Michael's Missives

Purring with Delight

I once spoke on the subject of happiness, or cheerfulness – not necessarily synonymous, but the Bible uses a conjunctive word which is ‘contented’ “. . . For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:” (Phil 4:11) – therefore, happy by implication and many wish that was their lot.

During that sermon I illustrated one of the aspects that contributed to the subject that had been researched by several scientists who had scoured relevant literature in an attempt to define it. One of the keys they gave was on intelligence. Their assumption was that intelligent people are happy people, because they get better jobs thus earning more money. Thus, they thought that richer people were generally happier than poorer people. However, their investigation disproved this, for whether rich or poor, people can be happy, and intelligence has nothing to do with it. However, they did find that ‘social intelligence’ was important; how people reacted to others within society.

To illustrate this I mentioned that several years ago I was a visiting lecturer in our denominational Bible College. Moving amongst that august band of men in that hothouse of theology, I was conscious of my lack. They knew Greek and Hebrew and at lunch when we shared tables, they spoke in theological terms that seemed to be a third unknown language. I had entered the full-time ministry from a background of lecturing students in building technology, in the disciplines of architecture, surveying, civil engineering and building. However, my new lifestyle and associated subject had been the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and because I moved in several of them, was counted suitable to teach the subject.

Several years after I had stopped servicing that college, I was invited to the church of one of the ex-students who I had inflicted with my lectures and over lunch he mentioned that I had been voted the best lecturer on the course by the students. Instinctively I diverted his praise with that modest nonchalance for which I’m noted, but inside I was purring with delight and pride. Forgive me Jesus!

As I was explaining this I noticed something in the congregation which side-tracked my attention, and I finished the point without clarifying what I had intended to say. It therefore seemed that I was simply boasting, and I may have been, but that was not the point or impression I was trying to make. I was about to develop the point that parents place too much emphasis on intelligence. They are delighted if their children have a high IQ, and even more elated if they get their “GCSE’s” or “A” levels. They think it’ll make their offspring happy, because they are happy, but it may not lead to contentment.

IQ testing was my worst stress point at school and I’d rather hide under the desk than take such a test – my future calling was clearly vocational! However, once baptised in the Holy Spirit at 18, things changed. It seemed not only was I born again in the spirit, I was mentally re-energized. I slowly climbed upwards taking on new intellectual challenges, and clearing several degree hurdles.

Now, many years after that lecturing experience, here was a mature student putting icing on the cake for me, but it was clear it wasn’t intelligence that carried the day, it was ‘social intelligence,’ the secret was knowing how to react to people. Most of the other lecturers, had been through college straight into the ministry, and found that their better calling was academia; ‘social intelligence’ need not have been their strong point.

No matter how high your IQ, Jesus makes the difference, He helps you relate because you have something dynamic to share. I believe that ‘social intelligence’ is the factor that could bring contentedness, rather than a bagful of degrees. Remember that it is with the heart that we believe, and it is usually the heart that disturbs our happiness!”

One of HICC’s strong points is their ability to interact with each other. An amazed visiting preacher once said to me – “you do have a happy church don’t you?” I nodded, again in modest deference to some mighty power beyond my comprehension, but thinking to myself – “it must be the jokes!” But it could be divine ‘social intelligence’ given as a gift – could it not?

Michael's Missives

The Vision – part 3

Paul was a man who had two visions, the latter one superseding and overruling the first one.  His first was destructive and evil:  “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest “[1]   His whole intent was to destroy the Christian church, but God met him, and changed his viewpoint, until he could say: “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,”[2]  and as a result of that his aim or mission statement was: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”[3]  What a change, what a contrast, what a glorious vision to hold.  Here is a quotation:[4] “Paul said his goal was to know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all Christ has in mind for him.  This goal (objective) absorbed all his energy…”

Passionate vision puts the 100 octane into life.  It never dies, but rises to the surface whenever submerged. It climbs the highest mountain, crosses the raging torrents, and breaks through walls of opposition. It cannot and will not be daunted.  It inspires others by its force and vigour.  It gives passion to life that results in an undying grip on the future to reshape and mould it for God.  It does not throw up its hand and say, ‘Ah well, so that’s it,’ but refuses to accept the impossible, pushing ever onward devising new strategies to reach the goal.

In so many lives there is a scarcity of ardour that is characterised by a lack of zeal.  Paul when persecuting the Christians was zealous, because he was a zealot.  In Acts 9:1 we see that Paul was “breathing out threatening and slaughter” and the whole sense is one of intense fervour for maximum injury – that same passion was harnessed for God with equal eagerness.

It prevents drift in life, which is why the Hebrew writer says:  “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”[5] Vision counteracts the currents in life, perceives the trends and takes action against the pull of the tide.  It keeps its eyes on distant horizons, watches movements lest they find themselves drawn away from sight of the goal, and above all maintains an enthusiasm in the whole process of living.

In Daniel we read that he prayed three times a day towards Israel specifically against the king’s edict.  “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”[6]  That prophet was either foolish or passionate, perhaps both, but nothing would daunt his fervour for God and His kingdom. Mary, saved from sin, pushed past all opposition in the form of race, religion and riches to wipe the feet of Jesus and faced ostracism and male persecution because of her action, yet nothing could stop her, she had a passion for His worth, and poured out her soul in adoration.

Jesus’ command to his disciples was thus: “And he said unto them, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’”[Mark 16:15].  A mandate that has not dated or been rescinded; that all his people everywhere: in all lands, and in all circumstances, declare the kingdom message to all creatures.  Even though they were commanded by the authorities of their day in the following language: “And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus”[7]  They still declared Him to all, with the obvious consequences.  Let us take that command and bowing to the Lord’s express wish, take as our object not only to glorify Christ, which is the first one, but to grasp that challenge to preach the gospel to every creature in the days that lie ahead – let us not be deterred.

Radicalisation throughout the world has produced terror bombers and mindless killings, how much the love of Jesus produces lovers of life and compassion for the sinner, the sick and the suffering of his world. It builds not destroys, their vision is positive not negative, constructive not destructive.

1) Acts 9:12 NKJV

2) Philippians 3:10

3) Philippians 3:14

4) Life Application Bible 18:27

5) Hebrews 2:1

6) Daniel 6:10

7) Acts 4:18

Michael's Missives

The Vision – part 2

Vision Is The Light That Clarifies Life’s Direction.

Joseph had a dream or vision that he would be the ruler and his brethren the servants. “Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.” [Genesis 37:5]. Contrary to expectations things seemed to go wrong, although God knew otherwise. There came persecution and trial and yet in the end he triumphed, because he knew his vision was from God and it was real enough to enlighten him in adversity. Wherever Joseph went he rose to a position of authority, even in prison.  His vision was materialising in every aspect of his life. Without vision we go nowhere and accomplish little. All great achievements have come as a result of vision.

Dynasties have been founded, cities built, nations conquered, fortunes made, and lives changed. It is said that “Jabez was more honourable than his brothers: And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me. . .” [1 Chronicles 4:8, 9]. He is called more honourable than his brethren because he called on God for a vision. His vision was for God’s hand to be with him and that his borders would stretch and expand. He was not content with the status quo.

Joshua, standing where Moses stood and taking command of Israel, was given a vision by God.  Here it is: “be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” [Joshua 1:6].  Moses had brought them out that he might bring them in, that was his vision. But it was only half fulfilled, which means that vision will outlast the visionary. If there was any uncertainty in Joshua’s mind, it was cleared by that vision which was set before him. He was to possess the land and compartment it for God.

Vision is the Sustainer in the hard times of Life

It keeps the enemy at bay, when they threaten to overrun. Nehemiah was such a man “And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it”  [Nehemiah 2:5]. The capital was in decay and the Prophet was heart-broken and longed to see the glory of Israel resurrected and that once great city rebuilt; that was his supreme objective. Nothing would dissuade him, and through the pages of the book as the story unfolds, the Lord’s enemies try all they know to stop the work, but he will not be daunted or hindered. Every excuse, threat and ploy is used against Nehemiah, but he rebuts them all. “And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I AM DOING A GREAT WORK, so that I CANNOT come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” [Nehemiah 6:3]

He was wise to the devil’s tactics and anything used in an attempt to discourage him was rejected and reassurance given to the workforce to continue without fear.  This one grand idea filled his mind and heart – nothing, but nothing could stop him. “Now it came to pass, when the wall was built,” [Nehemiah 7:1]: he finished it.

Ruth a Moabitish damsel having been married and now widowed, is left to return to her home, but Naomi, her mother-in-law returns to Bethlehem.  Sensing destiny she pledges herself in a vision statement that has been preached on through the generations: “But Ruth said: ‘Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your god, my god.’ “ [Ruth 1:16]. Hardly a greater act of commitment in the scriptures can be found, she is destined for utter obedience and subservience, and in prospect, loneliness.  God turned that pledge into the very oath that gave her all she ever wanted. She was sustained in the commitment and rewarded in her diligence. Her dream was faithfulness and submission to someone else’s foresight, and by that commitment reaped her own destiny by the overshadowing of God.


Michael's Missives

Establishing the Vision – Part 1

As we look towards Saturday 18th July HICC will reach a momentous point in its history; a new senior minister and his wife will be appointed. I had no idea when I started the church how long I would remain as its founding senior pastor. I thought that perhaps at normal retirement of 65 I might head back to Solihull from whence I came 15 years earlier; but that was not to be. Patricia’s continued health was miraculous and so we kept going year after year. She passed her allotted span [given by the medical consultants] by 28 years, and thus we were in partnership until nearly two years ago – my how time passes! However, all good things must eventually end, and her time was January 2014.  Mine is not yet, but for the good of HICC I will move on to semi-retirement in three Saturdays time, although I’m too young to really retire!

In late 1986 I was standing in my rear garden which backed onto Northwick Park playing fields which in turn backed onto Northwick Park Hospital and I could look up at Harrow on the Hill and see the famous school buildings. As I strolled in those fields with my dog, I thought the Lord spoke to me about Harrow being a good place for a church, but I brushed it aside as I was superintendent of the Metropolitan Region, covering 55 churches around the M25 and Associate Pastor of Kensington Temple in Notting Hill. My time was heavily committed and there was a limit to what I could do. However, this thought persisted, and through a series of circumstances in God’s control I started a house group, which quickly became a church in embryo – HICC was born. The vision has remained. We have over 40 nations worshipping and working in harmony with a building worth three million pounds.

Perhaps I can now speak about vision, that which has kept propelling me over the decades, and which must be passed on. When Moses sent twelve leaders to spy out the land, most of them came back with a different vision than he expected.  Those who were imbued with vision, and had caught the whole thrust of their leaders concept, brought a positive story of possibilities.  They: understood the difficulties, measured the opposition, recognised the advantages, calculated the cost and recommended possession.

Moses could only transfer his vision to two men out of twelve which is eight percent. His vision came from a burning bush and a voice became a vision, the vision became the way of life. In the Old Testament [Numbers chapter 1] God plainly tells us that whereas most prophets receive a vision, He came and spoke to Moses face to face.  Although his first call was from a wilderness bush, His confirmation was on a mountain before the face of God. Even so, he could only muster a small percentage to follow the vision and live the passion for the land. Vision does not come through consensus, but through revelation, not to a group, although they confirm it, but usually to individuals.  Vision is not easy to transfer, and those who respond are the minority.

Unless a person feels the passion of revelation they will never bestir themselves for the cause. Surface skidding permeates many Christian churches, for there is either a lack of vision or, if there is a vision, it fails to excite because of ambiguity or low level mission. Where there is no vision, the people perish: . .” [Proverbs 29:18]  We all need a personal and particular vision that engenders commitment to a call.

Vision takes a humble servant through the heat of Africa and the ice of Russia. The hot lands of China and the cold lands of Tibet. What made Paul go through all the opposition, physical danger and deprivation? It was vision, he saw the divine light on the Damascus road, and was blinded to see God. Vision makes mincemeat of hardships and revels in jeopardy. It laughs at impossibilities and says “it is done”! It made David fight Goliath, and Daniel refuse to bend the knee to a statue, and thus break the heart of hungry lions – Hallelujah!!!