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 28th 2019: Philip Meiring

Philip Meiring - Juy 19 -1And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” II Kings 5:16

Have you ever had a strange prescription from the doctor? Here, Naaman, a very important gentleman, is told to wash seven times in the Jordan, then his flesh would be completely healed. This story is an illustration of the good news we have of Jesus. God has given us a prescription which is signed off by God Himself, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.’ This prescription is for us as rebellious people full of sin. The gospel prescription is wonderful!

Naaman’s reaction is a good illustration of how people react to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an interesting twist to this story. Naaman is not only healed but he is a man changed in his heart too. He came to know the living God that the servant girl knew.

Naaman was commander of the army of the King of Syria. His CV was long and impressive. He was a man who led from the front, a ‘valiant soldier.’ He was a brave, strong man, one of the most important people in Syria. He was even used by God in battle. He was a deeply religious guy but he had leprosy. That’s how it is with us. Naaman began to lose sensation in his fingertips. Pale white marks spread on his skin. It was about to ruin him. That’s why Mrs. Naaman was so upset, wondering where to turn. This man didn’t realise he had a deeper problem than leprosy.

We have put men on the moon, can listen to wonderful musical compositions, think about black holes on the edge of the cosmos. God has given us a wonderful world. But the Bible tells us we have a deep problem within our hearts because we are sinners. We have this disease which spoils everything. For all that we are as human beings, this disease spoils us. It’s in our hearts. It spoils the world we live in. Naaman was going to have to have his skin healed, but wonderfully, he was going to have his heart changed too.

How did God sort out Naaman? How does God sort us out? Look at verses 9-16. Naaman was used to being in control of his life. He sort of controlled the gods around him. He was deeply religious but he didn’t know the God who made the world. Everything revolved around Naaman. When he arrived at Elisha’s home, the neighbours must have been surprised to see the chariots roll up. The neighbours would have expected Elisha to come to the door but instead Elisha’s servant came out and gave instructions. It doesn’t sound like Elisha had a lot of respect for Naaman. But this was the man of God. He was giving Naaman a prescription that would change Naaman’s life and cause the pride of this man’s heart to be broken before God. The prescription was designed to humble Naaman. He would have to know his place.

Naaman’s reaction is what happens when a lot of people hear the good news about Jesus. The good news is Jesus died in your place. He took the penalty for that rebellion in your heart, that sinfulness. From the time you and I were born we were cut off from God. But Jesus died on the cross in your place and my place as a punishment from sin which has separated us from God. And if you come to Jesus and thank Him for taking the flack for your sin, if you truly believe in Him, you will be saved and have a relationship with God. It’s wonderful to know Him! Jesus lived a perfect life on my behalf. I’m so thankful. He took the penalty for my sin and I can go free. Believe and you will be saved.

The gospel is designed to make God big and us small, to give all the glory and praise to Him. You cannot pay for this good news, to be washed clean. It’s free. Jesus is the one who paid the price. You and I just have to accept the grace of God. That’s what Naaman experienced that day.

This morning, whatever you think is holding you back from a relationship with God, be assured, God can forgive. Humbly accept it, freely accept it. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. There is no other way, it’s just Jesus. He is the only way.

How was Naaman healed? He went storming off in anger. Like all of us, he rebelled. But he had some wise men around him who told him to be humble and accept the prescription. Eventually, Naaman sees sense. He repents. What is repentance? It’s a change of mind and a change of direction. He turned to God. He washed himself seven times in the Jordan – seven is the perfect number.  He was healed. That’s how it is with Jesus. All you have to do is believe in Jesus. Naaman believed the promise that had been given to him. You need to repent and change your mind about God and what He is offering you. Believe. Trust Him to be your Saviour.

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.

March 11th 2018: Andy Millership

Andy Millership-March18Acts 16:16

In AD 49 Paul and Silas once again headed for Asia Minor. Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia calling him so they made their way to the regional capital, Philippi. Philippi was an important city – financially and strategically. Rome’s gold, for the most part, came from around Philippi. It was situated on one of the main trading routes; people flocked there. It was such an important place that after Julius Caesar had been assassinated, the legionaries from that region and the Praetorian guards were rewarded for their loyalty; each was given a parcel of land to make sure the place remained secure.

So, we find Paul and Silas here in this very busy, rich, stable city. They are there for a reason – to spread the gospel. There was no synagogue in Philippi so Paul and Silas went to the river, a place of prayer (Acts 13:16). This was where Lydia heard the gospel and was saved. On their way back, Paul and Silas came across a slave girl who had been cruelly treated by her masters. She was possessed of a spirit. People paid to hear her tell their fortune. Paul dealt with the spirit and so her masters couldn’t make money out of her. They complained to the authorities and Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison.

‘At about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.’ (Acts 16: 25-27). This was a dramatic picture. The earthquake shook the foundations of the prison and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The reaction of the jailor was extreme, ‘He drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”’ The jailor wanted to kill himself. Why? This was a military posting. This man was a soldier, a legionary, a man who was quite senior. He was a man who had seen battle on numerous occasions. He would have been a strong, disciplined, controlled man. His high position allowed him to bring Paul and Silas out of prison to his own home for a meal (Acts 16:34). He had full responsibility for the prisoners who had been given to him; he didn’t need to ask others’ permission. He wasn’t just any old jailor, he was important. In modern terms, he was a prison governor. So why did he have this extreme reaction when he found the prison doors were off.

The jailor had family, slaves and servants. He was certainly comfortably off. He had social responsibilities. He was an important man. So why did he want to commit suicide? He’d faced fear before, so it wasn’t that. Insight comes from the question he asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). That was his priority.

Paul and Silas had nothing – no money. All they had were the clothes they stood in, yet even these were torn off them. But having been beaten they were worshipping God. They appeared to have nothing, but they had more than all around them – they had hope in a Saviour. What do we have? An important job that carries with it an enviable reputation? Do you have responsibility? Are you a good person with responsibilities? Are you doing well for yourself financially? These are not bad things but if that is all you have, then you have no hope. When the doors fall off and the earthquake comes, if that is all you have, you have no hope.

Paul and Silas had something more than the jailor ever had. His position, money and responsibility meant nothing – he recognised he needed a Saviour. He understood that. That’s what you need as well – one who can stand before God in your place, a God who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. You need someone who is  pure, who is faultless. Your best is filthy rags. If we have any hope at all, it must be in a Saviour because we cannot do it ourselves. We need one who lived, died and rose again for us, one who stood in our place. Don’t rely and hold onto your best because your best is not good enough. Without a Saviour you have nothing, ‘For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?’ (Mark 8:36). You haven’t got the whole world to offer. The jailor needs a Saviour and you need a Saviour. It must be a hope in Him, not in you.

February 11th 2018: Dave Evans

Dave Evans -Feb 18Philippians 1:27 – 2:15

There is something special about the Christian life, the way we’re called to behave. This passage is broken into various exaltations:

1:27   ‘Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel.’                  2:4      ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests.’
2:12    ‘Work out your own salvation.’
2:14    ‘Do all things without grumbling or disputing.’

In the very centre of the whole section the Apostle sets before us the very foundation of why we should behave in this way, ‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 2:5). Paul is pointing us to the Lord, our Saviour, and His behaviour. Paul reminds us that our Christian life isn’t something that’s simply outward. Our thoughts and actions work themselves out in our outward behaviour.

In verses 5-8 we read of our great example. We must always be clear that the gospel in not just simply Jesus as our example, it is clear the gospel begins with the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour of sinners, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21). Until we have committed ourselves to Him for forgiveness He can never be an example to us. But having become Christians, knowing the forgiveness of sinners, Jesus then becomes the supreme example of behaviour. His mindset is to be our mindset, our foundational attitude, our whole approach to the Christian life.

Verses 6-11. What do we see of the mind of Christ in these verses? Our Lord’s humility, His amazing self-denial, is exhibited in these verses. Firstly, in verse 6, ‘He was in the form of God.’ We see the great, permanent, unchanging nature of Jesus. Paul is saying the Lord Jesus Christ has always been in the form of God, that He is divine in every way, the co-equality of our Saviour.

It’s only when we realise how high He is we realise the depth of His humility. Equality with God was His by right but He did not cling to it, He made Himself of no reputation. When the plan of salvation was made in eternity, He took the form of a servant and came in the likeness of man. It’s staggering! The Lord of glory should become a man, a God-Man, who walked among the people of this earth. He came to be born as a bond servant – born in a stable into a humble life. This is no other than the Lord of glory! The Lord Jesus Christ, though He became a man, did not cease to become God (verse 8). He set aside so much of what was His by right yet He was ever God.

What did He give up? In heaven Jesus had no guilt, no burden of sin, but in becoming the God-Man He took upon Himself the burden of guilt. He gave up the riches which were His. His outward earthly life reflected the depths to which He humbled Himself. He was dependent on friends and disciples to give Him a place to sleep. He remained truly divine, became a servant so that our salvation might be possible. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death on the cross.

It’s a staggering thought that the gospel takes the Lord of glory to the cross to die an agonising death in our place. The cross was horrific, a death reserved for slaves, rebels, the most  vile of criminals. It was the cruellest of deaths at that time. No Roman would talk about it, such was the horror. Our Saviour’s sufferings go deeper; He not only suffered physically but also He suffered God’s judgement. In those three hours of darkness God poured out His wrath on His Son. He bore all that, humbled Himself so that we might be forgiven. Have we come to realise for ourselves what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for lost sinners? Do you see He died for you sin so we could escape the awfulness of Hell and judgement?

The promise of Scripture is all who come to Him will be saved. This humility is our example, our standard. That’s a staggering thought for us. If Christ could humble Himself in such a way, how willing must we be as believers to humble ourselves in our Christian walk, that we exhibit the humility of Christ in our life? Loot to the Lord Jesus Christ, the great standard. May we be those that follow His example and glorify Him.

December 25th 2017: Gareth Edwards

gareth-e-sept-2016In 1647 Christmas Day was not celebrated. No church bells rang, no services were held. Christmas was not to be celebrated by an Act of Parliament for a few years. Why? Was it because M.Ps were against the gospel? Because there was no love for Jesus Christ in the land? Perhaps a great disaster had struck in the land so Christmas was cancelled? No. The people who passed this Act of Parliament loved Jesus Christ with all their hearts. So why then? The people were concerned to underline the importance of Sunday worship. Over the centuries the church had added saint feasts, there was concern to point out the only command is to worship the Lord on the Lord’s Day. They wanted to establish the Lord’s Day as a worship day for the nation.

The people were also concerned that Christmas was celebrated with drunkenness, gluttony and little or no reference to the birth of Jesus Christ. They thought it such a travesty that they cancelled the celebrations. Perhaps we should cancel Christmas? After all, isn’t it true that Christmas is nothing more than an excuse for gluttony, revelling and with little thought of Christ? An increasing number of children do not know Christmas is anything to do with the birth of Jesus Christ.

What about us? How much are we conscious we gather because of the birth of a Saviour? What is wrong with the nativity scenes that are presented to us? It is highly unlikely Jesus was born in a stable. It is not likely animals were present. One thing in the usual nativity scenes in Christmas cards and presented to us is definitely not part of the nativity – the wise men weren’t there. Herod slaughtered boys up to two years old. The wise men would have taken a substantial time to travel to Herod. We are not told the wise men found Jesus in Bethlehem – they came to a house where the young child lay.

Our Christmas is so full of different ideas and notions and bear little or no relation whatsoever to the birth of Jesus. Let’s cancel it. We don’t need a special day of giving thanks to God … But perhaps Christmas is worthwhile, worth keeping if we, like the wise men, come to worship. If that’s our true motivation.

The wise men brought three gifts. The gold symbolised the kingship and royalty of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Frankincense is a very aromatic spice used in the temple as part of worship of God. The priests prepared it. The wise men brought frankincense to one who will be the great High Priest of His people, representing His people before God, bringing sacrifice for the atonement of sin. Myrrh is associated in the New Testament with the death of the Saviour. It was part of the preparation of herbs and spices of Jesus’ body by the women. He came to die. Myrrh is a symbol of death. Perhaps Christmas should be celebrated if it’s us coming to worship the King of Kings, the great High Priest, the Lamb of God. If that’s why we gather, then certainly it is right we do so. But how sad so many are careless they celebrate what they do not understand or know, they reduce worship of the King of Kings to nothing more for indulgence.

Perhaps too, Christmas is worth keeping because God has given us, in Him, the gift that really matters. There are presents you can open anytime, not waiting for a certain day, presents offered by God. Angels spoke of them. Presents embodied in the baby. He is the gift, ‘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). This is God’s gift. It brings us joy. There is a difference between great joy and great fun. For most, Christmas is just great fun. But at some point the laughing stops. But joy continues. There is a difference between great happiness and joy. Happiness depends on circumstances. But circumstances can change. Adverse things can overtake us and our happiness is spoilt. Great joy, deep satisfactions of the soul, is knowing God, having contentment which means we know it is well with our souls and nothing can change that. The laughing may stop but the joy goes on, knowing God’s presence because a baby was born to die for our sins. It’s not only joy, it is peace, that peace with God, being made right with God. God was justly at war with us because of our sin. He shed the blood of His only Son to bring peace.

God’s gift in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is so we can enjoy every moment of every day. It is worth celebrating Christmas if it’s thanking God for His great gifts to us. We can show the concern of 1647 but maybe we don’t have to cancel Christmas if we truly come to worship the King, trusting in Him as the sacrifice offered for our sin, thanking God for joy unspeakable and peace which passes all understanding that He has given us – Jesus Christ.

May this day be a blessed day as we spend it having fun, being happy, but full of joy and peace in Christ Jesus, our Saviour. Amen.

 

December 10th 2017: Norman Rees

norman rees-dec17Luke 2:7 “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.”

Caesar Augustus declared all to be registered, to go to the place of their birth. Picture the scene of Jesus’ birth. His mum and step-dad Joseph were brought up in Nazareth. The Holy Ghost came upon Mary in a miraculous way, according to God’s great plan, planned in eternity. God knew we’d be cursed and Jesus would come and save millions. Jesus Himself would leave heaven, leave communion with the Father. Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, would come into this world as a baby. Miraculous! He would be born and conceived in the womb of a virgin. The Holy Spirit came upon this young girl, who asks, ‘How can this be?’ Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit. Mary was a godly young woman, blessed to be the mother of the Son of God – but not worshipped. He was her Saviour, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47).

So Mary and Joseph took the long, arduous journey of some 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, travelling on a rough, dangerous road. They were registered in Bethlehem as Caesar Augustus had decreed. They had to go according to the law of the land, but more importantly, ordained by God and prophesied by Micah.

Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have been on their own. Quite a few were also travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Finally, towards evening time, as they came towards Bethlehem they saw an inn. Surely this would be somewhere to stop, to have a warm meal and a room? The innkeeper may have heard of Mary’s pregnancy and thought she may have been an adulteress. Mary may have been shamed and shunned simply because God worked in her life. However, the innkeeper pointed them to a little shelter, less than a stone’s throw. Mary and Joseph made a place there, where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Here Joseph would have held the very Son of God. Staggering! God the Son being taken out of the womb of a virgin. How they must have praised God!

Jesus could have come down from heaven in all His glory and splendour, bringing sinners unto Himself. He could have come down with angels and a great cry of triumph. But He humbled Himself, He took on flesh. He came as a baby, totally dependent on His mother. The Son of God.  It blows your mind! That was His first Advent. He will return.

Everyone born of a woman is a sinner. We have inherited Adam’s genes. Christ lived a life without sin. He came to live a perfect life. At the end of His 33 years He was rejected. He came to bring the gospel, heal the sick, bring life abundantly, raise dead sinners to life. He was mocked and put to death. He was beautiful, perfect, spotless – He was killed in the most cruel way – the death of thieves and robbers, nailed to a cross after being beaten. Nails were driven into Hs hands. The nails were probably about 4 to 5 inches long, with the top of the nail about 1 ½ inches across. The nails were driven into His hands and feet as they lay Him down on the ground on a cross, before lifting Him up. Psalm 22. He dragged the cross, a spectacle for all to look at as they mocked Him. They put a reed in His hand. God turned His face away from His Son. His wrath was poured upon His Son so we might live forever, our sins washed away.

After the taxation was over people would have made their way back to their home. Joseph was warned to escape to Egypt, eventually returning to Nazareth. We can be so caught up with the things of Christmas we forget why we’re here, why Christ came. There was no room in the inn but room in a cattle shed. There is no room in the hearts of many people yet they celebrate Christmas. What has the birth of Christ have to do with Santa, reindeer, crackers and snow? Nothing at all. Let’s get our minds focused on why Jesus came. Let’s go again to Bethlehem and see the Lord who was born to save our souls. Oh that we might not stop talking about Jesus, like the shepherds. One day He’s coming again. Praise God. We’ll see Him glorious and holy. Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. Do we love Him because He first loved us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 3rd 2017: Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel-Dec17Matthew 1:17-25

What’s appropriate at Christmas time? What is Christmas all about? It is a time of year of watching cute Christmas films, trees and Christmas decorations. There are Christmas films being released. Perhaps a surprising one is a new war film of the 9/11 events. Christmas is more like the war film than the cute Christmas films.

This is a story of when God Himself comes to this earth in flesh. Mary conceives, the conception is from the Holy Spirit (v.18). This reminds us Jesus was born without sin, therefore, He will war against sin. He took on flesh – God came down out of heaven to take on flesh. This is the nitty gritty of the Christmas story, the real nativity.

We love opening gifts, it’s wonderful. There are things we want, things we desire in this world. Sometimes we may receive things we don’t need. But what we really need is a Saviour to save us from death, destruction and sin. That is what all of us will have to face. Adam and Eve brought death into this world. Adam lived and died. You and I live and die – which is why this message of a Saviour is wonderful. It brings us hope. Jesus was born into this world to be a Saviour.

We are to remember what the significance of the story is – at Christmas we focus on the birth, the little baby. But do you see in verse 21 Jesus will save His people from their sin? “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). This is not just about a baby but what that baby will do. He will fulfil all righteousness and save His people from their sins. This is about a Saviour. It’s a humbling reminder that Jesus came to save sinners.

Look back at your life and all the things you’ve done – your achievements but also your failures, the times you’ve not done what is right – when you’ve hurt the people you love most. Then look at this verse. You’re reminded, if you’re a Christian, at one point in time you were not saved. But Christ came and made you aware your sin deserved hell. By His grace you turned and now follow Him. Jesus went to war for you. Because of your own sin there was nothing you could do, ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.’ (Ephesians 1:1). But Jesus came to save you, not people, but His people. Not everyone will be saved – only those who come to Him and ask for forgiveness.

Once upon a time, when you lived your life your own way, God in His goodness and justice could have left you like that – doing exactly what you wanted – and you wouldn’t have been saved. But in His mercy and love He came to you and made you aware of His love for you, ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us.)’ (Matthew 1:23).

What is more important, the gift or the giver? Children get excited about the gift. But the giver is more important, the relationship is more important. What is the purpose of having your sin forgiven? Christmas is all about God being with us and us being with God. There is a time coming when, if you’re one of God’s people, you will be with God. Jesus was with us, died on the cross, then was absent for 3 days before He rose again and appeared with His followers, then left. There is a time coming when we will be with God. Revelation 21 speaks of God dwelling with man, ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death.” (Revelation 21:3-4).

That is where the Christian story started and is heading to. As Christians we are looking forward to a time when we will see Jesus and live with Him in perfection and glory forever. Are you looking forward to seeing your Saviour, talking to Him, being with Him forever? The gates of heaven are open. If you know your sin brings death and destruction and know Jesus died for you, if you confess your sin and repent, then nothing condemns you, you are welcomed into heaven.

There’s a certainty about Salvation. You’ll be with Jesus. The doors are open if you’re a Christian. But on that final day when Jesus Christ comes and His people will live with Him forever, the doors are also going to be shut. When He comes to judge the living and the dead, and make everything right, the doors will be closed. No-one else will ever be able to go in there again. There is only a certain amount of time for people to come to the Saviour, to put their trust in Jesus. For one day the door will be closed.

As God came to be with us and us with Him, share the gospel message – not in our own strength but asking in His Spirit – to change the hearts of children, parents and loved ones. The time is coming when Jesus Christ is coming again, when He will open and close the doors. Let’s get people ready. Let’s remind them of this wonderful, miraculous birth.

 

 

October 8th 2017: Dave Evans

Dave Evans-Oct 17Mark 14:32-42

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 11th 2016: Aaron Davies-Whitfield

Worship was led by Aaron Davies-Whitfield who preached from Philippians 2: 19-24, which he entitled “Not my will, but Thy will be done.’ We find Paul is in a place of uncertainty. His letter is written from Rome when he was under house arrest, which can be likened to the bonds and chains of the gospel. Paul is facing possible execution. He truly was an incredible man of God, a giant in the faith. It is staggering how God changed this man, who was out to destroy the church but now he is willing to lay down his life for the church and Christ.

In verse 19 we read, ‘But I trust the Lord Jesus.’ Paul was so captivated by Christ, his every thought and deed were always attached to Christ. He was under house arrest by the wicked Emperor Nero, who prosecuted and martyred Christians in the most horrific ways. Paul does not say, ‘I trust – if the Emperor allows.’ No, he states, ‘I trust in the Lord Jesus.’ Our future must fall into that place, like Paul. When you come to acknowledge Him as Saviour, He is not only your Saviour, He is your Lord. You give your life to Him. Paul faces possible execution, yet Jesus is the one who holds Paul’s future. Notice, in verse 24, Paul write, ‘But I trust the Lord.’ His future was not bleak but wonderfully glorious because of Christ. Whatever comes our way, our future is glorious in Jesus.

Paul was a spiritual giant but he also had feelings. This mighty man of God needed to be encouraged. He says he hoped to ‘send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort’ (verse 19). Paul was anxious for the Philippian Church. Notice his feelings were all encompassed in Christ. He was concerned but that didn’t waiver him, his trust was in Christ. We are reminded, ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ (Proverbs 3:5-6). Paul was trusting in the Lord. Trust in Him, lean on Him when you don’t understand and He will direct your path.

I wonder how many people visited Paul when he was under house arrest? It’s a challenge to us. How do we feel about those who minister the gospel to us? Do we love and care for them? It’s not always easy to sit under preaching – sometimes it will rebuke and chasten. We don’t pick and choose, it’s His Word. There can be that in us that doesn’t receive the Word. Let the Spirit of God work in us. We need to humble ourselves. Love those, even in their faults.

Paul found no-one like-minded but Timothy, his son in the gospel. In verse 21 we read, ‘For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.’ Where is your heart today? What is your greatest ambition? What are your motives and desires? Where is Jesus in all these things? How sad Paul was surrounded by Christians but none of them sought Christ’s Will. When Christ came to this earth He thought nothing of His own will, He sacrificed everything for the gospel. He laid aside everything.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan the priest and the Pharisee walked passed the man who was beaten and left for dead. It was the Samaritan who stopped and helped. It’s a challenge but one to take on board.

As Christians we can be more mindful of seeking salary not a Saviour. If Paul came to the church this morning, what would he say of us? Everything in this world will fade away – our job, salary, even our families – but all done for Christ will last. Make His name great in our life and your name full of insignificance. ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.’

Looking at the churches around I see an absence of men in the gospel work. God is calling men to the work. The harvest is ripe but the labourers are so few. One of the reasons is we have too glamourous minds – certain things have to be in place before we consider God’s work. The ultimate questions is, ‘Has God called you?’ If God has called you, then He will provide. Men and women look to salaries and locations. In the New Testament, being a gospel church meant being in prison. Where is Christ in your life? We may not be called to preach the gospel but we are all called to live for the glory of God and make disciples, to follow Him whatever that means. Salary, reputation and comfort will all fall aside. We need to go wherever and to whoever if the Lord is calling. Jesus called the disciples – they did not know where they were going and they would lose their lives but they went willingly. ‘All seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.’ We live in a world of ‘My, my, my, me, me, me’ but what about Jesus? In light of all He has done for you, He asks you to be willing to serve Him, He will do everything else. All Jesus is asking is for you to say, ‘I’ll go Lord.’ God is calling.

‘And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8) God is calling you to something. He wants you to be a faithful witness to family and friends or even to the other side of the world. Seek Christ. Seek His will in your life. Surrender your will into His hands.

In verse 22 we read of Timothy, who we know was not a well man; he was a weak and fragile young man but he was willing to go, whatever the cost. When it came to conscription in the Great War men had to leave everything and go to war. We need to serve Christ, to take up the banner of the cross.

The church must go on, the gospel must carry on. But it needs labourers, people willing to forsake their wants for God’s wants.

‘So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross, and follow Him.’

(From the hymn, ‘What Grace is Mine.’)

You may also like to listen to the hymn, “Here I am Lord’
which is based on Isaiah 6:8
https://youtu.be/EcxOkht8w7c