Divine Tsunami

It seems that in medieval times lent was observed with fasting but not on Sundays, for this was a day of feasting. I do not enforce fasting, [as if I could!] but do encourage any kind which appeals to the individual, for there are many ways of fasting. I remember one such Lenten period in HICC, it was a special prayer meeting midweek.  My usual intention, when senior minister, was to let the whole congregation pray together, then the men and women would separate and the come together towards the end of the hour. I suggested an hour because Jesus said “Could you not watch with me one hour.” The men were to pray not only for God’s presence amongst us but additionally for the establishment of the men’s work; thus the division. However God had other ideas. We worshipped and then broke into mixed groups and prayed for the enhancement of the vision and for His overwhelming power to invade the church.

We then came together to worship again, there it stayed as God turned up, and we were overtaken by His awe-inspiring presence amongst us. A crescendo of noise erupted as our hearts were made alive to His glorious love that was spread abroad animating our souls and stirring our spirits in response.  Such times cannot be manufactured, it is of God who quickens our spirit together.

As I was glorifying God and speaking in tongues I prayed for the interpretation and this is what God gave me. “We often long for matters and happenings in the physical realm to be paralleled in the spiritual realm, thus a Tsunami that invades a country would be echoed in its spiritual life with God’s harbour wave sweeping all before it.  Not with disaster, destruction and death but with divine energy, brushing aside all sin and sorrow, leaving purity and peace. The similarity is possible to understand, as that forceful wave is unstoppable. And God, if he decided to move, can do what he wants, when he wants to whom he wants. Nothing can stop him. But, before a Tsunami there must be an earthquake, an eruption of severe magnitude, with trembling and shaking.

Thus, we as a people, might have to pass through unmitigated trouble before the wave strikes, knowing the misfortune of loss and death to self. Experience a place where we are left with the bare necessities realising that value in life does not consist of possessions. An oft sung song in the assembly is “he gives and takes away” and this indeed may be so, for to have the one there must be the other.

In such a Tsunami we lose our history, as birth and marriage certificates are swallowed up, and icons of past memories are destroyed. Although we may lament such loss we must also realise that God can write a new history that can exceed anything that has gone before. Even as the church can look back with warmth of feeling at what God has already done, we must not depend on that memory, but in looking forward learn that it can be swept away in the new surge of life and a new one can be written that will amaze our faith and belief.”   

There was an inward urge to stay on past the allotted hour, but the folk had started their day early, as Londoners do. They had come straight from work to the church, and needed to go home, so I closed the meeting. The ecstatic utterance had covered much and needed meditation, “He gives and takes away” is fundamental to our personal individual history, to consider that would take a lifetime.  If a divine tsunami struck us what would or could we lose, and how would we react to the Lord’s will? What clutter has been piled against our spiritual life that constitutes the “cares of this world” which spoils the seed?

In a practical parable, when I moved to Solihull I took much of my furniture I had in Hampton, it was in good condition, I was used to it, and it suited my aesthetic and design needs. Later, I married my second wife and she sold her flat and now we had other furniture and personal possessions that needed sorting; life has become a process of throwing or giving things away. We keep the local charity shop well stocked! I downsized and that is a good lesson to learn, what can we do without so that God’s Spirit can take possession?   If we don’t, perhaps God will!

Tall Enough

Many years ago whilst working in a drawing office I found that my boss was slightly taller than me standing exactly 6’3” [1.905] and I was one eighth shorter than him [I’m talking imperial measure for that is what we used at that time]. To prove this we stood back to back and a ruler was placed across our heads. It sloped downwards just marginally in my direction which proved he was a tad taller. It’s good that I was not affected by this or else I would have a major mental issue over that discovery!  A modern sociologist could argue my life was blighted by such a revelation. Just one-eighth or about 3mm made the difference.  I came up short.  No amount of stretching would increase my height; it was 1.902 and his 1.905 metres. Perhaps if I had been put on a medieval rack it might have made a difference!

My grandfather was 6’2.5” [1,882] and the smallest in his family of seven boys. The tallest was 6’7.” I clearly follow Grandad.  I have twin grandsons who are both six feet at just 16, and might exceed me in stature – we shall see. They clearly follow me as I followed Grandad. I have one son who is six feet, and my other grandsons have not fully grown. However, research has concluded that mankind is shrinking. I have just read an article that explains we are getting smaller and that includes our brains.  Cambridge University experts believe mankind is now past its peak, and that modern-day people are ten percent smaller and shorter than their hunter-gatherer ancestors who also had larger brains.  This concept now reverses perceived wisdom that we are taller and larger.

This change has occurred over the last 10,000 years and is due, say scientists, to agriculture with restricted diets and urbanisation compromising health and leading to the spread of disease.  Fossils found in Israeli caves dating back 120,000 to 200,000 years reveal a people who were tall and muscular and this continued until relatively recent times.  An average person 10,000 years ago weighed between 12st 8lb and 13st 6lb – today the average is 11st and 12st 8lb. They say this change started about 9,000 years ago for, whilst farming would have made more food available, it was restricted in its vitamins. In China for instance the early farmers relied on cereals such as buckwheat, rice and maize, all of which lack niacin, a B vitamin vital for growth.

The brains of those men who lived 20,000 years ago measured 1,500 cubic centimetres but now they measure 1,350 cubic centimetres a decrease the size of a tennis ball; female brains have decreased proportionately.  This has not made us less intelligent, but helped to use our resources better.  However current levels of intelligence can never be measured against past levels; they could have been less intelligent but may have been wiser, and had a better God consciousness.

This leads me to say “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? [Matt 6:27]. You can’t, so stop worrying, and it further says in context “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing.”  [Matt 6:25-26]. People fret about time-restricted things, but unfortunately not about eternal things.

People have over the generations struggled with who they are, endeavouring to change their shape and size, and clothe their frame with garments that enhance their figures and accentuate their beauty.  This vain stab at personal glamour and glory tends to consume their time and money inordinately as they fritter life away on non-essentials.  I am sure hunter-gatherers were not interested in fashion parades; perhaps they were too intelligent for that!

We may be smaller today than in previous generations, but let us not forget it’s how big we are inside that counts. Let the Bible speak: “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;” [Eph 4:13]. He fills eternity, he can fill you.  You can be like a Tardis, bigger inside than outside.

AN ANCHOR, SURE AND STEADFAST

I am delighted to welcome you to HICC today and pray that you will feel the warmth and acceptance of the family of God in this international fellowship. May the presence and peace of the Lord surround you as we worship together. Allow your heart and mind to be enriched as the glory of the Lord is revealed in word, prayer and song. May the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit minister into the depth of your inner being and may you leave this place having been healed, restored and equipped to live the life God has called you to live.

IN TIMES LIKE THESE WE NEED AN ANCHOR

Growing up in a seaside town meant I could see the fishing boats returning to the safety of the harbour on a morning. I could watch with fascination as the night’s catch was hauled up onto the rough cobbled walkway next to the shed on the pier where the auction of the catch would take place. Men with sea-weathered faces were so thankful to be back in the safety of the harbour especially in the winter months when the seas could be so treacherous.

In later years, as a singer, I would share the stage with a male voice choir made up of fishermen who sang from experience the words of the old hymn “will your anchor hold in the storms of life, when the clouds unfold their wings of strife? When the strong tides lift, and cables strain, will your anchor drift or firm remain. We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.”

In times of uncertainty the Christian has a sure and firm foundation for life and a future that rests upon the sovereignty of Almighty God. Our God is eternal and unchanging, He is the same yesterday, today and forever and He can be fully trusted with your life today, tomorrow and forever. He is all knowing, all powerful and everywhere present. He sustains all things by His powerful Word. We are so prone to limit God by our finite knowledge and understanding. Our natural thinking causes us to measure ourselves and life by the temporary and immediate, however, the Word teaches us to measure ourselves and life in the light of who God is and His eternal work accomplished for us in Christ Jesus.

God has established his eternal purpose and set it in place for you. Christ, who is the Word, is the foundation for you. He is your anchor. Your God is Almighty and holds you in the palm of His hand. While we use human description to describe God who is spirit, the fact is, He is not limited by our frailty or the weakness of our humanity. Although God became man in Jesus and we must recognise He was fully man and fully God, the fact is, He is unrestricted and unlimited by flesh. The impartation of this revelation transforms our view of the Almighty and enables us to see from an eternal perspective for ‘no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit’.

The things of God can only be understood by the Spirit because they are spiritual and not natural. Natural man can never arrive at spiritual truth through his own understanding. Only through revelation of the Word by Holy Spirit can eternal knowledge be given to man.

I communicate these truths to help us to grasp how immense and almighty our God truly is. Let this knowledge lift up your heart and mind today because no work is too hard for him. No weapon formed against you can defeat our God because if God is for us who can be against us. ANCHOR YOUR LIFE TO THE GOD WHO IS YOUR SURE AND FIRM FOUNDATION. 

Self-destruction

Professor Brian Cox has suggested that the reason there are no visible signs of aliens on other planets is because “intelligent life destroys itself not long after it evolves.” He further states that “It may be that the growth of science and engineering inevitably outstrips the development of political expertise, leading to disaster. We could be approaching that position.” In other words unless God intervenes this world is doomed. He also argues there must have been many more “big bangs” like that which resulted in life on planet earth, but finding nothing on other worlds, suggests that the other big bangs and resultant civilisations destroyed themselves. An interesting theory indeed.

The Middle East is in wild fury, uncontained fear, and senseless killing because the Western allies intervened in Iraq. No one seems to be able to bring peace in Syria, birth place of Abraham. The possible filtration of ISIS terrorists throughout Europe, due to uncontainable immigration, suggests that within a foreseeable future turmoil and violence including death will erupt, irrespective of country.

“Peace in our time” is ridiculed as nations flex their atomic muscles; seeking to destroy God’s people – the Israelites. The Jews have become the focal force of many in the gentile community, who, with consuming energy in scientific discovery, which supersedes all other thinking and behaviour, seeks to be part of that unconstrained unity to expunge the Jews from living memory. But, they forget Sodom and Gomora. God will have his day of triumph.

Each nation which had reached its zenith and attacked Israel, has now virtually disappeared or been side lined as major forces on earth. The Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks and the Roman Empire all overwhelmed the Jews, but the Jews still prosper and sing their songs. They have won or been awarded 179 Nobel Prizes, who can match that record? God keeps them till the day dawns and David’s great Son, even Jesus Christ sits on the eternal throne and rules with equity.  He then burns up and purifies the earth and a new heaven and earth are created. Far better than we have ever imagined. “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” [Rev 21:1].

Mankind will come to make war against God’s chosen people, and that is the time when all things come into dissolution. Anyone with reasonable perception cannot watch the Middle East with anything but anxiety. But, that perturbation is undergirded by God’s promises. Professor Cox may well be right in that mankind will destroy itself for anyone who wars against God will lose. The scenes of graphic violence and death that results as the nation’s march on the “apple of His eye,”

will be terrible to behold and is detailed in the Book of Revelation.  The atomic bomb on Hiroshima will be nothing compared to the loss of life that will result.

Whilst the British nation argues about Brexit or no Brexit, and America ponders Trump and Clinton, there are other and more serious things to consider. When will the Anti-Christ arise? When will the genocide in Syria cease, when will Russia and USA speak peace together – the possible destruction of mankind?  I am not being negative and do believe in God and His promises, but do see prophecy being unfolded even as I write this short article. However, when Jesus comes all will be well. The Bible does not teach democracy, it is alien to God’s principle of rulership, He is Lord and will be Lord of all. We do not join in government with God and vote an issue through, he speaks it, and it is done.

The only reason people push for democracy is because man is fallen and cannot rule himself. He does not know how to, so we look for a king who can and will. That is Jesus “King of King and Lord of Lords” [Rev.19:16].

In these, the closing days of time, what joy the glorious hope affords, that soon-oh, wondrous truth sublime! He shall reign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He’s coming soon, He’s coming soon,
With joy we welcome His returning;
It may be morn, it may be night or noon –
We know He’s coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Divine Invisibility

Many years ago, I had finished my sermon earlier than usual and decided to take Fritz, my dog, for his morning walk before, rather than after church. It was always difficult to fit the dog in for his or my constitutional on a Sunday morning. There is the Saturday crash and the early Sunday scram, and it was getting no easier with the years!

Fortunately there were about 23 acres at the back of my house and so the two old codgers ambled down the garden through the gate and out into paradise. For those with dogs you will know that you catch glimpses of them as they sniff, hunt and mark their territory. At this age, Fritz was deaf, partially sighted and had arthritis in his spine. He just ambled along and so did I. In his younger day he would run ahead of me, but now he struggled to keep up with my dawdling. However sometimes as I stopped, meditating, he would pass me at a gentle lope.

I looked up suddenly and could not see him anywhere, he was gone.  There were many bushes, trees and tall undergrowth and I couldn’t see him.  Slight anxiety gripped me. I clapped my hands twice, which was my call sign, and then realised he was deaf and couldn’t hear me.  I had used this training technique since he was a puppy.  Over the years he had learned to come at command, and he would emerge from the undergrown running at full pelt until he slithered to a stop at my feet.  Not this time however, but he would eventually make it to me.

Here I was, a lost deaf dog, who couldn’t hear or recognise me. I had noticed that he often went up to the wrong person, one sniff and he would know it wasn’t me! That was some consolation! As I considered what to do, I looked at my watch, and realised that service time was fast approaching. I stood still and contemplated the next action, and as I did, turned round and there right behind me, looking up at me was Fritz. He seemed to be saying, “what’s wrong you silly old man, I’m never far away – you feed me!”

It was then that God spoke to me. “You wander through life and catch a glimpse of my grace, in the multitude of secular activities. You then lose sight of me as you become caught up with non-essentials and, looking up, I’ve apparently gone. You panic not knowing what to do, but listen son, I’m just behind you, and I’ll never leave you or forsake you.

I stood transfixed as this revelation caught my attention. So often He does things like that. In the least expected moment of apparent crisis, there comes His riveting word of comfort. “Never leave” and “never forsake” — what security that is. The lesson of life is that people often forsake and leave us. The arm of flesh fails, no matter how loyal. Not Jesus. He stood by us from the cross and will bear us through the grave.

As I wrote this I got up from my work-desk to leave my study. As I looked out of the side-landing window, I noticed a spider’s web, highlighted by raindrops. Sat behind my computer I hadn’t noticed the change in the weather. The web must have been there for some time, but it was invisible until it rained. The thought came to me, “look, it’s a second confirmation. God is always there, it takes the rain of adversity to reveal His presence.”

Our house then was in North Wembley, under the flight path from Heathrow and on occasion, when the wind was contrary, which was about twice a year, the planes fly over. They often entered the clouds and passing through and emerged on the other side. That is like God. He comes and we know he’s in the clouds and that he’ll soon come out on the other side, it’s the waiting that bothers us. The clouds disturb our peace. God’s invisibility and apparent inaction cause us the greatest anxiety.

In times of pain and perplexity our faith is tested. The puzzlement of life tries our tranquillity as we search for answers that have no answer. Often God does not explain himself; there is no reason why he should. We are left to discern amongst the morning mists the figure of Christ, like the disciples on the Tiberius Lake. John not Peter realised it was Jesus, because John loved and Peter lived. He knew the heartbeat of Jesus for he often leant on his bosom while at the meal table. We ought to do likewise.

 

YOU ARE WELCOME

It is a delight to welcome you to Harrow International Christian Centre  this  morning. We  trust  that  you  will feel the warmth and acceptance  by the fellowship and that you will experience the  love  of  God  in  your  life  by  being  in  the  service  today. Primarily  we are  here to worship the  Lord Jesus Christ who is our Saviour and Lord. We  sing hymns  and  spiritual songs that we hope will lift up your heart towards God in worship for who he is.

The partners and attendees of this multinational Church have, at some point on their journey through life, encountered Jesus. This happened to many people while Jesus was here upon the earth. I think of the woman whose story is recorded in John chapter 4. She met Jesus while he was sitting by a well. This was the normal routine of life for her, and yet just a few moments in the presence of Jesus changed her whole life including her eternal destiny.

What about Zacchaeus whose story is found in Luke 19? He was disliked because he was a tax collector who cheated the people for his own personal gain. Being a small man he had to climb up a tree in the hope of seeing Jesus as the crowd jostled and pushed to be near Jesus. Jesus stopped and looked up into the branches and asked him to come down because he wanted to come to his home and share a meal with him. Life was totally transformed to the degree that Zacchaeus repaid back everything he had ever stolen many times over.

Both of these people I mention were outcasts of society. People despised them and excluded them from community life, but Jesus took the time to speak with them personally and entered their hearts to bring healing and restoration. He stopped at the very place where they were. He spoke deeply into their circumstances with great knowledge and insight into their private world and needs. He removed the embarrassment and shame of the past and the present and gave them hope for the future. When Jesus called Zacchaeus he came down from the tree gladly. He knew he needed Jesus so he positioned himself so he could see above the crowd. Rejection and exclusion was the crowd in his heart and mind. He raised himself up above all that could stop him from seeing Jesus. Jesus stopped right beneath his tree and called him down. Come down from your place of hiding in the leaves and allow me to come right into your home.

There is an interesting connection to when Adam and Eve first became conscious of their own sin and nakedness before God, because they also hid in the trees and made coverings from the leaves. Adam and Eve could not keep any sin hidden from Jesus and neither could the woman at the well. Jesus knew that she ‘had already had five husbands and that the man she currently lived with was not her husband’.

I believe the response of Zacchaeus reveals a depth of abandonment of himself to the Saviour.  This is what it takes to see real transformation in our lives. A willingness to give our all and invite him into the centre of our heart to eat with us. Once again I quote Revelation 3 v 20: Here I am, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

 

Fellow-ship

The suffix ‘ship’ is from the Old English ‘scipe’ which is connected with ‘shape.’  Thus, fellowship, is a state of ‘friendship that has a certain profile as different groups of people attend in harmony. It means a group who has something in common, hence scholarship or craftsmanship.  In the French language it is ‘camaraderie,’ which is a good fellowship or the intimacy of friendship, and from the Latin ‘sodality’ or comrade.

It also means a community in which condolence or sympathy can be offered, hence a congregation of people who impart encouragement to each other. A ‘fellow’ is someone who has something in common with one – one’s peer or equal in a specified way.  In Middle English it is felawe, which from Old Norse felagi, is a ‘partner in goods,’ the common goods we have in the church is the gift of New Life and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This union results in services described as ‘Holy Communion;’ people in concord holding a corporate vision and victory.

Someone asked me when I was the senior minister of HICC when I was going to mentor him, to which I replied: “we have a men’s meeting in HICC, and if you want to attend that, you’re welcome.” We sit around and talk about issues, asking pertinent questions and seeking answers. We fraternise as an association of brothers in friendly fellowship. It’s one of the benefits of church life; it’s one of the strengths of HICC – its fellowship at its highest.

One of the four[1] ‘ships’ of partnership in HICC is ‘fellowship.’  We don’t have laws, but we do have suggestions that will make life easier all round. Under God as a multinational church, it has achieved great unity, and as the Bible says where there is unity “God commands the blessing” (Psalm 133). It is something to be striven for, protected and enjoyed. To achieve such a great blessing, there are obviously some ground rules – more of a list of shopping points to be saved for special discounts on harmony!

Fortunately and essentially our main personal fellowship is vertical, “. . . And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ,” (1 John 1:3) which then flows out horizontally with local church membership. If our upward relationship is pure, it will enhance our outreach at a human level. If we concentrate at living in the divine fellowship, and not forsake it, as Adam did in the garden, we’ll find it helps towards membership agreement. If congregations have the “Living Bread,” they’ll not “bite and devour one another “(Galatians 5:15) because they are satisfied, and such people are happy, but not stultified as some may mistakenly think.

Eugene Peterson aptly translates Romans – “Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgement, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in scripture . . . So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life.” (The Message 14: 10 -13). In other words get on your pins and with your pins and forget controversial personalities; they only exist to catch attention.  Keeping ourselves right with God is about what most of us can do, and it’s only that fellowship that will contribute to “peace one earth, goodwill to man.”

We are not to confuse weakness with wickedness, for many Christians are not deliberately contentious, they are just human. If Adam and Eve, the perfect man and woman, couldn’t get their act together, what hope have we? Christian divorce is almost at the same level as the secular world, and with that the trend, there will, symptomatically, be the usual effect in our assemblies, because many divorcees marry a second comparable partner, with similar results!

Usually it is morally neutral issues that cause the problems in church life. In the New Testament the quarrel was about food and drink, and in modern churches, it could be the colour of the sanctuary walls! Insignificant issues that delay the outreach to the unsaved. People have nothing better to think about, so they play the minor and miss the major.

Fellowship in HICC is an exciting test as 40 nations assemble weekly to worship God, with different cultures; opinions and many are from different denominations, but underlying all this we have Sonship – which is salvation, and that makes God our common Father in an uncommon way. We also have oneness, which supersedes unity and soars into divine realms. Jesus said “I and my Father are one”[2] To be one we do not have to agree, but we do need to ride above differences, amicably.


[1] Sonship, worship, fellowship and stewardship.

2 John 10:30