We thank You, Lord, that You invite us to “come” to You and receive salvation – “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Along with Your promise, there is also Your warning: “if you refuse and rebel … ” (Isaiah 1:18-20). You call us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. With the Gospel promise, there is also the Gospel warning: “Whoever does not believe is condemned already because he does not believe in the Name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18). Help us, Lord, to receive Your “great salvation” – and to remember the Gospel warning: “How shall we escape if we neglect or ignore such a great salvation.” (Hebrews 2:3).
Lord, You’re calling us to worship You – “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” You’re calling us to walk in Your ways – “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:3,5). We’re moving towards the Day when “the pride of men shall be humbled and brought low”, the Day when “the Lord alone will be exalted” (Isaiah 2:11-12,17). How, Lord, are we to get ready for the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ? You’re calling us to keep on worshipping You and walking with You. As we worship You and walk with You, may our pride be humbled, and may our Saviour be exalted.
Lord, You call us to make our choice. Will we follow the way of “the righteous” or the way of “the wicked” (Isaiah 3:10-11)? We recall the words of Jesus: “Enter by the narrow gate … only a few find the narrow gate, the hard way that leads to life. His words are not popular. Many don’t like it when Jesus says, “the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Help us, Lord, to listen to all that Jesus is saying to us – and not only the ‘nice’ things that we like to hear.
“Those who are left … will be called holy” (Isaiah 4:3). Lord, we hear worldly people speaking of ‘the holy people who need to learn to live in the real world.’ They speak with contempt. When You, Lord, call Your people “holy”, You speak with affection. You look upon us in love. You tell us that we are special to You. You tell us that we are precious in Your eyes. Lord, You’re calling us to be holy. Help us to look beyond this world, to catch a glimpse of “the things that are unseen and eternal”, and to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:18; Philippians 3:14).
Lord, You reveal Your holiness: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” In Your holiness, we see our own sinfulness: “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:3,5). Lord, You are perfectly holy: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13). When we look at ourselves in the light of Your perfect holiness, we see ourselves as we really are: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Help us, Lord, to confess our sin and pray for your forgiveness: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Help us to hear Your Word of forgiveness – “your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.” Help us to speak our words of commitment – “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:7-8).
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus, Your Son, is “Immanuel” – “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). We look forward to the Second Coming of Immanuel: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them” (Revelation 21:3). When our thoughts turn to the Return of Christ, may we think of His urgent call to faith: “When the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). Lord, give us strength to “stand firm in our faith”, to “believe and be saved” (Isaiah 7:9; Hebrews 10:37-39).
“Immanuel … God is with us” (Isaiah 8:8,10). Lord, we read these words – and we thank You that Jesus has come to be with us so that we may go to be with Him. He has come from heaven to earth so that we might go from earth to heaven. He died for us so that we might live with Him. Thank You, Lord, for Jesus, our great Saviour.
Lord, we read the words of prophecy – “To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given … ” – and we rejoice in the fulfilment of prophecy – “Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you.” What a great Saviour Jesus is – He is our “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 2:11). Lord, this is “Good News of great joy” – for “all the people” and for “all generations” (Luke 2:10; Luke 1:46-50). Thank You, Lord.
“A few, the remaining few of Jacob, will return to the mighty God” (Isaiah 10:21). So few people make time for worshipping You, Lord. Are we to become discouraged? No! We must take encouragement from Your Word: “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame” (Isaiah 10:17). Lord, give us grace to “truly rely on” You, “the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 10:20), to keep on believing that You will, again, send Your blessing – even in the difficult times when disappointment and discouragement threaten to engulf and overwhelm us.
We thank You, Lord, for Jesus Christ – ” a Banner for the nations”, “the Saviour of the world” (Isaiah 11:12′ John 4:42). We thank You that He has “died for the sins of the whole world.” This is “Good News” for “all the world.” It’s a call to receive the “forgiveness of sins.” It’s a call to become His “disciples” (1 John 2:2; Mark 16:15; Luke 24;27; Matthew 28:19). As we look to Jesus, our Saviour, may our personal faith – “I will praise You, O Lord … God is my Salvation … The Lord is my Strength and my Song …” – become our public testimony – making Christ “known among the nations,” telling “all the world! what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12:1-2,4-5).
“The Day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty … The Day of the Lord is coming – a cruel Day with fierce anger … “; “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven … He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord … ” Lord, we read these words, and we wonder, “Is this what lies ahead of us?” We thank You, Lord, that You speak to us of something else, something very much more wonderful – the Day of Christ’s Return, the Day of our salvation: “the Day He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed” (Isaiah 13:6,9; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Why, Lord, do You speak to us about judgment? Does this have anything at all to do with the Good News of our salvation? You show us, Lord, what we have been saved from – so that we might appreciate more deeply, more truly and more fully, the wonder of Your great salvation. You speak to us Your warning, ‘Don’t let the Day of the Lord “surprise you like a thief” – to bring us to “Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath,” and to lead us on to the Day of “salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4,9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
We read, Lord, about “the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 14:4) – and we see Satan. He is full of pride – “I will climb to the highest heaven and be like the Most High.” He is fallen – “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer.” He will be brought to nothing – “you will be brought down to the pit of hell … ” (Isaiah 14:12-15). We look at the king of Tyre – and, again, we see Satan – “you were on the holy mountain of God … you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God … your heart was proud … you have come to a dreadful end … ” (Ezekiel 28:12-19). We look beyond Satan (the devil) – and we see Jesus, our great Saviour. By “the authority of Christ,” Satan “has been thrown down.” In Christ, we have the victory over Satan: “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb … “(Revelation 12:7-12). Thank You, Lord, for Your Son, Jesus – and the great victory over Satan that He has won for us.
“My heart cries out for Moab” (Isaiah 15:5). Lord, we read these words – and we catch a glimpse of Your loving heart. You take “no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” You do “not want anyone to perish.” You long for “everyone to come to repentance” (Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). When, Lord, we look at Your Son, Jesus – our Saviour, we see your loving heart: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:27). When we look at Paul, the Apostle, we see Your loving heart. Paul saw the nation of Israel, turning away from You – and he was filled with compassion: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” (Romans 9:2). Help us, Lord, to feel for the lost, to look upon them with Your love, and to long for them to be saved.
‘In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a Man will sit on it – One from the house of David…’ (Isaiah 16:5). Lord, we read these words, and we look beyond David – to Jesus, ‘the Son of God’ (Romans 1:4). David was the king of Israel. Jesus is the King of kings. In Jesus, Your Perfect Son, we see Your love and Your faithfulness. Thank You, Lord.
At the beginning of the lockdown, Jack McHugh, the Moderator of the Presbytery of Greenock and Paisley, wrote a letter to the members of our Presbytery. For several months, I have been including Jack’s letter in these times of worship “in our own homes.” In this letter, he calls us to pray. Although our Presbytery, now, has a new Moderator, we continue to include Jack’s letter.
Keep on praying!
As you read Jack’s letter, pray for the people he mentions – and don’t forget to pray for him, giving thanks to God for his much-needed and much-appreciated spiritual leadership.
Call to Prayer
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As we face the uncertainty surrounding the present coronavirus pandemic and the fact that we cannot see, feel or touch the problem, it can lead us to become either sceptical about its seriousness or terrified of what it could do to us or our loved ones. There is no doubt that we face the greatest test that our nation has faced since the end of the Second World War. It proves, once again, that we really do not have all the answers to life’s problems.
However, even in the uncertainly and the need to listen carefully to the scientific and medical experts, who are seeking to help our nation get through these difficult times, I believe that there is One who does have all the answers, and we can pray to Him.
I have no doubt that we have all been earnestly praying in these days, but I have been led to believe that, although we cannot come together as a Presbytery, we can still pray together. I would like to suggest that we, as a Presbytery, endeavour to set aside time each day at the same time if possible to pray about the present situation; and I would suggest 11.00 a.m.
It may be that for some that is not possible, but let us pray every day at whatever time is suitable for each one of us.
Let us pray for doctors, nurses, scientists, emergency service workers and indeed all who would seek to respond in these difficult days. Pray for the vulnerable folk in society; let us pray for those who have had to self-isolate, and for folk who contract the virus that they will make a full recovery. Let us pray for families with children who are at home because our schools are closing, that they can cope with the need to keep the children interested and occupied.
Let us pray for our congregations and the folk in our Presbytery and nation. Pray for folk whose employment and income is adversely affected by not being able to work.
Pray for our politicians in Westminster and Holyrood that God will sustain them and inspire them with His Holy Spirit that their decisions will be in accordance with His will and purposes.
Let us all remember that God is Sovereign and that he has shown the depth of his love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, into our world to be our Saviour and our Lord. He will not abandon us now in our time of need.
God bless you all.
‘You have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge’ (Isaiah 17:10). Lord, we find it so easy to forget – and so hard to remember. You have loved us so much. We should remember to say, ‘Thank You, Lord’. Very often, we forget. When Jesus healed ten lepers, only ‘one of them came back’ to say ‘Thank You’. Far too often, we are like ‘the other nine’ (Luke 17:11-19). We forget to thank You for Your love. We take Your love for granted. We should be celebrating. We should be letting You know how much we love You. We forget ‘our first love’ (Revelation 2:4). Help us to let Jesus be our first love, our only love – for the whole of our life.
‘The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel my heritage”’ (Isaiah 19:25). ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek… you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). How, Lord, can people who seem to be opposites be brought together? Jesus Christ brings them together. He breaks down ‘the barrier’. He removes ‘the dividing wall of hostility’. We are brought ‘near’ to one another through ‘the blood of Christ’. Help us, Lord, to come to ‘the Cross’ of Christ. There, at ‘the Cross’, we will find each other. We will discover what it means to be ‘one body’ in Christ (Ephesians 2:13-16). When Satan comes, creating misunderstanding, filling our minds with suspicion and undermining our hopes of peace, help us to remind him of Your Word, ‘You are all one in Christ Jesus’.
Lord, we live in a situation of conflict. We are at war with the enemy. Satan is Your enemy. Satan is our enemy. Satan is a very determined enemy. Satan is a defeated enemy. ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon…’ (Isaiah 21:9). We read these words, repeated again in Revelation 14:8; 18:2. You, Lord, are assuring us that Satan will not prevail over You and Your people. The victory is Yours, Lord. You give Your victory to us. When the going gets tough, when Satan seems to have the upper hand, help us to remember this: ‘Fierce may be the conflict, strong may be the foe, but the King’s own army none can overthrow. Round His standard ranging, victory is secure, for His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.’ May we never hesitate to commit ourselves to Christ: ‘Joyfully enlisting, by Thy grace divine, we are on the Lord’s side; Saviour, we are Thine.’
We read, Lord, about ‘the Valley of Vision’ (Isaiah 22:1,5). You are to be our Vision: ‘Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art, Thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping Thy presence my light.’ When we’re down in the valley, the mountain-top experience seems a long way off. What are we to do when everything seems to be hard-going? When there seems to be no way out of the valley, no way back to the mountain-top, help us to keep on ‘looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). When we’re in the ‘valley’, help us to say, ‘My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself, my God’. May our ‘valley’ become Your ‘valley of vision’, the place where we are learning to ‘turn our eyes upon Jesus.’
‘Look at the land of the Babylonians, this people that is now of no account!’ (13). We read these words, Lord, and we wonder, “What about our nation? Is there any hope for our nation?” To the nation which turns to You, Lord, You speak Your promise of blessing – ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord …’ (Psalm 33:12). To the nation which turns away from You, You speak Your warning of judgment – ‘For lack of guidance a nation falls’ (Proverbs 11:14). We must choose. Help us, Lord, to choose to listen to You, to submit our lives to You,, to follow the guidance You have given to us in Your Word. Your way leads to blessing – ‘Righteousness exalts a nation.’ The way of self leads to judgment – ‘sin is a disgrace to any people’ (Proverbs 14:34). Raise us, Lord, above the way of “the Babylonians” – to the better way, the way that brings glory to You: ‘They will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).
‘They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord, exalt the Name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One”’ (Isaiah 24:14-16). Lord, this is such a beautiful picture of a land that is enjoying Your blessing, praising You and giving glory to You. Looking around us, we see a very different picture – ‘The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws… therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt’ (Isaiah 24:5-6). Can the dark picture of sin and guilt be turned into the brighter picture of salvation and rejoicing? Lord, You are ‘able to do so much more than we can ask for, or even imagine’ (Ephesians 3:20). Help us, Lord, to be bold – and keep on praying that You will send revival in our time.
‘O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your Name… You have done marvellous things’ (Isaiah 25:1). We remember what You, Lord, have done for us. You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. We rejoice in Jesus. He died for us. We rejoice in Jesus. He rose again for us. We look forward to His Return. We look forward to the Day when You, Lord, ‘will swallow up death for ever.’ On that Day, ‘the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.’ On that Day, we will look back and say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us.’ On that Day, we will ‘rejoice and be glad in Your salvation’ (Isaiah 25:8-9). Here and now, help us to ‘trust in’ You. May we know that we can trust in You ‘for ever.’ You are ‘the everlasting Rock’ – ‘the Rock of our salvation’ (Isaiah 26:4; Psalm 95:1).
We thank You, Lord, that Jesus is our Saviour – ‘Lord, You establish peace for us’; ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’. We cannot save ourselves. We can only look away from ourselves to Jesus – and be saved by Him: ‘all that we have accomplished You have done for us’; ‘By grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God’ (Isaiah 26:12; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8). We thank You that Jesus is our Lord – ‘Lord, our God… You alone are our Lord’. How are we to live once we have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? – ‘Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him’. Help us not to ‘keep on sinning so that You, Lord, can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness.’ Help us to live a life of ‘good works’ (Isaiah 26:13; Colossians 2:6; Romans 6:1; Ephesians 2:10).
We thank You, Lord, that Your Son, Jesus Christ, is ‘the precious Cornerstone’. He is ‘the sure Foundation’ (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus is the Name of our salvation – ‘Salvation is found in no-one else… there is no other name… by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:10-12). There is only one ‘Foundation’ for our faith – ‘Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 3:11). He is the ‘chosen and precious Cornerstone’ – ‘to you who believe, this Stone is precious’ (1 Peter 2:6-7). Help us, Lord, to build our life on Christ, ‘the solid Rock’ – ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; no merit of my own I claim, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name. When weary in this earthly race, I rest on His unchanging grace… When earthly hopes are swept away, He will uphold me on that Day. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand’ (Matthew 7:24-27).
‘The wisdom of the wise will perish’ (Isaiah 29:14). As, Lord, we read these words, may we know that there is another ‘wisdom’, a ‘wisdom’ which shall not perish, a ‘wisdom’ which is ‘wiser than man’s wisdom’. Christ is ‘the Wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24-25). May we know that, with Christ as our Saviour, we ‘shall not perish.’ Through faith in Him, we receive the ‘wisdom’ which brings ‘salvation’ (John 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:15). He is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6). He is the Way to true wisdom. He is the Truth upon which true wisdom is based. He is the Life which is based on true wisdom. He is true Wisdom. Help us, Lord, not to seek wisdom apart from faith in Jesus Christ – ‘the world did not know God through wisdom.’ May we know that there is one true wisdom which does ‘not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God’ – faith in ‘Christ crucified’ (1 Corinthians 1:21-23; 2:1-5).
‘In returning and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, “No!”’ (Isaiah 30:15-16). Lord, You want to bless us. You want to be our ‘salvation.’ You want to be our ‘strength.’ How do You bless us? How do You become our ‘salvation’? How do You become our ‘strength’? We must want Your blessing. We must want Your ‘salvation.’ We must want Your ‘strength.’ We must return to You and rest in You. We must quietly listen to Your Word, putting our trust in You. There is no ‘salvation’ without ‘returning and rest.’ There is no ‘strength’ without ‘quietness and trust.’ You, Lord, do not force Yourself upon us. We can say, ‘No! I will have none of it’. You want to bless us. Help us, Lord, to say, ‘Yes, Lord! I want You to be my “salvation.” I want You to be my “strength.”’
‘Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!’ (Isaiah 31:1). Lord, we can so easily forget You. We try to go it alone, and we forget to look to You for help. Even when we forget You, You do not forget us. When we turn our back on You, You call us to ‘return to You’ (Isaiah 31:6). You remind us that our true help is found in You: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8). We need not look around here, there and everywhere for an answer to the question, ‘Where does my help come from?’ There is only one true answer to this question: ‘My help comes from You, Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:1-2). Thank You, Lord, that You are our God – our Maker and our Helper.
‘Abandoned… deserted… a wasteland…’ (Isaiah 32:14). Lord, we read these words, and we wonder,”Can such a desperate situation be turned around?” Your answer is “Yes!” – When ‘the Spirit is poured upon us from on high… the wilderness becomes a fruitful field’ (Isaiah 32:15). Help us not to lose heart. May we keep on calling on You. Help us to keep on believing that You, Lord, are able to turn things around. When the situation seems hopeless, help us to put our trust in You, ‘the God of hope.’ Help us to keep on praying that You will send Your blessing: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope’ (Romans 15:13).
‘O Lord…Be our strength every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble’ (Isaiah 33:2). Help us, Lord, not only to pray to You ‘in the time of trouble.’ Help us to pray to You ‘every morning.’ May we not keep You at a distance, calling on You only when things are going badly. When we keep You at a distance, our life tells its own sad story – ‘O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.’ When we draw near to You, Lord, You draw near to us, and everything becomes very different – ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!’ (James 4:8). Lord, let Your ‘love’ come to us ‘new every morning’ – ‘fresh as the morning , as sure as the sunrise’ (Lamentations 3:22-23).
God bless you all.
Here’s a link to notes on Bible readings for the first Sunday of Advent. (29th November 2020 – Revised Common Lectionary – Year B)