Grow: in fear and love

Preached on: Sunday 19th September 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this sermon.
Bible references: Deuteronomy 6:1-6
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Were you listening out for those feeling words? Can anybody tell me what they were? Can you put up a hand if you think you can remember it?

First one, Fear, yeah, and there was a second one? Did any of our young people listen, now any of our adults, you want to shout out together? One, two, three, Love, yeah, fear and love.

Now hands up if you think that sounds a bit odd, that we’re called to fear God and love God. Hands up if you think that’s a bit odd. I think that’s a bit odd. I’m like ’What is this all about? What are you talking about here God?’

So, I brought something along from home to maybe help us think about this a little bit. So, in my bag here I have my drone. So, in lockdown last year, I got a drone. It’s a Mavic Air II which basically means it flies really fast and really high, and then I really enjoy it. It’s got the wee camera on the front that means you can take pictures and video and as I say it does fly very fast and very high. Now, I’m not going to put it on in here you’ll be glad to know, I’m also not allowed to break the rules, but I’ve got a wee video just to show you something that I did during lockdown last year with Hope, so we’ll see that just now.

Wow, so you can clearly tell that I like having a bit fun with my drone. I also like the editing process at the end, it gets the creative part of me out and about. So, this is my drone and I’ve on my birthday this year, I got out for the morning and did a wee bit flying and videoing and video and stuff, and made a video last night too, but as much as I feel a sense of fun when I’m out with my drone, I also feel fear. I sometimes feel fear when I’m flying my drone. Boys and girls young people in our organizations, why do you think I sometimes feel fear when I’m flying what do you think?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, sometimes birds do go for it and I really don’t want the birds to go for it. Another reason Emily:

it could crash and so both these methods by bird or me just doing something silly, I could crash it and it’s not cheap so I’d rather not crash it and damage it. Can you think of anything else? There’s one more reason I can think of but I might sometimes be a bit scared what do you think? Might fall on me or someone else, yeah exactly, and these blades they go really fast and they could really hurt someone and it can do quite a rate or not so if it was to hit someone I’d be quite worried that they’d get injured.

So I feel this fear in me sometimes when I’m using my drone and but it’s a good fear, it’s a fear that makes sure that I use my drone properly, that obey the rules, that I look out for people, because I value the drone and I value other people, and it’s the same with this fear that God talks about. It’s not a bad fear, it’s a good fear He’s talking about, He wants us to respect Him, to value Him as our Heavenly Father and so we might have that fear that we might not be showing the love we should, that fear of letting Him down or hurting Him because God can be grieved by our actions, and our passage today there were a number of things that said to do a number of things to learn so that we might show God this love and respect.

What did, young people, what did we, what did the reading say we were to learn? What were we to learn? Can you remember? Anybody? Commandments, that’s right, God’s commandments, His teaching, His ways. Now we might wonder, why does God want us to do that? Like is God a killjoy? Does God just want life to be boring? Is that what God’s about?

Well, to help answer that question we’ve got a picture here from the Beginner’s Sunday School. Are any of our beginners in here just now, any other beginners in? A couple. They’re mostly through next door. They did this picture and you’ll probably know this Bible story I would think, on this side we’ve got the man who built on the rock and the other man built on what? Shout it out. Sand, that’s right, and the rain came down and which house fell? It was the wrong one on the rock wasn’t it? You sure? I was sure it was the rock. The sand, okay! Okay, it was the sand wasn’t it. It was the sand, yeah, so the rain came down and the house build on the sand fell down, and Jesus was saying not that life would always be easy or go well, but he was saying, if we will listen to His teaching then we will make the best choices in life because God knows what is best for us, He knows what is good for us. So, if we want to do good we need to learn His commands, His ways, His teaching, but there’s a problem with that, I reckon, because there’s an awful lot in here. Sometimes it’s also really hard to do so.

How are we meant to live this out? How are we meant to show God this love and this respect that we’re supposed to, this fear? Well, we need to learn, we need to grow and one of our values as a church is that we want to be a people who grow, who grow in our faith, we get to know God better, we get to know His ways better and we grow in character so that we’ll learn to be more like Jesus in our character as well.

Now, I reckon you all know how to learn things don’t you? Hands up if you know how to tie your shoes? Do you know how to tie your shoes? Hands up if you know how to brush your teeth? Yeah, can you eat your food with cutlery yet? Yeah, some of you, I struggle sometimes! So, we can all learn things, yeah. So, I reckon since our officers are like adults they should be able to learn things really quick don’t you think? Yeah? So I’ve asked two volunteers from each of the uniformed organisations to come forward and I’m going to get them to do something, just like on the spot, they’re going to have one minute to learn something.

So if I can get our two volunteers to come out, and in your bag you will find three juggling balls, and you’ve got one minute to learn to juggle. Okay, over to you.

If you face that way then everybody can see you. Keep going, have another shot, keep going.

Come on, your officers you should know what to do! Oh right, we’ve got one on the go here,, yep one at a time, we’re getting there. How are we doing, oh yeah right, one hand to the other that’s a good start, definitely. Right I think that’s nearly half your time gone come on, come on.

Oh great, I think that might be enough well done, well done, thank-you. Well done.
Please, you can leave them there and I’ll get them at the end, thank-you so much.

Now, that was a wee bit unfair don’t you think. One minute to learn to juggle, that’s just not fair, even if we are adults, because you know sometimes it takes time to learn to juggle and when I was younger I was in a high school play and I was asked to take on a role where I had to learn to juggle and with this jacket on and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to do it but I was asked to juggle and it was like in front of everybody, all the adults all the young people, I’m thinking ‘Am I going to be able to do this?’ and I had to walk at the same time, oh so much, but my teachers helped me and by practicing and repetition and although this was 25 years ago hopefully …….

There we go. The amount of times I dropped those in practicing.

We can learn new skills but it takes time, takes repetition, takes the help of others and there are many different ways to learn to juggle.

Our Bible passage says all these things too. It says the sooner you start the better, because the sooner you start and the more you do it the more natural it will become, and it will just become a way of life. Our Bible says we need all the generations together so that the older learn from the younger and the younger learn from the older, but we also need to do it in different ways. The Bible passage said to write it and to talk it and to make stuff to help us learn these commands in this way of life, and you know we’ve got tons of ways at church to help all of us from all the ages:
you might come to church; you might go to Sunday School, Boys Brigade, Girls Brigade; you might be part of a Fellowship Group or go to Alpha if you’re an adult; you might do the New Testament Reading Plan or get a copy of the Bible reading notes; there are so many ways and the question is ‘Will you use them? Will you use them?’ because you won’t grow by leaving the juggling balls, the Bible in the cupboard. I was really rusty this week, the amount of times I got a couple of balls going and it fell on the ground. If you want to learn God’s ways, if you want the good He wants for you, you need to learn His ways and put it into practice because also He calls us to love Him and respect Him by doing that, and that’s what our next song is all about. It’s a new song for us it’s called Revelation Song and it’s about singing our love and our respect to God. Now the Band are going to sing through the first verse and we’ll remain seated and then towards the end of the first chorus we’ll stand, look for my lead, and we’ll sing verses two and three together.

Family: Belonging and Purpose

Preached on: Sunday 12th September 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here21-09-12 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Exodus 3:1-12
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word

Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and reveal to us the heart of God and be a balm to our heart if we need that today.
Holy Spirit, come among us with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

If a friend or colleague or neighbor was to ask you why they should bother about church what would your answer be? Could you give an answer? What would your answer convey to them and do you think it might resonate with them in any way at all?

Most likely your answer will be dependent upon your experience of church so if you think church is boring your answer’s probably going to be a pretty dull or you might struggle and start her to try and say something because there’s something in there that says you have to have a good answer and you’re just waffle something of course on the other hand if church has been beneficial to you may have something positive to say but again I wonder would it resonate with today’s culture one analysis of today’s culture suggests that people across the age ranges yearn for belonging and they yearn for purpose the yearn for belonging and for purpose so I wonder have you experienced either of those when you’ve shared in church

I know I have I have I’ve experienced a depth of belonging that is so very rare in our culture today at one time I was part of a small group of young adults when I was in my 20s at a church in Edinburgh and some of them Gill and I are still in contact with now they know the depths of who we are they have journeyed with us through some of the darkest times in life they have encouraged us they have spurred us on and picked us up we’ve hung out we’ve had meals together in each other’s homes we’ve had a cuppa at the latest time of night you can imagine we were family and it really was and as a gift so that even though we are in different countries now we still make the effort to book a holiday once a year and go see them and be with them and keep in contact across the year that’s the experience of church that I’ve had so that when church is at its best there is true belonging and it really functions like the best of families but the same writer goes on to say that today’s generation not only wants to belong they want purpose indeed they yearn to be part of a community that lives and works for a purpose higher than mere survival its own survival a purpose higher than its own survival yet sadly too often how often does that feature in the church sure we’re a place you can belong but we are very focused on our own survival particularly when things seem threatening and many a church lacks a sense of belonging to something greater and maybe that’s because we end up making church about us about me about I sadly too few of us have a sense of belonging to something greater something that is worth living for even something that is worth dying for either literally or metaphorically so by now you know that we’re working through this new teaching series on our purpose and values and today’s value is the value of family we’re a family of all sorts of people journeying in community towards wholeness our passage has much to say about this value but before we dig into it it’s helpful i think to recall some of the story of Moses he was an Israelite part of the Israelite nation that grew up in Egypt and became slaves to the Egyptians and his life was a threat because of the command given by pharaoh to suppress the growth of the Israelite nation but his mother saved him and he actually ended up living in pharaoh’s household we might say as a prince of Egypt but then as a young man he intervened in an altercation when he helped uh try to help a Jewish slave that was being mistreated and that led to him fleeing Egypt fleeing into the wilderness into Midian and living there as a shepherd for 40 years and that’s where we find him in today’s passage Moses is out tending his flock on the far side of the wilderness and that’s where God meets him God catches his eye with a burning bush a bush that is con not being consumed by the fire and so Moses thinks to himself well that’s pretty strange I’m going to go see this yet before he can even take a step God intervenes and says Moses, Moses do not come any closer take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground Moses meets with God this holy God that we were thinking about last week and again we see God keeping that distance because of his holiness so Moses has this personal and life-changing meeting with God which was our value last week if you recall but there’s something we need to see in this passage something else as Moses encounters God he receives a calling a calling into something greater something greater than merely personal faith or personal benefit and let’s pause and think about that for a moment because as i said already we often make church we often make faith or following Jesus about ourselves how does it benefit me does it meet my needs does it take enough of my boxes what am I getting out of this do I really have the time for this

yet Moses story shows us that when we meet with God he calls us into something bigger something that has both belonging and purpose God goes on to say I’m the God of your father the God of Abraham the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt God in meeting with Moses is calling Moses into this people again into this family the family of God and so we should be quite familiar with us by now because I’ve said it so often in the last couple of weeks God has a heart to have a people of his own and he’s going to relate to them now we see as a family with him being the perfect father to them and but in the very next people he reaffirms this he says in the next chapter even he says when you return to Egypt say to pharaoh this is what the lord says Israel is my firstborn son and i told you let my son go so that he may worship me the firstborn son his pride and joy his heir and so God has his heart for our people but he has his heart for our family he will treat them as his children and he calls Moses out of the wilderness out of estrangement out of distance and back into this place of belonging when we meet with God when we meet with God it is meant to lead us to something more than just a personal faith yes God wants you to know forgiveness and he wants you to know peace and he wants you to know hope and he wants you to know life but as we’ve seen biblical faith is meant to be more than merely me mine and I we’re called into something greater we’re called into belonging to something greater and that carries over into the new testament we read there see what great love the father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God and that is what we are it’s what we are does it is it core to your identity I hope I remember talking to hope about this the idea that we talked about this morning it’s a hard concept for a five-year-old to get our head around this idea that as deep as your family roots go you still have a family that goes deeper and for all eternity and Paul carries that on he says you’re no longer foreigners and strangers but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household members of his family with God as your father we’re called into something greater we’re called to belong to something greater to something that can never be lost never be taken away from us even after death

have we allowed this to grip us have we allowed it to shape our mind and our heart to shape our living the sense of belonging to the family of God to something greater because when we do church is no longer an event that we turn up to once a week and it’s no longer just a club or a loose group of people it’s your brother and sister someone you love and it really does become family in church we becomes the best it can be God was calling Moses back into this family he’s called us into this family and do we allow God’s word to shape our thinking in this way because it sounds a simple lesson something you tell kids till they grow sold enough that they’ve heard it so many times but do we live it out do we live it out do we see one another as our sisters and brothers in Christ so our family value says we’re a family of all sorts of people but it doesn’t stop there and it didn’t stop there for Moses either God goes on to say i have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt I’ve heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering so i have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land a land flowing with milk and honey God has his people his family and he now tells Moses he’s going to take his children on a journey a journey out of darkness oppression and strife and to a place that is full of joy and life and goodness so when God speaks here of a good and spacious land a land flowing with milk and honey he’s simply using the language of the time he’s using the language of a shepherd and he does so that he might paint a picture and help his people understand a concept that we’re familiar with I’m sure but it’s still hard to get our heads around it’s spoken of in many ways throughout scripture often referred to as peace or in the Hebrew shalom maybe our best contemporary word would be wholeness, wholeness and shalom has this idea of a wholeness that’s both individual but collective it’s meant to ripple out across society in the wider world it includes wholeness both physically so that there’s no more suffering or death it’s meant to affect us emotionally and intellectually no more brokenness in those areas of life it’s meant to be part of our spiritual wholeness as well and speaking of shalom across the scriptures this is what God speaks of wholeness and its greatest extent that you can imagine that’s the peace that’s the wholeness that God wishes to give to his people is this is the wholeness he calls them into that would affect every area of life every area of brokenness and so when Jesus says i’ve come that they may have life and have it to the full he’s not limiting this to forgiveness

his death on the cross was not just so that you can get forgiven that’s the tip of the iceberg God’s intent through Jesus is yes for you to be forgiven because you need that we’re all a bunch of sinners as we thought about last week but that forgiveness is simply an entrance point into something greater a greater destiny a greater future God intends for his people to know this shalom his peace his perfection his wholeness and so that’s why our family value says we’re a family of all sorts of people journeying in community towards wholeness as a family we’re on a journey and we do it in community because we need one another but we’re journeying towards somewhere we’re not journeying aimlessly we’re journeying towards life in all its fullness as part of the kingdom of God into that new heaven and new earth that will one day come

now at this point I can imagine that there’s either two objections or struggles with this first of all you might think this sounds kind of selfish again Scott this me mine and I thing maybe it’s too earthly minded maybe it’s sinful maybe I feel I’m a bad person that I want this but then also remember please all I’ve done is quote scripture so God wants this for you more than you want it God wants this for you more than you want it he is a good God he came to save that you might have life, life in all its fullness life and all its wholeness but I suspect the other struggle that will come to mind as I say this is a struggle that every one of us faces from time to time and we are facing it even again today with the news that I’ve had to share because you hear this chat about a God a God who yearns for a people of his own a family of his own that he came to die that they might have life in all his fullness and yet this world is still so broken and it’s just getting worse isn’t it you know Gill and I were in for our 20-week scan the other week and when the doctor found out I was a minister lead came off is about all I can say because suddenly we faced with all these questions about these very issues it’s where he went to second time we saw him so maybe as i share God’s heart his heart to bring us on a journey to wholeness you struggle with that because maybe in your life or in the life of someone you love all you see is brokenness and the more you see of it the more brokenness comes about because then it ends up breaking your heart and maybe even ends up breaking your faith

and friends there’s no silver bullet to that there’s no answer that fully resolves the pain

in some ways i believe there shouldn’t be because when we try to have an answer the answer it probably just minimizes the dark and difficult realities we face

yet know this God is not unaware nor is he unaffected in the verses i quoted earlier God said i am concerned about their suffering now to you and me concerned probably sounds pretty cold distant about as caring as a politician pick the one you’d most want to fill in the gap there but that’s a fault of our English because the Hebrew word that’s translated here concerned it involves the idea of knowing of knowing with certainty of knowing with intimate knowledge even knowing with experience so we could even paraphrase God as saying I have experienced their suffering i have experienced their suffering just as a parent may experience a genuine degree of suffering as they see their child struggling so too does God yet God sees all suffering so the hardship that you and I know in our lives and what we feel as we watch a loved one struggle these are multiplied a billion-fold time a billion-fold for God who has experienced the suffering of every life of every moment of brokenness in this world at least from the beginning of time but as an eternal God maybe he’s always experienced it

and a day and a year can seem a long time in our lives what’s eternity like carrying all that suffering

God is not unaffected friends and now of the overflow of his love for you and me in this broken world he desires for all of us to belong to his family and then journey towards his peace his new kingdom the new heaven and earth that we might know life in all its fullness

there’s much more that can be said on this the tensions of the now and the not yet the tensions of waiting but this is God’s heart for us he calls us into family and he calls us on a journey to wholeness but he also does something quite strange with Moses he says to Moses so now go I’m sending you to pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt God has this people his family and his plans and purposes for them and yet for some unfathomable reason God wants to involve Moses this guy who messed up he messed up so bad he had to flee when he was younger and yet God still wants him to be involved i think he does it so as to rewrite Moses story so that the the future that Moses has is different from what he has had because God is calling him into something bigger into family towards wholeness into a new story by being involved and Moses responds not only this one time in verses 11 and 12 if you go on and read he responds four more times to God saying God who am I mean come on God you might be God you may have all wisdom but this just seems crazy why be no way but God says i will be with you and he later provides Aaron and others to journey with him towards these purposes so brothers and sisters God has called you into his family he has called you towards wholeness and he is calling you to be involved that the future story of this place the future story of an individual’s life the future story of our community might be different you’re part of a bigger story you know I’m I’m journeying with someone who came to faith about a year or so ago and it’s a real privilege to journey with this individual and I’m getting to know this individual story and there are hard parts to the story but I believe that God has got better in front of her than what she’s known that there will be joy again there will be peace and purpose because God is calling us all into that and he’s calling us to be involved but maybe as you hear that you’re thinking uh that sounds a bit scary I couldn’t do that I can’t do what you do Scott I can’t do what Jean or Ann did today well maybe you’ve got a different role to play you will have I’m sure and you need to know that God will be with you as well his grace and power will be with you to further what you might do in your life to help us be a place of family to help us be involved in the purposes of God there will be others of us however who need to drop the excuses just like Moses had to because God calls us all to be involved for the sake of others for the sake of his purposes for the sake of his family because if this family value is to be realized more fully we need everyone brothers and sisters we need everyone to play their part and if we do then maybe maybe when someone says to you why should i bother about church your answer certainly won’t be dull and you might still stumble and stutter a little but what you say won’t be from a place of trying to come up with the best answer possible you’ll just speak from experience and that might be captivating to them because you’ll be speaking of something greater I’ve been called into something greater I’ve been called into the family of God where you belong and into a purpose that is about more than mere survival it’s about inviting encouraging and enable people of all ages to encounter and follow Jesus Christ such that their lives change for the better and they too journey with us as a family as a community towards that wholeness and peace which he promises and which we will experience one day when His kingdom comes in all its fullness and we share in that new heaven and new earth

I pray it may be so, Amen

Meet with God

Preached on: Sunday 5th September 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-09-05 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Leviticus 16:1-10 & 29-34
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Holy Spirit, come among us and soften our hearts to the word of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and reveal to us the heart of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

Can you remember the last time you were at the cinema? Long time ago eh? Probably more than a year ago/ There might be some people, anyone brave enough to have been brave enough to go in the last year? A couple people. Oh, I am impressed!

So, a couple people, but most of us have not been since probably before corona virus. I loved going with my Dad especially, it was one of the things that we did Father and son kind of days, we went to the cinema but if you were to go sometime in the near future when maybe you felt safe enough to do so I wonder what type of film you would go see? Would it be a rom-com? Anybody want to admit to that one? I like a rom-com as much as anybody. An action-based film maybe? Maybe Marvel? There’ll be a few of us amongst them. Maybe a film with a bit of suspense or drama, or a film based upon a real life story, maybe that ticks your box.

Well, whatever your preference of film, maybe I would think we only gauge it good if it has a story that grips us in some way, and the very best films tell a story that touch our hearts, they move us in the deepest part of our being, and most often this happens when it tells a story that connects with us. it maybe shows us something that connects with our life even, or maybe in the telling of the story we see our lives in a new light, maybe we ask new questions and the horizon has opened up and we see the world more clearly, or it grips us so much we’re moved to action and response. The telling of story through drama can be a very powerful medium and can impact us and open our eyes like very few other things.

Our reading today takes us back into the life, the rituals, the story of Israel, and it can seem pretty irrelevant, weird even, maybe barbaric too, but their story of what God did in them and through them and with them is meant to help us see things differently, it’s meant to help us see God differently and to see ourselves differently.

We’ve just begun a new teaching series, a series to help bring us back to the purposes and values we have as a congregation, and last week we saw that part of our purpose is connected to the heart of God and we saw how that is that God’s heart is to have a people of his own God, is seeking for all of us to have relationship with Himself and He seeks to be near us and for us to be near Him. So, God’s not interested in mere religion, He’s not interested in being a God that we forget about because he’s so distant and far off. That’s not what God’s after. He’s not after us just getting on with some religious stuff here on a Sunday morning. God wants to be involved in your life and mine so it’s completely fitting that one of our values, one of the ways of working out our purpose is about helping people Meet with God. We want to be a place, a community, we want to be a means by which people can meet with God in a personal and life-changing way. That is what we mean by the value of Meet, it’s meeting with God.

Our passage today reminds us of this because the tabernacle, the tent of meeting was a living picture of this reality. God was in the midst of His people, He was surrounded by them, He was near them, He was central to their lives and to everything they did.

Now the tent of meeting had an outer courtyard but then within the tent it also had various parts to it. There was the holy place and there was the most holy place, the holy of holies, and it was in the holy of holies, the most holy place, that God’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, was there and it was a symbol of God’s presence. It was almost like the foot stool of His throne and so the most holy place was the throne room of God Almighty and he presenced Himself among His people because He wanted close, direct relationship with them.

Do you know He still wants that today, with you and with me? Do you know that? Do you really know that? Like, really have your eyes been opened to that reality? Can you see in the story of Israel that God wants to be involved in your life? Do you know He wants to meet with you in a personal in a life-changing way?

Just last Sunday I was chatting to some people on the doorstep after the service and one lady stopped to spend just a few minutes with me because she wanted to share something encouraging. Over the last year she’d started to tune in again to church, she hadn’t been interested in church for a while, but she started tuning in at home on a Sunday and mid midweek as well and, lo and behold, God met with her, God spoke to her in ways that are beyond mere coincidence, and it really encouraged me, and it reminded me that God wants to meet with us, with us all, with you and with me, in a personal and life-changing way. Do you know that? Do you know that? But the drama played out in our passage today is also to open our eyes to something else, it’s meant to open our eyes to a dilemma, a dilemma, because God’s heart, as was said, is to have a people of His own and to be near them, but God is holy and that means He’s perfect, He is completely separated from evil, He’s truly righteous and good and so that holy God cannot be as close to the people. He yearns to be near and He cannot allow them to come too close to Him for their own safety, either because we, you and I, Israel as well, we’re a bunch of broken, messy people. Who amongst us can say we’re perfect? We do wrong stuff every day, every week, as part of our nature, there’s a darkness inside us. We’d rather not admit it but it’s there, and that darkness, the Bible calls sin, and sin to holiness is like oil to water, it doesn’t mix, or it’s like gas to a naked flame and so it will be consumed by the dynamic, powerful, pure holiness of God if sin comes too close, and that’s what we read about,

The start of our passage where the two sons of Aaron had approached the Lord when they weren’t supposed to and they died, and it’s also why in our passage today there are restriction, after restriction, after restriction, and ritual, after ritual, after ritual to emphasize this issue, to emphasize that this holy God has to keep a safe distance between Himself and His people and so only, the only the high priest could enter, go into the most holy place, only he could go through the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place, and he could only do that once a year, and he could only do that when he’d offered sufficient sacrifices. Only him, only him. And we’re meant to see the dilemma we all face but which God faces with us too, because His heart is to have a people of His own and to meet with them in a real tangible way bu,t because of sin, there is distance and there is danger.

Now, we might wonder ‘Well, why didn’t God just continue with this old system, the old system He gave Israel?’ Well you have to go into the New Testament to find the answer for that and in one of the New Testament books, The Letter to the Hebrews, the author describes the old system in this way, he says ‘This is an illustration for the present time indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper.’ What had been before under the old system had kept the relationship between God and His people, it had facilitated forgiveness but it didn’t go far enough, didn’t clear the conscience, it didn’t mean that people could come into God’s presence whenever, wherever, it just wasn’t possible, there was limitation. There was limitation because the old system was not enough and so as he says it acted as an illustration or picture and drama to help us see the dilemma. A dilemma we all face and which only God could solve and solve what He did through Jesus, because the same author goes on to say ‘Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant unlike the other high priest he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people, he sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves but he entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood so obtaining eternal redemption.’ On the cross Jesus offered himself, he sacrificed himself for us so as to secure our forgiveness and provide a way for us to come back into right relationship with God. He’s like the scapegoat in our passage today, the scapegoat. The priest would have laid his hands on the scapegoat and confessed the sins of the nation upon the scapegoat and then the scapegoat carried that sin away as a sign as a reenactment of what God had done and in a similar way, in the words of Paul, God made Jesus, who had no sin, to be sin for us or in the words of Peter ‘Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross.’ Jesus bore our burden, the burden of our sin, and he bore our sins away, He sacrificed Himself for us to take away the sins of many and clear the conscience of the worshipper, but friends, it’s almost like that is just the tip of the iceberg because there’s so much more, there’s so much more through Jesus, because through Jesus we now have confidence to draw near to God and any of us can have an intimate relationship just like that woman told me last week. Now we don’t enter into a sacred place like the most holy place in a temple or a tent, we don’t even have to be in a church building for this to happen, as her story told us, because, through faith in Jesus, through relationship with God through Jesus, we can meet with God anywhere, anytime, we can have direct immediate access to God to our Heavenly Father whose heart is for you to know Him, for Him to have a people of His own and to meet them, with them personally and in a life-changing way, and it’s all available because of Jesus.

This isn’t made up friends, this is not made up, this is not some silly Sunday school story. If this sounds fictional or make-believe it really isn’t. He’s changed my life. I could point to any number of people and I won’t pick on you in here, but I could pick to any number of people and God is working in their lives now, their lives aren’t perfect and their lives are really hard, but God is there, God is there, He is at work, He is changing our lives and He’s made that possible because of Jesus.

We’re going to be celebrating, this morning the Sacrament of Communion and it’s another picture, I might say it’s another drama, to help open our eyes and remind us of the heart of God that He loved you and me so much He was willing for His body to be broken, He was willing for His blood to be spilt and that’s what we remember through the bread and the wine. We remember this in His sacrifice. God was making a way for His people to draw near and know Him now and for all eternity.

Friends, have your eyes been opened to this reality? Do you see the character of God? Do you see the heart of God? This isn’t a God that wants to be kept at arm’s length, this isn’t a God who’s a fable or a made-up story, or who just wants you to be religious on a Sunday morning, He wants to be involved in your life, but for that to happen you need to realize that this is who God is, but you also need to realize you need Him and you need His sacrifice because friends, nothing you do can cover that distance, nothing you do can remove the danger of sin in your life except the blood of Jesus.

So, maybe you’re beginning to wonder. I hope you’re beginning to wonder how can I share in this scope how can I share in this? How can I benefit from the death of Jesus? Well, Paul reminds us he says ‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood to be received by faith’ to be received by faith, it’s all by faith, it’s not actually by turning up at church or being baptized or been a good person, none of it counts, none of it counts, it’s all by faith, faith in Jesus, and if you want Him to be your Savior, if you want that distance to be removed, if you want God to be involved in your life you have to come to Him in faith and faith in Him alone.

I said last week that I also wanted our teaching series to help us think about sharing our faith too, and we heard last week that Biblical faith must be lived out, it must be seen, it must be known, it must be shared and yes, the sacraments of baptism and communion are two ways of sharing our faith, of making it known and it’s lovely that Callum and Emma stood today with Lewis and they made their faith known and they committed themselves along with the God parents to pass on this faith to Lewis, and we rejoice in that but if all the ways of making our faith known simply happen within these walls then the wider world will never know of the heart of God, they’ll never know of the depths of God’s love and the lengths He went to, they’ll never know that there is a love which died for them and for us. Our God is the most captivating, loving being there is, more than your spouse, more than your kids, more than your family or friends, but do you know that? Do you know His love?

Because His heart is to have a people of His own and for them to meet with Him in a personal and life-changing way and He sacrificed Himself to make that possible.

Now, I’m not saying, hear me, I’m not saying you have to go out there and talk to the first person you meet about Jesus, you’ll be glad to hear again, and I’m not saying you have to tell them about sins straight away and that we all need forgiveness, I wouldn’t do in the first conversation, and eventually maybe, in this series, we’ll think about the how of sharing our faith but I think what God wants for us, in this series especially, is to renew our hearts and renew our minds, more than necessarily equip us in the how of sharing our faith. He wants your heart to be stirred by what He has done, He wants your heart to be stirred by His purposes, He wants your eyes to be opened to see a greater vision of who God is of who God really, really is. He’s a God of love and of holiness and He sought for you to be part of His people that you might meet with Him personally even if it meant His own death. I wonder, can we allow these old words, these old stories of Israel, can we allow their story to stir in us such adoration, such wonder, such commitment to God, that it maybe increases our courage and we might step over our fear, and maybe think about sharing our faith? I think that’s what God’s seeking in this series, to stir in us and do in us, and you’ve got a choice of whether to allow Him to do that or not, or to shut Him down. The choice is yours and I pray that you will respond to Him so let us pray.

Friends, how do you need to respond today?
Do you need to allow the sacrifice of Jesus to stir your heart afresh?
Do you need to know that you’re forgiven and received to the Father, that there’s
nothing you’ve done that can keep you from Him?
If you’re putting your faith in Jesus, His death can make you clean in His sight and He welcomes you back with open arms.
Do you need to allow these words to rise up in your courage?
What is it you need to do today?
And the stillness, why don’t you jus,t the quiet of your thoughts, share that with God.
I do wonder, I do wonder if there’s some here today, you’ve come into church this morning, you wouldn’t say that you’re not a Christian, that this God is just a made-up old story, and I wonder if you felt your heart stirred,
or you felt maybe a conviction of your way of life, that there’s distance between you and God because of choices you make day by day,
and if that’s you, maybe today is the day you become a Christian, today is the day you say ‘God come into my life and forgive me’
and if that’s you let me lead you in a prayer just now.

Lord Jesus, repeat after if that’s you,
Lord Jesus, please forgive me,
please come into my life.
Thank-you that You died on the cross for me.
Thank-you that You offer me a life with You.
I receive that gift today.
Thank-you Lord Jesus.

Lord, if that’s, if someone’s prayed that prayer today, I pray that You’d surround them, that You keep them safe, that You’d fill them afresh with Your Spirit and You’d help them to know Your love and to walk with You all the days of their life.
And Lord, whatever it is you’ve stirred in our hearts, would You, would You seal it over, would You take it deep, Lord, would You stir us up, would You convict us where we need convicted, when You free us where we need freed, Lord, would You give us hope where we need hope, would You pour out Your love where we need to know that, deep in the depths of our soul, and we pray that for our kids as well Lord, we pray for all the children and young people that are amongst us and through in their groups just now.
Lord, reveal to You, reveal to them Your love, astound them with Your love, captivate them with Your love Father that they may follow You all the days of their life and so we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you decided to become a Christian today, if you decided to respond and pray that prayer with me, then please get in touch with me, just let me know that you made that choice, you can either tell me on the door, you can drop me an email, because we’d love to journey with you, we’d love to equip you and help you follow Jesus, so do let me know if you did respond. We continue in response to God.

God’s Heart, Power and Invitation

Preached on: Sunday 29th August 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 21-08-29 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Genesis 17:1-10
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us take a moment then to pause and come to God in prayer before we think about His word. Let us pray:

Holy Spirit, come and reveal to us the heart of God.
Holy Spirit, come among us and help us to follow after Jesus.
Holy Spirit, come with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

Today I feel God has three things for us. I think He wants to reveal His heart, His power and His invitation. I think God wants to reveal His heart, His power and His invitation within our passage today there is a repeated idea that comes across in several of the verses. We read ‘The Lord appeared to Abram and said ‘I am God Almighty I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers’’ and then just a few verses later He goes on and says ‘This is my covenant with you. You will be the father of many nations no longer will you be called Abram your name will be Abraham for I have made you a father of many nations.’ I’ll make you very fruitful. I will make nations of you, and so in these verses we see God confirming His covenant, His binding promise, His binding agreement with Abram and it includes here the promise of fruitfulness, and in case that sounds familiar, then it should hopefully, because if you journeyed with us for a few years here at Brightons you might remember our teaching series on the kingdom of God, and in that in that series we looked at genesis 12 where there is a very similar promise and God says that he will make Abram into a great nation but here in chapter 17 God goes even further he promises that from Abram will come many nations and so it’s only fitting that his name should be changed from Abram to Abraham which means the father of many and i would suspect that would be startling for anyone to hear never mind a 99 year old when he only has one son but before we get into that let’s pause and ask a question why does God make this promise why this promise why not something else

I wonder what your answer would be? I won’t get you to turn this week, some of you’ll be relieved with that, but if you were to answer that question what would you come up with. My thinking is that it reveals something of the heart of God in the giving of this promise I think it reveals his heart to have a people of his own and God doesn’t do that because God is in need he is after all God he’s self-sufficient but out of the overflow of father son and Holy Spirit what we call the trinity out of the overflow of their love God’s heart is to have a people of his own and that’s what he tries to show from the beginning of the bible to the very end through all the covenants and the old and the new God is seeking to show humanity the depth of his love the depth of his grace and of his invitation to us it’s there at the beginning of creation that God creates mankind, humankind, male and female in His image set apart from the rest of creation to have that unique relationship and that unique intimacy with God himself but then we mess it up don’t we Adam and eve they make our wrong choice and it breaks the relationship yet God doesn’t stop and so with Abram he begins working out his purpose again so that his purpose of having a people of his own this this motivation that beats within him will come to fruition and from Abraham eventually comes Israel but they too mess up they are wayward they sin and we wait centuries upon centuries to see how it will unfold through the scriptures and you might want to revisit that teaching series on the kingdom of God you can get it from our website or you can get a copy on CD or DVD if you wish but eventually the scriptures show that in the coming of Jesus God is ready to fulfill his promise through His son then the life death and resurrection of Jesus God is still about drawing a people to himself and we read this in the new testament our great God and savior Jesus Christ who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are his very own God’s heart is to have a people of his own and that promise made to Abraham is now fulfilled through Jesus and so we might we aren’t descended from the Abraham but through faith in Jesus who was a descendant of Abraham who was also the son of God through faith in Jesus we become part of God’s own people we enter into the heart of God and so that’s why it’s right that our purpose as a congregation is to seek to invite encourage and enable people of all ages to follow Jesus it’s all about Jesus because through Jesus we enter into God’s purposes we enter into the heart of God but people to know that must be invited into it and to be invited into it they must hear about it doesn’t just happen you’re not born naturally into the family of God you’re turning up at church being baptized being nice or religious doesn’t take the box it’s only through faith in Jesus and for people to take that step as i say they must hear of God’s heart a heart to have a people of his own so when you imagine sharing your faith or you imagine inviting people into something what do you imagine seeing what are you inviting them into what is your vision of that is it simply to attend church more is it to make them a nicer person are more religious

or do we share the heart of God do we know the heart of God for ourselves do we know that God’s heart beats for each of us that you are so precious to father God that he sent his son to die for you God died for you died to make this possible for you to know him and to be in relationship with him God’s heart is to have a people of his own and it began with a promise to Abraham almost 4 000 years ago and if he had been able to look into the distant future he would have seen the countless millions even billions of people who over time and even now believe in this God who know this God and follow this God who belong to the Christian church that’s what we are a part of brothers and sisters that’s what we share this is our purpose this is the heart of God

I hope that stirs something in you i wonder what it stirred in Abram i wonder if he said if he heard this and was a wee bit boggled by it we know he didn’t doubt because the scriptures tell us he believed and it was credited to him as righteousness he believed the promise of God but still such a promise and for that to come from this old man really it’s beyond human comprehension and what’s more if you look at the promise in more detail it includes a land and that land is owned at that time by a people who are more numerous and powerful than Abraham’s little puny family God what are you about making such a promise what are you doing making such a promise i think God is revealing something as well he’s revealing his power we read just before what we looked at God says I am God almighty before he even gets into reaffirming the promise he says I am God almighty in Hebrew it’s El Shaddai and it’s a name of God which refers to his all-sufficient power and might particularly in comparison to human vulnerability and weakness God was saying to Abram that he had the power God had the power and himself to do what he was promising to Abraham he didn’t matter that Abram was 99 years old God had the means to fulfill this promise and that would be the basis upon which Abram could pay his trust so what about in our day where is our trust what in our day is going to see the heart of God fulfilled through Jesus well if you’re still reading the new testament reading plan it’s eight months in and it’s been a bit of a slog at times if you’re still reading that then just last week you came across these words then Jesus came to them the disciples and said all authority in heaven on earth has been given to me therefore go and make disciples of all nations timely words timely words Jesus has all authority and he claims the power of El Shaddai and indeed earlier in the same gospel he also says I tell you that i will build my church and the gates of hades will not overcome it Jesus will build his church Jesus has the power and authority to build his church so that the heart of God to have a people of his own will be fulfilled and the promise to Abraham and the great commission given by Jesus we see God revealing his power his power to accomplish his purpose the church I know that two weeks ago i had a hard challenging message for us and i still stand by that I stand by the challenge of questioning whether our traditions will pass on a flame of faith or only of ashes but know this Jesus will build his church he has the power and authority to do that and he calls us to trust in his power to trust in him if you were to go on in chapter 17 of genesis and read further you would see that God says he will accomplish his promise through Sarah, Abram’s wife, not through the son they already have Ishmael who was Abraham’s slave Hagar because what we see here is that Abram and Sarah had tried to go out alone they had tried to go alone they had tried to see God’s promise fulfilled in their strength and their means by human means and in some ways I can understand that they had waited years and nothing had happened and it’s 25 years at this point since that original promise that’s a long time to wait for God to fulfill his promises and so they took the bill by the horns but God says ‘No, no, no, no, it doesn’t matter that Sarah’s over 90 years old and has never conceived through her I will fulfill this promise’ because our way is often not God’s way and he does have the power to fulfill his promises and we are called to trust in that because church God’s heart is to have a people of his own through Jesus and we don’t need to come up with our own clever ideas we don’t need to rely simply on our own resources when it comes to seeing his church grow or when it comes to sharing our faith Jesus will build his church and the gates of hades will not overcome it for God’s heart is to have a people of his own and his power will accomplish it

so God has revealed his heart he’s revealed his power but he now reveals also in this passage to Abram his invitation he says I am God almighty walk before me faithfully and be blameless and those words that have highlighted you walk before me faithfully and blameless are not about sinless perfection they’re actually about wholeheartedness Abram is invited into wholehearted relationship of trusting God radically deeply forever a whole giving over of himself to God’s cause and it was going to be seen in a number of ways we’ve already touched on how his name was going to change from Abram to Abraham can you imagine that can you picture yourself in the scene imagine going down the marketplace oh hey Abram eh actually God’s told me that I have to rename myself Abraham and they would know what that meant by the way so they would be like hold on he’s got one child he’s the father of many Gods told him to do this I don’t know about you but I’ve been looking at this guy thinking what are you on really how embarrassing must have that been for Abram how embarrassing but God calls him to wholeheartedness even at the cost of public embarrassment and what is more in this passage God also institutes a sign of circumcision now that was a wide practice in the ancient nearest of the time most often used as initiation into um puberty or marriage but God reworks it here so that it’s a sign of passage into the covenant community but the key thing is this would have been known sure it’s a very private thing but it would have been known these folks they circumcised their kids on the eighth day and their God told them to do it that would have been known around them they would have been known as following that God and belonging to that people

but it doesn’t matter God was calling them into wholehearted commitment unconditional commitment to a way of life where there is literally no going back

but that’s what biblical faith is biblical faith requires to be put into practice it’s not about head knowledge it’s not about it being purely private and personal biblical faith must be put into action it must be lived out and made concrete if it is true faith it must be made public somehow some way now clearly in the new testament and under the new covenant with Jesus circumcision isn’t required but God still calls us to wholeheartedness our faith is not to remain private and personal our faith must be seen and shared and so yes Jesus does say he will build his church but he also commanded go you go and make disciples it’s both and not either or pick the one you like best Jesus commanded and if we will heed that if we will trust that if we will give ourselves to that then he says he will build his church from obedience comes fruitfulness from sacrifice comes fruitfulness from trusting in God and his ways comes fruitfulness because obedience trust and self-sacrifice are marks of wholeheartedness as seen in the life of Abram and so church God invites us into wholehearted commitment even in the sharing of our faith and I reckon if I was to pull you and say what is the scariest thing about following Jesus I could almost guess that the top thing would be sharing our faith it’s the thing we shy away from the most the thing we’re scared of the most we are hindered by fear now I am not please hear me I am not saying you have to go out there today and talk to the first person you find about Jesus okay sharing our faith is a process and I’m really excited that the discipleship team are going to be looking at that more in the coming months and trying to equip us in that and I look forward to what those conversations are yield but we’re held back by fear and if nothing else I pray that this teaching series might help us be equipped to overcome that fear doesn’t just go away I still get scared come on up here in the pulpit and how many sermons has it been I’m literally just about shaking every time I feel that God’s saying to issue a call to come to faith and if you were to talk to the greatest evangelist I’m pretty sure that they would say every time that they’d done it they were still scared that they were still a nervousness fear doesn’t go away often what we need is courage to overcome our fear and not let fear drive us or dominate us

and if we are to give ourselves to making disciples which includes the sharing of our faith we can’t let ourselves be held back because if we don’t obey that command we’re not going to see Jesus build his church here because fruitfulness comes from obedience

and so let’s just reflect on what’s being said this morning as we close

God’s heart is for him to have a people of his own a people of his own and that’s what you’re part of, you’re part of a worldwide movement, you’re part of something that’s been there for 4,000 years, who cares if your neighbor thinks you’re a loony

you’re part of something bigger, you’re part of something more and it’s with the God of the universe. Allow that to sink in. God has chosen you to be part of that

that’s not scary news to share that’s the greatest privilege to have the opportunity to share that that is God’s heart or when we feel unable and weak to share our faith let’s remember God’s power his power that is available and ready to help you share your faith and to put your faith into practice so that his purposes can be achieved allow that to become part of your consciousness and maybe that might equip us more to overcome our fear as well

So will we be a people who take up this invitation God’s invitation will we be a people who know his heart and know his power and so commit ourselves to inviting encouraging and enabling people of all ages to follow Jesus will we be that people. I pray that we will and that this series mi

Series introduction Purpose and Values: sharing our faith

Preached on: Sunday 29th August 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. there is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this clicking.
Bible references: none
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Got a battery change there so it should be a little bit easier to hear me now!

So, today we are beginning a new teaching series and this will see us through to about the October. And it’s about one year ago that we had our Elders agree what our Purpose and our Values should be as a church congregation and so, probably once a year or so, I’ll teach a little series on that just to bring us back to our core DNA, to remind us what we’re about as a congregation,

Now, our Purpose and Values are rooted in Jesus which is clearly important and foundational, yet, what Jesus came to fulfill, is rooted in the heart of God from the Old Testament too so, we don’t just ignore the Old Testament.

And so, today and in the series I’ll be starting in the Old Testament but looking to the New as well and I hope it will help us see that what we belong to has been in the heart and vision of God for a very long time, and that might give us a different glimpse of things, and maybe give us greater confidence and courage.

But, over this past year a number of the teams within our Kirk Session have been utilizing our Purpose and Values to look at the activities that they do as a team to say ‘Well, looking at this value, does that mean we should do things anything differently?’ It’s almost like wearing a pair of lenses with the Purpose and Values, and looking at things a bit differently and that’s been helpful because sometimes they have seen things differently. They say ‘Oh, we could contribute to this if we do something a wee bit different.’ And so, with this series, I’d like us to wear a pair of lenses, a pair of glasses and the particular pair of lenses I’d like us to bring to our passages is that of ‘sharing our faith’, sharing our faith. As we look at these passages what might it say to us about sharing our faith? What encouragement might there be? What vision might they help us see? What understanding of the heart of God as it relates to sharing our faith might they reveal, so we are encouraged and equipped. Maybe it’s too much to expect, but there’s a lot in this series, hopefully a lot of good, and so we’re going to hear our bible passage read for us now by Jennifer.