Visit Pastor Emeritus Rev. Dr. Michael Carr’s new website to find out more about his new book, writing and staying in touch.
People who live in the West believe they have much more freedom than previous generations and this is reflected in their lifestyles and views. Young people tend to grow up thinking they must throw off the restraints of the past their parents lived with. History gives the impression that the next generation thinks it knows better than the previous one, believing that, somehow, they have gained more understanding.
Perhaps they would describe this as freedom, but it is a misunderstanding to think that freedom means doing whatever they choose to do. Whether a person acknowledges it or not, the fact is that everyone is controlled by something or someone. It may be control by circumstances or situations beyond their control. Many elements influence us. I wonder who or what is controlling you, because this must be a major factor in your life. It can make or break, drive, restrict and direct, or if it is a good and godly influence, cause you to achieve the best.
From an eternal perspective, you were designed by God to be free. Real freedom is something that only our Maker can produce in a person. Although we were designed for freedom, the Bible says that we lost our real freedom when sin entered the world through one man, Adam. This first human being failed to maintain his God-given freedom by making wrong choices. He chose to disregard his greatest relationship, breaking God’s command in the illusion it would bring him greater freedom.
The consequences were the opposite of what he expected. Instead of being free he became a slave. The Bible says that a person without God is a sinner and that their sin chains them. They become a prisoner to their sinful nature and ways. How deceptive it is that man or woman think they can move to more freedom by throwing off restraint and live with the ‘if it feels good do it’ mentality! Sometimes our society and law calls this ‘human rights’.
While there are good elements to our human rights laws, there are also dangers. If these laws are opposed to God’s laws our demands for our rights will bind rather than set free. It is not easy for people to understand this, especially when some forms of religion remove freedom with a set of rules that are unattainable for a person without a relationship with God. God our Creator does not offer us religious rules; instead he offers a relationship with himself that totally sets us free from the law of sin and death.
God himself has provided away for us to be set free again by providing another Adam. This second and last Adam succeeded where the first Adam failed. I mean Jesus, the Son of God who willingly came to pay the price for our sin through his death upon the cross. He paid our debt in full and can set us free to live a brand-new life in the freedom God originally intended for humanity. This freedom enables us to do what is right in God’s sight. He gives us a new opportunity and fills our hearts with a deep desire to please him daily in word and deed. God said, ‘I will write my laws on your hearts and minds.’ This is real liberty.
Real freedom can only come into a person’s life through relationship with God and this relationship is only made possible through Jesus Christ. Once we realise that the greatest enemy to our freedom is lack of relationship with God caused by our own sin, the sooner we can recognise our need. If a person has no understanding and awareness of their need then they can never see the need for God’s solution. The great old hymn writer penned these words: ‘My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought. My sin, not inpart but the whole. Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul.’
Why don’t you take the time to visit Harrow International Christian Centre and discover the real freedom God created you for? Check out our service times on the website. You will receive a warm welcome and hear how you can take real steps to freedom in your life.
I look forward to welcoming you personally.
My heart was lifted by a recent article by Pastor John Lancaster who wrote on the theme of worship. He explained that we are in danger of reducing our worship of the Almighty to a time in Church when ‘we sing songs that bless us and have a ‘time of ministry’ when our personal needs are met.’ He explained that worship is an encounter with God quoting William Temple whose description of worship inspires us to hunger for an ever deepening daily encounter with God – ‘to worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind by the truth of God, to purify the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.’
God created us in His own image crafting and shaping us for relationship with Himself and spiritual worship through a daily walk with the Almighty. Because of this nothing else can satisfy the human heart and mind no matter what it is that man turns to seeking to fill the void in his life. Here I refer to the daily walk in life and not a service when we obey His Word by meeting together. That being said, our joining together in worship must go deeper than a particular style of song or an intimate atmosphere created by the modern setting of semi-darkness, lights and smoke. It involves the heart, mind and will of a person being moved by the Holy Spirit and enabled to rise beyond the limitation of the natural to the realm of the glory of God. When our full focus is lifted from the daily cares and routine of life we begin to ‘ascend the hill of the Lord’ through the revelation of the holiness of God himself. I write of an awareness of the glory of God from when we rise to when we sleep. A God consciousness and awareness of His presence that remains with us even when interrupted by the routine and often mundane aspects of life, we can live with a God consciousness in our inner being.
When we do gather together in the house of the Lord our worship should be shaped by praise, thanksgiving and adoration as the Lord reveals His mercy and grace afresh towards us. Very often we limit our meetings to a celebration style of expression which is wonderful and needed, but as we encounter Christ together we must learn to move as it were, through the outer court of His presence, to the inner court allowing ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit into the most holy place. For this we are totally dependent upon God to lead us for nothing of the flesh can take us here. As we bow, kneel before Him we humbly step into this intimate place becoming conscious of our utter unworthiness and yet through His blood we are able to stand in the glory of who He is and worship in spirit and in truth. Transparent and opened faced we behold the glory as we are transformed through an encounter with the Almighty. It is an extraordinary moment when heaven’s atmosphere invades our world. Every part of our being is moved by the Spirit, therefore it is understandable we are changed from glory to glory. Even though still limited by the restriction of the physical realm we are touched by the manifest presence of the Most High. This is not emotion based or cultivated by human staged programming for it is only made possibly by the drawing of the Holy Spirit. We can only imagine what heaven will be like when we will worship before the very throne of God. A well-known worship song uses the lyric ‘indescribable’, it says it all. O God take us deeper in you.
The culture in the UK is becoming more and more different from years past. Our Christian faith and values have been under attack for years and we have become a nation shaped by an anti-Christian approach. Under the guise of diversity and tolerance we have failed to pass onto our children and grandchildren the most important truth that should shape our society and the world we live in.
Many see the changes as progress and development but in reality our society is free falling into spiritual darkness and a confused culture. We have a generation searching for answers in the wrong places. The English definition for the word culture is: ‘the sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguish one group of people from another, through language, material, objects, ritual, institutions and art, from one generation to the next’. What we are passing on to the next generation is a culture damaged by an ‘anything goes attitude as long as it makes one happy’. We have changed laws to accommodate what the Bible calls sin in the attempt to make it acceptable in our culture. There is a higher law that cannot be changed by a government vote or pressure minority group. The Word of the Lord stands forever and cannot be adapted to legitimise acts that God calls immoral or wicked. God’s love and mercy towards us all is so amazing. He does not condemn or judge us harshly but offers His mercy and grace as well as the power to change. We need to return once again to God and allow His Word to shape our lives, our ways and our culture.
The Bible says; ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Before you sleep and when you wake – last thing at night and first thing in the morning) Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates’. We have removed from our homes, our schools and our laws what is meant to define and shape our culture. It’s time to return and reclaim our lost spiritual heritage. What will we pass on to the next generation? A society shaped by immorality, false gods and spiritual darkness without clear guidelines of what is right or wrong in the sight of God, or a culture that is shaped by the Word of God and acceptable in His sight. Study the Bible for yourself and you will see that a lost generation is caused by man seeking to do what seems right in his own eyes.
The Bible says ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened’. If we seek God and his ways and teach them to our children and grandchildren we will see a culture that is shaped by the things that are right in God’s eyes. Seek the Lord and you will find Him.
‘A dead calm is our enemy, a storm may prove our helper. Controversy may arouse thought, and through thought may come Divine change.’ – C H Spurgeon
The Christian is never promised a life of ease and tranquillity, in fact the Word of God explains we should expect the opposite. Jesus said, ‘in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’. Elsewhere the Apostle Paul explains that none of the hardships we face in both the physical or spiritual realm will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the world today we see a style of ‘easy belief.’ Another gospel which brings no deep repentance and divine change in the heart and mind of man, when in truth only the deep conviction of the Holy Spirit can bring man to real life change and prepare him or her for the Christian life. Conversion comes only through a ‘face to face’ encounter.
- Face to face with the truth of our condition and sin – Leading to repentance and confession
- Face to face with the truth that only Christ can save us from hell and separation from God in eternity – Leading to reconciliation through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.
- Face to face with our desperation for God Himself – Leading to relationship through Christ and a brand new life.
There is a danger that man approaches God because he needs Him to fix all his life problems that he may arrive at peace. Jesus does not come to us as a mere problem solver and provider of peace, he has to come as our Saviour and Lord. If all you want Him to do is to provide you with ‘dead calm’ in life then this is a clear and present danger.
YOU ARE IN THE ARMY NOW!
My friend John Glass, previous GS of the Elim movement relayed a conversation that took place between himself and Michael MTumi, who was then the leader of the largest and fastest growing Pentecostal denomination in the world. John asked, ‘what was the key to the growth and the willingness to serve among the Pastors and leaders?’ Michael replied, ‘you lead a group of people who are a denomination whereas I lead an army’.
When you came to Christ you joined an army of believers who must follow in obedience to the Commander-in-Chief. Jesus himself is the Commander of the army of God.
- We are never called to physical war, but we called to the spiritual warfare of prayer.
- We are never called to violence, but we are called to take hold of the Kingdom.
- We are never called to be hostile or aggressive, but always called to love and peace.
We are called to lay down our lives in absolute surrender to the will and purpose of God.
You cannot be in the army and personally decide to stay in the safety zone. You must rise up and ‘go over the top’ leaving the trench of your problems and issues that have restricted you from being effective in service for many years. Be prepared to face the onslaught of all that life can bring with determination and faith to press through in the battle. You are on the winning side not because of the easy life you are called to live, but because the battle belongs to the Lord and he is always fighting for us.
God always leads us in triumph and victory. He will deal with your problems, and promises you peace in every trial and every storm, but right now bring your full focus on serving in the army and God will deal with the rest in His way and in His time.
As we step into 2017 we are being challenged by the Word and the Spirit to set the course of our lives to be true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the greatest destiny for us because although the modern message of our day may present an alternative destiny that involves reaching personal goals and dreams, the fact is, God has a higher destiny for his disciples. It is beyond the trappings of the ‘prosperity gospel or the personal dream message’. It is the Divine will of God to establish us as true disciples willing to pay any price required to complete his purpose. Matthew 14 v 27 reminds us of the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. ‘…anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple’. The early disciples left everything behind and most paid the ultimate sacrifice in losing their lives for the sake of the gospel.
The writer to the Hebrews uses the heroes of faith from both the Old and New Testament to help us see that even when life takes us into the bleakest and darkest of times we are still able to walk by faith into the purpose of God. Jesus asked the Father to ‘take this cup from me’ referring to facing death upon the cross, but then exclaimed; ‘nevertheless thy will be done’. What would have been perceived as heaven’s greatest defeat by the enemy became the greatest victory for the whole of mankind. Let me remind you what Hebrews 11 verse 32 – 38 states, and take note that those who experienced complete victory as well as those who paid the ultimate price are commended for their faith in God. Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets… Through acts of faith, they toppled Kingdoms, made justice work. They took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and yes chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless – the world didn’t deserve them – making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
(The Message) Their story of life is real history and they make up the great cloud of witnesses referred to in Chapter 12. These people blazed the way for us who now follow in the same faith and life of sacrifice as followers of Christ. Faith should not be focused upon what we can gain for ourselves but what we can give for the purpose of God. God will meet all your needs and that is a promise from him.
Thank God that I can conclude this article by writing of the ultimate victory of Christ which they and us will share in eternity. Hebrews 11 v 39 & 40; ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect’.
As you walk through 2017 and on into your future be encouraged because whatever you carry for the sake of Christ will produce an eternal moment of victory. Bring your full focus upon the will of God no matter what you face and finish the course no matter what the cost.
Jesus was not born into a royal household or aristocratic family in keeping with his title or position. He was born in a stinking cattle shed to an ordinary Jewish family and laid upon the straw in an animal feeding trough. No one knows the true location where the King of heaven was born but perhaps the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem may just mark the spot where once stood that lowly cattle shed. When Mary gave birth to the Christ Child there was no NHS or Private medical health care in those bleak days. No electric lights or central heating could warm and bring comfort to Mary on that first Christmas night and yet the glory of God was seen, as the most important child to ever be born came into the world.
The story is told by the old theologian of the time a stately Christian gentleman visited the Church of the nativity. ‘He came to a great wall, and in the wall there was a door so low that he had to stoop to enter it; and through the door, and on the other side of the wall, there was the church. Beneath the high alter is the cave, and when the pilgrim descends into it he finds a little cavern about fourteen yards long and four yards wide’. Is this the place where Jesus was born? Well the tourist information may tell you it is so. We will never know, however the symbolic image that is portrayed sends a clear message to us all. In order to enter in and see Jesus every person regardless of status or position must stoop low and bow down to enter in.
I have never had the privilege of touring the significant sites mentioned in the life story of Jesus and the historic letters in the Bible. Perhaps one day I will be blessed with the opportunity of doing so, however, the Word creates images and impressions in our minds of the locations and what it would have been like to live in the times of Jesus. The great divide between the wealthy and the poor that we see in our society was even more marked, but life would have been hard for the working class family of which Jesus was part. Joseph, his earthly father, was a carpenter and is thought to have died young, which meant Jesus had to start work early in life and run the family business.
I say these things to help us see that, although the glory of God was revealed and seen in Jesus at that first Christmas, he lived and worked hard in a climate more difficult than ours today. He lived under Roman rule and had to provide for Mary and the other siblings as an ordinary family. Jesus lived at the coalface of life and had to make it work before he began his miraculous ministry at the age of thirty.
We as followers of Jesus are not called to develop empires for ourselves or to try to make our name great. We are called to follow Christ and most of the time we express His glory by serving in the routine of life. The true glory of Christ this Christmas will not come to you through the tinsel and the tree, but through stooping in humility and by bowing in worship as you make room for Jesus. Let Jesus fill the ordinary with His life and power because it will make Christmas extraordinary for you and your family.