August 29th 2021: Phil Swann

Psalm 121

This is a ‘Song of Ascents,’ one of a group of psalms (psalms 120-134), clustered together. They are short and often extremely heart-warming. Some people say that these are an ascending series of ideas about God, which is an interesting theory. Others have suggested that the songs were written for pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. Another idea is these psalms were part of temple worship in Jerusalem; a verse would be sung on one step, then they would go up a few more steps and sing another verse and stop, and so on. The truth is, we don’t know. What we do know is there’s truth to enable us to understand who God is, who we are and, most importantly, how we may know Him, and as a result of knowing Him, how we may live.

Psalm 121 is the most well-known psalm of ascent, often used in times of crisis. The word ‘help’ is used throughout. ‘Help’ is a word that needs no explanation; we all know what it means to ask for help. The Psalmist lifts his eyes to the hills as he thinks about the need for help in his life. There is interesting discussion as to what this means. Is it just a poetical phrase that I’m in a situation which is so overwhelming, my human resources have been so exhausted, and I’m looking to bigger things and higher places? Others have suggested that David’s thoughts are turning to Jerusalem. Mountains and Jerusalem often go together. What we certainly know is that David is not in a good place.

Where does my help come from? Maybe you have experienced times when you have asked a similar question. How am I going to get through this? Maybe there are times when you have felt overwhelmed and devastated by what is going on around us in life? This is no lightweight psalm. It is going to the heart of human experience. It is for those times when we are in need and genuinely out of our depth, during deeply unsettling times, having a devastating, horrible experience.

Even asking for help is a humbling experience. To ask for help is to acknowledge our need. There are experiences in life when God, in His providence, allows us to feel completely and totally out of our depth. They are painful experiences. David speaks words of deep testing and pain. Where does my help come from? They are words of desperation. God, in His providence and in His goodness, may allow us to experience such devastation so that we may see who He is more clearly, and experience His help and grace more deeply.

During the Pandemic, where, in the middle of it all, do you turn for help? Incidents of alcohol, smoking and Netflix subscriptions have increased during this time. It seems that these are often the ways of coping as we try to find ways of coping. Let me be bold this morning and ask you personally, ‘Where do you go to for help when you are overwhelmed?’

Wonderfully, this psalm invites us to turn to God for help. In verse 2 David’s testimony in the midst of his distress is that, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2). This is a wonderful statement. It is always the experience of the Christian, in that whatever difficulty they face, they are always able to turn and seek the help of their heavenly Father. Help is promised here to the Christian, and crucially it is help from the Lord. We care for one another, but here David speaks of specific help coming from the Lord.

This Psalm encourages us to explore who the Lord is. Many of the psalms do this. The very first psalm, which in a way is a template of how we should read the psalms, tells us “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2) For David, the phrase ‘The Lord,’ acts as a trigger to think and remember who the Lord is. Here, (Psalm 121:2) the Lord is described as the maker of heaven and earth. This is a recurring theme in many of these psalms of ascendance e.g., Psalm 124 and Psalm 134.

Interestingly, David could have written many things about the Lord, but why home in on this? He wants us to remember our helper is not weak, neither is His help something that we should doubt. We should have confidence in Him that He can help us. He is never threatened by the things that threaten us. He is the maker of heaven and earth. This speaks of His authority and power. The one whom we are invited to trust in is almighty.

If you are not a Christian, how do you discover who God is? When you look at scripture you are pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is both man and God. We see so much in Jesus. He is the one who has all wisdom – what a comfort that is when we are in need. We see in Jesus Christ one who has all compassion and mercy towards us as sinners. It is in Christ we see the reality of the love of God enduring forever as He is patient with us, even in our rebellion. His truth, love and power are seen ultimately in the greatest thing He did for us as sinners, in His death upon the cross and by His resurrection from the dead. We must stress His resurrection. For it is in that wonderful news that he was raised on the morning of the third day, that our confidence to seek help from God is made most clear.

This psalm points us to specific help. What is the help the Lord offers David and which David rejoices in and sings about in this psalm? There’s a word which dominated this psalm, ‘Watch.’ It is found in verses 3,4,5,7 and 8. The Lord continually watches over His people. This may seem a little intimidating; He knows everything about us. But the direction in which this psalm is going is one who is our carer and protector. Here, the news in this psalm is that God sees our lives, our distresses, and concerns, and He is watching over us, committing to us. He is Immanuel, God with us. He has come to us as one of us. He understands. Your life, with your troubles and distresses, as a child of God, matters to God.

If we try to limit God’s interest in us to the times when we mess up, we fail to do justice and we fail to be honest to the wonderful picture that scripture presents us of our Father in heaven (Luke 12, Psalm 17). God loves us and cares for us. This is not because we are special or better than others, it is because the Lord is good. He delights in us. He cares for us. He will not allow your life, as a Christian, to fall into absolute chaos. He is totally committed to you. He is the God who sees us, who will never neglect His care towards us. His commitment to you is total and enthusiastic. We may seek to support one another, but there are times when we fail and get tired. God never slumbers or sleeps. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, where you are, the Lord is always with you. He will keep you. The things in life we think can harm us most, illustrated here by the sun and the moon, cannot. The Lord sets a limit to which disaster touches our lives. Central to that limit is the news that we will not be overwhelmed.

This psalm, which brings rich encouragement and comfort to Christians over many generations, over many centuries, is offered to us today for our comfort and encouragement. It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian, to know that the maker of heaven and earth is the one from whom our help ultimately comes. It is wonderful to know that He is always with us, He will never forget us and He will watch over our coming and our going, both now and evermore.

A Christian always has somewhere to turn. There is always an ear that is open. There is always a heart that is inclined towards them. There is always help. It’s a wonderful thing to be a Christian, to be found today in Jesus Christ, with access to the help of the maker of heaven and earth.

Are you a Christian? Is this help really your help? This is the help of the Christian. It is the comfort of the Christian. But are you a Christian today? You may be very little, very young, a lot older and a lot bigger, but it makes no difference. The invitation goes out repeatedly from scripture to us all. It is for us to come and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, to become a disciple of Christ, a follower of Christ, and in coming to Him, to receive grace and mercy and love from God. Understand, that the one who sees your life, in all of its chaos, in all of its hypocrisy, in all of its needs and its fears and confusion, is the same one who invites you today to forgiveness, to life, to joy and to freedom in Jesus.

Where does your help come from in this uncertain and dangerous world? Do you feel yourself to be overwhelmed by life? Well, there is a God in heaven who is, indeed, the maker of heaven and earth, who cares profoundly and deeply for each one of us. In His Son, Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, offers us new life. He invites you and He invites me to come to Him today and to receive His help.

June 27th 2021: Paul Daniel

2 Timothy 1:1-14

We live in an age of influence. There are more and more celebrities who have an impact on what people do. We are bombarded with advertisements and Youtube channels. Influencers can drive us; they can change the way we look and how we talk. Influencers can change the way we shop. If influencers haven’t got Jesus as king of their lives, it’s going to distract you. This past year we have seen a change in the way we have been influenced. It’s been complicated. We want things to be better than before.

As Christians we need to be thankful of those who have influenced us. Paul is writing to Timothy and reminded him of the influence of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. This morning we should be utterly thankful to those who have influenced us. Paul, in prison, is writing to Timothy in Ephesus. Paul is reminding Timothy as he goes forward, of what he needs to be influenced by, of what is going to shape his ministry in the church and the future. Today we hear so many voices, like the voice of the government. If you listen to too many voices, it becomes confusing. This letter to Timothy is really helpful for us; it has key doctrines of what must always be at the heart of our Christianity.

This letter reminds us of the impact of the Spirit of God. In verse seven we read, “For God gave us a spirit not to fear but of power and love and self-control.” As we have seen this week, the media can break a family, a relationship, in one single image on the front cover. But God sees and hears everything. He can reduce everyone’s lives in a moment, but he doesn’t. He offers his grace. The Holy Spirit brings new life. Our life begins to change. He moulds us to be more Christ-like. His spirit helps as to apply and understand God’s words. We’ve been bought by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and called to live for him.

The beginning of verse 8 reads, Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord.” We are called not to be ashamed, not to be worried about what others think of us. All of us are sinners. We need to be saved by grace. We are reminded in verse nine that it is God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”  There are somethings none of us can do or be able to do, that only God can do. God alone is the one who can rescue us from the Kingdom of darkness and bring us into the Kingdom of light. We can explore the universe and go to the ends of it, but we will never be able to save ourselves from the sting of death. The gift of God is eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ. The power of God makes it possible to be made right with God.

As we start to rebuild churches and ministries, what are we then to do? To declare that God alone can do what we can never do. In verse 10 we read it is ourSaviour, Christ Jesus who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Jesus Christ has destroyed death. He says in John 14 :6, “I am the way and the truth and the life no one comes to the father except through me.” Friends, are you reminded of that soul single truth this morning? Jesus Christ alone can destroy death.

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

We have to remember what Jesus Christ has destroyed. If you have put your trust in Jesus Christ, when He calls you home or returns, you are free. Why are we here this morning? To gather and worship God. But we are also here for a purpose, we are here to serve. What is God calling you to do? In what ways is God calling you to serve? Paul is writing to Timothy from prison, he is serving his life out in prison. Timothy is living life in Ephesus where people were trying to distract the church. We live in a fallen world, and we are called to serve in a fallen world. There are challenging times ahead. It is the Spirit who empowers us.

Verses 11 and 12 say, “I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I’m convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Paul makes it clear that contentment requires effort. We have been called by God to live lives that are holy. We are also to be ready to give a defence for the hope that is within us. To have Christian contentment, remember God is with us in all things and in all times.

“Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith aunt love that are in Christ Jesus. by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).

May 9th 2021: Alan Davison

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-14

This is one coherent paragraph. However, verse 13 is often mis-quoted and used in isolation. It needs to be understood in its right context. This epistle is very much a letter of joy. The Church in Philippi was established by Paul himself. Paul knows them very well. The Philippians are seeking to do things in truth and correct spirit. Why would Paul therefore need to encourage this if they were committed to gospel work? Paul is also thanking them for sending him a gift but also saying his need wasn’t so great he couldn’t cope.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Paul says, ‘all things,’ not everything. To say someone can do anything is to say this is unlimited, there is nothing I can’t do. This is to ignore the gifting of God. What did Paul really mean by ‘all things?’ This is the final sentence of a paragraph, a summary. So, Paul has already told us about these things, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (verse 12). Paul uses a pictorial way of saying this is all of life’s experience. Do we approach our lives in the right way?

In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The word ‘service’ can also be rendered as worship. The ESV Bible reads, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Every aspect of our life is of interest to God.

“Through Christ who strengthens me.” Do we still consider the things of Christ when we face a crisis? Do we take it to the Lord in prayer? The world’s alternative is, ‘I can do all things myself because I don’t need anyone else.’ A key point of being a Christian is, ‘I am weak, I need Christ.’

Jesus says, I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5). The whole point of being a Christian is to bear fruit. A vine branch only produces fruit if it is attached to the vine itself. The vine dresser is God. We need to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be focused on Christ and remember what is really important in our lives. Don’t strive after what the world says is important.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). This is a key point, made not only by Matthew, but also Mark and Luke, who make the point even more strongly. Everything comes down to our relationship with Christ – what we do through Him. He uses us to accomplish His purposes.

“Who strengthens me.” God strengthens us. The Christian’s life is a battle. Satan will attack wherever he can. But God knows everything and provides us with everything we need. He supplies our every need. Sometimes life can seem as if we are wading through treacle, gritting our teeth, waiting for the fun ahead. When Paul says, I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13), he is not speaking about some sudden empowerment. In 1 Timothy 6 Paul warns Timothy of the days of seeking worldly gain. The temptations of the world will rob us of contentment. Contentment is really to be found in trusting God. As we trust in God it should inform and calm our minds. Contentment does not come overnight. Paul tells us in verse 11 he had to learn to be contented, Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

In verse 12 we are being shown something that was secret, I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Paul makes it clear that contentment requires effort.

We have been called by God to live lives that are holy. We are also to be ready to give a defence for the hope that is within us. Christian contentment is remembering God is with us in all things and in all times.

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:10-14

March 10th 2019: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-March19Hebrews 12:1-3

A recent BBC news article written by a researcher was entitled ‘The Era of declining faith.’ One of the greatest problems is the name over the door of a place of worship. So often that name prevents people from associating with you. We must remember we are members of the body of Christ, of the household of faith. We are not Baptist, not Pentecostal, we belong to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the head and we are part of the body. We are members of the body of Christ.

During my last sermon we looked at those who bore the testimony of faith and the others. The others were not mentioned by name but were those who walked that path of faith and who continued in the faith. We also looked at what we should be doing and the hindrances that hold us back. We are not to get entangled in the yoke of bondage but to lay aside entanglements that hinder our testimony, the sin that so easily ensnares us, the pollution of the world. We often, as Christians, like to sit on the fence. We don’t like others to know we are Christians and hide Christ. Some Christians speak to other Christians lovingly, but then speak to others in a totally different way. The language we use with each other is the language we should use with others.

We should run with patience the race that is set. So often we’re so impatient we’re not prepared to listen. We need to run with endurance. What is the race that is set before us? It’s primarily run by Christians. Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Do you know what a Christian should look like?

The people who know the Lord Jesus Christ are called the Elect, the saints of God. The first people to be called Christians were at Antioch. The word Christian is only used three times in the Bible. A Christian is a person who has confessed Jesus as Saviour, who is born again of God, born of the Spirit, washed in His blood. Christ has redeemed us, bought us to Himself by His precious blood. Zechariah 4:6.

Saying you are a Christian does not make you a Christian. Have you been born of God, redeemed by His precious blood? Jonah made this wonderful testimony when vomiting out of the big fish, ‘Salvation is of the LORD,’ (Jonah 2:9).

So we’ve been redeemed. In this race that we’re in there are visitors and those who will try to prevent us from running it. The race has been determined already, set out by God Himself. The length of the race has been appointed already. There is an opposition to us running that race. But the Bible tells us we will be victorious because God is in that race. He will be with us. We’re running here in Roch. Every part of us is in that race. You cannot be a Christian today and not tomorrow, a Christian in the chapel today and not tomorrow outside. You belong to Jesus and Jesus belongs to you. You cannot be a part-time Christians. We’re in His race. It involves every part of us; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Jesus saved every part of us and brought us to newness of life. We are a new creation. He has changed a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. The race is run in the world.

There’s a prize – eternal glory. Are you excited about the glory to come? Jesus has gone back into heaven, He is crowned with glory and honour. He’s promised that glory to every believer in Christ – the eternal glory, born of His Spirit, born of His blood. John 17:24. In the race we are running we are being changed day by day, being more like Him.

It’s a race of endurance, looking to Jesus. How wonderful! The Lord Jesus Christ is the example, He is the one who has gone before us, He is the forerunner in this race. There is nothing that we will experience in this race that He can’t help us with and guide us with. There isn’t a situation that you will ever come across that He can’t help with. In Galatians 2:20 we read Paul was crucified with Christ, yet alive. Christ lives in me. He is the one who has died for us.

Sometimes, in our Christian life, we don’t want to face situations we don’t want – suffering, those who will hate us. John 17:14. The Lord Jesus Christ said we will suffer if we stand for Him.

There are also other runners in this race. Matthew 13, the Parable of the tares and wheat illustrates this. Wheat has a very identifiable head but the tares, a type of rye grass, are very similar. In the parable the servant recognised in the field something else was growing besides the wheat. He pointed it out to the owner, who said it must not be pulled up but grow together with the wheat. It would be rooted out at harvest time and burned. This speaks of judgement. In churches there are those who are true believers and those who are not. Some never trust Christ as their Saviour but attack Christians. Being a member of a church doesn’t say you know Christ as your Saviour.

To know Christ is to confess Him as Saviour, being washed by His previous blood. You need to know where you stand. We need to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 11:28. We need to share Christ with others. We are to live Christ, to live for the glory of Christ. As we run this race He wants us to share Him, to bring satisfaction to His Name. As we share Christ in our Christian path, others will want to know Christ.

The same one who has run that race, a perfect race, is the same one who is helping us to run that race, who wants us to share Christ, live for His glory and be a testimony. Let us not be afraid of the Word of God. Live it! Run it! Come unto Him, Isaiah 40, For His glory and His Praise.