Lavender Prayer: 5. Serenity

Is there a Godly serenity in Lavender? What does God mean by it? Test it. ‘Serenity’ means to be untroubled; to be at peace within; it is the absence of mental stress or anxiety. Even the sound of the word is peaceful.

The coronavirus pandemic triggered a pause and a reset in our behaviours and way of life. Some of it we adjusted to easily; other aspects continue to be difficult. At times we felt alone, anxious and stressed – both as individuals and collectively as a church family. But thinking of my picture of the lavender, I am hearing a gentle word from the Holy Spirit: we are not alone and there is godly cure for anxiety. Indeed, for me, just the thought of the Holy Spirit gives me a sense of serenity, of comfort and companionship.

There has been a quiet strength in SSCB’s fellowship over these last few months – looking out for each other, checking in with each other and connecting with each other through the E-pistle Newsletter, Zoom Services and the Zoom Fellowship. For many there has been the added strength of Home Groups.

We are not called to respond alone, either during Lockdown or – each in our own time – as we re-emerge. We have always been together in and through Jesus:  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace  …” (Ephesians 2: 13-14)

There at the start of verse 14 is the truth staring at us in plain sight. The serenity of the lavender led me to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is reminding us all of the calming power of Jesus: “He Himself is our peace.” And then I found this precise message just waiting for me in John 14:26-27:

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 14:26-27″

When I think of Jesus and acknowledge Him I am calm and free from anxiety. I am serene. And if all it takes is a picture of some lavender to remind us of that, then thank you, Holy Spirit!

Recent Posts

What are your Outlooks?

“Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God.”

Isaiah 37:20

In 721 BC Assyria was spreading towards the west. They have conquered Israel, the northern kingdom, now they surrounded Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. Sennacherib, king of Assyria gave an ultimatum to Hezekiah, king of Judah. The Assyrian representative was boasting and threatening the defenders on the walls of Jerusalem, trying to turn them away from their trust in God and also their king. The king, however was unflinching in his faith in God, the Lord will deliver them, He made His promise to them! The king entered the temple and bowed down in prayer before the Lord, asking for His deliverance from the enemy.

Hezekiah was resolute, and committed to prayer, but he knew not when, or how the Lord will save them fulfilling His promise. Yet he was certain that the Lord will be faithful! Next morning as they woke up they found the Assyrian camp empty, the enemy were dead, Sennacherib fled!

In a hopeless situation Hezekiah held on to God’s promise and entrusted his own and his people’s life into God’s keeping! If you know the depth of such battling and fulfilled petition then your outlook, your perspective of hopeless situations has been changed. Then you look totally differently upon your burdens, your life, and all that might threaten it, like COVID-19. Prayer, in an amazing way, lifts you up, out of despair, above your fears, and anxieties. Why and How? Simply because every word of your prayer is holding onto the Lord and His promises who is above, and lifts you to the eye level of God and you see your outlooks from his perspective!

All who live on daily prayerful dialog with the living Lord know that they have ‘a secret mana’ that nourishes and strengthens them on the way! In those the powers of the coming Kingdom are at work, and reach out through them into their surroundings.

Trust in the promises of God! Trust in His faithfulness! Trust in His Word! For what matters is not the size of the enemy, or the strength of their voice, but how close you are to the Lord, for your salvation is already prepared with Him! The Lord said:

“call on me in the day of trouble;
    I will deliver you, and you will honour me.”

Psalm 50:15

Recent Posts

Praise of the Week: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say (1846)

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

They say do not work with animals or children. They need special skill. Horatius Bonar, “the Prince of Scottish Hymnists” was able to connect with youngsters superbly.

He was born just before Christmas in 1808, one of eleven children. Two of his brothers, John and Andrew, also became outstanding preachers. He studied for the ministry in Edinburgh, serving his internship in Leith, and then being ordained in Kelso. Later he returned to Edinburgh to the Grange and became one of Scotland’s most well known preachers.

Horatius began writing hymns while in Kelso, and many of them were especially for children. In those days the congregation only sang the Psalms, only the children were allowed to sing his hymns. On one occasion when a hymn was announced at a service, two church elders stormed out in protest! But the children loved his visits to Sunday School when he would lead them in exuberant singing.

He wrote I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say for his Sunday School in 1846. On the page on which he wrote the words, he doodled four faces and the head of a man wearing a hat. He based the verses on three promises of Jesus in Matthew 11:28; John 4:14; and John 8:12. The first half of each stanza echoes one of the Lord’s promises, the second half is our response.

He very much loved children. His wife and he lost five of their children in rapid succession. But God gave him hundreds of children in the Sunday School. Not only that …

Many years later, a surviving Bonar daughter was widowed and returned home to live with her parents. She had five young children. Writing to a friend, Horatius said: “God took five children from life some years ago, and He has given me another five to bring up for Him in my old age.”

He was nearly 80 when he preached his last sermon in his church. Among his last requests was that no biography of him be written. He wanted all the glory to be Christ’s alone.

(By the way his grandson, Horatius Bonar Macnicol, is mentioned on our WW1 Roll of Honour.)

Recent Posts

Praise of the Week: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (1875)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38-39

Few praises paint such a vivid picture of God’s love as this by Samuel Trevor Francis: … vast, unmeasured, boundless free; / rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me. / Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love…

It helps us visualise the immensity of Christ’s all embracing love, overwhelming and submerging us in the depth of His tender, triumphant heart.

Samuel was born on 19th November 1834, in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire north of London. His father was a merchant and an artist who moved the family to Hull. As a child, Samuel enjoyed poetry, and he also developed a passion for music, joining the church choir at the age of nine! However as a teenager he struggled spiritually, and when he moved to London to work, he knew things were not right in his heart.

One day, as he later wrote: “I was on my way home from work and had to cross Hungerford Bridge to the south of the Thames. During the winter’s night of wind and rain and in the loneliness of that walk, I cried to God to have mercy on me. I stayed for a moment to look at the dark waters flowing under the bridge, and the temptation was whispered to me: ‘Make an end of all this misery.’ I drew back from the evil thought, and suddenly a message was borne into my very soul: ‘You do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?’ At once I answered, ‘I do believe,’ and I put my whole trust in Him as my Saviour.”

Samuel went on to become a London merchant, but his real passion was Kingdom work – especially hymn writing and open-air preaching – which occupied his remaining seventy-three years. He travelled widely and preached around the world for the Plymouth Brethren. He died in 1925, aged 92.

Ebenezer the ponderous, rolling melody of the hymn is traditionally called “Ton-Y-Botel” (Tune in a Bottle), because of a legend that it was found in a bottle along the Welsh coast. In fact it was composed by Thomas J. Williams, and appeared as a hymn tune in 1890 in the hymnal Llawlyfn Moliant.

Recent Posts

First Sunday Service at St Stephen’s Since Lockdown Started

St Stephen’s was able to open its doors last Sunday for the first Church Service since March. An incredible amount of work was carried out beforehand, working out how to make it all as safe as possible with hand sanitisers, signs showing the one way system, available pews etc. A lot of work was also put into the technology so that Zoom could be used alongside the live service. It all went very smoothly on the day! The congregation was very small – we didn’t need to worry about exceeding the maximum 35 people! Although not the same atmosphere as with our usual numbers we could still feel God’s presence and it was lovely to be back. The hardest part was not standing up to sing but the signing of the Blessing was a great addition. Although there is not enough room in the church for Fellowship afterwards, people had the opportunity to chat in the church garden. It was good to see people face to face rather than on a Zoom screen!

[from Christine MacRae]

Recent Posts

Lavender Prayer: 4. Caution

Is there a Godly caution in Lavender? What does God mean by it? Test it. I managed to type up “Caution” on the heading and then just stared at it. What next? Was this a call from Matthew 10:16 (“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”)? We must be both shrewd and innocent, yes, but caution is slightly different.

I kept looking, and found in the Amplified Bible translation of Philippians 2:12 that we must work out our salvation by cultivating it and actively pursuing spiritual maturity. And we must do that “using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ.”

It is all too easy, having acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, to charge on in full fervour not realising that we are charging when God is saying, “Hold.” Or to take up things of this world and put Jesus’ name to them when in reality they are our selfish desires, not His glorious gifts.

So if we pause at our lavender flower, we literally find that we are not just charging on. We find that we have the time and space to ask God, “Is this what you want of me?”

And as I paused, I realised there was another caution. In Scots law, there is a concept called “Caution” but pronounced ‘Kayshun’. It is a payment as a guarantee of good behaviour. If the offender is of good behaviour the caution is returned. Jesus died for our sins, but He paid the price once and for all. In Him we have a guarantee of our forgiveness and being made right with God. Jesus is the caution and He was paid out for us; died for us. Through His payment, we are made pure and sanctified – or as the legal language would say, “He makes us to be of good behaviour.” So the caution is returned – Jesus could not be held dead, and is returned alive.

So pause at your lavender flower and ask God to help SSCB to act with caution – to discern what God actually wants of us and then to do it boldly, knowing that the price has been paid, the debt wiped out and that we are redeemed through the cautioner.

[from Timothy Pitt]

Recent Posts

We are Open for Worship from 2nd August – Praise the Lord

We are opening the church doors for public worship at 11:00am on Sunday, 2nd August! Praise and thanks to God for this opportunity to continue worshipping not just through the internet but by physically gathering too, although fully respecting the required social distancing measures!

We have made the church as safe as possible and a huge thank you is due to all involved in that! While we will be worshipping in the church building, we continue with our online worship on Zoom as well. This continues to be part of our church family life in the future for a time. Still one congregation, just sharing in various ways to suit our circumstances.

What can you expect at church? We continue to offer a warm welcome to all, however the experience in the present restricted circumstances will not match the encounters of the past.

Who can attend church?

  • In theory all are welcome. We particularly encourage those to come to church who were unable to be part of a worshipping fellowship (virtual or otherwise) during the lockdown. However there are certain necessary restrictions:
    • Those who are shielding, should follow the Scottish Government’s instructions.
    • If you display symptoms of covid-19 infection, or you are self-isolating because you share a household with someone who has the symptoms, or as a result of contact tracing, you are advised to stay at home.
  • The capacity of our building, observing the required social distancing is only 35.
  • All attending the service need to be registered as part of the contact tracing programme.

What can you expect at church?

  • The presence of the Lord God Almighty! He promised to be with those who gather in His name!
  • A welcoming, clean, and safe space for worship.
  • Helpful welcoming team to guide and advise you in the building.
  • Registering your name and phone number for Tracking and Tracing purposes (this data will be kept safe for 14 days, then it will be destroyed).
  • Hand sanitisers both as you enter and exit the church.
  • It is recommended that those coming into the building should wear a face covering.
  • Social distancing throughout the building.
  • One way system (anti-clockwise) within the building to avoid physical contact with others. Clear signage throughout the building.
  • Designated seats at appropriate social distancing from each other. Therefore please be aware that you might not be able to sit at your usual seat!
  • Sadly no singing is permitted during worship, but dancing if you fancy it is welcome. We will be able to listen and reflect over recorded praises.
  • For safety reasons the church Bibles are removed, so please bring along your own Bible to follow the readings.
  • The service in church is shared through the internet, by Zoom.
  • Toilet facilities will be available.
  • Sadly, no social mingling and sharing of refreshments after the service in the church is possible. However people can meet outside in safe distance if they wish to do so.

Please consider prayerfully your return to the church building. We would love you to be there and are looking forward to see you in person, but remember both your and the safety of others are important in these uncertain times. If you are happy to join us over the internet please do so, you will be as much part of the fellowship as if you were there in person.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate asking at office@comelybankchurch.com 

[from George Vidits, minister]

Recent Posts

Praise of the Week: Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

Charles Wesley was born before Christmas in 1707. He was premature and neither cried nor opened his eyes. The youngest of 18 children, Charles possessed prodigious talents that soon blossomed.

At age eight, he was taken to London to attend Westminster School. At thirteen he became a King’ Scholar and upon graduating he enrolled at Oxford. He was nineteen and full of life.

During his second year at Oxford he grew serious about spiritual things. Neither he nor his brother, John, had received Christ as Saviour, but they both began seeking to live the Christian life so methodically that they were dubbed “Methodists” by fellow students.

Their studies completed they volunteered to go as missionaries to Georgia, a new colony in America for those in Britain’s debtors’ prisons. They failed as missionaries. Charles was too demanding and autocratic. He left America ill and depressed.

Soon John also returned in low spirits. Finding themselves in spiritual crisis they began attending the meetings of the Moravian Church. On Sunday, 21st May 1738 Charles wrote: “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. I saw that by faith I stood.” John came to Christ about the same time too.

Charles became a prolific hymn writer. His lyrics are solidly based on Scripture. He penned some 9,000 spiritual poems, of which about 6,000 are hymns. His writings are passionate and well crafted. Many of them he wrote while riding on horseback to his evangelistic meetings.

“Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” uses events of the past to remind us who we are in our faith, and guiding our vision to what the future holds, and rejoicing in who our God is. The hymn is powerful encouragement to all of us who are looking forward to the coming of Christ!

“‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’So shall it be! Amen.”

(Revelation 1:7)

Recent Posts

The Spiritual Matter of Social Media

//Tik Tok//YouTube//Snapchat//Instagram//Minecraft//ClashOfClans//JESUS

Whether you use social media or not it’s a huge influence in today’s world, particularly on our young people. Join me in bringing social media to Jesus, laying it at His feet:

Belonging and Community: Online community is the only community some of us are experiencing just now! But online community is not new for young people. Communities of interest, education, support, and entertainment, all have their own ways of connecting. Although they are very different to physical communities, like our church family, they are building on the same blocks, being know, sharing and belonging. Although online community has many pitfalls, it trumps physical community in one area: Accessibility. If you have internet connection then its instantly available, 24-7, 365!

Generation-Z have lots of words for their positive feelings (chill, yeet, lit, dope, bet, gucci, fire) and indeed their negative feelings! Much of their vocabulary bleeds from the online world into the park, classroom and youth culture. In this way we see how the online world has influence over the younger generations. Lets pray for kingdom come and Jesus influence on the online world.

PRAY 

  1. For Christian influencers online who often face a lot of criticism but play a vital role in making the Gospel, the wisdom of God and the truth accessible on the online world amid a vast array of worldly messages.
  2. For our young people to let the Holy Spirit guide and filter their consumption and interaction with media, online communities and for protection for their heart as they discover the vast online world.

“Father we thank you that you are even more accessible than the online world! 24-7, 365 is not a problem for you, God who watches over our youth and will not allow their feet to slip; you are the protector who does not slumber or sleep (Psalm 121,3-4). You are Emmanuel God who is with us. Closer than the phone in the hand. Lord, help our young people to share light, friendship and love online.” Amen

[from Philip Anderson, Youth Worker]

Recent Posts

Lavender Prayer: 3. Devotion

Is there a Godly devotion in Lavender? What does God mean by it? Test it. Devotion is not simply performing an action or function, but doing so through a deep and ardent affection.

I was struck by finance. I give money to the church. Go me! I give quite a lot. Praise me! I give by standing order which was originally set up so that I would not forget and to make it easier on those who bank the cash. Efficient me! But until I reflected on the lavender, it had become just something I did. I have lost the deep and ardent affection for why I give. I just give (there is the performance) and don’t look to loving God through my giving (where is the affection?).

Whether in our giving, our service, our prayers for each other or just our attentiveness to each other, we need to hold fast to (or regain) that affection.

We do not want just to claim the credit of Revelation 2:2 (I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance) and overlook Revelation 2:4 (Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.)

So what do we do? Love each other as Jesus loves us – devotedly. Look at the devotion in Acts 2:42-44 (“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers”). And what happens then? (Awe came upon every soul!)

A few Sundays ago in the Holy Chaos of the start of our Zoom service, one of my dear sisters in Christ showed a vase of lavender on her camera. Reading about lavender was helping her in her walk with Jesus, coming closer to God. But do you know what – as she shared briefly in a fellowship moment with me, I saw how she had set aside and devoted the lavender to God, and an awe did indeed come upon my soul; an awe of how big God is that He is able to speak to each one of us intimately if we just devote ourselves to listening to Him.

In devoting ourselves to God we find a common devotion that binds us together. The next time you see lavender, stop. Devote some time in awe of God’s amazing love for you, for us, for our church family.

[from Timothy Pitt]

Recent Posts