July 31st 2022: James Gleave

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/DiBCo9750as

Philippians 3:4b-21

This is a tremendously encouraging passage. We are going to look at the idea of pressing on, at the reasons why we can and should press on, both as an individual Christian in your own life and also as a group of Christians, as a church.

Paul has numerous reasons for writing this letter to the church in Philippi. Some of those are quite practical, some are a little bit concerning, as this young church begins to show signs of being vulnerable to this unity and to legalism. The reason I like for Paul’s writing of this letter the most, and that fits best with this morning’s message, is this: Paul’s writing was also an opportunity to encourage Christians to suffer bravely, to live in single-mindedness and to trust their lives to the Lord in all things and under all circumstances.

Before we jump into this passage, I want to share with you the reason for my desire to bring you a message of encouragement. I have been coming here, to Penuel, close to two decades, for many times. I have seen many changes. I have got to know you and share fellowship here with you in this historic building, on the beach and in some homes. It’s been limited to the times of year that we’ve come down as a family for a holiday. But over the last few years, through the wonders of technology, I have had new opportunity to see more of the work God is doing in this church. I want to share with you how much it uplifts my spirit, how much it encourages and inspires me to see what God is doing with you guys here in Roch: the youth work, Sunday ministry and other times of fellowship that you share together.  It is really amazing. Firstly, this morning, I want to give glory to God for what He is doing with you guys. I hope that you can join me as you reflect for a moment on the vitally important work that God has given you to do here, in Pembrokeshire.

God has even more to do with this church, in your community and in the wider area of Wales that you are connected to through your partnerships, and the groups of other churches that you have connections with. God has so much more that He wants to do – so many more people that He wants to reach with the gospel, and so many more opportunities for you to take.

Your opportunity, as Christians here in this community, is even bigger than the wonderful things God is already using you to accomplish. I want to encourage you to press on.

  1. The cost associated with pressing on.
  2. The crown. The reward we will receive as we do so.
  3. The command Paul gave the church in Philippi, and that he gives to you and I today.
  1. The cost.

The first thing Pauls tells us of the cost associated with pressing on is pursuing an increasingly Godly standard of living. It cost Paul his prestige (v4). Paul gives his credentials as a Jew, his resumé. Paul is a Jew if ever there was one: he was circumcised on the eighth day of his life, he was from the tribe of Benjamin. He calls himself a ‘Hebrew of Hebrews.’ He includes ‘Pharisee’ in the recent occupation section of this resumé. In his culture and in his circle of influence, Paul has that pure bred pedigree. As a result, he occupies a prestigious position within the Jewish community.

Some of you may well occupy prestigious positions, professionally or socially. Like Paul was able to do in his days as a Jew, you might be able to sit here this morning quite content with where you have found yourself in the world’s hierarchy or in the hierarchy of your friendship groups in your company or places that you find yourself.

Remember, Paul wrote about his desire to see the church at Philippi live in single-mindedness. What Paul is telling us about the prestige that he’s given up is that not only does he no longer derive confidence in his own resumé and in his pedigree and history, that whole way of life and thinking which sought self-promotion and prestige, is actually detrimental to his ability to live that single-minded life that he wants to see the church in Philippi live. It is in direct opposition to his calling and to our calling to live with 100% focus on Jesus Christ. We have to be ready to throw away the pursuit of worldly prestige and throw away the confidence which we often fall into deriving from it.

The second cost Paul outlines for us, that he has given up in order to press on and pursue Godly living, is his power. Paul’s role as a Pharisee will have come with the ability to influence and control the lives of those around him in his community, to direct the lives of the Jewish people. Even more than that, he has the power to negatively impact the lives of others, as he reminds us of his time spent persecuting the church (v6). But Paul gives up this power. This is not to be glossed over. We see in the world today the negative consequences that we can experience when people gain power and are unwilling to give it up, using it for the wrong purposes.

Power is addictive and intoxicating. It becomes very difficult to give up on. A fundamental fact of our relationship with God is that His omnipotence leaves no room for our potence. For us to press on successfully as Christians we must lay down our power in order to benefit fully from God’s. This is something that Paul has realised during his journey towards his faith. He wishes to encourage the church in Philippi, as well as you and I, today. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your ability to make decisions, or to control and influence, is a demonstration of strength. When it comes at the expense of your reliance on God’s power and strength, it becomes a weakness and a drag on our ability to press on.

Finally, Paul gives up his self-righteousness. That is something we all do when we become a Christian, we give up our self-righteousness. We accept our inability to chase down our own righteousness. This can be extremely liberating. But for some people it’s a huge challenge and a big stumbling block to overcome. Something to keep in mind when we are seeking to reach out to people is that not everyone is going to see this relinquishment of their ability to try and control their own destiny as a positive thing. Some people want that in their own hands. Let’s be sympathetic to others who struggle to let go of their self-righteousness.  

The other aspect of giving up our self-righteousness is that it makes it very difficult to be self-righteous. Yet, how many times do we find ourselves guilty of thinking, ‘We’re not as bad as that guy,’ or ‘This sin isn’t as bad as that sin.’ As easy as giving up our self-righteousness to make way for the righteousness of our sacrificial Saviour sounds, we find it quite difficult to fully implement in practice. But in order to press on we must forfeit our right to be judgemental and critical of others because we have to fully acknowledge our own shortcomings.

As we press on and seek to make ourselves increasingly available to God, we must completely surrender self-righteousness and all the behaviours it can give birth to in our lives. Paul sums up the cost of pressing on in chapter 3 verse 8, when he explains that he has lost all things for Jesus. Everything Paul has written down on his resumé he has had to discard and let go of in order to benefit from the resumé of Christ, our perfect and eternal Saviour.

As a result of Paul experiencing both the cost and the crown, we can learn that he isn’t really sentimental of all that he has had to give up. Instead, he describes his former way of life, and all it contained, to be garbage. He also says, in v12, that he is forgetting what is behind. In other words, his former way of life might as well not exist anymore. The lesson for us is that we cannot afford to hold onto our old way of living, not even a little bit. We must throw it all away.

  • The crown.

As humans we need motivation. We are often very used to comfort, and we have ample opportunity to default to the path of least resistance in many aspects of our lives. That’s a path where the concept of pressing on is totally alien.

The reward of a new righteousness. For many this morning, this is hopefully going to be a simple reminder of something which is an unending source of joy in your life. For some of you, this might still be a foreign concept. You might be wondering what having a righteousness really means. It is a gift from God (v9) and it is yours through faith. It is a ticket, a pass to an eternity with Jesus. As you shed your imperfect, flawed self-righteousness, you are given the benefits of Christ’s perfect righteousness, making you acceptable in the sight of a holy and just God.

We also have a new goal. Some speculate that some members of the Philippian church that Paul was writing to, had already begun to believe that they had achieved the goal of Christian perfection. They thought they had completely surrendered to God. This really is the crux of this morning’s message: never be satisfied with where you have arrived at as a Christian or as a church. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus encourages people to ‘be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ That is just one aspect of this new goal that we receive as Christians. It is something that requires a lifetime of pursuit. It is something we will never attain but something which gives our life new meaning.

There is work to do, there is more life to be lived, more goals to be obtained, more opportunities to rise to, more Godly missions to accept. I encourage you to accept the reward of having this new goal. It is your reason to get out of bed in the morning, your reason to move forward in life with incredible drive and focus, your reason to press on. God has called you and me heavenwards to receive the prize of His grace and mercy, His forgiveness and eternal life.

Whilst we are journeying through this life, let’s leave no stone unturned when it comes to pressing on towards this goal of Godly living, and the goal of people reached, and souls saved. What a privilege God gives you and me, such a glorious objective to strive for together. Along the way we pray that we become fully reliant on Him, on His righteousness and on His power.

In verse 20 Paul reminds the Philippian church and us today, that we are promised a new home. Our forever home, our citizenship, is in heaven. Something far greater is waiting for us. In John 14 Jesus says, “In My Father’s house there are many mansions.”

Paul encourages us to press on beyond this life to our true, forever home where we will be with Jesus. When we get there the job will be done. The outreach programmes and the kids’ clubs will cease and we will praise and worship our God together, free from pain, tiredness, stress and busyness. Until then, brothers and sisters, we must press on, knowing this gift of a true, forever home is waiting for you and for me.

Finally, on the crown, Paul says we will have a new body. Yet another reason for us to press on. We must look after our earthly bodies. The weariness we feel now will all pass away. One day we will shed these bodies for good. We will have the blessing of a transformed, imperishable body in heaven.

Press on towards God’s promised gifts of new righteousness, the new goal, the new home and the new body.

  • The command.

The command Paul gives to the church in Philippi, in verse 17, is the command that we can take on ourselves. Paul appears to undo some of the humility that he’s demonstrated earlier in the passage. He says, ‘join together in following my example.’ We need to understand the context that Paul gives this command in. Paul’s whole message, in all of his writings, is that he is pressing on towards Christ. In verse 10 he says he wants to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection and to participate in His sufferings, even becoming like Christ in his death. When Paul says to the church in Philippi, ‘Do what I do,’ he is simply saying, ‘Do what Jesus did.’

This idea of pressing on in this life doesn’t have an end in this life. The end of our pressing on comes when we arrive in heaven. It’s a relatively foreign concept in the context of our society and to many people. In our country we have a retirement age which we work towards. We plan for it and when it arrives, for some people that’s the cue for winding down and putting your feet up. There seems to be a desire to make progress and press on for a season in life. During this season we live with a certain intensity. The temptation for some people is they let go of the intensity. Paul’s command reminds us as Christians, that not only do we need to press on, continually pursuing God’s standards in the way that we live and in the way that we serve, but on top of that, as we grow and learn and get ever closer to the goal, our responsibility to live as an example to those around us also grows.

In summary, let us follow Paul’s example of paying the full cost associated with Godly living, shedding everything that hinders us from pressing on. Let us strive to become increasingly open, ready to be used by God, and ultimately to become the signpost for those around us, both non-Christians and Christians.

Here, at Penuel, God is using you. I believe He wants to do even more. I believe He wants you to press on for your own benefit and for the benefit of those you seek to serve. If you’ve been used by God in these past few years to drive this work in Penuel forward, please press on. If you’re maybe getting worn down by it, and there are days when you wonder if the work is still worth it, please press on. If you’re feeling encouraged by what God is doing in the way that I am, and rejoicing in the Lord, as Paul commands us to do in verse 1, that’s great. Use that as fuel and continue to press on.

If you’re someone who, perhaps, has been a bit more on the fringes, for whatever reason, (maybe Covid knocked you out of a rhythm and routine of service, maybe personal circumstances have overcome you, perhaps the costs associated with a greater pursuit of God’s desires in your life), please consider all that God has for you – that crown that is waiting for you – and press on. On the days when it seems that the plan might fail, take it to God in prayer. When necessary, tweak the approach but never change the goal. Continue to press on towards it.

I promise you today, through every up and down, through all the moments that the outreach feels a bit like trench warfare, when it becomes a battle of inches, it will be worth it, when in glory we’re all rejoicing together with new righteousness received, our new goal complete, our new home occupied, a new body to enjoy, surrounded by those God was able to reach through our faithful decision to press on. Praise God for all that He is using you to accomplish. Never forget that it is through Him and Him alone, that all you are involved with is possible.

September 23rd 2018: Gaius Douglas

Gaius - Sept18Hebrews 12:1-3

Throughout Jesus’ life Satan tried to thwart His plan. Jesus willingly went in obedience to His Father, ‘I have finished the work which you have given Me to do.’ (John 17:4). Isn’t that marvellous! Satan could not slay Him, death could not hold Him, Jesus is risen from the dead.

Hebrews is just like all the books in the Bible, in that we realised what a loving Saviour we have. What does it teach? Quite often we may have our own thoughts and ideas of what we want from the Bible. We don’t change our thoughts to man’s teaching, we look to the Bible. People around Jesus didn’t like the things He said. He did the things the Father told Him to do. We have to stand up for what the Bible teaches.

Hebrews 12:1 begins with ‘Therefore’ indicating something has occurred previously. In the previous chapter we read of great men and women of faith who went out saying, ‘I will go.’ Abraham went, not knowing where he was going to go. He went because God told him to go. God led him (Hebrews 11:38-40).

‘Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.’ (Hebrews 12:1). We need to be part of this verse, to bring us into a greater nearness to our Saviour. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – brothers and sisters who have gone before, surround us, encourage us. Those who have gone before us have fought the fight and finished the fight. They saw something so great in Christ, they carried on.

We are to look ahead. It matters not what others are doing, our eyes are fixed on Christ. We are looking at the one who has gone before, who accomplished all, who came in obedience to His Father. Look unto Him, not to Him, unto Him. He humbled Himself. He says He has made it possible for us to reach the goal and we will! We will get there because it is not by our might or power, but by the Holy Spirit. Because He lives, we will live also. Let’s be encouraged. We’re going to get there. The eyes of the Father sees us perfect in Christ, one in Christ.

Let us set aside every weight. The Bible says set aside those things that will hold us back from following the Lord. Focus upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Sometimes we bring things that become a dead weight – traditions, practices, encumbrances, unprofitable conversations – which hold us back and become a drag. Even though we want to go on, we are held back. These things stop us from following Jesus. So often we miss out. What is stopping you and me, holding us back?

The Lord Jesus Christ went and sat by a well and spoke to a lady no-one else wanted to speak to because He wanted to win her for Christ. Nervousness is a weight which prevents us from speaking about Christ. So often we are not bold for Christ. Let us set aside every weight. Jesus reassures us, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy leaden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus willingly laid aside every weight and He spoke for His Father, even in the most extreme circumstances, when His life was threatened.

The Bible says, ‘Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.’ (Hebrews 8:12). Sin entangles us and it ties us up in knots. Satan says ‘You can’t go.’ Sin that so easily entangles us, nags at us – Satan is a nagger. You don’t want to go or say something because you remember that sin, it nags us. The Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven us of all sin and He has chosen to forget. Every time Satan brings these things to memory, we should remember this. Do you think there is a sin in your life Jesus Hasn’t forgiven? You cannot lose your salvation. You are safe and secure because the blood of Jesus Christ saves us from all sin, ‘ But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship on with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ (1 John 1:7). Sin ties us down and traps us from going on. If sin holds you back, it shouldn’t. Put it behind you because He’s done it already. ‘But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:13-14).

Let us run with patience. It does not come easily. Patience takes us to the foot of the cross. We see the one who was patient in every aspect of His life, the one who went to Calvary’s cross. Time and time again they tried to stop Jesus, yet He waited patiently. Everything happens at the appointed time (John 12).

So often we want to run ahead and do everything our own way. My Saviour has all the energy, all the power, all the might, yet He waited until the appointed time. He could have just said the word but He waited (John 11). He was patient and did everything at the appointed time.

So often we says ‘Let’s go ahead and see what happens,’ and want the Lord to catch up. We strive to be in the position we want to be. We need to be patient. Sometimes we are impatient and go ahead, sometimes the Lord allows it. We then wonder why it goes wrong. ‘Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.’ (Psalm 25:4-5). Wait upon Him, learning patience. Patience marked His footsteps. He was the creator, the Word who became flesh, who went to Calvary’s cross, patiently waiting. Be patient. ‘But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’ (James 1:4)

In the fullness of time Christ died. He will renew our strength and bring us to blessing. Let’s lay aside every weight and wait on Him. What is holding us back? What are the entanglements in our life that stop us from doing what He wants us to do. Let Him lead us into truth.

October 8th 2017: Dave Evans

Dave Evans-Oct 17Mark 14:32-42

When going through a difficult time, some people may say they are experiencing their own ‘personal Gethsemane.’ The truth is, we are treading on holy ground – a unique experience. Only the Saviour ever experienced Gethsemane. Thousands shared the experience of crucifixion, the intense physical suffering. But what no film, no description can truly convey is the suffering our Saviour endured in those hours of darkness. There is nothing like it recorded in human history. We can learn something of the mystery of our Saviour’s experience through the Holy Spirit.

If we look at the setting, our Saviour is coming to the end of three years of ministry. Judas has left the upper room.The Saviour and the remaining disciples go across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus then left most of the disciples at the gate whilst He, Peter, James and John entered the garden. We then have a sudden change, ‘He began to be troubled and distressed.’ (Mark 14:33). We are given a glimpse into our Saviour’s soul – the human Jesus expresses His deep concern to His disciples, ‘Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”’ (Mark 14:34). On every side our Saviour is shut in by distress of soul. He has anguish of soul. The three disciples must have been amazed at what was happening after seeing His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Incarnate Son of God is now bowed down in deep distress. You almost feel things can’t be any more heart-rendering than they are. But then ‘He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.’ (Mark 14:35). After only a few steps it seems He is crushed to the ground, pressed into the dust. This anguish lays hold of the whole being of Christ.

What is happening? Why is this experience laying hold of the Saviour? Turn to the Saviour’s prayer in verses 35-36, ‘And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus prayed if it were possible the hour might pass from Him. It’s surely at this point we try to enter into the mystery of the hour. It’s clearly a reference to His death. Jesus always knew He was coming to die for His people. Now He prays to the Father asking for release. What is going on here? His depth of agony doesn’t leave any space for pretence. Does it show an element of weakness? Is He weakening when others have stood firm and given their lives for the gospel? No! He did not fail. As Judas and the authorities came He left willingly. The intense agony of Gethsemane can be explained as we consider verse 36. Jesus prays this prayer which had so much meaning for every Jew. ‘Take this cup away from Me.’ The picture of the cup can refer to joy, ‘I will take up the cup of salvation,’ (Psalm 116:13). But more often, it’s a symbol of judgement and of God’s wrath against sin (Isaiah 51:7, Jeremiah 25). Also in the New Testament, Revelation 14 speaks of the ‘cup of His indignation.’ Here lies, surely, the explanation for the Incarnate God lying crushed in the Garden. He begins to experience the sufferings He alone could endure on the cross. The two thieve endured the physical suffering. What we could not see on the cross we see here – how awful sin is. Our Saviour here looked at the sin which He was to bear on the cross for others, He saw it in its deformity. He sees the wrath of God. His holy soul recoils. That’s what the Saviour experienced here in Gethsemane. He began to experience the cup of wrath, the separation of fellowship with His Father. He begins to experience Hell that He will experience on the cross. He begins to see Hell as His companion as others desert Him. He begins to experience the full horror. So He prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). But He receives no answer. Heaven is silent. If He didn’t go to Calvary then the cup of wrath would have been drunk by all of mankind. The debt was so great only God could pay it. The life of this one man was so precious it was able to pay the debt. The cup must be drunk to its last drop. Jesus began to experience the eternal sufferings of His people if no-one had died in their place.

The wonder of the experience is having prayed that the cup might be taken away, He goes on to say, ‘Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus came in to the full eternal agreement with the Father. Hebrews declares He learned obedience by the things He suffered. He proved His absolute obedience. Our Lord’s prayers were heard, even though heaven was silent. The Father heard in heaven His Son’s prayers. In three days’ time He answered Him gloriously and raised Him from the dead, triumphant. Now we can sing,

Up from the grave He arose;
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The glory of the gospel is that faith in Christ brings us to a God of peace, a God of grace in this life and the glory to come. Christ delivers the way, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6). We have a great encouragement here, we have a Saviour who knows what it is to go through life’s darkest experiences. Death is conquered and is but a step to glory. Come in repentance, seek Him. You have a Saviour who has died for you.

September 10th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian-September 17Hebrews 10: 23-2, Holding Fast Together

There’s a battle waging for the souls of God’s people today. Whilst our God leads His people, He calls them together to encourage each other to look to Him. It’s a team effort. A top priority of the Christian life is learning to battle against unbelief. Now we are Christians it’s a wrong notion to think the battle is over. Have we allowed our unbelief to creep in through the back door? Paul’s closing remarks to Timothy are, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul had fought the good fight all his Christian life. One way he did this was to surround himself with faithful believers.

  • Holding fast together:

Hebrew 10-23
The biggest battle we face is unbelief. When we make a public confession of faith through baptism it should serve as a strong motivation to hold fast when we’re tempted to disbelief, to compromise. Holding fast implies there is some serious danger, serious difficulty. What persecutions are you facing? We are persecuted in different ways. We may yet face our greatest persecutions. We should be ready. We all face the pressure of conformity of the world; it is easier to blend in than to stand. The writer of Hebrews wants us to hold fast, not to let go. Christians have a firm grip on Jesus Christ. We are being kept, not ultimately because of our grip on Christ, but because of His grip on us. Keep on holding on to the one who will never leave or forsake you. Hold fast without wavering.

  • Keep your hope:

Hope points to the absolute certainty, but not yet realised promises of God. He who promised is faithful. We put our trust in Him. Are you trusting the faithful God, trusting Him to complete what He has already done? Hope is essential for the Christian life. It’s like a long rope that keeps us attached to the sovereign God. Hope is grounded on the historical life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. ‘So that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.’ (Hebrews 6:18-20).

Throughout the storms of life, the pressures to conform to this world, the anchor that holds us is Jesus, our rock. Let us pray for one another that we will continue to hold fast in faith. An incredible future awaits us. Life is tough, pray that we will be granted a clearer vision of heaven to come, see the beautiful shores that await us.

  • Encourage each other to love.

‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ (Hebrew 10: 24-25).

Continually minister to one another. ‘Shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half the sorrow.’ (Swedish motto). Be involved, like co-workers, team-workers, rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn. ‘But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.’ (Ecclesiastes 4:10). When a person struggles spiritually that person needs those who will help him out of the ditch. Find help from others. We also need others because of their skills and their gifts. We’re a team, we do not excel each other; we depend on each other. The command here is ‘to consider’ how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds – to encourage others around you to love and good deeds. To consider is to give thought about how it is going to happen. Ask ‘What does the person need to grow to encourage them to look to Christ and to encourage them?’ How do we do this? It’s very important not to neglect to meet together. It’s so discouraging when people allow the world’s priorities to crowd in and neglect meeting together. We should encourage one another. The devil is trying hard to attack God’s people, to remove their confidence in Christ. 

Hebrew 10-23-24
We should be filled with joy because of Jesus’ return. We should meet together to have encouragement, to see a glimpse of heaven. We have three meetings here a week in Penuel which we can attend. We can see the power of Christ. He is keeping His people. Our gatherings are to be encouraging, pointing us to heaven. Are you aware Jesus is coming? These are difficult days but we need to gather together, to press on, looking in hope to Jesus’ return.


June 4th 2017: Norman Gilbert

Luke 18:1-8

We are living in a day in which there is much to be despondent about. In this parable of the persistent widow, the Lord shows us two encouragements we really need: we need to pray, we need never to lose heart.

In the previous chapter the Lord has been speaking about the day of judgement and talks of the last days. Believers are living in the last days – we may be in the last of the last days. Jesus is reminding followers we’re living in last days. Now, after 2,000 years, we are closer to that day. When Jesus first came, He came to bring Salvation. His return will bring judgement. He will introduce a new heaven and a new earth. In this particular section Jesus is people to have hope. In Luke 17 everyone was carrying on with life as normal, not preparing for judgement. In the light of the days in which you live, do not lose heart. We need to continue in prayer and not to lose heart.

IN this parable there are two main characters – a judge and a widow. The judge oversees the affairs of a particular city. We are told two things about this man; he had no regard for God and no regard for man. He had no reverence for God, no reverence or concern for fellow man, he was self-centred. The widow lived under the jurisdiction of the judge. She was in a vulnerable position. It was the culture of the day for widows to be taken care of by their family, but she may have had no-one to be concerned for her welfare.

Looking at the context of the parable, the widow needs to address her problems. Her only solution is to go to the judge to seek justice. We are not told what her problem was. Initially, when she sees the judge he had no concern for her problem whatsoever. He was not interested. We then see the true character of the widow. Her complaint was so urgent she kept on coming. She shows great determination. She was tenacious, she wouldn’t be fobbed off. In the modern world, she would probably be continually emailing her complaint, the one resorting to Twitter or holding a placard as she sought justice. The judge then decides he will grant her justice. Why? Not because he had a change of heart because he had pangs of sympathy for her; he wanted to get rid of this nagging woman. She got her result in the end by nagging. Her perseverance won the day, it had nothing to do with the heart of the man.

Looking at the application of the parable we see the purpose of it in verse 1, ‘Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.’ (Luke 18:1). We must always pray and not lose heart. This is the reason for the parable. Jesus’ disciples needed to hear those words; they would go through horrendous times. Throughout history there are times Christians need to be reminded to pray and not to lose heart. We may go through those times when we ask ‘Is there any point in asking God to stem the tide of evil of our days? Is there any point praying for youngsters who are fuelled by credit? We live in a generation of people fuelled by alcohol and drugs, a generation who have been provided for by the previous generation and have become self-centred – people who only know Jesus as a swear word. We have every encouragement to pray for people to find a real purpose and meaning in life, to turn from their old ways and follow Christ, who is all we need.

The parable is a challenge to us to continue to pray, not to lose heart. We don’t need to equate the judge to God. It is a contrast. If a wicked judge can help a widow, how much more will a God who loves His people be concerned for them? God doesn’t always give us what we want. The widow kept on praying. God sometimes has to give us time, give us trials to go through. We need to pray day and night. That’s the requirement. If we don’t pray we have to question where we stand. Prayer is an evidence we are a true believer. It is a time when the Christian communes with their heavenly Father. We have a great advocate who presents our prayers faultless before the Father. Pray at all times, in all situations, in any place. We need to pray at prayer meetings. Some don’t like to pray openly, but God knows our hearts. Prayer is vital for the church of Jesus Christ. The church has to gather together to pray continually, encouraging one another.

But don’t use prayer to twist God’s arm. Pray and then qualify it with ‘Thy will be done.’ Be bold in prayer, but praying that God’s way will be done. Have confidence.

At the end of Luke 17 there is a warning; no-one knows when the end of the world will take place but we need to be ready. At the end of this parable Jesus asks ‘will the Son of Man really find faith on earth?’ The widow did not give up, she continued in faith. True faith endures to the end. We have hard days and easy days. When Jesus returns will He find faith? We must not give in, believing He knows best and leaving everything in His hands. Our God graciously wants to provide for our needs.

March 26th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian March 26th 2017Matthew 13:24-43

We live in a quick fix world, wanting solutions at our fingertips. In Matthew chapter 11 people wanted to know if Jesus really was the Messiah when there were so many being faced. In verse 35 Matthew links the parables to the prophet; we are to know God through the teaching of the parables, ‘This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”’ (Matthew 13: 35).
In this passage we have three parables of encouragement:
in times of trouble (The parable of the Weeds)
when there is little growth (The Parable of the Mustard Seed)
when the good work seems to be hidden (The Parable of the Leaven).

  • The Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13: 24-33 & 36-43).

In this parable we see the challenge of troubles. Matthew probably refers to a weed that resembles wheat and is very plentiful today in Israel, the seed of wild rice grasses. The difference between the weed and wheat is only noticeable when they mature. When the servants first notice the weeds they question the quality of the seed. When they are told it’s been planted by the enemy they want to get rid of it. The master wants to restrain the servants, letting both plants grow together. Over time they will be identifiable. Today we have the church against the world. Later Jesus will send His reapers, His angels. Jesus identifies Himself as the sower, the enemy is the devil and the field is the world. Some teach we should welcome all into the church, we shouldn’t be worried about purity, church discipline is not to be thought of too much. This is entirely unscriptural. Jesus teaches how important church discipline is. Jesus says there is to be no immediate judgement. A premature judgement will ruin the crop. God’s way is to have the gospel preached to an unbelieving world whilst the enemy does his work. God has permitted the church and evil to grow together. A harvest will come at the end of the age, when there will be eternal judgement, ‘The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 13:41-42). However, be encouraged, ‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’ (Matthew 13:43).

  • The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13: 31-32): Smallness

The second parable is about the smallness of the kingdom, when there seems to be little growth. The mustard seed is small, we feel ourselves so small, wanting to be bigger. We may look to super churches, wanting our own church to be bigger. However, small things can have a big impact. Jesus encourages His disciples by telling them the kingdom will grow. Size is not important but growth. From small beginnings there is growth, just as Daniel saw the kingdom’s growth to include many nations. Christ’s kingdom is such; we may have small beginnings but there is always growth when you have the Holy Spirit. Here is a living seed, very small, but awakened. It grew. We may feel our days are small, this cuts our desire to preach the gospel, reduces our resolve to move forward. It can narrow our vision, we become satisfied with our smallness. But Jesus says there will be growth. Our God is gracious, be encouraged. He will build His church. We must keep on preaching the gospel, believing others will be saved. Expect growth because Jesus has determined there will be growth. Be encouraged!

  • The Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33) Hiddenness

This parable has caused a lot of controversy; in the Old Testament leaven was associated with evil. Many have taken this parable as corruption of the church, and that a new, pure church needs to be started. However, there is only one church – God’s people redeemed by Christ. The world encapsulates false churches and we must have nothing to do with them. Part of the challenge of living with the weeds is to be discerning. The New Testament church remains under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There will be no corruption of the true church. Biblical symbolism does not always have the same meaning in all circumstances. Look at the context.

Jesus is encouraging His disciples here. In this parable there is a small amount of leaven, of yeast. There is a lack of outward and obvious success. The woman in this parable hid the leaven in the mixture. The word of God is within, we are to hide the word of God in our hearts. We must seek the Holy Spirit deep down in our hearts, keep it treasured. The word of God must change us from within. Don’t be concerned for outward success, seek from within. Is there a work of grace going on in our hearts?

The three parables are parables of encouragement. There is no quick fix, no sweeping away of unbelief. In spite of smallness, Christ’s kingdom will come on earth. None will be able to stop its flow, until the end of the age when there will be righteous judgement.


5th February 2017: Dave Norbury

david-norbury-feb-17What is so wonderful about the gospel we believe?

  • It is rooted in history.

Many of the people who stood under the cross of Jesus rubbed their hands – they had captured the troublemaker. Yet in Isaiah 53, written 700 years before, this event is predicted and described in detail. Our message is rooted in history, in an event that really happened. ‘And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offering; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.’ (Isaiah 53:9-12).

The gospel is for the very worst of people. The two robbers crucified on either side of our Lord were genuinely the sort of people you should fear, the very worst of people. They too, reviled Jesus, mocking and humiliating Him. ‘And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.’ (Matthew 27:44). Yet what we find Jesus tells one, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23:43). Amazing!

Jesus Christ takes the very worst of people and makes them secure in heaven. He came into the world to save sinners. Hypocrisy sets you above people to look down, but you and I have wickedness within our hearts which is equally detestable. ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:23). This gospel isn’t restricted to the kind and good, it’s for everyone who is a sinner, everyone – the worst of the worst. And Jesus demonstrates it in His last moments of His life on the cross.

  • The gospel is about miraculous change.

During the crucifixion there was darkness between 9 and 12, but at 12 one of the robbers had changed completely. ‘One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). God has changed him. It’s almost beyond belief. Suddenly he has come to believe there’s a God. So many people think there is no God. Every single one of us during our lives, has a consciousness of God. Suddenly this man believes there’s a presence so much greater than his own. He had no conscience, but now he has God. He realises he is guilty. This is true of everyone who becomes a Christian; we become conscious of our own sin and failure. We have to believe that this message we have is about miraculous change.

  • The gospel call people to personal faith.

Not only does the gospel take someone who mocks Jesus at 9 o’clock but at 12 o’clock he worships Jesus Christ. Suddenly the man is speaking to the Lord Jesus Christ in a very personal way. He speaks to the Lord Jesus who has a kingdom. He saw, when they were carrying the crosses to the execution, Jesus spoke to the women on the road, he heard how Jesus didn’t respond to the taunts of others, how Jesus spoke to His Father. His heart moved right towards the Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t do it ourselves, but as we cry out to God, then our wonderful God draws near to us. This gospel calls us to personal faith in Jesus Christ. What a great message!

  • The gospel proclaims wonderful promises to the worst of sinners.

The Lord Jesus replies and says to the robber, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Luke 23:43). We have wonderful promises we can rely on for eternity. We are told, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee.’ (Jeremiah 33:3). ‘He shall call upon me and I will answer him.’ (Psalm 91:15). There is a death, there is judgement, but this robber will be in Paradise. What a place!

  • The gospel is filled with encouragement but there are also warnings.

We have the encouragement of heaven. Sadly, there is a great warning. One of the thieves refused to trust Jesus Christ. There is judgement. God will deal with our sin and failure. Jesus died on the cross to save sinners, but for those who reject Jesus, they will be rejected themselves.

In summary, the gospel is rooted in history, it is about miraculous change, it calls people to personal faith, it proclaims wonderful promises and filled with encouragement, but there are warnings too.