New Sermon Series ” Blessed”

New Sermon Series on the Beatitudes

Mount of Beatitudes, seen from Capernaum

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

Matthew 5:1-2

Last Sunday morning, we began a new sermon series entitled “Blessed,” looking at the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5. The Beatitudes is the name commonly given to the first part of what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. 

I hope to set the scene for this new sermon series and Bible study
at our midweek prayer meeting tonight by looking more closely at what the Sermon on the Mount in general and the Beatitudes specifically are about and what they have to say to us today.

I have always believed the prayer meeting should be a meeting of those who wish to pray. In the year ahead we hope that others will come and join us, as we have many reasons to pray and many to pray for in the time ahead. I have also felt that a preacher-led Bible Study lecture should not dominate the prayer meeting, but that our priority should be corporate and private prayer. That will certainly not change, and in the year ahead, we hope that more will join us to pray, and a cordial invitation is given to all to join us on Wednesday evenings at 7.30 PM.

Over time we have looked at several books, passages, topics, and themes in scripture in the prayer meeting that addresses various issues in Christian life. These have included for example;
the need for prayer, repentance and to seek the Lord, the need for obedience, the need for holiness, the need for grace, the need for humility, the need for forgiveness, the need for tears even. But in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus Christ combines this heavenly inspired teaching with challenging practical application of these truths to all listeners and readers then and now. The Sermon on the Mount calls us to a radical lifestyle that is shaped by God’s Word and guided by God, the Holy Spirit. What we might say to be the rule and reign of God in the hearts & lives of His people.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Matthew 5:13-14

As we read Matthew chapters 5-7, we see what real Christian character is. In essence, what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It isn’t just another supplementary law code or rule book. This Sermon takes us beyond Old Testament Law and our good works. It is a thoroughgoing examination of what it means to be a Christian. In carefully rereading these chapters, we have to confess that none of us is ever able to say that we have reached the summit of this Mount!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

My prayer is that as we look at Beatitudes, and the Sermon on the Mount, that we will let God the Holy Spirit challenge us and change us to His glory.

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Romanaich 8:28

Romanaich 8:28

‘Agus tha fhios againn gun co‑obraich na h‑uile nithean a‑chum maith, don dream aig a bheil gràdh do Dhia, eadhon dhaibhsan a ghairmeadh a rèir a rùin.( Litir a-chum na Romanaich 8:28)

Searmon Gaidhlig bhon litir a-chum na Romanaich 8:28

 

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ASK, SEEK, KNOCK

ASK, SEEK, KNOCK

In this morning’s sermon  we look at this well known verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

 

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’  Matthew 7:7 

Although this might seem so basic and straightforward. So many though find it very hard to take Jesus at his word. 

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Time Stand Still

Time Stand Still 

This weekend finds us in midsummer once again. Today (Saturday 20th June) is known as the longest day when we enjoy more daylight than at any other time of the year. It is a time that many of us have looked forward to, and try to make the most of these few weeks of summer. The weather has indeed been glorious lately, but from now on the days will get shorter and the nights will grow inexorably longer. As we contemplate the thought of a long Harris winter – it be might be a welcome thought for the Sun to stand still for a while – quite a while!

I was reminded of that curious and certainly unique story in Joshua 10 when Joshua the commander of Israel, actually asked God to make the Sun stand still for a time ; 

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,

and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon. ”

So the Sun stood still,

and the moon stopped,

till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, ( Joshua 10:12-13) 

Any weather forecaster will tell you this is impossible. But our God is the God of the impossible. What we see in this passage is God intervention at a crucial moment to give his people victory over their enemies. Some see that in this passage, the day was lengthened to make Israel’s rout of the enemy more complete, and give them longer daylight hours to achieve victory. Some others are of the view that Joshua asked that the Sun become cooler during the day time to make it easier for Joshua’s tired army to achieve victory without the relentless middle eastern Sun beating down on them. How this happened, we do not know. What we know for sure is that God intervened in the ordinary course of nature at exactly the right moment to give the Israelites victory over their enemies. As the writer of Joshua points out, the greatest marvel lies not in the occurrence of the miracle itself but that “the LORD heeded the voice of a man” (Josh. 10:14).

Let us not think as so many do of God as a god to be manipulated and controlled. This passage shows that God had a purpose in what he was doing. Joshua 10: 12-15 is depicting one of the greatest battles in history – when God deliberately intervened on behalf of his people.

What does this remarkable passage show us? – Well, it shows us, I would say that only the things the Lord accomplishes for us are our real victories in life. The actual achievements to be thankful for are the things we can’t do ourselves. It is at our times of greatest weakness and need that God very often intervenes to help. These instances when we can say like Samuel, that “..hitherto hath the Lord helped us” ( 1 Samuel 7:12) These last weeks have been such a time for us when we have to be thankful for God’s grace and mercy to us as a community during this challenging season.

 A5 15 march landscape

The screen-shot above is the front page of our intimation sheet on 15th March 2020. We have not met since then in the church for worship due to the closure of church buildings due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

I have been in the church a few times since then, and have always been struck by the fact that time seems to have stood still in the building. The wall clock in the main sanctuary is an hour slow, as it has not been changed to British Summer Time at the end of March. Other than Government posters and the hand sanitiser at the door things seem very much the way they were since early spring. What strikes me immediately though is the pile of intimation sheets at the church and hall doors dated 15th March 2020. Does nothing much seem to have happened since then? 

 

Well, the fact is that plenty has happened since then. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we have had to do things differently, and by all accounts will have to continue to do things differently for some time to come. In this time, we have had to adapt to a whole new way of ministry and doing church. Zoom has become part of the weekly vocabulary of many people in Harris as well as elsewhere. We are thrilled to see how many are joining in with the services on Zoom each week. Thus far, the services have been relatively basic, but hopefully, that will change in the time to come. I have had to get used to recording and editing video sermons and uploading to our own new Youtube channel, as well as embedding the video on our website. Daily Bible readings, have gone up on the website for a time and may return in another form in the future. Although a number of the fabric related jobs we hoped to proceed within 2020 have had to be shelved, I am glad to say that the church and grounds are in great shape. A very big thank you to Campbell and Karen for spending hours, indeed days of hard work on the Church grounds, the undercroft and the exterior lighting. 

There is, however, still some time before we can meet in the way we used to. Although we are now in phase two of the Scottish Government’s route map for returning to worship, it looks as if it will still be some months before we will be able to return to any semblance of normality in worship.  

Tomorrow though we will meet together on Zoom as usual. There will be no video recorded sermon going out tomorrow, as in the morning we will have a virtual family service to mark the end of the Sunday school year. The theme for the Service is “ How Great is Our God ! ”. if ever there was a time when we have to be reminded of and give thanks for the fact that our God is greater than any of the challenges we face it is now. This will be reflected in our Bible readings, singing and the three short talks which are entitled : 

 ‘Our God is a Great Big God’ 

‘There’s no one like our God.’

‘All Things are Possible’ 

We look forward to welcoming all ages to the Service tomorrow and are very happy a good cross-section of young people will be taking part in the Service. We look forward to seeing you there.  

If you are not on our mailing list for the Zoom meetings, please drop us a line HERE to be sent a link. 

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IMPORTANT LITTLE WORDS

IMPORTANT LITTLE WORDS

‘ All that the Father gives me will come unto me, & whoever comes to me I will never drive away “ John 6:37 

This morning’s sermon is a more extended version of the earlier message on Zoom. Looking at some important little words in John 6:37.

Today we are going to think about assurance , or how we know that with certainty that we are Christians, and that we have a secure future hope because of Jesus Christ.

We will look closely at this text and consider these two very important little words ALL and WILL

‘ All that the Father gives me will come unto me, & whoever comes to me I will never drive away “ John 6:37

 

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Congregational Letter June 2020

 

Dear Friends, 

I hope that this letter finds you and yours well during these strange days in which we find ourselves. This year is one that no-one living through it will forget, and will most likely be spoken of and taught in future history classes. These are unprecedented and challenging times for all of us.  

My purpose in writing this letter is two-fold. In the first place, I write in a pastoral capacity, but secondly concerning practical matters in the congregation. The lockdown has taken a toll on every aspect of life irrespective of whether we live in the big city or here in Harris. Despite the challenges that the lockdown has brought, we have at the same time, many reasons to be thankful. We have as yet not had any positive cases of COVID-19 in Harris. That is largely due to the rapid and rigorous lockdown. The pandemic has, of course, had a negative impact on the economy of Harris, and our thoughts and prayers are very much with those whose livelihood has been adversely affected by the pandemic. 


I am acutely aware of how difficult this time is for many of us, and that issues of mental, physical and spiritual health related to anxiety, stress and depression can be more prevalent and intense than before. Life was tough before COVID-19, and indeed, the current situation has not made life much easier. Yet God is still God, and in His Sovereign will and mercy, He is undoubtedly speaking to our world. As the world lurches from one crisis to another, that Governments seem unable to contain, the Word of God continues to strive with our world. Never has our world seemed to be in such a mess, never have we appeared so divided by politics, race, class, religion and many other factors. Psalm 46 immediately springs to my mind when thinking of the ferment that the world is in right now.

‘ Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.’ 

How should we respond? The obvious answer is to seek God more in prayer. That is the obvious answer that alone brings peace. However, it is so hard sometimes to do. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have had to switch off the news many times recently. Does your social media and newsfeeds make you feel happier or feeling more depressed? Answer honestly! In my experience, I find it necessary to switch off the news and for my sanity limit my engagement with the Main Stream Media and Social. Networks. None of these things is a substitute for getting into God’s word and being in fellowship (albeit virtually) with God’s people. 

During the lockdown, normal congregational life has been affected greatly by the Coronavirus Pandemic, and sadly this has affected bereaved families as we have not been able to have funeral services in the church building. This has been an added source of pain and grief to mourning families. In this congregation, we were saddened at the passing of Alick Morrison Meavaig North and Sammy Macleod Ardhasaig as well as George MacDiarmid from the congregation of Manish Scarista, during the lockdown. Due to social distancing restrictions, the funeral services have had to take place at the graveside. We should like to assure the grieving families of our on-going prayerful remembrance of them at this time. In addition, we will offer if families feel it appropriate, an opportunity to hold a memorial service at a later date once restrictions have eased.  As some of you may know, my mother Chrissie passed away at the end of May, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their condolences, support and sympathy during this time. It is much appreciated. Thank you too to everyone who remembered us in prayer, privately and at various prayer meetings. It is truly appreciated. Her passing is a time of sadness for us as a family, but also it is an occasion of thankfulness and gratitude for knowing her and believing that she has entered into the fullness of God’s presence.

 The future During these past few weeks, it has been necessary for us as a congregation, in common with other churches to do Church differently. Due to the restrictions that have been put in place throughout the Spring, most of what we do as a congregation now has had to be done online. The church Website hosts most of our content of online sermons and Bible studies but also gives information as to what we are doing and what is happening. The Scottish Government are expected to make an announcement on 18th June with regard to entering Phase 2 of the route map out of this crisis, detailing the possible lifting restrictions as far as places of worship are concerned. These are still likely to be minor adjustments with only private prayer (i.e. one person and at most two ) permitted in church buildings and also small weddings to take place. Again the numbers permitted would be so small as to make weddings impractical. If all goes according to plan, Phase 3 of the route map will be announced on 9th July. To quote the Scottish Government Guidelines, “Places of worship can open to extended groups subject to physical distancing and hygiene safeguards. We will relax restrictions on funeral attendance, marriages, civil partnership and other services to beyond close family.” This will feel more like normal, but will still be far from what we would wish as a church. Dates for Phase 4 and 5 have yet to be announced by the Scottish Government. 

Online Donations  The Congregational Website has an online donations page which can be accessed by clicking on the donations tab on the home page and clicking on the DONATE button to make a donation via PAYPAL – also accepting most cards. 

It is also possible to make online payments to the work of the congregation directly through the Church of Scotland Website. By clicking on this link https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/donate  and by clicking on the donate button. All donations made to an individual congregation will be returned to that congregation, thus enabling members and adherents to continue to make their regular offering or to make a special donation to enable the Church’s work to continue at this difficult time.

Standing Orders Both the General Treasurer’s department at ‘121’ and we as a Kirk Session encourage those who can to take out a standing order to make regular payments to the congregation. This is the simplest way to make regular contributions to the congregation. The Congregation’s Bank details are as follows 

Tarbert church of Scotland Sort Code 80-09-83 Account No. 00187201. Forms of Mandate can be obtained from the Congregation’s Treasurer Angus Macsween or by clicking here

Freewill Offering Envelopes As a Kirk Session we are aware that for many the preferred way of donating will continue to be by the Weekly Freewill Offering Envelopes. As Church Services have not been taking place, it has not been possible for WFO envelopes to be taken to the Church as before. As a solution to this, we are very thankful that Mrs Christine Macaskill at Tarbert Post Office has agreed to take in and hold onto any offering envelopes you may have until the Lockdown restrictions are lifted. Alternatively, you may if you wish to retain the envelopes yourselves until that time. 

GIFT AID As some of you will know offerings that were made to the congregation under the Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme were not to exceed £30 to qualify for this scheme. In many cases where the donation is under £30, HMRC has now advised that if donations are made in a single envelope (i.e. a few weeks offerings together). These offerings will still be considered as separate small donations if marked as such on the envelope (i.e. with Dates). In that case, they will still be eligible for the Gift Aid Small Donation scheme. 

ZOOM Meetings In the meantime, we continue to worship together on Sunday mornings using Zoom Video conferencing technology. This has proved to be a blessing to us as it allows us to meet and worship in our own homes. If anyone would like to join these meetings, please let us know, all that is needed is an email address, and we’ll add to you the distribution list. Two recent developments with our Zoom services are worth mentioning just now. 

Zoom phone It is now possible for those who do not have the internet to connect to the meetings from their phones. The instructions for joining a meeting by phone can be sent out to anyone who requests it so please just let us know. 

Breakout Rooms Recently, we started a feature called Breakout rooms where those at a Zoom meeting can stay behind for some time of informal fellowship after the meeting. We are currently using four  or five breakout rooms, so  if there is anyone in particular you would like to be put into a breakout room with ( ie friends , family , neighbours)  please speak to myself or one of the co-hosts ( Kenny, Campbell & Karen) and we’ll try and move you into that particular room. No Guarantees – but we’ll try !  We are currently exploring how we can  as a church facilitate a meet and chat event via Zoom during the week to connect people. This has proved to be very popular, and we hope it will encourage others to take part. Fellowship has never been more important than now when we are not able to see each other in other ways.

With every good wish and God’s blessings to you all 

Ian Murdo Macdonald

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“ For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”

“ For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”

As some of you may know Chrissie Macdonald passed away at the end of last month in Harris House. Her passing into the glory of heaven seems to echo the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21 .“ For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’.

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The Apostle is saying that for him his life was to be lived for Jesus Christ, and for him to die would only be to his gain. He would be immediately be brought into the presence of the Jesus he loved and who had first loved him.

As we give thanks for Chrissie’s life we look at these words in Philippians. We are also reminded of the wonderful promise the Psalmist gives in Psalm 116 that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints”. 

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The Lord Our Provider

The Lord Our Provider

Every time we say the Lord’s Prayer , we recite the words ” Give us this Day our daily Bread’ . When we say this, do we think of where our food comes from and who provides it? Even more importantly do we really think to give thanks for the provision God has made for us in supplying us with all that we need. The Bible shows us God as our ultimate provider, and this morning we look at the dramatic passage from Genesis 22 when God not only tests Abraham, but also provides marvellously for Him.

 

 

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Our Father

Our Father

“Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be your name”  ( Matthew 6:9

This morning’s sermon is a continuation from the Zoom meeting earlier, based on the Lord’s prayer in Matthew’s gospel chapter 6. Today we look at the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer “OUR FATHER”. At such a time as this, we need more than ever to know the acceptance and love of God the Father. A love that is personal and powerful in introducing us to the Father heart of God.

 

 

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For such a time as this ( Day 40)

” Friends in High Places” ( part 2)

 Day 40 – “YOU ARE NOT ALONE”  

‘And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. ‘ 2 Kings 6:17 

This series of daily Bible notes ends for a time after the biblical fortieth day, in looking once again at the ‘Friends in High Places’ who protected Elisha and his servant. We have seen over these forty days how Elijah and Elisha, two unique individuals had a purpose in God’s plan. They showed character in the times of crisis in which they found themselves, and as such, they leave us with much to think about and follow in our own time of crisis today. 

I believe that what we are shown in these verses should be a great comfort, as we are shown that no matter our circumstances, no matter even how we might feel; we are not alone. If we can take to heart Elisha’s rapid faith-filled prayer, we are shown that God’s help is indeed only a prayer away. 

I read a story some time ago about a teacher who decided to travel across the USA to see the places that she had taught her classes about for many years. She set off in a 4×4 with a caravan in tow, when in rush hour traffic near Sacramento, disaster struck and the water pump blew. She began to panic, and being a Christian she prayed “Lord, please send me an angel, and preferably one with mechanical experience ! “. Within four minutes a Harley Davidson motorcycle roared up beside her, ridden by a large hairy man covered in tattoos. She froze when she saw the words on his leather jacket “Hell’s Angels – California”. Without looking at her, he flagged down a passing lorry to tow the truck and caravan off the freeway and started to work on repairing the water pump. He quickly finished the job, and as she stammered a quick thank you, he looked at her with piercing eyes and growled “Don’t judge a book by its cover. You may not know who you’re talking to.” With that, he smiled, closed the hood of the truck, and straddled his Harley. With a wave, he was gone as fast as he had appeared. Was this an Angel? Have there been times when we ourselves have not been helped and kept by these ministering spirits of God? 

One of the Old Testament names for God is Jehovah Sabaoth or the Lord of Hosts. The Message Bible renders this name as ‘ God of the angel armies”. I think this is the right perspective to understand that God is greater than anything we face. That was certainly what Elisha’s servant discovered that morning! We must also remember that not only are we not alone but that the odds are actually in our favour. 

‘What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ‘ Romans 8:31 

The message that God brings through Elisha is the message that God still has to the frightened, the discouraged,  the rejected,  the tempted and the confused today. You are not alone! What comfort there is in remembering this,  in these challenging days as God has promised us 

 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ( Deut 31:6) 

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For such a time as this ( day 39)

‘Friends in High Places ‘ 

Day 39 “OPEN YOUR EYES” 

“So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:16

Tomorrow Tuesday 5th May will be the fortieth day of these Bible notes. I will be drawing this current series of short Bible notes and devotions to a close on the Biblical fortieth day, to focus on other things. These notes will conclude for now anyway with a two-part devotional from 2 kings 6 called “Friends in High Places”

 I wonder how many of us believe that Angels are real? I am not thinking of the plethora of creepy, new age and unbiblical views that are out there today about contacting and channelling your guardian angel. Steer well clear! 

What I am referring to is what the Bible calls’ ministering spirits’, powerful beings that we cannot ordinarily see, but who exist to do God’s will, and to help God’s people. 

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

 These Verses in 2 Kings 6 bring home the reality of these ‘friends in high places’ to Elisha’s servant. It is only when his eyes are opened that He sees what he hadn’t before. He can discern God’s firewall around him, ( vs 17) He sees what Elisha could see, he sees what God wanted him to see, and also what the devil didn’t want him to see! The prophet’s servant is shown the reality of Angelic presence, of a spiritual dimension of which we are often unaware. But before this – things were different! 

This incident takes place at a time approximately 2850 – 3000 years ago) when Aramea (or Syria) a powerful kingdom to the North of Israel – was at war ( vs 8) with Israel. Little seems to have changed over the millennia! Israel – then as now was acutely conscious of its smallness & vulnerability. Into the equation comes Elisha -to whom God reveals things( read vs 9- 10). The spirit of prophecy on Elisha helped Israel avoid ambush and battle with the much more powerful Syrian army. Irritated by this the Syrians send out a snatch squad to pick up Elisha ( vs 13-14) In a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood movie, Elisha and his servant wake up to find themselves surrounded by the Syrian army. 

his servant is understandably panicked by this, ( vs 15). But Elisha can discern the hoast of heaven surrounding them in these wonderful words 

“So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” ( 2 Kings 6:16) 

The servant had to have his eyes opened to spiritual realities that he had not seen or known before. Like Mary Magdalene ( John 20) and the two on the road to Emmaus ( Luke 24), this man was kept from perceiving the spiritual realities all around him. Like them, his eyes were “holden” as the King James Bible puts it, to prevent him from seeing what Elisha could see. 

We too are so often blind to spiritual and eternal realities. The difference between the angelic host Elisha and his servant saw, from the Guardian angels of the new age is as different as night and day. The angels that surrounded the two of them were God’s ministering spirits. We should never forget that nearer than we can ever imagine. Paul puts it like as he debated with the philosophers of Athens so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; Acts 17:27 

Let us not forget either the very similar confession made by Hezekiah king of Judah in 2 Chronicles 32. words which are so appropriate for us in our day. 

“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

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