Parish of Rhyl

Faith in Rhyl

  • St Thomas' Church
  • Russell Rd
  • Rhyl
  • Denbighshire
  • LL18 3LW

01745 798864
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Bible Readings and Reflection

Check out Archdeacon Andy's blog for daily Bible reflections 

http://gwynog.blogspot.com/


Sunday Reflection 20th September: Revelation 5:6-8

All of us know, we have five basic senses. Sense of touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste and of these five senses, the sense of smell is considered to be the strongest.

 

Certain smells are nostalgic. When you smell that particular thing, it brings back old memories.


Often women have been known to sleep in this husbands’ clothes while they are out of town so that they can still sense their presence or when someone has passed away and gone, they can still smell their aftershave, perfume etc. long after they’ve gone. For me, it is the distinctive smells of coffee being made or freshly cut grass in the summer or even smell of freshly baked cakes.

The sense of smell can be very motivational. As we read throughout the scriptures, we discover that smell often plays an important role when approaching God.

From our Genesis reading about Noah. He burnt offerings a sacrifice of thanksgiving and what was god’s reaction. The Lord smelt the pleasing aroma and said never again I will curse the ground.God continues to instruct His people to give offerings and burn incense and even within the New Testament the sacrifice of Christ is a fragrant offering to God.

In the letter of Revelation, we came come to a part of praise and worship and it talking about our prayers being a sweet aroma. We read in verse 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, reach holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.Let’s us pause here for this morning to think about how three things the fragrance of Christ in the world, the fragrance of life and who is equal to such a task?

The fragrance of Christ in the world

Have you entered a building and smelt the baking of fresh bread or fresh coffee and the smell encourages us to come further into the building? We are attracted to these kinds of smells and it captivates us.

In the Corinthians reading we see the word aroma or fragrance. You can just picture something very important that as we follow the Lamb on the throne, the head of the body, the procession leading the way, we in turn celebrate Him as the victor.

The world in which the New Testament was written was a world dominated by the Roman Empire.

The armies of Rome had conquered all of the known world and often they had great public displays to show off their power and might.  As Paul, was writing this, he might have had in mind the picture of a Roman victory parade where the Head of the Military would be welcomed back home into the city of Rome. The General or Caesar who had won led the parade with high honour whilst sitting on a chariot of white horses and different groups of people would follow.Wherever the parade went, people could smell the pleasant smell of the incense. The smell made them pleasant and happy.On the other hand, for those captured, the smell of incense was frightening and they know they were going to die soon.

Paul writes that we are led by Christ as conquering captives. Rather than being imprisoned or executed we are set free to be representatives and the family of the conquering King to the world around us every day.

 

The fragrance of life

The scent of a flower or the scent of perfume is intended to be attractive and to draw us. For many people, that is exactly what it does do, but there are some people who are allergic to these scents and not a pleasant experience at all.As we go into the world being the aroma of Christ, it does not invoke the same reaction in everyone. We did nothing, but Christ conquered it all for us to enjoy all the benefits and to praise Him.

 

As we march along with Jesus, we emit everywhere the sweet aroma. What is this? It is the aroma that results from knowing Jesus Christ. Wherever we may be, whatever position we may be in, we are to spread the fragrance of the power of the gospel.How we spread the fragrance, it is not pleasant for everyone and not everyone will accept Jesus. Some hear the truth and deny it, others fall away.

For John he writes, this glorious picture of worship in the throne room with the aroma of worship to bring life to some people while there are in hardship. Look at the treasures John sees in heaven, sapphires, rubies, gemstones all treasure pointing towards God. But more importantly we also are God’s treasure, the fragrance of God is within us.

 

Who is equal to such a task?

God called us to be the aroma of Christ in the world but do you and I always give off the pleasing aroma of Christ?


We don’t always smell beautiful and frankly we sometimes stink. We stink when we lack integrity in our dealing with others, being unkind to our attitudes, when our testimony is not clear, or we put hurdles in front of others.Fortunately, we can also smell good as Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 4:7 we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.


God has chosen to put His treasure into fragile clay pots. Isn’t that amazing. That He who sits on the throne values us, loves us and sees how precious we are. Where do we place our treasure? Where do we keep things that are valuable?


God takes us simple, fragile and vulnerable clay pots like you and me – with all the cracks and flaws and uses us to display His power.Why? So that we can bring glory, praise and worship to Him alone.So, our lives are a sweet aroma and sacrifice to God, our worship belongs to Him and that our prayers produce a sweet aroma to God as well.

I call to you, Lord, come quickly to me, hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense, may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

We see in this psalm that hope is fulfilled in John’s glimpse into heaven where our prayers become a sweet-smelling incense to our heavenly Father. It is like a Father who loves to hear from his children in every circumstance they face.

We might be hard pressed on every side, crushed, perplexed, in despair, persecuted which create pressures and stress on our lives and that as Paul indicates about clay pots feel like we are being cracked. But the good thing about the clay pots being cracked is that it emits the sweet fragrance of His grace through those cracks, it continues to emit the aroma of God.

It is important for us as God’s treasure, as God’s people, we are to emit the fragrance of Christ wherever we are. When we demonstrate the Christ-like love to people around us, we are emitting the fragrance of God. When we talk about Christ being there for us, forgiving us, we are emitting the fragrance of God. When we do something good, we are emitting the fragrance of God or when we make peace, we are emitting the fragrance of God. When we demonstrate love to others and live by grace.

I finish with this, In Philip Yancy’s book ‘What’s so amazing about grace’, a challenging and wonderful book that helps us to understand that God acts towards us with grace and we ought to act the same way towards others. At times we have been graceless and in face manifested ungrace towards others and when we do this, we stink. When we demonstrate such God’s grace, people who do not know Jesus, we smell the aroma of Christ. When the church we welcome young and old, rich and poor, friends and outsiders into the fellowship of God, we demonstrate grace. How will you be the aroma of Christ today?

Let’s pray…

Father God, thank you that you call each of us to live a sacrificial life of love and as we do that, our lives and prayers my lift up a sweet-smelling aroma to you. God would you help us to emit the sweet fragrance to those around us and people can find out that you love them and you can satisfy their needs. We pray this through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.


September Pastoral Letter from Bishop Gregory

When I wrote to you at the end of July, the beginnings of the lifting of lockdown were underway.  As I write in mid-September we are learning, if we didn’t already realise, that the lifting of lockdown is not a straightforward or linear process.  What is lifted one week may have to be re-imposed the next.  One freedom may be given, but the necessary strings of safety requirements may be attached the next.  Very early on, people started talking about the possibility of a “new normal”, but now we are beginning to see what that will look like.  Our churches will be open for worship, but it will include the wearing of masks and social distancing while we pray.  The sacraments will be celebrated, but emergency measures may last a lot longer than we anticipated.  The postponement of a couple of months may turn into a couple of years, while things remain uncertain, and people’s health and safety must remain the top priority.

All this can create in us a sense of anxiety and concern; as Fr Richard Peers described it to the Cathedral congregation last Sunday, a sense of unresolvedness.  To live in the second half of 2020 is to live with uncertainty, and not knowing what shall be or what shall be asked of us.

The Scriptures are sure that in the light of uncertainty, our hope must be in God.  As Psalm 46 says: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea …”  It is not that as Christians we can expect to be exempt from trouble – that much will be obvious already – but that we believe God holds the key to the long term future, and to eternity.  Speaking to his disciples just before the catastrophe of his own arrest and the events of the Passion, Jesus says to his disciples: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33).

One of the central doctrines of the Christian faith is the Atonement, literally the At-one-making.  Christians believe that in dying on the Cross, God in Christ was taking all the pain of the world and the cost of human failings (of sin) onto his own shoulders – “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5.19)  For the individual, this means that God is taking the price of our sin on the Cross and writing it off; for creation it means that God is acting to heal all that is broken and causing harm.  It means that in the dark, we may find some light, that in desolation, we may find comfort, in distress, we may yet find peace.  For these are the gifts of God’s grace – to be with us danger and difficulty, and to seek to strengthen us.  Such a faith allowed Mother Julian of Norwich to see the whole of creation bounded as a small walnut in the hands of God, and to say: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

The Book of Revelation is mysterious in its imagery and symbolism, but the message is clear enough: after all the chaos and dangers of this world, God’s intention is to create a new heaven and a new earth in which there shall be peace.  It is made possible by God’s willingness to bear the cost: in Revelation, Christ is depicted as a Lamb slain from the foundation of the World, but as such, as one who is worthy to open the way to a restored Creation.

This attitude of faith is described in several places in the New Testament as “patient endurance”.  It is my prayer that such patient endurance will be God’s continuing gift to us as we face the ongoing challenges of the virus, and yet respond in faith and with courage.

 May God bless you all, 

Gregory


Sunday Reflection 20th September Hymn: Eternal Father, Strong to Save

One of my favourite hymns is Eternal Father, Strong to Save, also known as For those in peril on the sea. It was written in 1860 by an Englishman William Whiting following a violent storm which threatened the ship he was travelling on.

It has been adopted by the British and American armed forces and played at the funerals of several US presidents. It was also used in the film RMS Titanic although there is no evidence that it was actually played on board while the ship was sinking.

Ironically I now live mainly in Clapham, London, which is where in the 1870s the hymn writer William Whiting went to school and it was at school here in Rhyl, where I was born and grew up, that this hymn holds a memory for me.

Our music teacher at Emmanuel School was T A Williams who was very active in the musical life of the town. Apart from being head of music at school he was the conductor of the Rhyl Operatic Society and conducted the Emmanuel School Choir that won the National Eisteddfod in August 1953 when it was held on the field opposite Sainsbury’s, Rhyl. This was also the year that the Queen visited Rhyl on her tour of the UK following her Coronation in June.

I remember that at the first music lesson our class had with TA he sat down at the grand piano and played the very lively and exotic Ritual Fire Dance by Manuel de Falla, just to give us a taste of good music when we were into Elvis Presley and Rock and Roll - that memory has stayed with me ever since.

During one music lesson we were looking at hymns and T A knowing that I was a choirboy here at St Thomas’ asked me to choose a hymn for the class to sing. I was a shy lad and not very sure of myself and without too much thought picked the first one I recognized when I opened the hymn book: For those in peril on the sea. TA looked at me disapprovingly and was clearly not impressed, he thought it was a bit sombre for his class of schoolchildren. Perhaps he had expected something better of me as head boy in St Thomas’ Church Choir, something more exciting but we sang it anyway.

Looking back he may have been right but I think you’ll agree that the hymn does have powerful words and a dramatic tune with a strong bass line. It also has a relevance during these days of Covid-19 when the Lord is asked to hear us when we pray to him in time of crisis. 


George Owen


Sunday Reflection 20th September: Revelation 5

This morning we continue to look at the Letter of Revelation which reveals Jesus Christ to us today. Last week in chapter 4 Glen helped us to understand this opening scene of God’s glory and sovereignty. Within chapter 4, John sees symbolic images that reveal God on His throne and the constant worship that takes place in His presence and this vision continues into chapter 5.

This chapter can be broken into three parts that describe a dilemma, a solution to that dilemma, and a response to the solution, which we will look at together this morning.

 

The Dilemma: “No One Was Found Worthy to Open the Scroll” (5:1-4)

Let’s relook at verses 1-4, and as we do so the vision of the heavenly throne-room/sanctuary that began in chapter 4 continues here with a new detail, there is in the right hand of God, a scroll. Most likely, this is a rolled-up scroll of papyrus or parchment. We see that it has been sealed closed with seven clay or wax seals.

This kind of scroll would have been a familiar sight for John and his readers, since it was the kind used in Roman contracts and wills.

But what does this scroll represent? Well, since God is holding the scroll, it must represent a decree from the King of the universe. There are other clues in Revelation which also help us to understand what the scrolls means, Revelation 10:7

...but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.

 

The mystery of God is to be fulfilled and in another verse Revelation 15:1

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. 

 

So, through this symbol we understand that its God’s plan is being “fulfilled”, and is about God’s final judgment. In verse 3 indicates, no one, not a single created being, material or immaterial, was found to be “worthy”. And because of what appears to be the impossibility of justice being realized,John can only weep.

 

B. Solution: “He Can Open the Scroll” (5:5-7)

But if we continue reading, we discover a solution to this dilemma. Look at verses 5-7...

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” [6] And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. [7] And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.

The solution to this cosmic dilemma is found in a figure who is both “Lion” and “Lamb”. He is “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”, a title based on Genesis 49:9. He is the “Root [i.e. offspring] of David”, a title based on Isaiah 11. He is the “Lamb”, a title based on a whole host of OT verses There is no argument that this figure is Jesus Christ. He is the One who was slain as the “Lamb of God”.

Look at what else we learn from this passage about Jesus Christ. John tells us in verse 6 that he saw a lamb with “seven horns”. The horn in the Old Testament was a symbol for power and when you combine that with the number seven, it becomes clear what this imagery is telling us about Jesus: He has complete power.

 

So why is Jesus described so differently in this chapter from how He was portrayed in the vision of chapter 1. Both visions were communicated to John through this language of symbolic images, but they seem to emphasize different things. I think the key is the scroll, and the fact the Lamb is taking the scroll. Listen to what the final verses of chapter 6 tells us as this scroll is being opened...

[We read that the people of the earth were] ...calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, [17] for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (6:16-17)

This confirms the identity of this scroll. It is God's decree of ultimate justice, that the Lamb has complete power, complete knowledge of what has and is happening throughout the earth.


Remember what Psalm 2 told us about the coming Messiah from David's line:

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? [2] The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, [3] “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” [4] He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. [5] Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, [6] “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” [7] I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.

 

But the scene doesn't end there.

 

C. Response: “Worthy are You to Take the Scroll” (5:8-14)

Look at the final verses of the chapter, 8-14...

Think about what is being described here. On one hand we are seeing the response of heaven and earth, we are seeing the response of all creation, to the solution; to the reality that God's will “will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. And it is the Lamb, the Messiah, who will carry out this divine mission of ultimate justice.

But on the other hand, what we find here is a stunning revelation of the Lamb's worthiness. Notice that these verses fully answer the question, “Why is the Lamb worthy? Why is He alone worthy?” Verse 5 told us he could open the scroll because “he conquered”. But just so there are no mis-understandings about what that means, verse 9 expands on that word “conquer”:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed

people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, [10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”


The Lamb, Jesus Christ, is worthy...He alone is worthy, because He did what no one could do before: He was perfectly obedient to God and He continues that way. And because of His perfect obedience, He alone was able to give His life as a ransom, in order to redeem, to reclaim, to rescue people from every region, from every race, from every corner of the earth.

The cross where the Lamb was slain, the day His blood was shed, that was and is the ultimate victory. He alone has conquered sin and death. And as a perfect man, without sin, God has appointed Him to perfectly judge the sin of all.

But His worthiness is also evident from the worship He receives. Verse 12 contains one of only two seven-fold blessings found in this book: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!”  The praise is clearly directed toward God.

But no one in heaven is corrected when Jesus Christ is praised in the same way God is praised. They are even worshiped together at the end of chapter 5 by a four-fold praise, which is appropriate, since four is a number connected with creation: And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!” [14] And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Jesus Christ is worthy, He alone is worthy, not only because of His perfect humanity, but also because of His perfect deity. He is both worthy to take the scroll and He is worthy of worship.

How Will You and I Respond?

Having made sense of the basic elements of the scene in Revelation 5, I want us to think about how this vision should impact our spiritual vision; how you see God, yourself, and the world around you. Let me suggest two words that, for me, might represent a right response to this scene in chapter 5. The words are “make” and “break”.

I see the word “make” demonstrated in the closing section of chapter 5, where the Lamb's reception of the scroll MAKES all creation, heaven and earth, rise up in worship. Was that your response? When you think of Jesus, when you think of Him as the “Lamb of God”, of His loving sacrifice and cleansing, liberating blood...when you think of Him as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah”, when you think of His authority...does it make you worship?Does it drive toward praise and adoration?

In chapter 4 it reveals to us that we desperately need to see God for who He is, in His glory and greatness.

We need the 'opening scene' from Revelation chapter 4 to be the 'opening scene' of our every day and our every day experiences; of our every conversation, of our every deliberation when tempted. But in that same way, we desperately need to see Jesus for who He is. We need to worship Jesus!

What does this look like? Think of the words and phrases we saw in the final section: “they fell down” (vs. 8, 14), “they sang” (v. 9), they proclaimed “with a loud voice” (v. 12). Kneeling, singing, and shouting are all classic expressions of worship. We find them throughout the Bible. But even more important than these expressions is the kind of heart that would lead you to kneel, sing, and shout at the top of your lungs...and all for God. Take time to personally consider that kind of heart. That's the heart of true worship.

But the second word that I had in mind, the word “break” is less obvious here. I saw in verse 4 of chapter 5. John tells us that he began to “weep loudly” when it appeared there was no one who could bring ultimate justice to the world. Now John must have known that Jesus was coming again. As a young man he heard Jesus talk about His return and about the coming judgement and about the hope of the coming kingdom. But clearly he believes here that all of that is in jeopardy; that maybe he has misunderstood something.

 

Whatever the explanation, there is no uncertainty about John's response to this cosmic dilemma: his heart breaks for the fate of a world that evidently will not receive divine correction or comfort. If our response to the reality of Jesus is one of worship, shouldn't our response to a life, to a marriage, to a family, to a community without Jesus, be one of weeping? Does your heart break, like John's, when Christ is absent from a needy heart?

These two things must go hand-in-hand in terms of a right response. Our hearts cannot burst with praise for Jesus, but then fail to have His heart for a lost and dying world. Ask God for a heart full of Jesus and for a heart for those who are desperately empty without Him.

In light of that, I think it's extremely fitting to close this morning with the closing words of Psalm 2: Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Amen.

Sunday Reflection 13th September: Revelation 4

How do we patiently endure despite our current circumstances? 

Revelation chapter 4 is a vision of heaven given to the apostle John to pass on to the 7 churches who had been told to expect opposition, persecution and suffering. The purpose of the vision was to encourage them to keep going. The vision was centred around God's throne. This throne is the very centre of the universe.

Where is the throne?

Heaven is a spiritual realm. Some think heaven is in the sky or space, but it is not part of the physical universe. John has a "door" opened into the spirit world to see his vision. This physical earth is therefore not all there is. The more we understand about heaven, the greater will our desire be to go there.

Who is sitting on the throne?

Not nobody

Not Lady Luck/Chance/Fate

Not mother nature

Not a human being

Not satan

But God is his beauty, majesty, holiness and peace. Gid is creator of all, and he reigns over all. He is not like a watchmaker hwo leaves the watch to run, but then goes on a long holiday.

Note the description of God's surroundings: a crystal sea, an emerald rainbow, the living creatures who are worshipping. Where we live reflects our character - see the untidy bedroom of a teenager for signs of a slightly chaotic life. God's surroundings are not only beautiful, but awe inspiring, automatically leading people to sing with joy. It is a place of perfect peace, reflected in the crystal sea. Why is it so perfect there? Because God is perfect.

Why can planet earth be so awful sometimes? The Fall (genesis 3) led to sin, disease and death.

The hope for the future is to dwell with God in such surroundings for eternity. How is that possible? Through Jesus who forgives our sins. He makes us fit to dwell in heaven by giving us his righteousness (his perfect obedience) as a free gift.



Sunday Reflection 6th September: Revelation 3:7-22

The Church at Philadelphia - An Open Door

Jesus commends the Church for keeping his word, not denying his name and patiently enduring. He says they have little strength (i.e. they are of little significance).  However Jesus himself has opened a door for them - this is likely to be an opportunity to share the Gospel locally. 

The Church at Laodicea - A Closed Door

The church is described by Jesus as being wretched, poor, blind and naked. Ironically Laodicea was a rich area famous for its black wool and eye ointments. Jesus describes them as being like "lukewarm" water which means not useful for anything. Cold water is useful for drinking, hot water for bathing, but lukewarm only fit for being spat out. In fact Jesus says the church have locked him out (3:20)! It is possible to have a church with Jesus missing. This is a warning, but Jesus also offers hope - riches, clothing and a blindness cure if the church repents. Even though the church is in a terrible state, Jesus never deserts it.

The Message of the 7 Churches to Us

A healthy, lively Church is one that is centred on Jesus - holding to his teaching and doing what he wants. Jesus wants the Church to be faithful rather than successful, to patiently endure despite its circumstances. He is not interested in many of the things we think to be so important - attendance figures, the quinquennial report, the finances. He wants the churches in Rhyl to be faithful, by not denying him, even when put under pressure to do.

What does Jesus want you to do - Be Faithful to him


Sunday Reflection 30th August: Revelation 2:18-3:6

The Church at Thyatira - Deceived

Jesus warns the church about a false teacher in the church who is leading people astray. Her name, Jezebel, is taken from a queen in the Old Testament who led God's people astray in a similar way.

Jesus calls Christians to be intolerant of false teaching. Are you being deceived? Are you being led astray? How would you know if you were? Always check your Bible against what is being taught. Challenge teachers where necessary!

The Church at Sardis - Dead

The unsettling thing about Sardis is that is appeared a lively church, but Jesus saw it was dead. He warns them to wake up.

The solution to deadness is life from the Spirit. Pray for the churches in Rhyl that they would be full of word and Spirit to be truly alive.

The Call by Jesus - To Endure

On the constant themes of the Book of Revelation is to be victorious/ to overcome. The Greek word is Nike (yes the sports company that claims its shoes will help you be the victor).

But for Jesus to be victorious means to persevere, to keep going in the Christian life despite our circumstances, looking forward to what is ahead - eternity with Jesus.

The promises Jesus gives include a crown of life, the right to eat from the tree of life and your name written in the book of life never to be blotted out.... so keep going!


Sunday Reflection 23rd August: Revelation 2:8-17

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

12 To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

In sport and in warfare it is of vital importance to know your opponent well in order to be victorious. We need to recognize that the church is in the midst of a supernatural battle and by knowing our opponent it will help us remain faithful. In these 2 letters to Churches at Smyrna and Pergamum Jesus describes the two main ways that satan/the devil attacks churches. 

1) Persecution from the outside. 

At the time there was pressure for Christians to worship the Roman Emperor - to declare "Caesar is Lord." We know for example that he Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp, was executed aged 86 in 155AD for saying Jesus is Lord after being arrested.

In the world today there is the threat of prison and possibly death for being a Christian in over 50 countries in the world.

https://barnabasfund.org/resources/booklets/Praying-for-the-Persecuted-Church-2020-21.pdf

Jesus comforts churches facing persecution by reminding them that he is Lord of life and death. He tells them not to be afraid of death. Jesus wants his church to remain faithful - to keep going is to be victorious.

2) Subversion from the inside.

Jesus references an episode from the Old Testament when God's people were seduced into idolatry via immorality. The temptation for Christians in the 1st century was invitations to dinner where toasts would be made to Caesar as lord. Membership of trade guilds would sometimes depend upon giving the gods of Rome respect. Beware of dinner invitations that could compromise your faith....

A subtle danger today is to embrace idols within the Church. Two that stand out are entertainment and tradition. We come to Church to meet with the living God and worship him. Entertainment and tradition both have a place, but must never be worshipped or else they become substitute Gods.

Peter said (1 Peter 5:8-9) "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings."


Sunday Reflection 16th August: Revelation 2:1-7

Revelation 2:1-7 1"To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

You may be aware of the current A-Level results fiasco. Without a proper exam, some students are being unfairly graded.

Suppose Jesus came to give his judgement upon our church. How would we do?  This is exactly what Jesus does with the churches of Asia Minor (Turkey) in Revelation. Jesus cannot be bluffed or deceived. He sees everything as it really is. His verdict helps us understand how he would judge us.

1) It is a Judgement based on our spiritual condition

Jesus says nothing to the Ephesians about the state of their buildings, the amount of money they have in the bank, the numbers of people attending, or what kind of music they like.

We tend to think of these things as really important, Jesus however is concerned with our spiritual health.

2) The Positives

Jesus commends the Ephesians for their hard work, their perseverance and their intolerance of false teaching.

3) The Negative

Despite the good things, Jesus warns the Ephesians he will remove their lampstand (i.e. shut their church), if they do not repent of their lack of love. Hard work, perseverance and right doctrine and therefore NOT ENOUGH. A church has to have love.

What does that actually mean? Love is not just obedience to God. Obedience is the EFFECT of love, which is the desire, delight and treasuring of Jesus. When a couple get married they exchange vows to love each other. This means they promise to forsake all others, to put the new spouse first. For us this means to love God is putting him first, above everything else. Loving Christians make a loving Church.

How are you doing spiritually? Do you desire and delight in Jesus above all other things?  If not Jesus calls you to repentance - a turning around. Jesus is calling us as a church to love him above everything.


Sunday Reflection 9th August: Revelation 1:9-12

Today we continue in the letter of Revelation and as Glen said last week Revelation reveals Jesus Christ. The visions we read today paint a picture for us – the pictures are bright, detailed and descriptive. They also echo from what Glen spoke about Jesus Christ being the ‘Alpha and Omega’, the God of our past, present and future.

We live here on earth, what we see, taste, touch, feel and smell but in the heavens usually, lies beyond our perception. What do you imagine heaven to be like? In the letter to the Colossians we read that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible and so on… It is this heavenly spiritual realm that Revelation reveals to us. In the letter we will see constantly that the reality of things as God sees them and certainly his vision is better than ours.

Here in verse 9 we come to the first vision shown to John.There is much detail in what John writes and there are a number of things to notice about the first vision in which we are going to explore three areas this morning.

Point 1: We are not alone in tribulation

First of all, notice how John introduces himself to the churches. He refers to himself as your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus. You might feel alone in this world, and you are not! Though your natural senses might lead you to believe that you are all alone in your trouble, the reality is that others walk with you. John refers to being your brother and partner – how comforting it is to be reminded that you are not alone especially when experiencing difficulty.

There is a popular view out there that thinks ‘of tribulation’ as something confined to a short period of time in our future and that it is something Christians will be spared from. That thought, according to this popular view, is that Christians will be sent to heaven before this tribulation begins. Or another view is that God would never allow His people to go through the tribulation and insist that God will remove His people from the world before the tribulation begins.

Sadly, I don’t agree with these views for 4 reasons. 1. Have you looked at the world around you? I see Christians suffering tribulation all the time. 2. Have you read the bible? It seems to me that the history of God’s people is filled with examples of suffering tribulation. 3. Have you read the words of Jesus Christ? We know from His words that he went through tribulation and says to his followers “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).4. John refers to himself as a brother and partner in the tribulation, he has gone through suffering, anguish, affliction and through this experience John writes to the churches who were partners with him in it.

Tribulation is clearly present and it makes it clear through scripture that we as followers of Christ will be marked by tribulation. This however takes many forms and is experienced in differing degrees by Christians living throughout the world. But it is common to all of God’s people as we live here on the earth.

Maybe there is something about a theology of suffering as suffering is something common to Christians our own experience and more importantly to God’s son Jesus Christ. How important it is to see that, while God allows us to experience suffering, He is also with us through it, and he is refining us by it as Paul expresses in Romans 8:16, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:16–18, ESV)

Point 2: We are not alone in the Kingdom of God

Notice that John refers to himself as brother, partner and in the kingdom. You are not alone in the kingdom. We are all citizens of the kingdom of God.Jesus was described in verse 5 that He was the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of kings on earth and that we were reminded that Christ as made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father to Him. Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. But not all submit to His authority. There are those who are in His Kingdom and there are others who are not yet there.Christ is here now, ruling now and we are in His kingdom.

His kingdom advances whenever the gospel of the kingdom is preached and the Spirit makes it to be effective, drawing everyone to bow the knee before Jesus as Lord.John was a partner in the kingdom as with all Christians living today. Revelation will also give a vision of the kingdom in its fullness when all who are in the world are also glorified in the kingdom.

Point 3: We are not alone as we endure

John has patient endurance that is in Jesus Christ. The people of God must endure as they suffer tribulation, to wait patiently for the reward. We must endure in Christ, looking to Him as our example, but depending upon him for the strength.

John wrote this letter from the island called Patmos. The Romans had sent him to Patmos to work in a labour camp because they viewed him as a threat to their society because of his constant preaching for Jesus Christ. He was at that time an old man and forced to do hard labour in a stone quarry every day.

John tells us that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day or the Sabbath which is significant. For on the Lord’s day that Christ appears to John and is seen walking amongst his churches. It is a small detail in the text, but one that should not be looked over. Christ communes with his people in a pronounced way, as they gather for worship.

Before John saw anything he heard a loud voice like a trumpet – can you imagine the sound? Blasts of trumpets to assemble the people of God to worship when Moses met with God at Sinai or before entering the temple the trumpet would sound or before a battle to assemble people together. The sound of the trumpet announces that Jesus as we will see in this vision would stand in the midst of his temple, in the midst of his churches and summons them to worship Him. We have freedom from our sins, we have an alert for us to hear the truths of God, we have Jesus Christ’s voice for us to listen to.

The voice said to write to the seven churches and we need to remember that this letter was a letter to them all. It is not until v12 that John turned to see the voice that was speaking to him and turned to see seven golden lampstands as we know represent the seven churches.

In the Old Testament we know that seven pronged lampstands were positioned within the holy place within the tabernacle and then the temple.It symbolized that God – the one who was then hidden behind the veil in the most holy place, was in fact with his people blessing them with the light of his present.

These seven lampstands represent the seven churches. These churches are enlightened by and empowered by the Spirit to shine forth as light into the world.

John notices that this figure represents Jesus Christ. This figure that John saw in his vision represents Jesus or in other words John did not see Jesus Christ as he really is in heaven now. To put it another way, this is not what Jesus Christ really looks like. Jesus Christ looks like Jesus Christ. Here John sees a vision, and in the vision, he sees a figure which represents Jesus the Christ.

John records for us a vision, and in the vision, he sees figures, or images, which represent Jesus Christ by way of symbol.Churches do not really look like lampstands, do they? But the figure of a lampstand is used to represent the church. And in the same way our Saviour does not really look like this, but this figure of one “like a son of man clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest”, with “hairs… like white wool”, with “eyes…like a flame of fire” and “feet… like burnished bronze”, a “voice… like the roar of many waters”, with “seven stars” in his hand and, a “sharp two-edged sword” for a tongue, and a “face… like the sun shining in full strength” represents Christ in order to communicate truth to us concerning who are Saviour is. Put yet another way, the image does not describe to us how Jesus really looks, but how things really are with him.

Notice where Jesus is. He is seen walking in the midst of the lampstands. This is symbolic of the reality that Christ is present with his churches. Think of how encouraging this would have been to the seven churches in Asia Minor. He is in the midst of us too, for those seven churches stand for all of Christ’s churches in every place and in every age. We do not see Christ now, but he is indeed walking in our midst.

This brings encouragement, does it not? For he is “our refuge and strength. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3). Though “the nations rage” and “kingdoms totter… the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:6-7).

But to know that Christ is in our midst should also increase our reverence. We will soon see what Christ is doing in the midst of his churches. He is indeed here to comfort and encourage, but he is also here to inspect and to refine. To know that Christ is walking in our midst should increase our reverence in worship. It should motivate our purity. And it should focus us in our service of him.

So, we are not alone. We have one another. And more importantly Christ is in the midst of us. He is in our midst both to encourage and to refine.  Amen.


Sunday Reflection 3rd August: Revelation 1:1-8

The Book of Revelation is about Jesus. 

The number '7' occurs many times. Seven means completeness or the whole. So we know a whole week contains 7 days, just 4 or 5 days makes a partial week.

Revelation takes the form of a letter to the 7 churches of Asia (modern Turkey). That means it is written to all churches, as 7 denotes the 'whole of the church.' Revelation contains 7 Beatitudes ("blessed...."), the same as Jesus's declarations in his sermon on the Mount. The first of these Beatitudes in Chapter 1v3 promises blessing to those who hear the words of the letter and take it to heart. Do you need a blessing in these uncertain times? Read the book of Revelation.

Revelation is a letter written by the apostle John. In his Gospel John gives 7 'I am' statements of Jesus ..

1) I am the Bread of Life- John 6:35

2) I am the Light of the World – John 8:12

3) I am the Gate for the Sheep – John 10:7

4) I am the Good Shepherd – John 10:11

5) I am the Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25

6) I am the Way the Truth and the Life – John 14:6

7) I am the True Vine – John 15:1


Interesting then that Revelation introduces a new I am saying - Chapter 1:8- "I am the Alpha and the Omega"

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega the last so its the same as saying that Jesus is the A to Z.