A Sensible Christmas

I suppose that money or the lack of it is the fulcrum point of Christmas in today’s society, and could cause more heartache than anything else. The world has successfully managed to brainwash individuals to meet the unspoken demands of those around and near to them with money they do not earn, especially in these restrained financial times, as values are distorted by the pressure of compliance with a materialistic culture.

The church as well as the secular community faces deprivation during this uncertain financial era, as we face Brexit, as the money market struggles to regain balance amidst a topsy-nervy humanity. We preach a gospel of moderation in a profligate age because there is an inversion to natural common sense and morality.

Spring meadow flowers are often trodden underfoot as cows smell water, and that appears to be what is happening today amongst the banking fraternity. The scent of profit destroys the landscape of ordered intelligence, as temperance is eschewed in favour of excess.  There seems to be an alarming thirst that needs quenching irrespective of the advice they are given or an example of self-control expected.

How do we, as the church, respond to this financial crisis, and deal with unemployment and restricted and diminishing funds? What do we do when all around us seems to be falling apart and we struggle to keep our families in necessary provisions and meet daily needs? What is it about money that causes many people problems? It is not just the lack of it, but how we use it that is important. We need a right perspective on an ordered financial life. The Bible has the answer, as it has in many ways about most things.

I suggest that we should work as hard as we can to earn as much as we can, do not get into debt, budget wisely, save for the future, and give consistently to charity to save covetousness. Follow God’s well-ordered plan and although you may never be rich, you will be wealthy in the real values of life.

Much gift spending at Advent is panic buying as people feel compelled to give because of guilt that is created by peer pressure that forces compliance with the norm. “What will they think if I don’t give a gift?” Does it really matter what they think, friendship does not consist of financial bestowment but faithful conferral of time and presence. Are you available, not are you rich?

It has been said that “The easiest way for your children to learn about money is for you not to have any.”[1]    Whichever way, money will govern our lives from the cradle to the grave, it is best therefore to gain a true perspective of it. It was Margaret Thatcher who said: “No one would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions. He had money as well.[2]

In a subtle way “Benefits make a man a slave”[3] as society invisibly ties ligatures around us with tantalizing offers that weave a web of materialism into the receptive fabric of our soul. “In civilised society it is the building of possessions that is the snare.”[4]   We mistakenly call things “mine” and not “His” and God is excluded from our accounts. The word of God tells us to lay up treasure in heaven not possessions on earth.[5]   “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.”[6]

The importance is undeniable, the value high, the stress considerable in modern society. The secret of rich people living in today’s world is to “have everything but possess nothing.” [7] Abraham is a true example of this philosophy. The offering up of Isaac was a revelation of his soul. “Everything is safe which we commit to him, and nothing is really safe which is not committed.”[8] It is expedient to give all things into his hand, including our money. Happy, blessed and a wise Christmas.

 


[1] Katherine Whitehorn (1926) British journalist. How to Survive Children

[2] Margaret Thatcher (1925) British politician and Prime Minister. Television interview, 1980

[3] Arabic proverb

[4] Shade of His Hand by Oswald Chambers page 63 pub by Marshall Morgan & Scott

[5] Matthew 6:20

[6] Ecc 5:10

[7]The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing by A. W. Tozer in Leadership Magazine Spring 1981 pg. 95

[8] Ibid. Page 96

 

 

 

 

 

Brexit and Trump

We live in an age where Brexit and Trump have occurred in one year. It is a seemingly impossible situation and caused by ageing middle class whites who voted in exasperation at the muddled, ignorant and incompetent political classes, who were ill-informed of the feelings of their fellow men. The MPs were out of touch with reality; blind to the rising fury that seethed under the surface of apparent quietude and compliance.

Those who passed through the last great war, are now dying normally in their eighties and nineties, and their middle-aged children are recalling tales of the privation and hardship of their parents’ generation and realise the adversity they suffered, and perceive the deprivation that ensued. Now, they see the rich getting richer and poor getting poorer and immigration changing the nature and composition of society; many parts of the country is no longer English or in America – American. Enough is enough. Both Brexit and Trump are the result of protest voting. The seeds are now growing in many more countries. The last days are coming. Rebellion and anarchy are not too far distant. If Brexit is delayed or overthrown by political and judicial manipulation there could be riots in our beloved land.

This spirit has now entered the church in protest to modern worship, as the older people crave for hymns and songs with tunes they can sing. Many congregations now watch the platform party in a kind of vicarious worship before dimmed lights in the wider auditorium and spot lights on the platform, as the entertainment begins. Thankfully HICC has retained its policy of spiritual songs and hymns with vibrant tunes that all can sing. I had the privilege of preaching there on 6th November and I would say that 80/90% of the congregation were active in worship, in some churches I have been in, I would say that number is sadly reversed.  About 10/20% were worshipping the rest watching the platform. I can well understand that latter number voting with their feet.

I have built my ministry on worship, from the time an attendee in my first pioneer church left after the morning service and, shaking hands with my first wife said, “I thought the organ was particularly beautiful today,”  to which my wife agreed, but then realised we didn’t have an organ. God’s angels had come down to play for us! I perceived then that worship is not for God, but for us, for He existed before man was created and he could well do without us. Worship is a transforming process; we are being changed imperceptibly from glory to glory daily as we wait on and love God in adoration. Prayer is the articulation of human need, praise the acclamation of divine deeds and worship the adoration of divine worth. They mingle and hold together. Someone said: We have become so desensitised by the brutality of life, that we have lost the wonder of worship. So very sad.

“A self-conscious holiness is a contradiction in terms,” (Washington Gladden) for true worship eyes but God. I never think of holiness, I just walk with God, He can convict me any time He wishes, and I’ll just exalt His matchless name. It was J. C. Ryle who said: “The best public worship is that which produces the best private Christianity.” But, for many people it is metamorphosis verses masquerade – you cannot form a butterfly by pinning wings on a worm. True worship will change us, it deals with private motives and physical urges. Nevertheless, praise and worship supplies energy or power to life, it is like being connected to the national grid, internally.

After one beautiful time of worship in Kensington Temple, where I was the associate minister, something happened that inspired me, and I have never forgotten it. There was a violent storm and the roof, being pitched at 50 degrees shed the water so fast the gutters could not contain it and it not only overflowed them but also dripped inside and fell on the congregation in microscopic particles pervading everywhere and the internal lights illuminated it as a yellow mist – like glorious light, and God whispered to me “I have put my glory here.” That’s the result of true worship; heaven awaits our presence, our hearts long for such an atmosphere. I think the problem with some modern worship is that the platform party love their ministry more than the congregation.

 

 

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.