Thursday, 17 August 2017

There’s just one powerful way to God

“For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”        (1 Corinthians 1:18)

A young man once spoke to Kate Booth, daughter of General Booth of the Salvation Army.  Kate – dubbed by the French with a military title (‘La Marechale’) - was drawing immense crowds by her inspired speaking.

“Marechale,” asked her enquirer, “I want the power that you speak of.  Please pray for me.”

“Where is the Cross in your life?” challenged Kate.  To her, the very power of God lay precisely in the Cross of Christ (The Heavenly Witch, 1981).

The question inevitably arises; How do WE see the Cross?  On which side of it are we standing – that of grateful understanding - or apathetic ignorance? On the side of personal acceptance - or cold rejection?  

The Cross - foolishness or wisdom?

To the citizens of Corinth, the Cross was utter ‘foolishness’ - the Greek word used is moron.  The Greeks were looking for a world-view based on thinkers such as Plato.  The Rev Gordon Bridger, former Principal of Oak Hill College, was once - like the Marechale - asked a question; this time for a useful book on ‘Philosophy.’  Gordon answered “The best book on Philosophy that I know is John’s Gospel.  You’ll find what you’re wanting right there.”  While to the world of the ancient Greeks Plato was essential reading, today Plato is read only by the esoteric few, while John’s Gospel continues to lead millions of people to the Cross - and to peace with God.  On which side of the Cross are WE standing?

The Cross - weakness or strength?

To the apostle Paul’s Jewish contemporaries – as against the Greeks - a crucified Messiah was a total disgrace!  What they were interested in was power. They failed to see what millions later saw - that out of the supposed ‘weakness’ of Christ’s death came the power over human guilt and even death itself.  As Augustine of old observed, ‘What a death – that gave death its death-blow!’ Again…  On which side of the Cross are WE standing?

The Cross - offence or essence?
Across 2,000 years, followers of Christ have found both ‘wisdom’ and ‘power’ - in one and the same Person.  His saving death is the key. Whether this means nothing to you, or everything that you ever hoped for, depends on your answer to a simple question:  On which side of the Cross are YOU standing?


Friday, 28 July 2017

Stand on your Watchtower!

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me.  (Habakkuk 2:1)

The Bible book of Habakkuk emerged shortly after the great battle of Carchemish in 605 BC – during which the heathen, unprincipled Babylonians had routed the Egyptians, before beginning their menacing march towards … tiny Judah.  God’s prophet, Habakkuk, began his prophecy by voicing anxieties that are common today: “Is God paralysed?”  “Is God good?” “Is God late?” “Will God win?”

It is only as the prophecy develops, that the theme Our God is Marching On begins to penetrate the reader’s mind.  Habakkuk’s doubts and fears were real enough … but here was Doubt - within Commitment!  There was violence around; true - and the apparent silence of God - but the prophet’s faith held firm as he took his daily stand of vigilance on the watchtower of his walk with the Creator.   Habakkuk knew his history, holding on like a limpet to the granite conviction that God – even the God of tiny marginalised Judah – was indeed THE God who marches through history, overturning one nation and then another; meanwhile committing Himself to the long-term interests of His own chosen people.

That is the astonishing turn-up of the Bible’s revelation.  It is the on-going fortunes of the Church – anchored in Jesus Christ – that occupies the centre of God’s agenda across all civilisation.  We are not a side ‘hobby’ of His!

A key word of Habakkuk’s prophecy is the word YET.  “My legs trembled," admits God’s servant, "YET I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come upon the nation invading us.”  Forseeing the coming devastation,  “YET,” he says, “I will rejoice in the Lord."  In this he foreshadows the apostle Paul who confesses that “We are hard pressed on every side … BUT not abandoned; struck down, BUT not destroyed.”

Let Habakkuk’s stance be ours today, in the face of international terrorism, fraud, the imprisonment and killing of Christian martyrs and the homelessness of millions.  Our watchful service to a dying world will find its strength in the City which is above

... and we know the end game …


Saturday, 17 June 2017

In the wake of London’s fire

In the wake of London’s fire

It can be earthquakes… floods… terrorism, or – as in the case of London so tragically on June 12th - a terrible fire disaster at Grenfell tower block.  The question “Why?” is inevitably on our minds.  The mind can go back to another account of a tower disaster, recorded in the Bible.  Eighteen people had died when Jerusalem’s Tower of Siloam had fallen on them (Luke 13: 1-5).  This tragedy – following the wicked killing of other innocents under the despotic Pontius Pilate – was causing citizens in Jerusalem to come to Jesus, with the same question – “Why?”

The Lord’s answer to his questioners does not lessen our distress at the calamities here in London. But - although deeply shocked and grieved - we are not left completely devoid of understanding.  

For Scripture teaches us that adversity is firmly built into our view of life on this world:

We are all living in a fallen world.  Our present world-order is not as originally created.  Basically we became a race of rebels, fallen from our custodianship over creation – so bringing both ourselves and the creation itself into the frustration of ‘bondage to decay’ (Romans 8:18-23).  Even the ground was to be affected (Genesis 3:17,18).  In our imperfection, judgements are faulty.  Mistakes are made. Accidents take place, in which innocent people are both hurt and killed. 

We are all living in a temporary home.  When questioned in the face of Jerusalem’s tower disaster, Jesus explained that those killed were no more ‘guilty’ to die, than anyone else.  All will die one day. But his words give the warning: One day it will be your turn.  In the present, we must indeed run to the aid of those who suffer - but tragedy reminds us all that centre stage for us all can never be this life. In personal humility, we are wise to prepare ourselves at any moment for the next….

We are all living on borrowed time.  Jesus went on to speak of a fruitless fig tree (Luke 13: 6-9). Should it be cut down? No, Give it a year’s reprieve.  The lesson was clear.  If some people are cut off in a matter of seconds, those left should humbly consider how they will use the life that has been spared to them.  This leads to a final truth:

We are all living as debtors to love.  People hung on Jesus’ words because they knew that he had solid answers for this world’s sorrows.  Indeed he was the answer, for at the Cross we meet the love of the suffering God himself.  One prayer must be that, out of the trauma of London’s present troubles, there will be both helpers and sufferers themselves who experience this, and respond.