Harold Macmillan when opening a lecture course in 1941, recalled the philosopher J. A. Smith thus: “Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life – save only this – that if you work hard and diligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole purpose of education.” Talking rot is a British colloquial comment; it means to talk nonsense, rubbish or twaddle or to prattle on with pointless talk. Jesus never talked rot, of that be assured. He spoke eternal and immortal words that changed lives. His words were few but meant something that were and are vital to living.

I once worked for a Cambridge professor who said “Every word a jewel and every sentence a coronet!” In other words superfluity is out. Synthesize down, get rid of abundance, and keep your sentences short – clarity, simplicity and brevity are the constant watchwords underlining all you say and write; difficult to do, for we tend to over emphasise for clarity and finish clouding the issue. Apparently he wrote one of the most difficult-to-assess doctorates in the university – “The structural strength of coral reefs,” so reduced that every sentence meant something.

Listening to countless politicians we get the impression they are talking rot. Many seem divorced of intelligence and unable to cope with present day stress and pressure. Incisive action that builds confidence and resolves issues is missing. No one stands head above another in ability, and sameness pervades; they are creatures of opportunity jumping whichever way the wind blows. Strength and purpose is lacking, and the country goes from crisis to crisis in a welter of prattle or rot. ‘God help us’ is the prayer on our lips and motive in our hearts, for if He doesn’t there does not seem anybody about who can. “The AA had this motto “we know a man who can,” so do we, and His name is Jesus.

Someone said that the mark of intelligence is simplicity, Jesus exhibited that characteristic. Parables were a constant expression of His teaching. “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them,” [Matt 13:34]. He also said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” [Mark 13:31]. His words were simple but, at times devastating. The number of great speeches in history is very few, and we as preachers are noted by what our
congregations cannot remember! If we bundled up all the words spoken and written in this decade and then discarded them, who would notice?

Jesus told the Pharisees they were, in effect, talking rot. He didn’t use nice language. “But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, he denounced them. ‘You sons of snakes!’ he warned. ‘Who said that you could escape the coming wrath of God? Before being baptized, prove that you have turned from sin by doing worthy deeds” [Matt 3:7, 8]. Their testimony was twaddle. Boasting about being Jews but Jesus said God could turn inanimate stones into bread, or the countless children of Abraham!

The interesting thing about Pentecost was that 3,000 people thought that Peter, the disciple who spoke rot at the fireside, was talking with such life-changing power that a multitude were turned from death to life, and it was written into the annals of the church, never to be forgotten. The key thing about this keynote speech was the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit. He can turn simple ordinary words into barbs that pierce the strongest armour of indifference. The history of the Pentecostal Church is that artisans can be clothed with a supernatural power that changes rot into a raging fire of conviction. The gentiles begged the early disciples to preach to them [Acts 13:42].

Going back into the Old Testament it is said of Moses: “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.” [Acts 7:22], that was before the fire burned by the wayside and a tree changed his life, and the power from on high deposited an anointing that saved two million people. Although slow of speech God presided over his words and undergirded them so that Moses’ hesitant delivery resulted in the miraculous.

We are warned thus: “Let no one deceive you with empty words. . .” [Eph 5:6]. Rotten words from people who are no better; those who postulate philosophies that deride God’s laws and taunt His kingdom. Their underlying intelligence subverts morality, and calls black white. Rot indeed!


Lifes Chorus (Psalm 1)

The Psalms are not merely word melodies, but sparks from the anvil of life. Sledgehammer trials had moulded David, the author of so many, into a vessel meet for God’s treasure. A richness of personal experience emerges that answered the unspoken questions in his life.

The unsettled issues of eternity and meaningful matters of time unfold in these catalogues of praise. Should Satan depress, the flesh discourage and friends disown, then David faced them all. He had slain, conquered and ridden in triumph over his circumstances and his foes; see then how he opens up and displays his own testimony for our encouragement and peace of mind.

The godly man “does not walk, stand or sit,” but lays himself within the heartbeat of a loving God and finds this better than 10,000 laughs with wicked men. These are they who turn their worthless scorn upon the priceless law of heaven and undercost the value of a rugged cross, exchanging life’s full span of thankful praise for hollow jests that mock Golgotha’s crimson stream. This “sounding brass” from godless men is but the swelling of an empty cloud that runs before the sifting breeze of truth. The ransomed heart, in prostrate trust, discards the shallowness of earthly praise and covets not the friendship of unthankful men.

The fear of God has touched his heart with wisdom’s reverential care; has taught his seeking soul to dwell inside a fissured rock and view the scene of prattling men like slowly shifting sand. Their vain advice dissuades pursuing souls, but his faith secures, above all earthly ties, a fellowship with God that rejects the contagion of worldly-minded men, discarding pretentious speech that taunts the smitten Lord. His faith turns an upward ear to catch the whisper wrapped in a loving smile and sees the golden prospect of an earthly pilgrimage spread with divine delight as God himself steps out to tread a coupled path that leads to perfect peace.

Amid the technological turmoil and mournful mechanism of this industrial age, pure laughter is rare but the musical ring of this happy man is a symphony of praise to God, for “his delight is the law.” Even within the church, black morbidity from sanctimonious men can blight the brightest day, but who can stay the cheerful chuckl of a holy life?

To live according to the “law and the testimony” can bring some men into bondage – they try too hard! But the harpist describes this blissful man like unto a tree, and when did you last see a tree work? It quietly puts down and grows up a sturdy multiplication of strength over numerous seasons. It stands tall with towering toughness above the diverse currents of life, king of the plant realm.

Sad sinners, like brittle reeds, soon snap before the driving wind, but a tree simply shakes its emerald crown and rustles a song through the heavens. Similarly, there is nothing to compare with the rippling joy of a ransomed soul when the gusts of God are blowing through their life. By rooting deep at the water’s edge, a tree blooms with fruitful fullness, for it is not only “planted” but also fixed by “rivers of water.” If “his delight is in the law,” then his dependence must be on the Spirit.

The glowing growing shall “never wither.” The man who rests in God and rejoices in His testimony takes on conformity to the “tree of life”, whereas the rootless man will tumble like “rolling thistledown upon the mountains of the Lord” when Jesus comes with judgement. “The way of the ungodly will perish”, but the righteous will see the salvation of the Lord in the morning of eternity. All shall crash and crumble, but through the dissolution of time a new era will emerge that will outlast the confines of man’s measure. Limitless association with a God of love will be nothing less than prosperity, the central promise of the Psalm. The man who lays himself on God, laughs and lasts!


Friend of God

Last Sunday our Associate Minister, Greg Pratt, preached an excellent sermon that reminded us of our position in Christ and he gave ten stances or titles within the Christian Life. Many people are not sure what their standing in life really is, and this reminder was to fortify us in the days that lie ahead in case doubt and disappointment stalks our pilgrim way. During the sermon he quoted the words of a song we sing by Israel Houghton,

Who am I that you are mindful of me
That you hear me, when I call
Is it true that you are thinking of me
How you love me, it’s amazing (Who am I Lord)

Indeed, who are we, as we boast in the things of God; and so the list developed and our hearts were stirred. And, if we had extended that list by one, we could have added “I am a friend of God” and isn’t that a thrilling thought and correspondingly wonderful experience?

However as we closed the meeting and sang our last song, the thought suddenly came to me “A bakers dozen” which is usually 13 loaves and my mind did a flip as I thought of what Greg had just given in those 12 thoughts, not 10, [how I managed that leap of perception I really don’t know!] so how about an extra or 13th one, and lets sing about it, “I am a friend of God,” but the pianist of the day didn’t know it and the person who first introduced it, went blank, so we stumbled through it halfheartedly and closed the meeting laughing. So 10 became 12 and then 13 — Nonsense by any stretch of the imagination!

Abraham was called the “friend of God” (Jas 2:23) “and the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God;” friend because he believed God. Men may call us many things, but one of the highest appellations must be that one — God said: “Abraham my friend.” [Isa. 41:8]. He could have said Abram the sinner, or Abram the Syrian, or Abraham the man of faith, but he used this title for the quality he showed in life. We tend to worry about what we do for God, but who we are strikes a cord with Him.

Job pining for previous days said this: “Just as I was in the days of my prime, when the friendly counsel of God was over my tent;”

[Job 29:4]. Job’s life had been interrupted by trials so intense he almost died, in fact the disease he had was so great it rotted his teeth from the inside. “My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth” [Job 19:20]. He valued God’s friendship above all other aspects of life, even his wealth and health. The Psalms are replete with advice, so with proverbs: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” [Prov 12:26]. As parents we tend to view the friendships our children make with circumspection or perhaps suspicion, wanting only their best.

The New Testament enforces this aspect of living when Jesus said to His disciples they were not slaves but friends. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” [John 15:13-15]. The Greek for friend is someone who is close, a dear one or beloved who is no mere acquaintance. They have depths of understanding and care, yet are able to discern reality in the context of life; thus their advice is paramount. Someone you can lean on and accept their unbiased advice which is for your ultimate good. That’s what God does.

The world has derived many quotations to explain friendship and here is but one: “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow” [William Shakespeare]. Isn’t that last one Just like Jesus? He overlooks faults and undergirds our weaknesses. “He sticks closer than a brother” [Prov. 18:24]. Human brothers can let us down, some lie against us, they can enter into combined duplicity and they did that to Joseph of old [Gen. 37:19], but God, and there we have it. When God is our friend and we His, we have the best of life. He can turn improbable and impossible circumstances into victory. He thinks the best of us at all times.

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