Break in at Noddfa brings out the best

toddlers

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

I had just arrived home from our church Christmas meal, well fed and ready for a lazy evening (thanks Gabby’s). Sadly this did not happen! Long story short; the Mothers and Toddlers fund had been stolen from the church and the perpetrator(s) had broken out through my office window.

We keep nothing of worldly value in the building (1 John 2:15) , other than a (well hidden) box that contains the Mothers and Toddlers collection. The fund goes towards toys, books, biscuits, drinks and snacks for the children. At the end of term the surplus is then spent on a party and goody bags for those who come.

toddlers2

I do not want to go into too much detail, but, we have been told that the extensive movements of the perpetrator(s) throughout the church building left many clues for Crime Scene Investigation who are hopeful.

With Police support we published what had happened on our Facebook page. The community quickly rallied around their local church, setting up a crowdfund page that has raised nearly £600 in less than 24 hours. As a church we are terrifically humbled by this gesture and thank all those who donated, offered their support, encouragement and prayers. We are so blessed to be in such a community, surrounded by so much love and generosity.

We are just a small independent church supported by our members. We are not part of a larger denomination, we do not have fancy ornaments and relics to maintain, and you do not see me walking around the village with costly ministerial garb (more like trainers, jeans and a Parker jacket). The little money we take in during the Sunday collection goes on the facilities maintenance and bills, to ensure it remains a safe and welcoming place for all those who come throughout the week. The rest of the funds go towards serving the local community God has given us.

As a church we love everyone in our valley just as Christ loved us (1 John 4:19). We long for opportunities to show this love, by sacrificially giving and supporting the community we have been called by God to serve (1 Peter 4:10).

This is why I am so horrified by such a crime and pray deeply for the perpetrator(s).

I grieve for them and for the desperate situation that they must be in this Christmas, to risk so much for such a small collection box. If they had simply come in to see us, we would have rallied around them and supported as best as we could. They simply did not need to break in.

So, on behalf of the church I would like to reach out to the perpetrator(s) and say:

  • We understand that everyone faces difficulties in their lives and that these often lead to misjudgments and mistakes. I have made several myself (1 Timothy 1:15)! The Bible tells us, that this is human nature, none of us are perfect (Romans 3:10).
  • Please know that church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners. We are not a place of duty driven religious nuts, but a loving community of grace who gather in thanksgiving.
  • As we gather knowing that none of us are perfect, we do not judge anyone who comes in (Matthew 7:1).
  • Our unlikely unity as a family of all ages and backgrounds, is a unity unseen by worldly institutions, radiating from the love of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
  • For these reasons we welcome all who wish to come, whatever the circumstance and this means you to!

During this festive season we remember how low God came, in love, to raise the weakest of us up. He (Jesus) left the glory and perfection of Heaven to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3). He chose to be born into the lowest of families, spending His first night on earth in an animal feeding trough (Luke 2:7). He grew up to live a life of poverty (Matthew 8:20) and suffering that peaked in the most unimaginable pain of crucifixion. Where on that Cross He took on Himself the justice we deserve for our failures, the consequences for our sins and gave us His perfect life despite our imperfections.

By accepting that God has done the “religion for you” (In Jesus Christ) and repenting of your ways, seeking to follow Christ’s example, Christians can know a fresh start. A clean slate that we as a church offer (by God’s grace) to you today! What a gift this Christmas  (John 3:16) .

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 43:25.

As Christians we do not come to a God who cannot sympathies with life’s difficulties that you maybe facing, because in Christ Jesus, He faced the world at its very worst! (Hebrews 4:15). In Christ, we do not come to a God of judgement but one of love and compassion (Psalm 145:8). The God who by His grace (not by our merit) forgave us for our failures (Ephesians 2:8-9) and in this same strength, we as Christians can forgive all those who have caused us pain to.

This is the real meaning of Christmas! Hope, in our loving God, who paid the price for our failures.

It is a shame that such profound love that we are reminded of at ‘Christ-mas’ has been replaced by a big red man that shows no mercy to those on his naughty list. It is a greater shame that Christmas has driven such social pressure on families that some have had to go to extreme lengths simply to fund the season.

If the perpetrator(s) is reading this, we have a number of events going on over Christmas and you (as well as all the community) are most welcome to come and join us to find out more about a love that you will not receive anywhere else, a love that can forgive and forget all things. (1 John 4:8).

noddfa-church

Advertisements

Let there be Light!

Last week we welcomed over 40 local children (many un-churched) to our light themed holiday club.

Each morning began with games around the chapel; from guess what is in the boxes, to blindfolded ‘put the flame on the candle’, shadow puppets, Simon says and activity sheets.

We then gathered to hear God’s Word and I gave a brief message.

lp13      lp9

Monday we took the children time travelling, back to the very beginning of everything, where God said let there be light (Gen 1:3). Tuesday I shared my difficulties on going to the bathroom during the night, treading on Lego and tripping over toy cars and doll houses, and how I need a torch to help guide me through safely. The world is a dark place and Jesus is a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105). Wednesday Peter spoke on the Parable of the ten virgins, digging out an old mining lamp to show the children (Matt 25:3). Thursday I tried to light up the church by putting a lamp under a chair (Matt 5:15) and on Friday I showed the children that a flame on a match casts no shadow, there is no darkness in light, we have nothing to fear in Christ (Psalm 27:1).

After the message, we all conga’d up to the hall for craft, where the children made light/dark plates, lighthouses, lanterns, light jars, sparkly footprints and candle stands.

lp8   lp6

We then played various games and had refreshments. 

Each day finished back in the chapel, we’d go through the memory verse (which they all remembered the following day), a quiz and prizes. On Friday the children enjoyed a “treasure hunt” to find logs (brown painted toilet rolls) which were brought back to a fire and we all had marshmallows on sticks during the message.

lp4

We then finished with a presentation back up in the hall. The children all received a copy of Matthew’s Gospel and the parents came in to see their child’s craft and have a cup of tea.

lp5

The week concluded on Sunday with our (light themed) Look Up family friendly service.

These evenings are intended to be a “church taster” so we can build bridges with the community. We sang two hymns, read God’s word and I spoke briefly.

lp3

We welcomed many from the community, most from outside the church. They came into the chapel (a big step for some of them) and I believe we broke down their assumptions that church is a boring and fearful place, but a Christ centered community of love.

lp1

Fellowship continued, where we gathered outside to see the chapel lit up with lazer’s, the children enjoyed sparklers and lanterns were let off into the night sky.

We then retired into the back hall, decorated in fairy lights and LED balloons, where we enjoyed hot-dogs and spent well over an hour getting to know people from the community. The Lord seems to be softening hearts in what is a very dark valley. 

Prayer requests

Please pray for all those who came, that we will see them again. 

Pray for all those that thought about coming, that we may welcome them next time. 

Pray for all those who chose not to come, that they will see Noddfa as a home for people who once thought church was “not for them”.

A big thanks to my loving wife and everyone in the team who helped put on a wonderful week for our local children. May the Lord Bless the seed that was sown. To Him be the Glory. Amen

 

 

Bridging the gap – a humanist funeral

I was recently asked to take a funeral for a very popular young lady who died tragically in a motorbike accident.

This request came as a surprise!

The husband was going to get a humanist in to do it (as he did for his fathers funeral), but owing to our links with her wider family they thought it was appropriate to ask me.

This request did come (initially) with some strict stipulations! We were to have no hymns, no Bible reading, no prayers, no church, no God!

I know many ministers at this point would have said “no thank you”. But I felt a strong compulsion to do it.

As a result I spent many hours with the family, preparing a eulogy to fill the 50 minute slot at the crematorium. The eulogy was then to be split with (popular) songs that had significance for the family.

As the family shared their memories with me I quickly realised that there are times where it is best to show the love of Jesus by simply being there and giving the Biblical view on the world when asked.

The family allowed me to pray at the beginning of the service and at the end committal (where I shared the comfort offered by God in Christ Jesus).

The Eulogy was well received and it was presented as a thanks giving service to God for the life that we were all gathered to remember.

I did not compromise doctrine at any point, whilst also being of loving service to the family.

The community were extremely grateful for our involvement and support during this tough time. Some estimates for the funeral attendance went as high as 700 people, easily achievable by the sea of people we were greeted by on our arrival. This young lady was very popular.

During one of the songs, I tucked myself away in the pulpit and came to God in prayer (not for the first time in regards to this situation).

I asked “Lord should I be doing this? Is this truly glorifying you?  The Lord instantly responded and gave me the words of John 2 ‘the wedding of Cana’ to ponder and I have done so ever since.

Here are some thoughts ……

I understand that this reading talks of a totally different situation, a celebration of marriage, rather than mourning a tragic death.

But there are some clear lessons that we can learn from this passage and apply to the situation of taking a humanist funeral and wider community engagement.

A wedding in the time of our reading comprised of a great feast, which in the tradition of the day, meant dancing and heavy drinking that would often last for days. Not the environment that you would expect a pious Christian to visit, let alone the Son of God.

But we are told in John 2:2 that Jesus went, and not only did He go, but He was obviously involved in the proceedings to some degree. I do not think that it’s much of a coincidence that the wine ran dry shortly after the disciples arrived (John 2:3). The bridegroom must have been checking Mary’s +1 invite to see how the disciples got in and fishing is thirsty work!

The point is, Jesus was there at the feast, in the community at a special time in their lives. Jesus was involved in the celebration of the wedding, just as He was involved with the mourners (who did not believe in Jesus either) at His friend Lazarus’s graveside (John 11:40).

Jesus got out there and was involved in people’s lives; our God is a missional God, a lesson for every Christian!

But it is clear from scripture that His involvement did not delve into anything that would jeopardise the truth of who He is, Jesus committed no sin (1 Peter 2:22). As Christians we must follow our Lord’s example in the same way, we must be in the world but not of the world (John 17:16). As Christians we must not shy away from opportunities that allow us to engage with the community that we are called to serve. We must exercise our Gospel freedom, mindful not to go so far as to jeopardise the truth that we know and stand for. A mistake we have all made at some point I am sure! (1 John 1:9).

Jesus was at a worldly feast and yet remained totally obedient to our Father God. I was leading a humanist funeral that I had no business at, but by God’s Grace I was able to be involved, and witnessed the love of God in a way that was palatable to those gathered, no bible, no preaching, no hymns.

We read in John 2:3 that the wedding feast took a turn for the worst; they had run out of wine!

This may seem trivial for us today, as we could just go to the shops and buy some more. But in the historic context of our reading, such a thing would have caused the greatest offence to the guests, grief and shame to the family.

Mary thus pleads with Jesus in desperation to assist, which He eventually does after a strong rebuke (that I will not get into today).

Jesus instructs the servants to fill the jars with water (John 2:7) and then instructs them to pour some out for the master of the banquet (John 2:8) and it was better than the finest wine that they served first (John 2:10).

Notice that Jesus had no direct involvement with the jars, the water or the wine, the miracle was done in an instant, with no showmanship or religious protocol. Jesus simply said to the servants “Fill the jars up with water, and then draw out the wine”.

There was no command from Jesus for the water to change into wine, in the same way Jesus commands the storm to calm (John 4:39) or the demon to depart from the possessed man (Luke 4:35) or when He called Lazarus out of the tomb (John 11:43). We read of no action taken to the water, or the jars by our Lord, we are not told that He touched them in any way, like when Jesus put mud on a blind man’s eyes to heal Him (John 9:6). We are not told that the water touched Jesus, just as the sick woman touched His gown and was healed (Luke 8:45). Jesus did not ask all the guests at the wedding to sit down whilst He publicly offered the water up to God in prayer before the miracle took place, just as He did with the loaves and fish when He fed the thousands (John 6:11). He did not ask the servants to move the jars or change anything that was currently in use (pre-miracle) as He did the disciples who He told to cast their net on the other side of the boat to find them filled with fish (John 5:6). Jesus simply said, “Fill the jars up with water, then draw out the wine”.

The water miraculously changed, instantly, without any showmanship or activity, grand religious gesture, or command. It was done in an instant, which for me gives further gravitas to the miracle. Jesus simply willed the water to become wine and it was. Amazing! He is truly God.

Within the context of the day, running out of wine at a feast would come with the deepest of despair for the host; it was a situation of utter weakness and shame. Yet by simply being there, Jesus not only showed love and comfort in the situation, but transformed a terrible event into one that was far better than what they knew of before. All without the religious protocols that we insist on. The master of the banquet said “You have saved the best till now” (Luke 2:10).

For the miracle to happen, Jesus had to be welcomed to the wedding feast on the terms of the host, under their restrictions. Jesus still went and His Glory was revealed (John 2:11), without the submission to, or insistence of, various religious acts and worship styles. On this occasion God’s glory simply came through our Lord’s presence at this worldly feast.

It is through the Word of God that we are saved and grow as Christians. I am not saying that this passage argues otherwise. A Christians presence in worldly activity, whether marriages or funerals or birthday parties or rugby games is not enough to transform the lost soul, people do need to come under the Word of God. But forcing the un-churched who do not know the Lord, into our formula of religious protocol, to sing hymns they do not know and sit through a message they will not hear, will not save them either!

What Jesus is showing us here in John 2 is that by insisting that a funeral is done “our way” or not at all, at the cost of an opportunity to witness the love of Christ (without Doctrinal Compromise) can be counterproductive to the furtherance of the Gospel.

It is clear that my doubts that brought me to prayer at the funeral were in fact doubts towards the power of the Gospel!

It has made me ask myself; Does my faith lie more in the conduct and place in which a ceremony such as a funeral is taken? Or is my faith in Christ who can turn water into wine simply by His Will at a worldly feast.

In a perfect world, I would love to have held the funeral at Noddfa, read God’s word aloud, sing Hymns with those gathered, to God’s Praise and of course share the hope of Jesus to the 700 people that day. But we are not in a perfect world (Genesis 3:17), we are in a post-Christian society where people no longer know how to sit through a message, do not know the many great hymns penned from our very own land and do not even know who Jesus really is! As a result there are more and more humanist funerals each month that offer no hope to the lost soul.

Is it not better as Christians to be involved in such lawful situations that we have no business to be at, to show the love of Jesus, trusting in His will to soften the hearts of our generation, than to not be there at all?

Is it not better to be the light in the darkness, rather than insist that the darkness comes into the light? (John 1:5).

Please pray for the family and friends of the deceased, I hold them in the highest regard, they are wonderful people and close to my heart.

Please also pray for all those gathered at the funeral, that by our very witnesses, they would seek to come to Noddfa to learn more of God’s love, to come under His word and come to trust Jesus as their saviour.

 

water-to-wine

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