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).

Seven Things CUs Need To Learn

As the next academic year starts, Christian Unions up and down the country re-start. CUs are great; a place for students to come together in fellowship, to pray and evangelise in their campus. I was fortunate in having such a welcoming CU when I went to University, and it probably played a role in leading me to fully commit my life to Jesus. However, they aren’t perfect and in this article I will suggest a few improvements for CUs in general.

  1. There is always a danger of cliques in CUs, where churches group together. This can make it a bit awkward for visitors or for those of smaller churches. In the CU, don’t go to your friends, talk to everyone, chat to those who are on their own. Sometimes, I felt on my own because I never went to one of the popular churches. In my MA year, someone even asked if I was a fresher — not a good sign! At the same time, I don’t judge these cliques because I know they are easy to get into, but always try to avoid them! After all, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, no?
  2. There is a danger of a dominating church. This can lead to the other churches pushed to the side and the committee promoting one church, or one church having too much influence. A CU is not a place for denomination, I love it that a traditionalist and a Pentecostal have the potential to mix in such a space and it should be kept like that.
  3. Welcome traditional churches. Don’t focus on the churches that are big, or are popular, focus on all churches! I reckon 30-50 students at each University don’t go to their CU because they are more traditional in their worship and such and do not feel welcome. The CU is not a charismatic hub; it should be for all churches, so make an effort to include all churches.
  4. Don’t sing your favourite four songs on and on. I have been in a few CU meetings where this has happened and it’s a pain, it’s boring. God is not there. Change it up, sing old stuff, sing new stuff. Write your own stuff! Basically change it up, let God lead, and not yourselves.
  5. Be serious. This sounds like a weird statement to make, but sometimes I felt looking at my CU that some Christians weren’t taking Jesus word seriously enough, I mean we are all sinners, but when some people get put on the committee and you look at their lifestyle, it doesn’t look godly. Now I know, we are all sinners, I am just as bad as them to be honest, but if they don’t even try, remotely to keep the commandments, then how will God bless us? How will people see us?
  6. Don’t be scared to talk about the difficult stuff. Hell, Judgement, sin. They’re not easy subjects and ones that none of us like talking about. They shouldn’t be the main focus of the CU, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything mentioned even once in three years….three years, it does make you wonder. God is love, He is awesome, He is exciting, He is beautiful! Amen to that brothers and sisters, but the gospel is much more. Don’t be afraid of talking about the difficult stuff!
  7. Keep doing what you’re doing. Weird again, eh? Well the acts of love, of kindness that the CU show on campus is always amazing! God blesses you and will use what you do. Keep on showing love and spreading the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Keep on praying, keep on meeting, keep on singing. I was so blessed, especially in two of my years at the CU and I pray that God will bless your CU, wherever you are.

So I hope these points’ help and start something. I love CUs; I love what they stand for and what they are all about. I love how they might have been rejected by the Universities for their stances, because they are faithful! Yet they do need to improve, as we all do. Have a blessed year brothers and sisters at University.

How Should Christians Respond To Terrorism?

In the wake of recent horrific terrorist attacks (which are now almost a daily occurrence) in Barcelona, Finland, Russia, London and many other places, there are many different reactions. Some people are inclined to panic; others put on a show of resilience, resolve and unity; and some angrily attack back, verbally or otherwise. But how should Christians respond?

Do not fear

First of all, we should not fear. People with guns, knives and bombs come and go. The Bible tells us not to fear such people, instead to fear God, who is Sovereign in all things:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28).

In times of crisis and disaster Christians should shine brightest. We have peace and assurance, that whatever happens, Christ is our Saviour, and we eagerly await the heavenly home that awaits us. We are blessed beyond belief. However, this blessing is not reason to hide away in some hermit-hole up a remote mountain in Tibet or pretend everything’s OK and stick our heads in the ground like Winnie the Pooh. That won’t help anybody.

In times of war, everyone is mobilised and prepared for battle, and in the same way we all need to report for duty to our King and Commander. We all have a role to play within the world. We should not shirk from our duty (*wink wink* Jonah).

We don’t fear. We praise the Lord as we march out to battle (2 Cor. 20:21). He is the One we should fear. He is the One with almighty power who allows such atrocities to happen, and even uses them for good (Gen. 50:20, Rom. 8:28), so that He might unite everything together under His Son (1 Eph. 1:10) and thereby make known His Name and His Salvation to the ends of the earth.

Why?

Every day we read or hear the news of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and horrendous accidents all with massive loss of life. Many ask how God can exist or allow such atrocities to carry on. Without wishing to get bogged down with this question, we must remember that this world is fallen, and it is not everything; there will be a day of judgement, where everyone will have to give an account for their actions, and then there will be a new heavens and a new earth.

One of the reasons I love the Psalms is that they were written by people who experienced the exact same problems as us. They are so exactly like us, it is remarkable. There is a psalm for every occasion. Psalm 73 is a great one to read when we feel like everything is going wrong, and people who do evil seem to be having a whale of a time.

The root cause of terrorism and this savage thirst for blood is, of course, sin. Terrorism and war brings out the worst in human beings, as well as sometimes the best in the aftermath. We are sinful fallen creatures, but we are still made in the image of our ever-merciful ever-graceful God.

Prayer

Our first reaction should surely be to pray. Prayer is our most powerful weapon, a direct channel of communication to our God which should be open at all times (Eph. 6:18). We pray for the families of the victims of the attacks, that they may be comforted and find strength in God. We pray for the security forces and leaders in the country, that they may be blessed with guidance and wisdom in protecting the nation. However hard it is, we should also pray for the terrorist organisations responsible for these attacks, for the poor deluded individuals who are so misled by false religions and ideas as to commit such atrocities. At the end of the day they are sinners just like us, the same uncrossable chasm that once separated us from God separates them also. Jesus is the bridge and we pray that all may know Him.

The West is trying to bomb Islamic State out; a much more effective means of removing them would be to pray them out. Can you imagine if world leaders were to call for an international day of prayer for terrorists and terrorism?

We must remember that the Lord is in control and that is not a throwaway statement. The more I look at the pattern of things in this world, the more I see the Lord’s hand at work in the course of events, ever merciful, ever just. God allows life to go on, and us to carry on.

Witness

Christians should show the world in these dark and desperate days the love of God. We love not only our brothers and sisters in Christ but also the people of the world who live a Christless existence (Luke 14:12-14), and this is a love that should not only be in thought or prayer but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18). We mourn with those who mourn. Their loss is our loss. We love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44), we need to have hearts of love and forgiveness (Matt. 6:15).

One of my favourite examples is that of Elisabeth Elliot, who after her husband and four others were brutally killed by a tribe in Ecuador went back and ministered to that same tribe, telling the Gospel with such a love that spoke volumes to the murderers. Later, a son of one of the murdered men was baptised by the very man who had murdered his father and now come to Christ. That same love and forgiveness that so characterised her heart, although it was incredibly hard, we should have with us too. Read 1 Corinthians 13. We may not lose our loved-ones in such a brutal way, but we should remember our Saviour on the cross. The agony He endured for us, at the hands of those who had cheered Him into the city. Our trials and sufferings are as naught, through all suffering, all embarrassment received through the cause, we should love.

As Christians we should be calm, strong and sturdy witnesses, anchored so deep in Christ that the strongest storm cannot wrench us from our position. We should be ‘Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires’ (James 1:19-20).

We have the most glorious Gift, Jesus Christ, a gift that needs to be shared to all the world. The three ways we share with them and the three things the world needs are prayer, love and the Gospel.

Pray, pray, pray!

In conclusion, the best thing we can do right now is to pour out our hearts to our Heavenly Father for mercy on our world. We must come ‘boldly before His throne of Grace’, and lift up the poor people of this world who go about their day-to-day lives without a thought of God. We should pray that the Lord will draw them to Himself and that they may know Christ for themselves. We should pray that the Lord would send forth His Spirit into the world, into the Church, that we might have a real full-blown revival in these dark times. We should pray for strength, love and faith for ourselves and our Christian brothers and sisters scattered throughout the world. The battle-song of John Bunyan springs to mind:

Who would true valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
Come wind, come weather;
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound;
His strength the more is,
No lion can him fright;
He’ll with a giant fight;
But he will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit;
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit,
Then fancies fly away,
He’ll fear not what men say;
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.

Christ is our hope. He will never fail us. Until He comes, we must be ever watching, ready at a moment’s notice to leave all and go with Him to glory.