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).

Denominations and Divisions: A Rethink

This post has been an interesting one to write. I started it months ago, raging and being angry at the divisions that have appeared in the church. There are hundreds of different denominations, and this annoyed me. Yet I believe God has shown me something else recently.

Jesus had to deal with sectarianism with his disciples:

“‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us…’” (Mark 9:38-40).

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mark 3:25). 

Now, division in the church has been a problem. There are too many times that the church has divided over something ridiculous. We can be too busy, debating the finer points of Calvinism, what colour the church-door should be, whether we should have pews or not; lost in ‘meaningless talk’ (2 Timothy 2:16). To be honest, Brothers and sisters, we should focus on what we have in common: Christ is everything. The Gospel is everything. Hymnbooks or projectors, Baptist or Presbyterian, AV or NIV are all irrelevant.

Nonetheless, we will disagree; we are, after all, human, but there is a blessing in these denominations. We have found comfort in those who believe the same we do — in how we sing a song, or how the service should be structured. It does help us to focus our lives on Christ more when these divisions are removed. Denominations aren’t necessarily bad! We just shouldn’t take pride in the one we belong to, and should always be willing to talk to other churches, and to share and pool resources together too for evangelism, children’s work, financial needs, etc.

We will always think differently on secondary issues, but they should never get in the way of communion with one another and NEVER should one church think it is better than the rest. That is just pride. As believers, let us build bridges; let us be that spark that cuts through these divisions. If we disagree on a secondary issue then let us deal with it in love and humility. But let us focus on Jesus and the cross more than ever!

Richard Motte once declared that, ‘There is not a single Quaker, Presbyterian, Methodist or Baptist in heaven.’ Pausing before his no-doubt stunned listeners to add, ‘For in heaven God knows no such distinctions.’ We will be one singing glory to God always. Let that start now, on earth, not later, not tomorrow, but now. Let us be bold in prayer and ask God for strength that this may be achieved.

So, I don’t care about your church background, if you know Jesus died for your sins and that He rose again on the third day, if you believe that grace covers all your sins, then I will call you brother or sister and let us celebrate together what He has done for us all!

Unity, brothers and sisters, unity. Dear God, I pray that for those who read this have a flame set in their hearts for unity. May Your will be done and may we see the church following You, may we see a church actually living for You and not for itself. May You lead all Your people, regardless of background to Your kingdom, and may You use us to bring men and women into Your kingdom. Amen.

Being a Balance

I was just chatting to Josh, literally a minute ago and this post came to me. Being a balance!   What do I mean by this? It all relates to me and my role in church. Confused? Well I intend to explain.

Being the contemporary Christian

When I find myself in a church that is a bit old school in how it does things, I tend to find myself being the ‘contemporary Christian’. Loving all the new modern songs, loving the new technology and all that. I tend to be defending the contemporary scene, and pushing for the church to embrace aspects of the contemporary scene. A church that stubbornly sticks to its old ways is at danger of putting tradition before the Bible, before God and before its community; a church can only be healthier with someone acting as a modern spokesman!

Being the old school Christian

When I am in a more contemporary church, singing the latest Matt Redman song, with lights and smoke machines, I tend to find I become the ‘old school Christian’, loving the hymns, the old school preaching in a suit and the like. I’m the one who likes to keep going on about how good the doctrine in hymns can be. A church is always at danger in putting the latest gadget or device or technique before God, before the Bible and before its faithful walk. A church can only be healthier if it remembers the lessons learnt by our forefathers and remember the key truths always.

Doesn’t that get frustrating for you and those round you?

Perhaps, you may have to ask them! In seriousness, if you approach these matters with a humble heart and don’t slam it all in everyone’s’ faces every time something is brought up; then I see no reason why it should prove frustrating. When we think of the church, we must be humble, ready to learn, happy to be corrected. Who knows, maybe by being the opposite it engages others with a conversation they may never had had!

What’s the point in this post?

Balance is the point. The church needs a balance. Going too far one way is always dangerous and not something I like to see, ‘only blockheads go to extremes’ C.H. Spurgeon wrote. The blog is all about balance and I guess it has kind of rubbed off on me. I love debating with Josh or whoever about scripture or church issues, I love seeing other view points, and I like to see balance in everything that is said.

We cannot be afraid of having different opinions, but we must always have a humble heart when we look at other people and other churches. We aren’t always necessarily right and it is always good to have a conversation in the right spirit.

So remember, try and maintain a balance and always try to have a humble heart!

How do we achieve this balance?

Let’s be frank, we can’t get it on our own, we need God’s help. Our ‘balances’ are ‘unbalanced balances’. ‘Balance’ is very often the buzzword of my discussions with Josh, yet a real balance is unachievable whilst we’re trying to do it alone. We always veer towards extremes, we’re too human. Our balance is too much of a pendulum; a brief moment in the middle when we’re swinging from one extreme to the other. We need a ‘divine balance’, we need God’s Holy Spirit to come down and take charge of our minds and senses — only then can we get that true balance.

The words of Jesus promise:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (NIV).

It feels like the church in our day is just running around in circles, trying this, trying that, without looking upwards, to heaven, to God.

“A false balance is a abomination to the Lord, a just weight is his delight” Proverbs 11:1 (ESV).