Wednesday 23rd October 2013
The Amplified Bible translates 2 Timothy 4:2 as follows: "Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favourable or unfavourable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching".
- True preaching is not merely 'a little talk'; it is the heralding forth of a divine message by an ambassador of the kingdom of heaven. It is not the sharing of an opinion but the communication of the living oracles of God.
- True preaching is not nonchalantly lukewarm, but should have the fire of a passionate urgency. The message burns within the soul of the one who deliverers it and consequently that same holy fire is imparted to the hearers. How could people possibly be stirred if the preacher is not moved by his own message?
- True preaching disregards the unfavourable conditions of the age. Ecclesiastes 11:4: "He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap". The spiritual and moral climate within and without the church does not alter the content of true preaching. Whether welcomed with opened arms or rebuffed with clenched fist the preacher must deliver the Word "in season and out".
- True preaching will always edify, but sometimes the building-up of a life for God will be preceded by the clearing away of the debris of ungodliness. To prepare the ground for the life of God to grow, the preacher must be ready to say the 'hard thing': "correct, rebuke, encourage with great patience and careful instruction".
We do well to remember that Paul is writing to Timothy, a young servant of God, whom most believe struggled with fear and timidity. Paul exhorts him to 'play the man' in his calling from God. He must 'step up to the plate' and fulfil his ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). The stakes are too high and the consequences are of eternal ramifications: "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!" (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
Oh, how the church of Christ today needs to receive these words of Paul with a fresh revelation! Is it not true, if we are honest enough to admit it, that the onslaught of evil, the advancement of secularisation and the canonisation of political correctness has intimidated many Christians into silence? Some, who have not been silenced yet, have under the same pressure developed a sanitised message, more palatable to the masses.
We must always be careful of preaching a 'harsh gospel' but equally we must beware of a powerless one. Yes, we must "speak the truth in love" always, but "speak the truth" we must! Like our Lord, we must be "full of grace" but with an equal measure of "truth". All truth and no grace is condemnation, but all grace and no truth is compromise and capitulation with the enemy.
Paul is encouraging this young pastor, Timothy, to follow him as he followed Christ. Preaching the Word was central to our Lord's ministry. Even though He healed the sick and expelled demons regularly, preaching was always prominent. On one occasion the demand for miracles was so great that Simon and the other disciples exclaimed "'Everyone is looking for you'. But He said to them, 'Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth'" (Mark 1:37-38).
Ultimately Christ's message invited His cross. Preaching the Word cost Him. It will cost us too. Paul had followed the way of Christ and was carrying his own cross for truth's sake 2 Timothy 4:6-8: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing". Therefore, with authority, Paul the elder could exhort Timothy the younger to "...be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:5).
As Paul prophesied here, for us the time has now come "...when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths" (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV).
This has always been the temptation give in, serve the people what they want, keep them happy. Like a medical doctor, a physician of souls must prescribe effective medicine. A spoonful of sugar might help the medicine down but it is no substitute for what will cure the sick soul.
Spurgeon said in his day: "We must follow after Jesus if we would succeed. Sensational methods, entertainments and so forth are these coming after Jesus? Can we imagine the Lord Jesus drawing a congregation by such means as are now commonly used? We must keep to our preaching as our Master did, for by this means souls are saved. We must preach our Lord's doctrine, and proclaim a full and free gospel. We must preach with His gentleness, boldness and love; for this is the secret of success with human hearts. We must work under divine anointing, depending upon the sacred Spirit".
Men and women, boys and girls all around us are perishing and, generally speaking, the church of Jesus Christ in our Western world is languishing in ignominy and impotence. If ever there was a time to preach the Word, it is now!
Friday 6th September 2013
"For there the LORD commanded the blessing - Life forevermore" - Psalm 133:3b
What a time we have had since our last ministry update in April! Thank you for your prayers for us - we have truly known God's answers to your faithful intercessions.
We have been experiencing "this life...in His Son" (1 John 5:11) as we have ministered in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The "Encountering God" meetings in Abbots Cross Congregational Church, April, were just that: an encounter with God! It was a remarkable week when the Lord moved in our midst and lives were transformed. Of course the Lord was greatly working in that fellowship long before these meetings and He is still continuing to work in mighty ways there. Due to the special time we had there, we have agreed to visit Abbots Cross to minister more frequently, for the short-term future, to get behind what God is doing there - please pray for this.
In August, Alan Bartley and I preached at a tent mission in Bushmills organised by Marc Taylor (Christ in You Ministries). Marc has a real love for souls and a burden for the people of Bushmills - do pray for Marc in this new venture with Christ In You Evangelistic Ministries. Much ground work had been done and the tent was well filled each night with locals as well as holiday makers. There were several professions during the week and others indicating God had spoken into their lives. Please pray that those who indicated they trusted Christ will become true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ and bear much fruit in their lives for the glory of His Name.
Please do not underestimate your role in praying for us as we go forth with God's truth. How we need your prayers. Please do remember the busy schedule ahead. In particular I would like to highlight some of these events for prayer:
- A week of ministry at Union Road Presbyterian Church, Magherafelt from Sunday 15th September.
- A week of Gospel Mission, Portadown Elim from Sunday 20th October.
- The "Men For God" day conference, Lisburn, Saturday 26th October (sharing with Alan Bartley).
- The Dungannon Convention week from Sunday 3rd November.
Saturday 1st June 2013
"Do not take us over the Jordan" - Numbers 32:5
I think we would be accurate in saying that the children of Israel truly walked with God, literally. But we see from the story of the tribes of Reuben and Gad in Numbers 32 that they stopped short of what God had intended as their destiny. They settled on the wrong side of the Jordan. God had intended them to cross the Jordan, to go west into the Promised Land of Canaan, but Gad and Reuben - who had livestock - decided that the land east of Jordan was better and they would settle there. They stopped short of what God had intended as their destiny. They settled for less than their inheritance.
I propose to you that most Christians today do the same. Like Israel (who are a type, in many respects, of God's people today) we have been transferred from bondage, the kingdom of darkness, and we have been placed into the kingdom of light. We have been redeemed, not with corruptible things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of the Lamb. We have tasted of the heavenly gift, the manna that came down from heaven - 'I am the bread of life', Jesus said. We have been fitted for heaven, and we have been sustained by God's providence - and yet many believing New Testament Christians never cross the Jordan. They never enter into the Canaan land of spiritual blessings that we as individual Christians should experience. They settle for less than God intended for them. Furthermore, I have to say that there can even be resentment, or resistance, shown toward anyone who will try to get God's people over the Jordan and into their inheritance.
Maybe you have made the mistake of Reuben and Gad. You're content with where you are as a Christian. Many Christians will say: 'I'm saved, and that's all that matters', or 'I don't really need any more', or 'I got everything God wanted me to have when I was born again'. Can I tell you: you are out of the will of God! You're ignorant, and most likely you are demonically deceived, because God intends all His children to cross to the other side of Jordan and enter into the full inheritance He has for them.
Find out more about 'A Settlement Less Than Your Inheritance'...
Wednesday 3rd April 2013
"I sent you to reap that for which you have not laboured; others have laboured, and you have entered into their labours" - John 4:38; "So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase" - 1 Corinthians 3:7
All glory to God for the increase He has given by the instrumentality of His Holy Spirit in conviction and conversion, restoration and renewal. We have known folk seeking the Lord in Stewartstown, Scrabo Hall (Ards), Cullybackey and in Loughbrickland with Alan Bartley. We are very conscious that we are entering into benefits flowing from the prayers and faithful sowing of many saints down through the years. We are so conscious that their dedication has been foundational to any blessing we are experiencing. Also we are indebted to you with great appreciation for your ongoing prayers for us. What a difference it makes to know that we have a faithful band of prayer partners behind us as we go forth with the Good News. Truly, "he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building" (1 Corinthians 3:8,9).
Without any doubt the highlight of the last three months has been the meetings in Loughbrickland Mission Hall with Alan. The title for the meetings was "Are You Thirsty For God? - He turneth the...dry ground into watersprings" (Psalm 107:35). Well, the thirsty came, especially among the Lord's people, hence the first half of the three week period was mainly challenging ministry to believers on Discipleship and the Spirit-filled life. The Lord really came to us and touched lives for which we praise Him abundantly. His promise is as faithful as ever, "For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring" (Isaiah 44:3). Please do pray that this move of God amongst us in these weeks in Loughbrickland will grow and develop as God wills - that nothing will be lost. Half way through the meetings at Loughbrickland we turned to preaching the Gospel and a number of people sought the Lord.
Please pray for some special up-coming events. I am excited about a series of ministry meetings at Abbots Cross Congregational Church entitled "Encountering God", from 7th-14th April. The fellowship has already engaged in fasting and prayer in preparation for these special nights. Do join with us in prayer that we will indeed encounter the Lord in a fresh new way. Also we would value prayer for the Faith Mission North Ulster Bible Weekend, Carnlea, Ballymena, 10th-12th May and Revival Meetings at both Mount Zion Baptist Church, Cardigan, Wales 17th-19th May (sharing with Alan Bartley) and Bushmills, 11th-16th August (sharing again with Alan).
Friday 1st February 2013
'Solemn Assemblies' are a biblical practice largely unheard of and unknown to the modern church. Yet, as we study the word of God (and particularly the Old Testament), it appears that 'Solemn Assemblies' have been an integral part of Biblical revivals. Indeed, they are a vital preparation for God to move in and renew His people.
There is some debate about whether we should call all the reformation movements in the Old Testament true, genuine, spiritual revival with lasting effect - but for the sake of simplicity, we will consider them all under this term 'revival'. Though these biblical revivals are very different from one another, there is one common preceding factor in each, and that is the 'Solemn Assembly'. Richard Owen Roberts highlights four factors concerning this activity of a 'Solemn Assembly':
1) First of all, there is a tragic declension. Every revival in the Old Testament is preceded by a period of moral and spiritual decline among God's people. I'm not talking about the world or the Gentile nations, we're talking about Israel, God's chosen elect - there is a tragic declension.
2) The second factor is: there is a righteous judgement from God. Without exception, Old Testament revivals have always been preceded by some kind of righteous judgement from God. While some of these judgements are immediate and final, actually resulting in death among the wicked of the congregation of Israel, others are gracious, they are remedial, corrective, resulting in a brokenness amongst God's people, prayer, repentance, and an extraordinary seeking of God's face.
3) Thirdly: there is always a raising up of an immensely burdened leader or leaders. In our series on 'The Solemn Assembly' we will look at four of these leaders.
4) Fourthly, after this person is burdened, God's people engage in some extraordinary action. While this action varies from revival to revival, the most common action taken was that of a 'Solemn Assembly'.
Maybe you're asking yourself: 'What is a Solemn Assembly?'. Let me put it very simply: it was when God, by His Spirit, said: 'Gather My saints together unto Me', and God's people began to confess their sin, repent of their sin. They changed their mind, they changed their heart, they changed their direction, they renounced their sin, they forsook their sin - and then, positively, they renewed their faith and obedient walk toward God. That, very, very simply, is a 'Solemn Assembly'.
Some believers immediately object and tell us that a 'Solemn Assembly' is an Old Testament concept - and so immediately they are unenthusiastic about engaging in something that is 'old covenant'. Yet I believe that the principles behind the 'Solemn Assembly' are carried right into the New Testament, and are probably seen in every revival in church history, and in revivals that are yet to be in the will of God. Go to the Acts of the Apostles, the birth of the Church: what were the disciples engaged in during those ten days of prayerful preparation in the Upper Room before Pentecost? It was probably the greatest 'Solemn Assembly' that ever took place in the New Testament era!
Let me give one caveat of caution. We should not think of a 'Solemn Assembly' as a mere ingredient in some formula of revival. God is never about technique. We've got to realise this! We cannot manipulate the Almighty. Yes, we can, I believe, make preparation to invite God and welcome God to meet us - but 'Solemn Assemblies', if they are truly that in a biblical sense, must be motivated by the Holy Spirit. This is not merely cause and effect (if you do this, that will happen) - a 'Solemn Assembly' will only bear lasting fruit if it is initiated by the Spirit. If it is not, it will be a form of godliness denying the power. Whilst I believe it is in the heart of God for a true 'Solemn Assembly' of God's people to happen in our land, God detests and despises false Solemn Assemblies! The last thing I want is for you to get the idea into your head: 'Let's arrange a Solemn Assembly, and then there will be revival' - no! 'Solemn Assembly' must be birthed of God, or it is worthless.
Learn more about 'The Solemn Assembly' in our new study series on the subject...
Tuesday 1st January 2013
"...we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf..." - 2 Corinthians 1:9-11
Praise God for His resurrection power in Jesus Christ our Lord, which continues to deliver from death: past, present and future! What a privilege to witness this dynamic power at work in lives today. Your prayers play no small part in this process. Thank you so much! As the Apostle Paul desired, we also hope that your thankfulness will rise to our Heavenly Father in praise of His grace and what it has done.
In November we spent a month of Sundays at Ards Evangelical Church. We had a tremendous time of ministry when the Presence of God was distinctly evident. Several people testified to having entered into a deeper walk with God. Some were set free from the oppression of the enemy and others are still considering issues in their lives that were pinpointed by the Holy Spirit. The very last Sunday night, a man who had once made a profession but had wandered very far from God was restored. It was a tremendous month!
Please do bring before the Lord the exciting opportunities of the coming months. Due to the Lords moving in the recent Scrabo Hall mission in Newtownards (September), and the feeling that there is still a great openness among some, the fellowship there have asked me to preach a small series of Gospel meetings from Sunday 20th Wednesday 23rd January.
Remember also a series of ministry/Gospel meetings at Cullybackey Elim Church, Monday 4th Wednesday 13th February, and more special meetings at Loughbrickland Mission Hall, Sunday 3rd Sunday 17th March, sharing with Alan Bartley.