May 5th 201: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18Exodus 20:8-11

The American actor of the early twentieth century, W.C. Fields, was not a nice man. He was an alcoholic, an ardent atheist who was very anti-Christian. So it was a great surprise when a friend walked into his dressing room and saw him reading the Bible. Fields, embarrassed, claimed he was ‘just looking for loopholes.’ Of all the verses examined for loopholes, those we are looking at here are probably high on the list. This Commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8) is most contentious: what day shall be observed? What should and shouldn’t be allowed? Today we shall hear part 1 of a 2-part study.

  • The Sabbath is a holy day
  • The Sabbath is a day of rest
  • The Sabbath is a day of blessing.

The Sabbath is a holy day. God set apart one day in seven to be a holy day. It is God who established a pattern of a seven day cycle with one particular day set apart, consecrated, holy, for Him. God requires we set apart one day in seven in which we seek Him and worship Him. During their time in Egypt the children of Israel had been used to a ten day week and not one of those ten days was set aside for the Lord. Even before the giving of this Commandment, God re-establishes the creation cycle of one in seven. This is then enshrined in this Commandment. In the Old Testament the people observed this day on the last day of the week but in the New Testament it began to be observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), in commemoration of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 16:2). Nevertheless, whichever day it was , it was a day set aside by God in which man was particularly to worship Him, to acknowledge in a special way one day in seven (Exodus 31:12-13).

In the New Testament the title of the Lord’s Day was introduced (Revelation 1:10). The Sabbath is a holy day. God has given us six days to do all the necessary things in life. Only one is set aside to worship Him. We are to worship Him in all that we do, on all days – in our job, home-life, church life, worship Him every day. But He is to be particularly honoured and worshipped on the Lord’s Day.

However, there is a problem. People are increasingly reluctant to give Him one day. Perhaps I can be a little provocative and say it is the Lord’s Day, not just in the morning, but also in the afternoon. It is particularly appropriated to attend church gatherings and to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy. If you can’t attend services for the Lord’s people, the day is still the Lord’s. It is not the Lord’s half day, it is the Lord’s Day.

We should be prepared for the Lord’s Day. Good practice is to go to bed early Saturday night so you are refreshed, alert and ready in body, mind and soul, having prayerfully sought the Lord, even before coming to a church service.

The Sabbath is a day of rest. It is very important we understand what the term ‘rest’ means here. We are to imitate God, who after six days of creation, paused to rest on the Sabbath. This doesn’t mean God was tired, for He never tires. Neither does it mean God entered into an inactive state, for He was still sustaining all He had created by His power. God rested. Having seen everything He made was very good, He ceased from His labour to enjoy what He had made. Likewise, we should cease one day in seven from all labours so we should enjoy God. Don’t make a mistake in thinking ‘work’ means paid employment. No. What is referred to is all those activities which stop us from worshipping.

The Sabbath is not a day of inactivity but a day full of worship and activity for God. The Sabbath was provided as a gracious means for everyone to draw near to God. To take advantage of the day instead of pursuing everyday pleasures brings great blessings (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Sundays are not meant to be a day of laziness, leisure and lie-ins. Sunday is meant as a day of enjoying God. It is not for catching up on the backlog of work, DIY jobs, being on the golf course. If it is, then you are too busy and need to look how you are use Monday to Saturday. If we can’t give Sundays to enjoyment of God then we are in real trouble spiritually. Tell me what you are doing on a Sunday and I will tell you what your future will be. Sunday is a family day but it is not to be spent on the beach but with the Lord and His people – the whole family praising the Lord together in church services, in the company of the Christian family we belong to.

The Sabbath is a day of blessing. It follows on that the Sabbath is meant to be a day of blessing (Exodus 20:11). God’s intention always was that this day, consecrated to Him, would bring great joy and blessing (Psalm 92). Unfortunately, later generations forgot the joy of the Sabbath and turned it into a legalistic nightmare. By Jesus’ day the Pharisees had 1,500 rules. This is why Jesus attacked them. The Sabbath should be observed in the right way for the right reasons. It is meant to be a day of rejoicing (Mark 2:27). The blessings and joys of the one day in seven also points to the Sabbath rest, fellowship with the people of God. It speaks of heaven.

Have you ever contemplated that a Sunday is intended to be a foretaste of heaven? The thrill of His Resurrection power that we know is at work in our own lives?  We should know such blessing of our souls as we gather around His Word, seek Him in prayer and praise. The blessings that we experience on the Lord’s Day are a little bit of what awaits us in heaven. If you don’t like Sundays, you won’t like heaven.

Sundays are to be enjoyed, not in the pleasures of this world, but by experiencing and anticipating the blessings of God that will one day fill our lives. Those who believe Sundays are boring are radically wrong. Perhaps we have forgotten how to enjoy God, failing to appreciate His blessings. Keeping the Lord’s Day is about separating ourselves from normal daily activities to be in fellowship. Blessings of a Sunday can be only known by those who know the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and whose place in heaven is secure. They have great joy in their souls not only because they’re forgiven but because they know Him who died for them at Calvary. These are the blessings because Christ has secured them for us. If we value these things then the Sabbath will be special to us. Christ is our Lord and Saviour. The Sabbath – a holy day, a day of rest and a day of blessings.

December 31st 2017: Reverend Dr. Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards Dec17

How should a believer celebrate the coming of a New Year?

We shouldn’t celebrate in the way others do – with drunken revelry. Is there a particular Christian way of marking the beginning of a new year?

The Jews of the Old Testament marked the beginning of a new year (which would be September in our calendar), in the following way:

‘And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”’ (Leviticus 23:23-25).

What we see in these verses is different to the drunken foolishness of New Year celebrations. For the Jews, the New Year was marked by the blowing of trumpets all day. What does it signify about our marking of the New Year?

  1. It is a day with God. ‘The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. But if they blow only one, then the chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. When you blow an alarm, the camps that are on the east side shall set out. And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out.”’ (Numbers 10:1-6).

Here, we can see Moses was commanded by God to make two silver trumpets. They had a dual purpose – to sound the alarm in times of danger, particularly in wanderings in the wilderness. The second purpose was to call the people together; one blast was to call the leaders to come to the tent of meeting, two blasts was to call the whole congregation of Israel together before the lord. It was a call to come and worship and offer up sacrifice. The sound of trumpets became synonymous with the voice of God.

There is an on-going call to start the year in the worship of God, to have a day of solemn rest, a holy occasion. No work is to be done, it is a Sabbath day, a day given over to God, to worship God.

So, for the Jews, it was a day to be spent in the presence of the worship of God. Start the year as you mean to go on. Get your priorities right from day one. The priority at the top of the list it to make it a year lived with God and for God. Give the worship of your life to God. Re-dedicate your life to Jesus Christ, your Saviour. Be determined to carry on.

The pattern of the Old Testament worship had a rhythm of worship that infiltrated every aspect of their lives. This should be true of you and I. We don’t follow the same rituals of temple worship, they merely pointed to Christ, to the anointed. But woven into every aspect of our lives must be the worship of the Lord. There is growing secularisation in our land. We are told we can worship, don’t allow this to infiltrate outside. Worship is not what happens in a particular building, but given over to our lives in everything we do every day. We offer ourselves, as Paul says, as a living sacrifice. There is to be a rhythm of worship in our lives, every day: prayer every day, the Word every day, Christ every day.

So how does the believer start a New Year? Start the New Year as he means to go on – worshipping the Lord with all his being, all he possesses, all his abilities, honouring Christ.

  1. The New Year is a day of joy, the Feast of Trumpets. It is a solemn day, but solemn doesn’t mean joyless. It was a day of joy, ‘On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over you burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.’ (Numbers 10:10). The sound of the trumpets is a sound of joy, ‘Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face.’ (Psalm 89:15). This Feast of Trumpets began a season of joyful celebration and was quickly followed by two other important feasts; nine days later was the Day of Atonement and then the Feast of Tabernacles. These feasts were celebrations of the joy of salvation – that God would provide sacrifice that would take away their sins.

The Feast of Trumpets began a month of joyful celebrations of God’s goodness to His people. It there any greater joy than beginning the year with Jesus Christ as your Saviour? Is there anything you can add to that to mark the start of the New Year? There is nothing better than the knowledge that our Saviour died for us, granted us His righteousness so we are acceptable with God, knowing we are certain that through Christ we are eternally secure in the everlasting arms of our God. There is nothing that can bring more joy to the soul than that. By His suffering on the cross we begin every year in fellowship with God and with His people. So it’s with joy we mark the passing of the old year and the beginning of a New Year. There is joy of salvation in our hearts. We know that everything up to this point the Lord has provided for us He will continue to provide – every hour of every day through 2018 that God has ordained for us. The start to a New Year is a day of joy.

We are also told the Feast of Trumpets was also a memorial day, a memorial proclaimed with blasts of trumpets. A memorial is not just looking back and being thankful. In looking back in thankfulness we can look forward in anticipation of future blessings.

During this day of the Feast of Trumpets the law, the Torah, was publically read to remind the people of the covenant God had made with His people. The reading of the Torah reminded them how God had promised covenantal faithfulness, how God had committed Himself to them. As they looked back they saw How God had kept His covenant, even though there were many occasions when they had failed to keep the covenant. As they looked back so they looked forward knowing that covenantal grace would be there in the days ahead.

How thankful are you for God’s covenantal faithfulness? Have you thanked Him? God knows our hearts and minds, yet surely we need to express our thankfulness day by day. As we give our thankfulness so we can remind ourselves of His faithfulness. As we give our thanks to Him so we are encouraging ourselves to be confident in Him for all that is to come. Look back in thankfulness but forward in confidence – not confidence in ourselves but in assured confidence in the God of covenantal grace. We have confidence based on our experience of His grace in the past. He has never left or forsaken us. He is always true to His word and His promises.  He is immutable – He never changes. We change, He does not change. We may not be able to keep our promises but He does. There are no circumstances that can overtake Him. He knows the whole of history to come. There is nothing that can cause Him to fail in keeping His promises. He doesn’t change His mind. He is constant, consistent and never changes.

Remember all that is past and trust God for all that is to come.

How does a believer celebrate the New Year? Marking the passing of one year and the beginning of a New Year in the worship of God, in the joy of His blessings, knowing His covenantal faithfulness to us. We are the children of the living God, united in faith, assured of the love of our Father and the abundance of His grace. Worship and rejoice in His covenantal faithfulness. Let’s shout out the praise of our Lord.

Morning Worship: 5th June 2016

Norman ReesWorship was led by Norman Rees of Bethany Free Church, Clarbeston Road, Haverfordwest, who preached Genesis chapter 32. Jacob was a problematic person who God used. In this passage Jacob has left home after stealing his brother’s birth-right and is now returning after twenty years away, expecting to face his brother’s wrath.

Jacob was blessed by God, who made a covenant with him. He had settled down and wanted for nothing at all. Now the Lord has told Jacob to return to Canaan, to the land of his kindred. This must have been a huge shock. He was very fearful, his life was now being turned upside-down. Sometimes our life is like that; everything is going smoothly then out of the blue something happens and we may ask, “Why Lord?” This is to make us realise we cannot be independent of God.

As Jacob heads back he makes a plan of action. He sent messengers ahead who were met by Esau, who was coming to meet Jacob with 400 men. Jacob was greatly afraid. We can have distressing, perplexing news which can make us feel fearful. We become worried and concerned. Why is this happening? It is to strengthen our faith. It is easy to be a Christian when things are going well but then something happens to break the nest, to teach us to fly:

          “As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings, so the Lord alone led him.” (Deuteronomy 32:11)

God breaks the nest of people so they may know God. Gidoen, Moses and Paul were all fearful. God brings us problems to send us to Him in prayer. When there are ripples in your life, there is action in your life. Come to God and rejoice in Him. Jacob had problems and he went to God in prayer. He went to the God who had blest him and now who is trying him. God knows when to allow the devil to attack you and when to take the devil off your back. Come to God in prayer.

How do you come to God in prayer? We come to a God who welcomes us, who knows the unworthiness of His children, but there is one who makes us worthy. The Lord Jesus Christ came from heaven in order that He might redeem us from condemnation, from Hell. The wrath of the Holy Father was poured on His head. We can never imagine His suffering. His righteousness has been given to us if we repent and give our lives to Him. Jacob is honest in his prayer to God. God knows our troubles but He wants us to tell Him, to voice our concerns and needs.

The best part of intercession Jacob receives is that God’s Word has come to Him. He knows there is a purpose to what is happening to Him. He is bringing God’s Word back to Him:

          “Remember the Word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in affliction, for Your Word has given me life.”
                                                                                           Psalm 119:49-50

What is your comfort in affliction? Where do you go when trouble comes? Go to the Word of God, to God Himself. Be honest with the Lord, tell Him what is on your heart. Do not allow the things of this world to cloud your mind. We have the promises of God, don’t forget the Word of God. If a fear drives you to God thank Him for that fear. Jacob had a cloud of darkness but it burst into blessings. Wait on God. Are you content with what God has given you? Commit your situation to God. Things may be taken from us, but never our Salvation. We have a hope in heaven. Whatever we go through God does it for the best. Trust in His Word, take everything to Him in prayer. Faith without works is dead. Prayer, faith and working for God go together. God is a good God. Glorify Him wherever He takes us.

Sunday 10th January 2016 – Morning Service

ian-august 15Sunday’s morning service was taken by evangelist Ian Middlemist who preached from Acts chapter 3, focusing on two of the blessings of God: sins blotted out if we repent and times of refreshing.

Sins blotted out if we repent:

There is no good deed we need to do to accomplish Salvation, we just need to be a sinner and know our need of Jesus Christ. God chooses people such as us, He holds out His grace for us and calls to us to turn and receive His blessings. They are not just one off blessings, they continue on and on. Our sins are blotted out. This speaks of total annihilation (Revelation 3:5). Our names will be in the Book of Life for evermore. God no longer recognises sin in us, it has been blotted out, covered in the blood of Christ. It is costly; Jesus’ death was the most costly (Isaiah 43:25).

We need to turn away from sin. God doesn’t blot out everybody’s sin, there must be repentance. We remember our past sins, the evils committed against us and from us. The devil uses this to dishearten us. When we are filled with doubts caused by the devil, look again to the cross. This is why we come regularly to the Lord’s Table, to remember again His precious love towards us (Psalm 32).

Times of refreshing:

This world makes us weary. We have to be refreshed. God has promised us times of refreshment as we hear the Gospel. The Lord is the source of our refreshment. Turn to Him and then you can face tomorrow. Trust in Christ alone, start trusting in Him. Refreshment is the recovery of breath after exhaustion, it is also the cooling and relief from heat. It is the sense of relief that comes from the knowledge of removal of sin, the removal of guilt. It is spiritual refreshment. Rest in Him. Seek His refreshment.

There is no greater burden on the soul than the feeling of guilt. God has seen our failings and dealt with it entirely appropriately. Hold onto Christ to know His blessings, the times of refreshment. Although the Author of Life was killed, we are still called ‘brothers.’ The Gospel tells us we have total forgiveness.

Harvest Thanksgiving- Thursday 24th September 2015

HarvestThanksgivingVere HarvestThanksgiving

Our guest preacher for this year’s Harvest Service was Reverend Dafydd Taylor of Zion Free Church, Pembroke Dock. He preached on Psalm 67, speaking of our Gracious, Great and Giving God. We were reminded that we are blessed abundantly, we should count our blessings and also be a blessing to others. It was lovely to have fellowship with members from local churches and churches from further afield, including Cosheston, Bethesda Tenby Road, Clarbeston Road, Hill Park, Calvary Haverfordwest and Emmanuel Newport.

DafyddTaylor  HarvestThanksgiving2 HarvestSunflower