August 14th 2022: Peter Gleave

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Joshua 3:14-4:24

What happens next? This question is asked in many different circumstances in life. You can be in the doctor’s surgery and you get the news you don’t want to hear and you ask, ‘What happens now?’ Or when you retire after doing something the same way every day for forty years, all of a sudden you ask, ‘What happens now?’ When a relationship breaks down, you think, ‘What happens now?’ It’s a question that we are confronted with at various points in our lives. We have to answer it. That is the question that you as a church in Penuel, in your 200th year, have been asking yourselves. As you’ve done two centuries, what happens now? What do we do next? Maybe you’ve got a plan. That’s great. If not, I want us to try and answer that question from what we’ve read this morning about these stones and the incident that happened in the life of Joshua and the nation of Israel.

Isn’t it amazing – in the case of the Israelites, who have been wandering around, led in the desert for forty years, they arrive in the springtime, at the worst possible time, to cross the River Jordan. They’ve had forty years together, arrive and it’s a terrible time; the snow on Mount Hermon is melting and the spring rains have come. The river that’s normally a nice little river going along, is at places now a mile wide. The floodplain is a mile wide. There’s no way to get across. There’s 2 million or more of these people waiting to cross into the Promised Land. I can hear them on the banks of the River Jordan asking, ‘What happens now?’

Isn’t God good! He has a plan. He said to Joshua, ‘I want you to tell the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant and the moment the feet step into the water, the water will pile up.’ It did. The impossible happened. We are told in the Bible the water piled up sixteen miles up- stream from where they were, in a place called Adam, in the town of Zarethan. So, the water was cut off sixteen miles upstream and five miles down to the Sea of Arabah, down to the Dead Sea. There was now a twenty-one mile dry riverbed, from which all these people could cross into the Promised Land. They didn’t see that coming!

God has got a plan. Isn’t it comforting to you and me, on the threshold of a third century of service, or as you receive that news in the doctor’s surgery, or whatever time in life when that question comes your way, ‘What happens now?’ to know that God has always got a plan. And God is in control of that plan. You and I can follow that plan. It will be for our good as it leads us to our own promised land. As Christians, we are heading to the promised land; we’re going home one day.

In this story today there are stones. The people are building a memorial. If I said to you, ‘I’ll meet you for coffee on the 11th November,’ it would spring into your mind that that is Remembrance Day. Probably you would see a cenotaph with names of people on it, poppies, and there might be a memorial. This year, on 23rd October, it’s 200 years of your church. You know the date.

In this story, the whole nation crossed over. When God opened up the way, nobody was left behind. Everybody made it into the Promised Land. Everybody made it across the river that had, so far, been impossible to cross. God’s plan meant that everybody who was following Him was saved and made it home. Isn’t that an encouragement to you and I? Whatever we face in life, or as a church, that God has got a plan and that one day we are going home. We are going to be in the promised land.

The stones had to be picked up. God asked Joshua to get twelve blokes, one from each of the tribes, to pick up a stone, put it on their shoulder and take it to the place where they would stand that night, on the other side of the Jordan. I want us to notice that the whole nation of Israel was involved. Not everybody could have picked up a stone – two million would have been too many. However, God got everybody involved by them being represented. Everybody had a part to play. Everybody was doing their bit. Everybody was included. There was unity amongst the whole tribe.

The whole nation was moving together with one common purpose, heading into the Promised Land. It is important to remember that you and I need to do the same. You and I each have a job to do. We might be all different in our churches but each of us has got a job to do. God has called us to a work of service. He needs each of us to work together. He needs us to do it in unity. We have a common purpose; we all belong to Jesus and we are all heading home to the promised land. We must all be united as we do so.

There is a story about the tools in a carpenter’s workshop. They were having a meeting. Brother Hammer was presiding. Everybody wanted to have a say. Brother Hammer started off, then someone said, ‘You’ve got to go because you’re far too noisy, you just keep banging on. Get out of the chair.’ Brother Hammer replied by saying, ‘That’s OK. But Brother Screw, you should also go because you have to keep turning round and round and round to get him to do anything.’ Brother Screw became offended and said, ‘Actually, that’s not very fair. What about the Plane? All his work is on the surface. There’s nothing deep about him.’ Someone else said, ‘Well, what about the Ruler? He’s always messaging everybody thinking he’s always right.’ Then there’s Sandpaper, who is rough and keeps rubbing everybody up the wrong way. Just then, the carpenter from Nazareth came through the door, put on his apron, and started his day’s work. He picked up the hammer, the screwdriver, the screw and all those other tools in the workshop and made a pulpit from which the gospel could be preached. At the end of the day Brother Saw said, ‘Brothers, I think we’re all needed. We’ve all got our part to play. We’re all involved in the work.’

That’s true of the church, isn’t it. We’re all involved in it. We’ve all got a part to play. So, let’s make sure, as we start our next part of the journey here at Penuel, that we are united, that we have common purpose, that we are looking to the future, heading in the right direction. Everybody has a part to play.

Secondly, we need to notice where these stones came from. God said, ‘I want you to pick up the stones from near where the Ark was stood in the middle of the riverbed.’ So, they were to pick up the stones, carry them out and put them on the other side. There is some debate as to whether the stones are being built in the river, on the edge or were there two memorials (v9). It doesn’t matter. The fact is there were twelve stones being built into a memorial. These stones were symbols of what God had done. The stones themselves are of no value. They were symbolic of what God had done at that place, on that day, for His people. That is why they were important.

You and I have got similar symbols. We have the cross. We actually choose, as our faith, an instrument of Roman torture. But the reason we look to it is because of what Jesus did there, what God did through Jesus on the cross. Because on the day He opened up the promised land. Just as the River Jordan was opened up into the Promised Land, so our promised land, heaven and glory, is opened because of what Jesus did at the cross.

It says that the stones are still there to this day. Are they, as a lasting memorial? I don’t think they are. I don’t know where they are. Does it mean that God has failed? No. Because 3,500 years later we have just read about them. Somebody wrote it down in a book called Joshua, which is included in the Bible, which is the word of God, which stands forever. It’s the truth and from there we find out the truth. There it is. It’s a memorial to God for what He did on that occasion. God doesn’t open the Red Sea everyday or the River Jordan every day. He doesn’t do miraculous things like that every day. But He uses symbols to point back to those occasions, the things that should keep us going.

We have communion, a symbol which points us back to the cross. It reminds us of what Jesus has done for us. As we go into our next 100 years of service here, we have got to continue to meet around that table. It is so important because it points us to the cross, it keeps us in mind of Jesus and what he did for us, and it keeps you and I united. We can’t have that together unless we meet in the right way. We have to be right with each other. We have to keep on looking to the cross because it keeps us focused as we go forward for Jesus.

Thirdly, the order came to collect these stones. Did you notice how it happened? God told Joshua, Joshua told the twelve and it happened. We also read that that day Joshua, God’s appointed leader, was revered by all the people. If we go back to chapter one we find out that God had appointed Joshua. But it wasn’t until this day that he was revered amongst all the people, as Moses had been revered. I wonder why Joshua was being revered? Because he had done exactly what God had wanted him to do. In exactly the same way, Jesus did exactly what God wanted Him to do; He came to earth and died on the cross for you and me. This was the way that God had chosen to open up the way. We can see it through the chain of command, the order came from God in both cases.

There is a chain of command for you and I; at the top of it is always God. It’s not the Archbishop of Canterbury, the pastor or the deacons, although they have a part to play. We only have one leader and that’s Jesus. We look to Him and we’re to revere Him. Why? Because He’s doing exactly what God wants Him to do. In that process He saved our lives, and has given us an opportunity to follow and serve Him. Our responsibility is to follow Him.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? At the end of His ministry Jesus asked His disciples to tell everybody in the world about Him. Are you doing the job that you’ve been commanded to do? That’s a standing order from our commander in chief. There are a lot of problems in the world: floods, droughts, wars, fires that are affecting farmers who are now going to be out of pocket, problems with anxiety and depression in our society, food and heating, the cost of living. It’s tough. People haven’t got the answers. But friends, you have. Jesus is the answer to the problem.

Jesus can make a difference in people’s lives. He can bring forgiveness, hope, joy and peace – even in the middle of the crisis. It doesn’t mean necessarily that the crisis will go away, but Jesus will be with you and them in it. We have to tell them. Our mission, our standing order, is that we go on mission, and we tell the people.

I don’t know what your plan is for the next twelve months, but here’s a thought for you to pray about. At least once a month, why not get an outreach event for the next twelve months, that reaches the needs of this community. Invite them to something different every month, to tell them about Jesus. Pray about it.

The stones were collected by one person from each tribe. They went into the river. They had been obedient, and God had opened the way. The moment their feet touched that water, the water was no longer there. Isn’t that amazing! Some people love to try and explain away the miracles of God. Some say it may have been a landslip. It may well have been. There have been landslips in the River Jordan. There was one in 1267 which lasted for ten hours. The water stopped flowing. It happened again in 1906 and again in 1927. Is it coincidence then? Well, the water piled up in Adam, 16 miles upstream. I’m no mathematician but I know that if the water stops 16 miles away, it’s going to be a few hours before it’s actually dry at this bit. The moment they put their feet in it, it was dry. They all walked across, dry. The moment the priest got out, when they were all on the other side, safely in the Promised Land, the water flooded again. Doesn’t that prove that that was God’s timing. Nobody else could have done that. This is God’s power at work.

When the people went, the people hurried over. I don’t know whether it was because they would panic because they were fearful of when the water was coming back, or because they were just so excited, having been waiting to get to the Promised Land for so long. Whatever it was, notice that they hurried, it was quick. Nothing impeded them, not the water, weeds or anything. God had opened the way, and nothing impeded them on their journey to the Promised Land.

Iris Sankey, the famous guy who used to write loads of hymns, was on a Delaware steamboat on Christmas Eve 1875. On this occasion he was quite famous because he’d been caught on a photograph with Dwight Moody, the evangelist. People now knew who he was and who Dwight Moody was. The people on the boat spotted him and asked would he sing one of his songs. He replied that he wouldn’t sing one of his own songs but would sing ‘Saviour, like a shepherd lead us.’ One of the lines in the hymn he so beautifully sang was, ‘We are thine, who Thou befriend us, Be the guardian of our way.’ After he sang, a guy came out of the shadows and asked him, ‘Were you in the Union army?’ Sankey replied that he was, in the spring of 1860. The man responded by saying he was in the Confederate army. He asked Sankey if he remembered doing picket duty in the spring of 1862. Sankey remembered this clear night. The man replied that he too was on duty that night. He continued, ‘You were in the moonlight, I was in the shadows. I raised my musket, and you were in my sight. Just at the point I was about to pull the trigger you started to sing the song you’ve just sung. I thought to myself, ‘I may as well listen and watch before I shoot.’ As Sankey sang and the man listened to those words, it reminded the man of his mother, who used to sing that song to him as a child. He continued, ‘I remembered all that my mother taught me about God. At that point I lowered my musket. At the end of that song, I couldn’t shoot you.’ He explained, “I have reasoned that Lord, who is able to save men from certain death, must be great and mighty and powerful.”

Along the way friends, you and I will face certain problems, but God can bring us through those problems, He can open the way. The way has been opened by Jesus, ultimately to get us to our promised land. Whatever problems we encounter on the way, there is nothing that is going to divert us from getting there. Along the way things might happen. Your life might actually be spared to be used by God in the reaching of others, just as it was on that night, through that song. So, what happens now? You go forward, you keep following Jesus. You keep on being obedient to what He wants you to do.

The stones were dated. We know the date of your chapel anniversary. When you go to memorials, there are dates and the reason why there is a memorial. The date attached to these stones, when all this happened, was the 10th day of the first month. This would be the 10th day of the month of Nissan. I began to wonder why this was included in this portion of scripture. It was an important date because of what happened. But do you know what else happened on that day? 40 years, prior to that day, the Israelites were still captured in Egypt. God spoke to them saying, ‘I want you to get a lamb. I want you to make sure it’s ready for the 14th of the month, when you are going to celebrate Passover. So, effectively, the 10th of the first month of Nissan was the release from captivity of those people. It would have been the first thing they were being asked to do to prepare to leave. 40 years, to the very day, was the day they actually arrived in the Promised Land. Isn’t that amazing. It’s important that you and I remember these dates.

We can look back and see the day that Jesus saved us. We look back to the day that Jesus died on the cross because it’s important. We look back and we celebrate. Where best to celebrate than together as Christians in church on a Sunday? Some people are struggling to come back to church after Covid. I think some of us have become a bit consumerist in our views and think it’s ok to watch services on the tv. No! Don’t do that. You’ve got to be together. It’s what God wants. It’s important that you come together to worship and praise God. It is the single, most important event in your life every week – being in church on Sunday, together as the Lord’s people, as His family. Make sure that we continue to meet in this way. Go forward. Look forward. If you’ve got Bible Study on a Thursday, be there too. All of you, be there too because it matters. Because you can share your story, your encouragement, your experience, with the other people. That becomes a blessing to them. It also means that when people start to meet together, because something great has happened, other people outside get interested because they want to know what’s going on in your life that you’ve got, that they haven’t. It’s a double purpose. It’s’ benefit for the church that enables the Kingdom to grow.  Be in church, worship God together, celebrate those dates that are on the stones.

Finally, number six: the reason for the stones. It says in the last verse of the portion of scripture we read, ‘When your kids ask you what these stones are all about, tell them that this was the place where God opened up the River Jordan in order for you and I to make it to the Promised Land. Tell future generations, pass the message on to future generations.’

Can I commend you for the work you’re doing amongst the children and young people in this church. It’s brilliant! I want every single one of you to be involved in it. You may say, ‘Doing young people’s work isn’t my thing, I haven’t got time for that.’ You may not need to be here in person, but you could stop where you are and pray, pray for those who are doing it. You could get a list of the names of those kids that come, and you could pray for everyone of them. You can all play a part. If those children come, and they come to know Jesus, they will bring their own parents. I think others will come. Keep on with the work of the children and young people. It’s vital. You must keep going.

It’s not just about children and young people; we’re all involved. Verse 24 sums it up, “This has happened that all might know.” God wanted everybody to know, not just the Israelites. He wanted people who saw that pile of stones to know that the God of the Israelites was powerful, that He was the one who had done it. He wanted the whole world to know about it. This is where everyone looks down at the pews – you are called to be a missionary. You’re going to think, ‘I’m not going to want to go abroad.’ It’s not about being abroad, it’s about being a missionary here. It’s the command that Jesus gave. We can be missionaries where we work, where we live, where we serve our community as a church. We are missionaries for the wider world. Why? So that everybody knows how powerful God is.

This verse also tells us that the Israelites, and you and I, must fear the Lord. Is it something we’re going to be frightened of? No. It means that we regard Him as holy, full of majesty, awesome and powerful. We revere Him and acknowledge Him as such. We need to build the Kingdom of God, and for you and I to be reminded who it is that we worship and we serve. What are we called to do right now? We’ve got to build a memorial. We’ve got to be missionaries and we’ve got to build the memorial.

What happens now? You’ve all got to get involved. We’ve all got to be united. We have that common purpose – we’re all heading to the promised land. We’ve got to commune and work together. We’ve got to share that table and remind ourselves, by looking at the cross, that you and I need to be right with God and we need to be right with each other. We need to follow Jesus’ command.

We need to be out there, on mission in this community. We need to be obedient to the call of God. Whatever that individual call is on your life, whether it is here or elsewhere, it is doing what God is asking you to do. Mark the days. Mark the dates when God has done great things. Come together and worship Him – for the day He saved you, the day that He blessed this church. Come together. Share these things with each other and glorify Him through it. Be there on a Sunday. Be there on a Thursday. If you start a meeting on a Monday, Tuesday and Friday, be there as well. Be at all of them and encourage each other. Tell the kids. Keep on telling the kids. Keep on telling the families of Roch. Keep on telling everybody in this community. Be missionaries. Know His power at work and fear the Lord.

The moment, the door for the opportunity for you to serve God, is open. Don’t miss the opportunity. This is your time to carry the torch in this church that’s been going for 200 years. It won’t always be there for you. Take it while you can. Make sure you are working for the Lord today.

May be God will take you on a different path than you thought you were going to take. Go with it. Go on that journey knowing that one day you are going to arrive at home anyway. But along the way, let it be exciting. Let it be something that God uses you to do for His Kingdom, in order to build a memorial that’s going to bring Him glory. I pray that you will set off this next year full of courage and that God will bless you.

January 16th 2022: John Funnell

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Psalm 24: The Aseity of God

Not many have heard of the term, ‘the aseity of God’ but it is so important for Christians to know. All the other attributes of God link together in His character that is described as aseity. Aseity is where all of God’s attributes are one.

Aseity comes from the Latin ‘a’ which means ‘from’ and ‘se’ which means ‘self.’ So ‘aseity’ means ‘from self.’ Aseity is the property of a being that can only exist in and of itself – a being that has no dependence, just is and always has been.

Who hear has heard the term ‘science has disproved God?’ That is actually rubbish. The natural sciences actually prove the aseity of God. The natural sciences prove that the aseity of God cannot exist within creation.

In this natural material system that we live in, every cause must have an effect. Everything is inter-related, reliant, and dependent on everything else. We live today because of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. We are dependent on these other things. All the scientific evidence suggests there is something that exists outside, or independent of this closed, natural material system we live in – something that is and always has been. This is because we know that the material universe, that works from cause and effect, cause and effect, could not have caused itself to be. Nowhere in science has it ever been proven that nothing can create something. To be able to exist, the universe itself must have had a first cause, an ultimate first cause that exists in and of itself, outside of this closed material system.

In 1925 Edwin Hubble discovered that the material universe has expanded. That proves that everything came from a singular point, known as the singularity. So, what was outside of the singularity that caused the singularity to be? It has to be something that exists in and of itself. It has to be something that has no cause, just is and always was. So, Hubble proved it.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that the universe is winding down, that energy is dissipating. So there had to be something that existed before the universe that wound it up. What could have wound it up? Well, it had to be something that can exist outside of this system that can exist in and of itself, that has no cause – just is and always has been. It’s a thermodynamics boost.

Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity proves that time, space and matter are co-related; one cannot exist without the other. If you have matter and no time, when would you put the matter? And if you had no space, where would you put it? You need all three. They must all coexist and must come to a single external point of dependence, which again has to be something which exists outside of this system, that can exist in and of itself, that has no cause, just is and always has been.

So, a first cause that is outside of time has to be eternal. A first cause outside of space has to be omnipresent. A first cause that is powerful enough to create everything has to be omnipotent. A first cause that can exist in and of itself, outside of the universe, outside of the time, space and matter that it created, who is not reliant on anyone or anything else, just simply is. Let me introduce you to the God of the Bible.

The Bible is the only worldview that stands for the scientific rigour of creation. Isn’t it wonderful, as Christians, we can refer to this first cause not as a something, not as an it, but as someone, a real person, who in Christ Jesus, we can call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Isn’t that amazing!

Aseity is an attribute of God that encompasses all of His actions. That means God exists in and of Himself. He is eternal life. He is eternal goodness. He is eternal love. He is totally content, totally fulfilled, totally happy in every way, in and of Himself. He is the great ‘I am.’

To understand how this is possible, we need to consider for a moment God’s being. God is a very different type of being than anything we know or comprehend. Firstly, He is totally holy, which essentially means separate. He is separate from creation, and He is totally self-sustaining.

He is one in being, but three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost – the Trinity. How is this? A being is what you are, a person is who you are. What I am is a human being. Who I am is John Funnell. I have an earthly hero, a gentleman called Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the first Christian, an evangelical Christian, to stand up to Hitler. I look up to him, what he suffered for the truth, how he made a stand against the evil of fascism. Hitler hated him and personally signed his death warrant two weeks before the end of the war. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a much better person than me in every way; he was far more intelligent, he was far stronger, far more steadfast, far more influential than I would ever be. As a person I look up to Him. He was better than me in every way imaginable. No matter how much better a person he is than me, he could never be more human than me; we are both equally human beings.

In the same way, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are equal in being but different in person. They have different roles. The Father is greater in roles than the Son, but no greater than being. Both are equal. And as a being, the three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, are totally self-sufficient between the three of them. That’s aseity.

Out of this co-existing oneness, out of this eternal love and life that they share, creation was birthed. Time, space and matter, you and me, Penuel, Roch, Pembrokeshire, Wales, this world, came to be out of this life. Isn’t that amazing!

God’s aseity is everywhere in scripture. We see it right in the beginning. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God.” We see Creator, owner, ruler, sovereign over all things.

“The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,
    the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
    and established it upon the rivers.”
Psalm 24:1-2

Abraham entered a covenant with an independent God who was outside our natural material system, yet had the power to remove Abraham’s enemies, and guarantee a Saviour from his seed.

In 1 Kings 8:27, King Solomon said at the dedication of the temple, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

Acts 17, Paul is in Athens and he states to the philosophers that God cannot live in temples made by man, neither can He be served by human hands.

When God came into His creation, Emmanuel, Jesus, He was incarnate. To be incarnate means that he would have had to come in from the outside.

The aseity of God is an all-important attribute for Christians to know, as it ties together all other attributes we know of God. God is utterly independent of us. He is utterly self-sustaining. He is sovereign. He is Lord of all. He is all-powerful and eternally loving, holy, holy, holy, absolute truth, unchanging God.

He does not possess the truth or know the truth or speak the truth – He is the truth.

“Whom did he consult,
    and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
    and taught him knowledge,
    and showed him the way of understanding?”

Isaiah 40:14

Who can teach God anything? He is utterly self-sufficient. He is life. He is the source and sustainer. He is the Creator, not the creature. He is the ultimate standard. He is the measure to judge all things because only He is totally independent of all things because of His aseity.

The key message of God’s aseity is that because of His aseity, His utter independence, God doesn’t need you. God doesn’t need your prayers, your worship, your gifts, your service. He doesn’t need anything. “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9). We can be replaced right now. He doesn’t need me. He is totally and utterly independent of everything. This is truly amazing! This means that everything we have from God, every breathe we take, every small revelation we have of who He is through His word, His word itself, every drawing of our heart to call on Him and worship Him, every prayer we make, is all a gift from Him, because He doesn’t need us. It is all grace. Isn’t that fantastic?

Friends, God does not need us. God does not need me. It makes the fact that He has chosen us in all our brokenness to serve Him for His glory, so much better. A god who needs my skills is no god at all. A god who needs my love and favour is not a god I want to worship. A god who gives to me, to receive from me, is no god at all.

But an all-powerful, all-knowing, totally self-sufficient God who needs nothing, absolutely nothing from any of us, yet invites us all in, and gives us the opportunity to serve Him is magnificent. Shouldn’t that motivate us to serve Him every day? A God who could destroy us all in a second for our failure, yet a God who sends His only begotten Son to die for our sin and redeem us whilst we were still His enemies, is a God worthy of worship. Surely a God worthy of our service – not because He needs it but simply because of His grace. By His grace He has allowed me to come here today and I thank Him for that. Amen.

March 15th 2020: Tom Baker

Tom Baker - March 2020-Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
    and passing over transgression
    for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
    because he delights in steadfast love.
He will again have compassion on us;
    he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
    into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
    and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
    from the days of old.

Micah 7:18-20

Micah is not a well-known book. Micah is not a well-known man. Unlike most people in the Old Testament, we are not told his family name, who his father was. He was a nobody, not from an impressive family. We are told he came from Moresheth, about 22 mile from Jerusalem. Isaiah was in the city of Jerusalem at this time. Moresheth was a small, forgotten place in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere. But Micah is not concerned with knowing who Micah is. His theme is us knowing who God is. Is this your testimony? You are not concerned with people knowing who you are but about who God is? Or are you obsessed with yourself – either being terribly arrogant or terribly despairing – thinking too much or too little of yourself? Do you know the freedom of turning away from yourself and turning to God?

Micah’s name means ‘Who is like the Lord?’ Micah starts and finishes his book with this. His name follows him and tells him who he is. Micah here is determined to preach to us God in all His glory. Who is like Him? He is speaking particularly of what he sees; God’s people have sinned in a number of ways. There is rampant idolatry, turning to lesser gods than their own. There is a particular issue with the corruption of the leaders of the nation. To make it worse, they sin in that they offer sacrifices to God without any humble repentance, just going through rituals. But Micah has also seen the greatness of God revealed in great judgement against His people. God, as He administers that judgement, feels a deep compassion. It grieves Him to see that. We see a great one who will take chaos and sin and put it all right, someone who will be a great ruler, righteous and holy. We see the great deliverer and salvation that He will provide.

Today, we still live in a messy world with messy lives, but He is still a great God and still great salvation is available in Him today. Micah saw Him and he was amazed. Are we? God is greatly to be praised. He is greatly to be feared. Some may not like this, but there is nothing more fearful than the love of God. God is to be feared because He is a God of love; you can stand on the rocks on the cliff face  at St. Davids and be fearful, yet still in awe of lies before you. God is great. We fear the sheer size of Him. There is nothing at all in existence that is greater than the love of God. When we first see the love of God our reaction is ‘Wow!’ Micah sees the great God says, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.” (Micah 7:18).

He is a God who is infinite in every way: in His holiness, knowledge and power. He always has been a great God and always will be. Every great thing you have ever seen, He made it. Everything belongs to Him. He is greater than all of it put together.

Perhaps the most distinctive, amazing thing about God is He is a God of mercy, showing love to His people.

Let us explore:

  1. The mercy of God
  2. The faithfulness of God.


  1. The mercy of God. God sees us and our sin and still He loves us. Micah saw God’s people and their offences against God. We have offended God in many ways. Micah highlights our iniquity (our twistedness), our transgressions (our lawbreaking, doing what we known we should not do) and our sin (falling short). Because we are a sinful people, even the best we offer falls short. When see our offence, we see all this together.

Like those of Micah’s day we have turned away from God. Our great offence against God is simply we fail to acknowledge God and give Him the honour He deserves. We happily receive the things from His hand but wish He would clear off. We have failed to acknowledge God for how great He is. We attempt to solve our problems ourselves. We think more of ourselves than we ought to, thinking we do not need Him. God should be angry with us. We get angry with people who have offended us, God is angry with His people who have turned from Him. We are those people. All have sinned and are under His judgement. Micah is all the more amazed when he sees God is a God of mercy. He pardons them and removes all their guilt. It’s amazing!

Micah picks out two lovely images of how God deals with our sin, “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea,” (Micah 7:19). He treads our sin underfoot and casts it into the depths of the sea. As Jesus hung on the cross, He took all our sin. God crushed our sin. Christ was cut off and died so we wouldn’t. He took it on Himself. God stamped out all my sin. He casts our sin into the depths of the sea, He takes it all and throws it into the deepest part of the sea – all of them, so they can’t come back. All sin, even the ones you are most ashamed of and the ones you can’t even remember, are cast away, never to return.

Are you still carrying your sin or has it been laid on Jesus Christ? Do you still carry a sense of guilt and try and make it up to God? Take it all to Him. And if you’ve done that, leave it there. Christ has dealt with it. Don’t feel you need to tidy up your life first. Come to Jesus Christ in all your need, see the great mercy that He displays – most strikingly at Calvary. The first thing He says on the cross is, “Father, forgive them,” (Luke 23:34). See the mercy of God. Lay hold of the grace of God, know His love for Jesus’ sake.

  1. The faithfulness of God. Great is His faithfulness. Not only does He see His people in sin and shows them love anyway, but He stands by them anyway. He is firmly committed to them and will be with them forever. We see two things:
    (i) the temporary anger of God and
    (ii) the permanent smile and favour of God.
  • The temporary anger of God is a just anger. He is angry with sinners. Some will reject Him forever. Yet that anger can be turned away; Christ has turned it away from all those who belong to Him. He bore it. I deserved it but Christ turned it to Himself.
  • Those who trust in Jesus Christ never have to face the anger of God. Instead, the Christian knows the permanent smile and favour of God. Why? He is a God who delights in steadfast love. What makes God happy? To show eternal steadfast love to sinners. It is mind-blowing! It is Life changing! God loves you because He enjoys it. He has bound Himself to you – not because He has too, but because He wants to.

How do you imagine God looks at you – smiling or frowning? If you are in the Lord Jesus Christ you can know the smile of God, unchanging, forever. God shows that same favour towards His Son. He always has and always will. He is proud of Him. When He sees His Son it just makes Him smile. If you are in the Lord Jesus Christ that is the same for you. He is faithful.

Why does God stick with you? Because you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. How much faithfulness will He show? Even when Christ was dead and buried, He brings His Son up from the dead. There is nothing now that could take Him from us. We can never lose His favour if we belong to Jesus Christ, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 1:6). He started loving you, He is not going to stop!

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?” (Micah 7:18-20). Then Micah ends. There is no response, just resounding silence . . . because there is no-one like Him in all the earth. What a Saviour He is. There is no-one like Jesus!


February 16th 2020: Thomas Kitchen

Thomas Kitchen - Feb 2020Luke 24:13-35

This is a great way to start a story – two people walking on a long road to home. It is a blank canvas, anything can happen. The two people are sad, distressed, confused; something terrible has happened and they are wondering how to cope and move on. Then another man enters the scene. This is what really drives the story along. But it is not just a story. It is from the Bible, the words of God on a page, 100% true. Everything is built around verse 26, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” The story is hinged around this one sentence.

We know from the start it is Jesus who joins them – the risen Jesus who has conquered death. The two people don’t know. Look at our hope as Christians, if you’re trusting in Christ today.

The two people are Cleopas and another, who is unnamed. It could be his wife or a friend. They are walking to the village of Emmaus, a little, unknown village. Still, even today, we are not sure where it is. Why is it mentioned at all? To give a real historical location – it is a real place with real people. Secondly, it is such a small, irrelevant place and this shows Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance is real. If you were trying to make up a story about Jesus risen from the dead, you’d want to do it in a place people knew to give more credibility. But no, because it is true, it actually occurred in a small, obscure village.

The two disciples were talking intensely. They were distraught, unable to process what had happened. How will Jesus’ death affect them? And someone joins them, but they do not know who it is. “But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:16). They were kept from knowing who it is Jesus. This is because Jesus needed to teach them important truths about Himself before they knew who He was. As far as they were concerned, Jesus was dead. We can be disappointed with life and cry out to God, ‘Where are you? Help me make sense of all this!’ To help you know Christ more intently we face trials. We can be spiritually blinded so Christ can be known to us in a more glorious way. Part of the drama of the story is when will the two disciples discover the mystery man is their Saviour?

Jesus asks, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad.” (Luke 24:17). This man had obviously overheard the two talking about Jesus yet still asks what and who they are talking about. They stood still, shocked He did not know what had happened. “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:19-24).

At first glance their response seems focused; they give a true picture of who Jesus is – a good prophet who did good things, who might have done good things if He had stuck around. ‘Redeemed’ here is linked to a political leader, a victorious ruler on the earth. But that is not why Jesus came. They missed the real ‘why’ of Jesus’ coming. They are clearly very passionate about Jesus but also disappointed. The Messiah had failed in their expectations. They do love Jesus but they don’t understand what is going on. Their hopes have been quashed. Their hopes were in the wrong thing. They lapped up all of Jesus’ teaching but now He had died they have tried to transfer their hope to something else but they couldn’t. They realised Jesus was the answer, but Jesus was dead.

Jesus replies to them with a rebuke, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25-26). Jesus is disappointed in their understanding. He is saying, ‘You think I’ve come to save you from Rome, but I’ve come to save you from sin.’

Knowing His followers don’t understand why He came, Jesus guides them through the Old Testament. He starts with Moses and the prophets – the entirety of the whole Old Testament – making it clear why He had to die and where His death was prophesied in Scripture. He rips the curtain away to show the full reality of the Messiah coming back to life. Jesus’ main concern is to unpack His suffering, death and resurrection. Without His suffering and dying, Jesus couldn’t come back to life. If He hadn’t conquered death, sin would not have been conquered. Jesus died and powerfully came back to life again to show authority over Satan and sin, so we can trust in Him and crucify and bury our sin (1 Corinthians 15). He lives, He rules and reigns! He rules above all and every other king. Jesus teaches these two disciples the Old Testament in a New Testament era.

Like these two people on the road didn’t understand, we have masses of people who don’t understand. In Christ’s strength we now do what Christ did – open the scriptures and explain who Christ is – a Saviour to be worshipped and who will save them. Jesus begins to open their eyes that had been spiritually closed. We can know everything Jesus did; some people know the Bible far better than Christians, but they don’t know the Lord who walked the Emmaus road. Knowledge is important, to understand the gospel we have to understand it to affect us – but it must go to our hearts.

Ultimately, it is God who works in us. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts, who moves. The Holy Spirit is the comforter – the person of God working in you right now, helping you understand the things in this passage. The Holy Spirit shows us our sin, the wrong things we do each and every day. He is the one convicting you, telling you, you cannot stand before God where you are. As an unbeliever, you are spiritually dead. You need the Spirit to open scripture for you, to show the Cross and what Jesus did for you.

For Christians, believers, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are also walking the road to Emmaus. We doubt. It is easy to trust our Saviour when the sun is shining, but when storms arise you can feel lost. You can lose sight of Him, get angry with Him, wonder why He is doing what He is doing. If so, walk the Emmaus road and ask Him to open up the scriptures to you. Read Jesus’ words in scripture and hear Jesus’ voice. Pray and your relationship with Him will deepen. He has promised to be with us always. We don’t always believe that; we can sometimes think if we can’t feel His presence He is not there. But we need to trust, no matter how hard it is. He is there.

Remember those two people, nobody’s, one we literally don’t know who they were. Jesus first appeared to shepherds. He stoops and humbles Himself to know us. The one who died for us isn’t going to forget us. That is why He died for us – to know Him and love Him more and more. He is a victorious Saviour. He is our hope. We trust in a living, breathing, holy Saviour who has conquered sin and death. He will sustain us. I still sin but Christ deals with it every day. We gather here because we worship a living God. If you’re trusting in Him He is living in you, shaping you to be more like Him. It is not deserved but given to us because God loves us.

The two disciples saw Him in His glorious state at the dinner table. Do you want your eyes opened in a new way? Go home, pray, open you Bible. Trust Him. Trust He is alive and reigning in heaven. Amen.

October 29th 2017: Alun Johnson

Alun Johnson - Oct 17

Acts 2:14-41

Acts – the clue is in the title. It’s about the Acts of the Apostles, what the early church leaders did, about the early church being set up and spreading. It’s about Christianity on the march. Is our Christianity on the march today? Do others in the community see us as being insular? Christianity on the march suggests action – getting out there. The early Christians did not consider it an action not to march. Jesus Christ said, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace.” (Acts 18:9).

  • What does a Christianity that is on the march do?

We live in a society that is hostile to Christ and the gospel. How do we march? Acts 2 tells us exactly how. Acts chapter 1 links to the end of the gospels. After Jesus’ ascension the disciples are to be witnesses to the ends of the earth but they stay in Jerusalem. Why? Because they are constantly in prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit. ‘And, while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “You heard from me; for John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”’ (Acts 1:4-5).

Chapter 2 is the Day of Pentecost. 120 disciples were altogether in one place. Here we see the wonderful miracle of tongues of fire and the other wonder of wonders, Galileans speaking in other languages. They were filled with the Holy Spirit. There was a mixed reaction to this. Jews from all known corners of the world were there. Some utterly amazed, others made fun of them, saying they were drunk. It’s here Christianity begins its march.

‘But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.’ (Acts 2:14) Peter stands up. This is a very different Peter we see to the Peter of Matthew 26:74 ‘The he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” It is also a very different group of disciples compared with the disciples in this chapter of Matthew. There has been a dramatic change. This is not a Peter who is terrified of what others think of him. He shows remarkable authority. He is standing up physically and spiritually. He sought out Jews who had been mocking them and says, ‘For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.’ (Acts 2:14). It’s customary for Jews not to drink on the Sabbath or during festivals. They would fast, having not eaten or drunk. It was only 9 a.m.

What has brought about this change in Peter and the other apostles? ‘This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.’ (Acts 2:32). These disciples had seen Jesus being crucified on a Roman cross and being brought back to life three days later. Jesus had beaten death, proving He was really who He said He was. The disciples were transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. We serve a risen Saviour. We trust in Christ who lives forever more. As Christians we are going to be resurrected one day because of what Jesus has done. ‘But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.’ (1 Corinthians 15:20-21). This is also seen in 1 Thessalonians 4:16

These disciple weren’t only able to stand up for Christ in front of hostile Jews, Peter and the other disciples stood because they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). The resurrection and ascension of Jesus meant that His promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit would be fulfilled. Peter stood because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Do we have God in us? Do we crave to be filled by the Holy Spirit in such a way that we can stand for the cause of the cross, whatever the cost?

  • Christianity that is on the march has confidence in the Bible (Acts 2:16-21)

The scriptures prophesied what was seen. Peter quotes Joel, ‘”And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”’ (Acts 2:17). God’s plan for the world is much bigger than you or I think. It includes not just Jews but Gentiles as well. This would have been a very big deal for the crowd. Peter is showing he has confidence in the Bible. He knows he is part of the purpose and promises of God as prophesied in the Old Testament. They have God on their side. They are living out the very purpose of God. They are part of something huge – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as prophesied in the Old Testament.

Peter trusts the Bible. Do we have the same trust in the scriptures? Are we confident that the Bible is the inherent word of God and that we are in the Bible? ‘By grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ (Ephesians 2:6). Fantastic! See also John 17:20.

There are over 300 Old Testament prophecies about Jesus Christ, some in minute detail. Jesus fulfilled everyone to the letter. We need to tell people about them. Do we spend time meditating on it? Does it pepper our conversation? Do we live by it?

  • Christianity on the march makes much of the death, resurrection and reign of Christ (Acts 2:22-36).

Peter talks about the historical Jesus, but he is not merely giving a history lesson. There’s one pronoun repeated time and time again here. ‘You.’ Peter makes it personal to his listeners. He’s telling them ‘You saw Jesus yourselves, you put Him to death. Peter is not being subtle! He means for his listeners to see the horror of what they have done. The death of Jesus is not an awful accident. The key phrase is in verse 23, ‘This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.’ God meant for the death of Jesus to happen. Jesus’ death was purposed by God. Christianity on the march makes much of the death of Jesus Christ; it is God’s answer to the world’s greatest problem – sin. Without sin being forgiven we can never be with God. But, the fantastic thing is sin can be forgiven because God planned for Jesus to die as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Do we make much of the death of Christ?

Christianity on the march also makes much of the resurrection of Jesus. ‘God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.’ (Acts 2:24). It is plainly obvious that Peter is at pains to prove that the resurrection of Jesus really did happen and it was also prophesied in the scriptures. Christianity is on the march because the resurrection of Jesus really did happen.

Peter also quotes Psalm 110 in which David points prophetically to Jesus’ resurrection, ‘The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ (Psalm 110:1) The climax can be seen in Acts 2:26, ‘Let all the house of Israel therefore known for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Christianity is on the march here because God’s plan goes beyond the resurrection of His Son. Peter answers the question of verse 12, ‘What does this mean?’ by showing that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s own answer to the problem of sin and death.

Jesus ascended and poured out His Holy Spirit. Do we have the same confidence? Do we believe in the reign of Jesus Christ? ‘Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the sun, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Philippians 2:9-10).

  • Christianity is on the march because it tells the world to repent (Acts 2:37-41).

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, convicts His listeners of their sin and need for righteousness. Peter had just called the listeners murderers. They were not offended. By the Holy Spirit they feel the need of an answer, asking “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). They know they are in trouble. In order for us to be saved from our sin we need to see our sin and need. The answer is not popular. Our message is the same as Peter’s, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).The people needed to repent. Nobody wants to be told they are wrong, they are sinners. Repentance shows a change of heart. From the mess of our lives we can receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2-38

Do we ache for the lost to be saved? Do we warn people and plead with them? ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ (Acts 2:40).

What is the result? ‘So for those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.’ (Acts 2:41). Isn’t that what we want – 3,000 added to our number this day!