Thursday, 2 May 2013

In The Presence of the Lord.

We had one of the most memorable times with the Lord this morning when we had our daily readings and prayer.  The reading was about body, soul and spirit, and the writer was drawing a parallel between these and a house.  The body he compared with the kitchen where we prepare our food to sustain life; it’s where we care for the body in this world.  Above this was the soul, the part of man that we give some attention to, but not really very much.  The top storey was the spirit, the place where we meet with the Lord in private.  This is the place that we know about, but only visit now and again.

This resonated with us because we knew that there was much truth in this parallel.  We spend too much necessary time caring for the body and its needs, but not nearly so much caring for the soul and its needs; certainly not as much as we ought to caring for the spirit and its need of communion with the Lord.  The embarrassment comes when we think about the real spiritual communion with the Lord; this is where conscience strikes and we feel guilt and unworthiness – not a bad thing in themselves. 

But we got down to prayer, and we found ourselves being lifted up into the most blessed place – the place of intimate communion with our Lord and Saviour.  This morning we met with the Lord.  We knew we were in His presence; we knew that He has come down again into our living room and had met with us.  We just knew it.  There was a “deafening silence,” a silence that could be felt.  God was near and we could almost touch Him.  Not physically, for God is a Spirit, but we did touch the living God.  It was wonderful.

And in that meeting with the living Lord, Margaret’s headache disappeared.  I don’t know for sure how long we spent in that blessed company, but we did know when we had finished our praying that we had met with Christ.  We did not want to flinch, or move a muscle.  Even the dog was utterly silent and at peace.  The very phone did not ring.  We were in the place of intimate personal communion with God.

When we finished praying, we spoke with low subdued voices.  We knew we were in the presence of His Majesty.  We both knew independently that we had experienced something unusual, something profoundly spiritual.  Margaret said that she would not have wanted to miss this for anything.  I agreed with her.  It took her illness and our family circumstances to open us up to what God could do.  She said that for years she had sung those lovely Gospel hymns, but they hadn’t meant that much to her.  Now they mean the world to her.  They are charged with meaning and power and life.  God had opened her eyes, and mine, to see the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ in the familiar words with which we had been brought up. 

We sat and meditated, and thought and prayed.  God was there with us by His Spirit and we were with Him.  I said to Margaret that so precious was this time with the Lord that I could envisage God sitting on His heavenly Throne smiling down on us.  We were enjoying Him – man’s chief end.  But even more amazing was the fact that He was enjoying us.  There was peace between us, a real and deep sense of reconciliation.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Margaret’s headache had gone, and we praised Him for that.  But her back pain was still there, and we praised Him for what He could do.  I can remember a time when I knew I was going to where I would be mauled by evil people, but I went there singing praises to the Lord most high, and came home singing praises to his great Name.  That’s what grace can do. 

Oh, what a wonderful morning this was.  You know, I pity those who have had a smooth run through life for they do not know what they are missing.  How mechanical their prayers are, how correct, how formal, how measured!  And I wonder just how far they reach!  But when you are cast upon the Lord only, my, what a difference that makes to us.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Church-initiated Persecution of Gospel Ministers in Northern Ireland

Recovering from something as traumatic as cancer and its very demanding treatment is a challenge, and patients need as much support as they can get. Family is always a great  source of support and comfort, as are friends who call and help with food, etc. 

Yet, it is noteworthy just how little it takes to upset the equilibrium that has been enjoyed.  Satan is always looking for an opportunity to attack, and sadly there is no lack of springboards from which to launch such attacks.

What some people will not believe or accept is how many times the “Christian” church is at the forefront of attacking Gospel ministers.  “Oh, the church would never do that,” they say in defense of their own denomination.  “The minister must have done something very wrong for our church to remove him.” 

Well, on that point they are quite correct.  These men have preached the Gospel with power and passion, which very thing the churches do not want.  And they have applied Gospel principles to and within their congregations, another unwanted church commodity.

Today’s liberal and anti-Gospel churches are still removing Gospel-preaching ministers from their charges, while they leave the ‘good churchmen’ to get on with their lives, not to mention their ministries.  What are ‘good churchmen’?  ‘Good churchmen’ are those who never disturb the consciences of their hearers, never question their professions of faith, never expect their faith to be seen in everyday life, never ask uncomfortable questions of the church, and never question the spirituality of the church.  They just turn a blind eye to religious formalism and outward respectability, and as long as the church is functioning “as it was in the beginning, is now, and evermore shall be,” all is well. 

But once God’s transforming Gospel arrives in such churches, it is as if all hell is let loose – against the minister and those who support the minister because he preaches the everlasting Gospel.  As Dr John Stott calls it, the Gospel is Christian Counter Culture.  It challenges everything, particularly those whose religious and eternal well-being are dependent solely on a mere profession of faith.  Such people imagine they are genuine Christians and are regarded as such, why?  Because the church’s eldership accepted them as Christians, so they must be Christians.  And woe betide anyone, minister or otherwise, who raises any questions as to their spiritual standing. 

And remember this; the persecution of Christian ministers does not only happen in far away lands like India, Pakistan, China, etc.  It is happening right in front of our eyes.  And do you know what makes this particularly heart-breaking?  God’s people in these churches stand back and refuse to challenge such treatment of the servants of Christ, thus implicating them in what their leaders have done to Gospel men.  It shows just how little they care for the Gospel after all.  Why do they do this?  Because their ecclesiology is essentially Roman Catholic, and by that I mean, whatever the church does is right, infallibly right. 

Thank God for those ministers who, out of love for their people and for Christ and His Gospel, are prepared to challenge a religion of mere words.  Formal religion is useless when faced with death, and we have discovered the reality of a living faith in such a situation.

Two ministers have already been put out of their charges by their respective denominations, one has been forced to resign to take effect in about five weeks time, and another is on sick leave because of “work-related stress;” he joins some 35 other ministers from one denomination who are off on similar grounds.  Congregations are divided right down the middle, and in most cases, this is over the Gospel, a most unwelcome commodity in many churches today. 

This happened to me twenty years ago, and it is still happening to Gospel ministers today.  And when your wife is suffering from cancer and hears about the re-enactment of such evils by churches, it does nothing to help her in her recovery.  It brings back bad thoughts of what was done to us by the church.  You don’t need me to tell you what kind of churches they are that throw out Gospel preaching ministers, do you?  If these churches loved Christ and the Gospel, they would treasure the servants of Christ, not toss them aside as you would an empty packet.  Because these are Christ’s chosen vessels for the propagation of the Gospel, those churches and ministers will have to answer to God for the evil they have inflicted on God’s men.

Now this kind of situation needles both my wife and me.  It causes anger to arise within us, and takes us back to the days when we were going through such church-inspired persecution.  In fact, it re-traumatises us.

Please pray for these persecuted ministers of the Gospel in this land where we are told that peace and reconciliation reign.