What We Sing Matters.

What we sing matters.

CJ Mahaney describes singing in Church as “take home theology”. Gordon Fee has said “show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” Colossians 3:16 commands us to ‘Let the word of God dwell in us richly by singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” To be blunt, Christians learn more about God through the songs that they sing than through the sermons that they hear.

What we sing matters.

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Which is why I’ve had such an insightful couple of hours. This afternoon, I have been reporting on the songs that we have sung since we launched Living Hope Church. “Show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology”, so what’s our theology? Here’s the top 5 most sung songs over the last 18 months:

1 – Psalm 84

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lordmy heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”

2 –  In Christ Alone

“In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song.”

3 – When I survey

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

4 – 10,000 reasons

“For all your goodness I will keep on singing, 10,000 reasons for my heart to find.”

5 – Amazing Grace

“Amazing grace! how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

If our theology is what we sing, then give me those songs all day long!

Father, as we sing, would your Spirit make your word dwell richly is us so that we’d long for more of you, find our hope in you, give our all to you, search for joy in you and be amazed at your grace to us in Jesus.

Joy in Unity.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Pete Rennie. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Unity’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-unity’

Unity.

Probably not the first word that would spring to mind if you were asked to describe the Church in the Highlands. Think about it, the most effective church planting ‘strategy’ has been church splits, there are almost as many presbyterianism denominations as sunny days in a year, and even a quick google of churches in Inverness proves the rest of us aren’t any better. Disunity is lurking around almost every church corner isn’t it?

This week, we thought about joy in unity from Philippians 1:27-2:11, which raised the question – how do we pursue joyful unity?

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How not to pursue unity

Ironically, unity is not achieved by trying to become united. When unity is the prize we chase, we will end up winning peace (in a best case scenario). When everyone must be ‘united’ people become afraid to air different opinions incase they rock the boat, upset someone and end up causing disunity. So, instead of having a united church, you have a church marked by peaceful fragility, a community in which everyone is tip-toeing around each other.

How to pursue unity

If we really want unity, then we need to pursue Christlikeness. When Jesus is the prize we chase, we find increasing joy. Paul writes in verse 27 – “Let your life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” He calls the church to live the new, Spirit-filled, Jesus-like life that God has called them to and one of the fruits of that is unity. We achieve unity, by pursuing Jesus-like lives together. The goal isn’t each other’s happiness and comfort, the goal is each other’s joy and conformity to Christ.

How this plays out

Pursuing unity by pursuing Jesus makes such a difference to how we relate to each other.  Imagine you had a friend who was understandably struggling to forgive someone who had badly hurt them. You meet them for coffee and within minutes it becomes clear that the person is bitter and unforgiving, as they talk you realise that they only met you so that you’d agree how badly they’d been treated and how right they are to list the faults of the other person.

When we we pursue unity by being united, our response can only be to agree with the person. If we challenge our friend to forgive then we might upset them and bring disunity. We helpless leave our friend in joyless bitterness. But when we pursue unity by pursing Christlikeness, then we are free to challenge each to live a life worthy of the gospel; to forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven us. By calling each other to become like Jesus, we’re calling each other to a life of joy.

So, if we want to see joy giving unity in our churches lets encourage each other to pursue Jesus, because as we do that we find joyful unity.

Joy in Life and Death

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by DI Murchison. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Life and Death’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-life-and-death’

The question last Sunday’s sermon asked us was “What’s the point of our faith?” A question we often overcomplicate and in doing so, fail to understand the simple answer found in the Bible.

Paul’s answer to this question in Philippians 1 comes in two parts – a joy in this life, and a joy in the life to come, perfectly summed up in Paul’s well known statement “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Our faith is, at its core, a relationship. A relationship begun on earth and perfected in the new earth. An imprisoned Paul, bound in crude rusted chains and unsure of what the future holds for him, begins to question the purpose of his existence in such a hostile environment. In this statement, Paul exemplifies the hope of the Christian faith. A hope which urges Paul to live the remainder of his life in service to the Lord, for the sake of other Christians who still need to be encouraged and guided, all the while joyfully awaiting the day he will finally be with, and like, Christ.

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The second part of his statement raises the concept which, perhaps, most distinguishes Christians from our culture – a joyful anticipation of death. Now, this is not a suicidal or depressed mindfulness which wants the current situation to end, rather it is an expectation, beyond any doubt, that after death will come a life of sinlessness (a world not influenced by death, suffering or pain), and this is what Paul looks forward to – “to die is gain.” The life to come is described in Isaiah 65:17-25.

As Christians do we look forward to life after death? Do we believe that all things will be made new? Is this a source of joy for us in our faith?

The first part of Paul’s statement deals with the present and our purpose of living in the here and now. The reality was pressed upon Paul while in jail – what is my purpose for existence? For many Christians, there is a danger in looking forward to the life to come as they can forget about the life they are presently living. To this, Paul explains his bold statement that “to live is Christ” explaining that our purpose is to become more like Christ, and in doing so, bring glory to God. New life has already begun in us. So although Paul is torn between enduring this life or departing to enjoy fullness of life, the need of his brothers and sisters to progress in their faith gave him the direction he needed to live on.

Do we see the time we have on earth, like Paul, as the time of opportunity to become like Christ and encourage the Church? Do we see working for the kingdom of God as a joyous opportunity or an inconvenience to our lives?

Therefore, as one unpacks Paul’s weighty statement we see two encouragements for our lives:

1 – Our present lives on earth allow us to bear fruit and work for the Kingdom of God.
2 – We can rest in the exhilaratingly steadfast promise of God, that through death we will live the life which was first intended for man, and enjoy an eternity of peace and sinlessness upon the new earth.

It’s those encouragements which fill an imprisoned man with an unquenchable hope.

Joy in Proclamation

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Jodie Murchison. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Proclamation’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-proclamation’

Last Sunday, we seen that the imprisonment of Paul had two different effects on people:

  1. The first was that most of the brothers gained confidence through it. They were more eager and bolder to share the gospel with people – this preaching the Gospel was motivated by love for Jesus. They knew that Paul had been appointed to tell people about Jesus and that due to being in prison that wasn’t possible, so they picked up the slack and got on with the job driven by good intentions of making Jesus known.
  2. The second was that some preached Jesus out of envy and rivalry. The motivation which was behind their proclamation was that of selfish ambition, they wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted to cause Paul trouble in his imprisonment. It was not motivated by a love of Jesus but instead by a love of self.

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Everyone when looking at this passage wants to be able to identify themselves with group one, we want to be a people known for proclaiming the Gospel due to our love of Jesus. We want to be known as the people who are emboldened and step up to tell people about Jesus.

However, we also must look at the reaction of Paul to those who are not driven by these desires, instead they do it to harm him and gain a reputation for themselves. Naturally as human beings we would expect to perhaps see some bitterness or animosity from Paul towards the second group of people. Instead, Paul reacts by saying what does it matter who proclaims the gospel, if Christ is proclaimed. He doesn’t offer any scathing remarks towards those doing it out of selfish ambition, instead we see Paul rejoice. He rejoices because people are hearing about Jesus!

The church in Scotland desperately needs more people who have the same reaction as Paul here. Paul is not concerned with gaining a reputation and advancing the ‘church of Paul’, instead he is motivated by his love for Jesus that people hear the Good News regardless of who is telling it. Often, we are so caught up with the name above the door that we forget the point of why we exist. Living Hope Church is not about making ourselves known and gaining renown, instead we desire to be a church known for loving Jesus and wanting to make Him known.

Therefore, how do we put into practice being joyful in the proclamation of Jesus no matter who is proclaiming it?

1 – As individuals, it pushes us to see telling people about Jesus as something to be joyful about – it shouldn’t be something we find as burdensome.
2 – As a Church body, we can learn from Paul to encourage one another by affirming and celebrating when we see people using their gifts to advance the Gospel.
3 – As a church, it calls us to remember that it is all about Jesus and the advancement of his Kingdom. Therefore, we should celebrate when the Church is growing and people come to know him regardless of the name through whom it happened.

Joy in Each Other

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Pete Rennie. It’s based on the sermon ‘Joy in Each Other’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-each-other’

Imagine the people in your church or community group. Picture their faces. Think about their character.

What emotion do you feel? Some of us might be excited, we like those people and can’t wait to spent time with good friends. Others might feel a bit awkward as we think about people we should really know but don’t really.  Perhaps you feel exhausted, drained from trying to serve others? Some might feel anger or bitterness because of something that’s happened in the past.

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In the first eleven verses of Philippians, Paul (writing from a Roman jail) tells the church in Philippi that he yearns for them all with the affection of Christ Jesus, and that he thanks God every time he remembers them. As Paul pictures the faces of Lydia, the slave girl and the jailer in Philippi (Acts 16) he feels thankfulness and affection towards them. How many of us feel like that towards the people in our church community?

And that affection expresses itself in joyful prayer. A church that takes joy in each other is a church that prays for each other. So, Paul prays for the Philippians:

  • That they would overflow with love for Jesus.
  • That they would grow knowledge and understanding of Jesus.
  • That they would be pure in their obedience to Jesus.
  • That they might become more like Jesus.

Here’s a challenge for you today – think about the people in your church or community group. Picture their faces. Think about their character. Thank God for them. Then take some time to pray those 4 things for them by name. Why? because thats what it means to be a church who takes joy in each other.

Media Update

At Living Hope Church we put a huge emphasis on teaching the Bible. Why? because we believe that God created this universe from nothing, by His word. We are convinced that God’s word is powerful – when He speaks life comes into existence where there was no life before. Today, God speaks life to us through the Bible.

So, we want as many people as possible to hear God speak life to them. And to make this as easy as possible, you are now able to not only download our sermons from soundcloud (meaning that you don’t need an internet connection to listen to it) you can also subscribe to our new iTunes podcast. You can access to all of our Bible teaching using the links below, we hope that God speaks life to you through it:

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Easter at Living Hope

The death and resurrection of Jesus is the central event of Christianity, so at Living Hope we unashamedly celebrate it. Here’s whats happening over the next couple of weeks:

9th – Palm Sunday Gathering – “Behold your King”

This Sunday, we’re gathering at 2pm at Kingsview as we look at the story of the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey from John 12:12-16.

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14th – Good Friday Gathering – “It is finished”

On Good Friday, we’re gathering at 7pm at the Manna House on Huntly Street to remember the death of Jesus. This will be a 45 minute time of singing, communion and prayer as we reflect on Jesus’ death by looking at John 19:28-30.

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16th – Easter Sunday Party – “I have seen the Lord”

On Easter Sunday, we’re gathering at Kingsview at 2pm to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We’ll be welcoming new members into the church and having an Easter party afterwards.

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Whether you’ve never been to church before, haven’t been in a while or are just visiting Inverness we’d love for you to come and celebrate Easter with us.

You can find directions here.

Rounding up Acts.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Anne Rennie. It’s based on the sermon ‘Back to Antioch’ which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/acts-18-18-22-back-to-antioch’

We’ve just finished our 3rd series in Acts, looking at Paul on his second missionary journey. What a great series for a new church plant – taking inspiration and motivation from how God started the Church, and how the good news about Jesus exploded out of Jerusalem towards the ends of the earth.

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There were 3 main themes over our last 10 weeks Acts:

Discipleship
Paul lived his life alongside others. He demonstrated how his belief in God changed how he lived. He shared his life with the people he worked with, travelled with, lived with and taught. He not only talked about God through his words, he showed God through his actions, and this resulted in others loving God and living for Him.

  • Who are you living your faith out alongside?

Mission
Paul knew that wherever he went he had been sent by God. For Paul this meant that he saw everywhere he went as his ‘mission field’ and lived out the identity of an ambassador for God. He made it as easy as possible for people to get to know God by spending time getting to know them, going to the places they would go and speaking to them about Jesus in ways they would understand. Paul’s priority was to make Jesus famous everywhere he went.

  • Where has God put you on mission?

The Church
God uses the church for mission and discipleship. The church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas on mission. Through their witness people became Christians and new churches were started. In each of those churches people grew in their faith, this in turn resulted in even more churches being planted and the good news about Jesus spreading even further.

  • How is your church involved in church planting?

‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Matthew 28 v 19 & 20

When life on mission sucks.

‘This blog series is based on one idea from the sermon each week. This week’s blog is written by Pete Rennie. It’s based on the sermon ‘Corinth’ which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/corinth-acts-181-17′

At Living Hope Church, we are passionate about being a family of everyday missionaries. Why? Because the gospel is good news, and good news is to be shared. As Christians we are called to give our lives away so that others might come to know Jesus, and to grow in Jesus. That’s what it means to live on mission.

And sometimes life on mission is exhilarating. You have great conversations with an unbelieving colleague. You see someone believe in Jesus. You walk with your friend as they grow in their relationship with Christ.

But sometimes life on mission sucks. The people you know have no interest whatsoever in Jesus. You are kept at arms length because of your faith. You watch as someone you care for walks away from the church.

There are times when the ups and downs of life on mission takes it toll and it feels more hassle than it’s worth. We question if it’s really worth it? We wonder if there’s really any point? The temptation is to privatise our faith – to keep ourselves, and our faith, to ourselves. So what do we do in those moments?

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In Acts 18, we find Paul in Corinth facing that same issue. He’s travelled over 1500 miles in 18 months. He’s been chased from town to town by a baying mob. He’s arrived, alone, in a city of 250,000 people. When he lives on mission he is rejected yet again; dragged before the Roman tribunal. He’s asking if life on mission is really worth it? He’s tempted to go silent and privatise his faith. I’m sure he was dreaming of finding a quiet, peaceful place where he could make some tents to pay the bills.

But just as Paul is ready to quit, Jesus speaks. When we’re tempted to swap a life on mission for a private faith we need to hear the voice of Jesus. He says two things:

1 – I am with you. 

Jesus encourages Paul to keep on speaking because He is with Him. When Jesus is with us, we don’t need to be silent because we fear other people. As Christians, we have been united with Jesus; by faith, His life is our life, His death is our death. God is fully pleased with us and therefore, we don’t need to privatise our faith because we fear what other people think of us.

2 – I have more people.

Jesus encourages Paul to keep going because He still has other people in Corinth. God is on a mission to gather a people for Himself and that mission isn’t complete. As Christians, we are the agents of that mission. Through us, God is seeking and saving lost people and He still has more to save.

When life on mission sucks, when you’re ready to pack it all in for a quiet life of ease, hear the voice of Jesus saying to you: “I am with you and I have more people, so keep going.”

 

 

 

 

 

Do we really want revival?

The latest ‘Sons of Blunder’ podcast was recorded yesterday; it’ll be released soon. In it, we discuss how to re-evangelise the Highlands and during the conversation the subject of revival came up. It got me thinking, what would revival actually look like? And do we really want it?

What is revival?

JI Packer describes revival as “God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself. It is the God accelerating, intensifying and extending work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life.” Revival is an extraordinary move of God’s Spirit that causes us to pursue God above everything else.

In the Highlands revival is something Christians say they are desperate to see. Previous generations have experienced it; most recently in Lewis in the 1949-1953 but there’s lots of others you can read about in Tom Lennie’s excellent book ‘Glory in the Glens’. For Highland Christians, revival is thought of like the bath after a day in the mountains; the cup of tea on the couch after a long, hard day at work. It’s a time of refreshing on weary people and the truth is we’re tired out, the ground is dry so we want the Lord pour out His Spirit and revive us again.

Everyone seems to want revival but have we ever stopped to considered what it would mean? I can think of 3 things:

1 – Revival means change.

When God’s Spirit falls, people outside of the Church come to faith. The Spirit gives spiritual life to people that don’t have any spiritual life in them. If revival came, people would start asking questions about God, church buildings would be fuller, baptisms would be more regular. But the Spirit isn’t just after converts, He makes disciples, so if revival came our churches would need to teach people to follow Jesus. Just like a family changes when a baby is born, church families change when people are reborn.

So if God brings revival, then our cosy little families would need to change. We’d have to answer ‘How do we disciple all these people?’ Our existing structures wouldn’t be enough to make disciples of lots of new believers. Revival would mean new wineskins for new wine. Our well established home groups would need to be split to make room for more people. Our weekly conversations with the same people would need to be sacrificed to talk to new people. We might even need to let someone else sit in ‘our’ seat. If God’s Spirit moved powerfully today our nice little church would change.

Do you still want revival?

2 – Revival means confession.

When God’s Spirit falls, people confess their sin. The Spirit convicts us of sin and gives us power to repent. If revival came people would become painfully aware of their imperfections and put their trust in Jesus’ perfection. But here’s the thing – the Spirit doesn’t just call people outside the church to repent, He also calls Christians to repent because we’re also sinners.

It’s often said that ‘revival begins with us’ but do we actually think about what that means? If that’s true, then it means that revival begins as we confess our sin and put our trust in Jesus. Revival begins when we become so painfully aware of our rebellion against God that we bring it to light, that let other people see it. Imagine what that would mean? People who have known each other for years revealing the deepest and darkest parts of their hearts. Secret struggles they’ve had for years becoming public. Revival would mean us taking off our masks of respectability. It would mean us rejecting the reputation that we’ve built for ourselves through our achievements. Revival would mean us looking weak and foolish. If God’s Spirit moved powerfully today our morally respectable form of Christianity would disappear.

Do you still want revival?

3 – Revival means mess.

So imagine God heard our prayers and revival broke out. What would it look like? It’d look like a family having loads of babies all at the same time! We’d be trying to work out how to cope – how do we make disciples of all these people? But not only that, it would also mean the people already in the family opening up about secrets they’d never told each other. Imagine all of that going on at the same time!

Revival would be all hands on deck, it’d be thinking on our feet, it would be pure and utter chaos! But as a friend once said to be ‘If you’re going to pray for rain, you’ve got to deal with the mud.’ If God’s Spirit moved powerfully today it’d mean lots and lots of mess.

Do you still want revival?

What do you want?

In the Highlands we all say we want revival. We say that we want the Spirit to fall just like He did in Lewis. We say that we want Him to revive the Church. But when we think about what that means do we really still want it?

Are we really willing to sacrifice our neat, tidy Church structures? Are really we willing to exchange our respectable reputations for foolishness?  Do we really want the hassle of revival?

The real issue behind the question is what do we want most? Do we want God enough to change? Do we want God enough to be honest? Do we want wet mud more than hard ground?

Do we really want revival or are we happy with how things are? If we want it, revival begins with us…