Archive for July, 2011


The old and the new

Please do check out my newer blog (linked with my name) which has the most recent posts on:  http://benleney.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

Well, gee I dunno. I feel that I should write a blogpost, and I’ve several topics lined up (Wigglesworth, church growth, best books ever) but today I just want to ‘scribble’ for a little bit.

I’m sitting here listening to Graham Kendrick, of all people, on my ipod: “oh how You bless us Lord, making us a blessing”.  Some friends of mine believe that the only songs that carry anointing are those that are pure Scripture.  I felt that I may have offended a dear brother the other day by saying that I tended to ‘steer clear’ of some of our old, much loved, Scripture choruses.

So if God is only in ‘pure, unadulterated Scripture’, does that mean that the other day, as I was walking up our high street and praying, when I saw one bloke ask another for a cigarette, and he gave him one, as well as a light…. does that mean that I wasn’t witnessing the kingdom of God in action there?  ‘Ask and you shall receive’.  We only need to be like children to ask, after all.  And the moment of beauty, that arrested my attention as I walked past, was the guy hesitating, and then handing a cigarette over.  Making a decision that he would do an act of kindness.

As a class teacher, some of the kindest, most caring, most understanding students I teach are those who don’t know how to behave in a classroom, who cannot sit still or put their hand up, or express themselves in an articulate way on paper.  Often, those are the people who are going to be the glue of society.  And this is the kind of stuff that Jesus came to turn upside down.

Yesterday as I got into work I just almost shouted: “I have had enough. I can’t go on like this.  God, change me and do something new!”  I want to be faithful to that, as well. Wigglesworth said that two days lived on the same spiritual plane is a tragedy. Let me see, where am I today that I was not yesterda?  I was feeling a seriously divine dissatisfaction yesterday… do I still feel that today, on a rainy, empty Saturday?

Just read a description of sanctification that cut right through me:

“Sanctification is a great work of God. It is the renewal of the whole man in the image of Jesus. It is the utter destruction of all hatred, envy, malice, impatience, covetousness, pride, lust, fear of man, love of ease, love of human admiration and applause, shame of the Cross, self-will, and the like. It makes its possessors ” meek and lowly in heart,” as Jesus was ; patient, kind, full of forbearance, pitiful, full of tender compassion and love ; full of faith, benevolent, and zealous in every good word and work.”  Alec Dunn.  Check out his website http://www.calltoprayer.org.uk/ for more like this, including a superb treatment of Robert Murray McCheyne’s life.

My shuffle has now moved on to Keith Green – he suddenly struck gold when he started reading Finney on revival (check out my first blogpost on him), and God started moving so powerfully that church leaders and college leaders asked him to go away.  Are we only going to go so far in revival before we start putting the brakes on?  Are we going to quench the Spirit?  For thirty or forty years we have been urging freedom, and yet we are telling people to go back to the past?  As Keith is singing now in my ear: “Don’t close your eyes and pretend the job’s done.”  http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/viewcat.php?cid=18

(By the way check out Robert Frost’s wonderful poem ‘After Apple Picking’ http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/after-apple-picking/– even the revivalist wearies of the harvest).  So we live in revival by pleading with God every day that He will do a new thing, that he will make the wilderness of Zion like Eden once more.  Do it God!  Come down.

‘God desires to visit his people with revival rather than judgment.’  Wesley Duewel.  “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire?  Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.”  God is saying; you are betrothed to me!  One day there will be the most glorious wedding day that there ever has been!  And yet you forget me!

This morning I preached on John 9 and the account of the man who Jesus sought out to heal and then to save.  You might want to read the story before continuing.  http://www.youversion.com/bible/nkjv/john/9/1

This passage shows us that Jesus is the Light of the World.  But also that we are called to be the light of the world now!  Check out Matt 5:14 if you’re not sure about that.  Now that He has ascended, we are here to be the light of the world.  Also, even more astonishingly, we are called to be sons of God just as He is the son of God.  He had to work the works of the Father, as it says in John 9:4.  And while it is day, while there is the opportunity, we need to do that too.  So many encounters in the gospels are one-off – he wasn’t passing that way again.  The heart of the Father is to bring light, and to bring healing, and to bring salvation.  To open blind eyes.

What stops us from opening blind eyes?  Jesus was holy.  We have to be holy too.  We have to remember that every sin we commit helped nail him to the Cross.  Do you think the Father didn’t grieve when Jesus was dying on that cross?  Sure, he delights in us every time we run to Him, every time we cry out.  But he also weeps when we turn from him, when we tolerate and even cherish sin in our lives.  ‘Sin is not just bad.  It neutralizes our good intentions’.  Don’t allow it house-room.  If you have God’s will spoken over your life, but you have sin in your life, the sin will win.  Sin NEVER does it what it says on the tin.  It is always a disappointment, always a scam.  The devil delights to see the sons and daughters of God tangled up in sin.

We are called to work the works of the Father just like Jesus.  Notice if you read how the man who had his eyes opened was not even a Christian, had not even met Jesus yet, but he was defending him, and witnessing to the Pharisees: “Do you want to be his disciples too?  How come you don’t know him, when he opened my eyes!”

New Christians have a childlike, a simple faith.  That’s why we need to spend lots of time around them!  We are called to be a mission church, and we should be geared up to relate to sinners.  Read this account of Wigglesworth, the Bradford plumber, an uneducated and at one point inarticulate man, who healed another man born blind:

This man stayed behind in Wigglesworth’s healing service in Switzerland in the 1920’s.  He refused to leave until he could see: “because of the Word preached in the afternoon, he was not going home until he could see.  If ever I have seen joy, it is when I have a lot of people who will not be satisfied until they get all that they have come for.  With great joy, I anointed him and laid hands on his eyes.  Immediately, God restored his vision.  It was very strange how the man reacted.  There were some electric lights.  First he counted them; then he counted us.  Oh, the ecstatic pleasure that this man experienced every moment because of his sight!  It made us all feel like weeping and dancing and shouting.  Then he pulled out his watch and said that for years he had been feeling the raised figures on the watch in order to tell the time.  But now, he could look at it and tell us the time.  Then looking as if he had just awakened from some deep sleep, or some long, strange dream, he realised that he had never seen the faces of his mother and father.  He went to the door and rushed out.  That night, he was the first person to arrive at the meeting.  All the people knew him as the blind man and I had to give him a long time to talk about his new sight.”  p.146Wigglesworth, The Complete Story.

When Jesus comes as the Son of God, extraordinary things happen.  We should expect this all the time.  He will answer our prayers.  But we have to pray them!  There is a real urgency in this gospel account; Jesus wanted to get on and do the works of the Father.  So do we.  We cannot hold back.  We need to lose our English reserve.  Perhaps you are thinking: “I want to be of use for the Lord.  But I have too many problems.”  God starts with our problems.  Time and again when you read accounts of revival, the breakthrough comes when people are able to admit their problems.  When they turn their outward prayers that have been focused on the need in the world, on the need in their hearts and say: “Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?”  That’s where he started with this man born blind.  “our problems do not impede his movement, they invite his movement.”  Invite God, without doubting, to move in your life and he will move.  He has promised it.

Every human respond to Jesus, whether they consciously choose to or not.  It is never too soon, if you are blind, to be given sight!  It’s never too soon, if you are sick, to be made well.  It’s also never too soon to be forgiven; you don’t know what you’re missing!  You cannot possibly yield your heart to Jesus too soon.  Remember, Jesus comes to bring revival or judgment.  He comes to seek and save the lost; but just as a bright light casts a darker shadow, so those who are in darkness are now in a deeper darkness if they have not turned to him.  John 3:19 “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Let’s just read the end of the account again: “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and when he found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  He replied, Who is he, sir?  Tell, me, that I may believe in Him.”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him; it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “I believe, Lord.”  And he prostrated himself before him.”

Before, the man had  only heard the voice of Jesus as he was putting the mud on his eyes and sending him to wash.  When Jesus sought him out, he worshipped Him and saw Him as Lord.  The man moves in the space of a few hours, through the miraculous power of God, from seeing Jesus merely as a man, to a prophet, to ‘sent from God’, and finally to Lord.  Have you made that progression.  Are your eyes fully opened to Jesus as God?

I wonder if you feel that you have only heard faintly of Jesus, and what he might be like?  It does not compare with ‘seeing’ him.  Job was an upright man, who walked with integrity if ever a man did.  But when God came down and Job saw him, he changed his tune:   Job 42:6-7: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You, therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  This is where we begin before Him, and this is where revival starts and judgment is averted.

1) Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself. Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. The contented soul is a
stagnant soul.

2) Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life.  Timid experiments are tagged for failure before they start. We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God.

3) Put yourself in the way of blessing. It’s a mistake to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met.  To desire revival, and at the same time to neglect prayer and devotion, is to wish one way and walk another.

4) Do a thorough job of repenting. Hasty repentance means a shallow spiritual experience. Let godly sorrow do her healing work. It is our wretched habit of toleration of sin that keeps us in our half-dead condition.

5) Make restitution wherever possible. If you owe a debt pay it. If you have quarrelled with anyone, go as far as you can to achieve reconciliation. As fully as possible, make the crooked straight.

6) Bring your life into accord with the Sermon on the Mount and other such New Testament Scriptures as are designed to instruct in the way of righteousness. An honest man with an open Bible and a pad and pencil is sure to find out what’s wrong with him quickly.

7) Be serious minded. The people of the world used to go to the movies to escape serious thinking about God and religion. There must be a radical change in  your habits, or there will not be any permanent improvement in your interior life.

8) Deliberately narrow your interests. Too many projects use up time and energy without bringing us nearer to God.  The mansions of the heart will become larger when the doors are thrown open to Christ and closed against the world and sin.

9) Begin to witness. Find something to do for God, and your fellowman. Make yourself available. Do anything you are asked to do.

Learn to obey.

10) Have faith in God. Begin to expect. Look up toward the throne. All heaven is on your side. God will not disappoint you.

These suggestions constitute a formula for personal revival. When personal revival is experienced, there is no knowing how far it may spread. The Church is in desperate need of a spiritual resurrection and it can only come through the revived individual.

I have been praying through this formula occasionally; the only way such formulas work is if you take them seriously and give them time.  I love the way that at the start the resolves are deep and affecting the will, and as you move towards the end the instructions become very simple, easy, and short.  If our heart is prepared and willing, obedience is not difficult.  It is getting self out of the way that takes the time.  Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you, to increase, ask for some of Him, ask for more of Him, ask for all of Him and none of you.  As John Piper tells us, we should “invest in the blue-chip, high yield, divinely insured securities of heaven.  A life devoted to material comforts and thrills is like throwing money down a rathole.  But a life invested in the labour of love yields dividends of joy unsurpassed and unending.”  Next time I’m planning to put some notes and ideas from my sermon on Sunday down here.

I don’t have much time tonight but I’m heartened that people have been reading and I feel a burning in my spirit today – hey, this morning we had a word from Ezekiel chapter 1 that chariots of fire are being sent out on the earth by the Lord, and that they only go where the spirit goes, and they go straight to where the spirit is going without turning, and also the throne of God is being released into the earth as well.  I almost felt that Azusa Street was taking off this morning in church as I felt God’s presence; I’m excited.

I listened to John Piper, an old sermon of his, 2009, what is the recession for.  Worth listening to because his voice shakes you up more than words on the page.  A good example of a thundering sermon of his where the noise is the sound of grace, and the cry of the heart of God.

  • He intends for this recession to expose hidden sin and so bring us to repentance and      cleansing.
  • He intends to wake us up to the constant and desperate condition of the developing world where there is always and only recession of the worst kind.
  • He intends to relocate the roots of our joy in his grace rather than in our goods, in his mercy rather than our money, in his worth rather than our wealth.
  • He intends to advance his saving mission in the world—the spread of the gospel and the growth of his      church—precisely at a time when human resources are least able to support it. This is how he guards his glory.
  • He intends for the church to care for its hurting members and to grow in the gift of love.

These are the five points that Piper unpacks in his preach, but he also says that when human resources are low God always moves, for example:

  • He promises the heir when Abraham and Sarah are too old to have children.
  • He splits the Red Sea when Israel is hopelessly trapped by Pharaoh’s army.
  • He gives manna when there is no food in the wilderness.
  • He stops the Jordan River when it’s time to take the land.
  • When a city stands in the way, he makes the walls fall down.
  • When the Midianites were as many as the sand of the sea, God whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 so      God would get the glory for the victory.
  • When Goliath defies the armies of the Lord, God sends a boy with a sling and five stones.
  • When the Son of God is to come into the world, God calls a virgin to conceive.
  • And when the mighty devil himself is to be defeated, a Lamb goes to the slaughter.

Think about each one of those for a moment.  But the most powerful moment in the sermon for me was when he said that if there is one Christian in need and you’re another Christian, you give to that person, because THAT’S WHAT THE CHURCH IS FOR.  It’s what we are!  Are we a church or are we a club?  If we’re a church, God will move out heart, and we will give out of our poverty, and release a liberality of joy.  I am stirred up about this.  Help me God to make it count, like the widow’s mite.  Might it hurt, Lord.  Then it’s beautiful and it’s for Your glory.

 

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/what-is-the-recession-for