A letter to our community

Over the coming weeks this letter is going out to the community that I love! The good people of Aberyschan, Talywain and Garndiffaith. Please Read and share.

Dear Neighbour,

It has been a year since my wife, four kids and I moved into the area and we have been amazed by the welcome. We are truly blessed to live in such a loving community.

Within 12 months your local church (Noddfa) has gone from just a handful of devoted people meeting on a Sunday morning, to over thirty regular attendees of all ages and backgrounds.

We have started a Sunday school during the service to keep the children/grandchildren busy so all the parents (and Grandparents) can have a break and enjoy their time with us, the kids love it to!

Our monthly family friendly evening services “Look Up” regularly see fifty or so attend.

full church outside

The Monday Club (6-7pm) is blossoming with many primary school aged children joining us for stories, games and refreshments.

monday club   mondayclub

Our Mothers and Toddlers group (Tuesday 10am) has had to expand, so we are now running a “Messy” sensory play session every Thursday at 1pm.

messy1 momandtots

Noddfa is also a collection point for the local food bank and “Torfaen Aid for Refugees”.

I am giving you the above information to illustrate that as a church we are here to serve the community (and that means you!)

Whether you believe in God, or have other views, I remain here for you as your local Pastor and my door is always open. If you have any questions about your life and its meaning, if you are undergoing various trials, or if you simply fancy a chat please give me a call, or come and see us at one of our meetings. You and your family are more than welcome.

You can find out more on our website www.NoddfaBaptist.co.uk or Like “Noddfa Baptist Church” on Facebook.

I hope we can meet in person at some point in the future. My details are below.

Pastor John-Edward Funnell
Email: Pastor@noddfabaptist.co.uk

abersychan

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Televangelists and the Prosperity Gospel

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1:52-53

John Oliver

John Oliver

One of my closest friends (sadly not yet a Christian – but I will keep praying for him) suggested that I watch an episode of the “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”. In this episode John Oliver exposes the fraud behind TV Evangelism (Televangelists) and the prosperity Gospel that they preach.

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success), is a theory (in the guise of a Christian Doctrine) that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one’s material wealth.

Televangelists claim that if people plant a “seed” (a donation to the Televangelists’ church) God will bless them (through other avenues) with monitory reward or healing.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15

Through this “teaching” Billions of Dollars are being taken from vulnerable, poor and needy people, to pay for private jets, mansion houses and the lavish lifestyles of those claiming to be servants of God!

In his report John Oliver sets up his own religious movement “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption”  -to show how easy it is to take money from people in this way.

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption

Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption

I want to initially start by reiterating (on behalf of John Oliver) that at the beginning of the report, he did stress the good work of the church and the important role it has in society. The networks attack was not on the “Church” but on the IRS and of course the fraudster Televangelists  claiming to be ‘prophets’ and ‘healers’.

Although I am not naive to Televangelists and their deception, watching this report has made it more real to me. It has broken my heart to see the extent of which weak people are being manipulated and worse still it is being done in the name of our Lord Jesus! It has brought me to my knees in prayer.

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

Galatians 1:8

The “prosperity Gospel” argues that God wants you to be financially rich and it teaches that worldly wealth is a sign of blessing. The “prosperity Gospel” is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact it contradicts the very teaching of the Bible!

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:6 -9

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” 

Psalm 23:1

As Christians, we know that God’s blessing is not shown in financial gain, but in our contentment in what we have got (good and bad) by the Grace of God.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:25-26

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5

“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” 

Matthew 10:8

I received forgiveness for my sins freely from God. I did not have to pay anyone for Christ to work in my life! Yes my salvation came at great cost, but Jesus paid the price of that in full by the perfect sacrifice of Himself on the cross at Calvary!

The debt for my Sin has been written off by the King of Glory and as His servant I am indebted to Him for this reason, so how can I then hold others to account?

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.” Matthew 18:21-29

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

Matthew 16:24 – 26

The Lord Jesus Christ was born in a stable in a poor rural village, not in a lavish castle in the wealthiest city. He left Heaven to come low, he did not fly in a private jet, but lived a life of poverty and was nailed to a cross for the Love of God.

As Christians we must be prepared to follow Him in such suffering, for we do not live for the blessings of this world, but for the promises of the next.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name”. Acts 5:41

“who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2.5-8

Ask yourself, would these Televangelists back what they teach all the way to the cross? Would they suffer Crucifixion as our Lord did?

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

Ephesians 2:8-9

The Televangelists contradicts the very Grace of God! They say “go out and earn money, then send it to “me” and you will blessed!”

“Simon the Sorcerer” tried to buy God’s gifts and he was rebuked immediately. “Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! Acts 8:20

The Bible teaches us that it is by the Grace of God, in Faith of what Christ has done for us , that we are saved.

We must never think that by paying money into a church, God will look more favorably on us, “for we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.

Yes, we are right to give money to the church so she can continue to proclaim Gospel truth, yes we must continue to support those who teach the Bible (correctly and in Love). Feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and helping the poor does cost money. But we must never think when giving that we can buy our salvation! For it is by Grace that we have been saved!

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Acts 3:6

Money does not solve the problems of humanity! Despite our relative wealth in the West, we are still lustful, greedy and pride-driven people, we still lie, cheat and murder. This evil is innate in us all, the Bible calls it Sin, and it keeps us away from our perfect God. But in Christ, Sin is forgiven, this truth cannot be bought or sold, it is a gift from God and must simply be accepted by those in need.

“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthians 4:5

EMW Aberystwyth Conference 2015

I have just returned from what was my sixth EMW Aberystwyth Conference. I am pleased to say that I left with a filled head and a heavy heart. Praise God!

EMW Aberystwyth Conference

EMW Aberystwyth Conference

Those that attend Emmanuel Evangelical Church (Newport) would know from previous reviews (exclusive to their gazette) that I do not attend the conference in its entirety. By God’s Grace I am the head of a young family with four children (all under 8yrs), so it is simply not possible to go to all of the seminars, workshops and prayer meetings throughout the week. Neither would it be fair on my children who spend the rest of the year waiting for me to finish my study or sermon prep before we can play together. To us (well until the kids grow up) the Aber conference is the perfect complement to a family holiday in West Wales! A holiday that I would certainly recommend.

We left home on the Saturday before the conference, and in keeping with tradition we met up with friends at Bwlch Nant for a picnic . Below is our annual picture of all the children (the group continue to grow in size and number).

Bwlch Nant

Bwlch Nant

We then arrived early afternoon to our cottage just outside of Clarach (Penybont). A spacious, modern and clean place to call home for the week! Soft beds, big sofa’s, hot pressured showers, a dishwasher, washer/dryer and Sky TV! Very Happy and great value!!! We have booked it for next year already (sorry), but there are some B&B spots available next door.

On Sunday, we went to Capel Morfa and heard a powerful word from Dave Gobbet (Lead Minister at Highfields church). “Preach Christ, Die and be forgotten about”. The crèche out the back was filled with children. Very encouraging in these dark times.

We enjoyed the rest of the day with dear friends, eating a superb roast dinner on campus at Aberystwyth University. The evening came and we returned back to Capel Morfa to hear Chris Rogers preach a clear Gospel message on the cleansing of Naaman.

Ynyslas

Ynyslas

The fellowship continued as we spent Monday (as we do every Aber Monday – come rain or shine) with friends at Ynyslas. We played cricket, paddled in the sea, climbed the dunes and buried our children. After a brief stop off at the cottage for a shower and tea, I went on to the first evening meeting of the conference. Phil Hill (WEST) gave a most sincere message on ‘Grace’, through the illustration of Christ’s restoration of Peter (John 21). “Our God is watching the horizon, waiting for the disobedient to turn and come back to Him”. Our God is gracious and so should we be to our backslidden family.

The following day, after breakfast we returned to the conference. We settled the youngest two in Tiny Tots to burn off some steam, and dropped the older two off at Holiday Heroes where they had a week of fun and learning. My wife and I then went to the ‘great hall’ to sing to the Praise of God with 1500+ brothers and sisters. We then had the pleasure of David Meredith preach the first of a four part series on “the ultimate occupy movement”. We opened Joshua 1 and heard of Joshua’s ambition for God.

After the service, the sun still had its hat on, so we returned to Ynyslas to play cricket, paddle in the sea, climb the dunes and burry some more of our children. In the evening we returned to the conference to hear Paul Tripp talk on the “now-ism” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:18-39). His Grace can be tough, uncomfortable, unstoppable and redeeming! Grace = God for us! He was certainly with us that evening.

On the Wednesday morning David Meredith continued his series opening Joshua 9, looking at the deceit of the Gibeonites and Joshua’s discernment. God gave Joshua the wisdom to be gracious because their deceit came from a just fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).The afternoon was spent again with dear friends. My wife however left us for a better offer! She was treated by the EMW to a “Pastor’s wife’s lunch.” This came as a welcomed opportunity for her to meet and share with other great women who support their husbands calling. We returned to the conference to again hear Paul Tripp who took us through the miracle of Jesus walking on water, during a storm, to meet the disciples in their boat (Mark 6:45-52). Jesus injects Himself into the moment of need. Sometimes we need the storm to see His Glory! Are you hardened to His glory? Are you like a child at Christmas who rejects the gift to play with the box?

Thursday! The Sun is still shinning (let us not forget we are in Wales). We drop the kids off to their clubs (no walk of shame yet) and we hear what for me was the jewel of the week. David Meredith preached on Joshua 17 (in the context of Numbers 27), the suffering church. The challenge to us was great, the message had both spiritual and practical application. We are not local Christians, we are world Christians and the world is sick! Be gracious! help others, let the suffering find rest and relief in the family of God! The message left me weeping and frustrated for the lost souls who would not hear such a most profound word. The word David shared was from God and one I will never forget! Thursday was another “beach” day, but this time down on the front of Aberystwyth. The boy’s ‘body boarded’ in the sea whilst we looked on. We took in the view, visited the shops and ended with fish and chip supper by the peer.

Chish and Fips

Chish and Fips

We returned to the conference to hear Paul Tripp’s final message on Psalm 27 (read by a rather suspicious Character below). We where were reminded to stop looking horizontally for what we have been given vertically. We have the power of Christ to get us through the reality of living through this cursed world! Paul finished by setting us homework! Each day we must; “Gaze” upon the beauty of the Lord (Isaiah 40), “Remember” you are a child of God, “Rest” in God and “Act” on your identity as a child of God.

Pastor John @ EMW Aber Conference

Pastor John @ EMW Aber Conference

Friday morning, the children were sad, they could see that the end of the Holiday Heroes is nigh. They had a wonderful week, met new friends and enjoyed learning more about Jesus. We also enjoyed another week free from “the walk of shame” to Tiny Tots. – My kids earned their ice-cream! A big thanks to all those that looked after them.

David Meredith finished with Joshua 18 (in the context of Deuteronomy 12 and Joshua 19). What makes a good day? Reminding us of the importance of church unity. “Unity is not the same as Uniformity”. “The Christ in me witnesses to the Christ in you”. Be gracious, be united, do not let fear triumph over faith!

The afternoon and evening was spent avoiding toddler meltdown, it involved another walk across the sea front where the kids enjoyed their ice-cream and then an early night. (Unfortunately missing the final address by Paul Gamston – available online).

We departed this morning, the three hour drive was spent pondering the teaching (to the background of a sleeping family refreshed by an active week). The theme of the conference was Grace and the application of it. I am both challenged and grateful to God for what has been an amazing week.

I say this every year, but it is true, this conference was the best one yet.

If you have a family with children, I could not recommend it enough. Do not be put off by all the sessions, you can come and go as you please, there is lots to do for the entire family and the crèche facilities are brilliant.

The Aber conference truly gives us a taste of Heaven, we spend a week surrounded by hundreds of our brothers and sisters in Christ, learning the ways of the Lord, singing His Praise and thanking Him for His Grace.

For more information on the conference click here

Post Aberystwyth Sermon

The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these

On Sunday, we received a blessing that has not been shared at Noddfa for what I believe to be many a year. We had just as many Children than adults at the service!

Who would have thought it? Just a year ago we were gathered as a small remnant of grey? What a blessing!

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Psalm 127:3

However, having so many children obviously caused some disruptions, at times amidst the pew banging, the screaming and the loud whispers of “be quiet” from the parents; I could barely hear myself think!

As I paused between sentences to gather my thoughts, I was saying to myself the words of our Lord as written in the KJV,  “Suffer little Children  and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14). In other words, “put up and get on with it John”.

Why? Well because the Lord values children!

“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” (Matthew 19:13-15)

Jesus Children

Notice the children had to be brought to Him, so, you can assume that they were similar ages to whom we had on Sunday. Young children who could not physically make their own way, or did not yet have the ability to follow their parents instructions come. Yet, despite their utter weakness and dependency our Lord welcomed them.

How amazing is our God that He, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the all powerful and all knowing creator, desires to give His time to the most helpless of us.
The Lord cares for Children so we must!

Jesus looked upon those children as He once looked upon us. He saw them not only as what they are now but what they will become. We must Praise God for this truth, for before we knew Him, we shared all the attributes of a young child, we were weak, naive, uneducated and rebellious. Yet He still, so lovingly, told us to come.

Earlier this year (in faith) we started a Sunday School (11am) and the Lord has blessed that step forward as a church. The children attendance is an answer to prayer, we must not hinder them! A child’s mind is like a sponge and we do not know how the Holy Spirit is working in them even at this most early stage.

They may not bear fruit for decades (if at all), but we must be encouraged that the Lord is sending in His next generation!

“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Yes, they may bang the pews and scream the place down! Yes, they maybe too young to sit through a sermon. But they are not too young to pray for!

And that is what I am encouraging all who read this to do. Pray that the Lord will continue to bring children (and their parents in) and that they will be saved.

Baptisms in the Welsh Valleys!

In recent months, we have been privileged as a church to witness three Miracles. The conversion of three very different people, from very different backgrounds.

On their profession of faith they were baptised earlier this month (I believe the first to be baptised at Noddfa for 18 long years).

In lieu of testimonies the message went through the three converts in Acts 16 (Lydia, the oppressed lady and the Jailer) as there were clear parallels to their conversions to the three we baptised that day.

We come before an eternal God, who works the same today as He did 2,000 years ago! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever” (Heb 13:8)

Our first person in our reading who we meet in Acts 16:14 (Lydia), was a comfortable lady, she sold purple cloth, which was reserved for the rich, and she had her own home (v15) that she could invite people to. She was what you may call, a nice, normal, middle class woman of today. We can see in verse 13 that when Paul found her, she was praying and not only that, she was praying on the Sabbath! The Lord ’s Day! So, here was a nice, normal, friendly, hospital, loving middle class lady who knew of God (the God of the Bible), she worshiped God and she said her prayers.

Noddfa Baptism

Noddfa Baptism

But wait! What else does it say here in verse 14? The Scriptures tell us that the Lord opened Lydia’s heart to Paul’s message and she was Baptised! Despite all of this women’s previous outward “religion”, despite her wealth, her social status, her prayer time, her acknowledgement of God and her worship of Him on the Sabbath (the Lord’s day).Despite all of this outward religion, up until this point in our reading, where the Lord opened her heart, she was not a Christian, she was not saved and because of her imperfections she was destined for judgement and Hell!

What the scriptures are reminding us here is quite simple, and a clear lesson to us all! Christian or not! You cannot earn your place in Heaven by being a nice person, by saying prayers, even by worshiping God on a Sunday! Christianity is totally unique in this respect.

If you are a person that thinks that because you give to charity, or because you and your children have been Christened, or because you say your prayers at night, that you are going to Heaven! Think again! This is all religious nonsense! It is all I,I,I,I!

This kind of thinking is a “religion” based on what you can do to serve God, so it is a religion based on your pride, your greed and your selfishness! This is not the religion of the Bible! If it was, Lydia would not have needed her heart opened, would she? She would have been fine on her own!

Those that think you are going to Heaven when you die because you are a nice person! Think again! If the entry into heaven is relying on what you do, then you are not relying on God.Christianity is not about what you must do to earn favour with God! It is not about your climb up to Heaven! Christianity is all about God coming down, because it is uniquely from God!

The God of the Bible says in His Bible, I made you, I love you and I know that you can’t meet the perfect requirements needed to come before my presence on your own. So, in love I will come to earth in the flesh, and live a life of poverty and suffer immeasurably on the Cross for you! I (God) will pay the price for your failures, for your imperfections, and I will open your heart to this truth, so that in faith of my works (not yours) you can be saved! All you have to do is accept this free gift in faith, just as our sister did in January.

See the difference, it is not I,I,I,I but God, God, God! What we are dealing with here is not a man-made religion, it is revelation from God! In love He has done the work for us!

Lydia ticked all the boxes of a nice religious lady, humanly speaking, but yet she did not have a saving relationship with God, until the Lord opened her heart!

Paul moves on, so must I!

Paul leaves Lydia to go to a place of prayer and on the way he meets another woman, one who has been trapped for many years, kept in bondage, she was (v16) a slave. This woman knew of spiritual things and as it says in verse 17 she could even recognize men that were servants of God. Similarly, our second sister to be baptised spent her life aware of God, but has struggled in her walk, she was a slave to her circumstance, a difficult divorce and illness.

Noddfa Baptism

Noddfa Baptism

The woman in our reading, during her bondage was aware of the spiritual; we are told that she even predicted the future! She was involved in fortune telling and other superstitions. Our Sister, likewise kept various religious mementos around her house (a cross, statues of Angels and various plaques engraved with Bible verse). The woman in our reading pointed out that Paul was a Servant of God (v17), likewise our sister knew to come to Noddfa. But none of these attributes gave her a personal relationship with God, a relationship of trust! None of these trinkets gave her the assurance and confidence that she now has in Jesus Christ.

Our sister has been worshiping with us for nearly a year now; she has heard the Gospel proclaimed in the name of Jesus and it is in Him that she has now puts her faith in.Like this woman in our reading, it was only when the truth of Jesus Christ was proclaimed to her, that her burdens were lifted!

Finally, we have the Jailer!

Paul and Silas find themselves in prison for preaching the Gospel (you see the world hated the church back then, just as it does today!).The Jailer was a typical man that suffered with the same pressures of life as most do today. He had a family (v33) and a home (v31).The jailer had everything he could possibly want, so like many men today he probably thought “why do I need God in my life?”

The jailer was also a very proud man, (v 27) he was willing to kill himself rather than deal with shame of loosing prisoners. Now I am not saying that our brother (before becoming a Christian) would go to such lengths to protect his pride, but, I think we can all agree that you will not find anybody on earth more proud than a Welshman! (And I have welsh blood so can say this and get away with it)!

Noddfa Baptism

Noddfa Baptism

When our brother first came to church, it was clear that he came reluctantly, and in the first service he laughed out loud when I confessed during my sermon that I was a Tottenham Hotspurs fan! However, after hearing a sermon about what the early Christian church went through, how men and women were persecuted, to hear that they lost their jobs, their homes,  they were killed and even cut in two because of their faith, our brother could see that there was more to this “church thing” than met the eye! Our brother began to offer his help to Noddfa, posting the Easter fliers around the houses of his area. He thought that if people can sacrifice even their lives for Jesus, he can post some letters and deal with the “embarrassment”.

Our brother started attending Bible Study, reading books and asking questions and then earlier this year he acknowledged the reality of God. Our brother asked Him for forgiveness and he put his trust in Jesus. Praise God!

So, what caused this change?

Paul and Silas, took a beating for the Gospel. They were being tortured in prison, we are told that they were in stocks (v24). Stocks were not simply vices like we may think of today, but torture devices that clamped on the base of your legs causing tremendous pain. Yet despite their pain, Paul and Silas were singing and praying to God. When they had an opportunity to escape the prison, they did not, they chose to help another man, they stopped the jailer killing himself, at the cost of their own freedom! Why? Because Paul and Silas have all they need in Christ! Christ gave Paul and Silas more than what the world could offer them, and this Jailer could see it! God used the witness of these two men to bring the Jailer to faith!

Like the Jailer our brother needed to be shown by the witnesses of other men. He came to Noddfa and could see that we were not snobs, claiming to be perfect because we come to church, in fact the very opposite, it was in the understanding of our own weakness and need for help that we come! He could see that like any other man in the Valleys, we too are all rough around the edges. But unlike any other men our brother has met in the Valleys, we had something that no amount of flat screen TV’s or the latest gadgets, or pub crawls, or football tickets, or fancy cars, or garden hot tubs or holidays in the sun could ever replace! Our brother could see that we have God on our side. So that when the trials of life come, we do not run away, we do not escape! We do not run off and hide, no, in God’s Grace we have the strength to stay and to do the right thing! Even if it means bad news for us!

As Christian men, we have to face mocking, we have to face embarrassment, we have to face peer pressure for not following the ways of the world! Being a Christian man is tough work! This maybe one of reasons why Jesus chose labourers, and fisherman to be His disciples. Strong men! That by God’s grace are willing to sacrifice all for their beliefs, men that will stay to help, rather than run from the church like cowards in fear of what others may think!

Ask yourself why would a man who has everything, the lovely family and the nice house, a man who could be sat at home watching his big screen TV, why would he choose to go through such a thing as being publicly dunked, if it was not for a genuine experience of deep repentance and knowledge of Jesus as His Saviour!

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:30-31

Love, Love, Love

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Luke 15:9-17

On Saturday I had the privilege of marrying my first couple at Noddfa. As you can imagine, I was incredibly nervous throughout. This was their special day, one that they would remember for the rest of their lives and I did not want to put a foot wrong.

The couple had come to me earlier in the year and was surprised to hear that as a church we would simply accept a donation for the wedding, there was no set fee (outside of the organist and registrar). Without the risk of sounding cynical, I understand that other denominations make a living from such a ceremony. But for me, I see it as an opportunity to reach out to the couple regularly, to share the Gospel with them and discuss the Biblical principles of marriage.The couple regularly attended services on the lead up – and we pray they continue to do so.

Noddfa Wedding

Noddfa Wedding

The other huge opportunity from the wedding was of course with the invited guests.

Over seventy people were invited from the community, most had never stepped foot in Noddfa before, and now know where we are and have now all heard the Gospel. Praise God!

The service was traditional, short  and simple, the message afterwards unashamedly evangelistic and (Praise God) it got them thinking! (Whether they remember it post celebration is another thing!)

After a few pleasantries and a laugh, I asked them all quite directly why is church now reserved only for the special occasions? “Hatched, Matched and Dispatched” Is it because you see church simply as a tradition? Or is it because you believe that God does not exist?

What makes people believe that God does not exist? Well the common and most obvious answer is because you can’t see Him, touch Him, or scientifically measure Him. This is why people choose to relegate His church to just one visit a year?

Unsurprisingly the majority at the wedding acknowledged this to be their viewpoint.

I believe this is the common thought of many throughout our Valley, and I argue this stance is simply illogical. Especially when those who maintain such thinking are quite happy to join us at a wedding ceremony without argument. As a wedding is a  time to see two people contradict nature and give themselves to eachother for the rest of their lives. “In sickness and in health, until death do they part.” The entire ceremony is a symbol of love! Love, Love, Love!

Love (like God) can’t be scientifically measured; love can’t be seen or touched. Yet none of our visitors doubt that love exists! If they did, why bother to come?

By the same logic that our guests judge the unlikelihood of God’s existence, they would have to dispute the very thing that they had come to celebrate! Love! Can you see the double standards in the logic?

So, if you can accept love as a reality, without being able to see it, or measure it. Why then do you doubt the reality of our loving God?

God is love! Like Love, He can’t be seen, He can’t be measured! But yes, He is real! Without Him, weddings would not happen, we would have no propensity to love and we would live like the rest of nature, without morality and in absolute chaos.

Just like the wedding day was a physical representation of the love that cannot be seen or measured! This church lives by God’s commands as a physical representation of what you cannot see or measure. So, if you accept love, I argue, you must then by the same logic accept God.

The comparisons do not stop there! Like God, love is not of this world, because Love is from God! Love is unselfish! Love, loves in times of sickness and in times of poverty and at times of sadness and death. Love stays with you through the tough times. Love stays with you long after the looks fade! (I am living proof of this).

God is real and because we are created in His image we have a propensity to love!

Noddfa Wedding

Noddfa Wedding

Jesus is love, Jesus is our example! 

In love, God left the glories of Heaven, to be born a babe, not in a palace, but in a stable. In love God Himself took on flesh in the historical person of Jesus and lived a life of poverty. In love God came low, to be rejected by the world, (just as He is today), He was mocked (just as He is today), He was ignored (just as He is today), He was dismissed (just as He is today), He was beaten and eventually nailed to a cross where He slowly died in the most horrific way in the heat of middle east Why? So that come the day of judgement, those who He loves, those who He has chosen, who know Him as Lord and Saviour, and are obedient to Him, will not face judgement.

This is what we came to celebrate together! That in a cursed world, of wars, of social deprivation, of economic turmoil, of death and tragedy, by God’s Grace we still have people that reject the ways of nature, and do not do whatever their selfish genes tell them to do. Instead they sacrificially give themselves to each other just as Jesus gave Himself for us..

Just like God, Love is real and it contradicts everything that this world is teaching you!

Rejoice today.Thanking God, that in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have the ultimate source of Love, that His death on the cross is sufficient to pay for the Sins of those who know Him, and that all that love Him can defeat the curse of this world and live in Love.

Noddfa Wedding

Noddfa Wedding

Amen

A day in Parliament

“Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish [from] the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psalms 2:10 – 2:12

Let me start by stating that I follow King Jesus. I am not a proponent of “church and state,” neither is the below piece intended to show any favouritism or indeed an affiliation toward any party.

Alex Salmond and Pastor John

Alex Salmond and Pastor John

For those of you that do not know, I have agreed to be the assistant Chaplain to the Mayor of Torfaen. Why? Because I believe Giles (the Mayor) to be a man that has a genuine love for the community and a burden for those he serves (regardless of his or their political background). The role is voluntary and  (Praise God) already opened many opportunities for the Gospel in the community.

One of the duties of the position is to join the Mayor (Giles) on a trip to Parliament of which I have just returned home from and it was a day I would never forget!

We got to Parliament at around mid-day. Just like in an airport, security requirements had to be met, so our belts were removed and our wallets and phones put into trays. (Good job Giles did not wear his livery collar as it would have set all the alarms off).

We were greeted on entry by Nick Symmonds-Thomas MP for Torfaen (and local Abersychan resident). As we walked with Nick into “stranger’s corridor” things instantly got real! I noticed a number of heavily armed police among the masses of busy people. It was like a bee-hive of activity, filled with very serious looking individuals that I could only assume were; runners, researchers, assistants and the press buzzing around. Amidst the organised chaos, Lord West casually strolled past me befitting his stereo-type with top hat and cane and as we sat down I could see many recognisable faces, the closest being Nigel Lawson,  I also got to speak with Alex Salmond.

Nick has a very busy schedule, so was very kind to take some time out to show us around Parliament, where I soaked up the history. In the central lobby I saw the crack in the Sword of the statue of Viscount Falkland, this had to be repaired after the the Suffragettes chained themselves to it when fighting for the vote. There were many statues of some great men of History, the decorations and artwork throughout were awe inspiring.

We had the privilege of entering the gallery to see our democracy at work and by providence it was during the maiden speech of local MP Chris Davies (Breacon), sat next to him was David Davies (MP Monmouthshire) and on the other bench Jessica Morden (MP Newport) – with us in the gallery you could be forgiven in thinking that the Welsh were taking over! (None of us were asked to toe the line).

Chapel of St Mary Undercroft

Chapel of St Mary Undercroft

One of the high points was yet to come! The opportunity to take a rare view of the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft situated under the Palace of Westminster, built in 1292. This was a truly amazing space of unrivaled beauty, laced with gold leaf, stain glass, statues and carvings, the craftsmanship was exemplary!

Although I do not agree with such grandeur, it is a reminder that these fair isles are governed on a foundation of Christian belief and principles, a historical fact that each parliament sadly seems to drift further away from.

It was a wonderful day – London is of course impressive! But it is no Abersychan!

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour.”  1 Timothy 2:1-3

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A year in the Valley

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

In June 2014 my family and I moved to Noddfa Baptist Church to serve the Lord in Pastoral Ministry. This move was made in partnership with ReformissionWales and Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Newport, under the mentoring of Rev Bernard Lewis.

Like so many churches in the Eastern Valley, Noddfa was without a minister. It had a predominately elderly, but very committed, congregation that had become increasingly disengaged from the wider community. Noddfa was struggling to survive with just 15 regularly attending the Sunday morning Service, a handful of children at the Monday night Club and a Mothers and Toddlers’ group on a Tuesday. We took on the challenge knowing it was a Nehemiah work that was needed.

Noddfa 2014

Noddfa 2014

Making contact with people in the community

Noddfa evangelismInitially I distributed a personal letter to all the immediate homes in the area. This letter introduced myself and our family, explained why we have moved to Abersychan, and included my contact details if people wanted to get in touch with me. This had a huge impact as many thought the church was, in fact, closed. It gave me a great opportunity to speak to many people as I went door to door and began to understand that the darkness was not due to “atheism”, as I had first assumed, but to “nominalism”.

This was a game-changer. I understood then that as a church we had to re-engage with a mission field amongst those who, sadly, think they are Christians but who do not feel they need to worship God and receive his Word in fellowship with his people.

I was encouraged that many people still had affection for Noddfa and would be sad to see it close. They had a loose assimilation to chapel tradition that we could use to our advantage. But the general opinion was “the world has moved on and I have other things to do on a Sunday morning.”

We started by holding reunions for former Sunday school attendees who are still living in the area and have now grown up and have families of their own. They were well received. We enjoyed Fish and Chip Suppers and a Summer BBQ. Old pictures and fond memories were shared, stories told and, more importantly, local people left those meetings knowing that Noddfa is still here and continues to run activities for their children.

Picture3

Through these meetings and speaking with the families that attend the weekly clubs, it became clear that, despite having a desire to attend and be affiliated with Noddfa, Sunday morning has become a struggle for many in our community because of work or sporting commitments. This is the world we live in today and we must be pragmatic in these situations just as the early Christians were in Acts. So we planned to run another Sunday Service at a time that suited people living in a secular society, so people will no longer have an excuse. This ‘family friendly’ service is called “Look Up”. This great name was coined by an 84 year old church member and allowed us to put a big sign on the road that guides the eye to “Look Up” the hill to see Noddfa Chapel. The “Look Up” service includes Bible readings, hymns and a 20 minute message, followed by fellowship with refreshments and a seasonal activity.

Initially we thought we might get a few families from the youth ministries, some who came along to the reunion and supporting families from Emmanuel. To our amazement the service now welcomes, on average, more than 60 people from the local community, many of whom have never experienced church or heard the Gospel. This peaked on Firework night 2014 with more than 120 people attending. They heard the Gospel proclaimed as well as “looking up” to see some fireworks after the service.

Capturing all of this activity and putting it on Facebook has also been a great opportunity for people in the community to discover what actually goes on inside the chapel walls and to see pictures of their friends and family being involved.

Victoria Village School

Victoria Village School

By simply living in the area we reach out to the community at every opportunity and encourage the congregation to do the same. We have had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people and have made some great friends. We make an effort to buy locally whenever possible. This allows us to get to know the shopkeepers and speak to those in the queue. It also helps when it comes to putting posters in the shop window! As funds allow we try to eat out at local cafes and restaurants once a month. Our oldest boys attend the local school and are involved in the local music group, football team and boxing club. The Lord has opened doors in the local schools for me to take assemblies and to visit the local care homes. My wife, Harriet, is a member of the slimming club (not that she needs it) and attends other pre-school playgroups in the area with our younger children, she is also involved in a local choir. We try to attend most community activities; charity nights; pub quizzes etc and are constantly building bridges, knocking down walls and simply being accessible to people so they know where to go when the Lord puts that desire in their hearts.

Throughout 2015 opportunities continue to develop and I was appointed assistant Chaplain to the Mayor of Torfaen, a dear friend Giles Davies (who I have got to know well over the last 12 months). Giles is unique in that his office has not come out of ambition or pride but as a consequence of the genuine love he has for the area and I thank God for raising Giles up in the community during this early stage of my Ministry. Working in this capacity of Chaplain to the Mayor has opened many other doors into the community for me to witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

Pastor John with Mayor of Torfaen, Mayor of Blaenavon and Welsh Labour MP for Torfaen

We praise God for the way He is blessing the work. From June 2014-15 attendance at the traditional Sunday services have doubled, requiring us to start a Sunday School to cater for the children during the service. The Monday Club has five times more children attending and the Mother and Toddlers’ group has also seen significant growth.

By God’s Grace on July 19th we are baptizing three people who have come to know the Lord through this evangelism.

Noddfa June 2015

Noddfa 2015

Noddfa 2015

Please continue to pray for us

The last 12 months have been amazing, the Lord has worked beyond our wildest expectations, but the church at Noddfa is still in a desperate situation. I have to support myself financially in secular work, the core membership of the church remains small and elderly, and although the numbers have been a great encouragement, it is all superficial if we do not see souls being saved.

This is our burden for the people in our community and we ask that you continue to pray for the work, so that we can continue to do everything possible with what God has given us. Please pray that God will do the impossible, as only He can, and revive this land once more bringing many people to saving faith in Jesus.

“I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest,” Isaiah 62:6