Sunday, 26 June 2016

James 5 : (3)Prayer, Faith and Wooing back those who have strayed. HCFC 26th June 2016

If we are sick we should seek prayer from God ourselves as David did and also bring it before the church and James says that the elders should pray over the sick person anointing them with oil perhaps as a symbol to signify the Holy Spirit at work and in the Lord's name. And the prayer of faith will  save the sick and the Lord will raise them up. and any who has committed sins will be forgiven.
To go into a full teaching on healing would take many weeks. However we do  know that God can and often does heal the sick and at various times we have seen healing in our own lives. Sometimes a gift of faith is given and the person is raised up and more importantly they get right with God -that is if there is sin they find forgiveness. We look to the Lord and as we read of the three Jews in Daniel's time  when they faced his fiery furnace it says:

6Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18"But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

James goes on   
16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective17 Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

I get a sense from this letter that James yearns that 'the hearers of his words would obviously to be doers also (as he stated earlier in the letter)- but not just doers for the sake of it but so that they would walk closer with God as Elijah and Job did who he also mentions. 

Do we aspire to be like them. Do we aspire to know God like them and have faith like them and please God like them. For example-  to intercede for others like Elijah and to have the patience of Job. We have the same God and we can use our painful times and good times as a motivation to know him better.

All the apostles were evangelists and pastors. They had a heart for the lost and the backslidden. James was no exception. I love the way at the end he writes
My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
He is concerned for those who are away from the Master- for those who wandered away from the way, from the path. He is encouraging us to pray for them and to not give up on them. We must go gently to them. To bring them to the Lord in prayer.  To woo them back if they have been hurt by others or us.
It will never be a rush job but will take much time, much prayer, much patience and much love. But it is worth it- as James says they will save the sinners soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5 : (2)Prayer, Faith and Wooing Back those who have strayed. HCFC 26th June 2016

In  James 5 we see James as being a master of prayer. He was known as James the Just but was equally known for his intercession for others and called 'the man with camel's knees' due to the calluses that were formed on his knees during his  lengthy prayer times. He knew his half brother Jesus in the flesh but he also knew his Lord and heavenly Father in prayer. Here he encourages us to do the same.
13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray.
Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 
14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 
15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 
16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

It should be the first thing we do -take it to the Lord in prayer.

God in my hoping, there in my dreaming
God in my watching, God in my waiting
God in my laughing, there in my weeping
God in my hurting, God in my healing
Be my everything, be my everything
Be my everything, be my everything

 'If you are afflicted 'says James : 'Pray' If you are cheerful and in good humour : sing praise.

Are we close enough to take it to the Lord in prayer first. He wants us to be.
The Master taught us 'Men always ought to pray and not faint' think of the parable of the widow and the unjust judge or the man who went to his neighbour banging on the door and would not leave until he got some bread. Or the invitation of Jesus to go into our rooms and close the door and pray to our heavenly Father in secret and he would reward us openly. Jesus is our model who prayed sometimes all night, and before meals, when he was harassed, or before his crucifixion and even when he was dying on the cross- and he taught us how to pray. And gave us a prayer to pray.

Have you ever read St Patrick's confession which is an inspiring read. He wrote about his time after being kidnapped and brought to Ireland for the first time. In this short passage we see  his prayers of need and his prayers of praise  mixed together.

After I arrived in Ireland, I tended sheep every day, and I prayed frequently during the day. More and more the love of ,God increased, and my sense of awe before God. Faith grew, and my spirit was moved, so that in one day I would pray up to one hundred times, and at night perhaps the same. I even remained in the woods and on the mountain, and I would rise to pray before dawn in snow and ice and rain. I never felt the worse for it, and I never felt lazy – as I realise now, the spirit was burning in me at that time.

It was those prayers and others which were significant in his future ministry in Ireland.
We have also only to think of the Psalms of David and others to see how the Old Testament saints turned to God.
David was often in trouble and would  call on God's name for help. I remember a book called 'Towards spiritual Maturity' by William Still which was extremely helpful as a young Christian. In it he showed us how we should stand against Satan and his cohorts. However he also said sometimes our enemy can seem so strong that we feel we are too weak to resist him even in the Lord. It is then that we should go into what he called  strategic retreat. To hide in God. The name of the Lord, says Solomon, is a strong tower  and the righteous can run into Him and are safe. David called God his rock, his fortress and refuge.
One prayer from David we can pray when in any sort of trouble  is from

Psalm 57
David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.

Luther was a mighty man of prayer and  loved his pet dog. One day when he saw his dog watching him eating his meal he said:
''Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.” Martin Luther

The Psalms are a perfect prayer, praise and even confessional book for us. Many of us know these Scripture songs from years gone by  taken from the Psalms. We have started to sing them at the Men's Group.

 Psalm 104 I WILL sing onto the Lord as long as I live  or Psalm 113 From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same the Lord's name is to be praised.

We can and should pour our hearts out to God in good times or in bad

Psalm 6
 O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
    nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
    But you, O Lord—how long?
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
    save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who will give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
    it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
    they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Draw close to God and he will draw close to us.
(see part 3)

James 5 : (1)Prayer, Faith and Wooing back those who have strayed. HCFC 26th June 2016

When I was a little boy I loved to watch the cowboy movies on TV with my Dad. I loved John Wayne and one of  my most prized possessions was the  Cowboy hat  the waistcoat, leather belt, guns and holster that I got one Christmas. I wanted to be a cowboy and whenever there were horses or donkeys about I wanted on them. In fact when I was five I fell off a wild donkey in  Donegal and broke my arm.
I never mastered being able to ride a horse and have only been on one about twice since I was a kid.

Before I tell you this story which is quite humiliating but there was a lesson I learnt from it. In fact I felt that it was going to be an unpleasant experience and I had asked the Lord to teach me some spiritual lesson.

 Well while on holiday recently when Rachel our daughter was with us the old urge to be a cowboy again came back so we decided to go pony treking. So duly dressed with my cowboy hat I sat on a horse called Marley,  probably one of the most docile of the horses there as I told the leader that I'd practically never ridden a horse before. But at least I looked the part and tried to pretend I knew what I was doing. The truth would be out soon enough. Rachel who had had a few lessons in primary school was behind me and the instructor behind her. I was shown the reins and told how to hold on to the neck strap and also told to press down a bit with my feet on the stirrups.
Anyway within five minutes of   riding the horse I had ten blisters on my hand and every time it went into a trot and was heading down an incline I had to hold on to the neck strap with all my might  and pull it backward to stop me falling off.
 Rachel was trying to tell me to adjust my feet. On the way back I got more into the groove, previously when the horse was going up , I was going down making it very uncomfortable. Now I was able to go up and down properly making it slightly more enjoyable. But when the horse went into a trot and i had to hold on with all my might to the neck strap with my now raw hands ,  the blisters now broken, it was agony . I then thought to myself how a girl like my daughter who would not be as strong could possibly manage to ride a horse!

When I got off the horse I showed Rachel my blistered hands I asked her how her hands when she was holding onto the reigns and neck strap. She was horrified when she saw my hands and then said that she hardly had to hold onto the reins and neck strap and when she was riding it was as if the core of the horse and her core had become one.
Certainly that wasn't the case with me. But it was that which spoke to me regarding living the spiritual life.
 I was dressed like a cowboy and was sitting on a horse but I could not ride the horse as a cowboy should. I was struggling. The horse and myself were not one. No matter how hard I tried to hold on and do the right thing The more I struggled. A bit like Paul's spiritual struggle  in Romans 7 where he says

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
I was dressed for the part but had not the skill to carry it out.

Actually, after I was on the horse a short while I decided I didn't want to go on a horse again as it was much too difficult. By the end of the trek though bloodied and having found it slightly easier I was keen to go again. But I knew I had a lot to learn.

Likewise we sometimes think that being a Christian requires just our effort. We want to do the right thing but we continually try to live the life in our own strength A DIY Do It Yourself Christian life  when the Lord wants us to live close to him. As James tells us in chapter 4
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

I t  encouraged me to send some  Bible texts to the Band of Brothers around that time and one was the verse in Corinthians:
'He who joins himself to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.'
 What a glorious word is that.
 Another one was the words of Jesus to us:
 As the Father loves me, so I love you. Abide in my love.
Even the words of Jesus where he says come


28 Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 The Christian journey is a learning and discipleship process where we become one in the spirit as our spirit and his spirit are joined together.
as the hymn writer  put it so well
 O that I, as a little child,
May follow thee, and never rest
Till sweetly thou hast breathed thy mild
And lowly mind into my breast!
Nor ever may we parted be,
Till I become one spirit with thee.
 That is the aim during the process- to be joined at the hip if you like, to experience an intimacy with God rather than it seem sometimes to be a cold tyrannical relationship. His yoke is easy -perfectly shaped for us by the kind carpenter, so we can aim to keep a close account with God. Don't let things drift. ( see part 2)

Saturday, 25 June 2016

A Vision Of The Lost By William Booth (1829-1912)

 On one of my recent journeys, as I gazed from the coach window, I was led into a train of thought concerning the condition of the multitudes around me. They were living carelessly in the most open and shameless rebellion against God, without a thought for their eternal welfare. As I looked out of the window, I seemed to see them all . . . millions of people all around me given up to their drink and their pleasure, their dancing and their music, their business and their anxieties, their politics and their troubles. Ignorant - willfully ignorant in many cases - and in other instances knowing all about the truth and not caring at all. But all of them, the whole mass of them, sweeping on and up in their blasphemies and devilries to the Throne of God. While my mind was thus engaged, I had a vision.
I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung heavily; through them every now and then vivid lightening flashed and loud thunder rolled, while the winds moaned, and the waves rose and foamed, towered and broke, only to rise and foam, tower and break again.
In that ocean I thought I saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning; and as they cursed and screamed they rose and shrieked again, and then some sank to rise no more.
And I saw out of this dark angry ocean, a mighty rock that rose up with it’s summit towering high above the black clouds that overhung the stormy sea. And all around the base of this great rock I saw a vast platform. Onto this platform, I saw with delight a number of the poor struggling, drowning wretches continually climbing out of the angry ocean. And I saw that a few of those who were already safe on the platform were helping the poor creatures still in the angry waters to reach the place of safety.
On looking more closely I found a number of those who had been rescued, industriously working and scheming by ladders, ropes, boats and other means more effective, to deliver the poor strugglers out of the sea. Here and there were some who actually jumped into the water, regardless of the consequences in their passion to "rescue the perishing." And I hardly know which gladdened me the most - the sight of the poor drowning people climbing onto the rocks reaching a place of safety, or the devotion and self-sacrifice of those whose whole being was wrapped up in the effort for their deliverance.
As I looked on, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite a mixed company. That is, they were divided into different "sets" or classes, and they occupied themselves with different pleasures and employments. But only a very few of them seemed to make it their business to get the people out of the sea.
But what puzzled me most was the fact that though all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it. Anyway, it seemed the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at all. And what seemed equally strange and perplexing to me was that these people did not even seem to have any care - that is any agonizing care - about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes . . . many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their own children.
Now this astonishing unconcern could not have been the result of ignorance or lack of knowledge, because they lived right there in full sight of it all and even talked about it sometimes. Many even went regularly to hear lectures and sermons in which the awful state of these poor drowning creatures was described.
I have always said that the occupants of this platform were engaged in different pursuits and pastimes. Some of them were absorbed day and night in trading and business in order to make gain, storing up their savings in boxes, safes and the like.
Many spent their time in amusing themselves with growing flowers on the side of the rock, others in painting pieces of cloth or in playing music, or in dressing themselves up in different styles and walking about to be admired. Some occupied themselves chiefly in eating and drinking, others were taken up with arguing about the poor drowning creatures that had already been rescued.
But the thing to me that seemed the most amazing was that those on the platform to whom He called, who heard His voice and felt that they ought to obey it - at least they said they did - those who confessed to love Him much were in full sympathy with Him in the task He had undertaken - who worshipped Him or who professed to do so - were so taken up with their trades and professions, their money saving and pleasures, their families and circles, their religions and arguments about it, and their preparation for going to the mainland, that they did not listen to the cry that came to them from this Wonderful Being who had Himself gone down into the sea. Anyway, if they heard it they did not heed it. They did not care. And so the multitude went on right before them struggling and shrieking and drowning in the darkness.
And then I saw something that seemed to me even more strange than anything that had gone on before in this strange vision. I saw that some of these people on the platform whom this Wonderful Being had called to, wanting them to come and help Him in His difficult task of saving these perishing creatures, were always praying and crying out to Him to come to them!
Some wanted Him to come and stay with them, and spend His time and strength in making them happier. Others wanted Him to come and take away various doubts and misgivings they had concerning the truth of some letters He had written them. Some wanted Him to come and make them feel more secure on the rock - so secure that they would be quite sure that they should never slip off again into the ocean. Numbers of others wanted Him to make them feel quite certain that they would really get off the rock and onto the mainland someday: because as a matter of fact, it was well known that some had walked so carelessly as to loose their footing, and had fallen back again into the stormy waters.
So these people used to meet and get up as high on the rock as they could, and looking towards the mainland (where they thought the Great Being was) they would cry out, "Come to us! Come and help us!" And all the while He was down (by His Spirit) among the poor struggling, drowning creatures in the angry deep, with His arms around them trying to drag them out, and looking up - oh! so longingly but all in vain - to those on the rock, crying to them with His voice all hoarse from calling, "Come to Me! Come, and helpMe!
And then I understood it all. It was plain enough. The sea was the ocean of life - the sea of real, actual human existence. That lightening was the gleaming of piercing truth coming from Jehovah’s Throne. That thunder was the distant echoing of the wrath of God. Those multitudes of people shrieking, struggling and agonizing in the stormy sea, was the thousands and thousands of poor harlots and harlot-makers, of drunkards and drunkard makers, of thieves, liars, blasphemers and ungodly people of every kindred, tongue and nation.
Oh what a black sea it was! And oh, what multitudes of rich and poor, ignorant and educated were there. They were all so unalike in their outward circumstances and conditions, yet all alike in one thing - all sinners before God - all held by, and holding onto, some iniquity, fascinated by some idol, the slaves of some devilish lust, and ruled by the foul fiend from the bottomless pit!
"All alike in one thing?" No, all alike in two things - not only the same in their wickedness but, unless rescued, the same in their sinking, sinking . . . down, down, down . . . to the same terrible doom. That great sheltering rock represented Calvary, the place where Jesus had died for them. And the people on it were those who had been rescued. The way they used their energies, gifts and time represented the occupations and amusements of those who professed to be saved from sin and hell - followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The handful of fierce, determined ones, who were risking their own lives in saving the perishing were true soldiers of the cross of Jesus. That Mighty Being who was calling to them from the midst of the angry waters was the Son of God, "the same yesterday, today and forever" who is still struggling and interceding to save the dying multitudes about us from this terrible doom of damnation, and whose voice can be heard above the music, machinery, and noise of life, calling on the rescued to come and help Him save the world.
My friends in Christ, you are rescued from the waters, you are on the rock, He is in the dark sea calling on you to come to Him and help Him. Will you go? Look for yourselves. The surging sea of life, crowded with perishing multitudes rolls up to the very spot on which you stand. Leaving the vision, I now come to speak of the fact - a fact that is as real as the Bible, as real as the Christ who hung upon the cross, as real as the judgment day will be, and as real as the heaven and hell that will follow it.
Look! Don’t be deceived by appearances - men and things are not what they seem. All who are not on the rock are in the sea! Look at them from the standpoint of the great White Throne, and what a sight you have! Jesus Christ, the Son of God is, through His Spirit, in the midst of this dying multitude, struggling to save them. And He is calling on you to jump into the sea - to go right away to His side and help Him in the holy strife. Will you jump? That is, will you go to His feet and place yourself absolutely at His disposal?
A young Christian once came to me, and told me that for some time she had been giving the Lord her profession and prayers and money, but now she wanted to give Him her life. She wanted to go right into the fight. In other words, she wanted to go to His assistance in the sea. As when a man from the shore, seeing another struggling in the water, takes off those outer garments that would hinder his efforts and leaps to the rescue, so will you who still linger on the bank, thinking and singing and praying about the poor perishing souls, lay aside your shame, your pride, your cares about other people’s opinions, your love of ease and all the selfish loves that have kept you back for so long, and rush to the rescue of this multitude of dying men and women.
Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who takes it, means difficulty and scorn and suffering. For you it may mean more than this. It may mean death. He who beckons you from the sea however, knows what it will mean - and knowing, He still calls to you and bids to you to come.
You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises - very much of heaven on earth.
Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.
You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.

Now what will you do?