Presbytery Highlights - September 2015

The Presbytery met for ordinary business in Kingsview Christian Centre. The majority of our meetings take place here and facilities are ideal for our needs. There is however a fair amount of preparation for these meetings and we have been served so well over the years by Mr Ken MacDonald the Centre Manager and his wife Kathleen. Ken is due to retire from this post and we want to wish him well and the Lord’s blessing. It would be easy for the members of Presbytery to the MacDonald's work for granted with everything set up before we arrive with care and thoughtfulness. We are so grateful to Kathleen who provides a wonderful lunch. It is good to gather together before the business of Presbytery over something to eat and to catch up with one another.

This Presbytery the work of Rev Ross Macaskill in Wick and Strathy came under review. The Presbytery appointed Ross to do outreach work in Wick and to oversee the congregation in Strathy. Unfortunately things have not developed as the Presbytery would have hoped and the decision was made to draw the work to a close. Please remember the folk in the far North and that the gospel would still be blessed to all who have heard it over the years.

The Training of the Ministry committee put a series of questions on the Westminster Confession of Faith forward for Presbytery approval to be used in the examination of ministry candidates. We hope that Mr John Davidson will soon have his trials for license where these questions will be used. We congratulate John on graduating in September from HTC with an upper second class honours degree. Please pray for John and his family as he prepares for his trials and on ministry.

The Presbytery hope to have an overnight conference/retreat in November. This has been done on a number of previous occasions and has proved to be an enjoyable time of fellowship and encouragement to the brethren. The venue will be the Macdonald resort in Aviemore and it is open to all the elders of the church. We hope most will take the opportunity to come and contribute to the discussions.

The Church Relations Committee was able to report that discussions are still ongoing with the Free Church of Scotland about the possibility of union. These discussions are important for us in principle but also in a day where the Church in Scotland is struggling and in fragmentation. Please pray for the work of the APC and the wider Church in Scotland.

Lloyd-Jones Documentary screening at Stornoway APC

The Gambia Partnership will be holding an informal fellowship to screen the new Martyn Lloyd-Jones documentary, ‘Logic on Fire,’ on Friday 10th July from 7.30-9.30pm at the APC Church, Keith Street, Stornoway. There will be a donation at the door to the Gambia Partnership.
The trailer can be viewed by clicking this link - Logic on fire trailer.

General Assembly Statement on Same-Sex Marriage

The General Assembly of the Associated Churches of Scotland and Canada, convened this 26th day of May 2015 at Inverness, Scotland, hereby utterly deplores the place being given in the nation to the legalisation of marriage between same-sex couples.

Not only have the Scots and Westminster civil governments passed legislation in its favour but now, and with possibly even more serious consequences for the nation, the National Church has on Saturday, the 16th May 2015, and in terms of Barrier Act procedures, opened the door for congregations to call ministers in homosexual marriages to hold pastoral charge in congregations of the Church.

The Seventh Commandment –“Thou shalt not commit adultery” – is an integral part of the Moral Law as written by the finger of God on tables of stone and given to Moses in the wilderness.  Rightly it has been observed that this law is a transcript of the nature of God Himself, declaring His eternal and unchanging purity.

A main argument has been the claim of equality. It is true that we have all sinned and we are equal in that regard. The Gospel of Jesus Christ shows, however, a way whereby  man may be forgiven; but only if we both believe and repent. Therefore, we wish for all people to accept Jesus Christ. He is a gracious saviour.

A response of faith and repentance, such that we find in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, is what we need for ourselves individually and corporately in church and government:

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."

A Gospel Message From Rev John Ross

Posted by Burdiehouse Southhouse Community Church on Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Thoughts on the Gospel by David Joy

APRIL 2015 No 219
‘The beasts go into their dens,’ Job Ch 37 v 8.

Foxes at Dawn
As I wrote this, it was raining outside and the skies, despite a glorious sunrise whose rays set the dark clouds on fire, were now dark and leaden. I was glad to be sitting in my office, listening to the rain falling on the roof above me.  I was reminded of a day in the past, when out early to photograph the sun rising, rain had begun to fall and I had taken shelter under a large tree. Standing there, listening to the rain pattering on the leafy umbrella above me, I spotted three young foxes silently making their way across a nearby field.  I had seen them before and I knew they were heading home to their den. They had probably been out all night and their natural instinct was taking them home, to a place of rest and safety.

Wandering Thoughts
I found myself wondering if, during their busy night excursions, the foxes ever thought of their den. Or were they so busy hunting the thought never entered their minds?  I am afraid that quite often, when taken up with ‘the cares of this world,’ Mark 4 v 19, my thoughts are dragged away from heavenly things and I lose sight of the peace and blessings that flow from Jesus.  May we each day, be able to say that dependence upon the Lord as we ‘sat down under His shade,’ Solomon Song 2 v 3, has provided a continual ‘resting place,’ Isaiah 32 v 18, for us.

Gone in a Moment
As I stood quietly watching the young foxes wandering in my direction, one of them stopped, sniffing the air. In a moment they had spotted me and were gone, disappearing into the dense bushes that surrounded the field. How easily they had been frightened away. And how quickly they had gone!  And how quickly we too can find all sense of God’s comforting and supporting presence gone from us ‘like a roe or a young hart,’ Solomon’s Song 2 v 9, for the Holy Spirit can be so easily grieved and frightened away by our actions.

As I had been watching the foxes, they had seemed unconcerned about their surroundings and had showed no awareness of possible danger.  Yet, despite their lackadaisical demeanour they had clearly been vigilant and aware that danger could threaten at any time.  Are we aware of the danger of Satan’s ‘devices,’ 2 Corinthians 2 v 11, and of how he is able to enter our minds and twist the scriptures? Do we recognise His ‘fiery darts,’ Ephesians 6 v 16, when he places Christ dishonouring thoughts in our thoughts?

Are we vigilant like the foxes and clothed in the ‘whole armour of God ........ able to stand against the wiles of the devil?,’ Ephesians 6 v 11. May we be constantly on our guard for our ‘adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,’ 2 Peter 5 v 7.

At the Days End
Friends, we have of necessity to live in and be involved in the world around us. We sometimes become so involved, however, that for a time we may wander away from Jesus. We may even find that we have gone a whole day without praying to God or considering that Jesus is the source of ‘our peace,’ Ephesians 2 v 14.  But, at the end of the day, when our labour, turmoil, stress and distraction have ended, where do our thoughts lead us?

Do they, like the homeward bound foxes, lead us to our resting place as they take us on prayer’s wings to Jesus? Do they, as the day ends and our heads rest on our pillows, find them bringing us into the haven of scriptures’ soothing, hope giving and comforting words? Do we spend the night, safe, secure and at peace ‘lying on Jesus’ breast?’ John 13 v 25.

Forever a Friend
Dear readers, Jesus is not just a friend to consult as a last resort when all else fails. He is as a star that always shines; a well that never runs dry; a fountain that never ceases. He is always there for those who have been redeemed with His own ‘precious blood,’ 1 Peter 1 v 19.

May you each night rest under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 16 v 8); may His name be on your lips when you awake; and during each day ‘in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’, Philippians 4 v 6.

Presbytery Highlights - March 2015

The last Presbytery met on Tuesday the 24th of March in Inverness.  Among the business taking place was the General Treasurer’s financial report.  Laurence has been keen to get us to review our giving.  He highlighted a likely deficit in the coming year which, with slightly better contributions and efficiency with gift aid claims, could be avoided.    Please think about this situation prayerfully.

There were a few items relating to the Stornoway congregation.  The first of these was the resignation of Rev John van Eyk as Interim Moderator.  John has served the congregation and Kirk Session for some time now and we are grateful to him for that.  His resignation was accepted by the Presbytery and Rev Ross Macaskill was nominated and accepted the position of Interim Moderator.  There was also the need for another assessor elder and Rev George Macaskill has agreed to take up this position in the interim. Please pray for the Kirk Session at this time and that these changes would be blessed in the ministry at Keith Street.

Besides these matters of the Stornoway Kirk Session there was also the acceptance of Stornoway’s Mr John Davidson as a student minister by the Presbytery.  John got on well in an interview where he answered questions from the floor of Presbytery.  He now comes under the care of the Training Committee who will prepare John for his trials for licence. Please pray for John and his family (Dawn, Daniel, 5 and Darlene, 4) at this time; as he completes his studies and as he goes forward.

With May soon upon us the Presbytery also spoke about the General Assembly. We discussed its role and any changes that should be made to it.  The past years Assemblies have been poorly attended and there will be some changes made to the proceedings this year.  Come along and find out what!

The reports from congregations came from Dundee and Skye/Harris.  Rev Don Macaskill gave an encouraging report of his work in Dundee.  It is of course not without struggles but there is much to be thankful for.  Don has exercised a faithful ministry there but has intimated his intension to retire in the near future. The Kirk Session are exploring the possibility of having an assistant as a colleague and successor.

Rev Gordon Murray gave the report on Skye and Harris. We were also pleased to have Mr Alasdair Paterson at the Presbytery who gave an encouraging update.  The services have been cut to one in Dunvegan and one in Portree.  With the two groups now coming together this has brought mutual encouragement and a more united sense of fellowship.   Supply has also been forthcoming and the congregation were helped to furnish the manse to cater for visiting preachers. Gordon looks forward to joining the folk in Harris at the time of their communion.  He will also be holding a congregational meeting to think about the best way forward for the congregation.

Please pray for our congregations in these difficult times and particularly those who are without a pastor.  

Thoughts on the Gospel by David Joy


March 2015 No 218

‘...take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place...’ 2 Peter Ch1 v 19.
Dark before the Dawn
As I walked along the seashore early one morning all was quiet, save for the sound of a calm sea gently murmuring in the darkness. Far away to the east I could just see the faintest glow of an awakening sun.

The pre dawn darkness reminded me of how the Bible describes those who have no saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as being ‘in darkness and in the shadow of death,’ Psalm 107 v 10.

Like a land without the light and warmth of the sun they have no light in their understanding regarding the Gospel nor have they been touched by the life giving warmth of Christ’s love for sinners.

Dawn’s Beauty
Sitting on a rock I watched as the dawn began to break. That morning it was exceptionally beautiful. As the sun’s golden orb edged above the horizon, a red glow touched the sky with crimson rays that spread out further and further, lighting up the clouds and tingeing the still waters of the sea in a deep amber hue that set them on fire.

To me the sunrise was truly beautiful and yet many would go to work that morning and not even notice it. Like those who have no interest in Jesus and see in Him ‘no beauty that we should desire Him,’ Isaiah 53 v 2, they have no interest in the beauty of a rising sun that would give delight that day to many.

I have many thought provoking photographs of sunrises that clearly portray the beauty of the rising sun. And the Bible gives us many thought provoking pictures of the beauty of the Lord Jesus.

Beautiful in His Suffering
Jesus is beautiful in times of suffering because he has ‘suffered for us,’ I1 Peter 2 v 21. When the time comes to ‘walk through the valley of the shadow of death,’ Psalm 23 v 4, He will be with those who believe and trust in Him.

This was portrayed at His death when He told the penitent thief on the cross next to him that ‘today shalt thou be with me in paradise,’ Luke 27 v 43.

Will these words mean anything to you?

Beautiful in Sorrow
He is beautiful in times of sorrow for He is ‘the man of sorrows,’ Isaiah 53 v 3. Having experienced what it was to be ‘exceedingly sorrowful even unto death,’ Matthew 26 v 38, He can replace our sorrow with a comforting sense of His peace which no human can do, as He did for Isaac who ‘was comforted after his mother’s death,’ Genesis 24 v 67.

Beautiful in Daily Life
He is beautiful during the ups and downs and disappointments of daily everyday life for He ‘is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,’ Proverbs 18 v 24 and is never far away.

Paul knew this when facing shipwreck and death in stormy seas. He recounts that ‘there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; Acts 27 v 23. ‘And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land,’ Acts 27 v 44.

Jesus was with Paul in the midst of a great storm. Is He with you each and every day?   
Rising Sun
As the sun slowly rose above the horizon, the landscape around me became more visible. Dark shadows disappeared and soon I could clearly see much that had, just a short time before, been in darkness. Soon everything would be revealed in the stark reality of the sun’s all revealing light.

Friends, has the Gospel shone like a bright light into your heart? Has it, like the brightness of the sun, been revealing that which in the past was darkness to you?

Have the things that the Bible tells us about, creation, the fall of man, the need for a Saviour and the provision of a Saviour become clearer to you?

Reflection of the Sun
As I rose from where I sat, the last dying embers of the sun although still reflected in the sea were now a faded reminder of their previous glory. For a few moments in eternity they had touched the sea and transformed the heavens with their beauty.

Dear reader, have you been touched by Christ? Is there any reflection of His love in your life? Has it been transformed by your faith in Him?

Transformed for Ever
Like the brevity of the sunrise our lives are slowly  fading but the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ will never fade for His blood now and forever ‘cleanseth us from all sin,’ 1 John 1 v 7.

May you and I be able to say, that like the transforming effect of the sun’s rays, our lives have been transformed by faith in Christ, not for a few moments in eternity, but for all eternity.

Presbytery Highlights - January 2015

At January’s Presbytery we welcomed some visitors from a couple of our congregations. David James from Oban and Stewart Wilson from the Stornoway congregation were welcomed to the Presbytery meeting along with the Stornoway locum minister Rev Michael Butterfield. We are increasingly aware of our limited resources and man power in these days and so it was good to have them with us and to receive their contributions to the various discussions.

The General Treasurer’s financial report highlighted the possibility of a deficit in the coming year and encouraged us all to think about our giving to the Lord’s work. This is necessary if we are to meet our obligations and if we are to provide effective ministry to our congregations.

Rev Wayne Pearce has left our Skye and Harris congregation as minister, along with Donald MacCuish who has resigned from the roll of assessor elder after serving the congregation over a long period. We are indebted to these men for their service in the Lord’s work and wish them well. This is a difficult time for any congregation to be without a minister and we must do everything that we can in such situations. At the last Presbytery the Rev Gordon Murray was appointed to work as Interim Moderator for the congregation and he is now joined by Rev Ross McFarlane. Together they team up with Alasdair Patterson on the Kirk Session. Please remember these men and the congregation of Skye and Harris at this time in prayer.

Other congregations are also greatly affected by a lack of man power and resources. We received a report of the work in Assynt from the Free Church Interim Moderator, Rev John Forbes. We have enjoyed a relationship with the Free Church in our Assynt congregations for long years now but even in this joint situation things are a struggle. It is increasingly hard to get pulpit supply to far flung areas and there is only one service now on the Lord’s Day at 3pm in Lochinver. Please pray for the Interim Moderators, Rev John Forbes and Rev John van Eyk, the folk there, and that the gospel would flourish there.

With Wayne’s departure there was also a vacancy on the Training Committee. The Rev Ross Macaskill agreed to become a member of this group along with Mr John Lister, Inverness. There was some discussion over the APC Conference which comes under the remit of this committee. The last conference was for various reasons very poorly attended. It looks like there will be no conference this year. The committee will look at the best way forward for the future. Various suggestions were made, such as: combining it with the General Assembly; having it at the end of the APC Youth Camp; whether to have a 3-day or just a 1-day conference; appealing to a broad group or keeping it more APC focussed. Perhaps you have some ideas that you would like to share about future conferences? If you do email the committee clerk: 

Thoughts on the Gospel by David Joy

January 2015 No.216

                                    ‘ ... a stone’, 1 Samuel Ch17 v 49

Spiders’ Webs
Everything around me was shrouded in mist as I walked along a forest path. Thick bushes that edged the path were draped in spider’s webs that had been transformed by the damp atmosphere into finest gossamer. All along the path thousands of intricate patterns had created an endless picture of nature’s finest art.

I found it amazing that the beauty I surveyed had been created by tiny spiders. They had managed to cover every bush, as far as I could see, with their webs and I found myself reminiscing on how God can use small things to do great works.

A Shepherd Boy, a Small Pebble and a Giant
David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, was only a young shepherd boy, when he was faced with an apparently impossible task. He had volunteered to fight a giant called Goliath.

Imagine the scene for a few moments. A young lad, with nothing in his hand but a sling and a small stone facing up to a mighty giant, over nine feet tall, wielding a huge sword and clothed in heavy armour. David’s task seemed impossible! But not for God!!

When Goliath advanced on David, the young lad ‘put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it,’ 1 Samuel 17 v 49 and killed the giant.

Could it be that we think we are of no use to God for, like the small stone, our talents seem worthless?

God’s Strength
I think it is true to say that sometimes, because we think we have little to offer God we end up doing nothing for Him. We forget too that he can take our limited talents, and like the small stone, use them to slay problems that appear to us as giants.

May we each find that as David, by trusting in God, received strength to defeat Goliath, we can say with Paul the Apostle that, ’when I am weak, then I am strong,’ 2 Corinthians 12 v 10.

Paul the Apostle
Consider Paul too, who said ‘Who is weak, and I am not weak? 2 Corinthians 11 v 29. Yet God used him, weak as he was to spread the Gospel.

As I recall the vastness of the spiders’ work and consider that every bush along the path had been touched by their hand, I remember Hudson Taylor.

Hudson Taylor
When Hudson Taylor arrived in China and considered the vastness of the country and the enormity of the task before him, he was overcome by a sense of his weakness and insufficiency for the work. But God took him, as he was, weak and utterly dependent on the Lord for everything and used him to do a work in China that is still remembered today. Through Him, countless lost souls were touched by the hand of God.

Tiny Spiders
When I consider how small, even the largest of spiders in this country are, the extent of what they had created around me seems even more incomprehensible. It is quite incomprehensible too what God can do with small things and insignificant people.

Small Things
Friends, David was able to kill a giant with a small stone.

Paul, a previous enemy of Christ became one of His most devout followers and soldiers.

Hudson Taylor laid the foundations for a great work in China that would continue even to this day.

And many little spiders combined together to create a work of art that still remains vivid in my memory.

Light in Darkness
I read once about a man who was to preach in an isolated church. On arriving there he found the church in darkness, apart from one candle.

Waiting in the near darkness, he watched with interest as people arriving for the service each lit a candle. Soon the building was filled with light for the combined candle power, like the combined work of the spiders that had created a vista of webs, created enough light to illuminate the whole church!

Candles for Christ
Dear friends, if we feel that what we do for Jesus is but as a tiny candle shining in the dark, may God encourage us by reminding us of those, who, in their weakness, were used by the Lord to do great things for Him.

And may our candles, however small, like the candles in the isolated church, combine with the work of others to illuminate Jesus to the world around us.