Christmas – How do we harness the wind?

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” William Arthur Ward

ssnativity

Christmas is a unique time of year for the church. For a two week period we become socially acceptable to the masses (and it is great to see you all).

We have welcomed many new faces to our various Christmas events such as our Sunday School nativity and our first ever Christmas Eve Carol service.

carols-christmas-eve-2016

But to really harness this festive cultural shift (the wind) we had to adjust the sails and think outside of the box!

Around the corner from Noddfa we have the much loved “Big Arch”. It is a listed building constructed in 1879 to assist the British Ironworks close by. Throughout the year the Big Arch plays home to unwanted fridge freezers, but with help from our local Councillors, a brass band, Melin Homes and many other volunteers, we managed to make it hospitable enough to welcome 500 from the community. We prayed at the beginning and at the end of the service, I then proclaimed the Gospel through various anecdotes between the carols, hoping that people will go away with at least something to think about over Christmas.

It has been wonderful to meet so many from the community over the festivities and I pray from the depths of my soul that we will see them all again at Noddfa throughout 2017.

Free Press December 2016

archpaper

There are several arguments as to why more people come to church over Christmas, most are based in tradition but I think the reason for our seasonal growth goes deeper than this.

The answer (as always) can be found in scripture.

Just after the nativity scene in Luke 2 the “baby Jesus” was brought to the temple where a righteous and devout man called Simeon met the young family.

Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’ (Luke 2:34-35)

These are strong words! Especially when you consider he is saying these things about a newborn baby, to a young mother.

As we know Simeon’s prophecy was proven to be accurate. Thirty years after our reading Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6. To be the Christian’s loving saviour, Jesus must then also be a stumbling block for those who reject Him. The salvation offered to all, causes many to fall.

At Christmas, we remember God as a baby, the miracle of the incarnation! As a baby God is perceived as cute, cuddly and can be held as He was by Simeon.

As a baby (I argue) God is not seen to be a threat to the lifestyles of our seasonal visitors and is thus believed to be more akin to the god of their choosing, so they are happier to return to church to hear all about “him”. But when the church begins to preach the harsh truths (that Simeon shares with Mary) of what this baby came to do, people grow uncomfortable and then distance themselves from the church once again.

We see this same pattern every year and it is evident of what we know to be true. That when we meet Jesus (the word made flesh) through the word preached, His perfection reveals to us our own failures and our own guilt before our loving God. Such conviction pierces our souls and drives us to change.

People do not like change, especially if it undermines their current worldly lifestyles and privileges. It is this conviction to change that drives people away. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many”.

People do not like to hear that they cannot come to God on their own ‘pic and mix’ terms, but on His terms as revealed to us in the Bible, the terms of the Cross – the sign that will be spoken against. So the masses fall away again and follow the materialist gods of the world that do not question their lifestyle but keep them consuming…until we meet them again next year when God is once again presented as a helpless babe.

This phenomenon is nothing new, Jesus Himself faced it. When He met the physical needs of the masses, thousands followed for a free meal (Matthew 14:13-21), but when He challenged their Spiritual condition and asked them to live a godly life, they all fled (Matthew 15:9).

When Christ fulfilled what He came to do; take the punishment His faithful deserve for our failures (sins) on the Cross (the sign that will be spoken against), He was left with just a penitent thief suffering next to Him, His mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and the Disciple that He loved. The rest of His followers had left Him for dead, or had gone into hiding.

As numbers inevitably dwindle post-Christmas we can take solace that the world has not changed since Christ’s death and resurrection. People still have to deal with the same ailments presented in the Bible (hate, greed, lust, pride etc) and they still reject the cure – Jesus Christ.

Please pray that the seeds sown over our Christmas outreach will bring more into Noddfa to hear the sound of the Gospel and know the Love of God. Let them see that church is not just a great opportunity to meet new people, learn and love, but an act of direct rebellion against a world that defines you by what you consume and produce.

Pray that those touched by the Gospel  in recent weeks will come to rest in the Love of God who looks beyond the worlds labels and desires your heart this season.

 

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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

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

Thoughts on the flowers of Abersychan

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

To support the Bees of Torfaen, the council have been planting!

You may have noticed the many pockets of wild flowers on grass banks, verges and parks throughout the county. None so beautiful than those in Snatchwood Park in Abersychan (Centre of the Universe).

Abersychan Flowers

Abersychan Flowers

The Bible is full of gardening narrative, many come to mind when enjoying these flowers.

Unlike the rest of creation that God spoke into existence (Genesis 1:3), we are told in Genesis 2:8 that He “planted” a garden (Eden). To “plant”, implies purpose, care and effort. A gardener tends his ground on his knees and works the dirty rough soil, he gets cut, bruised and bitten so that his garden can have life. It is a tough but intimate vocation. A labour of love!

Like a gardener, God strategically and lovingly worked the future home for those He made in His image (humanity) to live in (Genesis 1:27). When the garden grew wild, in love, He stooped low to tender it. He left the glory of Heaven and took on flesh in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He got His hands dirty (in fact they were pierced), He suffered unimaginably to beat the last enemy (death) on the cross, so in faith His people can have life eternal!

In love God commands us to take care of the garden that He has so lovingly made for us (Genesis 2:15). He does this because He is a God of means, His creation is a tool for us to know Him and get closer to Him. (Romans 1:20)

In cultivating the land we experience God’s sustaining power every time we see a planted seed burst into life! (Psalm 145:16).

Each time we plant a seed, we do it in faith, as none of us can guarantee it’s success. (Ephesians 2:8).

Yes, we plant the seed, and yes various chemical reactions take place for it to grow, but it is God’s design and it is God that gives life (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Abersychan Flowers

Abersychan Flowers

These small exquisite oases throughout our fair county, were but dead brown patches merely weeks ago, but they are now vibrant with colour and busy with life!

What may seem dead on the surface, has the potential to be brimming with activity! (Psalm 104:30). Go out and enjoy them!

Let’s pray that The Lord will revive His church again in this Valley and that we would live to His Glory.

“When you send your Spirit,they are created,and you renew the face of the ground” Psalm 104:30