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Andy Graham

Daily Prayer

By | Reflections

‘Make way, make way, For Christ the King…’

 

Every day our lives seem so full of hustle and bustle and all too often it seems if we never have enough time to do all that we set out to do or all that we wished to do. In the midst of all this busyness it’s easy to lose sight of our Lord and without even realising it, He is the one who gets left out of our busy schedule. So let’s pray and reflect on the words of this well known hymn and let’s make way for Jesus in our lives, today and every day.

Daily Prayer

By | Reflections

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel…’ (Isa. 7:14) 

Immanuel – God with us. As we continue through Advent pray that the Lord will be with us all, every single day, as we prepare to celebrate His birth and look forward to His coming again.

 

Advent Bible Study

By | Reflections

Advent

Advent is a time of waiting and anticipation, a time when we dare to look forward with hope as we allow the peace, joy and love of Jesus Christ into our hearts, and perhaps this year in particular, when we have all experienced so many challenges and times of uncertainty, we need to know these in our life more than ever. At a time when we approach the shortest day of the year and therefore the darkest time of the year, Advent allows us to look to the light of Jesus Christ and in that light we find not only hope, peace, joy and love, but clear reminder that through His Son and by His Spirit God is with us and always will be. So as we journey through Advent let’s invite Him afresh into our lives and know His presence with us each and every day.

Read Isaiah 9:2-7

As we allow these verses to reach into our very heart and soul what do they actually say to us?

  • In our times of darkness, whatever form that may come in, God has promised to shine His light upon us. A message of hope if ever there was one.
  • It will be a time of joy, a time for rejoicing in what God has done.
  • This light will be revealed to us through God’s own Son and all things will be laid upon His shoulders.
  • Look at the ‘name’ given to Him – Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • Even here, before any notion of the Trinity came into being, we have this idea of God the Father and God the Sone being one and the same.
  • This light will be everlasting, there will be no end. (Remember what John says in the prologue to his Gospel.)

All too often in times of despair and despondency we can feel as if our sorrows will never end but in these few verses we are reminded that our Lord is always with us and if we can hold on to that, then even in our darkest days we can know the hope, peace, joy and love that God has given to us through His Son.

The question is – as we journey through Advent how will we respond to this message of God offered through Isaiah?

Will we allow the Son of God to enter into our hearts?

The Book Of Jonah

By | Reflections

Read Jonah 4

How does Jonah respond to God’s mercy on Ninevah and what does this tell us about Jonah?

  • It seems that Jonah is furious with God, so upset that he asks God to take his life from him as he would rather die than live.
  • This reaction begs the question, does Jonah truly understand God – or does he dislike God.
  • Jonah knows God is gracious and compassionate, he has experienced God’s mercy for himself.
  • But it seems that Jonah wants God to be exclusively for the Israelites and to show grace, mercy and compassion to only them and no-one else.
  • When he goes off to sit outside the city it’s almost as if he is still hoping for God’s judgement to fall upon Ninevah in the way it did with Sodom and Gomorrah
  • In behaving in this way Jonah is acting selfishly and irreverently –and in disliking God’s compassion for others, he is effectively disliking God Himself.

Have we ever behaved in this kind of a way?

Have we ever become upset or angry when God showed mercy and compassion to others who we though undeserving?

What does that say about our relationship with God?

Remembrance Sunday

By | News

This coming Sunday, the 8th of November, is Remembrance Sunday and sadly, because of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, things will be different this year.

At Bendochy Church there will be an Act of Remembrance in the Church grounds, around the War Memorial at the gate, at 10.00am. We will still have to remain in household groups and maintain a social distance, and we will still have to give contact details for Test and Protect.

At the Abbey Church there will be a short Service of Remembrance beginning at 10.50am. Again the current restrictions in place for Sunday worship will apply, including wearing a face covering, and unfortunately, because of restrictions in numbers, only a limited number will be able to attend.

None of these situations are ideal, but we will still be able to commemorate the day and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice during both world wars, and indeed in every conflict since. At both services there will be an opportunity to make a donation towards Poppy Scotland.

The Book Of Jonah

By | Reflections

Read Jonah 3

What is significant in the opening verses of chapter 3?

  • The opening verses speak of Jonah’s recommissioning.
  • The use of the phrase a second time reminds us that God is giving Jonah a second chance here.
  • This time there is no message content given to Jonah at this specific time.
  • This time Jonah obeys the word of the Lord an heads to Ninevah to do as God said.
  • Again we have a time period of three days mentioned in this mission.

What happened when Jonah got to Ninevah?

  • We are told the people believed God.
  • As evidence of that they covered themselves in sackcloth and ashes and fasted.
  • And we are told that everyone repented, from the King to the least.
  • As a consequence God relented from the disaster He was going to bring upon them.

What can we learn from these verses?

God is gracious and compassionate.

God’s Word is for everyone, irrespective of who we are or what we may have done.

However, listening is not enough, we have to act upon it.

For years the people of Israel had heard God’s Word but refused to repent – the people of Ninevah heard it once and repented?

How well do we listen to and act upon the Word of God?

 

 

Daily Prayer

By | Reflections

‘Father I Place Into Your Hands…’

Prayer is one of the greatest gifts and privileges we have as Christians; to be able to come before the Lord and spend time in communication with Him is offers us a sense of joy, comfort and peace that nothing else compares to. Of course, even before we do so the Lord knows everything that is in our hearts, but still He wants us to share these things with Him. So take time today to come before God and, in the words of this hymn, place everything into His hands.

 

Daily Prayer

By | Reflections

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…’

It’s reported that after giving a lecture at Chicago University in 1962, the late Swiss Theologian Karl Barth was asked if he could sum up his theology in one sentence. Perhaps to the surprise of all who were there Barth answered that he could – ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…’ As we spend time before the Lord today, simply reflect on the opening words of this well known and much loved children’s hymn.

 

Sunday Reflection

By | Reflections

Today is All Saints Day and often there is a tendency to focus only on that great cloud of witnesses who have now entered into God’s everlasting Kingdom. Not just the likes of John and the other Apostles we read of in Scripture, but also those who we know have done so much in the name of God down through the generations. And we tend to think of them as having entered God’s Kingdom whilst we might hope to join them one day.

However, All Saints Day is a celebration of all Saints, known and unknown, and stems from the belief that there is a powerful Spiritual bond between the Church in heaven and the Church here on earth. For some that then poses a further question about just whose lives we should be celebrating and giving thanks for on All Saints Day.

In the book of Revelation, at the beginning of chapter 3, we read, ‘See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God…’  Does this mean that we can change our way of thinking, such that we can begin to widen our understanding of who we consider to be Saints?

If John is correct and we can all be called Children of God here and now, doesn’t that mean that all who faithfully live out the Gospel message as best they can, who seek to share the love of Christ in all they are and do, can’t they be thought of as being Saints? Are we able to alter our understanding of the Kingdom of God to accept that we are living in that Kingdom now?

These are all very profound and meaningful questions and perhaps ones that we don’t consider too often, nor indeed wish to consider too often, preferring instead to simply focus on that great cloud of witnesses who have now entered into God’s everlasting Kingdom.

So on this All Saints Day let’s indeed remember those who have gone before us in the way of their faith. But let’s also remember these words from John in the book of Revelation and let’s rejoice and give thanks for this love that God lavishes upon us and let’s reflect that we are not made saints by what we may have done or left undone, but rather through what God has done for us all in His Son………..Let’s pray…

 

Lord of all being, of all life, as we come before You in worship here today, we acknowledge that You are indeed the centre and soul of life itself and that by Your Spirit, You come to us each and every day, pouring Your love upon us, calling on us to walk in Your light.

Your love for us brings a smile to our faces and joy into our hearts, as we share in the joy of all that You have created and in Your grace and majesty You created us in Your image, capable of great and wondrous things, yet also so weak and fragile.

And as we come before You in worship this day Lord, we ask that You would encircle us with the tenderness of Your strength and embrace us with the gentleness of Your mercy, that within Your love we might be touched by Your Spirit, as we lift our hearts and souls to the glory of Your name.

Loving God we praise You because you have shown to us in Your Son that Your love reaches out to all people. Yet we confess that sometimes we fail to do likewise and with sadness and sorrow we admit how well we know that our lives have not always been pleasing to You and yet we have failed to change our ways.

Lord forgive us we pray and into the midst of our lives we ask that You will once again come and guide our steps. Help us to turn our hearts and minds away from ourselves and our own failings and to focus on Your forgiving and accepting love. So that we might walk together in humility and faithful obedience, desiring above all else to become the caring, sharing people that You have called us to be in Your Church here today, proclaiming Your Gospel message at all times and in all circumstances.

So come and be with us now we pray and lead us in worship here this morning. And unite our hearts and voices together now as one, as we come together in the words of Your Son……

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever…Amen

 

Read Matthew 5:1-12

I wonder how many of us have read these verses from Matthew’s Gospel, the Beatitudes, and all of a sudden felt somewhat inadequate in terms of our faith. Because if we are honest with ourselves, we know the occasions when we have had thoughts and feelings that we should never have had and when we have behaved in ways we should never have behaved.

We remember those times when we gave thanks for the actions of others, at the same time asking questions of their motives. We recall those occasions when we remained silent because standing up for what we believed or using our voice to uplift others would have meant rejection and persecution by some. And we remember those words of mercy and forgiveness we offered even when our hearts remained cold and callous.

And today, on All Saints Day, we perhaps feel this even more, as we think of those whom we ourselves might have thought of as Saints. We remember their courage and conviction, their boldness and humility, their unwavering faith and we dare not even consider ourselves to be as worthy servants of God as they were.

However, any blessing we receive through fulfilling any of the actions in the Beatitudes is not because we were able to do the thing we did. The blessing comes from the aid and consolation of the Holy Spirit being with us, guiding us, and bridging the gap that is simply part of being created.

So what then are we to make of these blessings that Jesus speaks of here and how do we apply this to our lives of faith each day?

Many people look at the beatitudes as essentially being a set of instructions as to how we as Christians should live our lives each day. But they’re not. Nor are they some kind of addendum to the original commandments or a collection of self-righteous and pious hopes of what is yet to come – vague promises or prophecies even of some future time of blessing.

They are blessings which exist here and now and they express the joy and delight that is ours as Christians to follow Jesus – the sheer joy that comes from knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Yes, there is no doubt the blessings they speak of will find ultimate fulfilment and consummation in the everlasting presence of God.

But they are still a reality here and now – a list of blessings that we will receive if we strive to live as Disciples of Jesus Christ. And there is a hugely important difference here…

In sending us His Son, God acknowledged that we could not live to His high standards; that we were unable to live the kind of sinless life that He wished. So there would be no point therefore in Jesus simply then telling us we have to do this…and we have to do that…oh, and we can’t do this…

Because as has been the case since the dawn of creation, as human beings we would all fail – we are incapable of living a perfect life. And still today, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we remain incapable of living our lives without making any mistakes. But, we don’t have to worry about that anymore because Christ has done that for us.

However, what we should do is try to live as Jesus would wish us to. So these beatitudes are not so much about our action but more our attitude. Here Jesus is not simply commanding us how to live, He is asking us to think about how we live. He doesn’t only want us to live by sheer obedience to His teachings – He wants our hearts to belong to God.

Through Jesus Christ, God has shown His love for us. He now wants us to accept this love into our hearts and to share this love with others through the way we act day by day. So what does this mean for us today?

The vision reflected in Matthew’s Beatitudes is essentially tied up with our expected character as believers of Jesus Christ and in a sense offer a foundation for the kind of Holy living that is celebrated on All Saints’ Day. And this way of living consists of our absolute trust and faith in God, and our active involvement in God’s compassionate and transforming mission in the world today.

Saints, therefore, are those whose lives bear witness to suffering and struggle, and to strive to live as God would wish us all to, demonstrating life on the margins and fulfilling the prophetic role that this world so badly demands. They belong to the past, present and future of God’s Kingdom.

And what unites them all, and of course us, and what holds us all together as one is that we are all God’s children. All unique and different, yes, all with our own skills and gifts, yes – but all children of the one true living God, sanctified through our faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour. It was not their or our achievements or qualities on their own that makes them Saints, but God’s grace working in them.

So ultimately today we celebrate what God has done, not what we or those who have gone before us in faith, have done, but God. 

God, through His Holy Spirit is the One who is able to empower, equip and enable us all. So today, the persecuted ones are still seeking to make peace and those mourning are still showing mercy. They do not give up – and nor should we. Through His Son and by His Spirit, God has transformed us all. And in our weakness we are safe, because, in the words of the Beatitude,  we know that one day, we will see God.

In His Son, God reverses the values of the world and so ‘the saints’ are not heroes of holiness, but the poor who simply hold on to God. God achieves all these through the Lordship of Christ. In Him, God has won the world. As for us, today…

Let’s continue to be a comfort to those in need; let’s be merciful, let’s be humble, let’s be peacemakers; lets’ be pure in heart. Not because God demands it, nor for the benefits that we receive in behaving in this way… but because God loves us and through our actions wants is to share that love with others… Amen.

Loving and merciful God, Father of us all, have mercy upon us and all your children everywhere. Forgive us the mess that we have made of Your world and hear us now as we come before You thinking of those who need You most today. We pray for peace in this our world and ask that You might move among us by Your Spirit and break down any barriers of suspicion, hatred and fear. Heal the human family of all its divisions and unite it in the bonds of justice and peace. And as we pray for our own nation we ask that You would enrich our common life and strengthen all forces of truth and goodness in our land. 

We pray for all who suffer this day, especially through sickness or bereavement. Encompass them with Your love, surround them with Your strength and console them with Your comfort. Show them that there always is hope and equip them with the courage they need to accept this hope. We think especially of those in our own families and communities, those whom we love and care for. Support and uphold them in their times of difficulty and anxiety, that they might draw close to You in faith and so find the love and compassion that they need.

And on this All Saints Day, we remember with thanksgiving those who have gone before us in the way of our Saviour. Keep us united with all your saints on earth and in heaven. Grant that as we journey through the years we too may know joys that are without end till at last we too come to Your everlasting and eternal Kingdom…Amen