Forgetfulness – Part 1

‘Hiya Josh! Haven’t seen you in a while. How’re you doing?’ said a friendly voice, near at hand.

‘Hello!’ I returned enthusiastically, before turning to give the speaker my full attention to see who it was addressing me. Oh dear… It rang no bells; no names. Yikes, not again! I had not even a faintest idea of who it was. Of course, in the interest of politeness, I had to wing it; duly continuing a friendly conversation whilst trying to work out who on earth this person actually was. But by the end I was still none the wiser.

I’m sure we’ve all had something of this experience. Whilst amusing, it’s happened to me a scary amount of times… Forgetfulness seems to be intrinsic to human nature.

Are we forgetting something very important?

How about a spiritual spin on this though?

I was challenged recently by a passage I read…
I’m getting married this Summer and went through 1 Corinthians 7 (which is an excellent chapter on marriage, relationships and singleness), when something Paul wrote struck me pretty hard. The passage goes on for the first twenty-eight verses with Paul essentially replying to some key questions on these matters posed by the church at Corinth. In the twenty-ninth verse however, there is a sudden change — I’ll quote it with the preceding verse so you can get a flavour of the context:

“But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:28-31).

There’s a real sense of urgency in Paul’s writing here — as if Jesus’ return is imminent. This is the real issue here, not marriage or singleness, as important topics as they are. If Paul, writing over 1900 years ago had that sense of urgency, how much more should we! Our attitude should be one of constantly looking to the skies awaiting the glorious return of our risen Lord, who is ‘coming back to take you to be with me’ (John 14:3b). I love how many of the older hymns invariably include this longing for His coming; which we so easily seem to pass over because we do not walk so closely with Him. I believe that we are in danger of forgetting the return of our Lord Jesus. When He comes calling for us, will we know who it is talking to us? or will we be clueless and forgetful like I was…? How well do we know Him? Will we know His call, like sheep their shepherd? Will we be ready to leave all and go with Him? ‘When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?’ (Luke 18:8).

In our modern Evangelical/Reformed circles we seem to have largely forgotten the Return of the King. Despite almost twice as many chapters of the Bible describing the Second Coming as the first — it’s hardly preached on, it’s not really studied; it barely gets a mention — yet the Second Coming is surely one of the most important things we need to know about Jesus Christ!

Looking to Home

Where should our focus be?

In John 14:1-4, Jesus says:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Isn’t this the most glorious thing! ‘My Father’s house’. HOME. The home of Christ and His flock. Sweet rest, at last.

Paul writes:

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. […] Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

[…] For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Are we ready to leave at a moment’s notice, as the Israelites on the night of the Passover, staff in hand? Are we prepared to leave all and go with Him to our new home?

Or are our minds set on planning for earthly things? My fiancée and I are planning for a wedding and preparing for marriage; ultimately however, we are all planning and preparing to leave this world. This earnest eager urgent expectation is something I believe we are seriously missing today — where is the desire to go out and warn the dying world? I fear we are seriously lacking here. I love meeting new Christians, they have so much buzz and joy of the Lord about them, so much hunger for Him and a burning desire to see their friends saved. By contrast, us ‘old guard’, as it were, can be so dull and senseless at times. Lord Jesus, please help us! Heavenly Father, we are weak, hear us! Holy Spirit, work through us, revive us!

“The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Pray, Pray, Pray!

The word of God says to ‘pray continually’. Our Father in Heaven loves to hear us talk to Him. Our lives should be one long prayer to God, a running conversation with Him. What is sweeter than communion with the Lord of Hosts through our Lord Jesus Christ? What is more amazing than talking directly to our Creator, the one who holds the stars in the palm of His hands, in the awesome power of the Holy Spirit?

Prayer is essentially speaking to God. We address ourselves to God the Father in the name of God the Son through the power of God the Spirit. But in a sense, prayer is more than kneeling and saying a few words, because everything we do speaks to God, and actions speak louder than words…

One bloke once said, there are three things a Christian should do: the first is to pray; the second is to pray; and, you might have guessed it, the third is to pray! Prayer is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, yet one, I fear, is sadly neglected by many believers in our day and age. The poet William Cowper said, ‘Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.’

Do we pray?

When was the last time you knelt before the King of Kings? When was the last time you sought the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? When was the last time you poured out your heart to the Most High? When was the last time you lifted up your hands and your heart to our God in heaven? When was the last time you cried out unceasingly with tears in your eyes until the Lord looked down?

I’m not just talking about saying ‘thanks’ for your lunch, an ‘arrow-prayer’ because you can’t find your keys, or a long old shopping-list you rattle-off every now and then. It’s living like Epaphras, who ‘was always wrestling in prayer for the brethren [in Colosse],’ and having the attitude of Jacob, ‘I will not let you go until you bless me!’
We complain we live in days of small things, we say, ‘God does not seem to be working in my life, or in the church anymore’. Well — why is that? Because we don’t pray! ‘We don’t have because we don’t ask’. We don’t pray ‘continually’ or ‘without ceasing’, we breeze in and out of the Almighty’s presence like we would a train station, we hardly get inside before we’re off again in a hurry, ‘getting on with our lives’. If we want to be serious about revival; then we need to be serious about prayer.  A man once said, ‘God’s works of grace are always traced to a humble saint upon their knees’. Pray in power and in faith! God pleases to use our prayers; but at present, what is there to use?

Is this true of you? How sad is this, brothers and sisters! I feel it myself so bad. I don’t pray as I ought, I don’t seek the Lord as I ought. My prayer-life is far too poor.

We simply do not pray enough. It’s all about our heart in these matters. We should never leave the Lord’s presence, whether we’re directly speaking to God or in-directly speaking to Him with our lives. J.C. Ryle says the harder it is to pray, often the better it is for your soul. However feeble our prayers and our hearts, God will listen — that is His amazing promise. Wherever we are… whether we’re in the house of God with his people; in the belly of a big fish at a total loose-end; wasting away in the darkest dungeon of gloom and despair; atop the scary whirling heights of a particular trial; lost in the wilderness of life; or in bed with the flu (last four examples — Psalm 107). If we cry out to the Lord, He will save us, and ‘if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us’ and He will ‘draw near to us, as we draw near to Him’.

Paul says, ‘always keep on praying for all the saints’. Peter says, ‘Cast all your cares upon Him, for he cares for you’. Jude says, ‘Beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life’. What was the secret to success for these peoples’ lives, lived for the Lord, and so many Christians throughout history? Prayer. Simple prayer.

Jesus, Himself, spent many whole nights in prayer. And if He, God incarnate, needed to pray, how much more do we?

It does feel, in our days, that the devil seems to be winning — he has so stifled Christians prayer-lives, so they are as practically non-existent. We need to get back to the days of old, when men like John Welch developed serious knee problems from praying too much on their knees (he prayed all night — every night)! Or when Martin Luther had so much to do one day that it would take at least ‘three hours’ with the Lord! That should be our way of life!

So come on Christian soldiers, before you arise, fall down on your knees before your Heavenly Father, who loves to have His little children come to Him. Pray and then go on praying into your day and ‘live a life worthy of your calling’.

One of my favourite hymns as a youngster was ‘Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life?’, two lines of which say:

And the cables passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy the blast, through strength divine.

That’s powerful imagery. Our hearts connected to God’s heart with Christ. With Christ we can tackle anything. Was Christ’s work completed on the cross? No! Far from it; He now stands at the right hand of God, there making intercession for all His saints.

Hebrews 4:16 reads:

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

What to pray?

There’s an acrostic, which is less than perfect, but besides being easy to remember can give us an idea of prayer and the order of it…

  • P – Praise! How should we get started in prayer? – ‘Enter into His gates with thanksgiving. And enter His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.’ This should be our over-running theme throughout our prayer-life and our kick-starter. Find something to praise Him for, it isn’t hard!
  • R – Repent! We’re sinners who can only come to God in prayer through Jesus Christ, our Righteousness. Remember God is completely holy; nothing impure can even get close. We come with repentant hearts to Him, recognising our sin and our need of Him.
  • A – Ask! With ‘praise and thanksgiving we present out petitions to the Lord.’ We should uphold each other and the whole world in prayer.
  • Y – Yield! We’re told to pray according to His sovereign will. Therefore we leave it all in His hands.

Pray the Bible, particularly the Psalms. There’s a psalm for every occasion, when we need His strength (27), when we are seeking His forgiveness (51), when we are struggling to come to terms with the wickedness in the world (73), whatever, wherever we are, pray the word and seek His will. And then ‘wait on the Lord’ and watch the results! As well as being reverent, we need to be bold in prayer.

Lamentations is another great book for prayer; harrowing and sober, but essentially a call to prayer; well worth prayerfully studying. There are tons of illustrations of prayers in the Bible, not least the Lord’s template for prayer.

We should pray for the faith to ‘move mountains’. Then go and live that prayer! Matthew Henry said, ‘Thanksgiving is good; thanksliving is so much better’, we ‘live according to his purpose, pray according to his will’.

Where to pray?

Pray ‘in your closet’ — just you and the Lord, no distractions; phone off, Bible open, heart ready. Take time. Don’t be short in prayer! Go for a ‘walk and talk’ with the Lord, His creation can be so inspiring. Worry about nothing, pray about everything.

Pray with the Lord’s people. It’s always so important and always so encouraging — coming to the Lord together and bringing praise, big requests, little worries, the lot, to His throne of Grace. C.H. Spurgeon declared that the prayer meeting is the ‘engine-room’ of ‘His Majesty’s Ship Church’. It is the most important meeting of the week! And some churches don’t even have one! The prayer meeting is more important than a Cabinet meeting in Ten Downing Street. Get over that one!

Prayer-partners/buddies, and meeting with one or two believers every now and then, is another great way of coming to the Lord. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, and I don’t know about you, but I can be so stirred by simply joining with a brother or sister in prayer. There’s absolutely nothing like it.

Family prayer-times are so important too. If you’re blessed with a God-fearing family, make the most of it!

Go forth and pray!

Now, go and pray in the Spirit, He is our guide and counsellor, He lays on our heart matters for prayer, He ‘intercedes with groans that words cannot express,’ He draws us so much nearer to God, He strengthens us, builds us up, helps us experience the amazing love of God, and glorifies God (‘man’s chief end’). And let’s persevere in prayer (Lamentations 5:19-22), especially as we kick-off this new year!

More holiness give me,
More sweetness within,
More patience in suff’ring,
More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Saviour,
More sense of His care,
More joy in His service,
More freedom in prayer.

Come, my Saviour, and help me,
Comfort, strengthen and keep me;
Thou each moment wilt save me,
Thou art saving me now.

More gratitude give me,
More trust in the Lord,
More zeal for His glory,
More hope in His Word,
More tears for His sorrows,
More pain at His grief,
More meekness in trial,
More praise for relief.

More victory give me,
More strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains,
More quest for the throne,
More fit for the kingdom,
More useful I’d be,
More blessed and holy,
More, Saviour, like Thee

(Philip Paul Bliss)

Five Hundred Years Of The Reformation: Recommended Reading Material

October is upon us and this month we are celebrating 500 years of the Reformation, but beyond some random hot-headed monk banging a bit of paper on a church-door and a few fights, what else happened?

It is my aim in this post to list a number of short books on the Reformation and Reformation characters, which everyone should read to give us all a bigger and better picture of what actually happened all those years ago.

What’s the big deal about the Reformation — is it just another word for the Renaissance?

The Reformation had very little to do with the Renaissance. If anything the Reformation was a grassroots movement against the Renaissance, a cultural and philosophical movement characterised by the revival of Græco-Roman ideas and art. The achievement central to the Reformation was the translation of the Bible into the native languages of European peoples, unlocking the eternal word of God for the masses. In my opinion, the Renaissance was mostly intellectual hot-air and risqué art leaving little to the imagination; for a few oily-haired loafers.

‘The Unquenchable Flame’ by Dr. Michael Reeves

I think Dr. Reeves’ work is the best short overview of the Reformation that money can buy. In a lucid and fluent writing style he describes the decline of the Church into immorality and debauchery, and then the spark of flame that set it all off. The book is a gripping read that is completely ‘unputdownable’! The Reformation was a clear work of God from start to finish; He used everyone from prince to pauper, gallant knights to little old monks shuffling around.

So who was this Luther bloke — wasn’t he a civil-rights campaigner?

The 20th century American civil-rights campaigner Martin Luther King actually named himself after the original Martin Luther, the German monk generally accredited with kick-starting the Reformation (although a change had been in the wind for a good few hundred years). However, in many ways, the two men were not dissimilar…

‘The Triumph of Truth: A Life of Martin Luther’ by J.H. Merle D’Aubigné

Martin Luther was a German monk turned Reformer. A promising future as a lawyer was cut short by a thunderstorm and the young German signed his life away to a monastery, and, in his own words, ‘If ever a monk could get to heaven by his monkery, it was I.’ Then the Lord drew Luther’s attention to His word, and therein Luther found the truth. His is a fantastic story interwoven with disguise, deception and betrayal. The Reformation started by Luther banging his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door, and this is quite simply a banging book! I’ve heard it said that more biographies have been written of Martin Luther than any other man, which makes choosing one difficult. But in my opinion, D’Aubigné (haven’t a clue how to properly say his name by the way – I think it could be ‘door-bin-ay’, but I don’t think its ‘dow-big-knee’ as some say) is one of the best, most honest historians covering the Reformation with a number of titles.

I’m a Scot — where does Scotland come into all this?

Scotland! Well, the Reformation shook Europe to the core, and this seismic revolution reverberated around the world; it didn’t take long to reach the glens of Scotland too.
The Reformers were an eclectic bunch, from all walks of life. There were the reflective thinkers, timid by nature craving the quiet, bookish boffins like John Calvin, Philip Melanchthon and William Tyndale, and then there were the fiery lions like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and William Farel lovin’ a good scrap. But, loud or quiet, they were all thrust into defending and suffering for the gospel. And there was another lion by the name of John Knox who was quite a character, and perhaps did more for the gospel in wee bonnie Scotland than any other man…

‘John Knox: Fearless Faith’ by Steven J. Lawson

This short sharp captivating biography captures the essence of John Knox, as he journeys from bodyguard to galley slave, to displaced exile, doing whatever it takes in order to preach the gospel in his beloved Scotland. Honestly, it is a simply fantastic read and breathtaking introduction to the fiery Scotsman and the Gospel he fought for!

Yeah but what I really wanna know is how the Bible got translated into English?

All in good time, my lad, and it certainly did take time! Several people had a crack at it until Wycliffe got most of it done, before he popped his clogs back in the 14th century. Then England had to wait another one-hundred-and-fifty years before a chap by the name of William Tyndale came along. What did he do? Read this book and find out!

‘God’s Outlaw’ by Brian H. Edwards

The life of William Tyndale makes for fantastic reading. Brian Edwards really encapsulates the soul of the man and the King he served. Hunted and on the run in Europe, with the agents of the government after this elusive pimpernel; Tyndale battled tooth and nail to get the Bible translated and printed in English until eventually they nabbed him. From then on, it was only time until he was burnt at the stake; with one last cry, his dying prayer was, ‘Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!’

What happened?

That great womanising buffoon Henry VIII declared that a Bible in English be placed in every church building in the land. Boom!

It’s my belief that William Tyndale did more for the English language and the English Bible than any other Englishman in history. Bold claim? Read the book and see if you agree with me.

So, what is the best way to understand the Reformers?

Read the book that they all fought for, and many of them died for!

What book’s that?

The Bible, you numpty!

It is the greatest book ever written. It has God’s everlasting message of hope and salvation. The greatest thing to come from the Reformation was the word of God in the languages of the people of Europe. When you read it look out for the ‘Five Solas’ of the Reformation (although one’s a ‘Solus’ and another’s a ‘Soli’…). These were the five great truths championed by the Reformers.

Solus Christus – Christ Alone
Soli Deo Gloria – Glory to God Alone
Sola Scriptura – By Scripture Alone
Sola Fide – By Faith Alone
Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone

What should I do now?

Go and read, be educated and uplifted! And pray! We so need another Reformation. A Gospel Reformation, following those Five Solas. We need the name of Jesus Christ to fly like a banner across the sky for all the world to see once again!

Competition time! We would like to offer one reader of the Eat Write Sleep blog the chance to win any two of the books from this article of their choice. All you have to do is post a comment below (or on our Facebook page) with which two books you would like and why. The winner will be decided by lot (the Biblical method!), the books sent by post, and the competition will run until Saturday the 28th of October.