Saturday, 28 March 2015

Darkness Under The Trees

…Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs (Matthew 26: 47)

The Last Supper had taken place, and the long wait under the olive trees was over. That evening was dominated not by the arresters, but by the one arrested. See Jesus as he deals with each emergency in turn:

1. The treacherous kiss (v. 48). Over the next few hours Christ’s face would become violated by blows – but the betraying kiss from someone he had travelled, eaten and ministered with would surely hurt Him most. Jesus addresses Judas as ‘Friend.’ In classical Greek the term was used by workmen to each other. Today it might be translated as ‘Mate.’ Jesus was in control.

2. The impotent sword (v. 51-54). How ridiculous those weapons, swords and lanterns looked. “Am I leading a rebellion?” Jesus asked. He makes them feel it; their stealing out at night to capture him…. all this weaponry. Peter’s sword is still dripping blood. “Put it back!” For ever Jesus would outlaw for ever the way of the Crusades, the holy war or the Jihad. To go that way is to admit that you have already lost the argument.

3. The desolate moment (v. 56). ‘Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.’ You and I are in no position to condemn them. With all our advantages of hindsight and history, of the whole Bible and of the church around us, can we say that WE stand up, boldly, visibly, verbally, when it comes to taking sides for Jesus Christ in His dying love for the world?

Stay in your mind under the olive trees right now, and find new courage.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Gospel’s First Glimmerings

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15)

This first glimmering of the good news of God in Jesus Christ – following hard on the heels of the disastrous rebellion by the first humans – is like a tiny bubbling brook. Sure enough, this message from God takes the form of a pronounced curse, but the curse is directed at the serpent, not at Adam and Eve.

True, Adam and Eve were to be banished from the holy presence of God, but even in this hour of disaster for the human race, the Lord was not going to be thwarted. A way was to be found for our restoration! Even our Jewish friends who find it difficult to recognise Jesus as the Messiah see in these words a future victory over the serpent, in that the crushing of its head would take place in the days of the Messiah.

The victory begins with the ending of the alliance between the woman and the serpent – (“your offspring and hers”). And the woman’s descendants would ultimately be headed by a solitary Individual. It would be He who would inflict defeat upon the Devil: “HE will crush your head” (see Galatians 3:16). And even though the satanic powers were to strike (or ‘bruise’) the heel of the coming Deliverer, it would only be by divine permission through the event of the Cross (“For it was the Lord’s will to bruise him” – Isaiah 53:10).

It is the Cross that secures the defeat of the power of evil. Are you engaged in driving this defeat home? For Romans 16:20 assures us, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under YOUR feet”!


Saturday, 14 March 2015

What Women These Christians Have!

"I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5)

It’s possible that Lois - the grandmother of Paul’s travelling companion Timothy – may have been one of the 3,000 converted to Christ on the day of Pentecost. Whatever the background of Timothy’s faith, his had the bond of old-time religion about it - going back three generations.

This is a pattern of Bible Christianity down the centuries. John Newton of the eighteenth century, even in his worst days at sea as a slave-trader, could never forget his godly mother who had taught him to pray before she died, when he was eight years old.

“What women these Christians have!” exclaimed Libanius, the fourth century Greek teacher of Rhetoric. Among Libanius’ students was John Chrysostom, the ‘golden-mouthed preacher of Constantinople’ as he became known. Chrysostom’s mother, Anthusa, lost her husband at twenty, and from then on devoted her energy to the education of one of the most renowned of all early Christian leaders. There’s something about ‘grandmotherly religion’ that can get passed on down the generations.

Think of the renowned hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby of New England, who lost her sight at six weeks old.  It was her Puritan grandmother who helped her to ‘see’ the world through her mind, and then helped her to know the Bible. By the time Fanny was twelve, she knew the first five books of the Bible by heart, all four Gospels and all the psalms.  Out of this rich storehouse poured the hymns -‘Blessed Assurance,’ ‘To God be the Glory’ – over eight thousand in all. 

Oh, there’s a vital role for dads and grandpas to play! But the big principle to take in today is that matters of faith and service are caught as much as taught. And the home is the best school of all.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Accept Heaven’s Re-commissioning!

I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “you must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings” (Revelation 10:10,11)

Jesus Christ’s apostle John, who had first been called into his Master’s service by the Sea of Galilee ((Mark 1: 19,20) was, in later life, exiled for his beliefs by the Roman empire on the remote island of Patmos. There he received the vision of Christ’s glowing revelation of all that would await the Christian Church across the ages; its witness and amazing growth, ending in overwhelming victory at the Return of Jesus - despite the savage persecutions that it would suffer until the end.

The book of Revelation is full of comfort for us! Here in chapter 10 John receives a fresh encouragement and ‘re-commissioning.’ In his vision he is commanded by a mighty angel to devour a scroll that has been handed to him. His words to others were never to be his own - they were to be put into his mouth from above. An earlier prophet had received a similar commission (Ezekiel 3:1-3). As you read Revelation 10, accept the message, believer, as your ‘re-commissioning’ this very day – in the service of Jesus Christ!

1. Can there be anything sweeter?
Think of it – ministering for Jesus!

2. Can there be anything harder?
It's bitter-sweet to follow Jesus in the way of the Cross. Why bother then? Because Christianity is true

3. Can there be anything wider?
In the original Greek script here, the King James Version is preferable - that John’s message was to go out 'BEFORE many peoples, nations, languages and kings.' Here was a commissioning that was to embrace the whole world. But now, in exile, Rome had surely silenced John for ever! Not so.  Even in prison, his writings were to travel to every continent.

Wherever YOU are – Christian - the whole world is your target!


Friday, 6 March 2015

African Heartbeat

Richard Bewes writes…

If you’ve been brought up in a missionary family on the lower slopes of Mount Kenya – and in an era where the fires of Christian Revival are sweeping through East Africa - you are attached to names and to scenes and events that build a world outlook of incalculable wonder. Earliest memories were of Weithaga, a CMS mission station - and of Kenya’s oldest church building – popularly named ‘The Ba-Be-Bo.’

It was so named because the local Kikuyu children had received their first alphabetical and grammar lessons there. Together they would chant “Ah Eh Oh… Ba Be Bo.” The baptism of my younger brother Michael took place there. As for our home, it was - like the Ba Be Bo - built of soft yellow soapstone. The water tanks at each corner stored the rainwater that came off the corrugated iron roof... for the nearest  water was a full twenty miles away, flowing off the mountain glaciars into the Maragua River. Water! With the tank water being carried into the house with Kerosene cans, inevitably there were no pipes and therefore no taps in the house… neither electricity, gas, sanitation, or western-style shops. Thus the clothes for us four children were made by our mama. Our education began through her on the side veranda.

The fast-growing church membership had required the building of a larger church. But even this was not always big enough to contain the swelling congregations that were resulting from the Revival. At times services would be held under the trees…. after a thorough beating of the grass to deal with lurking snakes.

It was the calmest upbringing any child could ever have had. Hazards were commonplace - but they took the forms of adventures that must be faced courageously; droughts, locust swarms fifty miles long - and endless adventures with the missionary car. Once a little Kikuyu boy was prematurely born inside it. In true African style his mother gave him a name to suit the occasion – MOTOKA !

These were the days when Kenya was still a British colony….. but the writing was on the wall - of coming independence. The Kikuyu Mau Mau movement was understandable - but the violent form it adopted was resisted by many Africans, notably those touched by the Revival.

My dad, Cecil Bewes was recruited by Britain to be a part of a three- man team, The Fairn Commission - that investigated the treatment of Mau Mau detainees in the controversial camps, set up by the colonial authorities. Of their 53 recommendations, 52 were accepted – and the way was paved for Kenya’s independence under Jomo Kenyatta.

Published 2014: Cecil Bewes, pictured among Mau Mau detainees

Cecil and Sylvia Bewes were eventually to return to the UK with their family - but connections were inevitably retained with East Africa. As for the East African Revival, see my article on this website Will Revival Come?

One notable return trip I was to make was with the evangelist and singer Garth Hewitt at a time when I was a London church minister. He did the music, I did the speaking – in a mission we had been invited by the Ugandan church leadership to lead, from Jinja at the mouth of the Nile across to Kampala and all of the south, as far as Kabale at the extreme south –west.

     Coffee time – with our sound engineers…. thirty concerts in ten days!

In the altogether longer term, I was invited by Ugandan leader Festo Kivengere to join in the newly-formed UK support board of African Enterprise, an African-inspired, African-led mission outreach to the cities of Africa - begun through the vision born of the preaching of Billy Graham. A white South African who was listening was Michael Cassidy. Under his leadership teams were set up in ten African countries, and support boards would be organized initially in Germany, Norway, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Canada. Other boards would come into being from such regions as Belgium and Ireland. For some 20 years I chaired the British Board - and indeed remain involved.

Our brilliant present-day directors in the UK are Harvey and Marlies Thomas. Earlier, Harvey had worked as a Director of Billy Graham missions, before serving and travelling with the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as media advisor.

Earlier still, the redoubtable Billy Graham team member who looked after the AE finances was Blackpool-born Jean Wilson – known across the world as Queen Jean. For any of us who travelled and worked with her in Africa was a true adventure.

Queen Jean with Harry M’Kombe of African Enterprise, Zimbabwe

The Mission Statement of African Enterprise reads: To evangelise the cities of Africa, through Word and Deed, in Partnership with the Church.

Would you be involved, and come on our mailing list? Every pound we receive goes directly to the immediate work of the ten teams in Africa - led by some of the bravest evangelists in the world. You can phone 07545 384972. Our UK website is at:


My most stupendous sight: The Victoria Falls - a mile across
Kenya’s Vice President flew by helicopter to Butere to open a new study Library for the African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research. Thousands came to the vivid ceremony

RTB speaking to the crowd at the televised event

During our Uganda Mission: Garth & I lead soldier enquirers to faith at the end of a concert. With us is our guide and Lugandan-speaking travelling companion, Lilian Clark, known everywhere.

RTB at Karen: the famous house. Ngong Hills in the distance…