Archive for the ‘Bellshill’ Category

In the run up to Christmas each year millions of pounds are spent on gifts. So in the last few weeks I, like many of you will have started to think about what gifts to buy my family and friends for Christmas this year. So out of curiosity I wondered how much on average we spend on Christmas presents each year, in the UK. It turns out that the figure varies dramatically depending on who you ask or where you look, but the average seems to range from between £350 to just under £1000!

Whether we are planning on spending anything like those amounts of money on gifts this year, or our budget is much less, the gifts we buy can still be fantastic and memorable for the receiver.

The most meaningful presents we receive might not come wrapped in shiny paper or frilly ribbons. They are often the ones that lift your spirit, brighten your day or trigger your imagination or memories. So I wonder what was the most memorable or best gift you have ever received for Christmas?

I decided to ask some of friends what was the best gift they ever received for Christmas. Here’s some of the answers I got.

  1. I would say for me it has to be between the laptop I got last year or the ps4 I got two years ago.
  2. I was given a gift bag filled with little stuff (a cd, stud earrings, a little book etc) that probably wasn’t worth much to anyone else. But each gift had a little post it note explaining why they’d brought that or what it was about the thing that had made them think of me. It was so thoughtful and made me feel special.
  3. A Levi red tab denim jacket I got when I was 12.  We didn’t buy or wear “things that had labels”. I remember sleeping in it in case my parents decided to return it. We also didn’t have masses of money and I had an idea that it must have been quite expensive. Honestly, best present ever – I still have it and I’m now 40! My nieces now fight over who gets to wear it as it’s now ‘vintage’.
  4. The huge big teddy bear I got when I was 7 – it was almost bigger than me – I still have him.
  5. A few years ago in my last job I had a really tough year because of a serious health problem but carried on working when I could. When I was in the office some of the guys would put bits of paper on my desk with positive quotes, and I loved that. Then that Christmas, one of them sent me a Happy Box – It’s a box containing lots of bits of paper with lots of positive quotes. So now whenever I am feeling low, I just open the box and take out one of the. And yes, it’s not solving my health problems but at least I always end up with a smile on my face.

Have you thought of the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

The real message of Christmas is not the gifts that we give to each other. Instead it is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each of us, the gift of Jesus. There is one final ‘best gift’ story from a friends that I want to share with you

  • My mother-in-law gave my family a stocking with the name “JESUS” written across it. Each year on Christmas morning my family writes a letter to Jesus and puts it into the stocking.
  • This is a tradition my husband and his family have been doing since he was little. They have yet to open and read any of these letters, but they are a constant reminder each year as we begin to decorate our tree and wrap our presents, that the greatest gift we have is Jesus.
  • This gift has guaranteed my family will take time to focus on the Lord during the festive season.

I was really touched this – the way they start each festive season by focusing on Jesus is such a great way to ensure they never forget the reason we celebrate Christmas.

2 Corinthians 9:15 (TPT)

Praise God for his astonishing gift, which is far too great for words!

The best Christmas gift we will ever receive isn’t a gift someone placed under a Christmas tree for us, but was a gift of great sacrifice, the best gift from God, of His Son, Jesus Christ, who came into this world in the simplest and humblest of surroundings.

Romans 6:23 (NIV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 5:11 (NIV)

This is the true testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life has its source in his Son.

This year as we look forward to opening the gifts we’ve received from our friends and family on Christmas morning, remember that no matter how great or meaningful those gifts may be, they will never be comparable to the best gift we can ever receive – God’s gift to us of his Son. So next time you’re asked what the greatest gift you’ve ever received is, I hope like me your answer is

‘Tis the Lord, O wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord, the King of glory;
at his feet, we humbly fall,
crown him, crown him Lord of all!

Christmas!

Having got to the start of December and feeling as if it couldn’t possibly be less than four weeks until Christmas, I am now beginning to feel as if Christmas isn’t too far away!

As many of you will know I’m a member of the Salvation Army – I attend the Bellshill Salvation Army and am a member of the band. So now we’re into December our Christmas carolling and other Christmas engagements are now in full swing.

So guess who has now got Christmas carols, and arrangements of band Christmas pieces going round their head every day now? Yes, that’ll be me!

There’s a couple of pieces in particular that I keep thinking about, but it’s Mary Did you Know? that has  particularly touched me this year. Here’s Pentatonix singing this beautiful song.

It’s my turn to provide the devotions at our band practice tonight, so I thought I’d share will you what I will be sharing with the band tonight…

How are you at remembering significant dates in your life?

We all have significant dates in our lives that we mark each year because they were times of great happiness or celebration or because when they happened, they caused us great sadness.

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about significant dates that have changed my life, probably because in the last few weeks I’ve had a few of those dates, and there are others in the coming weeks also

  • Early August was my birthday..
  • Then just a couple of weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.
  • The end of last week marked 4 years since my Mum died.
  • And amazingly, in a few weeks time, that will be one year since I had life saving heart surgery to fix one of the issues I’ve lived with all my life.

Yes, I’ve marked, or will mark each of those significant dates I’ve just mentioned, in some way. But do I pay as much attention to those significant dates in my Christian journey?

I have to be honest and say, the only exact date I can remember in my Christian journey, is the day I made my decision to become senior soldier as it was on my 18th birthday! I was really disappointed that I couldn’t remember the date I first knelt at the mercy seat or the date I was enrolled as a senior soldier, both at Rutherglen Salvation Army. So much so that I found myself last week looking for the Articles of War I signed on the day I was made a senior soldier, and I found it, and that anniversary is in just a few weeks!

We each celebrate or mark the important dates in our life and many of us shared those anniversaries with our friends on social media. So my question to each of you tonight is, do you put the same importance into celebrating or marking the significant dates in your Christian life as you do, other life events?

Do you remember the date on which you first gave my heart to Jesus?

Or the exact date you were enrolled as a senior soldier?

Romans 1:1 (The Passion Translation)

Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvellous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.

God has promised to love us always and that in itself is a reason to celebrate isn’t it. I believe I’m one of the fortunate ones as I’ve had that significant moment in my lives I accepted God into my life, and promised to serve Him until the end. So I will mark those important dates in my life, but I will also celebrate God’s love for me each day. After all I hadn’t accepted God into my heart, who knows where I would be today! And where else would I want to be on a Wednesday night, than at band practice! 🙂

 

Here’s a favourite piece of mine which features the tune associated with there words which for me, sum up one of the most significant moments in my Christian life

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If Thou wilt be my Guide.

I must admit, after writing yesterday’s blog post in the middle of last week, I’ve struggled to get any inspiration for today’s or the rest of this week’s blog posts…that is until yesterday!

Yesterday morning at church, we were treated to a beautiful vocal solo by Olwyn Mathie which reminded us that even when it seems to constantly raining in our lives, God is with us, and will soon turn our rain to sunshine.

Last week was not only a week of very wet and rainy weather for us, but also one where I felt that the rain in my life was never going to end. So Olwyn’s solo was the reminder I needed, that even when life is tough, the sunshine is not far away when we trust God.

I pray that whatever difficulties you may be facing just now, you too will be reminded that God is always with us and so the sunshine is not far away when we trust Him.

Let the Holy Spirit come over you now
As the healing rain falls from the clouds
There is nothing you can do to deserve it
You don’t have to earn His love
Let the rain fall from above
Merciful rain falls over the children
Merciful rain falls over the children
Merciful rain falls over the children of God
Over the children of God
Merciful rain falls
See the Holy Dove descending over you now
Feel the Living Water cleansing your soul
In the name of Jesus you have been forgiven
You have been redeemed forever
Fix your eyes on Heaven

Man seems to have been fascinated by the future for a long time, we just need to look back at the numerous movies that have been made over the years, all set in a world imagined to be ‘the future’.

  • 1984
  • 2001: A space odyssey
  • Alien
  • Avatar
  • Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure
  • I, Robot
  • Intersellar
  • Lost in space
  • Planet of the apes
  • Etc…

Some of those films were set in a time that is actually now in the past. E.g. 1984. I think it’s fair to say the film version of the future has never really turned out to be particularly accurate, has it!

I know a few people who visit psychics to find out a little of what their future holds for them. I don’t know about you, but I know I wouldn’t want to know what lies ahead for me.

At a member of the Salvation Army, a Salvationist, I made promises to God to serve him not just today and tomorrow, but in our future days. I always seem to end up with the words of a particular song going through my mind when I think about the promises I’ve made to God.

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If Thou wilt be my Guide.

This song doesn’t just remind me my promises, but as it was a special song to some of my family, it remind me that they made those same promises to God, and they did keep them in their future, right ‘to the end’.

Our future is not just about us keep our promises to God, but Him also keeping his promises to us, as that’s where we get our reassurance that no matter what we face God is with us:

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Isaiah 41:10 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

As you’ve probably gathered I’ve been thinking a lot about the future, and have prayed  that I will stay true to God no matter what the future holds for me. There will be times of great joy ahead, but also some challenging times too, but I know I can face them with confidence if I remember these words:

There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages
He is Jesus, Jesus
—JESUS—

Then many of the Jewish leaders who heard him say these things began believing him to be the Messiah. Jesus said to them, “You are truly my disciples if you live as I tell you to, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:31-32 TLB

This was the bible verses listed as ‘Verse of the day’ on BibleGateway.com on Monday of this week. So why am I telling you this? On Sunday at our corps (church) it was our Vision and Commitment Sunday. During which we were asked to make a new commitment to be God’s disciple, and Monday’s verse of the day fitted perfectly with the discipleship promise we made on Sunday:

N.B. Although the photo above shows I’ve not signed my commitment, I have signed a copy of this commitment.

I made a public commitment to serve God all life a number of years ago, when I was commissioned as a senior soldier at Rutherglen Salvation Army. During that service, the singing company (junior choir) sang a song which I choose as it was special to me, Lord, Thou Art Questioning.

I’ve committed to be God’s disciple every day and in all I do, have you?

Here’s a beautiful band arrangement of that song. I’ve listed the words of the song below also so you can follow them.

Lord, thou art questioning: Lovest thou me?

Yea, Lord, thou knowest, my answer must be;

But since love’s value is proved by love’s test,

Jesus, I’ll give thee the dearest and best.

Chorus

All in my heart, Lord, thou canst read;

Master, thou knowest I love thee indeed.

Ask what thou wilt my devotion to test,

I will surrender the dearest and best.

How couldst thou smile on me if, in my heart,

I were unwilling from treasures to part?

Since my redemption cost thee such a price,

Utmost surrender alone will suffice.

Down at thy feet all my fears I let go,

Back on thy strength all my weakness I throw;

Lord, in my life thou shalt have thine own way,

Speak but the word, and thy child will obey.

If I were to ask you if in your family you have any Christmas traditions you uphold each year, what would your answers be?

  • Spending a day Christmas shopping with your friends or family
  • Putting up the Christmas tree
  • Decorating the house
  • Giving gifts to family and friends
  • Spending quality time with family on Christmas Day
  • Eating turkey and generally  over-eating!
  • Attending a carol service

In our house, we have a tradition of starting our Christmas season by sitting down and watching one of our favourite Christmas films. For the last few years it’s been the same film watched, as it has become my husband’s favourite, and that is the film Elf!

I’m sure if we went round the room we’d find we all consider a lot of different films to be our favourites and that shouldn’t surprise us as there are hundreds to choose from with new films being release each year. Never mind all the classic Christmas films which I’m sure we’ve all watched a few times.

When I was considering about what I’d share with you tonight, I got thinking about what Christmas would have been like if that very first Christmas never happened. And this turned my thoughts to my Mum’s favourite Christmas film, the classic, It’s A Wonderful Life.

James Stewart plays George Bailey who along with his uncle, has inherited the Bailey Brothers’ Building and Loan, saving it from takeover by the banker. He builds affordable housing for local residents, again annoying his local business rival. Then a few years later on Christmas Eve, George’s uncle misplaces the $8000 that was due to be paid to the bank for the building and loan, meaning George knows he will probably go to jail. So on that snowy night he heads out in desperation, uncertain what to do, and gets drunk and into a fight. Wishing he had never been born, he  comes to a bridge and considers committing suicide.

But then, instead of committing suicide he finds himself ‘rescuing’ Clarence Oddbody from the water. We discover Clarence is an angel, and so when George tells him he wishes he’d never been born, Clarence grants his wish to see what the world would have looked like if he never been born.

Through the rest of the film we discover that George’s life has had a significant impact on his family, friends and community, and had he never been born, other people’s lives would have been worse.

So what would life be like if Jesus had never been born? What if the first Christmas never happened? No baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger; No shepherds being told by an angel that Christ had been born; No wise men following a star to a stable to give their gifts to baby Jesus.

I found this quote from Frederick Buechner which describes the impact the birth of Jesus has had on this world:

It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, wherever, however it did … for millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.

Have you considered the impact Jesus has had on your life? Would your life have been different is Jesus had not been born?

John 1:1-2 (Living Bible)

Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it.

At this time of year it can be so easy to get caught up in our Christmas traditions, and forget why we actually celebrate Christmas. But we need to remember who Christmas is about:

Who is he in yonder stall at whose feet the shepherds fall?

I pray that this year as you celebrate Christmas, you not only continue your Christmas traditions, but you remember the impact Jesus has had on your life, as you celebrate the birth of Jesus:

‘Tis the Lord, O wondrous story!

‘Tis the Lord, the King of glory;

at his feet, we humbly fall,

crown him, crown him Lord of all!

Last night I was at Hamilton Salvation Army with Bellshill Band and I and after the ladies voices sang In This Very Room I shared the following thoughts before the band played one of my favourite pieces Procession to Covenant.

In this very room there’s quite enough love for one like me.

In this very room there’s quite enough love for all the world.

Who or what do you think about when someone mentions the word love?

Do you think about romance, dating, marriage or those closest to you – your husband/wife, children, your parents or your siblings – Maybe you think about close friends or your church family or maybe past relationships which have broken down or family or friends who have passed away.

When you love someone you never want to let them go, or say a final farewell to them. God is no different to that as he never wants to let us go, even when we turn away from him. Even when we’re facing difficult events in our lives, God promises to hold us and love us forever.

O love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul in thee;

I give thee back the life I owe,

that in thine ocean depths its flow

may richer, fuller be.

The writer of these words George Matheson, born in 1842, wrote these words when he faced a very dark time in his life. Matheson began losing his eyesight from an early age, and by the time he was 17 was almost completely blind. Despite this he was ordained as a minister in the church of Scotland and hoped to become a writer of biblical theology, but because of his failing eye sight he was never able to fully achieve all he had hoped to. He suffered further when engaged to be married, as his fiancée suddenly broke off their engagement citing his illness (his blindness) as the reason for the breakup. Despite feeling abandoned by his fiancée, Matheson was able to go on and become a successful preacher thanks to the care and support provided by his sister.

Unfortunately, further heartbreak came his way later in his life when his carer and helper, his sister got married, leaving him feeling abandoned once again. It was then, on the night of his sister’s wedding, Matheson tells of being alone in his home and then feeling as if the words of the beautiful and intensely moving hymn, O Love that will not let me go being dictated to him by God.

The words of the song assure us right from the start that no matter what the circumstance of life we find ourselves coping with – we are held by a Love that will not let me go – a love in which our weary souls can rest.

God will not let us go, least of all when we are suffering because God knows what that means – and the Cross is there to prove it. In the search for healing or resolutions to life’s problems, we do not always find an immediate cure for an illness or an immediate sense of purpose which moves us out of despair. However in those times we must hold onto faith and hope because when we seek His strength we findreassurance that our lives will become richer and fuller, through his healing.

Jeremiah 31 (NIV)

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love! And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again

O love that wilt not let me go…

Every year at this time of year we hear the word “belief” mentioned a lot, but sadly it’s more often than not in relation to Santa, than about Christ. I find it very sad that so many in this world have never known the true love of Christ for themselves. If ever I need a remind of what God needs and wants me to do in my life, to tell other about Him and His love for us, this is the reminder I need.

In the last few weeks when I’ve been out at various Christmas events with Bellshill Salvation Army Band, I’ve been challenged each time one of our band, Daniel McMillan, has song the beautiful song, I Believe. It challenges us to ask ourselves, “What do you believe?“. I’m glad to say, I believe in Christmas, and more than that, I believe in Christ, the Saviour of the world.

What do you believe?

In the last few weeks in our band practice we’ve been practicing Martin Cordner’s Fusion. The following description of this music is taken from CordnerMusic.com

Fusion is a follow-on work to Escape Velocity (2010) and seeks to capture the sense of the celebration that arises when a believer arrives in heaven and is finally joined in eternal fellowship with God. In depicting this event the work links General Albert Orsborn’s song I know thee who thou art (SASB 59) with Chris Rice’s contemporary hymn Come to Jesus.

It’s a great piece of music to listen to, and to play, and for me while playing it in these last few weeks, I’ve found the tune of the middle section Come to Jesus, going round and round in my head. I must admit I couldn’t remember the name or the words of the song, so had to go the Martin’s website to remind myself of the words of the beautiful song Come to Jesus:

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden’s lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we fall…so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

I love the words of this song as it takes us through various life events, birth and death, as well as various emotions and situations we encounter during our time here on earth, such as when we seek and find Christ for the first time, when we’re urged to Come to Jesus and live, and when we are lonely and told to Cry to Jesus and live.

Here’s Chris Rice, the composer of Come to Jesus, performing this beautiful song: