Being in the presence of God – EMW Camps 2018

I am broken, exhausted and emotionally drained as I write to you all. This last week has been both a battle and a joy.

Last year I wrote a blog on my first camp experience as chaplain and the blessings we received. I encourage you to read it if you are thinking of supporting or getting involved in the camps. “Better than the best thing I could ever think of – camp

This year I am not going to write about all the great activities we did with the campers, as far greater things were done by God.

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Australia was the camp theme

I enjoyed my time with the campers last year and listened to their pains and anxieties as they struggle to live the Christian life amidst the hostility of our secular age.

I hoped to address these issues this year with the theme of “Assurance”. 

I arrived on the Saturday afternoon with my notes and Bible studies prepared.

Every morning and evening we would go through each of the Beatitudes and study how salvation is expressed.

To summarise the weeks teaching;

  • Those who know their own spiritual poverty, grieve their sin and hunger and thirst for God are blessed. 
  • Those who have dealt with conflict at the cross and have made peace with God and who face persecution for living for Christ are blessed.
  • Christianity is expressed by inward reflection, outward action and outside reaction (we even had dance moves for this).

The officers seemed encouraged by the notes and came loaded with several questions. I am grateful for how seriously they took the task in hand.

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The first service felt lifeless, the wind was heavy on the tent and was distracting those who needed no encouragement. The projector fell mid way through the message and I knew I had lost them. 

The first few days were restless, their was conflict, tears and tiredness between the campers. The Devil was clearly attacking! It was going to be a tough week!

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This years camp was different in many ways, but the most significant was in prayer.

From the first night we all met as officers and leaders to pray for God’s blessing upon the week, we prayed for each child until the early hours and then we woke and met again to do the same.

Camp leader (Joshua Slade) lead the morning devotions taking the officers through Colossians. We prayed right up to the breakfast bell each morning and could have gone on all day.

Last year I was encouraged by the handful of campers that came to the early morning prayer meeting (comprising mainly of duty bound ministers children), but this year the early morning prayer meetings peaked at 21 souls desperate to see God work.

We prayed as officers again before the dorm Bible studies and at the very end of the day after the officers epilogues, when we were all exhausted, the officers and leaders still all met to pray again until the early hours ……..and the Lord was pleased to answer!

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As I have already said, the first couple of days were incredibly challenging (the enemy knew what was coming). But from Monday evening (where we truly felt God’s presence in our late night prayer meeting) things began to change.

I had preached earlier that day on Matthew 5:4, using the illustration of a life boat. “Only those who mourn their sin, know the desperate situation they are in and will accept the offer of rescue.”

This analogy struck a chord with a number of the campers, several stayed after the meeting to pray.

As we continued through the Beatitudes we could see a change in the Spirit of the camp, a number of the difficulties were ironed out, foes became best friends, the restless began to sleep and prayer was being answered.

God was with us!

At meal times, we were not singing dorm theme tunes or popular music, but Hymns to God’s glory. 

During the activities, campers were reading their Bibles, whether they were on the beach, or sat on the floor in the crowds at the zoo. They could not get enough of God’s word.

After each morning service half of the campers stayed to pray for the lost, one young girl even wept in utter confusion that there were campers who could leave the service seemingly unaffected. (This challenged me greatly)

Throughout the week we could physically and tangibly see God move through the campers.

In total we welcomed nine professions of faith (compared to zero last year) and several showed clear signs of growth and have gone home assured.

What excited me the most was that each profession was made secretly, personally and reverently.

None of the children were following the crowd, but spent days praying and speaking to the officers to make sure in their own hearts that they were not riding a superficial wave.

One young lady was walking back from the day trip to the farm on her own, praying I would retreat to her so she could discuss her conversion. She was not seeking attention, far from it, she distanced herself from the crowd to speak with me alone. She knew she was saved and had everything in Christ.

One young man who was not in the prayer meetings at the beginning of the week, started coming by the end. I asked him why? To which he proclaimed “Christ died for me”. I would not have known about his conversion if I had not asked. 

None of the converts were attention seeking, neither were they appeasing me. They called officers aside individually to share what had happened to them and although humbled in Spirit all were excited to return home to share their good news with friends and family.

Camp veteran and leader Joshua Slade said he had never known a camp like it.

We had all the fun of previous years, but the spirit of unity (that came out from a potentially difficult week) was clear. 

God drew these young souls to Him through the entire team on camp, every officer had a significant part to play as commitments were being made. Grace (our ladies leader) spent many hours with our young ladies.

On the last morning a number of the converts (and those who were significantly strengthened in their faith) came to me for an unplanned prayer meeting before they went home. I read from Mark 4.

“You can return home assured, knowing that you are in the lifeboat, but storms will come and Jesus will seam silent, but know that He is in the boat with you, have faith that He can calm the storm” 

The reality of the blessing we shared this week has already been evidenced by the storm, with various attacks that I have returned home to. I would value your prayer……

I asked the campers to write where they were at with God on Day 1.

I asked them to answer the same question on the last evening.

Here are some examples.

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The Generous Leader – The Bala Ministers Conference 2018

Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:30-31

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(Photo by Hywel Meredydd Davies)

Amidst this busy period of events and various inter-church meetings I could not resist signing up to another Bala Ministers Conference. Owing to time constraints I booked late and did not even look at the program, such is the trust I have in the EMW for the content provided and I could guarantee the fellowship would be heavenly.

We arrived at Bryn-Y-Groes (Bala) at noon on Monday, registered and settled into our rooms. We were then welcomed into the dining area for lunch at 1pm where we caught up with dear brothers weary in the fight.

Jonathan Thomas began his three part series on “the Generous Leader”. We then broke for refreshments and gathered in small groups for a time of prayer. This worked incredibly well as we all shared our concerns and glorified God for the many blessings.

After Dinner we met again in the main hall to hear how a dear brother has “Bridged the Cultural Gap” between Christians and Muslims. I have been to many similar sessions but have not received as much insight into Islamic thinking as this one. I grabbed our friend during dinner on Tuesday and grilled him further on the topic. I now feel far better equipped to share the Gospel with Muslims, understanding their sensitivities and our areas of agreement.

The evenings were spent (as usual) in deep discussion and a gentle walk around Bala lake.

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“Lone Duck” – Taken on my Tuesday night walk

The morning prayer meetings were lead by Mark Thomas. They were insightful and devotional. Ministers prayed for over an hour before coffee and then Jonathan Thomas’ second address. After lunch Pete Campbell took us through John Newton’s letters and then after dinner Dave Gobbet gave a sobering lecture on “the Pastoral response to Suicide”. A Late night of discussion ensued.

We woke up earlier for breakfast on the Wednesday and went into prayer until 10am. Mike Reeves then gave a passionate talk on Spurgeon’s Sorrows. How he dealt with his depression and utilized it for God’s Glory in the ministry. After a “bacon butty break” Jonathan gave his final talk and then we said our goodbyes, collecting a packed lunch for the journey home.

As I said in last year’s write up (Bala Ministers conference 2017) these three days are more than just a conference, it is a family reunion where brothers gather to stretch our brains and swell our hearts.

Gwydion, Catrin and the team at Bryn-Y-Groes all make us feel so welcome, it is home from home. We are incredibly well fed and cared for, allowing us to relax into learning. The EMW team were superb, well organized and professional. We were all in safe hands.

I would recommend the Bala conference to any Minister who takes the scriptures seriously. Whatever your denomination the content is presented Biblically and drenched in Christ centered love. Newcomers would benefit from the spiritual feast and we would benefit from your input to.

The organizers have a great relationship with many who attend; they truly have their ears to the ground and make a concerted effort to address our real-time needs.

Such an approach can come at the expense of trendy topics and thus seasonal registrants, but this is a cost the movement are willing to make to ensure that we receive a pedigree of teaching that is given in the intimacy of our own contexts.

I want to say a huge thank you to all the speakers, for their preparation and warm presentations. If I had written down a list of what I needed from this conference, every box would have been ticked. Jonathan’s messages spoke so directly into my situation as a Valley Minister. I feel as if I have been lifted of the burden to balance out being a Mary and a Martha (Luke 10:38-42), a Mother and a Father (1 Thessalonians 2) and a lonely let down Paul (2 Timothy 4:9-18). I have spent three days at the feet of our Generous Leader Jesus Christ and have been refreshed by His word.

As soon as the messages appear online I am sitting down with my wife to listen to them all again. – And I recommend everyone does the same.

Finally

We are so blessed in Wales to have such a depth of teaching and theological understanding on our doorstep, but with the increasing threats to the church, our resources are dwindling fast. So I also want to say a special thank you to our friends across the Atlantic at Ligonier . We have a great respect for the organization and mourn with them over the loss of RC Sproul who is now in Heaven. Ligonier have been kind enough to gift each Pastor at the conference their latest edition of the Reformation Study Bible and other tools including Studies and DVD’s (distributed via our fraternals). I can assure our friends at Ligonier that they are deeply appreciated and the materials will be well used for Christ’s Glory and His Kingdom in Wales.

I will close by quoting Jonathan Thomas to some up the experience of the conference.

The best thing about Bala is that we can talk together, we are friends” Jonathan Thomas Bala 2018

A loving reply to an Easter challenges

I have been handed back one of the cards that we (as a church) have been distributing to the community over Easter.

The card was sent out with the standard invite and warm welcome with a Bible verse and some points of interest.

This year I listed eight verifiable historical facts that support the gospel truth. Hard data that I hoped would assist people to at least question what they know to be true.

I accepted the returned card with great joy as it came with additional notation, giving me valuable feedback from the mission field. I am sure that this one voice represents thousands of people who feel the same. All of which I have a deep respect for although we would not agree on this matter.

In the greatest love I wish to address these comments. Not for a tit-for-tat debate on whether God exists, (the Bible is clear that we cannot debate anyone into the Kingdom).

I simply hope to show that our Christian world view is as logical, rational and evidenced as any other alternative (I assume atheism for the purpose of the blog).

Neither is this an attack on the author of the responding notes. I am sure that he/she is an intelligent, wonderful human being, doing the best they can to make sense of this crazy world like everyone else.

I respond simply to show a wider audience who may think the same as the Author and hope to show that Christianity carries a lot more weight than it is given credit for today.

The data

Just as the “primordial soup” theory has been dismissed and Darwinism is now being questioned, the argument for intelligent design continues to be explored across all academic communities.

Many of our greatest minds debate endlessly such fundamental truths as to why and how we got here. All of them have the same expertise behind them, they all review, test and contemplate the same data but they all come to different conclusions.

My case to those that take the same data as we do but disregard God owing to “the alleged lack of evidence” is that they contradict their argument simply by agreeing with many other non-empirical truths.

Those that disregard God still get married, they still have funerals (humanist or otherwise), they shun wrong doing and live for meta-physical concepts such as hope, dreams, ambition, love, grief, morality and justice. They support various ideologies, including atheism – which their is no conclusive evidence for either.

None of these concepts (that define personage) can be quantified in a lab, yet everyone attests to them. You can measure the release of Oxytocin, but you cannot measure the wonder of love and its application in our lives. You can’t measure your sorrow when grieving the loss of a loved one.

If you were to apply the same “lack of evidence” arguments that you quite happily hold against God to your own existence, you would cease to believe in the emotions that make youhuman.

To quote Professor Haldane: “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”

Statement/Reply/Response

  1. The resurrection gives hope and meaning to 2.2billion people around the world today.

Assuming here we are talking about people who identified themselves as Christians including those coerced into Catholicism. Bit of a stretch to say the resurrection gives hope and meaning to all those. The majority of whom don’t attend any type of church.

The figure states that 2.2billion (or 31.2% of humanity) associate themselves as followers of Christ. Statisticians predict this will grow to 2.9billion by 2050 – I pray for even more.

These people come from all different cultures and far more advanced social, economic and academic societies than our own.

Christianity is booming in places such as South Korea (home of Samsung), Silicon valley (home of Google and Facebook) where billions of dollars are being made, but the spiritual void is not being filled.

Countries that are developing have seen huge growth, such as China where despite great persecution from a secular state there are 115 million protestants attending underground churches.

In 1979 there were estimated less than 500 Christians from Muslim backgrounds in Iran, today there are over a million.

They all identify themselves with a saviour who beat death and evidences eternity in His physical resurrection.

Whether Catholic or Protestant, Baptist or Pentecostal, their hope is based on the same truth.

It is sad that many do not come to church or worship services, despite the Bible’s explicit teaching to do so. But this is not the point. I was reasoning a shared hope, not a roll call.

Furthermore, there are many professing “atheists” that when faced with tragedy deny their belief system and start praying. “There are no atheists in foxholes”.

When we come to the end of ourselves, we usually find the beginning of God.

The argument raised also implies coercion among these numbers, as it were a cultural indoctrination into the faith?

If a Hindu is only a Hindu because they are Indian, a Muslim because they are Iranian, then you could argue that “your” atheism has been born out of our secular, consumerist, post-war culture.

If you desire to undermine ones truth based on cultural inference, you undermine your own stance.

  1. Jesus’ teaching has defined our culture’s morality that we all live by today. Love, justice, charity and forgiveness.

Implying those outside this concept have no morals????

This implication is not made anywhere.

The Bible teaches us that bad people go to Heaven and there are lots of good people in Hell. Being a Christian is not about being good (although this is a welcome bi-product – read James 2:18). Those who think their good deeds put them right with God are misled and are not following the Bibles teaching (read Ephesians 2:9).

Christianity is not about being good, it is not a philosophy, neither an ideology or a system of governance. Christianity is about a person, whose followers can be in relationship with Him despite their failures.

Christianity teaches of a God who has revealed Himself in a Messiah who bridged the gap between God and Man and redeemed a people for Himself by faith. Morality does not come into salvation. It is all about Grace!

With that said, shared morality from a “higher source” is vital for human society to function. Without it we have chaos because nobody would have any authority to define or impose right and wrong on others.

Western culture is just about holding together through a thin veneer of a shared concept of consumerism and a “try not to kill anyone” ideology. But when tested, a godless society falls.

The proof of this (sadly) comes during tragedy.

Take for example the recent terrorist attacks on our shores.

Our cultures secular atheism, if taken to its logical conclusion would state that the lives lost were meaningless accidents of a natural selection process, that any trauma caused was simply a chemical imbalance in the brain, of no meaningful consequence.

But this viewpoint does not work. Everyone agreed that the needless loss of life was tragic, everyone seeked justice and for that moment secular atheism was abandoned as we all got on Twitter to #prayfor…..

Our society’s ideology that “Truth is relative” is simply an oxymoron as the statement itself is an ‘absolute’ and thus a contradiction

A ‘relative truth’ simply sounds nice as it works for people in the short term, because it justifies a life without the challenge of their being an absolute judge (God).

This argument is not a modern phenomenon, it is innate to the human condition, and can be best explained in Genesis 3.

To quote one of our finest academics C.S.Lewis

““All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

You can of course have morality without God.

But without God, you have no higher authority to defend or protect a view of right or wrong (whatever that may be).

If truth is relative to the individual, how good is good, how bad is bad? If a paedophile is not hurting anyone, do their thoughts become ok? If someone did something “bad” to you, but they felt it was “good” how can you defend the injustice if morality is subjective to personal opinion and not a higher authority?

The Nazi’s thought they were right to commit genocide and if you apply a Darwinian world view to Auschwitz then they were! An external observer (with no moral compass) would simply see one “animal” dealing with a perceived threat to its survival. More on this here

Now you could argue that morality has evolved and is a natural consequence of our advanced brain. But again this is a philosophical contradiction as evolution by definition is deterministic and morality is not.

You could also say that we can uphold moral principles in law without the need of a deity, but history would disagree.

Chairman Mow tried this and killed 45million of his own people in just four years, Stalin did the same and killed 25million. When humanity becomes the product of natural accidents, the powerful can dispose all those who cease to be productive without any moral consequence.

Furthermore I politely request that you read your history books before any generic comeback that “religion causes death”. Statistics say otherwise and it is humanity that causes death, because of the very ideals that the Gospel seeks to free us from.

  1. Over 500 witnesses saw Jesus resurrected and stood by their testimony even unto death

all of who had vested interest”.

Becoming a Christian today in our liberal democracy is hard. We are mocked and disrespected. Professionals, politicians and academics are discredit because of their faith – where is the vested interest? Being a Christian is hard!

History tells us that the early Christians lost their homes, families, jobs, they were imprison and tortured, fed to beasts, turned into human candles, placed on hot seats and giant frying pans to be cooked alive.

Even today we are the most persecuted people in the world with an estimated 90,000 murdered each year, for our faith. Where is the vested interest?

To quote Charles W. Colson

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

  1. Rome spent 300 years suppressing Christians when all they had to do was present Jesus’ body (that they were in charge of) to the end the church. Jesus’ body was never found.

Suppressed Judaism as well”?

Yes, but in the time that Jesus walked with us, the Jews did have freedom to worship and freedom to demand from Pilate that Jesus was Crucified.

Christians were an offence to Rome for three centuries as they would not bow the knee to Caesar. The church (and all of its problems it caused the state) could have vanished if they simply presented the body that they were in charge of.

  1. The Stone was moved and the tomb really was empty

Says who

Well the Bible. Without going into a rant about its inerrancy, it is the source text of our faith and for much of human history. It is supported by innumerable archaeological, scientific and third party evidence. Outside of the miraculous, the dates, the kings, the battles they all add up. The Bible is used continuously as source material for other historical events during its time that you would never question.

The New Testament was written in the lifetimes of the eye witnesses and authors, so they are considered as primary sources. Compare that to any written account of Muhammad that did not occur until (at best) 70 – 200 years after his death (secondary sources).

The written evidence for the Battle of Hastings is based on a few lines in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1066 and part of a letter sent by William of Normandy in 1070.

William of Malmesbury, gives a better account in the Deeds of the Kings of the English, but this was written in 1140, 70 years after the event took place.

I am not questioning whether the battle of Hasting happened, just showcasing the treasure trove of evidence we have to support the Christian claim.

  1. Jesus’ body was buried, secured and guarded by the worlds superpower (Rome).

Allegedly

The previous answer covers this. You can also read, non-Biblical, non-Christian historical accounts such as Josephus “Antiquities of the Jews”, Tacitus “Annals” , Pliny the Younger, the Babylonian Talmud, Lucian of Samosata and many others that support the Bibles claims.

  1. Jesus really died on the Cross

Romans never crucified on a Cross

This is the most surprising reply of all, because they did.

Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus crucified 6,000 as reported by Appian.

In the Dolaucothi Gold mines in Wales have evidence of Roman Crucifixion.

Roman Emperor Constantine banned crucifixion in the 4th Century that proves it was functioning prior.

Sadly Crucifixion was a “thing” in Rome.

But, the issue may not with be the torture but with the cross itself? By this I mean the cross as depicted in Christian artwork throughout history?

Now there may be a case for this.

The Bible does not describe the cross, and no Christian claims that renaissance art has an authority on this matter.

What we know, is that the cross could have been two planks of wood crossed in the centre “crux immissa” (X) or as traditionally assumed a “crux commissa” (T) or even just one poll. The ankles could have been affixed on the front plank, or to the side, the hands pierced above the head or horizontal to the body.

The term for such a punishment (however delivered) was “stauros”, or stake, known and translated as the Cross.

The cross is not described in detail in the Bible because it was a known colloquialism for the punishment. We can guess it was crux commissa (T) because of the practicalities of the sign. In John 19:21 it states that “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: jesus of nazareth, the king of the jews.”

So Jesus did really die on the Cross.

However this torture was administered, His death by the collective means known as “the cross” fulfilled many distinct prophecies that predated the event.

700 years prior to the crucifixion

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,    stricken by him, and afflicted. 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 53:4-5.

Pre-explicitly (580 bc)

“Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” Psalm 22:16-18

  1. Jesus really lived

I agree

I am pleased. To deny Jesus’ existence would be to deny all historical figures of that era. The question then is, is Jesus who He claimed to be?

If He is not, then you have to justify how an impoverished Palestinian carpenters son, who spent His first night on earth in an animal feeding trough in Bethlehem, who grew up in a relatively unknown village in the deserted Middle East, with no formal education and was homeless at the age of thirty, a person who clearly had severe mental illnesses including schizophrenia and Dissociative identity disorder and died a criminals death…how did this person come to change the world? Explain that!

Why are we talking about Him 2,000 years on, 6,000 miles away in our remote Welsh Valley?

Why does His message of love, grace and forgiveness still cause so much of an offence?

How has His teaching built our legal system and our cultures morality (that allows for atheism)?

How has His ministry caused billions of human beings (that can’t all be crazy) to give up the trappings of this world to follow Him?

How has He convinced rational, educated people from all cultures to give up everything to travel across oceans to share His good news?

For me these are far bigger questions that need to be answered if the truth of the Gospel is rejected.

Why does His teaching cause millions of people who reject Him to give up their time debating well meaning people who are at least motivated to share His Good news?

To quote Professor Lee Strobel “To continue in atheism, I would need to believe that nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces fine-tuning, chaos produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and non-reason produces reason. I simply didn’t have that much faith.”

Conclusion

What I wrote in this card were the cold hard facts of the Easter events, I left out the spiritual or circumstantial, yet they still caused offence.

To dispute our claim that Jesus is the Son of God who in sacrificial love gave all for His people, this is one thing, but to deny the historic evidence is another. With that said, I thank the author of the comments for it.

As I said, I cannot debate anyone into the Kingdom, this blog could push you away or raise further questions and rebukes.

Only God can draw you in and without His sovereign work in your life, we can never agree on this subject, although I am sure we would on many others. So I wish any doubters every success and pray that you will one day share in the joy that I have received by Grace in Christ Jesus.

Schools Bible Exhibition 2018

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Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

This month our church took over 600 children from Garnteg, Cwmffrdoer and Victoria Village Primary school(s) on a journey through the Bible.

The exhibition (provided by the Open Air Mission) comprised of 18 boards that included pictures, infographics and bite size narrative for the children to follow*.

The first board told the story of creation, the second the Garden of Eden and so on.

The children could see how wonderful the world was when God first made it. There was no death, no pain, no sickness, what a wonderful place to be.

God then made Adam and Eve and gave them all that they could possibly have wanted. With just one rule to follow, “do not to eat from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Genesis 2:17).

This rule gave Adam and Eve freedom, they now had a choice, to love God or disobey Him.

As we all know the devil entered into the garden as a serpent and convinced Adam and Eve to break this rule and partake in the forbidden fruit.

The children were then invited to share some of their school rules and the punishments they would receive if they break them. (Times have changed).

The children could all see from this simple exercise that (just like in school) God gives us rules for our own benefit and safety. They could also see that God has every right to punish people for breaking His rules (which is what the Bible calls sin).

Adam and Eve sinned, they broke God’s rule. For the first time they knew that they were naked. They felt ashamed at what they had done and were banished from the garden to live in this cold, hard, fallen world.

But in love, we are told that God covered their shame and comforted them with animal skin.

The children could see right at the start of the exhibition (and the Bible) that rejecting or ignoring God’s life giving rules, logically leads to death. God loved Adam and Eve and did not want them to die, so innocent blood was shed, so that Adam and Eve’s shame could be covered.

This theme pointed all of the children forward to the promised Messiah who would fix the problem of sin in the same way by His death.

The display moved on to Noah, then the Tower of Babel, we looked at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel, God’s family whom the promised Messiah would come into the world). The Exhibition took us then to Joseph and his journey to Egypt, the Story of Moses, the Ten Commandments, the Passover and Exodus. Always reaffirming the point that God (who made us) gave us rules to live by so that we could be happy but (just like today) the people in the Bible constantly rejected God and broke His rules (sin) and that such action requires punishment, just like when you break the school rules.

The children could see for themselves that for the guilty to be reunited with our loving God, innocent blood had to be shed, so that God can also remain just in His punishment, whilst at the same time remaining merciful to those who He love who did the wrong.

The exhibition progressed onto Elijah, the Judges, then King Saul and David, the Babylonian captivity, Daniel and the prophets, before ending with Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, explaining again the significance that for the guilty (us) to be reunited with God by grace, innocent blood has to be shed to make atonement for our wrongs, so that God can remain just whilst at the same time being merciful to us.

The display ended with a clear lesson.

Christian’s believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the one who God sent to deal with the problem of sin (that alienates humanity from our loving Father in Heaven).

Jesus did not break a single rule, He was totally innocent, yet on the Cross He took the just punishment for the sins of all people who love Him. (1 Peter 2:24).

A truth that we asked each of the children to consider.

Volunteers from the church dressed up as characters and spoke through their story (in first person) at different stages throughout the exhibition. The children then had the opportunity to interact one to one with the “heroes of faith” that brought the teaching alive.

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The exhibition gave clear Biblical themes throughout to help the children come to their own conclusions.

The Christian world view was presented to them fairly and in the greatest of love without putting any pressure on them that could damage the witness in the future.

The exhibition takes just one hour out of the school day and is interactive (so the children stay focused throughout). Head teacher Garnteg Primary School Susan Roche said: “The whole week last week was great as it gave the children something different. It combined very important aspects of the curriculum like RE, history and the humanities and brought it together in an interactive way which made it very meaningful.

We can thank God that many children still know the key events of the Bible today; from the fall to Passover, David and Goliath to the birth of Christ, but the exhibition illustrates superbly how all of these historic events fit together as one big story of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.

 

 

At the end of the exhibition the children filled out a quiz, which volunteers from the church marked. The following week the Mayor, local councillor and the press joined us to present prizes to the children.

Each child was rewarded with an information pack that includes games, treats and information about the church.

We hope that such outreach will inform the children and their families of the many services that we provide for the community and that through this outreach the elect would come to church, hear the gospel and know a changed life that will glorify God.

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Read the Article online here

 A huge big thank you to the wonderful volunteers at the church who gave up significant time and resources for this to happen and to the OPEN AIR MISSION for their support.

*Narrative by JP Earnest (Field Operations Manager) Open Air Mission

Music and Worship

You have all heard of the expression “if a tree falls in a wood and there is nobody to hear it, does it make a sound? This is a philosophical question about perception that can be asked with music to.

Some of you may wake up to birds tweeting and perceive it as “bird song” others may hear it as just noise. Is the Bird singing a song or is it simply a vocalised tic or a natural defence mechanism? To quote the Philosorapter; “What if birds are not singing, they’re just screaming because they’re afraid of heights?” (I would hate to think that was true – poor birds).

Some people may hear the sound of a rushing river and relax; others will run to the toilet. When I hear death metal “music” I want to hit my head on the wall until it stops, but I can rest content listening to the Delta Blues for hours on end. Music, however it is defined, can be equally endearing as off putting. Whatever your perception, it always causes a reaction.

Recent studies have shown that when listening to music every part of our brain is engaged, you could say that as a species we were built for it. Like us, music functions as both body and soul, it is transcendent and meta-physical but can only exist within and through a medium. Even a mere memory of a song can lift us up, or bring us down. Music can promote joyful motion (Ecclesiastes 3:4) or send us to sleep (1 Samuel 16:23 and Daniel 6:18). A song can inspire armies to war and it can anthem a nation. Music evokes memories and expresses transient truths into physical reality.

The appreciation of music is unique to the human experience.

Without a human being present to define and enjoy it, Handel’s Messiah would be no different to the noise produced in a traffic jam. Both circumstances are just vibrations.

To listen, love and appreciate music is one of the unique privileges of humanity. Music is found in every culture in every country, so no wonder our instruction manual (the Bible) is full of references to it.

Music is first mentioned in scripture as early as Genesis 4:21-22 with Jubal the father of one who played the pipes (an organist for a traditional Welsh chapel goer). Moses wrote a song in Exodus 15 that Israel sung in celebration over the triumph of Pharaoh. The longest book in the Bible is the book of Psalms which contains a 150 songs, many written by King David who was a musician in King Saul’s court. In the Old Testament we have clear evidence of music prescribed by God to use in worship (2 Chronicles 29:25-28). In the New Testament Angels sang at Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13-14), Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn at the last supper (Matthew 26:30), Paul and Silas sang hymns whilst in prison (Acts 16:25), Paul teaches us to sing to God’s Praise (1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), in James we are also told to sing (James 5:13) and the Angel’s were singing in Heaven holding harps (Revelation 5:8-11).

Music is a huge part of the human experience so it is obvious that it should be a huge part of our worship. But like everything else we do in God’s service it must be undertaken reverently, seeking only to do the will of the Father in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). We are not to worship God how we see fit but follow His perfect will (Cain and Abel – Hebrews 11:4).

You can see from the references above, music with instrumentation was clearly prescribed by God in the Old Testament. However in the New Testament we do not have such a command, all we are told is to sing with gladness in our hearts (Colossians 3:16).

The clear distinction between the Old and the New would imply that instrumentation in worship was a facet of the formal religiosity of Judaism and was thus made redundant in the New Covenant church (Hebrews 7:12 and 10:9). With that said, when you look at the context of the early church in the New Testament they were under great persecution and had to worship in home groups or underground, so having a ten piece band would not only be impractical but also life threatening as it would attract attention, thus (you could argue) instrumentation was omitted from practice just for that season.

It is true that the New Testament only commands singing, but neither does it condemn instrumentation, whether organ or guitar, panpipes or bagpipes. So the principle I would take from the scripture is that instrumentation is fine, but should be moderate and tasteful, with the sole purpose to encourage the church to sing with gladness in our hearts. Instrumentation should not overpower the believers praise or unnecessarily add to it. God is glorified when the saints are in one voice (Romans 15:6).

Scripture is clear, music (playing or hearing it) in itself is not worship, neither is music a tool to get us “in the mood” for God. Music is one method that enhances worship, it gives opportunity for Musicians to use their God given talents and the church to honour and Praises God together in song. All in preparation for word ministry which must remain the central and most significant part of the service, for it is only by the word of God that we are saved and edified (Romans 10:17, 1 Corinthians 15:2, Hebrews 4:12).

There is no biblical justification for music to be used to create an atmosphere of worship; this would be to substitute the Holy Spirit with a tinkling of the ivories. To say that you could conjure the presence of God by playing an instrument would imply a priesthood and it is a claim of sovereign control over God. To credit the Holy Spirit for creating an atmosphere that can easily be achieved at any worldly event, whether a concert or gig is simply blasphemy (Matthew 12:31). If you leave a service saying “I love that song” and not “I love the Lord” you are worshiping the vehicle of expression and not God’s revelation of Himself.

To use music to manipulate emotion or to entertain is to manipulate the church by worldly means. Marketing companies use the very same techniques to draw and entice the masses to increase sales (1 John 2: 15-17). The church is to be counter cultural (Matthew 5:13), we do not need such gimmicks and extravagances when we have Christ! (Philippians 4:19).

This now brings us to the type of music to use as a means of worship.

I am a conservative when it comes to hymn choices; I love the older hymns; Wesley, Newton McCheyne, Watts, Havergal etc. It takes significant time for me to prayerfully choose the hymns for each service, I make sure the words resonate the truth and put across more succinctly the message for the day. With that said, I am also aware that I come to these older hymnals with history on my side. Time has wiped away from memory the tripe that was also produced in their era. So I am of course not put off by contemporary hymns, as within today’s tripe there are many superbly written pieces that contain deeply profound gospel truths that will stand the test of time alongside the classics. I like a mixture of both, whatever fits best with the message – no prejudice.

I enjoy a good old fashioned hymn sandwich, but I have no biblical premise to support this position, other than it breaks up the service in an orderly way (1 Corinthians 14:33 and 1 Corinthians 14:40) and encourages times between where we can be still with God around His word (Psalm 46:10, 1 Kings 19:11-13).

The Bible teaches that the word is our authority (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and this is true in all forms of worship. So if you like a Christian song whose lyrics have been written to fit a catchy tune with endless repeated choruses and a three minute guitar solo, then enjoy it in the home or in the car. It is a pop song about our saviour – Praise God for it- but it is not a hymn. If the melody fits lyrics with clear Biblical doctrine that encourages the congregation to sing God’s praise (as commanded in Scripture) then use it for worship.

Music is a uniquely human privilege given to us as a gift from God, and when performed well in humble spirit and in good taste, for the purpose of encouraging the believers to sing words that venerate our Saviour with gladness in our hearts, then it is God glorifying and thus a truly wonderful thing.

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

Can Christians serve in the Military?

This question is very popular, more so from conscientious teenagers who see Military service as a viable career choice, but have many concerns over serving an institution that seems to contradict one of the moral imperatives found in the Ten Commandments – “You shall not murder”.

On the Sermon on the Mount Jesus also clearly tells us (Christians) that we are not to murder (Matthew 5:21) and in the face of evil we are to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42).

People have used such teaching to justify pacifism in the assumption that Christians should be meek and mild and not fight in or support any conflict, but simply live in peace.

“They say peace, peace when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

I have a lot of respect for pacifists and know that such a stance is often the bravest course to take. I also know that many have abused this stance to get out of front line duties and such cowardice has tarnished the reputation of others who have acted in the utmost integrity with a real conviction and a deep love for their fellow man (Matthew 5:44).

But such a stance (however respectable) is not what Jesus taught on the mount, so such verses should not be used to defend this case.

Is Military Service Biblical?

Before we answer this questions, we need to remember that God cannot stand sin (Isaiah 59:2), He cannot lie (Hebrew 6:18), He is unchanging (Revelation 1:8), and His words are perfect (Psalm 12:6).

In Genesis 14:14 we read that Abraham forms an army of 318 men to bring back Lot from the four Kings. In Exodus 17, Israel beat the Amalekites in battle, God Blessed when Moses raised his staff into the air. In Joshua 1 the Lord speaks to Joshua telling him to be strong and courageous (v6) as he goes out to take the promised land, the Lord also told Joshua when to attack Ai (Joshua 8:1).

King Saul had an army (1 Samuel 13:2) and so did King David. The Lord even gave him battle strategies (2 Samuel 5:23). David had mercenaries fighting for him (2 Samuel 15) and a part time army working on shifts (1 Chronicles 27). People were also commissioned to provide weaponry and chariots (1 Kings 10:26).

We also know that Jesus is not going to be a pacifist on His return (Revelation 12:7) and throughout the Gospels we see many instances of soldiers being praised as Christians, God-fearing men and of good character (Matthew 8:5; 27:54; Mark 15:39-45; Luke 7:2; 23:47; Acts 10:1; 21:32; 28:16).

Jesus did not shun or rebuke the centurion but showed respect for his sense of leadership (Matthew 8:5-13). When John the Baptist was asked by soldiers what they should do (in light of the gospel) they were not told to stop serving in the Military, but to be content with their wages and not abuse their power or authority over civilians (Luke 3:14).

All this evidences to the truth that you can be a soldier and lead a godly life. You can be a Christian and serve in the Military.

So what did Jesus mean on the Sermon on the Mount, if it were not an argument for pacifism?

We know that Christians are not to kill or murder, but we also know that Christians should neither sit back and allow injustice.

Throughout scripture we are told to defend the weak (Proverbs 31:8-9), seek justice (Isaiah 1:17), and if necessary lay down our lives for others (John 15:13).

We are to love our neighbours (Mark 12:31) but if your neighbour broke into your house and desired to rape your wife and kill your children, you are not simply to turn the other cheek and hope that this witness would lead to conversion. Call the police! And when they arrive pray that they are not pacifists. Christians all have a Biblical mandate to protect our families (1 Timothy 5:8), our society and to defend the weak (Psalm 82:3).

I went to Auschwitz last year and will be forever horrified by what I saw. If our nation took a “pacifist” position to Hitler during the war, the genocide of the Jews, Polish, Russians and Gypsys would have continued, millions more lives would have been lost to evil forces. The Nazi’s had to be stopped and doing so would honour the Christian values of Justice, defence, law and order.

“There is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

Even Jesus chased everyone out of the temple courts with a whip and overturned the money tables. (John 2:15).

So what was Jesus teaching on the sermon of the mount?

Well, to fully understand we have to look at the context……

Jesus was giving life lessons to individuals in society.

Jesus was teaching His followers not to repay evil with evil in the context of our daily lives.

If someone aggressively beeps the horn at you in a Tesco car park, you are not to get out of your car and seek retribution, but simply turn the other cheek, or even better, show them kindness (1 Peter 3:9).

If a relative is being malicious behind your back, do not react, but leave it with the Lord, for such things are His to revenge (Romans 12:19).

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount does not apply to institutions that require Military intervention, He is talking to individuals, not heads of state.

As Christians we are to do what is right, live by God’s law and the law of the land, respecting the authorities who are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:3-4).

We are to submit to those God has put in charge to defend, preserve and protect our societies freedoms (1 Peter 2:13-14), a freedom that allows us to turn the other cheek in our daily lives.

We now have an understanding of the context in which Jesus was speaking on the Mount and we can see how the teaching should be applied to us (individually).

Jesus is not promoting pacifism, neither undermining the authorities or services that protect and defend our freedom.

On the Sermon of the Mount Jesus is teaching that we are to be good and loving citizens by not taking the law into our own hands, by not seeking revenge or retribution on those who have harmed us. Instead we have to trust the authorities to deal with the wrongdoer and leave any ill feeling towards our assailants with God.

Scripture proves that you can be a Christian and serve in the Military and the Sermon on the Mount does not contradict this.

If you are a Christian called to such a duty, you must live by Jesus’ teaching and be honourable in your service as a “sword bearer” for the Authority God has bestowed. Do not abuse your power but be a tool of justice as you fight against evil.

If the authority sends you into war to punish the “wrongdoer” and you kill an opposing “sword bearer” in battle, you have not committed murder, you have not taken the law into your own hands but have followed orders given by the state who were appointed by God.

However, if you abuse your dominance, act cruelly, go beyond just retribution, act in revenge, knowingly attack innocents or seek any unjust gain from your position then you are being unchristian in your service, you need to repent, confess your sin to God and accept the grace of Jesus Christ.

Final points to consider

The state authority has been established by God for the good of the church and we are to submit to it, unless it becomes the “wrongdoer” and goes against Biblical teaching (Acts 5:29).

The government is God’s vehicle for Military action, not the church, we are to rend to Caeser what is Caesars (Mark 12:17) whilst living in Christ’s Kingdom (John 18:36). For our battle is not against flesh and blood but evil forces (Ephesians 6:12), as soldiers of Christ (Philippians 2:25) each day putting on the full Armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) fighting with our divine weapons (2 Corinthains 10:4) and join in Christ’s suffering (2 Timothy 2:3).

The Death of a Christian

Where O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55

Sunday afternoon I entered the room of a dear brother in Christ. He was in bed surrounded by family who were coming to terms with the inevitable. His wife was sat next to him, hand in hand as she said her goodbyes to her husband of 64 years.

There was a sense of relief as his long battle with Parkinsons was coming to an end.

I read from the book of Revelation (21:1-5) which gives us an amazing window into eternity and a taste of the wonder and the glory of what is next for a Christian when we meet our end (in this life).

John was told to write these things down for these words are trustworthy and true. So we have every right to get excited about them. Paul speaks of his confidence in the truth of what is to come, in 2 Corinthians 5: 8 where he declares that when we are away from the body we are at home with the Lord.

It is a certainty then (if you are a Christian) that when you depart from this life, your next conscious experience will be with the Lord Himself.

So I can say in full confidence, knowing of my late brothers Christian profession and faithful witness to Jesus Christ through the pangs of Parkinsons, that today he will be in paradise (Luke 23:43).

By the Grace of God, our brother has now heard the words “well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). He has now seen the Lord face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) and now knows more about Jesus, more about the Bible, more about the profound truths of existence than any preacher, theologian or seminary professor ever will (in this life).

Our brother is no longer under the curse of sin (Revelation 21:4), his Parkinsons has gone and he is with Christian friends and family from every tribe and nation (Revelations 7:9) bathing in the glory and wonder of God.

Our brother is now in eternity, worshiping the Lord (Revelations 22:3) and in constant rich and fruitful learning (Ephesians 3:18-19, Colossians 2:3).

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (Revelations 22:14-15)

I write with such enthusiasm and certainty about our brother’s current state because of the Gospel that puts salvation in the hands of God and not in the works of humanity.

We are confident because it is Christ who has the victory over death and it is in Him we put our trust!

Our brother is in Heaven now because in this life He accepted with all of his heart that Jesus is the Christ, God the Son, who left the glory of His Fathers embrace to take on this world at its worst, being born in poverty and living a life despised and rejected by His own people.

Our brother is in Heaven now because in this life He accepted with all of his heart that on the cross Jesus took the consequences for the failures (sin) of His people and buried them in His death.

Our brother is in Heaven now because in this life He accepted with all of his heart Christ’s resurrection as evidence of life after death and assurance of a fresh start.

Our brother had faith that Jesus was His substitute, mediator, Prophet, Priest and King and as a result he did not fear death, knowing with certainty that the Son of God was with him (Psalm 23:1). Christ Jesus was his anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6:19)

As Christians, we know, that in Christ “we are chosen, predestined, and sealed with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing our inheritance to God’s Praise and Glory” (Ephesians 1:11-14). This truth allows us to live a life in this corrupt and fallen world (that is ever increasingly hostile to our beliefs) in the utmost joy and contentment.

Whatever trial, disease, heartache or mocking that we may face we know that we need not fear, for God is with us and will strengthen us (Isaiah 41:10).

In God’s hands, we cannot be beaten, for if God is for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31).

This truth goes someway in explaining why us Christians are joyful in our trial, because we have nothing to fear, not even death, for to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21)! And when the worst this world can through at you is of absolutely no consequence, it is truley liberating! Believe you me!

So liberating, that when sat at the bedside of a dying man, we were not in deep mourning and grief (as you see from those lost in the world). No! in Christ we could gather together in utter peace around the word and prayerfully praise God because of the certainty of our brothers future.

As Christians we can all face the last enemy without fear and this gives us greater freedom in this life.

Yes the enemy is fierce, so fierce that the richest most powerful person alive today cannot defeat it (try as they might)!

But in Christ we can say with confidence “Where O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

If you are reading this and are not a Christian, please consider our late brothers faith that got him through life’s trials and let it be an example to you as you remember the shortness of your days and the certainty of your end.

Do not wait until your death bed before accepting the reality of God.  Do not let your pride cause you to meet the end of yourself, before getting to the beginning of God.

Come to Him now! It is the perfect time! Come to God today and accept His Son Jesus Christ as your Saviour!

Come to God today and know the most profound joy, meaning and purpose, that goes beyond anything this corrupt and fallen world can tempt you with.

To find out more about this most amazing truth…..come to church…it is great! There is no place like it on earth! You will meet people of all ages and backgrounds that are bound in the total unity of God’s love. You will be fulfilled as you grow in Grace and see your life transformed as Jesus builds you up, giving you meaning and purpose in the body of believers. A community of sacrificial love.

I leave you with the lyrics of In Christ Alone (see below)

death

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm,
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save,
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again,
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny,
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
Songwriters: Keith Getty / Stuart Townend

 

 

The Honesty of Delta Blues

“You know that people
They are driftin’ from do’ to do’
But they can’t find no heaven”                       

Skip James Hard Time Killin’ Floor Blues

 

Today my eldest boy asked me about the blues. A question I have been waiting to hear for many years and one I could never fully answer adequately. I simply delved into a box that had not seen the light of day since my conversion. I pulled out an old CD, blew off the dust on the casing and played it in the car.

Delta1

As we listened I began to weep and my son asked me why? After a contemplative pause my reply was “Christ”.

The Blues (specifically Delta) was once my secret passion, hidden behind my headphones on the long commutes to work.

Before I came to Christ, my identity was lost in the deceit of this world, a pressure that I once revelled in. I would happily hide behind a mask of falsity and would judge myself (and others) based on my lusts, greed and pride (the common drivers of fallen men). The Delta Blues did not fit the arrogance of “my brand”, the “me” I wanted the world to see, so my passion for it remained my little secret.

I listened in solitude and it gave me a welcomed escape.

There is nothing like the Delta Blues, no genre so honest, rough and raw. The recordings are pure and capture not only the instrumentation but the soul of the room. There is no falsity to the music, no added production, special effects or synthesised noise. Nothing between the microphone and my cans, nothing between me and the artist.

After a long day I could be stood cold and wet on a dark winters evening, hungry and tired awaiting for a replacement bus service, but with my eyes closed and simply listening, I was sat in the warm in front of; Skip James, Robert Johnson or Sonny Boy Williams. The recordings I had on my playlist gifted me each breath before a harmonica bend, preserved every crackle of the throat and retained the sound of every finger lifting up from the fret board. This rich honesty captured in sound gave me a welcomed break from my fake life and a bogus world that defines us all by what we consume and produce.

Fast forward to today, by God’s Grace I am now a Christian. I am sat in the car next to my eldest son, listening once more to Furry Lewis and I was taken back to that time of need and the man I once was. A man so far from God and desperate for truth.  I wept under the forgotten yet familiar sound of the Delta Blues. But not because of its honesty, purity, or soulfulness, no! I wept in the understanding that all of this beauty that I was hearing (and all that it once meant to me) is nothing compared to the wonders of what I now have in the God man Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus the Christ is life and serenity, purity and peace, the personification of all that is good, He is the embodiment of mercy, the quintessence of sacrificial love and the light in the darkness of this corrupt word. He is the answer, He is the escape, He is the way and the truth and He is mine.

He is the message of Christianity, a message often ignored by common assumption. Christianity is not a religion, or a philosophy, neither a state of mind, it is not a feeling, or a list of laws and principles, neither is it a corporation or bureaucracy. Christianity is a person, a real person to love and have a relationship with, a person to share and cast your burdens on, a person who gave His all to save you from yourself and this world. A totally unique, historical and living person whose love can flow into the most broken of vessels (such as I) and pour out in such abundance that He can even take hold of you, the reader, through these humble words.

I pray that you will see the world for what it really is and Come to love the one who loved us first (1 John 4:19).

I will leave you with some Furry Lewis (not the song that we heard today, but more fitting for this blog).

The End of the World

This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the heavens, though the nations are terrified by them. For the practices of the peoples are worthless” Jeremiah 10:2-3

The world is set to end this weekend, according to David Meade and others who follow him.

This theory has had wide coverage on all of the red tops, TV stations, Facebook news feeds and millions of YouTube hits. If you have not heard about it, you must already be in your bunker!

If I understand it all correctly, the theory is based on “Planet X” hitting the earth on said date in line with the “prophecy” found in Revelation 12.

And in fairness, the movement of the constellations from our relative position on earth, combined with recent natural disasters and world events can match an interpretation of Revelation 12.

The woman clothed with the sun is the constellation “virgo” and the crown of nine starts “leo”. Jupiter’s movement (again from our relative position) is slowly working through virgo at the rate of human gestation (42 weeks) and this could symbolise the pregnancy spoken of in Revelation 12. The apocalypse/rapture or whatever your eschatology is…will then start, on Saturday! Leaving us to do all the ungodly things our hearts desire between now and 11:59pm Friday where we can then repent and be a good Christian just in time! As you can see by my jest, I obviously have great concerns over this theory (and others like it) that I hope to address in this blog post.

  1. The entire theory relies on astrology.

Astrology teaches that the position of natural nuclear fusion reactors (stars), light years away determine whether you will meet the “man of your dreams” today, or what numbers to pick in the lottery. When in truth, short of one hitting the earth or dragging us out of orbit, they have no say in world events or your romantic prospects (see Daniel 2:10 and 27).

“For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 1:25

For this reason the Bible clearly teaches against astrology (see Exodus 20:1-15, Deuteronomy 4:19, 17:3, 18:10-14,  2 Kings 17:16, Zephaniah 1:4-5, Isaiah 47:13-14,  Romans 1:25, 1 Thessalonians 5:22) and under the guise divination (horoscopes) (see Leviticus 19:26, 1 Samuel 15:23, Isaiah 8:19).

Yes, the Bible does speak of the stars. God created and grouped them (Job 9:9 and Amos 5:8), God uses them as illustrations (Genesis 15:5),  and their purpose is for signs and seasons (Genesis 1:14). The Hebrew here for sign, is “Oth” which means to flag, or beacon or token (see Strong’s concordance 226), not sign the end times! The Bible tells us that God made the stars to tell mankind what time of year we are in, so we can ready the harvest, and to help us navigate when crossing the ocean or desert (Matthew 2:2).

I argue that this end time prediction is based more on interpreting the stars than the Bible itself, which means it is Astrology, and thus should not be practiced or acknowledged by Christians. We are to interpret scripture, God’s Word, to know more of the word made flesh, we are not to interpret the heavens!

  1. This is not the first “Christian” prophecy of the “end times” and sadly it will not be the last.

Hundreds of examples of note have been declared throughout history. Pope Sylvester II took the literal interpretation of the millennium and predicted the end in the year 1000 AD – which in fairness was a more plausible idea. In 1843 a Baptist Minister (don’t trust a Baptist*) William Miller predicted from his reading of Daniel 8 that the world would end on October 22nd 1844. This lead to what is known as “the great disappointment” that started on October 23 1884. The consequences formed the seventh day Adventist movement. Charles Taze Russell predicted that 1914 would be the year of apocalypse and with the war effort at the time, a number believed it. This movement lead to the Jehovah Witnesses.

planet x

  1. Adding our baggage to Biblical interpretation

There are many scriptures utilised throughout the Bible, by various people to predict “the end”. Daniel 2:38 is a prime example. King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream that Daniel interprets. It involved a statue with different layers that symbolise empires or epochs throughout time that is smashed to bits by a rock cut out, not from human hands (Daniel 2:34). The rock obviously being Christ setting up His kingdom that will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44). There are many arguments as to which section means what and predictions often come from this. The Golden Head was Babylon, the Silver Breast, the Persian empire, the Bronze mid section Alexandra the Great (Daniel 8:5). The Iron legs Rome, and then the Iron and clay, post Rome. Which could be today? We still live in a unified Europe, governed under Roman law, economic principles and governing systems, mixed with the clay of all other civilisations entering in. However, other would say that the Iron legs represent Islam, as this was the only power to actually crush the other previous kingdoms geographically (Daniel 2:40). But then again in 1689 when the Baptist confession was being written some would have interpreted the break-up of the Roman Catholic Church as a sign of the end times. The Pope was decreed as the anti-Christ (Chapter 26:4) and they were no doubt thinking the rock would burst through imminently and put an end to the suffering! Yet 500 years on, we are still waiting!

And this brings us back to my concerns.

A lot of these predictions come with the baggage of our relative position in time, space and culture. “We” often make the mistake of applying our predicament or ‘signs’ of our day into the scripture, rather than exegete what the God’s Word is saying. This mistake has caused endless false doctrine throughout history. The western view of history is a lot different to that of an Asian, whose ancestors battled against various dynasties, empires and colonialist, some we would never even have heard of and their scholars would attribute much of the Biblical prophecy to their experience of the world. So who is right?

  1. The Bible code

I have to admit, some of the ‘end time’ theorising is quite clever and it does inspire many to appreciate and love God’s word. But the scripture is clear, we are not to get bogged down into such minutia of prophecy, we are not to get obsessed with “Bible Science” or “Bible Numerology”. As they can distract us from the word made flesh Jesus Christ who said Himself regarding such signs “Do not go running after them” (Luke 17:22).

I am a firm believer that if God wanted us to know the exact date and time of the end, the Bible would have told us plainly. But this is not the Bibles purpose. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself, it is a Historical work, as well as being a guide to living (an instruction manual), it teaches us how to cope amidst trial, how to know and love our God and eachother, it is a rescue plan and a love letter at the same time. The Bible does not hide from the cruelty of this world, the failures of man and it speaks frankly on taboo subjects. If God wanted us to know the date and time of “the end” it would have said. But by God’s Grace it does not, as Christ’s bride, His church (and all the benefits of it) would simply not exist until seconds before said time. We’d all simply carry on in chaos, until the final moment, ready for our death bed repentance.

Yes the Bible does include many prophecies that have been verified and fulfilled and yes it does speak about the end, but such teaching is always given in the context of ambiguity, and this is for a reason! Because we are not to know when and this should impel us as Christians to live as if the end is today, to be as the persistent widow, petition to God, so that when the Son of Man comes, he will find faith on the earth (Luke 18:1-8).

When Jesus said there will be wars and rumours of wars, persecution, famine and pestilence, nations will rise upon nations and these are the beginnings of Birth-pains to God’s new earth (Matthew 24:8) He was speaking about His return being imminent, as there is not a period in human history where such things have not happened. If Jesus was being “precise” He would not have closed with the statement “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36

Ask yourself, if the angels and Jesus (the word made flesh) do not know when the end is coming, ask yourself how unlikely it is that the Father would reveal it to David Meade or anyone else for that matter?

  1. The Christian witness

The shame of it all is that come the 24th September, the Christian witness from those who predict or promoted such “end time” theories will also be undermined. We should all stay clear of such end time predictions, they are murky waters to get into and they unnecessarily hinder the gospel. They undermine our integrity to a world that does not need our help to ostracise us.

  1. Do not fear

Jesus spoke many times throughout the Gospel about not fearing the future. A fear that can be conjured up by such needless predictions.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26

Yes, the Bible teaches us to be aware of the judgement that is to come, so that we can witness to the lost and pray for them with great urgency. But we are not to be distracted from our Saviour, by such prophecy. (Matthew 13:49, Matthew 25:31-33, Acts 17:31, Romans 14:10-12, 1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 9:27, 1 Peter 4:5, Revelation 19:11). If we are in Jesus Christ, it should not matter to us when the time comes, or what happens after it, because in Him you will be safe.

Conclusion

The texts often used to prophesy the end (Matthew 24 and others) actually tell us that each epoch in human history has its own fears and anxieties that people will try to rationalise by reading their experience into scripture. In the west, the reformation five hundred years ago marked “the end”, seventy years ago it was the holocaust, thirty years ago the cold war, sixteen years ago 9/11 and this weekend it is because of planetary movements mixed in with a hurricane, BREXIT and an argument between the Rocket Man of North Korea and the tycoon President Trump.

The sobering truth is that for the victims of the recent genocide in Rohingya, Bangladesh, or those being systematically killed by ISIS militants in the Middle East or those who have died of Malaria in Africa, or those that were lost in the recent hurricanes and floods, or Dave down the road who just lost his battle with cancer, or Margaret who collapsed in town and never woke up. For them, their last day has come (Luke 13:4), they have met their creator and have faced judgement. 

We all could face the same at any moment! None of us know when our time is up!

So the question is….Are you ready to meet your maker? If you do not have the protection of Jesus, I can tell you categorically that you will not stand.

The message of scripture is that we are not to be concerned about when the time will be as these are all distractions that take us away from our saviour (1 Thessalonians 5:3), rather we are to be ready to face God at any moment, trusting that whatever will happen in the future will be for His glory and the benefit of His people the church (Romans 8:28).

I hope to see on the 24th September, worshiping Jesus in church, or in Glory!

A message on Revelation 12

*this is a joke, by God’s Grace I am a Baptist Minister

 

 

 

 

Better than the best thing I could ever think of – camp!

EMW Camp

Two years ago at the EMW Aberystwyth conference I was accosted by a dear brother, regarding my potential involvement in the youth camps. He told me that they were “better than the best thing I could ever think of” (this side of Glory).

At the time I was juggling a full time job as well as the Ministry. I politely declined the offer to assist with the promise that if the Lord allowed the Ministry to be self supporting, I would give it a go.

Well the following year, the Lord provided and within days of leaving secular work I was contacted by the EMW (efficient as ever) and I agreed to be a chaplain at this year’s 10-13yrs camp (6).

I did not have a Christian upbringing (at all). Camp is an alien concept and as a result I was terrified. I was sure that my lethargic, miserable demeanour would simply not appeal to the children. I am way out of touch with today’s youth (despite having four children of my own) and I grappled with God for many hours to prepare what I hoped to be relevant messages and studies.

I had already met with the team earlier in the year, at a day conference for the camp. This made me feel a lot better. All but a few of them had grown up together through the camp system (and never left). They were a solid, tight, friendly and professional outfit. I could see that the Lord had blessed me with a unit that was strong enough to support my weakness!

I arrived at the elegant Pentrenant Hall, already exhausted and we began to welcome the families in. As the children settled the parents disappeared. It had begun!

Each camper joined a team and “we” came up with a theme song that would anthem every activity of the week. I was a proud Seahorse!

The typical day started early with a camp officers meeting followed by a time of prayer and devotions. The early bird campers then came down for prayer. Breakfast was served followed by announcements and the odd letter from home publically read (the parents knew this and made them extra embarrassing). After each meal a different team was assigned with the clean-up duty. “Seeeeeeeaaaaaa – horses”!

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We then went into the marquee for the mornings worship. We sang hymns, read God’s word, prayed, the children were recommended books and then I preached. We went through Ruth together looking at identity (more on identity here).

After the service we would invite the children to stay and pray. The officers were always on hand to discuss spiritual matters/concerns with them.

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The mornings worship was then followed by a plethora of activities; craft, swimming, archery, sumo, gladiators, table tennis, table football, pool, air hockey, volley-ball, football and wide games. Split by a healthy lunch that gave us time to rest and regroup before the afternoon shift.

Day trips to the beach, the farm or the lake for water sports were accompanied by a packed lunch and ice-cream/ fish and chips were also provided. The children also enjoyed seminars on biblical inerrancy, mission and Q&A.

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The evenings were spent in dorm groups where camp officers worked through the bible studies I had prepared. All were parables of Jesus that mirrored the morning’s message in Ruth. These intimate discussions gave the children opportunities to open up in smaller groups, among friends, pray and ask questions. We would then all meet up in the marquee for fun and games before settling with a hot chocolate and an epilogue from one of the officers. Then bed and repeat.

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I had to leave camp a day early to conduct the wedding, so I unfortunately missed out on the BBQ and the fancy dress on the Friday evening. You should have seen the costume that I had prepared!

It was a delight to serve the Lord in such a way with an amazing team. The camp leaders were so organised and caring. The officers were all young professionals or undergraduates, with a great heart for the Lord and gospel service. They were all fine role models and their evening testimonies made God’s working in their lives real to the children.

The children’s physical and spiritual wellbeing was of the utmost importance. Officers were staying up until 3am with some children (homesick or simply naughty) and then awake again at 6am, fresh and smiling to begin the next day. On the longer coach trips through the windy country lanes, they were the ones lovingly holding back hair, rubbing backs and scraping the sick from the seats. Whatever situation, they kept spirits high, always singing, playing games and always willing to join in. Despite their love shown, none were “soft touches” and they made clear boundaries so that everyone could have fun in a wholesome manner. All the officers were simply marvelous.

 

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Moments of any contention were few and I put this down to the food. I must have gained at least a stone in weight. Each meal was two courses, cooked in love. How they kept to budget I will never know. The meals were of the highest possible quality and offered a balanced diet with amazing desserts. They really went beyond the call of duty and there was little waste – the kids loved it. With filled tummy’s, the children had no room for arguments, and their minds could focus on the spiritual food.

The camp gave me several fantastic opportunities to speak with the children. Although having to sit in a minibus, facing backwards, through those country lanes, whilst answering 20 questions to some very inquisitive young ladies, did cause my stomach to turn.

During the down time, I was often sat with a book in the grounds, but this did not stop the children coming across to ask questions about the message, the Bible study, their life and their faith. We would pray, encourage one another and lift up Jesus together. The outings gave us all a real opportunity to bond and share. Often walking around in groups I had endless opportunities to speak and engage with these young minds at a deep spiritual level.

What shocked me the most was how tough it has become for these children to practice their faith today. Many said they were not willing to commit (although they did believe) because they felt that they would have to let Jesus down at some point to survive school. Others confessed that they were bullied at school for attending church, others were mocked publically by their RE teachers for believing in the Bible. Many told me how other religions were “tolerated” and thus respected and encouraged in their school, but this was at the cost of Christianity and as a result they did not feel comfortable enough to profess their faith in Jesus to their friends.

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Such conversations were a huge wake-up call! They brought me to my knees! For the first time I began to realise the utter importance of this ministry. These children that I had the privilege of spending a week with are our future! They are tomorrow’s church members, deacons, elders, missionaries and Pastors and they are already being ostracised and undermined by the world. Their faith is already being tested to its limits.

The EMW Camps are a most important provision for our next generation. They should never be viewed as secondary to any other ministry. They give such a unique opportunity for ‘our future church’ to take a week away, to rest in the Lord, to make memories and be with friends their own age who share the same trials. The camp allows ‘our children’ unrivalled access to spiritually mature Christians who can answer the questions they may be too embarrassed or ashamed to ask at home or in church. The week equips campers with answers to take back to school, it strengthens them as they face hostility and I pray it encourages them to share the gospel with their friends and family outside of the kingdom.

In the second letter to Timothy (2:1-2) Paul tells Timothy to take what he has heard (the gospel) and pass it on to reliable people for them to tell others. Paul is preaching with four generations in mind. For the survival of the church and the gospel witness in Wales, we must prayerfully do the same. We must embrace the EMW camps, pray for the work and financially support it.

We need to make every effort to send our children and encourage their friends to go with them, and if you have no children (or they are grown up) please help others send theirs. It is simply an unrivalled opportunity for these young minds to come and know the Lord as their own, for them to hear the gospel and share it with others back home, so that one day they may tell.

We can rejoice that by God’s Grace those who came to camp professing faith, left in greater assurance and those far off, grew closer to God in Jesus. By God’s Grace…camp works!

The day after camp, I went down to my study, I began to prepare my notes for Sunday, but I could not resist browsing through the uploaded pictures of the week. I was quite emotional as I realised that I was already missing the team and the children. Camp was truly “better than the best thing I could ever think of” (this side of Glory). I have clearly caught the bug! 51 weeks to go!

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Random Open Air service on the Beach