On Sunday September 11th, 2022, the St John’s congregation celebrated its 150th anniversary (yes, the congregation was formed on September 8th, 1872). To praise God for His faithfulness and blessing upon us, a celebration service was held at which the PCV Moderator, Rev Peter Phillips, preached the message entitled ‘God’s Word for God’s World’ (the theme chosen by the Session for our anniversary year!)
In this message on 1 Samuel 8:1-22, Ryan Smith explores the concept of finding security in the Lord alone from the time the people of Israel went to Samuel to ask them for a king to rule over them. They did this to ‘be like the other nations around them’ and in doing so they earned God’s displeasure, even though He gave them what they asked for! (Sometimes we ask for the wrong things!) It’s a challenge for us in this day of much fear about many things – who do you trust in for your security?
There is no doubt that all through the first four chapters of the book of Daniel, God was dealing with King Nebuchadnezzar – and why wouldn’t He? Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful ruler in the world. In fact you could say, the ruler of the world. So it was no surprise that God should engage with him. And that is just what he did! In Daniel 4:1-37 we find the story of how God brought this king down. Humbled him. Brought him to nothing. It is a salutary tale. One that we should take full note of!
The story of Daniel’s three friends being thrown into the fiery furnace in Daniel 3:1-30 is far, far from being a cute Sunday School story. What a testimony these men had! What courage they displayed! What determination to not give in to the threats of the most powerful King! What faith they had that the true King would be given their full obedience regardless of the outcome! The story is powerful and challenging, reminding us of the full cost that many make in following the Lord Jesus even now.
While far away in exile in Babylon, Daniel 2:1-49 tells us how Daniel and his friends soon faced another test – one not of their own making, but one that the Lord was certainly in. When King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream troubled him and he sought answers about it, Daniel and friends were about to lose their heads. But through earnest prayer and the grace of God, these young men were able to see God come to their aid and actually do more for the advancement of His Kingdom than they might ever have expected!
The book of Daniel is a wonderful encouragement to God’s people because it tells the story of Daniel and his friends, living faithfully before God in the most difficult of circumstances. The exile of these young men of Judah into Babylon was no small test. To be a young man and far from home and the regular worship of God and the means of grace can never be underestimated. And then also, to be placed within the King’s court and palace with new Babylonian names! This would not have been easy. But Daniel 1:1-21, tells us that Daniel and his friends passed the test and in doing so proved that ‘the Lord honours those who honour Him’.
When Jesus spoke to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22, he highlighted the ‘lukewarmness’ of their response to His word. The church there wan’t suffering from persecution or false teaching, but they were mediocre in their walk with Him. Using images that could be found all over this city, including items that the city was famous for, this letter to the church from Jesus was intended to prod and stir these believers into action. Mediocrity is never enough. Hearing his word and obeying is what counts!
In the message to the sixth of the seven churches, we find Jesus speaking in Revelation 3:7-13 to the church in Philadelphia. It is a relatively short letter, much like the letter to the church at Smyrna, that speaks only encouraging words to the church. Apparently the church at Philadelphia was ‘weak’ but this would be no hindrance to their witness – for Jesus himself had set before them an ‘open door’ and promised success with His Word and the promise of their eternal security. This creates both an assurance and a challenge. Will we press on to the end and be faithful with the gospel?
Guest preacher, Rev Stuart Withers (at the time minister of Rochester Presbyterian), preached from three main texts in his message on the importance of prayer (Philippians 1:9-11, Romans 15:30-33 and Colossians 4:2-6) in July 2017. Just as Paul exhorted us to make ‘all kinds of prayers for all the saints’ (Ephesians 6:18), so also in these texts we are reminded that prayer is the key for the encouragement of God’s people, the strengthening of His gospel workers and the means by which unbelievers are brought into the Kingdom of God. Great things happen when God’s people pray!
As part of Christian Union Sunday in April 2017, Steve Blyth from CU preached from Matthew 11:1-15. In this passage, John the Baptist introduces Jesus to the world but is a confused messenger. He asks to check if Jesus is the one we’ve been waiting for and what he has come to do. Jesus reassures him from the Old Testament prophecies concerning himself and commends John’s message as he prepared the way. Yet we now have a greater perspective than even John as we live on the other side of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection. We have the privilege of introducing Jesus to others as we share the hope that we have in him.