The joy of discovery (Wonder Zone wk.1)

Preached on: Sunday 28th June 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 20-06-28-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: 1 Kings 3:5-15
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 148 (NIV)
Sunday 28th June 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us take a moment now to pray before we think about God’s Word once more. 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 know what happens when you take a packet of Mentos and drop them into a bottle of Coca
Cola? If we were to do a science experiment, taking these Mentos and putting them into a bottle of Coca Cola, what do you think might happen? Will the sweets simply drop to the bottom? Or will something else also happen?

Let’s watch this quick video.
(VIDEO PLAYS)

I don’t know about you, but that made me laugh so much! There is a way to do that experiment so that the Coca Cola shoots up in a tall fountain of juice, rather than into your face! So, we’ll put a link up this afternoon on Facebook if you want to try that experiment for yourself.

The reason that the Coca Cola shoots up and out of the bottle is because of a chemical reaction inside the bottle between the juice and the Mentos. We know this because of science; science helps us understand the world and even the universe. Some people think science and faith are opposed to each other, but actually both science and faith seek to help us explore life and the world around us.

When I was at school and university, I loved to learn about science – at university I particularly…
enjoyed organic chemistry and the process of how molecules reacted and combined with one another. I was going to be a Chemical Engineer before God called me into youth ministry.

I think it’s great fun to do experiments and discover new things about the world through science. Many of us enjoy this, scientists especially, because we have a thirst for knowledge – we want to know how things work and how we can make things better.

But I also think it’s amazing to learn more about God as well, and by learning about God to learn about our world too. The Bible encourages us to seek God, to thirst for God, and so to grow in wisdom and knowledge.
Over 3,000 years ago in the country of Israel there was a king called Solomon. His father was the famous King David. At the beginning of his reign, Solomon, like his father, loved God. Just before he died, David told Solomon to follow God and so that’s what Solomon tried to do. One day he went to a special holy place to worship God and he gave God all sorts of precious things to show how much he loved God, and that made God very happy.

That night God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said to Solomon, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’ (v5) Imagine that! Imagine being told by God that you could have anything you want? You could have asked for money or to be the most famous singer in the world; you could have asked for a big car or all the marshmallows you could eat….
I wonder what you would have asked for? Take 30 seconds to think or talk about that at home. (PAUSE)

Let us know in the Live Chat what you would have asked for but Solomon knew what he needed. Without hesitation he said, ‘I am King, but I am very young. I don’t know very much, particularly about being a king, and now I have to rule over so many people. Please make me wise and teach me the difference between right and wrong. Then I will know how to be a just and honest ruler. I can’t do it without you.’

God was so pleased with Solomon, after all, Solomon could have asked for anything: pots of gold, lots of children, the biggest army, the most power. But he didn’t. Solomon was humble enough to know that he didn’t… know everything, and so God made Solomon the wisest person that had ever lived.

Being wise and discovering new things is great! We can uncover so much about the world through exploring chemistry, zoology, astrophysics and the rest. We can also uncover so much about the world by exploring who God is, what he has done for us, and what that means.

Being curious and being wise are both essential to making new scientific discoveries and discoveries about God and our relationship with him. When we start following Jesus, we don’t know everything about Him immediately. Being a friend of God, is like being a scientist, for it is a lifetime of exciting exploration and discovery. There’s always something new to learn about Jesus and He invites us to know Him better.
So, over the next few weeks we’ve got a few ideas to help you know Jesus better and help our children and young people know Jesus better. The first is this Tuesday Evening when we will have a question and answers time about the interaction between science and faith. If you’ve got a question you want to ask our local scientists, then get it in today before 2pm, and then join us on our YouTube Channel at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

Then, the following Tuesday, we will have an evening with a speaker from an organisation called “Parenting for Faith” – but their name is misleading because what they will share is important for everyone to know. Again, it’ll be a bit of a question and answer night, with stories shared as well. Whether you live with children or not, this evening is for everyone because we all…
need to be involved in nurturing the faith of the children and young people in our congregation and organisations, helping them to know Jesus better and encouraging them on that lifetime of discovery. So, join us on the 7th July.

Finally, in 3 weeks’ time we have our next Testimony Tuesday, when I hope we will hear some more stories about how people have journeyed with God – either in the past or the present. As I said some weeks ago, it’s important that we tell our stories, helping others, near and far, to hear something of the life of faith, the adventure with Jesus that we are called to. At this time, I don’t have anyone signed up to tell a story, so if you would be willing to share something, it can be anything in relation to your faith, then please get in contact with me as soon as possible.
So, there are three ways we can learn more about Jesus and help others learn more about Jesus. When we stop wanting to learn, and stop wanting others to learn, about Jesus, then there’s something missing in our faith. It’s no longer a childlike faith, rather it’s been tamed, maybe dulled, because a childlike faith has a risky curiosity – it asks the awkward questions; it thirsts for knowledge “why, why, why”; it longs to experience life no matter the risk, just like the scientists in our drama today. If you are no longer curious about Jesus, then your hunger for Jesus is waning, and your faith is maybe lessened.

The goal of faith is not to have a set of right beliefs that are precisely defined. Rather, faith is about recovering a relationship with God, a God who shows up in startling ways, changing lives and transforming history…

just like He did with Solomon. This same God invites each of us to have a relationship with Him, a relationship marked by risky curiosity, a curiosity which fuels a lifetime of learning about Him, and His purposes and design for the world in which He has placed us.

This summer, I wonder what you will discover about Jesus? Will you pursue Him with a risky curiosity, and will you commit to helping others to do so as well?

I pray it may it be so. Amen.

I will open my mouth (Psalm 78)

Preached on: Sunday 17th 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 20-05-17-Message-PowerPoint.
Bible references: Psalm 78
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Psalm 78 (International Children’s Bible)
Sunday 17th 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, one of our activities this morning was to make this: a paper chain! Have you started yours? If you do make one, please share your pictures with us in our Facebook groups so we can see all your hard work.

Now, when you are making the paper chain, one of the things we’d like you to write on the links are the things you think we should remember about God and Jesus. You might write about the amazing things God has done, or what Jesus was like. For all of us, young and young at heart, what would you include on the links? What deeds or attributes of God would you remember?…
I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or discuss at home!
(PAUSE)

Boys and girls, if you haven’t already started, I hope you’ll take some time during the service or this afternoon to make your own memory chain at home. Now, if I decided to cut this link what would happen? Can you guess? (CUT) The chain falls apart! Or say, someone passed me a new link for the chain (PASS – THANKS!), but then I just put it to the side and forget to use the link, what would happen then? The chain would stay broken! It’s only when we use the links that we keep the chain whole and it works as it should, because a broken chain is not a very pretty thing.

So, why are we talking about chains and remembering things? Well, in our psalm today, we are given a challenge…
to remember, to remember what God has done, and pass that on to the next generation.

The psalmist said:
‘…I will tell things that have been secret since long ago.
We have heard them and know them.
Our fathers told them to us.
We will not keep them from our children. We will tell those who come later about the praises of the Lord. We will tell about his power
and the miracles he has done.’ (v2-4)

Like an unbroken chain we are meant to pass on the stories, the testimony, of what God has done and what He is like, so that a community of faith continues.
I was really encouraged on Tuesday night to hear people from Brightons Church share their stories of faith, talking about the difference Jesus has made to their lives. It was so powerful – and if you’ve not listened to them yet, I encourage you to check out our YouTube channel, for these stories remind us that God is at work today, changing people’s lives and that we can all know this God.

But what do we mean by the “next generation”? Are we simply thinking of children and young people? Equally, could it also be people who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s or older and know nothing of what God has done? So, whether child or adult, how do we enable this whole generation to know our incredible God?

Well, broadly speaking, we need to be that link in the chain – actively passing on the faith, some way, some how – so that we put the words of Jesus into practice, He said: ‘go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ (Matthew 28:19-20) How we do that, what that looks like, we still need to figure out a bit and equip one another to do it in Brightons, and in the Braes area. But let me flag up two things with you.

Firstly, this passing on of the deeds and character of God, has never simply been about head knowledge – the goal is not for children or adults to be super knowledgeable about the Bible. No, God’s goal has always been that the next generation should experience, should meet and know the Creator and Saviour of all as they are told… about Him, responding to Him for themselves.

Now, we might find that a bit uncomfortable, because that’s not necessarily what was taught to us – we were maybe taught stories and good morals, and to fulfil religious duty – but that’s not what God is ultimately seeking. He is seeking a people, a family who know Him, and actively love and follow Him. So, as we seek to be a link in the chain, to pass on the testimony of what God has done, we might need to step out of what we find comfortable, if we truly want to help the next generation love God with their heart, by experiencing Him, knowing Him, not just knowing about Him.

And to achieve that, there’s a second thing I want to flag up, which has its roots in an old proverb which says:
“it takes a village to raise a child”. Similarly, it takes a whole church, even a family of churches, to reach and raise the next generation in the knowledge of the Lord. And so, we really do, even in lockdown, need to learn how to pull together across the Braes area, across the generations in Brightons Church, because research suggests that for a child to grow towards a healthy faith, they need five adults, outside of their family, investing in them. And for one adult to come to faith, they may need to hear the Good News of Jesus up to 30 times.

I think of the many children involved in our Sunday School, or our Boys and Girls Brigades, and I wonder: who are the five investing in each of them? I see the adults in our community, and I wonder: who’s sharing the Good News with them? So, this a big ask, a huge investment… of time and energy, and to make this possible we need to be intentional about it, this doesn’t just happen. So, I hope that in the coming months we might see ideas come out of the various teams within the church to facilitate this, to equip us in this calling to be a link in the chain.

Now sadly, as the psalm remind us, too often God’s people allowed the chain to break. The first generation who were rescued from Egypt:
‘…turned against God so often in the desert!
There they made him very sad.
Again and again they tested God.
They brought pain to the Holy One of Israel.’ (v40-41) And yet despite God being grieved so badly, future generations did not learn the lesson, indeed those who settled in the new land:
‘…turned away and sinned just like their ancestors… They made God angry by building places to worship false gods.
They made him jealous with their idols.’ (v57-58)

Both generations forgot – they forgot what God had done, and so they grieved God, with their forgetfulness and then with their adultery, paining the heart of God by spurning Him and breaking the chain.

Yet, the psalm not only calls us to learn from their mistakes, this prayer also reminds us of God’s faithfulness, that He made promises and He will keep them…

And so, the psalmist talks about someone – boys and girls, can you remember who is named at the end of this psalm? If I gave you a clue, could you fill in the blanks? It’s…David! That’s right, the person who wrote this prayer remembers that God brought David, from being a what? Can you remember what David’s first job was? He was a…shepherd, he looked after sheep and so God brought David to look after His people instead; David was to lead them and care for them as their King but like a shepherd.

What we’re supposed to see here, is that God is faithful to His people and to His promises, even despite His people, because God is full of love and grace and forgiveness. He will keep His promises, even if that looks very different from what His people expect.
Jesus also made several promises. For example, He said,
‘…I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matthew 28:20) But He also said, ‘I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ (Matthew 16:18) Jesus will build His church, His universal church. He will remain faithful to that promise, and the degree to which we give ourselves to our role, as a link in the chain, to go make disciples, that will affect the likelihood of our local churches continuing for future generations by helping those generations know and follow the Lord.

Jesus said of Himself: ‘I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ (John 10:10-11) Jesus came to fulfil the promise of God and the hopes of His people. Jesus came to offer us life by… laying down His own life. Yet He rose again victorious over the grave, to be our eternal Shepherd, then, now and for all the days to come. A shepherd who would never leave us nor forsake us, a shepherd who would fulfil His promise, build His church, and ensure the gates of Hades never prevail.

Friends, I pray that we may know the Good Shepherd, know Him close in these difficult days, and as we remember His deeds and character, especially His love shown on the cross, may we find new hope and new conviction so that we resolve to be that link in the chain, and enable the next generation to know Him for themselves. May it be so. Amen.

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.

(PICTURES IN LIVINGROOM)

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.