Sunday Service

Join us at our Sunday service for a time of worship, teaching, prayer and fellowship. Creche provided.

Drinks and refreshments served afterwards!

Fixed Upon Jesus

We all have trials in our lives, and these trials come in many forms; the lack of a job, the lack of money, fear of others, fear of being judged, assorted illnesses, and many others besides.  When we finally get past one trial we are often quickly bombarded by another.

I don’t know about anyone else, but certainly, at times, I have felt like I am overwhelmed and drowning, it seems like the world around me is trying to keep me from peace, to keep me in turmoil.  I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at this, Satan certainly doesn’t want us focused on Jesus, does he?

When these trials come upon me I try to think about the apostles; they were men, and just like the rest of us, they failed, they made mistakes, they were controlled by fear and disbelief, and had to strive hard in times of difficulty.
Often, I ponder upon Matthew 14, particularly on Peter, on how he did what would be considered impossible today, walking on the water to meet with Jesus, on how he then floundered in fear, sinking into the very same waters that a moment ago he was walking on.

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
– Matthew 14:28-30

I compare this to my own walk, in faith I go where Jesus commands me to go, I begin well, trusting fully in Him, walking on the water like it is solid ground; but inevitably something distracts me, moving my focus off Jesus and on to the world around me.  That is when fear, or stress, or worry, begins to set in; that is when I begin to flounder and flail and the solid ground beneath me suddenly becomes a great sea, seeking to swallow me whole.  I could easily give 100’s of examples of these times in my own life, but I know, that you know, exactly what I am talking about.

I have said above that when we finally get past one trial we are often quickly bombarded by another. But that is not entirely true is it?
During these trying times, we often forget about the times of peace and strength we experience in Jesus.  The times we feel invincible and that through Jesus we can do anything.  We forget that on the sea of Galilee Jesus calmed the storm; we often lack in faith. (Mark 4:35-40)

We forget that Jesus leads us by still waters, that He lies us down in green pastures, that His rod and staff are our comfort.  (The rod which keeps the enemy at bay, and the staff which is used to guide us away from danger) We forget that He, is our shepherd and protector, that He is our peace. (Psalm 23)

We forget our need for Him!

It too often seems that it is only when we are drowning that we remember this need and like Peter did, we call out to Him, “Lord, save me!” it is then that without fail we find He is right there, reaching out with an open hand, just as He was with Peter.

And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
– Matthew 14:31
Immediately! Isn’t that incredible?  Jesus is immediately there, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Sometimes we may not understand our trials, but we should understand, that through them all Jesus is always by our side. Remember that He supplies our strength and peace, just as He did for Peter, helping him back to the boat.
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
– Matthew 14:32
As disciples we should be striving to keep our focus on Jesus; the reason we flounder, the reason we are drowning, is because we have taken our eyes off Him, we have wandered and forgotten our need for Him.  But it is only in failing, then in recognising we need Him, that we get the perseverance and discipline to keep holding on to Jesus.  It is in failing to hold on to Him and then returning to Him again and again that our faith is increased, as our faith increases, so does our love, joy and peace.
It is when we call out to Jesus that He restores us to the green pastures, brings us back to the still waters, brings back the peace in our lives, even though the trial may still be upon us, we find renewed love for Jesus, and extra strength, perseverance and peace to face it.

We should remember that if we have failed, or are failing, it does not mean we are not loved!  Jesus’ love for us does not depend on us, it is all dependent on Him; Jesus will never let us down and through our failures He shows us His perfection.  He increases our trust in Him so that the next time, we are stronger, we persevere longer, we trust more.

This is increased faith and increased faith equals increased peace in our lives.
This is Jesus taking us and leading us through the process of sanctification, growing and maturing and transforming us. Reminding us who He is.  When we have failed to keep our gaze on Jesus, then returned it back to Him, we remember and recognise who He is.
Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
– Matthew 14:33

Beauty for Ashes

The most amazing thing has happened to me in the last month that truly shows how God makes beauty out of ashes!! A series of events took me down a path I never saw coming…

A short background for those of you I haven’t met yet in our PCF family. My sister was killed in Feb 2017. The heart wrenching part is that it was at the hands of her son, my nephew Nathan. He and his brother were taken by their father at the age of 10 and 11. They lived on the streets and in drug houses as their father was Bi-polar and on drugs. He became a drug lord and was on America’s Most Wanted FBI List. It wasn’t until he was finally caught that the boys were returned to Debra. She would drive the streets at all hours of the night and down the darkest allies, through the worst neighborhoods and spoke to some scary looking gangs. By the time they were returned they were 15 and 17 year old strong men. Nathan had been in and out of trouble and jail for violent things but Debra was always there to plead his case. She was highly intelligent in financial matters and basically bought him out of trouble. She was mourning the little boys she lost and over compensated Nathan because she felt so much guilt for not finding them. He was diagnosed with different mental illnesses as well. He lived with her and she did everything for him. She loved him with a love I didn’t understand at all. He was mean and controlling and down right scary at times. He was this 36 year old man who ended the life of the only one that would ever have his back without question!
That series of events starts here…
I got an email from the Arizona Prison Rehabilitation Center .. that simply said Nathan had requested contact and to call or email his Prison Caseworker. I was shocked.
I immediately spoke to my husband Keith as I felt panic rush through me and he has always been able to bring me down from the clouds and calm me. He basically said either call or email and take the mystery out of it. So I called but was only able to speak to a general information desk. The man on the phone did say that a request for contact was for many reasons but the main two was the family of the prisoner can be interviewed as part of an appeals process or the prisoner wants closure i.e. forgiveness. Either way I had to email the caseworker to get answers.
By this time I just wanted to ignore it all together, however God had a different plan.
Day by day I would fight the urge to even think about it and day by day God made it harder and harder. I once again told Keith I didn’t want to forgive or help in any appeals so I don’t know why I should respond. We decided I needed my pastors council so I emailed Vijay to set up our video chat.
This is where it gets good ….
The video chat was my morning and Vijay’s afternoon. After we had the chit chat of catching up I began explaining the details of the most recent events as we have spoken before about this tragedy. He told me the most profound thing .. he said, Susan you need to forgive him – not to condone his behavior but to let God have the opportunity to heal you AND him through you!! He said I need to give up the need to punish him and when I do God can use that door of opportunity to shower him with grace and mercy!
Wow .. I just went from I can’t, won’t, never will, forgive him or help him to forgiveness and witnessing!
That night I stayed on my knees quite a while. I told God I heard His message and I know it is truth but I still had that part of me that was protesting and feeling like I somehow was betraying my family! I prayed for understanding. I prayed for strength. The next day I sent out an email but all I could say was … Why?
I sat most of that day feeling emotionally drained. My mind played over each scenario and was baffled as to why me.. why now?
Then it hit me ….
That love I mentioned earlier that I didn’t understand .. it was about to become understandable.
I realized if she was sitting next to me she would be pleading with me to forgive him. What kind of crazy was that? Why would she love someone who blamed her for every evil he had done and then killed her in such a violent and heartless way?
As clear as day I heard in my spirit … The same way I love you while you killed me!!
I just sat there in shock!
What I didn’t mention earlier was I asked God to send me a sheep fleece ..
“.. look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”
Judges 6:37
My sister did what was done for her. She loved the purest unconditional love she could humanly give!
Her life mattered. I suddenly began to recall the times I would rock Nathan to sleep and his silly grin when he would cheat at Go Fish. God allowed me to see him as He does … one of His lost children. God also helped me remember the innocence that was lost and the dysfunction of his youth. I started seeing him as my troubled nephew not a cold killer.
The next day I received a reply to my email. I opened it and it explained that he just wanted contact for closure. I did reply stating that I would be willing to communicate via written letters or emails with him but let the record show I believe he is exactly where he needs to be and I would never advocate for his release. If he would still like to communicate after that understanding is conveyed then so be it. As of today I haven’t heard back but I feel certain that I will.
God took a heart wrenching tragedy and provided an avenue for healing. He spoke through Vijay to my broken heart and allowed me to come to terms with my sisters death.
He moistened my wool fleece…

Transforming Grace

Sitting at my desk doing my studies, I have a wonderful view out of my window. From there I can see over the farmers fields where the crops are growing to some of the foothills of the Cairngorms and in particular the north face of Morven, an 872 meters tall hill.
It is now June and there are still a few small spots of snow clinging to this particular hill. Watching the process of the snow melting off these slopes over the past few months has got me to thinking about our lives before Jesus, our lives in Jesus and how they are transformed by Jesus.
In deep winter everything up here is covered in snow, much like our old lives covered in sin; everything under the snow is lifeless, in seed or root form with the potential for abundant life but lacking in something, also like our lives before we met Jesus; yet once we come to know Jesus and accept His gift into our hearts, Jesus begins to work on our sins and help us bring them into the light and put them away.
This is very similar to the way the seasons work – winter moving into spring, the sun melting away the snow a piece at a time, the seeds and roots beginning to bloom into life where the snow has melted away, exposing them to the light. Sometimes this is a rapid process and sometimes it is slower but increasingly it does happen; in the same way, for the true believer this process happens to you too, the light of Jesus exposing your sins and melting them away, freeing you and growing you into something beautiful. Like the snow on Morven in spring, clinging on until the summer sun finally melts it all away; Sin also clings on in our lives until we finally meet with Jesus face to face and enter into our eternal summer.
1 John 1:6, 8-10 says:
“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. ” (v6)
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. ” (v8-10)
This was written by John to believers. Yes, you are still a sinner, I am still a sinner, we are all still sinners.
This is really important because it defines how we think about ourselves. If we begin to think we have no sin, or we can sin no more we will begin to think we are better than the rest of humanity, we will begin to see nothing wrong with telling lies, cheating, stealing or worse.
We will continue to sin.
We are still sinners BUT Jesus works in us to change us, melting away our sins one by one to transform us and change us. We continue to have the capacity to sin and we do still sin, but this shouldn’t make us want to give up and continue sinning, rather it should make us desire to be less sinful. Jesus died on the cross for your sins, past, present and future; Jesus rose again to put those sins to death and gave us hope; hope of eternal life, a life free from sin.  This is not a life we have yet reached; we are in the spring.
As the sun melts away the snow on Morven a little at a time, so too are we also being transformed.  Bit by bit sin is being replaced, in the place where sin was we see new and beautiful desires grow and bloom from those seeds and roots which were once buried by sin.  We increasingly become more like Jesus!
Galatians 5:13, 16-17, 22-25 says:
“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ” (V13)
Serve!
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (v16-17)
In the Spirit!
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (v22-25)
And see the Fruits!
As we see the sins in our lives decrease, we should also see the fruits in our lives increase.  The fact you are alive and reading this is a testimony to Gods grace and mercy.  He has still got work for you to do, work he has designed specifically for you.  Therefore we should all be striving towards the goal of perfection, knowing that only through Jesus will we ever attain it.
This process can be compared to the work done in spring by the farmers; it is hard work, ploughing the fields, sowing the seeds, tending the crops and patiently waiting whilst the crops grow.  It takes time, a lot of effort and discipline, but the growth itself doesn’t come from the farmers efforts.

Like the farmers we need to plough and prepare our hearts, weed out sin and tend the seeds of the fruits of the spirit. But it is God alone who provides the growth.  We need to put in time, effort, and be disciplined as we work to pursue Gods heart.  We need to be continually removing existing sin from our lives, striving every day to be a little more like Jesus, not to sit back, complacent, believing we have done enough or have now arrived.  Our hearts desire should be to be like Him, exhibiting Him increasingly in our daily lives.

1 John 3:2 says:
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
This refers to our transformation; when Jesus returns or we go home to be with Him, it is then that we will move from the spring of our walk (where we work, strive and during which we increasingly become more like Jesus) into the summer. That is when we become as He is, sinless for eternity, not because we have worked for it but because He gifts it to us.  That is when we will hear the words that should be the greatest desire of all our hearts. “Well done good and faithful servant”
So as the snow melts and disappears from Morven and as life grows and blossoms leading into the summer what I see is a mirror; a reflection of the hope that we have in Jesus, an image of how our lives transition over time from the cold winter of sin, to the warm spring of new hope and life, eventually to the promise of an unstained, fully bloomed and beautiful summer of eternal and sinless perfection.

The Study of Beauty

One of my favourite places growing up was the Manchester Art Gallery. In there you’ll find a quote plastered on the wall in large print by the man who started it, Thomas Horsfall, saying:

 

“If we have a strong love of beauty, the most beautiful things we see become a part of ourselves.”

 

The quote comes from a paper called The Study of Beauty, where Horsfall talks about his ideas on the moral and educational role of art in society. The essence of his argument was this; seeing, experiencing and valuing beautiful things on the outside can make us more beautiful on the inside.

 

We live in a world where the ugly is easy to find and sometimes hard to tear your eyes away from. Sometimes we may not even want to, such is the state of our hearts. Proverbs 12:27 says:

 

“Whoever seeks good finds favour,

But evil comes to one who searches for it.”

 

Once, when I was coming out of a valley in my life, I decided to make a list of things that might bring me some enjoyment, a list of things to do that might lift my countenance. I thought about the time I visited Fyvie Castle. We were in the big hall where there’s a grand piano in front of big majestic window and a stranger sat down and started to play. I have absolutely no idea what the song was called. But as he played the notes I stopped in my tracks and couldn’t move an inch whilst the music washed over me. For a moment, I was captivated by something for the purest reason: because it was beautiful, and I could not help but stop and absorb that beauty until the moment had passed.

 

God makes beautiful things, and because we are made in His likeness, we need beauty in our lives. It is a very part of us and without it our lives can become a canvas full of grey scenes; a lost sailor in a coracle drifting between islands, surrounded by lonely rocks who give nothing and receive nothing. God brings light and beauty to the landscapes of our lives and we should pursue and chase such things without ever giving up.

I belong to God

A short introduction
My name is Susan Webster. My husband Keith and I call PCF our church home. We were just married on April 7th 2018 in a beautiful garden setting in Arizona at sunset. The pastor performed a covenant wedding ceremony and we promised all of our days to God and one another. Perfect day!
Sounds lovely doesn’t it? And the actual wedding did go like that, however, behind the scenes there was a spiritual battle going on and we knew it! It started a couple months before we left Aberdeen to fly to my home in Arizona to get married. We sat one night after Vijay mentioned being grateful and really listed all God has done for us. I guess you could say we counted our blessings one by one. I know this sounds a little mental but I swear I could feel a change in the environment around me. I prayed a little longer that night.
The next days that followed were a jumbled emotional mess. We fought about stupid things and our stress level with immigration paper work to get my spousal visa, planning a wedding from the UK over video chat, even the death of a friend who did not know God and the humanist funeral that still haunts us. I kept hearing my momma say, “If the devils trying to get you child that means God has ya!”
I was on edge before we got on our flight anyway because it was 10 hours..and I didn’t feel good. By the time we arrived and in the car toward home I had lost my voice and had a raging chest infection…. oh wait it gets better … I had a severe seizure and injured my right foot. It was now twice the size of my other one…. I still needed to wear heels on the day after that!!!

The wedding day was perfect as everyone met my new handsome man in a Kilt. Okay they called it a skirt but … hahaha just joking.

We decided to leave the hotel resort after that one night so I could go to urgent care. As she was giving me antibiotics and wraps my foot and hearing about our crazy wedding week … we get a call that Keith’s step dad was taken by ambulance to the hospital across from where we were, having a stroke! I looked at Keith and he asked, “Are you serious… what is going on?”
We walked in the ER and found him. He was going to be okay. I left the room so he could stay with his mom and found a chapel on the way to the cafe to get coffee. I was waiting on my son in law so I went in.
At this point … I was done! I cried my eyes out and shook my fist and said,”Bring it on!” Then all I could do at that point was ..
like the song says…. I don’t want to think I may never understand how my broken heart was part of your plan…I… like a child fall to my knees and all that comes to me is … Thy Will Be Done! {Hillary Scott}

The rest of the arranged family honeymoon … went pretty uneventful as we travel from Phoenix area to Tombstone Arizona stopping along the way in Tucson just visiting family and ended up with everyone following us and having a blast!!

After Keith got back to Scotland without me as I must get my spousal visa first, we reflected over the craziness and chaos and looked for the lesson we were meant to learn and we have decided that we had just survived a true test of our commitment to God and to each other. We have relied on God’s good graces for so long that when things got tough we felt the spirit of doubt and fear try to penetrate something that already belongs to God … our faith.

We continue to battle but now we know … this too shall pass … keep the faith..

Susan Webster ….💝

His Plan Continues

I have a friend who recently went to the doctor for a diagnosis on some symptoms she’d been experiencing. Over-emotional, mood swings, changes in weight and total lack of appetite amongst many others. After a series of tests all coming back negative, the doctors gave her their diagnosis: stress. My friend works long hours in a high-stress work environment and had recently been disappointed by an upsetting end to a long term relationship. The emotional distress of the break up combined with the big demands being made of her in other areas of her life have led her to feeling dismayed.

If you flick through a couple of dictionaries they’ll describe the word dismay like this: a sudden or complete loss of courage, utter disheartenment, sudden disillusionment, agitation of mind, a strong feeling of fear or worry, or a ‘sadness that is caused by something unpleasant and unexpected’.

The hebrew word translated as dismayed in the book of Joshua is ‘chathath’ (pronounced khaw-thath’) and it means ‘prostrate’ or to ‘break down’. In Joshua 7:6 the Israelites are taken aback by their defeat at the hands of the men of Ai who they were confident they would have victory over. The Word tells us that “the hearts of the people melted and became as water”. Joshua “fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening” and points his finger at the Lord, saying, “why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?” (Joshua 7:7).

Convinced that his calling from the Lord to lead the Israelites to the promised land meant no obstacles, Joshua faces a crisis of faith. He literally breaks down before the Lord and questions why he began his quest in the first place, if God doesn’t have his back.

How does God respond? He says to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?” And if we look back to chapter one of Joshua, we see that God saw this coming. In 1:9 God says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God told Joshua not to be dismayed because he knew he would be. In his great foreknowledge he saw the trials Joshua would come up against and wanted him to know that even during the darkest of times, when it seems all your hope was vanity, that even there the Lord is still walking with you. And when we break down and even our bodies show the signs of our heartbreak, we can know that just like Joshua we have a God who says to us “Be not dismayed”. Take heart also that after this ordeal, Joshua and the Israelites defeat the people of Ai with the Lord’s help. Even when our plans for ourselves are lost, God’s plan for us continues.

 

A Relational God

I woke up on Christmas Eve about twenty minutes before everyone else. My daughter Willow was still fast asleep in her cot and despite her giving me a lie in that morning, I didn’t have to use it. I woke up and actually felt rested and content (very rare indeed). I had my husband next to me and a dog who hadn’t flapped his ears violently and woke everyone up once the entire night. I lay there until the alarm went off thinking of just how blessed I was.

Christmas was always a big deal in my family growing up. None of us were Christian so I’ll be honest, it was mostly about the food – but from a young age I adored everything about the holiday. When I got married I fully intended on passing on my holiday cheer to my husband Aaron; I wanted us to replicate the holidays my parents had given me and made him crazy with my constant carols and cinnamon candles throughout the house. There was a massive build up as I counted down the days. Then, on Christmas Eve, Aaron (through no fault of his own) became ill with some kind of virus that had him in bed for three days straight… and I mean literally in bed! I spent the whole weekend on my own, eating all of the food I had slaved away making. I spent Christmas Eve crying in the living room on my own, tub of Celebrations in front of me ready to try and eat away my disappointment.

This is a scenario I’ve seen myself repeat; unrealistic expectations and the devastation you feel when reality inevitably fails to live up to my standards. When I was young my father had a serious brain injury and to spare you the details, I ended up taking care of him within the family home whilst essentially homeschooling myself. I knew a couple of people my age here and there but as a naturally shy and introverted kid I ended up retreating into a world of literature. Most of what I learned about the world came from books or television – which made my entry into the real world when I went to college at age sixteen quite a shock to the system, to say the least. In fact a slap in the face is probably a more accurate turn of phrase.

People lied and got away with it, the truth didn’t come out in the end and motivations were much harder to decipher – even my own. There was no structure and sometimes no rhyme or reason to how people behaved. Becoming a Christian when I was twenty didn’t improve matters –  they were just as confusing and problematic as everyone else. Contrary to how a lot of Christians sell themselves, the first churches I attended weren’t utopias of acceptance and grace. I found myself wondering whether I would ever find a place I felt I belonged. But more importantly my disappointment in other people led my heart to grow cold not just to those around me but to God.

When I woke up on Christmas Eve, I was overwhelmed with the love God had shown me through the people in my life. Once I believed that there was no one in the world who cared for me – now I have a little girl who cries before I even leave the front door because she can’t stand to be away from me. I have a husband who holds my hand and tells me everything will be okay when I share my cares with him. I have friends who have persisted when I’ve pushed them away, nursed my heartbreaks, laughed with me (and at me). I believe all of this is by the grace of God and that God’s will is that we allow him to use us as a tool of encouragement in His hands, to be this light in a world full of fallen relationships and disappointments; that we stand side by side as we all make this journey home through a foreign land.

When you ask someone you don’t know that well to go for a coffee, when you invite them round for dinner, when you take time on a Sunday to not just ask how their week has been but how you can pray for them – and maybe even let yourself be vulnerable and let them know how they can pray for you – you are building God’s Kingdom here on earth and showing those around you, your brothers and sisters in Christ, one important and beautiful aspect of the Godhead; relationship.

 

Resolutions

The clock strikes midnight,

the fireworks go up,

and as they light up the night sky

they usher in the dawning of a new year.

Hogmanay has always seemed like an odd celebration to me. This belief stems from the fact that January 1stin many ways seems no more or less noteworthy than any other day in the year. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ, at Easter we celebrate His glorious resurrection, and at New Year we celebrate… turning the first page of our new calendar? On one level it all seems rather trivial to me, and yet I think this particular day does stir up something of significance in each one of us: hope.

As we consider the infinite possibilities of what the next 365 days may have in store, the outset of a new year often fills us with optimism. This becomes all the more compelling when the previous 365 have left us feeling dissatisfied. Indeed, this is a celebration tinged by the fact that it is often accompanied by a time of self-examination which rarely leaves us feeling content. Little wonder that as the bells chime we are all ready to wipe the slate clean, leave the past behind, and start again. New year, new you. Hope… but for what?

Ultimately, I think we find New Year so captivating because it seems to offer us the hope of change. We recognise that in our lives, as in the world, things are not the way they are supposed to be. In some mysterious way, entering a new year reminds us that the curtain has not fallen for the final time in the play that is our life; it has merely reached an intermission, and the final act is yet to come. There is still time to turns things around, and now is the time to become the people we want to be: smarter, richer, healthier, or whatever our idea of positive change might be. When so many of us begin a new year feeling this way, it is little wonder that the four-thousand-year-old tradition of making resolutions is alive and well today. We identify the change we desire, we muster all our strength, and we endeavour to make this year the beginning of a new, more satisfying journey. Sadly, in time, this path usually ends up looking much like our previous one, and we struggle our way to the next December 31st, awaiting another chance to get it right.

Upon reflection, I have come to realise that there is nothing trivial about the feelings Hogmanay stirs in us. We all have a deep-rooted desire for change which is well-founded. Where we often err is in believing that the beginning of a new year, paired with our inner strength, can provide the solution. Whilst we are right to seek an opportunity for change, too often we look in the wrong place. When our souls cry out for transformation, the reality is that it is available to us; all we have to do is look up.

In His ‘Sermon on the Mount’, Jesus said: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:33, NLT) Jesus’ teaching was often radically counter-cultural two-thousand years ago. In a society driven by ambition, competition, and self-interest, Jesus called on His followers to live humbly, love others, and seek God; and He still does. As it turns out, our longing for change is not misguided; it is simply often misplaced. We think we know best what we need, and we regularly try to get there on our own strength. What Jesus reminds us is that ultimately God knows what we truly need, and if we would only turn to Him we would receive the strength we need to become not the people we want to be, but the people that God created us to be. The way things are does not have to be the way things will always be, provided we give God the opportunity to follow through on His promises. Not on our strength, but His; not on our schedule, but His; and not in the way that we desire, but in the way that He desires. Our imaginations can come up with countless possibilities for resolutions we could be making, but truly there is only one which we should all be making each day: to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. But how is this done?

In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul wrote: “Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2, NLT) If we are to seek God’s Kingdom in our lives, what Paul reminds us is that each day we need to turn to God and turn away from the ways of the world. We need to submit ourselves to His will and obediently follow where He leads. We need to worship Him through the way we think, speak, and act not just on Sundays, but every day of our lives. This is what it means to seek the Kingdom of God, and this is where we will find the transformation our souls are longing for.

In closing, as another Hogmanay has come and gone, this year I am resolved not to try to go it alone in my search for change. This year, as with every year, should be about seeking God and His will for my life. In doing this I trust God’s promise that I will be transformed, because we serve a faithful Lord. As the great old hymn goes, He is my ‘strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’. This truth is for you too, and I hope that when December 31st 2018 comes around we will be able to stand together in awe of the fact that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and that is something truly worth celebrating.

What A Gift!

The first Sunday in December is such a blessed day in the calendar. For me anyway, it is the countdown to the Saviours Day. The hope that is poured out over the earth on that day is so deep in our hearts. It’s as if our souls cry out in jubilation that the King above all Kings has come. The peace that envelopes my heart when I cast my mind to Bethlehems lowly stable, is all consuming. I sense the still of the night, the majesty of the moment and the fear and awe of the shepherds as the angels filled the midnight sky.

In all the worldly things that Christmas holds, may we never forget the miracle of the virgin birth and what it means and always will. In his birth came the promise of a rebirth for us all. A rebirth into eternity in his presence and the forgiving of all the times we fell short and will fall short. What a gift. What an assurance. What a Saviour.

For a child is born to us, a Son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders and he will be called: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6 

Even before Mary was visited by the Angel,  the prophet Isaiah, 700 years before, spoke of the coming of the Saviour King.  That really blows my mind.  The people of that time had the promise of hope.  We still have that promise today.  The baby born in Bethlehem would save a broken world from sin.  Oh that we never forget this or the price paid on the cross at Calvary.  

Thank you Father that you loved your creation so much that you gave your only begotten Son so that all who believed in Him shall not perish but will have the free gift of eternal life in heaven with you.  I still pinch myself and I pray I never lose the wonder in my heart regarding the babe of Bethlehem – the Son of God.