India continues busily. I have attended the Golden Anniversary Celebrations of Central Baptist Church, Machillipatnam. This was from Thursday 5th to Sunday 8th.
Everything was translated into Telegu. There was a Pastor’s Conference on Thursday and Friday. And also the general celebrations. I preached several times with a few impromptu things thrown in.
It was great to see people wanting to hear and receive the Word. Apparently, there were 700 people there on Saturday evening. Amazingly, they seem to give a full meal at lunch and dinner for all who are there at all the sessions.
There were lots and lots of presentations to people who have faithfully served the Lord, or are connected to others who have faithfully served. Some beautiful singing and music. Interestingly, it was all very loud through big amplification. It was great to see that the vast majority of the songs were indigenous songs. I think, during the days, I only recognised one which seemed to be a translation from English.
So much beautiful food to enjoy.
My stomach has generally held up well. However, I am a little queasy this morning with some diarrhoea.
The highlight of the conference for me was probably going to a small village church yesterday morning to preach. Such a blessing to see these dear people wanting to hear and know the Lord through His Word.
It seems to me that we Christians in the UK are far too complacent about the loss of our buildings. When a church has ceased to function in a building the normal recourse is to dispose of the premises on the open market. Such an event leads to the accrual of certain funds. This can lead us to being happy that we are being faithful servants of the Lord in the dispersing of funds for gospel purposes.
I am not saying that this approach is to be rejected. It may be the appropriate course of action. Such situation would be, for example, where an area has been depopulated and there are little or few people in an area. Also it may well be an application of the principle that our Lord set for his disciples that if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town (Matt. 10:14).
However, I still would want to make two strand assertions on this subject:
- The loss of a building generally equals the loss of a testimony for our Lord in an area. In the losing of the building there is a losing of a place where the gospel of our Lord Jesus is honoured and declared. Accordingly, we have to ponder upon whether we have lost our gospel vision to make sure that many can still have opportunity to hear the gospel. This loss is compounded in its significance and poignancy when false religions take them over to propagate lies.
- Many churches normally meet in public buildings such as schools and village halls. There are many good reasons why this is a sound approach to existing and living as a church. However, we need to get real and realise that this cannot be a situation that continues indefinitely. The fact that the biblical perspective on homosexuality and transgenderism is so at odds with that of the present zeitgeist in our country means that the doors to public buildings will metaphorically and literally soon be closing. When this happens will we be woken up and wonder why we did not take more action to keep church buildings within the church.
I urge some thinking on this issue.
This is essential for the Christian; you must have your personal time alone with Him. You put your life in peril if you do not. Church fellowship is essential and we need to be experiencing that to grow in the Lord. Worshipping in the family at home must also be there in our schedules. But we must not neglect being in the secret place with the Lord.
You have to find out what works for you. You may be able to operate on a spontaneous basis, whereby in the natural flow of life you are having space to worship the Lord and be with Him. However, for most of us, I suggest, that this is not the case, We need to be more disciplined. we need to set aside a specific time to be alone with our Father and our Lord Jesus. Regular habits are normally good in this respect.
And if your Quiet Time or personal time with the Lord is becoming dull and lacklustre then mix it up. Try whatever works. Try reading a few passages of good Christ centred books. The Puritans are good here and Richard Sibbes is always a good place to start. Try prayer lists. In all this make sure that your prayings and worshippings are Bible framed so you must have the Word.
Living Christians are always God’s presence Christians. No time in the presence of the Lord means death to your soul and impoverishment in spiritual desires and worship.
And of course our Lord Jesus sets the pattern here. He was so keen to spend time with his Father that he would get up early to make sure it happened. Perhaps that is what you need to do (and me). You need to be thinking about getting up a bit earlier and having time in His presence.
I have written about personal devotions at further length here if you are interested.
King Hezekiah was a good man; who lived well for the glory of his God. If we are sensible, that is exactly what we should desire for ourselves. So we read these words concerning Hezekiah He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them. (2 Chron. 29:2-3)
This establishes a significant principle for us. It is that worship must not just be “a” priority in our lives, but be ‘the’ priority in our lives. When we lose this focus then our lives are always impoverished as a result. Worship should be at the centre of our lives. Hezekiah teaches us well here. He could have done a multitude of things as he set to move the ways of God forward after the vacillating leadership of his father, Ahaz. But he was wise and put worship at the centre. He realised the temple must be operating appropriately if ever the people of God are to be operating properly.
What lesson is this? It must apply:-
- Personally. So I must get worship flourishing in my life. I should be going to the Word to find material to bring praise to my great God and his Son.
- Collectively. When we prioritise anything over worship in our churches then we are always likely to go adrift.
I happened to be in close proximity to the Gay Pride march in Oxford earlier in the month. Some things struck me.
How acceptable this all is.
I noticed a bank and business society displaying the rainbow insignia in their windows. To not be an adherent to the LGBT+ agenda is now seen as being out of touch. And if your business is not with the LGBT+ agenda then you are considered discriminatory and bigoted.
How normal this all is.
Looking at the people taking part it seemed that so many were just your average families with parents and kids. Yes there were those who were more “odd”, but the normality of the participants I saw struck me. It was as if you are not part of the in-crowd if you are not participating. How much has changed in twenty-five years; in fact probably ten years.
On 18th September 2003 s28 of the Local Government act 1988 which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools was repealed. This seems like another age completely from where we are today. But that is only fifteen years ago.
How dangerous this all is.
The whole agenda of LGBT+ is a rejection of two fundamental creatorial principles as established in God’s Word. These are:
- We are made male and female.
- Sexual relationships are to be between one man and one woman in marriage.
Such principles are the bedrock of a society to function healthy. Moreover, the throwing aside of these standard leads me to ask what other standards will go next. I suggest the driving force in it all is that of establishing a consensus rather than maintaining established principles.
When consensus drives the agenda we can end anywhere, You might be interested to hear what happened in Rwanda when consensus led to the slaughter of thousands. Listen about that here. In this programme Alan Little uses the eerie phrase “democratisation of evil”. Mmmmmmh makes me wonder about what is going on in our own society.
So as I sit down to my breakfast I am greeted by some advert on the Kelloggs cornflakes packet about winning tickets to the Love Island finale.
Now I have never watched Love Island, and so some would say, I am in no position to say anything. However, I am aware enough, to know that it is about watching beautiful people interacting and manoeuvring around and with each other to see who ends up having sex with who. Please correct me if I am wrong in that understanding. This is now prime entertainment in our culture and the advert on the Kelloggs packet tells me how mainstream it has become.
Apparently only the football beat Love Island into second place for popular TV watching in 2018 for 18 to 34 year-olds. And all the while reports come out that we are having less sex than ever.
Oh what a mess this all is. That which is a precious gift from God to be enjoyed within the bonds of marriage, by a man and a woman (husband and wife), has become cheap entertainment. Now you can argue about it being a study in how people interact in certain circumstances, but surely that is a smokescreen for the fact that people watch it for who is going to go with who and how far.
And while we titillate ourselves in our voyeuristic engagement with Love Island we have lost the real joy of sex. Marriages that can be sweetened by this beautiful gift are losing out.
We are a society saturated by sex and increasingly we have not got a clue what it’s for and how it should fit in with our lives. All the while the pornography industry prospers, nicely nudged along by Love Island of course and lives are ruined.
If only we would stick with God’s plan we would be saved from all this mess of course. Strange that isn’t it? No, not strange at all because God’s way is always the best way.
And Lord please have mercy on our nation. In losing you we are losing everything.
Here is a quote from Dr Lloyd Jones on prayer from Preachers and Preaching pp. 170-171:
Above all – and this I regard as most important of all – always respond to every impulse to pray. The impulse to pray may come when you are reading or when you are battling with a text. I would make an absolute law of this—always obey such an impulse. Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of the meaning of, ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure‘ (Phil. 2:12-13)
This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences of the minister. So never resist, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing, but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect. You will experience an ease and a facility in understanding what you are reading, in thinking, in ordering matter for a sermon, in writing, in everything, which is quite astonishing. Such a call to prayer must never be regarded as a distraction; always respond to it immediately and thank God if it happens to you frequently.
It specifically related to those in a preaching ministry, However, I believe it is applicable to all of us. Since reading this statement many years ago it is something I have pondered upon from time-to-time. If I could extend his thoughts further, I would say that we should be asking for these times of impulse that we might have a real unction in prayer and real fellowship with our God. And also a reminder here that if we are too busy to pray then we are too busy and need to sort our lives out.
And finally if you are a preacher you must read Preachers and Preaching.