September 29th 2019: John Funnell

John Funnell-sept19Luke 19:1-10

Winter is coming. Christmas is near. Some people love Christmas. We all know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I haven’t read the book, but have seen the film. To me, Ebenezer Scrooge is Michael Caine! He was a wealthy, yet tight-fisted man. He treated Bob Cratchit and his family very badly. Through various ghostly and spiritual influences, Scrooge miraculously turns into a wonderful philanthropist. Everyone is happy. It’s a classic tale.

Many people see this story as quite similar to the story of Zacchaeus. Jesus turns a wealthy tax collector into a nice, generous person who gives half of what he earns to the poor. However, such a simplistic interpretation doesn’t do it justice. It limits us to read it as part of the crowd, who see Zacchaeus as a known sinner (verse 7). Once Jesus gets involved he becomes a generous Christian.

Viewing this story from the perspective of the crowd is limiting. Step back from the crowd and stop being simply a spectator. What truly matters is the viewpoint of Jesus, looking at this through Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus ignores the crowd. They swarm around Him yet He goes straight for the man in the tree. Why Zacchaeus? Dr. Luke provides us with many clues why. The crowds ‘pressed onto Jesus’. Why? Because they had heard God in flesh was there. To them, Jesus was an A-Lister celebrity. Zacchaeus was one of the people who wanted to see Jesus. Yet he had a problem; he was too short and couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd. His view is blocked. The detail of him being short didn’t need to be added. There must be a reason Dr. Luke added it to the narrative.

The Greek word for ‘short’ is interesting. It is not just used to describe height but also age. In John 19 we read of the blind man who was healed by Jesus. The Pharisees were not happy. His parents were called into court to be quizzed. Yet his parents say he is of age and can answer for himself. The same Greek word for age is used as to describe short. We see this again in Hebrews 11:11 when Sarah is described as beyond child-bearing age. It’s the same Greek word again. Dr. Luke adds the adjective ‘short’ because Zacchaeus was short but also because the word describes his status, especially in a society where age and status matter in a community. Dr. Luke added it not just to explain why he couldn’t see, but also to show Zacchaeus has a lowly status in his community. Zacchaeus’ ultimate problem was not his height but his family and friends had flocked to see Jesus and had left him behind. That’s the tragedy that sits behind the narrative. Zacchaeus was left behind by his community, abandoned by friends and family. He had no status. He was lost. Zacchaeus was all alone and without a loving community to guide him. Perhaps this is why he went down the wrong path and became a tax collector to Rome?

He climbed a fig tree – a symbol of prosperity. Fig leaves are a symbol of covering sin. Zacchaeus is trying to rise above. Jesus finds him in his sin, lonely, hiding up a fig tree. ‘And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”’ (Luke 19:5). Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus by name. He calls him down and reconciles him with his community. Jesus makes a public statement that he is a son of Abraham. He tells the crowd he is one of them. Zacchaeus is restored. Hallelujah!

‘And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.”’ (Luke 19:9).

 Jesus can come into the life of any person who has been outcast and left out by his community. He can bring them back into his community. This is a story about Christ, come into the world, coming to seek the lost. Hallelujah! “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

As Jesus was walking down the street He didn’t see what the crowd saw, He saw a broken man, trying to lift himself above his community, yet hiding. So Jesus came and He personally called him by name. And what did He do? He loved him. For the first time in a long time Zacchaeus knew he was loved. We see repentance. He gave half of his possessions to the poor. Zacchaeus gave freely and joyfully because He knew the overwhelming and overflowing love of Christ. Friends, the good news, the best news, is that Jesus’ love can do the same for us today.

If you have times when you feel low, exhausted, ashamed, overwhelmed, convicted by the weight of your sin, please know that Jesus is here for you. He will never ignore you for the crowd. He will call you by name. He’ll say, ‘My dear brother, my dear sister, ‘I love you.’ The creator of all time, space and matter says, ‘I love you.’ He says, ‘Come down from the tree of tiredness and shame, come down to your community, your church. I don’t care about your past, what anyone else thinks of you, I just want you. All that shame I buried at the cross.’

The call today to Christians and both non-Christians alike is ‘will you come down from your hiding place and take Jesus home with you, just like Zacchaeus? Will you let Jesus transform your life with His love? Today, salvation has come to the home. Will you take it?

Harvest 2019

Come and celebrate Harvest with us! 

Harvest is special time of year when we come together and thank God for His provision and faithfulness to us. This year we are having a Community harvest meal as well as our usual harvest service.

You are all warmly invited to join us at our Community Harvest Thanksgiving Meal on Sunday 13th October. We will be holding the meal at Victoria Hall, Roch (SA62 6JU) at 1:30 p.m. Join us for a free delicious meal of homemade cawl (vegetarian soup option available) and apple crumble for dessert.
Our Children’s Club will be singing a few harvest songs and you can join in too. There will also be a short gospel message from Darrin Gilchrist.
Please contact us to book your place – a warm welcome awaits!HarvestFestival19HarvestService2019

September 15th 2019: Alan Davison

Alan Davison - Sept19‘Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving.’

Colossians 2:6-7

There are a lot of things in our lives we learn but we hope we will never have to do again. Sometimes, some believe they need to hear the gospel, respond to it be saved, but then think they don’t need to carry on with it. They believe they don’t need daily repentance, they don’t need to continually come back to Jesus.

The Church at Colossae was doing quite well. Paul had not been there but had received detailed reports from Epaphras (Colossians 1:7-8). However, Paul was concerned that the Colossians were under threat of false teachers coming in and belittling Christ. Some of the false teachers were on about needing special knowledge. None of this really matters if all they offer is ‘something’ and Christ. Paul’s concern is that persuasive words might have the Colossians looking for something else. Paul is writing to Christians, reminding them the gospel is the foundation upon which they are to dwell.

‘Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord.’ Paul says the Colossians have received Christ Jesus. The gospel is an invitation to all. It gives ‘all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3). For us to be aware of the preciousness of Christ we have knowledge of Christ but also wisdom to go on in the faith. Paul commends the Colossians for their order and steadfastness (v5).

1 Chronicles 12:38: all these men of war came to Hebron with a loyal heart. They knew their place in the line of battle. They also had loyal hearts. They were steadfast in the cause. We need both of these attributes.

Paul ends the 6th verse with ‘The Lord.’ He emphasises a lofty view of Christ. He wants the Colossians, and us, to come back to the fact that Jesus is Lord. They and we are to continue in Him. We must come to Christ and Him alone. There are no other qualifications. We don’t need anything else. Acts 16:30-31. Don’t over-complicate the gospel.

‘So walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving’ (Colossians 2:7). This is Paul’s slogan for Christian living. We know the Jews used this to behave in a morally upright manner. To accept Christ is not only to know about Him, it’s also to accept Christ Himself. We’re in a living relationship with Christ, we’re in Christ.

Our walk is to be rooted and built up. Start with a firm foundation – Christ. Draw spiritual nourishment from Christ (v 19). We are to meditate on God’s words as we seek to walk. Once we have settled on a foundation, then we need to build upon it. It’s an ongoing process. Seek to build on the foundation of Christ under His leadership. The building process can and will take time.

A proper building requires patience. God has a great deal of patience with His children and knows how much we can handle at a time. Jesus is perfect but we don’t always hold on to Him as we should. So we seek to strengthen our faith and increase its tenacity under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the power of Jesus Christ. The more faith we have in Jesus, the less we will struggle on in ourselves and the more we will come to Him in prayer. We retain the same gospel principles and seek to put these into practise.

In our spiritual lives we can all go through periods when we go spiritually off the boil. We need to look back at the basics, look back at the foundation, how far we have come. Paul ends by saying we should do all this ‘abounding in thanksgiving.’ Such a thankfulness speaks of God rather than ourselves. It is of joy. If we do struggle, look to the cross and marvel at His grace. 

September 8th 2019: Owen Jones

Owen Jones-Sept19‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”’ (Ruth 1:16-17)

Mother-in law and daughter-in-law relationships are not the easiest of relationships to sustain. In this story of Ruth and Naomi some people may ask was it right for Naomi and her husband to leave Bethlehem to go to Moab. There was money in Moab – but when they got there, there was trouble. Providence is a great and glorious doctrine of scripture. Naomi lost her husband and two sons. How did Naomi feel? Have you ever received visitors after a bereavement who mean well but their pearls of wisdom only add to your misery? Naomi tried to persuade her daughters-in-law to go back to their home (v8) but they wept at the thought of this (v14). Orpah returned, Ruth was encouraged to go back. It is a very touching situation.

The text shows these two women stuck together, becoming part of the family history of Jesus. Things happen for a reason. God has only one purpose – His will. This morning we will develop two themes: (1) what one woman expresses and (2) what one woman experiences. Naomi expresses what she feels and Ruth experiences coming to faith.

  • Naomi expresses how she feels (verses 16-17). She had mixed feelings. Our first heroine never lost the sense of Yahweh’s loving kindness, yet she bares her soul. In all she has gone through God shows His loving kindness (Psalm 63:1, 1 John 4:10-11). Even in her grieving Naomi felt that love towards her. Later Boaz told Ruth he knew all about the love she showed Naomi, she was the talk of the town (Ruth 2:11). You may be going through the most difficult time of your life. Thank God His loving kindness is felt, known and experienced.

There is a paradox here. Naomi bares her soul. As we read the story we see how Naomi felt. She wept aloud (Ecclesiastes 3:4). There is a sense of loss. She felt God was her enemy (v13) that God was out to get her. Is it possible that a child of the Covenant could feel this? Well, here’s an example. She had suffered not only the loss of her husband but also her two sons. The future looked bleak. She was penniless, aging, feeling betrayed. Yet at the same time she knew the loving kindness of God. Do you sometimes feel that everything is against you, yet you still come to church, read the Bible? Can you have mixed feelings when going through the valley of the shadow? Yes! David prayed, in a sense of desolation (Psalm 22:1). This was David’s lament. Someone else prayed such a prayer on the cross, but it began ‘My God’. He still had faith!

As the British abroad we have a traditional picture of never complaining, having a stiff upper lip. As a Christian is there ever that aspect of calling on God, ‘Why?’ Do you weep aloud? Do you feel your trouble is worse than others? Face this situation bravely, spiritually, honestly.

  • Ruth experiences coming to faith (Ruth 1:16-17). Here is spiritual conversion, Old Testament style. She is speaking as a young woman that’s come to know or coming to know God. Such an experience can take place when there is trouble. Ruth saw something in the life of her mother-in-law; Naomi loves Ruth even though she was a Moabitess. Though Naomi was widowed and penniless, she possessed something Ruth wanted – faith. At funerals every one of us is presented with our destiny, where earthy life culminates. This woman comes to the Lord in the depth of misery. Naomi tells her to go back but Ruth is drawn from Moab, from gods to the loving God her mother-in-law enjoyed. Do you know what it is to find God, to find Christ, to come to Calvary by faith?

Ruth was to become a proselyte – a rebel becoming a Jew. The glory is when you become a Christian you belong to the people of God, you become part of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). This is what happened to Ruth. Ruth and Naomi belonged to the same family, they walked together (v17). In Roch, will you leave the world and cleave to Christ? Will you cease to walk in darkness and come to the light of Christ? Perhaps tragedy has crossed your path recently or years ago and you still can’t get over it, yet you still know something of the loving kindness of God? Have you ever felt like Naomi felt, knowing the loving kindness of God yet things happen you don’t understand? Yet God is graciously refining you gold in a furnace, ultimately for His glory and your well-being.

September 1st 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Sept 2019Luke 7:36-50, Exodus 20:14

An addition to the Authorised Version of the Bible in 1631 earned the printer a significant fine of £350 imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its problem – it omitted one word out of that particular print, the word ‘not’ from the seventh Commandment. It read, ‘You shall commit adultery.’ For that, the version of the Bible became known as the ‘wicked Bible.’ In our study of the seventh Commandment we are certainly not going to leave out ‘not!’ Today, of course, such an oversight might be rewarded. A university lecturer asked a class if they could downsize the Ten Commandments, which would they leave out. The majority said the seventh commandment.

We live in an age there where marriage is under constant attack; people are living together, having affairs, making it seem justifiable. People regard the seventh Commandment as outdated. A positive assertion of marriage is needed all the more today because it is so widely disregarded. God’s way is the right way, God’s way is the best way.

  1. The attack upon marriage and the promotion of promiscuous behaviour.

We are told that adultery and other forms of sexual immorality are natural, normal and necessary. The Bible states from the beginning God intended all sexual activity to be between one man and one woman within the context of marriage (Genesis 2:24).

Man was not created to be like the animals but to enjoy a single, committed relationship for life. The very word adultery means a violation of marriage by breaking commitment (Leviticus 20:10). Although God often showed mercy to such sinners, the severity of punishment reveals the severity of the crime.

Following on from the lie that adultery is natural, there is the additional lie that adultery is normal. Television, newspapers and magazines are constantly filled with adultery. But adultery is abnormal to God’s purpose. He reserves His strongest words for it (Jeremiah 5:7-9). The consequences of adultery and promiscuity are far reaching: the devastation of partners, the great emotional cost for children, the cost to state in terms of the price of divorce in our land. The Lord reserves the most serious warnings for any who believe such behaviour is normal.

The ultimate excuse for adultery is the spouse no longer loves his or her spouse and finds greater happiness in the arms of another. This is based on the mistaken belief that love is just an emotion that comes and goes. It goes against Biblical teaching in which one gives oneself exclusively to one other, irrespective of the ebb and flow of feelings. Real love is not self-seeking, it is self-sacrificing (Ephesians 5:25). Many times those who have seen adulterers’ promiscuity as the road to happiness have found it as the road to ruin.

The sanctity of marriage and rejection of sexual acts outside marriage is normal, natural and necessary. Satan seeks to destroy and damage the God-ordained order for family and individuals. The Lord Jesus Christ cites adultery as the grounds for gaining divorce (Mark 10). It is sad that Christians fall for the lie. It is best seen in ministers who have committed adultery but are allowed back into the pulpit. Sin, of course, is forgiven and the minister should be received back into the fellowship of the church. But by his infidelity to his wife, they have barred themselves from preaching. 

  1. The deceitfulness of adultery.

For many this Commandment has no fear because we can honestly say we have never committed adultery, we have been faithful to our husband or wife. However, that is to ignore the seed of adultery that is found in our hearts. All of us, in some way, have been guilty of weakening our marriages. The scriptures point us to the way sexual activity prior to marriage breaches the seventh Commandment. The abuse of the gift of our sexuality before marriage deprives a future wife or husband (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 18). Today many people believe that having many partners is not wrong, provided they are one at a time. There are many problems that conflict marriages because of sexual activity outside, prior to marriage.

People can engage in marital unfaithfulness. They may enjoy sexual fantasy in viewing inappropriate material, flirting with the opposite sex. This weakens marriage too, even if there is no acting on the thought. The scriptures call us to be pure in thought and action. We are to guard our minds from all immorality (Philippians 4:8). God knows what we feed our minds on.

There is the problem of inappropriate thoughts. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). Accordingly, there is no-one here this morning who is not guilty of breaking the seventh Commandment. When we condemn the actions of others which we find obscene and sickens us, remember we too have been guilty of obscenity which sickens Him. We too need forgiveness. There is help at hand in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The grace of God for adulterers is best seen in three women who broke the seventh Commandment:

           The woman of Samaria (John 4:1-26)
         The woman, believed to be Mary Magdalene, who scandalised the Pharisees                      (Luke 7),
          The woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11).

            What do we see in each case?

  • Whereas others were keen to condemn these women, Jesus did not. On the contrary, He deals with them as if they were respectable.
  • He forgives their sin, bringing them freedom from the penalty of sin.
  • He changed their lives, transforming them into disciples who loved righteousness. He establishes a new relationship in their lives with God and God’s law.
  • The Saviour remained faithful to them, even going to die on the cross to pay the price of their sin.

There is no doubt they continued to fail Him, even as we do, but He never forsook them, even as He never forsakes us.

The good news, the gospel news, then is there is forgiveness for adulterers and those with promiscuous behaviour, to those who repent. Forgiveness is available to all who turn to Christ. But it also involves sinning no more. In God’s power they must flee from the sin of the past and not repeat it. You can’t continue in the old ways. People who do are not truly born again.

  1. Marriage is used in the Bible as a picture of the relationship between God and His people. That’s a sobering challenge to those of us who are married. Are our marriages a picture of the relationship between God and His people? Do we reflect the union of Christ and the Church? We may not commit physical adultery but there may be nastiness, attitudes that don’t speak of a commitment of love.

Even amongst Christians there are those who defile their marriage with pornography, who seek to use their partner in the porn of their own sordid experience of sinful immorality. Praise be to God, not only in their forgiveness, not only in their restoration, there is also the complete, never-ending commitment of the Lord Jesus Christ to each and every one of us that can never be broken. He will never forsake us, He will never abuse us. He will never cease to love us. He will also be to us our heavenly spouse who has sacrificed Himself for our eternal good.

The seventh Commandment does have a ‘not’ in it, it’s not left out. It is there for the glory of God, the good of His people and the good of all mankind.

August 25th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - July 2019‘You shall not murder.’ Exodus 20:13

A Sunday school teacher, in the process of teaching the Ten Commandments to her class, reminded them that they had learned the commandment to honour their fathers and mothers. She then asked if there was a commandment that refers to brothers and sisters. One girl replied, ‘You shall not murder!’ We smile and enjoy the humour of the story, but if we stop for a moment, there is a disturbing truth. All of us have harboured murderous thoughts towards others. They may be hateful glances, ‘If looks could kill …’ All of us have been angry enough to throttle someone for what they have done to us. It is extremely unlikely someone here has murdered someone. However, we’ve broken this Commandment in thought, word and deed and we are in need of forgiveness.

What is murder? The modern versions of the Bible has replaced the word ‘kill’ with ‘murder.’ In certain conditions the taking of life is permitted, for example, animal life. Some argue we should not kill animals, but Genesis 9:3 gives permission to kill to eat. Equally, God ordained capital punishment, allowing the state to kill one who deliberately kills another (Leviticus 24:17, Exodus 21:12-14). The Bible allows for the pursuing of a just war, which inevitably leads to death (Deuteronomy 20). Outside of these exceptions the destruction of life is murder. Therefore the murder of another, whether a baby still in a mother’s womb, or an elderly person coming to the end of their days, is an evil act.

There are three reasons why we should not murder another person:

  1. The sanctification of human life. God made us to enjoy fellowship with Him and gave us the capacity to have fellowship with Him. That’s what distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. We proclaim all people, irrespective of lifestyle, are to be respected. This does not mean we have to agree with them or endorse their sin, but they share in the same dignity by being created in His image (Psalm 8:5-6). Each and every human being has a God-given life that is sacred and He alone brings it to a close. For man to destroy another man’s life is to usurp the authority of God. It shows utter contempt for a God-given life (Genesis 9:6). Murder is an act of evil.

  1. Committing murder is following in Satan’s footsteps. It is the way of the devil to murder (John 8:44). From the very beginning it has been Satan’s purpose is to destroy human life through sin and death. In the Garden of Eden he pretends to Adam and Eve he is on their side. His desire is to bring death into the world and upon Adam and Eve. From the very beginning Satan has been a murderer.

  1. Murder is the elevation of self. Murder is a great evil. It’s the ultimate experience of selfishness. It’s the taking over the right of someone else to life. It is out of sin-ridden selfishness (Mark 7:21-23). Murder is one of the clearest experiences of the fallen-ness of the human heart as it is gripped in its own selfish concerns.

We are living where the respect of the sanctity of human life is in decline. We have become immune to scenes of murder in television programmes. People are enthralled by blood thirstiness. We are confronted by images of people being shot, maimed or killed. When we hear of teenagers being stabbed to death we think or feel nothing. We may say it’s sad, but then just carry on. Computer games encourage people to act out violence. Every week scores of unborn children are murdered simply because it’s an inconvenience for them to be born. People are increasingly concerned for animal rights. Dear friends, life is becoming increasingly cheap as we, as a society, turn away from God and indulge our self-centredness. Oh how we need to pray that God would have mercy on us.

Whilst we have not physically murdered anyone, the characteristics of murder are to be found in our hearts. Haven’t we refused to acknowledge the dignity of another, refused them common courtesy? It is seen in the racism of our age, where one group views another with disdain and contempt. We may despise an individual. Haven’t we taken devilish delight in bringing someone down a peg or two or been cruel in thought or action?

The Lord rightly points out the keeping of the sixth commandment includes dealing with the murderous attitudes of our hearts (Matthew 6). Inside each one of us lurks a murderer. We are all guilty of breaking the sixth commandment and all need to admit it.

But there is forgiveness. Amongst those who God forgives their sins are murderes. Even Moses, who the Commandments were given to, was a murderer (Exodus 2:11-12). Then there was King David, who arranged for Uriah to be murdered so his sin could be covered up (II Samuel 11). David was a murderer. Throughout the centuries there have been those involved in the most evil murders, including one of the closest associates of Paul Pott, yet who was saved through faith.

How can God forgive murderers? Because Jesus died in the place of a murderer (John 18). Here, this morning, no-one has picked up a knife or gun, but we are all guilty of that sin in our hearts. May be someone here has had an abortion. But there is forgiveness because the Lord Jesus Christ died, even for murderers. The good news is God forgives the sin of murder because Jesus identified Himself as responsible for the murder that lurks in your heart and mine. As we stand condemned by murderous thoughts we can rejoice the Lord Jesus Christ died for us. If we come to Him today all we have to do is repent, acknowledge our sin and no longer indulge in excuses. As your word examines me, I stand convicted. I throw myself on the mercy that is yours and can be mine. What a great God!

Finally, if you come to Jesus Christ and repent of your sin and are restored to a right relationship with God, everything changes. Instead of murder comes self-sacrifice. It leads us to make positive contributions to the life of others. Love does no harm to its neighbour. You have no difficulty in loving yourself. We are to desire to work towards our neighbours good, even more, to fellow believers (1 John 3:15-16). Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Dear friends, in so many churches it seems we’re more intent on murdering one another than laying down our lives for one another. The Christian should be willing to lay down his life for another. We need the mind-set of Christ (Philippians 2). We are to enter into the Saviour’s mind-set. We are to become increasingly like Him in our union. We must love one another, we must lay down our lives for each other. We must put the interests of everyone else above our own interests. When we do that we fulfil the sixth commandment.

Replace murderous thoughts and actions with true love. You cannot walk with the Lord whilst wishing harm to someone else. We are to be willing to suffer loss to secure that well-being for others, to give up everything as He gave up the glory of heaven and even His life for our salvation. Surrender all rights and privileges, then the love of God is with us.

August 11th 2019: Peter Gleave

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‘And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’
(Mark 6:31)

Jesus is speaking to the Disciples, who were so tired. Everyone here, including those on holiday, put everything aside and rest awhile and let the Lord Jesus speak to you.

 
1 Kings 19:1-8

We have mountaintop experiences in life, a moment when the world doesn’t interfere with experiences with God. Elijah had a mountaintop experience, literally on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). Elijah was representing God against 450 prophets of Baal. Things had gone on long enough, the people had to decide they were either worshipping God or Baal. So a contest took place. People thought it was a great idea. The people cried out to their god, a pagan, dead god, to help but it didn’t help one little bit. Elijah turned to the people and said, ‘Let’s make it more interesting,’ and he soaked his sacrificial bull and wood in water. He then calls on the living God, who answers. The people fell on their faces and shouted, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God” (1 Kings 18:39). The 450 prophets of Baal were executed.

The rain then comes, ending the drought. Elijah runs supernaturally in front of King Ahab. Ahab speaks to his wife, Jezebel, who declares that she will have Elijah killed. You would think the first thing Elijah would do would be to call on His God. But he runs and he runs. His faith turns to fear. He takes his servant with him, heading for Beersheba, where he left his servant.

This is like you and I. Sudden, unexpected changes come in life. We often have a mountaintop experience followed by a valley. Things take an unexpected turn in our lives – a visit to the doctor leaves us with life now going on a different path. Faith turns to fear. We may question where is God? Instinctively, we can run away to our own place.

Elijah ran to the desert and sat down under a broom tree. He asks God to take his own life. He is crying out to God because someone has said that they were going to kill him, yet he is asking God to take his life! Sometimes, in a right mess, we can’t see the way out. But God had a plan for Elijah. In the same way, God has got a plan for us.

In our confusion, sometimes we try to sort things out ourselves. Sometimes, God wants to help us and we tell Him we can do it on our own. We reach rock bottom. We get weaker and weaker. Then we hand it over to God, to safety. We need faith, to trust in God.

Elijah falls asleep under the broom tree. An angel comes along, a messenger of God. Right then, in these circumstances, the angel tells Elijah to get up and eat. Elijah smells fresh bread and water. He ate and drank and felt better. God knew where Elijah was and what He needed and He provided it. He did so supernaturally. Friends, wherever you are, on a mountaintop or in a valley, may be you feel all alone and no-one understands your position. God knows exactly what you need and will provide (Romans 8:28). We are destined, as Christians, for heaven, for eternal life. That’s the goal of where we are heading.

The angel wakes Elijah again. He tells Elijah to eat and drink again. The food sustains Elijah supernaturally, allowing him to travel for forty days and forty nights. He was equipped to go on the journey. God provides the means for the journey you go on. Rest is important. When God created the world in six days He then rested. Why? Because He wanted to enjoy that which He created. It sets a pattern for us, a day set aside to rest. Rest is so important God made it the fourth commandment. You and I, in the busyness of our lives, need to rest, relax and enjoy the world God has given us to enjoy.

Elijah’s disillusionment turned to discovery. He rested in a cave in Horeb. God asks Elijah why he’s there, not in service. Verse 10 tells us how disillusioned Elijah was, he spilled it all out to God. The Lord listened to Elijah. God already knew how he felt, but He is interested. He let Elijah finish, then He spoke. He told Elijah to go outside because the presence of the Lord was about to pass by. Elijah stood outside. The wind came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the wind. Then an earthquake came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the earthquake. Fire came. The Lord didn’t speak to him in the fire. Then, there was a quietness, a whisper, God’s heart speaking to Elijah’s heart. Too often we look for the grand gesture. We forget the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6).

That inner voice of assurance, that voice that assures us God has power. In our weakness God’s strength is made perfect. Having witnessed this, Elijah has a second opportunity to answer ‘What are you doing here?’ Elijah pours out his heart again, He hadn’t grasped the truth. So what does God do? He tells Elijah, ‘“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place,’ (1 kings 19:15-16). Elijah’s mantle was now to be passed on. Let’s not lose our opportunities of service.

At the end of this portion of scripture we see Elijah’s work was not in vain. He thought he was alone yet there were 7,000 of God’s people in Israel. Sometimes we think we’re alone. Yet on judgement day, when we stand before God, God will reveal what we’ve done for Him. We may not realise what a difference we can make to the people around us. By our example we can show we are different. Remember, God can take your from disillusionment to discovery. Go back and witness to where God has placed you and serve Him. When faith turns to fear, remember our mountaintop experiences. Let God equip you so you can do He wants you.

Elijah started on Mount Carmel, went to the valley and finished on Mount Horeb. He went from one mountaintop experience to another mountaintop experience. One day we will spend eternity in the presence of Almighty God. Press on, go on in the strength of God.

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We were blessed in this family service with Peter’s story for the younsters as well as a duet by two of our Children’s Club.

August 8th 2019: Dave Evans

Dave Evans - April 2019Psalm 22

The vast majority of psalms have a personal and historical application to the author and time. They may look forward to beyond the time of King David, to the coming of the king of Kings. Psalm 22 is somewhat different. It is entirely prophetic. The Psalm unfolds the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clearly like the passage of Isaiah 53. It is a description of the crucifixion. It gives a clear view of the sufferer’s humility. This makes the Psalm all the more striking as crucifixion was not established until centuries later.

The gospels record the outward details of the crucifixion but they only give a glimpse into the Saviour’s experiences. Psalm 22 opens up the Saviour’s soul and mind the penalty which our souls deserved. He did not endure Calvary unconsciously. As He suffered on the cross He was conscious He was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies (John 19:28). He w aware the scriptures were pointing forward to His death. In Matthew 27 Jesus quotes the opening verse of this Psalm, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Even as the Lord suffers He reviews in His mind those prophecies which concerned Himself. He came to fulfil His Father’s will (John 5). As the Saviour takes the Psalm to His own lips we are given an insight into His sufferings.

What can we learn from this?

1. The repudiation of the suggestion that at the cross the Saviour’s faith failed. As we look at the psalm as a whole we see it is full of the Saviour’s confidence and faith. It’s ‘My’ He has lost sight of His Father’s face but not His faith. In the midst of His suffering and anguish He utters great confidence in God (verses 3-5). In His abandonment He knows God is faithful. Christ is able to realise God’s faithfulness to Himself (verses 9-11). The Saviour, from the time of His birth, knows this relationship of trust and confidence with His Father. This enduring faith does not in any way diminish the depths of His suffering.

2. His humiliation and the pain and mockery of the crowds to the Saviour.
The One who had walked among the people, who was full of compassion, is now alone. Betrayed. Denied. The disciples had fled. The Saviour hangs in full view of all those gathered around the cross, crowds full of venom. We see in this Psalm how deeply it penetrated His heart “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6). He is humiliated by those He came to save. The Lord God, the author of all creation, now feels Himself to be a worm, the least of all creation. The nails and the spear caused no greater pain than this mockery. Verse 8 takes us so vividly to the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:41). The religious leaders, experts in the Old Testament scriptures, are blind to the promised Redeemer “Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion,” (Psalm 22:12-13).  These rulers are described as strong bulls, an enraged herd ready to trample down their victim.

3.The horror of the Saviour’s physical sufferings (verses 14-15). This is nothing less than a description of crucifixion. As Jesus is laid on the cross and the nails driven into His hands and feet, we see the description of His suffering. In verse 16 we see the description of the crowds, as they follow the lead of the religious leaders, cry out like a pack of hounds wanting blood (Luke 23:20).

Crucifixion is a death which caused constant perspiration, “I am poured out like water,” (Psalm 22:14). The bones are dislocated, bringing the sufferer to the point of exhaustion, producing extreme thirst, “My tongue clings to My jaws,” (Psalm 22:15). It is an awful description of crucifixion. But these words, as horrible as they are, can’t depict the horror of the suffering. We only scratch the surface.

4.The dark hours and the Saviour’s cry of dereliction. The land was covered in darkness, The Saviour cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When the Saviour was born the darkness of the night was broken by the glorious light of heaven as the angels proclaimed His birth. Now, at the ninth hour, when day should have been at its brightest, the darkness of hell shuts out the brightness. As darkness covers the land, so our Saviour enters the darkness which He alone could endure. He had to plunge into that darkness, into the physical wrath and anger of God who is holy and cannot look on sin. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what it was to be alone in His earthly ministry. He could always say e who sent Me is with me. But now, His Father turns His face from His Son as the God-Man suffers. He endures the total forsaking, total abandonment. Why? Paul declares, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). It is hard to imagine, we cannot imagine, a pure, perfect, spotless life, to be utterly sinless. But here, on the cross, the sinless one becomes our substitute. He comes to die for those He will save. He suffers all the consequences of a broken law. During those three hours of darkness He bore the holy wrath. Here is the essence of our Saviour’s work. This cry of dereliction is the great climax to the Saviour’s work.

5.The turning point (verses 19-21). The Lord is now saying God has answered Him. God accepts the Saviour’s sufferings are complete. The Saviour can now cry out, “It is finished!” The Saviour has accomplished the work the Father sent Him to do. The public declaration of the Saviour’s work comes on the third day – the Lord’s Day.

We can draw three great conclusions:

  • How dreadful, extremely horrid and evil sin must be.
  • It brings us to a new appreciation of the greatness of the Father’s love. The Saviour was His delight, yet He gave Him to suffer in our place (John 3:16).
  • We proclaim, as believers, because of this, Salvation is utterly free and offered to all.

July 28th 2019: Philip Meiring

Philip Meiring - Juy 19 -1And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” II Kings 5:16

Have you ever had a strange prescription from the doctor? Here, Naaman, a very important gentleman, is told to wash seven times in the Jordan, then his flesh would be completely healed. This story is an illustration of the good news we have of Jesus. God has given us a prescription which is signed off by God Himself, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.’ This prescription is for us as rebellious people full of sin. The gospel prescription is wonderful!

Naaman’s reaction is a good illustration of how people react to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an interesting twist to this story. Naaman is not only healed but he is a man changed in his heart too. He came to know the living God that the servant girl knew.

Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Syria. His CV was long and impressive. He was a man who led from the front, a ‘valiant soldier.’ He was a brave, strong man, one of the most important people in Syria. He was even used by God in battle. He was a deeply religious guy but he had leprosy. That’s how it is with us. Naaman began to lose sensation in his fingertips. Pale white marks spread on his skin. It was about to ruin him. That’s why Mrs. Naaman was so upset, wondering where to turn. This man didn’t realise he had a deeper problem than leprosy.

We have put men on the moon, can listen to wonderful musical compositions, think about black holes on the edge of the cosmos. God has given us a wonderful world. But the Bible tells us we have a deep problem within our hearts because we are sinners. We have this disease which spoils everything. For all that we are as human beings, this disease spoils us. It’s in our hearts. It spoils the world we live in. Naaman was going to have to have his skin healed, but wonderfully, he was going to have his heart changed too.

How did God sort out Naaman? How does God sort us out? Look at verses 9-16. Naaman was used to being in control of his life. He sort of controlled the gods around him. He was deeply religious but he didn’t know the God who made the world. Everything revolved around Naaman. When he arrived at Elisha’s home, the neighbours must have been surprised to see the chariots roll up. The neighbours would have expected Elisha to come to the door but instead Elisha’s servant came out and gave instructions. It doesn’t sound like Elisha had a lot of respect for Naaman. But this was the man of God. He was giving Naaman a prescription that would change Naaman’s life and cause the pride of this man’s heart to be broken before God. The prescription was designed to humble Naaman. He would have to know his place.

Naaman’s reaction is what happens when a lot of people hear the good news about Jesus. The good news is Jesus died in your place. He took the penalty for that rebellion in your heart, that sinfulness. From the time you and I were born we were cut off from God. But Jesus died on the cross in your place and my place as a punishment from sin which has separated us from God. And if you come to Jesus and thank Him for taking the flack for your sin, if you truly believe in Him, you will be saved and have a relationship with God. It’s wonderful to know Him! Jesus lived a perfect life on my behalf. I’m so thankful. He took the penalty for my sin and I can go free. Believe and you will be saved.

The gospel is designed to make God big and us small, to give all the glory and praise to Him. You cannot pay for this good news, to be washed clean. It’s free. Jesus is the one who paid the price. You and I just have to accept the grace of God. That’s what Naaman experienced that day.

This morning, whatever you think is holding you back from a relationship with God, be assured, God can forgive. Humbly accept it, freely accept it. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. There is no other way, it’s just Jesus. He is the only way.

How was Naaman healed? He went storming off in anger. Like all of us, he rebelled. But he had some wise men around him who told him to be humble and accept the prescription. Eventually, Naaman sees sense. He repents. What is repentance? It’s a change of mind and a change of direction. He turned to God. He washed himself seven times in the Jordan – seven is the perfect number.  He was healed. That’s how it is with Jesus. All you have to do is believe in Jesus. Naaman believed the promise that had been given to him. You need to repent and change your mind about God and what He is offering you. Believe. Trust Him to be your Saviour.

July 21st 2019: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen -July 2019Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’
Hebrews 12:1-2

The race in Hebrews is a spiritual race, a very important race. It doesn’t matter how old or young, how rich or poor you are, there is to be one word we say to ourselves when running this race for Christ, “Run!” With this race we should all want to run. Here are three point to get our running gear on:

  1. Run with humility.

We are surrounded by ‘a great cloud of witnesses.’ Who are they? Why should we care? Have a look at Hebrews 11 – it’s all about the great men and women of faith who loved God and had exceptional amounts of faith. If we’re to run with humility, there are great men and women of faith we can look up to, be inspired by. This cloud of witnesses has already run this race before us and done so successfully. It’s not to say these people did no wrong. We’re all perfectly capable of falling into sin. We can’t run without God’s help. May be you know people who run the race who have suffered affliction because they’ve loved God more than the world. We must be humbled by these people but we need to remember they did it in God’s strength. Strive for faith. When we’ve been given the faith that we need, we need to use it. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ So why would physical beings care for unseen things? Because God planted it there is the first place. We know we have a righteous God who knows all things and is completely sovereign. Faith is obeying God despite the outcomes, the consequences. God uses things which we may not have expected for growth in our faith. When living in the now it’s easy to say, ‘I’ll trust you Lord no matter what I face.’ But we must be prepared for suffering. Faith is about trusting God, and when we realise just how powerless we are, we realise how powerful humility is.

The world doesn’t value humility but it’s a great thing. We’re to be humble running ‘our’ race – not anyone else’s. We should serve God with all our heart, no matter what hurdles are ahead. We have worldly thinking. Sometimes, that thinking penetrates our thinking. We can long for gifts others have. But God glorifies Himself by living within us – Psalm 34. Do you boast in the Lord? We’ve got our own race to run, not someone else’s – we can’t change lanes. If we keep looking at other people and what they’ve got, we’ll trip up. That’s not to say we’re not to encourage one another. We can doubt God. We need to build each other up, support each other with scripture, with God’s words, not our own.

  1. Run with endurance.

This is a lifelong race. Sometimes, we can get ahead of ourselves. We can be so busy, for example, reaching out in the community, that we can neglect to pray or read the Bible. Sprinting is not a good thing if there are hills and valleys. The Christian life is full of joys and sufferings, full of ups and downs. Some people are regularly tested and others don’t suffer so much. It’s unwise to charge ahead; you won’t be prepared for a trial and will panic and lose control. How can we show this endurance? How do we acquire it? We can pray, read God’s Word, discuss God’s Word with other Christians, discuss joys and difficulties with other Christians. There should always be time set aside to worship and adore Him. We can’t worship Him if we’re running around. Proverbs 4. Always keep God’s Word and promises in our heart, in front of our eyes.

Lay aside every weight. Sin is a big factor in this endurance run. Sin keeps holding on to us to the very end. The following poem resonates with us:

The Yipiyuk
In the swamplands long ago,

Where the weeds and mudglumps grow,
A Yipiyuk bit on my toe …
Exactly why I do not know.
I kicked and cried
And hollered “Oh”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I whispered to him soft and low—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
I shouted “Stop,” “Desist” and “Whoa”—
The Yipiyuk would not let go.
Yes, it was sixteen years ago,
The Yipiyuk still won’t let go.
The snow may fall,
The winds may blow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
The snow may melt,
The grass may grow—
The Yipiyuk will not let go.
I drag him ‘round each place I go.
This Yipiyuk that won’t let go.
And now my child at last you know
Exactly why I walk so slow.

Shel Silverstein

The Yipiyuk is sin and it will not let go. We thank God sin is only on our toe. Our sinful flesh is still struggling to come out. Sin will never leave us till we reach heaven.

  1. Run towards Jesus:

So how can we run with endurance? ‘Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated’ (Hebrews 12:2). I love this verse. When you begin to read the chapter and see all you have to do, you can despair. But verse 2 tells us we look to Jesus. Everything we have, our growth and faith, is because of Him. The reason we are saved is because of Him. He is everything – which is why we must run towards Him. Jesus had to run this race too. He finished the race perfectly. He humbled Himself and became obedient even unto death. Jesus saw the reward of regaining His people and was able to overcome suffering. ‘Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed’ (Hebrews 12:12-13).

We are to be strengthened if we’re to run this race. From where do we receive this strength? Philippians 4:13, Ephesians 6:10, Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 40:29. It’s all about God, it’s all about Jesus Christ. The world may say we need to look inward, to see inward strength. We don’t have strength, it’s all about Christ. And this is why we want to run the race. Not just will we be saved from sin and death, but we will be rewarded, we will see our Saviour at the finish line. It will make all our suffering worthwhile. Everything that has led up to it will be for our God. Ask God to strengthen you, ask Him to heal our frail, dislocated limbs.

Run with humility, run with endurance and run towards Christ. Remember also to grow, to seek to become like Him who has saved us. Revival must begin inside the church. Be signposts to Christ.

‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Paul has fought, he knew very well he was in a race. We too need to keep the faith. Great people have gone before us. Will you be great for God? It’s not an easy calling. Are you going to be great men and women of God?