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"He Is Altogether Lovely"

Monday 12th December 2011

"He is Altogether Lovely!" - Songs 5:16

"What a glorious fact it is that there is one life that can be held up before the eyes of humanity as a perfect pattern! There were lips that never spoke unkindness, that never uttered an untruth; there were eyes that never looked aught but love and purity and bliss; there were arms that never closed against wretchedness or penitence; there was a bosom which never throbbed with sin, nor ever was excited by unholy impulse; there was a man free from all undue selfishness, and whose life was spent in going about doing good.

There was One who loved all mankind, and who loved them more than Himself, and who gave Himself to die that they might live; there was One who went into the gates of death, that the gates of death might never hold us in; there was One who lay in the grave, with its dampness, its coldness, its chill, and its horror, and taught humanity how it might ascend above the grave; there was One who, though He walked on earth, had His conversation in heaven, who took away the curtain that hid immortality from view, and presented to us the Father God in all His glory and in all His love.

Such an One is the standard held up in the Church of Christ. The Church rallies round the Cross and gathers around Jesus; and it is because He is so attractive, and lovely, and glorious, that they are coming from the ends of the earth to see the salvation of God" - by Matthew Simpson, taken from Mrs Cowman's Devotions

It is our goal whether in missions or ministry; through means of personal communication or the wonder of preachtheword.com, simply to glorify 'the Altogether Lovely One'. We seek to introduce Him to people and when they truly see Him for the first time, or fall deeper in love with Him, all the glory and praise must go to Him alone, because, as Matthew Simpson puts it, "He is so attractive, and lovely, and glorious, that they are coming from the ends of the earth to see the salvation of God".

We give glory to God for the fruit of recent months. Some souls sought the Lord at the Olivet Hall mission, Belfast in October and at other meetings recently. The week of Bible teaching at Leaney Mission Hall, Ballymoney in November was very profitable as we considered 'Life As God Intends For His People'. The response was extremely encouraging - please pray that the Lord will mightily use this teaching.

Please do remember us in prayer for the very busy schedule ahead in the New Year - especially for the Gospel Missions - that there will be a harvest of souls for the glory of our Blessed Saviour.

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"Ministry Update"

Saturday 1st October 2011

A very busy season of ministry has begun. We are excited with the anticipation of what the Lord will do in the coming weeks and months. We are so grateful to you all for your prayerful support and partnership in the work of God. "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you... for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" (Philippians 1:3,5). We know the blessing of God's gracious answers to your prayers on our behalf and we praise the Lord for you!

We had a great week of ministry at the Christian Police Association's Summer Bible Week in August at Portrush Presbyterian Church. It was a privilege to share the ministry with Noel Darragh of the Faith Mission who brought the morning Bible Readings on Isaiah. In the evenings there were very good sized congregations and, as was the case in the morning Bible Readings, we knew the blessing of the Lord's help and Presence. The theme for the evenings was the book of Amos: the God of Justice. The Lord was gracious and we believe lives were touched and the voice of God was heard by some.

God willing, we look forward to two Evangelistic Missions in the near future. The first at Olivet Hall, Belfast from 2nd 14th October 2011 and then Woodford Hall, Armagh from 19th February 4th March 2012. Please pray that lives and eternal destinies will be changed by the gracious power of God.

We are also excited about a week of ministry entitled "Life As God Intends For His People" taking place at Leaney Mission Hall, Ballymoney from 6th 13th November 2011. This week of Bible teaching will focus on developing and maturing the Christian's walk with the Lord. Please pray for a reviving and renewal among God's children.

Please do continue to remember the usual ministry in various places on the Lord's Day and during the week.

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"The Way Back"

Thursday 1st September 2011

"A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times'. And when he thought about it, he wept" - Mark 14:72

This is an occurrence that all four gospel writers record. We learn from Matthew and Luke that Peter wept bitterly. Mark says he wept when he remembered the word of the Lord, but Luke tells us that it wasn't just the memory of Jesus' word that caused these tears. We read in Luke 22:61 that as Peter was at the fire, as he has just finished denying the Lord with oaths and curses, Jesus is brought out and He passes by and looks toward Peter - and it stabs him to his very soul! Then he went out and he wept bitterly! Can you imagine what that look of Christ must have been like?

How often do we deny the Lord? I'll be honest, I've denied Him - perhaps not with my words, but with my actions, with my behaviour; with omission, things that I leave undone; and commission, things I do that I ought not to do. I believe this look from the Lord Jesus that broke Peter was not a look of condemnation, nor a look of disappointment or disdain, I believe it was a look of love. In John 13 we see that the Lord tells the disciples what's going to happen before He goes to Gethsemane. He tells Peter that he's going to deny Him, and the next thing that Jesus says to Peter is found in John 14:1 - He's speaking to all of the disciples, but this is what Peter would have heard after being told he would deny Jesus: 'Let not your heart be troubled' (remember that the chapter divisions have been put in by men). You remember that Jesus also told him: 'Simon Peter, Satan has desired to sift you, he wants to have you and sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you'. Oh, that has brought me so much encouragement many times in my life! I know my own weakness, I know my propensity to let the Lord down and deny Him and disown Him - but what it is to know, even though I might be in the darkest temptation and trial of life, that Jesus is praying for me!

If you're reading this and you have denied Him, you have let Him down, you need to see this look of love. If you could only see Him in His love toward you, even in your backslidden state, even in the sins that you're dabbling with - you're so far away, maybe as far away as Peter, cursing and swearing against Christ! It's hard to imagine a person could be saved and be doing that, isn't it? But if you could only see His look of love, I believe it would melt you.

Warren Weirsbe says: 'Before we judge Peter too severely, we need to examine our own lives. How many times have we denied the Lord, and lost opportunities to share the Gospel with others? Do we, like Peter, talk when we should listen? Do we argue when we should obey? Do we sleep when we should pray? Do we fight when we should submit?'. We're all on trial in relation to Christ, every one of us. Unsaved people are on trial in relation to their Christ rejection, but we as believers are on trial in relation to our Christ denial.

Peter appears to fail, doesn't he? But notice: Peter's failure was not final - there's a way back! Wherever you've been, whatever you've done - and I don't care what it is - there is a way back! This Saviour still looks upon you in love. In fact, after he was forgiven and converted and restored by grace, Peter was brought to an even greater place - that's marvellous! God's grace is like that: greater than all our sin.

Read or listen to more on Peter's denial of Christ in "Trial And Denial".

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"Times Of Refreshing From The Presence Of The Lord"

Friday 1st July 2011

"This was the LORD's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes" - Psalm 118:23

We are rejoicing in the goodness and mercy of our God for the blessings He has recently lavished upon us. We are over-awed at His gracious dealings of late. At the beginning of May we had a very profitable weekend of meetings in Benhar Evangelical Church, Harthill, Scotland when a woman from Glasgow professed faith. At the end of May, Alan Bartley and I travelled to Mount Zion Baptist Church, Cardigan, Wales for a Revival Conference. This also was a blessed time of ministry and fellowship.

Without doubt the highlight of this year, and indeed our ministry thus far, was the Gospel mission in June in Portadown Elim. All I can say is that the Lord of the Harvest permitted us to be a part of the reaping of many souls for the glory of the Lord Jesus. Many souls sought the Lord and many believers appear to have been deeply affected by the Presence of God in the meetings. It was truly a move of God's Spirit and a privilege to be a part of.

Two very special moments in the week stand out. The first was when little Noah, who had been talking about becoming a Christian for a while, on Sunday night made Mummy turn the car around and return back to the church to be saved! When he came home that night he was jumping about the house shouting, "It's a great day, I'm a Christian and we're all going to heaven!". The second was when the husband of our neighbour, who was saved this time last year during our Armagh mission, trusted the Lord. What a wonderful thing to see God unite a whole family in Christ!

What stood out to me in particular at the Portadown mission was the spiritual preparation of the church beforehand. Much prayer was invested in the weeks preceding the meetings. Half nights of prayer were convened where there was an evident brokenness for the lost and many tears shed. The church fasted and some individuals had an exercise to fast independently for long periods of time. God has covenanted with His people, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:5-6). There will "doubtless" be a reaping when the seed is sown with weeping.

As you can imagine it was hard to leave the Portadown mission to immediately begin a new one in Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone. However we were conscious of the Lord's leading to take this mission. Several dear friends reminded us of how, in Acts 8, Philip was directed away from a revival in Samaria in order to speak to the lone Ethiopian on the desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Aughnacloy was a very different week; very much a pioneer kind of work on virgin territory as far as Gospel missions are concerned. Mostly the attendants would have been the "religious" kind. However I believe we found our Ethiopian: a very needy young man who attended every meeting and on the last Sunday afternoon sought the Lord. Others also indicated that the Lord had done a work in their lives during the week. To God be the glory! Great things He has done!

Along with the usual ministry on the Lord's Day and during the week, please remember in particular the following important opportunities in the coming months:

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"A Time Of Shaking"

Wednesday 20th April 2011

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire" - Hebrews 12:28-29

On Friday 11th March another massive earthquake took place, this time in Japan. The 8.9 magnitude offshore quake created a massive tsunami leaving incredible destruction and devastation in its wake in the north eastern coastal areas of the island. What a shaking of the earth!

It was reported that the Japan quake moved the whole island 8 feet and shifted the earth's figure axis 6.5 inches! According to one Geophysicist, Richard Gross, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the intense quake accelerated Earth's spin, shortening the length of the 24 hour day by 1.8 microseconds (a microsecond is a millionth of a second). Normally over the course of a year, the length of a 24 hour day varies by about one millisecond (1000 microseconds), due to seasonal variations, which puts into context for us the effect of this quake. It doesn't seem terribly important in the greater scheme of things. The 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile last year was reported also to have sped up the planet's rotation and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. The 9.1 magnitude Sumatra earthquake in 2004 shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds!

What is of great significance is the apparent increase of earthquakes worldwide. Three Gospel writers record our Lord Jesus as giving the sign of the end of the age as, "For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (literally: "birth pangs"). A series of birth pangs precedes the delivery of a baby, and these increase in frequency and intensity as the delivery comes closer. So earthquakes appear to be increasing as the return of our Lord draws near.

According to the US Geological Survey, most of the world's earthquakes with 1,000 or more deaths began to occur since the year 1900. The Japan earthquake was the fifth largest since 1900. In the 19th Century there were 2,119 earthquakes recorded, with far fewer in the centuries before that. However the 20th Century saw a staggering leap to almost 900,000: an average of one per hour! The 21st Century is proving to follow this accelerated trend. Over the period of a month spanning December 2010 and January 2011 there were at least eight significant quakes.

Christians should recognise that these events appear to be signals of Jesus' near return. We cannot know exactly when He will come (Matthew 24:36), but surely these signs are clear (Matthew 24:32-33; 16:2-3).

What a warning! The Almighty says, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven" (Hebrews 12:26). A great earthquake will accompany the Lord's return but, praise God, Christians are of another kingdom that "cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28). Now the onus is on us to "have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear". Or as Paul put it, "...do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11).

As the day darkens and judgement ripens, let us invest in the things that cannot be shaken!

Read or listen to "Signs Of The Second Coming" for more on this subject...

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"Was The Resurrection A Hoax?"

Friday 1st April 2011

"Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?" - Acts 26:8

Many people believe it was. You may have heard of the film director James Cameron, who has been in the news recently for his groundbreaking work on the movie 'Avatar' - he also directed the famous 'Titanic' movie and others. He sparked religious controversy in 2007 by unveiling what he claimed to be the burial casket of Jesus Christ, and he shot a documentary film based on that find. Cameron proudly showed off a 3 foot long ossuary to a packed press conference in New York in the United States. I won't go into a specific critique of James Cameron's film, because it has already been rubbished by many sources - but if you want to know more about it, there is plenty of information on the Internet. Save to say that Amos Kloner, the archaeologist who oversaw the work of finding that ossuary, dismissed the newfound Hollywood treatment of it. This is what he said: 'It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial cave'. He told reporters in Jerusalem: 'The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time. It makes a great story for a television film, but it's impossible - it's nonsense'.

That story illustrates how men are still attempting to rubbish the truth of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It is nothing new, it's been going on since the Lord Jesus rose from the grave. If you're not a Christian, you may ask where the truth lies. If you are a professing believer in the Lord Jesus, maybe you have had your doubts about the miraculous, and even about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus? There are so many who rubbish the resurrection of Jesus as 'April Fool', as a 'hoax', and it seems that around this time of year they all crawl out of the woodwork. So, what is the truth? Was the cross the end? Did He rise again? Some believe we are morons for suggesting that Jesus was resurrected.

In the evangelistic sermon 'April Fool! Was The Resurrection A Hoax?' I have proposed three questions on the matter, and answered them:

  1. Could God raise Jesus from the dead?
  2. Did God raise Jesus from the dead?
  3. If He did, why did God raise Jesus from the dead?

Some think it is foolish to believe in the resurrection of the dead, but God says you're a fool if you don't! Two doubting disciples walked on the Road to Emmaus on that first Easter Day. The risen Lord Jesus came alongside and rebuked them: 'Oh fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets said'. They had a hard job believing, and Jesus called them fools! Are you an April Fool for doubting the resurrection truth - or will you weigh the evidence and acknowledge the undeniable facts?

I encourage you to read or listen to 'April Fool! Was The Resurrection A Hoax?', and share this message with your friends and family over the Easter period to stimulate their thinking on these matters.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

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"An Encounter With God"

Monday 14th February 2011

"The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified" - Daniel 5:23b
"You...have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this" - Daniel 5:22

Some people are spoken to by God over a protracted period in a still small voice in a very mundane and simplistic way, but there are others - especially deeply sinful people - and God needs to send them a sharp shock to shake them out of their apathy and their spiritual slumber. God is a God who breaks through our crises, and makes the most godless of men and women know that He exists. This was the experience of John Newton, author of the famous hymn 'Amazing Grace' - who also has an amazing life story, particularly in relation to his close encounter of a Divine kind.

John had a godly mother, but she died when he was only 7 years of age. He was turned over to relatives, and soon forgot the Scriptures that his mother had taught him at her knee. He began to dream about following in the footsteps of his father, who was a sea captain. At the age of 11 he realised his dream and joined his father's ship, but from that moment on it was far from plain sailing. He soon learned the ways of sin common in the lives many seafaring men. His biography tells us that he began to fight with his own father, he clashed with his employers, he was flogged for desertion, and finally he ended up in jail. He even earned the reputation of being able to curse for two hours straight without repeating a word.

John was so depraved that punishment didn't even change him - after he was released from prison he continued an immoral life, living in unrestrained debauchery. Eventually his downward path led him to desert the Navy and he fled to Africa so that, in his own words: 'I might sin my fill'. He eventually ended up in the most despicable of all trades in those days: the slave trade. His skills as a navigator earned him the position of 'first mate' on a slave ship. One day, while the captain was ashore, Newton broke into the ship's supply of rum and soon the entire crew were drunk. When the captain returned, he was so incensed that he hit Newton, knocking him overboard! John would have drowned, were it not for a sailor who threw a hooked spear into the water. The hook went through John's thigh, and his fellow sailor lifted him out like a fish. We learn in his biography that the wound on his left leg was so big, you could have put your fist inside it!

Biography of John NewtonEventually John's slave ship hit a storm off the north-west coast of Ireland. The storm thundered against the vessel to such an extent that the whole crew feared for their lives. The water began to fill the decks, and the crew ran to the pails and pumps, desperately trying to get the water out of the ship - but Newton and the crew knew that they could do nothing against the force of such a storm. Fearing for his life, John cried out: 'If this will not do, then the Lord have mercy on us!'. All of a sudden, as he uttered these words, he was arrested in his heart! He realised the utter depravity of the life he had lived, and thought to himself: 'What mercy can there be for me? A man who is a wretch of a sinner, who has lived such a sinful life. I find myself in this storm, in a crisis, my life is at risk - but what mercy could there be from God for the likes of me?'. Miraculously the storm abated, and John Newton was gloriously converted by God's grace. Later he penned 'Amazing Grace', and this verse is particularly poignant in light of his life story:

'Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come'.

John Newton's GraveHe died on the 21st December 1807 in London, having served the Lord for 60 years after his conversion. On his tombstone in the churchyard at Olney, where he served as a minister, his epitaph reads: 'John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel, a libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy'.

Newton had a close encounter of the Divine kind, a life-changing encounter - and what God did for John Newton, He can do for you! Is God speaking to you through a crisis in your life? Will you continue to ignore 'The God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways', or will you humble your heart and heed His voice?

Find out more about 'A Close Encounter Of The Divine Kind' we read of in the book of Daniel, and read John Newton's biography, available from Amazon (US or UK) and ICM Books...

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"Are You Seeking Him?"

Monday 17th January 2011

I would go as far as to say that the most important thing about you is what you think about when you think of God. Your conception of God determines how you perceive God and how you relate to Him. Of course, people who call themselves 'atheists' don't believe in God at all, and so they don't desire to relate to Him or have any yearning after Him. Yet there is a considerably sizeable group of people who do believe in God - yet they consider God to be distant. Are you a member of that group? They feel detached from God, or that God has detached Himself from them. They have this concept that God is like an absentee landlord - someone who owns the place, and collects His tax...death, judgement, responsibility...but He never really shows up. Some have a conception of God as the prime source of all things. Yes, they believe that He started life, He created life, He is the Originator and the Creator - but they have this idea that He just set the wheels in motion and now He nonchalantly observes everything from a distance. I don't know if you feel like that, but I fear that many believers do. God is there - they know that, and they believe that with all their hearts - but God is not real to them.

The reason why God seems distant at times is simply because we are not looking for Him. If you are not looking for God, you will not find God; but if you are looking for Him, you will find Him everywhere, because He is the God who wants to be seen, because He wants to be known. However, you must understand that He will only be found and known by seekers. Most people do not seek God, and most people who don't seek Him feel that He hides from them. You hear people say: 'There is no evidence of God at all!' - but they never see evidence of Him because they don't want Him. It is because they don't want Him, that they don't seek Him; and because they don't seek Him, they don't see Him; and because they don't see Him, they don't know Him. That is why God is hidden from them. Paul the apostle states this plainly in 2 Corinthians 4:3: 'If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost' - there it is!

But, though God is hidden from people by their unbelief, the Bible says He is obvious to those who look for Him. Are you looking for Him? Jeremiah 29:13 says: 'Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart' - 'You will find me'! God wants to be found - He wants to be known and that's why He wants to be found. Let me ask you: do you know God? I'm not just addressing people who do not know Christ as their personal Saviour, I'm addressing everyone: do you know God? I'm not asking if you know about Him, but do you know Him? Few people really know Him. Why? Because few people seek Him!

Find out more in the sermons: 'The God Who Wants To Be Seen And Known', and 'When God is Distant'...

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