Sunday Morning 7th Augut 2022: Jonathan Thomas 200th Anniversary Service.

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Song of Songs 1: 5-17

I believe in fairy tales. At least, I genuinely believe in fairy tale endings. Before you think I have completely lost the plot, let me explain what I mean. I believe that all fairy tales we were told as children have something in them that, deep down, is incredibly true. All fairy tales have a similar plot, a similar ending. Why has everyone written these stories? Why do we love the stories? Why do generation after generation of children, myself included, enjoy stories about the ugly sisters or the prince coming to save the day or the ultimate wedding feast with all the dancing? It’s because these fairy tales are aches to a long, lost echo; deep down, we all want to be loved. That’s what all fairy tales are about. Deep down, we all want to be loved by the king.

We don’t just want love, we want love with someone who can sort everything out. We all long for it in different ways. Some people long for it in romantic relationships. When I was growing up, I had a friend who had a file book and she had already chosen her wedding dress, she knew what the wedding was going to be, she had it all in a file. For other people it could be football. You fill your walls with posters of football players in the hope that you will be spotted, in the hope that one day you’ll be given that chance. Some hope in rugby, that one day people will realise that you are the answer to the needs of the Welsh rugby team, that one day you will get that call, ‘Let’s go, I want you to play.’ Wouldn’t that be amazing. It could be wanting success, a promotion. Some people look for success in sacrificing for others, in philanthropy, doing good. Sometimes, we want people to need us. We need people to need us, and we want people to see us. Deep down, it’s not that any of these things are wrong, but there is an ache for something. Because we have this ache, it drives us.

So often we look for happiness, success and significance in all the wrong places. Oscar Wilde famously said, “There are two tragedies in life: not getting what you want and getting it.” There is an ache within us. There is an ache that, so often, can be fulfilled in life for a season, when life is good. I live in an area in Abergavenny that is very affluent. When we think of evangelism outreach to people who have got money, family, a nice house and a nice life, people who are very happy, it is hard. When I say to people, ‘If you’re not very happy, come to Jesus.’ Their response is, ‘No. I’m happy. I’m happier than you.’ But when we realise that these things may fulfil for a while, there is something more.

In the Song of Songs there is a love that is fairy tale. It is so amazing that it will seem like fiction. But this isn’t a fairy tale. It is the ultimate thing that God has put in our hearts. God has placed eternity in our heart. He has put a longing in our heart for something that seems so crazy we put it in the category of fairy tale. But it’s even greater than a fairy tale and it is true.

The first thing we see in verse 5 is undeniable fear of ugliness. I wonder, does anyone here fear that you’re ugly? I don’t just mean physically. Does any one here fear if someone actually got to know you, they wouldn’t like what they see? In verses 5-7 the woman is speaking. We know that she loves the king and wants to marry the king. We know that he has come to her and she can come to him and speak to him because he has initiated this. All the friends are rejoicing, ‘Wow! What a great relationship.’

Everyone is excited and celebrating. Then, something happens in our hearts – this undeniable fear of ugliness. She says, “Dark am I, yet lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, dark like the tents of Kedar.” (Song of Songs 1:5). Here is a barrier to intimacy. She has a moment where her self-image and self-worth is rock bottom. How you view yourself affects everything.

The woman starts talking about the complexion of her skin. She keeps going on about the colour of her skin, that it is dark. She says, ‘Don’t stare at me because I’m dark, because I am darkened by the sun.’ The darkness is, in effect, a suntan. The question is why? Because she’s been to Newgale Beach on holiday and had a wonderful time, got a lovely tan and shared it on Instagram? No! She says, “My mother’s sons were angry with me and made me take care of the vineyards.” (Song of Songs 1:6b).

Here is Cinderella. She has brothers who have told her to work in the vineyards. Here is someone who has been forced to do labour that she shouldn’t do. She has been forced into a situation where she has been forced to do something that she shouldn’t. She says, ‘If I’m looking after your physical vineyard, “my own vineyard I had to neglect.” (Song of Songs 1:6c) because her brothers have forced her into this situation because they are angry with her.

She is having this moment of doubt because of what has been happening in her family. It’s amazing how much of our childhood and family affects our relationships. In verse 6 she thinks everyone is staring at her. She doesn’t want people to stare at her because she is dark. How often do we think that people are looking at us? She is out there because her brothers have put her out there. She is struggling.

“Tell me, you whom I love, where you rest your sheep at midday.” (Song of Song 1:7a). She has literally been calling to him in verses 2-4, and now she feels that she has lost him. She doesn’t know where he is. Her upbringing, her experiences, her hurt, have all become a barrier to experiencing his love. If you are involved in any kind of psychology, counselling or social services, you’ll know about ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – all the childhood experiences which affect them in later life. If you go into fostering or adoption, you’ll learn all about attachment disorder and how the experiences of childhood can make you struggle to attach to others. How many of us will sometimes remember things from our childhood come back to haunt us? The wonderful thing is all those things can be changed. Lives can be changed with a loving environment.

What we are seeing in this book is a life being transformed by the love of the king. But the first thing we have to see is there is an undeniable fear of ugliness. Do you have a fear of ugliness? How do you view yourself? I think deep down we all fear that we are so ugly that God can’t love us. Sometimes, when bad things happen, we say, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ because, deep down, we think we do deserve it.

The woman has this fear, so she doesn’t know where the king has gone. She says, “Why should I be like a veiled woman?” A veiled woman in that culture is a prostitute. She has really gone down to the depths. Her friends listen to her and say, “If you do not know, most beautiful of women, follow the tracks of the sheep and graze your young goats by the tents of the shepherds.” (Song of Songs 1:8). Don’t we need friends like that, friends who come along side and say, ‘Hold on. He hasn’t gone, you haven’t lost him. This is the way to go.’ Very often in life we need people to come along and say these things. In a sense, I feel that is my burden for this weekend, to come in God’s word and say, ‘Here is the way to Jesus. Here is the way to know love. Here is the way to find eternal life.’ It is wonderful when people come alongside.

She’s been having a complete meltdown. Her friends point her in the right way and in verse 9 he speaks. I love this. He says, “I liken you, my darling, to a mare.” Today, that doesn’t sound like a lovely thing. But in this poetry, he is speaking to her in response to what she has said. It shows us he has heard her. When I read the Bible, I see when God’s people cry out to Him and think He’s nowhere, He’s always there. When God’s people were in Egypt in slavery, they thought God had forgotten them and had left them. Things went from bad to worse. They knew they were there by their own deliberate fault, trusting in other gods rather than Yahweh. What did they do? They cried out and God heard them and came to them. Remember how Elijah had a massive victory and then straight afterwards had post-mission blues? He lost all his trust in the Lord. He’s completely destitute and God comes to him, feeds him, listens to him, talks to him, and tells him to rest. When we cry out to the Lord, even when we share that undeniable fear of ugliness, the Lord hears us, then He speaks to us.

Firstly, we had the undeniable fear of ugliness. Secondly, we have the unbelievable fact of undeserved love.

“I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharoah’s chariot horses. Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings, your neck with strings of jewels” and so on. In those days, a horse was a thing of beauty and was the animal of power. He is telling her she is a powerful, beautiful woman, adorned in natural beauty. She isn’t beautiful because of the jewels; they enhance her beauty. They often say, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ The king is clearly besotted with her. He is in love. He sees beauty. He is looking beyond what Julian Hardyman calls, ‘socially determined stereotypes.’ Within God’s creation beauty is not socially constructed. There’s a pressure today for us to conform to what the world says is beautiful.

The king tells her how beautiful she is, and she responds by getting incredibly excited. What does this mean for us today? Is it, we have an undeniable fear of ugliness and God says, ‘You’re actually amazing.’ Is that the gospel? No. There is something different going on. Deep down, we all know that that isn’t sufficient. C.S. Lewis says, “He loves us not because we are loveable but because He is love.” Whatever God’s love is for us, it is based on His love, not on us. We know we are not perfect; we know that we sin. We know that there are problems. We know about Genesis and the Fall, we know about Romans 1-3. We are able to say with Paul that we are the chief of sinners.

Why does the king say she is beautiful? Because in His eyes she is. Luther, the great Reformer says, “God does not love us because of our worth. We are worth because God loves us.” Your worth is in the price purchased. God paid for us with His only Son. For the believer, it is not just what Jesus was willing to pay for you, but it’s now that you are His. That is the love than transforms us, that makes us beautiful. This is a truth that, as Christians, we need to grasp.

We believe we are sinners. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We believe that Jesus came and lived for us the perfect life that we could never live. He always did what the Father wanted Him to do. He always followed the Commandments. He did this on our behalf. We believe that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. It is a wonderful exchange. Jesus takes my sins. ‘He who knew no sin becomes sin.’ If you think of it like a debt, we are in debt to God, Jesus has come, He has lived the perfect life and has died on the cross and paid our debt. That’s amazing! But we often stop there, but the gospel is so much more. When Jesus lived and died for us, then rose again on the third day, went to heaven and is now preparing a place for us, He didn’t just pay off our debt, but He filled our account to the max. He did not just take us from being an enemy to a non-enemy, He took us from being an enemy to a son, to a friend, to the beloved. So, He just didn’t die for us, He lived for us. This divine exchange isn’t just Christ taking our sin, but it is Christ giving us His righteousness. There is a complete exchange. It’s wonderful!

On the cross, when the Father looked at Jesus, if you have trusted in Christ, He saw you. It was your sin that held Him there. Here is the wonderful thing – if you have trusted in Christ, your sins were nailed to that cross in Christ. Now, when the Father looks at you, you can call Him Father because now He sees Christ. ‘I am clothed in robes of righteousness.’ It’s not just that the old self has gone, but there is a new creation. It is not just that your sin has been taken away, you have had righteousness imputed to you. That is why we can always know that God loves us and delights in us. I love the ways we go from being slaves to sons, from being lost to being loved. Jesus has done it all.

Some of us have got a limited view of Jesus. Deep down, this undeniable fear of ugliness keeps coming out. I often think of Jesus as a barrister. Barristers are wonderful people. If you get a good barrister, he can get you off pretty much anything. When a barrister stands in a court he speaks on your behalf. They do everything for you. I think there are barristers who have defended people they don’t like. Do we sometimes view Jesus like that? Legally He has died for me and I’m so thankful. But we leave it there. The gospel is far, far greater. He wants to draw us near. He wants to love us and embrace us. He wants us now to be with Him.

I think we’re all slightly living ‘My Fair Lady.’ We feel like we’ve come to the Kingdom, we’ve come to the church, and we’ve been taught to speak and sound like someone who is ‘in’ – but we’re all waiting for that Cockney accent moment to happen, when people don’t think we deserve to be here. But Jesus has done it all. I believe that when we read the Song of Songs there is poetry here that is showing us how God delights in us. It is undeserved.

Friends, do you suffer from imposter syndrome? There is no place for imposter syndrome in the Christian life. There are no imposters in the Kingdom. If you have trusted in Christ, all that is His is yours and the Father loves you. He sings over you. He says, ‘Come under my wing.’ He says, ‘Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ It’s a wonderful, wonderful truth.

I love the way that God’s love makes us lovely. We have this amazing love. The king talks about it in how He sees her. She responds with excitement (v12-14). Then you get this lovely mutual exchange, “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves.” Can you get to a point where you believe that is true of you and Christ? If all your worth is based in Christ, then to the Lord you are beautiful.

How does she respond? “How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming!” When we see who we are in Christ, that makes us worship Him all the more. It is a wonderful thing.

December 25th 2019: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist -Oct18“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).

We see briefly the overall glorious theme of God’s love displayed – Jesus Christ came to reveal God’s love for sinners. Consider the purpose of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; He came into the world to show God’s love for sinners. John 3:16 is very famous. Maybe we no longer find this verse astonishing. It is a remarkable verse, revealing an amazing truth – the greatest present we could ever receive! As we eat our Christmas dinners today, take delight in this. All the sensory pleasures we receive today can be overwhelming but whilst we have all of this, remember to take delight and joy in the truth of God’s love and how shocking and glorious it is!

John 3:16 makes a surprising claim; God loves the world. This is shocking. The Maker of heaven and earth loves the world. He is self-sufficient, He needs no-one. He is holy, the holy one who cannot look upon sin. “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors  and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13) His desires are always right. His affections are never mis-placed. How then can this holy God love this broken, sinful world that gives to Him nothing?

Our God clearly loves the creation in a general way because it exists because of God’s providence and sovereign power, He preserves the world. He provides for it, upholds it by His power. By His word it was brought into being, corrupted by us. But it will not be left to decay. His plan is not for it to crumble and fade by global warming or nuclear disaster. It will end when He decides to create a new heaven and a new earth, when the Lord Jesus comes. His plan is to make it new and fresh, filled with life. Bodies that have been decayed in the ground will be raised on that day when Jesus returns.

Heaven will receive Jesus Christ on that day (Acts 3:21). To John, the word ‘world’ represents human inhabitants of the earth, the human race. We are all one, one in that we are rebels and idolaters to the Creator who made us. We take what He has given and reject Him. We are the ungrateful child. Outrageous! That’s the world – hardly an object of God’s desire, of God’s love. It makes little sense. Surely God would not love us – that would make sense – to get rid of us, a terrible mistake. But God does not make mistakes. God has chosen to love this broken, sinful world. The word ‘world’ is used to show God’s mystery. It is not limited to a race or time. God’s love is not speaking of universal salvation. The Father has chosen a people for Himself – of all background (John 6:37). God loves sinners. The holy God loves sinners.

God has provided a way of salvation for the people of this world, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Some of you may be disappointed today with your Christmas gifts. You will all say thank you, even if your heart is sinking at the frying pan you may receive! The wrong gift can be very disappointing. The one gift you will not be disappointed with is God’s love – the perfect gift. Jesus came into the world. There is God’s love! Jesus’ coming into the world is irrefutable evidence of God’s love for us. Our Western world’s definition of love is bankrupt – just listen to Radio 1 and find out how empty the word ‘love’ is today.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers,” (1 John 3:16). Christ’s coming to die is the proof of God’s love. His birth and death are utterly linked. His sacrificial love is a love that will do anything, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 4:10). The only begotten Son is the object of God’s eternal affection. Two times during Christ’s public ministry everybody heard the Father speak, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5). Who can fathom the love the Father has for the Son? Not even His brothers believed in Him. God’s love is, perfect, deep, unchanging.

God sent His Son for us, for you and me. Christ came to earth to show us the riches of God’s love. It really is good news! It is eternal love. The Father sent the Son to earth, the earth where He would be condemned to death. Christmas confirms to us that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

How do we respond when people ask us about Jesus?


What would be the first thing you would say to a friend if they came to you asking about Jesus? Would you say that Jesus is your best friend? A historical figure? A religious leader? As we become more mission-minded, it is an important question to know how to answer.

In Matthew 5:16 we see that followers of Jesus are called to shine their light before others. At the core, sharing our faith isn’t about giving someone a lesson of spiritual laws or a heavy theological explanation. It’s about introducing people to someone they can know personally, someone who loves them, someone who will change their lives forever.

The challenge for Christians is to communicate the gospel in a way people can understand. We undertake the awesome task of explaining eternal truths in different ways that will connect to our community today. Our impact in sharing Jesus in our schools, home, community or workplace is directly linked to our knowledge of those around us and our ability to engage with them. 

As we make an effort to understand the people God has placed around us, we will find better ways to engage with and respond to the difficulties and negative perceptions that many have against religion and Christianity.

When God wanted to connect with humanity once and for all, He didn’t write a sermon, He came to visit us in person. Our job is to be His witness, pointing our community to know God, to relate to Him, and to have lives changed by the power of His love and forgiveness. God is a person to know, not a theory to understand.

It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, He will always supply the right words to use in season.  When we are willing to pause and ask God to guide and prompt us, you never know what opportunities will appear.

When we allow the love of God to grow within us, dying to our old self and receiving new life, it flows out to everyone around us too.  Consider the incredible calling of sharing Jesus with those around us, begin to ask yourself – “What are the reasons I should share?” and you will find the love of Jesus will stir with you and completely overcome our fears and obstacle to sharing.




May 28th 2017: Jae Hyun

Jae-Hyun - May 17

Many people in the world do not realise they are loved. The main point of the whole Bible is God’s love. ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7-8).

1 John 4-16 esv

‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.’ (1 John 4:19).

All love is from God. Hosea also speaks of this.

What is the character of God’s love?

  • God’s love is for sinners.

God wanted Hosea to tell Israel how much God loved them. God wants Hosea to marry Gomer, an adulteress, which he did. They had children. However, she left him for another man (Hosea chapter 1).How do we know Gomer left Hosea? We are told Hosea had to ‘Go again’ and bring her back,  ‘And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’ (Hosea 3:1). The Lord still wanted Hosea to go again to Gomer. Israel repeatedly sinned but God loved them. Gomer gave an opportunity to a lover to love her. She should have resisted temptation. We should resist temptation too, we shouldn’t give any opportunity to Satan.

‘Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness.’ (2 Peter 1:5-6). There are lots of temptations in our lives. Satan wants us to sin. The enemy, the devil, looks for someone to devour. Eve gave an opportunity to the serpent. Joseph didn’t give in to Potiphar’s wife, that’s why God blessed him. Satan is always offering opportunities to make us sin and depart from God. But God loves us, even though people depart from Him. The Prodigal Son left home but the father did not give up on him and was always waiting for him to return. This is God’s love. This story tells us God never gives up on us. God is unchanging.

  • God is love in action.

Hosea had to buy Gomer as if she was a slave, ‘So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.’ (Hosea 3:2). We were all born sinners. When we were slaves of Satan, God sent us His only son, Jesus Christ. He bought us for Himself when He died on the cross to save us. 

1 john 4-9 esv

‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him’ (John 3:16-17). To save us, God shows us His love in action.

After Hosea bought Gomer back he told her, ‘You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.’ (Hosea 3:3). Just as Hosea married Gomer, a slave, we are sinners too. God commanded Hosea to marry an adulteress to show how much He loves Israel, ‘And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.’ (Hosea 2:19).

Jesus is our bridegroom. All Christians are the bride. To be the bride of Jesus Christ is a great, great blessing. ‘And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.’ (Revelation 21:2). God’s love never changes. He shows His love by His actions.

  • God’s love is a great grace.

‘For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterwards the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to His goodness in the latter days.’ (Hosea 3:4-5). The culture will slowly perish as Israel departs from God, but the Israelites will come back to the Lord. How? They knew God will forgive. This is the  great grace of God’s love. We must repent, say sorry to God, of our sins so we can be forgiven because God loves us. God’s love is a steadfast love, a great grace. 

Ephesians 2 8-9 esv

What a difference between other religions and Christianity; in other religions people have to do good things. We do nothing, God does everything for us! God loves us.

God is love. Know it in your heart. Remember, God’s love never ever changes. God is ever with us. No matter what troubles we have, He is with us in all circumstances. Sometimes we forget because we are weak, but as believers we should know God loves us all the time. Right now. We must love God because He loves us. Jesus Christ died on the cross even though He had no sin. God is love in action, God’s love is unchangeable, God’s love is a great grace.

Walk confidently in God’s love today!

In Mark 4:35-41 Jesus and the disciples were out on a boat crossing the sea of Galilee when suddenly a storm arose. The disciples were clearly worried, frantically trying to get control of the boat, whilst Jesus slept. They woke Him up and asked, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus rebuked the waters and the storm and they became completely calm. He said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

In life we will all experience storms but we are never alone, God is always by our side.  When storms appear in your life, don’t get distracted by the noisy crackling thunder and the whistling winds. Instead, aim to intentionally focus on Jesus Christ. Jesus is with you in the storms of life and on the mountaintop, in His power and authority. He is able to command peace in any storm that surrounds you today.

Although the difficulties seek to absorb your strength and the whistling winds seek to shift your course, remember God’s love. He will never leave you or forsake you, He is right there with you through everything. God is guiding us in love and developing us into the dynamic people that we are called to be. Have faith that God will take you through your trials and don’t think that just because we go through storms God’s love is absent. God is there and to those who love Him, He is working everything out for their good, according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).romans8-28

God loves us in every season in life, whether it is great or challenging. Don’t forget that He really loves each and every one of His children. His love for us is pure, trustworthy and constant in our life. He breathed life into us and sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins and rescue us. He is wanting a relationship with each and every one of us. When we receive Jesus as our Saviour, God promises us eternal life with Him. Our name is engraved in the palm of God’s hand; nothing can separate us from the love of God!

Praise God that He doesn’t love like the world loves – on a conditional basis – but God loves us unconditionally. We may have experienced some detrimental events throughout the course of life, but I want to encourage you today to receive God’s love because He really does love you. Turn to your loving Father’s arms and thank Him for his love that He has for you now and forever.


Although you may have experienced hurtful situations, God can use these for your good. God will never leave you nor forsake you no matter what you are going through. If you are living in disobedience, repent now and follow God’s will, His Word and way, because God sets parameters in your life because of His love for you. A repentant heart and lifestyle is necessary for a fruitful relationship with Our Heavenly Father.

Even in the midst of challenging situations when we’re searching for answers on why a loving God would allow trials and tribulations, trust in Him today. Nothing escapes God; He knows what is going on in your life, and when you begin to grow in relationship with Him you will realise the truth of His love and plans for your life.

We were created for a great purpose that God specifically designed for us to fulfil. Throughout scripture God’s words clearly identify His abundant love for every one of his children. God’s love is exercised for each and every one of us when He forgives, protects, and demonstrates His continued grace, mercy and power in our lives.

Walk confidently in God’s love today. Don’t hold onto negativity; where there is hurt and upset there is the opportunity to forgive. God gave His only begotten Son to save us and forgive us. It is the greatest sacrifice for a relationship with us. He forgave us and in return we should show forgiveness to others, no matter what has happened. Receive God’s love and in doing so you will learn to reflect God’s love to others.

I thank you Lord for your love, kindness, grace and mercy. Although we experience storms in our lives, I thank you that you are always here with us. Sometimes it is a challenge to see how everything will work out for our good when we’re going through storms that seek to hinder our praises and blind my focus on you. I praise you for being sovereign and that all my storms are subject to you! Thank you for peace, strength and growth as my faith increases in you.