May 28th 2023: Sam Pritchard

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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In this passage of scripture you can take something normally negative, sad and difficult, and find it’s actually good, that there is hope in the sorrows of life, there is peace and there is comfort. This morning I am going to talk to you about death, to show that even in pain and misery our God remains holy and perfect. He is the One with a plan and a purpose. The point of church is it’s real, practical and alive. We will all experience, in some form, the pain of loss – whether we’re watching a loved one, an accident, or a diagnosis. This is real, lived-out theology.

What is the Christian to do when we respond to the worst thing imaginable? There is a famous saying, ‘There are only two things in life which are inevitable – death and taxes.’ Many people would say they’re terrified of death, which is for them a great unknown. What is it like? What happens? There is confusion. Not knowing about death creates further confusion.

  1. We are informed people.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) We are informed people. We are a people who have been revealed by God the truth of death. We don’t face it alone, without understanding. We are informed for a reason and a purpose. Fascinating! Christians have hope. In the midst of the hardest trail we will ever face, we have hope.

Death is the great enemy, the great separator. Christ is greater! One day, there will be no more death. We have spiritual life in Him because He has given it to us. I know who my Saviour is. He is still goodness, the gospel is still true. Even in the worst things imaginable, my Saviour is alive.

“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). This verse explains to us what we believe. Do you believe? Can you say that I believe this Jesus really lived, died, rose and is really coming back? The hope, the peace – it’s only there if you have confidence, truth and belief in Jesus. The root and stem of peace in all circumstances is knowing who Jesus is and believing He has done what He has said He has done.

Jesus rose again. Outside of Jesus, you don’t have peace. Friends, Christ has carved out the way for us. He has already died and risen again. We are not doing this alone, we are following Him in the path He has already walked. Without Him, there is no hope, but with Him, all who call upon the Lord will be saved. “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24). That’s the power of Jesus Christ. For all those who trust in Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, we have hope.

  • We should declare it.

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15). Because we believe in Jesus, we have something to say. We have an answer, a solution, a hope. We hold onto this verse. The whole of scripture is God inspired. Every word is from Him. There is something unique, Paul says here, “For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord.” Was this the Holy Spirit working in him, from speaking with other believers? I don’t know, but it is important. It is not our thought, it comes from authority from the Lord, from the one who has lived, the one who has died for us.

For those who have already died, before Jesus returns, they will not be forgotten about. Jesus’ power is so mighty that all who are in Him are safe. I encourage you to read the Bible more. When someone dies their body will rot away but their soul immediately returns to God. The second a person passes away, their soul is with God, in the presence of the Saviour who loves them. Those who are in Christ who have passed away are with Him. What a thing to declare. There is hope for everyone who turns to Jesus Christ.

  • The Lord Himself.

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The return of Christ cannot be compared to. Our Saviour is coming back. There are so many people working out the mechanics of what it will look like, they forget Jesus is coming back. The one who died for you is coming back. When we see Jesus, what we’ll care most about is we’re with Him! What can be greater than to be in the presence of our Saviour? The Lord Himself will come for His people. What confidence we have!

The great shout, the sound of the trumpet – what will it be like? I don’t know. But the whole point is seeing my Saviour. I can’t imagine what it will be or what it will look like. We don’t understand it or fathom the glory of that day when Jesus returns. What matters is, are we living as if God keeps His promises? We know Jesus is coming. Are you ready to meet Him, for the day when Jesus returns? So many people think they are ready for everything. Are you ready for His return? Are you ready for that great judgement day?

  • When the Lord appears what will happen?

“Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the grand reunion when God reunites us who have sinned, with Himself. He will unite us forever. We will be with Him. The idea of being caught up means He will intentionally come down and bring us to Him.

We will meet Him in the air. Breath-taking! The word ‘meet’ describes the official welcome of honoured guests. When we meet Him it is an intentional meeting. All who believe in Jesus will be with Him. What does this meeting look like, to meet in the air? I have no idea. It will be a once in eternity event. Unique. This is Jesus Christ coming back, God returning to have the final victory. It is the end of human history and the beginning of spiritual eternity. We can’t understand it.

God, in His infinite wisdom, plan and order, is coming back for us. Our feeble minds can’t comprehend it, but one day we will witness it and live it! The risen, resurrected, conquering Lamb, whilst we were still sinners, looked at us in love. We will be overwhelmed by Him.

At the end of verse 17 we see what everything revolves around – we will always be with our Lord. There will never be a moment when we will not be with Him. We’ll be in the presence of the Lord.

  • Encourage one another with the truth.

 “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Those whom Christ died for will never be forgotten but will be with Him forever. Therefore, in the struggles of life, encourage one another with these words. Our God is coming back, and nothing will separate us from the love of God.

May 21st 2023: Tom Baker

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2 Corinthians 12:9

The Sufficiency of Grace

When Paul pleads for the ‘thorn in his flesh’ to be removed, the Lord’s response is, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The grace of God is sufficient. God’s grace and goodness towards His people is enough. The apostle Paul came to one of the climatic points of the grace of God. He is understanding and expressing something of the grace of God. In chapter 8 he shows the generosity of the Lord Jesus. He goes on to describe this, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The Lord Jesus, who is rich in glory, comes to people like us, who are destined for destruction because of our sins. He comes like one of us and lives a perfect life amongst us. He bears our greatest poverty; He bears our sin, goes to the cross for us so we can be exalted and lifted up to God.

Here, Paul tells us about the grace of God in Jesus Christ and how immense it is. He does it in the context of his own weakness and the trials he has faced. Against the backdrop of human weakness, the grace of God shines ever brighter. Paul gives his example – he’s a well-known character in Corinth but others have come in and tried to push him aside. Theses ‘super’ apostles have false ministry. The apostle Paul looks so weak. He speaks far less eloquently. He comes and speaks about a man who died on a cross in weakness for the sins of His people. Though the ‘super’ apostles comes with so much more, he would rather make a big deal about his weakness, so he’s seen less and Jesus Christ is seen more. Against the dark background, the grace of God shines far brighter.

Paul has a weakness which he pleads three time of the Lord to take away from him. We may have prayed for things to be taken away. Paul prayed and pleaded with God. As he pleads with God, he gets an answer which might seem quite surprising. It teaches about Christian weakness and the greatness of God’s grace.

How does God respond to Paul’s plea? 14 years preciously, Paul had an unspeakably glorious vision. He was forbidden from telling what it was about. He was lifted up into the third heaven and saw amazing things. How have the past 14 years been for the apostle after this experience? Has life been easy after this wonderful experience? No! He had 14 years of great difficulty. He had been given a ‘thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan.’ It’s always there, he is always aware of it. It hurts. It has been given to him to keep him grounded. He pleads three times for it to go, but the answer is no.

Why does the Lord not take the ‘thorn’ away from Paul? The Lord graciously gives Paul a reason. It is because of the grace of God. The Christian can know that the answer, whether it’s a yes or no, it is always gracious. He always deals kindly with His people. Everything He gives to His people, even trials and difficulties, are gifts from the hand of a gracious God. The thorn is because of God’s grace. Spurgeon suffered persistent troubles and reflected, “The greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness.” There can be great blessings in the hardships of life.

We have to assume that the Lord Jesus means the same thing as He did in when He said, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Paul is being taught, in the midst of the trial he is facing, the gospel of Jesus Christ is enough. The Lord tells Paul that His grace is sufficient. The grace found in the gospel is all that the Christian needs. We need that grace more than we need our trials to go away.

How does the Christian measure the gift from the Lord? We measure the goodness of a gift by which it makes us love the Lord Jesus more. It is a good gift, no matter how painful it is, if it makes you love the Lord Jesus more. Have you seen the preciousness of Jesus Christ in His gospel? Have you come to understand just how wonderful He is? Have you begun to see beyond the trials and the difficulties, He’s worth much more than anything else?

Who is it who can know the sufficiency of God’s grace? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In the first instance it is the apostle Paul. We don’t know what his ‘thorn in the flesh’ was, whether it was a physical illness, false apostles (11:13), or a spiritual struggle from the churches. Some suggest it could be a possible sin he struggles with, but I don’t think so. My surprise is that Paul only struggled with one trial. The truth is, we don’t know, it is left open.

The apostle Paul is an example of someone who is weak. The words are spoken to any who come in weakness who walk with the Lord. In your weaknesses what do you need? The grace of Christ. Christ died for the ungodly. The grace of God is sufficient for any weakness. There’s enough vagueness here to realise God’s grace is enough for any of us. It is sufficient in every area of life – in redemption, in dealing with our sin. The most gracious act of God is seen in the Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our sins. It is finished! It is sufficient for the work of redemption. It’s sufficient in every circumstance of life. You can lose every comfort but if you have the grace of God, if you can know that Jesus Christ is yours, then you have enough, you have all you’ll ever need.

In the end, as we stand before God in judgement, in His presence, what can we offer? Nothing. Even in the best aspects of your life, you can’t deal with the problem of sin. We come and we have Jesus. Nothing but Jesus. God says, ‘Enter in,’ you’re righteous in the sight of God. Can you say, ‘God’s grace is enough for me?’

How is it that God’s grace is sufficient for us? “My grace is for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God is all-powerful, awesome and mighty. He sustains the universe. He sent His Son into the world and raised Him from the dead as a new creation.

Where do we see most clearly the wondrous grace found in God made perfect? When, out of our weakness, God powerfully displays the glory of His grace, when God works in the weakest of situations. We see it in the wonderful things Jesus says and does in His ministry, in His miracles. But it is most powerful as Jesus Christ laid in a tomb and was then raised from the dead – power out of weakness. When God saves you, He takes you lout of death and sin and brings you to life and uses us in our weakness. This shows the sufficiency of God’s grace. Do your hardships of life draw you nearer to Christ? Christian trials draw you nearer to Christ.

What effect should it have? “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b). That’s how Paul sees the right response. He is not a professional victim. He boasts in his weakness as a vehicle for displaying the power of Christ. When our weakness is our characterising feature, then we see how great the Lord is. Without grasping the grace and goodness of God towards sinners, this doesn’t make sense. Apart from the grace of God, we seek the need to cover our faults. You don’t need to do that. The God of heaven show grace to all sinners. He knows how weak we are and He loves to deal kindly with us. He doesn’t exploit us in our weakness. He saves us from our sin and uses our frailty to display His glory in all the world. We need to stop, step back and see the big picture. There is a God in heaven who shows His grace towards sinners. In our weakness we must magnify the greatness of God by being totally satisfied in the grace of God.

Let your legacy not be some façade of strength, but let it be the strength of Christ. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

May 14th 2023: Andy Pitt

Matthew 10:1-15.


              The passage we read comes at a transition point in the life of the disciples. Shortly after the pandemic hit we decided to do ‘live’ preaching online. I turned up at the church with another friend who was technically minded, and whilst we ‘socially distanced’ I started preaching. After about five minutes he began waving his arms at me, but I was in full swing, so I wondered what he wanted. Eventually I stopped to see what he was concerned about and then he said, “We haven’t gone live yet!” I was preaching to thin air! But that phrase, “We haven’t gone live yet” is relevant here. Up to this point the disciples had yet to ‘go live,’ but now they were to be sent and commissioned. They had been with the Lord for the best part of three years, they had heard His authoritative teaching, they had seen all the miracles He had done, and they had left all to follow Him, but they had yet to minister themselves. It was now time ‘to go live.’

We shall look at this passage with four key themes in mind:

1. The disciples were “sent out” (verse 5) with a divine commission.

2. They were given the same message that Christ originally preached (verse 7), so they had a clear message.

3. They were equipped and given authority (verses 1 and 8), because they had confirming credentials.

4. They were enabled and empowered to go (verses 9 to 15) so they had a confident faith & a settled contentment.

  1. A divine commission

The Lord calls to Himself the twelve disciples. Notice the transition between verses 1 and 2. In verse 1 we read that He calls “the twelve disciples to Himself, and then we find them referred to in verse 2 as “the twelve apostles.” They are no longer merely ‘disciples’ who were learning from Him, but were now ‘apostles’ which term means ‘sent’ or ‘commissioned.’ The Lord also, “Gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (verse 1). And so, He commissions them, giving them a precise mission. They were sent with His authority and were given supernatural powers. Now these apostles were unique. They were enabled to heal the sick and cast out demons but not all have been called in this way (1Corinthians 12:29,30). However, all Christians have been called and commissioned. So, what principles can we learn from this commissioning?

              These twelve apostles were sent out from their comfortable situation into a world of need. They were sent by the Lord and so were not individuals choosing to make a mark. We need to recognise the call of God, for every Christian has been called and commissioned. We are all called:

  • of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:6).
  • to be saints. (Romans 1:7; 1Corinthians 1:2).
  • according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28).
  • sons of the living God (Romans 9:26).
  • into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1Corinthians 1:9).
  • to peace. (1Corinthians 7:15).
  • each one. (1Corinthians 7:17).
  • in the grace of Christ. (Galatians 1:6).
  • to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  (Galatians 5:13).
  • in one hope of your calling. (Ephesians 4:40).
  • in one body. (Colossians 3:15).
  • by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2Thessalonians 2:14).
  • with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2Timothy 1:9).
  • out of darkness into His marvellous light. (1Peter 2:9).
  • to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus. (1Peter 5:10).

The call upon these twelve disciples was specific. And our calling is specific too. But the precise details of what we are called to do is individual and must be worked out by faith as we walk with Christ in fellowship with one another. We are all commissioned of the Lord (Matthew 28:18-20).

              They were sent to a specific location. They were told not to go to the Gentiles nor to the Samaritans but only to “the lost sheep of Israel” (verses 5 and 6). There was a good reason for this; the Lord wanted the nation He had chosen to hear what the Messiah had come to say. We read in John chapter 1 that “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). There would be time for the Gentiles to hear too, but now whilst He was on the earth He wanted Israel to hear His message.

              Now we, of course, are sent into the whole world with the one message of the gospel. We are not to be ashamed of the gospel as Paul tells us, for “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” but we note with Paul that it was “for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). This is why the Lord sent the twelve out to “the lost sheep of Israel” first (verse 6). After the resurrection, the Lord spoke of the church being a witness “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This is our mission field. To us individually we ought to start with our family and colleagues first, them to our neighbours and neighbourhood, and then out to the wider community (Pembrokeshire). In my home church we live in an area of 8,000 people. 45% of these are Muslims, although not all practising Islam. 30% of all are under the age of 20. We have got to know our community. The Lord trained the disciples over the three years and showed them their mission field. Do we know ours? The Lord was very clear about where the apostles were to go. He did not just leave them to get on saying “off you go,” but told them precisely where to go and how to go about this. Have we asked the Lord about our local mission field? To whom are we sent?

  1. A clear message

              The apostles were told to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven has come near” (verse 7). Compare this with Matthew 4:17 where the Lord began His preaching by saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” They were also given authority (verse 1) as we too have been through the Lord’s great commission (Matthew 28:18,19). Our authority comes from the word of God. Our message must be the same. When I was at grammar school as a young boy we had strict teachers, so when a supply teacher came to sit in for one of our teachers who was elsewhere, we played up and gave them a hard time. The regular teachers had an air of authority about them which the supply teachers did not. Our only authority comes from the Lord and from what He says. If we stick to His message (the Bible) and speak from this, whether people hear or not, we will exercise authority.

              We are to preach “Christ crucified,” and we must not boast in anything “except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Corinthians 1:23; 2:2; Galatians 6:14). What is the message preached in your pulpit? What message do you proclaim? We do not need psychology, philosophy, politics, economics nor any other slant. The message must be the same as that which the Lord delivered, and which He called His apostles to deliver. There is salvation in, “No other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” namely, Jesus Christ our Lord (Acts 4:12).

              But we are to preach to those to whom we have been sent. That is, to the people amongst whom we live and move. We must be careful that we are not preaching to those who ‘know the jargon.’ It is very easy to simply speak in language that the people around us cannot understand. The message can be lost amidst ‘doctrine and theology.’ That is not to downplay doctrine and theology. These are vital. But we are in a time when people know nothing of our doctrine and theology. It isn’t that they know little of it, they know nothing at all. Our message must be the same as Christ. It can only be from the word of God. But we need to speak clearly to the people, explaining the gospel in language they can grasp. We must still preach the word:

  • 28 Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).
  •  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10).
  • Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1Timothy 1:15).

But are we speaking in ‘jargon’ or in language for the intellectual? People who come to our services express themselves in their own language, not in the language many reformed evangelical believers have learned. One woman said simply, “I want to know how to be clean, to be clean on the inside.” Later on, when she was converted she used terms such as ‘conviction of sin’ and ‘saved by grace’ and so on, but these were not the phrases she knew when she was seeking. Are we learning the language of our culture so that we can deliver the true gospel to be understood? We must stick with the revealed word of God. But we must reach out to a world that has no knowledge of God and His word. How are we doing?

  1. Confirming credentials

              Jesus knew that the apostles (and us) would hear responses such as, “Who do they think they are telling us what is true and right?” Now for these apostles the Lord gave them ‘confirming credentials,’ the signs and wonders. This was vital in the early days of the church. People ought to hear the message of God and repent, but these ‘confirming credentials’ were given to aid in their belief. What about today? Well, the whole point here is not so much the spectacle as the fact that God was compassionate for the people. He healed their sick and raised their dead. Apart from the fact that these were wonders proving His deity and demonstrating clearly the power of His word, they were done from love and in great compassion. Now we may well not be able to do such miracles. The Spirit of God knows how to dispense His gifts to His people and not all have such gifting (1Corinthians 12:29,30). But we can certainly go to the lost in compassion and love. We need to remember that on the night before He died the Lord taught the disciples how to serve by washing their feet and He said these words:

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35).

A true and real love and devotion to the Lord as the centre of one’s life demonstrated by outward love for others is our confirming credential. We make a grave mistake if we think that a signs and wonders ministry is essential, for many saw these miracles but were not saved at all (Matthew 7:21-23). If people can see Christ in, and amongst us, and see His love displayed as it was whilst He was on earth, then we will be doing the Father’s will. The Lord says to us: “freely you have received, freely give,” (verse 8) and since we stand by grace and have been given an abundance, who are we to deny those around us? Let us have true compassion on the lost by taking this gospel to them seeking that they truly grasp it, never forgetting that these are our fellow men and women made in the image of God, but in great need (spiritually as well as physically). The most forgiving, gracious, and merciful people on this earth ought to be believers! Freely we have received! Oh what immense and abundant blessings we have been given! Let us spread abroad the great gifts and blessings of the Lord to a lost world.

              Now some focus on what is known as ‘the social gospel.’ They do a lot of good things and help people out in their physical needs. This is a good thing to do. But it is not the ministry of Christ. Christ came to save sinners. Christ came to give His life a ransom for many. He came with compassion and He healed and delivered, yes indeed, but His prime focus was upon the salvation of lost souls. We cannot walk by anyone in physical need (James 2:14-17). We ought to do what we can for them. But the most important thing is to speak out the gospel. Physical needs are seen and apparent, but everyone (despite how they appear) is in grave spiritual need. The rich and the great people among us are dead in trespasses and sins and are like lepers or paraplegics in a spiritual sense. We cannot see this easily, but it is a far more grave problem than those of a physical nature, (sickness, homlelessness, troubles). All need to repent of their sin and lost state because all are sinners who stand condemned and there is only One Saviour (John 14:6; Acts 4;12).

  1. Confident faith & a settled contentment

              Now the apostles were commissioned to go to the lost sheep of Israel but without money and without taking spare clothes (verses 9 and 10). The Lord says to them, “A worker is worthy of his food,”  and they were to seek worthy lodgings where peace might reside (verses 10 to 13). If any would not receive them they were to “shake off the dust” from their feet (verse 14), for such a place would stand condemned (verse 15).

              There are two main thoughts in these closing words of our passage. First the Lord will provide. The Lord gives the apostles specific instructions about how they were to travel, what they would eat and where they might lodge. All of this was in His care. We too have the same promise (Matthew 6:33). That does not mean we should not work but that we should recognise that all our provision and supply is in the hands of the Lord.

The second main thing is knowing when to walk away. Here the apostles were told to make inquiries about whom would be “worthy” in any given place and to remain there until they left (verse 11). But some of the houses would not be worthy and so the apostles were told to leave with their peace unreceived. Now we walk between taking the gospel to those who will not want to hear it but given time may well come to faith in Christ, and those who will never hear. How do we know the difference? We are to be merciful and forgiving, but there comes a time when we must walk away. One man gave me this advice in my early days, “Don’t waste time with time wasters.” This is a matter for discernment. There are those who join for an easy ride. They get attention and physical benefits (if we are caring and compassionate) but that is all they want. We must be patient and merciful, but we must be persuasive and firm too. Our mission is to call people into the ark of Christ. Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2Peter 2:5) and he built the ark for the saving of his household (Hebrews 11:7). We too are calling people into Christ and we work for the salvation of souls. Those who simply want the physical and temporal blessings will never come into the ark. So, ask the Lord for discernment as you seek to preach and live out the gospel in a compassionate and loving way.

  • We have been commissioned with a divine calling.
  • We have a divine message we dare not change but must seek to explain with clarity.
  • We seek to come in compassion as well as truth, for Christ came to save sinners.
  • We have been given all that is needed to carry out our commission for God is with us (Immanuel).

May 7th 2023: Ian Jones

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“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell
in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23:6

The last verse is important; we recognise when David wrote these words it was in relation to how he saw his life – from two different perspectives. Today, many people only view their lives from one perspective – what this world offers them. They will spend all their time and energy on this. For example, focusing on their career, family or hobbies. It takes up all of their time. Going to church will only be relevant to them at certain times – for funerals, weddings, when times are hard. When times are better, they forget about God.

David was very different. He walked by faith, not by sight. His first perspective was how he could relate to this world. He also had this other perspective, in relation to eternity. Friends, how do you see life? Is it from only a single perspective? Are you willing to give up everything so that you might serve Him? (Parable of the precious pearl of great value). You may be like the rich young ruler who felt the way of eternal life was too costly. Sadly, he turned and walked away from the Lord Jesus.

The first five verses of this psalm all relate to this world, how Christ looks after people. In verse 1 we see the Lord is our Shepherd. David gives the explanation of this in the verses that follow. These are verses which speak of how the Lord blesses us in our lives. Even as we approach death, we have nothing to fear.

But the last verse is linked with the world and all eternity. David is now taking us from this world to now focus on eternity. If Christ is my Shepherd in this life, He will be my Shepherd for all eternity. Wonderful! People at their wedding promise to love one another, but this is ‘til death to us part.’ But David reminds us that if Christ is my Shepherd, He will be with us forever more. Death will not part us.

Mary Magdalene was so distressed on seeing the empty tomb. She thought the man she met was the gardener, but when He says her name she realises it is the Lord. Her immediate response is she wanted to hug Him, to hold onto Him. The encouragement is, if you love the Lord, He promises He will always be with us.

Shepherds in this country use sheepdogs. When David was around, in the Middle East, shepherds went ahead to lead the sheep. Today, sheepdogs chase the sheep in a certain way as they respond to the shepherd’s whistle. God has two wonderful sheepdogs, one called goodness and one called mercy. Goodness is God giving us what we don’t deserve but mercy is God not giving us what we deserve.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life.”

David looks back over his life, his experiences, and says with absolute confidence it is the Shepherd’s provision which has led him and kept him close to Him all the days of his life. Here we find God’s commitment, His goodness and mercy. It is easy to speak of when there’s a lot to be joyful about, but it is much harder to speak about when things are difficult. But even then, God’s goodness follows us. James writes, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4). Count it all joy that God is working His good in us through these trials.

Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt, then went to prison. Later on, when God revealed to him the purpose of all of this, he could say to his brothers, As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” (Genesis 50:20a). Friends, God’s goodness keeps us close to Him.

Imagine if God’s judgement followed us all the days of our lives, knowing we’re sinners. But God’s mercy follows us every day. It helps us to keep close to Him. He is full of mercy, full of grace, full of truth. We are reminded of God sending His Son to die for us. Sin has been paid for. If I sin against God, I know He will forgive me and restore me if I repent. He is willing to forgive all who come to Him in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

What effect should this have on us? How do others relate to us? What do we leave behind in our footsteps? Am I good to the Lord’s people?

“I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Here is a man who is coming to the end of his life and sees death approaching. He doesn’t want to cover up death. Here is a person who does not fear what lies beyond the grave. He looks forward to eternity. Here is a content, happy sheep. This sheep is coming home to the house of the Lord, heaven above. He is going to be with God in glory. There will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears. The wanderings of this world will be no more.

It’s a picture of our life; whilst we’re in this world the Lord has saved and protected us through times of joy, suffering and temptation, bringing us closer to Him. Now, it’s a reminder, our home is not in this world but in glory forever more. Death will come. If we know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be taken up with Him forever more, in glory.

Oh, what joy lies before us. We will really appreciate what Christ has done for us when we reach heaven. To cross the finishing line is our focus. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Lastly, what about those who want to be their own shepherd in this life, to captain their own ship? There’s a place prepared for them too, which is the exact opposite. Jesus spoke more of hell than heaven. We need to warn people. The gospel message is very serious. It is the way to salvation. Rejecting this leads to a time of punishment. Friends, may I encourage you, if you’ve not done so, to come to the Shepherd. There is only one way of salvation – through Jesus Christ.

April 30th 2023: Gareth Evans

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Isaiah 55

Have you ever been to a busy market place where vendors are shouting at you to buy their wares? They may have a roll of fake goods. In a sense we see here the voice of God calling people to come to buy from Him, through grace, the way of salvation. From this passage of scripture we can learn four things:

  1. Verses 1-3, 6-7: Come. There is an urgent invitation. God is telling us what we must do in order to come to Him. God is summoning us to come to Him. The Almighty God is calling little me to come to Him. God is going to summon us to come back to Him.
  2. Verses 2-5, 7: A precious promise. This is a picture of what God does for unbelievers. God will satisfy our hunger for Him. There is a promise of free and wonderful salvation. 700 years before Christ, He is already talking of the promise of the gospel.
  3. Verses 10-11: The method God uses when reaching out. He will do this by the preaching of the Word.
  4. Verses 12-13: The glorious destiny. There will be a wonderful glory, a momentous event when God’s people are joined to be with Him.

  1. An Urgent Invitation

Isaiah the prophet speaks the Word of God. You can’t think of any richer food than wine or milk. There is nothing richer in God’s gospel, the promise of eternal life. There is a three-fold repetition – come, come, come. You must come. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command. ‘Incline your ear’ make sure you are hearing properly. Lean forward because your life depends on this message of the gospel. God is speaking to us.

The price for the goods has already been paid. He is concerned for our eternal welfare. All of this urgency is shaped by you and I coming to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, repenting of sins and believing and trusting in Him. The problem God is addressing, why it’s so urgent, is to be seen in verse 2,

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.”

Don’t waste your life on things that don’t matter. In our brevity of life be prepared to meet with God. Unless you come in God’s way to God, you’ll shatter your soul’s health. Don’t pour your time into things that don’t matter; it can’t satisfy you or save you. Isaiah is challenging us to think of the end of life in this world, for us to prepare to meet with God.

It’s a free offer,

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.”
(Isaiah 55:1)

It’s an interesting call – you don’t have to pay for it, it’s not ours to pay. Your poverty of soul you bring to Christ, knowing He has paid the price already. The gospel is not free, pardon is not free. In the Lord Jesus Christ, God has already paid the price at the cross in the suffering of His Son (Isaiah 53). He has purchased it by His own blood. It is free for us today because it has cost Him everything. Philippians 2 is a wonderful hymn of praise. The gospel offers satisfaction for us today. People live as in the days of Noah, but one day God will call time on the world and then we’ll answer to God. Come to Him. Come to Jesus Christ for a heart renewed, in order to be united with God through Him.

It’s also an universal offer, “Come, everyone who thirsts … he who has no money. Who is invited to come? All who are thirsty, who have no money. In other words, you come to the point where you’re bereft of any other method of saving yourself or finding yourself at peace with God. You’ve failed to find another way. You realise that in your sins you are without hope, you realise you’re lost. Come as you are, recognising your needs.

  • A Precious Promise.

There’s a precious promise in verse 2,

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.”

You’ve recognised Him as the only way. The promise of life to us has been bought and paid for by the Lord Jesus Christ. He has the authority to give eternal life to those who come to Him. Think of these words. Just come. Don’t be held back by your guilt from the past. The only way to rid yourself of that guilt is to come to the Lord Jesus Christ. Get yourself to Jesus today. He will abundantly pardon those who come to Him. Why delay the loving heart of Christ?

  • A Wonderful Method.

God uses a wonderful method,

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
(Isaiah 55:10-11).

The whole of verse 10 is taken up with an illustration so we can understand verse 11. This book, what do you think of it? Paul, in speaking to Timothy says that the Word of God is useful for all things “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16). It is primarily through the Word of God that people are transformed. The promise of mercy, the promise of a pardon, the promise of salvation will never fail to bring a harvest. That’s the promise of God.

Listen to the public Word of God, to the Word being preached. Come prepared; ask the Lord to make the most of everything the preacher says. Come to respond. Be serious about being a pleaser of God. You want your life to be an act of worship to God. The way of God is the voice of Jesus Christ. He speaks. Listening to His voice new life the dead receive.

  • A Glorious Destiny.

There’s a glorious destiny for the Christian,

“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

(Isaiah 55:11-13)

It maybe you have been wandering away and He is calling you back. The joy that you taste here when you read the gospel, when this world come to an end, all things will forever be correct and right – as God intended from the beginning. The curse that fell on the world because of the Fall (Genesis 3), will one day be undone,

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

(Isaiah 55:13)

The one who became a curse for us on the cross will have made His blessings flow. The curse will be eliminated entirely. “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3). Here, we have a foretaste of heaven: a new creation, a new forever home. It is a wonderful thought. Who would not want that? Who can reject the love of Jesus Christ in light of all He has promised? Jesus Christ continues to offer the urgent invitation, hope of glory. This is the gospel age – salvation offered to all. Will you answer, will you respond to this urgent invitation, this precious promise? Will you trust it, because at the end of it all, there’s a glorious destiny for the Christian? Will you inherit eternal life by coming to God, by responding to His gracious invitation?

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without price.”
(Isaiah 55:1)

April 23rd 2023: James Hughes

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Jonah 2 – 3:4

Jonah was a very nationalistic prophet who had been sent to Nineveh, a particularly vicious and cruel empire, to proclaim God’s judgement. From my previous sermon we learnt that the God’s judgement on Nineveh is just. It is an act of mercy – there is an opportunity for repentance. The prodigal prophet Jonah believed that the mission he has been given is wrong because the people of Nineveh don’t deserve God’s mercy and he decides it’s not for him. He was also the sleeping saint. The one man who had all the answers to the storm going on is asleep.

The terrified travellers, hardened sailors who had done this journey before, recognise it is no ordinary storm and are desperately looking for answers. There is surprising salvation; one man sacrificed to save everyone onboard. Then we have the penitent pagans; the impact of the storm becoming calm was immediate and life-changing. Our picture of Christ is one person sacrificed to save everyone else. Christ takes on the storm and sacrifices Himself for us.

Like those in the boat, the world is searching for answers. It knows something is wrong, that this world is a mess, but it looks to politics, charity, morality – all the wrong places. We need to wake up, like Jonah, and tell the people of this world what the answer is.

Another lesson we heard was God saves those who aren’t even looking. The people on the boat weren’t giving God a second thought, yet He sent a storm that directs all their attention on Him. Have you been sent a storm recently to lead you to consideration of your soul? If you’re a Christian, perhaps you’ve been sent circumstances because you may have wandered from God’s love. That doesn’t mean that every storm that you go through is a result of disobedience, but in these things God can draw our attention to Him.

Finally, God works despite our disobedience. We cannot mess up God’s sovereign plans to save sinners. These pagans were saved because of Jonah’s disobedience. It’s a bizarre paradox. That doesn’t excuse our sin.

Today, we continue the story in chapter 2. It is a wonderful prayer that Jonah cries out.

The Sorry Seer.
In Jonah’s prayer we can note three points:

  • He recognises the circumstances he finds himself in are God’s doing (Jonah 2:3).
  • He sees his circumstances but as his prayer develops, his main concern is his relationship with God (Jonah 2:7).
  • Jonah cries that he’s been delivered while he’s still in the fish (Jonah 2:6).

God’s Grace.
The judgement of being in the fish is part of God’s grace; it drives Jonah to God. It’s the best place to be. When he was safe on the boat, he was far away from God’s presence. God restores His relationship with Jonah. From his prayer, Jonah has that sense once more of God’s gracious presence. God’s grace brings him through the circumstances and safely through the other side.

Fresh faith.
Jonah had nothing going for him in his situation. In the fish, deep in the ocean, he seems to be in a hopeless situation. He is aware of this. He recognises that this is the end, yet faith gives him hope because he knows who is in control. Salvation belongs to the Lord. Jonah knows, even though his circumstances are dire, it doesn’t matter because God is in control.

A Preserved Prophet.
The fish vomits Jonah out onto dry land. Possibly, this is the most staggering part of the story, Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” (Jonah 3:1-2). Some of the most precious words. Jonah has deliberately disobeyed God, he has done the exact opposite of what God had said. God had every right to say to Jonah, ‘I’ve saved you from your sin and rebellion, you’re out of the fish, but I’m never going to use you as a prophet again, I can’t trust you.’ Yet God is willing to say to Jonah, ‘I still want you to take my message. I still want to use you to share the grace and mercy that I have for the people of Nineveh.’ He is a preserved prophet – not just alive but still being used by God.

Powerful proclamation.
What would your strategy have been for Nineveh? ‘Come and see the man who was swallowed by a fish and survived!’ People would have been captivated. Instead, Jonah walks a day’s journey and declares, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4b). Nothing about a fish, simply a message of God’s judgement on Nineveh. It’s a powerful message.

Pointing to Christ.
Matthew 12:38-42. Aside from the fact that Christ mentions this, it authenticates the story of Jonah as real and not a myth. He directly references that as Jonah was three days in the fish, so He would be three days in the tomb. That’s very important because in this world lots of people have ideas of who Jesus was and what He was doing. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the cross. Christ is not a victim but victor. It is finished! The victory of the Resurrection is happening on the cross, before He is raised. ‘Tis finished! The Messiah dies.’ The victory comes from the cross. It is important we are not under the illusion that the death of Christ was unfortunate. Christ knew exactly what he was coming to do. The reference to Jonah shows He knew He would die and three days later rise.

The most important part of life is our relationship with God, not our circumstances. Jonah’s priority, when in the fish, was to turn to God and address his broken relationship with God. If you’re a Christian struggling with circumstances, the most important thing is having a right relationship with God. If you do find yourself in difficult circumstances, it doesn’t mean necessarily that your relationship with God isn’t right. If your relationship with Him is right, everything will fall into place, all things will work together for good. You may not get to see this at the time, but it will work for good. If you’re not a Christian and struggling, I don’t want to belittle whatever you’re facing, but it’s not the biggest issue you have now – it’s having a right relationship with God.

God forgives and restores us when we fall. Like Jonah, we disobey God, we break His commands by our words, our actions and our thoughts. There is a lesson here for practical forgiveness for Christians. If anybody in this universe has a right not to forgive, it’s God. He doesn’t have to forgive, yet He forgives us over and over again. Even better, God just doesn’t forgive us, He restores us and wants us to be useful for Him again. The glorious news of the gospel is God’s grace and mercy is always available to those who call on Him.

The Word is all that is necessary. Don’t look for signs. Jonah had no interest in exploiting the incredible story of his salvation; he had a message he was given and simply gave it. For Christians, we are in danger today of thinking the Word of God isn’t effective. Remember the Word of God is effective. There is nothing wrong with using creative ideas when sharing the gospel, but the important thing to remember is, is the trust in the messenger, the method or is it in the source and power of the message?

Jonah’s ministry was incredibly effective. It’s likely he was quite a mess at this time, but he gives us great hope. If Jonah can cause a revival in an utterly barbaric city simply by calling out the message of judgement that God had given him, by the Holy Spirit working, then hearts and lives can be changed today.

The Spirit can work. Don’t’ be put off by a lack of supposed inability or past failings. You’re not going out to moralise, you’re not going out there to say, ‘Look at me, how I live and be like me.’ What you are going to say is, ‘I’m a sinner but look at what the Lord has done for me.’ Don’t be put off by failure or lack of ability. Simply share your story, ‘I was a sinner but God rescued me.’ The pattern of the Christian life is mirrored in Jonah’s story: confession of sin, restoration through the love of Christ by the Spirit of God, then service in bringing the gospel to a needy world.

If you’re not a Christian today, what are you waiting for? Are you looking for a dramatic sign? Jesus has some very hard words for those looking for signs, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 12:39) The only sign you can be certain you’ll be given is the sign of the Resurrection.

Jonah simply preached that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days and people repented. You have been given a message that you stand under God’s judgement and you need Jesus Christ to save you. What is your response?

April 16th 2023: Jonny Raine

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Ephesians 3:14-21

“Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

‘Please, sir, I want some more.’ The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice.
‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.’”

God is the complete opposite of those men who ran the workhouse. When we ask for more, He gives willingly gives over and over again. Where are we landing in the Bible? We are three quarters of the way through the Bible, in Ephesians, a letter written by Paul, who encountered Jesus when He was trying to kill Christians and close down the church. Jesus sent him on to tell others about Jesus. The church also recognised him and sent him on to tell people about Jesus. When other people became Christians through Paul telling them about Jesus, they then started churches. Paul then went on to other places, to tell other people about Jesus.

Paul would often write back to new churches which had been formed, to encourage them in the gospel, and to teach them how they are to be as God’s people. That is what he’s doing in the letter of Ephesians. So far in the book, he has told them how God has worked in eternity and in time to make them His own people, and how this results in a growing Christian life (chapter 1). In chapter 2 Paul is explaining how God has made Christians spiritually alive, even though we were previously dead in our sins. He is spiritually drawing each believer to each other. So, regardless of whether our background was Jewish or Gentile, we are made one together as a church in Jesus. When we normally create divisions, as human beings, the gospel – the good news of Jesus, breaks them down.

Just as Paul is about to tell them how he prays for them and what his prayer is for them, he interrupts himself and explains God’s plan to unite Jews and Gentiles, what it means to be God’s people. For us, whatever our background or ethnicity, the message is that we are welcome to come to God in Jesus. Paul then goes back to speak about the prayer he prays for his people, then he goes on to explain what it means to live a Christian life because of the change that has been brought to us.

Paul’s prayer shows how he prays in light of all God has done in Jesus. Quite simply, it is a prayer for more. Before we come to the prayer itself, we see the approach to prayer; we need more and more humility, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Ephesians 3:14). I don’t know if you’ve ever knelt when praying, it’s not a requirement in the Bible. Another posture, which is mentioned in the Bible, is to pray with your hands raised.

Paul points out God’s greatness, His high position. Recapping God’s greatness leads to humility. Paul is not demanding of God, rather he comes humbly submitting to God. He refers to God as his Father. We might have had negative experiences of an earthly father, but God is our perfect Father. We need more humility.

Paul essentially has three requests. If we are asking for more, we already have had some. These are things Christians can never get enough of. God’s supplies are endless. He can keep giving more and more of Himself, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,” (Ephesians 3:16).

  1. More Power.

The power Christians have access to has already been a theme of the book, especially at the end of chapter 1. It’s the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the power that we have access to. Here the focus is first on how this power is brought to us – through the Holy Spirit. Every Christian has God’s Spirit living within them. He is co-equal with God the Father and the Son. He is the means by which God’s power is available to us. Because He lives within us, we have the power of God available to us.

“May be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height,” (Ephesians 3:18). Paul speaks about how he might grasp the four dimensions: width, length, height and depth. This might refer to God’s love, but Paul leaves this thing of immense measurement unspecified – it might be the limitless of God’s power for us.

Why do we need such limitless power? In order to grasp the more of other things God has for us, we need the power of God for us to be able to do. In order to live the Christian life, we need the limitless power of God to do so, to live faithfully for Him. That power is made ours more and more.

  • More Closeness

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Ephesians 3:17). That’s intimate language. The Spirit lives in our hearts. The Spirit and Christ are so united together in oneness; as the Spirit lives in us, so Christ lives in us. The fulness of the Father lives in us, Christ dwells in our hearts and the Spirit within us. This is something we already have as Christians. As Christians, we already have a closeness with God. We have been made one with the Father through what Jesus has done for us, as the Spirit unites us to Christ.

It’s something we can have more and more of. The closeness we have in God, through Christ, in the Spirit, grows and grows. Sometimes, as Christians, our faith fluctuates, but He is always giving more and more. We can pray we can have more and more.

  • More Love.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Ephesians 3:17). The root and foundation of love is the beginning point of love. He loves us, so we can love Him. “To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19). This is a prayer that we would know this love that surpasses knowledge. We’ll never be able to explain the deepness of God’s love for us, but we can have more of it. Just as you think you might be able to understand the extent of God’s love, to begin to grasp it, you realise how vast and limitless His ocean of love for us is. God loves you.

When you realise He loved you even when you were sinful, you realise He loved you more. When you realise that He loved you even when you were an enemy of His and yet He still loved you, then you love Him more. When you realise that it cost Him the death of Son to show you the greatness of His love, you realise how much more He loves you.

When you realise that it took Jesus to take our sin upon Himself and endure the hell we deserved, you realise that He loved you more than you even realised before. When you realise that He holds you securely in His love and His love will not let you go, you realise that He loves you even more. When you realise He loves you despite your wavering faith and continued sin, you realise that He loves you more.

When we think we’ve grasped the fulness of God’s love, you realise something more of what God has done for you. He loves you more than you previously thought. As you see He loves you more, so you love Him more.

The result of this is more praise. When we realise all the ‘mores’ God has in store for us – more power, more closeness, more love for each one of us, we just have to tell Him how grateful we are, how much we love Him and appreciate what He has done for us. The final two verses are quite simply that, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Even in that overflow of praise, Paul can’t help but squeeze in whatever we think or imagine, God is bigger, God is more. Such is the awesome, infinite greatness of God who works in us, who has glory in His people, and in His Son, and whose glory continues from generation to generation, forever.

What difference does this actually make to us? What difference does this make if you’re not a Christian or if you’re not sure, or if you want to share something of this with people who aren’t Christians?

The question to ask is. ‘Is this the kind of God I would want to know?’ If I don’t know this God, is this the kind of God that I would want to know – a God who is generous, kind and ready to share all of His immense riches, all of His glory with His people, a God who empowers His people, a God who draws His people closer to Himself?

If that’s you and you’re not yet a Christian, or perhaps thinking about Him, you can come to Him today. He opens His arms to welcome you today, whatever our failings, whatever our sins, we bring them to Him. In Him we find complete and full forgiveness. In Him we are made His children so that we can call Him our Father. He has shown us His love in Jesus and He want to bring us all to Himself, to give us a life that we can then live for Him. If there is something you are not sure about, then why not start reading about Jesus’ life? Read about how He has revealed God to us. Come back to the church here. Keep coming back week by week and hear about the good news of Jesus.

If you are a Christian, no doubt you have a desire for more. We realise we don’t have it all.  So, we can pray for ourselves; we can ask God to give us more of Himself. As we come before Him humbly, we can ask Him to give us more power, more closeness and more love from Himself.

We can pray that for each other – that’s exactly what Paul is doing here, he is praying for other believers a long, long way away from him. He is praying that they would experience these ‘mores’ of God. As a church you can pray that for each other. You can pray for those who preach week by week. Even when we’re at the end of our capacity, He keeps on giving of Himself to us. He keeps giving out of His grace, out of His loving kindness to us. We keep leaning on Him, we keep looking to Him.

April 9th 2023: Easter Sunday – Gaius Douglas

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Luke 24:1-12

We are raised with Him! Death is dead! Love has won! Christ has conquered! It’s a wonderful thing when we read the Bible; we learn the beginning and the end of the world. This book thrills our hearts when we read it. The more we read, the more we know about the One who is on high.

“Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,” (Luke 24:5-6). I read from Psalm 24, a wonderful chapter which speaks about the One. David wrote a little bit about himself but also about someone else. Throughout the Bible we can see writers God would use to write about someone else – about the future. When we read it we need to see the current situation but also look ahead.

“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.”

Psalm 24: 3-4

When we read the Bible we need to be looking at what the writer says about the current situation, but also looking ahead, to the future. In the above verses from Psalm 24 we read, ‘Who may ascend into the of the Lord?’ The writer speaks about someone who would come – none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Just think about the different hills He would climb when He came into this world, when He walked this life. He had to climb up a hill of the religious authorities, the arrogant people, the obstinate people, the people who hated Him. Finally, He ascended the hill called Calvary, where He laid down His life for you and for me.

He ascended many hills. Why was He able to do that? Because He had ‘clean hands and a pure heart.’ He did not bow down to idols. He ascended that hill, He died, He gave His life for you and for me. He is no longer dead, no longer buried. He is alive! He had to destroy death in order that he would rise in victory. 2 Corinthians 5:21 confirms the same thought, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” He was the only man who ever walked this Earth who was able to do that.

A perfect path of purest grace,
Unblemished and complete,
Was Thine, Thou spotless Nazarite,
Pure, even to the feet.

Wylie McLeod

It’s wonderful, as we celebrate today and everyday of our lives. He is ascended to God, awaiting that day when we’ll come again and receive us to Himself. That is our home, where we’ll one day be because we are raised with Him. We are celebrating a risen Saviour! Even now, in our current situation, we are raised with Him. We should be living with Him. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Today, there are those who would say that they are Christians. They may be found in churches and chapels, but they deny that Christ ever rose from the dead. This is nothing new. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. This is what the writer of Corinthians says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”   (1 Corinthians 15:13-17). If you don’t believe the Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, you are a miserable person. That is what the Bible says.

Those of us who have trusted Him as our Saviour are not just living for this life, we are raised with Him. Christ died for our sins. He was buried and rose again. Because He lives, we should be the happiest people. The Resurrection confirmed that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Son of God. In Acts 2 Peter preached the first gospel message – Christ died for our sins, He bore our own sins. By rising from the dead, we have the proof that He is victorious over death. We see the physical demonstration of God’s power over death, over sin, over Satan.

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18). The power that has saved you and me, given you life, comes from God Himself. Christ has risen! God’s power is over everything, including death.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! (Luke 24: 5b-6a). The scriptures are the infallible word of God, inspired by God. We must believe them. If people who struggle to appreciate Christ see us doubting the word of God, doubting the fact that He is risen from the dead, living as if our life is for this world only, then what are we preaching, what are we teaching, what are we living?

The purpose of the Resurrection is the power over sin and death. The women who followed Jesus Christ cared for Him; the fed and made sure He never went hungry. They went to take spices to embalm His body. The tomb was empty. Today, in Israel, there will be thousands of people visiting a tomb. The tomb is empty! That is evidence that Christ is not there. The angel asked the women, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” How often we forget what God has said in His word. We forget His promises. The women were so distressed. The religious people knew Jesus had said He would rise again, so they made sure the tomb was sealed. Imagine these women running to tell Peter and them all that Jesus is risen! The dour men thought it was women’s gossip. They did not believe.

Later, we read of two travelling on the Emmaus Road who were sad. Jesus joined them but they did not recognise Him. He took them back into the scriptures. I wonder if He took them back to Psalm 24? He spoke to them. They invited Him into their home. They said, Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32). Wow! This is exciting. Seven miles, in the dark, on the road to Emmaus, they would run back to Jerusalem to tell the others Christ has risen, risen from the dead. This is proof of the Resurrection.

One of the truths of the Resurrection is the transformation that took place in the life of the disciples and of us today. Are you living? Are you alive? “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  (Ephesians 2:4-7)

You are sitting today in Penuel Chapel, but you are also alive in glory. We are raised with Him. We are a testimony of His grace and favour to us. Do we appreciate who we are in Christ? He has resurrected us. The Resurrection power is what has occurred in your life and my life. We were dead in trespasses, in sins. We are raised with Him! He has destroyed the power of Satan. In Christ, God sees us sitting in heavenly places, raised with Him. If that doesn’t excite you, nothing will! We are raised with Him. Wow!

The Lord Jesus Christ travelled to Bethany because He was told his friend Lazarus was dead. The disciples said, ‘When you heard he wasn’t well you didn’t go, but now he’s dead you’re going.’ He met Martha, who was very sad and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (John 11:21-22). Jesus replied by saying, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Do you believe it? We are raised with Him. Oh, my friends, if only we can grasp that today.

 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Revelation 1:18). Wow! He is alive and we are raised with Him. If that doesn’t move your heart, nothing will. Knowing Christ is one thing, but living in the power of an endless life, living in Him, relying on Him, living in Him – amazing!  

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3).

Are you ready to go with Him? He may come today.

April 7th 2023 – Good Friday: John Scanlon

Matthew 27: 27-46

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:

Imagine a spaceship hovering over a planet in which people can beam down. The spaceship can move from place to place in a flash – the ultimate form of travel. You can end up not only in another place but also another time. Imagine something went wrong and we do not know where we are or in what time we are. We start to look for familiar landmarks. As we walk along, we find ourselves on a hill facing a bright sunset. You can see three crosses – no people, nothing else, no signs of activity. Absolute silence. But in your mind’s eye, as you move forward, you get the feeling that you have just missed something. You draw nearer, looking for clues as to what you’ve missed. You see marks on the crosses – nail holes. There are patches of blood stains on the ground. You realise you have missed a barbaric form of death by crucifixion by the Romans. You now know where you are and the time frame. You have perceived from the blood on the ground the life that ran out of three men.

In times past, life wasn’t so precious. The death penalty was given for offences today we would consider quite mild. 250 years ago, in this country, a boy would be sentences to death for poaching a rabbit to feed his family. The scene we are standing at is a sight of battle, battle against sin. The one who died at the end of the fight was the victor. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13). If we’re not familiar with the gospel, we can wonder, ‘What does this mean?’ Can it be that one of the men who died was innocent of any crime and died in the place of someone else, that He laid down His life for others? If so, which one was it? Who benefitted from this unselfish act?

In the gospel we find the incredible but true story of how mankind had become so sinful down through the years, that our just God could not look upon us because of the terrible state we were in. A righteous God demanded that a penalty should be paid to atone for our sins, And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22). A righteous God demands a penalty of death. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23).

We learn from this that there is hope. Jesus has paid the just penalty for our sins. In the shedding of blood, He has purchased our forgiveness. The forgiveness of sin is extended to all who repent. But we can’t do what we like. This isn’t just saying sorry, expressing regret or putting on a sad face. Only in true repentance can we reap the benefits of what Christ has done on that cross. Repentance means a complete turnaround from your own way of life, following a different path. It means having in our hearts a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The whole idea of redemption was not an afterthought; it was planned from the foundation of the world. Its fulfilment was announced by Jesus in His final breath when He cried out, “It is finished.”

We are told in the gospel that it went dark for three hours. In this modern world we don’t know what real darkness is like. Imagine what it would have been like before God said, ‘Let there be light.’ Jesus is the Light of the world. When that darkness came as Jesus was crucified, I believe it was the time when Jesus was dead. There was no light anymore.

There were three crosses. Three crosses, three men. Two of the men were thieves, one on either side. They had received the death sentence, which means they were not just pick-pockets. They had been caught, tried and sentenced. The poor man who hung in the middle was ridiculed. We know very little about these thieves. We assume they were both guilty of their crimes. But we see one difference between them – one continued to curse Jesus. He was angry and wanted to blame everyone else for what he had done and showed no regret for what he had done.

The other one thief was different. He had been just as evil but he admitted he was getting the punishment which he deserved, But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41).

What had happened to this man? How did he have this change of heart? He was stuck on a cross in full view of everybody else. Somehow, he knew that no matter what he did, nothing would change. He had come to realise that he had brought all this suffering on himself. But within his heart a miracle had taken place. He saw himself as a sinner; he saw the terrible condition of his soul and he could no longer face up to being the man he was. On that day, the Holy Spirit reached out and touched the heart of that man. The miracle of repentance. He felt a burning need for the cleansing of his soul, so he turned to God – to the pitiful bleeding wreck next to him on the cross. He recognised Him for who He really was and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). Those words were welcomed by the man next to him who said, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). There was no baptism, no Sunday School – only repentant faith was needed.

Three men hung side by side that day. The one on the left died in his sins. The one on the right died free from sin. The one in the centre died for the sins of others. One died in love, one died in despair, one died in faith. In the centre was our Saviour, paying the price for us in the deepest of love, dying on our behalf. On the left of Him stood the man who had no regrets for his sins. He cursed those around him as if they were to blame. He did not care about his past, his present or his future. He was heading for the deepest hell. There are far too many in this world who are in the same state. On His right was a man who saw the error of his ways, who freely confessed his sin, and in true repentance had been welcomed into the Kingdom of God.

Let me ask you today, what about you? Where do you stand? Are you standing on the left of Jesus with unrepentant sin and no care for the future, seeing nothing wrong with the life you’ve led, content to walk on the broad road that leads to destruction? Or do you stand on the right with those who acknowledge their sinful state and throw themselves on the loving mercy of a God, in Jesus Christ?

The choice is yours. It serves no purpose to say, ‘I’ll have to think about it,’ or ‘Maybe next week I’ll start going to church and start reading the Bible.’ You fail to realise that nobody can say how much time they have in this world. Today is the day of salvation. The repentant thief knew that his time was coming to an end and he needed to put it right. Could Jesus have rejected him? Could the man have been told, ‘No, your sins are too many and too great to forgive? Never! In Luke 19 Jesus Himself tells us, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9). This man was lost – to himself, to the crowd, to the world – but not to God, in Jesus Christ. In His agony and suffering, Jesus reached out to this thief, who was now a child of God. He brought another sheep into the fold, then brought him into heaven. Hallelujah!

We hope that these fictious time travellers would seek a signpost to show them which way to go next. After all, they had been lost once. The cross they saw before them would point the way to God. Anyone who needs to find their way home must look to that cross, to the One who not only knows the way, but He is the Way. He is still reaching out to us, still waiting for us. Follow that sign.

April 2nd 2023: Nathan Munday

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The king is Coming

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

This precious prophecy, the coming of the promised king, was given 500 years or so before the events in the gospel of Luke (Luke 19:28-38). Why do the disciples always refer back to Zechariah’s prophecy? When we approach these old texts in the Old Testament, it’s like coming into a building: the ground level here is in Zechariah’s time. Go upstairs and we see elements of the prophecy fulfilled before Jesus came. Go upstairs again and we see some prophecies are fulfilled in Christ when He came. Go out to the roof top and we can look forward to some prophecies still to be fulfilled, especially the end of this lovely chapter.

We live in a time of sadness in Wales; we don’t shout and praise as in verse 9. Many of us are even fearful of raising our voices. Many of us live as if the King has never come and that the King will never come back again. The prophecy Zechariah has been given is a vision of how the church will one day be restored. Paradise will be restored through that King. The King will bring joy and give us boldness. In ancient times their hope was found in the same King, Jesus Christ, just like we hope in Him today.

In this verse we see:

  1. The promise of a humble King
  2. The Righteous King
  3. Our Saviour King.

Is He your Saviour? He’s mine and I thank God for that.

  1. The promise of a humble King.

We have a king in Wales called Arthur. Prophecies are usually grand. He is talked of as Arthur the sleeping Lord, a mighty character of mythology who will one day arise and restore Wales. Arthur is never going to restore Wales! There is only one King, one name under heaven by which we must be saved. Whether He is your Saviour or not, one day, we will all bow the knee and confess He is Lord.

But the man is on a donkey in Jerusalem. Imagine we’re in that passage in Luke (Luke 19:28-28). Palm leaves are being swayed. People are cheering, ‘Hosanna.’ Help. Save. Why? The one they’re calling Saviour is coming towards Jerusalem. He takes pity on prostitutes and the outsiders. He even raises people from the dead. He loves children. He doesn’t turn them away when they’re crying. Imagine standing with this crowd. The Messiah is coming closer. Is He on a chariot? No. Is there a triumphal arch ready to welcome Him? No. Are there white stallions in the afternoon sun? No. He’s on a colt. The attention to detail is phenomenal.

In Luke’s story let’s ask people what is going on.

Excuse me. Why are you cheering?
              The King has come.
But He’s on a donkey!
              Yes, He’s riding a donkey like the kings of old. He will surely save us from the Romans.
A conqueror on a donkey. Really? You’ve been waiting for this?
              Oh yes, we’ve been waiting for years (tears running this man’s cheek). It’s been tough  
             but things are going to get better.

The triumphant entry of this humble King is no surprise. Prophets had foreseen this very event. He’d come on a donkey. But the people had forgotten that bit.

What is His name? Some call Him Shiloh, some Jehovah Jireh, others call Him the Messiah, the anointed One. Do you know this man – the Lion of the tribe of Judah? But when He was born in a manger, He wasn’t called these grand things. The angel said to Joseph, ‘You shall call His name Jesus.’ Why? Because He would save the people from their sins.

Our text tells us that this King would be humble, a lowly donkey rider. He would be an unlikely king. His kingdom will be one of peace.

2. The promise is of a righteous King.

This King is not just lowly, he is just. This promise is of a righteous King. Let’s delve deeper now. Go back further than Zechariah to an ancient death bed. Some of the oldest words in the Bible talk of a humble, righteous King. Back in Genesis 49:10-12. Jacob is dying. He blesses Judah and starts looking forward saying,

10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
11 Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.’

Jacob says to Judah, ‘You shall be king until the one to whom it belongs appears.’ Shiloh (v.10) means someone greater is coming, someone not just for the Jews. He is for you and me. Someone greater is coming whose Kingship extends beyond Israel – it extends to Roch. Isn’t that wonderful?

What does that Kingdom look like? It is a picture of plenty. The King is described as having dark eyes and white teeth – the ancient idea of beauty and perfection. Old Jacob, on his deathbed, was trusting in this King. Old Jacob mentions a donkey, the stained garments that would reappear in Isaiah. This relates to judgement, humility and the death of the servant King.

Let us return to Zechariah. Chapter 9, verses 1-8 uses the language of judgement. It mentions nations and kings. In their midst is little Israel, now a kingless nation. The Judeans are instructed to look for this coming King, that death bed vision that Jacob had. This would be a ruler that God would send. He is just. That is always repeated. The prophecy was relevant for the people of Zechariah’s time. The coming King is righteous and having salvation. The King is declared righteous by God. The King is both accused and attacked by the enemies but is vindicated and saved. This vision of the King didn’t just see this tall, good looking fellow. They saw a wounded man, but this King will not fail. Isaiah says,  

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”

Isaiah 42:1

The king who establishes justice is none other than the One whom God is pleased in. The real King, after God’s own heart, was obedient. Even today I have sinned (illustration of worrying about being late whilst held up in traffic). Jesus never sinned. He achieved perfection. Isaiah saw Him as a bridegroom figure, decked in robes of righteousness. That clothing I don’t have by nature.

He was attacked. He was accused. He was killed. Yet by His stripes we are healed. The Bible says that even our good deeds are like filthy rags. We need new clothes, spiritually new clothes. Only the King can do this. That comes from sacrificial death, the perfect righteousness from the King of righteousness. The cloak that Jesus weaved for us, through His obedient life, is stained red. It’s a spiritual covering given to every Christian. Because of it, we can rejoice.

3. Our Saviour King

He not only came with righteousness, He came with salvation. This means you can be saved. You are going to die one day, you need to be saved. You need to be perfect before a perfect God. Only Jesus can help you.

When we speak about our Saviour, we often distinguish between His person and His work. Jesus is qualified to be our Saviour and Lord because of His person. He is perfect, as verse 9 celebrates. But it is in His work on the cross that He actually achieves our salvation.

And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

Zechariah 9:10

The work of the King on the donkey is that He brings peace to you and I. The key to understanding this verse is that Israel was to be different from other nations (Deuteronomy 17). Verse 10 tells us that the Lord will take away worldly sources of strength from His people and lead them to trust in Him. Many of the Jews were waiting for a conqueror, even though He was on a donkey.

“As for you also,
Because of the blood of your covenant,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”

Zechariah 9:11

That special relationship, a covenant between God and His people, involves the shedding of blood. 

What was His great work?

Your ultimate enemy is sin, with its power and penalty of guilt. It has a hold on us. Isaiah 63:1 gives us a glimpse of King Jesus who is both the humble donkey rider as well as the great conqueror on the cross. He was fighting death itself.

“Who is this who comes from Edom,
With dyed garments from Bozrah,
This One who is glorious in His apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength? –

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
Isaiah 63:1

The coming King is righteous. He saves. This is the same man who Zechariah saw in his vision, the same man riding on a donkey, the same man dying for you on the cross, the King who conquers sin by means of the cross, by His own blood, to fulfil God’s covenant of grace. He died and shed His blood to pay the price for sin.

What do these verses mean to me?

Isaiah 9:10 sees a people restored to God in faith. They no longer trust in their army of flesh and chariot, but in the Lord God of Israel.

And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

In the same way sinners must turn to Jesus in faith. We become Christians, when we believe and turn from the ways of the flesh and the world, trusting in Him alone because of the blood, we are free from that pit of corruption, the pit of guilt, the pit of being separated from God. Are you separated from God? Don’t you want to be liberated from that pit? The psalmist writes, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psalm 40:2). Is that your testimony? This is, in a posh word, justification. We are declared righteous, not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done.

What do these verses mean for you?

Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.’

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

‘Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace.

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ, my Saviour and my God.

Before the throne of God

We’re no longer tied to Adam and that doom that was before him. Zechariah was given a glimpse of how these wonders would come to be. The coming of the King saves me from everlasting death and hell. The coming of the King meant the shedding of blood. May faith must not be just in a teacher, not just in a good Jew. No. My faith must be in a crucified Saviour! Do you know this King? Do you know this Saviour? Who can lay a charge against God’s elect? I beg you, if you’ve never known Jesus, taste, see. He is good. He is the King on the donkey, but He is also my righteousness. He is my Saviour and my God.