The conundrum of confession

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” [Rom 15:13 KJV]
Often our Christian profession is diluted by an inability to reconcile the terms ‘joy and peace,’ when our brooding horizon is hazily unclear and the steel-grey future threatens our serenity. Our anxious spirit roams hesitantly and awkwardly in God’s will, like a troubled wind-driven cloud as we hurriedly look for a diversion to circuit the current pathway! Our strenuous exertions to escape this bedimmed way are often more troublesome that our present compliance with the divine route.

The apostle in ending his dissertation in the book of Romans finds it difficult but not impossible to locate the emphasis of his life in grace. There are at least four aspects that are unwittingly exposed in his apostolic thesis as he expresses his theology in full measure – there is the fevour of his zeal, the boldness of his fidelity, the tenderness of his love and his tireless diligence.  These, like four chiming bells, ring out in the steeple of Christian profession, a call to example and a challenge for us to walk similarly. His life was a constant spectacle on the theatre of life, so much so that he is not a whit behind the ‘chiefest of the apostles.’[1]

His earnest endeavours, his uncompromising lifestyle, his stern rebukes, his strict doctrine, and yet his compassionate understanding all combine to reveal a yearning heart for God’s people for their best. He hopes for their maturity, their confidence, their security, and their calm assurance in spiritual blessing in this mortal life.  He emphasizes three things:

The God of hope [vs. 13] “Now the God of hope. . . .”

God has many titles not least the ‘God of hope,’ we can add many more that appear to be foremost of his character; the God of peace, the God of patience, the God of all consolation. This does not mean he is subject to these emotions but is conscious of them in his body, the church. Without hope in him we remain hopeless and helpless.

Without hope, joy and peace are empty wishes and wild dreams. God Without hope, joy and peace are empty wishes and wild dreams. God is not only the source from which all hope must flow but also the object to which all hope centres.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” [1 Pet 1:3]. Like faith, hope is a gift of God by the animating power of resurrection. It highlights our eternal future. It is that fact we must keep our eye on, for in this materialistic culture the world is too prominent. It is God who makes other worldly things attractive and fastens our eyes on eternal issues. Left to ourselves we would be earthbound and carnal but God has raised our expectation to look outside our limited viewpoint, so the psalmist says, “Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.”2 He has put within us anticipation of winged flight to a divine tapestry of glory in regions beyond.

Hope is dependent on the working of His dispensations for the Quester says “he has made everything beautiful in His time.” 3  The merging seasons, the fractured images of love, the convolutions of harmony, and the intricacy of unity in destiny, all mingling and outworking the plan of the ages, that is beautiful, so very beautiful. What more can be done, what more can be said, for in Him all things hold together?  The universe spins to his revolutions and God’s shadow moves everything into place.  Therefore hope is kindled in fretful hearts as we see a pattern emerging that belies belief and moves us into submission.


 

[1] 2 Corinthians 11:5

[2] Ps 119:49 KJV

[3] Ecclesiastes 3:11

Building Wisely and Well

What a joy it is has been to see people coming to Christ and being baptised. Many fellowships do not see or experience what we are walking through in HICC in these days. It is all by His grace and by His hand. It does however, bring great responsibility to each partner and attendee. Our responsibility is to ‘live a life worthy of the calling we have received’. We must operate in life in such a way as to release the full expression of God’s Kingdom among us.

How do we do this?

The answer is found in how we serve together. In HICC we use the Biblical term ‘partnership’. Partnership is about walking in the unity of the Spirit and aligning ourselves as one body to the purpose of God. What an exciting prospect for us all. Where else can one find such purpose and cooperation? It is spiritual work with eternal accomplishments. This lifts it beyond just being part of a secular organisation or club. We are part of the ‘Ekklesia of God, which is the community of heaven who are still on the earth because we are a ‘people belonging to God’. We must be willing partners and serve with a right heart and spirit. It is a joy and privilege to serve together in the work of the Lord.

Who should be involved?

The answer is found in our calling. We believe God called you to belong to Himself and has placed you in the Church right where He wants you to be so it is not an accident that you are part of HICC. We hope you will become a partner with us because Partnership is such a vital part of our DNA as a Church. We want you to be fulfilled and complete what God has called you to do, and the best way for this to happen in HICC is to partner with us. This is where we agree to walk together as co-workers with Christ. It lets the leaders and the family know that you are committed and willing to serve alongside others in the family of HICC. (Please complete the form in the newsletter and pop it in the white letterbox in the foyer and we will process your request)

Why build this way?

The answer is because wise building requires strong structures. You have perhaps heard me say that what holds a building together is unseen. The foundations and steel structures are mostly unseen, but without these vital components the building would collapse. Jesus is the foundation and His completed work is the only foundation upon which we can build, but we have the responsibility of building wisely upon rock and not sand. Our prayer is that every partner will serve to build the fellowship wisely and that you will remain at your post, belong to the family and serve with all your heart.

Finally; Miriam and I are available to support you as we walk forward together. Let’s enjoy the journey as God takes us into new days together.

Pastor Paul & Miriam

Dreaming

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr gave a speech on the 28th August 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. which is recorded in history as one of those spectacular dialogues that time and memory will not forget. It still rings true today. Here is part of it: –

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ‘. . .  I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Such was the impact of that oratory that it has lasted the years. His dream has been partially fulfilled, and as I thought of that momentous discourse I turned on the recording I had made of the Glass Cathedral where Dr. Robert Schuller was speaking about the future, and mentioned that he would be 80 that year. The executive committee of the church had conferred on him the title of Founding Minister, and transferred the title Senior Minister to his 51-year old son, also named Robert.

With this development he was outlining his four aims for the future or, if you like, his developing dream. One part was to be the oldest preacher at the cathedral when he is 100. Knowing all he has achieved, and the longevity genes in his family, that may well happen, although our life destiny is in God’s hands. We cannot boast of tomorrow, but we all must plan past tomorrow.

Modern-day preaching emphasises a dream culture. Everyone must have a destiny, and follow it through to completion. There is no problem with that, for too many people just drift through life, but what if the dream doesn’t come to fruition. Some dreams of course will not be fulfilled by the person holding it, but by another who carries on the vision.

The sad thing is that there are many people in church life who have no dream or if they had it has died. Often the unwitting pressure from pulpits on congregations is immense. They are exhorted to be daily overcomers, have peace that passes knowledge and harbour joy unspeakable and full of glory. They are to have impeccable relationships, peerless marriages and self-satisfying employment. They are to be fruitful and rich, and come to spiritual maturity very early. A great deal of this is unrealistic and often borders on the impossible; it’s Iike me saying that at 81 I am going to break the world record in the 100 metres dash at the next Olympics.

The sad state is that many church folk have bad marriages, employment that bores them to tears, financial difficulties and debt. Their peace evaporated with the latest problem, and joy flew away so long ago they cannot remember what it feels like. Their vision statement is little more than how to get through another day. I believe that although the Bible says ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,’ (Philippians 4:13) there must be a sense of responsibility and sanity about it all. Glib talk fools no one and fills many with regret and sadness.

There are those people striving to be what God never intended, having allowed their personal desires to overtake spiritual sensibility. Indeed there are miracles of grace where God does the impossible through empowering an individual, who with tenacity, diligent application and a large dose of God, achieve what can only be called a dream of amazing proportions.

However, check your dreams against clear objective considerations and not like one person I met who wanted to enter the deliverance ministry but who was a schizoid paranoiac.   God is more than able to help us through to our destiny, but ensure that it is God who is calling and appointing, and remember that often God wants people to do mundane ordinary things as part of His divine programme. Believe that you can do more than you think you can, but also there was only one Martin Luther King, Jr, amongst billions.

 

 

 

 

Our Spiritual Society!

“In a survey revealed in a national newspaper it has been discovered that about one third (33%) of Britons believe that Jesus rose from the dead. The findings of a national poll contradict the picture of a secular society where Easter is little more than a chocolate-eating holiday. Women are more devout than men, according to the findings, with 37 percent believing in the resurrection compared to 29 percent of men; and Wales is the most Christian region with 43 percent saying they believe that Jesus rose from the dead.” [1]

Nevertheless Easter congregations have been declining since the late Sixties. In the Church of England in 1970, there were 1.63 million Easter communicants. In 1980 this had dropped to 1.55 million and to 1.37 in 1990. The Roman Catholic Church does not collect statistics but has endured a similar decline in Mass attendance.  However, on a normal Sunday there are now more at Mass in Britain than the Anglican Church.

So there we have it, as the belief of people in the resurrection of Christ seems optimistically high, their personal attendance at church is depressingly low. This means that either the service vicars offer is irrelevant or that the belief people hold does not equate with conviction. It could be both.

The scriptures say that the “devils believe and tremble” but it doesn’t make them saved. We can believe what we will, but in reality we will only do what we really believe. I sincerely believe we should take a cold shower for 10 minutes every day, come rain, hail or shine, I really do believe that, but you won’t get me near one, be assured of that!

What we really believe is shown by what we do, not what we say. That has always been the case. Although Wales seems to indicate they are the most committed, I have found it to be the most spiritually dead.  The Elim churches in that region are the smallest and the weakest. Nobody wants to be posted there, not even the Welsh! They had a revival in 1904 and can’t stop talking about it, but during the succeeding 100+ years their passion for God has virtually dissipated.

Sardis, one of the seven churches in Turkey, was a church that had a testimony of life but in reality they were dead. This is what these latest statistics reveal. The most important events for the Christian are the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. His glorious return is important for both the Christian and the world!   Those who don’t celebrate those fundamental Christian pinnacles of witness, yet profess a spiritual basis of life, are little more than the heathen, and probably worse off. There is no passion in their profession because there is no basis in their possession.

It could mean, of course, that the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church are losing their members to the Pentecostal Church!   In some cases that is correct, but it is not the whole answer, for the ‘Church’ population of Britain is inexorably declining. If a third of the people in Harrow believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and really believed it, we would see 71,000 attend church today and there would not enough buildings to hold them.

Old Albert and his equally old dog, Rosie, were walking towards me. I asked “What make is your dog?” “A thoroughbred Retriever” he replied. “So, she fetches things” I said. “Does she by heck, throw a ball and you fetch it yourself,” he replied.

Her nature belied her breed, a little like those statistics above. Let me take it one step further: there are those Christians who sincerely believe that prayer, praise and worship are very important to them, but they are late to the services and absent from the prayer meeting, simply because they don’t really believe what that they say they do. Jesus said: “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20), and never a truer word was spoken. Perhaps we have a few thoroughbred retrievers in HICC?

Lastly, there is a passion born of the Spirit – I like the word ‘passion’ it expresses what is really inside. Too few have passion; it is another word for love. When passion has gripped your soul and fired your heart, it transforms everything about God into a dynamic drive that centres all on Him. In the early days of our conversion, passion was an automatic word to describe our experience, but as time passed life has whittled away that fervency, until a very lukewarm residue has been left. This is not so with everyone, but certainly so with many.

You can argue all you will about the church not being in touch with the modern world and the leaders being deficient in a multitude of ways, but where there is real life with passion our churches will be full – every week.


 

[1] Daily Telegraph