we get to choose. We choose to receive the grace poured out at the cross, the grace that sweeps away all the garbage the devil has thrown at us, the grace by which our every sin has been forgiven, our every disease has been healed, every aspect of the curse of the Law cancelled – or, by default, we live under the Law.

We choose the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and receive righteousness, right standing with God for eternity, because of all that Jesus is, and all that Jesus has done , or we condemn ourselves to have to try to earn God’s favour by our own performance, and that is a hopeless, soul-destroying task. I want you to be absolutely and totally clear on what I’m about to say. You can’t afford to miss this, OK?

There are precisely two ways of relating to God, and only two – law or grace. That is what Jesus teaches, that is what Paul teaches, that is what Peter teaches, that is what John teaches, that is what the anonymous writer to the Hebrews teaches. We have the choice to opt into grace, by faith and trust in the person and the finished work of Jesus, and know the freedom of having every debt paid by His blood, and knowing God in a personal way as Father, Saviour, Redeemer, Healer, Provider and Friend.

Failing which, the default position is law, relying solely on our own performance, and needing to perform perfectly every moment of every day, because whoever breaks one bit of the Law has broken it all. Those who do not choose to relate to Jesus as Saviour and, through Him, to God as Father will inevitably have to relate to God as Judge.

There is, and this is a good time to mention it, a provision under the covenant of grace for the children and grandchildren of believers to be counted as righteous because of our faith – see, for example, Psalm 103.17, Acts 2.39 – and that assurance of inherited grace is tremendously comforting for those of us whose descendants have not, as yet, accepted Jesus, but in order to walk in the fullness of God’s overwhelming blessing in this life, as God longs for us to do, there has to be a personal commitment of faith.

All of which brings us back to this ambassador business. There ought to be something so different, so attractive, about your life and mine, that the people around us long to know what we have that they haven’t and to receive it for themselves. In their spiritual hunger, a bit like the people staring through the gates of the US Embassy, they ought to be looking at us and longing to be like us, because the love, peace, joy, generosity, radiant health, wholesome relationships and general goodness in our lives shines out.
And on the other side of the coin that fullness of Christ in us should lead us to be very proactive indeed in doing whatever we can to bring the love and power of Jesus to bear on the lives of the people round about us, so that they also might know Him as He truly is and have their lives transformed by Him.

Note also that ambassadors act with the power and authority of the nation that commissioned them. Our obedience to Jesus releases the same supernatural power and authority that Jesus exercised, and that should be no surprise to us because Jesus has promised in John 14 : Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

So often, Jesus ministered to people first and foremost by addressing their immediate physical needs, whether it was feeding the 5,000, stilling a storm, turning water into wine, or getting rid of illness and disability. He did that BEFORE these people were “saved”. His miracles were signs and wonders to transform their lives for a time on this earth, pointing to the greater reality of total salvation for eternity.

We read in v.22 of this demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. Question. Was this man a member of the church, a regular attender, a generous giver? Had he done anything at all to earn or deserve attention from Jesus. Absolutely not! He was demon-possessed! He was in all likelihood someone who was despised, feared and shunned by the local community.

He was not “saved” when Jesus came along. Jesus healed Him completely and utterly by grace. Then, I imagine, after Jesus had turned his life around, he believed, big-time. He would be the most committed and effective evangelist in the parish. He would have had 20 times more faith than all these pompous self-righteous muttering religious gasbags whose intelligent contribution we see in v.24. It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.

In terms of stupid comments, the Pharisees could come up with some crackers, but this is one of the real classics, and Jesus must have been this close to laughing out loud in their soor-ploom faces. Were they really so dumb as to think that the devil would shoot himself in the foot by giving some of his minions their marching orders so that God would get the glory? The devil may be thick, but he’s not THAT thick!

Jesus points out to them, in no uncertain terms, that they needed to use their heads for something other than a hat-stand. What they were saying just didn’t make any sense, and anyone whose IQ was at least as great as their shoe size could see that. In fact, what Jesus had done was to storm through the enemy fortress and release a man who, for so many years, had been held captive by demons, his life trashed by these crispy critters who had robbed him of hope or purpose.
And be sure that when Jesus did that, Satan wouldn’t extend a congratulatory hand, nor offer to crack open a bottle of 20-year-old malt to celebrate the happy occasion. No, the devil was as sick as the proverbial parrot. He’d lost ground, and because so many people saw what had happened and went away telling everyone about it, it was absolutely certain sure that he’d take an even bigger hammering as more and more people heard about Jesus and came to see, and receive, for themselves.

Back to v.30 : He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. You could bet your mortgage that the man released from those demons, who now enjoyed again the power to hear and speak, would have no doubt whose side he was on from that day forward. But how had he got there? What magic formula had he put into effect to move from death to life? Had he gone through a whole series of communicants’ classes, counselling courses, or whatever? No.

In fact, he hadn’t even turned up that day under his own steam. Other people who had, we may be sure, already experienced the love and power of Jesus, brought him along. He wouldn’t have heard the sermon. He was deaf. He just knew, deep down inside, despite all these yucky demons screaming and downloading all their junk on him, that this Jesus was his one and only hope. He believed, and he received.

Maybe today, you just need to recognise that Jesus is your only hope, and simply believe and receive. Maybe today, you can think of someone you are concerned about, someone who does not know Jesus, and ask God to show you a way of allowing them to meet Jesus – first and foremost, by being yourself an ambassador to Christ for them.

Receive the Giver, not just the gifts

Sunday 6 February 2011 : Matthew 12 : 14-21 [p. 977]

Today we pick up Matthew’s gospel once again, starting with the verse on which we finished way back in November : v.14 : the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. You may remember that the reason identified by Matthew for this decision by the Pharisees is that Jesus declared Himself to be greater than the Temple [v.6] and Lord of the Sabbath [v.8]. This rocked their cosy little world for them.

In other words, Jesus claimed to have authority to interpret the Jewish Law and not be hog-tied either by the letter of the Law, or by the Pharisees’ reading of it. Even more worrying for the Pharisees, Jesus was able to appeal both to the Scriptures themselves, and to their own conduct, to support His understanding of things.

Conclusion? Jesus was a dangerous subversive who had to go. His crime? Claiming to know better than them what God’s will and purpose was. To make matters worse, Jesus by now had gathered quite a following around Himself, and we see [v. 16] that many followed Him and He healed all their sick. As of this moment, the shadow of the cross looms darkly over Matthew’s gospel, and a new resonance is given to Jesus’ warnings toward the end of chapter 10 :

Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me

Those who now followed Jesus to receive what He could do for them – healing and so on – would soon have to decide where their true loyalties lay. What was more precious to them – the gifts or the Giver? I believe we must still keep this question before us. For some years I have believed and preached, and will continue to believe and preach, that it is the declared will of God to intervene directly in our everyday lives to bring to His people supernatural blessing. It is God’s declared will and purpose that we prosper and enjoy life – rich, abundant and overflowing life – in every way.

However, great as the gifts are, I firmly believe it is infinitely more important for us to receive the Giver Himself, and commit ourselves – and I know that for many people commitment is a dirty word in the throwaway society of the 21st century – commit ourselves completely and unconditionally to a personal relationship with Jesus.
I can promise you that, 200 years from now, it will not matter one bit how successful we were in business, how much money we made, how many newspaper headlines were written about us, how many people fell over themselves to be our friend, nor even how many church services we attended nor how many committees we served on.

In and of themselves, not one of these things, nor any combination of them, adds up to true, lasting blessing or prosperity, nor can they buy us a ticket to heaven. 200 years from now, all that will matter is whether or not we made a quality decision to receive Jesus in our heart and be in a committed personal relationship with Him.

Jesus has warned us ahead of time that to make such a decision may rub some people the wrong way that we’d rather not rub the wrong way, may repel some people that we’d rather be close to, may cost us money or seniority or status.

And this is where we see the dividing line between those who love Jesus, pure and simple, and will remain loyal to Him no matter what ; and those whose attachment to Christ and His church is, in essence, for what they can get out of it, and when religion no longer serves their purpose, it’s bye-bye. What do I mean by that?

A few examples. It’s not so long ago that being a pillar of the kirk, better still an elder, was something you would make a point of emphasising in job interviews, especially for professional posts. Until fairly recently, there was a steady stream of young people going through church membership classes so they could, once again, tick the box to get married in the parish church. Sometimes I hear of people in some sort of trouble making a bargain with God – get me out of this mess and I’ll start going to church.

And I’m not saying that these attitudes are always totally wrong, and I’m certainly not saying that God can’t build upon even these rather shaky foundations, but I think the overwhelming evidence is that when our basic motivation is to use God for our own self-centred purposes, rather than to love God and invite Him to use us for His good and generous purposes, whatever spark of faith there might be is far more easily snuffed out. Make no mistake, any true relationship with Jesus must be on His terms.

True faith isn’t about what things we can squeeze and manipulate out of God to further our own self-centred agenda. It’s about dying to self. It’s about inviting the Holy Spirit to take charge of the deepest places of our souls. It’s about allowing our personality, our nature, our thoughts, our feelings, our desires, to be submerged into the person of Jesus Christ. Basically, a life of faith is no longer primarily about us, but about Him.

And if you’re anything like me, your brain will presently be frying as you think – you know what? I just can’t do that. Let me just quickly encourage you by referring you to a verse we looked at last week – Hebrews 10.14 : By one sacrifice Jesus has made perfect, for ever, those who are being made holy. The second we make a principled, honest decision to leave behind forever the emptiness of formal religion and instead to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, we are instantly transformed by His grace.
Instantly, we move from death to life. Our eternal destiny is settled once and for all by the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus. Our names are written forever in the Lamb’s Book of Life – and there is no tippex, no delete button. We receive the free gift of righteousness – right standing with God for eternity. But alongside that all-or-nothing revolution in our standing before God, there is also a gradual process set in motion.

God knows that those who are born again need time to grow up. Most of the people, most of the time, don’t go from being outright sinners on Saturday to unblemished giants of faith on Sunday. As I said last week, God is patient with us as we go from being spiritual babies, through the toddler, childhood and adolescent stages, to arrive at mature faith. You and I want it all to happen yesterday, and we’re really gutted if we have a bad day when we act the way we used to, bite people’s heads off, and so on.

The devil jumps on that mistake and pours a bucket-load of guilt and discouragement. I’m a hypocrite. I’m such a failure. I’ll never make it. God will just give up on me. When you get such invitations to a pity party, that’s when you need to give yourself a good talking-to and stand firm on Hebrews 10.14 : I have been made perfect in the sight of God, forever, by the sacrifice of Jesus, and I am on the way to holiness by His Holy Spirit working within me. God said it in His Word, so it must be true, and I choose to believe it. So, devil, go back to hell and take your lies with you.

Matthew finishes this section by giving a description of the person of Jesus, from the very Jewish scriptures that the Pharisees, instead of foaming at the mouth and tossing their toys out of the pram, should have known. It’s from the prophecy of Isaiah 42.

Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight ; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out ; no-one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.

Jesus is the One whom the Father loves and in whom the Father delights – we heard His voice from Heaven say as much at His baptism. He proclaims heaven’s justice – all human sin and all human suffering for all time paid for in full by His sacrifice. Jesus did not wilfully pick arguments, and when the religious so-called experts chose to pick a fight with Him, He answered them back only from the Scriptures. Jesus does not attack or pick on the weak and vulnerable and disadvantaged, indeed He shows them special consideration and kindness to heal, deliver and restore. Jesus is the hope of the nations – not just the Jewish people, but all the nations of the earth.

The prophet saw that, six centuries before Jesus came. The Pharisees couldn’t see it, even though Jesus was right there under their noses. This is the Saviour ; this is the One whom God has sent to you, to me ; this is the One who came to fulfil our every possible need. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s not always be asking Jesus to do things for us as if He was no more than our personal assistant.
If the relationship of a husband and wife was based completely upon the wife getting the dinner on the table at 5.pm sharp, making sure the house was spotlessly clean and her husband had his shirts freshly cleaned and ironed every morning, how many of you think that would be a happy marriage? How many of you think there is room for improvement in that partnership? And the sooner the better! Or there might just be a flying frying-pan before some people are much older!

Likewise, if our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is all about what we want Him to do for us, and there’s no quality time to simply enjoy Him, get to know Him, share what’s on each other’s heart – can we see that relationship is way out of balance, falls miles short of living faith, grieves God, and is in need of urgent review?

So let’s get our priorities right. Let’s concentrate on knowing Him as He really is ; loving Him because He first loved us. Seek first the face of Jesus, and His hand will delight to reach out to us and meet our every need more abundantly than we can ever ask or imagine. We will experience true healing of every part of our being, spirit, soul and body. We will experience true prosperity which – as Kenneth Copeland puts it – consists not in the abundance of what we own, but in the abundance of what we sow.

We will experience the pure joy and peace, beyond any mere human understanding, that only Jesus living by His Holy Spirit in our heart can bring. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it. And whatever that relationship may cost our flesh is well worth it.




Ale & Teviot Church

Scottish Charity No. SC 016457

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