Sunday, August 31, 2008

Lord's Day

This morning Harry, Cindy, Ike and I worshipped at St. Columba’s church while Tom preached at the Sandyhills Church. The people were warm and friendly and very willing to try out at least two of Briarwood’s traditions – standing to hear the reading of the word and lifting your hands to receive the benediction.

Harry preached a “brilliant” sermon (“brilliant” meaning “very good”) on Exodus 33 and the wanting the presence of the Lord more than anything else in the world. Moses said that having military victory, economic prosperity, recognized status as a formidable country and more was not enough – he wanted Jesus Himself. He didn’t want any of the other things if He couldn’t have Jesus. Jesus is enough.

Tom just told me an interesting story about the church where he preached. After the service, there was a time for tea and coffee, and a fellow came up and started speaking with him. After an unusual greeting, the fellow told Tom that he was going to New York soon, so Tom encouraged him to visit Redeemer Pres. in Manhattan if he had time. Tom said, “I’m sure you can ask the pastor to get the details of the location for you.” To that, the man replied, “I’m a church visitor.”

Turns out that this man is a member of another local church that was recently closed by the denomination! And amazingly enough, when Tom asked how many people were in the congregation, the fellow replied, “150.” Of course, there’s more to the story there, but this fellow as visiting the church this morning along with 6 other members of the church – the clerk of the session, the church treasurer, the women’s ministry coordinator, etc – this group is the scouting group that’s out visiting churches to find where the 150 will go. Can you say, “Church Revitalization?”

On the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks...

Friday evening we joined the congregation of St. Columba’s at a barbecue on the banks of Loch Lomond. Each person brought his own grill which for some included a full-sized grill from their backyard. For others, it was a one-use grill that basically was an aluminum 9x13” pan that had coals in it and a criss-cross grill on top. You had to light the piece of cardboard at the top and let it warm up. Most folks grilled hamburgers or sausages. We were also introduced to a Scottish soft drink called IrnBru.

Cindy and I rode to the Loch with the pastor’s wife and one of their daughters, and when we arrived, several children and grandfather types were skipping rocks into the loch. After that, the footballs (soccer balls), frisbees and other toys came out. So, there was much running and playing and chatting among the adults. Each family group ate as their dinner got ready, but as it got dark, Pastor David asked Harry to give a short devotion around the flashlight. Harry spoke of our Savior and having a relationship with Him.

After that, everyone packed up and left. The gates of the park had closed, so we all had to climb over the gate to get out. Emma, Pastor David’s daughter wears braces on her legs, so she wasn’t very excited about climbing over the gate. However, after she did it successfully, she made sure that everyone else made it over safely – including Harry.

Watching Emma go over that gate and falling into her strong father’s arms reminded me of my own heavenly Father and the body of Christ around me. Emma saw the challenge and was afraid. It looked too difficult and seemed impossible. Her mother and sister helped her get up on the highest rung where she could kick her leg over the gate. Once she got there, as she lifted her leg, with a little lift from me, I guided it on over the gate. Then she grabbed her father’s neck, and she was able to get her other leg over the gate, and even as she was still coming over, she started laughing as she held her father.

How many times do I come upon a challenge that just plain frightens me and makes me say, “I can’t do it.” But, the Lord brings brothers and sisters to come and help. Some of these helpers are family; folks that I know very well, and others that the Lord uses in my life are people that He puts in my life for that one moment. Then, once I get my eyes off the actual challenge and look up, I finally see my Father with His hands outstretched saying to me, “Come to me – trust me – my arms are strong enough to hold you.”

Praise the Lord for His constant faithfulness to His children.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Day in Edinburgh

Today we had the opportunity to visit Edinburgh since it is only a 45 minute train ride from Glasgow. We were able to walk to the Castle, then down to the Grassmarket where some of our brothers and sisters were martyred because they believed that Christ is the only true head of the church and no man should be the head of the church. We walked some of the Royal Mile - the road in between the palace and the castle, and we visited St. Giles Cathedral, the mother church of Presbyterianism. We also got to see John Knox's home.

We're definitely tired, but Providence shined upon us by giving us a day with no rain even though it was overcast all day.

We're looking forward to being with our brothers and sisters tomorrow. Harry will preach at St. Columba's church, and Tom will preach at Sandyhills Church. Please pray for them both.

Thanks for your prayers!
Carolyn (for the team)

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Finish Line

We're getting ready to finish the last session here at St. Columba's and it has been a wonderful week. From the lectures covering the material, to the small groups, to the discussion round tables concerning revitalization in the Church of Scotland, this has been an enriching and enlightening time with our brothers here in Glasgow and its environs. This afternoon there was a lively discussion on how to revitalize an entire denomination, especially concerning the authority of the Scripture over the church. The pastors and ministers are longing for revival to sweep through their churches and their denominations. It is so clear on their faces and in their hearts, in the words they speak and the prayers they pray.

There are many encouraging signs as well. There is a group of evangelical churches in the East End of Glasgow from which all the pastors have attended the conference. They want to bring Harry back to speak to their congregations and to their sessions to share the vision of revitalization. We have two pastors from Belfast and its environs who have been so excited by the feast of learning the Lord has laid before them. There is a gentleman who is a minster to graduate students at Oxford University who is shepherding the next generation of thinkers and intellectuals. Some of the pastors actually pastor two churches at the same time. But all of them have a passion for the gospel of Christ and for the Church of Scotland.

The course finishes up with discussions of small group ministry and implementation of ministry strategies. Pray for our brothers in Christ as they wrestle with how to apply the scriptural truths and the practical applications discussed in their churches. Many of them are facing up hill battles -- both in their congregations and also in their sessions. One wonderful out flow of this time is that several of the pastors have committed to meeting together to encourage one another every other week. Their wives have discussed beginning a support group of pastors' wives to support each other and encourage their husbands. There are so many exciting things coming out of this one small conference!

John Fairful says, "Thank you, Briarwood, for allowing your Pastor and his team to come over and encourage us in our ministries. It really has been great." The sentiment has been shared among many of the brethren here.

As we get ready to finish the conference, we will be having a barbecue together (British for "cook-out") this evening, a time of fellowship and worship. Many of the pastors will have to go back to their congregations and they will not have the benefit of the next section of the course, Fanning the Flame. Pray for them as they go back to their homes, as they commit to each other, to their denomination, to their families, and to their congregations. We have truly been blessed by being able to service the body of Christ here in Scotland. Pray that the Lord's blessings will be poured out on all of the men here, their ministries and their families.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Are you tired?"

That was my parting question to one of the conference participants at the close of Thursday. "No, this is stimulating," was his response. Then he said, "it's a good tired."

We are encouraged by the response of the participants. One fellow told me that he had not heard about Embers to a Flame until he signed up to take the seminary course, but that it would have been a great loss not to have been exposed to Harry and this material. He was very glad he had come.

Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for the Spirit to fill Harry and the participants as they go over leadership, small groups and the great commitment tomorrow.

Friends Club

Last night, we had the wonderful privilege to join the Friends Club ministry here at St. Columba's church. They meet once a week, but this was the first week back for the fall. How fun it was to see the children see each other again after being on holiday - the smiles and laughter were so contagious!

We started off by singing a song, and then all the mothers went off to have tea and coffee while their children stayed in the group. There were four new children in the group last night, so a couple of their moms stayed to watch.

We first sang several more songs (the Americans were put to shame because we were not participating well enough in the hand motions - which we quickly corrected), then the pastor, whose first born has special needs told a story, then the leader led us in a game of matching pairs, and last everyone was directed to one of three tables to either plant some bulbs, make some banners or ice some cakes. We had to leave at that point to go to dinner, but everyone was set for a good time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Photos - Wednesday

What time do we start?

The first time listed on the conference schedule was Wednesday at 9:00am. So, when asked last night, what time does the conference start, I said, 9:00. However, I never bothered to check and see what it said beside the listing of Wednesday at 9:00. :) Turns out it was registration.

So, we were all here at 9:00 ready to go. All of the folks were here by 9:40, so we went ahead and started.

There are 16 attendees here - Baptists and Presbyterians with the majority of them studying with Highland Theological College. It's a smaller, more intimate setting which will allow for good interaction with Harry and with each other.

By the way, the VERY well written blog post yesterday was by Ike. Maybe by the time it's over we'll have everyone blogging! We'll see.

Photos coming next.

Prayer for Wednesday:
1. Strength and stamina for Harry and the rest of us.
2. The attendees - to quickly connect with Harry and to take advantage of the intimate setting.
3. St. Columba's church - for the members to be encouraged as they serve.

Thanks for praying!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Delayed, but in Scotland

It's a rare occurrence when a Scotsman says to you, as you walk off a plane, "I'm sorry for all the rain." And you can honestly reply to him that it was worse were you came from. It was sprinkling and overcast when we did finally make it out of the airport in Glasgow six hours later than we were supposed to, but we arrived safely and with all our luggage -- always something to be thankful for in this day and age of travel hazards. We even got to have our picture taken and rechecked upon entering and leaving Heathrow airport, testing the new "biometric scanners" for the British government. God plans all things out with reason, though, and Harry had the chance to share Christ with a genetic researcher from Cambridge on the flight we were not supposed to be on. Praise the Lord!

So now we are at St. Columba's Parrish Church, setting everything up for the sixteen pastors who will begin their study tomorrow with Harry on church vitality. The kindness and the friendliness of the the members of St. Columba's has been wonderful, easily offsetting the generic frustrations of dealing with power converters, surge protectors and the general transfer of technology from one country to another. It is amazing, though, to be here and see the tradition of the Covenanteers and the Presbyterian church, to know that God is working and building revival in nation that had so much to do with the codification of our denomination.

Pray for the Harry and Tom tomorrow as they share how the Gospel of Christ impacts church vitaility and revival; pray for the pastors who are present, that the Holy Spirit will work in their hearts and their churches to strengthen and renew their passion for the Gospel. We are so blessed to be a part of Christ's church globally and passionately; we are so blessed that you are reading this and following our progress and praying for us.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I wonder if we'll see some better puddles in Scotland....

Prayer Requests - Monday

1. Please ask the Lord to bring glory to His name through this conference, through us and through our brothers and sisters in Scotland.

2. Please ask King Jesus to build His church as He promised to do. Ask Him to bring revival to Scotland. "Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in You?"

3. Please pray for safe and on-time travel for the group. Leaving Birmingham at 3:55 and arriving in Glasgow at 9:00 am on Tuesday morning.

Bring a raincoat

David White, the pastor of St. Columba's Church has now told me four times to bring a raincoat to Scotland. In one of my first replies about the raincoat, I commented that we had been experiencing a drought for the past several years in our area. "Drought?" His response was, "We think it strange if we have a drought here for a week!"

However, Providence has both gently and forcefully reminded us of what rain looks like as Hurricane Fay has come through the state. With periods of light, steady rainfall to actual torrents coming down, I now remember the experience of rain.

And, yes, I am taking a raincoat.