Thoughts on the Gospel by David Joy

THOUGHTS ON THE GOSPEL
December 2014 No.215
Shepherds keeping watch over their flock
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, Luke Ch2 v 15

Jesus’ Birth 
When I was a child, winter snow often lay on the ground for weeks and a large pond near my home remained frozen for long spells. Many happy hours were spent at the pond skating and playing ice hockey, even although my skates were home made.

I recall winter nights, when snow lay heavy on the ground, going to church services on Christmas Eve. I loved the story of Jesus’ Birth and thought I believed in Him but sadly I did not really know Him.

Dear friends, there are many who know about Jesus, celebrate His Birth but do not know Him. With this in mind, I want to tell you a story which I hope will take us to Bethlehem, where the Saviour was born.

Two Little Lambs 
During those distant childhood days, I had a friend who lived on a croft in the hills. One day he told me that a sheep had given birth, during a blizzard, to twin lambs, and invited me to come and see them.

After walking as fast as we could through deep snow to a shelter in the hills above his home, I saw the twin lambs. To me it was a miracle they had survived being born in the snow and a testimony to the diligence of the shepherd who had been watching over them.

As I think of that shepherd I recall the account in the Bible of some other shepherds who were ‘keeping watch over their flock by night,’ Luke Ch 2 v 7.

The Shepherds
These shepherds, too, were obviously diligent in the way they cared for their flock and were ‘abiding in the field,’ Luke 2 v 7, with them.

But nevertheless, when they heard the news that ‘unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,’ Luke 2 v 11,
they set off to see for themselves, despite the importance of tending their flocks.

What the Shepherds Heard and Saw 
My memory of my visit to see the two lambs and some facts about it remind me of several things concerning the shepherds who had heard about Jesus from an ‘angel,’ Luke 2 v 10.

The shepherds had heard, like me from my friend, ‘good tidings of great joy,’ Luke 2 v 10. Like me going to see the lambs they had gone to ‘see this thing which is come to pass,’ Luke 2 v 15. Like me and my friend hurrying through the snow they went there ‘with haste,’ Luke 2 v 16

Like me when I saw the lambs which had been taken into a shelter, they saw ‘the babe lying in a manger,’ Luke 2 v 16, and, so affected by what had been revealed to them, ‘made known abroad,’ Luke 2 v 17, all they had heard and seen about the child.

Full of Joy 
The sight of my friend’s two baby lambs nestling in the straw beside their mother entranced me and when I was allowed to hold them I was overjoyed.

I think too, that the shepherds were entranced by what they saw and, full of joy at having seen the baby Jesus, returned to their flocks ‘...praising God,’ ... Luke2 v 20.

Seeking Jesus
Dear reader, if you have not by faith been able to yet grasp in your heart the truth concerning Jesus and  you want to know more about Him, then why not follow the shepherds’ footsteps. Like them, putting everything else aside, go with haste, ‘unto Bethlehem,’ Luke 2 v 15. 

May God lead you there, as He did the shepherds, and open your heart and mind to see by faith that the little child they found there was destined to be ‘the Saviour of the world,’ John 4 v 42.

It was this same Saviour who ‘knew no sin,’ 2 Corinthians 5 v 21, that was to become the sacrifice for our sins, that we might be made righteous in God’s sight. He is the same Lord over all ‘who is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whomsoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,’ Romans 10 v 12, 13. 

Eternal Joy 
Many years have passed since those wintry nights when, in a snow covered church, I visited Bethlehem. And many more were to pass before God showed me that resting on what I knew about Bethlehem, could as much save me, as visiting the two little lambs could.

Friends, the hand of eternity will in time pluck us from this world. Are we truly prepared for the day of our ’departure,’ 2 Timothy 4 v 6?  Are we trusting in Christ alone for Salvation?  


May it be true of us, that God’s Holy Spirit has made us ’wise unto salvation,’ 2 Timothy 3 v 15, and enabled us, by faith, to believe the ‘good tidings of great joy,’ Luke 2 v 10,  concerning Jesus that ‘God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son’ 1 John 5 v 11. 

Book review - Singing the Songs of Jesus


"If I had to choose only one book to assist me in mining the Psalter’s riches and in passing it on, this is it.  And it would be my first recommendation to both the mature and young in the faith, Bible student or lay reader, parent or teen, regardless of denominational affiliation."

Here is a good and helpful review of Michael Lefebvre's Singing the Songs of Jesus from Stephen Sutherland at reformingthefamily.com

Latest APC News

To access the online version of the latest APC News please click on the link below:

Thoughts on the Gospel by David Joy

                                        


THOUGHTS ON THE GOSPEL
November 2014 No 214
                     
‘...abide under the shadow of the Almighty’  Psalm 91 v 1

A Shadow
During the summer I set off one sunny morning on a walk which, according to a tourist brochure, would eventually lead me through a forest to a vantage point from where lovely views could be enjoyed.

I noticed as I walked towards the forest that my body was casting a shadow on the ground. It was interesting to see that no matter which way I turned my shadow remained attached to me and the thought came to mind that if we are committed to following Jesus He becomes ‘a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,’ Proverbs 18 v 24.

My shadow was dark and could be clearly seen. It followed me closely wherever I went.

It is a wonderful blessing to have such a close relationship with the Lord that, like my awareness of the shadow following me, we are always aware of His presence. But, have you ever considered that the closer you are to Jesus, the darker you will appear to be?

Abiding in Christ
Friends, Jesus invites those who believe in Him to ‘Abide in me,’ John 15 v 4, for without Him we ‘can do nothing,’ John 15 v 5.

It is as we learn to abide in him by committing everything into His hands and go through each day ‘Looking unto Jesus,’ Hebrews 12 v 2, that we become to Him as ‘the apple of the eye,’ Psalm 16 v 8.

But, as we study the Word of God and perceive the Holiness of Christ, our own shortcomings should become more apparent to us and we may understand why the writer wrote in Solomon’s Song Ch1 v 5, ‘I am black,’ for we are dark in comparison to the perfection of Jesus.

May God’s guiding presence be constantly as close to us as our shadow on a sunny day so that despite our unworthiness we become ‘complete in Him,’ Colossians 2 v 10.

Losing Sight of God
As I entered the forest, the canopy of branches above my head blotted out the sun and my shadow disappeared. From then on it only appeared when there were gaps in the trees around me.

In a similar fashion, as I lost sight of my shadow, we can lose sight of God’s presence in our lives. Like the thick canopy between me and the sun, trials, difficulties, uncertainties and disillusionments can make us feel that God has covered Himself ‘with a cloud, that our prayers should not pass through,’ Lamentations 3 v 14.

At times we find ourselves asking God ‘How long wilt thou forget me, o Lord? Forever? How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?’ Psalm 13 v 1.

Dear reader, God’s promise to us is ‘yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palm of my hands;’ Isaiah 49 v 15, 16. 

Always There
As I entered a clearing the sun’s rays penetrated through the trees, dappling the forest floor in shadows. 
And my shadow returned to accompany me again. It had not gone forever. It had just left me for a while.

And so it is that at times God may tell us that ‘I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee,’ Isaiah 54 v 8.

He may for a while withdraw His presence. Perhaps to try our faith, perhaps to cause us to seek Him more in prayer and meditation or perhaps to make us realise how much we would miss Him if He were never there. But like a shadow lost on a cloudy day He will return.

Abiding in Him
As my walk progressed, the path I was following was often crossed by other smaller paths. I knew that if I strayed from the main path I would get lost and so kept following it. It was only when I came to junctions that were clearly signposted that I deviated from the path and followed the new paths that would eventually lead me to the viewpoint at the top of the hill.

And what a wonderful view it turned out to be! It was far beyond what had been described in the tourist brochures.

In the Shadow of God’s Wings
Friends, may God help us to abide in Christ, and stick to Him like a shadow, by trusting in the Word of God as I trusted the signs in the forest, to lead us to glory and the wonderful inheritance of abiding in the shadow of God’s wings for ever.

And may we in the course of time be able to say that ‘the half was not told me,’ 1 Kings 10 v 7, for regarding our eternal destination, all we can read or imagine is but ‘a shadow of things to come,’ Colossians 2 v 17.


The Church's Future Hope

Peter Moore describes the impressive sunken garden in front of the Beinicke Rare Book Library on Yale University's campus. It is meant to simulate the universe. A large marble pyramid stands in one corner, symbolising time. Another corner sports a huge doughnut shaped structure standing on its side. It signifies energy. In a third corner stands a huge die perched on one tip as if ready to topple any which way. It is the symbol of chance. This, Moore says, is the world view of modern man: 'a self-existing universe consisting of energy, time and chance.' And those in Babylon, ancient or modern, don't know which way the die will fall. Chance is opaque. It is the world of whatever.

Bible Christians think the Yale garden is a lie. They hold that there is a God who knows and orders the course of history down through the rise and rubble of nations until the days when he sets up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed. This is no brilliant insight of theirs; they only hold this because there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries - and has done so. He has given them revelation material like Daniel 2. But we who hold this kingdom-view can easily forget how unbearably sad Joe and Jane Pagan might be, for they go out their front door in the morning and have no idea where history is heading, or if it is. Maybe it's all too cerebral; but I can only say that if I didn't believe Daniel 2:44, I couldn't find the energy to place one foot in front of another.

To have a God who reveals mysteries, however, does not mean we have a God who reveals everything. He doesn't show us which stocks will profit or whether you can avoid cancer till you're eighty-nine, or whether one's nation will still exist twenty years hence. He only reveals what we need to have. And yet Daniel's praise helps us here, because he assures us that even what God doesn't tell us he knows: he knows what is in the darkness. You can walk into the future with a God like that - who shows you that history is going toward his unshakable kingdom and who assures you that even though you have many personal uncertainties you follow a God who knows what is in the darkness. So you can keep going with hope and without fear.

Extracted from The Message of Daniel by Dale Ralph Davies (Published by IVP, 2013)

It's A Boy!

We are pleased to announce the safe arrival of Robert John Ferguson, son of Rev John and Louise Ferguson, Inverness, on 15th October 2014, weighing in at 8lbs 9oz. Congratulations John and Louise! The new dad says, "All are well!"


Christian Troubles by Rev George Macaskill


New converts are often surprised that they immediately encounter difficulties in the Christian life and falsely conclude that something must be wrong, when in fact, everything is going just right.

It has been said that 99.9% of the blessings of becoming a Christian are in the next world (ie Heaven). That means there are few benefits in this world. It needs to be stressed much more often that becoming a Christian will mean hardship in this world. Christ guaranteed it in John 16:33 and Peter rebukes the early Christians for being surprised when trouble was brewing for them in 1st Peter 4:12. Paul the Apostle warned the Thessalonians that they were to expect trouble in 1 Thess 3:4 and he likewise told Timothy that persecution was inevitable if they were going to live righteous lives  in 2Tim 3:12. It was through much trouble that Moses became the great man he became according to Hebrews 11:24-26.

Why then should people become Christians if it means there will be trouble for them in this world? The best answer is that God is worthy to be worshipped for who He is. Christ gave Himself a sacrifice for sinners and He is worth worshipping. He is worth suffering for. Add to that the fact that Heaven awaits the Christian after this life. The first five minutes in Heaven will make it all worthwhile.

Even if there were no Heaven at the end, we should be willing to become Christians because it is the only proper way to live and the only proper way to fulfil the purpose of our existence on earth. There is the added incentive of a new sense of purpose and meaning in life, the exciting and uplifting experiences along the way, along with the joys of forgiveness to compensate for all the hardships, but in the last analysis, we ought to follow Christ because He is God and we are His creatures and He has been crucified in order that we may have eternal life.

So why do Christians have trouble? Acts 14:22 seems to say it all. We can only enter the Kingdom of Heaven “through” these troubles. Enduring trouble is as necessary to enter Heaven as crossing the Atlantic Ocean is to enter America from the UK. There is no other way. Trouble is the “Gateway” to glory. Christians ought to engage trouble, not short-circuit it because it is the means through which they travel to Heaven. If we are to prosper spiritually as Christians, we need to have the correct perspective of trouble and remember what Peter said in 1Pet 3:14 and 17 that if we suffer for righteousness sake, we are blessed and if we suffer for doing good rather than for doing evil it is better.

Do we really believe the Bible?

Lairg Work Day


Lairg Presbyterian Church was delighted to host a number of volunteers last Saturday who came to do some work around the church building. Various tasks were completed by helpers from as far afield as Strathy and Conon Bridge. A huge thanks to all who helped. It was a great encouragement to have people willing to help us in the Lord's work. More pictures can be seen on the congregational website.

Thoughts on the Gospel by David Joy


THOUGHTS ON THE GOSPEL
October 2014 No.213
                     
 ‘I have set the Lord always before me’ Psalm 16 v 8

Distracted from God
Sometimes I awake to find a worrying thought on my mind that seems to multiply as the morning goes on until I cannot think of anything else. I am sure this is the devil’s way of taking my mind away from God.

The Blackbird’s Priority
I was reminded of this one morning when, my mind full of problems, I went outside to find a blackbird I have been feeding for some time, waiting on my doorstep, and gazing intently at me.

I daresay it had much on its mind too as I knew it had a nest of young nearby. There was also the constant danger from marauding cats, swift flying sparrow hawks and watching crows that would steal the young if given half a chance.

But for the moment, knowing from experience I always fed it, the blackbird had me as its priority.

Think not of Tomorrow
As I considered the blackbird I recalled that Jesus said ‘behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?’ Matthew 6 v 26.

The posture of expectant, trustful waiting that was displayed by the blackbird reminded me that I should get my priorities right and turn from my worrying thoughts to the One who said ‘Take therefore no thought for the morrow:’ Matthew 6 v 34.

Following with Expectation
As I walked into my garden the waiting blackbird followed me down the path to my office and on opening the door it flew in behind me and stood looking at me pleadingly until it received some food.

Let us, like the blackbird that expectantly followed me, follow the Lord expectantly waiting for Him to ‘supply all our (your) need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,’ Philippians 4 v 19.

A Wonderful Example
David the Psalmist set a wonderful example of committed trust in God for he said ‘I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved,’ Psalm 16 v 8.

May God give us grace to always, like the Psalmist, have the Lord at the forefront of our thoughts and desires knowing that ‘he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,’ Hebrews 13 v 5.

Half Trusting
As I looked again at the blackbird I realised that its degree of trust in me only went as far as waiting for food, grabbing it and quickly flying away when it had received it. It was not trusting enough to put it itself into my hands for safe keeping.

Is that possibly a picture of you or me? Do we trust in Jesus for some things but not others?

Total Trust
Friends, I was able to assist the blackbird in resolving one of the problems in its life, that is, to find food. I was not able to help it defend itself, build a nesting place, watch over its young or find shelter for it when needed. Nevertheless it still kept looking for me in my garden and even came to my kitchen window from time to time to try and attract my attention.

If a little attention from me to a blackbird can make it so focussed on me how much more should God’s care and provision for us make us focussed on Him.

If we have trusted our never dying souls into The Lord’s care and firmly believe that in doing so, we shall in eternity find that in God’s presence there are pleasures for evermore,’ Psalm 16 v 11, should we not trust in Him totally knowing that he will sustain, strengthen and guide us in every situation we find ourselves in during our journey through life?

Ever Before Us
The apostle Paul who wrote ‘what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me,’ 2 Timothy 3 v 11, gives us this advice ‘let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus,’ Hebrews 12 v 1,2.

I remember an old friend who told me that during World War II he did just that. Whenever he had to go into battle he imagined in his mind that God was walking before him, protecting him from harm. I went all through the war he said ‘Looking to Jesus.’ 

May we endeavour, in the battles of life, to draw our attention away from that which distracts us from God and, as my old friend did, keep God constantly before us, trusting with Paul that He will deliver us out of all our troubles.

'Thoughts on the Gospel' are produced by David Joy who is a member in Fearn APC, Hilton.
 

Lairg Work Day

We are planning to have a work day at Lairg Presbyterian Church on Saturday (11th) from 10am. There is work to be done inside and outside (weather permitting) and even jobs in the manse if a big crowd shows up! If you would like to come and help please let us know you're coming (revgordonmurray@gmail.com) and lunch will be provided.


Late APC News

Apologies that the September / October APC News has been held up at the printers. For those who can't wait for their paper copy here is a link to the magazine in digital format:



Last Weekend at Strathy

David Fraser getting a helping hand!
Thank you to everyone who came and helped at the Strathy weekend and particularly those who came on Saturday to help with the painting.  The weather was lovely and we were able to achieve a lot in a short time.  More pictures can be seen seen by clicking on this link.

Reflecting on the Referendum by Catherine Mackenzie


It’s over now – the referendum. The polling stations are closed, the posters are coming down and we, the people, look on at the aftermath. Facebook ended up being my point of reference for information during the debate. Here are some quotes from my newsfeed before, during and after the Independence Referendum on September the 18th:

Three Ministers
“So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never 
Like earth's proud empires, pass away; 
Thy Kingdom stands, and grows for ever, 
Till all thy creatures own thy sway.
Queen Victoria selected this hymn for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897. One hundred years later it was sung when Britain handed control of Hong Kong to China in 1997, closing one of the last chapters in the imperial story. But Christ has never lowered his banner or handed over control of any his conquests. Whatever the outcome on the 19th, Jesus reigns.”

“What we need is a wholesale redemption of politics. Christians who love Christ and love liberty need to stand for the things we believe in. We need to employ the politic of Christ's Kingdom here in Scotland and in the United Kingdom. We need to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12). And we need not be surprised if we suffer for it. We need to long for and pray for the day when the glory of God will cover the earth. And in the meantime we need to reflect that glory in the pulpit, in the pew and, as much as we can, in the parliament. Both Parliaments.”

“Ultimately of course I am hoping for real change - which only comes from the Gospel! That is our only hope ... The work goes on - whatever the political system. May God give myself and all His people, strength to continue that battle until the end. And may He grant the grace and mercy so that we may see revival and renewal of the Kingdom in all the kingdoms of these islands."

A Church Elder
The vote is over. The referendum is finished, but let’s make sure that one thing continues – that we don’t just have a day of prayer for Scotland, that we pray without ceasing for the land that used to be known as “the Land of the Book”. 

A Young Man
"I've been pretty much silent on this debate... I hope I am more explicit about expressing my faith, because I care about Jesus much more than this independence thing, and want you to know that He loves you too; but somehow I hope we don't have to fall out on this. Is it possible to hold strong, life-defining beliefs, want others to realise the truths that you believe, and yet still live at peace with folk who don't agree? And do we have the humility to turn around and accept that we were wrong if eternity conspires to point us in a different direction from where we started?"

A Parent
"I make no secret of the way I voted but regardless of the outcome I want the people of Scotland to unite together for a better, fairer, ethical, moral country - remembering that 'here we have no continuing city'".

A Sixteen Year-old Girl
“As I placed a cross in my chosen box, I couldn’t help but think of a man, the Light of the World, who stepped down into darkness, who was nailed to a cross for you and me – that is the greatest sacrifice for freedom in the history of mankind.”

The Lord of All the Earth
Isaiah 40:15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.

Psalm 22:28 for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.

Psalm 105:1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Presbytery Highlights - September 2014





September’s Presbytery was held in Fearn APC in Hilton.  It was wonderful to go by the farmland past the activity of harvest and down to this scenic village on the East coast and to meet with some of the folk there.  This is a new initiative of Presbytery to have our meeting on occasions in places other than Kingsview, Inverness.  We hope that this will be an encouragement to us all as we share in the work that we are involved in. 

On this occasion we heard from three of our congregations (Tain, Oban and Edinburgh) and the work that they are involved in.  From these reports it was clear that the work of the gospel is not without its difficulties.  Discouragements come in suffering, bereavement and through the choices that people make but the Lord is faithful and there are also many things for us to give thanks for. 

It is wonderful that in each of our congregations the life-changing gospel is proclaimed freely.  The seed of God’s Word is scattered and just as the harvest has come from the farmland at this time we look forward to and pray for the Lord’s own harvest to come.

We also give thanks for Laurence Mackenzie our General Treasurer and for all that he does for us.  Laurence was happy to report that our financial obligations continue to be met and encouraged our continued prayerful support of the financial administration of the church.  In addition to being our General Treasurer, Laurence was appointed to Convener of the Business Committee of Presbytery.  Please remember him in prayer as he takes on this new role. 

Laurence takes over this work since the passing of Roderick MacKenzie.  We were certainly reminded of that loss as we met in Hilton.  Not only in the present but in times past there have been so many committed to the work of the gospel among us.  Tribute was also paid to the late William Fraser.  Alexander Murray spoke of his commitments, including being General Treasurer himself. We give thanks for those who have gone before us and in whose debt we are.  May the Lord help us to follow in their place and to faithfully support to the cause of Christ among us.

Thank you to the Office-bearers in Hilton and to the ladies who provided food and refreshments for the Presbytery as we met.

Strathy Weekend


This weekend (26th-28th Sept) at the Strathy church we are going to have communion.  There will be a preparatory service on Friday at 7pm.  On Saturday we will be doing some long needed maintenance.  Along with a general tidy up, the church windows and doors are needing painting and so we hope to tackle this, weather permitting.  If you are able to lend a hand then you will be most welcome.  We will have our communion service at 2pm on Sunday.  

Next Meeting of Presbytery

The next meeting of the APC Presbytery will take place (dv) at Hilton APC on Tuesday 23 September at 1pm. Presbytery is normally held in public and members of the public are welcome to observe.


Honours for Rev Alex Murray


We are delighted to hear that Rev Alex Murray is to be awarded an honourary fellowship from the University of the Highlands and Islands for his contribution towards the University and the Highland Theological College in particular. Rev Murray is still an active member of Presbytery in the APC and an elder in the Lairg congregation.


Scottish Independence Referendum



Public Statement on
 Day of Prayer for Scottish Independence Referendum

The Associated Presbyterian Churches of Scotland, having a concern for the people of Scotland and being part of the Church of Jesus Christ in this land, will hold a day of prayer for the Scottish Independence Referendum.  The Scottish people are looking forward to this event with varying degrees of anticipation and apprehension and we believe that at such a time we must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ who knows all things and sovereignly rules over both Church and State.

We are then pleased to announce and commend Wednesday 17th September as a Day of Prayer in our churches for the nation and particularly for God to have his will to be done on September 18th.

May God bless Scotland and each country of the United Kingdom.