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Letters from the Manse

Words of encouragement from your Minister

Reading between the lines

January 05, 2021

​Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A very Happy New Year to you. I hope that you would know our Lord’s presence and blessing with you this coming year.

I was listening to the news this morning and the presenter said, ‘We are back to where we were.’ He was of course referring to lockdown 3.0 which is much more like the first lockdown last March. Some people are dispirited, demoralised, feeling like there is no hope; others have perhaps settled into this new way of things and are almost numb to the heavier restrictions.

As Christians, we know that we are to look at things from a different perspective. Jonathan Lamb (Minister-at-large for Keswick Ministries) relates the story from a comic strip with the character Charlie Brown. He is pictured reading with a book held up to his eyes, squinting at the pages. Lucy asks him, ‘What are you doing, Charlie Brown?’ He replies, ‘I am reading between the lines.’ Jonathan likens this to what Christians are to do. We know that there is another story, apart from the one that we can see from the human perspective.

In Philippians chapter 1 the Apostle Paul writes of his imprisonment. It seems such a strange providence. He has been called by God to take the Gospel out to the nations. He appears to be an  active man. It would have been so easy to be frustrated with his situation. But Paul ‘reads between the lines’ and knows that His God has different plans for him. In prison he has a captive audience among the soldiers for gospel preaching and some seem to be converted. His imprisonment also emboldens other preachers to be courageous in their evangelism (Philippians 1:12-14). This is God at


In Nehemiah’s day, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and her gates burned by fire (Nehemiah 2:17). It would have been so easy to faint at the sheer task of rebuilding and the fierce opposition that would come against them. Yet, Nehemiah ‘reads between the lines’ and knows that

‘The God of heaven will give us success’ and that the gracious hand of God was upon His people (vv.18, 20). This is God at work.

As Christians, we are to read between the lines as well. By that we mean that we are to see what God is doing through all of this. We know that He is sovereign and is working all things together for the good of His people (Romans 8:28). Perhaps ‘we are back to where we were’ because we haven’t

learned the lessons that God wants us to learn. It is so easy to look on at the nation and condemn ungodly practices, but we also need to look at ourselves in the church. We need to examine our own walks with the Lord and ask Him to search us and see if there be any offensive way in us and lead us in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). We need to ask the Lord to humble us before Him, repent of our sin and restore to us the joy of His salvation.

Come, let us to the Lord our God

With contrite hearts return;

Our God is gracious, nor will leave

The desolate to mourn.

His voice commands the tempest forth,

And stills the stormy wave;

And though His arms be strong to smite,

‘tis also strong to save. 1

This Week

With the new restrictions, churches are again no longer able to have physical services. But we are still allowed to use livestream.

Sunday Services: The morning service will be livestreamed from the church at 11.30am and the evening service at 6.30pm. In the morning we are looking at Daniel 1 (Dare to be a Daniel: Resolving in our Hearts). In the evening we are looking at 1 Peter 4:1-11 (Living as Strangers and Exiles: Living for God). Please do tune into these services. We are thankful that the Word of God can still go out despite the restrictions. Please also read and pray over the passages before hand and follow on in your own bible during the reading.

Mid-week: We continue to meet by Zoom for the prayer meeting on Thursdays. Please see other attachment for the details. The details have changed so please use these new details.


Let us pray confessing our sin to our Father, asking Him to humble us before Him and to have a heart ever more like Jesus.

Pray for those who feel dispirited, demoralised and hopeless, that the light of Jesus would shine and they would know Him as Saviour and Lord.

Pray that our Father would bring to an end our self-confidence (and that of the nation) that we would be a God-dependent people.

Pray for our keyworkers that they might be protected.

Pray for the rolling out of the vaccine.

Warmly in Christ,

Your brother, friend and minister,


"His Mercy is More"

27 July 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I can hardly believe that this is the fifteenth pastoral letter! Who could have thought even at the beginning of the year that we would be at least fifteen weeks of not being able to meet? So many things have changed during the lockdown. We have had new social distancing rules, facemasks to be worn as the norm, restrictions over work and meeting friends and family. Holidays have had to be cancelled, quarantines imposed, hospital treatments cancelled… and the list could go on.

The pandemic has taught us many lessons. One of them is surely the transient nature of our lives here on earth. With all the changes we long for something that is firm, sure and constant. Of course, for those of us who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that that something is actually a someone: our triune God never changes (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8). He always has been, and will always be, the true constant in our lives. He can be relied upon in the midst of all the changes. His Gospel is always good news.

There is a hymn which we listen to a lot in the manse. It is called ‘His Mercy is More’. It is full of wonderful Gospel truth:

What love could remember, no wrongs we have done

Omniscient all-knowing, He counts not their sum

Thrown into a sea, without bottom or shore

Our sins they are many, His mercy is more!

Although our God is all-knowing and knows what sins we will commit even before we have thought of them, He does not count them against us. For those of us who love Jesus, God has cast our sins ‘into a sea, without bottom or shore’. I think this is truly wonderful. Our sins are grave and we cannot pay the debt that we owe to God but in Jesus our sins are thrown into a sea that does not have a bottom: our sins keep on sinking away from us, never to be counted against us again. The sea has no shore: there is nowhere for our sins to land. God will not count them against us again. Jesus paid the price. This is the wonder of the Gospel.

Another verse says:

What riches of kindness, He lavished on us

His blood was the payment, His life was the cost

We stood 'neath a debt, we could never afford

Our sins they are many, His mercy is more!

The reason our sins are cast in the sea (Micah 7:19) is that Jesus paid our sin-debt before God and, through faith in Him, we are clothed in His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), enabled to stand in God’s presence forevermore.

Let’s praise the Lord that His mercy is more than our sins reach. Let’s praise Him that amidst the changes of lockdown, He remains always the same and the constant, solid ground in our lives.

Church Reopening

The Kirk Session met on Friday past to discuss the potential reopening of our building. This is now allowed under the Scottish Government guidelines. We are all eager to met again, in person, to worship together, but we want everyone to remain safe. To ensure safety, there are many steps that need to be followed and procedures put in place. Some of these include: no singing, no Sunday School or creche, 2 metre social distance (families sitting together), a one-way system of entry and exit, and thorough cleaning of the building after use. Due to the size of our building, with the required social distancing measures, space would be limited and we need some time to prepare the building. 

With these things in mind, the Kirk Session have taken the decision not to reopen our building at the moment. We continue to wait on the Lord for the time when we can gather together again. Let’s remember though that the work of the church goes on. Our services continue to be put online on Sundays; Kirk4Kids continues via WhatsApp; a weekly pastoral letter goes out; our prayer meeting devotions also go out online and the elders are in regular contact with people in their pastoral groups.

Please be assured that the Kirk Session and Deacons’ Court are working diligently to get everything in place to reopen as soon as is practical and safe. We are keeping this decision under constant review.

This Week

Remember to tune in to our Sunday service on YouTube. We are in Genesis 43 this Sunday as we continue to look at the life of Joseph.

Please also remember the prayer meeting devotion which goes out on a Thursday. We continue in Philippians, the epistle of joy. Please do make use of these short 10-15 minute devotional videos.

We are also looking for one or two people who would be willing to weed the church driveway. Please speak to Ally if you can help.


  • Pray for the mental health of others in the church, especially as life continues to be far from normal.

  • Pray for the older relatives of those in the congregation who, due to age and illness, are struggling with poor health.

  • Pray that the Summer Activity Bags, that can be collected from outside the church (probably) on Thursday and Friday morning will be well received and successfully share the ‘story behind the rainbow.

  • Cards from the church to be delivered to local businesses encouraging them at this time of reopening. Please pray that these might be used to build positive relationship with the businesses with the Lord and our own congregation. The cards were delivered on Monday.                       

Warmly in Christ,

Your brother, friend and minister,


He’s got the whole world in His hands.

20 July 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Sitting on my desk is a picture that was taken not long after my son was born. He has wrapped his little fingers around one of mine. It brought back to mind the Sunday School chorus, ‘He’s got the whole world in His hands.’ This is a very comforting truth to those of us who believe. The world is such a daunting place at times and the fact that the Lord God Almighty is in control of it means that we have somewhere to turn when things are uncertain or difficult.

The song goes on though ‘He’s got you and me, brother in His hands… He’s got you and me, sister, in His hands.’ While it is comforting to know that our God has the whole world in His hands, even more so is the fact that He has us in His hands. There is a lovely verse in Deuteronomy 33:26-27, ‘There is no-one like the God of Jeshurun [Israel], who rides on the heavens to help you, and on the clouds of His majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’

Even when it seems that the carpet has been taken from under our feet, when it seems like we are falling, those strong arms are there and will catch us. My own personal readings today were in Jeremiah 17. The Lord is warning the people what will happen to them if they will not return to Him. He warns them not to have confidence in their own strength and abilities (verse 5) but ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose confidence is in Him.’ We need constantly as the Lord’s people to remind ourselves of this fact. We are bombarded daily with thinking so contrary to what our God’s word is. We need to go back time and again to His Word and rely not on ourselves but upon Him whose everlasting arms are underneath to bear us up. He can never fail. 

Church Reopening

You may have seen that under the latest Scottish Government guidance churches and other faith groups are able to start meeting again albeit with tight restrictions in place. The Free Church has issued its own guidance in light of this. The Kirk Session and Deacons’ Court aim to meet very soon (later this week or early next) to discuss the way forward for reopening our building.

I’m sure that we are all keen to get back together in fellowship to worship our great God but we want to do so in a way that is as safe as possible. There are many things to consider and to implement before we can reopen our building so it may be some time before we can gather again.

While all this is true, the work of Dunblane Free Church in our Father’s name hasn’t stopped during this time. Our building has been closed but Dunblane Free Church has remained open because we are the church. We will continue to be in regular contact to update you on how these plans are progressing. There will be more clarity after the elders meet.

This Week:

Remember to tune in to our Sunday service on YouTube. We are in Genesis 42 this Sunday as we continue to look at the life of Joseph.

Please also remember the prayer meeting devotion which goes out on a Thursday. We continue in Philippians, the epistle of joy. Please do make use of these short 10-15 minute devotional videos.


Please pray for wisdom for office bearers across the Free Church as they meet to discuss church reopening. There is so much to prayerfully consider and it almost seems that we need the wisdom of Solomon.

This week we remember the congregations of Barvas (Isle of Lewis), Birchwood Church (Prince Edward Island Central Charge), and Dumbarton. Please see email for prayer points.

Warmly in Christ,

Your brother, friend and minister,


God collects all our tears

22 July 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I can hardly believe that it’s time for another pastoral letter!

This week I was thinking about some verse in Psalm 56. King David is in some distress when he was seized by the Philistines. David expresses his trust in the Lord throughout the psalm but is clearly in deep turmoil. He pours out his heart and says something beautiful in verse 8, ‘You record my lament, you put my tears in a bottle and record them in the book.’

This is surely a precious verse. At times, when all we can do is pour out tears, we cannot form the words even to pray, we can be assured that our Father hears even these silent, watery pleadings. Just as a parent will take a handkerchief and wipe tears away from a child’s face, our heavenly Father catches them all in a bottle. Why? So that they can be remembered. They never go unnoticed but are stored up. Our Father loves us so much and sees even our tears as precious.

There is never a needless tear for a day is coming when every tear will be wiped away in the new heavens and new earth. They are also written in His book of providence so that on that day when all wrongs shall be righted, He will restore to us the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). We will enter His presence and spend eternity in worship and praise.

Charles Spurgeon says beautifully on this verse, ‘Each tear contains enough water to float a prayer to God’. Our Father is attentive to our cries and even in our deepest moments of pain when all we can do is cry, He still says to us, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. I will put your tears in a bottle, record them in the book, for I have your best at heart, and the day is coming when there shall be no more tears but infinite pleasures at my right hand forevermore.’

Minister’s Holiday

Starting from Monday 29th June, I will be taking a two-week break. I will be back on Monday 13th July. During this time, the Sunday services will go out as normal but there will be no prayer meeting devotions.

If you are in need of any pastoral care, please contact your district elder.

This Week

Remember to tune in to our Sunday service on YouTube. We are in Genesis 40 this Sunday as we continue to look at the life of Joseph.

Please also remember the prayer meeting devotion which goes out on a Thursday. We continue in Philippians, the epistle of joy.


Please pray for our nation with the protests that the light of the gospel may shine into the darkness. Pray that the Church of Christ will be salt and light.

Let’s make it a priority to ask our Father that this crisis may pass soon.

This week we remember the congregations of Knockbain and Govan (G51).

The Faith Mission are holding a day of prayer on Friday 26th June for the current crisis. It would be good to join in this even for a short time. If you are able to set aside some time on Friday then please remember specifically the current crisis. Pray that our Father would build His Kingdom and Church through this. Pray that many people would be turned to Jesus. Pray for gospel opportunities with family and friends.

Warmly in Christ,

Your brother, friend and minister,


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