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The Death of Herod in Acts 12

Herod’s Death

Morning Worship at Ballymacashon Old Reformed Church.

Opening Prayer.

Praise,    Psalm  126. (Tune:  Denfield)

1 When Zion’s bondage God turned back, as men that dreamed were we.
2 Then filled with laughter was our mouth, our tongue with melody:

They ‘mong the heathen said, The Lord – great things for them hath wrought
3 The Lord hath done great things for us, whence joy to us is brought.

4 As streams of water in the south, our bondage, Lord, recall
5 Who sow in tears, a reaping time of joy enjoy they shall.

6 That man who, bearing precious seed, in going forth doth mourn,
He doubtless, bringing back his sheaves rejoicing shall return.

(Sottish Metrical Psalms) Read more…

Catechism Class, LD37 The Swearing of Oaths

The Swearing of Oaths

H/C LD37 Q101-102

In this short lesson we look at legal oaths – the kind of oath you would take in court, or before a lawyer, or at a wedding, before a minister or registrar.   Before we think about this subject let’s see what the catechism says, and read some Bible passages.

H/C. Q101 But may we swear an oath by the name of God in a godly manner?

A. Yes, when the government demands it of its subjects, or when necessity requires it, in order to maintain and promote fidelity and truth, to God’s glory and for our neighbour’s good. Such oath-taking is based on God’s Word and was therefore rightly used by saints in the Old and the New Testament.

Q.102 May we also swear by saints or other creatures?

A. No.  A lawful oath is a calling upon God, who alone knows the heart, to bear witness to the truth, and to punish me if I swear falsely. No creature is worthy of such honour.

READ: Matthew 5:34-37.  Romans 1:9   James 5:12  

Here’s an ethical dilemma to think about.  In 1997 I was involved in a road traffic accident, at one of those awful mini-roundabouts, where no-one seems to know who has the right or way.  I approached the roundabout and looked right.  I saw a car approaching, but it looked a long way off, so I proceeded slowly onto the roundabout.  What I didn’t properly estimate was the speed of the other vehicle.  Driven by two notorious local ‘rascals’ (for want of a better word), their car drove straight over the pimple on the road, (not around it as it should have done) and did some damage to the front of my vehicle.  No-one was injured at the time – after all the two boys pushed their car off the scene and into a side street before the police could arrive, but strangely, a few days later they both developed whip lash and sore backs, and although the police didn’t consider it worth an investigation or prosecution, they demanded compensation, and it went to a civil court. 

On the day of the hearing I met a barrister, hired by my insurance company, who asked what I wanted to settle the case.  I replied, “Nothing – I wasn’t hurt.”  “Ok, but your opponents in this case are claiming they were, so you’ll have to appear as a witness.”  “Fine,” I replied, “But I want to affirm, rather than take an oath.”  The barrister was shocked and was sure that it would look suspicious to the judge that a minister wouldn’t swear before Almighty God to promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  “Why” he asked, “I’ll just make you look guilty?”  I quoted Matthew 5:34-37.   In the eyes of the barrister, I had cost him the case.  We had surrendered.  The plaintiffs – the rascals were awarded compensation, and I walked away with £600, to cover my insurance excess and a week’s lost work.  My insurance company was less than happy. 

Now, what would YOU have done?  And with hindsight, and a better understanding of reformed doctrine, what would I do if that situation arose now?  Let’s think about this ethical challenge, as we listen to the words of Psalm 63

Psalm 63 (Tune: Crasselius)

1 O God, you are my God alone; I seek your face with eagerness.
My soul and body thirst for you In this dry, weary wilderness.

2 I’ve seen you in your holy place; Your power and glory held my gaze.
Far better is your love than life, And so my lips will sing your praise.

4 I’ll bless you, Lord, throughout my life And raise my hands to you in prayer.
5 My joyful lips will sing your praise; My soul is fed with richest fare.

6 Upon my bed I lie awake And in my thoughts remember you;
I meditate throughout the night And keep your constant love in view.

7 Because you are my help alone, In shadow of your wings I’ll sing.
8 You hold me up with your right hand; To you, O God, my soul will cling

(Sing Psalms)

Read more…

Amazed by Grace! Acts 12v11-19

Amazed by Grace

Morning Service at Ballymacashon, Lord’s Day,  9th August 2020

Opening Prayer.

Praise,    Psalm  55:3-8. (Tune:  St Flavian)

3 I’m troubled by the voice of foes,
by their malicious stare;
For they bring suffering to me—
their hatred I must bear.

4 Within me anguish grips my heart;
death’s terrors have come near.
5 I tremble and am terrified;
I’m overwhelmed by fear.

6 “O that I, like a dove, had wings!
Then I would fly away
7 And be at rest; I’d flee from here
and in the desert stay.

8 “Then would I to my hiding-place
for refuge take my flight,
Far from the raging of the storm
and from the tempest’s might.”

(Sing Psalms)


Bible Reading.   Acts 12:11-19 Read more…

Catechism Class, LD36, ‘Blessed is the Name of the Lord’

Catechism Class, Lord’s Day 36. 

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

In this lesson we are going to look at the Catechist’s instructions on the Third Commandment. Let’s read the commandment itself first, and then the Catechism…   Exodus 20:7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

H/C LD36 

Q99. What is required in the third commandment?

We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. Rather, we must use the holy name of God only with fear and reverence, so that we may rightly confess him, call upon him, and praise him in all our words and works. 

Q100.  Is the blaspheming of God’s name by swearing and cursing such a grievous sin that God is angry also with those who do not prevent and forbid it as much as they can?

Certainly, for no sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than the blaspheming of his name. That is why he commanded it to be punished with death.

Those are weighty words indeed.  Let’s take a few moments to meditate upon them, as we listen to Psalm 8 (Tune: Richmond), where the psalmist reminds us of how glorious God’s name is… 

In all the earth, O LORD our Lord, how glorious is your name!
For you have set above the heavens, your glory and your fame.

2 From infants and from children’s lips. you ordered praise to sound,
To silence all your enemies, the wicked to confound.

3 When I regard the heavens you made, your finger’s work I trace;
I see the moon and shining stars which you have set in place.

4 I ask myself, What then is man that you should give him thought
The son of man, that you to him such gracious care have brought?

5 You made him little less than those who dwell in heaven above,
And you have crowned and honoured him with glory and with love.

6 You gave him charge of all the works created by your hand,
And everything that you had made you gave him to command.

7,8 All flocks and herds, and birds and fish, all beasts both wild and tame.
9 In all the earth, O LORD our Lord, how glorious is your name!

(Sing Psalms – Free Church of Scotland)

Read more…

The Great Escape! Acts 12:6-11

The Great Escape

Morning Service at Ballymacashon – Lord’s Day,  2nd August 2020

Opening Prayer.

Praise,    Psalm  126 (Tune Brother James’ Air)

1 When Zion’s fortunes God restored,
it was a dream come true.
2 Our mouths were then with laughter filled,
our tongues with songs anew.

The nations said, “The LORD has done
great things for Israel.”
3 The LORD did mighty things for us,
and joy our hearts knew well.

4 Restore our fortunes, gracious LORD,
like streams in desert soil.
5 A joyful harvest will reward
the weeping sower’s toil.

6 The man who, bearing seed to sow, 
goes out with tears of grief, 
Will come again with songs of joy, 
bearing his harvest sheaf.

(Sing Psalms)

Bible Reading.   Acts 12:7-11



Peter, in a humanly impossible situation, is about to be delivered, – not by any human intervention, by a powerful sovereign work of God.  God, in his mercy, the God who is Almighty, hears the prayers of the church, and sends an angel, and sets Peter free from his imprisonment.


 It’s an exciting and amazing story, the Lord himself reaching down into the depths of human darkness and bringing deliverance. So, let’s look at this incident, and see if we can get some understanding of the sovereign deliverance of God.  

Read more…

Catechism Class – H/C LD35B, The Use and Misuse of Art.

Use and Misuse of Imagery and Art

H/C LD35B, Q97-98

We have looked the meaning of the second commandment, as taught by the catechist, and learned that this commandment of the first table of the Law is about how we worship God, – that we’re not to make any image or representation of God, nor worship Him in any way that he has not specifically commanded in His Word. To complete our look at Lords Day 35, we have two further questions and answers to consider.


Before we begin though, read Isaiah 40:18-31 and note down how the prophet Isaiah compares the greatness of God with the pathetic worthlessness of the idols made by man hands.  He says, “To whom then will you liken God?  Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” The question is rhetorical.  There is nothing that can compare with Almighty God, – no image, no idol, no statue. Read more…





Morning Service at Ballymacashon

Lord’s Day,  26th July 2020

 Opening Prayer.

Praise,    Psalm  142 (Tune Myfanwy)

I cry for mercy to the LORD; To him I lift my voice in prayer.
2 Before the LORD I bring my plea; To him my trouble I declare.
3 Each time my spirit faints in me, You are the one who knows my way; 
For in the path on which I walk A hidden snare for me they lay.

4 Look to my right hand and take note: There is not one concerned for me.
I have no refuge; no one cares For me in my adversity.
5 I cry aloud to you, O LORD: “You are my hiding place in strife. 
You are the one sustaining me; You keep me in the land of life.”

6 LORD, listen to my cry for help, For I am in extremity.
Save me from those who seek my life, Because they are too strong for me.
7 So that I may give thanks to you, From prison’s darkness set me free. 
The righteous then will gather round, Because you’ve shown your love to me.)


Acts 12:1-6

There are two main characters in chapter twelve, someone called ‘Herod the King’ and the Apostle Peter. 



To understand what’s going on, we need to do just a little historical research…    Read more…

Catechism Class – LD35A, Q96 How to Worship God

Catechism Class – H/C LD35A, Q96

How (NOT?) to Worship God!

Text. Exodus 20:4.   

In our last lesson we looked at the sin of idolatry – dealing with the true object of our worship. But there is a serious danger that idolatry can enter into our worship, and render our worship unacceptable to God.  There is no better to place to see this that Sinai itself.  While Moses was on the mountain meeting with God, receiving these very commandments, the people of Israel, his own covenant people, the slaves who had been set free by an act of God’s grace alone, were busy melting down their jewellery to build for themselves an idol, a golden calf, which they would then bow down to and worship. This incident would cause the divine wrath of God to be executed upon these ungrateful and shameful people.  Exodus 32:33  

Psalm 81:11-16, (Tune Stuttgart)

11 But my people would not listen, would not do what I required.
12 So I gave them up to follow, what their stubborn hearts desired.

13 If my people would but heed me, Isr’el follow my command,
14 I would soon subdue their en’mies, and against them turn my hand.

15 Those who hate the LORD would cower, and their doom would never end.16 But with finest wheat I’d feed you, honey from the rock I’d send.

(Sing Psalms)

Read more…

The Name of Shame! Acts 11:26

The Name of Shame!





Opening Prayer.

Praise,    Psalm  31:1-5. (Tune: Consolation)

1 In thee, O Lord, I put my trust, shamed let me never be;

According to thy righteousness do thou deliver me.


2 Bow down thine ear to me, with speed send me deliverance:

To save me, my strong rock be thou, and my house of defense.


3 Because thou art my rock, and thee I for my fortress take;

Therefore do thou me lead and guide, ev’n for thine own name’s sake.


4 And since thou art my strength, therefore pull me out of the net,

Which they in subtlety for me so privily have set.


5 Into thine hands I do commit my sp’rit: for thou art he,

O thou, Jehovah, God of truth, that hast redeemèd me.

(Scottish Metrical Psalms) 

Bible Reading: Acts 11:19-30


Acts 11:26

Have you noticed that the name ‘Christian’ has almost become a pejorative term – like a bad word of recent days Maybe not just in recent days too. Some people will actually hate you just for being a Christian – for following Jesus!  No surprise there of course.

  • Historically this has always been the case.  The hatred and persecution of Christians began just as soon as the church began.  Acts 9:1 reminds us that even after the first Christian martyr had given his life for Christ, Saul was still breathing out threats and slaughter against the church.  That was on behalf of the Jews, but the Romans were no better.  They hated the Christians, described them as ‘atheists’ because they wouldn’t bow down to the cult of the emperor, slandered them and persecuted them.
  • Geographically it’s so too. The church extends throughout the whole world.  The hatred and persecution of Christians was not just confined to the old Roman Empire.  All over the world, wherever there are believers that want to walk with Christ and seek to obey him, there will be those who will want to torture them, vilify them and make life as awkward as possible for them.
  • Politically.  The political lobbies that want to lower our moral standards, to destroy the family, to murder unborn babies and so on all recognise that the Bible, and Christianity stands in their way – that’s why there are so many attacks on the church.  Overt attacks in the media for example.  
  • Biblically.  Jesus warned us this would happen in  Matthew 10:21-23  

So in our text we have the very first instance of the followers of Jesus being referred to as ‘Christians.’  And it wasn’t a compliment! Read more…

Catechism Class – LD34C The Value of the Soul

Catechism Class: LD34C The Value of the Soul


Text. Mark 8:35-37   


What does the LORD require in the first commandment?

That for the sake of my very salvation I avoid and flee all idolatry, witchcraft, superstition, and prayer to saints or to other creatures. Further, that I rightly come to know the only true God, trust in him alone, submit to him with all humility and patience, expect all good from him only, and love, fear, and honour him with all my heart.

In short, that I forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against his will.


Tine to take account – What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own sou?

We  remain with Lord’s Day 34B for this short lesson, for I have been greatly concerned by the solemnity with which the Catechist begins his answer to Q94.  He implies the importance of the human soul, its value, and the danger that it might be lost forever.  It is for the sake of our very salvation that we must flee from idolatry and come to known God through a saving relationship with Jesus.  

Read more…