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Contagious Christian Living

November 15, 2017

What are the marks of a vital experience of knowing Jesus Christ? It is not a question of uniformity of opinions, because one finds spiritual vitality among the most varied sects and creeds. It is not acceptance of anyone particular form of worship, because virile Christians are found using all forms of worship.

The only test of a living thing is whether it is able to communicate life. The difference between a dead and a living seed is not seen until both are planted in the ground. It is surprising how the emphasis in Christianity is coming to be placed on contagion as the really valid test of spiritual vitality. The early church grew, not because of its organisation or its wealth, or its intellectual brilliance, for it had none of these things. It grew because its members were the channels of supernatural power. Wherever they went new spiritual life came to birth and began to grow.

The early Christians had the secret of victory over a life which was proving too much for most people. They were able to communicate that secret to those who sought it. All may learn the secret. No one is by temperament or training debarred. This experience will ultimately prove the unifying centre of Christendom, as it did in the past. The church which is alive with Christ’s life is spiritually contagious, no matter what its organisation or worship may be. John chapter 15 verse two reminds us that “He removes any of my branches which are not bearing fruit and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit to increase its yield.”

John.

You were born for such a time as this

November 2, 2017

Do you, like Frodo to the wizard Gandalf in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings series, lament your fate and ask, “Why was I born at a time like this?”

Grandalf’s reply you might remember was “You were born for a time like this.” If we follow scripture you might remember that Jeremiah was also born for such a time as this and this also applies to you and me today.

The days in which Jeremiah lived were every bit as evil as the days we are living in now. However, we must remember that evil days are not all bad. Paul reminds us in Ephesians chapter 5 verse 16, “Be careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Paul is trying to tell us that perilous days are times of unparalleled opportunity. T.S. Eliot said, “Redeem the time; redeem the dream.”

So how do most of us reply to this? Do we respond like Jeremiah by saying, “I don’t know a thing? What in the world can I do?

The answer is that God had already done everything that needs to be done: He planned our usefulness. In Ephesians chapter 2 verse 10, we read, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

“But,” you may ask, “how will I know what I should do? How will I find that particular purpose for which I’m intended?” Hear what God said to our friend Jeremiah: “Go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you” (Jeremiah chapter 1 verses 7-8).

God’s call is first a call to follow Him in obedience – to go each day where He wants you to go and say what He wants you to say. It is only as you look back over the path of obedience that you’ll be able to see what God has been doing with you all along. His plan is always better seen in retrospect than in prospect.

God has called us all to a Great Adventure. Let’s follow Him in obedience – do the very next thing He asks you to do – and see what happens! Anyone can find out what will happen,” Aslan said to the children as he shook his great mane “Get up at once and follow me. What will happen? There is only one way of finding out…” (C.S. Lewis in Prince Caspian).

John.

The Only Way is Forward

October 22, 2017

Have you ever come to a stage in your spiritual experience when it seemed a heavy burden and you began to consider letting it all go and reverting to life before you became a Christian? Back then you did not have to consider things like discipline and responsibilities like you have to now. Do you remember how you did not attempt to restrain yourself? If you felt irritated, you let your temper fly. If you were tired, you did not hesitate to consider your own convenience first. If you felt resentful against another, you indulged your hatred to your heart’s content. That temptation has come to most of us, and some have yielded and gone back, only to discover after a short time that it was because the old way proved impossible that they turned to Christ’s way in the first instance. Whenever we begin to doubt the value of the higher way, it is generally because we are facing some new discipline which we are afraid or unwilling to meet. When we are afraid or refuse to go forward, the most natural thing is to try to go back. Before we can go back we have to make the old way attractive to our minds. We try to believe that the old days and the old ways were easier. It is all a mistake, as we quickly discover. The only way for the Christian is forward. Face your hurdle. God gives the strength you need. Let’s follow the scripture in Philippians chapter three verses 13 & 14, “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead. I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”

 John.

The Acid Test of Christianity

October 8, 2017

 I recently attended a conference lead by Dr Clifford Hill who produces a bi-monthly CD on the state of the nation. He and many others are saying that God is shaking the nation because its departure from God’s way. There can be no revival of Christianity in England until there is a reawakening among Christian people themselves. We Christian people are not presenting to the world a way of life which is sufficiently distinctive and attractive. The question asked by Jesus may still have a point: “What do you do more than others?” The acid test of Christianity today is not my attendance at church, nor my saying of prayers, nor even my willingness to help others in need, but the inner quality of my own life. A Christian who is touchy, easily offended, sharp-tongued, resentful, is simply denying the faith he professes. Any Christian who has enmity in his heart against a single other person should cease to describe himself/herself as a Christian until that enmity is replaced by love. Jesus said these words, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, that you have love one toward another.” When we are careless in how we speak of another’s reputation, when we are indifferent to the sufferings of those we meet, when we are censorious and carping in our judgements, we are denying love its place in our hearts. A far higher quality of life is demanded from the followers of Jesus Christ than can be attained by self-effort. To live His quality of life, I need His wisdom and His power. We can live His life only when His spirit rules and reigns within. 

John.

Summus Moribundus

September 29, 2017


I have recently heard about the death of a much-loved Christian minister and it has made me stop for a moment to consider the brevity and flimsiness of my own life. Having spent my student days in Durham I have been greatly influenced by the Venerable Bede, a seventh-century English monk who portrayed in one of his manuscripts our life span “as though a sparrow flew swiftly through the hall, coming in by one door and out by the other.” We pass through and on. “The life of man is hasty,” says the English philosopher Thomas Hobbs (1588 – 1679).

Odd isn’t it that we try so hard not to think about death, when God insists that we do so. But we need to face our dying process because that’s how we “gain a heart of wisdom.”

Medieval monks, so I am told, used to keep human skulls in their cells bearing the Latin inscription Summus Moribundus (“We are destined to die”) to keep themselves focused on reality. A death sentence, as Samuel Johnson noted, focuses the mind mightily.

Once we grasp the fact that “we’re not long for this world,” we may begin to wise up. Hopefully, we’ll add up the days of our lives, reckon their number to be few and determine by God’s grace to make them count while we can.

In one of the books passed down to me by my late father, he had written these words which have left a lasting impression on my thinking –

Only one life will soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

And when I am dying how glad I will be,
That the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

John.

Is God Too Small?

September 27, 2017

Do I limit God by thinking that He is too small? When I say I cannot do what others do because I am built differently, or don’t have the right temperament, or am just not cut out for that sort of work, I immediately restrict God’s power in my life along that line. God does not want servants who can work easily within their own powers. He demands that His followers shall always be beyond their own powers, so as to require extra power which He alone can supply. The Christian is called to live the supernatural life. If, on the contrary, I am constantly facing tasks that are making demands beyond my capacity to achieve, I am driven back on God for daily supplies, and am thereby compelled to live supernaturally. One of the troubles with most of us is that our lives are planned on such a small scale that we imagine we can manage without God. We have to learn from William Carey’s famous motto (the great Baptist missionary1761 – 1834): “Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” The Christian is always face to face with the impossible. When we dare the impossible, that is the mark of the follower of Christ. Faith in the eternal resources of God makes us more than conquerors.

John.

It's not the easy way

September 18, 2017

Most of us at our noblest moments in life dream that we would like to do something big for God during our lives. We want the personal assurance and satisfaction of having been on a high experience with God. It would be a thrilling experience to remember. Accordingly, we are always looking for the big adventure, expecting that soon the opportunity will arrive. We keep peering into the future, and even begin picturing to ourselves the kind of situations that might arise and how we propose to deal with them. But, sadly they never come. God does not seem to want our co-operation. We become despondent and stop looking for the big event. We may even stop praying or hoping. What’s wrong? All that is wrong is that our eyes are out of focus. I had been wearing my old glasses for over three years and I had not realised that I needed them changed but when I did, I immediately noticed clearer vision. The big thing God is asking us to do begins with the little things right before our eyes. If I want to co-operate with God in some high enterprise my first step is to be very understanding and helpful to that awkward person who is so hard to bear. I have to tackle this bit of drudgery with good heart. I have to cast out the seeds of pride from my heart because only humble people can do big things for God. God chooses His helpers in the big things from those who manage the little things well. If I want the joy of co-operating with God in big things I have to ask Him to show me what is the first tiny thing He wants me to do. The second step will depend on how I do the first one.

John.

Are You In Step?

September 13, 2017

If we are to be successful and happy in life we need to be in step with life. I have tried to do most things in life but there is one thing that I have yet to master and that is how to dance without standing on everyone’s toes. Somehow, I just don’t seem to catch the rhythm and I miss the beat. There is a rhythm in life. The tides ebb and flow. The seasons come and go. Everywhere there is either movement forwards or backwards. We can also see this rhythm in health of body and mind. We all experience unforgettable days as well as days of drab monotony. This rhythm also pervades the soul. There is function there; now the mountain top and again the valley. At first, we are alarmed by these experiences. When we are in the valley we are afraid that we have lost our spiritual vision. It is easy to become panic-stricken and try to convince ourselves that the vision on the mountain was just a delusion. People never lose their faith on the mountain peaks but very often find their faith being tested in the valley. If only we realised it, that God is in the valley as much as on the heights. We have to learn to walk, not by sight but by faith. If when the difficult days come we keep our faith fanned to a flame no harm will come to us. If, on the contrary, we begin to tire of watching for the morning, and grow careless about our prayers and our self-discipline, we shall find it easy to lose faith altogether. There are days when the best we seem able to do is to hang on bravely. As we are faithful, these days become less troublesome and less frequent. Faith is meant not primarily for easy days but for difficult days. Sometimes Christ has to leave us seemingly alone for a while. When He returns He asks, “Could you not watch with me for one little hour?"

 John.

Some Insights Into Criticism

September 4, 2017

Human beings have many valuable gifts which depending on how we use them can be a real blessing or a curse. Perhaps one of the most significant is the ability to think critically. It lies behind all of man’s greatest scientific achievements. Yet in the spiritual life it is a hindrance rather than a help. Jesus made this very clear. “Judge not that you be not judged, for with what judgement you judge you shall be judged.” This is a law written deep in the nature of personality. Every time we judge another we lay a measuring rod against our own lives. In Matthew chapter seven and verse two we read “and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” We cannot escape this judgement even if we would. Every judgement we make against another registers a judgement against ourselves, even though no one is there to see or hear our judgement. This is a law which has never been fully understood. If we did understand we would cease judging at once, in our own interest. One phase of it is quite clear. The fault in another which causes us most annoyance is generally a fault of our own. We see the splinter in another’s eyes because there is plank of timber – the same material but more of it – in our own. For example, if we are proud we cannot stand pride in another. If we are selfish we hate another selfish person. If we are superior we hate others who give themselves airs. We always hate most in others the sins we suffer from ourselves. Our characters are revealed in our judgements. Criticism is a denial of love. Let’s remember then the words of Jesus, “judge not that you be not judged.”

 John.

The Event That Changed The World

August 30, 2017

What would you think was the event that changed the world? The dropping of the atom bomb by the Americans on Japan in 1945, the outbreak of Second World War in 1939, the execution of Charles Ist in 1649? When you think about it you can come up with numerous answers even if you are a Christian. I wonder just how many of us these days would say that the death of Christ is the most significant fact in history? To the theorist it is merely the death of a martyr for his cause. The theorist, however, here as so often, misses the heart of the matter. The death of Christ was the culminating point in a struggle with evil that had gone on all through His life. We can get glimpses of that struggle in the Wilderness, at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in the Upper Room, in the Garden of Gethsemane, just to name a few. Those were epic battle fought in the soul of Jesus against the forces of evil. The supreme conflict came at His trial and was won victoriously at His death. The events leading to His death were the concentrated attacks of evil upon a soul that had never yielded. It was the final phase of a death-struggle between the good and evil of the world fought on the battle-field of the pure soul of Christ. Had He lost He would have been forgotten in a few months. But He conquered. It was a cosmic victory. Its repercussions have swept to the furthest limits of human thought and experience. For the first time in the history of the world evil met its Master. Like every great achievement, His victory became the priceless possession of the race. His victory may be ours. Any life mastered by the forces of evil may find through Christ the way to victory. Where the spirit of Christ enters any life the evil in that life meets its Master. 

 

John.

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