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Old Meeting House Congregational Church (1643)

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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.

Do it now

August 20, 2017

 

One of the most fruitful sources of ineffectiveness in Christian living is what I call the “time-lag factor” – this is the time between when we have an apprehension of a truth before we see its fulfilment in practical Christian living. Most of us either in church or in our devotion have seen a new truth which we recognise to be of great importance. We have accepted the truth in our minds and tried to incorporate it into our everyday thinking. After a few days we may not be excited about the truth as when we first understood it. It seems to vanish from our thinking. Why? The main reason is that it has not survived the “time-lag” between apprehension and expression. Have you, like me sometimes found a book that is so compelling that it is impossible to put it down. Whilst you are reading it you can’t imagine living in the future without incorporating its teaching into your life. Well, a book can be read by most of us in just a few days but it can take several years to apply its teachings into your life. How many of us do that? There is no point reading a book or listening to an inspiring sermon which might be entertaining and encouraging unless you actually apply the truth into your life you will never grow into maturity. No truth is ours until it has been actualised and expressed in life. I may resolve that love is the greatest thing in the world and that I shall make it a rule of my life. If, however, I fail to express love to the very first person I meet, I extend the “time-lag” and the chances are that when a real test comes I will have forgotten all about my fine resolve. Actualise your decisions as quickly as you can – that’s a golden key you should not be without. If you can’t express it at once in living action, let someone know, so that you feel bound – after all you don’t want to look foolish to others do you? The secret to spiritual effectiveness for many people lies in cutting down to a minimum the time between a decision and its expression. Instant obedience to revealed truth is the only way towards spiritual growth. “Not everyone that says Lord, Lord, but he that doeth.” And twice blessed is he who does it instantly!

John.

The Root of the Problem

August 14, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone who stops to think for a moment will realise that the root of all the world’s trouble lies in the selfishness of men and women. If only we could rid the world of selfishness we should have a new and better world. The trouble is that each of us can see very clearly the selfishness in other people yet few of us can see it in our own lives. Yet if the world is to be rid of selfishness, each of us will have to cast the evil out of our own lives. We are all selfish until the spirit of Christ comes in and makes us unselfish. How then can we detect selfishness in ourselves? We can see it in our desire to have people think well of us, in our assertiveness, our argumentativeness, our desire to manage other people’s lives for them, our fussiness, our snobbishness, our jealousy, our indifference to the needs or the convenience of others, our social or intellectual pride, our self-indulgence, our self-pity, our craving for sympathy, our censoriousness, our superiority, etc… Whenever we find any one of these possessing our mind we realise that selfishness is in control. The only way to overcome self is not to be constantly trying to cut out this or that or the other expression of selfishness, but to give up our right to ourselves to Christ. When we die to self in this way we enter into the fullness of life! “He that loseth his life for My sake shall save it,” said Jesus. Whenever we find self-asserting itself, after surrender, we must make a new surrender.

John.

Finding Happiness

July 28, 2017

 

To be contented every day and to be confident that in its unfolding hour’s lies happiness seems, at first, and impossible goal. There is a story of old John Tauler (1300 – 1361), he was a German Dominican monk and one of the greatest mystics and preachers of the Middle Ages – which proves its possibility. One day, meeting a beggar, he said, “God give you a good day, my friend.” “I thank God I never had a bad day,” said the beggar. “God give you a happy life, my friend,” said John, already a little astonished by the answer of the man in rags. “I thank God, I am never unhappy,” was the quick reply. “When it is fine I thank God, when it rains I thank God, when I have plenty I thank God, and since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases Him, pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?” The saint of Strasbourg was still more astonished at the man whose face shone as he stood triumphant in spite of his tatters. “Who are you?” said Tauler. “I am a king,” said the beggar. “A king!? Whence is your kingdom?” The answer came quickly – “In my heart…in my heart.”

 

“The kingdom of God is within you,” said Jesus, and saying this, called you to share in ruling the Kingdom. Men may see you as a beggar, but God sees you as a prince!

John.

Priorities for life

July 9, 2017

 

 

 

 

 


What is your number one priority in your life? Does it belong to past memories, present opportunities or future desires? Wise men have differed as to which should come first in importance – yesterday, today, or tomorrow. The poet Longfellow says: “Look not mournfully into the Past. It doesn’t come back again. Wisely improve the Present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy Future without fear and with a manly heart.” Excellent though this advice is, it takes no account of the dominating purpose a man should have in his journeying. It is foolish to imagine that we are impelled by our yesterdays to blunder on towards a completely unknown tomorrow. If we are pilgrims let us be pilgrims towards Mecca or a Canterbury; or better, far better, the City of God. The goal makes great the pilgrimage.

As little children we can meander but, as we grow up, we need in our lives “the grand purpose” and by that purpose we are judged. “A good archer is not known by his arrows but by his aim.”

John.

Relationships Count

July 6, 2017

 

Andrew was a fisherman of Bethsaida. For a short time he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Then Jesus passed by, and Andrew and John met Him. What was said we do not know, but it so impressed Andrew that he must rush off to bring Peter, his brother. It was hopeless to try to tell him about it. No message  could contain it; there was Someone he must meet.

All discipleship involves an individual relationship. Andrew was one step ahead of Peter. He had met Jesus. Afterwards, it is true, Peter outstripped him – but had it not been for Andrew, Peter might never have begun.

Andrew was an ordinary man, but he brought his extraordinary brother to Jesus, and helped to change the history of the world.

John.

Facing the sun

May 29, 2017

The conquest of life is found in joy. Deliberately to turn our faces towards the sun, to choose it, to cultivate it – this is at least one of the secrets of a virile and victorious life…There are two things which devils cannot endure. The first is sunshine, and the second is song. They cannot endure light, neither can they endure laughter…The songs of the redeemed and the laughter of little children playing innocently in the sun is to every kind of devil a thing insufferable! If you want to transfer your depression to John Bunyan’s Giant Despair, and give him what he has given you, sit in the sun and sing!

 

John.

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