Where will the Power come from?

Last week we considered a little about the power of God and how it is demonstrated in the church and in society; this week I want to think about how we come by that power; how will those young people who are going to stand in a very evil day, be able to obtain that spiritual power?

I know that holiness is not a fashionable subject in most churches, but there is no way to avoid it, it is exactly what we have to achieve, if we are to know the wonderful presence of God and the power that comes through knowing the Saviour intimately.  Allow me to repeat a story that illustrates both holiness and the power that ensues from it –

A church in a large European city had become very small and only met once a week for Bible Study.  Some of the twenty congregation were in favour of closing down, but others did now want to and finally they agreed to pray that God would come in and bless them.  They got down to some prayer and it became very serious and soon they were praying – Lord, whatever the cost might be for You to bless our church and our city, we’re prepared to pay it!

They kept praying and they would not let go of God and in time things changed and they started to see some blessing in their predominantly Roman Catholic city.  Among the first to be saved or restored to the church were children and family of the church members who had left earlier.  Many Backsliders were also returning.

A British missionary was asked to take some gospel meetings and he reported that the blessing came quickly, hundreds were saved in the first few nights.  God really blessed and not only was that 800 seater church soon filled, but they started a church planting program and in a few years they had twenty preaching points all over the city!

That’s the power of the gospel to salvation and it’s about time western church leaders realise they haven’t got it.

They prayed – Lord, whatever it costs – that is serious and God likes it when His people get serious!  I am totally confident if any church today took that stand today, they too would see similar revival!  The harvest is whiter than ever, but the labourers are fewer than ever!  Matt 9:37.[italics mine!]  I often speak about our secular society that is empty and hurting!  I believe God could save 10,000 in one day, just as he did in Acts 4, and more, if only He could find a holy church who would fully trust Him!

How will a holy church come about?  I wonder how many of our existing churches will become holy churches, because their lack of power shows that they are not holy.  It will take a revolutionary change in leadership!  So revolutionary that I doubt many will not  make it and therefore they will close when the persecution comes.  So where will these young people come from, who will stand through the evil days? Possibly, some will come out the various drug rehab schemes, who proved God’s saving power, bu t who have struggled and, sometimes failed to settle in established churches, perhaps they will get together to forge new churches that will, in that evil day, cast themselves on God’s mercy to meet the need of the day.  This will lead to a beautiful holiness where in God can work!

Maybe too, there are a few young people in our established churches who can see that all is not well and, seeing their failure, will start searching for themselves for a way to find God.  When the judgment day comes on their churches, they too will form new little churches and cast themselves on God.  Maybe they will join with those from the rehab courses and together prove that God is sufficient and be prepared to follow His word, implicitly.  I can imagine little groups desperately searching the Word, praying and praising God, even for their desperate circumstances, and as a result, finally, they will find the joy of the Lord that is their strength to stand and see revival!  Neh 8:10.

First, these young people will have to grasp what revival is and does, and that God wants it, asap!  They will have to understand how it will come about.  When God finds anyone who seeks His honour and glory, then we can expect some great things to happen!

So where will the power come from?  Paul found out – my strength is made perfect in weakness! 2Cor 12:9.  God did not tell the blinded Paul in Damascus, what a great missionary he would be, nor how many people he would save, nor of the hundreds of churches he would plant; Jesus told him – what great things you must suffer for my Name! Acts 9:16.  If we want to be able to stand through the evil days of judgment to see revival afterwards, [and let me assure you again, that severe judgment will soon come, 1Pet 4:17; this is not rocket science, anyone who considers the socio/political scene today must be aware that desperate days are just around the corner], then we will have to cast ourselves on God’s mercy completely and trust Him implicitly and be prepared to suffer.  It is Peter who tells us all about suffering for righteousness sake, this is surest the way to Christlikeness, holiness and blessings far greater than we can ever imagine! Eph 3;20.  Even in desperate days!  Remember, where sin abounds, grace super-abounds!

God is not mocked, He will not allow the current situation in most churches to go on for long; sooner or later He will act and all our miserable religion will be cleared out in serious persecution; this has been happening for nearly 2,000 years!  So a lean, purged, highly motivated church will be left to move into blessings so wonderful the young people will marvel at the greatness of their God and an ocean of praise and worship will arise to God and He will be glorified in His people once more before the Saviour returns for them!

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God’s Honour = Revival!

The Bible often speaks about God’s honour and glory, because He is very jealous for it.  God seeks His own glory because that is how His creation is blessed.  It is the only way it is blessed, as anything less comes from the enemy and is very destructive!

The ‘fear of God’ also is very real where God is honoured.  This fear is not as we would normally think of fear, its simply a great awe of God and consequently, worship rises to Him.  There is another aspect to this fear, we fear to displease God, but even that is barely the truth of the situation because we delight so much to please God, that displeasing Him hardly comes into the equation!

David, the Shepherd Psalmist of Israel, often spoke of his desire to glorify God and loved to be in the Tabernacle to sing praises to Him. Jehovah was very real to David.  How real is God to us today?  Some would readily answers – very real – but the paucity of their testimony militates against that.  Now we really need to be honest, who knows much of the glory of God today?  We noted in the last paper that Christianity has never been in such great disrepute as it is today, so it is obvious that God’s honour is certainly at stake today.

With churches and individual Christians being prosecuted in the highest courts of Europe, it is obvious that the salt has lost its saltiness and has been thrown out with the trash and trampled all over, Matt 5;13ff.  Why has this happened?  Because the ‘light’ of testimony went out a long time ago!  Jesus also said, “You are the light of the world.”  Matt 5;14, but for the majority of churches the light went out a long time ago.

Some time back, I shocked myself with a bit of a reality check! Trimsaran, where I live, is a village of 3,000 people.  3 chapels, I Anglican, 1 Gospel Hall.  The Gospel Hall is the only place where a Biblical gospel has been preached for at least 40 years.  I counted how many people would be affected if the Gospel Hall closed down now and I could count less than 10 people, even in a small way; that’s not even a half of 1%!  That must be classed as  barrenness!  I am humbled, I am ashamed.

However, I am not going to whinge about the world not wanting the gospel anymore, because I know that isn’t true!  The world doesn’t want ‘our gospel’ because they can see that is does not work.  What do I mean? Our gospel doesn’t work, for while we preach the good news, it doesn’t do us any good!  We are afflicted with the same doubts and problems as anyone else, we just can’t rise above our problems! Worse, we are afflicted by many things that we should not be afflicted by; for we see many in our churches who are severely compromised by neurotic and psychotic disorders.  Oh yes, the lights have gone out and the salt is tasteless!  And God’s Name has been dragged down into the dust by the paucity of our testimony!

From my little experience, there are many people who do want the gospel, they love to hear God’s word when it is presented properly, by people who benefit from it.  Dozens of schools in south west Wales have Bible Explorer sessions and the children are given Bibles and they read them!  Headmasters say – this is wonderful!  Our secular society is empty and hurting and certainly will respond, big time, to the real gospel!

So, what has to happen to our churches to end the barrenness?  Let’s come back to the truth of the ‘fear of God’ – truth, for here lies the answer!  When the fear of God is our churches, then it will soon be in our communities, because the church allows God to work, and when God works it is very obvious!   When God works in your church, you will certainly know it and so will your community, very quickly!

Why is it that so many Christians have such low expectations of God? Well, its nothing new, Israel were just the same for 1,500 years and they suffered the consequences of not fearing God.  Satan attacks our church leaders first and then total church failure follows quickly. We also see that in the Old Testament!

We readily admit that we are not the ‘Christians’ we should be, but what do we do about it?  Come on, we have been given everything we need to be the people God wants us to be, so why not?  It’s because we don’t fear God; if we did, we would obey His Word and then we would be the people He wants us to be and God’s honour would be upheld!

When God’s honour is at stake as it is today, we must trust God and His word can be totally relied on, scripture is wholly dependable!

In 1959 a young man in the Isle of Lewis, Scotland was concerned for God’s honour and prayed – Lord, your honour is at stake!  You promised to pour water on the thirsty ground and I am thirsty for a sight of the Man at Your right hand.  Honour Your Word Lord, we are waiting.  The moment he stopped praying the little stone cottage they were in, shook and the church officer said – I think that was an earth tremor.

Duncan Campbell, who was leading the meetings agreed and closed the prayer meeting.  They went out side, it was mid night, but all the villagers were making their way to the church and they had a meeting there and then.  That was the start of the Lewis Revival that lasted for 2 years!  All because one young man was concerned for God’s honour!

That was the last real revival in the UK, but we need one again, desperately!  It is the only answer to all the ills of our society, so when are we going to seek God’s honour again?  Judgment starts in the house of God and when revival comes to many churches, awakening is correspondingly great in society.

Let’s get praying!

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New Young Leadership and Revival.

We briefly saw in the last paper that it is the New Testament pattern for elders come up from within the church; they are recognised by the church for the work they do!  God gives all the gifts that each church requires!  However, too often churches have their own traditions and ignore scripture.  Despite that, we have seen historically that even in hierarchical leadership God overlooks all that and blesses greatly.  We can think of many fruitful church leaders who were not even baptised!  Motive is critical!

However, there has been one consistent failure that God does not overlook and it has led to serious church failure every time, and that is leaders who fail to train up new leaders from within their churches.  Why is it that elders usually fail to discern leadership gifting in younger men?  They train up preachers and teachers for the pulpits, but why is there this ‘generation gap’?  This gap often caused those gifted young men to leave their own churches, sometimes ‘under a cloud’, and start up their own church; or join others to become successful leaders there.

The generation gap has been particularly noticeable in our times and it appears that most elders have been incapable of maintaining levels of spirituality that could discern and train new leaders for the next generation.  This is all part of the other problem noted in the last paper, many thought eldership an office, only vacated by death.

This sad situation was aggravated by the idea that elders rule the church; as in the Authorised Version, 1Tim 5;17.  Elders do not ‘rule’ the church, the New Testament church is ‘Congregational’ in structure. That word ‘rule’ in many translations is a poor rendering; the Greek pro-istemi  has the sense of – someone who stands up to be seen as an example before everyone else – they lead by example.  The great need remains, elders who can say – be imitators of me, as I imitate Christ!

So what of the future?  How can our churches move on and be ready for the testing times that certainly lay ahead; for never before has Christianity had such a bad reputation in society.  How are we to stand against the atheists, agnostic authorities, the gay lobby, the women’s pro choice lobby and not least, Islam; all of these and more, militate against the church in ways never been seen before in the UK.

Realistically, I doubt that many of our older established churches will make it through the testing, they will crumble before the onslaught and only a few will have the faith to stand in an evil day.  But what is to be done today?  What do our young people, our potential leaders, need to do?  Firstly, they need to be fully aware of the desperate situation and they will have to decide to stand against the evil day.  Possibly some will fail, but others will stand.  How?

They will read their Bibles and they will pray; they may even ask advice from a few trusted sources, they will read of those who stood in the past, but they will have that burning inner desire to be a fruitful witness for Truth in an evil day.  They will desperately want to glorify God and defeat Satan, they will hate the way he gets away with causing so much suffering and evil, and they will pray like they’ve never prayed before!  Little groups will form here and there and they will pray together and beg God for strength to stand against sin.  Some will start and see the power of God demonstrated and more will follow.  They will find various ways of standing, it maybe personal witness, it might be doing good works to the needy, there are many ways to stand, but stand they will and they will not be discouraged by anyone or anything – they will sing the little chorus –

I have decided, to follow Jesus,

Tho’ none go with me, I still will follow,

No turning back, no turning back!

They will be amazed at the ways God answers their prayers and soon they will find others joining them, because they are inspirational; they will not be a little group for long; soon they will be force to be reckoned with!  As their influence grows, people will marvel as their testimony becomes very fruitful and many will trust Christ as a result.  The sight of a few young people who can trust God in this way is always a catalyst for change.  Like Shadrach, Meschach and Abed Nego faced with Nebuchadnezzar’s blazing furnace, they will not bend to the pressures of the day, but they will trust God, whatever the consequences!  This is the kind of young people we will see arising out of the mess that most church leaders have produced!

It will not take long for this group to be front page news – Christian young people make a stand!  – such a stand will amaze others for various reasons; some will be very angry, while others will want to find out more; and so their testimony will grow exponentially. Within a month or so, they will be holding large scale meetings and thousands will gather and hear the word of God, as they should.

How can I be so sure about this?  Simply because it has all happened before, many times.  It has happened here in the UK.  It’s happened in Nigeria.  It’s happened whenever and where ever revival has broken out; a few young people get really desperate and are prepared to trust God and let Him do the rest.  It is also normal for young people to lead in times of revival!  Be assured, revival, a major revival will happen before the Lord Jesus comes again; He will call a glorious Bride to Himself and leave Antichrist pick up the pieces of a shattered and demoralised world population.  But who will stand today?  Who will start praying now, ready for that evil day when those young men and women will stand.  They all will be the ‘sons and daughters of God’ and they will build Christ’s Kingdom and demolish the Kingdom of Darkness once more!  Let’s get praying!

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Leadership and Revival!

I often mention the great need for real church leaders and I would like to concentrate on that at the start of 2013.  Scripture details the requirements for the two kinds of leaders that God requires, elders and deacons.  The elders do the spiritual work, as detailed by the apostles in Acts 6 when deacon work was also  initiated. They saw the need to concentrate on prayer, study and teaching, but in addition, we see the other vitally important aspect of pastoral care, John 21;15ff.

The two lists of requirements, [1Tim 3 & Titus 1] make an interesting point about the ‘respect’ that leaders should have, elders are respected by their family, from within the church and from outside the church, the community they live in, their work place, etc.  If church elders do not have respect, they are wasting their time. Respect has to be earned!  This raises the question of the choosing of elders and scripture gives no backing for votes, or elections, let alone some dictate from HQ.  Each church is responsible for ‘recognising‘ its own elders, God raises them up from within; possibly, but not always, from the team of deacons; so it is in the very long process of ‘becoming an elder’ that this respect is earned. And, not all deacons become elders, as elders must be proficient to teach the Word; not so deacons.

An old problem in churches where this pattern has been more or less kept, is that elders were deemed to be elders for life; no, it is a work to do, not an office to hold, scripture is clear on that too! One of the major works of the Oversight [the team of elders], is to recognise the gift given to each member of the church and get it operating; especially potential elders.

Deacons are very important and notice that the spiritual requirements for them is very demanding too, but this is the administrational work, the organising of the day to day running of the church.  Another old problem was that elders thought that the treasurer and the secretary should be elders, but no, that is deacon administration.  There must be a good ‘interface’ between the elders and deacons, they must work together closely, and pray much too!

Prayer will characterise elders!  They will spend much time, individually and collectively, as they seek God’s help to guard the church. Pastoral care will be the main means of guarding the church, they will know the church, almost intimately.  In a large church, the pastoral care will have to be organised very carefully and a large team of pastors will have no more than about 50 members to care for. I like to think of it as – elders having their ‘finger on the pulse’ of the church!  They will know the problems, the hurts, the hopes and aspirations of all those in their care.

Pastoral care will be a well organised, regular visitation program and each member will need to be be seen at least twice a year; some far more! It’s far more than sick visiting!  Elders will have the gift of discernment to be able to identify failure in members; this is the quest for holiness and unity and the main reason for the need of so much prayer!

Elders will lead the way in regards to church fellowship, they are required to be hospitable, 1Tim 3;2, and their homes will be ‘open doors’ for all the church and youth in particular!  When will we learn that ‘services’ are only a small part of church fellowship?  Fellowship is a natural outcome of the love among the church, if you love people you want to be with them as much as possible; see Acts 1-5; elders foster this!

This fellowship will even extend to those pastoral visits, they will not be ‘kit inspections’ or ‘police interrogations’, they will be times of happy fellowship and members will look forward to them and be blessed by them.  Pastors are shepherds who care and feed the sheep and the lambs, John 21.  Elders will have an easy ability to open the word of God, ‘beside the fire’ and teach on a one to one basis, which will be a thrill to those who listen and participate.

That gift of discernment will also be vital in knowing who in the church are the Pretenders, the false seed of Matt 13:24ff.  That is relatively easy when the true are bearing fruit, Pretenders don’t. In times as now when barrenness characterises most churches, this is a real problem, more so because consistent barrenness shows that the leadership has failed completely!

All elders will be examples of the Christian faith and walk, they will be characterised by humility; so new people coming to services will not immediately ‘see them’!  They might not be public men at all, those pastors will not be obvious, until the visitation takes place! Elders might not be evangelists, that is a separate gift.  Elders will be gentlemen, not greedy, not argumentative, not ostentatious, not bigamists, not a new convert and the great need will be for them to be able to say like Paul did three times, quietly, and more so by their ‘walk’ – imitate me as I imitate Christ! Elders, like eastern shepherds, lead the flock from the front and the sheep know their voice and follow them, John 10; yes they are under shepherds following the Great Shepherd of the sheep!

There will be unity in the Oversight team, there might be one or two who seem to be the ‘main men’ but they are – ‘one among equals’ – and they will not force their ideas and Biblical interpretation on the team, much prayer will provide the wonderful equilibrium.

Great blessings and fruitfulness will accompany a church with an effective and united Oversight and God will be be glorified among his people; this will also be evident in the community, 1Cor 14;24.  That is what should be our goal – God, seen as God in the community and feared. When He is seen, then He is feared, quite naturally and that will happen in the church before it happens in the community!  That’s leadership inspired revival!

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The Need for Revival!

I have been shocked yet again by the powerlessness of our churches; Satan seems to be able to do as he pleases and the people of God are powerless to stop him.  Two marriage breakdowns in South Wales recently have really rocked me.  Both had tremendous potential, the men and their wives and children are highly gifted people and yet all were powerless to overcome their problems and both marriages seem close to being irretrievable, which will mean scarred children as well!

If the homes of God’s people are not Christian, then the churches are incapable of bearing fruit, their testimony is null and void!  I sadly remember going to visit two homes and about to knock the doors, I heard shouting and screaming coming from inside and I quickly backed away; ashamed!  It is not surprising that few children follow their parents into their churches!

A Christian home is one of the greatest testimonies to the gospel and scripture shows what a Holy Spirit filled home is like, Eph 5;21-6;4. If a church were to have a few such homes, it would be very blessed and abundantly fruitful!

Sad to say that many parents have become neurotic and even psychotic, mere shadows of what they should be and Satan can do as he likes with them and yet again the church leaders are powerless to help them. Why do we ignore scripture when it is so plain?  Husbands love your wives – is an imperative command, Eph 5;25, – as Christ loved the church – so it is unconditional Calvary love – agape! But when do we hear any teaching on this in our churches?  Real discipling is a now rarity so our powerlessness goes on!

If we had churches full of disciples the converts would be flooding in. We have concentrated on evangelism and neglected discipleship and so contravened the Great Commission – go into all the world and make DISCIPLES – not converts, Matt 28;19ff.  And please don’t tell me that the converts have to come first!  Dr J Edwin Orr often emphasises that churches full of disciples will be churches in revival!

I have written a couple of times last year about the church’s powerlessness to address the evils in our Rotten Society; remember – the light always dispels the darkness – if we build the Kingdom of God, then we destroy the Kingdom of Darkness and  – Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, 1John 3;8.  It is through the power of God in the gospel that the demolition work is done, but our gospel is powerless, because of a lack of disciples!  It is therefore obvious that we are not building the Kingdom of God, but so few church leaders will admit to that and lamely plod on with their hopeless, competitive denominationalism!

What is the answer?  We need to obey scripture and seek the Lord!  It is obvious that He is not among the vast majority of churches – He is standing,  knocking at the door – waiting to be let in, Rev 3;20.  How will we let him in?  Obey scripture and get rid of our sin!  It’s still true – if my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health. 2Chron 7;14 – just as applicable as Mal 3;10 – Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.

The New Testament is equally emphatic, especially those five letters in Rev 2 & 3; and we need to obey the Word and revival will certainly come.  God wants it now!  It is not a date on His calendar! If we really pray, it will come; it always has, when God’s people really pray for it!  Every revival ever recorded, always starts in much earnest prayer; J  E Orr again!

Laodicea characterises most churches today – I am rich and need nothing! – but how often do church leaders teach from Rev 2 & 3?  The gross apathy and complacency is appalling and God hates it, the Risen Lord will vomit them out of his mouth, Rev 3;16 and tens of thousands of closed churches already testify to that!  Many more that are on the brink of closure!

Who will pray for revival?  Really serious prayer?  I know some Calvinists who pray for revival, but they have been praying for twenty years!  They will pray for another twenty years, because they believe that Revival is a date on God’s calender, so they don’t pray believing!  God wants to send revival now, he hates to allow Satan his present long length of the rope.  God hates all the marriage breakdowns among his people, He hates all the suffering in society and wants to shorten that rope; He will only do it through His people!

Other Christians, the New Covenant Theology devotees, believe that the church will one day have a great revival that will change the whole world and fit it for Christ to return.  That is unrealistic, however, it is clear that scripture shows we do have the power to do that; Eph 1;16ff and 3;14ff.  We have everything; the very fullness of God, Eph 3;19; so it is theoretically possible, but it won’t happen!  I do believe that a few of God’s young people will soon get praying and a mighty revival will happen before the Lord comes again; He will take a glorious church to Himself; 1Thess 4;13ff.  So who will pray for revival?

But what about these crumbling marriages?  If leaders pray for revival, they will soon be fit to help these dear friends, repair the devastated homes and testimonies.  The need for scripturally qualified church overseers/elders is immense! [see 1Tim 3].  The answers are all in the Word; we just have to believe and obey – love NEVER fails! – and how many times have I written that recently! That also applies to husbands and wives, as well as church leaders!

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Fight Back Time!

There are an increasing number of public people who are defending the right to maintain the Christian heritage of our country and lead a ‘fight back’ against the secularists and atheists who are alarmingly effective at curbing the public expression of Christianity.  Prominent politicians, even Muslims like Baroness Warsi, are calling for Christians to stand up for their faith.  Not a few newspaper columnists are also saying the same, even the present Polish President of the EU says that if Europe loses its Christian heritage, it will never be the same again and the present disintegration of society will continue alarmingly.  Not a few notable people have said – a life without faith, is no life at all.

The big question of course, is – how is the ‘fight back’ to be done; where do we sign up?  There seems to be plenty to sign up to these days, there are a plethora of petitions and lobbyings; but is that the way?  This is the way that the secularists have made their gains, so do we follow their pattern?  The answer is obviously – no!  Spiritual things have to be done in spiritual ways and the only way Christians can sign up to make Christianity worthwhile again, is on their knees!

One newspaper columnist recently said if Christianity ceased, then so would the vast majority of the country’s charities cease; and where would we be then?  She made the point that she sees very few charities started and run by secularists.  The Presidential campaign in USA highlights this worrying factor with right wingers saying – I don’t worry about the poor, all that will be sorted out when the markets come right.  Oh dear, are we watching the demise of the USA, because this seems to be the attitude of the ‘Christian’ right wingers.

The only place for Christians to ‘sign up’ is on their knees.  When they get a better prospective of Jesus and his love they will sign up to show his love to the poor and needy – you will always have the poor with you, John 12;8.

When our church leaders lead, when our preachers are in the enjoyment of the message they preach, then the love of Christ will become so obvious in the churches that the communities around will really know about it and what’s more, many will want it!  Oh yes, the fields are white and ready for harvest, [Matt 9;37] probably  greater than ever before, because this secular society is an empty and hurting society!

When our churches ‘sign up’ and take this stand on the love of Christ they and the charities they run will make an even greater difference to society and they will shame all the detractors of Christianity into an ominous silence.  And there will be plenty of money for world missions and even Africa would feel the difference!  What’s more, recession will be a thing of the past!

We noted that – a life without faith, is no life at all.  A life without love is a life without faith; for the two are totally integrated and you can’t have one without the other.  The apostle James thunders that faith without works is dead, 2;14ff.  Only works motivated by love for Christ will be effective and fruitful, the product of true faith.

The love of Christ is the only answer to the needs of our world and it is up to the churches to demonstrate love generously.  Only a few churches are maintaining this, but the need is for far more to ‘sign up’ and join them.  In any and every situation, always remember that – love NEVER fails!  1Cor 13;8.  Love is the only way to ‘fight back’ and win!

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A letter to ALL atheists.

It must be a very strange feeling to have no thought of God.  In fact I don’t believe that it is possible to have – no thought of God – I guess that’s the reason why atheists go on and on about their idea that there is no God, they can’t get away from Him!

Actually I don’t believe that anyone can be an atheist; they can say as many times as they like – I don’t believe in God, there’s no God – but they only fool themselves, Psa 14;1.  It’s very easy to fool yourself, even ‘Christians’ do that, some all the time; but then they’re not Christians in the proper, Biblical sense of the word – the Christlike ones!

Atheists can say as much as they like – no God – but, they can no more prove that to themselves, or anyone else; no more than I, or anyone, can prove that there is a God to the atheist.

The fact of God’s existence can only be proved on an individual basis. God has proved himself to me.  He can prove himself to you, if you want to know him, it’s up to you.  He has done everything necessary to make it possible for us all to know him, very powerfully, so that amazing relationship is up for grabs, right now!

Intelligent folk like Ravi Zacharius and many others can make some pretty convincing arguments, but especially today, no one can prove God to anyone else; it’s just impossible.

And don’t talk to me about science, because it’s on God’s side!  Even Dawkins has admitted our world was created by intelligent design, so don’t even raise the THEORY of evolution; it bores me stiff.

Then there’s the old one about atheists and it’s as good as it gets – if there is no God then it doesn’t matter if I am wrong; but if the atheist is wrong and God is; wow, they’re in biiiiiiiiiig trouble!

In our very secular world most people dislike absolute values; it makes people very uncomfortable because they stand condemned by God’s values.  You cannot be more absolute than when some one says – I am the way, the truth and the life, no one gets to the Father but by me!  That’s the most absolute of absolutes, but I don’t apologise for it, because I believe it to be wonderful.  To know a Man who has that confidence is great, especially when the overall picture of him is summed up so beautifully by that children’s prayer –

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,  Look upon this little child, Pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to Thee.

Yes, I know that Jesus got very angry indeed with the stubborn leaders of the Jews, but he obviously loved the children so much and that is quite sufficient when we are prepared to come to him with childlike faith.  And that is what is necessary!  There is no better picture of security and peace than a little toddler, cosily snucked up in a parents arms, totally confident that they will handle all the problems.  But, to self assured, poorly educated people of our mundane world, that is obviously a very hard place to be!  Not ‘poorly educated’ academically, but in reality, yes.

But here I would like to raise Evolution, sorry!  To say that after billions of years of evolution has come so far and cannot go any further than it has, is one arrogance too far; are we never to fly? The mess that MAN has made of planet earth and there can be nothing better!  Oh dear!  If I did believe evolution, then that thought would turn me off very quickly.

Sadly, I have to admit that it is ‘Christians’ who cause atheism.  Miserable church goers, legalistic church leaders and boring preachers have created atheists for a century now; so the old adage that – the Bible is harmed more by those who preach it, than those who are against it – is very true.  So it’s not the atheists I fear, it is church goers who call themselves Christians, but aren’t. Christianity has been reduced to some miserable, dull religion in far too many churches.  Love, joy and peace are the three words that should characterise church, but actually, they are mostly absent. So, actually, we have many atheists in our churches, they would vehemently deny being atheist, but in fact they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.  Lots of the big name TV evangelists would be in this category, they only use God as a tool to get rich.  Yet another cause of atheism!

Atheists will fade away when they see genuine Christianity and the power of the gospel; it is a great power and there will be a great response to the gospel.  Or, they will have the guts to be honest and admit they were wrong.  So if churches were what they should be, then many atheists would become Christians.  Many atheists would actually make very good Christians, their zeal is exemplary! 

But there is one proof of God, for when the gospel really impacts a community there is no argument, the atmosphere is so charged and everyone knows that God is in town.  ‘Revival’ has been defined as the – impact of the personality of Christ on the community. That is truly awesome and cannot be argued against, but it has not happened in the UK for over a century.  There were 2 small outbreaks in Lewis in Scotland and in East Anglia in the 1950s, but more than that, only a few isolated churches since.

So the atheists outside the churches do not worry me one iota, they would soon change their minds if they saw God in real Christianity; but the atheists inside do worry me, because I doubt very much if revival could ever come to their churches; they don’t want it and therefore are preventing it!  Even if it came close by, they would not recognise that God was there, while many atheists would!

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Resting, Resting!

Resting, Resting!

Jesus I am resting, resting,   In the joy of what Thou art, I am finding out the greatness, Of Thy loving heart,

Thou hast bid me gaze upon me,  And Thy beauty fills my soul, For, by Thy transforming power,  Thou hast made me whole.

 Jesus I am resting, resting,  in the joy of what Thou art, I am finding out the greatness,  Of Thy loving heart.

This is one of my favourite hymns and we sing it so heartily, but as we really think of the words, do we really know what it means?

What does it mean when we are told by God to – rest in him?1 We are also exhorted to – wait patiently for the Lord2 – so what does this really mean?  There is one big problem that has been connected with these verses that many of God’s people have been deceived with for many centuries – passivity!  Even in past times when churches were churches and God was obviously among His people, there was great confusion over this issue.

It was the thought by some that they had to wait to be told by the Holy Spirit exactly what to do, what service to be engaged in, so they sat and sang and sang but never did anything that proved they were God’s people.

There is so much to do in our communities that only the gospel can achieve and if the people of God fail to do it, then it doesn’t get done and society slides into an ever increasing downward spiral of misery and degeneration.  We do not have to be told what to do by any special revelation of the Holy Spirit, the Bible clearly tells us, about 20 times, that Christians ‘do good works’.  Doing good works, is doing God’s work, that’s how His people are seen as Christians.  We might be on our way to heaven, saved by the grace of God, but we will not be a Christian, in the Biblical sense of the word, until we are characterised before our communities by those good works that – are prepared for us from before the world was made, Eph 2;10.  This is what James means when he says – faith without works is dead! Jam 2;14-26.

Too many churches think that the gospel is a message of words; it is partly, but unless those words are backed up by good works, the words will be meaningless; in fact – mere hypocrisy.  Gospel = good news! If a church is not involved in a ministry of good works to the community, all its work is actually a hindrance to the gospel and the work of God.  Can’t we see why our preaching has been such a spectacular failure for so long?  There are many reasons behind the thousands of church closures over the last 50 years but the lack of good works figures high on the list!

So we do not have to wait patiently for God to tell us what to do, especially as local churches, it is our responsibility to get on and help the poor and needy.  And note, the ‘poor and needy’ today in the west, is not solely a financial need; although – we always will have the poor among us! John 12;8.  Our secular society is an empty and hurting society and the gospel is what it needs to see and hear.  ‘See’ – first; ‘hear’ – second!

Now, this can only be achieved if we are totally  motivated by the love of Christ.  Agape love is the only way that these good works can be maintained long enough to be effective and fruitful.  It is only as we really are in love with Jesus that this motivation can be achieved and it is found in the secret place with Him.  This is – resting, resting!  Here is where ‘waiting on God’ comes into reality and it is only proved by maintaining those good works in our communities.

What is this waiting on God?  It is that all important sanctification process of dealing with our sin and failure.  We will have to be absolutely mortified by our sin.  Like Isaiah as he sees the glory of God filling the Temple he sees just how vile he was.  Now Isaiah was a very good man, a prince, a prophet ye when he saw God he knew ho awful he was.  It was not something he had done, it was himself, his vile flesh.  This is the end place of true sanctification and we come to that brokenness that will have great reward.

A contrite and a broken spirit is what God is looking for, this is where He can pour in that great love of His.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5;1.  Oh yes, this is the only place where we can ‘know’ the King.  This is where the pretence and sham falls away and we see our desperate need of Jesus.  When only he is enough, we find faith to go a tell these people, just like Isaiah did.  In a church context that ‘telling’ is coupled with good works.

For may people it is a case of becoming poor that takes them to realise their need of God.  Times of real trouble bring people to their knees, literally!  They realise they can’t cope; so Luke’s record is so apt – Blessed are you poor, yours is the kingdom of God! 6;21.  Why do we wait to then to receive?  We still haven’t grasped the reality of that other scripture – it is more blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20;35.  When we really receive from God then we are able to give, generously!

The end and goal of sanctification is worship, communion with the King. Knowing the King is the greatest experience that a man and woman can ever have, this is worship; this is what will last for all eternity where all our intimacies will be with God.  To ‘know’ Jesus is what we were created for.  Ah yes, we are all part of the ‘all things’ that He created for Himself.  This is the greatest desire, just as David prayed 3000 years ago; and Stuart Townend puts it so well in his lovely hymn -You are my anchor – the chorus says –

One thing I will ask of You, this will I pray,

To dwell in Your house O Lord, every day

To gaze upon Your lovely face,

And rest in the Father’s embrace.

The gospel can make that potential a reality!   We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we know the true God. We live in union with the true God—in union with his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and this is eternal life, 1John 5;20.  Anything less is Satan’s lies.

Running around to conferences and meetings all the time is not Christianity. Reading your Bible, even studying it, is not Christianity.  Preaching on street corners, or in pulpits, is not Christianity.  Going on mission trips is not even Christianity, if good works are not part of it.  But, when we faithfully do the good works that the Bible tells us to do, then sometimes, for some of us, the Holy Spirit might have some special mission work for us to do which He will reveal to us, in no uncertain terms! 

Good works, which is good living, makes the teaching of our Lord Jesus attractive to our families, friends, in fact, to the whole community. Titus 2;1-10.  Good works makes the gospel message relevant and that must be the first step in evangelism to a secular society.  This is the message of Christmas!  Giving of gifts is popular at this time of year, but if they are only wrapped in pretty paper they don’t fit the bill. We have to give of ourselves, we have to love.  And sometimes we have to love the unlovable!  But that is not a problem to agape!

So let’s find our true resting place in Jesus, so that we can be motivated and empowered to get out and show others how to do the same!  Here is the rest of that great hymn –

 Oh, how great Thy loving kindness,  Vaster, broader, than the sea, Oh, how marvellous Thy goodness,  Yes, I rest in Thee beloved,

Know what wealth of grace is  Thine, Know Thy certainty of promise, And have made it mine. 

Simply trusting Thee Lord Jesus,  I behold Thee as Thou art, And Thy love so pure so changeless, Satisfies my heart.

Satisfies its deepest longings, Meets, supplies its every need, Compasseth me round with blessings; Thine is love indeed.

Ever lift Thy face upon me,  As I wait and work for Thee,  Resting ‘neath Thy smile Lord Jesus, Earth’s dark shadows flee.

Brightness of my Father’s glory,  Sunshine of my Father’s face,  Keep me ever trusting, resting,  Fill me with Thy grace.

Here are some of the ‘Good Works’ verses of the BIble –

Mat 5:16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Or as The Message Bible puts it – Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand–shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Heb 13:21May this God of peace prepare you to do every goodthing he wants. May he work in us through Jesus Christ to do what is pleasing to him. Glory belongs to Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

Peter’s take – 1Pet 2:12Live decent lives among unbelievers. Then, although they ridicule you as if you were doing wrong while they are watching you do good things, they will praise God on the day he comes to help you.

1Pe 3:10-11“People who want to live a full life and enjoy good days must keep their tongues from saying evil things, and their lips from speaking deceitful things. (11) They must turn away from evil and do good. They must seek peace and pursue it.

John’s input – 1John 3:17If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something good about it, but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. 

3John 1:11Dear friend, never imitate evil, but imitate good. The person who does good is from God. The person who does evil has never seen God.

More of Paul’s take Rom 3;13, 2Cor 9;8, Gal 4;18, 6;10, Eph 4;28, Col 1;10, 2Thes 2;17, 1Tim 2;10, 5;10, 5;25, 6;18, 2Tim 2;21, 3;17, Tit 2;7, 2;14, 3;1, 3;8, 3;14.  Isn’t that enough to show that good works are a very important issue!

1Psa 37;7 – Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked devices to pass. Or in The Message – Quiet down before GOD, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top

2Psa 62;1, – Truly my soul waits upon God: from him [comes] my salvation.   Hosea 12;6 – Therefore turn to your God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on your  God continually.

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The Call to Obedience

‘Your Will Be Done’
The great Jewish physicist Albert Einstein once said something like this: “We need to be able to reduce everything to its smallest form, but not beyond that.” There are times when we need to do this with Christianity. We must know our roots, we must know what is at the heart of a matter or our knowledge remains frighteningly superficial and distorted. So let us begin a graduated reduction of the faith once delivered to the saints (see Jude 1:3). If I had to reduce the whole Bible to four documents for Christian living, I would select these four:

• The Ten Commandments, because they tell us of the holiness of God.
• The Sermon on the Mount, because it answers the question: how shall we live?
• The Lord’s Prayer, because it answers the question: how then shall we pray?
• First Corinthians 13 because it answers the question: how then shall we love?

But suppose you press me for further reductions. I would then choose the Lord’s Prayer out of the four documents listed. This is the only prayer Jesus taught us to pray. It could have been a long one, for there is much to be prayed for. But here Jesus reduced all prayer to the point at which any further reduction would be hazardous.
So in this prayer we are first told how we are to relate to God: that God is our Father and not some stranger who cannot be known and is hiding in outer space. Although He is also a Judge, Administrator and many other things, He always prefers for us to think of Him as the One who “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope” (1Pet. 1:3). We have a filial relationship with Him.
“Hallowed be Your name” means that He’s not an ordinary father. It means that He is holy, and He expects us to maintain a holy relationship with Him.
Next, we come to the first petition, which is a twin petition. This petition is like a tuning fork. Each of the two prongs resonates in the other. It is through their relationship that we get the right tone: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matt. 6:10). You can’t enjoy the kingdom of God without doing His will and you can’t do His will without enjoying the kingdom.
So at the heart of Christianity is “Your will be done”. That is the grandest, loftiest petition that can be prayed. No prayer is valid without “Your will be done” being its principle component. All prayer outside of that is selfish. What the atom is to the scientist, what seed is to the farmer, what the letter is to the writer, “Your will be done” is to Christianity. Christianity is nothing more nor less than doing the will of God. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him that sent me” (John 4: 34). The will of God contains within it everything that goes with the Christian life: confessions, repentance, rebirth, faith, love, purity, obedience, holiness, patience, long-suffering, praise, evangelism, etc. Everything in Christianity is to be found in “Your will be done.” – “Your will be done” is Christ-likeness.
This finding and doing the will of God is a matter of life and death. Doing God’s will must be taken seriously, for Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). There will be no kingdom of heaven for us unless we do the will of God. How serious is that? At any one moment we either crucify our will or God’s will. Because self-will will never take one step after Jesus, it has to be crucified. Therefore self-denial is the missing link which connects every believer to victorious Christian living. Jesus said to the multitude: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Jesus died on the cross to save us, but we have to die on our cross to follow Him. If we don’t follow Him we are none of His.
“Your will be done” means that we must give up our agenda. For every hour of the day God has a plan for us as He had one for the Son of God. It is not up to us what we do with our Sunday afternoons. It is up to Him. It is not up to us who we invite for Christmas dinner. It is up to Him. It is not up to us whether we purchase new furniture. It is up to Him. Of course, we must not be anxious about these things, but we must be sensitive to His still small voice. We must literally learn to walk in His will. And by so doing, we find ourselves enjoying in His kingdom, which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). When I see a Christian, I expect him to do the will of God. Because of God’s abounding grace we can do the will of God – always.
Conversion is only the beginning. We have to understand that although at conversion all sins we have committed have been removed as far as the east is from the west, yet there remains within us what Paul calls the sinful nature, the carnal nature, the old man (Rom. 8:7; 6:6 ). The carnal nature resists doing the will of God. John the Baptist said – the axe must be laid to the root of the tree of sin, the sinful nature, the old man (see Matt. 3:10). In brief, after we have been saved, there is a further work to be done in our hearts (Heb. 6:1). The root of sin has to be dealt with. Self-will must no longer be allowed to have its way. We must be sanctified. Paul said to the Christians at Thessalonica, “this is the will of God, even your sanctification…” (1Thes. 4:3). Until we are sanctified, our ability to hear the voice of Jesus is impaired. Jesus wants to lead us by His inner voice. He said in John, “My sheep hear my voice… and they follow me.” (John 10:27). There can be no following without hearing. Because we can’t hear, we are disconnected from God and so we devise our own agendas, and our church programs fall short of what Jesus wants. We walk in the flesh and our work, which may look religiously beautiful, comes to death. Jesus said, “every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). Only what is a God class? [.. that enjoy His kingdom]. Only what is of God has life in it.
What prevents us from hearing the voice of Jesus, from getting into God’s will? [.. and living]. Again, it is the old man, with all his evil members such as pride, jealousy, murmuring, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, greed, selfishness, a judgmental, critical and analytical spirit, etc. These things plug up our spiritual ears. These fruits of the flesh choke the spiritual life out of us. We need sanctification. We need tuning up and tuning in. Sanctification begins when we lay ourselves on the altar of sacrifice, and it continues as we deny the self-life, every step of the way. So as we follow Jesus in self-denial, the carnal nature will be crucified out of us and His divine nature will be resurrected within us. Hallelujah!
We need to learn to wait upon God. The psalmist said “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” (Ps. 62:5). Waiting upon God means taking time each day to get quietly before Him. It is as essential to the spiritual body as breathing is to the physical body. In waiting upon God He will tune us up. The Lord will bring certain weaknesses, faults and hidden sins to our attention. We will confess, repent and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Through this process the Lord will break us, and bring us into His marvellous chamber of humility and gentleness. Through this process we are tuned in. Here we learn what it means to abide in Christ, to come into harmony with God. This may take weeks and months or longer. Then continual fine-tuning will go on all of our lives. When we are tuned in, we are ready to receive specific instructions, as the early Christians did; as to who we are to visit, where we are to go, or what we are to say. We will come to that perfect and acceptable will of God (see Rom. 12:2), into Christ-likeness, into actually walking with God as the patriarchs, prophets and apostles of old walked with God. Finally notice the sequence by which the apostle Paul has laid this all out for us by saying: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1,2). The tense in v1 makes this sacrificial action a ‘one off’ event. After all, a sacrifice can only be offered and burnt up once!
In v2 the tense is continuous and therefore relates to the sanctification process that refines us as we mature into Christ and enjoy His presence more and more – the kingdom experience. The ‘one off’ sacrifice has to take place before the renewing of our minds can take place. I would take it, that it is that experience when a believer identifies the essence of being a Christian and saying – Your will be done from now on! Realising and confessing that before, that was not the case. It is a very difficult and humbling experience.
So, that ‘one off’ sacrifice probably relates to the term the baptism of the spirit, the very first time a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit and become the real worshipper the Father seeks.
As we maintain the sanctification process day by day, the renewing of our minds, we become more and more Christlike, finding that perfect will of God and being fruitful worshippers. The sanctification process is where we learn to hate our sin, which are mainly wrong attitudes and those besetting character sins, and root them out one by one. Those attitudes are the result of long term cultural conditioning, both our national and especially our church culture. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Rom 12;2, The Message.
Denominational cultures have so isolated most believers that they ‘fit in’ under threat from authority; if they don’t they are, at the least, frowned on, often worse, ostracised!
So it is long overdue for believers to say – Your will be done – to God and let whatever happens, happen. We really do have to rely wholly on Christ and seek His will and forsake everything that has gone before, that once off sacrifice and then start the wonderful journey of being conformed to His image! When the people of god set the affections on things above, letting the word of God to abide in them richly, to let the Holy Spirit lead us in everything they will see that love joy and peace that the world is searching for and see great blessing. But that love joy and peace has to be enjoyed by them first, it has to be their continual enjoyment day after day. They have to be seen as Christians, radically different to the world; only then will the fruit be genuine and great. When we love the Saviour more than anything else and desire His glory alone, we will find that secret of the radiant life in your will be done! It really is asking at every decision we make, big and small – what would Jesus do? We will then know what eternal life is all about! Hallelujah!
So, again, if I were forced to reduce all Christianity into one phrase beyond which any further reduction is detrimental, it would be “Your will be done.” Jesus made this the first and principal petition for all Christians. Let us pray for it, aspire to it and live.

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