January 2021

The Hand of God

The most watched TV programme over the recent festive period was the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. In this most difficult of years, reflecting on the challenges of 2020, Her Majesty referenced what she described as “the kindness of strangers”, harking back to the parable of the Good Samaritan as a prime example to follow whereby the man who is robbed and left at the roadside is saved by someone who did not share his religion or culture and that “this wonderful story of kindness is still as relevant today”. Acknowledging the commitment and effort of front-line services in the current pandemic, supported by the amazing achievements of modern science, she went on to say that “we continue to be inspired by the kindness of strangers and draw comfort that - even on the darkest nights - there is hope in the new dawn”.

She’s not the first monarch in such a speech to draw inspiration from her faith – she declared that the teachings of Christ had served as her inner light – and to highlight the importance of light in the darkness, where that light brings hope. Although the film, The King’s Speech, which was also on TV over Christmas, focuses on that part of the life of her father, King George VI, which culminates in his speech to the nation and empire at the outbreak of the Second World War, his more famous oration arguably came in his Christmas broadcast of 1939, just a week before the onset of a new year with all its threats, challenges and potential disasters and the course of which no one could foresee accurately and what might be foreseen was pessimistic and depressing. There are certainly some parallels with where we currently find ourselves.

The King, at that time, sought to rally his peoples with a call to faith that, in his own words, “the Almighty Hand may guide and uphold us all”. He quoted from a poem entitled
God Knows by a Bristol-born poet, Minnie Louise Haskins, lines from which, in closing his address, he hoped would provide a message of encouragement. The words he quoted may be known to you already:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and
put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light
and safer than a known way.”

The Hand of God would provide a more secure basis for carrying on than any light which might allow one to see imperfectly the path ahead. The poem has more lines to it than those quoted by the King, and later read out at the funeral of the Queen Mother. There are those who say that the remainder does not possess the compelling quality of the opening lines but they serve, albeit in a changed verse form, to underline the importance of faith in our lives.

So I went forth,
And finding the Hand of God, 
Trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills 
And the breaking of day in the lone East. So heart be still!
What need our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will is best.
The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

The words of this poem were intended as a message of assurance to a nation at war. They were words of comfort in the loss of loved ones, and words of hope for a difficult time to end.  They were words of truth that our God is in control and we need not fear. Later this week one of the daily readings is taken from Psalm 27, a paraphrased version of which is found in Hymn 14, written by James Montgomery (1771-1854) with whom I share a birthplace: Irvine. One of my previous posts underlined that, even in times of great challenge, we are not alone. As we face yet another period of lockdown and further enforced isolation, we can rely on that comfort, even on the darkest nights.

God is my strong salvation,
What foe have I to fear?
In darkness and temptation
My light, my help is near:
Though hosts encamp around me,
Firm to the fight I stand!
What terror can confound me,
With God at my right hand?

Place on the Lord reliance;
My soul, with courage wait;
His truth be thine affiance
When faint and desolate.
His might thy heart shall strengthen,
His love thy joy increase:
Mercy thy days shall lengthen;
The Lord will give thee peace.


New Year, New Challenges?

Many people may well be happy to see the back of 2020, it's been quite a year hasn't it? 

We probably all have different views about how last year has impacted on us individually. For Christina and I, it’s probably been a bit less stressful than many others, we've been working the whole time, we've not had to isolate, we've no children at school or college; it has been a very strange year but not a terrible one for us. Not so for so many others though, our own members included.

One of the things we've missed the most of course is our weekly trip through to Edinburgh – now that's not easy for a Glaswegian to say!! We've missed the fellowship we have together at our Memorial Service, sharing the emblems, ecclesial meals and all the other activities we used to share.

Enough of last year though, what about 2021? What new challenges might we face? Initially it looks like nothing is going to change too much, our meetings will continue to be virtual, whether our own or with other ecclesias. Probably the biggest challenge for us is staying positive throughout these troubled times. We may well all be carrying "extra baggage" that is pulling us down. What can we do then? We need to in the words of a well known Disney song "Let it go!" You're probably thinking "that's easy to say" but..........

There are many things in our lives that we need to let go of in order to grow in our walk in Christ. Far too many people walk around carrying heavy baggage from years of mistakes, hurt, pain, bad choices etc. We might carry around anger and bitterness from past experiences which then affect current relationships but we have to let it go, we have to choose forgiveness and repentance in order to be kind and loving towards others. 

To let go of an issue we must first understand what the problem is. Ephesians 4:31,32 reads,

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."

How can we identify what it is we are carrying around? Of course we can take it to the Lord in prayer and ask for help or perhaps talk to a Brother or Sister or a friend and see if there are any problems they can see.

Next step is to do something about it, let it go. As believers we need to constantly evaluate the "fruit" we are producing, if it is rotten fruit, baggage, we need to bring it into the light. To confess and ask for forgiveness or in some cases extend forgiveness to others. The process may not be simple though; it may well be a complicated process when we feel the baggage is too heavy. This is when we need to remind ourselves, with God all things are possible, we must be willing to trust the process.

Do we trust that God has a plan and purpose for us, that He will work it all together for good? Even when things might seem like they are far from good in our lives we need to realise that God will still use it for His good in our life.

If we do recognise this, then today, the 3rd day of this new year is a good day to start to let it go.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

(Hebrews 12:1-3)



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