Pastoral Letter October 2018

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known
        —1 Corinthians 13:12

Dear Friends,

We all wish that we could know a little more of the future, don’t we?

As a church, and perhaps as individuals or families now, we may feel as though we face an uncertain future, and that can often be uncomfortable or unsettling. 

Whilst we know that there is a meeting at the end of October to discuss the future of the work here at Morton, we have no real idea what will be said, or indeed what the outcome will be. We can make guesses, of course. We can fret and worry, too… or we can trust the Lord.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the difference between what we can ever know in this world, and what we shall know in the world to come. The fact is, that however settled we may feel, none of us actually knows what a day will bring forth. We should indeed live our lives walking by faith, and not by sight. We see things only ‘in a mirror dimly’ or ‘in a glass, darkly’ as the old KJV translation has it. So why is it that when there is a particular unknown in our lives, we get so unsettled?

Is it not because when we feel comfortable, we think we know what will happen from day to day, and we stop trusting the Lord? Then, when things get unpredictable, we have to start trusting the Lord again and we’ve got ‘rusty’. Faith must be exercised at all times, and it helps us to remember that even if we feel settled, we haven’t got everything sorted out and we don’t have everything under control. Events can so quickly change our whole perspective.

Speaking personally, I write this letter at a time when I don’t know what I will be doing in January. It’s unsettling—but it is an opportunity. A time to remind myself that God is sovereign, a time to prove His promises, a time to be reminded that I am but ‘frail flesh’. Perhaps if we are more often reminded of just how dimly we see, we will be less troubled when the darkest times of all come. Sometimes we can’t see our hand in front of our face, when illness strikes, or grief grips us, and so forth.

As says the hymn I have quoted a few times in prayer recently:

God holds the key of all unknown
And I am glad
If other hands should hold the key
Or if He trusted it to me
I might be sad

(Joseph Parker)

Our focus, as we gaze at the dim mirror of life’s prospects, should not be on the trouble we are having seeing the future. Our focus should be on what we know (the truth of God’s word, the indisputable facts of our salvation) and above all on WHO we know—The Lord Jesus Christ, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Everything is in His hands. Therefore everything will be well. And one day … we will know everything, and we will rejoice, seeing how much we owe to our gracious God, and it will be our joyful song ‘through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way!’

May God bless us all and help us to trust Him like never before.

Jonathan

Pastoral Letter August 2018

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”
            — Hebrews 6.19

Dear Friends,

There’s an enormous anchor featured on the front cover (of our magazine). If you see images of the ship it came from, you begin to see why it had to be so big! If you look closely, you will see that this anchor weighs 13.5 tonnes. If ever an anchor was ‘sure and steadfast’, it would be one like this!

IMG_0775The writer of the letter to the Hebrews speaks about the ‘hope’ every Christian has, as an ‘anchor of the soul’. So what is this hope? It is spoken of as being something ‘set before us’—in the glory of Heaven, where the ‘forerunner’ has entered first, who is, of course, Jesus Christ.

Our hope, of course, is hope of eternal life. This is a certain hope because of the Lord Jesus, who suffered and died on Calvary’s cross and rose from the dead on the third day, paying the price for the sin of all His people, and opening the way to Heaven. There’s no way that anyone who trusts in Him can fail to know eternal life and the blessing of God. What He has done cannot be undone.

When He died, He said ‘it is finished’ meaning that the penalty for sin had been paid to the full. His work was done once and for all!

We can gain so much assurance from this ‘anchor’ picture. We are supposed to! See how it is spoken of, this hope being an ‘anchor of the soul’. We don’t have a ‘lifeboat of the soul’  which could be overturned or driven by life’s storms. We have an anchor!

Our cover quotes the hymn we all know well, and asks the question ‘Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?’ There is only one anchor which will hold. I suppose the question for all of us must be—what is the anchor of your soul?

Each one of us has a never–dying soul. Our bodies will wear out and die, but our souls will not. At death, we pass straight from this life to the next. What hope do you have regarding your soul for eternity?

The salvation Jesus Christ has won for all who trust Him is an anchor of infinite weight. Yes, much more than 13.5 tonnes! Will your anchor hold? Trust Christ, and the answer will be without doubt, ‘yes’.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

Will your eyes behold through the morning light
the city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,

when life’s storms are past for evermore?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

      (Priscilla J. Owens)

Yours, anchored in the certain hope of eternal life,

      Jonathan

Pastoral Letter June/July 2018

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…”
        — Acts 2:38

Dear Friends,

It should not seem strange to you that a Baptist pastor might talk about baptism from time to time!Frankly, it concerns me that many who profess to be Christians, are not baptised. But our problems run deeper than just that.

What does it say to us that in the earliest days of the church, the Apostle Peter answers the distressed and convicted crowds who ask ‘what shall we do’ with ‘repent and be baptised’? I suggest three things to you:

i) Genuine Christian conversion is a total change of life, not an intellectual assent.

We live in a rapidly-changing society, but we still have remnants of the ‘way things used to be’ among us. That doesn’t mean that they are good things, necessarily. One such thing is the tradition of ‘chapel culture’ which I have mentioned before. In a nutshell, it is the downplaying of the New Testament’s model of a local church, with officers and members, in favour of a ‘preaching station’ which we attend as and when we wish to, without commitment of time, or regular giving, or any real sense of belonging.

This fits well with the ‘intellectual assent’ model of Christianity that many in our society still hold to. I believe it accounts a great deal for the fact that  so many professing Christians these days have unconverted children. Now, salvation belongs to the LORD, it is in His hands, but may I suggest that if we live as though our faith is just a personal mental assent, or decision, and that others including our own children may simply take it or leave it, we should not be surprised if they don’t take the claims of Christ very seriously?

What does it say to your children when you prioritise some activity they want to engage in over the worship of God with the gathered church? It says that your faith is just an optional extra, to be disregarded at a whim. Are we getting off topic? Not really! If you claim to be a Christian, where is the total change of life that conversion should bring? Where are the radical new priorities and commitment that Christ has called us to? We need to repent—daily!

ii) Baptism follows conversion

The second point, perhaps (you might think) back on topic, is that Baptism, scripturally understood, follows conversion to Christ. For me, this is of far greater importance than the mode of Baptism (immersion, sprinkling, pouring) which we can discuss another time. If you were baptised, or christened, as an infant, how do you think that tallies with the New Testament example? Did you repent and believe as a baby? Of course not. Such a radical change should be marked by a radical action. Merely nodding to a past rite or ceremony declares nothing to the watching world, and rather confirms to them that this Christianity thing is all just a matter of tradition and culture, after all.  Baptism is a sign that marks us out as being joined to the church, and to Christ, who is its head.

iii) Baptism is essential

Don’t misunderstand me. We are saved by grace, and not works. Someone who is converted and dies before they can be baptised is not lost! But how can something so frequently commanded, and so closely joined to the command to repent and believe; something included in the Great Commission to be done to all new disciples—how can this not be considered essential? You may as well leave off the Lord’s Supper if you disregard the necessity of Believer’s Baptism! Please, think these things through, and let’s talk!

Yours by grace alone,

      Jonathan

Data Privacy Notice

Morton Baptist Church Privacy Notice

 

How Morton Baptist Church (“we”) use your information

 

Your privacy is important to us.  We are committed to safeguarding the privacy of your information.

 

Why are we collecting your data?

 

We collect personal data to provide appropriate pastoral care, to monitor and assess the quality of our services, to fulfil our purposes as a church and to comply with the law regarding data sharing. In legal terms this is called ‘legitimate interests’. When it is required, we may also ask you for your consent to process your data.We do not share your information with others except as described in this notice.

 

The categories of information that we maycollect, hold and share include:

 

  • Personal information (such as name, telephone number, address and email address)
  • Characteristics (such as gender, ethnicity, language, nationality, country of birth)

 

 

Storing your data

We hold your data for varying lengths of time depending on the type of information in question but in doing so we always comply with Data Protection legislation.  We will contact you annually to check that the information we are holding is accurate and that you agree to us holding it.

 

Who do we share your information with?

 

We will not share your information with third parties without your consent unless the law requires us to do so.

 

Requesting access to your personal data

Under Data Protection legislation, you have the right to request access to information about you that we hold. To make a request for your personal information contact Pastor Jonathan Hunt on 01454 301834 or email mortonbaptistchurch@hotmail.co.uk

 

You also have the right to:

  • object to processing of personal data that is likely to cause, or is causing, damage or distress
  • prevent processing for the purpose of direct marketing
  • object to decisions being taken by automated means
  • in certain circumstances, have inaccurate personal data rectified, blocked, erased or destroyed; and
  • claim compensation for damages caused by a breach of the Data Protection regulations.

 

 

For further information on how your information is used, how we maintain the security of your information and your rights to access information we hold on you please contact Pastor Jonathan Hunt as above.

 

If you have a concern about the way we are collecting or using your personal data, you should raise your concern with us in the first instance or directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office at https://ico.org.uk/concerns/

 

Contact: If you would like to discuss anything in this privacy notice, please contact: Pastor Jonathan Hunt as above.

Pastoral Letter April 2018

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
 
    — 1 Corinthians 15:51–52

Dear Friends,

Two dear friends of our fellowship have been called into the presence of the Lord in recent days. What a sharp focus this places upon the awe-full, wonderful events of the death and resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ!

For our dear friends, we rejoice that they have entered into what the Apostle Paul here calls ‘sleep’. They indeed ‘rest from their labours’ as we saw in our focus verse last month. But what an encouraging choice of word this is!

God’s people who pass from this life are said to ‘sleep’. Death is not a natural thing, but rather a result of sin entering the world. Man was created to live forever, and death is the failure of the body, at which moment the soul leaves the body and enters the immediate presence of God. Yet, for God’s people, death is merely ‘sleep’, for we shall awake immediately. Our eyes close upon this world, and open to unspeakable beauty and glory, as the Psalmist says:

As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness’
(Psalm 17:15)

There is another sense to these words also. For we serve a living and risen Saviour, one who has died and defeated death, who was raised the third day, and appeared to His followers many times, in a glorified resurrection body. And we shall follow Him in this, also. For while the world endures this blessing must wait, it will not be long, just a sleep, and then:

‘we shall all be changed’

Those who are alive at the second coming of our Saviour will join with those who come with Him, and we shall receive, in an instant, our new bodies. Who can imagine how 

wonderful this will be, and what potential and capacities will be ours? All will be as God has perfectly designed. There will be no flaw, no decay. I imagine that the  abilities reserved in this time for geniuses, that the strength and athleticism reserved only for elite athletes, will be the lot of every believer!

And in this moment of glorious gain and triumph, as we who love Him meet Him in the air, we shall know that this new state and condition is ‘incorruptible’. It shall never be reversed, never be spoiled, downgraded, nor could it be improved. Such perfection will be ours as can only bring supreme joy and eternal praise.

All this, towards which we should look with wonder—all this is the fruit of Christ’s finished work at Calvary. All this is the reward for the suffering of the Lamb!

As our ranks on earth may thin, we should know that the armies of Heaven grow accordingly. Friends, the best is yet come. Is there not cause for great celebration this Easter, even in the midst of mourning?

Permit me again to appeal to you, if you are in any doubt as to whether this glorious future will be yours, to make it your first concern to be certain about it! Jesus Christ has died for sinners, and He will not cast out any who come to Him. Repent of your sin, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, redeemed, made whole, in soul, and then, in body!

Looking forward to glory with you,
Jonathan

Rev Colin Lewis

We were saddened to learn of the recent death of Rev. Colin Lewis, lately of Gloucester. He was a firm friend to our church for well over a decade and helped with many services during our time without a Pastor.

We send our condolences to his wife, our dear friend Avril, but we rejoice that he is ‘with Christ, which is far better’. The funeral service is due to take place on Thursday 5th April at 1pm at Trinity Baptist Church, Gloucester.

Pastoral Letter March 2018

Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them.”
— Revelation 14:13

Dear Friends,

This month’s magazine is dominated by reflections upon the lives of two men whom God used mightily in his service. In the past few weeks since Dick Saunders passed away, I have been reminded of several in our local area who attribute their Christian conversion to the ‘Way of Life Crusade’ held by Dick Saunders on Michael Spratt’s farm at Old Down in 1980. Then, with the more immediate news of the homecall of Billy Graham, one after another testimony has come to light of families and generations impacted for the gospel as a result of his meetings in the UK, most notably in the 1950s, 60s, and 80s. A surprising number of preachers today have some spiritual connection to the work of these two evangelists particularly.

Yet, our text does not only apply to ‘notable’ Christians. It applies to all of us. This great proclamation in the book of Revelation (written to encourage, inspire, and strengthen the churches in difficult days) is relevant to every believer. The only qualification for blessing, if you are dead, is that you ‘die in the Lord’, that is that you die as a Christian believer who has trusted in Christ alone as your Saviour.

But what does it mean to be counted among ‘the blessed dead in paradise’ (the title of a popular book written by  the founding pastor of my previous church)? The Holy Spirit gives us two answers. Firstly, that we may rest from our labours. Even for the most inactive Christian, life on earth brings many labours in the struggle with sin, temptation, and sorrow.

For many, there is also persecution to endure. It is worth noting that we will not ‘rest’ from the worship and praise of God—so if coming to church is a burden and a drag on you, and you find all manner of priorities more pressing or inviting than gathering with God’s people, it is worth asking whether you think that you will be happy in such an occupation not an hour a week, but for eternity?

We will not only be blessed in rest from labours, but also in the fact that our works will follow us. This means that those things we have done in the Lord’s service will be known, celebrated, and, yes, rewarded. Such is the grace of God towards us!

It is worth again noting that our works will not precede us, but follow us. That is important. Those things which we do in the service of God do not ‘announce’ our arrival in Heaven, and certainly do nothing to merit our place there. Instead, they follow us, that is, they provide positive proof of the grace of God in our lives. These works are the evidence of the fact that we have both lived for, and died in, the Lord Jesus, who has saved us!

We look at Dick Saunders and Billy Graham. We can see their works following them. Friend, what works will follow you? What legacy do you leave in this world? What will be said of you among your brothers and sisters in Christ who remain, and what record will be written in Heaven? This is not meant to be a guilt-trip, but a reality-check.

Don’t waste your life. Don’t let opportunities pass. Make the service of God your chief aim and delight, and Heaven shall resound with praise as your works follow you there. The praise won’t be yours, but Christ’s, the glory will be all His also, and you will hear Him say ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.

Always in prayer for you, joining together on the road to glory,
Jonathan