Battle or Cruise Ship

Last Sunday I spoke about transition and as some missed it [23% were absent] I record it here. Incidentally in large London churches 23% is about right for normal congregational response, or lack of it, and even more in some cases.

When my dear wife died on January 11th 2014 after 47 years illness and six months intensive suffering, I realised that not only had I lost my best friend but HICC had lost its senior pastor. She was a mighty force in the assembly. She was hands-on in many departments, and organised the whole place efficiently. It was then that I also realised that HICC needed a married couple because women see what men don’t, and she was invaluable at prophetic foresight and perception. Our pillow talk yielded a wealth of spiritual understanding. I could not at 80 form another relationship of such intensity and unity.

So, for the good of HICC I decided that transition should take place. I am still able to preach without any deterioration in thinking or preparation,  have enough energy and strength to continue and am able to speak and promote vision. That has not dimmed. I am 80 but look 70 and feel 60 so there is life in the old dog yet, but HICC must come first. My life has been a succession of giving things up for the good of God’s will. Why change now? I had set in motion two years previously such a transition, but human nature being what it is we believe all men are mortal but ourselves, nothing was really set in motion.

On reflection I decided that a minister who was known to HICC and who visited regularly, usually annually, and his wife would be ideal for that transition, and he was approached and responded positively. However as I began to sell up in Hampton and move to Solihull, where I had originally come from 30 years earlier, things became untoward. The guy dropped out and I could not stay my move, contracts were signed, removal men arranged, moving home was certain and inevitable. It had to proceed.  This left HICC in the lurch, as they say, leaderless, except I am Founding Pastor and will remain so until I die, but living 110 miles away.

I now travel back and preach either once or twice a month, and fortunately Pamela drives me down. I will keep doing that until a new man is appointed. The executive council and cabinet are joined in unity to see HICC prosper and are behind me and for the church. They believe ‘things’ will pan out well in God. Thus, we wait and pray and seek God’s face, HICC is a miracle of growth and blessing and truly a multinational church; indeed a microcosm of heaven.

When I sought God to know if I should move and transition should take place I was motivated by His word. I came to London 31 years ago through a text: “The priests left the suburbs and their possessions and came to Jerusalem.” I now needed such a text so in my daily reading and praying over moving and transition this was His word: “Do all that is within thy heart, for God is with you.” [1 Chronicles 17:1]. If I had written that text myself and inserted it into the Bible it couldn’t have been more certain. Although I had read that text at least 62 times [once a year since I was 18] it had never registered. Behind all this is God, what He is doing I do not know, and how He will respond likewise, but He will not leave the place he has blessed shepherd-less.

Twenty years ago a visiting preacher, Ken Newton, a prophet, came to HICC and said “you are vanguard, the leader of the pack, and will initiate and innovate leadership in the area.” But the emphasis was that we were a warship not a cruise liner. The difference is quite strong. Those on a cruise ship pay for at least two things – a good meal menu and entertainment, and at the slightest sense of danger run for the lifeboats.

On the other hand on a battle ship everyone is staff, they have a good basic menu but with no fancy dishes, and are paid a minimal wage. When danger arises they stay in their positon and with the Captain go down if they have to, but have excellent accident and emergency facilities for they are in a war.

My question to you as we sail through this boisterous sea of transition is – which ship do you want to be on?  The battle ship has one objective, defeat the enemy, and those on a cruise ship: let’s enjoy ourselves. Often we cannot see the enemy because they are detected by radar and are over the horizon, but long range firing is essential for we fight not against flesh and blood but powers of darkness in high places. If we get injured, and life itself can often do that, we have [HICC] has, excellent emergency provision for healing.

Tabernacle and Triumph

“We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.”
[2 Cor. 5:4]

It is interesting that Paul does not call our body a building, a church or a mansion but a tabernacle. The first tabernacle was a tent of meeting, and Paul was a tent maker. I had the privilege of being saved in the Full Gospel Tabernacle, Billelsey, Birmingham on 15th January 1949. The thing about tents is that they have a roof but no foundations, because they are temporary structures. They can be moved, damaged, overturned and easily destroyed. We can do what we like with our earthly tabernacles but they are no better than tents; we can nurse, pamper, dress and adorn them and even idolise them, but they are basically dust and to dust they will return.

However, Paul distinguishes between soul and body almost as if we can live without the tabernacle, and we can, for he says “we that are in this tabernacle” because the soul is the man; the soul is the inhabitant. It is in it but not of it. It is immaterial, immortal, and capable of endless improvement. God is eternal and has no age, he does not grow old and was never young, and He is what he is; He is the ancient of days, always was and always will be.  We on the other hand cannot save the tabernacle for it is subject to decay, disease and death, but the soul can be saved; Jesus died for that very purpose. Thus a man can gain the whole world and lose his own soul.  To the body we show unending concern, we send for a doctor if we are ill, we employ lawyers to write our will and design and write-out our funeral requirements, but forget our soul.

So the question is what provision are we making for our soul? How will it be disposed of?  Where will it go when Jesus calls us in that eternal day; have we provided for it? The complaint described by Paul is that the soul does groan within the tabernacle “being burdened.” This or these burdens are numerous and easily described for life is a vale of tears, and oppression and opposition are constant and unremitting. For who is able to safeguard us against our personal failure, losses, accidents and family bereavements with hostilities. Being a person who follows God does not exempt us from trials for God does not prune the bramble but the vine, and the stones that build his tabernacle are cut and polished to perfection! Being a son of God does not release us from calamity, for he chastens whom he calls and His correction is for children not for strangers.

These afflictions will never be joyous but often grievous, and will yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness [Heb. 2:11]. In some ways we feel these privations and rebukes more than the world who reject His existence, and we tremble lest we are not sanctified, for we are within a divinely designed purpose. We must remember that those who follow Christ go without the camp bearing his reproach [Heb.13:13].  Thus the Christian life is an undeniable warfare, “for we wrestle against principalities and powers in high places and the rulers of the darkness of this world” [Eph. 6:12].

Not only is the soul burdened but it mourns over sin and pollution. Under God it embraces purity and abhors iniquity, for its reward is a tender conscience, but it feels that everything it does is spoiled, for although it loves the Holy Spirit it often feels it has grieved Him.  Yearning to tread a pilgrim path and live a holy life, yet is distraught by alien thoughts that mar the gospel of forgiveness. If that soul is ours we sigh with conviction and wish we were what we profess, but know that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin daily. We also know that nothing will satisfy us until we move in the glorious liberty of the sons of God, and that is possible — it can be now! “For greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.”  “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all than we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” [Eph 3:20-21] and it does!

 

He is Precious

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks [Luke 6:45] and we who profess Christ say further “my meditation of Him shall be sweet.” [Psa.104:34] Therefore the tongue of those who love God will and must extol the immortal, it can do no other. To the sports fanatic, sport is his sweetness, to the miser it is money; but to those who are called and sanctified, their speech extols the Lord. Further, King David says “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” [Ps 139:17] Thus, God meditates on us. Mystery indeed.  Out of the abundance of God’s heart he speaks and we say in return “Unto them that believe he is precious.” There’s reciprocal wonder. When the Pharisees tried to stop the crowd proclaiming Jesus as king in the temple, Jesus said “if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out,” [Luke 19:40] and so they will in that eternal day. All creation will join the anthem unto glorified deity.

When Peter and John were forbidden to speak in Jesus name their reply was poignant, “For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4:20]. It’s no good placing or trying to enforce restraining orders on saints who have witnessed the saving power of Jesus. Out of the abundance of their heart they must speak, for all creation must cry His praise – “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee. They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power;” [Ps 145:10-11]. David says again: “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” [Ps 51:15] Sometimes it is a struggle because the flesh hangs heavy and the soul is afflicted. When friends forsake and enemies mock, when grievous situations arise, saints will counter with praise to God, it is their natural diet, their consuming food. As Paul says: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” [Phil 3:7-9].

Martyrs through the ages have given up the world with all its delights as they walked the pilgrim way, making sacrifice; receiving frowns from friends, anger from enemies and sneers from neighbours, but for all that accepting those things for Christ. Is it strange that the language of heaven dominates their life here, and that the bible is their daily bread? It contains words of life and expressions of God’s love; it is the love-song of the bridegroom; therefore nothing and no one can be a substitute for Him but He can always be a substitute here on earth for anyone or anything.

There are special seasons in life when we are sick and we need a physician, when we are hungry we need food, when filled with the Holy Spirit we turn upwards to Christ and worship his dear name, name above all names. When the Holy Spirit touches us and reveals sin and causes judgement, then he becomes precious to us.  Precious as a forgiving saviour for all sins, who cleanses us daily in the fierce temptations and causal yielding? It is said a friend is born for adversity and we have one that sticketh closer than a brother, even Christ our beloved.  Can one wonder why he is precious for he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities and in all afflictions he is afflicted [Isa. 53:4]?

Precious you say, for when eternity beckons he will carry us through the swelling tide to life itself. Whilst we are alive he made intercession for the transgressors for he allowed himself to be numbered with them, [Isa 53:12] thus securing our salvation.  He said we would be where he is [John 17:24], where the sun does not set and sin no longer has dominion, for he will turn the chamber of death into the gate of heaven. Hallelujah! Precious indeed.

Thinking Right

[Proverbs 23:7] “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he:” When we change our thinking we change our life. Before we were saved we thought negatively, but now we are saved we are committed and commanded to change our concepts – “and be renewed in the spirit of your mind” [Ephesians 4:12]. Because we are justified, redeemed, forgiven, reconciled and adopted we CAN change our ways and thinking. The Holy Spirit is able to help us [John 16:13] “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”

We pick up influences constantly from other people, and our mentors mould our lives. Even if we reject what we have seen in others we are still responding automatically. When we come to Jesus we have the ability, through the Spirit, to unload all those negative programmes which have been stored on the hard disc of our memory. We can now live optimistically for we have the divine re-programmer at our disposal.

We are formed in our thinking by the time we march on life, and all through infant, adolescence and teenage years we have formed an indelible opinion that is time-warped in our personality. From that point on, we live on auto-pilot, and thus influence all that we have in Christ, causing us to fluctuate in our lifestyle.

The Bible has the answer. God has not made us “sons of God” as an arbitrary position but has given us the Spirit of power for a purpose. The WORD puts it this way: [Romans 12:2] “And be not CONFORMED to this world: but be TRANSFORMED by the RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Paul writing to Timothy states that we are saved not only by an act of God’s righteousness, but by a constant work of the Spirit: [Titus 3:5] “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and RENEWING OF THE HOLY GHOST;” This “renewing” is a constant thing not a once and for all act, never to be repeated.

To renew your mind is not to educate the memory, the judgement or the perception but to change the whole mental outlook, the “spirit” of our mind. It is the programme which works and operates all we do. It is the preconditioning that affects our memory, judgement and perception and colours all our thinking about Christ and His kingdom.

When we commit ourselves to Christ, there is more to life than attending church, although that is important, but a new lifestyle to enjoy. We live between services not for them, and the ministry of life becomes dynamic as we develop a positive lifestyle that reflects our sitting at the King’s top table. We are His sons, and clothed in the finery of salvation we live, act and respond from that standpoint. We have not been born sons of the King to live at subsistence level, for when we met Jesus, He transformed our natural birth, by a new birth and we are now framed ready to live differently – but will we?

Dwelling in Daily Meditation

The fastness of life negates the ability to wait on God, by waiting for God. “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” [Isa. 40:31] .We are the children of the vine, engrafted into the royal source of strength. We are fruitful in proportion to His flowing life-imparting, fruit-producing power.

The English workforce works daily more than any other country in Europe; they have little time for their children and no time for God. The inspiration derived from sitting at the well of meditation has been pushed out of their lives with scores of necessities. There is competition for our time and money, and the world has mastered sufficient allurements to dispossess us of both.

It has taught us that to sit and wait for God is a waste of time, there must be constant action. Modern preaching has adopted a similar sense, teaching principles of unremitting activity. We are for ever storming the battlements of hell and possessing the land of promise; repeatedly walking around the walls of Jericho. This has been triggered because people in the past have sat for too long at the well of meditation until they have become mystical, and so heavenly minded that they are no earthly use.

“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” [Lam. 3:26]. The reason antiques are expensive is because they have lasted the rigours of time. They were made when time was taken to build something not only beautiful but lasting. God rushed Joseph into a position of authority only after thirteen years in captivity.

Like Samson of old we cry to God just one more time to wreak vengeance on our enemies and, calling and waiting on God, we find renewal for our strength. As he waited in his blindness he was given yet another opportunity to excel for God. While he waited his hair grew. “A minister of Christ is often in highest honour of men for his performance of one half of his work, while God is regarding him with displeasure for the neglect of the other half.” [Matthew Henry]. We may work more than we wait. That is a reversal of spiritual common sense.

Living in Simple Separation

Here is the spin-off of waiting before God: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” [John 17:19].The secret of sanctification is found in John 17:17 “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Sanctification is to be set-apart, to hallow and to make clean.

Our walk in purity is an answer to most things. People want prayer because they are not living victoriously; they are not living victoriously because they are not living in the WORD. A prayer at the front of the church cannot substitute for prayer in your closet. Your personal life of holiness is a well that needs to be re-opened. Many of our problems stem from walking unruly and unrighteous.

“The electronic industry is trying to clean up its act as well as its chips by moving over from polluting solvent to greener cleaners. At the moment the industry uses hydrogen peroxide, hydrochloric acid and ammonium hydroxide to remove dirt particles from chips during manufacture. They are now using a deep ultraviolet excimer laser to zap any dirt particles.”

This is because light loosens dirt. The Christian should already know that what the science laboratory has discovered has an application to the spiritual realm nothing is new to God. As He draws nearer we find our dirt becomes clearly visible. In proportion to His nearness comes the associated ability, it cleanses us from all unrighteousness.