I will confess (Psalm 32)

Preached on: Sunday 10th May 2020
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 20-05-10-Morning-Message-PowerPoint-Study.
Bible references: Psalm 32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 32 (Easy English Version)
Sunday 10th May 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, do you like stories? I love a good story and during lockdown I’ve been reading books by my favourite author. Shout out for me your favourite story at the top of your voice! (PAUSE) Wow those sound like amazing stories and I’m sure you’ve read them lots of times!

But we don’t only read about stories, we often tell stories to each other – hands up if you’ve been video calling friends and family? Me too – we’ve been calling people to tell them what we’ve been doing, and it’s been lovely to tell our stories.
There might also be things around our homes which help us remember important stories in our lives. Let me show you some things which do that for me, in my home.


In all our lives there are moments which are important, which shape our lives, and there may be pictures or ornaments that help us remember those moments.

I wonder, boys and girls, what big things can you remember doing with your family? I’ll give everyone thirty seconds to talk or think about that at home. (PAUSE)
Our psalm today is another prayer by David, and it is thought that David may have written this prayer… sometime after events in the Bible when David made some bad choices; it’s the story of David, Bathsheba and Uriah. Because of David’s selfishness he chose to commit adultery and then to lie and then to cover it all up. Psalm 51 was probably written at the time when David owned up to his mistakes, but Psalm 32, our reading today, was written later on, as he reflected on what had happened and how it had shaped his life.

So, it’s really interesting that David chooses to write a prayer about this – it’s like he chooses to hang up a picture about his past mistakes and invites people to remember his story! I suspect many of us would find that a little bit uncomfortable. So, why does David do it? I’ll give you another thirty seconds to think about that or talk about it at home. (PAUSE)
Let me share with you what I think David’s psalm teaches us about why he chose to share his story. Firstly, it seems like David has found happiness, joy, by coming to know God’s forgiveness. In verses 1 to 2, he says: ‘When God has forgiven someone’s sins, they are truly happy!
They may have turned against God, but when God forgives them, they are happy. They may have done something bad, but when the Lord says, ‘Not guilty!’, he has truly blessed them…’ (v1-2)

And David is not alone in feeling that way; many people can speak of knowing greater peace, contentment, hope when they have asked God to forgive them. Sometimes people may feel this because they were worried…
about the future, or about what happens after we die, but I think many more people have experienced joy, peace and hope because when they received God’s forgiveness they also came into a meaningful relationship with God. That was my experience, and I’ll tell some more of my story on Tuesday evening.

Yet David speaks of this himself as well – did you notice how he structures the psalm? First there’s forgiveness and flowing from that comes knowing God as his refuge (v6-7), then having God as a guide into the “right way” or the best way to live (v8), then in verse 10 comes knowing God’s unfailing love and finally in verse 11, having a true and deep sense that you ‘belong to the Lord’. It’s really no wonder that David says people are happy and blessed when they have their sins forgiven.
But I wonder if that all sounds too good to you? Or, I wonder to what degree it matches with your experience of being a Christian? And to each of those questions, I want to share something specific.

Firstly, on Tuesday evening, in place of a sermon, I’m hoping to have 5 or 6 of you share your story about the difference God’s forgiveness has made to your life. I’d like to get all sorts of stories – from men, from women; from the young and the less young; stories of people who came to faith in a moment and stories of those who came to faith over time.

My hope is that hearing these stories may help us all. We may learn a different kind of story and so expect more of
God. We may hear a story a little like ours and so…
feel affirmed. We may hear a story and yearn for God to do that in our lives as well. So, join us on Tuesday evening as we hear the stories of others.

But I’m still looking for 3 or 4 more stories, so please get in touch this afternoon if you are a Christian and can share how God’s forgiveness makes a difference in your life. Please don’t allow fear to stop you – because what if your story, like David’s story, is the one people need to hear to help them find hope? Imagine if David had kept quiet about his experience – would we realise that God is ready and willing to forgive any, and all, of our sins? Without David’s story, would we realise that it’s only when we quit the pretence of being perfect, and own up to our mistakes, that it’s only then do we come into a right and meaningful relationship with God?
I’m so grateful for this psalm because of what it teaches about God and the kind of relationship we can have with Him. So, friends, I look forward to hearing from you this afternoon, because it’s important we tell our stories.

But what if this psalm doesn’t match with your experience of being a Christian? Specifically, some of you may say you’ve never really known God as refuge, or guide, or any sense of having Him surround you with His unfailing love, or you belong to Him. If we were meeting together I might ask some questions and try to understand some of your story, even though I wouldn’t necessarily have an “answer”, but I’d be curious to know what your relationship with God is like. Because I’ve known a little of those feelings myself – before I came to know God’s forgiveness, I believed in God, but…
He seemed pretty distant. I did not know Him as a refuge or guide, nor did I have any sense of belonging to Him.

I think that’s because, until that point, I didn’t truly understand forgiveness. You see, most of us grow up with an idea that God is so loving and nice that we can ask God for forgiveness, He’ll just give us it, and then we can carry on as normal. But again, notice the progression in the psalm – David is forgiven by humbling himself, and stays humble by being open to God’s teaching.

Boys and girls, can you remember our second song this morning? If I did the actions, would it help? (ACTIONS)

That’s it – “I’m following the King”… “I’m ready to obey, to listen to His Word.” In my own life,…

I must have asked for God’s forgiveness many times in Sunday School and church, but it wasn’t until around the age of 19 that I came to the point of bending the knee to Jesus, of truly accepting Him as my King, or as the Bible calls Him, my Lord. And that meant allowing Jesus to call the shots; allowing Him to teach me what values, principles, priorities to have.

You know, if you look around my home, you won’t actually see any pictures of faith – there’s no pictures of Jesus, there’s no pictures of the cross. And it got me thinking – most of us don’t have pictures of Jesus or faith around the house, and that’s OK, because it should be in our lives that people see Jesus, it should be in our lives that the story of us bending the knee to Jesus should be seen.
So, if I looked at your life, if I look at my own life, what would I see? Would I see the values and priorities of Jesus? Would I see the ways you bend the knee to Him? Is your life somehow different because of the forgiveness you have received through Jesus?

It’s my experience, that when we bend the knee, heed His teaching, and allow Him to be Lord and King over every area of our lives, that then our relationship with Jesus becomes meaningful and we come to know Him as refuge and guide, with a true sense of belonging to Him. But it begins first, most often, with forgiveness.

I wonder friends, do we know the forgiveness of Jesus, and with that have we welcomed Him as Lord and King? I pray that we might, and so come to know the same joy… as David and have a story to tell of God’s grace which speaks to others in our day and in the days to come.

May it be so. Amen.

I will praise (Psalm 16)

Preached on: Sunday 26th April 2020
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 20-04-26-Morning-Message-PowerPoint (1).
Bible references: Psalm 16
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 16 (Easy English Version)
Sunday 26th April 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us pray. May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls – adults even: do you find it easy to pray?
Give me a thumbs up for “yes” or down for “no”.

I must admit, I don’t find it easy to pray – even after nearly two decades of following Jesus. And in these uncertain times, when things are hard and life is not normal, there’s a part of me that’s not sure what to pray.

So, I think the Psalms, these prayers of God’s people might help us at this time, their content might help us to express both our joys and our sorrows, our hopes and our fears.
This psalm, this prayer, was written by David – boys and girls, do you remember David from the Bible? I think we put a picture or two on our Facebook page to colour in. When we first meet David in the Bible, what’s he doing? Do you remember? Is he singing a song? Is he looking after sheep? Or is he fighting against Goliath? Which picture would you pick? (PAUSE)

The right answer is: he is looking after the sheep. He’s a young man and no one thinks very much of him, yet God sends the prophet Samuel to tell David that David will be the next king of Israel. But between that point and eventually becoming king, David had a lot of adventures.

Now, boys and girls, how do you think David’s adventures made him feel? Hands up for happy, hands down for worried or scared. (PAUSE)
I think it might have been a bit of both actually. David had some really great times, but there were others which were hard for him. Just because he had been chosen by God to be the future king, did not mean that David had an easy life. In fact, it’s very possible that this psalm was written whilst David had to run away for his own safety.

But in those times David learnt many powerful lessons. Maybe this lay behind his words in v7: ‘In the dark nights, you help me to learn what is right.’ Is David meaning the dark nights of the soul, those dark seasons? Is David meaning that he sits up a night, maybe with worry? But in those wee hours of the night too, he learns, he grows, he is instructed by God to see God, and his own life, and his problems rightly. We don’t really know and that’s part of the beauty of poetry.
Our psalm begins with these words though: ‘Please keep me safe, God, because I come to you for help.’ (v1) It sounds like David is in a tough time, so David goes to God for help, David takes refuge in God.

Boys and girls, have any of you ever been camping in a tent? Why don’t you come out with me just now to my garden where I have a tent? (MOVE)

Welcome to my tent. I wanted to tell you a story about the first time I went camping as a Cub Scout. I was only about 8 years old at the time and I was super excited. But can you guess what happened that weekend? (PAUSE)
It rained – it rained a lot. In fact, one of my few memories of that weekend is that it rained. So, we had to shelter in our tent.
But even though it was my first time away from home and was raining so badly, I did not feel scared or want to go home. I think part of what helped me was that the tent became a refuge but it was the presence of my Cub Scout Leader, Liz Ferguson, who really helped to make it feel like that, and if Liz is watching just now, hi Liz!!

Liz made that tent more than simply a tent, she made it a refuge, a place of shelter, even in the middle of a storm. Her presence, what she said and did, got me through, and when I think back to that experience, the only picture in my memory, is looking out the door of the tent, with Liz sitting near the entrance, and rain falling in the background. On one level I was aware of what was happening outside, but on another, I wasn’t, because that tent and the presence of Liz, filled my horizon, I wasn’t worried, and so I was at peace and I knew joy.
David said, ‘Please keep me safe, God, because I come to you for help…[in you I take refuge]…in the dark nights, you help me…’(v1, 7b). Friends, where are you sheltering in these difficult days? What is capturing your attention and filling your horizon? Is it only the problems, is it only the rain? Or is there space in your life for God? Will you allow Him to fill your horizon?

But how do we do that? Well, let’s go back inside. (MOVE)

So, how did God fill David’s horizon? And how did David allow that to happen? The psalm gives us a few ideas.

V1 – David says he’s in trouble and he needs God’s help. But in v2, he says, ‘You are my Lord’: You are my God, You are my provider, You are the one who gives life says David.
And so David recognises that all the good things in his life come from God, they are God’s gift, and that’s an idea picked up by James, the brother of Jesus, who said: ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…’ (James 1:17)

So, here’s an idea – by yourself or with others, make either a list or begin a mural, of the good things God has given you? We put up that idea for families on the Facebook page, so you might have some resources to hand already. Because remembering God’s good gifts changed the whole outlook for David and it can change our outlook as well, even in tough times.

I had to put this idea into practice recently, because I was wrestling with something, something that I found really hard. But in the song I spoke about before Easter,…
‘Alive and Breathing’, I found words which helped lift my eyes to God and change my perspective. Instead of only seeing the one thing I struggled with, I started to see the good things of God and He began to fill my horizon.

So, maybe this afternoon or this week, write a list, make a mural, find a song, but do something which enables you to remember the good things in your life, each of which is a gift from God.

From this place of trust and thankfulness, the rest of the psalm flows, building to verse 7 where David makes a choice. He says, ‘I will praise the Lord…’ – I will. I wonder friends, have we learnt that lesson, the lesson of choosing to praise God, even amidst our circumstances?
It might not be joyful or happy praise, but we can choose to praise. Our circumstances just now may make us feel worried, scared, even powerless. But you still have a choice: a choice to praise God, to say with David, “I will praise the Lord, who is my Lord, my refuge, my portion” – and when we choose to do that, God again fills our horizon because our focus is then on God.

I remember an occasion about 9 years ago when I was finding life hard. At that time, I was working for the Scouts actually and driving home from the Borders. I had some worship music on, as I usually did, but I was holding back from singing because of my circumstances. Yet in the course of that journey, I chose to worship, I exerted my will, and it was like a door opened for me; as I chose to praise God I came into a new depth of relationship…

with Him, and I began to grow in faith, hope and peace once more. I wonder, do you need to choose praise this week so that God might fill more of your horizon?

The final verses of this psalm are quoted in Acts chapter 2 by the apostle Peter, for he sees in them a foretelling of the resurrection of Jesus, because Jesus was not left in the deep hole of death, His body did not spoil, but rather He was raised to life to be with His heavenly Father forever. We thought of this only a few weeks ago at Easter and that Jesus is our living Lord who gives us hope.

I wonder friends, are we giving the living Lord space in our lives? We may be in the dark night of the soul, but as we find ways to weave in thanksgiving and praise, which are expressions of trust, we create space…
to refuge in our God, and from there He can fill our horizon, changing our whole perspective, and infusing us with renewed hope.

I pray that we would be such a people, because as we give ourselves to God in this way, we will come to share the words of the psalmist, knowing for ourselves that ‘He [the Lord] is close beside me…[He] will lead me along the path of life’ (v8, 11).

May it be so. Amen.

24:7 Prayer Introduction (Matthew 6: 5-13 Evening))

Preached on: Sunday 23rd February 2020.
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: Matthew 6:5-13

Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Matthew 6:5:13
Sunday 23rd February 2020 (evening) Brightons Parish Church

Over the first year of my time here at Brightons, we’ve
focused on the prayers of Paul, covering a good number of his prayers from the New Testament epistles. I feel like we have created a sense of the evening service having a focus on prayer, with time always set aside to respond in prayer to God’s Word. I would like to continue that in the coming year, at the very least, so as to continue growing our prayer life and our coming together in corporate prayer.

I thought it would be good to also continue with a focus on teaching about prayer and it seemed worthwhile to dig into the Lord’s Prayer. I was already aware that the 24/7 prayer movement had written a course on prayer, largely structured around the Lord’s Prayer. It really is a very practical and helpful course, so my intention…

this year, is to use one of their videos every other
evening, starting tonight. Then, in the months between, we’ll have a more normal sermon, with a focus on the previous month’s theme or topic.

On the evenings where a video is shown, we may also from time to time have space to discuss the content of the video with one another, and we’ll have such an opportunity tonight.

So, we kick start our new series this evening and the Lord’s Prayer is probably the most famous prayer in history, crafted by Jesus himself. Martin Luther said: “To this day I am still nursing myself on the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and am still eating and drinking of it like an old man without getting bored of it.”

N.T. Wright, New Testament scholar, wrote: “The Lord’s
Prayer, correctly understood, is one of the high roads into the central mystery of Christian salvation and Christian experience.”

Christian writer, Timothy Jones, argued: “To cultivate a deeper prayer life all you have to do is say the Lord’s Prayer, but take an hour to do it.”

It was traditional for rabbis at the time of Jesus to have their own unique prayer that brought together their foundational teaching. John the Baptist’s followers seem to have had such a prayer because, in the parallel account in Luke’s gospel of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ disciples asked, ‘Lord teach us to pray,’ and they added ‘just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

They weren’t just asking Jesus for a few good prayer tips.
They were saying: ‘We need a statement of faith!’ This makes the Lord’s Prayer the earliest Christian creed, given to us by Jesus himself some three centuries before the Church wrote down its first creed, at the Council of Nicaea.

As such, the Lord’s Prayer is our primary doctrinal foundation for life and faith, well worth repeating regularly so that its central truths can slowly shape our hearts and our minds. In this way, the Lord’s Prayer is like a model prayer: knowing what to pray.

But the Lord’s Prayer is also like a map: teaching us how to pray. It helps us to pray our own prayers from the heart, because when Jesus said, ‘this then is how you should pray,’ he may well have been telling his disciples to use it more as a guide than a destination.

Many of us find prayer difficult. We get distracted and
struggle to know what to say. But praying the Lord’s Prayer is a simple answer to these problems, for each phrase, even a few words of the prayer, can spark ideas of what to pray. Prayed in this way, each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer becomes an invitation to embark upon our own personal adventures of adoration, petition, intercession, confession and spiritual warfare.

So, without further introduction, we’re going to play the second video from the 24/7 Prayer Course. The theme is ‘adoration’, focusing upon the words: ‘Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be Your name.’



Summary comments:
The necessity and place of adoration has grown for me especially over the last 10 years, because I think it’s adoration that has got me through the hardest of dark times. I spoke in the morning service a few weeks ago about the effect that words had on my soul when I was a youth worker, and the year following my departure from that church, was a hard year – and I had to learn to worship and adore God, even amidst pain and hardship. It was a powerful but helpful lesson, standing me in good stead for the future.

Even this past week, something happened, which I won’t
go into, but in what happened, it was sore to the heart,…

it wounded me to some degree, and it has been in that
place of being with God, in that place of adoration – as I have appreciated afresh who God is, what I have in Him, and who I am in Jesus – it is in that place that I have felt God ministering to me and bringing a measure of healing. The place of adoration is powerful and life-giving.