Sabbath

“Early Christians had a weekly celebration of the liturgy on the first day (Sunday), observing the Resurrection. Hence, among Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, Sunday is a liturgical feast; Protestants, applying the idea of the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday, forbade all but pious activity.” There are those denominations that hold ‘religiously’ to Saturday being the right day, and we say Sunday. The Bible puts it in context – “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom 14:5). God, I am sure, will not bar us from heaven because we have mixed our days up, that’s if we have.

Basically it is wise to preserve the essence of the fourth commandment to ensure our well-being, for ‘hurry sicknesses’ or syndrome infects current society and is the malaise of the modern world. Many in the West are perpetually in search of materialism and money as they climb the ladder of success. London Times writer Celia Brayfield commented that “thirty years of greed have given us luxuries undreamt of by previous generations and no free time to enjoy them.”

Before becoming a full-time minister at 50, I was the subject tutor for three degrees in surveying at the University of Central England, which necessitated, besides lecturing, writing the philosophy and pioneering new concepts before the CNAA. I also had my own private consultancy firm called ADD (Amalgamated Design and Development). We designed all types of buildings through the West Midlands. Coupled to this were my duties as associate pastor of the Renewal Centre, Solihull, and to cap it all I took a higher degree. But, that was not the end, for I bought bungalow and turned it into a house by constructing four rooms and a bathroom in the roof, almost by myself.

It worked out at about 16 hours a day and sometimes more, and although life was a whirl it was tremendously exciting. Now, thirty years later, I wonder how and why I did it, and I certainly miss the cut and thrust of secular life and the enrichment of the associated mix with other professionals. You had to be sharp and able to keep abreast of all that was happening.

I sometimes listen to the excuses that folk make because they cannot attend certain meetings, and I just shrug my shoulders, for I never missed a service at any time during that hectic period. You can do what your really want to do, if you really want to do it.  I think there is no better time than to spend it in God’s house amidst the praise and worship of sincere Christians who are on the stretch for God. It may be that God shows up that Sunday in a unique manner which will start a new spiritual move in the church – how wonderful to be in at the beginning?

When God turns up he tells no one in advance. He didn’t do it with the birth of Jesus, why should he change his system just for us?  He visited some ragged shepherds and said in effect: “Hey lads there’s revival down in Bethlehem – don’t miss it!” if I think a revival touch has descended on a church, I’m there, I want to know why, and why it isn’t in HICC. I live to see God work, and touch His people, that’s why missing a Sunday is painful for me. Next week may not come, for none of us can boast of tomorrow, you must grab it while you can.  At my age, 81, that is especially so.

When on holiday in California we used to go to church on Saturday night, because that is their first weekend service which is repeated three times on Sunday. Some people work and cannot attend Sunday hence the early weekend. However, I would also go on Sunday morning not to miss the repeat. You may think that is fanatical, but to me it was rest, a Sabbath rest, restoring my soul. Restore your soul today as you worship in HICC, member or visitor; enjoy the luxury of sitting in a lovely church, drink in the wine of His presence, and imbibe the living word as it is preached. Above all give Him your worship for that will transform your day, hurried or not.

 

 

Spin-Doctoring

Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe in 1719, was put in the pillory from 29th to 31st July 1703 because of a tract he published. His intention in producing the leaflet was to make it look as if a foaming High Anglican zealot of the most bigoted stamp wrote it. Drawing on High-Church sermons, the pamphlet argued that the best way of dealing with the dissenters was to banish them abroad and send their preachers to the hangman. “The Church of England, it argued, is like Christ crucified between two thieves, Papists on the one side and Nonconformist sectarians on the other. Very well, let us crucify the thieves. To go on tolerating them is like allowing a plague to continue without medical treatment.” [1]

The authorities were not amused and they offered a reward for information on the perpetrator, having discovered from the printer who had done it. Defoe was soon arrested in Spitalfields and imprisoned in Newgate Gaol. At his trial he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three one-hour periods in the pillory.  The pillory was used to punish minor criminals including cheats, liars, rioters and homosexuals, by shaming them in public.

Some of the candidates were killed or maimed for life as the crowd pelted them with eggs, fruit, dead cats and dogs, every variety of filth, stones, saucepans and other suitable missiles. Fortunately for Defoe he was pilloried when it rained which kept down the crowds and all that was thrown at him were flowers from his friends.

His brickworks failed, he could not pay his fine, and he was returned to Newgate Prison. However, four months later the government paid his fine from secret service funds. They realised his worth as a spin-doctor, and within a year he was employed to publish a regular newspaper, which showed the ministry in a favourable light, and to act as a government spy.

He continued for many years spreading propaganda for successive ministries, and it was not until later he turned to writing fiction. Fiction is what spin doctoring really is, it spins tales around truth to deceive. “Propaganda is that branch of the art of lying which consists in nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies.”2

Most governments employ them to advance their cause in a good light and influence public opinion. It was Adolf Hitler who said: The greater the lie, the greater the chance that it will be believed.” 3 It is a sad state of affairs to see spin-doctors employed by authority figures to polish their image, but it is a situation that has woven itself into the fabric of public life.

God doesn’t need a spin-doctor, He is well able to represent Himself, but unfortunately some preachers do. The hype that precedes some of them into a new country or city, is sometimes far in excess of their calling, anointing and ability. No doubt we all want to be viewed in a good light, and can fall into the deception of exaggeration. God’s claims are real, what He says he does. Here are just a few:

“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) – “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). Just one more will do – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. “(Matt 6:33). The problem for many Christians is that they think this is spin doctoring. How can God bless them abundantly, if they don’t work all their lives from sun-up to sundown? A good question, one that I can’t answer, but it’s true. No one has to convince me that it’s true, I’ve proved it, time and again. The Holy Spirit (God’s propagandist – only He’s absolutely truthful) convinced me many years ago, that what God says He really means.


 

[1]Richard Cavendish (Article), History Today, July 2003, Page 55

2 F. M. Cornford (1886–1960) British poet. New Statesman, 15 Sept 1978

3 Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) German dictator. Mein Kampf

 

Rolling!

A few years ago at a men’s breakfast in church I sat with a man who had recently started coming to HICC with his wife. Before they came to us, they worshipped at a non conformist church in Harrow, although originally they were Roman Catholics. When he rang to tell them of his move the reply was “I thought they rolled on the floor at that church!”  This is clearly a naïve and bigoted statement. I have been attending Pentecostal Churches since 1949 and not once have I ever seen such a thing occur. How disappointing – apart from soiling their clothes, it would have added some excitement to a lot of very boring services I have been in.

In the days when that occasionally happened, so history informs us, the church had more power than it does now; the sick were healed, sinners were saved and the demon depressed were set free. They worshipped in timber and tin huts and were not only poor but ostracised from mainstream Christendom. People were warned not to attend their churches because funny things happened in their services, but it would do present day critics a great deal of good to go back in time, perhaps it would do us all good, to enter history, see the physical demonstration of God, put up with some excess, and laugh in church, although I am not convinced that would happen in many Pentecostal Churches I have been in.

As the Pentecostal movement has developed it has established its own Bible Colleges, and now most ministers have their theological degrees or diplomas – they have become respectable, but revelation is still a premium, and evades many ministers. It’s not how many degrees you hold or training you have received, but what your relationship is with God. It’s not just feeding a person’s mind but touching their heart which is the priority. Exegetical and experiential preaching is needed to lay foundational teaching for future trials. The one touches the head and the other the heart.

If some people who administrate church offices in Harrow think that of us what other things do they also imagine? I wonder what juicy bit of gossip has been magnified out of all proportion, which gullible people want to believe. We don’t have to defend ourselves, for there is nothing to defend. It matters not what people think of us, for once a person has been in a HICC service, they will soon be convinced that we are sane and spiritual, and in a way that is sad, for perhaps we are so ordered that we no longer expect the unexpected?  There are times when we sing good old Charles Wesley hymns, as a teaching tool towards worship; and the preaching is geared towards lifestyle change to reflect God’s glory; what more can a person want?

There was one prominent Baptist in the local area who always used every opportunity to remind me that silence is part of worship, as if I or HICC have no idea what silence is. Silence was so unusual in heaven that it is recorded, and it lasts for all of 30 minutes. Half an hour is all there is in heaven, and that in eternity is but a small fraction of the time, after that we must assume that there is continual praise and worship – there could even be few rolling around heaven’s roads, at least they would collect gold dust, but I’m of the opinion that most of them will fall flat, face downwards in His presence.  It may be that when we get to heaven, we will have missed that half an hour, what will we do then – go back to church for a quiet period?

If I have learnt anything in over 50 years of ministry, it is that to prejudge a church is lunacy. Not until you have worshipped there for a minimum of three months do you really know anything about the fellowship; and, you will never get the perfect church. Whether we roll, stand or dance is unimportant, whom our heart worships is. We can worship worship by worshipping the tradition of the years, the form and ceremony or worship to God. Whenever we worship God because we expect Him to do things for us it becomes idolatry. If the devil can foul and smudge our worship we will compromise our morals.

We worship at HICC in a style so we don’t frighten people away, and to ensure the family (from every kindred tongue and nation) can dwell together, sharing a common experience and blending into a mighty choir of unity. As for ‘rollers’ we do have vacuum cleaners!

Quaver and Quiver

My late wife was an excellent singer until Myasthenia Gravis robbed her of her voice. My daughter having grown into her teens took over where Patricia left off and became a fine soloist singing with the British Continentals. My younger son, while studying medicine at Bart’s Medical School, won the Ronnie Scott’s Band of the Year contest, with his group the Worry Dolls. My older son is a musician and led the music at Pip and Jay Anglican Church in Bristol.

My younger brother also has a good base/tenor voice and often sings solos; my older brother is no novice and also can sing and play the piano. I am the exception, being tone deaf being totally ignorant about music. I stand out like a musical sore thumb amongst my family. In fact, ask me what a quaver is and I quiver. When I start to sing, they join in that well-known song – “shut up, shut up, shut up!”

In my late teens, having received a call from God to minister the word to the kingdom, I went to Him and discussed my musical poverty. How could I lead worship, which is integral for spiritual development with such destitution of ability? I implored him to consider my ignorance, and in effect I fulfilled the first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” (Matthew 5:3) very poor in musical ability; it was either God or nothing. Beneficially, He came to my rescue, and although I am still very much short of musical understanding, He gave me a gift of knowing when a song will lead a congregation into worship.

Soon after I left the West Midlands, for London to become the Associate at Kensington Temple, I was asked to preach and lead the worship at Impetus 86, a third world conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. There were 63 nations and over 800 delegates plus the large Colombo Assemblies of God Church. I led the worship and spoke over that weekend and ministered during the week. From there I was invited around the world to speak on worship.

“Strange?” “Yes, and almost impossible,” but God will take our poverty and cause us to inherit the kingdom. God is more concerned about our attitude to Him, not our wonderful talents and abilities. The world will emphasize self-confidence, self-reliance and self-expression. It is a matter of personal aptitude that glorifies flesh, yet they are envious of our ‘happiness’ which is what blessed means, “blessed (happy) are the poor in Spirit.”

Unfortunately, the world has slipped into the church and confused our focus, and the result of that is personality centred worship. Sessional musicians and gifted singers minister songs that congregations can’t sing; they are too difficult. It unwittingly glorifies musicians, who are no doubt skilled, but what of entering The Presence?

I used to receive a cassette each month from a leading Christian musical publishing company and out of the 100 to 120 songs I listened to per annum, I doubt there were more than five that any congregation could sing. If one watches the average modern church at worship, the people more often than not stand watching the platform – it is a kind of vicarious worship. Very much like a football crowd cheering on their idol. Perhaps the purpose of the CDs and tapes is to make money not worshippers?

Blessed is the man who is utterly and totally destitute, at the end of his tether, for then God has a chance. It means the complete absence of pride, self-reliance and self-confidence. It is a God-centred life that is thrown wholly on His ability. As the hymn puts it “Now let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich.”  Those are the blessed or happy people for you know that, like Jesus, you only do what the Father does (John 8:28) and the life of Jesus was to worship His Father at all times and in all things (John 4:23). Finally, it is not what I might have been – not even what I may be – but what I am, that constitutes the measure of my blessedness.