I have to admit that the name ‘Good Friday’ has always baffled me; surely that Friday all those years ago was anything but good. Isn’t it amazing how hindsight can change our perspective on things? We know now that Friday had to happen, we know now that Sunday is coming, we know now that Jesus is ‘seated … at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’ (Ephesians 1:20). Maybe it is my obsession with context, but I can’t help consider the pain of that Friday, not only for Jesus, but also for the faithful onlookers. I don’t want to look back for the purposes of feeling guilty, because we know that there is ‘now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). I want to look back from the perspective of dealing with the present whilst trusting in what is to come.
We often talk about big picture and detail, the now and the not yet and how we are called to live in tension between what we see now and the perfection that awaits when Christ comes again. Living that out can be easier said than done. Jesus stated very clearly to those around him that he had to die, but would rise again (Matthew 8:31). What’s clear is that they couldn’t cope with the information or begin to comprehend the ‘good’ in it all. The disciples struggled to see beyond the now to the not yet, they struggled to trust God with the big picture. We have to live through the detail in order for the big picture to come about, that’s the difficult bit, not understanding and yet being called to trust, being called to have faith.
If God had revealed to me a couple of years ago that I would be the Pastor at LLCC and about to become Pastor of KBC I would have run a mile in the midst of a struggle to believe. Yet the detailed outworking of the past 8 years of my life have bought me to a place where I still struggle but can have faith in God’s faithfulness and equipping. Equally there are those things that have happened to Catrin and I that I struggle to see any purpose in. The only way to come through those moments is to trust in God, to look to Him and His power to redeem.
As we journey through Holy Week and into Easter, let’s consider the Easter story afresh. Let’s consider the pain in the narrative and also the joy. Let’s take heart from the way in which God showed himself to His people in their lack of understanding. Let’s pray that we would be a church of big picture people who look to God, and trust in Him completely for the future.
Given that March 1st is St Davids Day, the day we celebrate all things Wales, it seems an apt time to focus on the imperative of the gospel in Wales. The front page of this newsletter has been given over to an exciting venture we are spearheading alongside Ruthin Christian Fellowship. We had a joint service before Christmas, which was great, but we saw the potential to think bigger and start something that drew in churches from across the valley. The title ‘Together in the Gospel’ sums up the intention and purpose behind the venture. We recognise that unity brings prosperity in its truest form and understanding. We also recognise Christ’s call to His church to be one, to work together and to seek a common goal. We will be inviting churches from across the valley and hope this will be the start of something exciting, the start of a dialogue and a catalyst for gospel outreach in North Wales. Wherever the church is globally, unity is important, but even more so in North Wales. Thankfully churches and their leaders are beginning to realise this and we are seeing barriers that use to exist lowering and a greater openness from people.
As a church we have long been committed to working together with the other churches in the city, committed to projects such as the missioner and I hope that same selfless outlook will continue. In years gone by churches have taken the decision to look inward when times have been hard, to shut up shop and look after self. I am yet to witness a situation where this has worked. As soon as a church ceases to look beyond itself, ceases to notice the need of those outside its doors, ceases to actively be good news, it ceases to be church. My hearts desire is that we will continue to pursue our God given purpose in St Asaph and beyond. Wales has been a place of great revival, a place that has witnessed some amazing works of God. I am fed up of talking about years gone by, I want to be talking about revival in the present, citing stories from now and not yesterday. Jesus is just as able to work among us now as He did back when because ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ Hebrews 13:8.
Will you join me in praying for ort nation? Why not commit to praying to a place in Wales that is dear to you? Pray for the venture with Ruthin Christian Fellowship, that it would be the beginning of something significant. Please do come along and be part of that event. As part of Christ’s church we are all responsible and all capable!
The picture above is fascinating. I had no idea that there had been a Baptist congregation in St Asaph prior to our arrival. It serves as a great reminder that things aren’t always what they might seem. Isaac Newton once said ‘If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’. As I looked at the picture I began to understand what Newton was saying, that there are those who have come before who have laid the foundation on which we stand. When I arrived back in Llanelwy in September 2013 I knew I was building on a foundation that had been built by many of you as founding members, but had no idea about the historic tradition on which we were building.
In Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, we gain an insight into the historical giants on whose shoulders we are standing. The great characters from the Scripture formed the beginning of God’s story amongst His people. In our own lives we will be able to name people who have left a legacy or continue to provide us with a foundation on which to thrive. Each of us are where we are today because of the influence and foundation work of others. It is both humbling and reassuring to know that similar to a jigsaw, we are one small piece in a much bigger picture.
The question is, what does this all mean for us now as we look forward to the future? We can look forward with certainty and hope because we know that God has fulfilled His promises in the past. Each of the individuals personal to us and in Hebrews were ordinary people, called by an extraordinary God. It is through God, that their legacy was established, and through God they found fulfillment and security. Running alongside the reassurance is the challenge. Each of us is called to leave a legacy; each of us is called to live a faithful life. Collectively we are called to leave a legacy; collectively called to be faithful to God’s call to us as a church, to look back for inspiration and walk forward with hope.
The beginning of Hebrews 12 sums up our challenge and call eloquently: ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ Hebrews 12:1-3. As we purposely discuss the next steps on our journey as a church lets do so unhindered, reassured and with expectation.
I am always amazed at the optimism that greets each and every New Year. Facebook and Twitter is dominated by pledges to be different, to do less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff. Retailers shift their focus from filling people up to slimming them down. ‘New Year, New You’ is an often spoken slogan. I love this optimism and only wish I wasn’t one of those people who are knowingly pledging to be healthier and will fall by the end of January. My pledges aren’t just to physical health, but also spiritual health. I know I need to pray more! What are your pledges as you begin this New Year?
The next 8 months are so important for us as a church as we build on the foundations we have built and look to the future with faithful assurance of God’s continuing work amongst us. It is so important that we remain united during this period. United in Prayer. United in Purpose. United in Potential.
For as long as I can remember we have had a Sunday evening prayer meeting, an opportunity to gather and specifically pray for the life and work of the church. I really want to see this meeting flourish because I am convinced that prayer works and will be the one thing that will see us through the months ahead and enable us to continue being faithful. Our verse for this year is so rich and so are the verses that follow it that speak of the privilege, richness and reality of prayer ‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jer 29:12-13).
Would you join me in seeing these verses become a reality in the life of our church and see us thrive as we walk faithfully in the plans and purpose God has for us?
The above question has been dominating my thoughts recently. Within that reflection I have come to the conclusion that we don’t fully ‘get’ Christ and do Him justice in the church. Often the dominant image of Christ is ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’, but a simple reading of the gospels renders this statement inadequate in isolation. Christ was gentle, meek and mild but we also fiery, direct and heavy-handed.
The Scripture I’ve been looking at in some depth is John 13 where Jesus washes the disciples feet. The interpretation that is drawn from that passage is one of servant leadership, Christ’s example and our call. I want to also suggest that out of that passage comes an interpretation of rebellion, Christ’s example and our call. In the simple act of wearing the towel, grabbing the water and washing feet Jesus challenged social structure, hierarchy and injustice. We see in the Scripture itself the shock of the disciples expressed through Peter, there is no way Jesus should of been wearing what He was wearing or doing what he was doing. We can’t grasp the significance of Jesus’ action in our modern context. Jesus was a true rebel, a radical in His time, and the call at the end of the Scripture is to do likewise. Jesus stood against and challenged everything He came across that didn’t match up with the standards of Gods kingdom … He was a rebel to the world, a resident in heaven.
The challenge is to consider what an equivalent act would look like today. How are we maintaining a distinct character and lifestyle? How are we living by the standards of heaven and not the world? How are we serving Christ in a way that is making those around us stand up and take note?
I wonder if our narrow view of Christ and often our watered down application of our calling is what is rendering Christianity irrelevant to the masses? I wonder if Church is preventing folk from meeting the full and magnificent Christ? I know that the Christ that I love and serve has the power to change lives and is as relevant today as He was all those years ago. As we come into Christmas we would do well to think about what Christ people are seeing in our churches. Are you being a rebel for Jesus?
Christmas is here again. The question at the forefront of my minds, how do we keep it fresh? Without Christmas we wouldn’t have Christ, and without Him where would we be? One thing is for sure, we can’t let something as significant as Christmas become ordinary or taken for granted. In the midst of the gifts, glitter and glamour we can’t allow the world changing narrative of Christ’s birth to be sidelined. This Christmas season we are going to look at the narrative afresh considering how all those years ago God made something ordinary, extraordinary. We are going to look at the bold statement Christ made in who He was born to, where He was born and who was invited. Ordinary people and place, extraordinary purpose and effect. Excited?
Merry Christmas, Pastor Ben
November is always the month of remembrance. The famous rhyme tells us to ‘remember, remember’. We also take time to remember and reflect on wars in days gone by. Looking back and remembering are important, but not always helpful. As we remember WW1 particularly this year it is important that we don’t just remember, but we also learn in order to shape our future together. The past always has important lessons to teach us about our future. As you look back and remember this November what have you learned, what should you learn? On this topic I am always reminded of the words of Habakkuk: ‘Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known’ 3:2. Remember, learn and look.
As we enter autumn, the church calendar takes us to Harvest. When I think of Harvest 2 things come to mind … Food and People. Traditionally at Harvest time we give food to those in need as a way of giving thanks and blessing others, see inside for more details. But, I also can’t help but think of people, and particularly the moment when Jesus declared to his disciples that ‘the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few’ Matt 9:37. Do you consider the harvest to be plentiful in St Asaph? The truth is that we worship a God who can achieve the impossible and live in a community where many don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. They’re missing out on the greatest news of all time. How are you helping to bring in the harvest this autumn? Pastor Ben
Due to the fantastic success of the Open House trial throughout August we will be continuing. It made a slow start but at the last Open House people were asking if we were going to continue. There was a lot of interest particularly from those who have pre-school children, which given our desire to begin a work amongst that group is beyond exciting. Thanks to all those who committed so much time throughout August to make it happen. Let’s pray as we continue that God would direct us and do a work amongst us!
I’ve always had a soft spot for the dialogue in Isaiah 6. After fearing for his life in the presence of the Lord, Isaiah finds the strength and presence of mind to respond boldly to the above question, ‘Here am I, send me’ Isaiah 6:8. This same question is asked of us each morning, but are we bold enough to proclaim ‘Here am I, send me’. It is a dangerous statement to make, because who knows what might follow. As we embark on a new academic year I would like us to consider our response, individually and corporately to the Lords question, ‘Whom shall I send?’ It is not now, nor will it ever be all about me, it is most definitely about us. Let’s take encouragement from the year gone, but look forward with renewed expectancy & hope to the year ahead.