Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Toyohiko Kagawa, Japanese Original by Dan Graves

Japan has never been very receptive to the gospel. Missions have met little response. The work of such men as Xavier and Nikolai was exceptional in bringing thousands to a Christian confession. The work of others has generally produced only handfuls of converts. This is true not only of foreign missionaries but also of Japan's foremost homegrown missionary, Toyohiko Kagawa.
Toyohiko Kagawa was born on this day July 10, 1888, into wealth, the son of a concubine. Both parents died while he was very young. As a teenager he became a Christian under the influence of Presbyterian missionaries and was baptized. He took theological training at Kobe and at Princeton University. After almost losing his life to an illness, he vowed to help the poor.
Japan was then going through great upheavals owing to its transition to Capitalism. Common laborers suffered much during this time. Kagawa moved into a slum in order to witness to the people. "I am a socialist because I am a Christian," he said. He slept in cell-sized hovels sometimes holding the hand of a murderer. He shared himself with all in need. More than that, he organized Japan's first labor and peasant unions. With the coming of Communism he increased his emphasis on the Kingdom of God. His activism convinced the government to rebuild slums.
Kagawa is recognized as a successful author. His wrote a best-selling autobiographical novel,Across the Death Line and another Before the Dawn. His other writings include several pamphlets and meditations. He spent the revenue from his books on relief of the poor while he and his family subsisted on a small monthly salary.
For Kagawa, the cross symbolized the power of the love of Christ and the power of suffering for righteousness' sake. That is why he chose Japan's worst slums as his field of labor and lived among those he sought to help. Kagawa was not highly regarded in theological circles in Japan. Here is his own explanation. "There are theologians, preachers and religious leaders, not a few, who think that the essential thing about Christianity is to clothe Christ with forms and formulas. They look with disdain upon those who actually follow Christ and toil and moil, motivated by brotherly love and passion to serve. . .They conceive pulpit religion to be much more refined than movements for the actual realizations of brotherly love among men. . .The religion Jesus taught was diametrically the opposite of this. He set up no definitions about God, but taught the actual practical practice of love."

The Emperor posthumously awarded him Japan's highest honor, the Order of the Sacred Treasure. One year after Kagawa's death, 103 doctors, professors, patients, workers, writers, teachers and acquaintances issued a two-volume Biography of Kagawa. Each contributed an essay.

  1. Axling, William. Kagawa. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1932.
  2. Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity. Editor Tim Dowley. Berkhamsted, Herts, England: Lion Publishing, 1977.
  3. Kagawa, Toyohiko. Love the Law of Life. Philadelphia: John C, Winston, 1929.
  4. "Kagawa, Toyohiko." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
  5. Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions. The Pelican History of the Church #6. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Pelican Books, 1964.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Sadhu Sundar Singh

Singh was raised a member of the Sikh religion. Prior to his conversion, Sundar attended a primary school run by the American Presbyterian Mission where the New Testament was read daily as a "textbook." Sundar "refused to read the Bible at the daily lessons...To some extent the teaching of the Gospel on the love of God attracted me, but I still thought it was false."
In the midst of such confusion and while only fourteen years old, his mother died, and Sundar underwent a crisis of faith. His mother was a loving saintly woman and they were very close. In his anger, Sundar burned a copy of one of the Gospels in public. Within three days Sundar Singh could bear his misery no longer. Late one night in December 1903, he rose from bed and prayed that God reveal himself to him if he really existed. Otherwise -- "I planned to throw myself in front of the train which passed by our house." For seven hours Sundar Singh prayed. "O God, if there is a God, reveal thyself to me tonight." The next train was due at five o'clock in the morning. The hours passed. Suddenly the room filled with a glow. A man appeared before him. Sundar Singh heard a voice say, "How long will you deny me? I died for you; I have given my life for you." He saw the man's hands, pierced by nails.
Amazed that his vision had taken the unexpected form of Jesus, Sundar was convinced in his heart that Jesus was the true Savior, and that He was alive. Sundar fell on his knees before Him and experienced an astonishing peacefulness which he had never felt before. The vision disappeared, but peace and joy lingered within him.
Despite his family's pleas, bribes, and threats, Sundar wanted to be baptized in the Christian faith. After his father spoke words of official rejection over him, Sundar became an outcast from his people. He cut off the hair he had worn long like every Sikh man. Against great opposition, he was baptized on his birthday in 1905, in an English church in Simla.
Conventional Indian churches were willing to grant him a pulpit, but their rules were foreign to his spirit. Indeed, he felt that a key reason the gospel was not accepted in India was because it came in a garb foreign to Indians. He decided to become a sadhu, so that he could dedicate himself to the Lord Jesus. He was convinced that this was the best way to introduce the Gospel to his people since it was the only way which his people were accustomed to. As a sadhu, he wore a yellow robe, lived on the charity of others, abandoned all possession and maintained celibacy. In this lifestyle, he was free to devote himself to the Lord. Dressed in his thin yellow robe, Sundar Singh took to the road and began a life of spreading the simple message of love and peace and rebirth through Jesus. He carried no money or other possessions, only a New Testament.
Sundar journeyed much. He traveled all over India and Ceylon. Between 1918-1919, he visited Malaysia, Japan and China. Between 1920-1922 he went to Western Europe, Australia and Israel. He preached in many cities; Jerusalem, Lima, Berlin and Amsterdam among others. Despite his growing fame, Sundar retained a modest nature, desiring only to follow Jesus' example: to repay evil with kindness and to win over his enemies by love.
He was quite independent of outward Church authority in all his religious life, thought, and work. He dropped out of a Christian seminary that he briefly attended. Neither did he attach much importance to public worship because in his experience the heart prays better in solitude than in a congregation.
He traveled in India and Tibet, as well as the rest of the world, with the message that the modern interpretation of Jesus was sadly watered down. Sundar visited Tibet every summer and in 1929, he visited there and was never seen again.

The Fall and Rise of Wang Ming Dao - Georgina Giles

The year was 1949 and the first unified central government for forty years was in power in China. Christian believers were fearful.
At the Peking (Beijing) Christian Tabernacle, the congregation prepared itself for Communist rule. Wang Ming Dao, the pastor, continued to hold tenaciously to Scripture. The Christian, he affirmed, should obey the authorities (Romans 13:1-7). But if ordered to go against God’s inspired Word, the Bible, then it was God’s Word that must be observed.
The ‘Three Self’ Movement
Wang Ming Dao knew the greatest threat that confronted the church would come from within. A man called Wu Yaozong, a little known YMCA secretary having strong sympathies with Communism, seized his opportunity.
Over the years many had recognised a prophetic ring in Wang Ming Dao’s words. ‘From a man with a selfish heart’, he had written, ‘any terrible act can emerge. Anyone looking for selfish gain can lie, cheat, practise evil and plot for his self interest. The majority of sins in this world issue from people who are out for selfish gain’.
Wu Yaozong approached Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier. With his and Mao-Tse Tung’s full support, Wu drew up a ‘Christian Manifesto’. This called for the church to sever all ties with Western imperialism and purge itself of everything connected with it. The church must be self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating. Thus was born the government-sponsored Three Self Patriotic movement (‘TSPM’), and hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout China gave it their support. Wu Yaozong rose rapidly to power.
Adverse effects
Wang Ming Dao firmly believed in the separation of church and state. He recognised that the aim of the movement was to bring the church under state control.
Besides, the Christian Tabernacle had always been independent of Western aid or connection. There was no need for Wang to join. All his deepest convictions were in conflict with the beliefs propagated by Wu Yaozong and other leaders in the TSPM. Wu wrote in an article: ‘The incarnation, the virgin birth, resurrection, Trinity, last judgement, Second Coming etc., these are irrational and mysterious beliefs which cannot be understood or explained … no matter how hard I try, I cannot accept such beliefs’. Wang Ming Dao steadfastly refused to join the TSPM. He could act in no other way.
Meanwhile the churches that had joined the movement began to feel its adverse effects. The formidable ‘accusation meetings’, already a feature of the Communist secular world were introduced into the church. Pastors who had been linked with foreign missions were isolated, and their congregations encouraged to denounce them.
Another gospel
All over China, churches were torn apart. The Peking Christian Tabernacle was like an oasis in a spiritual desert, where pure biblical gospel preaching could still be heard.
Wang Ming Dao laboured night and day, setting up his own printing press to continue publication of the Spiritual Food Quarterly. His uncompromising stand on biblical truth strengthened Christians throughout the land.
Between 1951 and 1954, he published many books proclaiming the gospel and speaking out against the modernists. Those who preach the ‘social gospel’, he pointed out, ignore the essential atoning work of Christ for the individual’s eternal salvation and the purifying effect it has in this life. They seek to transform society and establish the ‘kingdom of heaven’ in this world.
But this, taught Wang, was ‘another gospel’ (Galatians 1:9). Such people have never put their own trust in Jesus. Men and women need to know the true gospel for their eternal safety and blessing.
Alarm bells
The TSPM ground its teeth. Its leaders deeply resented the man who was ‘an iron pillar against which the whole land could not prevail’. All they could do was to mount a personal attack on Wang.
In 1954 the TSPM ordered all churches in Beijing to send delegates to an ‘accusation meeting’ against Wang Ming Dao. Leslie Lyall (OMF) writes, ‘it would be difficult to find fault with him, for he practised what he preached: upright, disciplined living’.
Throughout the meeting, Wang did not speak a word. Imprisonment or the death sentence were called for. The congregation sat silent. Many wept. No penalty could be imposed.
So Ming Dao continued to preach. The crowds were larger than ever. The evangelistic meetings in January 1955, says Leslie Lyall, ‘were probably the most fruitful he had ever conducted’.
Then students, as students will, daringly started their ‘Oppose the persecution of Wang Ming Dao’ campaign. It received wide support all over China. Alarm bells began to ring in high places. Their plan to subjugate the church to Communist control was under threat.
Accusation meetings were arranged against Wang Ming Dao across the whole of China. Nevertheless, in two weeks of meetings in the Christian Tabernacle in July 1955, attendance broke all records. Wang’s important article, We, because of Faith, had been published. With powerful logic, he dealt with the arguments of the modernists. He explained how they overturned the Bible and the Christ of the Bible. Was he being uncharitable, he asked, if he called them ‘the party of unbelievers’?
The Three-Self controlled magazine (the Tianfeng) branded Wang Ming Dao ‘a criminal of the Chinese people, a criminal in the church and a criminal in history’.
On 7 August 1955, Wang preached his last sermon in the church. For thirty years he had laboured tirelessly to show his country where her true hope lay, namely, in the atoning work of Christ and obedience to his Word. His final sermon showed that the TSPM church leaders had betrayed Christ in China.
At midnight the police arrived and Wang was thrown into prison without a conviction. He was parted from his wife and did not realise that she had been imprisoned too.
To the Communists, Wang Ming Dao’s refusal to join the TSPM was a counter-revolutionary act, the very worst of crimes. They could not, of course, understand that he was called by God to summon the church to chastity to Christ.
Wang shared a filthy cell with two other prisoners. From his daily interrogations, Wang was returned to his cell to be taunted with descriptions of torture reserved for preachers, and to be beaten and pressurised by his fellow prisoners to confess his ‘crimes’.
Freedom and rearrest
The authorities used every device to break down the resistance of this powerful opponent to their scheme. After a year of tremendous pressure, Wang was informed of a wave of arrests of Bible-believing Christians sympathetic to him. Then news came of Jing Wun’s plight. She, too, was in detention, unable to eat the coarse prison food because of her poor health. China’s ‘iron man’ began to weaken. He ‘confessed’ to crimes he had not committed, and agreed to join the TSPM and preach for them. He signed a document stating he was a counter-revolutionary, and he and Jing Wun were freed.
Then began the darkest six months in Wang Ming Dao’s life. The TSPM leaders were elated. They waited eagerly to claim the lifeless jewel that would crown their movement. But with a mind deranged with guilt and sorrow for the denial of his Lord, Wang never did join or preach for the TSPM. With the same tender love the Lord had shown to Peter, Wang was granted time to regain normality by a period of illness.
He informed the government he could not join, Jing Wun affording outstanding support to her husband. Exactly seven months after their release, Wang Ming Dao and Jing Wun were re-arrested.
Restored in spirit
By the 1960s, Mao Tse Tung’s disastrous policies, along with natural calamities, left millions starving in a terrible famine. All, except high government officers, were affected. Officials at the bottom level were blamed for Mao’s mistakes.
While some ‘counter-revolutionaries’ were released at this time, Wang Ming Dao received the sentence he most dreaded — life imprisonment. Earlier, the Beijing People’s Court had drawn up charges against him. The recorded evidence stated that Wang Ming Dao and his wife had undermined the TSPM set up by Chinese Christians, and had accused the TSPM of committing adultery with the world.
It was now that God met with Wang Ming Dao and restored him to his brightest hour. A scripture he had learned many years before was brought by the Holy Spirit to his remembrance: ‘When I fall I shall arise, when I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him until he pleads my cause and executes judgement for me’ (Micah 7:7).
One great prison
Through the next sixteen and a half years Ming Dao was to suffer solitary confinement, torture, and the horror of five months of daily meetings attempting to force confessions from him.
But the Lord stood by him and gave him the victory through his Word. Never again was he to fall. Though Wang Dao’s voice was silenced, his life still spoke throughout the land.
During this time all China had become one great prison from which there was no escape. The ‘little red book’ of Mao’s teachings was in everyone’s hands. As the Cultural Revolution flourished, everyone spied on his neighbour and almost every family suffered at least one death.
Preaching again
In Beijing, more than anywhere else, the youthful Red Guards were authorised to terrorise intellectuals. Had Wang Ming Dao still been there, he would have been targeted for death. The ancient city walls were demolished, as things old and beautiful were destroyed to make way for Mao’s new China. Even the TSPM ceased to function.
Gradually it became clear that Mao had failed the nation. His ‘little red book’ was laid aside. God had destroyed the wisdom of the wise (1 Corinthians 1:19). In 1976 Mao Tse Tung died, and his revolution died with him.
Prison doors opened, and seventy-nine-year-old Wang Ming Dao, now nearly blind and very deaf, was free again. In his little home in Shanghai, and always mindful of his fall, he began again to preach the Holy Scriptures which are able to make one ‘wise unto salvation’ (2 Timothy 3:15). He died in 1991, a radiant witness to his Saviour.
The healthy state of the vast house-church movement in China today, and the breathtaking increase of true Bible-believing Christians there, are not unrelated to the life and work of Wang Ming Dao. He has emerged as the greatest Chinese Christian leader of the twentieth century.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

'In the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?'The testimony of John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, on being pursues by hostile natives.

'Being entirely at the mercy of such doubtful and vacillating friends, I, though perplexed, felt it best to obey. I climbed into the tree and was left there alone in the bush. The hours I spent there live all before me as if it were but of yesterday. I heard the frequent discharging of muskets, and the yells of the Savages. Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among these chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify my God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship. If thus thrown back upon your own soul, alone, all alone, in the midnight, in the bush, in the very embrace of death itself, have you a Friend that will not fail you then?' (John G. Patton: Missionary to the New Hebredies, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965, orig. 1889, 1891], p. 200)

John Gibson Paton (24 May 1824 - 28 January 1907), born in Scotland, was a Protestant missionary to the New Hebrides Islands of the South Pacific. He brought to the natives of the New Hebrides education and Christianity. He developed small industries for them, such as hat making. He advocated strongly against a form of slavery, which was called “Blackbirding”, that involved kidnapping the natives and forcing them to work in New Zealand and elsewhere. Though his life and work in the New Hebrides was difficult and often dangerous, Paton preached, raised a family, and worked to raise support in Scotland for missionary work. He also campaigned hard to persuade Britain to annex the New Hebrides. He was a man of robust character and personality. Paton was also an author and able to tell his story in print. He is held up as an example and an inspiration for missionary work.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

'Pray For the Success of the Gospel' from Heart Cry Missionary Society

Our guest author is the founding pastor of Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church and the director of the radio ministry, “Baptist Bible Hour.” One of the hallmarks of his ministry has been an emphasis on exegetical teaching, with a very practical and personal application. Lasserre and his wife Emily have three grown children and twenty grandchildren!
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” (II Thessalonians 3:1)
The Apostle’s burden was that the gospel would move forward rapidly and successfully. His commitment in life was to serve God and honor his Saviour by faithfully preaching the gospel wherever and whenever he had opportunity. He suffered much and faced numerous obstacles as he went preaching Christ and Him crucified.
When we read of his sufferings, we know it was only by the grace of God that he could have survived.
“…in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (II Corinthians 11:23-27)
You would think that receiving thirty-nine stripes on five different occasions would have killed him. The straps used in those beatings had pieces of metal embedded in them. The pain had to be excruciating. The discouragement had to be significant. But Paul didn’t give up. He was willing to spend and be spent. Even when he was in prison and could not travel as he desired, he was confident that God was at work and the gospel was still being circulated.
“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all others places.” (Philippians 1:12-13)
While in prison he was chained to a soldier; he no doubt presented the gospel to him. On the next shift another soldier was guarding him, and he preached to that soldier. On it went, until the gospel message was being spoken of throughout the palace. How else could the gospel have been circulated there? By providence, God arranged for the gospel to have free course even while the great evangelist was unable to stand before a crowd to preach.
Now the beloved apostle asks the Church at Thessalonica to pray for him. Here was a man with a unique experience, a special gift and a high calling; but he still felt his need of prayer. He knew something of his own weakness and of the strength of his enemies. He knew that success in his labors could only be enjoyed if God poured out his blessings on those efforts, and so he requests the payers of the humble saints of God. He had asked for their prayers in his first letter and now he repeats the request, revealing a truly humble spirit. He was well qualified as a strong leader and faithful servant, but he wanted the prayers even of those recently converted.
His desire was that the word of the Lord might spread at a rapid pace and that it would be honored. He personified the gospel as being a runner. He was familiar with the Isthmian Games and perhaps had in mind the athletes who participated in those races. As they would run at great speed, so he envisioned the gospel would be moving on, unobstructed, and that many would receive it and therefore honor it.
This burden for the success of the gospel was always on his heart. In the epistle to the church at Colossae, he wrote:
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: That I may make it manifest as I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:2-4)
If Paul was so burdened for the spread of the gospel that he devoted his whole life to it and regularly asked others to pray for the advancement of the message, should not we always be praying that doors may be opened where the gospel can be proclaimed? It is easy to become complacent. We are thankful for the truth of the gospel and for the joy it has brought to our hearts, but we often neglect our responsibility to be a witness to others and to pray for those who are laboring in the ministry.
We can become discouraged when we consider how rapidly things are changing in our country. The moral fiber, which helped to hold things together for decades, is falling apart. Christians are viewed as narrow-minded bigots. Disparaging remarks are made about the Bible and those who embrace its teachings. Many declare they want nothing to do with “organized religion,” which is another way of saying, “I am not interested in the Church or its message.”
We need to remember that the fields in which the apostles labored in the days of the early church were not where it would be expected that the gospel would have good success. They labored among Jews who resented the mention of Jesus’ name. They labored among Gentile pagans who were worshiping false gods and living in a culture known for its rampant immorality. But on the day of Pentecost, three thousand souls were converted. And in Acts 4:4, we read, “Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.” Sometimes the gospel was presented to large numbers and sometimes just to one. Paul and Silas brought the message to the Philippian jailor. Philip brought it to the Ethiopian eunuch. The beautiful story of the Book of Acts reveals God preparing hearts to receive the gospel and sending others to proclaim it. Paul writes about what makes this work a success:
“For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians 1:22-24)
Here is our source of encouragement. No matter what our background may be – religious with a lot of mistaken ideas, or educated in the philosophies of men considering the truth of God to be foolishness – in whatever case, when the Spirit calls us effectually, the gospel makes sense. Paul said he recognized those to whom he preached at Thessalonica as being the elect of God because “our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…ye turned to God from idols to serving the living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:59).
We can know today that when we present the gospel to someone or when it is preached to a congregation, some will reject it. But we can also be assured that some will find it to be a “savor of life unto life.” The Lord opened Lydia’s heart so that she attended unto the things spoken by Paul, and the Lord is still opening the hearts of his elect to receive the gospel and to embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That’s what it means for the Word to be glorified. When it is preached, believed, and acted upon, it is honored and glorified.
May we be diligent in praying that the Word of the Lord will have free course and might run swiftly, without interference. Let us pray that the Word will be glorified as multitudes around the world turn to Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as the only Savior of s

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Thomas Kenny (Rest in Peace)

Thomas Kenny (Rest in Peace). My Dad- A fisherman, footballer, bowler, singer, husband, grandfather, uncle, coach, fitter, carpenter, family taxi driver, strongman, huntsman, gardener, forgiver, encourager, friend, example and hero passed away in the early hours of Christmas morning. He was ready to go and leave this old world and is now at peace.He was always great fun at Christmas time and would want those who knew him to think of the good times they shared together.He was almost eighty seven years old and the youngest of seven children born to William and Martha, after Billy, Lilly, Anne, Andy ( pre WW1) Ella and Mary (post WW1).He will be sadly missed and remembered for being a great family man and a loyal friend to all who knew him.

He did not speak much about his faith but rather preferred to sing about it! I remember as a child listening to my Mum and Dad sing 'Farther Along We'll Understand Why' among other hymns. At the local Methodist Church where we attended when I was a child, he loved it when we sang the old Wesley hymns such as 'Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemers's praise' and 'And Can it be that I should can an interest in the Saviour's blood'. Though he was a Fitter in the Ship Yard in Belfast I never heard him swear once no matter how angry he got- I remember him more for his smiles and his laughter!  I also don't  remember ever being smacked, though I knew a look from him was enough for me to mend my ways if I had done something wrong!

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

 Hearing my Dad sing these songs with such passion and feeling gave me my first love for them, which was later to be increased when the words were to resonate  with my own spiritual conditional-that is, when I came to faith and was born again of the Spirit of God and could then fully appreciate the words. My Dad did come to faith himself when he was fifty. My mum and sister were already Christians at the time. He had a cancerous growth on his neck and had to go into the hospital to get it removed. I knew my Dad was worried that this would be' the end game' for him. It made us pray with intensity and I even prayed that God would give me my Dad's cancer in order that he would have time to come to faith- and if possible he would come to faith soon.Call it a miracle if you like-my Dad did come to put his trust in Christ that week and the cancerous growth was discovered to be benign!  On his death bed a few weeks ago he told us  that he had asked God into his heart and that he was ready to go to be with his Maker. 

My Dad supported me in all my sporting ventures and he often got involved with coaching and encouraging the players, as well as giving us lifts to the matches.

Old age did not come easy to my Dad. He had always been an active man, so struggling physically was irksome to him! 

With Ethel the love of his life for over sixty years.

On holiday here. He never drank alcohol and never needed it to be the life and soul  of the party. He loved to sing till late on : be it 'Galway Bay' , 'Kathleen ' or 'Danny Boy', He loved to sing and sing well he did!

 Sitting beside my hero Dad, the biggest, strongest and wisest man on the earth who I believed could sort out any problem and fix anything that was broken.

               Three generations of Kennys- my dad Tom, myself and my son Andrew jnr.

 Christmas time many years ago. Tom bringing in the Turkey. He liked to have the job of carving it!Apart from that he never did much in the kitchen. He brought home the Bacon and my mum cooked it, set the table and cleared up afterwards!

My Dad loved his two Springer Spaniel dogs, Paddy and Clyde, who he had trained well as gun dogs.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The world's greatest hymn :'My High Tower' by Paul Gerhardt

It is true that I love great hymns, and among them, I believe Charles and John Wesley have written most of the greatest. However, there is one hymn that I think I would hail even greater than any of the Wesley's, and that I offer to you now. It was originally written by the Lutheran Pastor Paul Gerhardt, who by any stretch of the imagination you could not say he enjoyed a comfortable life. It was later translated by the author Frances Bevan. The hymn is based on Psalm 62 and Romans 8, so if you are familiar with those passages you will recognise their spirit and content within the verses. The hymn is a powerful confession of faith in the midst of trouble and tribulation, and as I wrote before, Gerhardt was no ivory tower theologian and no stranger to family bereavement. I first came across the hymn in the 1970's when as a teenager I  attended a fellowship  where we sang many great old hymns put to guitar music. I hope you will find the words a blessing as they have been to me these many years. AK

Is God for me? I fear not, though all against me rise;

I call on Christ my Saviour, the host of evil flies.

My friend the Lord Almighty, and He who loves me, God,

What enemy shall harm me, though coming as a flood?

I know it, I believe it, I say it fearlessly,

That God, the Highest, Mightiest, for ever loveth me;

At all times, in all places, He standeth at my side,

He rules the battle fury, the tempest and the tide.

A Rock that stands for ever is Christ my Righteousness,

And there I stand unfearing in everlasting bliss;

No earthly thing is needful to this my life from Heaven,

And nought of love is worthy, save that which Christ has given.

Christ, all my praise and glory, my Light most sweet and fair,

The ship wherein He saileth is scatheless everywhere;

In Him I dare be joyful, a hero in the war,

The judgment of the sinner affrighteth me no more.

There is no condemnation, there is no hell for me,

The torment and the fire my eyes shall never see;

For me there is no sentence, for me has death no stings,

Because the Lord Who saved me shall shield me with His wings.

Above my soul’s dark waters His Spirit hovers still,

He guards me from all sorrow, from terror and from ill;

In me He works and blesses the life-seed He has sown,

From Him I learn the Abba, that prayer of faith alone.

And if in lonely places, a fearful child, I shrink,

He prays the prayers within me I cannot ask or think;

In deep unspoken language, known only to that Love

Who fathoms the heart’s mystery from the Throne of Light above.

His Spirit to my spirit sweet words of comfort saith,

How God the weak one strengthens who leans on Him in faith;

How He hath built a City, of love, and light, and song,

Where the eye at last beholdeth what the heart had loved so long.

And there is mine inheritance, my kingly palace-home;

The leaf may fall and perish, not less the spring will come;

As wind and rain of winter, our earthly sighs and tears,

Till the golden summer dawneth of the endless Year of years.

The world may pass and perish, Thou, God, wilt not remove—

No hatred of all devils can part me from Thy Love;

No hungering nor thirsting, no poverty nor care,

No wrath of mighty princes can reach my shelter there.

No Angel, and no Heaven, no throne, nor power, nor might,

No love, no tribulation, no danger, fear, nor fight,

No height, no depth, no creature that has been or can be,

Can drive me from Thy bosom, can sever me from Thee.

My heart in joy upleapeth, grief cannot linger there—

While singing high in glory amidst the sunshine fair;

The source of all my singing is high in Heaven above;

The Sun that shines upon me is Jesus and His Love.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Quotes of Note: Martin Luther—Master Pastor on anfechtung -trial, testing, affliction, tribulation by Dr. Bob Kellemen

Note: You’re reading Part 8 of a blog mini-series sharing Quotes of Note derived from my Ph.D. dissertation: Spiritual Care in Historical Perspective: Martin Luther as a Case Study in Christian Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6, and Part 7. 

So far we’ve shared quotes from Luther’s pastoral care ministry of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. Now we shift focus to factors that shaped Luther’s pastoral counseling: his spiritual trials and his theological convictions.
Spiritual Trials and Biblical Counseling 
Luther called his spiritual trials anfechtungen (the plural form for spiritual trials) or anfechtung (the singular form of the same word). He clearly connected these strivings to his theological development.
Bainton emphasized the importance of anfechtung, while he also provided a working definition.
“Toward God he was at once attracted and repelled. Only in harmony with the Ultimate could he find peace. But how could a pygmy stand before divine Majesty; how could a transgressor confront divine Holiness? Before God the high and holy Luther was stupefied. For such an experience he had a word. The word he used was Anfechtung, for which there is no English equivalent. It may be a trial sent from God to test man, or an assault by the Devil to destroy man. It is all the doubt, turmoil, pang, terror, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man” (p. 42).
“I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me, for one does not learn anything without practice” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 50).
“If I live longer, I would like to write a book about anfechtungen, for without them no person is able to know Holy Scripture, nor faith, the fear or the love of God. He does not know the meaning of hope who was never subject to temptations” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
Speaking of his battle with anfechtungen, Luther wrote, “living, dying and being damned make the real theologian” (LW, Vol. 41, p. xi).
“I can say nothing about grace outside of those temptations” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
“Theology is not learned on a peaceful path, or through tranquil reflection: it is acquired per afflictions” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
“Anfechtung is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting the Word of God is, wisdom beyond all wisdom” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
Luther As Physician of His Own Soul
“When I was in spiritual distress (anfechtung) a gentle word would restore my spirit. Sometimes my confessor said to me when I repeatedly discussed silly sins with him, ‘You are a fool. God is not incensed against you. God is not angry with you, but you are angry with God’” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 15).
“It is not as reason and Satan argue: See there God flings you into prison, endangers your life. Surely he hates you. He is angry with you; for if He did not hate you, He would not allow this thing to happen. In this way Satan turns the rod of a Father into the rope of a hangman and the most salutary remedy into the deadliest poison” (LW, Vol. 16, p. 214).
“I was very pious in the monastery, yet I was sad because I thought God was not gracious to me” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 95).
“How can I face the terror of the Holy? The words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness of God’ struck my conscience like lightning. When I heard them I was exceedingly terrified. If God is righteous I thought, he must punish me” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 193).
“He (the devil) can make the oddest syllogisms: ‘You have sinned. God is angry with sinners. Therefore despair!’ Accordingly we must proceed from the law to the gospel and grasp the article concerning the forgiveness of sin” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 275).

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Tozer on the Universal Presence of God

What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world-scale I do not claim to know:
but what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others.

Let any man turn to God in earnest,
let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness,
let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility,
and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.

Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.

Let us say it again:
The Universal Presence is a fact.
God is here.
The whole universe is alive with His life.
And He is no strange or foreign God,
but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men.
And always He is trying to get our attention,
to reveal Himself to us,
to communicate with us.

We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures.
(And this we call pursuing God!)
We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.

Friday, 4 December 2015

'Now I have found the ground wherein' by Johann Roth and translated by John Wesley

This hymn along with many of the Wesley brothers hymns has as its subject 'the love of God'. This particular hymn was originally written by Johann Roth and translated from the German by John Wesley. The hymn is a powerful confession of God's love, referring that it had its origin before the very world's foundation and will stretch until after Heaven and earth have vanished- from everlasting to everlasting. That love is also beyond what our poor thoughts can ever think or imagine. It depth is limitless- great enough to swallow up all our sins and all our guilt! It is a sea we can swim in -without 'anxious fear' and  'sad doubt', rather, a sea of hope, of rest and of rest! It is a sea of mercy : a sea of grace. Even if the very worst of life's trials will hit us - loss of strength of health or even friends. Though they will go over our heads, His mercy will be enough! Thoughts of Romans 8 are here and Paul's grand confession that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.I like the stance that the writer takes in the last verse:'Fixed on this ground will I remain'.  In a world when philosophies change and even more our feelings and emotions, he has taken his stand on what I call a 'non-negotiable'. He has got the best deal, the best promise, the best covenant  he can get and he is not for moving- he is loved with an everlasting love. Hold on to this dear brother and sister, and if you are outside God's Kingdom today I  on His behalf invite you in. He speaks here of God's heart :

'Thy heart still melts with tenderness,
Thy arms of love still open are,
Returning sinners to receive,
That mercy they may taste and live.'

Come now into His arms and experience that great mercy that you may truly live.AK

Now I have found the ground wherein
Sure my soul’s anchor may remain,
The wounds of Jesus, for my sin
Before the world’s foundation slain;
Whose mercy shall unshaken stay,
When Heaven and earth are fled away.

Father, Thine everlasting grace
Our scanty thought surpasses far;
Thy heart still melts with tenderness,
Thy arms of love still open are,
Returning sinners to receive,
That mercy they may taste and live.

O Love, Thou bottomless abyss,
My sins are swallowed up in Thee!
Covered is my unrighteousness,
Nor spot of guilt remains on me,
While Jesus’ blood, through earth and skies,
Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries.

By faith I plunge me in this sea,
Here is my hope, my joy, my rest;
Hither, when hell assails, I flee,
I look into my Savior’s breast;
Away, sad doubt, and anxious fear!
Mercy is all that’s written there.

Though waves and storms go o’er my head,
Though strength, and health, and friends be gone,
Though joys be withered all and dead,
Though every comfort be withdrawn,
On this my steadfast soul relies,
Father, Thy mercy never dies.

Fixed on this ground will I remain,
Though my heart fail, and flesh decay;
This anchor shall my soul sustain,
When earth’s foundations melt away;
Mercy’s full power I then shall prove,
Loved with an everlasting love.

Rothe, Johann Andreas, son of Aegidius Rother, pastor at Lissa, near Görlitz, in Silesia, was born at Lissa, May 12, 1688. He entered the University of Leipzig in 1708, as a student of Theology, graduated M.A., and was then, in 1712, licensed at Gorlitz as a general preacher. In 1718 he became tutor in the family of Herr von Schweinitz at Leube, a few miles south of Gorlitz, and while there frequently preached in neighbouring churches. During 1722 Count N. L. von Zinzendorf, happening to hear him preach at Gross-Hennersdorf, was greatly pleased with him, and when the pastorate at Berthelsdorf became vacant shortly thereafter, gave him the presentation. He entered on his duties at Berthelsdorf Aug. 30, 1722. There he took a great interest in the Moravian community at Herrnhut, which formed part of his parish. But when, in 1737, he had to report to the higher ecclesiastical authorities regarding the doctrinal views of the Moravians, Zinzendorf showed his resentment in various ways, so that Kothe was glad to accept a call to Hermsdorf, near Gorlitz. Finally, in 1739, Count von Promnitz appointed him assistant pastor at Thommendorf, near Bunzlau, where he became chief pastor in 1742, and died there July 6, 1758. (Koch, v. 240; Wetzel’s Analecta Hymnica, ii. 756, &c.)

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

'Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast' by Charles Wesley

This is one among many of Wesley's hymns that have the theme of the gospel call. Charles and John both knew what it felt like to be lost, and along with this, the struggle of trying to work their way to salvation. Their understanding of the sinner's plight, as well as one called to bring the gospel message is perfectly exemplified in this hymn. Likewise their confidence that God's invitation is for all, that the returning sinner will find a hearty welcome, along with the urgency that they can and should come now, is also clear.
 If you have by accident or otherwise landed on this website and read these words, do not let them pass you by. Rather, fly to Christ  that he would have mercy on your soul and bring you into his kingdom this day. AK

Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast;
Let every soul be Jesus’ guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bid all humankind.

Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
The invitation is to all.
Come, all the world! Come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.

Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed,
Ye restless wanderers after rest;
Ye poor, and maimed, and sick, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.

Come, and partake the Gospel feast;
Be saved from sin; in Jesus rest;
O taste the goodness of your God,
And eat His flesh, and drink His blood!

You vagrant souls, on you I call;
(O that my voice could reach you all!)
You all may now be justified,
You all may live, for Christ hath died.

My message as from God receive;
Ye all may come to Christ and live.
O let His love your hearts constrain,
Nor permit Him to die in vain.

His love is mighty to compel;
His conquering love consent to feel,
Yield to His love’s resistless power,
And fight against your God no more.

See Him set forth before your eyes,
That precious, bleeding Sacrifice!
His offered benefits embrace,
And freely now be saved by grace.

This is the time, no more delay!
This is the Lord’s accepted day.
Come thou, this moment, at His call,
And live for Him Who died for all.

Charles Wesley

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Galatians 6

Bear One Another’s Burdens

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted.Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if any one thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each man will have to bear his own load.
Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Final Admonitions and Benediction

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.
17 Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.
18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.