Covid is for the Church – not the world?

There’s a tendency for the church to look out upon the world with an eye to judgement. That’s probably an understatement, nevertheless, there’s a lot in the world that would rightly fall under the judgment of God. The millions of abortions that take place on its own confirms that. It isn’t surprising then that some Christians could see the current pandemic as a judgment from God. We look on to see the world repenting and calling upon the Lord (or rather look on and don’t see that). The Church being in the world gets caught up in these judgments from on high. We look in vain. There may be a few people here and there that turn to God, but by and large the world carries on as usual. The church is sidelined. That is the way of the world. Let’s face it, the church today (in the UK anyway) is an utter irrelevance.

It’s probably not a unique thought. But what if it’s the other way round and we are looking at this all wrong? What if it’s really the world caught up in God’s judgment upon the Church!

Just as we look vainly upon the world for repentance towards God, we look vainly upon the church to do the same. The world looks upon the church in vain. Where is the repentance and a turning towards the Lord in repentance and faith? We might say, ‘What have we to repent of?’ Our self-righteousness world be a good start.

These thoughts came out of my reading just the other morning. My default is probably set to look out and judge the world. But it came to me specifically that the Covid Pandemic has been sent by God as a judgement on the church. We always, or nearly always, think that if anything bad happens in the world it’s a judgment from God upon the world. It’s a damning and profoundly unsettling realisation that it could well be the other way round. I am quite upset about it. I’m finding it to be quite disturbing actually. For one thing it means I’ve been looking at it all wrong.

The verses I’m referring to are found in Chronicles. The context is Solomons dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Of course, all Gods dealing with the church are by grace. Even His judgments are a mercy to His people and to His church. I’ve heard the phrase used a few times lately that God is sifting the church. It does seem to be the case. Perhaps God is sifting us as individuals as well. What are our convictions? Do we care more about being correct than people? Some evidence then that the church needs to be looking at itself rather than casting a self-righteous judgmental eye on the world – which we’re pretty good at doing.

We know that God sends the pestilence, even this pandemic. I don’t think most Christians doubt that. God hasn’t been surprised or caught off guard by any of this. But I do think we (I include myself here) may have seriously misjudged its purpose. I’ll admit to being late to realise this. Maybe too late. I think my fear now is that once things start, dare I say it, returning to ‘normal’, it will be ‘business as usual.’ The meetings will restart and return to ‘normality.’ The pandemic will have passed, and we’ll all thank God and return to thinking how wonderful we all are, and nothing will have changed. My biggest worry, like I say, is that for the church, it will be ‘Business as usual.’ Do we want ‘business as usual’? What did ‘business as usual’ look like?

How then, in the light of this, assuming it’s true, and I’m right about this, are we to respond? To respond right now. I don’t think prayers for God to end the pandemic are really going to cut it.

If all that’s happening is really about the church, and it really is, how are we to change? I don’t think I’ve read much along on these lines. A lot has been said about the legality etc of the lockdowns and how the government are persecuting the church. You know the stuff I mean. Those are real issues by the way.

Christians have, and are, deeply divided over how to deal with the pandemic and our responses to government overreach are just as divisive. Wearing masks, closing churches, social distancing, and vaccinations are just some of the many ways we have been divided. We have our views. I have mine. And I’m not saying these are not valid. For example, the government is overreaching in many areas. They are manipulating the population. But what if we have all missed the point?

As churches we want to get back to normal. We want to get back to business as usual. But what is normal? And what is business as usual? What did those things look like? What is normal for us? What is a normal prayer meeting for example? Do we want a return to normal? Are we happy that our normal prayer meetings now just continue as normal but online? Or our normal services just continue now as normal online. And when our services return to normal will they just continue as before?

We do ok with normal. Normal is safe. Normal is cuddly. Normal has no surprises. We can manage normal. Normal is under control. Under our control that is. I think, perhaps what the word normal describes is formality. We are very formal. Normal is formality. Could it even be described as having a form of godliness? Or even in Revelation the Lord Jesus describes one church as having a reputation for being alive. But that wasn’t how Jesus described them! We are just so correct and righteous.

We pray (sometimes), or sing, for God to come sweeping through us. Maybe he is. But not in the way we expected!

And as we (at Towcester Evangelical Church) heard on Sunday morning, don’t think for one moment the purposes of God will be thwarted. They won’t be. But we will miss out. Don’t worry though. Everything will be back to normal soon! God will have passed by unnoticed, and we’ll be left to carry on with business as usual.

The world, on the face of it, is completely opposed to the Christian faith. And I understand all the reasons for that. But I think there’s another side to this. And that is, unconsciously or not, the world is looking to the church for hope and redemption, and for mercy and forgiveness. Where else is real and true hope to be found? There is nowhere else. Only the church of the Lord Jesus Christ has the good news of the Gospel to dispense to the world. It is us, Christians, that have been commissioned by God to preach Good News of a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.

Honestly, I’m at a bit of a loss to know quite what to do with this. I believe the very thought of what I’m suggesting will be met, by some, with opposition, or much more likely to be met with the cold shoulder of indifference.

We can’t revive ourselves, and we can’t turn the tide of secularism back, so isn’t it time for us to call upon the Lord to have mercy on us? To revive us. To wake us up out of our slumber. Or are we (self) satisfied with ‘business as usual.’ Are we, or will we be satisfied with being ‘normal?’

 

Paradise PD – A slightly different Christian perspective

There is outrage, again, over the Netflix production ‘Paradise PD’ that blasphemes the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it blasphemous? Yes. Is it offensive? Yes. Do I like it? I haven’t seen it, but probably not. Will I watch it? Unlikely. Though I might if I had to. By the way, I didn’t even realise this was a series and in its 4th season. I’m guessing the series have a pop at everyone – hmmm, maybe not everyone (you know).

I accept the moral outrage by Christians but I’d like to come at the episode, what I know of it anyway, from a different perspective. Let me just say, because it probably needs saying, I’m not endorsing it in any way shape or form, just looking at it from a slightly different perspective. 

Remember the old ‘The end is nigh’ sandwich boards of the past. They ridiculed it, but you know, the end really is nigh. It’s a true statement. Messiah-Nara might be meant to ridicule and be funny, but actually it’s a statement of truth. It will be the end for His enemies.

What ought to be fascinating is the fact that Jesus just won’t go away. The usual tactic then is to ridicule him. They tried that in the New Testament so doing it this way is nothing new. We ought to be encouraged because they are still doing it. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Here’s a few things about this episode that I know from the criticisms. Like I say, I haven’t seen it, so what I say here isn’t personally verified. I wonder if the writers of this episode know more than they are letting on. My speculation is that they could be, or at least have first hand knowledge of evangelicalism. They’ve been influenced by self-righteous controlling church leaders. Maybe in a bizarre way this episode is a cry for help. Here are a few points then not in any particular order.

Free Speech

I need to say this. I believe in free speech. If they want to produce this episode that is their right to do so. However blasphemous it might be. I don’t have to like it to allow them the right to produce it but free speech also gives the right to protest against it. I rarely sign petitions. There is a petition to take it down, but honestly, I don’t think I’ll be signing it. There are many petitions out there wanting to ban Christian stuff as well. I don’t see too many petitions against heavily polititicised LGBTQ stuff which is far more insidious that this film. I think the petition in this case will just make more people want to see it. In a way it’s self defeating. But I understand the outrage.

The Cross

The picture shows Jesus breaking the cross and the nails turning into Uzi’s (Probably 9mm). Of course there is a mixture of fact and fiction but nevertheless it shows Jesus victoriously breaking the cross and wreaking judgment on his enemies. Jesus could have come off the cross, but then there would be no salvation. So that didn’t happen. But think about how Aslan in the Narnia story after the White Witch and all her host had done their worst and killed Aslan, what happened? Aslan breaks the stone table and is victorious. The story is playing out the reality of Jesus’ victory. The Bible tells us that he triumphed over his enemies through the cross.

The greatest possible symbol of weakness becomes the greatest symbol of victory and of power. So that he has put to shame all powers through the cross. We might not like the picture but actually, intended or not, we see a triumphant Messiah.

A Fallen World

Because we live in a fallen world we should expect to see this sort of stuff. It’s everywhere really. This show is a bit more in your face but it just proves the truth that we are rebellious against our creator. It’s a form of imprisonment, they can’t help themselves. We can’t help ourselves. Which is exactly why we need a Saviour. And the only way we can be saved is through Jesus dying on a cross. So in an unintended way the film demonstrates our own fallenness and of our need for a Saviour.

Final Judgement

Jesus is crucified as the Lamb. But in revelation we read about ‘the day of his wrath.’ The Lamb is mighty. And all his enemies will be dealt with. Being slaughtered using a pair of Uzi 9mm’s will seem a mercy when considering the awful reality of an eternal lake of fire. People will be laughing, I’m sure, but it’s not a laughing matter. The enemies of The Lord and His anointed one (Messiah) will be destroyed.

True Knowledge

The film shows an underlying knowledge that not only is there a real Jesus, but also a real knowledge that there is a judgment to come. This episode, and those like it, demonstrate how the truth is actively being suppressed as the bible teaches. Not only does the bible teach it but we know it to be true. Our consciences tell us it’s true. The conscience of the series tell them it’s true as well. Try as they might, Jesus is not going away. He can’t be got rid of so he must be mocked.

True Forgiveness

I was thinking how outraged we can get. Then I wondered how The Lord Jesus reacted to His own crucifixion. We get all pious and outraged but Jesus said ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ I can think of things I said about Him before God had mercy on me. The foul blasphemies that poured out against the Lord Jesus from my unrighteous lips! But He had mercy on me. Someone prayed for me. Someone told me the Gospel. Jesus saved me. The amazing good news is that Jesus saves all who will call on Him. Will you call on Him?

A Mighty Christ (Messiah)

I’ll just end with this. Maybe you watch the series, and you’ve seen the episode about Jesus and the Cross. I’d ask you to consider the points I’ve tried to make. This Jesus who just won’t go away is going to return to judge the world, to judge you. Then, the choices we have made about The Lord Jesus will have eternal consequences. So I ask you to consider Him.

‘Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Heb 12:3).

Mighty Christ from time eternal,
Mighty, he man’s nature takes,
Mighty, when on Calv’ry dying,
Mighty, death itself He breaks.
See His might,
Infinite,
King of Heaven and earth by right!

Mighty was He in heaven’s purpose,
Mighty, in the pledge to save,
Mighty, from His birth to Calv’ry,
Mighty, bursting from the grave.
Still will He
Mighty be When things hidden now we see.

Great my Jesus in His Person.
Great as God and man is He,
Great His comeliness and beauty,
White and ruddy, fair to see,
Great that sight,
Sovereign Might,
Throned secure on heaven’s height!

vv. 1 & 3 Titus Lewis, 1773 – 1811;
v. 2, Anonymous;
tr. Graham Stuart Harrison 1935 – 2013 (No. 117 Christian Hymns, E.M.W)

Behavioural Science (in the UK) & The Gospel Invitation

These ideas have been knocking around in my mind for a while now, but I heard recently on talkRADIO someone mention, for the first time anywhere, The Behavioural Science Unit. I was beginning to think I was the only one that had ever heard about this. It’s also called ‘Nudging.’ There is a unit (in government) that is actively engaged, using these techniques, in manipulating the behaviour of the population. That’s us. So I have stood back and observed, over the past year or so, our behaviour being manipulated. There is active coercion happening.

Many of you might not know what ‘Nudging’ is. Some time ago The BBC had a program on ‘The Power of Nudge‘, and it was quite astonishing. The reason I know about this is because I listened to it at the time of its first broadcast. Quote: ‘What really changes people’s minds (about the idea of nudging) is because it works.’ This was part of a series on ‘The Pursuit of Power’ in case you think I’ve gone crazy. This was a part of a Behavioural Science unit in No 10 when David Cameron was PM. (This unit is now independent and is called ‘The Behavioural Insights Team’ or ‘Nudge Unit’ –  https://www.bi.team/bit10/  They still use Nudging) The original unit had a sunset clause attached to it, set at 2 years in case it didn’t work. But it did and does work. The UK (and other countries) are now (as I see it) a huge experimental ‘Petri Dish’ of behavioural management and control. I’m sure there are other such Units. Is it a conspiracy then, if it’s happening.

Incidentally, Dr John Lee (Professor of Pathology) in his video (HERE) (dated 1st May 2021) mentions The Behavioural Insight Team (from 30m) that uses FEAR to manipulate the population. I watched this on 4th May 2021. Again, this is clear evidence that we are being manipulated (as if we didn’t already know). This is not something to cast off as something only a few conspiracy nutcases believe – because it’s really happening.
I wonder if advertisers used these techniques whether they’d be legal. Subliminal advertising is illegal, even though the jury is out on its actual effectiveness. Nudging really does work though.

There’s a Vaccine advert that has been running (ad nauseam) quite regularly on talkRADIO and is, I think, a typical use of nudging. Remember, nudging works. That’s why they do it. In the advert we are told to ‘Join the millions already vaccinated…. Every vaccination gives us hope.‘ There are other Ads, but the point is to move us, or nudge us, into action. To manipulate our behaviour. And you can’t miss all the signs everywhere to reinforce the behaviour (social distancing & masks). By the way, I’m not making any comment on taking the vaccine, or not. Merely that ‘Nudging’ works. I didn’t catch who it was and only caught the last part of an interview (some weeks ago now) on talkRADIO but I think it was an MP that said he was ‘surprised at how easily people gave up their liberties.’

It’s inconceivable there is only one of these businesses operating. The Big Tech companies are doing it all the time. Sometimes by withholding information, at other times by using targeted information, at other times by taking down information that doesn’t fit the narrative. Did you see the film ‘The Social Dilemma’? Maybe you thought it was an exaggeration. Perhaps, to some degree. But the point is it’s happening. Whatever your view of President Trump is or was, it comes to something when Tech Companies can pretty much silence the President of the US.

As we appear to have some sort of end (to the pandemic, not the aftermath) to this madness what’s the point in saying all this now? The point is this: don’t think the behavioural insight team, and other such teams, will be clearing their desks and closing down the office as the crisis comes to an end. I think that would be unbelievably naive. No, the ‘insights’ gained through this will be used in other ways (I’ll leave those other ways to your imagination) to manipulate the population into other behaviours (or beliefs). The trick is, of course, to do it a) without us realising it and/or b) by making us actually want it – so we become complicit in our own change of behaviour. Talk about 1984 (‘I love you Big Brother’).

How does this affect the Church?

Apart from my concern as a citizen about losing my freedoms, the other (more important) reason I’m interested in all this is because this is the sort of manipulation that when presenting the Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God we DON’T do. We don’t manipulate people into becoming Christians. We don’t ‘Nudge’ people into the Kingdom! Even if it works, and it does – we don’t do it. This is one reason why I’m not in favour of big organised evangelistic campaigns or what is called ‘the Invitation System.’ We should run a mile from any such methods. As the Bible says: ‘… we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2).

But there’s also a dark side to all this. The church is engaged in a war. Not a physical war. But a spiritual one. ‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). And as Paul tells us in another place ‘… the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Cor 10:4).’ ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Cor 10:5).’

And it’s quite interesting at his point how the Apostle Paul speaks of taking every thought captive…. I’m not sure we can so quickly dismiss some of this stuff as ‘conspiratorial’ as many Christians seem to do. How is it all affecting the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Bible says ‘we are not ignorant of his (Satan) designs (2 Cor 2:11). Perhaps we are ignorant of Satan’s schemes in this area? I’m all for the plain teaching of the Gospel. We shouldn’t employ any subterfuge in presenting the Gospel or any ‘bait & switch’ techniques. But that doesn’t mean, as we have read, we shouldn’t be unaware of Satans devices. Love not the world nor the things of the world (1 John 2:15). Manipulating and coercing people is a worldly activity. It’s what the systems of the world do. We don’t manipulate and coerce people into the Kingdom of God. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He that makes his people willing in the day of his power (Psalm 110:3). We don’t use worldly methods. And we don’t need to either. The Spirit of God doesn’t ‘influence’ people, rather, he makes them alive (Eph 2:5)!

It’s important for us, therefore, to know there is someone that speaks the truth. The Lord Jesus many times used the phrase ‘I tell you the truth’ (verily, verily) and that is exactly what he did, and does. He didn’t use methods of coercion or manipulation. He speaks the truth, even when we don’t like it. So when he invites us to himself, as he does right now, promising rest for our souls, we can be assured that he is speaking the truth. In other words, we can trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

Come to me (Says Jesus), all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(Mat 11:28 & 29).’

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

(O for a thousand tongues – Charles Wesley, 1708-88)

 

Reaching the lost in high places – Acts 13:1

‘Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.’ Acts 13:1

By Bartlomiej Strobel - Museo Nacional del Prado, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20080818
Feast of Herod with the Beheading of St John the Baptist by Bartlomiej Strobel – Museo Nacional del Prado

Being a somewhat ordinary person and living in an ordinary station in life, those in high places, to me, inhabit another world. I see the Royal family, the world of the stars (so called), the high-end business world and so many other areas of life that are simply alien to me. I sometimes wonder how these people are reached with the Gospel. Despite all the trappings of privilege and success they are still people that are in need of salvation. It’s highly unlikely in the scheme of things that I would ever have the opportunity to speak with such. Nevertheless, Christians do move in those circles. And I’m thankful they are able to reach the parts people like myself cannot. But it isn’t just those in high places, it’s sometimes the type of people that are in those high places. So, for our encouragement let us consider a man (in the verse above) by the name of Manaen.

We aren’t quite sure of his relationship to King Herod but at the very least he moved in the same circles. The main sense is that of a friend, or even a foster brother. One commentator (Matthew Henry – full quote below) suggests they ‘nursed of the same milk’ or went to the same school. The ESV text (above) says he was a lifelong friend. Let’s suppose that is the case. Who is Herod the tetrarch? This is the Herod that had John the Baptist beheaded. I don’t think we are far off the mark if we call Herod a psychopath. Manaen is a lifelong friend of this Herod.

We aren’t explicitly told how Manaen heard the Gospel, or when he came to trust in Christ for salvation, but we do know that John the Baptist preached to Herod. Is it too much of a stretch to say Manaen heard the message from John? And yet two very different responses. Manaen became a prophet and leader in the church and Herod continues, as far as we know, in unbelief – perhaps signifying his eternal destiny.

Why did Herod invite John to his court? John was a novelty to him and a curiosity, but whatever the reason, John didn’t tone down the message to gain favour or be overawed in the presence of the great and the good. That doesn’t mean we have to ‘go at it’ and be aggressive – but it does mean we  have to be faithful and take the opportunities to speak as the Lord presents them to us. Easier said than done of course.

It may even be that Manaen heard the Lord Jesus speak. Either way, whether from John or Jesus, Manaen became a follower of the Lord Christ. I’m not convinced that just because Herod was a psychopath Manaen was a similar character – maybe he was. We simply aren’t told what sort of character he was before becoming a Christian, but we do know something of his life as a believer from our verse above. He became a  prophet and a teacher. Unlikely people do become followers of Jesus. Some even become ministers of the Gospel. Like the Apostle Paul (1 Tim 1:13).

The Lesson

It’s a simple lesson. The Lord has his people sometimes in the most unlikely places. The court of Herod was a place of debauchery and butchery. A place of adultery and licentiousness. And a place of immense privilege. Yet there was Manaen. The Lord doesn’t need us to reach people. But His way is most often to use Christians to speak to people from all manner of backgrounds. Maybe He’ll use us too.

We might think it is futile to pray for some as they seem so far from the Kingdom. But this isn’t the case. Many Christians pray for Boris, for example, even though they will probably never meet him. Or praying for that celebrity, or even a terrorist. God does answer the prayers of His people. No prayer is futile. No one is beyond the reach of God. Acts 13:1 then, is a very encouraging verse – so pray on.

 

Manaen, a person of some quality, as it should seem, for he was brought up with Herod the tetrarch, either nursed of the same milk, or bred at the same school, or pupil to the same tutor, or rather one that was his constant colleague and companion – that in every part of his education was his comrade and intimate, which gave him a fair prospect of preferment at court, and yet for Christ’s sake he quitted all the hopes of it; like Moses, who, when he had come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Had he joined in with Herod, with whom he was brought up, he might have had Blastus’s place, and have been his chamberlain; but it is better to be fellow-sufferer with a saint than fellow-persecutor with a tetrarch.

 Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2118). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (3)

This is part three of sections from Chapter 1 of William Williams ‘The Experience Meeting.’ (Part 1 here & Part 2 here)  Note the condition of the church when the Spirit of God visited in revival blessing..

What follows is a description of what most of us have no personal knowledge of: when the fire falls upon His people. What’s so encouraging is that these believers were in such a low spiritual state. God visits us when He chooses to do so. Not because we’ve reached a point where we might be tempted to say ‘God will bless us now.’ The Christian faith is not a works based religion. It is Grace based, not merit based. Our merit before God is found in another. Namely in the Son of God – The Lord Jesus Christ. It does not give us licence to live how we choose, but at the same time our living is not meritorious. We do not earn Gods favour. How we should know the reality of the phrase ‘we are unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10).’

EUSEBIUS continues…. ‘But at last, forced by cowardice, unbelief and the onslaughts of Satan, we resolved to give up our special meeting; and now we were about to offer a final prayer, fully intending never again to meet thus in fellowship. But it is when man reaches the lowest depths of unbelief that God imparts faith, and when man has failed, then God reveals Himself. So here, with us in such dire straits, on the brink of despair, with the door shut on every hope of success, God Himself entered into our midst, and the light of day from on high dawned upon us; for one of the brethren – yes, the most timid of us all, the one who was strongest in his belief that God would never visit us – while in prayer, was stirred in his spirit and laid hold powerfully on heaven, as one who would not let go.

His tongue spoke unusual words, his voice was raised, his spirit was aflame, he pleaded, he cried to God, he struggled, he wrestled in earnest, like Jacob, in the agony of his soul. The fire took hold on others – all were awakened, the coldest to the most heedless took hold and were warmed; the spirit of struggling and wrestling fell on all, we all went with him into the battle, with him we laid hold upon God, His attributes, His Word and His promises, resolving that we would never let go our hold until all our desire should be satisfied.’

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Pages 8 & 9.

I’ll leave it there and continue the narrative with another post – maybe two more. My desire is simply to encourage us all in the Lord (1 Thess 5:11 & Heb 10:25).

We all went with him into battle

I like the phrase ‘we all went with him into the battle.’ I don’t think that means everyone was praying at the same time or that everyone prayed. But that when one prayed, all prayed (Acts 4:24). Such was their united assault upon the throne of Grace. That’s the sort of unity we want in our prayer meetings.

It’s a fine line, perhaps, between not despising the day of small things (Zech 4:10) and the realisation that without God we are sunk. God is at work. He does not stop working. The Lord Jesus is building His church (Matt 16:18), and He will continue to build it until He returns. He gives us persevering grace. We are not fallen away because He keeps us in the way. For this we are thankful and raise our Ebenezer (1 Sam 7:12). But we pray: “Lord, give us that longing we know we need.” ‘O, that Thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down (Isaiah 64:1)’ and ‘that glory may dwell in our land (Ps 85:9).’

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (2)

This is part two of sections from Chapter 1 of William Williams ‘The Experience Meeting.’ (Part 1 is here) (Part 3 here) I don’t intend to post anything, for now, on how the society meetings were organised during the flow of the revival, rather the condition of the church when the Spirit of God visited in revival blessing.

This next section is, I believe, one in which our churches can take great encouragement to not give up meeting. Revival comes not at the behest of man but by Gods gracious intervention – and that, when we are at our lowest ebb. Perhaps that is one of our problems. Our churches are so well organised that if God were absent from our meetings, or our evangelism, would any of us really notice?

‘And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.’ Judges 16:20

The Bold text is my highlighting. I have also divided the text into two paragraphs so it’s slightly easier to read.. Continuing then where we left off with Eusebius on page 8:

EUSEBIUS continues….: ‘This is the way the Lord worked in that part of the world. One time, there were just a few of us, professing believers, gathered together, cold and unbelievably dead, in a meeting which we called a special service, so discouraged as to doubt whether we should ever meet again, some who were usually absent from every meeting, some in a deadly apathy, with nothing to say of God nor their own souls, some given over to the world and its cares, some backslidden completely from all means of grace and the ordinances of the gospel, some given over to the flesh and its lusts, as in the days of Noah – seeking a wife, seeking a husband marrying and giving in marriage – and I myself well nigh disheartened and thinking often of coming to live in warmer spiritual climes, and moving my tent from Ur of the Chaldees nearer to the borders of the Promised Land.

But, even though all things were as i have described them – the world, the flesh and Satan victorious – these special services were yet conducted in an incredibly lifeless manner. There was no encouragement for anyone to carry on the work, save only the promise of God, that wherever there were two or three coming together in His name, if their purpose were right, however lifeless their present state, He would come to them and bless them. This alone had made us come together to pray; but our prayers were not much more than groans.’

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Page 8.

I like the way he says ‘This is the way the Lord worked in that part of the world.’ It may be the Lord will again work in that way – here in Wales and where you are too. But in this passage especially, we should note the condition they were in. ‘cold and unbelievably dead‘ and a ‘deadly apathy.’ How many of us have thought of moving our tents to where ‘things are happening?’ ‘To warmer spiritual climes‘ and ‘nearer to the borders of the Promised Land.‘ Is that us? Is that how we see ourselves? Or are we in need of nothing?

Also notice there were people in the meeting ‘who were usually absent from every meeting.’ I’m sure Pastors try to encourage their people to attend – but to no avail. The Lord can do in a moment what man can’t.

Despite this, we shouldn’t fail to recognise who we are. The world may despise the church of God, and we can be tempted to think that way sometimes too, but our hope is still in the living God.

‘Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!’

I’ve written more than I meant to but I do hope and pray these posts from the writing of William Williams will be an encouragement to the church.

 

Extracts from ‘The Experience Meeting’ by William Williams (Pantycelyn) (1)

I read this book years ago, and one particular section especially was impressed indelibly upon my mind. And I always tend, somehow, to make reference to it when talking about revival. Which I did do just recently. It’s about time then, that I typed that section up. It’s fairly lengthy for one post so I’ll break it up into three or four shorter posts. (Part 2 here & Part 3 here) Any highlights in bold or italics will be mine.

I don’t know if the book is still in print. Whether it is or not doesn’t really matter. What the book, or this section anyway, tells me is that no matter how lifeless we think our prayer meetings are, and let’s face it, they mostly are, the Lord is well able to visit us and revive us. We don’t need to gee them up and try to inject life into them. We simply need the Lord to visit us. That’s the only life we need. His life. The Spirit of God. Our hope is in God. Williams writes the book as a conversation or dialogue between two people, Theophilus and Eusebius. Here’s the first of the quotes:

THEOPHILUS: And now, what progress is the Lord’s work making in your country? I have heard that the gospel of Jesus has reached you, and has begotten many sons. Will you please tell me how grace began to work there? By what means? And with what power? And to what extent apart from the usual means? And which graces appeared first? What wiles has Satan devised to hinder the work? And what troubles or trials have you suffered to test and strengthen you and to purify you?

EUSEBIUS: You have asked me many questions, and I will do my best to answer them all, for I find nothing sweeter to recount, and nothing to quicken my soul more, than to remember the days of the Lord’s visitation to me and to others in the day of my betrothal to Him, the joyful day of my heart; to remember that time, to me, is ever as sweet as honey (This is the first paragraph of a long section).

The Experience Meeting: An Introduction to the Welsh Societies of the Evangelical Awakening, William Williams, Evangelical Press, 1973. Pages 7 & 8.

I can’t recall where I read it, but in one of Jonathan Edwards books he talked about how through remembering and talking about past visitations of God those same feelings can come back. I don’t think Edwards was speaking negatively here, but speaking experientially. Hence we read above: ‘to remember that time, to me, is ever as sweet as honey.’

 

Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice….?

Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’”
But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1&2)

When reading verses like these it would be easy to make an application that our (various) governments should open the churches in order for normal services, or just services, to resume and to ‘let my people go.’ End the lockdown and get back to normal is what a lot of people are calling for. I think there’s a more important issue, or stage before that. Or to put it another way, there’s a much deeper issue with our government, and politicians in general, than ‘simply’ getting them to ‘open up the churches.’

The deeper issue is that our leaders, be they Prime Ministers or Presidents, ‘do not know the LORD.’ Pharaoh in the verse above actually confesses to the fact that he ‘does not know the Lord.’ And because of the truth of that confession says in direct response to the command of God – ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice….?’  And ‘I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.’ Who is this LORD? I will not obey his voice. We don’t have to be living in ancient Egypt to see this played out. You could almost admire the honesty of Pharaoh if it wasn’t so foolish.

Church life is quite different now. And like you, I hope, I want to see our churches back open. I don’t say back to normal simply because we may have to use this opportunity to re-evaluate what ‘normal’ church life (and evangelism) is going to mean. But what if our governments suddenly said ‘OK, you can open up.’ We will still be under a government, that, by and large, says ‘Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?’

There are many regimes round the world that act like Pharaoh. In the West it is cloaked with a superficiality of Christianity but underneath beats a heart that is as opposed to the will of God as any other godless regime. I don’t, nor should we, treat the mercies of God with contempt. Any gains or progress, or where policies are merely put on hold – we should thank God for. Here in the west things could be far far worse.

God, the same LORD Pharaoh refused to obey, brought upon Egypt the plagues, judgement upon Pharaoh and the destruction of his army. The people of God were’t allowed just to leave, they were driven out and ‘plundered the Egyptians’ of their goods in the process.

The point I am making is this: Jesus will build His church. He will continue to build it until He returns to judge the world. We, His people, must persevere for ‘deliverance is at hand.’ In the meantime we continue to ‘preach’ the Gospel of the grace of God as He gives opportunity. The Word of God cannot ultimately be silenced. It is impossible.

What is our message? ‘…. that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His (Jesus) name to all nations (Luke 24:47).’

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Cor 15: 1-4)

Not only that but we should pray:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim 2: 1&2)

You’ve read this far. Great. But your heart is rebellious just like the heart of Pharaoh. It will do no good, as some do, to whine on about how bad the government is (Christians do this as well). Unless you repent you’ll be swallowed up in the judgment to come just like them. The only safe haven is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

‘You could have it all’ by Geoff Thomas – A Recommendation

‘You could have it all’ by Geoff Thomas, Reformation Heritage Books, 2020. I paid £4.50 for my copy. Sadly not available from 10 of Those. Try your local Christian Bookshop or failing that, £6.50 at Amazon.

The book is described as an ‘Evangelistic Booklet.’ I had a couple of people in mind to give a copy. I try not to give books and stuff that I’ve not read so set about reading it. Not quite in one sitting but very nearly. It’s an easy to read book. By easy I mean it isn’t complicated. You don’t need a degree to read it. The 10 chapters are not long with the whole book just 96 pages with stories and illustrations throughout. I loved it.

I can hear Geoff as I read and can see the evangelistic motivation behind it, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Yes, give it to your non-Christian friends. Do that. What I like about it is the sheer honesty of it. I love to hear Geoff pray and it’s in that vein. A phrase popular a while ago (by some) was that Christians need the Gospel too. And they do. I do. I need to hear the Gospel. Yes, I was thinking on the person I was reading it for, but I was drawn into the book as well. I needed to hear these things. It’s been a blessing to read it. Christians will be encouraged.

Let’s pray that when we read Geoff’s emails we’ll read of sinners brought to the Saviour by the Saviour as He uses this book for His Glory. Wouldn’t that be great!

Just go and buy a copy, read it, and then give it to someone.

A Happy New Year to All

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

Last year we saw in 2020 with all the usual celebrations and the usual wish of a Happy & Prosperous New Year. Things didn’t work out that way. Nobody saw or predicted what was to come. What a year it was. And then celebrations (though very different) and wishes for a Happy New Year have again been expressed. Everyone (mostly everyone) is saying this year, 2021, will be a better year. We have the Vaccine. All will be well. Not necessarily.

If your business survived and you are able to pick it up again – great! But in many respects 2021 will be much the same as the previous year. Because we live in what is described as a fallen world people are still going to be ill. People are still going to die. All the hardships that are endured will in that sense continue. Things continue much the same in our ever changing fallen world. Our bodies continue to grow old. So so many awful things happen in our unstable sinful world. Things don’t stay the same in the sense of stability, rather, things continue in a sinful unstable state where nothing stays constant. The only constant for us is our sinfulness.

The only reliable constant is the Lord God. He stays the same. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. Instead, let me point you to the only wise God. We’ve just celebrated how God has intervened in our world by sending His Son – The Lord Jesus Christ. Isn’t it time you considered Him?

The verse above came into my mind this morning. Below is the full text of the hymn. Worth pondering. Christian, rejoice that His love and grace remains the same. Enjoy. Happy New Year!

I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
and I have peace with God.

‘Tis everlasting peace,
sure as Jehovah’s Name;
’tis stable as His steadfast throne,
for evermore the same.

The clouds may come and go,
and storms may sweep my sky –
this blood-sealed friendship changes not:
the cross is ever nigh.

My love is oft-times low,
my joy still ebbs and flows;
but peace with Him remains the same –
no change Jehovah knows.

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

Horatius Bonar, 1808-89