“So we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; 7 if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; 8 if it is to encourage others, we should do so. Whoever shares with others should do it generously; whoever has authority should work hard; whoever shows kindness to others should do it cheerfully.” [ROMANS 12 v. 6 – 8]
It is so encouraging to hear these words from Paul who reminds everyone that all our gifts come from God and every gift we have is personal to us. There is no point in comparing ourselves to others because all gifts are used depending on God’s Grace, some folk can be called to Leadership but many are called to Serve in what might seem a quiet way. Attending Church regularly is a wonderful gift, as is helping out with the events in the church, but the most important one is to Pray regularly, to keep in touch with God and to support the church.
If you are not sure what you can do I suggest you look to verse 8 “if it is to encourage others, we should do so.” Encouragement is a wonderful thing and it helps others to feel the fellowship and warmth of being in the congregation. Here is a wee story I have come across which highlights that we all serve in our own way and each person is truly important.
An elderly man, Tam, an Elder in a Scottish congregation, saw an influx of new believers in his church, some of whom demonstrated gifts that marked them out for the Ministry someday. Every day, Tam walked his dog and met one of these recent Christians, who also walked his dog on the same farm road. The young man, Brian, missed Tam for a few weeks, as the old Elder had fallen ill with the ‘flu. At Church, the Minister asked Brian to take over Tam’s place at the door, welcoming people on a Sunday. Three weeks passed, until one Saturday morning, Tam and Brian were back on the farm road with the dogs. It turned out that Tam was experiencing ‘flu’s depressive effects and he began to complain.
“People like you, Brian, can get up on a pulpit and preach great things from the Bible. And what can I do? Nothing!”
Brian replied: “Tam, do you know what I’ve been doing the last three Sundays?”
“Taking your place on the door. And I’ve lost count of the number of people whose faces fell when they saw me, and they asked, ‘Where’s Tam?’ Do you know why? It’s because you have a gift of welcome that I don’t have. And you are the first sermon they get at the door.”
After this, Tam and Brian got on even better, understanding each other’s gift in the Body.
So we are called to be together by God Himself and we all have God-ordained functions, which are found by considering the gifts with which God has already endowed us. This applies to every single Christian in a congregation, no matter how ungifted they may feel.
LET US PRAY
Save us from ever feeling unimportant.
Prevent us from playing down our gifts
Help us to see that what we do is glorious in Your Sight
When we are downhearted, lift us up,
When we despair, give us strength
Remind us that we are Your children
And so Dearly Loved.
We ask in Jesus Name.AMEN
The most lovely place that I have been to recently was on holiday to St. Andrews in a wee cottage called “Burnside” for obvious reasons. It was right beside a lovely wee burn which ran just next to the garden. It was a delight to sit out there and listen to the burn gurgling and chattering over the stones. The beauty of the sound was so soothing and a perfect backdrop to sitting quietly either reading a good book, or, simply doing nothing.
I love that part of the story of “The Adventures of Winnie the Poo” when Christopher Robin explains what doing nothing means, – when grown-ups ask you what are you going to do and I reply, nothing, then I go and do it. Doing nothing allows us to potter about with no real plan in mind. When we go out and about we always do so with a purpose with an agenda, or, at least a time constraint. Having to be here there and everywhere piles on the pressure whether we realise it or not.
Doing nothing means allowing what is called, “Blue Sky Thinking”, where the impossible idea is brought to mind. Where the unthinkable is contemplated and the ideal can be put into some kind of context. Doing nothing allows us to take time off from a busy schedule or the agendas, or the time constraints we place upon ourselves. Yes, I know you are sitting there saying to yourself, all very well but families and school and helping out and work all drive these and are necessary to our daily lives, or have crept into our lives and we cannot now leave them.
However, any doctor or good friend will tell us that at some time we have to stop and take time for ourselves. Finding the happy place to be away from the bustle even in the garden or in a walk round the neighbourhood does the heart good. Even better though is to let the mind go and allow a meander through daft ideas or different ideas. Think of the best-case scenario instead of the worst – case which usually dogs our thoughts. Be positive and conjure up beautiful images of the world, what is your perfect place if you could find it?
How about thinking of the divine, that would give us time to be at peace, try to imagine the Heavenly Hill which the Psalms speak of. Better still, how about walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, listening to the ebb and flow of the waves? If you have a favourite image, parable, or event in the Bible. Why not bring it to life in your mind and think of the surroundings and the beauty of the earth wherever Jesus walked. How lovely is that?
All these thoughts and meditations rest the souls as well the body and who knows in your “Blue Sky Thinking”, you may just come with something really ground – breaking in your daily life or your devotional life. Any time thinking about the Lord is time well spent, any time thinking about something completely different is refreshing to the mind. So let us try this week to do nothing at some point and see where it takes us.
LET US PRAY
We take time out to do nothing except think good thoughts and dream fine dreams.
We take time to think of You and Your Glory, of the wonder of Your Creation,
In all circumstances we give thanks for everything we have.
Help us to take time out to think of the positive in order to diminish the negative.
Help us to take time to see the best – case scenario in life
So that we do not try to look ahead too far and so worry ourselves unnecessarily.
We give our thanks to You that we have imagination which can be put to good use.
We ask these things in Jesus Name.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. “
[Psalm 19 v 7]
Last week on our holiday we went to St. Andrews and spent much of the time near the Beach in one way or another. Strolling along the shore with the wind blasting away was a wonderful experience. It certainly got rid of the “cobwebs” of the mind and it was a true “Refreshment of the Soul” for me. The Ebb and Flow of the tide and the slooshing, calming sound of the waves washed every care and concern away for a short time and that is how it should be, time to be taken away from the everyday and to take time for reflection on the Wonder and Love of God.
In our Psalm the writer talks of Refreshment from knowing and obeying the Law of the Lord. Now that may seem a bit much in this day and age, obeying the Law of God but there is so much for us in these words. Following Jesus and His Commands of Loving and Supporting each other and sharing our faith and the Gospel at every occasion means that we can be satisfied in everything we do that we are following the Christian faith to the full.
It gives us a comfort to know that there is a definite way of life to live and in that Way we have an assurance that we are on the right path. We are also assured that we have a God who cares for us, who has given us a framework to live by and who helps us in our journey of life. Knowing what is right helps us to have a look at ourselves and decide just where are we going and to work out if we are on the right path or if we have slipped into old bad habits and just not realised what was happening. Especially when we make the wrong decision, or slip-up, or take a wrong turning, the great and wonderful thing is that it is never too late with God.
How does the second part of the verse strike you? “making wise the simple”. It certainly means that we are being made wise about ourselves and we find that the best advice is found in the Bible about daily living and following God. In that we have an insight into the Divine, by reading our daily tracts and devotions we find the Word God has for each one of us. A Word to sustain us if we are weary, to lift us up if we are faltering and words of joy and celebration when we are happy.
Refreshment is a wonderful thing and God sends messages of Refreshment throughout both the Old and New Testaments, think of the 23rd Psalm how wonderful is it to read. Think of the Parables of Jesus about finding the lost sheep, about the “Lilies of the Field [Matthew 5]. How He encourages Faith and Trust in God, always the Good Shepherd looking out for each one of us.
I pray that you find refreshment this summer wherever you go whether it is on holiday or a day away, or even a seat in the garden enjoying the beauty of the flowers around. May the Lord Bless You and Keep you. AMEN
LET US PRAY
Great Shepherd of all,
You lead us by refreshing waters, by quiet places, by the gurgling stream or the flowing waves and in these places where we come close to You, help us to appreciate the Companionship and Fellowship of Your Presence. You speak to us in so many ways; through the beauty of the earth, the kindness of strangers, yet most importantly through the wonder of Scripture. Be with us Lord throughout these lovely warm days of summer as we journey through our lives Looking ever to You for Guidance and Care. We ask in Jesus Name. AMEN
“If you come to a town where people do not welcome you or will not listen to you, leave it and shake the dust off your feet. That will be a warning to them!” Mk 6:11.
“Mortal man, I am sending you to the people of Israel. They have rebelled and turned against me and are still rebels, just as their ancestors were.” Ezek. 2:3.
Are we listening to God? Many who call themselves Christian would claim they are and do listen to God yet in both these passages – the disciples who were sent out by Jesus and the prophet, Ezekiel – were speaking to their fellow Israelites; God’s children, yet they weren’t listening and hadn’t listened to God for many years as our second reading tells us. We may have attended church for many years and take comfort in the Bible stories we know by heart, yet are we listening for and to God? In Mark’s gospel in Ch. 6 we read of Jesus – yes, even Jesus – being rejected by those who knew him as a young boy or a teenager and who are now unable to equate his teaching with their knowledge of his background.
We have been given the task by God, just as the disciples were, of taking His Word to all peoples, yet we may believe the message is only for non-Christians. Make no mistake it is also for us – those who are reluctant to hear and to listen just as the Israelites refused to listen.
In these times of our multi-cultural, multi-faith society, it is too easy to keep quiet for fear of offending people. Some may very well be, yet there will be others who attend church at Christmas, weddings or funerals who are open to hearing God’s message. Some may show disinterestedness, yet there may be others who, with a little encouragement, can be brought to faith but we need to listen to God for those opportunities. God asks us to preach the message of the gospel. People will be reluctant to hear and we may not get very far. We may even encounter a hostile response, which the disciples did but, so what? If we’re hearing what God is saying to us, then all we’re asked to do is talk about Jesus, let God do the rest.
Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus to reach out and touch him and say that we love him. Open our ears, Lord, and help us to listen: open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus. Sovereign God, we are here to worship you, having made a space in our lives to pause and reflect. We come to hear your voice, and in the stillness to receive your guidance. Open our eyes to your presence, our hearts to your love and our minds to your will. Direct our thoughts, enlarge our understanding, and shape our lives, so that we may live and work for you, to the glory of your name. Amen.
“After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it.” [Matthew 28 : 1 – 2]
The Tomb was empty, Jesus was alive, and resurrected fully, able to move around as He wished and go wherever He wanted. No-one seemed to be able or willing to stop Him from visiting whom He wanted to see nor doing what He wanted to do. The guards at the Tomb trembled and were so scared that they looked as if they had died. Of course, they would have to answer for to their superiors as to why Jesus managed to leave the Tomb and that was frightening enough but to witness the Stone being rolled away and an Angel, it was all too much for them.
It was all too much for the women as well, you can imagine what would be going through their heads, did someone steal the body? Did the authorities plan some further indignity on Jesus in His death? What could have happened? The truth imparted by the Angel was so fantastic and so wonderful, and so against anything that they could imagine. They must have been terrified yet exhilarated all at once. The Good News was too good to be kept to themselves and they gladly ran to tell the others.
That first Easter Morn there was so much to Celebrate, no-one quite knew what to make of it, or even understood it at first. In time after Jesus had visited His Disciples and spoke to them and showed them that He was real, they understood and found comfort and strength from Him. Yet this comfort and strength was not only for them but for all of us as we too Celebrate the Empty Tomb. The knowledge that Jesus is always with us and that He leads us to a better life, and a better way of life.
Not a magic wand existence where what we could wish for comes true because we are Christian. That doesn’t work because we don’t earn “Brownie Points” with God, He is much more interested in our depth of faith and just how much we love Him. As we find ourselves coming closer to Jesus, we feel encouraged to know Him and in doing so we want to do our best at all times for Him. It seems to be the side effect if you like of getting to know Jesus, where His Goodness rubs off on all of us.
It is a time of Celebration for the Church as we remember that Jesus conquered death and is alive and shall be evermore. We cannot do all the things that we used to in the Sanctuary, we cannot decorate as we had done, and of course we cannot transform the Cross with Daffodils. No singing yet but we will hear the organ play the familiar tunes which brings back so many memories.
What we can do is to love the Lord in all that we do, we can enjoy the Presence of God in the Sanctuary, we can worship with Joy in our hearts. There is always the Hope in all that we do that one day we shall be able to do all the things we mis so much. We have Jesus in our lives and that is a wonderful thing to know and a wonderful thing to have, all the power, all the love, all the care. In this we know that we are not alone and that is the greatest of comfort to us.
LET US PRAY
We Thank You for the beauty for Spring, the wonder of new life,
For all the colours, the freshness, the greenery of nature.
We praise you for this day of Celebration, for the Joy of Easter,
A Joy which lifts our hearts, and for the Hope,
The wonderful Hope of Eternal Life found in Jesus.
Our ever-present help in every time of trouble.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty,
Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
We pray in Jesus name.
“And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.” [ Matthew ch6 v13]
This couplet within the Prayer has a negative and a positive side to it. The negative is a plea to help us not to return to our old ways after having been Forgiven by God. When we have been Forgiven and are aware of the burden of sin falling off our shoulders, so to speak. Then we want to remain in that “Good Place” in our hearts and soul. We ask for help so that we do not fall for the old temptations which almost seem so natural to us. Or, listen to those who would lead us astray, with phrases like, “who would know” or “everyone does it” or “it is only telling a white lie”.
The problem with lies is that one is never enough to cover the wrong, there are different people to tell the lie to, then, like the spiders web it grows and becomes complicated then we find ourselves saying, “I wish I had never started this”. Then we find ourselves promising never to get into the situation again, and the way to keep that promise is to keep to the truth and find ways of speaking the truth which is not hurtful or which sounds aggressive.
We ask God in fact not to take us to the “Testing Place”, where we have to face that test of life, making the decision as to which road to go down, the way of the Lord or the road which looks easier but is the road to the Evil One. The tempting voice which says this way is much easier, this way is trouble-free, though nothing can be further from the truth, and that road is the one which takes us away from God. Jesus did tell us to go through the narrow gate to walk His Way and that is what is always open to us. To put behind us all that causes us to stumble, all the temptations we have large or small, we ask God to help us in that and ask that He keeps us from all of these things.
Let us look at the Positive side of these words of Jesus. We ask to be kept and in fact shielded from the Evil One who has nothing but the worst for us. God has only the best intentions for us and encourages us to be the best that we can be. We need to pray for His power in our lives to overcome anything that will diminish us and cause us harm.
Shielded from temptation and from sleepwalking into danger where we do not even realise that we are wandering down the wrong way. How many have said, “I can give this up any time I want to”. When in fact they are held in thrall to an addiction which will never let them go. How many are led astray by so-called “friends” who are not and find themselves involved in something which is so harmful and causes so many problems. That is the time to pray earnestly to be kept from such influences and potential hazards.
I know that many will say but I am not involved in these things in any way and I do not have to worry so much. The thing is we never know, and we are not always aware of the influences others have in our lives, how our natural sense of justice can be affected by the words and thoughts of others with their own agenda. An agenda which is not for our good but for theirs. Evil is subtle and almost invisible, we can find ourselves under attack from the Evil One when doubt hits us and we worry about our faith and what it all means. In every case, pray for the protection of God whose strength is far greater than ours and who cares for us in every way, who will always listen and will always bring us close to Him.
I know that I have only managed to skim along the surface of the Lord’s Prayer but I hope that it has given you some food for thought and when you do say it in church that you have a sense of what you are praying. The final lines which we say were not the words of Jesus but a response to His prayer –“For thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever” fitting words of Praise and approbation of the wonder and greatness of God’s Love and Power.
LET US PRAY
Father in Heaven, we come before You now, in all humility and in love.
We thank You for Jesus and for His pattern of Prayer which has bound Christians throughout the ages and throughout the world today.
We thank You for Your care for us and for the way You protect us even when we are not aware of the need for that protection.
Always save us from the evils of this life and help us to remember that we can pray to You to help us in times of trouble and difficulties.
We thank You for the Hope we have in Jesus and in the guidance and support of the Holy Spirit always walking with us and prompting us in a positive way.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus our Saviour,