Monday, 20 November 2017

REVIVAL: ‘O LORD, DO IT AGAIN!’

"O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years”  
(Habakkuk 3: 2 KJV)

From way back, even before the time of Habakkuk 26 centuries ago, God’s people have prayed for Revival in their time.  And how we rejoice when this very thing happens by the sovereign breath of the Holy Spirit!  It was my experience of being born and raised in the East African Revival that lies behind my writing of UNDER THE THORN TREE  (Christian Focus Publications, 2017).      

It is not that great awakenings can ever be prayed, preached or organised into being.  No amount of conferences – or committees - can achieve them!

The most that can be done is the preparing of the soil a little.  Even then, no prominent ‘leader-types’ were raised up in the bringing of revival to a tired church or apathetic society. The ‘professionals’ were not in the picture! The reason seems to be that - in any sweeping Christ-centred movement of the Spirit, the Lord God simply will not share His glory with another. 

Again and again, it has – on the human level – been the quiet, prayerful and dedicated ‘awaiting’ on the part of one or two lay people – frequently women of God – that has won heaven’s response.   This has been true in Africa, America, Wales, the Hebrides, Ireland and the Pacific.

It is not that all-night prayer meetings should be discouraged!  Thousands are united in a holy desire that across the whole world  -as our African friends would say - “The rains have come! 

‘Under the Thorn Tree’ – published by Christian Focus in the UK in November 2017 – is due out in the USA and elsewhere from January of 2018.  (UK email; sales@christianfocus.com)


-                                                               --ooOoo--     

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Remembrance Day: THE OTHER SIDE OF ‘THE DAM BUSTERS'

‘He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth’  (Psalm 46: 9 KJV)

Pam and I were watching again our DVD of the classic war film ‘The Dam Busters'.  I had first watched it when I was but a teenager at school ... and it had riveted me.  It was the British Box Office’s most popular film of 1955.  I have always marvelled at the tenacious spirit of Barnes Wallis (played by Michael Redgrave), the inventor of the famous ‘bouncing bomb’ – in whose memory various roads are named today.  And Richard Todd’s performance of Guy Gibson – leader of the raid on German dams by RAF’s 617 Squadron - was highly acclaimed by the critics.
Around the year 1970 – as a young church minister – I was even inspired to write a hymn on Psalm 46, and obtained copyright permission to set it to the film’s theme music, ‘The Dambusters March,’ by Eric Coates.  Since then, ‘God is our Strength and Refuge’ – has gone all over the world.  It appeared in many hymn books and is used by churches everywhere.  Certainly every month of November sees it featuring in many church and air force gatherings on Remembrance Sunday.

When I was leading London’s church of All Souls Langham Place, our orchestra and choir would sometimes include the hymn for big concert venues such as the Royal Albert Hall - for our big “Prom Praise’ presentations.  One memorable night on Britain’s South coast, down in Bournemouth, our programme once again included it in the city’s packed-out International Centre.

It was just days later when I – as the concert’s MC – was overwhelmed to receive a hand-written letter from an RAF veteran who had been rear-gunner in one of the Lancaster Bombers flying in the famous 617 Squadron.  He had been thrilled – as he put it – “to hear our own squadron’s 'Dambusters March’ now set to words of peace!” 


Thus there can be ‘another side’ to The Dambusters.  Indeed, less quickly forgotten were some of the drastic memories ...

Back in England, a friend that Pam and I greatly love is “Inge’ – a sweet German Christian woman.  Her family home had actually been in the valley, just below the Mohne Dam when the Dam Busters’ raid took place, the fatal night of May 17th.  Somehow Inge survived.

“How could I ever forget it?” she confided.  “We could hear the planes coming, then the explosions ... and then in came the crashing water, sweeping homes, people, whole families – and the animals too – to destruction. Almost the worst sound,” she added , “was that of the animals all around us, in their dying distress, as they were swept away by the water.”

Who can ever excuse war, in all its destructiveness?  It occurs as an ever-repeated reminder that humanity represents a fallen race, in ugly rebellion against its Creator – and in desperate need of redemption through the cross of Christ.  And yet – according to the Psalmist - we were originally made only ‘a little lower than the angels,’ capable – even in our fallenness and even at the very height of war – of acts of incredible heroism and selfless care.

This is where the inspiration of ‘The Dam Busters’ lies.  But Remembrance Sunday – in emphasising ‘the other side’ – carries us further still, in its insistent reminders of the hurt, sorrows and disabilities inflicted in every conflict that impinges on us up to the present day.  It can even summon us on, beyond the chaos of war,  to where our friend Inge is today; in the permanence of a secure faith, and in membership of the eternal Church against which – as Jesus promised - not even the powers of hell can stand.
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Saturday, 7 October 2017

100 YEARS IS A SHORT TIME

 “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever”  (Revelation 11:  15 KJV)

Forget Trump, North Korea  – or Brexit -  for the moment. Exactly 100 years ago it was Lenin – and Russia’s great Communist experiment. But, even by 1989, that was over.  



The Russian cosmonauts who were rocketed into space in the Spring of that year had left their world with the Berlin Wall intact, with Ceaucescu of Romania firmly in place – and Czechoslovakia and Hungary safely under their long-term jackboot rule.

Six months later the cosmonauts returned to earth, to find the Berlin Wall down, Ceaucescu removed by the Romanian revolution, Czechoslovakia and Hungary no longer Communist – and with their own country reeling under Glasnost.

On December 26th 1991, the Soviet Union as such ceased to exist.  In the following  October – at the invitation of Russian churches - I was to join Noel Tredinnick and London’s All Souls Orchestra on a visit to Moscow featuring music and Christian witness.  We were to find ourselves exposed to Moscow’s public – ranging from Tchaikovsky’s famous Conservatoire of Music to the very streets of Moscow. 

It was on the city streets that I acquired a ‘doll’ – featuring Boris Yeltsin.  But within this colourful figure were to be found - in ever-decreasing sizes – the main leaders associated in the events following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 – from such figures as the assassinated Tsar Nicolas II, through Lenin, Stalin, Krushchev, Breshnev and Gorbachev and finally Yeltsin himself.

It was eventually Boris Yeltsin who would ask for a gift of Bibles that he could give to his friends.  It was also by his invitation that the Red Army Choir was invited to sing in public the famous mission hymn that, years earlier, had originated in Russia itself - How great Thou Art. 

True, those heady days have since passed … and Vladimir Putin is now in charge.  It is, however, Viktor Hamm, perhaps Russia’s best-known preacher – originally born in a Soviet labour camp - who in May 2017 - co-ordinated a world Summit Conference on the defence of those persecuted for their beliefs.  Much is still coming out of Russia …

But back in 1917, in ‘Ten Days that Shook the World,’ the Marxist-Leninist revolution had taken place, based on the Dialectical Materialism that, in Lenin’s words, offered ‘Peace, Bread and Land.’  Here lay an enticing offer of a Workers’ Paradise for the future - but any promised  ‘Paradise - whether Communist or Capitalist - can only end in ashes.

It was the Christian philosopher and writer, Lesslie Newbigin, who would later comment, ‘The project of bringing heaven down to earth always results in bringing hell up from below.’

The 100-year experiment is over.  But be sure, that - as any single regime goes down, from East to West - another arises to replace it. But not for ever …  

Further - in our ever- changing world - believers can find comfort today in the statement of the historian, T.R. Glover: ‘The final  disappearance of Christianity has been predicted so often, as to be no longer interesting.’

You can stake your own soul on that … and the sooner the better.  But listen - no one will coerce you!

--ooOoo--