April 10th 2022: Gareth Edwards

 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Have you ever been astonished by someone? May be a remarkable person you have met that, at first, you didn’t recognise their talent, then you see their talent and are amazed. Throughout the New Testament, Christians bewildered and challenged those around them. Unfortunately, today Christians are easily ignored. We do not incite anything, perhaps other than apathy. What is the difference between then and now? What was it that made the New Testament Christians so distinctive that people sat up and noticed them?

The Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, observed Peter and John and arrested them after they healed a lame man. Peter takes the opportunity to preach that Jesus is the Saviour, the Messiah, and it is in His name that the man has been healed. The Sanhedrin marvel and are amazed. Peter and John were a great surprise to them. Why?

First of all, for their courage. In the face of being cross-examined by those who had crucified their Master, these two men steadfastly witnessed for Jesus. There is not the slightest sign of Peter backing down. They couldn’t be intimidated or diverted in their testimony for Jesus, even in the face of possible persecution, even in the face of potential death. What amazed the Sanhedrin was Peter and John’s total dedication for the cause of Christ. Jesus had warned of this (Matthew 10:13-36). They are not afraid. Jesus has prepared them for what they now face (John 16:2-4). They have seen the boldness and courage of their Lord as He was persecuted and now it is their turn. Although the Sanhedrin did not like it, they were impressed by Peter and John’s bold courage.

We need to be forever faithful if we are to have an impact in our day, as Peter and John and the other disciples had in their day. They turned the world upside down. The Church in our day is weak. It seeks to accommodate the world around it and not confront the evils of our age. But we are called to stand up and stand out against all that opposes the gospel. We may not be liked for what we say, but there is more likely to be respect if we are uncompromisable in our faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. People must know what we stand for and what we stand against. To stand for the Saviour and truth can be a costly exercise. We can be fearful. We need to ask the Lord for courage and boldness to stand for Christ and not to compromise the gospel message; Jesus Christ died upon the cross of Calvary that sinners might be forgiven.

Peter and John were uneducated, untrained men. The Sanhedrin were surprised at their courage because these were not trained, just simple men from Galilee. They could argue their cause. Peter’s sermon persuaded many to believe in Jesus as their Saviour. The Sanhedrin were amazed at the ability of these uneducated men to present their cause.  

People were also surprised at Jesus’ preaching and mighty works (Mark 6:2). The Lord had told His disciples they should not worry when called to speak the gospel (Matthew 10:19-20). They would have the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus to follow. Consequently, these fishermen were able to confound the Sanhedrin. This is great encouragement. If God could use Peter and John, He can use me and you. We don’t have to be educated for us to turn the world upside down. The Lord, buy the enabling of the Holy Spirit, can use our qualifications or lack of them. Just trust in Him, follow the Saviour. We don’t have to do a course, have a theological degree, or be trained on other ways, we just have to be His followers.

Too often we rely on celebrity Christians to speak at evangelistic missions because we think someone of that nature is bound to make more of an impression. We thank God for them, but God more often than not, does not choose rich and famous. He chooses you and me. It is the one who is being spoken of, not the one who is speaking, who must be at the centre of the matter. We don’t need experts to defend the gospel. The Lord uses ordinary people with ordinary lives to accomplish His work. (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

God does use people of standing, but not many. But He uses you and me. The way that churches often think their influence will be better is if their ministers have higher degrees. But that doesn’t impress people. What counts is a man’s spiritual stature. Doctorates are good but not the important thing. The important thing is what the Sanhedrin recognised – they recognised that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Jesus’ influence was on them. Jesus had given His disciples a wonderful example to follow and assured them of the presence of the Holy Spirit. As a consequence, Peter and John give a striking resemblance to Jesus in the way they speak and act. Now, after His ascension, they remained in fellowship with Him through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The power and presence of Jesus was visible in the lives of these two men. This tells us that the cutting edge of our Christian witness is unbelievers experiencing who we are as followers of Jesus. We are Christ-like in all we do. If we are to have an impact, people need to recognise we have been with Jesus. We need to be more Christ-like. When people see Christ in us, influencing all that we are and in all that we do, then they sit up and take notice. Christ-likeness comes by experiencing faithful fellowship with Him in the Word and in prayer. The Holy Spirit brings us into a deeper fellowship with the Lord. We become more and more like the Lord in character. We become more effective in His service in sharing the gospel. Spurgeon said, “There is a something in the very tone of the man who has been with Jesus which has more power to touch the heart than the most perfect oratory.” Jesus rubbing off onto people.

What did Peter and John have that so amazed the Sanhedrin? The boldness and courage of a Christ-like character. What do we need as Christians today, for people around us for their good and Christ’s glory? The same boldness and courage. So, let’s seek the fellowship of the Lord, and ask by the Holy Spirit’s enabling, to become more like Him, so people know we have been with Jesus.

February 20th 2022: Graham John

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel:   https://youtu.be/qqzMD9Sfoks

Matthew 7:1-14

Life is full of choices. This morning, you have already decided what time to get up for church, what to wear, what time to eat, what time to leave the house. There are other decisions we make, more inward decisions. In what spirit will I come? Will I come expectantly or out of tradition? Some decisions have very little impact, others are huge decisions; will I get married, have children, what career will I choose? The ultimate choice is whether to accept Jesus Christ and His Kingdom because that determines our eternal life.

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14). These words come towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus describes the Christian lifestyle, our relationships with other people. Then, He says to us, like a jury, have you reached a verdict at which you’re agreed. This choice will not only affect the last of days but eternity. The Lord says to us, ’Will you be my disciple or will you follow other gods and reject me?’

Jesus speaks of two ways: one broad, full of people, but it leads to destruction. The other, the gate of heaven found on earth, is narrow, sparsely populated, but it leads to life. In just a few words here, Jesus tells us the characteristics of a life that’s going to hell and a life that’s going to heaven. Jesus urges us to make the correct decision, to enter in at the narrow gate.

How do you identify the road to heaven and the way to hell?

The road to hell is broad. It is spacious and roomy. It does not have many boundaries. It is popular and permissive, under no obligation to Jesus. You can believe in a way completely contrary to the Sermon on the Mount. You needn’t forgive or pray. Here, people are utterly worldly, consumed by their own little kingdom. That is life on the broad road. Most follow the herd, like cattle. Even people of reputation and learning are on this broad road. There are many companions because it is agreeable to everyone’s sinful inclination. It is attractive. However, people bump into one another and hurt one another. Little children need boundaries unless they grow into spoiled adults. When we live without boundaries in our own personal world, our freedom means that others are hurt. Your freedom to hate means there are always disputes, there are always family quarrels. Others get trampled upon. That’s life on the broad road.

In contrast to that, the road to eternal life is narrow. The gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. The way of true life is narrow, says the Lord. Not narrow-minded, but narrow. Those who find it are few. It is narrow, confined. There are boundaries to this road. It is a road where honesty, integrity, integrity, compassion, pity, self-control, self-restraint, mercy and forgiveness are the order of the day. It’s a road where unrestrained lust is forbidden, as are swearing, cursing, retaliation and hatred. You are called on to pray, to give, to fast, to seek God’s kingdom first, not your own. In faith you are to look to Him for all physical needs. It’s a road where you’ll be misunderstood, spoken evil of. People will falsely say all kinds of evil against you.

Because it’s a narrow road there are more laws to keep on this road; not only laws that affect your outward life, but laws that are addressed to your inner life. The world of thoughts are addressed here, of motives and attitudes. Often, we break those standards, certainly if we try to keep them in our own strength. But there is mercy and forgiveness for us from the Lord who died for us at the cross. There is encouragement to press on, not in our own strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can be encouraged by companions on the road, by others who have gone before us. The Lord Himself exemplifies what life on this road means. He was obedient to His Father on this road. We find it’s a road of denying yourself, being pure in heart, being a peacemaker, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Because we have an expert with us, we can do far more. Jesus is an expert in living this life of obedience. If we keep close to Him, we will still fail but we’ll end up living a life which people on the broad road will be jealous of. Some may say, ‘I wish I had your faith.’

The Christian life depends on whether you’re on the inside or the outside. On the outside it looks confined, like a Tardis. From inside, the Christian life is fellowship with the infinite eternal God. It’s about learning about His plans, the unity of His work down and across the ages. From inside you can know forgiveness and offer forgiveness to those on the outside and those on the inside with you.

A narrow gate implies believing definitive truths, not vague ideas about God and life. People on the narrow road believe the gospel. It is universally applicable across the world. It is everlasting. It applies across the world to all sinners, always. There is no liberty to change it to our own ideas. It never changes to fit people. Christ changes people so they love this gospel out.

The narrow road means few people find this road. Unless a person is changed by the Spirit of God, they won’t be attracted to these things. They won’t love the Lord Jesus Christ. They won’t love His word, His people, His gospel. They will never find this road attractive. The few across the world, down the ages, who find this road, will eventually add to a great host. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, (Revelation 7:9).

There are many temptations to forsake the narrow road. Sometimes, the two roads seem to run parallel and close to each other. “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.” (Psalm 73:2). You may be the only Christian in your family, your group, at work, but that’s not a reason to join the broad road – rather it’s a reason to encourage others to get off the broad road and join those who are on the narrow road. A disciple of Christ should never pin their hopes on large numbers.

Where will these two ways take you?

The broad road leads to the worst place of all – certain destruction. The worst way to die is to die Christless. Jesus warns us to beware of going to destruction. Before getting there, you look like your sins. Sin changes us, our attitudes and appearance. Notice, there is no third destination, which means you have to make a choice. To enter the narrow gate, you need to repent, to trust Christ

How do you get through the gate that leads to life?

On the broad road there is easy access; you don’t have to make any effort to find it. People are on the broad road by nature. They may be unaware they’re on the broad road. The gate to life, however, is small, narrow. Because it is small you have to make an effort to find it. You need to seek it. We must exert ourselves. Christ call us through it. He said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). No-one can enter unless they repent.

Jesus speaks of Himself as the gate, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:2-3). “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7-9). Shepherds were gates. At night-time they would gather the sheep into a pen and lie down across the entrance so that wild animals couldn’t enter in, and the sheep couldn’t wander out. They were the gates. Jesus says, ‘I am the gate.’ We have to come to Christ and accept Him as our Saviour and Lord. And that is harder the longer you spend on the road. It is narrow because there is only one way to be saved. No-one who sincerely seeks Christ will fail to find it. The narrow road leads to life, to Christ. Jesus says, All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37). So let us trust Him this morning. Seek Him, to enter the narrow gate so that we may know everlasting life ourselves

January 23rd 2022: Dave Evans

To watch this service on our YouTube channel, please click the following link: https://youtu.be/HBqEpbGoUFE

John 20:30-31

Church attendance is in decline. We hear a lot about faith, yet it can often be faith without no outward focus, faith in some unknown force or faith in ourselves. Sometimes it can be faith in a philosophy or in a set of beliefs. Sadly, many who take the name of Christian only have some vague things, with no focus or reality about it. Many seem to think that as long as they have faith, everything will be well. John gives us the answer to where true faith needs to find its focus.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

John begins his gospel with a great declaration, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). John then unfolds for us all that it means. Although John has 21 chapters, and chapter 21 is full of Resurrection appearances, he almost seems to come to a climax in the final verses of chapter 20. Thomas wasn’t present when the disciples saw the risen Jesus in the upper room, so refused to believe it and because of that he is known as ‘doubting Thomas.’ Yet that is not where John ends the passage. Thomas is no different from the other disciples when they heard the Resurrection news. Yet John points us to one of the greatest confessions of faith in the New Testament, from Thomas, an assertive statement of Thomas’ faith, ‘My Lord and My God.’

After this, John writes, Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

John tells us here what is to be the great foundation of our faith; faith is to be that which is based on this foundation alone – that Jesus is the Christ, and He is the Son of God. The One whose life John has set out in his gospel is no other than the Messiah – the One who would fulfil all His Father’s purposes. He is the One who has been appointed to fill the plan of salvation. This anointed One was the perfect man, the Son of God, equal with the Father. This is John’s great conclusion he wants us to come to. He declares the claims are true. The evidence is overwhelming, even though it’s impossible to write everything Jesus said and did. In spite of that, John is saying, ‘All I have written gives clear evidence that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.’

What signs have been written? John uses the word ‘sign’ more than any other gospel writer. A sign is a miracle of divine majesty, a declaration of who Jesus is, a signpost to look beyond the miracle to the One who stood before them.

Peter wrote, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know,” (Acts 2:22).

As Jesus performs these miracles, He pointed the crowds to the truth beyond the miracle. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, the people simply wanted their bellies full. But Jesus pointed out it was Him they needed to feed upon.

John 9:35-41, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

Jesus here is pointing out to the man and the Jewish leaders that there was a spiritual sight that was needed. The man worships Him. Here is a silent declaration that He is the Son of God.

As Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, he declared, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26).

There are many prophecies that John and other gospel writers record to point us to this great truth – that Jesus is the anointed One. John, more than any other writer, points to Jesus as the Messiah. In John 4 we read of Jesus’ meeting with the woman of Samaria, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:23-26).

The Lord Jesus Christ, again and again, as He interacted with the Jewish authorities, they saw the realities of His claims, even though they opposed Him and refused to accept Him. In John 5 we have the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, after he is healed the Jews challenged the Lord Jesus Christ. They were persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17) John writes, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18)

The Jews saw what Jesus was claiming, yet they rejected Him. In these two verses John seems to sum up, the facts speak for themselves, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31). There is no greater fact than the fact of the Resurrection. What mere man would make this claim – put me to death and in three days I will rise again. Here is a claim that would make Him or break Him. As we read the gospels, we find the truth shines out from the page, ‘He is not here, He is risen.’

The gospel writers and the apostle Paul made this great claim. A man like Paul was writing when multitudes were still alive who had witnessed these things. Remember what Paul could write, For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

John says the evidence is clear. So why does John write in this way? “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31). John is writing first of all to believers. How often we feel the pressures that come upon us as believers, which challenge our faith. We have to wrestle with our own doubting and unbelieving hearts. We have to confront Satan’s lies and insinuations. We live in a day and age where there is rampant unbelief around us. The pressure is to conform, to fit in with the world’s views, and our faith can be shaken at times. Satan, just as he did in the garden, he whispers in our ear, ‘Did God really say that? Is the gospel really true? Do you really need to make such a stand?’

When we face such problems, when we face such challenges, John’s exhortation to us is to come back to the gospel, come back and read of the life of your Lord and Saviour, consider again the evidence, read the gospel, gaze into the Saviour’s face, and go on believing. See Him again in all His glory and all His majesty. Follow the signs once more which will take you back to the foundation of your faith. It will remind you of the great truth that Paul declared that there is no other foundation than that which has been laid, Jesus Christ. Here is the foundation which will support you through all the different trials and challenges of life. Here is a foundation to rest upon.

Like the disciples, we can be slow to believe at times. But just as the Lord dealt gently with Thomas and the disciples, so He promises to deal gently with us and raise us up again. Why is it so important that we should consider John’s gospel? “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31).

When we meet with unbelievers, they want to know, ‘Why do you make so much of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is He so important? Why do you go on about Him?’ Well, it is for this reason: that it is only in Jesus Christ, it is only in this foundation, it is only in His Name – which means all that He is and all that he has done – that you can find peace with God and life everlasting. Here is the source of true love, life everlasting, life with God, life which brings peace with God, life which brings forgiveness of sin and the prospect of heaven rather than hell. So, that’s why we preach the gospel, that’s why we beseech men and women and boys and girls, to come back to this gospel, to this foundation, to consider the evidence.

We pray that God will open blind eyes, as the Saviour opened blind eyes, that we may see the truth of His words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” For those of us who are believers, those of us who are in local churches, this is an exhortation to the whole church. Do you want to go on knowing God’s blessing? Do you want to know what it is to continue with a living witness to the Saviour? Then, we must listen to these words written in one of the commentaries I was reading. “When the church continues to accept Jesus as the divinely appointed and qualified one, that is, as the Christ, the fulfilment of all the Old Testament hopes and promises, when it continues to recognise Him as the Son of God, in the most exalted sense of the term, it will then continue to have life, everlasting life in His name.”

History tells us when churches gave up this truth, they died. Here is the reason for so many empty chapels – people cease to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in His Name. God grant that we may be a people who go on believing, who go on proclaiming the greatness of our Saviour and of His word. Amen.

December 12th 2021: Ian Middlemist

To view a recording of this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/qGVI5Y_FSP4

Hebrews 2:5-18

At this time of year a lot of discussion is taken up with the ‘what’ of Christmas – what happened? There are a lot of descriptions of the manger, animals, wise men, location and historical events surrounding our Saviour’s birth. We, as Christians, must focus our thoughts on the ‘why’. Why was the Saviour born? It is not always easy to stop and consider why. Sometimes, in the middle of a crisis, e.g., a business crisis, we think, ‘Is it really worth it?’ In the busyness of things we need to stop and consider the purpose of Christmas, the purpose of the Incarnation. Jesus never stopped and panicked whether it was worth it or questioned the purpose of His ministry on earth. He was, and always will be, united with the Father. Jesus came to save sinners and to be made like us.

Jesus came to save sinners. In the Saviour’s first coming, Jesus, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, implemented this rescue plan. This rescue plan had been conceived in the mind of the Triune God before human beings ever stepped onto the face of this planet. Jesus didn’t come to promote holiday Christmas cheer after a tough year. He didn’t come to boost end of year sales. He didn’t come to serve as the central figure on a nativity scene. He came to save sinners. To save sinners He had to deal with the heart of the matter – sin. The dawn of man’s history, like this unwanted virus, affected single person. Sin has infected every single one of us. God was revealing His plan for salvation, bit by bit, through the Old Testament sacrificial systems – a sacrifice, a separation, a holy one, a Lamb.

One of the main themes of Hebrews is the Old Testament sacrificial laws and an emphasis on the labours of the priests. Hebrews 7 – the former priests were many in number because they were prevented by death from continuing in office. Already the writer is emphasising the priests were many because their offices were limited. Morning and evening priests placed these burnt various offerings for sin, burnt offerings in particular, on the altar. The fire there was never to go out, it was perpetual thing that needed to be preserved. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4).

The Old Testament sacrifices were just a shadow of what was yet to come. They would never wholly fulfil God’ plan. Something better was needed. When a truly perfect sacrifice was offered, on the tabernacle of heaven, sin was finally dealt with. Christ suffered and died the eternal death on the cross, once, for all, to put away sin, by the sacrifice of God. Our sins have been buried finally and completely in Jesus’ death. So fully has Christ purged the sins, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.“ (Hebrews 9:28). There are no further sacrifices, Christ has done it all.

As we approach the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, what are your thoughts? Are you dreading His coming? We, in our sin, have fallen short of God’s requirements (Romans 3). But believers, because of Christ’s incarnation, are not dreading the Saviour’s return because Christ has done all to redeem us. There shouldn’t be any fear; we are looking forward to the Saviour’s return. Jesus Christ has saved us. He is my friend. Christ came to earth for sinners. He is the one who is able to save to the uttermost. Christ can save you. No matter how hell-worthy you are, Christ came to save you. Christ came to save sinners.

Christ came to be like His people. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14). It is the message of the Incarnation, so He could be the appropriate Saviour for you, the appropriate friend in heaven. The baby in the manger had the same human nature as you and I, yet without sin! Jesus was born perfect. He is the conceived message of hope for imperfect people.

Wrapped in swaddling cloths, God teaches us we cannot solve our problems ourselves. We cannot attain perfection and peace by our own strength. We need a brother. In Christ, God has done this. He’s done that which we are incapable of achieving. We are incapable of being righteous, as God requires. We are incapable of entering heaven on our own rights. In the words of the church father, Irenaeus, “When He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam – namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God – that we might recover in Christ Jesus.”

Sin is not how we are meant to be. His death would accomplish true healing in every way for us. Because He is like us, Christ also sympathises with us in our weakness, with all the pain and miseries that comes from living in this world. Our bodies groan. When His bodily strength was spent, He slept. Christ slept. The body that God prepared for the Son meant He experienced all that it means to be human, with heart-broken grief, with tears, He wept. Our Saviour was tempted to sin, as we are, with the full force of hell. We draw great encouragement from Christ, His steadfastness in the face of temptation, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession,” (Hebrews 4:14).

As Christians, we look back over this year, we look back on the struggles. It can cause us to despair at times. But at such times we really can look to Christ. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our performance, but wholly and solely on the Lord Jesus Christ, on His obedience. He came to be made like us so that He could raise us up to be with Him in glory. We are born in Adam, but in God’s redemption we have been placed in Christ. As we glimpse at the manger, the birth of Christ, we can say, ‘This is my brother, this is He who is my flesh, my blood.’ As He grows and matures and continues to do the will of God, He grows in obedience.

When we see Christ seated at the right hand of the majesty on high, we can also say, ‘This is my brother, this is my flesh, this is my blood.’

Because of the incarnation, believers can say of Christ, what Adam said to Eve, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Such is the unity we have, all because of Christmas, all because of Christ entering into this world, not as an angel, but as a human being just like us. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Why would we be ashamed of Him?

It is wonderful that the Son of God became man. It is mysterious. It is mind-blowing! We must not forget the reason Christ came – He came to save sinners and He came to be made like us. The question for us is not, ‘Are you good enough for heaven?’ It is rather, ‘Are you sinful enough to go to heaven?’

(Illustration story of Samuel Colgate, founder of the Colgate business empire, who spoke out at an evangelistic meeting regarding the congregation’s response to receiving a sinner into membership).

Today, we praise God that Jesus Christ was born into this world to save all sinners, sinners of all types, like you and me, and to be lour faithful High Priest.

November 21st 2021: Rhodri Brady

To view a recording of this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/tz3P1tRF_Us

“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
    and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbour who is near
    than a brother who is far away.”

Proverbs 27:10

This proverb shows us where we should go when things go wrong. It is found in the second collection of Solomon’s proverbs, gathered together by Hezekiah. We can learn three points from this:

  1. Disaster will strike
  2. Our instinct when disaster strikes will be to go to a relative who may live far away.
  3. The correction Solomon gives is for the Christian’s emphasis to instead be to be placed on friends – best summed up as the local church.

Disaster will strike. Not if, but when. This may seem a bit of a bleak outlook at first glance. For some, disaster striking is familiar. However, for others, you may have been relatively sheltered so far and may think it will continue like this. But Solomon says, ‘When disaster strikes.’ We need to be prepared for disaster. It is a reality in outlook because we are living in a fallen world. We are all going to die. Solomon asks, ‘What do we do in the light of the fact that we are all going to die?’ We also face the death of those around us. What will you do if their death comes? Where will you turn? There are other disaster, such as accidents, divorce, storms, suicide. Solomon says, it is not if disaster strikes, but ‘when.’

What perspective do you have when disaster comes? The Lord protects and cares for us but He has never promised to make us immune from disaster. You need a plan of action for when disaster strikes. Do you think about what happens right at the start of the Bible? We sinned, the curse of the fall, death. They are painful but shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Solomon’s second assumption: we may be keener to seek out relatives far away. How far will a disaster tempt you to travel for help? Solomon detected within himself and people he observed for people to neglect the church family in favour of others. It is better to prioritise the local church. Our instinct is to neglect the local church and go to neighbours, no matter how far off.

The way we act on a crisis is much more difficult to control than we think. We need to be prepared. In Solomon’s context we would be more willing to seek help from family members who live miles and miles away, rather than the local church. Or we may prefer to go to a self-help book or a YouTube video for advice, as opposed to a church family. We need to admit our bias. We are living in a very individualistic culture, where people often feel, ‘I don’t need church.’

The correction Solomon gives: instead of forsaking the local church and travelling away, a Christian’s emphasis should be placed on ‘friends, friends of your father and neighbours.’ In other words, the local church. Church members are friends, family and neighbours. There are three terms used here by Solomon, which, when placed in the context of the Bible’s teaching on church, should be seen as descriptions of church members.

Church members are friends. One way the Bible describes church family is as a group of friends. Our culture has kidnapped the word ‘friends’ to describe people who are all the same age, tastes, people who you choose. But the Bible has a much richer definition of friends. The Bible says that in the church there should be good friendship among believers. They have a unique unity because they all love and fear the Lord, they worship together. David speaks of one of his friends as,


 “A man, my equal,
    my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
    within God’s house we walked in the throng.
(Psalm 55:13-14)

Church members are our friends because we worship together. Church members are also friends because they are meant to share possessions, food, money (Acts). Church members are friends because they are meant to serve together, to work for the Lord, which is why Paul can talk of the Philippian believers as his friends. They had a partnership in the gospel.

Church members are friends because they pray for one another. In the book of Acts we see the church family meeting together for prayer, praying out loud for each other. Think how often Paul said to church members, ‘I prayed for you.’ Church members are friends because they shouldn’t keep a record of wrongs that have been done against them. Church members are friends because of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is the friend of sinners. We can have this relationship as friends because He first loved us.

The next description of church family which Solomon uses is ‘friend of your father.’ Solomon is saying church members are family. When you become a Christian you are adopted into the family of God. Jesus told us to pray ‘Our Father.’ We’ve heard the Lord’s Prayer so many times, we skip over these words. Jesus says we can call ‘My Father, your Father.’ He says, ‘Let’s go together, to my Father, Our Father.’ God the Father is the Father of every single member of the church. The world says ‘blood is thicker than water,’ but baptismal water is thicker than blood.

Church members are neighbours, a word especially used in the books of Moses, especially when Moses gives the law to the people, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18).

Church members are our neighbours. Our culture describes our neighbour as a person who lives next door to you or in close proximity. The Bible sometimes uses the word in that way, but it has a much broader teaching on neighbours. The core concept in the Bible is church family are neighbours. Paul writes, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25) We are all members of one body. Neighbours – begin with church members and expand from there.

Solomon is stating not to neglect the church members we have been given. We must not neglect the church in any way. There is a practical element here. Do not forsake your church family, do not take away the privilege of helping you in a disaster. If you have people near you, from your local church, don’t pursue people on the internet you have never met, don’t rely on family who live miles and miles away. Prioritise church family.

We need to be able to discriminate between those who we should contact in a disaster. Church members should be our first port of call. As a church we must be ready to do that for our church family. Don’t neglect your church family, make the most of them.

We need to cultivate and work on our church relationships, support and encourage, share joy and sorrow, lovingly rebuke, share unity and fear of the Lord, show sacrificial service to one another.

Start with the small things – asking church family to help us, to call on them. When the big disaster comes, they will help you. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to cultivate the small things now? Whatever it might be, ask your church family for help. Pray for one another. What is the spirit of your prayer meetings? Do you have a close-knit fellowship going together to the throne of grace?

Do you live peaceful lives together as church members? Do we cover our each other’s sins in a good sense? As a family, we don’t keep a record of each other’s wrongs (1 Corinthians 13). When there are sins that need to be exposed, we have a choice to cover it with love or confront it. The only way love can cover wrongs is by the blood of Jesus. Instead, we often choose to harbour it, but that is detrimental (Proverbs 10:12).

The purpose of church discipline is to lead to repentance. Ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ came to us when we weren’t His friends. When we were still His enemies, He called us His family, He called us His friends. He died for us. He left His Father’s house, heaven, to come to us, to save us. How amazing it was the Lord Jesus didn’t forsake us. When disaster struck us, He came to save us, even when it meant leaving the Father. The Father could never have been further from His Son then when He was on the cross, when His Son became sin in order to save us. That was the extent to what He was willing to go for us. We must accept and rejoice in this gift, repent of our sins and respond accordingly. We need to take the Lord Jesus as our example and live as He lived.

So, when disaster strikes, don’t forsake our friends, family or neighbours. Prioritise Penuel Baptist Chapel family. Call on them when disaster strikes. May the Lord Jesus enable us to look to Him, as the one who ultimately left everything in order to make us friends, family and neighbours.

November 14th 2021: John Mann

1 Samuel 3:11 – 4:11

To watch this service, click on the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/hwXDavv0rik

1 Samuel 3:11 – 4:11

I love the Old Testament accounts and exploits of God’s people. Here, the nation of Israel is in a state of apostasy. We read at the end of the book of Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6).

Today, people do what is right in their own eyes. God remained faithful to the Israelites, despite their foolishness. “Then the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.” (1 Samuel 3:11). Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the day, were wicked men. God pronounced a curse on the house of Eli because of his disobedience and his failure to control his sons (v.14).

Eli’s two sons are about to suffer the judgement of God. Poor Samuel was tasked with bearing bad news, telling Eli of God’s judgement. Even in this situation, the sovereign goodness of God works in His people. Eli came to acknowledge, even through his discipline, even through this difficult situation, that the sovereign goodness of God works ultimately for the good of His people. “So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. And he said, “It is the Lord. Let him do what seems good to him.” (v.18).

There is an application for us already, at the start of this passage; God is always working out His overall plan to do us good, to work out His set purposes according to His constant grace and mercy. God is faithful. There are no accidental incidents on our lives. Our lives are ordained according to the set purpose of our sovereign God. Very often we may not fully recognise it. God is faithful and He is working our His purposes.

Fear of Eli’s response made Samuel initially shy away from giving Eli this message. But he realised it had to be declared openly and fully as it had been given to him, no matter what Eli’s response would be. The gospel of salvation is very often an offence to sinners. It exposes the condition of their hearts. It lays bare the corruption that lies within everyone of us. The doctrine of hell is an offence to sinners. The idea of eternal punishment goes against what they feel to be true of themselves. Preaching the full gospel in our day can often be a hard undertaking. It is not always easy to proclaim the full truth that God has entrusted to us. The gospel very often is watered down, even in the established church.

Eli indicates how seriously we must take God’s instructions, “And Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” (1 Samuel 3:17). God will deal severely with those who do not preach truthfully, honestly and boldly. I believe that Samuel learned an important early lesson – it is not our place to edit the word of God or choose those things we feel are more acceptable, but to tell it as it is and leave God to deal with the reactions that come from it.

God blesses Samuel’s response, “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (1 Samuel 3:19). God helps us to see that in our day, the words that are preached do not fall to the ground. We are promised God’s word will not return to Him void. That is the assurance we should have. Jesus said, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12). Warning people of coming judgement and hell takes great wisdom and tact. Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). We have to be truthful and speak of judgement and hell. Our witness must be urgent and not compromised. But it also has to be with love and tears.

God continued to use Samuel, “And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:20). Strangely, after being called by God, Samuel takes a back seat and is not mentioned in chapters 4-6, which switch to God’s sovereignty and His gracious dealings with His rebellious people. God’s grace was seen on countless occasions. Samuel did not go on holiday or take a sabbatical; he would still have been preaching. Sadly, the people weren’t listening or responding to God’s word. But God was still at work, working out His purposes.

The Israelites are about to engage in battle with the Philistines. The battle commences, the Philistines are victorious. In the wake of this stinging defeat the Israelites come up with the bright idea of getting the Ark of the Covenant, “And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it[ may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3).

When the Ark of the Covenant arrived, the Israelites gave a great shout, “As soon as the Ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.” (1 Samuel 4:5). The Philistines shake in their shoes. The wonders of what God had done in Egypt have reached their ears, now this God had come to the Israelites. However, the Philistines’ morale is restored (v.9). The battle continues, but this time the Israelites are not just beaten but thrashed (v.10). Hophni and Phinehas died. It’s a bloodbath, gruesome, awful.

The Israelites were on the receiving end. Why? Because they had taken the Ark of the Covenant into battle. They didn’t so much want God as the box that He was in. They have rejected God and gone their own way. They are facing an enemy and are going in their own strength, led by Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonoured the name of Yahweh. The called for the ‘magic box’, a talisman. Their faith is no more than superstition. God will not be manipulated or manoeuvred.

Sadly, even within churches of our day, people want to use the name of Jesus as a means to an end. With so-called faith they expect to get what they want from God – their health and their wealth. Their hearts have little consideration for the glory of the name of Jesus. Their lives do little to honour His name, but they still expect an answer when the battle heats up, when opposition comes or when they face difficulties.

Remember what Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23).

Our God is not a God who operates at our beck and call. We can’t manipulate or mould God into our way of thinking. This is our sovereign God who is awesome in His majesty. He cannot, and will not, be trifled with. This is the reality of many today, who think God is there for their convenience, when it suits them.

What a god of grace He is. When His people oppose Him, when they blaspheme the name of Jesus, when they scorn and criticise, God, in His grace and mercy, withholds His hand of judgement, causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous. He sends rain on the just and the unjust. Our God is a God of remarkable grace and patience. I believe it is only when people of our day seek God as He really is, in all the wonder of His being, in all the purity and perfection and the awesomeness and power of our God, that our nation will ever change and be lifted out of the pit that it has put itself in.

34,000 soldiers lay dead on a gruesome, blood-filled battlefield. The enemies rejoice. Often, the church seems so weak against the enemy. It appears it is all over for the Israelites. But that is to forget God is working through all circumstances. He foretold the deaths of Hophni and Phinehas (chapter 2). Now God is bringing His judgement to pass. But even in this disaster, God was working out His purpose for His chosen people. God always keeps His word and His intentions are always carried out. Jesus said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).

There are battles in the life of the church, in our own personal lives. We may feel the battle is lost, we may feel discouraged, until God reminds us not to lose sight of His sovereignty and purposes. God uses our circumstances, even the enemy against us, to remove the dross and refine us. Eli is feeling the discipline and judgement. But God’s promises are true and will always come to pass. There has been a great battle and a great defeat, but this is not the end.

Two thousand years ago, on a hill outside of Jerusalem, another battle was fought, a greater battle. It appeared there that the enemy had the upper hand, it seemed that Satan had achieved his ultimate purpose – to destroy God’s Messiah, along with His plan of salvation.

The enemies of God were rejoicing as they stood at the cross and saw what was happening, as they mocked and scorned, convinced that their victory was complete. The hero of the church was captured, humiliated, hanging on a Roman cross. It appeared this gruesome, blood-soaked battlefield was the end, not only of the Lord Jesus Christ but also His church. But God’s plan was being fulfilled and His purpose was being carried out. Out of this apparent defeat came a glorious and final victory – the enemy of our souls destroyed forever. Sin destroyed forever. Death destroyed forever. Pain, suffering, illness, conflict, sadness, loneliness, crying, weeping, all ultimately destroyed forever.

This was no defeat. At Calvary it was a glorious victory. We are told to never judge by appearances. It appeared it was all over for the Israelites. But God had not deserted them. He was ordering events, guiding circumstances, controlling the outcome, in order that their future might be more certain, that they might know a stronger future, that they might be drawn ever closer to Him, that their future might be more faithful, that their walk with Him might be deeper and closer.

There may be times when we appear to be losing the battle. There may be times when our enemy seems to be winning. There are times when we lose some battles, when we foolishly rely upon our own strengths, thinking we can make it by our own resources. We find, to our own cost, that our strength is completely insufficient. There are times when we lose these battles. But God is always in control. We lose some battles, but the war is already won. The Lord Jesus Christ has triumphed on Calvary and those who are in Him, who are in Christ Jesus, looking alone to Him for their salvation, are safe and secure, because we are lon the victory side.

God hadn’t finished with the Israelites, this wasn’t the end. God hasn’t finished with us. If you are believing and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing the difficulties, knowing the battles, feeling the weakness, God hasn’t finished with you yet. His perfect, gracious, unstoppable intention was to lead His people, the Israelites, to a greater knowledge of Himself. His unstoppable intention in your life and mine is to lead us on to a greater Christ-likeness in this life, but then, ultimately, to perfect Christ-likeness in eternity.

So, when you are feeling the heat of the battle, look to Christ because He hasn’t finished with us. We are still on the victory side and the best is yet to come.

November 7th 2021: Gaius Douglas

2 Timothy 1:8-12

You can view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/QAcJNtmLy1w

“Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me,” (2 Timothy 1:8).

The last time I spoke about being a living example of our great Lord and Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ. This morning, the one main question I would like to ask is, ‘What may cause us to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ?’ We will explore:

The uncertainty which may cause us to feel ashamed or embarrassed;
the food that will enable us to thrive or fail;
how can I be bold for Christ?

The uncertainty which may cause us to feel ashamed or embarrassed:

The word ashamed means to be embarrassed, to feel guilty about something. Have you ever been embarrassed about the Lord Jesus Christ? There are times in our lives when we’ve experienced it. When I was younger, at about 15, I was already taking Sunday School classes and preaching at youth camps. I began preaching just before I was 21. I remember being invited to preach at a day event in London. In the afternoon I was invited to an open-air outreach at Kew Gardens. I felt nervous at the thought of speaking out in the open, to non-believers, being judged. I was not ashamed but embarrassed to share in public. Giving out tracts was challenging. Then, I was called upon to speak to everyone. I spoke on John 3:16. Over the years I continued to speak at open-air missions, but it was never easy.

Paul is saying to Timothy, ‘Do not be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus Christ, wherever you are, in whatever circumstances. Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Paul, as soon as he was taken out of prison, began preaching again. If we were told not to preach, what would you do? Continue to preach God’s word because it is the power of God! Because we are in Christ, we have to stand up for God’s word. Paul says, “Do not be ashamed.”

One of the reasons we may be ashamed is our uncertain foundation. We are reminded in Isaiah 28:16, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” We are built on the foundation of Christ, the solid rock, an unshakeable foundation. What an awesome foundation we have – built on Jesus Christ, the rock! Christ is the only one who has changed you and brought you to His salvation. We are saved by grace. We are living stones. How precious! He is the source of your life and my life. He is the strength of your life and mine.

“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

How can we be ashamed! What a gospel, what a hope!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2

How blessed we are! We exercise our faith in Him. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). It is important to stand up for Jesus whenever we can.


Food that will either cause our testimony to thrive or hinder

This is really dependent on how we are feeling and with whom we are mixing. The Corinthians were tainted by men’s philosophies and mixing it with the Word of God. They denied the Resurrection. We have to be very careful what we say. We must never deny the power and authority of God, that we do not nod in agreement to things which go against God’s Word. When we start mixing with people who want nothing to do with Christ, don’t be deceived.

What should we do to thrive? Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).

If you want to live for Christ, to glorify Him, to be a living example, you have to abide in Christ, to live for Him, to stay close to Him, to feed upon His word. Abide in Him. “Taste of Him, Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8).

“Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods,
So is my beloved among the sons.
I sat down in his shade with great delight,
And his fruit was sweet to my taste.”

Song of Songs 2:3

This is where we feed, that we might not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.

Matt Redmond: Abide in Me https://youtu.be/D1nuDXZrp9k

How can I be bold in Christ?

Because I am abiding in the One who will never let me go, who will never leave me or forsake me, who will never turn away from me, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. That love, that abiding, is based on the finished work of Calvary’s cross, when He took my sin, when He bore my sorrows, when He bore my shame, so that I will not be ashamed of His word.

He now says, ‘Stand firm in the liberty of the Word I have given you, of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ Paul unashamedly says, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12). Very shortly, he was going to be beheaded. You can imagine him saying, unashamedly before Nero, ‘I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep the salvation that He has given to me, to keep the faith that He has given to me, and I will not let Him down.’ And unashamedly he would walk out before Nero, before all those, and he would say to Timothy, ‘Do not be ashamed of the testimony, do not be ashamed of me, do not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’

Let me tell you something, we have got to stand up for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The world hates the Lord, and it is going to hate us. But the Word is the very power unto salvation to any who believe. If you believe and trust Him, it is the power that upholds you, it is the power that keeps you, it is the power that drives you, it is the power that is going to take you right up to glory.

His love will never let you go. Be assured, if you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, He is encouraging you to abide in Him, to trust in Him, to feed upon Him, to live in Him.

October 24th 2021: Roger Thomas

You may view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/88omF4CHocA

2 Kings 5:1-19: The Healing of Naaman

This account happened about 850 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, during the times of the kings of Israel, with Israel in the North and Judah in the South. Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Syria (v1). Syria was to the north-east of Israel. Naaman was highly respected by the king. Why? He had defeated the enemies of Syria. But behind this military success was God. God rules over the nations.

Naaman was a mighty man of valour, strong and brave. However, at some point he caught leprosy, a serious illness, incurable at the time. With time, the body deteriorates, the flesh is eaten away.

During this time, the Syrians had gone out on raids and took captive a young girl who became a servant of Naaman’s wife. Here we see God at work, drawing Naaman into a relationship with Himself. Through these things that had happened, in God’s over-arching providence, He was drawing Naaman to Himself. In verse 3 the young girl says, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Samaria was the northern capital of Israel. This young girl, a prisoner, shows no bitterness. There is love towards her captors. Her faith is very strong. She believes, through Elisha, Naaman could be healed from this disease. She is so gracious and confident.

Naaman’s wife shares this with Naaman, and he, in turn, shares it with the king. The king tells Naaman to go and gives him a letter to give to the king of Israel, saying, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman goes to Samaria, taking the letter. He goes with his chariots and servants. He also takes 340 kg of silver, 68kg of gold – a huge amount, and 10 changes of clothing. This was a substantial gift, telling us how rich Naaman was.

In Samaria, Naaman sees the king, who read the contents of the letter (v6). The response of the king was that Naaman was asking him to do the impossible. Panic set in; he is dealing with a powerful king. Notice, he doesn’t think about Elisha or about God. The prophet Elisha hears the king’s response and sends a message to him, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (v8).

Naaman comes to Elisha in Samaria, the same city. Naaman, a mighty man of valour, stood at the door of Elisha’s house, a very humble house. He stood outside with chariots, servants and gifts. Instead of going out, Elisha sends a messenger (v10), telling Naaman to go and wash in the River Jordan 7 times, and he would be healed. Naaman was a very proud man; success had made him proud. He had expected to see Elisha. Instead of doing what Elisha told him to do, he travelled back to Syria, hundreds of miles away. He despises Israel and wants to wash in the rivers at home. God uses the servant (v13) who knows that because Naaman has been asked to do something so simplistic, he finds it insulting. He encourages him to do as the prophet says.

Naaman then travels to the River Jordan and dips himself 7 times. After the 7th occasion his flesh was restored, like that of a little child (v14). Not only did Naaman have physical cleansing, but he also had spiritual cleansing of his sins. The outward cleansing was pointing to a spiritual cleansing of the heart; his soul had been cleansed of its sins. How do we know? By the spiritual fruit we can see in his life (verses 15-18). He went back to Elisha and notice four things:

  1. He now has faith, “Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel,” (v.15). He believes the God of Israel is the true and only God. That’s faith!
  2. He wants to give a gift he has brought with him to Elisha. He feels great gratitude to Elisha, “So accept now a present from your servant.” (v.15). But Elisha refuses. He presses upon Elisha to receive the gift, but Elisha continues to refuse.
  3. Naaman wants to worship God and asks Elisha for two mule loads of earth so he can build an altar in Syria to offer burnt offerings, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.” (v17).
  4. Notice there is conviction of sin, “In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” (v18).

There was a great friendship between Naaman and the king. When the king went to worship Rimmon, the king would lean on him and Naaman would worship Rimmon too. Naaman says when he returns, he will bow down to Rimmon, not to worship, but in respect for the king. He asks Elisha for forgiveness for that, for God’s forgiveness. Elisha says, “Go in peace.”

We see the fruit. Naaman hasn’t just been cleansed physically, but also spiritually. Naaman has come to know God personally. Let’s apply this to ourselves. Have we each come to know God personally, the God of the Bible, the only God? Have we had a spiritual cleansing from God? Each of us needs forgiveness. Before God we are sinful. We need spiritual cleansing.

How do we have our sins washed away? There is a Jordan we need to wash in. We need to immerse ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to believe the gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2,000 years ago, in order that you and I could have spiritual cleansing, God came down to Earth as a man. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, He never sinned. He kept the commandments of God. On the cross He took all our sins upon Himself. He suffered the punishment of our sin, He suffered our hell, on the cross of Calvary. He shed His blood. He died paying that penalty. He was buried and on the third day God rose Him from the dead. That’s the Good News. That is what God did for me and you in order that we might have our sins cleansed.

But we have a responsibility – we have to believe that message. We have to believe each fact of the gospel – that Jesus is God’s Son, that He was sinless, that He kept the law, that He took our sin upon Himself, that he suffered our penalty, that He died, that he was risen from the dead. We have to believe that message.

We have to ask God to forgive us, to cleanse us, based on the work Jesus Christ did on the cross. When we believe that message, when we believe the gospel, and only then, God will forgive us our sins. God will wash our sins away through the blood of Jesus Christ. When we believe that message we become joined to Christ. We become a child of God and God comes to live in us by the Holy Spirit.  

When we believe this message God cleanses us from our sins. He comes to live in us by the Holy Spirit. We come to know God, become a child of God. The Holy Spirit changes us and makes us more Christ-like, creating fruit in us – worship, praise of God, thanksgiving, conviction of sin and repentance. We don’t want to live the ways we used to live, we want to live the way God wants us to live.

When we leave this world God, through death or when Christ returns, He will take us to be with Him in heaven and with all the saints, for eternity. Have we gone to the Jordan? Have we believed the gospel? Have we believed in Jesus Christ?

October 10th 2021: Norman Gilbert

You may view this service on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/F14W2BQOy1w

Philippians 1:3-8 Characteristics of a Christian

In this passage of scripture we see something of the characteristics of what should be seen in a Christian’s life: thankfulness, joy, perseverance in our Christian walk of faith with Christ.

Joy should be evident in the life of a Christian, as well as thankfulness. Paul is saying we are a people who are thankful. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with thanks and joy. Paul is in prison, in terrible conditions. He has people who have been undermining his teaching, yet he wants people to be thankful and full of joy. He is a man of prayer. If people don’t talk to the Father, there is a breakdown in communication. Paul is thankful for the church at Philippi – it displays something of the goodness of God (v3).

Paul was the instrument God used to establish the church at Philippi. He preached and sowed the seed, God gave the increase. He opened the heart of Lydia, the young lady who was possessed by a demon and the prison officer. When Paul ponders and reflects on the church at Philippi he rejoices and gives thanks to God, who works on the heart. God, by His Holy Spirit, begins to work in a person’s heart. God is merciful and gracious.

Paul gives thanks to God for mercies (v3-4). Paul remembers the goodness this church has done for him. He remembers the love they have expressed towards him. They were only displaying the love the Lord Jesus Christ had shown them. James reminds us that, ‘Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17). Everything which takes places, which shows the mercy of God, is because of the love He bestows on upon people.

Our thanks should always start God-wards. Paul, even in the hardships he has known, he was able to give joyful thanks. He remembers that God has moved these people in Philippi. It does his heart good. When he prays, he prays with thankfulness and joy (verse 4). Here is a man who is joyful, who speaks about a personal God, ‘My God,’ (v.3).

Martin Luther stated, ‘Christianity is a matter of personal pronouns.’ We personally know Jesus Christ died for my sins. Paul, in prison, in horrendous conditions, gives praise and thanks to God. As insignificant as he may seem in prison, he knows the Creator of this world is concerned with him and the church at Philippi. He is in a privileged position. He has a personal God. Right at the start of scripture, in Genesis, God says, “I will be your God and you will be My people.”

We enter into the family of God by personal experience and personal faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul, in this letter, says it is about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There should be joy and rejoicing in all our circumstances. Circumstances do not blur our view of Jesus Christ because the joy that God gives us is not a natural joy. It is a fruit of the Spirit, because of what He has done within our hearts.

Paul, when he thinks of the Philippian church, is full of joy and thankfulness. From the first days till now, Paul thanks God for the fellowship – real sharing and partnership, real interaction. Although not a rich church, they supported him and prayed for him. Paul now sees there is perseverance with this church. His confidence is that God, who began a good work, will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Paul’s fellowship was in the gospel (v5). God’s work began even before the foundation of this world. This church in Philippi began before the world began.

To encourage us, when we are feeling we are treading on water, remember the work He began, He will complete (v6). Only the grace of God gets us through difficult times. We are going to be kept to the end if we have got faith in Jesus Christ. The work which God began will be complete. We are kept by the power of God. The sheep He calls are the sheep He keeps, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). We trust Him for today and leave tomorrow in His hands. He keeps us to the day of Jesus Christ. There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return.

He holds them in His heart (v7). There is a solidarity. They are one in the gospel. Paul says there is one church. He wants to rejoice in the goodness of God to them. Paul longs for them and has a deep affection for them (v8). He says there may be dark days ahead, but God is in control (Philippians 4:6). God knows the future (4:11). Whatever state we are in, God is the preserver and the protector. He is in control. We are not to be anxious about tomorrow.

Paul is writing a personal letter to the church at Roch. This year has been so hard. It has been the hardest time for many of us in our lifetime. Pray we will be those who trust in God, who are able to manifest the joy that can only be found in Jesus Christ – a joy and peace to those who put their faith in Him.

August 29th 2021: Phil Swann

Psalm 121

This is a ‘Song of Ascents,’ one of a group of psalms (psalms 120-134), clustered together. They are short and often extremely heart-warming. Some people say that these are an ascending series of ideas about God, which is an interesting theory. Others have suggested that the songs were written for pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. Another idea is these psalms were part of temple worship in Jerusalem; a verse would be sung on one step, then they would go up a few more steps and sing another verse and stop, and so on. The truth is, we don’t know. What we do know is there’s truth to enable us to understand who God is, who we are and, most importantly, how we may know Him, and as a result of knowing Him, how we may live.

Psalm 121 is the most well-known psalm of ascent, often used in times of crisis. The word ‘help’ is used throughout. ‘Help’ is a word that needs no explanation; we all know what it means to ask for help. The Psalmist lifts his eyes to the hills as he thinks about the need for help in his life. There is interesting discussion as to what this means. Is it just a poetical phrase that I’m in a situation which is so overwhelming, my human resources have been so exhausted, and I’m looking to bigger things and higher places? Others have suggested that David’s thoughts are turning to Jerusalem. Mountains and Jerusalem often go together. What we certainly know is that David is not in a good place.

Where does my help come from? Maybe you have experienced times when you have asked a similar question. How am I going to get through this? Maybe there are times when you have felt overwhelmed and devastated by what is going on around us in life? This is no lightweight psalm. It is going to the heart of human experience. It is for those times when we are in need and genuinely out of our depth, during deeply unsettling times, having a devastating, horrible experience.

Even asking for help is a humbling experience. To ask for help is to acknowledge our need. There are experiences in life when God, in His providence, allows us to feel completely and totally out of our depth. They are painful experiences. David speaks words of deep testing and pain. Where does my help come from? They are words of desperation. God, in His providence and in His goodness, may allow us to experience such devastation so that we may see who He is more clearly, and experience His help and grace more deeply.

During the Pandemic, where, in the middle of it all, do you turn for help? Incidents of alcohol, smoking and Netflix subscriptions have increased during this time. It seems that these are often the ways of coping as we try to find ways of coping. Let me be bold this morning and ask you personally, ‘Where do you go to for help when you are overwhelmed?’

Wonderfully, this psalm invites us to turn to God for help. In verse 2 David’s testimony in the midst of his distress is that, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2). This is a wonderful statement. It is always the experience of the Christian, in that whatever difficulty they face, they are always able to turn and seek the help of their heavenly Father. Help is promised here to the Christian, and crucially it is help from the Lord. We care for one another, but here David speaks of specific help coming from the Lord.

This Psalm encourages us to explore who the Lord is. Many of the psalms do this. The very first psalm, which in a way is a template of how we should read the psalms, tells us “But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2) For David, the phrase ‘The Lord,’ acts as a trigger to think and remember who the Lord is. Here, (Psalm 121:2) the Lord is described as the maker of heaven and earth. This is a recurring theme in many of these psalms of ascendance e.g., Psalm 124 and Psalm 134.

Interestingly, David could have written many things about the Lord, but why home in on this? He wants us to remember our helper is not weak, neither is His help something that we should doubt. We should have confidence in Him that He can help us. He is never threatened by the things that threaten us. He is the maker of heaven and earth. This speaks of His authority and power. The one whom we are invited to trust in is almighty.

If you are not a Christian, how do you discover who God is? When you look at scripture you are pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is both man and God. We see so much in Jesus. He is the one who has all wisdom – what a comfort that is when we are in need. We see in Jesus Christ one who has all compassion and mercy towards us as sinners. It is in Christ we see the reality of the love of God enduring forever as He is patient with us, even in our rebellion. His truth, love and power are seen ultimately in the greatest thing He did for us as sinners, in His death upon the cross and by His resurrection from the dead. We must stress His resurrection. For it is in that wonderful news that he was raised on the morning of the third day, that our confidence to seek help from God is made most clear.

This psalm points us to specific help. What is the help the Lord offers David and which David rejoices in and sings about in this psalm? There’s a word which dominated this psalm, ‘Watch.’ It is found in verses 3,4,5,7 and 8. The Lord continually watches over His people. This may seem a little intimidating; He knows everything about us. But the direction in which this psalm is going is one who is our carer and protector. Here, the news in this psalm is that God sees our lives, our distresses, and concerns, and He is watching over us, committing to us. He is Immanuel, God with us. He has come to us as one of us. He understands. Your life, with your troubles and distresses, as a child of God, matters to God.

If we try to limit God’s interest in us to the times when we mess up, we fail to do justice and we fail to be honest to the wonderful picture that scripture presents us of our Father in heaven (Luke 12, Psalm 17). God loves us and cares for us. This is not because we are special or better than others, it is because the Lord is good. He delights in us. He cares for us. He will not allow your life, as a Christian, to fall into absolute chaos. He is totally committed to you. He is the God who sees us, who will never neglect His care towards us. His commitment to you is total and enthusiastic. We may seek to support one another, but there are times when we fail and get tired. God never slumbers or sleeps. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, where you are, the Lord is always with you. He will keep you. The things in life we think can harm us most, illustrated here by the sun and the moon, cannot. The Lord sets a limit to which disaster touches our lives. Central to that limit is the news that we will not be overwhelmed.

This psalm, which brings rich encouragement and comfort to Christians over many generations, over many centuries, is offered to us today for our comfort and encouragement. It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian, to know that the maker of heaven and earth is the one from whom our help ultimately comes. It is wonderful to know that He is always with us, He will never forget us and He will watch over our coming and our going, both now and evermore.

A Christian always has somewhere to turn. There is always an ear that is open. There is always a heart that is inclined towards them. There is always help. It’s a wonderful thing to be a Christian, to be found today in Jesus Christ, with access to the help of the maker of heaven and earth.

Are you a Christian? Is this help really your help? This is the help of the Christian. It is the comfort of the Christian. But are you a Christian today? You may be very little, very young, a lot older and a lot bigger, but it makes no difference. The invitation goes out repeatedly from scripture to us all. It is for us to come and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, to become a disciple of Christ, a follower of Christ, and in coming to Him, to receive grace and mercy and love from God. Understand, that the one who sees your life, in all of its chaos, in all of its hypocrisy, in all of its needs and its fears and confusion, is the same one who invites you today to forgiveness, to life, to joy and to freedom in Jesus.

Where does your help come from in this uncertain and dangerous world? Do you feel yourself to be overwhelmed by life? Well, there is a God in heaven who is, indeed, the maker of heaven and earth, who cares profoundly and deeply for each one of us. In His Son, Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, offers us new life. He invites you and He invites me to come to Him today and to receive His help.