Thoughts on the Gospel by David Joy

June 2016 No. 233

‘Until the day break and the shadows flee away,’ Solomon’s Song Ch4 v 6

The Enduring Word of God

Very early on a stormy morning, as I stood in the darkness on the cliff tops near my home, I listened to unseen waves ravaging the seashore far below me. As I did so, I marvelled at the fact that the cliffs on which I stood had, despite turbulent seas, been there for thousands of years.

Reminded that Jesus is ‘the same yesterday, and today and for ever,’ Hebrews 13 v 8, I considered that, like the ancient cliffs upon which I stood, His word will however, endure for ever. It ‘is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword...’ Hebrews 4 v 12.

And I remembered that whatever stormy trial may engulf the church or us personally that for those who have faith in Jesus, blessings will follow for ‘all things work together for good to them that love God..’ Romans 8 v 28.

Hidden Beauty

Trials can bring us into such a state of despair that our heart ‘is full of troubles,’ Psalm 88 v1,2.

But, friends, like the awesome beauty of the sea, for the moment hidden by the night, there is often beauty hidden in trials that will only be evident in future days or even years and we will realise our affliction was used by God to bring gladness to our hearts (Psalm 90 v 15.)

God’s Power

As day broke, I could clearly see the majestic and powerful waves relentlessly advancing upon the seashore below, and I recalled that in ancient times God had ‘caused the sea to go back,’ Exodus 14 v 21.

And so, when affliction, loss or despair relentlessly advance upon us, like wave after wave rolling in upon the shore, may we gain strength from the thought that the same God who turned back the sea, is still in control.

The Church's Future

In the revealing light of daybreak I wondered what effect the many stormy ‘sufferings of this present time,’ Romans 8 v 18, will have on the Christian Church? Will it ‘be able to withstand in the evil day...’ Ephesians 6 v 13?

The churches troubles have been, throughout the centuries, such, that at times it was at a very low ebb, and indeed Jesus said that in this life we ‘shall have tribulation,’ John 16 v 33. Can we predict what the future will bring?

No one can foretell exactly what is yet to happen on earth. It may be that the darkness that hinders the church will deepen still further and the shadows that cripple it will be multiplied.  But rather than dwell on these possibilities we should be strengthened by the fact that, as the disciples stood watching Jesus ascending to heaven, two angels appeared and said ‘men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen Him go into heaven,’ Acts 1 v 11.

And so, whatever His plan for the future we can be assured that not only will Jesus come again but all who have trusted in Him will one day join Him in a ‘new heaven and a new earth,’ Revelation 21 v 1.
Christ’s Return

That day may possibly be nearer than we think. It is certainly nearer now than it was two thousand years ago and getting nearer every day that passes. But whenever the Lord returns, all the shadows of doubt, unbelief, fear and sin, that trouble His church, shall disappear.

For then all that was hidden will, like all that was revealed on the clifftop by the breaking of a new day, be revealed as the dawn truly breaks, the shadows flee away and the redeemed ‘inherit all things,’ Revelation 21 v 7.

May this encourage us to look beyond the present day to the day when the great Shepherd shall gather in His flock from ‘every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,’ Revelation 4 v 9, and their conflicts will be for ever over.

The Ebbing Tide

Later that day, as I looked at the sea, the tide had ebbed, the wind had died down, and the storm had ended, reminding me that ‘to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose ..’ Ecclesiastes 3 v 1.

Friends, troubles come and go and the seasons of life are ever changing. We will have our good days and our bad days but God has a purpose and time for everything.

Yes, life will bring us trials and disappointments, but as the ebbing tide brought peace to the seashore, so does God often, after tribulation, bring peace into our hearts.

May we be strengthened by the thought that the God, who has been good to us in the past, near to us in the present and given us hope for the future will never, ever leave us or forsake us. 

Retiring Moderator's sermon - Assembly 2016

The Retiring Moderator, Rev Donald MacAskill (pictured above), preached his sermon from Acts 15: 41 and on church revitalisation; "And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."  Link below.

Presbytery Reports 2016

Scottish Presbytery Report 2016

The year began under the chairmanship of the new Moderator, Rev Donald Macaskill.  There has been much to challenge us but also encourage us as we go forward as a Presbytery.  As the years go by we are grateful to the Lord for all who have given of their time and talents to the work of the APC.  Some over long years of service.  At the beginning of the year that was highlighted to us when two of our ministers intimated their intention to retire by the end of May 2016; the Rev Donald Macaskill and Rev Archie McPhail.  We have been blessed as a denomination with decades of gospel ministry from these men alone and the congregations for whom they served so faithfully will   no doubt be sad to see them go.  We wish them the Lord’s blessing as they move forward to new spheres of influence and ministry.  At that time we were also made aware of the Rev Gordon Murray’s departure and we are thankful for the contribution that he made whilst he was in our midst.

Change is inevitable in the Church and the APC is certainly no exception.  We are a small denomination with congregations spread out over a vast geographical area and serving some of the remotest parts of Scotland.  Such complexities are compounded when man power and resources are stretched and it is felt acutely by our ministers.  Presbytery meetings in such times as these are not just a gathering together to do the business of the church but are an encouragement to us as we meet with one another.  It was also good for us to come together last autumn when the Presbytery organized a retreat for its members in Aviemore.  This proved to be a useful time of gathering to think, pray, discuss and enjoy fellowship with each other. 

Change can present difficulties but it can also come with the Lord’s blessing.  The gospel continues to be preached in our pulpits.  We rejoice that we have a new minister in Dundee.  The Rev John Davidson and his family are well established now and we trust that he will build on the previous ministry.  We also are pleased to have Mr Carl Peet working in Lairg, Kinlochbervie and Rogart as resident supply.  The folk there have been encouraged and appreciate his ministry amongst them.  In addition we have had preachers serving our vacant pulpits from different places and denominations some who have come and led our services while enjoying a holiday time in the manse.  And we are blessed to have so many who come to us to do pulpit supply and we are thankful to the Lord for so many who are committed to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The annual APC Youth Camp is always such a highlight for the young people in our congregations and also for some who come from other churches.  There is a lot of organisation in running the camp and there are so many involved and we are grateful for the dedicated team.  These times have been blessed to many young lives and we hope and pray that the 2016 camp will be no different. 

The committees of the Presbytery continue to serve the Lord’s people in our congregations and to work for the interests of the Church along with all our office bearers and treasurers.  We are indebted to our conveners and to the members of the committees who give of their time in such a way.  Particular mention needs to be made of Mr Laurence MacKenzie who does so much for us in the Business Committee and as General Treasurer.  We are thankful for his input and for the time that he invests at both a local and Presbytery level.  Laurence has forecast a deficit for this coming year and has encouraged us to think about our giving to the Church as we go forward with faith in Christ who is Lord of all. 

There has also been the work of the ‘Church Relations Committee’.  They have over the years encouraged talks with other denominations and through the Committee’s initiative of the Scottish Reformed Churches Forum.  As a consequence of the Forum we have had discussion with the Free Church more recently about the possibility of union and these are ongoing.  There is a biblical mandate for such discussions whatever comes from them.  We must continue to work for the advancement of the gospel and to take the role that the Lord has given us in Scotland seriously.  There are still large areas of Scotland without gospel ministry. 

The APC News and Website Committee is responsible for the publications of the denomination and for the APC News which has been going since 1989.  There have been various editors over the years who have all brought their own gifts and focus to the magazine.  Our most recent editor is Catherine MacKenzie who has taken on the role since the beginning of the 2016.  The publication has a new title and it is now called ‘The Door’. We are thankful that Catherine has agreed to do this work and hope that she will know the Lord’s blessing as she does it. 

There are changes and challenges as we go forward but we do so looking to the Lord who has been most faithful ~ The Lord of us hath mindful been and he will bless us still (Psalm 115:12).

 Rev J. R. Ross Macaskill - Presbytery Clerk – May 2016

Canadian Presbytery Report 2016 - Vancouver Congregation

The past year has had its challenges, and will continue so through 2016.  We also see that throughout the church in the western world.  The words of Jeremiah (chp14 v19) seem to speak to us today as they did of old: Have you utterly rejected Judah?  Has your soul loathed Zion? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing and behold trouble!  But we understand the cause as did Jeremiah; “for we have sinned against thee.”  The church in the UK and Canada can pray as Jeremiah prayed, “Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake; do not disgrace the throne of thy glory; remember, break not thy covenant with us.”  God’s covenant blessings, covenant mercies and the glory of his name, is the reason Jeremiah pleaded for the restoration of Zion.  Judgment was to come and then salvation, God’s covenant promises may take decades to fulfill, but he is faithful to his covenant, and the glory of his name. 

Regular worship services continue at Cityview Baptist Church at 2pm and 4:00pm each Lord’s Day and a meeting for prayer and Bible study on Wednesday at 7pm.   Rev. Matandika has continued his ministry to the congregation, with weekly preaching, teaching, and witnessing in the community from January through to the mid- summer when he went to Malawi.   The youth group met at two week intervals and Miss Carmel Epp, is also meeting with the young women in the congregation on a fortnightly basis.  Over the summer months, when Rev. Matandika was in Malawi we had Rev. Stephen Roberts his wife and young children with us.  Steven is an energetic pastor and diligent evangelist.  Following his time with us he moved to Wisconsin as an assistant pastor.  

At the beginning of September Rev. Matandika took a leave of absence from the congregation.  In January, 2016 Rev. Matandika informed the Presbytery that he wished to resign from the pastoral duties of the Vancouver congregation.  The Presbytery accepted the resignation with regret; please remember the Matandika family as the Lord opens new opportunities for his ministry.  The congregation is currently looking for a new minister. 

In December we were saddened to hear of the illness and passing away of the Rev. T. Atkinson.  He has had a connection with the congregation and denomination for decades.  His faithful independent ministry in Italy and Greece influenced many young people from the 1960’s into the 21st century.  His visits to Vancouver were always appreciated. 

The work in Malawi continues unabated, with church growth continuing in Dzuwa and in a village about 5 km away from Dzuwa.  JJ Matandika, Elliot Kembo and the elders minister to the folks in the congregation.  JJ is currently visiting churches in the USA to raise funds for continued expansion of the work in Dzuwa.   He is planning to pursue ministerial studies at Westminster Seminary and Lord willing will arrive in the US in the early summer.  The school continues to expand and there is desire to set up a maternity ward.  More information can be found at the Joy to the World website:

We would ask that you continue to pray for the folks and God’s work in Vancouver and the work in Malawi.   The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. To God only wise, be glory, through Jesus Christ, forever.  We send our love to you all in the Lord.    

          Mr Hugh Fraser – Presbytery Clerk – 2016