Too busy for friendships ?

‘I’m sorry I’m too busy to meet you’, have you ever had this response from someone? Why are we so busy in these times? We seem to work more hours chasing that pot at the end of the rainbow in the hopes that we will eventually ‘get to that point’ where we are on top enough to find time for each other. However it never comes…

It’s interesting that more often than not when someone dies everyone suddenly finds time to attend the funeral. But was it more important to be there for that person while they were alive or at their funeral? It’s been said a friend in need is a friend indeed. I’ve never quite understood this saying, as on face value it seems to imply a friend’s neediness is an attribute of a true friend. Then there’s that well known song: “everybody needs somebody sometimes…’.1  1545628_467911933331462_647529865_n

Well we all ‘need somebody’ for relationship, and cannot be ‘lone rangers’ in this life.
I heard a story once of a new maximum security jail that got built in America. The jail was very big and for individual cells only, so the jailers had hardly no contact with other human beings whatsoever. Apparently a month after the jail was filled, the jailers were breaking down mentally and there was an urgent need for medical attention. Very soon the authorities realised that they needed to build a mental ward facility next to the jail so that’s what they did. Even those in jail need to be on contact with other people.

And there’s another case where in Cook County America the jail there has been dubbed as: ‘America’s largest mental hospital’. It has been reported that at least a third of jailers suffer with physiological disorders. In fact it’s got to the point where the prison guards have been encouraged to treat the jailers like mental patients rather than prisoners.2

When relationships aren’t present, people can break and the consequences are sad.

In the UK the reports aren’t much better with the Salvation Army reporting that almost half of people in Great Britain have felt lonely at Christmas.3 That is a worrying statistic; it seems that people aren’t as dedicated for being there for one another as they once were. I don’t think it’s any surprise that Britain is straying more and more away from Christian values. Christians and the Church have always strived to be there for others and help their communities.

Jesus said: ‘…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven’ (Matt 5:16). Indeed Jesus was implicit that as Christians we should not only love God but love one another also he says: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. And: “Love each other as I have loved you” (Matt 22:39).

As Christians we should be setting the example of what true loving friendships should look like. To cultivate good friendships means sacrifice. This could be a sacrifice of: time, money, service and energy. However we should be willing as Christians to cultivate these aspects. God says that: ‘Greater love has no one than this: ‘to laid down one’s life for one’s friends’. Cultivating friends mean we must sacrifice, and sometime

tiggerpounce

Are we as friendly as Tigger ?

s that means putting others before us.

My heart warms when I see two friends encouraging each other after church and chatting away about their weekend. I believe God is glorified when out of our relationship with him, we seek others to love and encourage. Me and my wife have had wonderful friendships from church over the years that have helped us in our life.

There are many great stories of friendships being founded in the church, however I think as a church we do have room for improvement.

Truth be told since me and my wife have come to Cambridge we have found it challenging making friends n the church. It has been one of the hardest things we have had to do moving from our old Church and area and coming to a new area we know hardly anything about. It means we had to reset everything and start again, which wasn’t easy at all. We have invited countless people from church to our home for dinner and Bible study, but sadly we hardly ever hear from these people again.

I am not one to follow up with people if I hadn’t had a response the first time, however in the vein of ‘not giving up’ I sometimes do. Often though I become disheartened as many seem too busy and do not suggest a later date. There others who I invested so much time into, organising Bible studies for them each week at my house. However now I don’t hear from them at all, and when I see them they pass me as if they never knew me.

There was this one guy I met who was kind friendly and who I had so much in common with. We meet for a drink and after the last time we meet, he suggested we start a ‘brotherhood’. And he really encouraged me and I really thought we could build a good friendship. However the third time we were scheduled to meet he said he couldn’t be there because he had ‘too much work’.

I understand we can all be busy, but I didn’t feel he was reciprocating my friendship. I messaged him back and said to him to let me know when he was available so we could meet. I never heard back from him after two months. So I messaged him advising that I was disappointed that as Christians we should not neglect to meet one another in fellowship. My hope was that he would want to meet again and reconcile with me.

However sadly he just

me and Steve

Me and my good friend Steve at Church

simply defended himself and I never heard from him again. It promised much but delivered little… sad…

 

When I went to Brisbane, Australia I knew no one there. I went on a year long working holiday, and got alongside a local church. I met this great guy called Steve. Steve was one of the friendliest people I’d met. We had so much in common and we were always there for each other, and would pray for one another. We felt like we could talk about anything to one another. We trusted each other, and Steve was always there for me and I was always there for him. Even at times I had no where to live and Steve put me up at his house and at times even lent me money. Steve was everything you would want from a friend and set a great example to me.

Everyone has room for improvement in the area of being a good friend, and I am always learning. So I’ve come up with 5 tips to be a better friend:

TIP # 1 – Love God

It’s been said: ‘you can’t give what you don’t have’ and if we aren’t prioritising our love for God then we have no love to give one another. God is love and he deserves to be our priority, and in an ultimate sense he is our most important friendship. 1 John verse 10 says: ‘Anyone who loves their brother or sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble’. Feeding daily on God’s Word and praying for his help in our relationships will help us love one another better. It is only when we recognise the love the Father has shown us can we love others. In John 13:35 it says: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.

Our love for God means that we recognise that we have been saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ dying on the cross for our many sins and failures. Therefore we can show grace and love to others.

This means we forgive each other if we’ve been wronged. It means we don’t criticize or harshly judge one another. It means we don’t gossip about our friends behind their backs. It means we demonstrate trust when keeping secrets about them. It means if they are going through a hard time financially we offer to pay for the drink, or maybe buy them a meal. Or maybe offer to help them financially.

The Apostle Paul writes beautifully in 1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-7 of how we are to love as Christians he says: ‘ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres’.

TIP # 2 – Be committed and available

I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of ‘fly by friends’. You know the kind? The ones that will be nice and kind to you when you first meet them. Then as soon as ‘they get popular’ you never hear from them again! We should be willing to be there for each other and be prepared to be a friend in the ‘long run’. This means that we always know when to meet next time, and we don’t let huge mounts of time drift between meeting up. Have you ever heard someone say: we should do coffee sometime’, but they never make a time. Never say that, instead ask: when are you next free for a coffee’? Then commit to this in your diary and follow through.

Be a man/woman of your word, say what you mean and mean what you say. So if you say you will be there at 5:45pm be there at 5:45pm! And yes I know there are circumstances like traffic and urgent needs that can delay you. But if that happens communicate it as soon as possible to your friend with a sincere apology.

me and Dane

Me and Dane at Movie World Australia

And if your friend wants to meet you, don’t say your busy for the next month! I’m sorry unless you’re out the country for that month there’s no excuse for this. Best friends are available for each other, and find time for each other no matter what.

I have heard it said friendships are like water if you don’t water them they will die.

If you are only available to meet a friend once a month don’t be surprised if they lose patience with you and want to befriend someone else.

TIP # 3 – Don’t try to be everyone’s friend

Have you ever seen the recording breaking shows where they have people doing magnificent ticks or stunts trying to beat a certain record? I saw one once of a man who was spinning big white dinner plates on different rods. He had many rods around him and began spinning 1 plate, then 2, then 3,4,5. However soon some plates started falling down so he put new plates back up. He was working harder and harder sweating more and more as he darted from plate to plate like a squirrel. Inevitably he could not pay enough attention to all the plates as he couldn’t be everywhere. It’s the same with relationships, we can’t be everyone’s friend it will be too much for us.

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You can’t be friends with everyone, and you can’t spin that many plates.

However we can cultivate two/three best friends, and should make sure we invest in those friendships. You would rather build great friendships with two/three friends rather than building no great friendships with 10 friends! Let me preface this by saying I’m not saying don’t be friendly or loving towards new people that come into your life. Always be loving and encouraging to all everyone, however being a best friend is a whole different level.

I’ve seen people in church life try to be everyone’s friend and it hasn’t worked. In fact I would do this early on in church life, and what ends up happening is you end up not having that one truly great friend that would be the best thing for you. They say you can’t count your best friends on one hand, so Pick two/three friends that are friendly to you and take it a step further by meeting them regularly and encouraging them.

TIP # 4 – Be quick to listen

I’m coming up with a lot of ‘sayings’ in this blog so apologies, but here’s another one. It is said that ‘the art of conversation is listening’ so make sure you’re being a good listener. This means cultivating patience and a genuine interest in the other person before yourself. John Maxwell writes that when he was a Pastor and he counselled people his attitude was: ‘Hurry up and finish telling me your problem so I can give you my solution’. 4

However this approach he writes didn’t work because he writes: ‘Much of what I did was all about me, yet I still wasn’t succeeding. I was often self-centred, and that was at the root of most of my problems and failures’. Not listening to the other person can often break rapport and make them not feel valued. So if we are to be effective as friends we must listen and listen pro actively to what they are saying. Then they will feel comfortable to share things with us and will feel encouraged that we are spending the time and energy to do this. And of course they will in turn reciprocate listening to what we have to say also.

TIP # 5 – Be truthful

Many years ago I just to watch the TV show Pop Idol, where people auditioned in front of 3 judges for a record contract that would bring them fame and fortune. It was very entertaining but often I cringed for those who were really bad singers. What saddened me was that sometimes the singers believed they really were good singers despite professionals from the music industry confirming they couldn’t sing well.
What’s worse is the people that auditioned would often say things like: ‘My family say I’m a really good singer and encouraged me to audition’. However the most loving thing their family could have told them was that they needed to work on their voices to improve. Instead they gave them false hope and they ended up embarrassed on national television.

Love speaks truth and whether that truth will hurt the person or not it is still important to give them that truth. For example your friend may have developed other toxic relationships that are throwing them astray and leading them to immorality. As a good friend it’s important to be truthful of the consequences to them. Or if you find that they are overworking themselves and neglecting their families it’s important you speak up and warm them that this is not good as they will burn out. Or if their spending has got to the point of being reckless and out of control, you must tell them the truth. Let me say I don’t mean being harsh with them, but at the same time being firm in our convictions of accountability and truth.

In the church context it’s quite helpful to Biblically council each other when nessicary using God’s Word. What could be more powerful? But we must be truthful, because overtime our friends will trust our judgments on them are for their own good and because we love and care for them.
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I thank the Lord for providing me my best friend my wife Rachel.

Well I hope this blog on friendship was helpful, I would appreciate your feedback. Please see below some recommended websites and books that are helpful with regards to friendships.

I’d love to know your thoughts, how are you going when it comes to friendships? What experiences have you had? What are some of the things you have learned when dealing with friends?

Recommended Resources:

John C Maxwell – Everyone Communicates Few Connect – Available to buy at Wordery book shop: https://wordery.com/everyone-communicates-few-connect-john-c-maxwell-9780785214250?currency=GBP&gtrck=TWQ1cmlyZXdLWWRaNnlYeHUzNEl6UDhyKzdPMHczeWN5VVFBOEZaWTZlR3VFcXVWNXExaTk1eDRTME1MajRGOHpmeFNRanhNaC9OM2d6ZXVna2grdEE9PQ&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI_4zl6-DQ3AIVTr7tCh2yVQSuEAQYASABEgK5ifD_BwE

Information about above book: http://www.walkerservicesgroup.com/flyers/summaries/Executive%20Book%20Summary%20-%20Everyone%20Communicates%20Few%20Connect.pdf

Got Questions? Article on true friendship:
https://www.gotquestions.org/true-friendship.html

Listening to Others by Joyce Huggett –
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Listening-Others-Joyce-Huggett/dp/0340864265

True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts – https://www.10ofthose.com/products/16347/true-friendship

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Sources:

1Dean Martin performs ‘Everybody needs somebody…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ja32uS-bD0
Featured images used for free usage from: https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-dawn-foggy-friendship-697243/

2 – America’s Largest Mental Hospital Is a Jail article located at: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/americas-largest-mental-hospital-is-a-jail/395012/

3 – Salvation Army poll finds almost half of Brits have felt lonely at Christmas article located at https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/salvation-army-poll-finds-almost-half-brits-have-felt-lonely-christmas

4 – Quote was from John C Maxwell ‘Everyone Communicates Few Connect, Thomas Nelson, p27 – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7715488-everyone-communicates-few-connect

Other: Spinning plates images was from: https://networkmarketingpro.com/articles/duplication-is-essential-for-success/

Featured friendship photo was from: Helena Lopes – https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-dawn-foggy-friendship-697243/

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I can’t stand it anymore! Standing on God’s promises as pilgrims in the world

Let’s face it life is difficult sometimes. We have to deal with so many demands on our life. There are demands from work, as people ask more of us. Demands on our family, managing to visit everyone can be a bit of a challenge especially like me if you have a big family. There’s also I’m sure hopes and dreams that you want to pursue. Maybe it’s to start your own business? Or maybe you want to travel the world? But life gets in the way. It’s funny how time can goes by so quickly in the whirlwind of life.

Then there’s our walk with the Lord. We strive to have our quiet times everyday, however it can be tough when you’re out of the house most of the day. Or when we spend the weekend with family, trying to find a quiet room as a guest. If we miss our quiet time we don’t feel quite the same do we?

Often with all these stresses it can lead to bad patterns of habits, and combined with anxiety psychologists call this the ‘fighter flight response’.1 This is basically where anxiety can take a person over to the point where they respond in unhealthy ways. Many turn to food and will comfort eat, and then feel guilty afterwards for eating so much. There is so much variety these days in the supermarket especially of chocolate, which doesn’t help. Some turn to sex either watching things they shouldn’t be on a computer, which of course has many destructive results. Others may turn to other thing such as hours of video gaming or TV.

Some of those things are ok to be enjoyed like food and TV, these things however aren’t foundations that can help us. There’s one thing we as Christians can stand on which is the strongest foundation and that’s the Word of God. Jesus says in Matthew 28 verse 11 ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Jesus makes the point that when we seek him we will be content and find peace.

I’ve heard it said ‘if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. Often in life we can go through cycles of depressive thoughts where we think of all the negative in our lives, instead of the positive. I experienced this when I went through depression. It was some of the darkest days of my life. Depression is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Many people would offer a ‘quick fix’ bit of advice to me and like a magic wand hope to wave my depression away. They would say things like ‘no need to feel like that as you have family and friends and a home’. It’s true I was privileged to have those things, however depression is illogical. It can’t simply be waved away. It is a disease as your mind takes into account all the negative you can’t help it. It’s like looking at the world with not only a glass half empty mind-set, but a ‘glass empty’ mind-set. I needed someone to understand, God understand your struggle.

Often we can be pessimistic towards God though. We can think or say things like: ‘God surely couldn’t understand me’. Or I’ve messed up so bad God would never forgive me’.
I heard a story of 2 brothers one was a pessimist and one was an optimist. The optimist was always cheerful, however his brother always noted that every silver lining had a cloud. To try and re-balance their sons the parents of the boys came up with a plan. On Christmas morning they filled the pessimist’s room with toys. For the optimist they told him his present was in the garage, and they filled it with horse manure. How would they respond to this?  Well Christmas day came and the boys woke up, and discovered their presents. The pessimist was discovered in his room weeping pitifully ‘there are so many toys, I’ll never have time to play with them’. The optimist was discovered up to his armpits in horse manure, saying joyfully ‘there’s so much manure in here there must be a pony somewhere’.

Life can get us down and we can become pessimistic about things. But the good news we can be optimistic living in the truth of the Gospel. The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were persecuted for their faith in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey).  Peter writes to them to be hopeful of their Heavenly reward that can never be diminished.

In 1 Peter 1:3-6 he writes ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials’.

As a Christian you are shielded by God’s power on this earth which will not perish. When we hop on our bikes we put our helmets on, when we get in a car we put our seat-belts

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As a Christian you are shielded by God’s power.

on, but these things can break, however God’s power is unbreakable. God’s promised are unbreakable. When we stand on God’s promises we chose to turn away from the enemies lies, and believe God’s Word instead. The enemy will tell us things like ‘you’re rubbish’, or ‘you won’t achieve anything’ or ‘nobody likes you’. However God sent his one and only son to die on the cross for your sins. God loves you and that is enough.

Now in Christ you are not condemned, Romans 8:1 says ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…’. Meaning you have now passed from death to life and God sees you ‘in Christ’. This helps change our perspective off ourselves and onto God and others. We can bear fruit in complete contentment and secure in God. As God’s people we become secure when we recognise that he has justified through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

It’s been 500 years this month since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the University Church of Wittenburg.2 Luther recognized that we don’t earn our salvation because of anything we’ve done, but rather we are justified through faith through what Christ has already done. We are saved through ‘faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone’. These affirmations are from what are known as the ‘Five Solas’ as hallmarks of salvation of the Christian faith. When as Christians we walk content in our salvation before God, we can have joy.

As Christians nowhere in the Bible are we promised an easy life, but rather Jesus says ‘take up your cross and follow me’. In other words despite your burdens and struggles still chose to follow Christ daily in the grind of life. It’s often said ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, and the Bible advises that God allows us to suffer that we may be strengthened in him. The Apostle Paul encourages the Church in Rome that we can have peace with God amongst suffering. But he shares of the positives of suffering. He says in Romans 5:3 ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope’.

The Devil will try to derail us and no one knew it better than Paul having suffered so much himself through: being Shipwrecked, snake bitten, beaten, and being imprisoned.
This is why Paul recognised the importance of a relationship with God, and seeing suffering as part of the Christian faith that could mature us. Charles Haddon Spurgeon suffered with depression most of his life, however he recognised that he could still praise God and trust God to help him through.

Godly quote from SpyrgeonThe brother of Jesus James echoes similar thoughts in James 1:2-4 he says ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’. Going through our suffering can mould and shape us into becoming stronger for the Lord. After I got through my depression I was able to help others who were suffering with it. I was able to relate to them. I was able to empathise with them. I was able to say ‘I got through that’. I was able to understand them coming from an authentic place.

I don’t know what you’re going through. You may be feeling lonely and needing a friend. You may be feeling lonely as a single person fearing you’ll never find someone. You may be feeling overlooked and marginalized at work, you may be going through difficult times in your marriage thinking your partner doesn’t listen or understand you. You may be suffering with an addiction or bad habits. Or you might be feeling like you’re failing as Christian and there’s no hope for you. Well I’m here to tell you there is hope. Proverbs 3:5 says ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…’. Romans 8:28 says: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’.

If you weren’t valuable to God he would not have sent Christ to die on the cross for your sins. And it’s God’s love and kindness in doing this that should lead us to walk daily in repentance and faith in him. I want to finish by sharing some promises God has for you…

John 10:28 – ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand’.

Proverbs 1:33 – ‘…but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm’.

Psalm 23 – ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, a I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’.

Psalm 72:12-13 – ‘For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight’.

Amos 5:4 – This is what the LORD says to Israel: “Seek me and live

Philippians 4:7 – ‘And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’.

Matthew 6:33 – ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’.

John 6:35 ‘Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’.

These are some of the promises God has given us from his precious Word. There are many more so maybe this week you can spend some time meditating on them and when you go through difficulties you can remember God’s promises for you. My prayer is that you will stand on what God has to say about you and not the enemy’s lies. God bless…

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1 http://www.dictionary.com/browse/fight-or-flight-response

2 http://reformationsa.org/index.php/reformation/288-18-april-martin-luthers-date-with-destiny

Preach the Gospel if necessary use words ?

A phrase I’ve often heard said in Christian circles is: ‘preach the gospel if necessary use words’. But where does the saying ‘Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words’ come from? It was a quote that was credited to St Francis of Assisi, and many people over the centuries referred back to him regarding this quote. The only problem is there is no record of him ever saying this.1 But more importantly it isn’t Biblical.

When we read about the spreading of the Gospel in the book of Acts, it is evident that it is a message that is proclaimed. In Acts chapter 2 we read of the Holy Spirit descending powerfully on the Jews on the day of Pentecost. We read in verse 2 that they ‘were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. And in verse 14 it says Peter ‘lifted up his voice and addressed them’, he used words to address the Jews with his sermon.  

do-not-speak

If you’re like me you don’t like watching the news. It’s depressing, it’s dull and it’s usually bad news. But sometimes when I want to find out about what’s going on in the world I will tune in. Imagine if I turned on my television eagerly waiting to hear what is going on in the world, and the news presenter is silent. But instead of reading from their script, they get up from their news desk, and start dancing. And the point they were making was we are supposed to figure out what the news is, from their dancing. Now that would be hilarious! But I would be frustrated, as if I wanted to see dancing and entertainment I would go to the theatre. But I wanted to hear the news as the information was important to me. Of course news presenters don’t do that! But let’s face it, it would make the news a lot less dull. My point is though, that news is meant to be spoken for people to hear.

Jesus commissions his disciples in Matthew 28:19 to ‘…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…’ and in Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation’. I would like to think we can all agree that words are important, however God’s Words are powerful and ‘mighty to save’ to quote a famous Christian hymn.

I was recently chatting to my wife about what some of the most difficult fundraising activities could be. We both agreed that a ‘sponsored’ silence must be one of the most difficult, especially for me! It would be difficult because we all need to speak words. We need to speak at the checkout when we are giving thanks to the cashier. We need to speak words when we are wishing our partners a good day at work. And we speak to our Lord when we are offering thanks and praise to Him for all he’s done for us.

These are all messages that we must speak every day. So if words are important for us day-to-day, then how much more important are the words of everlasting life in the gospel? It is the gospel that is the most important message that we can speak, and that we hear. As Christians we, more than anybody in the world, have good reason to speak this message to those who don’t know it. It is a message that is powerful and describes how God saved us through sending his Son the Lord Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.

In the Bible we read of the Apostle Paul writing to the Church in Rome and he says in Romans chapter 1 verse 16: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone that believes’. Paul had a God-given message that he proclaimed through words through his letters and teaching. He taught up-and-coming pastors and leaders and he taught Jews that were quite learned in the faith. Paul knew that the gospel must be spoken out. The gospel literally means ‘good news’, as it is a message of God saving us from our sins.

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In Acts chapter 2 Peter didn’t mime the Gospel

Peter preaches a sermon to the Jews on the day of Pentecost using words. He says in Acts 2:22 ‘Men of Israel, hear these words’: it is a powerful message that we hear spoken to us and that we dare not neglect. I love going to Church and hearing the gospel proclaimed.

Worldliness
Sadly in the United Kingdom and most of the western world the Gospel has often been put aside at the expense of ‘entertainment’ to please people. The results of this are catastrophic. Christian research leader George Barna stated that “A large majority of non-Christians in the US do not hear the gospel during a typical year. Worse, when they do have the Christian faith verbally presented to them shockingly few hear a biblical form of the gospel,”.2

 

Barna was speaking of Christians in churches, and it’s a sad fact that should grieve us all when the gospel is not proclaimed in these churches. What’s even sadder is the fact that entertainment instead has become the priority, as if churches will ‘fun’ people to Christ. The Bible warns us against carnal means in 1 John 2:15 it says ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them’.

Dr John MacArthur, who Pastors Sun Valley Community Church in California, also recognizes this worrying trend in his country. He says ‘Scripture is no longer the authoritative guide for ministry; the marketing plan is’. He also says ‘of this approach that ‘…a human strategy not the Word of God becomes the fountain of all Church activity and the standard by which ministry is measured’.3 Now that’s not

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1 John 2:15 – Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

to say that using modern musical instruments, and big screen monitors, and advanced PA systems is wrong, because these are helpful tools for helping people in worship.

 

There was one pastor who was preaching a sermon and during the sermon he had asked a couple from the church to dress up in their wedding outfits. Then they walked down the aisle to wedding music, and were interviewed in the platform in a parody. Was it fun for people involved? I’m sure. Was it entertaining? Sure. Did people approve and enjoy it? Yes and no.

However, irrespective of public opinion surely the best questions we can ask are, was it Biblical and in line with how the gospel is to be preached? No. Was it distracting from the gospel? Yes.  Was it helpful in building up the Church? No. I don’t believe anyone involved was deliberately trying to hinder the preaching of the gospel. I believe it was sincere people doing what they believed was the right thing to do. The Bible however, is clear regarding what message is to be shared.

We can be reminded of the Apostle Paul’s stern warning to the Galatians in Galatians 1:8 ‘But even if we or an Angel from Heaven should preach to you contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed’. And he says in verse 10 ‘For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ’.

Dr John MacArthur – ‘Scripture is no longer the authoritative guide for ministry; the marketing plan is’. He also says ‘of this approach that ‘…a human strategy not the Word of God becomes the fountain of all Church activity and the standard by which ministry is measured’.

It never ceases to amaze me at the lengths pastors go to gain the approval of people in a church service. One pastor in the United States came down from ceiling in the church auditorium, in a super hero-like entrance.4 Sadly again they have neglected their mandate as a pastor which is to preach the gospel to their congregation. What they are really saying when they do this is that God needs our help and we know better. After all why would they go to these extreme lengths if they believed God’s Word wasn’t powerful in and of itself to save?

The Church is like a boat and when it is floating above water all is well and good. However when the water starts coming into the boat it becomes problematic, as the boat could very well sink. Many churches are spiritually sinking because they are bringing in so much of the world’s culture.

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Many churches are spiritually sinking because they are bringing in so much of the world’s culture.

Jesus questioned Peter’s love for him in John 21:17, and Peter said: ‘You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “then feed my sheep’. A church-goer from the United States by the name of Marusha was so sick and tired of her church pastors bringing worldly culture into the pulpits that she felt starved. She wrote: ‘Stop starving the sheep and catering to the goats’.5 She wasn’t a church pastor or a church leader as such, she just simply wasn’t fed with the Word of God from her pastors.

The Bible instructs gospel proclamation

Let’s think about this logically, it’s like saying: ‘be sure to breathe, if necessary use air’ or ‘walk along the pavement, if necessary use your feet’, or ‘eat food, if necessary digest’. It’s impossible to define these actions as such without the connected end result. And according to the Bible Salvation comes when the gospel is spoken and heard. The Apostle Paul in speaking to the Jews was very concerned that they be saved. In preaching the gospel he didn’t use actions, worldly gimmicks or any passive aggressive means.

He was just simply testifying from the scriptures, and warning about the importance of coming to a saving faith in Christ Jesus. Paul knew that if the Jews didn’t hear the gospel message then they would not be saved any other way. He says in Romans 10:14: ‘How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them’? He also says in verse 17 that ‘…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word about Christ’.

Instead of Jesus and the gospel message found in the Bible being the main attraction, we have made it about us. It’s become about exercising our creative control as we feel the gospel in and of itself, and God’s Words from the Bible aren’t enough. When we look at the Bible it is clear that God’s Word is powerful enough to save those who are perishing. Hebrews 4:12 says ‘For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart’.

Paul was relentless in not only proclaiming the gospel to unbelievers but also to Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul recognized the importance of instructing Church leaders too, so that they would be able to preach the gospel rightly. In 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul on his death-bed urges Timothy: ‘Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction’. This was Paul’s final charge to Timothy as he knew that he didn’t have many days left.

Conclusion
No church pastor or leader is perfect, but if they are teaching multitudes they must examine themselves in light of Scripture. The late Victorian preacher Charles Spurgeon spoke out when he saw other churches compromise on the gospel. Spurgeon responded to what’s known as the ‘Down Grade controversy’ where liberalism has crept into the church. Church leaders had started compromising the gospel message in certain areas.

Spurgeon recognized this was serious and said: ‘It is today as it was in the Reformer’s days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us through martyr hands dare not trifle with it…’. He also goes on to say: ‘If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and his truth today’. Spurgeon recognized the seriousness of compromising the Gospel message.6

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C.H.Spurgeon recognized the seriousness of compromising the Gospel message

 

There is also a common assumption that the gospel should only be preached to the unconverted. However again when we look at some examples from Scripture we find this unfounded. The Apostle Peter wrote to the Christians in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey) to encourage them during persecution. He wanted to encourage them that they were being saved amongst the trials they were facing. He says in 1 Peter 1:9: …’for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls’.  Paul in his letter to the Church of Thessalonica wrote in chapter 2 verse 8 ‘…we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well’. Furthermore more often than not there are non-converted people sitting in the pulpits at churches.

After proclaiming the gospel in John chapter 6 many of Jesus’ disciples left, as they weren’t interested in the hard truths of the gospel. However some stayed: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’. My hope is that we recognize that God’s Words and ways are more powerful than our words and ways. I hope when it comes to the gospel, whether one-on-one or speaking to a congregation, we can be God pleasers not man pleasers. This is my continued prayer and my continued hope.

1 https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-misquoting-francis-of-assisi

2 https://www.culturefaith.com/national-surveys-describe-the-state-christian-evangelism/

3 – MacArthur, John, Ashamed of the Gospel; When Churches become like the world, p61 – Wheaton Illinois, Crossway Books, 2010 – https://www.gracechurch.org/about

4 – A ‘repelling Pastor – Wretched TV – 2011 –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFv3pCzYhp0

5 – https://suchwasi.wordpress.com/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T39SunybIJU

6 – Spurgeon, Charles H., Holding fast to the faith sermon preached on February 5th 1888 – https://spurgeongems.org/vols34-36/chs2007.pdf

Photo 1 credit: (c): alianzachicureo | http://www.alianzachicureo.cl/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/do-not-speak.jpg
Photo 2 credit: <a href=’http://www.freepik.com/free-photo/mime-holds-his-palms-parallel-in-the-air_1114022.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>
Photo 3 credit: Raj Sahota
Photo 4 credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=101263
Photo 5 credit: Raj Sahota

A night to remember & meeting Curious George…

I love Church History, and am encouraged by the great Christian men our Lord has raised up for the Gospel, one of these men is the man nicknamed the ‘Prince of preachers’ Charles Spurgeon.

I began my early years as a Christian in Pentecostal Churches. Unfortunately they never taught us about Charles Spurgeon. However I always knew of him, but I never knew what he did or what his significance was. I intended to do my own research into Spurgeon, however I kept it on the shelf, and it was one of those things that you say: ‘I’ll get around to it’ and then never do! However this year was different. It started with me just randomly coming across a brilliant documentary on Spurgeon called: ‘Charles Spurgeon the People’s Preacher’, produced by Peter Morden1.

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Peter Morden’s book/film ‘The People’s Preacher’

The documentary is a great starter, for someone wanting to learn about Spurgeon’s life and ministry from scratch.

It’s very easy to sit back and enjoy the memories of great Christian leaders like Spurgeon. But living in Cambridge and working in a Church here, in an area that Spurgeon impacted so much made learning about Spurgeon so much more real. I felt compelled out of duty, having moved here last year with my wife. I wanted to know more as I felt that we’re a big part of Christian history. For example Midsummer’s Common is a green that Charles Spurgeon walked across in 1851 at the beginning of his ministry.

I was reading ‘Travel with Spurgeon’ that was published by Day One.2 They have their brilliant ‘Travel with’ series which documents all the places a Christian leader took his ministry. Not only that, but they give you great historical insight into these places, without compromising the narrative of the story.

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‘Travel with Spurgeon’ – Clive Anderson

So I read the page in the book where it talks about where Spurgeon first pastored a Church. It was a small thatched cottage Church in Waterbeach, Cambridge. It’s known as Waterbeach Baptist Church. This Church was about a half hour cycle away from us. The Travel with Spurgeon book even gives you phone numbers of the Churches and places Spurgeon went.

I told my wife we must go and see this Church. So I pick up the phone and rang the Church and got through to Angela (the Pastor’s wife). She was very kind and wanted to help. However they weren’t able to open the Church at that time (it was short notice). But me and my wife went anyway to have a look from the outside instead. We had a lovely time visiting Waterbeach and reminiscing about Spurgeon and what the Lord Jesus had done through him for the Gospel in this town.

Angela had mentioned that a man by the name of Christian George was coming to their Church to speak about Spurgeon the following week. I hadn’t heard of Christian, but only the previous week I had watched the documentary ‘Through the Eyes of Spurgeon’, And Christian George was in fact starring in the documentary providing helpful insight into Spurgeon’s life. Later I found out that Christian nearly died in 2013 from a ruptured appendix. But he carried on researching and writing Church History.

Not only that but for many years George has been one of the leading Historians on Spurgeon. He has not only contributed to documentaries on Spurgeon, but he has written helpful books on him and has helped in incredible ways to translate some of Spurgeon’s lost sermons.

Christian serves as the Assistant Professor of historical Theology and curator of the Spurgeon library. He has also written many books such as: Sacred Travels (InterVarsity Press), Sex, Sushi, & Salvation (Moody Publishers) and Godology (Moody Publishers). He is editor of the twelve-volume series The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons between 1851-1854 (B&H Academic, 2017-2024).

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Christian George – Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at Spurgeon’s Library USA 
© Photo Midwest Baptist Theological Seminary

And more up to date he has contributed chapters to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Yale University Press, 2017), A Legacy of Preaching (Zondervan, 2018), The SBC and the 21st Century (B&H Academic, 2016), and Portraits of a Pastor (Moody, 2017). Christian also provided articles for the Global Sermon Editing Project (Yale University), Oxford University’s Journal of Theological Studies, Society for the Study of Theology, Theology in Scotland, Perichoresis Journal of Theology, Modern Reformation, Conversations, Credo Magazine, and Preaching, among many others.

He’s also made appearances on Fox News, Glenn Beck’s “The Vault,” and “The Eric Metaxas Show.” He has had his interviews headlining on Moody Broadcasting Radio, “Haven Today with Charles Morris,” “Janet Mefferd Today,” and many other well known nationally syndicated radio shows.

Wow what a small world! So when I realised that he coming to speak I thought we must be there to hear this talk! Angela sent me a poster for the Spurgeon event. I managed to share it with my Church community group the day before. I didn’t think anyone would bother to come to the talk, especially having seen the poster just one day before the talk would take place. But low and behold a man from my Church who is studying Church History happened to see the event poster and came along at short notice. It was a man by the name Jake from my Church.

I managed to meet Jake before the service, he greeted me with a big smile and was exited at being there for the talk. This South African was friendly and I could tell that he was someone who wanted to learn. It was a blessing to meet Jake, and my prayer is more people from my Church will want to come along to events like this one.

The day of the Christian George talk, I was working in my Church office. Angela had emailed me and advised that they had no one to film the talk! Unfortunately their planned video man, wasn’t able to make it for some reason. Without hesitation I said I’ll do it! I’ve had a lot of experience in photography, not so much filming.

However I had done some filming and wasn’t alien at all to it. I had a tripod that would be helpful in keeping a still video, it couldn’t be harder than filming my nieces and nephews running around now could it!?

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Angela & Michael Ensell (right), with Christian George (middle)

So on the night I made the quickest fried egg sandwiches I’ve ever made for me and my wife! Then before not too long there was me and my wife struggling down the river cam path on our bikes with all this Camera gear! I didn’t care though I was on a mission. I didn’t know what it was, but something told me this was going to be a special evening. We left the house late as I had to pop to Tesco to grab a battery for the microphone. It cost £4.95 for one battery!! PoundLand would put Tesco to shame on this! But that’s another story.

I admire my wife for being so helpful to me, she sacrificed going to bed late for this trip. She also sacrificed some of our quality dinner time. Rachel has been so support and encouraging to me in my Christian history endeavors. Whether it’s watching something with me, or going to an event. She’s always supportive and goes with the flow. She also loves History which helps. It’s nice to cycle with Rachel I feel like I could talk to her about anything. The time went quick for us cycling and Rachel somehow kept up with me.

We approached the dark bushy area on the left to turn into Waterbeach, passing the pub across the main road on our right. Then we carry on along a long narrow path, until we get to the train station car park. Then we turn right onto a steep short path that flows out onto the road just before the rail road tracks. We arrived into the beautiful village of Waterbeach. We carried on along the main round, then past St John The Evangelist Church on the left, and round a big right bend in the road and eventually came to the Church right in front of a Zebra crossing.

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Waterbeach Baptist Church, Cambridgeshire – www.waterbeachbaptist.org

We locked our bikes against a random electrical pole next to the Church and walk into the Church through the wooden panned clean glass doors. In front of us was a small setup of blue cushioned chairs with wooden backs, about 6/7 rows of them. We were greeted by the Pastor Martin and his Wife Angela, who said ‘you’re the first to arrive’. They were both so accommodating and were helpful while I set up my camera pitch. Then Angela introduced Christian George to me.

I think Christian is the friendliest American we’ve met. He greeted me and my wife with a warm smile, my wife having caught up with me near the front of the stage. I asked Christian did he get into Spurgeon from his Dad ? He looked at me suprisingly and said ‘yes how did you know that!’. I’m no physic as only God is all knowing, but usually when someone like Christian is so passionate about Spurgeon they are usually encouraged by

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Christian with me and my Wife Rachel

someone. Christian’s Dad emphasized to Christian about the importance of remembering Church history, and being inspired for Christ through Spurgeon’s legacy.  We had a chat about the great Spurgeon documentaries we’d seen including ‘The People’s Preacher’ one. I didn’t think it was fair of me to take up too much of Christian’s time, as I’m sure he wanted to be focused just before his talk.

I love people and chatting to them but I was very conscious of setting up in time before Christian’s talk. So I focused on that. I was planning on filming from the back of the room, so to cause little distraction. However this was not possible, as I had to get close enough to see Christian’s projector slides. So I set up on the front row with Rachel and Christian sitting on my right.

I was panicking a bit as I hadn’t done a mic check! However I just managed to scramble one in 5 minutes before it started! I set up my tripod, and the mic with the transmitter in front of me just in front of the stage. Then I thought ‘oh crumbs!’ I haven’t brought a mic stand! Rachel kindly held the mic as I thought she could hold it during the presentation. If anyone’s done camera and mic work they will know you never put a cyclinder mic on a chair, table or floor. However I didn’t want to burden Rachel with having to hold the mic all the way through the talk. Also the mic would need to be closer to Christian on the stage.

Aha! I had a thought! Why not ask the Worship music leader if I could use a mic stand? After he had finished the music set, I pounced on him and asked him for a ‘long stand’, thankfully he didn’t keep me waiting hahaha 😀 sorry bad pun! Anyway…. He gave me a stand and just in time I thrusted the mic in it and placed it near the music stand that Christian had set up with his Laptop on. I made sure the mic was on! It was incredible. By God’s grace I had managed to set all that up within 15 minutes! Coming early in preparation terms is time-worthy. People don’t prepare to fail they fail to prepare as the saying goes. It worked out fine by God’s grace, so I could relax… a little anyway. There was two worship singers who sang their hearts out at the front. It was so encouraging to worship the Lord, and also to see people with their musical gifts offering the Lord their Worship.

I got to enjoy one of the most special talks I’ve heard. Christian spoke in a style that felt personal and down to earth. He was clear and passionate but not overbearing. He told a story with a ‘beginning, middle and end’ as my English teacher would observe of all good story tellers. I’m sure Spurgeon would have been proud of the talk Christian gave, and how it encouraged us all in the faith.

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Christian giving his talk at WBC last night…

My heart was warmed listening to Christian speak about what our Lord Jesus Christ did in Waterbeach.

And how he used a 17 year old country boy from Essex to bring about revival in the crime ridden area of Waterbeach. I had to stay half focused on my camera, as it does this annoying thing where it stops filming after 29 minutes! Then I simply press record immediately so it records for another 29 minutes.

There’s so many things I admired about Christian George. He was authentic as who he was on that stage was who he is one on one. He was down to earth and friendly, and encouraging to me and Rachel. I love Labrador dogs. If you’ve ever been in a room where a lab dog scurries in to meet people, he’s wagging his tail looking all happy. You can tell the Lab is happy and is very enthusiastic to meet everyone, it’s infectious. You can’t help but be charmed by it, even if he licks your face! Ok Christian didn’t lick anyone’s face, but he was enthusiastic and encouraging to me and others. Christian’s someone I could spend hours with talking about Christian things. And I pray in the Lord’s providence we will do so at some point.

How many speakers do you know that have no care about engaging their audience? How many speakers have you seen that are less engaging than a giant wooden telephone beam on the street? I often heard it said that the greatest preachers when speaking to the audience make it feel like they are speaking to the one. At one of my previous Churches, there was a Pastor who spoke so much so quickly, my mind couldn’t take a moment to even pause to think. He cared more about overloading the audience with information, he didn’t care to engage us in a dialogue. Christian like Spurgeon built a connection with the audience as we felt like we got to know Christian. He didn’t make it about himself, rather he was humble and was having a conversation with us.

It was lovely to hear about the early life of Spurgeon, and Christian’s face lit up as he began to talk of him. He gave a well-rounded talk and touched on the key issues in Spurgeon’s life such as: Spurgeon’s conversion at a small Church in Colchester, early ministry at Waterbeach Baptist, the call to London to Park Street Chapel and Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, The tragedies of the Surrey Gardens Music Hall and the Down Grade Controversy, and his sermons amongst other things. The greatest talks or sermons I’ve heard are those where you don’t want the speaker to stop as you’re enjoying it so much. The 114 minutes Christian was speaking went by quickly ‘time flys’ when you’re having fun’ as the saying goes.

I knew everyone else was enjoying the talk and I imagine the greatest speakers can always understand how their audience is responding to them. According to research 93% of our communication is NOT our words. Its things like: voice tone, facial expression and body language. I’m always good at picking these things up when I’m talking to an audience, or person. It’s always helpful as a speaker to have this intuition.

It was nice to meet some of the people at the Waterbeach Baptist Church. I can always get a feel of whether a Church is Christ Centered around the Gospel, or they aren’t. The people of WBC had a desire to serve Christ and were Gospel centered and were hungry for the Gospel. I’ve been to many congregations around the world where this isn’t the case. I’ve been to a Church in the midlands UK where after I arrived in the Church for the first time no one talked to me for the entire 40 minutes before the service!

I’ve also seen speakers in America, Canada, UK, Australia and all around the world, and many times speakers run away after speaking. Christian stayed and talked to everyone he possible could, before and after the talk as he smiled and encouraged them. He engaged them and put them before himself and I thought of Jesus when he said in Matthew 7:16 ‘by their fruits you will know them’. It was a joy to chat to Christian after the service and I asked him a question I don’t think he’s ever been asked about Spurgeon. I asked ‘What was Spurgeon’s favourite food’? Christian was speechless and my wife laughed! I’ll wait for you to get back to me on that one Christian! ;-)…

Amongst other things I pondered with Christian of how exactly Spurgeon would have sounded in his preaching voice. I was fascinated to learn from Christian that there may be a recording of Spurgeon somewhere in the world that’s yet to be discovered! How exiting! I would love to hear this recording. It’s sad to think that had Spurgeon only lived 5 more years we would have his sermon recordings to listen to. Nonetheless we still have his sermons in written which is a wonderful blessing.

After Christian’s talk he gave away 9 copies of limited edition copies of Charles Spurgeon’s lost sermon books. I was suddenly glad I was on the front row nearest to

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My copy of ‘The Lost Sermons of CH Spurgeon’ book that Christian generously gave away to people

them! These books took hundreds of thousands of pounds to produce and further more took hundreds of thousands of hours of research. Also with many people working around the clock to translate Charles Spurgeon’s writings in his old note pad books, full of blotches and tea stains. Did Charles like tea or coffee? Again I’ll leave that question to Christian! I like sugar in a lot of things like my tea and my Rice Krispies that I’m eating right now, well not right now as I’m typing but you know what I mean! But as Christian puts it we’re called to be ‘salt in the world not sugar’, although I’m not bitter about that saying I actually think it’s quite sweet hahaha :-D… sorry had to throw that in!

Oh and another thing how many speakers give away their books? In fairness there are some that do, but these were no ordinary ‘run of the mill’ paperbacks. These were big limited edition copies of a Charles

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Institutes of the Christian Religion was the biggest book on my shelf, however ‘Spurgeons Lost Sermons’ book is the biggest now!

Spurgeon’s ‘Lost Sermons’ with gold coated page edges, and a presentation box, and with a leather spine and cover, and designed to have the same artistic cover as Spurgeon’s original old notepads. These were the transcripts of the sermons Spurgeon preached at Waterbeach Baptist Church. And Christian gave away 9 FREE yes FREE!!

I’m glad I had some British chocolate and a book to give something back to Christian. I was privileged enough to grab a copy of the Lost Sermons books he was giving away, although I felt a bit guilty taking one as I had money ready to give to Christian for his books. Everyone scrambled albeit conservatively to the small table on the right of the platform at the end of the front row. And they were gone quicker than you could say Waterbeach! These books retail at $79.99 in the USA, that’s £61.47 in GB pounds !

I’m tempted to say I’ve never known anyone before to give away something so valuable. But then I think of John 3:16 that says: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. Our Father gave away his only son so that we could be reconciled to him through the cross’.

We sang a final hymn to finish the evening, and as I think of its lyrics I’m reminded of how God through the Lord Jesus Christ saved a sinful wretch like me: ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see’…

1 ‘C H Spurgeon’ “The People’s Preacher” a documentary by CTA:  http://www.cta.uk.com/shop?cid=86&pid=194
2 ‘Travel with CH Spurgeon’ – Clive Anderson Day One – https://www.dayone.co.uk/products/travel-with-ch-spurgeon
For more information on Christian George please visit: http://www.mbts.edu/about/faculty/christian-george/ 

Is Jesus really “Lord” of your life ?

I understand this is an unpopular question to ask is our “post-modern” “non-judgmental” culture. In a culture that can impose their own standards, whilst disregarding God’s standard. And all along the way affirming there are no “objective standards”, which is impossible as “truth” can ONLY be absolute. Sadly this type of “post-modernism” has crept into the Church.

So often we can assume someone is Christian, because they “said a prayer” professing Christ many years ago. This is often labelled as the “sinner’s prayer” a practice which isn’t supported by Holy Scripture at all. The idea that someone can just become a Christian by a magic instant noodles formula is not found in the Bible.

In fact Jesus said nothing of the kind. Jesus in fact says in Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it”.

Not everyone that professes Christ possesses Christ.

I can profess I am an American all day long it doesn’t make me an American as I’m British. Or I can profess I’m a chicken however I am a human contrary to what some may say… ‘ahemm’…

One of the first instructions that Jesus commands of everyone in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark is “repent”. In Matthew 4:17 for example it says “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

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Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it”.

Immediately after beginning his preaching ministry Jesus encouraged people to repent from their sins. Repent doesn’t just mean saying sorry, or acknowledging you’ve done wrong. It means turning 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

Becoming a Christian isn’t easy, it requires denial. It requires strength. It requires saying “no” to the things you used to love, and “yes” to the things you used to hate. It means cutting off relationships that may harm your faith. It also means building relationships that can build you up in the faith.

The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”.

Paul wasn’t living for himself, he was done to living for himself. Also he continually recognized the love Christ showed in suffering and dying on the cross for him.

As Christians we aren’t better than anybody. But we are saved, by God’s amazing grace. We are saved from Hell. Yes Hell. Why? Because Hell is what we deserved.

We deserved Hell because we sinned against our creator. Every time we looked with lust we committed adultery with that person, every time we got angry with someone we committed murder towards that person. BUT. The Bible says in Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

And Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..”

We walk in these truths not because we are good, but because God is good and we love him.

However I am greatly grieved. I am grieved that there a professing Christians that use God’s grace as a licence for indulging in their sin. For continuing in their sin. For wilfully sinning against their creator who sent his one and only Son Jesus to die for their sins.

They profess in worship songs during a Church service: “Lord take my life let it be EVERYTHING all of me, here I am living for your glory”. Yet the next day commit fornication with a non-believer, and totally trampling on the blood of our Savior the Lord Jesus.

So how can we conclude that Christians living in willful ongoing sin ever repented and trusted in Christ in the first place ? Often many that profess Christ are no different to the world, and yet to justify their behavior they would say they behave this way so that they can “connect to the world”. However the Bible says we are to be in the world but not of it (John 15:9).

We are to be distinguishable from the World. And we are called to shine a light in the darkness not indulge with it, or fellowship with it. It saddens me when I hear of Christians feeding and indulging their “feelings” rather than striving to be obedient to God’s Word. A common practice I hear of is “Missionary dating”. The idea that a Christian can date or marry a non-believer in order to convert them to Christ.

Often when ones argue that this can be a good idea, they would say that maybe God put their non-believing partner in their lives in order to lead them to Christ. But this is a much simplified justification to the sin, as nowhere in scripture can this practice be condoled.

The Bible teaches against this. Paul says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The idea here is that intimate association with unbelievers can likely lead to a compromised faith.

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“Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor 15:33)

Furthermore becoming romantically attached with an unbeliever is playing with fire. “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The real reason missionary dating is condoled by those who indulge in it, is because they are swept away by their romantic feelings to the point of going against God’s Word.

I’ve made many mistakes believing my emotions, what’s worse is I was so clouded by my emotions that I felt I was making the right decision and that God was happy with me making those decisions. The reality however was that I was in rebellion to God and his Word.

It wasn’t good enough for me to have justified my actions by my emotions because our emotions can and do deceive us. They cloud our judgment, make us do things we wouldn’t normally do, reject objective discernment etc. So we can’t measure our decisions by our emotions, we must measure it with God’s Word.

It’s often said that “Actions speak louder than words” this saying certainly rings true for how we are to measure ourselves in our Christian walk.

In John 15:5-6 Jesus says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned”.

We must let go of our sin and rebellion from God, and strive to bear fruit in line with repentance.

So what fruit are you bearing in your life ? Please understand my heart in this blog. I love God and I love people and so the most loving thing I can instruct someone in, is the truth.

Often we have a tendency in Christian circles to adopt the “don’t judge unless ye be judged” mentality. This of course is a twisting of what Jesus says in Matthew 7:1. However when we read on in this passage Jesus encourages us not to hypocritically judge.

Jesus encourages us to first examine ourselves before we can lead others out of sin. 

Often we can go through life without taking a step back and examine the way we conduct ourselves. I have done this many times. I have said and done things in my life that I look back on with absolute embarrassment with.

But when we do walk in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24) we can lovingly speak the truth to those who are willfully walking in sin. Sadly scripture affirms that there will be many in Church that on the Day of Judgment many will think they are saved when in fact they are not.

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John 15:5 – Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…”

I think the scariest scripture in the Bible is when Jesus says in Matthew 7:22-23 “many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers”!

Because the sad fact that scares me is there are many false converts in the Church that would rather pleasure in their sins then glorify their Savior. But we must remember tomorrow is never guaranteed.
So the question again has to be asked “Is Jesus really the Lord of your Life” ?

I ask this question not thinking for one second I cannot examine myself everyday, as my Bible says otherwise. The Apostle Paul in instructing the Church in Corinth to “test themselves” he says in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test”?

So what hope do we have ?

1 – Put simply our hope is Christ. He is the atonement for our sins. Not religious works. Not our charity. Not our goodness. Not our own merits. Christ. We can stand on God’s promises found in his Word.

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We must repent from our sins and put our faith in Christ.

1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”.

2 – We must grow in our relationship with God. We must cultivate daily prayer and Bible reading in order that we can become mature in the faith and discern Biblically.
If we don’t it can be dangerous. It’s like going into battle without our our armour and weapons.

Paul says in Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

It’s true the saying I saw once on a Church noticeboard “7 days without prayer makes 1 week”. If you’re not growing your sinking you must be active. Matthew 6:33*

3 – Repent and strive to glorify God

There may be relationships that you need to sever. There may be programs that you need to stop watching. You may need to stop going on the internet late at night and falling into temptation.

You might need to stop getting angry at someone, even if you’ve felt they’ve wronged you. This can feel like a huge weight off your shoulder and you won’t regret it.

In Matthew 16:24 Jesus gives us a clear directive: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”.

It’s not just repenting and turning completely away from those things, but we must then turn to Christ. Turn our complete attention to him daily.
We cannot live this life in our own strength, because we will fail.

Proverbs 3:-5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”.
4 – Bear good fruit and disciple others

This can be done through various means. You could: invite friend’s from Church over, you can phone someone and encourage them with a Bible passage, you can text someone, email them. You could volunteer once a week in the Church office to help with admin. Buy gifts for your senior leaders. Encourage your leaders.
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Also encourage perhaps those in your Church that are struggling in the Faith. When we get our eyes off ourselves and onto people in need it can be liberating and also encourage us.

There are people right now in your Church that would love for you to walk along side them in their faith. Most Christians wanting help don’t ask for it, maybe out of embarrassment.
I loved it when people offered to walk alongside me and encourage me each week. So get inviting!

We can so often assume it’s just our Pastors role to do these things. However the Church is one body and all of us can play an active role.

Philippians 2:4 says “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” and Galatians 6:2 says Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

My prayer is that you would grow in your love for the Lord Jesus Christ, hate the things he hates and loves the things he loves.

God bless…

 

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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all –  2 Corinthians 13:14

Is discernment important ?

What is discernment and why is important as a Christian ?
One Senior Pastor defined discernment as:

“nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think Biblically”1

Discernment is important in every area of our lives – like choosing a college, a Church, a relationship, a car, a school for our kids, even in the little things like a Bible study book. This is an area we cannot afford to compromise in.

It is said the best way to understand what is evil is not by understanding evil, but by understanding what is good.

A Christian wanted to learn how a bank identified true currency from false currency 2. So he phoned up his local bank and asked to do a short course on identifying true currency.

He came into his bank and they began to teach him about what to look for in genuine currency compared to counterfeit currency it began to dawn on him.
He found it was apparent that experts on bank money fraud teams, didn’t get trained to be an expert in counterfeit currency by studying counterfeit currency. Instead they study good money.
They ran through a few examples of currency. Some counterfeit money was obvious, with the Queen’s head missing and clear fading. However some of it was less obvious. But all along because he was trained in what was right it was easy to tell what was wrong.

A defining moment came when the bank manager training him asked: “when somebody gives you money, you do always check to make sure its genuine right?” For money the stakes may not be that high £5 here or £10 there, however our Spiritual discernment should be of great importance.

What are the dangers of NOT discerning ?

When we are talking spiritually if a Christian isn’t exercising wise judgment between truth and error, they will be subject to any type of false teaching. This is dangerous because it will steer them away from Biblical thinking to un-biblical thinking. This will of course lead someone to living disobediently, and therefore being unrepentant before God. And Jesus said there will be many from the Church, on the day of judgment that will claim to have known him, but he will say “depart from me I never knew you” – see Matthew 7:23

We read in Acts 17:11 in the Bible of when the Apostle Paul came to Thessalonica and preached to the Bereans. The Bible states that they were “of noble character” and they “examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” And as Christians if we are to be “noble” we must test what we are seeing and hearingthinking-man spiritually with what the Bible says. Because our spiritual health depends on it.

It disappoints me when I hear local preachers teaching that as Christians we mustn’t judge, sometimes even using Matthew 7:1-2 where Jesus says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged…”. However this notion isn’t true and is a mishandling of the text. As when you read on in verse 5 Jesus says “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Jesus encourages us to not judge hypocritically. In other words if someone who swore constantly, rebuked someone else for swearing they would be a hypocrite. Furthermore in John 7:24 Jesus encourages us to “Judge correctly”.

So how can we go about discernment in our everyday lives ?

  1. – Test the Spirits.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is whenever a Christian remotely says anything complimentary regarding Christianity we immediately hail them as our Christian poster boy/girl. However we must hold back and accept that not everyone who professes Christ possesses Christ.

John encourages us to think in this area. He says in 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Not every teaching that sounds good is good for you, slow down open up your Bible and match up what someone is saying with God’s Word.

We must protect our walk with the Lord and not get taken in by any teaching that sounds good. It’s so easy to think someone has “an anointing” or “Spiritual gift” just because they are saying something that sounds encouraging. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat”. Well it’s the same spiritually.

  1. – Don’t always trust your feelings.

Another area that deceives many Christians is the “feelings” they have for a certain teacher or teaching. Remember it doesn’t matter if a so-called Gospel preacher/teacher: makes you laugh, is a good leader, has a University degree, or has thousands in his congregation.

What matters is are they preaching the Biblical Gospel ? Whenever a Pastor uses every other means to entertain the flock rather than, be faithful in allowing God’s Word to be proclaimed this should raise alarm bells.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 says “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

  3. – Biblically grow and pray for God’s help

Discernment is an important aspect of growing in our faith, Paul advised the Church in Ephesus that when they grow in their faith “Then they will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” (See Ephesians 4:14).

As we feed ourselves more and more on God’s Word we will fine tune our ability to identify true and false. Indeed we are fighting a spiritual battle, therefore we must keep in mind the importance to arm ourselves or we will be an easy target for the enemy.

Sadly not everyone is exercising discernment. However it’s important to recognize in humility, that it is only because God has given us the gift of discernment that we have the privilege to exercise that gift. And if we see where someone in the Church has gone astray in their theology or preaching we must still be loving with them.

Our purpose must be to be loving. Paul directed the Church in Ephesus in the same way. He says in Ephesians 4:15: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ”.

If we feel we ever have the need to challenge a leader, Pastor or other brother/sister in the faith we must love them first. Our purpose must be to always point them back to the Word of God, not to win an argument.

If you feel you lack discernment it’s important to pray and ask that God will grant you discernment. In Ephesians 6:18 Paul emphasises this – “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

There is many books in the Bible that deal with exercising discernment and identifying false teaching and false teachers. A good place to start is the book of Jude. Jude’s initial intention was to write to his recipients regarding salvation in Christ. However Jude felt it very necessary to instead warn the Church regarding false teachers.

At the foot of this post I’ve recommended some great books on discernment, I hope you will find something of help.

My prayer is you will continue to walk in repentance from sins and trust in Christ, and you will look to God who is able to open your eyes to the truth found in his Word.

God bless…

 

1 – John Macarthur defining discernment – http://www.gty.org.uk/resources/articles/A314/Defining-Discernment

2 – “Counterfeit Gospels” –  Tim Challies – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Counterfeit-Gospels-WAX-TREVIN/dp/080242337X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1479053653&sr=8-3&keywords=trevin+wax

Recommended books

Charismatic Chaos – John Macarthur – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Charismatic-Chaos-John-Jr-MacArthur/dp/0310575729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479054619&sr=8-1&keywords=charismatic+chaos
“Judge not” Todd Friel – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judge-Not-Todd-Friel-ebook/dp/B019DD7LBA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1479054666&sr=8-2&keywords=judge+not

“God has a wonderful plan for your life” – Ray Comfort FREE E-book – http://www.freewonderfulbook.com/