April 7th 2023 – Good Friday: John Scanlon

Matthew 27: 27-46

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/53IMrkxSip0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 13th 2022: John Mann

2 Samuel 8:1-14.

The Victorious King

David given promises.

            Today is Remembrance Sunday so it is natural for us to remember battles, war and so on. We remember those who have given their lives in service for their country. We learn about such things at school, and they are still going on in the world around us today. Ukraine is at war with Russia and there are many other battles all around the globe.

            In 2 Samuel 7 we learn of the covenant that the Lord made with David. God promised David that He would never cease to have a man on the throne, but the greater promise was the coming of the Messiah, the true Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. In that chapter David offered a great prayer of thanksgiving for this promise of the coming Messiah.

            The sure covenant of David is really the covenant of grace. Salvation comes only through grace. This promise given to David is also for us today, for the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, has come and fulfilled all that the Father tasked Him with. No works on our part are required. We can make no payment to be party to this covenant. It is free of charge, for the Lord has done everything necessary to bring salvation to us. The Eternal God of glory sent His Son to become the atoning sacrifice to bring reconciliation and redemption through the door of faith – and remember even faith is a gift!

The promise to David comes true.

            Now David was awestruck when he heard what the Lord planned to do for him, as you can read in 2 Samuel 7. But in 2 Samuel 8 the Lord begins to bring about the confirmation of the promises made to David. As a general principle, always remember that what God says or speaks, He always carries out and does. What God promises is that which He always does. He builds His kingdom irrespective of any threats that may be faced, or equally, irrespective of any lack of faith to be found in His people. David needed to believe the promises of God to him – and he did – but we too must believe the copious promises that the Lord has made.

            So, in 2 Samuel 8 we read of a series of David’s victories. All enemies were defeated and subdued. All opposition was put down. But David does not rest on his laurels. His faith is tested. Now if anyone could say that they needed to stop awhile and put their feet up surely it would be David? Hounded by Saul, and facing much opposition all around, David does not relent but carries on. He continues the fight, striving faithfully, defending the glory of God. And so, he carries on in victory after victory (as we can see in 2 Samuel 8). He sweeps through the surrounding nations and overwhelms the opposing armies. We read that he “subdued” the Philistines, that he “defeated Moab,” and that he “took” spoils of war. David placed “garrisons” in Syria and the Syrians became his “servants.” Throughout our text we read of what David did, but he did not presume on God, and neither did he trust to his own strength, for twice we read these words:

“The Lord preserved David wherever he went.” (2 Samuel 8:6,14).

The Lord God had given David a promise, and the Lord God was going to keep this promise (2 Samuel 7:9). God was with David and would aid him against all his enemies. And so, because of the Lord’s promise to preserve his line so that Messiah would come, victory was assured.

Promises to us.

            Now we too have received countless blessings from the Lord all based upon His precious promises – which cannot fail. These are as sure and certain as the promise given to David. In 2 Peter 1:2-4 we read these incredible words:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2Peter 1:2-4).

We have been promised a part in the divine nature. Look how this all comes about! The Lord God’s own divine power has made it possible, for He has given to us everything needful for “life and godliness.” This knowledge of God comes through the “exceedingly great and precious promises” by which means we can become “partakers of the divine nature.” The apostle Paul declared that:

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Everything we need for life (godliness, partaking of the divine nature, escaping the corruption in the world), has been given to us freely in His promises. If we possess true and real faith in Christ then we possess the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ and we are holy – set apart. We are partakers of the divine nature. Do we realise this? Do we joy in this? The Lord has given us His divine nature – His righteousness – but we still have to endure the things of this world although we are freed from its dire consequences. We must endure tribulation, but all the consequences of sin and death are gone! Our salvation is utterly secure. We are made righteous in Him.

From victory to victory.

            But what about sanctification? There is always the ongoing need for us to be sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). We stand justified by faith, and His righteousness is put to our account, whilst our sin is put to His. But still in this world we must experience the ongoing sanctification of the Holy Spirit. What also about our need to glorify God, to be His ambassadors, and to express the joy, peace, and contentment of our salvation? These too we need to grow in. But the question is: are we driven by these considerations? Do we desire to glorify God, to be His representatives and ambassadors? Are we eager to declare the great goodness and joy of knowing God? Are we victorious in these ways? David went from victory to victory. He defeated the Philistines. Then the Moabites. Then others. How about us? Are we winning the victories that Christ has purchased? Are we being lead as sons of God by the Spirit in the victories Christ has earned? What too about escaping corruption and the lusts of this world? Are we living in the light of the Lord’s great promises? Are we taking hold of the strength the Lord supplies? Are we winning the battles? Not, of course, in our own strength, but in the power and strength that the Spirit gives. Are we striving against sin, overcoming and gaining the victory, which Christ so readily supplies?

            Remember what Christ achieved. Complete and utter victory over Satan, sin, death and the world. These are ours! Paul wrote that:

… in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37).

The Lord still stands with us. Remember that Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8). The apostle John wrote these words:

And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4b,5).

We stand on the word of God. Victory is assured because of what Christ has done and all of that was promised of the Father.


            BUT we cannot rest on our laurels. We cannot relax spiritually. Just as David went from one campaign to another we too are in a lifelong fight. Paul spoke of this (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). Now in an army there are a variety of positions, from generals and captains all the way down to the foot soldiers. The vast majority of the army is made up of these foot soldiers. These are the ones who do the lion’s share of the fighting. We are all foot soldiers in the army of God. Our task is to face the enemy (sin, Satan, the world) and to overcome, to win the day. You may ask: what do I have to offer, what can I do? I am just one foot soldier! Allow me to use an illustration. In the great western films where you see the fights between Cowboys and Indians, the attacking Indians would surround all the Cowboys who would circle the wagons to defend themselves. The women and children would be in the centre but they were not idle. They were the ones who loaded the guns and rifles for the Cowboys to shoot. The weakest among the company were the ones who enabled the strongest to fight the fight. How can we apply this? Well think of the following:

  • Faithful prayers for preachers, Sunday school teachers, evangelists.
  • A word of encouragement to gospel workers or the sick and despairing.
  • A kind deed done to enable relief for those under pressure.
  • A word in season for the battle weary.
  • A timely prayer and encouraging word for a servant who is struggling to make ends meet.

These are like those who load the guns for the ones who fight. Of course, we can apply this whole doctrine to each individual too. We each need prayer, encouragement, help and so on. But never think that you are merely a lone individual who can offer no help! Your prayers for the saints, your words offered in love, your helps done to ease the life of another are all needed.

            We are all in the one army. We are all in the same army. We may serve on different battlefields or in different places, but we all come under the One Commander. Such little acts are not really so little. Consider the following examples given to us by the Lord:

41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood. (Mark 12:41-44).

Those two mites were all the widow had. She did what she could; she gave all. Or consider this second example:

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

By giving a cup of water to one of the Lord’s servants we are giving such to the Lord Himself who identifies with His people. By visiting those who are in darkness, or by entertaining strangers, we are about our Father’s business. Never think that the small things, the simple things done out of love mean little. Through David, God is establishing His kingdom. No power on earth nor beyond the earth can withstand or overcome what the Lord purposes. He will prevail!

A lesson from history.

            In Genesis 17 we read about the Abrahamic covenant. We have mentioned the Davidic covenant recorded in 2 Samuel 7 but what too of the covenant God made with Abraham? Well, the Lord promised Abraham that the land of Canaan would be for his descendants, and in David we see the fulfilment being fully accomplished. All the land, north, east, south and west was to be given to Abraham’s descendants. Spiritually we know too that the Lord promised David the Son who would sit on the throne in eternity, and in the same way the land (His inheritance) is being gathered in. Just as the Lord made good on His promise to Abraham in David’s victories, so too the Lord will make good on His promises in Christ. There will be a great in-gathering of all those for whom Christ has died and not one will be overlooked nor lacking. God’s promises in Christ are unstoppable. We are given the history of Abraham and the fulfilment in David’s day to help us trust the great faithfulness of God who cannot lie.

The gospel train is unstoppable!      

            Do you fear for the future of the fellowship? Are you worried about the smallness of the current church? It is true that some churches are closing and this makes us sad. But God’s church throughout the world is growing. It is like a runaway train! It is gathering passengers as it rides on its upward journey to glory. Sometimes the train stops and the platform is full of passengers waiting to climb aboard, but at other times there are a few passengers on the platform. We can see this in our history. Whilst today the platform may be bare, in former centuries there were large numbers being added to the kingdom. But do remember that such large in-gathering is taking place in other lands in our day. No power on earth and none in heaven can stop this train, and none can prevent the passengers who have been given their tickets from boarding!

            Do we have the confidence that David had in the Lord as he made conquest based on what God had promised him? Do we have such confidence? The Lord has said that He will build His church and the gates of hell will never prevail. Do we believe this? As believers we are on this gospel train and it runs according to the schedule and timetable that God has set. It may be that in our time the stops are few and few board, but who knows what is around the corner? Are we walking in obedience to the Lord? We do not know if there will come a stop sometime in the future (near or far) when we may see many climb aboard the gospel train! But even if we are in the outskirts and byways of the gospel train’s journey, our task is to keep fighting the fight and seeking the lost. The Lord’s gospel train will reach its destination sure enough. The Lord’s train always runs on schedule. There are no delays and no unnecessary stoppages.

Without the shedding of blood …

            Now in the course of David’s victories there was a great deal of blood shed. In many ways the accounts we read of in Scripture are gruesome. Many question these things. They ask: why did God allow and even promote such killings and bloodshed? We need to be careful here. We are not the Potter, we are but clay. God made all people, and so does He not have the right to deal with people as He pleases? Also remember that God is good, and He always does good. Let no man charge God with evil. Those who faced such judgement at the hand of David were not treated in any careless or cavalier way. The Lord strove with the people prior to the flood and gave them ample warning before judgement fell. He waits long until the iniquity of a people has had its full course. We do not know the details (how could we?) but we do know that God is a just Judge and that He is merciful and long suffering. Never let anyone spoil your understanding of the great grace and goodness of God, for He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Remember too that the people of Canaan were extremely wicked and barbaric. The Lord gives more than ample time for repentance. He has spoken openly and publicly from the dawn of time of His grace and mercy. How many times do we read of the Lord asking people to come, to turn, to seek Him for His mercy?

The Son of David leads to victory.

            And so just as David gained victory after victory, the Lord Jesus is leading His people in the same way by the Spirit of God. In 2 Samuel 8 we should note the futility of opposing David, for the Lord had promised him victory in the land. In the same way those who oppose us are acting in futility for the Lord will succeed in all His endeavours. The Lord Jesus is leading from one victory to another. There are many who seek to bring arguments against us and against the gospel. There are many ‘clever’ men who make great arguments – atheism, humanism, hedonism. These trouble many and lead to deception. We have wounded soldiers. There are those who have been caused to stumble. These enemies appear to have the upper hand. When we look at our nation we might consider that our enemies are far superior. BUT the Lord Jesus has won the victory! He has defeated all our enemies. They are on the losing side. Satan still seeks to snare and enslave. He still seeks to deceive and confuse. He is the thief and the murderer. But Satan can only go so far and no further. He is a created being under the sovereign rule of God. He cannot overstep the mark. He is a bound enemy. He may rage and snarl but he can only do what he is permitted. Remember the story of Job.

            The forces of evil, Satan and his hordes, and all those who spurn the grace of God, will be dealt with finally on “That Day.” They will all be thrown into the lake of fire of which we read in the book of Revelation. When that day comes those who have fallen under the sway of Satan will come to full realisation of their end.

To God be the glory!

            Now David never sought victory for his own purposes, or for his own glory. All that he procured in his battles he “dedicated” to the Lord (2 Samuel 8:11). The power behind all David’s victory was from the Lord. The glory was God’s too. Only God alone deserves the glory, the praise, and the honour, for God alone is good – truly good. Who should get the glory, the praise, the honour in our setting and time? Only the Lord!

            Another great victory was made for us at Calvary. An awful lot of blood was shed at Calvary too. The Lord Jesus fought the battle in Gethsemane and on Calvary and He gained the greatest victory bar none. The Lord Jesus took the spoils of His victory but He says that everything He won and took was for us! All that He won and achieved in His death and resurrection He says: ‘I give it to you’! Listen to what Paul wrote in the first letter to the Corinthians:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Corinthians 15:57).

Are we thankful for this incredible victory given to us? David won many victories as the Lord had promised him, BUT the Lord Jesus Christ won the greatest victory ever. He won the victory over all our enemies, sin, Satan, death, and the world. Are we concerned for the future? Are we worried about getting older and none will take up the mantle? Do not lose heart! Do not despair! Appearances deceive. David’s line seemed at times to be very near destruction – on one occasion all the princes were slaughtered save one baby boy (2 Kings 11:1-3) – but the Lord kept His promise sure. It may seem like God’s promises have failed (they haven’t) but always remember that the Lord never fails.

April 11th 2021: John Scanlon

Exodus 12:1-20

It’s amazing how God has watched over us during this Pandemic. We are here now because of the God who is faithful to His promises.

A friend of mine, who’s been a preacher of the gospel since the age of sixteen, until the age of 96 before he died last year, once said to me, “In the pulpit your text can come from any part of Scripture because God speaks to us through all of it. But you must end at the Cross because this is the essential message of the gospel.” This is what I’ve always tried to do. But my thoughts throughout this lockdown is what I’ve missed more than anything is Communion, the Lord’s Table. Thankfully, we’ve recently been able to take it up again, keeping high standards of hygiene. It’s an essential part of our worship and is a follow-on from something much older, as if focusing from the shadow to the substance, or as I would rather call it, the reality. I think that the nearest equivalent in the Jewish faith was the Feast of the Passover, the coming together of the Jewish people to remember what God had done. We need to understand the shadow to grasp the substance, or the reality.

Back in Genesis 4 we hear of sheep and sin for the first time. As we all know, Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a tiller of the ground. When it came to a time of sacrifice Abel brought a lamb of God and Cain brought the produce that he had lifted from the ground. Abel’s offering was accepted but Cain’s offering was not. Cain wasn’t pleased about this and God said to him, ‘Why has your face fallen? Don’t you realise that when you come before God with a sacrifice it will be accepted, but if it is not then sin is at the door?’ Cain discovered that day that God is not interested in any sacrifice unless it comes from the heart.

Then we come to another entry of the lamb in Genesis 22:2 when we read about the lamb and the love of God. We read of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son. In verse 7 young Isaac began to look around him for the lamb that would be sacrificed. Abraham told him God would provide a lamb for the burnt offering. The answer Abraham gave his son could be read in a different way; I believe he said that ‘My son, God will give Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.’ Later in that chapter, when Isaac was laid on the wood and Abraham’s hand was raised to strike, you can wonder how a man of such a great age as Abraham could bind his son, who by then would have been a strong teenager. It could only be because of the love and obedience he had to his father. Even this reminds us of the way Jesus spoke of His impending death on the cross and His willingness to submit to the Father’s will.

But then God said to Abraham, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” It seems strange to read this when Isaac was not his only son, he was his second son. But then Isaac was the son of promise, and the other was the son of the flesh. Isaac’s wiliness to be sacrificed leads us so easily go in our minds to John 3:16, and how God gave His only Son. We can read from this that God is providing a lamb for Himself. The only sacrifice that would be acceptable for atonement for our sin would not come from us but from God Himself. He would not allow Abraham to sacrifice the son he loved. In His own great love for His people, He was willing to give His only begotten Son on Calvary. This was the action of a loving, compassionate God reaching out to a dying world and extending the only hope of redemption.

Some of you may have heard this story before. I joined the army in 1949 and after about nine months I found myself in Manobier Castle, a dismal, desolate place. I settled down. Later I met the local newsagent’s daughter. In those days the things of God, salvation and any form of Christianity had no interest for me. I wasn’t a believer. I knew that if I wanted to be part of that family, I had to help with the Sunday newspaper delivery. It was quite a big job; I traipsed around the married quarters, the villages of Manobier, Lydstep, Jameston and St. Florence. Quite a big area. Having been born in the centre of a town and never been to the countryside I saw things that seemed strange to me.

One thing that stayed in my memory, a tradition I had never encountered before. One of my deliveries was to a Mrs. John. I was always met at the door by her young son, who was about seven or eight years old. He couldn’t wait for his comic! After about a year I remember an incident that has stayed with me ever since. One Sunday I knocked on the door and the boy answered. I saw a little lamb inside the home. To my mind a lamb belonged in the field with the sheep, not in a kitchen getting under everyone’s feet. I learnt that sometimes an ewe will die in lambing or might reject the lamb. The farmer would try to place it with another ewe but if that failed it would be reared by the farmer’s wife or any other woman who volunteered. So, this particular lamb was in the care of Mrs. John. I became accustomed every Sunday to seeing this lamb running around the house as a pet. I saw him grow in vigour in the family’s tender care. The children loved it and played with it. It seemed to become one of the family.

Then, one day, I called and the lamb was missing. I asked where it was. I was told, “It’s in the freezer.” Just like that! I was shocked. A pet one day and food for the table the next. That day I learnt of the harshness of country life. Time went on. Eventually we got married and later I left the army. My wife died in 1982. Things went downhill for a while, until one day I responded to an invitation to visit a chapel. It wasn’t long before God spoke to me in His Word as I read it. I had my own Bible and I read it. From the beginning, page one.

As I began reading the book of Exodus I saw how the children of Israel were being guests of the Egyptians for four hundred years after a period of famine, and how they were slaves. Moses had pleaded for their release and Pharoah’s refusal had led God to visit upon the Egyptians some terrible plagues. The hardness of the heart of pharaoh didn’t have the desired effect. So, we come to the final plague which was the death of the first born of man and animals throughout Egypt. To ensure the survival of the children of Israel, God gave a commandment to Moses that each household was to take a lamb of the flock. Now this lamb was to be perfect. They would take it into their houses and care for it. You can imagine this lamb being part of the family, playing with the children, being fed by hand. It would look upon the people as being its own family. After four days it was slaughtered as this was the commandment. The blood was to be placed on the door posts (Exodus 12:6-7).

My mind went back immediately to that house forty four years before; a picture began to form in my mind which wouldn’t reach completion until a few years more. The blood of that little lamb put on the lintel and doorposts of the houses would save the lives of God’s people but strike the Egyptians (Exodus 12:12-13). This was the beginning of the Jewish Feast of the Passover, which has been celebrated ever since. We remember a time when the children of Israel were sheltered from the wrath of God by the blood of the lamb. Ever since, as Jewish families meet around the table for the Passover meal, the father will tell his children of the time when God allowed the children of Israel to live because He had shown to them the blood of the lamb.

Now the people were released from bondage and after forty years in the wilderness they were able to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land – the land promised to Abraham by God, so many years before. The place of the crossing was significant because many years later something else important happened at that same spot. A great event took place. A man had drawn a large crowd of people as he was baptising men and women in the river. This man was known by many as the last of the Old Testament prophets. People argue about this but to my mind the Old Testament prophets were the ones who prophesied the coming of the Messiah and this man was the last one to do it. He was spoken of as John the Baptist although I’ve learnt since then that he wasn’t really a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Presbyterian. He was a Jew.

The crowds lined the banks of the river and he called on all to repent of their sins and be baptised. There were many people waiting their turn to go into the water. There were many who were just spectators. Some were observing to report back to the Pharisees what they had seen. But John didn’t see that; he looked beyond and saw one man coming through the crowds toward him, just an ordinary man (Isaiah 53). But John knew who He was, he couldn’t help knowing. God had spoken to him and had told him who it was. He revealed it to him. This has happened many times in the work of God.

Matthew 16:13 tells us of a time when Jesus asked His followers who men thought He was. After various answers He then asks them who did they think He was. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16: 16). In the following verse Jesus tells Peter he has been blessed because God has revealed this to him. It can only be through speaking to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that things like this can be revealed to us by God. This is how John the Baptist knew who was coming towards him through the water. But how did John greet this man? He could have hailed Him as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Word of God. But no, he says, “Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world.”

Now the people who heard this would have been shocked because to the Jewish people the Lamb of God would be the Passover Lamb revealed to us in the books of Moses. They would not understand that the Messiah had come to take the sins of mankind upon Himself and suffer and die an atonement. Everything in the temple concerning the Day of Atonement concerned the sins of Israel, of the Jewish people. This man, walking into the water, would later give His life in order to atone for the sins of all of us (John 3:16). His shed blood would save people from all walks of life, for their sins, and shelter them from the wrath of a righteous God. When God seeks out sinners and sees the blood, He passes over us. We can see from this that the Lamb spoken of, the Lamb of God, is the same Passover Lamb, the innocent Lamb that was slain to cover our sins – the Lamb who died that we might live. From this we are told that any person who truly repents, no matter what race or religion, if he is covered by the blood of the Lamb of God, if the blood is on the doorposts of his heart, God will pass over him on the Day of Judgement.

It’s amazing when we look back and see what God says in Exodus 12:13, that this promise applies to us, not just to the Jewish people. Jesus is our Passover Lamb and the blood God speaks of is the precious blood of the Lamb of God shed on Calvary. The Lamb was slain but if we have saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb will be in our houses every day, in our hearts. The Passover Lamb will be with us in every way possible – on our lips. Just as when a Jewish family sits around the table for the Passover meal, in the same way we meet around the table, the Lord’s Table. It is also a remembrance of the goodness of God in giving us His only begotten Son as our Passover Lamb, as we are reminded as the pastor reads the word of 1 Corinthians 11:25. One day we hope all these Pandemic restrictions are over and we can again glorify God as we come together in personal song, meeting again around the Lord’s Table.

July 15th 2018: Gerald Tait

Gerald Tait July 18‘I believe in miracles.’

The first miracle Jesus performed was at the wedding in Cana, turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). This took place about the third day of Jesus’ ministry. He had walked from Jordan to Galilee. Joseph, his earthly father, had passed away (there is no mention of him after Jesus was 12 years old). Mary might have taken on his official role.

Jesus, his mother and disciples were attending a friendly family wedding in the little village of Cana. We don’t know whose it was. Mary had some authority, but realised Jesus was special. When the wine ran out she told Jesus. He replied, “Woman.” This gives her the highest possible dignity, showing her maturity.

We see the honesty and obedience of the servants as they obeyed Jesus’ instructions, filling the six stone jars with water and drawing some out for the master of the feast. When did the miracle happen of turning water into wine? When Jesus spoke? As the servants drew out the water? There’s an economy with God’s power; when the Israelites were given manna in the dessert they collected it daily, just enough was provided for each day.

When miracles happen, three things always happen:

  • There is an elevation of suffering. Here, we see the elevation of disgrace of not being able to provide common curtesy of providing for the guests at the wedding.
  • There is a prophetic emblem. Here, the wine is the emblem of our communion.
  • There is prophecy. Who better to produce the miracle than Jesus, who grew as a tender plant, a vine?

In this miracle we see the end of Jesus’ servitude to his mother. Until then, the divine God had been subservient to His mother. Now, being baptised by John and honoured by His God, His ministry has started.

Of course, we have the miracle of Calvary. In Ephesians 1 we read of the power that God exerted in bringing Jesus to life, God breaking into a sweat to raise His Son from the dead. An even greater miracle is of you and I. We are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. You and I can look back over 2,000 years of this happening. Millions have been converted. It’s an ongoing miracle. One day you and I will drink the communion wine with Jesus in heaven, standing in a brand new robe of righteousness.

October 22nd 2017: Andy Christofides

Andy Christofides-Oct 2017One life, what’s it all about?

For our Mission Sunday morning service Andy spoke on three points about heaven:

Where is heaven?
What’s it like?
What’s the key to the door? How can I be sure of going there?

Where is heaven?
In 2010 55% of people in the UK believed in heaven. 95% of people in South Africa believed in heaven. Belinda Carlisle once sang that ‘heaven is a place on earth.’ It’s not! People tend to believe it’s ‘up there somewhere.’ It’s not so much ‘up there,’ it’s a real location. The Bible explains heaven is the unreached presence of God. Sometimes, a little bit of heaven impinges on earth. The shepherds on the hillside saw and heard an angelic choir as God burst in. Heaven appeared briefly when the disciples witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, then disappeared again. There will come a time when the trumpet will sound and His glory will appear. Heaven is the immediate presence of God.

What is heaven like?
In John 14 Jesus Christ speaks a little about heaven, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubles. You believe in God; believe also in me.’ (John 14:1). Trust in God, give Jesus the same amount of trust. When the Apostle Paul thinks of his troubles, he thinks of them as being light and momentary, not worth comparing to eternal glory. Troubles are very real to us but there’s something coming far better for the believer that wipes it all away. Keep your eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus calls heaven ‘My Father’s House.’ It’s a lovely phrase. It’s a place where families get together – one dwelling place. We are all together, there are no divisions, we all get along. “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). The King James Version states, “In my Father’s house are many mansion.” It is spacious. All have a place to dwell. It’s a great truth. There are some pretty great mansions on earth with spectacular views, but these are nothing compared to what we will have in heaven.

When Paul writes to the Corinthians he quotes Isaiah, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived – the things God has prepared for those who love Him,” (I Corinthians 2:9). Those who love Him  – that’s the key to entering heaven.

Paul also writes (in the third person, although he is speaking of himself), ‘I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man … was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.’ (2 Corinthians 12:2 &4). Paul had a glimpse of the third heaven – the dwelling place of God. He saw and heard inexpressible things. What will heaven sound like? The sounds of heaven will be far superior to anything we’ve ever heard.

Heaven is a place prepared for us, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). Everything is prepared, nothing will be out of place.

Our body is just a shell. I’m an eternal soul. I’m spirit. My body can move. I’m the bit that thinks, communicates ideas, thoughts and soundwaves. When I die my body goes into the ground but my spirit lives on. When Christ returns I get a new body.

Jesus Christ had a physical resurrected body. He could eat and drink. He could appear and suddenly disappear; at the Ascension He was talking to the disciples then disappeared. So our resurrected bodies will be physical, spiritual bodies, able to move around freely, travelling great distances.

Revelation 21 is highly symbolic of something wonderful. It’s a parallel to Revelation 7:16-17, ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘He will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” We will never again hunger or thirst. Eating and drinking will have no side effects. There will be feasting. There will be no sorrows, no painful memories of things that happened on earth. The judge of all the earth will have done right. There will be no sin in heaven.

Isaac Watts writes,

Sin, my worst enemy before,
Shall vex my eyes and ears no more;
MY inward foes shall all be slain,
Nor Satan break my peace again.

Heaven will have mansions of glory and endless delight. Heaven’s gates are always open and light always shines. Heaven is home. It’s there we will be satisfied.

How do we get there?
Thomas asked Jesus “How can we know the way?” To which He replied, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

‘I am’ is ego-centric. Too many people make the fundamental mistake of wanting to reform their own lives. It won’t get you to heaven. Going to church is very good, something you should do – but it won’t get you to heaven. Even going twice to church, attending mid-week meetings, reading the Bible and praying is all great – but it won’t get you to heaven. In every other religion it’s what you have to do. Even in some churches! There are some parents who believe that because they are Christened they will go to heaven. Or they may think that because they have family who believe they are Christians so this gives them access to heaven. Some say they believe in God – even demons believe in God – and tremble!

Jesus is the one who gets you to heaven. He is the door, the gate to the sheepfold. It’s not what you do that gets you to heaven. If you want to get to heaven, it happens through Jesus Christ, He is the only way. He is the only one who has dealt with the problem – sin. Our concern ought primarily to be God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). Love God. He is your creator.

When things go wrong people shake their fists at God and blame Him. Yet when things go right it’s all ‘me’. God sent His Son Jesus, the second person of the Triune God, to deal with sin. Why? So we can go to heaven. Why? Because He loves us. God sent Jesus to earth. He lived a perfect life. He met God’s demands. He’s our representative. He went to Calvary, laid down His life. Isaiah foresaw this 700 years earlier, ‘But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.’ (Isaiah 53:5). When Jesus went to Calvary He took on Hell. It’s love. ‘But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8). He died the death for us. Because He did nothing wrong, death is conquered.

Jesus Christ is the only one who has dealt with the problem. All I need to do is rest in His finished work.

Will you be there? If you are not sure, why not? The door is wide open. Faith implies repentance, repentance implies faith. The good news is God wants us in heaven. What do you want for eternity?

Sunday 27th September – Morning Service


This morning’s worship was led by Reverend Doctor Gareth Edwards from Hill Park, Haverfordwest, who preached from Exodus chapter 25, verses 1-22. He painted a vivid picture of the Ark of the Covenant depicting the reality of Calvary. The Ark is the place of God’s Law, the righteous requirements of a pure, holy God. Judgement of sinners is a necessary outcome. Because of the suffering of our Lord on the Cross we have been forgiven, our sins have been punished. The Ark is also the place of Mercy. The sacrifice made at Calvary satisfied the demands of the law. Christ’s blood was shed so we know mercy and the blessing of eternal fellowship with God.

Sunday 9th August – Morning Service

Ephesians3.20This morning our guest speaker, Gaius Douglas of Calvary Church, Haverfordwest, focused on Ephesians 3 verse 20. We were encouraged to look unto the Lord and above our situations as He is a faithful God. An open time of prayer allowed us to reflect on how great our God is. We were also blessed to have fellowship with regular summer  visitors who are no longer visitors but part of our family at Penuel. august 15-2