October 20th 2019: Gaius Douglas

Gaius-March19‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’
(1 John 3:1-3)

Moses was so blessed to be in the presence of God and God was pleased to bless him and the people of God. Do we ask God to show us His glory? Do we feel bold enough to pray to God and ask Him to show us His glory? Those saints who have died in Christ are in the presence of the Lord. We have the privilege of being able to see the Lord face to face – one day it will be a reality. How blessed! The Lord says, ‘Because I live, you will live also’ (John 14:19).

‘Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!’ (1 John 3:1). We see something remarkable, wonderful. John is focusing upon God’s love, it is all about the love of God. “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.” (Stuart Townend).

The four gospel writers bring us characteristics of Jesus Christ. Matthew speaks of the King, Judaism and Christianity. Mark speaks of the Servant King. Luke speaks of the manhood of Christ. John is totally different to the other gospel writers. He is the one who leaned upon His bosom, listening to His word. John speaks of the son-ship of God. The gospel of John records a wonderful verse, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). John saw something of God’s wonderful love and wants to share it,  His immeasurable, divine love, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (1 John 3:1).  

John says, ‘Behold,’ – take notice, consider. “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high,” Isaiah 52:13. In Isaiah 40-45 we see a similar word, ‘Look.’ He wants our attention to be drawn to the man, Christ Jesus. What manner of love? Divine love. It comes from God alone, God is love, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love,” (1 John 4:8). That’s the essence of Him. We have been loved with that great and wonderful love. God the Father has this great love for His children that we should become the sons of God. We have been brought into the family of God. We are more royal than royalty. We have been made children of God. God actions then take us, we have been adopted into the family. We have been brought into this relationship out of love. It is a divine love. Relish it! Enjoy it! It means we can come into His presence anytime.

We are accepted in the Beloved. There is no comparison (Isaiah 40). His love is matchless. It can’t be compared to anything we know. For each of us who has been loved with that great love, we know it. Regardless of where we are, we know we are loved and no-one can take it away.

His love is boundless. There are no barriers, nor boarders. He is infinite. His love is infinite. His love is so great, so vast. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God, “(Psalm 90:2). His love has no beginning or ending. “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you,” (Jeremiah 31:3). His love draws us. 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells me this, faith and hope will cease, but love will abide forever. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

His love is a transforming love. If we know the Lord Jesus Christ we have been transformed. Every day we are being transformed by His loveliness, His beauty, His glory. He brings us into the wonder of His graces (Ephesians 2). What we were before, love has transformed us. By nature we are dead in trespasses and sin. We were haters of God. But now we have been saved by grace, by His precious blood, we are being made more like Him. There is a lovely picture of this in John 3, in Nicodemus, who came in the night to talk to Jesus. John 19 speaks of two disciples, two secret disciples: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They hid their Christianity in Christ, yet He loved them. They came out and asked for Christ’s body. They were no longer in hiding. The love of God is so overwhelming it just transformed them. This is only shown by John.

God’s love is an unquenchable love, “Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it, (Song of Solomon 8:7). Regardless of what we go through, the love of God is more powerful. Scripture tells me love is stronger than death, it overpowers death (Song of Solomon 8). The more we drink of it, the more we want. God’s Word will satisfy us.  Take this unquenchable love from the one who has designated glory to us. I have a reserved place in heaven. Have you? Satan will never be able to take away the love of God. And he tries.

God’s love is a conquering love. He is victorious. He bore our sins on Calvary’s tree, made them His own. O praise the Lord for His wonderful love, in bearing our sin. He was taken to a tomb, where the wonderful words of the angel were heard, “He is not here; for He is risen,” (Matthew 28:6). “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) – that’s love! Nothing can touch us. That’s the power of love.

It is a forever love. For ever and ever and ever. Do not be afraid of it. I am not earth-bound. I do not belong here. He has promised He will take us to be with Himself. So often we try to put roots so firmly in this world. Go to the place where there is love, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you,” (John 14:2). Love will never end. It is inexhaustible, “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

September 29th 2019: John Funnell

John Funnell-sept19Luke 19:1-10

Winter is coming. Christmas is near. Some people love Christmas. We all know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I haven’t read the book, but have seen the film. To me, Ebenezer Scrooge is Michael Caine! He was a wealthy, yet tight-fisted man. He treated Bob Cratchit and his family very badly. Through various ghostly and spiritual influences, Scrooge miraculously turns into a wonderful philanthropist. Everyone is happy. It’s a classic tale.

Many people see this story as quite similar to the story of Zacchaeus. Jesus turns a wealthy tax collector into a nice, generous person who gives half of what he earns to the poor. However, such a simplistic interpretation doesn’t do it justice. It limits us to read it as part of the crowd, who see Zacchaeus as a known sinner (verse 7). Once Jesus gets involved he becomes a generous Christian.

Viewing this story from the perspective of the crowd is limiting. Step back from the crowd and stop being simply a spectator. What truly matters is the viewpoint of Jesus, looking at this through Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus ignores the crowd. They swarm around Him yet He goes straight for the man in the tree. Why Zacchaeus? Dr. Luke provides us with many clues why. The crowds ‘pressed onto Jesus’. Why? Because they had heard God in flesh was there. To them, Jesus was an A-Lister celebrity. Zacchaeus was one of the people who wanted to see Jesus. Yet he had a problem; he was too short and couldn’t see over the heads of the crowd. His view is blocked. The detail of him being short didn’t need to be added. There must be a reason Dr. Luke added it to the narrative.

The Greek word for ‘short’ is interesting. It is not just used to describe height but also age. In John 19 we read of the blind man who was healed by Jesus. The Pharisees were not happy. His parents were called into court to be quizzed. Yet his parents say he is of age and can answer for himself. The same Greek word for age is used as to describe short. We see this again in Hebrews 11:11 when Sarah is described as beyond child-bearing age. It’s the same Greek word again. Dr. Luke adds the adjective ‘short’ because Zacchaeus was short but also because the word describes his status, especially in a society where age and status matter in a community. Dr. Luke added it not just to explain why he couldn’t see, but also to show Zacchaeus has a lowly status in his community. Zacchaeus’ ultimate problem was not his height but his family and friends had flocked to see Jesus and had left him behind. That’s the tragedy that sits behind the narrative. Zacchaeus was left behind by his community, abandoned by friends and family. He had no status. He was lost. Zacchaeus was all alone and without a loving community to guide him. Perhaps this is why he went down the wrong path and became a tax collector to Rome?

He climbed a fig tree – a symbol of prosperity. Fig leaves are a symbol of covering sin. Zacchaeus is trying to rise above. Jesus finds him in his sin, lonely, hiding up a fig tree. ‘And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”’ (Luke 19:5). Jesus calls out to Zacchaeus by name. He calls him down and reconciles him with his community. Jesus makes a public statement that he is a son of Abraham. He tells the crowd he is one of them. Zacchaeus is restored. Hallelujah!

‘And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.”’ (Luke 19:9).

 Jesus can come into the life of any person who has been outcast and left out by his community. He can bring them back into his community. This is a story about Christ, come into the world, coming to seek the lost. Hallelujah! “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

As Jesus was walking down the street He didn’t see what the crowd saw, He saw a broken man, trying to lift himself above his community, yet hiding. So Jesus came and He personally called him by name. And what did He do? He loved him. For the first time in a long time Zacchaeus knew he was loved. We see repentance. He gave half of his possessions to the poor. Zacchaeus gave freely and joyfully because He knew the overwhelming and overflowing love of Christ. Friends, the good news, the best news, is that Jesus’ love can do the same for us today.

If you have times when you feel low, exhausted, ashamed, overwhelmed, convicted by the weight of your sin, please know that Jesus is here for you. He will never ignore you for the crowd. He will call you by name. He’ll say, ‘My dear brother, my dear sister, ‘I love you.’ The creator of all time, space and matter says, ‘I love you.’ He says, ‘Come down from the tree of tiredness and shame, come down to your community, your church. I don’t care about your past, what anyone else thinks of you, I just want you. All that shame I buried at the cross.’

The call today to Christians and both non-Christians alike is ‘will you come down from your hiding place and take Jesus home with you, just like Zacchaeus? Will you let Jesus transform your life with His love? Today, salvation has come to the home. Will you take it?

August 25th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - July 2019‘You shall not murder.’ Exodus 20:13

A Sunday school teacher, in the process of teaching the Ten Commandments to her class, reminded them that they had learned the commandment to honour their fathers and mothers. She then asked if there was a commandment that refers to brothers and sisters. One girl replied, ‘You shall not murder!’ We smile and enjoy the humour of the story, but if we stop for a moment, there is a disturbing truth. All of us have harboured murderous thoughts towards others. They may be hateful glances, ‘If looks could kill …’ All of us have been angry enough to throttle someone for what they have done to us. It is extremely unlikely someone here has murdered someone. However, we’ve broken this Commandment in thought, word and deed and we are in need of forgiveness.

What is murder? The modern versions of the Bible has replaced the word ‘kill’ with ‘murder.’ In certain conditions the taking of life is permitted, for example, animal life. Some argue we should not kill animals, but Genesis 9:3 gives permission to kill to eat. Equally, God ordained capital punishment, allowing the state to kill one who deliberately kills another (Leviticus 24:17, Exodus 21:12-14). The Bible allows for the pursuing of a just war, which inevitably leads to death (Deuteronomy 20). Outside of these exceptions the destruction of life is murder. Therefore the murder of another, whether a baby still in a mother’s womb, or an elderly person coming to the end of their days, is an evil act.

There are three reasons why we should not murder another person:

  1. The sanctification of human life. God made us to enjoy fellowship with Him and gave us the capacity to have fellowship with Him. That’s what distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. We proclaim all people, irrespective of lifestyle, are to be respected. This does not mean we have to agree with them or endorse their sin, but they share in the same dignity by being created in His image (Psalm 8:5-6). Each and every human being has a God-given life that is sacred and He alone brings it to a close. For man to destroy another man’s life is to usurp the authority of God. It shows utter contempt for a God-given life (Genesis 9:6). Murder is an act of evil.

  1. Committing murder is following in Satan’s footsteps. It is the way of the devil to murder (John 8:44). From the very beginning it has been Satan’s purpose is to destroy human life through sin and death. In the Garden of Eden he pretends to Adam and Eve he is on their side. His desire is to bring death into the world and upon Adam and Eve. From the very beginning Satan has been a murderer.

  1. Murder is the elevation of self. Murder is a great evil. It’s the ultimate experience of selfishness. It’s the taking over the right of someone else to life. It is out of sin-ridden selfishness (Mark 7:21-23). Murder is one of the clearest experiences of the fallen-ness of the human heart as it is gripped in its own selfish concerns.

We are living where the respect of the sanctity of human life is in decline. We have become immune to scenes of murder in television programmes. People are enthralled by blood thirstiness. We are confronted by images of people being shot, maimed or killed. When we hear of teenagers being stabbed to death we think or feel nothing. We may say it’s sad, but then just carry on. Computer games encourage people to act out violence. Every week scores of unborn children are murdered simply because it’s an inconvenience for them to be born. People are increasingly concerned for animal rights. Dear friends, life is becoming increasingly cheap as we, as a society, turn away from God and indulge our self-centredness. Oh how we need to pray that God would have mercy on us.

Whilst we have not physically murdered anyone, the characteristics of murder are to be found in our hearts. Haven’t we refused to acknowledge the dignity of another, refused them common courtesy? It is seen in the racism of our age, where one group views another with disdain and contempt. We may despise an individual. Haven’t we taken devilish delight in bringing someone down a peg or two or been cruel in thought or action?

The Lord rightly points out the keeping of the sixth commandment includes dealing with the murderous attitudes of our hearts (Matthew 6). Inside each one of us lurks a murderer. We are all guilty of breaking the sixth commandment and all need to admit it.

But there is forgiveness. Amongst those who God forgives their sins are murderes. Even Moses, who the Commandments were given to, was a murderer (Exodus 2:11-12). Then there was King David, who arranged for Uriah to be murdered so his sin could be covered up (II Samuel 11). David was a murderer. Throughout the centuries there have been those involved in the most evil murders, including one of the closest associates of Paul Pott, yet who was saved through faith.

How can God forgive murderers? Because Jesus died in the place of a murderer (John 18). Here, this morning, no-one has picked up a knife or gun, but we are all guilty of that sin in our hearts. May be someone here has had an abortion. But there is forgiveness because the Lord Jesus Christ died, even for murderers. The good news is God forgives the sin of murder because Jesus identified Himself as responsible for the murder that lurks in your heart and mine. As we stand condemned by murderous thoughts we can rejoice the Lord Jesus Christ died for us. If we come to Him today all we have to do is repent, acknowledge our sin and no longer indulge in excuses. As your word examines me, I stand convicted. I throw myself on the mercy that is yours and can be mine. What a great God!

Finally, if you come to Jesus Christ and repent of your sin and are restored to a right relationship with God, everything changes. Instead of murder comes self-sacrifice. It leads us to make positive contributions to the life of others. Love does no harm to its neighbour. You have no difficulty in loving yourself. We are to desire to work towards our neighbours good, even more, to fellow believers (1 John 3:15-16). Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Dear friends, in so many churches it seems we’re more intent on murdering one another than laying down our lives for one another. The Christian should be willing to lay down his life for another. We need the mind-set of Christ (Philippians 2). We are to enter into the Saviour’s mind-set. We are to become increasingly like Him in our union. We must love one another, we must lay down our lives for each other. We must put the interests of everyone else above our own interests. When we do that we fulfil the sixth commandment.

Replace murderous thoughts and actions with true love. You cannot walk with the Lord whilst wishing harm to someone else. We are to be willing to suffer loss to secure that well-being for others, to give up everything as He gave up the glory of heaven and even His life for our salvation. Surrender all rights and privileges, then the love of God is with us.

August 8th 2019: Dave Evans

Dave Evans - April 2019Psalm 22

The vast majority of psalms have a personal and historical application to the author and time. They may look forward to beyond the time of King David, to the coming of the king of Kings. Psalm 22 is somewhat different. It is entirely prophetic. The Psalm unfolds the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clearly like the passage of Isaiah 53. It is a description of the crucifixion. It gives a clear view of the sufferer’s humility. This makes the Psalm all the more striking as crucifixion was not established until centuries later.

The gospels record the outward details of the crucifixion but they only give a glimpse into the Saviour’s experiences. Psalm 22 opens up the Saviour’s soul and mind the penalty which our souls deserved. He did not endure Calvary unconsciously. As He suffered on the cross He was conscious He was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies (John 19:28). He w aware the scriptures were pointing forward to His death. In Matthew 27 Jesus quotes the opening verse of this Psalm, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Even as the Lord suffers He reviews in His mind those prophecies which concerned Himself. He came to fulfil His Father’s will (John 5). As the Saviour takes the Psalm to His own lips we are given an insight into His sufferings.

What can we learn from this?

1. The repudiation of the suggestion that at the cross the Saviour’s faith failed. As we look at the psalm as a whole we see it is full of the Saviour’s confidence and faith. It’s ‘My’ He has lost sight of His Father’s face but not His faith. In the midst of His suffering and anguish He utters great confidence in God (verses 3-5). In His abandonment He knows God is faithful. Christ is able to realise God’s faithfulness to Himself (verses 9-11). The Saviour, from the time of His birth, knows this relationship of trust and confidence with His Father. This enduring faith does not in any way diminish the depths of His suffering.

2. His humiliation and the pain and mockery of the crowds to the Saviour.
The One who had walked among the people, who was full of compassion, is now alone. Betrayed. Denied. The disciples had fled. The Saviour hangs in full view of all those gathered around the cross, crowds full of venom. We see in this Psalm how deeply it penetrated His heart “But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6). He is humiliated by those He came to save. The Lord God, the author of all creation, now feels Himself to be a worm, the least of all creation. The nails and the spear caused no greater pain than this mockery. Verse 8 takes us so vividly to the foot of the cross (Matthew 27:41). The religious leaders, experts in the Old Testament scriptures, are blind to the promised Redeemer “Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion,” (Psalm 22:12-13).  These rulers are described as strong bulls, an enraged herd ready to trample down their victim.

3.The horror of the Saviour’s physical sufferings (verses 14-15). This is nothing less than a description of crucifixion. As Jesus is laid on the cross and the nails driven into His hands and feet, we see the description of His suffering. In verse 16 we see the description of the crowds, as they follow the lead of the religious leaders, cry out like a pack of hounds wanting blood (Luke 23:20).

Crucifixion is a death which caused constant perspiration, “I am poured out like water,” (Psalm 22:14). The bones are dislocated, bringing the sufferer to the point of exhaustion, producing extreme thirst, “My tongue clings to My jaws,” (Psalm 22:15). It is an awful description of crucifixion. But these words, as horrible as they are, can’t depict the horror of the suffering. We only scratch the surface.

4.The dark hours and the Saviour’s cry of dereliction. The land was covered in darkness, The Saviour cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” When the Saviour was born the darkness of the night was broken by the glorious light of heaven as the angels proclaimed His birth. Now, at the ninth hour, when day should have been at its brightest, the darkness of hell shuts out the brightness. As darkness covers the land, so our Saviour enters the darkness which He alone could endure. He had to plunge into that darkness, into the physical wrath and anger of God who is holy and cannot look on sin. The Lord Jesus Christ knew what it was to be alone in His earthly ministry. He could always say e who sent Me is with me. But now, His Father turns His face from His Son as the God-Man suffers. He endures the total forsaking, total abandonment. Why? Paul declares, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). It is hard to imagine, we cannot imagine, a pure, perfect, spotless life, to be utterly sinless. But here, on the cross, the sinless one becomes our substitute. He comes to die for those He will save. He suffers all the consequences of a broken law. During those three hours of darkness He bore the holy wrath. Here is the essence of our Saviour’s work. This cry of dereliction is the great climax to the Saviour’s work.

5.The turning point (verses 19-21). The Lord is now saying God has answered Him. God accepts the Saviour’s sufferings are complete. The Saviour can now cry out, “It is finished!” The Saviour has accomplished the work the Father sent Him to do. The public declaration of the Saviour’s work comes on the third day – the Lord’s Day.

We can draw three great conclusions:

  • How dreadful, extremely horrid and evil sin must be.
  • It brings us to a new appreciation of the greatness of the Father’s love. The Saviour was His delight, yet He gave Him to suffer in our place (John 3:16).
  • We proclaim, as believers, because of this, Salvation is utterly free and offered to all.

July 7th 2019: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards - July 2019“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12).

Duties neglected, even little ones, often bring great downfalls. This can certainly apply to our consideration of the fifth Commandment. This Commandment is central to the well-being of society. God’s command to honour parents is the foundation for society to live in harmony. One of the characteristics of a declining culture is disrespect – for one another and those in authority. At the root of this decline lies the rejection of the fifth Commandment. Learning of respect lies within family with children honouring their parents.

The position of this Commandment is it’s the first of the second tablet. The first four Commandments show man’s relationship to God. The second tablet shows man’s relationship amongst ourselves. This Commandment brings forth all the others that follow, it leads on to those that follow. It is the priority for the second tablet.

There’s a promise that comes with the commandment. Paul notes it is the first Commandment with a promise, a promise not to the individual but to people as a whole, a nation (Ephesians 6). It is talking to society. Here is the cornerstone for a stable society in the Promised Land. The people are instructed how to live in the Promised Land; if you want to prosper then honour your father and mother.

In the Bible the term ‘father’ is used to denote the elderly in general, those in authority and those who are fathers. It is used as an expression of respect. It denotes giving someone the honour they deserve (1 Peter 2:13, Leviticus 19:32, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Most catechisms teach that we honour, be loyal, to our father and mother and all those in authority over us. It is the basis not only for respect within the family but, having learnt respect for a mother and father, then having respect in church and for those who are older. So Christians are to honour all those who are above them, in church, work and the wider world. You may feel that they do not deserve our respect but we are to honour them as God has ordained them. Acts 24-26 Felix was an adulterous, greedy man. Festus was of a more noble character but had little time for true justice. Agrippa had an incestuous affair with his sister. These characters do not win respect yet Paul respectfully addresses all three of them. We are to respect the rule of the law, including those who carry out the law. The only time a Christian can go against this is when a believer is called to do something contrary to God’s law.

Children’s actions should never be excused when they show rebellion. Adults, parents in particular, are to lead from example, for children learn best from imitation. This Commandment lays the foundation for the Bible’s teaching on respect throughout society. But the main teaching is that children are to honour their parents, treat parents as those who carry weight in their lives.

In what ways do we honour our parents? “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:3). We are to have a deep reverence for parents that comes from a right fear and true love of them. We should never belittle our parents either in word or action. Don’t make jokes about them or speak in a derogatory way. Place weight on their advice and wisdom. In addition, children are not to answer back to their parents. In Biblical terms it is a shameful thing to do. Teenagers can be disrespectful. They ‘know what’s best’! This may be true in the realm of technology but not in the realm of life. Young adults, as they gain independence, are supposed to remember that their parents carry weight. Older adults care for elderly parents, esteem them for all they gave and did for them.

Children are to be obedient to the parents (Ephesians 6:1). Children are to obey their parents teaching, especially as they are based on the Bible (Proverbs 1:8). Children are to obey their parents’ commands with a willing heart. Did not the Lord Jesus Christ obey His heavenly father in saying, “Not my will but your will be done.” In perfect obedience He went to the cross. He offered Himself up as the atoning sacrifice, He took on our sins, including the sins of disobedience, to our heavenly Father.

It is important children are taught that they should be only told once and that is that. Rules are set and to be obeyed. Parents, of course, must not be unreasonable in their demands (Ephesians 6:4). Parents are not to be tyrants but to be loving.

We must care for our parents. This Commandment is spoken mainly to adults. The nations that surrounded Israel practised euthanasia, the elderly were left to die. But the Israelites were to honour their fathers and mothers, to care and provide for the elderly. Even in Jesus’ day people were trying to make deals so they could not pay for their mother and father’s care (Mark 7:9-13). But think again. Our blessed Lord, as He hangs upon that cross, in agony of body and soul, what does He say? He looks at Mary and commends her to the care of John, and says John is to take responsibility for Mary. Even in His dying breath the Saviour does not forget to provide care for His mother (John 19: 26-27).

Today we see the fragmentation of the extended family that has led to the increase of pressure on social services. But as Christians we are to care for our elderly families, the church and community. It is a sign of Christ’s Lordship over us that we value, respect and care for our elderly family, neighbours and friends. The only one greater duty to parents is our duty to the Lord. There is no doubt we show our love for the Lord in the way we care for parents.

Some may have suffered, to various degrees, at the hands of their parents. They may have had very difficult relationships with parents. And that’s not easily forgotten or easily forgiven. And so I say, if that’s you, we understand. Ask the Lord to help you to forgive. Ask the Lord to give you the strength to honour your parents, even though they have hurt you. Ask the Lord to help you keep this Commandment for His glory and your good and for the good of your parents. Remember how disobedient you have been to you heavenly Father, remember, in so many ways how you’ve offended Him. Yet He has only done you good. Ask your Saviour, who suffered on the cross, to help you honour your father and mother.

April 19th 2019: Good Friday: Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards-Jan18John 19:16b-30

To approach Calvary is to approach the central truth of Christianity; the Lord Jesus Christ died for an ordained purpose. If there was no Cross, no Christ, if no death, no deliverance. If there was no sacrifice, there would be no salvation.

John, in his account of the Crucifixion, strips away many of the details found in the other gospels and adds some they left out. His overriding purpose is Jesus died as God the Father intended, in fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. He is the victor of God’s sovereign grace and purpose.

In Leviticus 6:11 and Leviticus 16:27 we are told that the remains of a sin offering sacrifice in the temple was to be taken outside of camp, so it is Jesus, as a sin offering, is taken outside the city (Hebrews 13:11-12).

So these verses focus on three things in fulfilment of prophecy, showing Jesus died in obedience to the Father’s will, God’s perfect means of bringing glory to His name in the salvation of His saints.

  1. The Saviour numbered with transgressors.

‘There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them’ (John 19:18). Jesus was crucified in the company of two others, one either side. John doesn’t mention their crime. We know, from the other gospel accounts, they were being crucified for being criminals. Here were men who had robbed and murdered and Jesus is numbered among them. This is clearly a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:12. The emphasis is on the unimaginable shame that crucifixion brought. Jesus is identified with the scum of the earth (Deuteronomy 21:23).

Jesus died not only the most painful death imaginable, but also the most shameful death in the most shameful company. He bore the curse for sin. All of this was designed by God the Father and willingly ordained by Jesus. Here is the great condescension of the Lord; He bore the shame and the curse of our sins, in our place. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered the penalty of death as He was my substitute. He was numbered among the transgressors. What a relief it is to the Lord Jesus Christ has paid in full on our behalf. We plead with others ‘repent and be saved.’ As believers we praise the Lord that we will never have to face the shame and punishment of our sin.

  1. The second prophetic voice that is being fulfilled in these verses is ‘Behold your King.’ (Zechariah 9:9).

‘There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:18-22).

We see in Zechariah, the coming king is proclaimed, riding on a donkey,

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

This prophecy was fulfilled the week before Jesus’ death, in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Since then, the Hosanna crowds had rejected Him and turned into a mob. What has changed in the course of a week? They had welcomed Him as a great king and expected Him to overthrow Roman rule, yet He overturned the tables in the temple. He was a disappointment. They thought deliverance was their Roman oppressors being thrown out, yet He had done nothing. And with stirring up by the chief priests, they are brought to shout ‘Crucify!’ At least Barabbas challenged the Romans. They are rejecting Jesus as king. But what John is reminding us is that despite their rejection, He is still the king. Pilot didn’t realise it, but he proclaimed the truth. Unwittingly, he declared, ‘This indeed is the king.’ In pilot’s refusal to change the inscription on the cross (verses 21-22), just as the Jews were powerless to change what was written, so they were powerless to change Jesus was king.

The sign on the cross was multilingual: the Aramaic inscription was the local language, Latin was the language of the Roman army and the Greek inscription was the language of the common world. It stated for all the world to read that ‘here is the King.’ Jesus was not just the king of the Jews, but King of the Gentiles too (Psalm 22:27-28).

One of the main themes of John’s gospel is the kingship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death does not deny His claim that Jesus is King. It is the vindication that He is King. What is it that declares Jesus Christ to be the genuine King of Kings, evidence that authenticates Him in this God-appointed role as the King of Kings, Lord of Lords? The holes in His feet and the holes in His hands. We should never doubt that it is the appointed will of God the Father, even His death, to exult Him to be the name above all names. It is a great privilege for those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord to reign with Him one day (Revelation 22:5).

Christ, by His death upon the cross, secures the salvation of many that they may reign with Him. That’s why it’s Good Friday. Behold the King!

  1. The divided garments
    ‘When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things (John 19:23-23). The soldiers’ actions fulfil prophecy of Psalm 22:18, ‘they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.’ The victor of the crucifixion is stripped naked. One of the few perks Roman soldiers enjoyed was taking the clothes of the crucified. Here, it symbolises man’s nakedness in sin. Adam and Eve became conscious of their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). It was not just a physical nakedness but also a moral nakedness. Jesus being stripped symbolises our moral nakedness so we could be clothed in His righteousness.

The Son of God plumbs the greatest depths of humiliation as He takes on the responsibility of our sin. Through the Resurrection He will take with Him all who believe in Him as Lord and Saviour. But this is only achieved through His utter humiliation. Our Lord and Saviour was stripped and made naked, utterly humiliated, because He bears your sin and mine. He willingly does so in His love for us. His purpose – that we should never be humiliated as He was, but be presented to the Father spotless, righteous, in His sight. We can never grasp the depth of the Lord’s humiliation.

Oh that we could grasp the greatness of His love for us, that He was willing to experience the humiliation that we might be saved. There is only one response – humbly submit to Him in repentance. If we refuse to bow before Him we declare His death of no significance. Let us remember to be humble. There is no place for pride in your heart. If the King of glory hung Himself so that we might be exalted with Him, we know it’s nothing of us but all of Him. There is nothing for us to boast in, save in the Lord Himself, our Lord and Saviour, who, in fulfilment of prophecy, hung upon the cross. Bearing shame in my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

July 8th 2018: Dave Norbury

Dave Norbuy-July18Philippians 1:1-11

This is a significant book written to a significant church in Philippi. Paul knew this was the place God wanted him to be. He was about to plant the first church in Europe. God directed him here. This church has to grow and succeed. We are reading about our family history. This church in Philippi was set up against all the odds. Two people were converted here. Firstly, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart. It so happens that she was a business lady who had a big house which people could meet in (Acts 16). Paul is imprisoned. There again, God meets with the jailor who asks how he might be saved. He was converted.

The church at Philippi is established. From this seed, others are planted. Like every church it is fragile. Philippi was a strategically important church, light in a very dark place. Churches are strategically important. We are a vital, strategic church to our area, as Philippi was to its area. 95% of people in the UK know nothing about the gospel. Just as Philippi was fragile, so can we be too. The world, the flesh and the devil are out to destroy God’s work.

Paul is writing from Rome to Philippi. As he writes, he writes to you too. Timothy is probably doing the writing, Paul is dictating. It’s a servant leadership – just as Jesus was a servant. They are writing to all the saint in Jesus Christ, it’s a letter to the leadership and to every single person in the church. Paul wants us to see the hallmarks of Christianity – grace and peace (Philippians 1:1). Grace is kindness which we don’t deserve. We should ooze with this. We are trusted with inestimable kindness by God. We should have peace, even though we have rough edges, peace in our own hearts knowing we can trust the God we love. These are the hallmarks of God’s church. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). This is the outworking of grace and peace – the interest of others.

Paul looks back. He pours out his heart to the people he genuinely loves. He’s remembering them with great love and appreciation. He has joy when he thinks of them. He thinks of them and a smile comes to his face. Isn’t that what we, as a church, want to be? The Philippians have sent gifts to Paul and his fellows regularly. Epaphroditus risked all to reach Paul, to support and encourage him. We should be partners with others in the gospel, that’s what the Philippians were, sending support.

Paul also rejoices because God is at work in them. There is a real fellowship. Paul is speaking of a deep knowledge of God, he knows their faith is real, their lives have been turned inside out. He knew they had been born again, so he rejoices.

It’s when you go through personal challenges you grow. Be encouraged – this is when you will grow most! God will take you to a place you never wanted to go – and achieve things you could never achieve.

Paul looks up (Philippians 1:6). There’s an absolute certainty that the work God began will come to completion. He looks up and he rejoices. You and I were lost sheep, in darkness, dead in trespasses and sins. He, in His kindness, began a work in us and will bring it to completion. God works in us. He continues the work. Believe Him, trust Him. We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). This should give great encouragement. God is at work in you. Paul is delighted, we should be delighted too because of His glorious work.

Paul looks forward. What does he want for the church to succeed and grow? Love abounding more and more, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). Biblical love is not sentimentalism – it’s anchored deeply in the love of scripture and Christ. It’s a wonderful thought that our churches should abound in love. Pray God will help you. Love abounding – with knowledge and all discernment. It’s a love that knows what’s right. Discernment – it is not blind love, it knows what is right and what is wrong. We are encouraged to know what is right and wrong and to prove the things that are excellent. There’s a testing going on. Growing in love is about maturity. We need to be blameless, our characters need to grow.
Don’t get distracted, have your integrity intact. When we make mistakes we should be the first person to say sorry. We should be humble, the first to admit we’re wrong.

We should mature and grow in Christian character, knowledge and discernment. Ask God to help you. Articulate this in your prayers. Be filled with the fruit righteousness produces. They’ll be many and varied. What joy it gives to God’s heart when fruit is produced in your life and mine. Praise God. Be a joy to others, have confidence He will complete the work He has begun, be mature, blameless, growing in maturity, full of integrity, growing in the work of the Holy Spirit.

June 17th 2018: Ian Middlemist

Ian Middlemist-June18Matthew 26: 36-46

We are invited to come and behold, to see the agonies of the Saviour. As Jesus walked through the city for the last time, people were busy at this festival time. Jesus came to the foot of the Mount of Olives and to Gethsemane, a large walled retreat of trees. Jesus would often come here. Judas knew it well. It was a favoured place the Son of Man came to pray, teach and sleep. As Christians we might have favourite places to visit and be refreshed, where we have spiritual memories and maybe heard the gospel in a powerful way. Here, in the Garden of Gethsemane, it may be a place we could enter into and behold the Saviour’s face at that particular time.

The shadow falls (verses 36-37). We’re all affected by suffering in different ways; not all show their pain, some wince at the smallest things. God gives strength to those in times of need. In Gethsemane Jesus left eight of the disciples waiting whilst He went further into the Garden to pray with Peter, James and John. He shares with them how He is feeling. It is important to listen to each other and hear what we are saying. Jesus is in torment. A man, who until now, is not given to such feelings. It is truly harrowing. Jesus shares His own words, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” (Matthew 26:38). The dreadful sorrow and anxiety is not an expression of fear or shrinking away, rather the alienation from God in the judgement of sin. As He contemplates horror, He is sinking under the horrors of it. It brings to us almost a déjà vous of the cry of dereliction spoken on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46).

D o you take the Saviour and His sufferings seriously? Are you listening to Him even now, as He cries out? Can you hear Him praying to the Father? He has revealed His deepest emotions. He tells the disciples to wait and see. I’m inviting you to contemplate the Saviour’s deep agony. The Saviour wants to draw the disciples to the cross – that’s where we must be drawn. The shadow falls.

View the look on His face, the wonder of His love. In the Garden the Lord Jesus was beginning, in His suffering, the full extent of guilt for sin, to face the pain of sin and its consequences. We see something more of how serious sin is. At first, sin seems so attractive, so thrilling to get your own way. It promises so much. We fall for it, all that it offers. Sin leads to emptiness, loneliness. Look at the face of Jesus, see His agony. For whose sin? For our sin, our guilt. He had no guilt, He had no sin.

In the Garden of Gethsemane we see the face of Jesus and we see something has gone terribly wrong with humanity. That is sin, rebellion against God. Jesus is experiencing the pain of sin on our behalf so that He could lead us through it in His death and resurrection.

As we survey the wondrous cross we see the heart of God. How greatly He must love us that He willingly entered the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing that the cross would come. The Father sees His Son in great torment. We see the Father’s love. His Son weeps in agony in the Garden, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39). Why doesn’t God stop everything and pull Him out? The Son knew that the Father loved the Son, but He loved you and me so much He sent His Son to suffer in this way. Jesus died for us because God loves us.

As we come to communion, view, listen to the Saviour’s agonies. It is beyond comprehension, none of us can truly contemplate the sorrows the Son took on for us in the Garden of Gethsemane. It shows us the seriousness of sin. Run away from it, don’t treat it like a light thing. In the Garden we see the love of the Father and the obedience of the Son. How much He loves us!

October 22nd 2017: Andy Christofides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaac Watts writes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 15th 2017: Ian Middlemist

Ian March 26th 2017I John 3 ‘Blessed Assurance.’

Assurance of love is essential. Our Heavenly Father needs to discipline us for our good that we might share in His holiness and be assured of His great love for us. ‘See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is it did not know him.’ (I John 3:1). God wants His children to feel His arms of love around them.

I john 3-1

– An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?
– Vital love
– A central perspective.

An important question to ask: Am I a Christian?

The enemy of our souls tries to drive a wedge between us and God. The devil’s work and our conscience can condemn us as we compare ourselves with to others and to the Word. It is right we compare ourselves to God’s standards. It is right we love others but this can be hard. We may have difficulty praying for others.

For many the question ‘Am I a Christian?’ may seem ridiculous. They may answer, ‘Of course!’ It’s a vital question to ask. Be careful how we ask and answer it. We also need to meet it head on.

The creator God is here, we proclaim, as a church. There is one true God, all powerful, who created everything and is intimately involved. Why is it then that there is so much suffering? Why do so many people feel disconnected from God – not basking in the wonder of who He is? Why do we not always feel Christian? Perhaps we should ask ourselves what is a Christian? A Christian is a child of God. It is not someone who is generally good or goes to church. A Christian is a child of God, therefore it is someone who can call upon Him as ‘My Father.’

From the New Testament we know that a Christian is someone who is in Christ, someone who has entered into a wonderful, mysterious union into Jesus, clothed with Christ. We are intimately united with Christ. Faith has brought us into Christ.

People can be:

  • Unsaved and know they are not in Christ and are not bothered about this. They will be in Hell.
  • Be saved but not know they are saved. May be they don’t experience it all the time.
  • Be saved and know they are children of God. This is blessed assurance.
  • Not be saved but they seem to believe they are. This is false assurance. We do not want people to think they are going to heaven when they are trusting in themselves rather than Jesus.

In response to the question, ‘Am I a Christian?’ if I am I know I have the love of God in me, I am a child of God. To help you and encourage you there is to be a love in the heart of the believer. ‘By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him.’ I John 3: 19). 

I John 3-18

‘By this’ refers to the previous verse, ‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ (I John 3:18). There is to be this love in a Christian. It is defined in terms of direction:

  • It is not love towards cars, jobs, wives, husbands or me. Here is the grace of God displayed – it is love directed towards Jesus Christ, a love towards the person of Jesus. God sent His Son to live a righteous life on our behalf. When Christ willingly hung on the cross and suffered in agony He was thinking of you. Therefore, it’s Jesus we love because of what He did for us. Now we can put our trust in Him and now we can love Him. My love is not what it ought to be. The key thing Peter was assured of was that even when he failed, he could still say he loved Jesus. No matter how great our failings, we can still say we love Him.
  • There is a love for righteousness.
  • There is a love towards other Christians – not just certain Christians, a love for all of them. It’s testimony to God’s saving grace we can say we love the church.

Central Perspective: We must be convinced of God’s great goodness. ‘For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.’ (I John 3:20). We are assured of God’s great love towards us. It is not based on my love, my understanding or my feelings. Whenever our conscience condemns us, when the devil condemns, we turn to the greatness of God. Our hearts condemn us but God is greater. He knows all things. Don’t put your trust in yourself, trust in Him. Listen to what He says about you. He is always aware of us, where we are, what we feel, our thoughts. But He also knows we are His. He sent His only Son to die for you, to clothe you in righteousness. Be assured, God is greater than our hearts. Are you able to say, ‘Yes, I love Jesus?’ Be confident in Him.