Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Star Gives Way to the Sun

“He must increase, but I must decrease”    (John 3:30 KJV)

William Magee of Dublin spoke of three kinds of preacher; the one to whom you cannot listen, the one to whom you can listen – and the one to whom you MUST listen! 

John the Baptist was definitely in the last category.  He never travelled or performed any great miracle - yet his preaching moved all Israel; it got him into trouble with the authorities and it finally cost him his head.  His was the greatest task of a long convoy of prophets; not simply to prophesy the Messiah’s coming but to announce that He had COME - and that therefore his own ministry could now ‘decrease.’  John was like the star heralding the dawn – now eclipsed by the Sun’s arrival.

 1. He was consistent to the end.   John never deviated from his calling.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  That should be the motto of every believer – for Christ to stay supreme in our loyalties always.

2. He was humble to the end.  Nobody was bolder than John - speaking of Christ coming with a threshing fork in his hand… with an axe… with fire!  But he himself was no more than ‘a voice, calling out in the wilderness.’  Ironically it has always been the people of humility who permanently bless and change the world.

3. He was enduring to the end.  “I must decrease.”  This did not mean that John could now ‘retire,’ put on his slippers and watch TV.  His testimony continued in prison under Herod – to the very last.

Be inspired yourself today – by this man of blood and fire.


Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Day of Small Things

 “Who despises the day of small things?” Men will rejoice when they see the plumb-line in the hand of Zerubbabel  (Zechariah 4:10)

There were three stages in the re-construction of God’s ancient people after their restoration from terrible exile.  Stage 1 was the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem under the governor, Zerubbabel.  Stage 2 came with the arrival of Ezra, and the establishing of the laws for the renewed community.  Stage 3 took place with the re-building of Jerusalem’s walls.

It was all a massive undertaking – but it had to begin small!  People would look at Zerubbabel, as he held the plumb-line for the first, tiny stage in the rebuilding of the great Temple – simply holding a piece of string, to ensure that the wall would be straight!  The operation would end with the seven lights of the Temple’s lamp lit – to represent ‘the eyes of the Lord which range throughout the earth’ (v. 11).  Yes, it’s the whole world that God ultimately has in view!

Zechariah is saying, ‘Lift your eyes above this small, local, limited scene!  For his part, the prophet can see ahead to the universal shining out of the Light of God (v. 2).  He also sees two olive trees, representing the future anointed ‘witnesses’ who will serve the Lord of all the earth (v. 14: compare Revelation 11: 3-6); they represent the future voice of the world  Church!  Zechariah further is made aware of the empowering Spirit (‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit’- v. 6).

So, Christian worker, if at present all you can see is the equivalent of a plumb-line in what you’re doing, take heart – and remember Zerubbabel!


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Space to Repent

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?   (Romans 2:4)

Sixteen centuries ago the great church leader Augustine was commenting on the story of the penitent thief, who died beside Jesus Christ: he warned, “There is one case of death-bed repentance recorded, in order that no one should despair, but only one in order that no one should presume.”

The situation addressed at this point in the letter to the Romans concerned those who were counting on God’s apparent forbearance as an excuse to live their own self-pleasing lives.  But whether it was the 400-year delay before judgment came upon the perversity of the Amorites (Genesis 15:16) or the 100 years of grace that was given the wicked city of Nineveh before its final overthrow (Jonah 2:10; Nahum 1:14), the pattern of the Bible is that for both communities and individuals, space is constantly given to repent. 

And true repentance has not all that much to do with ‘feeling sorry.’  The basic question is not, ‘Are you feeling sorry?’ but rather ‘Do you intend to stop doing it?’  And the bottom-line issue is, ‘Who is going to be your God?’

It is more than a single, one-off decision – though true and personal belief certainly begins with a conscious ‘About-Turn’ – away from the unworthy past, and towards a relationship of obedient trust. 

But repentance is a daily way of life as well.  When this happens on a big scale, we could have a world-wide revival that can still save the world ...  Let it begin with you … and me!


Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Exhibiting the Gospel

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that …. you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27 ESV)

The believers at Philippi were faced by the political power of the Roman empire, and by the ideological power of a multi-religious system that puts our western ‘pluralism’ in the shade! How daunting the task; how terrifying the opposition! In this letter from prison Paul had written of Defending the gospel (1:7), of Proclaiming it (1:18), now of Exhibiting it.  This happens when Christians are seen to be:

 1. STANDING IN UNITY.  It is ‘the faith of the gospel’ that holds even the most culturally diverse group of believers together.  After leading a 12,000-strong service of the Lord’s Supper at the ‘Amsterdam 2000’ event, I found myself afterwards hugged by bearded Argentinians, costumed Nigerians, smiling Malaysians!  It was the biblical gospel that was holding us; nothing else.

2. STANDING IN ADVERSITY. Those Philippians were exhorted to continue ‘without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you’ (1:28).  Suffering is, remarkably, something that is ‘granted’ to us by the once-crucified Christ (1:29).  To stand by each other, prayerfully and practically, is to provide the world with an exhibition.

3. STANDING IN HUMILITY.  Rivalry and conceit were to be banished, and so was overriding self-interest (2:3,4).  Such humility of spirit always draws observers strongly towards the magnetism of Christ, and his example (2:5-11).

If the gospel has a hold on your church, you may not realise it, but Christ will be exhibited among you, to the whole area.