Welcome to the fourth edition of Bethlehem Briefing. What a strange Easter weekend it was for all of us. I don’t know about you but that is the first time in 58 years that I have not been together in person with the Lord’s people on Easter Sunday and sung together, Christ the Lord is Risen today, Hallelujah! My first Easter was April 22nd 1962. I was almost a month old and I know that I was in church that day. On the one hand, it is good to remember that our salvation does not depend upon our church going or how many Easter Days we have spent in church. (I didn’t experience God’s grace in salvation until many Easters had passed). But on the other hand, being separated at Easter has brought home to us what we have missed most: not just the hot cross buns and coffee on Good Friday, or the Easter eggs and Daffodils on Easter Day, but the communion of hearts, the singing of our great Easter hymns and the joy of sharing together in fellowship. I don’t know about you, but I am determined never to miss a Good Friday or Easter service again, if I am fit enough to attend!
Brief Devotional: We have seen the Lord!
Come with me, please to John 20 v 24-25. We don’t know where Thomas was on Easter Sunday evening when the other disciples were gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem and Jesus appeared to them. It may be he was ill, or too afraid to come out given the tensions in the city after Jesus’ death. It may be he was too distraught at his master’s death to contemplate being with the others. We must be careful not to attribute bad motives to a good man. But whatever the reason, it was during that week the disciples found him and told his in excited tones, “We have seen the Lord!” What we would have expected was for Thomas to join them in their joy and belief that the Lord was risen from the dead. Instead he declares that he will only believe on certain conditions: he must see the nail marks in his hands, and he must put his hand into his side (where the spear was thrust).
Sometimes we can be like Thomas. We are true disciples, but we put conditions on our faith. I will believe that God answers prayer when I see him answering my prayer. I will believe that Jesus loves me if he arranges my life in the way I have planned it. I will believe God is all powerful if he removes this coronavirus from the earth in the next week. All such thinking is dangerous and misled. It also leads to misery. Thomas was left for seven more days in his state of unbelief and misery until the Lord Jesus graciously met him and fulfilled his conditions. It was important for the gospel that Thomas was convinced by what he saw that Jesus was alive. After all he was one of the eye witnesses of the resurrection. The Lord Jesus is under no such obligation to you and to me. We must live by faith and not by sight. As the Lord said to Thomas later, “Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20 v 29). Let’s give up the dangerous habit of putting conditions on our faith. It only leads to misery. Faith leads to joy.
1. Our services are on You Tube during the lockdown. If you haven’t yet discovered our YouTube channel, please take a look. You will find it by searching for Bethlehem Evangelical Church Aberavon on YouTube. You can also get it via our website. It has been good to know that people far beyond the geographical reach of the church have been joining us. Uwem was able to watch from Nigeria. John and Elena from Russia as well as friends from England. This is one of the great mercies of God as we humble ourselves under his mighty hand during these unusual times.
2. Every week, in addition to the Church services, you will find Bethlehem Story Time for the children. Four stories already on the channel: Jesus and the Storm, Noah’s Ark, The Lost Sheep and the Easter Story. If you don’t have children of your own perhaps you might be able to share this with others, either on a Facebook page, if you have one, or by email. It will be good to get this to as many people as possible.
2. If you haven’t yet discovered our Zoom prayer meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, please join us.
Brief Prayer Requests
1. Let’s remember those recently bereaved. Pray that the gospel will be their comfort and that they will know the anticipation of meeting again when the Lord comes again.
2. Continue to remember those who live and work in high risk areas. Please pray that the Lord would protect them during these uncertain times.
3. Please continue to pray for those who are abroad awaiting evacuation flights home. Please pray for a flights to be allocated in the next few days.
4. Pray for the children associated with our church. Perhaps they are beginning to feel the strain of not being allowed their freedom outdoors. Pray that all parents might know patience and wisdom as they find activities in the home. It is difficult to keep in touch with families from Teeny Tots, Girls’ Craft and Sunday School. Pray that the Lord will keep his word in their hearts and even make it grow there.
Finally, for those who are following the daily readings, here are the Psalms each day from Today until Tuesday of next week
April 13th – Psalm 20,21; 14th – Psalm 22, 15th Psalm 23,24 16th Psalm 25 17th Psalm 26,27
April 18th – Psalm 28,29 19th – Psalm 30 20th Psalm 31 21st Psalm 32 22nd Psalm 33
If we can be of any help to you, please get in touch.
Warmly yours in the Lord
Your Pastor Jeremy 13th April 2020