Ale & Teviot United Church


Monthly Archive for April, 2011

Good News Magazine: Easter 2011

Click here to download the Easter 2011 Magazine.

Lessons from Martha and Mary

27 March 2011 : John 11: 17-37 [p. 1078]

Once again we pick up the story of Lazarus, and we find Jesus arriving at Bethany, too late to save his friend – or so it appeared. Lazarus had been in the tomb, in those days a cave sealed with a rock, for four days now. The two sisters of the dead man, Martha and Mary, were understandably distraught. Interesting to note the reaction of each of the women. True to form, Martha, had to be doing something. It was Martha who came out to meet Jesus and the disciples, whilst Mary stayed at home with her thoughts.

Yet if you’d wanted to invest £5 of your hard-earned cash on one of the sisters having faith for the miracle that was about to unfold, I think most of us would have plumped for Mary being the woman of “power for the hour”. But no. It was Martha, See how she speaks to Jesus : v.22 : Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask. Compare that statement with what Mary said : Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Full stop.

Do you see the massive difference between those two declarations? Mary had faith for a past that, sadly, hadn’t happened. Martha had faith for a miracle. The first sentence to fall from each sister’s lips was identical, word for word. Martha, however, added a vital confession : no matter how grim the situation is, no matter the fact that my brother died and was buried four days ago, I still believe, Jesus, that you can turn this around.

Now, the whole idea of God intervening miraculously in the affairs of this world may be way, way out there as far as we are concerned. It’s not something we’ve experienced and, if we were honest, it’s not something we’ve expected either. That sort of thing was only in and for Biblical times, or at least that’s what we have been taught. And we may be thinking to ourselves that it was all very well for Martha, who saw Jesus healing the sick, giving the blind their sight, and making the lame to walk, to believe – but not us.

In the same way, I suppose, as we see the Easter story unfolding, and people who had once followed Jesus and sung Hosanna now deserting Jesus in droves, we might think – well, if I had seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears all that Jesus said or did, I would never have deserted him. And although, yes, I’ve had similar thoughts myself, I have to say they are mistaken thoughts, and I’m going to try to explain why.

The only evidence available to the people who walked with Jesus, and fellowshipped with Jesus, and witnessed Jesus at work, was what they saw and heard of his life as a human being. The Jesus they knew was someone who ate and drank and laughed and cried and slept and sweated – a remarkable and wonderful man, but, as far as they were aware whilst Jesus still lived and breathed among them, only a man.

They did not, and could not, fully comprehend what we are privileged to know now, that Jesus was so much more than just a good man. Why Because they did not have in their possession the one crucial piece that made the jigsaw complete – that He would die on the cross in our place and on the third day be raised to life again.
The crowds that went around with Jesus did not have a New Testament, a documented account of Jesus’ ministry including the astonishing climax to it, where He laid down His perfect life to give new life to those of us who, under our own steam, were far from perfect. They did not have the testimony of Paul, the one-time dragon-breathed bigot who went to extreme lengths to exterminate the Jesus movement, only for Jesus himself to meet him on the road and turn his life round 180 degrees.

This may sound strange at first, but if you think about it, it’s entirely logical – what we have in our possession about Jesus, the scriptures that relate how He ministered to the people in His life, in His death, in His resurrection, in the 40 days before He returned to the Father, and through the ongoing presence and power of His Holy Spirit, outweighs by far the partial understanding that Mary and Martha, and even the 12, had in the days before Easter. Going back to the two sisters, based on the evidence available to them at that time, Mary said absolutely nothing wrong, whilst Martha had faith in the fast lane!

Martha was able to believe FOR Lazarus to be raised from the dead, whereas Mary was able to believe only after she had seen this miracle. As I’ve said, that’s not meant as a criticism of Mary, but as a compliment to Martha. Because she has acknowledged, in an act of tremendous faith under horrendous circumstances, the supernatural ability of Jesus to do what past experience and plain commonsense would consider impossible, Jesus is able to make her the promise in v.23 : Your brother will rise again.

At first, Martha doesn’t fully appreciate what an awesome statement Jesus has made. She is already aware that life is a precious gift of God that nothing as banal as illness or ill-fortune can snuff it out, and initially she assumes that Jesus is merely reassuring her that, one day, she will see Lazarus, not on earth but in heaven. So Jesus goes back and expands on the theme, and in so doing leaves us with the best-known and best-loved of all His I AM sayings, The Message translation of which I use at services of committal.

“I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” By now, Martha has twigged that Jesus is about to do something way beyond the frontiers of her understanding. She acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, goes to fetch her sister Mary. Martha is now expecting the unexpected.

You know, Jesus still looks to break miraculously into the affairs of this world, Jesus still longs to touch people broken by disease, despair, disappointment and poverty of every imaginable kind and restore them to the fullness of life that has always been His perfect purpose for each and every one of us. Galatians 3.13f teaches that, in sheer love and grace, Jesus has redeemed us from the curse attached to human disobedience.

He did this by becoming a curse for us – as the Bible says, everyone who is hanged on a tree is cursed, and what is the cross but a chunk of a tree? – to break forever the power of that curse over believers and release to us the fullness of God’s blessing first promised to Abraham, our forefather in the faith.
Illness, hunger, loneliness, depression and so on are manifestations of the curse. Health, prosperity, strong families, peace, joy, fulfilment, are all manifestations of the blessing. Jesus suffered and died to destroy the curse over believers and release the blessing. So why are so many members of the church still sick, broke, busted and disgusted? That doesn’t make any sense. It’s absurd, if not downright insulting to the passion of the Christ, for us still to be suffering when Jesus has suffered in our place.

But the reason why that happens is that, until very recently, church people, especially Scottish Presbyterian church people, have never been given the least encouragement to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ offers anything in this life beyond a stiff upper lip and courage to endure stoically to the end. Hate to tell you, but that kind of belief is a gross misrepresentation of what the Bible teaches. Jesus never put a sell-by date on His promises. He is the same yesterday, today, forever – but now He is in Heaven.

Now, Jesus needs people willing to let Him work through them by the power of His Holy Spirit to keep up the good work. In a few months we’ll get to John 14.12 where Jesus says that, when He’s gone back to Heaven and the Holy Spirit has come, anyone who has faith in Him will do the same things as He has been doing, indeed even greater things. Paul writes in Ephesians 3.20 of the Holy Spirit being able to immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine … according to His power that is at work within us.

Jesus still wants to intervene miraculously in the hurting places of the world He loves and died to save, but He’s not stretched out on a settee in heaven with a cup of coffee, pressing a remote control. Just as Jesus needed a body when he was here on earth to do his stuff, so He needs a body now. And as we see in 1 Corinthians 12, the church is meant to be the body of Christ and the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit.

To ensure that the fullness of His saving, redeeming grace reaches the people of this nation at this moment in history, Jesus needs people ready to expect the unexpected and go for it. In our story, Martha was … but Mary wasn’t, and the black depth of her grief touches right to the heart of Jesus, We see in v.35 : Jesus wept. Why? Not for Himself. Jesus wasn’t mourning for a dead friend, because that friend was about to be more truly alive than ever. Not for Lazarus either. Jesus knew Lazarus was coming back into this life in a matter of minutes, and would live forever spiritually.

So why the tears? There is another place we find Jesus weeping, in Luke 19 where He weeps over the city of Jerusalem as He contemplates the fate awaiting that city for their rejection of Him. By AD70, less than 40 years after Easter, Jerusalem was in ruins. Jesus foretells in Luke 19.46 that this disaster would be a direct consequence of the people of Jerusalem refusing to recognise Him when He came to them. Jesus wept for the unbelief of the people, and I suspect it was the same in our passage today.

Even Mary, even the 12, didn’t get it. And as for the rest of the people, it was becoming increasingly clear that their minds were unresponsive and their hearts were cold. Thus far would they go in their faith and trust in Him, but no further.
I wonder if Jesus still weeps for His unbelieving people today? I wonder if the Saviour still breaks His heart over our reluctance to receive His grace, to believe His promises, to take Him at his Word, to rest in His provision, to take upon ourselves His light and easy yoke, to obey His teaching, to allow ourselves to be used to do the same things as He has been doing, indeed even greater things ; to let Him do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us?

I wonder if our picture of Jesus is way too small? I wonder if we should agree today to do something really daring, really outrageous, to start living as if what is written in this book, and in particular the New Testament, is actually true? Don’t let our unbelief bring tears to Jesus’ eyes. Let’s be bold to make the same declaration of faith that Martha did, and on far more robust evidence than Martha had.

Let’s have faith to believe in our hearts and speak with our lips – Romans 10.9f – Lord, no matter what a mess my life is in right now, no matter what problems are piling up round about me, no matter how hopeless my situation looks in the natural, I still believe, Jesus, that you can turn this around. I know that even now God will give me whatever I ask in Your Name, trusting in all that You are and all that You have done.

Indeed, let’s go beyond that, because it’s not just about us. No matter what a mess the world is in, no matter how much it seems the lunatics are running the asylum, let’s be bold to say : I still believe, Jesus, that you can turn this around. I know that even now You will use me whenever I make myself available in Your Name, trusting in all that You are and all that You have done, to wipe away the tears of others, to let You work miracles of love and kindness through my willing, humble, and obedient hands.

Jonah, Queen of the South and all that

20 March 2011 : Matthew 12 : 38-42

Matthew 12, as we have already seen, finds Jesus in a no-nonsense mood, especially with the wretched Pharisees and teachers of the Law, who seem to have perfected the unhappy art of getting it wrong time after time after time, and in consequence earning a tongue-lashing from the Lord. It’s interesting that Jesus conducts himself with truly amazing grace when he’s dealing with what you might call obvious sinners, on the basis that they are aware of their faults and their need of deliverance from those faults, but he will cut no slack at all for the self-righteous pretence of the religious leaders.

Make no mistake. Jesus went to the cross to deal with every human sin. Forgiveness is to be found, freely, unconditionally, in his shed blood for every wrong action, every wrong word, every wrong thought. There is no act of human misconduct so repulsive to God that the sacrifice of Jesus does not fully wipe it away. BUT … we must come to Him in honesty and humility, agree with Jesus that we’ve been wrong, and not try to hide behind a fig-leaf of cowardly excuses and pompous self-justification.

But that was a step way too far for the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They liked to think they had the exclusive franchise on God. No way were they – graduates of the theological college of their time with all the academic fol-de-rols to prove it – going to get down on their knees before this upstart from a no-horse-town in the backwaters of Galilee, this tradesman with no formal education, this outsider who did not belong to the club, and give him the least bit of respect. And nothing Jesus said or did would change their mind, challenge their prejudice, or disturb their smug self-righteousness.

Today we find them asking Jesus to strut his stuff for their amusement : Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you. No they didn’t. The last thing they wanted was to see God’s glory and power at work through this man they loathed and despised. Their attitude here would later be echoed by Herod, when Jesus, having been arrested, was bounced around between Roman and local jurisdictions, each trying desperately to avoid having to sign off the death warrant for Jesus, though both wanted him dead.

Jesus wouldn’t play ball to entertain the ineffectual windbag that was Herod, nor was he about to indulge the whims of these religious leaders. Now, had they come to him with even half-an-ounce of integrity, even the faintest hint of openness to the gospel of grace, that would have been a different story, but Jesus could read them like a book, hence the stinging rebuke he delivered to them here.

We have all heard of Jonah, how he was called by God to go preach to the notoriously heathen population of Nineveh ; how he bottled it and headed off for a cruise instead ; how he found out the hard way that God is not mocked ; how he made quite a splash and had a whale of a time – sorry! – before ending up going and doing precisely what God had called him to do in the first place. You will see from the story that Jonah had a remarkably successful evangelistic campaign. Nineveh cleaned its act up big time.
Yet by the end of this tale we find Jonah whinging at this hugely impressive result, complaining that God hadn’t, in fact, zapped them with bolts of lightning and wiped Nineveh off the map. Actually, Jonah doesn’t come through as a particularly appealing character. His collection of iffy attitudes ranged from rebellion against God to racism against the people he was ministering to. Yet God used even Jonah, mightily, and used him to reach out to those beyond the Jewish nation, to save people he didn’t like.

And I don’t think the Pharisees would have enjoyed that comparison. They would be all indignant, asking : Wait a minute, Jesus, why are you talking about Jonah? You’re not saying we’re like Jonah, are you? You don’t think we’re disobedient to God’s will like Jonah, are you? You’re not suggesting that we should be trying to save Gentiles, are you? Jesus didn’t get into anything about that. If the cap fitted, let them wear it.

The real point Jesus was making was that, just as Jonah disappeared into self-inflicted darkness and separation from God, just as it seemed his number was up, and his life had ended in pathetic failure – yet on the third day he came back miraculously, larger than life – so too it would be with Jesus. He would die a shameful, ignominious death, the abuse and derision of the entire city ringing in his ears. He would be buried and his enemies would raise a glass to toast “good riddance” … but just wait till the third day.

Would the Pharisees have understood? At that moment, not one little bit of it. But after Easter, as the account of Jesus’ resurrection spread through Jerusalem like wildfire, as the disciples who had scuttled away like frightened rabbits and hidden quivering under the bed following the crucifixion were now out, bold as brass, in the crowded streets and temple precincts of Jerusalem, boldly proclaiming that this Jesus was alive again, daring the authorities to stop them, beaten and threatened but bouncing back for more, yes, I suspect one or two of the more intelligent Pharisees would have joined the dots.

But Jesus wasn’t finished. Vs.41-42 would have been immensely offensive to the Pharisees. The hated Gentiles of Nineveh would stand before God justified whilst the religious elite of Jerusalem would be condemned? They had responded to the ministry of a buffoon like Jonah, and God would be pleased with them, but they, the Pharisees, the custodians of God’s Law, would be judged for not responding to one greater than Jonah … you mean this builders’ labourer from Nazareth? What!

Jesus continued to pile on the agony. Now he introduces to the conversation a football team from Dumfries. It takes a special kind of faith to prophesy that the Queen of the South will get promoted! Joking aside, the Queen of the South, better known perhaps as the Queen of Sheba, was notorious for her flirtatious behaviour with King Solomon. Once again, she was a Gentile, and the suggestion that a Gentile would, on the day of judgement, enjoy better standing with God than a Pharisee, was outrageous to the max, and Jesus’ claim to be greater than Solomon was the icing on that unappetising cake.

But let’s not miss the passing reference to a wicked and adulterous generation, which Jesus sort of sprinkled into the mixture. Again, this would have been like a slap in the face for the Pharisees. At best, this was an indictment of their failure to provide leadership to the people under their care. If, on their watch, the people of Israel were a wicked and adulterous generation – and it appears that the probably were – their stewardship of the things of God was clearly not making much of an impact.

But there was a second prong to this attack, and it’s the implication that the Pharisees themselves were guilty of these very sins. There’s an intriguing little episode in John 8 where a woman caught in the very act of adultery is hauled before Jesus by, who else, the Pharisees. They demand that the woman be stoned to death, as per the Jewish law, and ask Jesus to concur with the sentence. Jesus says nothing but scribbles in the dust.

They keep pressing Jesus for an answer. Eventually he says : OK, but which ever one of you is without fault gets to throw the first stone. There is a shocked silence, before they all slink away in embarrassment. Draw your own conclusions from that tale.

All right, that’s us whistled our way through the story. Let’s fast forward 2000 years to see what it says to us today. Let me start at the end and work forwards. The age of the New Testament was not the last to qualify as a wicked and adulterous generation ; you could probably say the same about today. People doing their own thing, according to their own selfish desires, without much thought for the consequences on anyone else, yes, we know that one. We have to say that the moral vacuum all around us is a pretty stern indictment of the ineffectiveness of the church, as it was with the Pharisees.

I said a couple of weeks ago that it seems we don’t know what we believe, and what we say is carefully modulated so as not to cause offence. The trouble is, we are called to be light in the darkness, and if we’re not doing that, I’m not quite sure what purpose we’re actually serving. And it’s not just a matter of issuing a series of thou-shalt-nots. To lay down the law isn’t that difficult, but it’s not what Jesus wants us to do.

Being a light in a dark world is about living by grace, living in such an attractive and godly way that people outwith our number will be intrigued by our quality of life and want what we have. The way to counter the wicked and adulterous influences on our society is not just to speak condemnation over them, but to point the way to something better, to embody a truly Biblical alternative lifestyle to which the love of Jesus is central, to model our ministry of true prosperity and wholeness, overflowing with kindness and compassion, living long, living strong, living 24/7 as an act of worship.

The early church genuinely was a revolutionary force, a counter-culture, who earned respect for their stand because the way they lived was so obviously more fulfilling, more satisfying, more joyful, than that of the unbelievers around them. That’s a much more demanding task than just tut-tutting at the world’s failures, but it is the witness we are commanded to give, and when we are truly born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, it is the witness we are supernaturally empowered to give. In Christ, we can!
Our God delights in doing the seemingly impossible. You may not think he can do very much in your life, with all your faults and failings, but all that stands between your mess and your message is your willingness to let Him in. Remember that our God raises the dead. Figuratively, this is what happened to Jonah. Literally, it is what happened to Jesus. Spiritually, it is what – potentially – he can do for you, right now.

It may seem strange, bizarre even, but no-one need be a prisoner to their past. To Jesus it matters not a bent halfpenny if you have no academic qualifications, if you have no easy way with words, if you have spent many years without darkening the church door, in the wilderness of doing your own thing without reference to him, if you have made major mistakes that have ended up hurting other people or yourself.

As compared with the act of redemption Jesus completed at the cross, all that stuff’s just like a snowflake in a microwave. Decide today that you’re no longer going to be a prisoner to your past. Instead you’re going to receive the forgiveness Jesus bought and paid for, you’re going to have faith for the future, and you’re going to have peace in the present. Many of the most effective witnesses Jesus has in the world today are people who got off to a bad start, but they’re determined to have a good finish.

So people look down their noses at you because you did something terrible, something shocking when you were younger? So that event is the one thing that people remember every time your name’s mentioned? So what? If you’re born again, the person who did those awful things is dead. You are a new creation in Christ – 2 Corinthians 5.17. Show the world how much Jesus has changed your life. Show them how the love and grace of Jesus is oozing out of you, how he has turned your mess into your message.

Final point for today. The fundamental error of the Pharisees was that they thought they could earn God’s favour by fastidious observance of the Law. Still today, that mindset of death gets in the way for so many people. They believe, or at least hope, that not being a bad person, that ticking the religious box once in a while, is enough to keep them out of hell. That nod-to-God attitude may be the most destructive deception the devil has ever dumped on the human race. Please get this, it may save your life.

Nothing you can ever do, or not do, will get you into heaven. Do not attempt to make yourself a link in the chain of your salvation, because if you do that chain will break. However offensive this is to the pomposity of the 21st century human race, there is only one way to be acceptable to God, and that is recognising that, in and of ourselves we can never be, and that’s why God sent a Saviour, who died that we might live.

Jesus came to settle in full all the debts run up by the disobedience of the human race, including ours. He bought our ticket to heaven, which we could never do. For you, for me, the heaven/hell issue, and the quality of life here on earth issue, hang on just one question – are we willing to nail our selfish self to the cross and make Jesus the Lord of our life? No excuses, no obfuscation. Yes or no. Our life, for eternity, depends on it. Maybe for one or two of us here today, this is the day to make that call. Choose life.

Confessions of a short-distance runner

13 March 2011 : Matthew 12 : 30-37

Over the past 2 weeks, as we’ve studied this passage, we’ve dealt with major issues such as the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and the vital connection between what you are and what you do. If you want to follow what was said, I’ve posted the messages on the church website.

And so, at the third attempt, we try to put these 8 verses to bed, but there is a sting in the tail. Or perhaps I should say a bite in the fangs, as Jesus delivers a colourful rebuke to his opponents – a brood of vipers. Not an accidental description, either, as you most certainly don’t want a close encounter with a viper’s mouth, and it is precisely what comes out of the mouths of these characters that causes all the problems.

The heart-and-mouth connection is important, and I promise you’ll be very glad you heard this. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. That’s what Jesus said, v.34. We’ve heard Jesus use this word overflow elsewhere, in John 10.10, when Jesus declared that He came to earth that we might enjoy life, in abundance, till it overflows.

If we’re living that abundant life in Jesus, the words that come out of our mouth ought to reflect that. Positive, affirming, encouraging, faith-filled words. But if, like the Pharisees to whom the statement was addressed, you’re still tied in knots by fear and insecurity, jealousy and resentment, guess what words are going to come out of your mouth? Negative words, destructive words, critical words, complaining words, words that no-one else will want to listen to. And here’s an interesting thing.

Your words are dynamic, one way or another. If your words encourage, uplift and build up the people you are speaking to, they will want to be around you. Those words will nurture and strengthen your relationships. They will also, I might add, bring out the best in other people. But if your words are harsh, judgemental and discouraging, no-one’s going to enjoy being around you. People will stay away from you, you will trash your relationships, and you will make life difficult for yourself in many ways.

Think about it – who would you rather spend time with? Someone who is always ill-natured and critical, who never has a good word to say to you, who never praises, compliments or affirms you in any way, who always finds fault and whinges at you? Or someone who always has a smile, is always pleasant, who goes out of their way to speak to you in a courteous manner and takes every opportunity to commend you on anything you do well, and to be gracious on anything you don’t do so well?

It’s not a hard choice to make, is it? Well, remember that other people will also come to conclusions about us, based on the way we speak to them. And remember also that, because we are associated with Jesus, people will come to conclusions about Jesus, based on the words we speak. It’s that old ambassador thing again. The gift of speech is tremendously powerful, a huge privilege – and a huge responsibility. And if anyone knows the power of words it’s God Himself. Let me illustrate that from Scripture.
John 1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. How did God create the universe? By the Word of His power. Now don’t try to feed me all the garbage about evolution. The universe, in all its fantastic beauty and complexity, did not just happen by chance.

Any honest scientist or mathematician will tell you that the odds against this planet being just the right distance from the sun, with just the right climate, to support human life, purely by chance, are way out beyond the realms of realistic possibility. Look at a new-born baby, and dare to suggest to the proud family that the wee one is just the umpteen-times great-grandchild of a pair of baboons. You’ll deserve all you get!!

There is infinitely more chance of Albion Rovers winning the Champions League than the universe, and indeed of human life here on this earth, being a random event, a throw of a dice somewhere. It was by the Word of God that everything came into being, and it was by the Word made flesh, in Jesus His Son, that God saved the world from the consequences of its own stupid, disobedient, rebellious behaviour. And how did Jesus come into the life of this world? Check Luke 1 : 26-38 : God sent His angel to Mary to tell her she had been chosen to bring God’s Son into the world. Words. Mary replied : I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. Words.

On the cross, when all the sin and guilt and punishment and condemnation for all the messes mankind has made got dumped on to Jesus, the words of prophecy of Isaiah 53 were precisely fulfilled : he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities – the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

When all that took place, Jesus said : It is finished. Words. But what breathtakingly powerful words. At that moment, those three words catapulted human history on to its head, as Jesus consented to carry the weight of every sin, every sickness, every wrong thing done to or by every human being, past, present or future, and by doing that to break forever the curse of sin and guilt, disease and death. His words signal a total transformation of your eternal fortunes and mine. On that dark Jerusalem day He took our sin and guilt for a time and He gave us His righteousness for eternity. Using words

And your words and my words, Jesus tells us, are vitally important too. Romans 10.10. with the heart a person believes (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Christ) and so is justified (declared righteous, acceptable to God), and with the mouth he confesses (declares openly and speaks out freely his faith) and confirms [his] salvation. Also. Mark 11.23 : Jesus says : if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. Words – of faith, hope and promise from Jesus

God’s words have creative power, and if you are a child of God through faith in Jesus, so have your words. You and I have been given tremendous authority to speak your own destiny, so let’s not mess it up by what Jesus calls in v.36 careless words.
You wake up in the morning a bit stiff : Oh, my back’s killing me. Excuse me? The Bible says that by the wounds of Jesus you have been healed. So why speak those careless words over your life? All you’re doing is confusing and discouraging yourself
I’m always broke. I’ll never have any money. Hang on, the Bible says that God’s will is for us to prosper and enjoy health, spirit, soul and body, and that He will supply all our needs through His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. But speaking careless words will shift your focus from God’s promises to your problems. That’s not clever.

I’m too old and too far gone for Jesus to bother about me. I’ll never change at my age. Pardon me, but the Bible tells me of a gangster about to face the death penalty who changed his mind at the last minute and Jesus said : Good call, buddy, today, you’ll be with me in Paradise. What makes you think you’re the world’s only hopeless case?

I believe what’s for you won’t go past you. It’s just fate, just your luck. I don’t see how your words can affect your life. Really? Trust me, sunshine, they already are affecting your life. How do I know that? Because you keep telling me you’re ill, broke, busted and disgusted, and you’re going about with a face like a wet night in Workington. Trust me, if you don’t like how your life’s shaping up, change your words, and since your words come from what you think – remember Jesus said : out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks – you’ll need first of all to get your brain into gear.

Last week I said to you that if we’re saying one thing, and Jesus is saying something different, one of us is wrong, and it’s not Jesus, Why is it that we Christians so often open our mouth and pour our careless words that go against what the Word teaches? What are we doing to ourselves, talking that rubbish? The Bible tells us, basically, that we shall have what we say. Too many of us get stuck saying what we have.

Understand the difference? Most of us chunter on and on about our problems, instead of talking of Jesus, the One in whom there is an answer to our problems. We could bore for Scotland about what’s wrong with us, when we’d do far better to zip the lip about that stuff, get into the Word, remind ourselves what God’s promises are to deal with our situation, and speak it out in faith. A wee funny story against myself here.

After the long winter break, when I got back to linesman duties on Saturdays, I found myself puffing and panting and turning blue in the face at the exertion, and that was just the pre-match warm-up routine! The penny dropped that, at my age – for the next week and a half I’m older than Herself, oh dear – if I wanted to stay involved in semi-professional football, I’d better exercise more. So I started doing a couple of laps each day round the rugby field down at Jedburgh, but I did it with a bad attitude.

I hate this running stuff. I despise running. What a bore. Grump, moan, complain – and I ended up ready for the scrapheap after a lap and a half. Anyway I took today’s message to heart and went out the other day : I love running. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of running. By the second lap, my praising God for running was so extravagant I could hardly move for laughing – but I managed 4 laps nae bother.
I had to swallow the medicine I’m serving up to you. Today in your hymnsheet I’ve laid out a whole bunch of positive confessions for you to use. Don’t just leave them at the door as you go, don’t shove in the recycling pile, take them away and use them. Put them up on the fridge door, on your desk at work, wherever you will see them and reminded of them when you need them, and speak them out loud.

No-one else needs to hear it, because you’re actually giving yourself a good talking-to. By speaking out these words of faith, you are helping to re-programme your brain with positive, godly thoughts that will bear good fruit – remember we talked about that last week? – in your life. Remember all that Jesus went through so that you could enjoy life to the max. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Don’t fall into the trap of being hung by your tongue! Let’s make a new good habit of encouraging ourselves from the Word of God, and watch our life begin to turn round. And do let me know how you get on!

10 CONFESSIONS OF FAITH : God’s promises to overcome your problems!

God loves me so much that he gave his one and only Son so that I, by believing in Jesus, may not be lost, but have eternal life [John 3.16]

Jesus came that I may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows. [John 10.10]

Jesus used his servant body to carry my sins to the Cross so I could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became my healing.
[1 Peter 2.24]

Jesus intends me to have good fortune in everything I do, and to have good health—that my everyday affairs prosper, as well as my soul.
[3 John 2]

Christ took away the curse the law put on me. He changed places with me and put himself under that curse … so that God’s blessing promised to Abraham might come through Jesus Christ to me. Jesus died so that by my believing I could receive the Spirit that God promised.
[Galatians 3.13-14]

I will not worry about anything; instead, I will pray about everything. I will tell God what I need, and thank him for all he has done. Then I will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything I can understand. His peace will guard my heart and mind as I live in Christ Jesus.
[Philippians 4.6-7]

I can do everything through Jesus who gives me strength.
[Philippians 4.13]

God will meet all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4.19]

I give all my worries and cares to God, for he cares about me.
[1 Peter 5.7]

The LORD’s love for me, as I respect and honour him, continues forever and ever, and his goodness continues to my grandchildren.
[Psalm 103.17]




Ale & Teviot Church

Scottish Charity No. SC 016457

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22 The Glebe, Ancrum, Jedburgh, TD8 6UX
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