Our First Baptism.

Grahame had never been to a church service before last September. Invited by a friend, he arrived at Living Hope Church with no idea what to expect. He walked out as soon as the first song began, I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t see him again. 2 minutes later he returned from the toilet! After the service, I asked what he thought “I’ve never been to church before but I really enjoyed it, I’ll be back next week.” He did come back and has been with us almost every Sunday since.

Over the last 10 months, God has done some incredible work in Grahame’s life. He has gone through a Christianity Explored course, he has asked question after question, he has worked through some big issues in his life. And on Saturday, the man who was a self-professed atheist a year ago is getting baptised in the freezing water of Loch Ness to, in his own words, “show my love and dedication to Jesus Christ.”

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We planted Living Hope Church so that people like Grahame, who have never heard about Jesus, might have the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel. This is our first baptism, but our prayer is that there will be many, many more to come.

If you want to join us as we hear and celebrate what Jesus has done in Grahame’s life we are gathering on Dores Beach at 6pm. There’ll be a BBQ and bonfire after the baptism.

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Joy in Friendship.

‘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 Friendship’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-friendship’

Joy in Friendship

The word ‘friend’ is one which means different things to different people. Young people tend to have lots of ‘friends’, however with a lack of depth of relationship. Older people on the other hand tend to have less friends but with a greater depth of relationship.

Studies show that the world is more connected than it has ever been before, you can pick up your phone and be in contact with someone instantly. However, this connectedness has said to have led to us to being the loneliest generation ever. Therefore, it is important to look at what the biblical understanding of friendship is and we will do that through looking at Philippians 2.

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Five marks of friendship

1 – Pursued: We see this through Paul in that he sends Timothy to the Philippians in order that he would be able to hear news about his friends. This isn’t a one-way thing; the Philippians reciprocate Pauls pursuit of friendship by having sent Epaphroditus to Paul with food and money.

2 – Serving: This is demonstrated in that Timothy has served with Paul in the Gospel, he has put Christ’s interests above his own. Service in friendship is helping others to be made new and become more like Jesus, being about their joy and not just their happiness.

3 – Satisfying: The longing which Epahproditus has for the Philippians shows that the friendship which he has with them is satisfying. Deep resilient friendship is demonstrated in this longing which we see here.

4 – Sacrifices: Paul is in prison, he doesn’t know if he will live or die, but instead of being about himself and wanting to keep Epaphroditus around him to assure him and know the closeness of his brother he sends Epharoditus back to the Philippians because it would be better for them. He sacrifices the comfortability of having his friend around in order that the Philippians would rejoice in seeing their friend.

5 – Demonstrated: The Philippians are called to show their appreciation of their friend Epaphroditus by having joy in seeing him. They were to honour him and show them why they appreciate his friendship, probably done through providing and caring for him.

These five marks of friendship are crucial to having deep meaningful friendships, however it is not enough to merely look at the hallmarks of a biblical friendship but to look at the Gospel motivation for these.

Jesus is our example, He is the perfect friend who has demonstrated each of these hallmarks;
1 – He pursued us in that he came from heaven to earth, He comes after us even when we run from Him.
2 – He served us perfectly in that he took the form of a servant and humbled himself by looking to our interest and not his own. He humbled himself to death, even death on a the cross.
3 – The God-man Jesus is the one whom truly satisfies us, He is our true satisfaction.
4 – Jesus laid down his life willingly so that we could live, He sacrificed His life.
5 – He demonstrates this friendship in that when we were still sinners He died for us.

Therefore, how are we applying these principles of friendship? This week it would be great to see us put some of these into practice and perhaps pursue that friend we haven’t spoken to in a while, do something for your friend, sacrifice time for them and demonstrate to them that their friendship is important…go on be un-British for once and show emotion!

Joy in Obedience.

‘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 ‘Joy in Obedience’ which you can download here: https://soundcloud.com/livinghopeinverness/joy-in-obedience’

Where is the the joy?

‘People killing, people dying, children hurt, and you hear them crying.

Father, father, father help us, send some guidance from above.’

I’ve heard this song a few times in light of the recent terrorist attacks. It’s easy to feel hopeless and useless and scared. But these lyrics and our sermon from Philippians have got me thinking about how the church is supposed to respond ‘in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.’

Joy in obedience

Obedience is a word that feels restrictive and oppressive. It isn’t a word we normally associate with freedom, satisfaction or joy. Imagine telling a 3 year old that it’s bedtime-it’s hard to imagine their joy in obeying this request!

But when Paul talks about obedience in Philippians 2 he explains that obedience is only possible with the Holy Spirits help, it’s a natural overflow of the love we have for Christ and ultimately results in us becoming more like Jesus. The more we love Christ, the more we obey Him (with the help of the Holy Spirit) the more we are transformed in to His likeness.

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So how does this bring us joy? Or how does it bring anyone else joy in the ‘midst of a twisted and crooked generation?’

Firstly, when we show off Christ through how we obey Him, we have joy because we’re living as God created us to live. Becoming more like Christ brings us true and lasting joy both now and in eternity. When we see Christ for who He really is, we see what joy is – not just happiness, but rather full contentment, complete comfort and lasting freedom.

Secondly, when we show off Christ through how we obey Him, others see how attractive and good He is. As we obey we ‘shine as lights in the world’ and point others towards the true joy that is found in Christ. How amazing to think that, through our obedience, we can show off Jesus to those who are scared, to those who are angry and to those who are evil. 

God has given us great guidance as to how we, the church, can help those suffering around us and how we can find joy in such difficult circumstances. It’s as the Spirit helps us to to obey that we can have, and share, joy.

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.