Rolling!

A few years ago at a men’s breakfast in church I sat with a man who had recently started coming to HICC with his wife. Before they came to us, they worshipped at a non conformist church in Harrow, although originally they were Roman Catholics. When he rang to tell them of his move the reply was “I thought they rolled on the floor at that church!” This is clearly a naïve and bigoted statement. I have been attending Pentecostal Churches since 1949 and not once have I ever seen such a thing occur. How disappointing – apart from soiling their clothes, it would have added some excitement to a lot of very boring services I have been in.

In the days when that occasionally happened, so history informs us, the church had more power than it does now; the sick were healed, sinners were saved and the demon depressed were set free. They worshipped in timber and tin huts and were not only poor but ostracised from mainstream Christendom. People were warned not to attend their churches because funny things happened in their services, but it would do present day critics a great deal of good to go back in time, perhaps it would do us all good, to enter history, see the physical demonstration of God, put up with some excess, and laugh in church, although I am not convinced that would happen in many Pentecostal Churches I have been in.

As the Pentecostal movement has developed it has established its own Bible Colleges, and now most ministers have their theological degrees or diplomas – they have become respectable, but revelation is still a premium, and evades many ministers. It’s not how many degrees you hold or training you have received, but what your relationship is with God. It’s not just feeding a person’s mind but touching their heart which is the priority. Exegetical and experiential preaching is needed to lay foundational teaching for future trials. The one touches the head and the other the heart.

If some people who administrate church offices in Harrow think that of us what other things do they also imagine? I wonder what juicy bit of gossip has been magnified out of all proportion, which gullible people want to believe. We don’t have to defend ourselves, for there is nothing to defend. It matters not what people think of us, for once a person has been in a HICC service, they will soon be convinced that we are sane and spiritual, and in a way that is sad, for perhaps we are so ordered that we no longer expect the unexpected?  There are times when we sing good old Charles Wesley hymns, as a teaching tool towards worship; and the preaching is geared towards lifestyle change to reflect God’s glory; what more can a person want?

There was one prominent Baptist in the local area who always used every opportunity to remind me that silence is part of worship, as if I or HICC have no idea what silence is. Silence was so unusual in heaven that it is recorded, and it lasts for all of 30 minutes. Half an hour is all there is in heaven, and that in eternity is but a small fraction of the time, after that we must assume that there is continual praise and worship – there could even be few rolling around heaven’s roads, at least they would collect gold dust, but I’m of the opinion that most of them will fall flat, face downwards in His presence.  It may be that when we get to heaven, we will have missed that half an hour, what will we do then – go back to church for a quiet period?

If I have learnt anything in over 50 years of ministry, it is that to prejudge a church is lunacy. Not until you have worshipped there for a minimum of three months do you really know anything about the fellowship; and, you will never get the perfect church. Whether we roll, stand or dance is unimportant, whom our heart worships is. We can worship worship by worshipping the tradition of the years, the form and ceremony or worship to God. Whenever we worship God because we expect Him to do things for us it becomes idolatry. If the devil can foul and smudge our worship we will compromise our morals.

We worship at HICC in a style so we don’t frighten people away, and to ensure the family (from every kindred tongue and nation) can dwell together, sharing a common experience and blending into a mighty choir of unity. As for ‘rollers’ we do have vacuum cleaners!

Quaver and Quiver

My late wife was an excellent singer until Myasthenia Gravis robbed her of her voice. My daughter having grown into her teens took over where Patricia left off and became a fine soloist singing with the British Continentals. My younger son, while studying medicine at Bart’s Medical School, won the Ronnie Scott’s Band of the Year contest, with his group the Worry Dolls. My older son is a musician and led the music at Pip and Jay Anglican Church in Bristol.

My younger brother also has a good base/tenor voice and often sings solos; my older brother is no novice and also can sing and play the piano. I am the exception, being tone deaf being totally ignorant about music. I stand out like a musical sore thumb amongst my family. In fact, ask me what a quaver is and I quiver. When I start to sing, they join in that well-known song – “shut up, shut up, shut up!”

In my late teens, having received a call from God to minister the word to the kingdom, I went to Him and discussed my musical poverty. How could I lead worship, which is integral for spiritual development with such destitution of ability? I implored him to consider my ignorance, and in effect I fulfilled the first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” (Matthew 5:3) very poor in musical ability; it was either God or nothing. Beneficially, He came to my rescue, and although I am still very much short of musical understanding, He gave me a gift of knowing when a song will lead a congregation into worship.

Soon after I left the West Midlands, for London to become the Associate at Kensington Temple, I was asked to preach and lead the worship at Impetus 86, a third world conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka. There were 63 nations and over 800 delegates plus the large Colombo Assemblies of God Church. I led the worship and spoke over that weekend and ministered during the week. From there I was invited around the world to speak on worship.

“Strange?” “Yes, and almost impossible,” but God will take our poverty and cause us to inherit the kingdom. God is more concerned about our attitude to Him, not our wonderful talents and abilities. The world will emphasize self-confidence, self-reliance and self-expression. It is a matter of personal aptitude that glorifies flesh, yet they are envious of our ‘happiness’ which is what blessed means, “blessed (happy) are the poor in Spirit.”

Unfortunately, the world has slipped into the church and confused our focus, and the result of that is personality centred worship. Sessional musicians and gifted singers minister songs that congregations can’t sing; they are too difficult. It unwittingly glorifies musicians, who are no doubt skilled, but what of entering The Presence?

I used to receive a cassette each month from a leading Christian musical publishing company and out of the 100 to 120 songs I listened to per annum, I doubt there were more than five that any congregation could sing. If one watches the average modern church at worship, the people more often than not stand watching the platform – it is a kind of vicarious worship. Very much like a football crowd cheering on their idol. Perhaps the purpose of the CDs and tapes is to make money not worshippers?

Blessed is the man who is utterly and totally destitute, at the end of his tether, for then God has a chance. It means the complete absence of pride, self-reliance and self-confidence. It is a God-centred life that is thrown wholly on His ability. As the hymn puts it “Now let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich.” Those are the blessed or happy people for you know that, like Jesus, you only do what the Father does (John 8:28) and the life of Jesus was to worship His Father at all times and in all things (John 4:23). Finally, it is not what I might have been – not even what I may be – but what I am, that constitutes the measure of my blessedness.

Puzzles

In January 1999 Sarah Flannery won the Esat Scientist of the year for Ireland with her project on cryptography. “Single-handedly a 16-year-old appeared to have found a way of securely encrypting – that is, the science of secrecy – hiding sensitive information on the Internet, which worked 22 times faster than the one developed at MIT in 1997.”[1]

She  was  brought  up  in a  household  where her  parents  are lecturers,  but  they  did  not  force  their  daughter  to perform mental  gymnastics or pressurise her to be anything other than a  normal  girl.  The  one thing her father did was to set her and her  brothers  puzzles,  which he wrote on a blackboard in their kitchen.

He often finishes his lecture at the Cork Institute of Technology with a 10-minute puzzle because he finds that they are the best way to teach self-confidence and creativity. The reporter, Cassandra Jardine, was presented with one to solve when she went to interview the family.

“A farmer has 12 barrels of apples. Eleven are filled with 5-oz apples; one contains the heaviest, 6-oz apples. The farmer wants to find out which one holds the heaviest apples. How can he, in one weighting, find out which barrel holds the weightier apples?”

In Proverbs 25:2 it says “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” God is the master at encryption and puzzles, and what he seals no one can decipher. He hid the church in the Old Testament teaching and then suddenly sprang it on Paul. He has given us 3 books Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation – they are all in a sense encrypted, but the Holy Spirit can resolve the mysteries.

I’m not sure about you but I’m pretty hopeless at solving puzzles and intelligence tests – I do not want to think of what my IQ is – I doubt if I would reach 100 — “as high as that” you say, “it’s time for you to stop boasting.”  However, bearing that in mind, perhaps it could be a little higher in the things of God!

Here’s one puzzle I’ve never been able to solve and I think there are many others in the same situation – “Why did Jesus die for me?” A puzzle indeed, known only to God.  I have laboured for 65 years trying to unravel that conundrum.  I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour when I was 15 and since that time I have experienced his overwhelming love and forgiveness, but how to answer you as to why He did it and continually does it, is a mystery.

But, don’t let the lack of an answer deter you from accepting that divine love, He came that we might live, and live abundantly. Life is found in Jesus Christ who rose from the dead, to die no more. Those who put their complete trust in Him find God unlocks the scriptures to those who pursue Him, and solves all manner of mysteries revealing His heart.  It’s not intelligence that does it but humility – just like Sarah who is “an ordinary girl” so are those who find God and know Him in reality.  Some people with a low IQ by the world’s standard could have an IQ of 145 in spiritual things, which is professorial level!


 

[1] Daily Telegraph March 18 2000 article by Cassandra Jardine.

 

PONY EXPRESS

In 1850 William Hepburn Russell and James Brown formed a company to deliver 600,000 pounds of government supplies to Santa Fe. Soon afterwards, Russell began delivering supplies to Fort Hall. The freighting business was a great success and in 1854 he joined forces with two other businessmen, Alexander Majors and W. B. Waddell, to start the company of Russell, Majors and Waddell.

In 1860 Russell, Majors and Waddell established the Pony Express to deliver the mail. This involved setting up a string of over 100 relay stations from St. Joseph in Missouri to Sacramento in California, a distance of 1,966 miles. A notice appeared in a San Francisco newspaper: “Wanted. Young skinny wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.” One of those who applied for a job as a pony express rider was William F. Cody.

The horses going flat out, it was necessary to provide fresh ones every 15 miles, although the riders were changed less often. One of the youngest was a boy called Bronco Charlie Miller, who was only 12 years old, and when a horse came in riderless, his father hoisted him on a fresh animal and sent him off with the mail.

People were charged $5 per half ounce to send their letters. Each rider rode a certain distance before handing the letters over to the next relay rider. The first batch of letters left St. Joseph on 3rd April, 1860 and arrived in Sacramento ten days later.

In winter, teams of mules were driven back and forth over the trail to pack the deep snow, so $5 for delivery of a letter would buy the services of at least 140 horses, probably 25 to 30 riders, upwards of 175 station owners and several dozen mules. It only took eight days to traverse the distance of nearly 2,000 miles, through storms, hostile territory and punishing terrain. A bit like the post office today!

The Pony Express was initially a popular service. However, on 24th October 1861 a transcontinental telegraph was completed. Russell, Majors and Waddell could not compete with the electric telegraph and the Pony Express was closed down on 26th October.

The Pony Express was superseded by the telegraph, which was overtaken by the telephone and the telephone by the e-mail, and now we are in today’s speedy communications era. What would we do without e-mail, mobile phones and laptop wireless connectivity? It’s unthinkable, but God can send answers even quicker than men can invent the means of transference.

24 years ago I was struggling to change a thermostat on my ailing car, parked in my driveway. I shouted into the bungalow through the open front door, “I think Patricia you had better pray for a new car, I’m going next door to borrow an adjustable spanner.” The old man opposite led me into his garage to find the spanner, and as he bent to open the drawer he asked, “’would you like this car?” pointing to his sparkling 2.3 FE range Vauxhall, nine years old but with only 22,000 miles on the clock. Whenever it rained he cleaned and garaged it. It was a wonderful example of loving care and maintenance. It lasted me for many years.

By the time I had walked a few yards to his bungalow and entered the garage the answer was there, – God had responded, certainly faster than Pony Express, telegraph, telephone and e-mail. In fact, he does say “before you call I will answer,” and that’s mega technology. Can mankind beat that? A sinner falling to their knees cries out “Save me” and as our Australian friends would say, “There we are – done and dusted.” God acts swiftly to that kind of cry, faster than blinking. When He returns, it will be swifter than in a twinkling of an eye [1 Cor 15:52]. Men cannot move faster than their communications, but God can!

Riskless living

When I was 39 years old I entered Birmingham Polytechnic as a lecturer. During that time in that department we developed several diplomas and when we were upgraded to a university these were turned into first degrees. This necessitated meeting the representatives of the CNAA,1 and because I was senior lecturer and subject tutor for Building Studies I had to represent my department in establishing the philosophy for my subject specialty.

Our degrees were subsequently awarded and this meant we began to see some high level students attending because we were designated a centre of excellence for Estate Management and Surveying. These students with their ‘A’s’ at ‘A’ level waltzed into the university bristling with academic ability. They saw the subject ‘Building Studies’ and thought here’s a soft option. Their first lesson was to draw a brick with another draped over it, both having frogs (bed-lining indentations) positioned next to a gas tap on the front bench. It had to be freehand with no ruler; they had to estimate the dimension according to the scale they chose. The gas tap gave them a hint.

It also had to be in an isometric elevation, which necessitated spatial perception, which many of them didn’t possess, no matter how intelligent they were. Many students from several nationalities struggled with this exercise and they suddenly realised that Building Studies may, after all, be more demanding than they at first thought, and that they needed a different viewpoint.

The officers of Israel gathered nightly in Saul’s tent to discuss the tactics for defeating the Philistines who were arrayed against them in Oak Valley. Each morning they arose went out to battle, gave their war cry and watched as Goliath arose from amongst the ranks of the Philistine army to challenge them to battle. They in turn slunk away to talk again that evening!2

Then David, the grocery boy, appeared with best mature Cheddar cheese and bread. He was the one with spatial (spiritual) perception, he was used to looking from God’s viewpoint, and saw that the hidden world was more real than the material world. He also had God’s anointing. We tend to look at our giants from ground level but in doing that it heightens our difficulties; it enlarges our giants, and magnifies their potential danger. It distorts actuality in God, for God is above all. We need to shift the vantage point of faith, for it to be faith.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.3 David had already killed a bear and a lion, and both are stronger than a giant! Therefore his risk was calculated, not brashness or rashness. “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”4 That deliberate approach plus God is a wonderful way to obtain victory.

Michelangelo said The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it but that it is too low and we reach it.” We are made for victory and positive living, yet we all have giants walking our valleys. None of us are exempt. There are those who, having learnt much, refuse to learn more and become too content with their lot. They live with their giants and just shout. “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity.”5 Each day we can live above the taunts of the Goliath of Gath.

 “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”6  But “. . .  we do not look at the things which are seen (foreground), but at the things which are not seen (background). For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”7 The tension of two worlds is answered in Christ, who is our victory. Christians not only touch the foreground, but they remind of the background, for the invisible world is the reality. Finally – “the greatest risk is the risk of riskless living.”8 Take a risk in God and slay a giant!


 

1 Council for National Academic Awards.

2 1 Samuel 16/17 6 James O. Rose

3 Hebrews 11:1-3 7 2 Cor. 4:18

4 General Patton 8 Steven Covey

5 John F. Kennedy

Dealing With Change

‘Change is here to stay whether we like it or not.’

Change for some can be so exciting, while for others it can be their worst nightmare causing a very real issue in their heart and mind. I recall just how different our children were in this particular area. My son Ben was thirteen years old when we moved to Bristol on a beautiful Saturday in September 1992 and was to begin attending his new senior school on the Monday. Off he went full of confidence and excitement at all the possibilities for the future with no fear or uncertainty. He met a young man that first day who turned out to be a distant relative in our family and a Christian. They became firm friends; how amazing God is. My two girls were quite different from each other. My eldest daughter, Rachel, much preferred things to remain the same. Knowing how things would be and what she would have to face and handle was like a safety net to her, while my youngest daughter handled change face on and embraced all that a new challenge can bring.

When Abraham was called to leave his earthly father’s house and go to a land God would show him it involved several faith steps that we at times mirror in our walk with the Lord. God knew the end from the beginning but Abraham had to move in faith. This involved several facets we would do well to practice.

  1. He had to trust in the sovereign Word of His heavenly Father, not knowing what he would face on route.
  2. He had to set off resting in the knowledge God had communicated to him.
  3. He had to believe in the promise of God: God had spoken saying; ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you’.

This promise for Abraham was not just a prophetic Word for himself and his earthly offspring it was an eternal prophesy concerning Jesus because God was speaking of the blessing that would come through Christ. This included every person who would take the step of faith to trust in the sovereign will of the Father, rest in the Knowledge of God and believe in the promise of God.

For the New Testament disciples everything was about to change as Jesus began to speak about having to go away, even though He also promised He would return. The early disciples had no understanding that Jesus would not return for over two thousand years, after all Jesus had said to them; ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me again.’ Jesus may well have been referring to them seeing Him before the ascension in His resurrected state, however, two thousand years of time when measured in the light of eternity is a little while.

The early disciples had to learn and mature in the faith quickly and handle change in an environment of persecution. In the UK the hardship we have had to face is nothing when compared with those who live in countries where real persecution has broken out. The early Church was not concerned with establishing a comfortable life and secure future, although we must have wisdom and plan wisely, they ‘loved not their lives unto death.’ The changes we desire are not the changes that come through the influence of man, but that which comes through the influence of God. We can transition together into the new things God has for us as the family of HICC and embrace change without fear because our faith and trust is in the Lord.

Be still

[Psalm 46:10] “Be still, and know that I am God!” [Ruth 3:18] Naomi’s advice was this: “Then she said, ‘Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day.’ “

FIRST – HALF BAKED IS UNFINISHED, overbaked is spoilt – Timing is everything.

God’s work is never half done! – The job is not finished until he says it is. The art of the comedian is their timing, the same with God but he is not out for humour but holiness. God does not just forgive but makes provision for we cannot recapture what we never had but God will make a new future.

We run against the racetrack of time, thinking we are losing. God MUST do something. As people age they seem to find time quickens. Through all of life there is an impatience for God to work. God’s delays disrupt our peace but not our destiny. Sitting still is the least thing we want to do; surely our legs will atrophy if we do!

God gave Israel a Jubilee every 50th year, but in Christ every year and every day. He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” [Exodus 33:14]. People think there is a need for God to complete things to prove he is God, but His presence is sufficient.

When God’s creation rest was broken because his works (creation of man) was marred by sin, we find him resting in Noah’s sacrifice (his name means rest). He finishes what he first started. Calvary answers Eden. Ephraim is a cake not turned – half done. God did not rest until he had secured salvation, and still he works to bring in our destiny.

SECOND – SCRATCH MARKS UP THE DOOR.

His apparent inaction is the place of our inner chamber – it proves our trust in God. I visited my daughter’s new home and there were scratch marks on the back door from the neighbour’s dog. Our own back door has marks where the dogs wanted to come in. They were fretting to be with us. God wants to be with us also.

God said, “He makes me lie down” [Psalm 22:2] so that we “fret not” – [Psalm 37:1]. How do we do that for being a spectator of God’s omnipotence tries our patience? First don’t mix with negative people. We eliminate those factors that would throw doubt upon God’s word. Reject human reasoning from well-meaning people who haven’t heard God speak. Second, do not get your peace from the world system of things – money, promotion, honour. Third, don’t envy others in their walk and way of life.

Consider that “His mercy endures for ever” His love will outlast our pain.

Learn to trust God – keep a journal of his answers. “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.” [Psalm 37:3]

Many of our lacks are imaginary – it’s what he gives others that disturbs us and shakes our peace. Therefore, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” [Psalm 37:4]. From our first text when Ruth looked for marriage with the man, Boaz, she was advised to sit still until God has worked things out – God always works thing out – in time. “And it came to pass,” – it always will.