November 20th 2016: Ian Jones

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This morning’s worship was led by Ian Jones from Carmarthen Evangelical Church, who preached from Genesis chapter 24, finding a wife for Isaac. This is the longest chapter in Genesis, longer than the chapter on creation, on the fall, on the judgement upon the earth of the flood. Why? Because it is never easy to find a wife! This is especially true for someone like Isaac. She could not be a Canaanite who would lead him astray, she had to be a woman of faith, a woman who believed in the one true God. Where would such a woman be found, when Abraham is the father of the faithful? Abraham speaks to one of his servants, to a man he trusts, to send him back to his family home. We may not know the servant’s name yet let us consider him an example of how we ought to be. He was:

a man of prayer,
a man of high expectations,
a man on a mission and
a man who was successful.

  • A Man of Prayer:

The servant had learned from Abraham how important it is to come to God in prayer. He knew Proverbs 3:6 before it had been written, ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.’ We can imagine him setting up camels to go on a journey, but before he did so he came to God in prayer. He didn’t just pray, he used his own initiative. He went to the city of Nahor, stopping at a well outside the city. There, the servant prayed, ‘O lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham.’ (Genesis 24:12). He came to a place where he would expect to find a suitable woman for Isaac, someone who would be obedient to her family and show kindness and hospitality. He sought God in prayer for guidance. We need to pray and to put things into practice and use our initiative to go ahead. We can be reminded of Paul’s words, ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.’ (Philippians 4:6). The servant prayed to be led to the woman God had chosen for Isaac, the one who would be right in God’s eyes. It is a reminder of the importance of prayer and seeking God’s guidance to lead us, to direct us so His will, will prevail in our lives. Look to God first, always, then He will get the glory.

  • A man of high expectation:

Do we put a cap on our requests when we come to God in prayer? In Charles Dicken’s ‘Oliver Twist’ Oliver was the one who asked for more at a time when it was unheard of to ask for more. How do we view God? Is He able to do the impossible, to do far and beyond what we expect? This servant was a man who wanted clear guidance. He was like Elijah who looked for a woman who would feed him at the house of a woman who had no food in her home. Yet she was the woman God had chosen. Here, the servant wants to ask the woman not only to give him water but he also wants her to offer water for his camels. Camels drink a lot, up to 20 gallons of water per camel. No girl would offer to do this as it would require a few hours of labour. How could it happen? Yet this man had high expectations. Rebekah came. He ran over to her, asked her for a drink and after dinking the water she ran back to the well to feed his camels. This shows great kindness. The servant then asked if he could stay the night at her father’s house. Her response was yes. He knew right then that she was the one and immediately he praised God, ‘The man bowed his head and worshipped the LORD and said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.’’ (Genesis 32:26). How high are our expectations towards God? Do we know He can do the impossible?

  • A man on a mission:

The servant was devoted to service. Before eating with Rebekah’s father he revealed why he was there. Rebekah’s brother and father agreed that Rebekah should return with the servant to be Isaac’s wife. Gifts are exchanged. It seems as if all is settled. Then, the next morning, the servant reveals he is returning to Abraham. This would have surprised Rebekah’s family. Having travelled about 300 miles, they would have expected the servant to stay a few days, especially as they would probably never see Rebekah again, so they would have wanted some time with her before she left. But the servant knew he had to return; a choice has been made whether Rebekah would go or not.

We are here for a purpose. We are only here for a short time to serve Him. We can easily be distracted and forget our purpose – to live for God and proclaim Him. We are to serve God and not get caught up in other things. The servant knew his purpose. Be engaged in the Lord’s service. Use the gifts you have been given.

  • A man who is successful:

The man who puts God first is successful. By the end of the chapter God blessed him in that when Rebekah was asked whether to go or not, she replied favourably. This is amazing! She had never seen the servant before, she had never seen Isaac, yet she is leaving everything to go with a complete stranger. She made her decision quickly. This speaks volumes about our salvation; we see here Isaac is likened to Christ and Rebekah is the bride of Isaac, the bride of Christ.

We can put ourselves in the position of Rebekah. Someone brings good news which needs to be accepted there and then. The offer of salvation comes and we have to make a choice there and then, leaving behind everything we had and knew. This requires the work of the Holy Spirit. When God is at work and people have been praying, things work out for God’s purpose. It’s miraculous! Our own salvation is utterly amazing! Christ is waiting for us, as Isaac waited for Rebekah. We are on that journey now and we will soon see Him in glory. Rebekah is the chosen one, as we are the chosen ones of God. Rebekah was not disappointed, everything was given to her. That’s how it will be with us, when we go home to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, we will never be disappointed.

November 13th 2016: Paul Daniel

Our service was taken by Paul Daniel of Bethal Evangelical Church, Clydach, who preached from Genesis chapter 11.

Paul began by saying we can be thankful for what God has done for us throughout history – for what He has done and where we are going. Paul told us about the Stanford University Prison experiment, in which volunteers took on the role of either prisoner or guard. At the start of the experiment all volunteers took on their expected roles but as the experiment continued it was observed that the ‘guards’ took on shocking roles. History repeats itself; US soldiers were caught carrying out similar torture. These illustrations show that through the generations people are just as bad as they were before.

In Genesis we have the account of the flood, when God looked at the world and all He could see was evil. He was so grieved He wanted to start again by flooding the world to get rid of the evil. He is a just God. Noah and his family were saved. After the flood he and his family were the only ones on the earth. The family grew. We read in chapter 10 that people were living in different places and had different languages (10:4-5, 10:20, 10:31). Yet in chapter 11 they are living together as one. What is going on? Chapter 10 and 11 are not in chronological order.

The bombshell is the people have been spread out into the world in clans, speaking different languages. The reason why this has happened is because God has judges them. The people sinned and God judged. The people have been given a fresh start but even when people have a fresh start they fall again. Sin has always been there since the beginning and will be there until the end.

Let’s have a look at what God sees, ‘And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.’  (Genesis 11:5). He sees the sons of Adam – the same kind of people He saw in Genesis chapter 1.

  • God’s humour looking at the tiny efforts of humankind.

The people wanted to settle in a place called Shinar. They had bricks and tar rather than stone and mortar – sub-standard materials. They wanted to build a tower so high so they could make a name for themselves. It is the same today – people want to build high towers in cities to show their importance. God says,’ Let us go down to have a look,’ as He sees them attempting to build a tower to heaven. The audacity of the people! God, of course, can see what is going on, but the people’s attempts are so feeble. God does not condemn creativity, He has given us gifts to work and to be creative. But we are to give the glory to Him, not ourselves. Here, the people wanted to make a name for themselves. God looks at the tiny effects of humankind and He laughs. What are we building our lives on? They used second rate materials that would not last. What is the number one thing you want to live for? If it isn’t God, it won’t work.

  • God’s judgement – to limit what sin can do.

The people loved praise, they wanted people to see how great they were. They also wanted security. Together, as one people with one language they can accomplish something great, so they won’t be scattered over the face of the earth. ‘Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’ (Genesis 11:4). In Genesis 1 God told Adam and Eve to have children and fill the earth – not to make a name for themselves. Here, the people were disobedient to God so He scatters them and gives them different languages. They were altogether, of one mind, in unity. However. They were judged by God because they loved to praise themselves, to praise their own names and have their own security. They would do anything to protect their own security. History tells us this brings destruction. They were utterly selfish. God sends judgement. However, He sends mercy. He disperses them so they can’t carry out the destruction they might otherwise do.

The purpose of our churches is to go into all the earth and make disciples of every tongue and nation. ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ (Matthew 28:19). This church is for everyone – for all people.

  • God’s Salvation, despite our sin.

People are the same whatever generation. Sin is there when we are born. In chapter 12 we read of the Lord appearing to Abram. God gave Abram a promise to make him great, to bless him and all the nations. ‘And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you name make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2).

 Despite sin, God will do something wonderful – He will bless all the nations. That seed will one day become Jesus Christ who blesses all people. If you confess your sin, God will bless you.

God judges the love of praise and the love of security. You and I all go back to this one point in history. Jesus, who was the one who ought to have been praised and ought to have been secure, was the one who gave it all up, carried the cross and hung humiliated. He has made us secure. The very sins that you and I do are the sins He has paid the penalty for. In the words of the hymn of Charles Wesley,

“The veil is rent in Christ alone;
The living way to heaven is seen;
The middle wall is broken down,
And all mankind may enter in.”

The people were trying to climb to heaven but the only way to get to heaven is through Jesus. The wall, the barrier, is broken down. He is the one who welcomes us in to heaven.

October 30th 2016: Aaron Davies-Whitfield

aaron-oct-2016Our morning worship was led by Aaron Davies-Whitfield who preached from Philippians 2: 25-30. He reminded us of the importance of being faithful to the text.

In this portion of Scripture we read about Epaphroditus, a small yet mighty man, who is also mentioned in Philippians 4:18. That is all we read of him in the Bible. He was the pastor of the church at Philippi. In Acts 16 we read Paul received the Macedonian call in a vision, Paul felt that God wanted him to go to Macedonia, to the chief city, Philippi. It was here where Lydia was greatly saved, the Philippian jailor and his household were saved, the possessed woman was saved. Now we have this wonderful church of which Epaphroditus is pastor. This morning we are going to explore the character, condition and conduct of Epaphroditus.

Epaphroditus’ character:
Although he was mentioned so briefly in the Bible, Epaphroditus was a great man. This should be an encouragement for us; though our name may not be out there, we can still be a great blessing. God always sees. What Paul had to say about Epaphroditus was great. He called him, ‘My brother and companion in labour, and fellow soldier.’ (Philippians 2:25). Anyone who seeks to serve is a soldier. We are called to take up arms, not as extremist religious groups, but through the Word of God. We march with a different banner – the banner of Christ. We don’t march in aggression, we seek to win battles for the Lord, to make the name of Jesus Christ known, ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.’ (Ephesians 6:11). We are in a battle. Up there is our eternal rest, when the final victory of the Lamb will resound from every believers’ mouth. But from down here we must never give up the fight. Hold fast, be resilient. We have an adversary; Peter says we must not be ignorant of his devices, we must not bury our heads in the sand. We march for the gospel – that is the great weapon that will win every fight. There is power in the name of Jesus to conquer every foe and every enemy. Are you on the Lord’s side – a soldier of Christ?

Epaphroditus was Philippi’s messenger. The people of Philippi were the only ones who ministered to Paul, the only ones who provided finances. Give to those who He calls to bless you and in return you’ll be blessed. You must give to the house of faith, to ministers. The people also ministered to Paul in that they sent their love and fellowship to Paul. No church or minister is an island. We need to agree on the gospel, on evangelistic truth. There must be unity, even though we have differences. As churches we must come together, putting aside our disagreements and come together for the greater cause of the gospel. Epaphroditus had a wonderful character – caring and loving. We need to be loving towards pastors, even if we disagree and have fallouts we must love one another. Being a minister of God is not a career, it’s a calling, a gracious gift.  It’s a choice God makes for you. It’s important that those who God calls are faithful and love the church.

Epaphroditus’ Condition:
Epaphroditus was in a poor condition, ‘For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him, and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.’ (Phillipians 2: 26-27). This is a delicate issue. Here, Epaphroditus was healed by God. It’s important to notice Epaphroditus was sick, yet he was faithful and following the Lord.

We are in fallen bodies, in a fallen world where sickness abounds. One day we will have glorious bodies. Sickness is a result of sin, but not personal sin. There is a strong teaching that healing and miracles have passed away. But, as we see here, healing is not just a sign for unbelievers. God has mercy on Epaphroditus. ‘Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray. Is any merry? Let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven.’ (James 5: 13-15).

Do we pray for people to be healed? We must not let our experiences dictate our theology. Just because we are not seeing miracles or healings does not mean that God is not able to heal. God is sovereign. He can heal – the Bible says so. Does He always heal? No. There are times when God won’t heal but we still pray. Never limit God to your understanding. We need to raise our spiritual temperature and see more of the power of the Holy Ghost, we need to believe and call upon the Lord. God is all powerful and can do all things as we are reminded in Acts 4:29 and again in Acts 6:8, ‘And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.’

Ultimately, God had mercy on Epaphroditus. He was healing not just to establish the gospel but because God was merciful, He cares. Even if He does not heal you, He will uphold you. God wants to see His church rise and see a wonderful moving of His Spirit and impart power to His people. Never limit God, He is able to do all things. Epaphroditus was sick, but God had mercy on him. Sometimes, God allows these things. Paul had a thorn in the flesh. God can use these things because it makes us homesick; we are to long for a better place, a better city, where there’s no sickness, no sorrow, no heartache, where all tears will be wiped away and we will be like Jesus. Everything here is temporary.

Epaphroditus’ Conduct:

Epaphroditus was sold out for the Lord. Strive for the Lord. He will rewards the labours of His people. ‘And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.’ (Galations 6:9)