Bible Text: Joshua 1 1-11 and Revelation 1: 1-6 | Preacher: Reverend Bob Martin Norman Vincent Peale was one of the gurus of the 1960's, 70's, 80's and even the 90's - if he had lived in the st decade he would have been the Dr. Phil - the darling of the talk shows - as he expounded his belief in the power of positive thinking based on Scriptural principles espoused by Paul -  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and Joshua who heard the word “Be strong, be resolute, do not be fearful or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”   Joshua was a man who could see the possibilities in strange places unlike many of the others who only saw the impossibilities. When the Israelites came to the banks of the river Jordan for the first time, Moses sent twelve spies to investigate the land, to examine its strengths and weaknesses and to report on its resources.  They all came back with tales of the wonder of the land.  They brought back grapes, pomegranates and figs to show the people....but ten of these men spoke of the utter impossibility of it ever being theirs.  “The people are giants, the cities are well fortified, they said.  It will be impossible for us to take this land and settle in it. Their attitude is typical of a vast section of the population today - both inside and outside the church.  They see and magnify the probelms until the impossibilities overwhelm the possibilities and they concede defeat before they have even started.  They make mountains out of mole hills....   The other two spies came back from investigating the land and confirmed all the stories of the other ten.  But their attitude was different.   This is a marvelous land.  It is over-flowing with milk and honey.  Certainly they were great, tall, strong people but...the taller they are the harder they fall.  Let’s get on with it.  Two for....Ten against....the people would hear none of it and so they turned back into the desert until a new generation would rise.  Joshua and Caleb... This morning I would like us to learn just one thing about Joshua which is supremely important Joshua was a man of faith.   He had the promises of God and he believed them.  Listen to them:  Be strong, be resolute, do not be afraid or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you where ever you may go (1:9) This promise is not only for Joshua.  It is for all believers who trust in the Lord.  Listen to what God said to Isaiah:  Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.  (Isaiah 41:10) Jesus said to the disciples after His resurrection:  Go into all the world and preach the Gospell....An d I am with you always, even to the end of the world. These are the verses which we need to hold onto when we are undertaking new ventures, when we are considering frightening prospects or just when we lack confidence.  Crossing the Jordan was a great test of the faith of the people.  It was the eastern border f Canaan - the Promised Land.  Some have used it in hymns and in preaching to equate Jordan with death and Canaan with heaven.  But Canaan was not heaven - a land flowing with milk and honey - yes - but also a land of strife and blood shed and warfare - which it continues to be to this day. Can you imagine his horror on the appointed day when he found that the usually placid river was a roaring torrent (3:14).  What should he do?  Put off the crossing until the river went down?  Common sense demands it.  But faith and common sense do not always go hand in hand.  After all, Paul says God chose the foolish of the world to confound the wise.  Joshua had a vision.  He had a positive outlook. Much of what restrains us today is lack of faith. We are afraid to do something new, something different, something innovative.  When we have a vision - what do we do with itÉ  For years there were great slag heaps of spent shale surrounding our villages in Scotland.  Then someone had an idea - a vision.  And they went to the Scottish Oils and offered the 100,000 pounds - a lot of money back in the 70's - and that person then began to market the slag.  It was ideal for road beds.  A branch line was built from the Edinburgh - Glasgow railway.  Soon the bings were gone and he was rich.  A special gun was built to fire pellets of seeds mixed with fertilizer into the slag which could be reclaimed and now they have disappeared under grass and bushes and trees.  When we hear the voice of God saying ”Go and I will be with you” – we are not willing to take that step in faith and we are not always faithful to our calling as Christians.  We may sing “Be Thou my Vision”  but we do not want to act upon it. Be strong, be resolute, do not be afraid or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you where ever you may go. Joshua was no superman.  Listen to the promise: Be strong - he knew weakness... Be resolute - he wavered... Do not be afraid - he knew fear.... Do not be dismayed - he certainly needed encouragement. All his life had been a preparation for this moment when he would put the vision into action and make it a reality - just as Moses' life had been up until his confrontation with the Pharoah...Jesus spent 30 years in training, if you like...in the home of Mary and Joseph...experiencing what it was to be truly human...Paul's learning and education...Joshua had learned to be a man of faith.  He chose the way of faith and having made his decision he marched the people down into Jordan. The instructions were quite clear “when the priest who are carrying the ark touch the water with their feet the river will stop flowing....”  So what do you follow - faith or common sense?   I believe that God speaks the same words to us: Be Strong.  We have the Holy Spirit - the Strengthener.... Be Resolute in your faith - have we ever known God to fail?""" Faith is something very wonderful - it is Godès gift to you - not to keep but to share, to give away. That is why it is so important to speak with God day by day, to consult with Him and take seriously the guidance we receive from Him. Joshua 1:9 Be strong, be resolute, do not be fearful or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. And especially to hear the words “Do not be fearful or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. Remember also the words of God to Isaiah “fear not for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” This surely is the crux of the matter "I am your God.'  

Moses, a Man with Excuses

October 25, 2015
Bible Text: Exodus:1-17 and Hebrews 1: 1-4 | Preacher: Reverend Bob Martin Apologies  Sermon not yet available electronically

Abraham – A Man of Conviction

September 13, 2015
Bible Text: Genesis 22:P 1-47 and ?St. John 3: 10-21 | Preacher: Reverend Bob Martin Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   John Calvin said “ ..this passage contains the most memorable narrative. For although Abraham, through the course of His life, gave astonishing proof of faith and obedience, .................  this inflicted a wound far more grievous than death itself: ..........  paternal grief and anguish which being produced by the death of an only son,  ..........  torn away by a violent  death, but by far the most grievous that he himself should be appointed to slay him with his own hand.” That just about sums it up for us - does it not? It was and is a shocking, brutal and harsh story which leaves us startled and amazed when we read it. We are startled that God would demand such a thing' We are amazed that Abraham would acquiesce, that he would get up early in the morning to do this terrible thing which God had asked. We look on with incredulity as Isaac was bound and laid on the altar. Abraham and Sarah had been living in the land of Canaan. In their old age they had accumulated wealth, prestige and power. They even entered treaties with the people. Life was good and tranquil. Isaac was growing tall and strong and Ishmael was already married to an Egyptian woman. More than that,  Abraham was growing in faith and spiritual stature. Already he recognized God as “the Almighty'' in giving answer to the question "is anything too hard for the Lord?" At Beersheba he recognized God as "the Eternal God." The One we describe as being the same yesterday, today and forever - unchanging and unchangeable' In this situation of peace and tranquility he receives this shattering command: take your son, your only son Isaac whom you love .... sacrifice him as a burnt offering .." The Scriptures tell us that this was a test. A test can do one of two things: it can strengthen or it can destroy. Calvin points out that Abraham had been tested before but that these tests were for his mortification ie.  for his discipline and strengthening. In the manufacturing process of motor vehicles ..... tested to destruction .... But Paul tells us that "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful and will not ret you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But, when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Cor. 10: 13)     Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   Now to us this seems to be an extraordinary temptation. Yet when we think that Abraham had been living for a long time in the land of Canaan where the people were accustomed to human sacrifice and where men did sacrifice their first born sons to their gods as sin offerings, this idea was not new to Abraham. Nowhere in the scriptures up to the point do we read of human sacrifice being specifically prohibited, yet in the light of what Abraham had experienced of God as the Almighty and the Eternal the whole idea must have seemed incredible and repugnant. Isaac represented: A beloved son Isaac : laugher - this was where it hurt most - the child of his old age. 2The fulfilment of promise Now what was Isaac's part in all this?  Noah’s children and their trust in their father ........... First, we have to come back to Abraham and say that his spirit of faith had passed on to his son He had been to worship with his father before. He had seen the sacrificial animals being herded towards the altar and as they traveled with Isaac carrying the wood he asks innocently "father, here is the wood and the fire but where is the lamb for the burnt offering." And Abraham replied "God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering." I wonder - how much of this was an answer to pacify Isaac and how much was a response in faith in the promise "through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned." as Abraham wrestled with the ideas of God as Almighty and as Eternal? Secondly we have to note the submission of Isaac. There is no way in which this old man could have bound this young fellow and lifted him onto the altar without his submission and co- operation. Thirdly, can you imagine Isaac's last memory of his father as a priest standing with arms raised clutching a knife. At that very moment God spoke again to Abraham. The test was over. He had passed with flying colours. God said "Now I know that you fear God." And as Abraham looked round, there was a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. As Calvin said, it is a memorable passage in the Scriptures. It is also a passage of Scripture which creates more problems for us the longer we study it. But putting aside the problems, the narrative tells us two things: Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   the first is that God will from time to time shake us from our complacency and that He will make demands upon us which we feel are totally unreasonable but our God is a challenging God. He will make us question the way things have always been down, He will make us examine our beliefs as Abraham was forced to examine his ..... , He will make us turn around as did Paul .... Secondly, out of this story we have the great doctrine of substitution which found its fullest expression on Calvary. Abraham's conviction was that God Himself would provide the sacrifice was fully realized when the ram appeared On Calvary Jesus is our substitute. He died in our place and to take away our sin. He bore our penalty and paid the price. We are told that God was satisfied and the work of redemption was finished. The doctrine of substitution is widely practiced today. There are times when substitution is not a bad thing and may even be necessary but mostly it is a poor solution. It is better to have the real thing. We substitute money for time as we try to buy our children's affection. We substitute words for action. We substitute good intentions for good works. We substitute talking for listening. We substitute "getting by''for excellence. We substitute soap operas for real living. We substitute instant gratification for anticipation. We substitute popular ideas for proven theories. We substitute our own importance for the centrality of God, focussing our thoughts inward ...... We substitute popular theology for that which is based and grounded in the Word of God. We substitute our own ideas and thoughts and feelings for the clear instructions of Jesus. We substitute material for spiritual. We substitute tangible for intangible. We substitute good works for salvation by grace. We substitute our morality for God’s teaching in the Scriptures. We substitute our own merits for the merits of the Lord Jesus. We substitute good wishes for zeal. Why? The substitution is inadequate and totally worthless. Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   Abraham did not just have good wishes or good intentions he had zeal for the Lord - a love for God that surpassed even his love for his son and we are told that on that dreadful morning he got up early to go to the place of sacrifice ....  He had zeal. ln his biography of the young Teddy Roosevelt, David McCullough tells that his mother found out that he was so afraid of Madison square Church that he refused to enter it alone. He was terrified of something called "zeal". It was crouched down in the dark corners of the church ready to spring out at him, he said. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. Using a concordance she read to him all the passage containing the word zeal until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from St John 2: l7 "and His disciples remembered that it was written 'the zeal of thine house has eaten me up ....."' People are still justifiably afraid of the zeal of the Lord for they are perfectly aware of its disturbing, challenging life changing potential. Abraham had it, Isaac and Sarah and all his people knew that while the Lord is good He is also challenging and demanding. God Himself has provided the sacrifice, the way of salvation, the certainty of acceptance with Himself. Why do we not, like Abraham, choose the gift that God has given us, claim the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ and put all our trust in Him for time and eternity. There is, after all, only one name given under heaven whereby we must be save and that is the Name of Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

NOAH

September 6, 2015
Bible Text: Genesis 6: 11-22 | Preacher: Reverend Bob Martin This morning and next Sunday, I want to share some thoughts about men of the Old Testament period.  Some time ago I did a series on the women of the Old Testament Scriptures - now it is the men’s turn and the man’s name is Noah. Reading about his life and work leaves us with ore questions than answers and yet he is the first person in the Scriptures to have any real amount of space devoted to his life and work and the really interesting thing is that when we read about Noah we learn more about God than about Noah. What can we say about this man?  Many things - but  let me highlight just two of them for you this morning. First, Noah was a Godly man and he came from a family of God fearing people.  We are told that one of his forebears was Seth, one of the descendants of Adam and in Seth’s time, the Scriptures tell us, people first began to call on the Name of the Lord.  In Genesis 6: 9, we are told that Noah was a just man and perfect in his generation who walked with God.  It is interesting to see and important for us to note the influences which families have.  We live in an age when families are being fragmented, when out of necessity both parents have to work and so the responsibility for raising their children is left in the hands of child care givers.   When I did an exchange in New Jersey many years ago the parents brought their children to a day care centre operated out of the church just after 6 a.m.  I remember being first on the scene one day and parents entrusting their children to me - a total stranger.  Families do matter ......... We are told that Noah walked with God - just as at one time Adam and Eve walked with God.  He spent time every day in prayer - not only talking but listening.  Not just on the Sabbath but day by day.  George H. W. Bush related in his biography how he made time for prayer ad Scripture reading, how he followed and schedule that enable him to read through the Bible.  Many Christians make time each day to walk with God, in the morning to set the tone for the day or in the evening to review the events of the day and give thanks ...... Walking with God implies communion, a deep and intimate spiritual relationship that shapes our attitudes and our perspectives.  Walking with God brings changes how we make our decisions.  People watch, people see - especially those who are nearest and dearest to us, who live with us day by day. When push came to shove, Noah’s 3 sons: Shem and Ham and Japheth  stuck with him. Secondly, Noah was an obedient man.  We are told not once but twice that Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.  But when the commands are extraordinary, or perhaps even in our own judgement, ridiculous and inexplicable, we can only marvel at his obedience.  God said build me a boat and gave him the dimensions: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 35 feet high with 3 decks, it must have raised many questions for Noah.  Where will I build it, how will I build it, it is not even raining .....  Yet with the help of his wife and his sons he set about this monumental task.  I don’t know how he accomplished it. In the midst of all this construction work, we are told that  he was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2: 5) and that was an incredible thing in the age when he lived.  The Bible tells us that only Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord - only Noah.  That is a hard thing to be as we are finding out in our present again.  It is easy to go with the crowd.  It is difficult to go against the tide of public opinion.  We are called upon to be politically correct, we are called to give in to the rights of the minority at the expense of the majority and not only to approve but to facilitate life styles and practices which we find abhorrent and contrary to our faith.     Genesis 6: 11 - 22  Noah   When people came to criticize Noah, to make fun of his creation, he used the opportunity  to tell them what he believed and what God was saying through him.  He urged them to change their ways, to repent and believe. But they did not listen, they made fun of him and his boat became a favourite topic of conversation in the taverns and the market place and wherever people gathered.  Noah did not listen to the critics. He knew that they spoke from disbelief and had a vested interest in their life styles.  NO doubt after a while people tired of talking about the ark and its builder - until he started buying provisions and collecting animals - especially the more exotic animals ......   As I said at the beginning of the sermon, the study of Noah reveals more about God than about Noah. First, it tells us that our God is a covenant making God   The 139th Psalms tells us of David’s insight “where can I go from Your spirit, where can I flee from Your presence? .... if I say ‘surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; night will shine like the day......”  God doesn’t just see the outward appearance but “He sees the thoughts and the intentions of the heart” (6: 5) Remember when Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel? ....  God said to him “man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart.”   Jesus said “it is not what goes in that make one sinful but what proceeds from the heart through the mouth.” God sees, He sees everything.  God knows everything - He is omnisient but He is still  willing to make covenants with people.  A covenant is not simply a legal agreement, it is one which is entered freely, willingly and involves a spiritual dimensions as well as a legal agreement.  We speak of a marriage covenant - irrespective of the fact that the prospective bride and groom have in some cases, already made a prenuptial legal agreement.  The marriage covenant is one stage further on which if respected would make the mutual agreement irrelevant.  God made two covenants with Noah.  The first was that if Noah would build the ark, God would save him and his family and secondly, after the flood waters had receded God promised that as long as the earth endured, seed time and harvest, summer and winter would continue and that never again would there be such and immense catastrophe.  God made a number of covenants but perhaps the greatest is the one made through the Lord Jesus that “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Secondly, it tells us that God is a God of grace.  Grace is that love which keeps on loving when all cause for love has gone.  Grace kept Noah preaching all the time he was building and the people were mocking him ........ but more important, grace was that which, when the ark was completed and the animals and Noah and his family were inside kept the door open for another seven days.  Can you imagine Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth and their wives waiting day after day, wondering if after all they had been deluded and all the time waiting, waiting, waiting .. Then, after  7 days, seemingly of its own volition the door of the ark swung shut.  Those on the outside couldn’t get in and those on the inside could not get out.       Genesis 6: 11 - 22  Noah   But there is an end to grace. Isaiah says “seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while he is near, let the wicked forsake his ways and the unrighteous their thoughts and return to the Lord and He will have mercy and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.’ (Isaiah 55: 7) Note that it says “while He may be found.” There is an end to grace. After Paul said that he was persuaded that God is able to keep all that we have committed to Him against that day and that day came for Noah when the door shut and the rain came on. Jesus told the story of the careless bridesmaids who failed to make preparations and when they arrived at the bridegroom’s house, knocked on the door and asked for admission, the bridegroom said “go away, I don’t know you.” Years and years of teaching and exhortation followed by 7 more days of grace   ................ He promises that whosoever believed in me shall not perish but have everlasting life, He invites us to come while the door is still open for when He comes again the door will shut. So what does Noah have to teach us today? There are two principal things here and many more if you care to continue the study. The first is that if you are persuaded that you are called by God.  It through prayer and study of the Scriptures and the advice of Godly friends and mentors that this is God’s call for you, ignore the critics.   Noah continued to build and to pray and to walk with God even though .....  Noah, his wife and is daughters-in-law we safe within the ark ......... Secondly, don’t miss the boat.     On the island of Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides, so the story goes, one of the large land owners and employers   was frequently just on time or just a few moments late for the ferry which would take them to Tarbet on the mainland.  Usually the grace period was extended to them - just a few minutes more.  One day - perhaps the captain may have had a hang over or was just frustrated or had indigestion -  when he came racing over the hill down to the key, the ferry was already under way.   In spite of his impassioned pleas, the ferry continued on its way. So the message from Noah is quite simple: hold fast to your faith and don’t delay. God is still calling, still extending the days of grace. There is still time. So get on board.