05 Oct

Meeting Need in His Name

Taken from the intimation sheet – 5 October 2014 

Every year on Harvest Sunday we take the time to give thanks for the Lord’s faithfulness to provide for our needs and pray for those serving in Jesus Name to meet the needs of others. Our focus is always on the work of the Baptist Missionary Society – in recent years we’ve highlighted their work providing clean water in Haiti, helping people to grow crops in Uganda and bringing about reconciliation in war-torn  Mozambique.

This year our focus is on meeting spiritual need – particularly in India. Read More

14 Sep

4 More Days!

I’ve been told several times in recent days that I’m about to make the most important decision of my life. Well, not quite; the most important decision is whether I receive or reject Jesus Christ. Nevertheless we do all have a big decision to make. A decision that will have a huge impact on the context into which we minister, the nation we love and serve, the lives of our loved ones and future generations.

It’s not my place to tell you how to vote. But it is my place to remind us all to pray. Read More

31 Aug

Coming to the King!

Taken from the intimation sheet: 31 August 2014

James 5:16-18
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

1 Peter 3:12a
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.

At the prayer meeting on Wednesday, I quoted a well known verse from an old hymn by John Newton:

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much.

How true, and how important that we strive in his grace to become a church truly ‘devoted to prayer’ (Colossians 4:2). Read More

24 Aug

Approaching the King

Taken from the intimation sheet: 24 August 2014

Well what I week I’ve had! Monday morning I received a call from the Queen, she asked if I could come to Buckingham Palace on Wednesday for a quick coffee and catch-up. I said I was a bit busy, but could do Thursday. As much as I like London, it’s a bit of a trek for me (and I’m not a big Corgi fan), so I asked the Queen to get me at Airdrie Train station instead – I told her to dress down and we’d go to McDonald’s as I had one of my free coffee cards to cash in. She was really grateful that I made the effort to meet her, even if I could only give an hour before heading home for Cash in the Attic. Read More

17 Aug

Spirituality, Smartphones and Social Media

Taken from the intimation sheet: 17 August 2014

I’m thankful for the internet. I’m even thankful for smartphones and social media sites – thanks to them I can stay in touch with people all around the world in a way that would simply never have been possible 15 or 20 years ago. I’m able to update my calendar instantly and it will be synced across all of my devices (no more carrying barely legible notes around on scraps of paper until I’m able to get to my diary!) I do some research or preparation whilst on the train or bus. The internet is enabling the church to take the Gospel in new and innovative ways into closed and hostile countries. Read More

10 Aug

What we can, and must, do

Taken from the intimation sheet: 10 August 2014

Luke 18:35-43 

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.  36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening.  37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”  38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him,  41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.  42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”  43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

On Wednesday at the prayer meeting, I allowed myself the luxury of one last Commonwealth Games illustration! It was a story that really must be mentioned; the impact the para-sport athletes had on the games. One man in particular remains in my memory – Bob Love. Bob Love is an English bowler, he has no arms and so must manoeuvre the ball onto his left foot with his right, then push it away with a kick. He not only manages to do this, he does it very – very – well. Read More

29 Jun

Thoughts on Prizegiving Sunday

Taken from the intimation sheet: 29 June 2014

Prizegiving is a great opportunity for us as a church family to give thanks for the children and young people in our fellowship. It’s a chance for us to let them know how much we value them.

We also take the time to thank our leaders who have served so faithfully once again. They take their place amongst the many unsung heroes of the church. Most of that work is done quietly, behind the scenes, without thought of fanfare or reward. (Though Matthew 6 reminds Christians that our heavenly Father will reward us for the good we do in secret.) Read More

22 Jun

Does membership matter?

Taken from the intimation sheet: 22 June 2014

Today we will be welcoming Linda into membership of the Church. What is membership, what does it mean and why does it matter?

We can certainly say that the church matters. The church is called ‘the Bride of Christ’ and the ‘Body of Christ.’ We cannot claim to love Christ if we do not love his Bride, his Body. To love and serve Christ we must love and serve the Church. Real relationship with Christ demands real relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But does membership matter? Can’t we be committed without formally recognizing it, much like you can commit to your partner without making them your spouse? “We don’t need a bit of paper for our relationship to work” is a common mantra today’s society. Here are five reasons why we still think membership matters:

1. We get to publicly ask for God’s Help in being faithful to our church family

Loving, forgiving, serving. Being a church member is about more than singing the songs and enduring the sermons! It can be hard at times, and we need God’s help. As we welcome people into membership we acknowledge that.

2. We get to declare publicly that we’re not ashamed of our church family

If someone is committed to you, they will be happy for people to know it.

3. It avails us of the benefits (yes benefits!) of church discipline

Discipline may not seem desirable, but imagine where you would be (indeed who you would be) without it. We need discipline. If you are not in membership then technically you are not under the authority of the leadership of the church. (Read 1 Corinthians 5 or Matthew 18 for more)

4. It means we can have a say in the direction the church takes

Imagine the church were considering appointing a minister who believed something utterly abhorrent to the Lord. You should have a say in that. Baptists believe in the priesthood of all believers. All believers have the same access to God, therefore all believers ought to be involved in discerning the mind of Christ for His Church. Membership opens the door for this to happen.

5. It acts as a witness to non-Christians

In an age of what Mark Dever calls ‘Commitment-phobia’ to commit to something (especially something unfashionable) is a real witness. To see people who have nothing in common with one another but their love for Jesus, committing to one another, is a great testimony to the power of Jesus in their lives.

It should be noted that the way we welcome people into membership is negotiable! If you would love to commit to the Church but feel daunted about the prospect of standing in front of people, speak to me anytime!

Please remember to pray for Linda as she commits herself to our Fellowship. Please also remember Heidi and Connor, Edwin and Morag in your prayers. We will miss them greatly but are excited about all that God has for them in the future- and they’ve all promised not to be strangers!

Yours in His service

Ross

15 Jun

Stepping outside

Taken from the intimation sheet: 15 June 2014

Philippians 2:4-11

4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,  7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!  9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Did you watch the opening ceremony of this year’s World Cup? I’m still not sure what to make of it. 60,000 people gathered in the Arena de Sao Paulo in Brazil, while an estimated one billion people watched the show on television. For an hour the stadium was filled with a carnival of colour, smiles and song. The event was billed as a celebration of Brazilian nature, diversity and – of course – football. All very well, but when we returned later to the ITV studio we were given a glimpse at another drama which had been unfolding outside the stadium. Hundreds of protesters had gathered, stones and fireworks had been thrown, water cannons fired and even the windows in the studio hit with pellets.

The protesters were complaining that an extraordinary amount of time, effort and money (9 million dollars on the opening ceremony alone) has been used to welcome the world cup, whilst many Brazilians continue to live in abject poverty and need.

It struck me as a picture of the church. There’s no shame in giving a lot of time and energy to what we do inside the church walls. There’s no shame in recharging our spiritual batteries in an environment that soothes the soul. But where the life of the church becomes totally disconnected from the need and suffering which surrounds us, we have a problem.

The Lord Jesus left the unimaginable glories of heaven, to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. He subjected himself to the very world he had created. He served and loved even when it was costly to do so. He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. For us.

‘Let this mind be in you’ says Paul.

We cannot hide away from the need which surrounds us if the mind of Jesus is within us. We will be compelled to leave our safe and comfortable world to make a difference, to meet a need, even when it’s costly to do so.

I hope we invest a lot of ourselves in our church services and meetings, I hope they are filled with smiles and songs. But I also hope and pray that we would always be mindful of the terrible need which surrounds us. I hope and pray that we would be willing to go out and get our hands dirty to see others come to know the life they are offered in Christ.

Yours in His service

Ross

08 Jun

Treasure hunt

Taken from the intimation sheet: 8 June 2014

When I was a young man on a mission in England, we were asked to go round the doors asking people what they thought of the local church; whether they had heard of it, or visited etc. Our last question was designed to open up conversation – ‘what do you think of Jesus?’ This was a pretty terrifying proposition for us all, but our leader gave us wise advice that I’ve never forgotten, he said:

“If some people reject you, be gracious and polite and move on. You’re only looking for the treasure God has for you.”

I’ve always remembered that phrase – ‘you’re only looking for the treasure God has for you’. He has soil prepared for a harvest, treasure waiting to be found, our job is simply to look for it.

I was reminded of that story when I read the following account of a goldmine in Colorado:

“Gold! Gold!” were the shouts echoing through the hills near the town of Leadville, Colorado, in 1862. The country was in the midst of the gold rush, and men by the thousands were searching for fortunes in the bottom of their panning tins.

Leadville quickly earned a nasty reputation among the prospectors though “It’s that black sand!” they complained. “It blocks up the sluice boxes. It fills the panning holes we dug the day before. It stains and ruins clothes.” The black sand seemed to cover every gold nugget with grime and grit and make a mockery of any attempt to find your fortune. While prospectors came to Leadville in great numbers, they soon left discouraged, blaming the black sand and moving on in search of easier streams to riches.

Sixteen years later the ruins of Leadville told of a boomtown gone bust. Only the remnants of abandoned cabins and sluice boxes remained.
To the abandoned mines and sluice boxes of Leadville came two mining men, William Stevens and Alvinus Wood. Convinced there was still gold beneath the surface, they began buying old claims. Initial gold finds heightened their expectations. But they too encountered the problems of the earlier prospectors. The black sand hampered progress until it appeared the entire project would fail.

One day Stevens decided to send a sample of “that black stuff” to the East Coast for analysis. To their surprise, the men found that the black sand was lead carbonate-loaded with silver!
Stevens and Wood bought claims throughout the area and opened up ‘the Rock Mine’, the first silver-producing mine in the district. They found their treasure after all, mining in what seemed to be the most hopeless soil possible.

Discouragement is a common experience for Christians, we labour to tell people the Good News of Jesus and often see little response. But there is treasure to be found. No matter how many troubling statistics we may read, no matter how far society may drift into secularism, all that matters is that God has not changed. His love has not lessened, His Spirit is still with us, and his Gospel is still the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

To a discouraged Paul, in a city hostile to the Gospel, the Lord said: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent… for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:10)

He has his people in this town too, he has his treasure waiting to be found. It may not look very promising – some may suggest it’s hopeless. Not so! Keep mining away till you strike gold!

Yours in His service
Ross

01 Jun

One in a Trillion

Taken from the intimation sheet: 1 June 2014

Ultimately faith in Jesus is a gift from the Holy Spirit, we cannot simply reason someone into the Kingdom, but in these increasingly sceptical days it is helpful to be able to show that belief in God is not unreasonable.

It’s true to say that atheistic sound-bytes and internet memes are just convenient excuses for some people to hide behind – but undoubtedly we will all have friends and colleagues who genuinely believe that science and Christianity are incompatible. How sad. And what an opportunity for us to engage in what David Robertson calls ‘persuasive evangelism’.

On Friday we were able to take 400 people to see ‘God’s Not Dead’ at the Showcase Cinema, and this Saturday the Clyde Auditorium will be filled with people gathered for “in Concert with the Cosmos”:

“In Concert with the Cosmos will celebrate the wonders of the cosmos with magnificent  music but it has a deeper purpose: to pose the question ‘ Does this astonishing order look like the work of chance or of a creator?’

We are thrilled with the international and spectacular quality of the programme- orchestra, choir and even a NASA astronaut. We are delighted by the international broadcast interest in transmitting the concert programme in other parts of the world.  We are excited by the potential impact of the event on the understanding of the audience about science and faith.

For the sake of strengthening understanding of the case for a creator and the credibility of the church will you try to motivate  people from your church to attend and, if possible, add others from  among their families and friends who have swallowed the lie that you can’t have God and science? Many are concerned about these things. Here is a chance to do something about it!” (This Saturday 7 June, 7pm, tickets available from £15 on ticketsoup.com or SECC Box office 0844 395 4000

How thankful we should be for such events and for the abundance of resources printed to help us see and show that atheism requires more faith than Christianity!

From time to time in the coming months I’ll draw on the work of others to show why belief in God is not unreasonable in the light of modern science.

This week I want to highlight the ‘fine-tuning’ argument. Tim Keller says:

“The most fundamental characteristics and constants of our cosmos (eg. the relative strengths of gravity and the forces that operate inside atomic nuclei, as well as the masses and relative abundances of different particles) are perfectly calibrated to support organic life.

The odds against those fundamental regularities and constants happening by sheer chance are smaller than one-in-a-trillion.”

Christian and non-Christian scientists alike would agree with that. Francis Collins says:

“When you look from the perspective of a scientist at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming. There are 15 constants -the gravitational constant, various constants about the strong and weak nuclear force, etc.- that have precise values. If any one of those constants was off by even one part in a million, or in some cases, by one part in a million million, the universe could not have actually come to the point where we see it. Matter would not have been able to coalesce, there would have been no galaxy, stars, planets or people. That’s a phenomenally surprising observation. It seems almost impossible that we’re here. And that does make you wonder — gosh, who was setting those constants anyway? Scientists have not been able to figure that out.”

Stephen Hawking says:

“It would be very difficult to explain why the universe would have begun in just this way except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”

Car and Rees state:

“several aspects of our Universe -some of which seem to be prerequisites for the evolution of any form of life-depend rather delicately on apparent ‘coincidences’ among the physical constants.”

The atheistic response would be to say that there may be trillions of parallel universes that we don’t know about, and we are in the one that just happened to ‘work’.

But which takes more faith to believe?!

Alvin Plantinga’s tackles this argument by asking us to imagine a poker game in which the dealer deals himself twenty straight hands of four aces. As the other players question him, the dealer says, “you can’t prove I’m cheating; there are a trillion parallel universes and we just happen to be in one where the chances of dealing twenty straight hands of four aces has been realised.”

What’s the more plausible explanation!?

God is not dead, we are not the product of coincidence or chance. Our hunger for truth and beauty and meaning and purpose can be satisfied – in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we can truly know the Living God. What Good News we have to tell the world!

Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King!

Yours in His service

Ross

25 May

From a world of worry to a place of peace

Taken from the intimation sheet: 25 May 2014

“I have a mountain of credit card debt”, one man told another. “I have lost my job. My house is being repossessed, and I don’t know where our next meal is going to come from, but I am not worried about it”.

You’re not worried about it?!” said his friend.

“No, I’ve hired a professional worrier. He does all my worrying for me, and that way I don’t have to think about it.”

“That’s fantastic! How much does your professional worrier charge for his services?”

“£50,000 a year”, he replied.

“£50,000 a year? Where are you going to get that kind of money?”

“I don’t know”, came the reply. “That’s his worry.”

Wouldn’t it be good if we could just employ someone else to do all of our worrying for us? The reality is most of us spend a significant amount of time and emotional energy worrying.

Some suffer more frequently and more profoundly than others but all of us know what it is to hold on to anxious thoughts. Today we remember 5 things from Luke 12 that the Lord Jesus commands us to consider in order that we might be free from worry:

Consider:

1. Life’s Priorities (v 22-23)

2. God’s Creation (v 24, 27)

3. Worrying’s Worthlessness (v 25-26)

4. Worrying’s Witness (v 29-30)

5. Your Heavenly Father (v 32)

We don’t have a professional worrier who we can pay to worry on our behalf. But we have something –someone – much better. We have the God of all Comfort as our heavenly Father, the Prince of Peace as our Lord and Saviour and the Holy Spirit as our Counsellor. Don’t waste your life on worry, when peace is so freely available, listen to what the Lord would say to you today through his Word, mediate on each of these 5 considerations, and pray that you would know the freedom that Christ would have you experience in Him.

Philippians 4:6-9

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me– put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Yours in His service
Ross

04 May

Together for the Gospel

Taken from the intimation sheet: 4 May 2014

I was struck by the following quote in my reading this week from American Pastor Kent Hughes. Introducing the book of Philippians, he reflects on the difference between friendship and fellowship by introducing us to a story from the life of Broughton Knox:

‘When theologian Broughton Knox was serving as a young chaplain in the British navy on a ship preparing for D-day and the invasion of Normandy, he noted that the minds of all hands on board, regardless of rank, were focused on the invasion’s success. No one thought of his own interests, but only on how he could help his shipmates in their commonly shared task. He says, “I remember noting in my mind how I had never been happier.”

After the invasion and return to England, everyone noticed a difference in the atmosphere on ship. It was still friendly because it was a well-run ship. But several of the sailors, sensing the difference, asked the young chaplain why things had changed. Knox reflects,

“The answer was quite simple. During those months that preceded and followed D-day, our thoughts had a minimum of self-centeredness in them. We gave ourselves to our shared activity and objective. Once the undertaking was over we reverted to our own purposes, as we do normally.”

Broughton Knox was of course reflecting on his ship’s experience of the fellowship that people experience in pursuing a common goal. Human friendship is a wonderful thing but fellowship goes beyond friendship.

Fellowship occurs among friends committed to a common cause or goal and flourishes through their common pursuit of it.’

To experience true Christian fellowship we must be committed to the cause of Christ. We must give ourselves to the Gospel of Christ. When we share that great vision we’re free; free to serve selflessly, free to know joy in the face of danger and difficulty, free to find true fellowship.

As we labour to see our great mission completed, we experience a depth of ‘togetherness’ that mere friendship cannot know.

That’s the kind of unity we want to experience as we serve together in Airdrie – not just an absence of conflict, not just friendship, but deep and true Christian fellowship as we live and serve together – may the Lord continue to grant it to us in his grace and for his glory.

Yours in his service

Ross

30 Apr

Grow up!

Taken from the intimation sheet: 27 April 2014

1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

This is the passage, God-willing, we’ll be looking at tonight. I doubt you’ll be surprised that my attention has turned to 1 Peter 2:2 of late! The first of the new church babies has just been born as I write (congratulations to James Claire and Rory!) and we wait for all the rest to follow. New birth is a time of great joy. That’s true spiritually as well as physically. When we become Christians, we are born again spiritually. God adopts us as his children, we have spiritual brothers and sisters, and we are called to grow and develop from our spiritual childhood into spiritual maturity. Paul’s desire for the believers he ministered to was that he could present them mature in Christ:

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. (Colossians 1:28)”

That’s the goal of my ministry, and the ministry of our church in general. How are you doing? Are you maturing in love for the Lord and his people? Are you growing up spiritually? Are you further ahead now than you were a couple of years ago?

Peter gives us a couple of tips, as to how we can grow spiritually. Firstly he tells us the things we need to get rid of. Then he tells us the thing we need to embrace:

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk”

Rid yourself of malice. We serve the Lord who cried ‘father forgive’ as he looked at his murderers in agony. How can we justify harbouring ill-will in our hearts against another person? Rid yourself of malice – desire the best for others.

Rid yourself of all deceit. We serve the Lord who never, ever, ever told a lie. He spoke the truth, and he IS the truth, there is no falsehood in him. Rid yourself of all deceit.

Rid yourself of hypocrisy. We serve the Lord who hated hypocrisy. As we will hear from Edwin this morning- Jesus reserved his fiercest criticism for the Pharisees- because of their hypocrisy. Rid yourself of it.

Rid yourself of envy. We serve the Lord who by his death has given us an utterly undeserved inheritance that will never perish spoil or fade. We have eternity with God, surrounded and protected by his love. What cause do we have to envy anyone, when we are so rich and secure in his love? Rid yourself of envy.

Rid yourself of slander. We serve the Lord who says that people will know that we are his disciples, by our love for one another. How tragic that many many Christians and churches have been torn apart by the destructive power of the tongue. Rid yourself of slander.

Now that we’re getting rid of the rubbish, what do we replace it with? Not emptiness, but pure, spiritual, milk. Sustenance for the soul. Do you CRAVE an encounter with the Word of God? Are you thankful that today you have the opportunity to listen to the Word of God read and proclaimed in the presence of your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you thankful that you have the chance to take some of those biblical words and truths and sing them to praise the name of your God- to ‘declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light’?

Infancy is a joyful time, but we are not called to stay in immaturity. Child of God, you have all that you need to grow- His Spirit, his Word, his people, his ordinances. Grow into greater health and strength and faithfulness and fruitfulness. Grow into greater maturity- for your joy and for his glory.

In His service
Ross

20 Apr

The Hunt for Happiness and Hope…

Taken from the intimation sheet: 20 April 2014

As a young boy, I always went to church on Easter Sunday with a smile on my face. I knew there was a very good chance that the minister would incorporate an Easter Egg Hunt into his children’s talk and no matter how many chocolate eggs a boy has, there’s always room for one more. I was confident that armed with my intimate knowledge of the church building, my youthful energy, and my insatiable love for chocolate, if there was an egg to be found – I’d track it down. It was a great feeling when I found the treasure I’d been hunting for. Needless to say, I invariably left church on a Sunday afternoon with an even broader smile!

As we grow older we learn to be more subtle in our great chase for satisfaction, but we still spend our days hunting. We hunt for love, we hunt for meaning, we hunt for significance, we hunt for happiness and we hunt for hope.

Many people, indeed tragically most people, spend their days searching in all the wrong places, and some give up altogether. But the Bible assures us that all of these things and more are available, waiting for us to discover them. God created us with physical hunger and thirst, because food and water are there to be found. The same is true with our hunger for real happiness and lasting hope. Both of these precious treasures belong to those who give their lives to Jesus.

On the first Easter, Jesus died in our place, to take the punishment for our sins upon himself. Death was powerless to keep its grip on him, and on the third day he rose to life again. All who turn from their sins and place their trust in him are forgiven by God, and welcomed into his family forever. He doesn’t give us what we deserve- an empty, godless life and hell when we die. Indeed he gives them what we don’t deserve, a loving relationship with Him, an exciting adventure with God in this life, and a place in heaven with him when we die. Death will be powerless to keep its hold on us.

Where are you hunting for happiness and hope this Easter? If it’s in the Lord Jesus, then rejoice, he has risen, he has conquered death, he has proved himself faithful to his people and to his promises.

Have a joy-filled Easter, and make sure you leave the church with a smile on your face!

Yours in His service,

Ross

06 Apr

Ten things to do during suffering

Taken from the intimation sheet: 6 April 2014

We will all suffer, of that there is no doubt. It is strange, then, that we are often unprepared for it. With that in mind, a useful exercise is to summarize Scripture and identify what words of God can guide us when things are hard.

Here is my current list of ten things to do while suffering (it is always subject to ongoing refinement).

  1. Don’t be surprised by suffering (1 Pet. 4:12). The Son suffered, so do those who follow the Son. You will not be spared the sufferings that the world experiences, but you will participate in them, both for the world’s benefit and your own.
  2. Live by faith, see the unseen (Heb. 2:2). Normal eyesight is not enough. Your eyes will tell you that God is far away and silent. The truth is that he is close—invisible—but close. He has a unique affection for fellow sufferers. So get help to build up your spiritual vision. Search Scripture. Enlist others to help, to pray, to remind you of the Truth. Ask the God of comfort to comfort you.
  3. Suffering will reveal what is really in your heart. It will test you (Jam. 1:2). Where do you turn when tested? Do you turn toward Jesus or turn inward?
  4. God is God, you are not (Job 38-42). This is important. Humility and submission before the King can quiet some of your questions.
  5. Confess sin. There is nothing new here; it is a regular feature of daily life. Yet it always helps you to see the cross of Jesus more clearly. It is the quickest way to see the persistent and lavish love of God (Heb. 12).
  6. Keep an eye out in Scripture for the Suffering Servant. He has entered into your suffering, and you can enter into his. (Isaiah 39-53, John 10-21)
  7. Speak honestly and often to the Lord. This is critical. Just speak, groan, have someone read you a psalm and say a weak, “Amen.”
  8. Expect to get to know God better while in this wilderness. That is how he usually works with his people (Phil. 3:10-11).
  9. Talk to those who have suffered, read their books, listen to them. You are not alone. Insist on being moved with compassion as you hear other stories of suffering.
  10. Look ahead. We need spiritual vision for what is happening now and for where the universe is heading. We are on a pilgrimage that ends at the temple of God (Ps. 84).

Ed Welch – CCEF

30 Mar

Reflections on a ministers' conference

Taken from the intimation sheet: 30 March 2014

I’m just back from a few days in Pitlochry with 22 fellow Scottish Baptist Ministers. Here are a few observations:

Most of us don’t want to be ministers

When asked to share our call to ministry, there was great diversity in our stories, yet a common thread ran through them all; we never imagined in childhood that we would ever become ministers. The call was unexpected, and truth be told, often unwelcome. But we went further still, not only were we reluctant to accept the call, we still are!

We are not blind to the honour and the privilege of pastoral ministry: “Has God called you to preach the Gospel? Do not stoop to become a king!” said Spurgeon. But there is a sense in which we really don’t do it because we want to, we do it because we feel compelled to. We do it because the draw is something we just can’t resist. The call will not be silenced, and so we serve as his under-shepherds.

Most of us don’t know where we’re going

There may be some ‘career pastors’ out there, with a clear plan for moving to bigger, more influential churches and so on. But (happily in my opinion) they are few and far between. Most of us are just trying to be faithful in the settings to which the Lord has called, we see the church we serve as a family of God’s people, not a stone to be stepped on as we clamber ever ‘upwards’.

This actually is also true for the churches we lead too; most of us have a clear idea of the next step, the next stage. But when asked where our churches should be in 5 or 10 years’ time, even the most ‘visionary’ pastors amongst us seemed unable to be clear. Isn’t this the way the Lord normally leads though? He tells us the next step, and expects us to follow in it.

Most of us don’t know what we’re doing

Or we don’t know what we’re expected to be doing. It’s never been harder. There was a time when the role and remit of the Scottish Baptist pastor was fairly clear and reasonably consistent across our churches. Now patterns of ministry have changed, many of our members have come from other denominations and bring different expectations.

A pastor may move churches and find himself lost in a sea of surprising expectations. Biblical literacy has fallen. Terminology has changed. There is little agreement on the pastor’s role, remit or authority. I wonder if you could answer these questions:

  • What are the biblical non-negotiables that all pastors should be doing?
  • In what way does the pastor get held accountable, and by whom – the Union, deacons, members?
  • Is the pastor an elder?
  • What is the difference between an elder’s authority and a deacon’s authority?
  • If all members are expected to help discern the mind of Christ for His church, in what way should our leaders, lead?
  • Can a deacon fulfil a pastoral visit, can a member?

Lack of clarity on these questions amongst church members leads to many of our pastors feeling quite overwhelmed by the different expectations that surround them. And guilty because we’re the ones who really need to be teaching these things!

Many of us are hurting deeply

It would of course, be wrong for me to share stories, but there were a number of our group who have been very deeply wounded by their experiences in church ministry. Some move to other churches, some to other forms of ministry, some back to the jobs they did before. Whatever the transition, the wounds don’t heal quickly, or easily.

There are burdens that we must bear in pastoral ministry – the spiritual battle, the way in which you never really get to clock off, the responsibility and so on – but what was deeply saddening was to hear of stories where pastors have been badly mistreated by people in their own church family. (Needless to say, myself and Deborah are very thankful for the way in which we’ve been treated over the last 6 years in Airdrie.)

I’m not sure why I chose to share these reflections, it just seemed like the natural thing to do for me this week – but I do hope having read them that you will commit to pray for myself, Edwin and all the other pastors you know – that the Lord would guard us and guide us into long, faithful and fruitful ministries for Him and his Church.

Trusting in His Grace
Ross

30 Mar

Reflections on a ministers’ conference

Taken from the intimation sheet: 30 March 2014

I’m just back from a few days in Pitlochry with 22 fellow Scottish Baptist Ministers. Here are a few observations:

Most of us don’t want to be ministers

When asked to share our call to ministry, there was great diversity in our stories, yet a common thread ran through them all; we never imagined in childhood that we would ever become ministers. The call was unexpected, and truth be told, often unwelcome. But we went further still, not only were we reluctant to accept the call, we still are!

We are not blind to the honour and the privilege of pastoral ministry: “Has God called you to preach the Gospel? Do not stoop to become a king!” said Spurgeon. But there is a sense in which we really don’t do it because we want to, we do it because we feel compelled to. We do it because the draw is something we just can’t resist. The call will not be silenced, and so we serve as his under-shepherds.

Most of us don’t know where we’re going

There may be some ‘career pastors’ out there, with a clear plan for moving to bigger, more influential churches and so on. But (happily in my opinion) they are few and far between. Most of us are just trying to be faithful in the settings to which the Lord has called, we see the church we serve as a family of God’s people, not a stone to be stepped on as we clamber ever ‘upwards’.

This actually is also true for the churches we lead too; most of us have a clear idea of the next step, the next stage. But when asked where our churches should be in 5 or 10 years’ time, even the most ‘visionary’ pastors amongst us seemed unable to be clear. Isn’t this the way the Lord normally leads though? He tells us the next step, and expects us to follow in it.

Most of us don’t know what we’re doing

Or we don’t know what we’re expected to be doing. It’s never been harder. There was a time when the role and remit of the Scottish Baptist pastor was fairly clear and reasonably consistent across our churches. Now patterns of ministry have changed, many of our members have come from other denominations and bring different expectations.

A pastor may move churches and find himself lost in a sea of surprising expectations. Biblical literacy has fallen. Terminology has changed. There is little agreement on the pastor’s role, remit or authority. I wonder if you could answer these questions:

  • What are the biblical non-negotiables that all pastors should be doing?
  • In what way does the pastor get held accountable, and by whom – the Union, deacons, members?
  • Is the pastor an elder?
  • What is the difference between an elder’s authority and a deacon’s authority?
  • If all members are expected to help discern the mind of Christ for His church, in what way should our leaders, lead?
  • Can a deacon fulfil a pastoral visit, can a member?

Lack of clarity on these questions amongst church members leads to many of our pastors feeling quite overwhelmed by the different expectations that surround them. And guilty because we’re the ones who really need to be teaching these things!

Many of us are hurting deeply

It would of course, be wrong for me to share stories, but there were a number of our group who have been very deeply wounded by their experiences in church ministry. Some move to other churches, some to other forms of ministry, some back to the jobs they did before. Whatever the transition, the wounds don’t heal quickly, or easily.

There are burdens that we must bear in pastoral ministry – the spiritual battle, the way in which you never really get to clock off, the responsibility and so on – but what was deeply saddening was to hear of stories where pastors have been badly mistreated by people in their own church family. (Needless to say, myself and Deborah are very thankful for the way in which we’ve been treated over the last 6 years in Airdrie.)

I’m not sure why I chose to share these reflections, it just seemed like the natural thing to do for me this week – but I do hope having read them that you will commit to pray for myself, Edwin and all the other pastors you know – that the Lord would guard us and guide us into long, faithful and fruitful ministries for Him and his Church.

Trusting in His Grace
Ross