POEM: 2,000 Christmas Cards

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Down slippery steps and up hilly climbs,
On dark wet streets at Christmas time.
Walk the people of Noddfa – young and old,
Carrying a message of the greatest story ever told.

A message of Mercy,
A message of Grace,
A message of light to those in a dark place.

Of a God who loves us so much that He sent His Son,
To die in our place so that justice could be done.
And in His resurrection He gives us the power to change,
To live with greater purpose and meaning away from a life of heartache and pain.

Each Christmas card has been posted, sown with tears,
Yet they have often been received by mocking voices and jeers.

But if you believe our message is false and we are here simply by chance,
Why do you exchange gifts at Christmas and sing carols and dance?
Why do you hang decorations and put up a tree?
For none of this behaviour happens naturally.
If there is no God and we are just sentient apes,
Why bother hanging stockings up on your fireplace?
The Christmas lights and tinsel are all well and good,
But without remembering the birth of Jesus,
My friends, Christmas is misunderstood.

For it is only in Christ you can know true joy,
Not in the short-term pleasures of unwrapping that new toy.
For it is only in Christ you can know God’s Fatherly protection,
And receive the gift of eternal life in His Son’s perfection.

Yes Father Christmas is fun, a myth and a game,
But the story of Jesus is true and not quite the same.
Whilst Santa Claus is checking his list and checking it twice,
Jesus gifts you Grace – regardless of whether you have been naughty or nice.

You see the secret to a happy Christmas, one filled with good cheer,
Is to have Jesus at its very centre, we pray that you do not let him disappear.

So when our Christmas card is posted through your door,
I pray you do not use it to line your rabbit hutch floor.
Neither tear it or fold it or chuck it straight in the bin,
Rather take a moment and read the message within.
A personal invite for you to come,
to Noddfa church and celebrate with us the birth of God the Son.

We’ve posted 2,000 of these Christmas cards across our valley with love.
2,000 Christmas cards containing a message of peace from God above.

We’ve posted in the cold and the rain and the dark,
so you can have an invite to Carols Under the Arch.

We hope to see you there!

6pm Sunday 23rd December 2018!

The Big Arch Abersychan.

(I know the last bit did not rhyme).

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Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

I recently went on a rare trip to the cinema to see Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice. (a fitting end to our Superhero Training Academy)

I do enjoy the DC and Marvel films; they give me everything I want from a cinematic experience; however I do not take them seriously enough to delve into the myriad of back stories and cross-over’s between characters.

This nonchalant approach to the film could have caused some difficulties on the night, fortunately I went with a dear friend who has an extensive knowledge of such things and my son who is a Marvel/DC geek. They both kept me updated throughout the film so I did not miss a thing.

I am sure there are plenty of online forums filled with “comic book guys” currently critiquing the film, but with my limited knowledge on the subject, I must confess that I loved every minute of it!

(Before reading on, if you have not seen it yet – SPOILER ALERT)

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The film was filled with Christ symbolism, openly in the script and suggestively in various scenes.

If my memory serves me well, Superman was referred to throughout the film as the chosen one, the saviour, divine power, sent from above, the hope of the world. People would crowd around him just to touch his garment (Mark 5:27).

superman2

At Superman’s ‘death’ we see him weak and lifeless cradled in the arms of Lois Lane with his dearest around him, mourning amidst the rubble of his sacrificial fight with evil (embodied in the monster called Doomsday).

At this moment on the top left of the screen, steel girders remain from fallen buildings that make the shape of three crosses on a hill subliminally reinforcing the Christ-like imagery. The scene reminded me of the below painting by Rogier van der Weyden (Pieta).

pieta

This constant association throughout the film between Superman and Christ gave me mixed feelings.

Many watching may be inspired by the film to seek the realities of the historic person that it alludes to, God in the flesh Jesus Christ. Or, I fear, people will assimilate the clear fiction of Superman and apply it to the historic person, God in the flesh Jesus Christ and thus dismiss Him as such. I pray it is not the latter.

superman1

There is a scene in the film where Lex Luthor (the villain) meets Superman face-to-face on a helipad overlooking metropolis. In typical Hollywood style Lex divulges his evil plan to Superman.

Lex shows Superman pictures of his kidnapped mother, the cost of her release, Batman’s head.

The film continues to its conclusion and I will not divulge anymore.

What caught me during this dialogue between Luthor and Superman was the below statement:

If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good, and if he’s not all powerful he can’t possibly be god.” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

lex luther

This line resonated with me throughout the film as I feel it is a rather succinct way of putting across what many people have against religion.

What Lex is getting at here is essentially a point of view that many share.

“If God is sovereign He can’t be all good all the time, because at some point He will have to make an unpopular decision.”

What we have here is the ‘ye olde’ paradox of Love and Justice that has baffled unregenerate humanity throughout history. (1 Cor 1:25)

“If God is love how can He send people to Hell? If God is just how can He forgive sin?”

Mercy or forgiveness is the opposite of Justice, how can God be both? “If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

Religions throughout history have tried to deal with this conundrum by creating rites of passage or levels of; piety, status and wealth, alongside many other deeds that mankind can work towards to please said deity and thus remain just in their site. This way condemnation would be justly given to those that do not follow suit, so, it is argued that their god remains loving (but only to those who deserve it).

But this man-made, man-up ‘religion’ remains illogical in the face of the paradox that Lex Luthor puts forward so perfectly, as it limits the love of God.

If salvation could be earned there would be no need for Mercy, there would be no need for God’s Love.

If God only showed love to those who deserve it, then He is not a loving God.

Love is not based on a reward system (Matthew 5:43-48).

Love patient, love is kind, it is not self seeking, love keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Think about it.

If we had to meet the standards of an all powerful god, we would all fail, because none of us are ‘all powerful’ and if we came to that all powerful god that only rewarded us for his decreed works, then he would not be a loving god at all and because we could not achieve said works anyway (none of us are perfect), we would all be doomed. – Make sense?

So the question remains;

“If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good” Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

“If God is love how can He send people to Hell? If God is just how can He forgive sin?”

Well there is an answer!

An answer so perfect that it could only come from God Himself, because mere men could never have dreamt it up! And it is unique to Christianity (because Christianity is uniquely from God).

The answer to this paradox is found on the Cross on which the Prince of Glory died.

On this Cross we see God’s Love and Justice meet….and it all makes perfect sense!

On this Cross the illogical becomes logical.

On this Cross the paradox is perfectly fulfilled in God the Son Jesus Christ.

Why?

Well because on this Cross God remains perfectly just, because the sentence we deserve for our crimes was issued and the punishment was carried out in full.

And

On this Cross God remains perfectly loving because He sacrificially took the sentence (which we deserve) on Himself (God the Son).

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” 1 Peter 3:18

In faith of this truth, you are saved.

“If god is all powerful he can’t possibly be all good”. Lex Luthor Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

Well Lex, yes He can, in Jesus Christ.

Look to the Cross.

Christianity is not a religion of works, it is not a philosophy or a moral law, neither is it about what we can do to please God. Christianity is about having faith in the historic fact of what God has already done for us, so perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is the Gospel! Join us on Sunday to find out more

The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Romans 6:10

Jesus

Image sources (in order)
From Google Search
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice/
http://comicbook.com/2015/12/01/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-sneak-peek-detailed-analysis/
http://screenrant.com/batman-v-superman-zack-snyder-cut-dark-scene/
http://moviepilot.com/posts/2867036
http://www.comicbookmovie.com/batman/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-a127760

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

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