This time of worship is not only for Sunday morning (or some other time on Sunday). You can come back, again and again, during the week, and be blessed by the Lord. He is with us every day. He loves us – always and forever.
However difficult and distressing our present circumstances may be, let us never forget this: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
‘Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. His greatness is beyond understanding’. We worship You, Lord – our great God: ‘I will exalt You, my God the King. I will praise Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:1-3).
You, Lord, are the God whom we worship. You are so much greater than the worship we bring to You. Our worship is to be a ‘joyful celebration’. We celebrate Your great love: ‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’. We rejoice in Your great faithfulness: ‘The Lord is faithful to all His promises’. Here on earth, we have only begun to worship You, our great God. Our worship will continue in Your ‘everlasting Kingdom’. There, we will ‘praise Your Name for ever and ever’ (Psalm 145:7-8,13,21).
‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 146:2).
Praising You, the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We need Your help. Help us never to forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). We thank You, Lord, that we are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength. We have Your help. May we always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8). ‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’ (Psalm 146:5-6).
‘The Lord builds up Jerusalem. He gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:2-3).
Help us, Lord, to look beyond the building of the city of Jerusalem with bricks and mortar. May we see, clearly, that this is You blessing Your people, as they gather together to worship You. In Christ, we are ‘being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Ephesians 2:22). You, Lord, are drawing us to Yourself. You’re bringing us into fellowship with Your people. You’re calling us to worship You: ‘Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving’. You ‘bless’ us through ‘Your Word’. You ‘bless’ us in ‘the Spirit’: ‘You send Your Word… and the waters flow’ (Psalm 147:7,12-13,18; John 7:37-39).
‘Praise the Lord.’ We bring to You, Lord, our personal song of praise to God – ‘Praise be to the Lord my Rock… I will sing a new song to You, O God… I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your Name for ever and ever; Every day I will praise You… My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord… I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalms 144:1,9; 145:1-2,21; 146:2).
Our personal worship is just a small part of something so much richer and fuller – ‘Let everything that has breath praise the Lord’ (Psalm 150:6). As we read these great Psalms of praise, may we be inspired to praise You more truly and more fully.
Now. let’s sing a hymn of praise to the Lord – Thou Whose Almighty Word
Lord, help us to get our priorities right – Your priorities. May our lives be more centred on You – less centred on ourselves. Help us to listen for Your Word – not to jump straight in with our own words. Help us to open our hearts to Your Holy Spirit. May He move among us – in power, in love, in holiness, in victory. Transform our life, O Lord – May we live as a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). May we know the great blessing of knowing that Jesus, our Saviour, is, always, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Lord, when You speak to us, help us to say, ‘Your will be done’ (Matthew 6:10).
‘Let it be to me according to Your Word’ (Luke 1:38) – This was Mary’s prayer. May it, also, be our prayer. By ourselves, we are helpless and hopeless. Without Your help, we have no hope of doing Your will and pleasing You. We need Your Holy Spirit. May the Spirit’s ‘living water’ flow in us (John 7:37-39). Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your Holy Spirit. He gives us the power to ‘walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7) with You. Lead us in the way of fruitfulness – the way of “love, joy, peace … “(Galatians 5:22-23).
Lord, You have made us – to praise You. You call us to live for Your glory. Praise to God, glory to God – Where does this come from? We look into our hearts – and it is not there. We look at our lives – and we say, “Where is this praise to God?, Where is this glory to God?” Lord, we can only praise You when You give to us the song of praise. You, alone, can fill our hearts with praise to You. You, alone, can fill our lives with Your glory. Without You, Lord, our life is a spiritual wasteland. Come, O Lord, to this spiritual wasteland. Come, and make our life a song of praise to You. Come, and make our life a hymn that says, “Glory to God.”
Lord, You are our Creator. We have been created by You. We have been created for You. What have we done with this great blessing? We have turned away from You. We have gone our own way. We have done our own thing. Have You lost patience with us? Have You given up on us? Often, we feel like we are a waste of Your time – then, we remember Jesus. That’s when everything changes. We remember Jesus. He came from where You are. He came to where we are. From where we are to where You are – this is what Jesus does for us.
Let us bring to the Lord our prayer song – Breathe on me, Breath of God
Lord, we look at ourselves, and we say, “This is my life. This is the way I’ve always been. I’ll never change. I’ll never be any different.” Is this all that we can say about ourselves? Is this what You’re saying about us? We’re always thinking about what we are. You’re always saying to us, “This is what you can become. This is what I am going to make you.” Help us to listen to what You’re saying to us. Help us to make a new “beginning” with You – as we believe and receive “the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
Lord, You are God. Who are we to tell You what to do? Who are we to say, “We’ll do what we like”, when You’re saying to us, “I know what’s best for you.” Help us to choose Your way, and stop insisting on getting our own way. How are we to do this? Jesus tells us, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). How, we wonder, does Jesus make us free?
He shows us “the truth” – the truth about ourselves, the truth about Jesus.
We are sinners. Jesus is our Saviour. This is the truth. It’s “the truth that sets us free” (John 8:32). We are sinners. Jesus is our Saviour. This is the truth that brings us out of the prison cell of our own making. This, Lord, is the truth which brings us on to the pathway of Your blessing, the pathway of true and lasting joy, the pathway to Your eternal glory.
Lord, we thank You that You have a place in Your heart for us. Why? What have we done that You should keep on loving us? Is there something good about us – something that makes us worthy of Your love? Whatever way we look at it – the answer’s always “No.” No! No! No!
There’s no way back to You, Lord, that begins with ourselves. We cannot begin with ourselves – but “Is there another starting-point?”
Lord, there is only one place. We begin with Your love – “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son … “ (John 3:16). We hear these words, and we ask, “Why, Lord, have You loved us like this?”
From our side, there’s no answer to this question. We can only say, “We’re sinners.” There’s nothing else we can say about ourselves.
What do You, Lord, say to sinners? “God shows His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Lord, we are often tempted – tempted to forget all about You. The pull towards self-centred living is so strong. We think that we can go it alone. We think that we don’t need You. We think that we can manage all right without You. Where does this kind of thinking come from? Does it come from You? – To ask the question is to give the answer. You would never make us think like that! This kind of thinking must come from somewhere else – from someone else. It can only come from Satan – the devil. He’s the one who wants us to forget all about You. Lord, You are “our Father” (Matthew 6:9). Satan is very different. He’s “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Lord, help us to stop listening to Satan – and to start listening to You.
Lord, we have wandered far from You. There seems to be no way back. We feel like we’re ready to give up in despair. Is this all that there is – wandering around in the wilderness of life, always travelling but never arriving at our destination? We’re groping around in the darkness – then something happens, something wonderful. Lord, You come to us. You come to us in our darkness. You come to us with Your light. It’s the light of Christ. It’s the light of love. It’s the light of salvation. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Lord, we have failed You over and over again. It never seems to stop – failure, failure, failure ..! This is the story of our life – from beginning to end. Can we escape from this – failure, failure, failure …? This is nothing new – It goes back to the Garden of Eden. It started off so well – but it turned out so badly. Is there a way out of this – failure, failure, failure …? Lord, we thank You that there is! Jesus has succeeded – where everyone else failed. “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.”
Lord, we feel like we’re making a right mess of things. Everything’s going wrong. This is the story of today’s world. It’s not just everybody else’s story. It’s our story. None of us can escape the truth – we’re sinners.
Thank You, Lord – That’s only part of the truth concerning us. We are loved by You. We hear this, Lord – but still we wonder, “Can You do anything with us?” Has this world reached the end of the road? Is our situation hopeless? Is there any hope for any of us? We feel ourselves being dragged into a black hole – then we hear Your Word speaking to us: ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23). Gift? – It’s not earned by us. It’s given to us. Hope? Where does it come from? – From Jesus Christ our Lord!
Let us sing of the Lord’s great love for us – O love that wilt not let me go
Keep on praying! – A message from the Moderator of the Presbytery of Greenock and Paisley
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.
Disease, Pain and Grief … Jesus is the Way to eternal life.
We hear about disease, pain and grief. It is all very disturbing to us. What are we to do with our anxieties? Let us take them to the Lord in prayer. When we take our concerns to the Lord, we are reminded of something else – our sin.
In Psalm 25:18, the Psalmist spoke to God about the hard times he was facing. When he was talking to God about these things, he thought about something else – his sin.
He said to the Lord, “Look on my affliction and my distress”, and, then, he said something else – “and take away my sins.”
Disease, pain and grief – these things can bring us into the presence of the Lord. They can make us start thinking about more than what’s happening to us right now. They can make us start thinking about our whole life. We start thinking, “What does God think of me?”
Soon, we become aware of how far we have fallen short of the way God wants us to live – “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
From Romans 3:23, we read on to Romans 3:24, where we find that there is Good News for sinners: “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
When we live with the very real threat of disease, pain and grief, may we bring our concerns to the Lord, may we listen to what he says to us about our sin, and may we hear what he says to us about our Saviour.
What does God say to us about our sin? Does he single us out, saying, “You are very sinful – and, now, I’m punishing you for your many sins”?
No! This is not what we have, here, in Romans 3:23. What we do have is this: every one of us have sinned.
What do we have in Romans 3:24?
Is there any suggestion that the Good News of Christ is only for people who are much more holy than every one else?
No! There is something much more wonderful than this.
The Good News of Christ, our Saviour, is for every one of us.
To every one of us, Christ is calling out. He’s calling out to us, in love. The call of Christ is the call of his love.
We may begin with our anxieties about disease, pain and grief but, as we think about these things, may our thoughts turn to Jesus, and may we learn, from him, that there is more to our life than disease, pain and grief. There is a way that leads to eternal life.
In John 14:1-6, Jesus speaks to us about eternal life, and he tells us that he is the “way” to eternal life.
Jesus Comforts His Disciples.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Let us sing of our great Saviour, Jesus – Crown Him with many crowns
“How long will the land mourn … ?” (Jeremiah 12:4).
There are times, in our life, when our questions go unanswered – and remain unanswered.
We wonder what the future holds. We’d like to think that “things can only get better”, but we wonder, “Will they get better?” We, also, ask another question, “If things do get better, when is this going to happen?”
In one sense, we must say that we don’t know the answer to these questions.
In another sense, there is an answer to our questions. It’s not an answer which says, “This is what’s going to happen”, and “This is when it’s going to happen.” It’s an answer that comes to us from God. It’s an answer that calls us to keep on trusting Him – no matter how bad it gets.
Keep on trusting God – Is this an answer to our questions?
We might say, “No. It’s not”, but, perhaps, it is the only ‘answer’ we’re going to get.
It’s an ‘answer’ that sends another question back to us – If things don’t get any better, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to keep on trusting God, asking him to give us the strength that we need?
We don’t know what the future holds – and we shouldn’t pretend that we do.
In our uncertainty about the future, are we going to turn to the Lord and face the future with him, or are we going to turn away from Him and face the future without Him?
We begin with our questions. They are questions that we can’t answer.
When we ask our questions, other questions, persistent questions, keep on coming back at us. They are questions to which we must give our answer. Will we call upon the Lord? or Will we curse Him? Will we blame Him? or Will we bless Hm?
In life’s hard times, may God help us to keep on trusting Him and keep on praising Him.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).
In our world, is there anything “that can never perish, spoil or fade” – anything that is “imperishable, undefiled and unfading” (v. 3)?
Here, God’s Word is speaking to us about something very different – something that’s not of this world, something that’s out of this world, something which is being kept for us, something for which we are being kept (vs. 4-5). This something is God’s salvation. It’s our salvation. It’s eternal salvation
Something very different – God’s salvation, our salvation, eternal salvation: Does this make any difference to our life here on earth?
While we’re here on earth, we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (v. 6). We have no guarantee that we will have an easy pathway through our life on earth. What are we to do when everything seems to be so hard-going for us?
We are to look away from ourselves, and all that’s happening to us. We are to look to “Jesus Christ” – seeing Him with the eyes of faith, loving Him with heartfelt love, believing in Him, being “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”, and receiving, from Him, “the end result of our faith, the salvation of our souls” (vs. 7-9).
We sing, Who is on the Lord’s side? Let us give our answer, “We are on the Lord’s side … .”
“I pray that all may go well with you” (3 John 2).
What does this mean? Does it mean that we will always feel happy?
What does it mean to be happy? Happiness means one thing for one person, and it means something else for someone else. Some people look for happiness within themselves. Others tell us that we should look away from ourselves to the Lord. They tell us that we’ll only find true happiness when we’re learning to put our trust in the Lord.
Happiness is an emotional word. When we’re speaking about our emotions, we must be honest, and say that we’re not always happy. Sometimes, good things are happening to us, and we’re happy. Sometimes, bad things are happening to us, and we’re not so happy.
Is there another word that lifts us above and beyond our changing circumstances and our changeable emotions? Yes. There is. It’s the word, “Blessed.”
“I feel blessed” – Is this just another way of saying, “I feel happy”?
Not really – the moment we use the word, “blessed”, our thoughts move beyond our feelings. They’re lifted up to our God.
How does this change anything – if we’re not always happy?
To be blessed is more than feeling happy.
What’s the difference between being blessed and feeling happy?
Feeling happy: we’re just talking about the way we feel – nothing more than that. Being blessed: this is a bit different – it speaks to us about the love of God.
What are we to say about our feelings? and What are we to say about the love of God?
Are we to say, “I don’t feel happy … God doesn’t love me”? or Are we to say, “God loves me … I am blessed”?
Feeling happy? Being blessed? It depends on our starting-point. Do we begin with God? or Do we leave God out of our thinking?
If we begin with God, we will know that He loves us, and we will know that we are blessed, even when we don’t feel very happy.
“This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more … ” (Philippians 1:9).
How does our love abound? How does it overflow?
It’s not really about our love. It’s about God’s love – reaching out to us, going deep down into our hearts, and reaching out, through us, to others.
Here are two songs I’ve just discovered.
The first is the words of the benediction – The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
The second is An Irish Blessing: beautiful words, beautiful music, beautiful scenery – a very fitting way to bring our time of worship to a conclusion – “… In every moment of every day, may you feel God’s love and be inspired. That is my wish for you and all who are dear to you. That is my wish for you now, always and forever.”
If, during the week, you would like to watch some more hymn videos, here are two videos of a great ‘confession of faith’ hymn – “I know whom I have believed.”
The first video – I know whom I have believed – has the words on the screen.
The second video – I know whom I have believed – is a choir, singing outdoors, in the snow.
You’ll never walk alone – This is a brand new video. It’s a virtual choir / orchestra, with 300 people, from 15 countries.
God bless you all.
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