Blog

Just a Mum?

One thing I learned very quickly after becoming a mum is that there is no universally acceptable job title for the parent who gives up paid employment in order to care for their children, as every term offends someone.

“Full-time Mum” – this is offensive because it implies that mums who go to work are only part-time mums, and therefore somehow inferior.

“Stay-at-home Mum” – apparently this implies that all mums do is stay at home and watch Jeremy Kyle all day.

“Housewife”  – too old fashioned.

“Homemaker” – are you kidding me?

Other people say we should forget trying to describe/define it at all, I’m just “a mum”.

Whatever description is chosen, someone on some parenting forum somewhere will explain exactly why that term is so offensive to them. But it’s my job and I (mostly!) love it.

I’m not going to deny that there are days when I push my children through the school gates and run in the opposite direction, or days when I have actually hidden in the bathroom and locked the door because I just want 5 minutes to myself. There are also days when I have cried when looking at my overflowing ironing baskets (yes, that’s plural), or I’ve rung my husband to tell him to pick up a takeaway on his way home from work because I’ve had a difficult day and the thought of cooking dinner is pushing me over the edge.  (I’ve really sold you on this full-time-stay-at-home-housewife-homemaker-mum role now, haven’t I?!)

But when the kids are asleep/in school and I have the time to step back and look more objectively at my life, I feel privileged to be able to do this.

Some women feel that they lose their identity as an individual when they become a mum, as everything they do suddenly revolves around their child. I can honestly say that I have never felt that way. Being a mum can be all-consuming and exhausting, but I was given one valuable piece of advice early on, and that is to remember my primary identity is as a Child of God. I may no longer be a nurse, no longer contributing financially to the home, but my primary identity is always as one of God’s children – He has loved me from before the foundation of the world, He has forgiven my sins, He cares for me, He provides for my needs, and He listens when I pray to Him. My chief purpose in life is not to be a Mum, but to love and to serve my God – and I can do that whether I am out at work, or at home with my children.

It’s very easy to feel de-valued by the society around us when you are “just” a mum. When we meet someone new, one of the first questions we are asked is what job we do – and it can be difficult to admit that you’re not in paid employment any more. But as a Christian I’m called to serve God wherever He sends me, and although I may no longer be in a workplace surrounded by adults who I can share my faith with, for now my mission field is my home (my children, and the friends that I make through my role as a mum). That is just as important as any other mission field He could send me to, because that is where He has placed me.

All of us as Christian parents have the same responsibilities – to provide for our children’s physical needs, to teach them the skills they need for life, but also to teach them about God. As a stay-home parent I have the privilege of having extra time available to me to do this. In Deuteronomy 6 we’re told that talking to our children about God should be something that happens naturally during the day, as much a part of life as teaching them to count, or helping them learn to read, or how to tie their shoelaces. It’s not just about taking them to church on Sunday and reading them a Bible story at night, it’s about bringing God into the everyday situations that we face – showing them the greatness of the Creator as we look at the beauty of the world around us, teaching them to be thankful for even the smallest of blessings, praying with them about the things that worry them. All of us have the opportunity to do this as parents, but when we’re home with them all day we have the privilege of having even more time to teach them these things.

Some days are better than others. We have days when we feel good about our role as parents, the kids are happy, we’ve not made too many mistakes and the house doesn’t resemble a bombsite (well, not all of it anyway). Thank God that we do have those days!  But there are times when we feel like complete failures as parents – we are Christians, but we’re still sinners and we do lose patience with our children and over-react to little things, we get tired and stressed and at times feel completely overwhelmed by the responsibility of bringing up our children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. What can we do then? I’ve learned over the last ten years that we have to bring it all to God – the good times and the bad, in parenting as much as in every other area of life. We need to ask for wisdom to make the right choices in the small decisions as well as the big ones, we need strength and grace for each new day, and we need the humility to admit it when we get it wrong.

Everyone tells me that the teenage years are even harder than the toddler years. I feel totally inadequate for the task ahead of me, but I know that I have a Father who is willing to give wisdom, grace and strength – and I plan to ask Him for them daily!

 

Written by: Lis Rowe, member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Lessons from the Life of Thomas Boston

Thomas Boston (1676-1732) was a man of melancholic disposition allied to a fearless spirit when it came to defending Biblical truth. One continuing trial was from the church system of presbyteries and patrons in which he was serving, and which coerced rather than called him to a church. His first appointment was at Simprin, where the manse lay in ruins, so he settled in an old house. This was also in such a bad state of repair, that in a storm he had to leave his own bed and sleep with his father “lest the house should have fallen on me”. The manse at Ettrick, his other charge, was also in a ruinous state. While it was rebuilt his family had to live in the stable and barn, where his son Ebenezer was born, who died shortly after. Altogether, Boston buried six of his ten children.

When he first met his wife he says that he “discerned the sparkles of grace in her”. Twenty years later, aged forty-six, his wife was afflicted with a schizophrenia which lasted the remainder of their married life. It confined her to bed and was often accompanied by fevers, and once she was tempted to suicide.

 

Health problems

Boston’s physical health was a sore trial. While a student, to economise he ate but little, and often fainted and appeared to be dying. His condition, probably exacerbated by a lack of Vitamin C, was so severe that his teeth blackened and gradually dropped out. He subsequently kept them in a box ‘for conversation’! His lack of teeth caused much pain and embarrassed him with difficulty in pronunciation.

 

Publication problems

Boston reluctantly agreed to publish some sermons and writings, but there were many setbacks and delays, lost manuscripts, and on one occasion he ‘was greatly confounded to see the book pitifully mangled, being full of typographical errors, and besides, Mr Wightman had so altered it in many places, that he had quite marred it.’

 

Congregational problems

The congregation of Ettrick was also a trial to him. They often deserted his ministry, neglected worship, and despised the message he preached, so he could say, “The crown is fallen from my head, and I am brought very low! The approaching Sabbath, that sometimes was my delight, is now a terror to me.”

 

Growth in grace

Boston’s path to new life in Christ was a difficult one. He rarely heard gospel preaching, there was no sudden conversion, and he had to shed his legalistic attitudes. His early preaching at the age of twenty-one was so much on the wrath of God, that a minister advised him, ‘if you were entered on preaching of Christ, you would find it very pleasant,’ which he afterwards remembered as ‘the first hint given me by the good hand of my God towards the doctrine of the gospel.’ Once ordained and settled at Simprin, Boston enjoyed a ‘more clear uptaking of the doctrine of the gospel,’ and a vision of ‘Christ’s fullness, his being “all and in all”‘. He resembled the Welsh preacher Daniel Rowland in this transformation.

Being hampered by a lack of commentaries and other books, Boston was deeply hurt when a visiting minister smiled condescendingly at seeing his little library. At times throughout his life he would spend hours in prayer and fasting, searching his heart for unrepented sins in order to confess them, and then he would draw up a fresh covenant with God. He could say two years before he died, ‘I have a measure of confidence, that I will get complete life and salvation.’

 

Praying and preaching

Boston’s great strengths were to be filled with a sense of the majesty and grace of God, and to hold the Scripture in great esteem, applying himself to its study in the original languages. He disciplined himself in prayer, with certain days appointed for personal, family and church fasting, and spent the time between services in prayer and meditation. He would never preach on a text until he had assurance on the subject, which could be obtained with ‘more wasting and weakening to me, than the study of my sermon thereon.’ Boston timed himself with a pulpit hourglass. Once he had a job to stretch his sermon to the hour, but at another time he forgot how many times he had turned the glass over. He records that at one Lord’s Supper, ‘The sermon was more than two hours, which I think was too much. A certain gentleman said, it was above his capacity … I resolved to be shorter.’

 

Providence

Boston ascribed all events to the sovereign providence of God, but should occasionally, have also seen a lack of common sense as the human cause of a misfortune. For example, on one occasion after saddling his horse he was informed it had a swelling, but he still rode it to a communion at Penpont. There the blacksmith came to see it and advised that it was more swollen than before – ‘I was obliged to leave my horse behind me at Penpont under care, and he died’. Not only that, but he himself was unwell, so an elder accompanied him, who subsequently died at Penpont, to his great grief.

Yet his other afflictions, especially his wife’s mental illness, were unavoidable. He wrote ‘I think I have thereby obtained some soul-advantage; more heavenliness in the frame of my heart, more contempt of the world, as the widow that is desolate trusteth in God … more carefulness to walk with God, and to get evidence for heaven; more resolution for the Lord’s work, over the belly of difficulties.’

 

Benevolence

Boston records that although his ‘stipend was small students continued with us at times; so that we ate not our morsel alone’. His salary was subsidized with income from a house he rented and from his office as synod-clerk, so that ‘things honest in the sight of men were readily, by the kind disposal of Providence, laid to hand’. On receipt of his stipend he would lay aside certain amounts, and he kept these in a box in his left-side pocket and gave them out for benevolences and Sabbath offerings. In addition, he fed the poor who called at his house. In all his ministry he used to pray that he “might attain to habitual cheerfulness in the Lord”.

 

The man and his Guide

Like his Lord, Boston had ‘nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.” Yet he would say, “If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him’. To Boston, the Lord was the Great Leader, and the Sovereign Manager; and of his Word he writes, ‘all is comprehended in the word, Prov. 3:6; both the promise and the precept take in all. You are neither to look for impressions, nor anything else of that kind, whatever indulgence the Lord makes to some of His people in some circumstances, and … set yourself as a Christian man to perceive what in the circumstances appears reasonable to be done’. He was careful that he “might not make a fortune-book of the Bible,” dipping into it at random for guidance, rather he resolved to read it systematically and “though my case should not be touched there, I would wait on God”. Thus he was safely, if not easily, led to his eternal rest.

How soft we are! How easily we grumble at the slightest difficulty or affront which we encounter! Did our Lord meet with less? Are we going to leave the church in a huff over some disagreement in a church meeting? What about the unity of the church? Do we feel overburdened with duties and family pressures and hardships? Are we going to stay at home on the Lord’s Day because of a headache? Would we rather read a devotional book at home than attend the prayer meeting? Shortly before his death, in much pain, lame and so very weak he could not go out to the church, he yet opened the manse window and, with an all but toothless mouth, declared the glorious gospel of Christ. Do you have problems?

“When I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

__________________________________

Memoirs of Thomas Boston, Banner of Truth, 1988 (First pub. 1899)

 

Get up, and walk

Jesus said, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” When he said this to the ‘invalid’ man by the pool (John 5:8), he wasn’t joking. Whatever was wrong with this man (probably paralysed or lame) he had been this way for thirty-eight years. Everyone who knew this man knew him to be an ‘invalid’. In those days, they had no benefit system provided by the government. Each family provided for themselves unless you were of high ranking like a Priest, Scribe, or King. This man would likely have been an outcast, living among the other invalids scavenging food. People would have given up on him years ago and saw no hope for him. This man’s hope was in the apparent healing powers of Bethesda pool. They believed that the pool of Bethesda could perform healing miracles so all the invalids would gather to wash in it. The irony of the story is that he asks Jesus to lift him into the pool to be healed, when actually, the very person capable of performing such a miracle was Jesus himself and was standing right before him!

So often, when we face hardship, suffering and affliction, we find hope and comfort in something or someone other than the One who provides infinite comfort and eternal hope. We are so blinded by our sin that we continually fail to look to Christ for hope. Jesus reveals himself to this man by being that hope. He set him free from his bondage and told him to get up and to walk. Do you think this man got up and walked into the pool? I don’t think so. He didn’t need to. Whilst the others were rolling in the pool, this man stood for the first time in thirty-eight years, was satisfied, and walked home.

This is exactly what we need today and everyday; to see who is before us. Jesus has revealed Himself to us by coming into the world to set us free from our greatest bondage; the bondage of sin. We need not to try and find hope anywhere else because Jesus is our hope. He is our only hope. Because of who He is and what He’s done, we can be get up and walk free from our bondage. Through His sacrificial atonement on the cross at Golgotha, Christ’s blood cleanses us from our sin. Charles Wesley’s famous hymn ‘And Can it Be’ has that fabulous line which says,

‘My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.’

Through Christ alone, we can rise as He rose from the grave, go forth and follow Him who is worthy of our praise. Glory be to God.

Written by: Gwydion Emlyn, Assistant to the Pastor and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

The Devil you Know

One writes about the devil with reluctance. How much sweeter to write about the beauties of Christ. The Holy Spirit, however, has thought it profitable to reveal to us quite a lot about our arch-enemy in the Scriptures. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Peter was caught off his guard by Satan when he denied his Lord three times (Luke 22:54-62). It is with this sad experience in mind that he addresses the church: ‘ Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Pet. 5:8).

 

The purpose of spiritual darkness

The old master painters knew that by including lots of dark hills and clouds, the glint of the sun on a river in the valley or the lightning flash would appear all the brighter. Likewise, the glory of Christ shines all the brighter in comparison with the darkness of sin and its effects.

 

No joke

The portrayal of Satan as a red monster with horns, tossing people into hell with a pitchfork is pure fiction, people may even joke about it, and the devil is sure to be happy with that. The truth is that he was created a beautiful archangel who subsequently tried to usurp God’s authority, and was cast out of heaven along with the angels who rebelled with him. Also, it is God alone, and not Satan, who has the authority to consign lost souls to the pit. When Jesus tells us ‘Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell’ (Matt. 10:28b) he is referring to God, not Satan. The commentator Matthew Henry says, ‘this destruction comes from the power of God: he is able to destroy; it is a destruction from his glorious power (2 Thess. 1:9).

It is Jesus himself who ‘will punish those who do not know God … They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord…’ (1 Thess. 1:8-9).

 

Satan’s names

The devil may appear in various guises and act in different ways, so has been given various names in the Bible. About seventeen of these names are listed in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible at http://www.studylight.org/concordances/tcr/view.cgi?n=2881.

We first meet him as the Serpent who tempted Eve in Genesis 3:1, beginning with the lie that God forbad them eating fruit from any tree in the garden, following on with the lie that if they ate the fruit from the one tree God told them not to eat, then they would not die. He lied and deceived, with the aim of bringing death and destruction into the world, all with the intention of attacking God who had cast him out of heaven for his rebellion. One result of sin entering the world was that soon afterwards Cain became jealous over his brother Abel, whose sacrifice was accepted by God, whereas his own was rejected, so he slew him. Jesus said of the devil, ‘He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him … He is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).

The meaning of Satan is ‘adversary’ or one who resists, accuses and opposes all who trust in God. Further details are at http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/satan/. He seeks to accuse us before God on account of our sin and guilt. He is ‘the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night’ (Rev. 12:10b). But the verse continues to tell us Satan has been hurled down, having been overcome by the ‘blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ John Newton wrote in his hymn ‘Approach, my soul, the mercy seat’,

 

Be Thou my Shield and hiding Place,

That, sheltered by Thy side,

I may my fierce accuser face,

And tell him Thou hast died!

 

Are you finding great comfort in the thought that Jesus, by his shed blood, has overcome all Satan’s accusations by blotting out our guilt, so we can stand in His righteousness before God?

Other names include Prince of this world (John 14:30), Ruler of the kingdom of the air (Eph. 2:2), and The Evil One (Matt. 13:19). He is the Angel of the Abyss (Rev. 9:11), also called Abaddon and Apollyon. He is the great Dragon (Rev. 12:9), who leads the whole world astray, but he has been hurled down to the earth with his angels, where he is furious because his time is short (v. 12b).

 

The end of Satan

He may be powerful, but one of God’s Angels has power enough to bind him in the Abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2). After his release, he will attack the city of God, all the redeemed, but then fire from heaven will descend and destroy his forces, and the Devil will be thrown into the lake of burning sulphur where he remains for ever (v. 10).

 

Our response

As long as Satan is on the prowl we need to keep alert. Peter tells us to resist him and stand firm (1 Pet. 5:9). Paul tells us to put on all the armour of God so we will be able to stand when the day of evil comes, taking the word of God and praying in the Spirit (Eph. 6:12-18).

 

We shall overcome

Although Christ defeated the Devil by his death and resurrection, he remains a formidable foe until he is finally destroyed. We have a constant battle against the temptations of the world, the flesh and the forces of evil. The Bible assures us, however, that we shall overcome all these enemies if we are trusting in Christ. ‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4). ‘For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith’ (1 John 5:4). We cannot overcome the forces of evil in our own strength, of course, but by the power of Christ: ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Phil. 4:13).

 

Our reward

Our risen Lord promises the church at Ephesus: ‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God’ (Rev. 2:7b). We have now come full circle. Although we had been banned from eating the fruit of this tree after Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptation, Christ has defeated that serpent, obliterated our sin and guilt, and clothed us in his righteousness. There is nothing to prevent us living in God’s paradise if we are trusting in Christ for salvation. He has gone ahead to prepare a place for us: ‘And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’ (John 14:3).

Are you ready to move to your new home in the Paradise estate?

 

 

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Devotion to Christ in the Local Church

“I’m a Christian, but I don’t go to church” does not sit well with the teaching of Jesus or the message of the Bible!

The more an individual is devoted to Jesus Christ, the more this will be externally expressed as something manifested in the life of that individual’s local church. Two main areas will be involved – what I receive and also what I give.

Firstly, what I receive. The local church is a key means that The Lord has established whereby I can “grow in the grace and the knowledge of The Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter3:18). The early church believers at Jerusalem manifested devotion to Christ in four obvious ways.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42). In the heat of early devotion, they did this on a daily basis!

This much is clear; because they were devoted to Christ, they loved to be where His word was being preached, where His people talked about Him, where His death was remembered and where they would commune with Him together.

Of course there would be those whose attendance was a sham, a mere external tradition (Acts 5 shows this to be the case with a husband and wife!) – but those devoted to Christ will love these “means of grace” and make every effort to be there!

The New Testament emphasises our need of each other and our need to meet together (Hebrews 10:25, 3:13). The more we love Christ, the more we will love and value and hunger and thirst for these means whereby we can grow to know Him better.

 

Secondly, what I give. 

The Apostle Paul speaks of living his life for “…The Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him” Devotion to Christ in the life of the local church is not simply what I get, but equally importantly it is what I GIVE!

“I get nothing from this church, so I’m leaving” is a complaint heard sadly all too often. Whilst in some cases it may be true, a question we need to put to ourselves however is “What did I ever give to this church?”! A believer devoted to Christ will find it impossible to be a mere “consumer” in the local church. It will just not be possible to be a mere “pew filler” and a taker – my desire will be to serve The Lord with gladness.

Every believer has been given a gift, or gifts by the risen ascended Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 4:7-8; 1 Cor4:4-7) notice in the latter reference why the gifts we have were given – “… for the common good”. Your gift (and you do have one, or several) is for you to use for the good of others and for the glory of the God who gave it. The believer who is devoted to Christ will be eager to use any gifts they have in the life of the local church.

In far too many evangelical churches today it is a sad reality that a large minority, or in some cases a majority, of those attending are there as mere takers and not as givers.

How about me, how about you? Is my devotion to Christ real? Is that devotion being rightly manifested in the life of my local church?

 

Written by: Dr. Andrew Christofides, Pastor of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Used with permission by EMW. Original article published in EMW Magazine –  www.emw.org.uk/magazine

Heidi’s Story

Heidi’s Story

I grew up in a loving family where both parents were Christians and taught me about their faith. I went to church every Sunday and attended Sunday School. To me, Sunday was a very different, ‘religious’ day. Going to church was as routine for me as going to school was. I used to get embarrassed when I had friends around and my Dad said ‘grace’ before meals, especially as most of my friends would have already started eating! I also thought it was unfair that I couldn’t go to parties on a Sunday or have sleepovers on a Saturday night.

However, it was clear to me how important my parents’ faith was to them, although I felt it was something grown-ups did and I was too young to bother about it. I don’t think I was ever very rebellious, as those of you who know me could imagine! I just wanted to have fun and not get bogged down by talk of ‘sin’.

The first time I can remember seriously considering my sinful state before a holy God was at my grandfather’s funeral. At the age of ten, this was the first time in my life someone closely related to me had died. On the order of service were written the words, ‘Forever with the Lord’. I knew I couldn’t say for certain that if I died, I would go to heaven, and that troubled me. It was mainly because I was scared of dying, rather than being aware of my sin that would sink me to hell. I quickly resumed my normal life and soon forgot the uncomfortable feelings I’d had.

The second ‘stop and think’ moment came during a summer youth camp I went on in 2002. This was a week away from home, camping with other children my age. Each evening, the good news about Jesus was shared with us  and seemed very clear and easy to understand compared to what I was used to hearing at church. There was no denying that I was a sinner, destined for hell and that God was reaching out His hand to save me. I felt like I wanted to change and be a ‘good person’ but chose to reject this offer. I enjoyed my life and didn’t want God, my creator and sustainer, to interfere!

Another unremarkable year passed. I then went on my second summer youth camp. Once again, I felt uncomfortable hearing how God had sent His son to die to take the punishment which I deserved for rejecting Him and living my own way. On the last day of camp, we went to Eastbourne beach to watch an Air Show. That morning we had been told how uncertain life is and how no one knows when their time is up. During the Air Show, the planes were performing all sorts of dives and soaring back up into the sky. One pilot, misjudged a dive and the plane’s engine didn’t have the power to swoop back up, so it crashed into the sea causing the plane to explode. The pilot’s time was up. That evening we were read a verse from the Bible: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’. God was offering me another chance to accept His offer of salvation and forgiveness. Would I reject Him again? That night I couldn’t sleep. I was scared incase my time was also up and wondered whether I had missed my chance. I prayed to God earnestly asking Him to forgive me for ignoring Him and living for myself. I claimed two promises in the Bible which say ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ and ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’. I genuinely felt free and at peace. As soon as I got home from camp, I asked to be baptised. Being baptised is an outward sign, showing people the work that God has done in my life.

I remember my sister writing in a letter that she was praying for me to be kept safe from the Devil. She said the Devil would try to attack my faith as I openly told people about Jesus. Sure enough, three months after my baptism, a massive attack came and my life seemed to fall apart. As much as I’d like to forget it, I think it’s important to acknowledge it happened. I didn’t blame God for what had happened but I didn’t run to Him for refuge from this storm in my life. God hadn’t made a mistake, he hadn’t lost control of my life, he wasn’t unkind in allowing this to happen. I still don’t understand why this event happened but I know and trust that ‘all things work together for good, for those who love God and are called by Him’. A year passed by in a blur. I continued to go to church but my faith didn’t feel real. Suddenly, what I was hearing at church was as if God was speaking just to me about my exact situation. I was reminded how God was faithful and was carrying me through this difficult time. Thankfully, God re-kindled my faith and I began to find my identity in Christ, not in what had just happened. Once again, I felt safe and secure. ‘With Jesus in the boat, we can smile at the storm’ is a line from a well-known hymn and a truth I now knew. Another verse from a hymn by Helen H. Lemmel became very dear to me,

 

‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.’

 

Since then, I am very thankful to say that despite many more hard times, my God has been with me and the more I learn about Him and His love for me, the more I am amazed that I can call Him my heavenly Father.

 

Written by: Heidi Webster, member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Ruth Clung to Her

Ruth Clung to Her

I have had the privilege of preaching through the book of Ruth as my first ever sermon series and I think it’s one of the best short stories in the whole Bible. From beginning to end, the theme is the unfolding providence of God with a story of redemption at its core – which is also the story of the whole Bible. God, despite sin and suffering, reveals His plan of salvation to His people by redeeming them through the redemptive work of His Son Jesus Christ.

The main character, Ruth, was a Pagan, a Moabite and a non-Jew (Gentile). Moabites worshiped a god called Kimosh, whereas the Jews worshiped the God of the Bible (Yahweh). She married into a Jewish family that had moved to live in Moab but, sadly, her husband Mahlon died, as did Chilion his brother and Elimelech his father thus leaving Orpah (the wife of Chilion), Ruth and Naomi (her mother in-law) widowed.

Imagine the grief and the difficulty this would have brought. Naomi had to burry her husband and two sons. I can only imagine the terror she must have been going through. Understandably, she decides to go home – back to her hometown of Bethlehem. Devastated by the ordeal, she begs Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab with their family instead of being stuck with her for the rest of their lives. She had nothing more to give the ladies other than grief and sadness. So, Orpah chooses what seems to be the reasonable option and stays with her people in Moab but Ruth does something quite extraordinary – “Ruth clung to her” (Ruth 1:14). Yes, Ruth abandoned all that she had and went faithfully with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem – a foreign country.

Here, we discover Ruth going through a genuine conversion. Not only does Ruth decide to be faithful to Naomi but she does so much more than that. By retuning with Naomi to Bethlehem, Ruth becomes faithful to the God of Israel. She says, “Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). She commits and submits herself to the Lord by becoming a Jew. By clinging to Naomi, Ruth also clings to God and decides to follow His ways, His law and His statutes.

This is quite remarkable because her pleasures, comfort, and family were in Moab. Everything that she needed to ‘be happy’ was not going to be in Bethlehem. Yet, despite this, she commits her life to be with Naomi and to follow the way of Yahweh. Committing in this way meant she would have done all the things the Jews would have done – from obeying the Torah, to taking part in the sacrifices, the feasts and so on. What a remarkable story of faithfulness!

As we read the book of Ruth through to the end, we see that God blesses her life of obedience and faithfulness. By choosing the more difficult decision of abandoning her old life for the sake of being faithful, she is redeemed. This is also the case with us. The path of sin is an easy path. We do what we want, when we want, but the path of righteousness is often a painful one because we are required to turn from our sin, from our idols, and to trust in Jesus. However, the merits of taking the path of righteousness are eternal, and are full of joy; being forgiven of our sins and rewarded with eternal life and the righteousness of Christ.

The book of Ruth is a wonderful picture of the salvific redemption of God. Will we be like Orpah, choosing to follow the easy path, the path that leads to our known comforts? Or, will we follow the difficult path—the path that requires submission, sacrifice and obedience? The path of righteousness is where the fullness of joy is found—in Christ. He brought the good news to earth. He chose the difficult path: the path of submission, sacrifice, and obedience to the Father. His death brings us life and as He rose from death and ascended into Heaven, He too exalts those who trust in Him, to sit with Him at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).

Written by: Gwydion Emlyn, Assistant to the Pastor and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

So near, yet so far

So near, yet so far

When I was a chemistry student in Aberystwyth I lived in Pantycelyn Hall. There was a hall Bible study, which sometimes met in my room. The Christians were fairly conspicuous as we left for church twice on a Sunday dressed in our suits. In my last two years there was a certain law student in the next room to mine. The law students were a fairly ‘loud’ group, always voicing opinions and debating issues, as might be expected. Their Wednesday afternoons were spent on the local golf course, which was all part of their future lifestyle which would involve client networking. They often met in my neighbour’s room and, after returning from a night on the town, partied noisily late into the night. A couple of times some of us even had to rouse the sub-warden to tell them to keep quiet.  Sometimes lady friends would, illegally in those days, stay overnight. The dividing walls were very thin, so these events often prevented a good night’s sleep. All in all one could say that my neighbour appeared to relish all the world had to offer during his stay at university.

On the last night of the final year, he returned from a trip to town and instead of going to his room, he knocked on my door. I had never spoken to him directly before, neither had he ever been in my room. As you can imagine, I was apprehensive about what he was going to say. He began by apologising for being a bad neighbour, and looked quite sorry for himself. I assured him it was alright and made him a coffee. I had made no mention of Christianity, yet he began to relate how that in spite of all he had enjoyed while a student, his greatest pleasurable experience was when he attended an evangelistic meeting in his home town in South Wales. He had felt the joyful presence of the Holy Spirit in a way which exceeded all the other subsequent ‘joys’. I believe I pointed him to some relevant Bible verses and added a few words of counsel. I cannot say I was aware that he had undergone any permanent change of heart.

There are a few lessons to be learned. One is that if no opportunities have yet arisen to speak to your neighbour about Christ, never underestimate the witness you make as you regularly attend the means of grace. The world is watching and knows where you are going and your manner of life. You never know if they will one day call on you for help or advice. The second lesson is the serious one that it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit.

It is dangerous to ignore the inward promptings of the Spirit as he stirs our conscience to deal with the problem of our sin, for which we must one day give an account before God. If we put off dealing with this issue, thinking it would interfere too much with our lifestyle and cause problems with our friends, two desperate situations could arise. The first is that we never know when we might be taken seriously ill or have an awful accident which would rob us of the sheer mental energy or capacity to deal with these matters. The second more serious event is that God could withdraw from us, so we lose all interest in seeking reconciliation with him, and despise any who would visit us and try to persuade us to think otherwise. Could God do this? Yes indeed! We read as early in the Bible as Genesis 6:3, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man for ever’. Paul implores us to be reconciled to God while we have the chance, because ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Cor. 6:2b).

For those who have once made a profession of faith, and perhaps experienced the joy of the Spirit, but subsequently resolutely turned their backs on God, there is a dire warning in Hebrews 6:4, that ‘it is impossible that those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.’ Have you lost your first love for Christ? If so, there is still hope. If you are reading this, then you are probably concerned for your soul and have not yet fallen completely away. There is still time to seek God’s face and repent again and turn to him for forgiveness and restoration. Remember, ‘nothing is impossible with God’ (Luke 1:37).

Written by: Nigel Faithfull, author and member of St. Mellons Baptist Church

Napoleon’s Blog

Napoleon’s Testimony to Christ at St. Helena

“I know men, and I tell you that Jesus Christ is not a man. Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist. There is between Christianity and every other religion the distance of infinity.

“We can say to the authors of every other religion, You are neither gods nor the agents of Deity. You are but missionaries of falsehood, moulded from the same clay with the rest of mortals. You are made with all the passions and vices inseparable from them. Your temples and your priests proclaim your origin. Such will be the judgment, the cry of conscience, of whoever examines the gods and the temples of paganism.

“Paganism was never accepted as truth by the wise men of Greece, neither by Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato, Anaxagoras nor Pericles. But on the other side the loftiest intellects since the advent of Christianity have had faith, a living faith, a practical faith, in the mysteries and the doctrines of the gospel; not only Bossuet and Fénelon who were preachers, but Descartes and Newton, Leibnitz and Pascal, Corneille and Racine, Charlemagne and Louis XIV. [But hear Christ in Matt. xi. 25, 26.]

“Paganism is the work of man. One can here read but our imbecility. What do these gods, so boastful, know more than other mortals? these legislators, Greek or Roman? this Numa, this Lycurgus? these priests of India or of Memphis? this Confucius, this Mahomet? Absolutely nothing. They have made a perfect chaos of morals. There is not one among them all who has said anything new in reference to our future destiny, to the soul, to the essence of God, to the creation. Enter the sanctuaries of paganism — you there find perfect chaos, a thousand contradictions, the immobility of sculpture, the division and the rending of unity, the parcelling out of the divine attributes, mutilated or denied in their essence, the sophisms of ignorance and presumption, polluted fêtes, impurity and abomination adored, all sorts of corruption festering in the thick shades, with the rotten wood, the idol and his priest. Does this honour God, or does it dishonour Him? Are these religions and these gods to be compared with Christianity?

“As for me, I say no. I summon entire Olympus to my tribunal. I judge the gods, but am far from prostrating myself before their vain images. The gods, the legislators of India and of China, of Rome and of Athens, have nothing which can overawe me. Not that I am unjust to them; no, I appreciate them, because I know their value. Undeniably princes whose existence is fixed in the memory as an image of order and beauty, — such princes were no ordinary men. I see in Lycurgus, Numa, and Mahomet, only legislators who having the first rank in the state have sought the best solution of the social problem; but I see nothing there which reveals divinity. They themselves never raised their pretensions so high. As for me, I recognise the gods and these great men as being like myself. They have performed a lofty part in their times, as I have done. Nothing announces them divine. On the contrary there are numerous resemblances between them and myself, foibles and errors which ally them to me and to humanity.

“It is not so with Christ. Every thing in Him astonishes me. His Spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. Between Him and everyone else in the world there is no possible term of comparison. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and His sentiments, the truths which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things. His birth, and the history of His life; the profundity of His doctrines which grapples the mightiest difficulties, and which is, of those difficulties, the most admirable solution; His gospel, His apparition, His empire, His march across the ages and the realms, everything is to me a prodigy, a mystery insoluble, which plunges me into a reverie from which I cannot escape, a mystery which is there before my eyes, a mystery which I can neither deny nor explain. Here I see nothing human.

“The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above, everything remains grand — of a grandeur which overpowers. His religion is a revelation from an intelligence which certainly is not that of man. There is there a profound originality, which has created a series of words and of maxims before unknown. Jesus borrowed nothing from our sciences. One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life. He is not a philosopher, since He advances by miracles; and from the commencement His disciples worshipped Him. He persuades them far more by an appeal to the heart than by any display of method and of logic. Neither did He impose upon them any preliminary studies or any knowledge of letters. All His religion consists in believing.

“In fact the sciences and philosophy avail nothing for salvation; and Jesus came into the world to reveal the mysteries of heaven and the laws of the Spirit. Also He has nothing to do but with the soul, and to that alone He brings His gospel. The soul is sufficient for Him, as He is sufficient for the soul. Before Him the soul was nothing. Matter and time were the masters of the world. At His voice everything returns to order, science and philosophy become secondary. The soul has reconquered its sovereignty. All the scholastic scaffolding falls, as an edifice ruined, before one single word — faith!

“What a Master, and what a word, which can effect such a revolution! With what authority does He teach men to pray! He imposes His belief, and no one thus far has been able to contradict Him: first, because the gospel contains the purest morality, and also because the doctrine which it contains of obscurity is only the proclamation and the truth of that which exists which no eye can see and no reason penetrate. Who is the insensate who will say ‘No’ to the intrepid voyager who recounts the marvels of the icy peaks which he alone has had the boldness to visit? Christ is that bold voyager. [Rather irreverent methinks.] One can doubtless remain incredulous; but no one can venture to say it is not so.”

________________________________________

Extracts from Napoleon’s journal whilst in exile on the island of St Helena

Andy’s conversation with David Kingdon

Andy’s conversation with David Kingdon

I’m now sat in Starbucks at Cardiff Gate having spent a fascinating morning with Rev David Kingdon, his wife Sue and their son Stephen. David is held in high esteem by many and remembered fondly as a godly preacher and teacher of God’s word. In recent months he has known declining health but it is wonderful to see his steadfast faith in action during times of adversity and to see the diligent, faithful support of his wife.

The following article is based on conversation during my visit and is a summary of David’s experiences as a child evacuee during World War II.

Born in 1934 in Streatham South London, David was the oldest of three children. At the outbreak of the war, David (5), Peter(4) and baby Margaret left London with their mother and went to stay with the maternal grandma in Sussex. Dad stayed on in London working for the ministry of food under Stafford Cripps. Prior to the war dad Kingdon had been a business developer and had done much work in designing Streatham High Street ( known at the time as Kingdon’s kingdom!) During the early days of the blitz, the family home took a direct hit from an Luftwaffe bomb and David’s father was killed.

Clearly London was no place for the family to return to, whilst mum and baby stayed in Sussex, David and his brother were evacuated – Peter going to Wales and David to Islip in Northamptonshire.

“A trainload of evacuee children arrived in the parish hall in Islip” David tells me, “people from the area came and chose which children they would give a home to … until there was only me left!”

Eventually granny Caswell arrived, looked at David and said “I’ll take him!”

So began 4 immensely happy and safe years with granny  Caswell; her own children were all grown and had left home, so it was just she and David. Times there were peaceful and contented – David enjoyed his time at the village school and spent his free time wandering the fields with the many friends he made.

“The closest the war came to Islip was a stray “doodlebug” that landed nearby and shook granny Caswells feet off the stool she was resting them on!”

Mrs.  Caswell was cleaner at the local Parish Church and David would often help her – on one such occasion, David announced to her that one day he would be a preacher. (It seems young David was a prophet!) The Parish Church was “high church” and to his knowledge David never heard the gospel there.

However, God’s hand was clearly on this situation! Out of dark circumstance of time, The Lord was working out His eternal purposes! Amongst David’s friends was young Jeremy Clarke, whose parents, Claude and Molly, were believers. They took David under their wing and often took him to meetings at their chapel in nearby Raunds. The Clarkes would regularly offer hospitality to American believers who were in the area helping with the war effort. For these men and other local believers, they organised a monthly fellowship meeting in the Parish Hall. David remembers the song they sang at the end of each meeting:

“God be with you till we meet again” – the words of course were full of meaning in those dangerous days!

With the threat of invasion now passed, David went back to family in Sussex and from there he joined his brother Peter in Spurgeon’s orphanage. It was there that David came to faith, as the wonderful things David had learned in Islip were built upon through morning and evening prayers, visits to Redhill Baptist Church and visiting student preachers from  Spurgeon’s college.

Although the war years were dark and difficult for the Kingdon family, the loss of his father, the evacuation, the orphanage – David looks back with grateful thanks that Almighty God used those circumstances to lead to the salvation of his soul.

Now in his latter years David can look back with joy and know that the same God who led him through difficulties then is leading him now!

“How good is the God we adore, our faithful, up changeable friend, His love is as great as His power, and knows neither measure nor end.

‘Tis Jesus, the first and the last, whose Spirit shall guide us safe home, we’ll praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come”! (Joseph Hart hymn)

Starbucks tall filter finished, I go on my way encouraged by an elderly saint with a Great Saviour!

… is Jesus your Saviour?

 

Written by: Dr. Andrew Christofides, Pastor of St. Mellons Baptist Church