Rebuke

When our new church was built in 2005 I advertised that I would buy ten chairs as an encouragement for other members to follow suit. However, I was rebuked, or corrected by two ladies in the church. We all need, from time to time, wise and kind discipline and I’m not above that. However, was their criticism justified? Well you be the judge. I had asked the congregation to respond to the challenge of buying a chair (or more) for the new building. I led the way by saying that Patricia and I would buy ten and at £135 per chair that made a total of £1,350. I then realised that if I spent or gave that much the church could claim Gift Aid and HICC could actually get 12 not 10. I mentioned this the following week.

The first point of criticism I received was “don’t tell us about how many chairs you are buying – again” Twice was enough. I agree that the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing and generally speaking that is how I conduct my giving to God. However, this situation was different, the people ought to know whether the ‘vicar’ was putting his bank book where his mouth was. I illustrated this by stating that probably I‘m the lowest paid professional in the church, and to find the money would take all our effort plus God but that is what faith is all about. We were not actually putting our necks on the line, for with God that never happens. His grace undergirds and supports and He always surpasses our expectation, and comes to our aid when we step out in venture with him.

My first church was started with 66p in the bank, faith as a mustard seed and little else. However, as time passes we become too sophisticated and faith becomes conditioned by intelligence and experience of past provision, which is sometimes forgotten. We become conditioned by the now and, as some God-led avenues actually appear cul-de-sacs, our nerve temporarily fails. God says “prove me now” and that’s not a bad maxim to live by. It was that example I was showing.

The second was “don’t tell us that you could have preached for another hour on the blood of Jesus, it sounds like boasting.” That may be true, but I could have preached for over 11 hours. My emphasis was to say this subject is huge. I didn’t touch reconciliation through blood, cleansing through blood, sanctification through blood, dwelling in the holiest through blood, life in the blood, victory through the blood and joy through the blood – and there is yet more!

The problem we have in today’s church is that there is insufficient Bible Study, or no Bible study. Consequently, many errors prevail and suspect lifestyles predominate because the average Christian does not know Biblical truth. This needs to be remedied. In other words all churches need a regular Bible Study in a relaxed atmosphere where truth can be exegeted to correct and support lifestyle. Sunday morning is no longer the right time for Bible Study; it is for expository preaching, but not a detailed study. The average person can sit today listening to a 30minute sermon (as long as a soap opera) beyond that they begin to flag.

Can we pull these two comments together, yes we can? Giving and receiving are the two greatest attitudes in life. My reticence to talk about money may cause the average member to miss out on God’s bounty. We live in the year of His favour, and His promise to us is 30, 60 and 100fold. The promise is not that we will automatically get 100fold but it’s a gradation scale. Some may not be able to handle 100fold, so God only allows them 30. Often it is not poverty that causes us to stumble but riches, although some Christians have a poverty mentality.

The words of the teacher are like nails driven in a sure place, and so the Word of God is imperative for it fixes things permanently. I would not be where I am now in God without that precious word, living, revealing and encouraging in its daily ministration. It has fixed my life, preserved me from error, kept me in temptation, encouraged me when depressed, challenged me when half-hearted, rebuked me when I’ve sinned and drawn me into the lover’s closet to meet my Lord. It has caused me to weep, to laugh and to sigh in expectation. The bible is truly a book beyond all books; a wonder about God. It answers the riddle of life and reveals Jesus in all His beauty – hallelujah!

 

 

Blue Diamonds

Saturday morning dawned and off we went to Stratford upon Avon, a medieval town dating from its official charter in 1196. It is close to the Cotswolds and, when it was the major sheep producing area, Stratford was one of the main towns for processing, marketing and distribution of sheep and wool. Its smaller Roman Road connects the larger Fosse Way and lcknield Street. Chipping Camden is about 10 miles south from there, a place where the wool barons built their extensive and expensive homes. After parking the car on the outskirts I noticed brass squares about 200mm square left in the footpath. These stated that one was approaching blue diamonds as markers inscribed on the concrete pathway pointing to the information centre. Follow the blue smudges and you would get there. So I did, and arrived at the main thoroughfare or shopping-centre. It was relatively early but the shoppers were many, and with added visitors we were glad it wasn’t summer!

As I stood at the traffic lights I looked left and saw a public house on a corner of two streets called Encore and dated 1605, and from its construction and shape it looked in pretty good condition although it was clear that it has had its roof replaced, for most roofs last as long as the nails – about 90 years. The clay tiles also laminate with repeated soaking and freezing. However for 800 years this town had withstood the seasons and the wear of humanity, and is still vibrant and loved. It is one of the greatest holiday attractions in Britain, and justly so, for it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, who is reckoned by many as the world’s greatest playwright; not my favourite reading as a schoolboy! In 1769 David Garrick was responsible for the first real Shakespearian Theatre as a celebration to mark Shakespeare’s birthday, but it was almost washed away in two days by torrential rain.

Pamela and I had come not to delve into history but to collect a dress from a shop in Sheep Street. Sheep Street was the residential quarter of town in the 16th century and was rebuilt after the great fire in 1595, although No. 40 dates from 1480, about 300 years before the USA! No wonder Americans like visiting. But, as we walked it came to me that God is The Information Centre of the universe, and He has left blue smudges [Bible texts] in the pathways of life to the questions we pose. Mankind needs direction on how to live and who better than their creator. The Bible clearly says “Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth” and live good for the rest of your life. Get to the Information Centre as soon as your can. Follow the blue diamonds diligently and you will never get lost.

About two years ago my front door bell rang and there stood two representatives of a political party. They introduced themselves, she was a doctor of medicine and he a doctor of history, and they said to me and “you are Dr Carr, what is you discipline?” I replied “Theology” and they stopped in their tracks not knowing what to say. I continued “your leader rewrote the Bible in his own image, thus: ‘a man or woman shall leave their parents and he shall cleave to his husband and she to her wife and twain they shall be sterile.’ ” They looked at me dumbfounded, not knowing what to say, I smiled and closed the door. It is clear they had ignored the Information Centre. They were going in the wrong direction, when it comes to morality and money the Bible always has the blue diamonds.

Blue diamonds do actually exist but contain impurities, hence their colour, but are very expensive and rarely seen in shops today.  I think God’s word is as expensive as that, but contains no impurities, it is precious beyond words. “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” [Ps 12:6]. It is so sad that mankind misses that fact, and will read anything and everything except God’s word. Sometimes information centres are stumped but not God’s word, there are words for all seasons and all occasions.

Use the Bible as your jewel box, it is rewarding and is rich with a wealth of wisdom.  Here’s one jewel that should strike solemnity into our hearts: [2 Peter 3:5-7]. Read it slowly and ponder. Let all the facets illumine your inner eyes.

The Hot Potato

When I was in my early teen years I attended a technical college in Perry Barr, Birmingham. I was not bright enough to pass for a grammar school so it was a vocational life for me. In the sixth form all students had to do a research essay as part of their final year and I did one on Warwick Castle. My form master took it to the common room where all the teachers met and they analysed it, and as a result a Mr Coldicot was commissioned to see me. He said they had discussed my future and believed I should apply for the senior art school in the city as I would be missing my vocation as an engineer.

At last someone saw something in me and I returned home triumphantly to my parents, chest swelling with pride, and relayed to them what I had been told. They pondered it and next morning said it was impossible as I had to go to work and add to the family income. Having reached 16 there would be no more schooling. I was crushed, but reluctantly accepted the inevitable; from that moment I hardly ever sketched again.

As I thought back on that episode in my early life I realised that if I had chosen another profession I would have been a graphic artist, and not too long ago devised a logo for a church. It was a simple cross with coloured boxes in each of the four spaces around it. They were coloured red, yellow, black and white. The idea came from the ditty, “Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight.”  There may be someone in the congregation who could develop that.

But, in today’s politically correct world it would be inadvisable to mention any of those colours as someone might be offended. I think someone will always be offended wherever you go and whatever you say; you can’t please all the people all the time. Anyone who speaks on race must be an idiot, so some think, and possibly I’m reaching for that title today!

In 1984 that I came from the predominantly white world of Solihull, into the teeming metropolis of London to Kensington Temple. It was my baptism into a multicultural lifestyle which I have come to love and enjoy and have done for the last 31 years. The years have been filled with interest in the forming of lasting and precious friendships with multicultural people. It is therefore with joy that we have sponsored and positively encouraged a cosmopolitan Sunday once a year with four main streams participating – African, Asian, Caribbean and European.

Until 2013, when we started two services, we had that Sunday about September time [after the holiday period] and a special day it was. It manifested particular cultures – rich and colourful, it kept alive national identities – pride and purpose, it released talent that would be otherwise dormant – gifts of nature and of the Holy Spirit and it showed the diversity yet unity in HICC – difference but not division. The scriptures come to our aid: “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’ ” (Rev 5:9).

Our objective in HICC, formulated 27 years ago, is “to build a multinational community that worships God, walks in the light and witnesses unto Christ.”  It has stood that test ever since the church started, and now contains approximately 40 nations, possibly more – we are still counting. Across those cultural divides is a fraternity, engendered by the Holy Spirit, which welds people together. We do not emphasise division but unity. We do not try to westernise people but let the Spirit work grace in their soul, and create power in their life. They must be who they are in reality, for playacting is unspiritual. In HICC we allow that and rejoice in their uniqueness. The colour of a person’s skin is totally unimportant; we simply ask, “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

The Man is the Ministry!

 “A 31-year-old pastor in Mount Dora, Fla., recently set the record for the longest sermon ever preached. Pastor Zach Zehnder of Cross Church began his quest on Fri., Nov. 7, and by Sunday had preached for 53 hours and 18 minutes. I have to assume he has no deacons at Cross Church, or they would have pulled the plug after an hour.

During the two-and-a-half day homiletical marathon, Zehnder preached through 45 of his own sermons and displayed more than 600 PowerPoint slides as he moved from Genesis to Revelation, highlighting the theme of divine faithfulness. Personally, I’d say having a church put up with a 53-hour message is a sparkling example of congregational faithfulness.

According to the Broward New Times, “To comply with Guinness World Record rules, Zehnder had to speak before a minimum of 10 people the entire time, and there had to be two independent witnesses to sign off on its validity and monitor his break times. To ensure these rules were met, church members formed groups to help out and rotated shifts, moving in and out in groups of 10. Some spectators stayed nearly as long as Pastor Zehnder. Toward the end of the event, hundreds of community members came to see him complete his speech marathon.”

The sermonic display was done as a fund-raising event to raise money for a local recovery ministry. (In my past churches, I suspect the folks would have given money to have me preach less, not more!) In addition to whatever spiritual benefit may have come from the lengthy message, the record-breaking sermon raised more than $100,000 for the local charity and drew national news attention [Michael Duduit].

In fact, Jesus preached longer than that, he spoke for three years as his life ministry unfolded. Someone said “the best sermon I ever read was six foot three and covered in skin.” It is not so much the exegesis so written but the life so lived.  Noah spent 120 years building an ark which possibly, was the longest yet. Jesus said this: “For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” [John 13:15].  Jesus’ life was his words. It is said that William Jay of Argyle Chapel, Bath, preached 1,000 sermons before he was 21 and a wonderful expositor he was for he left a legacy of brilliant sermons. Charles Spurgeon when he was 16 years of age, whilst on his way to church with his grandfather, asked who was preaching that morning. His grandfather’s reply was, wait till you get there, and when he did, his grandfather said – “you are the preacher today” and so the young Spurgeon stood at that tender age and spoke on “Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious,” thus a life of golden-lipped oratory was launched.

Usually in a successful ministry the man is the sermon. Paul, after his conversion said: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. [1 Cor 11:1], brief and to the point, a hard act to follow! He also says: “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men” [2 Cor 3:2-3]. Our example speaks volumes and through our personality God flows by His Spirit. As we speak He enables, ennobles and energizes our zeal so people can catch a glimpse of himself. Often through our trials, as the stitching of our life is picked apart by extreme vicissitudes, the real treasure, His life, shines forth.

I suppose most ministers who have walked with God for a few decades could preach for 53 hours providing they had some sort of physical support. I see he used 600 PowerPoint sermon slides, and as I usually use a minimum of 60 or more for each sermon I preach, I could cover that in ten Sundays.  As there are 52 Sundays each year that would be 3,120 per annum – one year would do it! But, if I was not raising money for a worthwhile cause it would be pointless.

Early one Sunday morning I was cleaning up some vomit on the pathway to HICC from a reveller, who had drunk too much the evening before. A member who arrived early saw this and said her son, who accompanied her, would do it, but I persevered and finished it. I said if I can’t do this I don’t have the right to serve you from the pulpit. Preaching is in our works, and faith without works is dead. Preachers with calloused hands usually make good pastors!