Tuesday, 28 February 2017

“The Minister is converted!”

This is why it is said: 
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”     (Ephesians 5:14)

Here was a little slogan that was circulating around Christian circles in that first century AD; possibly it was even a song - with revolution built into it!

This little rhyme can act like an alarm ‘wake-up call’ to people asleep - even dead - to their soul’s state and eternal destiny.  If they can only wake and rise from their deathly stupor, Christ will shine on them for ever!

This happened, remarkably, to a Cornish vicar back in the 19th century – who was converted through his own sermon!  William Haslam was his name.  During his sermon the thought came to him, You are no better than the Pharisees themselves.

He recalled later, “I felt a wonderful LIGHT” – and someone in the congregation noticed the change in William Haslam’s face, and cried out “The minister is converted!”  Shouts of praise broke out in the church – shouts in which the vicar himself joined.  Eventually he called for a hymn of praise to be sung.  By the end of the service the news had got out, and people were crowding into the church at the sensation.  Still greater crowds turned up as the news spread.  As William Haslam himself told them all that same night, “He has awakened me, who was before DEAD in trespasses and sins” – he was quoting from Ephesians.

Many, on reading this, would confirm that this very thing has happened to themselves.  A man from the north of England once wrote to me, “It was as if a light suddenly turned on, and everything became very clear. I was, quite frankly, speechless.”

A sixty-three year-old described it in another letter, “It has happened like a thunderclap!”

A Brahmin from India, after a service in London, wrote, “I felt great weights being lifted off me.”

It happens when we begin to wake up to what life is like without God; waking up at last to Jesus Christ and His forgiving power at the Cross; to the Bible, to Prayer, to the wonder of meeting others at a Bible-based  church!

Try singing for yourself Charles Wesley’s great hymn – “And can it be that I should gain?” You can google the words on the Internet.  One of the lines runs, ‘I WOKE; the dungeon flamed with light!’


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Wearing Out The Saints

He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High ... (Daniel 7: 25)

Was it oppression by a king or a kingdom that Daniel the prophet was predicting, those hundreds of years ago, when writing as a prisoner of the Babylonian empire?  In the last analysis it can mean both…. and more.

For God’s people across the ages have never been far away from the oppression that will always confront those men and women whose hearts are locked into following and serving their divine Creator and Redeemer.  Could it have been Rome – seemingly the last of the four mighty kingdoms prophesied in Daniel chapter 7?  Certainly; but to that can be added the Spanish Inquisition, the reign of ‘Bloody Mary’ in England, the slaughter of Huguenots and other believers in Europe that led to the religious exit to America of The Pilgrim Fathers … and right up to the intolerances imposed on humble disciples of Christ in country after country around today’s world. 

After the time of Daniel, it would be the notorious Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian ruler of Greece, who would make life impossible for the Jews, living under his reign.  For ever after, he would be identified as The Abomination of Desolation – a title reserved by Jesus for an end-time figure of oppression who, similarly, would do everything possible to ‘wear out the saints.’

Christian reader!  Do you and I feel under such pressures to some degree - in these early months of a New Year?  It won’t be too surprising.  Indeed, if you sense yourself right now to be in the middle of a great storm, place yourself in that rocking reeling 27 foot-long fishing boat on Lake Galilee with the other disciples of Jesus – the wind blowing them everywhere; the waves cascading into the boat … and with your leader apparently asleep, his head on a cushion, at the back (Mark 4: 35-41).

But no, He’s truly in charge.  Keep your eyes on Him; He knows what he intends to do! If we keep our eyes on Him – He will show US what to do.  It is only if we have eyes for the storm itself, that we could be worn down to nothing. 

              “Heaven fights for those who pray”
                       (Pastor Reynolds of the seventeenth century)


Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Water of Life

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water”  (John 4:10)

Here is Jesus - talking to someone whom the Jews regarded as despised traitors to their faith – the Samaritans.  Further – against the convention of that day - it’s a woman that Jesus, as a male stranger, speaks to as she draws water from Jacob’s nearby famous well.  Then comes our Lord’s opening request: “Will you give me a drink?”  

As they talk, Christ’s teaching leads to truths that have led millions into an entirely new view of life’s meaning.

We learn to see ‘Thirst’ as Unrest

Jesus’ offer (verse 10) of ‘living water’ provokes a reply: “Living water, eh? Can you improve on Jacob and his well here?”  Our Lord had already perceived that this woman – with her five previous marriages - had no real rest of her own.  Nothing satisfied.

The ‘thirsty’ can be found among the great and the good.  Lord Byron - of the eighteenth century – described this in one of his poems:  Drank every cup of joy, heard every trump of fame; drank early, deeply drank.  Drank draughts which common millions might have drunk.  Then died of thirst, because there was no more to drink.

But a second insight emerges:

We learn to see ‘Water’ as a Person

The Samaritan attempts to deflect the discussion to the differences between Samaritan and Jewish worship (verse 20) … but Jesus – in his comment that true religion can only be in spirit and in truth – comes to the point that ‘living water’ that satisfies is only found in a Person – namely Himself - living in men and women by the power of the Holy Spirit (see John 7: 37-39).

Then comes the superb moment of self-disclosure, when Jesus – replying to his companion’s hope of a coming Messiah - declares, “I who speak to you am HE.”  It’s then that belief takes hold of the Samaritan…. who runs to tell others!

We learn to see ‘Drinking’ - as Believing.

Thus, the Samaritan ‘outsider’ echoes the secret prayers of so many: "Sir, give me this water that I thirst not.”

Be reminded of words from the final page in the Bible! “Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."