The Perfect Helper

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Have you ever found yourself “in over your head”? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were utterly convinced of your inability to do something?

In my life, the examples where this has been the case have been numerous. One example I can give you is from a couple of years ago when I decided to build a wooden deck for my cottage, which is north of Kingston, Ontario.

I had participated in deck-building in the past and understood, for the most part, what was required. What I doubted, however, was that I could adequately build the deck on my own. This deck needed to be safe for children and it needed to meet the decorative expectations of wife. To this end, I resolved to get help. I enlisted the help of a friend, an engineer, who was experienced in building stable foundations and had helped me build decks in the past.

Before engaging in any part of the work, I made sure that my friend was nearby to keep me from making any critical errors. I could not have built this deck properly if I had been left alone. And my confidence in doing the work was entirely bound up in the accompanying presence of my friend.

I share this illustration with you because in the text before us this morning, Jesus is addressing the anxiety His disciples were feeling as they anticipated carrying on the ministry without the accompanying presence of Jesus. The opening words of this chapter mark Jesus’ desire to encourage them, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

From this statement we learn at least two things. First of all, we learn that followers of Jesus are not immune from having troubled hearts. Our tendency, if we lack someone alongside us, is to fret. If no one is looking out for our well-being, our temptation is to be fearful.

The second thing we learn from Jesus in this verse is that the antidote for our troubled hearts is bound up in our relationship to Jesus Christ. While we concede that anxiety may befall a Christian, I submit to you that anxiety need not master the Christian. Anxiety need not be the constant companion of the Christian. “Let not your hearts be troubled” Jesus says, “believe in God, believe also in Me.

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Born Again

Below is the sermon audio & the sermon notes of Bryn MacPhail. “What It Means To Be Born Again”, based on John 3:1-16, was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk on January 30, 2011.

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I don’t mean to be unkind when I say that the message of Jesus that is often presented in our day is a watered down version.

How do I know this? As I speak with people, I note that very few people today are startled by Jesus. Very few people seem bothered by Jesus.

And yet, the collective response to Jesus and His message two thousand years ago was very different.

Jesus upset a great many people when He spoke. And this was the usual response to His preaching.

On one occasion, the listening multitude attempted to throw Jesus over a cliff (Lk. 4:28-30).

On at least two occasions those who heard Jesus’ message attempted to stone him to death (Jn. 8:59; 10:31).

And, on countless occasions, the religious leaders sought to have Jesus arrested because of what He was teaching.

I can assure you, the hymn ‘What A Friend We Have In Jesus’ was not a Temple favourite.

As we move through the Gospel of John, I want to encourage you to seriously think through what you believe about Jesus and His message, and where these beliefs came from.

It may be the case, that we too have been worshipping a somewhat domesticated Jesus, rather than the Jesus of the Bible.

As you reacquaint yourself with the Jesus of the Bible, what you will undoubtedly notice is that the claims of Jesus do not amount to a pool of ethical counsel.

Nor could we say that Jesus’ message is that of a cheerleader, where He simply shouts to His followers, ‘keep up the good work.’

People don’t stone cheerleaders.

Teachers who encourage others to ‘keep up the good work’ are typically not in danger of being thrown off a cliff.

If we earnestly engage the Jesus of the Bible, I expect that the claims of Jesus will likely challenge both our worldview and our lifestyle to the very core.

And I submit to you that if you take these claims seriously, a response of indifference will be impossible.

One possibility is that you will be bothered by the words of Jesus—one possibility is that the Jesus of the Bible will offend you.

Another possibility (the one I’m hoping for), is that having better understood Jesus’ claim on your life, you will renew your commitment to follow Him and your affection to love Him.

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Receive Power

Below are the sermon notes of Bryn MacPhail. “Receive Power”, based on Acts 1:1-8, was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk on September 5, 2010.


In the Book of Acts, we are given glimpses into the life of the Early Church. We get to see their habits, their challenges, their fears, and their joys.

I think that there is much for us to learn from observing the 1st Century Church, and so for the next 10 Sundays, we will be gleaning The Book of Acts for some principles that will help us live faithfully as a congregation in the 21st Century.

By way of introduction, I want to draw your attention to name given to this book of the Bible: The Acts of the Apostles. I find this title to be somewhat misleading. Most of the apostles are never heard of in this book. There are, at most, 3 or 4 who play a prominent role in Luke’s recording of early church history.

What we find instead is that the constant in this book is the Holy Spirit. What we find is that behind the prayers, behind the preaching, behind the efforts of those 1st Century Christians is the powerful movements of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

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Be Led By Another

Since the launch of standrewskirk.com I have neglected to post my audio messages on this blog. I’ve decided to correct that and to post the audio messages on each site. By posting them here also, I can include a brief introduction to the message……

On July 11, I delivered a message entitled, “Be Led By The Spirit”, based on Romans 8:5-16. The key point is simple: Our thoughts, words, and actions are to be governed by another. We should not live our life according to our instincts or our preferences. As followers of Jesus, we ought to be led by the Spirit of Jesus, in order to be conformed to the will of God.

Conformity to God’s will is not our default position. Nor is this something we come to by following our “gut feelings”. We are conformed to God’s will as we make a choice to live according to God’s Spirit. According to Paul, this is also our “obligation” (Romans 8:12) and provides evidence that we have been truly redeemed and are indeed “Sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

Soul satisfaction comes when we choose to be led by the Spirit of Christ. That is my daily struggle and pursuit. Moreover, I want to be led by the Spirit of Christ so that I can be an effective servant for my Heavenly Father’s kingdom. I want that for you too. Have a listen, and choose to be led by another.

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Dreaming Big In Nassau

On Sunday, June 6, I was inducted as the Pastor of St. Andrew’s Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas. This past Sunday, June 13, was my first Sunday in the pulpit as the pastor here. If June 6 was a day of celebration, then June 13 was a day of dreaming. I invited the congregation here to dream with me about what we could become as a congregation.

Our passage was Ephesians chapter 3. Here we are reminded that the Christian Church is part and parcel of God’s grand, cosmic, eternal plan to renovate, heal, and redeem this troubled world of ours. We are reminded that while Christ is present by His Spirit, He is currently absent in His resurrection body. As such, God’s design is for the Church to be the conduit through which Christ continues to function in a physical environment.

This implications of this for God’s people are massive. If we believe that Christ can make a difference in this world, then we are compelled to believe that we can make a difference in this world. But, here’s the key: The Church cannot function on behalf of Christ unless it is connected to Christ.

The call upon the Church then is not simply to try hard. The call is not simply to “do the right thing”. The call is to be entirely animated by another. The call is to be willing conduits for the power of Christ.

What then might we expect? I love how the apostle Paul closes the chapter:

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20, 21)

If Paul had said that God is able to do all that we ask or imagine, we would want to highlight this verse. But he does not say this—he says God is able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”!

To put it another way, God is not limited by our modest expectations. He is not handicapped by my puny imagination.

Believing this, I want to dream big about what God might do in Nassau through the conduit of St. Andrew’s Kirk.

Last Sunday was a special day for me as I began my preaching ministry here. I got the distinct sense that I was not alone in my dreaming. As I looked out into the congregation, I could sense others dreaming as well. It was then my privilege to declare to the people here that we worship a God who can deliver beyond our wildest dreams.

What a joy! What an opportunity we have. I want to encourage you to dream big about what God can accomplish through willing conduits. I want you to dream big about what God might accomplish today, this week, this year—through you.

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You can listen to the message “Beyond Your Wildest Dreams” by clicking below.

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