Saturday, March 27, 2021

Changes this weekend

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Quite a few changes are expected this weekend! There are routine ones like the clocks going an hour forward to British Summer Time, bringing the prospect of more daylight hours in the evening, and warmer ones too.


Then there’s the one most of us have been looking forward to, when we can meet again for our church services. We’ll be starting again in the Gospel Hall here this Sunday in a limited way, but then hope to be able to open up more freely again soon for more people. But that will depend on the Covid situation throughout our countries, as people mixing more with each other can push up infections. I think it’s still ‘go slowly and cautiously, a step at a time’.


We would like to hope and believe that lockdowns will soon be a thing of the past. The first lockdown a year ago brought the biggest change any of us had ever seen in every aspect of our lives, and all over the world. We could hardly believe it at first, hardly knew how we would cope with those awkward restrictions so that we could stay safe, but we have got through what has been a very difficult year. It may be, however, that some changes will be permanent, or at least long lasting. Some changes for the better will maybe come with us into the future, for I think during the year we have learned to value even more some of the really important things in life.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Lockdown Loneliness

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I read the following comment in the ‘The Guardian’ newspaper quite a while ago - ‘The dilemma, I’m 22 years old and going into my fourth year in medical school. I have been using study to escape loneliness, insecurity and anxiety that arose from the stress of the course and my failure to establish friends’.

Another person wrote in The Telegraph, “‘Life looks good on the surface - so why are we all so lonely?  ‘But you can’t be lonely,’ a friend tells me crossly. ‘You’re out  every night.’ The backhanded compliment makes me laugh. But it also makes me sad. On paper, my life sounds glamorous. Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger’” These are the comments of a high profile journalist who looks as if she is living the high life but most certainly doesn’t feel as if she is.

Please bear in mind that these statements were made before the COVID crisis hit us - how much more painful will life be for these people now.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Modern Manners!


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“Put your mobile phone away during meals, never eat on the train, and remember that reclining your aeroplane seat is selfish”. So says DeBrett’s Handbook of Modern Manners. They’ve been dispensing advice on etiquette for 250 years, and the latest edition includes protocols for smartphones and e-cigarettes. 

Memorising their rules should enable anyone of us to avoid causing offence in any setting.

On the other end of the spectrum is Russell Brand’s book "Revolution". With a total disdain for the establishment, manners are the last thing on his mind as his approach is to raise big questions and rattle the status quo. Each of these two books represents a very different ethos, either fitting in impeccably with society or shaking things up for a revolution.


Friday, March 19, 2021

Do you feel let down?

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At some point in our lives, I am sure that we have all felt let down by someone or other, or even felt that feeling of total betrayal. This is because of human nature; we all have the ability to act selfishly. When we put ourselves above others, it has the potential to cause others hurt. When we experience this, we can, in a small way, begin to understand how God feels when we sin and let Him down. When you think that all humans have sinned and sin is against God, how much hurt must God feel at our actions, thoughts and words?


Monday, March 15, 2021

Singing our way out of Lockdown!


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Our Singing


Who would have thought that the last year would pass so quickly? At first, we wondered how we would cope with all those restrictions for so long, but here we are. And now we are being promised some gradual moves towards “normality”, but old fashioned “normal” may never return, or not for a long time yet.


Among the more normal things, we would love to see soon would be the opportunity to meet with our Christian brothers and sisters in proper church gatherings, to remember our Lord, to listen to His Word, to pray together, to sing again in harmony or unison. At least we try to do that, but maybe in future, our singing will have to be a bit more subdued because they are telling us that sometimes singing can spread things like viruses! We’re not there yet, so meantime, we can listen to messages of hope and cheer online. And we all can, and we all should keep reading our Bibles and praying every day. As an old Sunday School song says:


Read your Bible, pray every day ...  and you’ll grow, grow, grow!


You may remember the other verse, which is:


I will make you fishers of men ... if you follow Me!


In our reading and praying, we communicate with the Lord, one to one, but what about our singing? It’s great to sing along with others, but what if you can’t do that just now? Can we sing to ourselves? Some people speak to themselves, and that’s OK sometimes. Ephesians 5.19 tells us that both speaking to yourself and singing to yourself is a good thing: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” The inspired words in the Psalms, and the beautiful words of hymn-writers, are often the very words we need to express how we feel some days or lift our hearts in appreciation and worship to God at any time. We know that the Lord hears and appreciates it, for He says, “Whoever offers praise, glorifies me,” Psalm 50.23.


When other people hear us singing, it can have an effect on them. When Paul and Silas were in prison in Philippi (for preaching the Gospel), they “prayed and sang praises to God” – at midnight! We might have thought that wasn’t a good time to sing and not a good place to be singing, especially after they had been beaten up by the jailor. But they were singing, and we read that the prisoners in that jail were listening to them.


God got the praise, and others got the blessing, for as you read this story in Acts 16.19-34, you are reminded that the jailor, who also must have heard them, came and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” And the great answers was and still is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”


Looking back, I seem to remember that years ago, many Christians went about singing a lot more than we do now – in the house, at their work, on the land, and on the sea! We have more recorded music and singing to listen to nowadays, and that’s good sometimes. But let’s not forget to sing for ourselves, maybe along with the recordings if you are enjoying it! You never know who is listening! God certainly is, but perhaps someone else will get a blessing too.


So, what about this one?


I will sing of my Redeemer.

And His wondrous love to me!

On the cruel cross, He suffered.

From the curse to set me free!


Sing, oh sing ... of my Redeemer,

With His blood He purchased me.

On the cross, He sealed my pardon

Paid my debt and made me free!


[Philipp Bliss, 1838-1876]





Written by Bert Cargill, St Monans and used by kind permission


Sunday, March 14, 2021



Photos courtesy of Unsplash



A year ago, this weekend was the last time we had our normal services in the Gospel Hall – it’s maybe an unhappy anniversary!  Most anniversaries celebrate life’s happy events, including Mothers’ Day just now. But it’s not all joy to look back to the beginning of a year that has been so difficult for so many people.

From August to December after the first lockdown, we enjoyed a bit of respite, but the past two months have been more difficult again. Although we won’t celebrate looking back, we can hope this might be the beginning of better days ahead.


At this stage, we are encouraged to balance hope with caution –

·       hope that the number of Covid infections will continue to fall, but caution because the numbers are still very high;

·       hope because the number of vaccinations continues to rise, but caution because the virus has the nasty ability to change;

·       hope that restrictions will be relaxed for all the kinds of things we have enjoyed doing, but caution because transmission of the virus is so easy;

·       hope that everyone will get the message about caution but caution because we know people can ignore it and be selfish.


The Bible has this advice about selfishness, for it’s something we all have to guard against: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2.4). Notice the word “also”. It’s not that we are to neglect our own affairs, but we haven’t to become so absorbed in these that we have no room or time for others. There are examples in the Bible of people who got the balance right and others who got it badly wrong. Can you think of some of each type? Why not email me some answers! It would be lovely to hear from you!


The supreme example of living unselfishly for others (and also dying for others) is, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 2.5-8 describes how He who was so great and glorious in heaven came to earth to die on a cross for you and me. Another verse reminds us that “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8.9). The riches, of course, are spiritual ones, not material ones. Salvation from sin and its consequences is more important than prosperity and luxury.


Zacchaeus found this one day - read about him in Luke 19.1-10. Did you ever sing this one, maybe in Sunday School?


A certain man of whom we read,

Who lived in days of old,

Though he was rich, he felt his need

Of something more than gold.

Oh yes, my friend, there’s something more,

There’s something more than gold!

To know your sins are all forgiven.

Is better far than gold!


This springtime anniversary weekend also brings the cheer of lengthening daylight hours, flowers coming into bloom, a bit of warmth in the air. We are reminded of God’s sure promise recorded away back in Genesis 8.22, and we realise that what the old German hymn says is so true –


All good gifts around us

Are sent from heaven above;

Then thank the Lord,

Oh, thank the Lord,

For all His love.


[Matthias Claudius, 1740-1815]


Written and used by permission of Bert Cargill of the Gospel Hall, St Monans



Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Barriers to coming to God

All photos courtesy of Unsplash 

Many things in life are barriers; we might find that our lack of skills or qualifications can be a barrier to work progression. Maybe an incident has happened in life that makes it difficult to be friends with someone; a barrier exists.

After God gave the 10 commandments to Moses, the people agreed to keep them; however, before Moses could return from Mount Sinai's summit, the Israelites had broken at least one of the commandments by worshipping a golden calf instead of the true God. Their sin became a barrier between them and God.

They failed to live up to God’s standards, so He stated that they should bring a sacrifice to Him when they sinned.

Monday, March 08, 2021

An open letter - please read!


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This is a letter that I wrote nearly ten years ago. The point I was making is just as relevant now as it was then. Thanks for reading this.

Dear John,

Notebook – The Independent 26.5.2010

My imagination was engaged as I started to read your piece on ‘The Bible Society’s debt to Arthur C Clarke?’ You had obviously carried out some good research about the Bible Society and highlighted some key statistics that would be very interesting to many people. I was then amazed that you chose to so violently misrepresent the teaching of the very book that the society has spent so long translating and making available to the world. For example, you chose to ignore that the Bible and Christianity have developed more education programs, opened more hospitals and changed more societies for good than the current world atheistic belief has ever done. Societies that have been successful (in theory) in establishing an atheistic state have generally produced as corrupt societies as capitalist ones but have neither been ultimately successful nor survived in the long run. All of this, however, only looks at the outcomes of the opposing world views without actually discussing the views' validity or plausibility.

Consider for a moment the genuineness of the biblical documents; you call them ‘stories, myths, legends etc. I would have imagined that a man of your intelligence would accept the validity and historicity of the Bible. Even Professor Dawkins accepts the validity of the record and recommends that every child should read it (“Richard Dawkins, the atheist author of The God Delusion, believes that children should grow up reading the Bible”. The Times May 10th 2007) even though he does not like what it says. The biblical record has been consistently proven to be accurate in terms of history and archaeology and even in the realm of science. However, the modern scientific world view is split between evolutionary belief and the biblical record of Creation (see The Genesis Enigma: Why The Bible Is Scientifically Accurate by Dr Andrew Parker, published by Doubleday). In terms of the New Testament record, especially regarding the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth and the claims to his resurrection, there is clear evidence and logic that it speaks the truth even if many do not wish to follow through with the logical question that ‘if this actually happened what does it mean for me?’ Many clever people have attempted to discredit and disprove the historical accuracy of the account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ but have been persuaded by the evidence that he must have risen from the dead (A couple of examples come to mind; see the end of the letter for details). How individuals respond to that information is up to them, but I believe that the evidence is there to be found.

As far as the conclusions you come to regarding the Old Testament, I understand your concerns and the issues you have with what seems to be the severity of the God of the Bible. I am unsure if you have read the whole biblical record and sought to understand the complete picture before coming to a conclusion. A careful analysis of the Bible will show that among many things, God is both holy (just, righteous, morally pure) and loving. One characteristic does not cancel out the other; in fact, his goodness and love of what is right demands that he deals justly with acts of sin and wrongdoing. Where people assume that God is acting out of order, a careful analysis of the facts will persuade them that he was acting to maintain what is right. If a judge in our times was confronted with evil behaviour, child abuse, rape and a whole range of anti-social behaviour that was illegal and detrimental to the good of society, we would not question his ‘goodness’ when he passed sentence and enforced a punishment that met the severity of the crimes. But when facing the examples of God’s judgment on nations that practised the very same activities, we question his goodness because he acts justly and righteously to deal with behaviour that breaks his laws and damages society. I am not sure if we are being consistent in our approach to the issues.

Ultimately God has revealed Himself in the Bible and is warning us that we are in danger of his coming justice and judgment due to our moral defection and sin (all of us). He had made provision for us all to flee from his coming judgement through the sacrifice of His own dear Son, Jesus. His offer to clear the legal case against us and offer us pardon, forgiveness and salvation is still on the table. That doesn’t sound like a vengeful, demanding, capricious, homophobic, merciless and tyrannical God to me.

I am requesting that you print this letter in ‘The Independent’, in full, without amendment and editing. Hopefully, the result will be that people can see that there is an alternative argument to the one you put forward and can decide for themselves where the truth lies.

With thoughtful and kind regards,

Stephen G Baker

The note referred to examples of legal minds who disproved the resurrection and were convinced that it must be true – this is a limited list; there are many more examples.

Dr Greenleaf, Royal Professor of Law at Harvard University, was one of the greatest legal minds that ever lived. He wrote the famous legal volume entitled, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, considered by many the greatest legal volume ever written. Dr Simon Greenleaf believed the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was a hoax. And he determined, once and for all, to expose the "myth" of the Resurrection. After thoroughly examining the evidence for the resurrection — Dr Greenleaf came to the exact opposite conclusion! He wrote a book entitled, An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice. In which he emphatically stated:

"it was IMPOSSIBLE that the apostles could have persisted in affirming the truths they had narrated, had not JESUS CHRIST ACTUALLY RISEN FROM THE DEAD, . . ."
(Simon Greenleaf, An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice, p.29).

Greenleaf concluded that according to the jurisdiction of legal evidence, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the best-supported event in all of history!

And not only that, Dr Greenleaf was so convinced by the overwhelming evidence, he committed his life to Jesus Christ!).

Dr Benjamin Gilbert-West and Lord Littleton were from Cambridge. So fed up with Christianity, they wanted to destroy it; they took a leave of absence to study and write a book to refute both the resurrection and Saul of Tarsus's conversion. As a result of their study, they too became ardent believers and wrote: "Reject not, until you have examined the evidence."

Dr Frank Morrison, a lawyer and engineer, was brought up in a rationalistic background. He liked Jesus but thought the resurrection was a myth that was tacked on. He, too, wanted to write a book to refute it, but he, like the others, committed his life to Christ in the process of writing. His findings are in the book "Who Moved the Stone"?


Saturday, March 06, 2021

Where will you be in 2029?

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The Office for National Statistics states that the UK population will reach 70 million by 2029. Every year we are told that 425,000 more people will be living here, the equivalent of a city the size of Bristol. 

What will our country be like in 2029? Will there be room for cars on the road? Will we have the countryside? Will our cities be more polluted? What about jobs? Will it still be an ageing population? What about cultural diversity; what will it mean to be British? Questions which we really cannot answer!

I will be 68 if I am alive in 2029. Have you thought about what age you will be, where you might be and what you could be doing? Now that sounds like a good line for selling life insurance - well, I am not selling, but I am making you aware of reality. None of us knows where we will be in 2029. Our circumstances could have changed beyond recognition. 


What's the worst-case scenario? Well, you say I could be dead! Morbid, maybe; possible, sadly yes.

May I tell you how I feel? Much as I do not particularly want to die, it is not the worst-case scenario for me. For when I die, I am going straight to heaven. 

How do you know you say? To quote the old children's chorus - 'the bible tells me so'. 

After Jesus Christ had died on the cross, he rose again. Eventually, he returned to heaven from where He came. On numerous occasions, such as, John.17.24, the Lord Jesus taught that those who believe in Him (trust and depend on Him for eternal life) on earth will go to be with Him in heaven when they die. Other New Testament books teach this as well, such as Philippians chapter 1 verse 23. That's what I am looking forward to. 

What about you? You go one of two places; the bible also teaches that. You can be sure of heaven! It could be true for you as well, 'the Bible tells me so'.


Friday, March 05, 2021

The joy of a newborn!

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There is great joy when a baby is born. I remember the birth of our two boys very well. Our eldest was born six weeks early, and number two was born on his agreed due date. I have got to admit that I shed tears of joy at both births. 

We chose not to find out the gender of our boys, so we waited patiently for their birth. In recent years, many people decide to say “Yes, please”, in response to the question, “Would you like to know if you are having a boy or a girl?” They then may have gone on to hold a gender reveal party. 

News from an expectant couple is good news. It is usually shared after the 12 weeks scan. Good news spreads fast with family and friends being told via text, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or a good, old-fashioned phone call. A birthday is a happy day with a great deal of shared celebration. Names would have been discussed, and a nursery made ready. 

The prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus some 700 years before His actual birth: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.“ Fast forward to the New Testament where Luke tells us of a young teen, Mary, who was visited by an angel who told her, “…you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest…”

There was no scan and no need to discuss names. Both were shared with Mary. She then spoke with Joseph, to whom she was betrothed. To be betrothed meant engaged to be married. Joseph wanted to end this arrangement privately to not embarrass her because the baby was not his, but enter another angel to reassure him that God was at work. In due course, the baby boy was born, and He was given the name Jesus. So, what is so special about this birth? It is His name, Jesus, Saviour.  

Having spoken about birth, Jesus introduced the phrase ‘born again’ as he chatted with a ruler of the Jews called Nicodemus one night. Jesus said: “…unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 

Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ” 

He was thinking physically, but Jesus was emphasizing the spiritual side of life. Have you experienced this second birth? Do you have a day in your life’s experience when you were born into God’s family? For me, it was on Tuesday, August 10th, 1982, in a farmer’s field in Llangennith. 

Please remember that God has always promoted family life. Adam and Eve were encouraged to multiply. Paul told the early church that mums, dads and children were to respect each other and live in line with God’s values. Today’s message has been about birth and, more importantly, new birth, which is having a relationship with God. I have two birthdays: a natural birth-day and a second spiritual birthday. I hope you do too!

Messages with Meaning (05/03/21), Written by Nigel Binding for Your542Day 

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