October 30th 2016: Aaron Davies-Whitfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epaphroditus’ Conduct:

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

October 1st 2016: Alan Davison

alan-davison-sept-2016Our service was led by Alan Davison, from Carmarthen Evangelical Church, who preached from Ruth chapter 1. Alan began by telling us about Thomas Scott, an eighteenth century preacher who joined the clergy for a living at a time when being a preacher was a good career path. He became curator of two parishes in the Midlands, although he was an unbeliever at the time. He was well-known for denying many doctrines of the Bible, preaching was just a career for him. He avoided his parishioners. Even so, one day he heard there was a dissenter preaching nearby. Some of his people were going to hear this man preach so Thomas Scott went along. He was confused by what he heard. He later learned that the dissenter was visiting his parishioners. The audacity of the man! So Thomas Scott started a written dialogue to put him straight. The man didn’t argue but witnessed about what Christ had done in his life. This man was John Newton. Thomas Scott began to change. He started preaching about what John Newton had written to him. Two of his parishioners were saved after hearing him preach, yet he wasn’t saved himself. Later, after facing a personal trial, Thomas went to see John Newton and he became converted. John Newton was then called to London and Thomas Scott replaced John Newton in his parish.

There are many parallels with the story of Thomas Scott and with the story of Naomi and Ruth. Naomi also started out very shakily. She and Elimelech were Israelites, part of God’s people. However, when famine came to Israel, Elimelech looked to move to Moab, not a place of high standing in God’s eyes. The land of Moab would be wiped out, torn from the pages of history. Elimelech was focusing on physical needs instead of depending on God. Satan also tempted Jesus, focusing on the physical needs, yet Jesus responded with the word of God.

After Elimelech’s death Naomi was left to rule the family. Her two sons married Moabite women – expressly forbidden in God’s word. When the two sons died Naomi wanted to return to Judah. Both daughters wanted to go with her; they must have seen something in her life that attracted them, similar to Tomas Scott. Strangely, Naomi discouraged them not to go to Israel, even though her daughters-in-law wanted to know more about Christianity. Despite this, both women wanted to continue with Naomi. Naomi continued to discourage them and Orpah agreed not to go, but Ruth stayed.  Naomi tried one more time to dissuade Ruth, ‘But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you”’ (Ruth 1:16-17).

The book of Ruth is an incredible story between Boaz and Ruth. More than this is the undying love of God for Ruth, a Moabitess. Ruth forsake her past life to begin a new life. Ruth is going to go with Naomi no matter what she says. Moab was a traditional enemy of God, so Ruth could have difficulties in Israel because of her marrying her sons to Moabite women. Naomi need not have worried; her own friends accepted her lovingly. No matter what mistakes we make, God still works through our mistakes to see His plans come to fruition.

Despite uncertainty, Ruth leaves her family to go with Naomi and her God. She was leaving everything behind, including her family who would have looked out for her. Ruth has chosen the right action, not the convenient action. She was identifying with the people of Israel, God’s people. Ruth was following in illustrious footsteps: ‘By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be is treated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible’ (Hebrews 11:24-26). Moses was in a position to live a very comfortable life in a palace yet he gave this up.

 Ruth’s commitment was not just to Naomi but, after her death she would remain. She would worship God from now on – the bedrock of her life. Ruth unreservedly chose Yahweh. She is confidently committing herself to God. She speaks of her personal God, she has accepted God as her God. We see here a new belief in God as Ruth comes under the influence of the Holy Spirit; Ruth’s understanding was enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Even today there are people outside our chapel walls who would never dream of coming inside. However, logic is overturned by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit quickened Ruth’s affections. The same is true for us. Over 85% of people who have become Christians, (not those who have grown up in a Christian family), do so because of the impact of one Christian who has influenced their life.

Naomi was clearly bitter about her circumstances, ‘She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”’ (Ruth 1:20). Yet she recognised it was a deserved chastisement, she is still a believer. This testimony would be noticed by Ruth, whose will had been freed. The Holy Spirit has drawn her to God.

Ruth speaks for herself, ‘For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.’ She wants to live life to the full. The Holy Spirit has opened her eyes to the spiritual realm. There is a great contrast in the lives of the three widows. Orpah gave up but Ruth has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, quickened and freed.

Despite the fact Naomi tried to dissuade Ruth to go with her, Naomi was blessed by Ruth. Ruth was blessed too. May God be a restorer and nourisher in our Christian lives.

 

August 14th 2016: Ian Middlemist

John 4-29 Come see a man

Our service was led by Ian Middlemist, evangelist at Hill Park, who preached from John chapter 4, verse 27-42.

Jesus has shown a love for the Samaritan woman who has faced social barriers. He wants to bridge those barriers. As the Father seeks her she has been offered a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Jesus is more concerned about her heart and the direction of her worship. Ian spoke on three points:


‘Come see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (verse 29).

We can see two contrasting responses here. The Samaritan woman exclaimed to the people she met in her community, ‘Come see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? (verse 29). Jesus reveals Himself.

The second response, from the disciples, was one of surprise that Jesus was talking with a woman. John 2:19 The Saviour is revealing a tremendous truth, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ It is a strange comment, but amazing. How do the disciples respond?  Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body, but they did not understand.

John 3:3 ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Here Jesus reveals spiritual truths, but Nicodemus cannot understand.

John 4:10 ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’

In John 4:31 we read the response of the disciples, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ They were concerned for His physical welfare. This was a pathetic response to the glory of the Saviour in revealing Himself. Why do scriptures show us this information? There are two or three possible reasons: one may be to show us that without the mighty, powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will not see such truths. Our response should be, ‘Come and see.’ It reveals a sense to us that this woman has seen that Christ is the omniscient one who knows all things; He knows the secret details of our lives. Behold Him in faith and you too will be amazed.

The overriding priority:

We read in verses 31-34 that although Jesus is hungry, he takes the opportunity to teach the disciples – serving God by doing His will is the sustenance of His life. Oh that that might be true of you and I, to find ultimate priority in doing the Father’s Will. We can get lost in other exhilarations, caught up in the moment, certain things that become the passion in our lives. Serve God in every duty. The overriding priority for Christ was His work in accomplishing the Father’s will, His last word breathed on the cross. He went all the way to the cross for you and me. Praise Him that the work is finished!

An overriding urgency:

In verses 35-38 Jesus tells the disciples that they are correct that there are four months between sowing and reaping. But look up! The Samaritans are coming. This is the day of harvest. There is a day of opportunity.

Jesus is sower and reaper at the same time – He is in total control. He orchestrates the entire event. Jesus is saying He has sown, but the Samaritan woman has sown to her community and told them boldly, ‘Come see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?

There is much sowing to be done. There are great opportunities today to tell others about Jesus. Whether we find ourselves sowing or reaping, there must be urgency. People need to hear about Jesus Christ from faithful people who know their Bible. The Samaritan woman’s life was changed and her community. Look afresh at the cross. Come and see the Saviour!

Sunday Morning: 7th August 2016

alan davision - august 2016This morning service was led by Alan Davison of Carmarthen Evangelical Church who preached from Hosea chapter 3.

Today, television soaps focus on story lines which shock so that they get more viewers. Imagine this for a storyline: a man is obligated to marry a woman, a prostitute. They have a child together. The marriage goes downhill. Another two children are born, but there are suspicions that the man is not the father. The wife goes off to a new man, an abuser, who forces her into prostitution. This is the story laid out in Scripture; it was required of the prophet Hosea by God. Sometimes, prophets were asked to live out the word that God wanted to give. Here we see a picture of God’s continued love for His people.

The adulterous wife
Because Gomer was Hosea’s wife there must have been some commitment. Gomer represents the people of God – us. She behaves in a way that is totally against God’s love. The marriage is dysfunctional. We read in chapter 2:13 that Israel had fallen away from the worship of God. This is reflected in the marriage; Gomer doesn’t care. She walks away from the marriage. She doesn’t want independence for she is ‘loved by a lover and is committing adultery.’ (Hosea 3:1). She is offering herself to others. This is a warning for us; we need to be careful we don’t take God for granted. We need to guard our time carefully. Hosea tells us that the people were after ‘raisin cakes’ (Hosea 3:1). These raisin cakes were part of worship of Baal, part of the offering. The baking of these was a prolonged process. Baal worship also included prostitution, which Gomer was probably involved in. Who would be prepared to pay the price to redeem Gomer?

The forgiving husband
Hosea’s love is a sacrificial love and shows God’s love for us. Hosea really does love Gomer. In chapter 1:2-3 Hosea took Gomer, he was obedient to God’s command. He acted for himself as well as God. God lavished love on Israel but they loved ‘raisin cakes.’ God continues to love us, no matter how often we fail Him. God’s love for us is eternal, He will continue to love His elect, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6). Jesus’ death redeemed us, we know we are God’s elect by His Grace. We have gone from being enemies of the King to being joint heirs. God has turned our status around.

Full forgiveness
In order to redeem Gomer from the slave market Hosea had to leave the comfort of his own home to come to her. Jesus chose to leave the glory of heaven because He loves us. There are two steps of forgiveness:

  • To be redeemed sin needs to be paid for. Hosea paid 15 shekels of silver, which was half the price of a slave. However, Hosea also paid one and a half homers of barley. This would have satisfied the expected price of a slave woman. We see from this that Hosea struggled to pay the price, the purchase cleared out Hosea’s resources. To redeem Gomer from sin Hosea gives everything he had.

 

Jesus offered up His own life on the cross. He took on human flesh, He felt pain, He made Himself vulnerable for us. As a man He felt pain, rejection, torment. He laid down everything for us.

 

  • After redeeming Gomer, Hosea then restores her to her previous status. Under Hebrew law she was still a slave, Hosea was her owner. However, Hosea loves Gomer and buys her back to be his wife, not a slave. Gomer must still repent and display faithfulness to him alone.

 

Whilst God offers forgiveness, we must repent. Chapter 6 of Hosea shows how the people of Israel returned to God, but it was a false commitment. What is missing is any reference to their sin, they are just going through the motions. “ . . . For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away.” (Hosea 6:4) We have a merciful God who wants to forgive us. Strive to correct our wrong behaviour.

We have all been unfaithful to God. Our rituals are not sufficient to keep God happy. We must repent. This is the only way we can be accepted by God. He has paid the redemption price. God goes so much further than redeeming us, He restores the relationship. He owns us completely. We are elevated, part of the inheritance of the glory of heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Morning: 31st July 2016

It was great to see new faces at Penuel this morning, including Poppy, who was a great hit with both young and old! Our guest speaker was Jea-Hyun from Bethel Evangelical Church, Clydach. Originally from South Korea, he is now a missionary and came to share a message of the importance of obedience from James.

Today we can hear and read God’s Word from a variety of sources, including the internet, TV, mobile phones and in church. We are able to visit God’s Word everywhere. In James 2:17 we read, ‘So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’ We should listen to the words of God and be people who obey it. In South Korea Christianity is about love, resurrection and the words of God.

How should Christians listen to God’s Word? James tells us to humbly accept the Word. When we hear His Word we should accept it with all our heart, without arguing or doubt. People who do not accept the Word of God are deceiving themselves. In Matthew 7:21 we read, ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ Without obeying God’s Word you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We should do what the Bible says. Have you been deceiving yourself or have you been following His Word?

James tells us God’s Word is like a mirror. The function of a mirror shows us what we are like. The mirror shows every spot, every wrinkle. God’s Word is like that; it shows us what we are really like, it shows every blemish in our life.

Praise Him and honour Him when we speak. We should ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Matthew 22:37).  

James says that God’s law is good, it is perfect. He continues to say that if we obey God’s law we will be really blessed. He doesn’t say we will never have problems but God will always be near to us, we will know His presence, no matter how difficult our circumstances are.

To listen to God is easy but to do His work is really hard. Can you love your neighbour as yourself? Works must always go with faith. We must obey His Word.

Chapel Anniversay: Saturday 30th July 2016

                 Norman-July 2016 Ephesians 3-20-21

194 years of worship at Penuel was celebrated with guest preacher Reverend Norman Gilbert of Cosheston Gospel Mission Church who spoke on Ephesians chapter 3, focusing on God’s provision and power.

In this week’s news we have heard about the proposed plans for the Hinkley Point nuclear power station, which is set to produce 7% of electrical energy in the U.K. Norman then asked, “How big our God?” He reminded us of the children’s song, “My God is so big!  So strong and so mighty. There’s nothing my God cannot do.” What is our perception of God? Our God has more power than 7% potential in His care for us!

The Ephesian Church Paul is writing to are Christians, people who are established in faith. Ephesians chapter 1:7 tells us the people are redeemed: ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His Grace.’ The people are forgiven, sons and daughters of the living God, forever they are His children. Paul is saying because we are His, we have a seal of approval. Chapter 1:12-14: ‘We who were the first hope in Christ might be to the praise of His Glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.’ When a person becomes a Christian they are sealed with the Holy Spirit. If we are Christians we become priests, kings, joint heirs.

Paul wants the Christians in Ephesus to remember that they are a people who have known great blessings and can turn to Him at any time. If you are a child of God you now have tremendous resources at your disposal – the answers to all our problems in life, a God who can provide for the needs of His people. In chapter 3 Paul wants us to apply this knowledge, to be able to apply these great truths and power. It is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.

We live in an age of chaos – everything is about the here and now. In the past everything stopped on a Sunday. Some people were bored, reflecting their empty lives. For a Christian the Sabbath is a lovely day when you can stop the business of life.

Paul writes in chapter 3: 13-14, ‘So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knee before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.’ His prayer is that you have been brought into the Kingdom, that you apply and do not lose heart. Don’t feel inadequate, don’t feel as if you have limitations and cannot cope. Don’t be disheartened and lose the enthusiasm for God.

We read in Ephesians 3:16, ‘according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being,’ and in 2 Corinthians 4:16, ‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.’ Outer man is decaying but Paul tells the Corinthian church that the inner man can be renewed, built up and strengthened in the Lord. Our culture focuses on the outer man, but the inner man can get stronger and stronger is we have faith in God. Believe in Jesus Christ. He is in heaven seated at the right hand of God, yet the Holy Spirit can dwell within us.

One of the fundamentals of the church is to show love. Paul wants them to be a people who praise and pray. We can give thanks and glorify God in every situation. Keep Ephesians 3: 20-21 close to you: ‘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, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.’ Paul wants the church to know our God is unlimited, He can do more than we can ask. Our God can do all, He is so big there’s nothing He cannot do. He is the God who receives praise from His people and gives them all that they need for their Christian walk. Don’t lose heart and be totally despondent with worldy issues, there is nothing too hard for God. The virgin birth was a miracle. To Mary it must have sounded absolutely impossible but the angel told her all things are possible with God. His Son was born of a virgin, was crucified and raised from the dead after three days. God is unlimited. This should be the starting point for the Christian, for the church. We can list our worries because our God is able. If He is able then we need to come to Him, to ask Him.

Joseph Scriven, who wrote ‘What a friend in we have in Jesus’ fell in love but on the eve of his wedding, tragically his wife died. Broken-hearted, he emigrated to Canada, where he worked as a teacher. He later fell in love but sadly she also died. What did he do? He became a Baptist preacher, someone who encouraged people. At the time he was about to marry he received word that his mother back home in Ireland was dying. Unable to be with her, he wrote her a poem, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

We have a God who is able, we need to ask Him to help us. He is able to do exceedingly more than we can even ask Him. We have a Father who knows our every need, a God who loves His children. God never fails to answer prayer. Sometimes He says yes, sometimes He says no, sometimes He says wait. He always answers. Ultimately, it is His Will that needs to be done.

We are to be those instruments He can take and use to display the power and glory of God. God fills us with the Holy Spirit, the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If you were in the Ephesian church when this letter was written you may have asked, ‘What hope is there?’ The people were under persecution. Yet 2,000 years later there are 2 billion Christians in 2016. The aim of the church is to glorify God. His glory is to be displayed amongst His redeemed people. In Psalm 19:1 we read, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God.’ We need to declare the glory of God. God moves in people’s hearts and changes people’s lives. Are we displaying the glory of God?

The church of Jesus Christ is being built. God is in control. We are His bride, the Bride of Jesus Christ. We want to magnify and glorify the bridegroom. It is not perfect here, it is still in progress. We are outposts of heaven, we are mirrors that reflect the glory of Jesus Christ. Believe in a God who hears and answers prayer, a God who will keep us faithful custodians of the church. We want to see Him using us for His glory and praise.

God has kept a witness here in Penuel for 194 years. Remember, God is able, but also remember to ask according to His power that works in us.

Sunday Morning: 15th May 2016

Ian-April2016 -2Have you ever been rejected? This was the opening question given to us by Ian Middlemist. We all have a longing to be accepted. J.K. Rowling received many letters of rejection before her work was accepted. C.S. Lewis received over 800 letters of rejection before his writing was accepted.

Ian read from Matthew chapter 21, focusing on verses 33-46., the Parable of the Tenants. In this parable the Saviour is in the middle of responding to questions from the religious leaders about His authority. They are rejecting the authority of God. In the parable we see the most central questions we can ask ourselves: ‘What do we make of Jesus? What is He to you?’ Have you embraced Him or are you rejecting Him?

In the parable the vineyard represents Israel. The owner of the vineyard has been careful to ensure the vineyard has everything it needs to flourish. He cares for it (v.33). God has provided for Israel, given His grace and mercy. He is expecting their fruit.

The owner sends his servants to the vineyard. Throughout the Old Testament servants were sent again and again, sent because God loves Israel, sent to remind them of God’s love but also warning them that if they continued to forget Him, disaster would happen. But then the servants of the Old Testament were killed, just as in this parable. The prophets were rejected, even Jesus, the last messenger of love. How could they treat the Son in this way?

The vineyard belongs to the owner just as Israel belongs to God. However, the people had usurped God; they thought they could question God’s authority, they challenged Him. Questioning parts of the Bible is to question God’s authority. The motivation of the people was to put themselves in God’s place.

Notice how kind the owner is. He could have destroyed the tenants but he is patient. He doesn’t reject them although they deserve to be rejected. He sent his servant after servant, then even his own son but the son if rejected (v. 42).  The world rejected Jesus, but Heaven accepted Him (Psalm 118). He is the cornerstone. King David knew what it was to be rejected by men – by his family and close friends but God accepted him. The stone the builder rejected became the cornerstone. Whatever your experiences are, remember your acceptance into heaven is all that matters. Jesus is our cornerstone, the capstone of our lives. Our lives must be built on Him. People reject Him today as an inconvenience. They love having religious representations on boards but don’t want to see the Bible. Jesus is either a stepping stone to God or a rock that you will stumble on.

In verse 43 we see the gift of the land is taken from the tenants and given to another. This would have been a shocking parable for the people to hear. Only the land owner has the right to take away the land. Israel arrogantly assumed the land and blessings would always be there – but they rejected the Son. Jesus says the kingdom will be taken away from the Jewish people who reject Christ. Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. The tree is not exclusively Jewish, Gentiles are grafted in. If you reject Jesus you will be rejected eternally. All who trust in Christ, from whatever background, will be accepted into heaven.

Verses 44-46 show us that those who find Jesus a stumbling block will be crushed – a terrible crushing. Have you made this stone the cornerstone? Are you bearing fruit? He is in heaven and angels bow to Him. Those who love Jesus in this life will love Him forever. People who are interested in Christ may feel this is enough; it is good – but it is not enough. They must accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Don’t wait! Give your life to Jesus today. He must be your Lord and Saviour. Are you fit for heaven? What do you make of Jesus? Is He simply an inconvenience or is He your Saviour?