From Harry’s Desk…2015
Listed below are the subjects of articles on this page for the year 2015. They appear in descending order.
- December: Terror – in Paris
- October: The story of Fred Barff and the hymn O how the grace of God amazes me..
- July: Lansdowne Church, Bournemouth – Francis W. Dixon – HK personal memories – Regeneration Project for a new Lansdowne
- May: Justification by Faith – an extract from a booklet of the same title
- April: Easter – Two hymns reflecting the Cross and the Resurrection
- January: Challenge! A meditation from God’s Word for the New Year
TERROR – AGAIN – IN PARIS
As most of you will know President Hollande of France recently visited Washington. As he and President Barak Obama stood before the press corps, President Obama told how that beside his bed there is a picture of himself and his wife, Michelle, kissing when visiting the Paris Luxembourg Gardens.
Paris has been brutally attacked by Isis murderers.
The people of Paris – mourn. People have told of their visits to Paris – they mourn. Many others dream of one day visiting Paris – they, too, mourn. People everywhere who value freedom mourn.
Do Muslims mourn? I hope so. We are constantly reassured that Islam is a peaceful religion, that most Muslims are peace-loving people. If so, then they must mourn the longest and the deepest. Anger and disassociation with deep sympathy should be preached by every Imam in the mosques. They should be crying out, “These brutal murderers are not of us. They are not true Muslims. We will do everything in our power to help to stamp out this evil in our midst.” Some have certainly done so. But it does not appear to be widely reported.
WHY DOES PARIS MEAN SO MUCH TO JUNE AND ME
In 2003 we celebrated our “so-called” retirement with a trip to Europe. Primarily it was to visit our many family members in England – grown up children and fast growing grandchildren. Precious sisters, cousins, nieces and others. We wished also to fulfill some dreams. To see, just once more before we die, some of those places of nostalgic memories in Europe: the majestic Swiss Alps, the beautiful Italian lakes, the blue waters of the Côte d’Azur, and the historic Normandy beaches of World War II.
We ended with our two favorite cities, London and Paris. In the latter we stayed with dear French friends in Louveciennes and worshiped with them and their family in the American Cathedral on the Sunday morning.
In 2010, to our great surprise – and delight – one, very generous, member of our family offered us flights to England using her “frequent flier” miles. We jumped at the chance. Once again we visited family. Once again we spent a few days in London. Once again we fulfilled our dreams to have a few wonderful days more in the “City of Light.”
This time we stayed centrally and checked off previously unfulfilled dreams. Two full days exploring the Louvre, perhaps the greatest Art Museum in the world. One full day in the Musée d’Orsay with the amazing collection of Impressionist paintings: Manet, Monet, Renoir etc. We walked along the banks of the Seine River and across the famous bridges. All lovers do that if they can – even two in their dotage! Perhaps we kissed too.
We rode on the Batobus from the Eiffel Tower, around the Île de la Cité on which stands Notre Dame cathedral and – yes – we too went to the Luxembourg Gardens and the Palais Garnier Paris Opera House.
As we sat sipping coffee at an outside table on the Champs-Élysées we marveled again at our Heavenly Father’s love for us to grant us this treat.
Surely that was it now. No!
Would you believe? In 2013 – more “frequent flier” miles and, yes, once again a few days in London and Paris. Can there be anything else on the bucket list? O yes, there always is.
In London there was a tourist visit inside Buckingham Palace (INSIDE!), and in Paris – at last – I managed to make the summit of the “Tour Eiffel”. (June did not want to do it – she gets “vertigo.”)
On our last evening we stood at the Trocadero among the crowds of tourists, and watched as the twinkling lights lit up the iconic symbol of this beautiful city. They sparkle like diamonds. Little wonder we love Paris. Little wonder we mourn.
So – I will end with three things:
1. Do not give up on your dreams. God may surprise you. Serve Him with a whole heart in whatever He leads you to do and be. God loves His children. Like any devoted father He delights to grant us surprising treats. When He does, please be grateful to Him. That is very important. He is the source of “all good gifts around us.”
2. Yes, do pray. For Paris. And other cities. In 2001 New York suffered the willful destruction of the “twin towers” with the brutal murder of almost 3,000 persons in New York, Washington, and the fields of Pennsylvania. In 2007 London was attacked and scores of people were brutally murdered on the Underground and buses. Just before the Paris atrocity Beirut suffered from the same evil with many murdered – a Russian passenger jet was targeted with the loss of over 200 innocent lives – and I could go on and on.
In my series, “Delivered from Evil…WWII”, I am writing an overview of Almighty God’s deliverance of freedom loving nations from the enslavement by Nazi Germany and the militarism of Japan – 70 years ago. Have you noticed how in recent days, on radio, TV, and in newsprint, references are being made to World War II? That is because, as I write, we are seeing the emergence of another evil from which we must be delivered.
THE GOSPEL IN PARIS
And what of the Gospel in Paris? A quick search on the internet reveals that there are a number of lively, growing Evangelical churches in Paris, and we rejoice that the Gospel is being preached there.
Paris is called the “City of Light”. But – long before Isis – there was crime in Paris. No city is without greed, corruption, immorality, theft – and sin of every kind. We were warned to beware of pickpockets in the Tuileries Gardens, near the Louvre. I once was mugged and relieved of my wallet in Rio de Janeiro. Why is there so much wrong? So much evil in the world? Because men and women are, by fallen nature, sinners. We are all sinners. We need to repent and find the Savior. The “light” that Paris and the world needs more than any other light is Jesus Christ, the “Light of the World”. Almighty God gave His Son to be the Savior of the world.
John 3:16 says,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
An old hymn says:
He died that we might be forgiven. He died to make us good;
That we might go at last to Heaven, Saved by His precious Blood.
3. I have written, “Don’t give up on your dreams, God may surprise you” – even late in life as He has done for us – but then what? Suppose you do get to see Paris, or London, or Washington, all before you die. Then what? Where will you be after you die? O, you will be somewhere.
The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die,but after this the Judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27: note – “AFTER THIS.”) Death ushers in the ultimate journey.
In my 80+ years – most of them spent in teaching and ministry – I have been privileged to visit many great and beautiful cities as well as London (where I was born), and Paris. They include: Madrid, Rome, Vienna, Lisbon, Athens, Istanbul, Washington, New York, Toronto, Jerusalem, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Warsaw and Tokyo. But the most beautiful City is yet to come.
The Bible speaks of another City. Sometimes it is called “the New Jerusalem”, sometimes Heaven. Even Abraham dreamed of being in that City. He called it “the city whose builder and maker is God.” Abraham is there now. It is truly a City of Light.
There is no killing in Heaven. Not even sorrow. No suffering. No tears. No death. The Bible says that in God’s “presence is fullness of joy; at [God’s] right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:7)
I will soon be there. Will you? I pray I will see you there. God loves you and wants you there. It is His ultimate gift. “The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
You may ask: how can I be sure I will go to heaven when I die?
Answer: Turn from your sins, express to God your sorrow – as I have done – then come to the foot of the Cross and say, “Lord Jesus, I know you died for me. There is no other way to be saved. Please forgive me. Give me a clean heart. Take me and use me for the rest of my life.”
Then – acquire and read a Bible. Use the internet to try to find a church in your city or area where the Gospel is preached. Write to us through the Contact page to tell us that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior. We will pray for you.
If you would like to learn more about Heaven and God’s glorious future for all believers, listen to my sermons on the Foundations page – FO 23-28.
Our featured hymn for October on the Home Page is “Oh, how the Grace of God amazes me”.
Back in the mid-1970s when I was the pastor of Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth, UK, June and I went to the induction service for a good friend of ours in Ipswich, UK.
On the printed Order of Service for the induction was the words of “Oh, how the grace of God amazes me”, and we were immediately arrested by them. It was a hymn that was unfamiliar to us. As soon as we began to sing the hymn we loved both the melody and the words.
While we were still singing June’s musical gift of “perfect pitch” enabled her to take down the melody and memorize the harmonies so that, when we were home in Bournemouth, she was able to manuscript the music for use in our own church.
At that point we had no idea of the authorship of either the words or the melody. The hymn quickly became a congregation favorite.
Shortly after this, one Sunday evening we were singing “Oh, how the grace of God…” as part of our worship service. An Anglican surgeon friend of ours, John Trapnell, was worshiping with us that night. After the service he asked June and me what we knew about the hymn and when we confessed our ignorance he gave us some background.
In the late 1950s John, already an eminent surgeon, had spent two years working at Masecon Mission Hospital in Kenya, during the time of what was known as the East African Revival. The East African Revival had started in Rwanda and spread to Kenya and Uganda, and had a lasting impact both on the missionaries and on the Protestant churches and their leaders in those countries.
While in Kenya he met a fellow-Anglican working with the Church Missionary Society in nearby Rwanda – Frederick John Barff, the composer of the tune to our hymn for this month. The words of the hymn had originally been written by an African Pastor, Emmanuel T. Sibomana, in 1946. They were translated as, “Oh, how the grace of God amazes me,” by an English missionary in Rwanda, Rosemary Guillebaud.
John told us that he knew the widow of Rev. Barff, and that she would be thrilled to know that we were using this hymn in our worship services.
Accordingly we wrote to Mrs. Barff. In her response she told us what a joy it was for her to know that her late husband’s composition was being used of the Lord so long after it had been written. She gladly gave her permission for us to use the hymn, and her husband’s melody to it, in the song book we were at that time compiling as an addition to our church worship services. She also sent us a printed copy of the words and music. June was relieved to find that her initial transcription was note-perfect when compared to the original!
In the intervening years since 1978 the hymn has become widely used and published in hymnals. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson has written a book based on it, “By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes me”.
Oh, how the grace of God… Audio
Oh, how the grace of God amazes me!
It loosed me from my bonds and set me free!
What made it happen so?
‘Twas His will, this much I know,
Set me, as now I show, at liberty.
My God has chosen me though one of nought,
To sit beside my King in Heaven’s court.
Hear what my Lord hath done:
Oh, the love that made Him run
To meet His erring son!
This hath God wrought.
Not for my righteousness, for I have none,
But for His mercy’s sake, Jesus, God’s Son,
Suffered on Calvary’s tree –
Crucified with thieves was He
Great was His grace to me,
His wayward one.
And when I think of how at Calvary,
He bore sin’s penalty instead of me,
Amazed, I wonder why
He, the sinless One, should die
For one so vile as I:
My Savior He!
Now all my heart’s desire is to abide
In Him, my Savior dear, in Him to hide.
My shield and buckler He,
Cov’ring and protecting me:
From Satan’s darts I’ll be
Safe at His side.
Lord Jesus, hear my prayer, Thy grace impart;
When evil thoughts arise through Satan’s art,
Oh, drive them all away
And do Thou, from day to day,
Keep me beneath Thy sway,
King of my heart.
Lansdowne, Francis Dixon – my memories and future plans
This summer sees historic changes at the church I was privileged to serve as Pastor for nearly seven years in the second half of the 1970s and early 1980s.
That church is Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth, England. The current church building, originally opened in 1876, and refurbished at various times subsequently, will be demolished in the next few weeks. It will be replaced on the same site by a purpose-built sanctuary that satisfies all the present building regulations/fire codes, etc., and yet maintains a city-center presence. As for so many, the present sanctuary is full of memories for June and me. All four of our children professed their faith in baptism, and our eldest son, Timothy was married to Ann there. Nevertheless the building, even in my time, posed logistical problems of entry and exit for the crowds of people that would gather week by week.
As I reflect on the history of Lansdowne Baptist Church there is one ministry that stands out as singularly God-blessed and which I had the privilege of following. That was the ministry of one of God’s great Bible teachers of his age, Francis W. Dixon. There were “giants in the land” in those days: Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones; Dr. John R.W. Stott; Rev. Billy Graham; Dr. J.I. Packer and others. Rev. Francis W. Dixon was one of them.
When Francis Dixon was called to Lansdowne in late 1946 there were less than 50 people in membership and even fewer in the congregation in a building seating 650! Many of those were elderly and could not get out to services in the winter.
The previous minister, upon leaving in 1946, told a colleague, “Lansdowne is dead.”
So much for that – within one year of the commencement of Francis Dixon’s anointed ministry the church was full – balconies included!
Over the twenty-nine years of FWD’s ministry Lansdowne Baptist Church became known worldwide through his Bible Study Notes and overseas preaching tours. When June and I moved to South Florida in 1993 one of the ministers, who became our friend, was amazed to learn that I had followed FWD. He would introduce me to other ministers as the “preacher who followed Francis Dixon at Lansdowne.” They all had benefitted from – and been blessed by – the Bible Study Notes over many years.
I have reproduced below the bio of Mr. Dixon that appears on the website, www.wordsoflife.co.uk. The Words of Life Ministries website makes available, free of charge, Mr. Dixon’s Bible Study notes and some of the audio recordings made at the time.
Though Francis W. Dixon is now in heaven, his printed and recorded ministry is administered by his son-in-law, and former Lansdowne Baptist Church, Assistant Pastor, Rev. David Tucker. David is married to FWD’s daughter, Mary, and they have just spent a week with us in our home here in Florida. June has the privilege of being involved in this ministry in a small way.
Francis W. Dixon
Francis Dixon was born in north London in 1910, and became a Christian in 1929 through the preaching of the Irish evangelist W. P. Nicholson.
Before entering the ministry Francis Dixon spent some years in business in London, and his evenings and weekends became increasingly filled with preaching engagements in many places.
He felt the call of God into the ministry, and from 1940 to 1945 he pastored Hamilton Road Mission in Whitstable, Kent. From 1945-1946 he was Assistant Minister to Alan Redpath at Duke Street Baptist Church, Richmond, London.
In late 1946 he commenced his ministry as Pastor of Lansdowne Baptist Church in Bournemouth and quickly saw the blessing of God as the congregations grew.
Francis Dixon was a gifted evangelist and Bible teacher. He could present the gospel (that is, the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ) in a warm, convincing and compelling manner. Many came to faith in Christ through his preaching.
But he was also an able Bible teacher. He could open up any passage from the Bible and explain it and apply it in a searching, straightforward, down to earth way. His preaching was profound, yet simple, and ordinary people benefited from it. They would come away from the services at Lansdowne having met with God in worship, and having heard a message from the Bible which they could understand. People were fed, encouraged, challenged and comforted in what they heard, and stimulated into a closer personal walk with Jesus Christ.
Printed notes of his weekly Bible Study meetings were produced and soon their circulation exceeded the local congregation to a worldwide mailing list of 40,000. These notes and the outlines were food for hungry Christians in all manner of places and of great help to busy pastors in their own preparation and preaching.
Francis Dixon was a pioneer, and would use whatever means to publish an unchanging message. Lansdowne was among the first to produce recordings of services, and these became known as the “Words of Life” recordings. His Bible studies were produced in braille for the blind. He pioneered a telephone ministry to present a simple daily two-minute message of help and encouragement.
Other ministries included overseas preaching tours, and the Keswick Convention (Cumbria), where he was a regular speaker.
He “retired” to Eastbourne, Sussex, in 1975 where he took up an itinerant ministry until the Lord called him home in January 1985.
For more on the ministry of Francis W. Dixon, and to access his Bible Study notes and recorded messages go to the website, www.wordsoflife.co.uk
Lansdowne – a personal reflection
Reading the above you can imagine what an awesome responsibility I felt it was to follow such a great man as Francis Dixon. The church extended a call to me to be the next Pastor of Lansdowne in July of 1975, and June and me, together with our four children, Tim, Alison, Richard, and Nicola moved to Bournemouth over Christmas 1975.
January 1976 was taken up with various meetings at the church prior to the induction service on Saturday, January 31. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones had graciously agreed to preach at this special service. Dr. Lloyd Jones was a mentor and encourager to me, as he was to several other young ministers and, as I learned later, it was he who had recommended me to Mr. Dixon.
On my first Sunday I chose to preach on God’s word to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5.
As a naturally very nervous person I often mounted those pulpit steps anxiously and inwardly calling upon God to help me and anoint both the messenger and the hearers. God did so again and again. After the opening Doxology and prayer it would seem as if then – and not until then – the windows of Heaven were opened and God’s blessing was poured out on us.
During those precious years we were able to appoint a church administrator, a lady worker, and an evangelist to students from overseas. During that time also we were enabled to purchase the premises adjacent to the church to enhance the various ministries of the church. June worked alongside me tirelessly, a great company of first-rate deacons gave me unfailing support and encouragement, and under-girding it all was a band of faithful prayer warriors – many of whom were elderly, widowed, and shut-in.
As I look through my diaries and see the names of the many who professed faith and were baptized during those years I praise God that most of them have held fast to that profession. Not a few have gone on to serve the Lord as pastors, missionaries, and church leaders and do so to this day.
Rev. Francis Dixon was always a welcome preacher in his old pulpit. His booklets were in constant use throughout my ministry at Lansdowne. I shared the platform with him in 1977 at the Keswick Convention, and June and I had the honor of staying with him and Nancy in their home in Eastbourne.
In September 1982, after close on seven God-blessed years, we said farewell to Lansdowne. God had other plans both for us and for the church. After three years traveling in Europe as Field Director of the European Missionary Fellowship I accepted a call to a church in Wilmington, Delaware, and, with our family now grown up, we moved to the United States of America in October 1986. Since then we have served the Lord in various places and in various ways (radio, writing, and now website) to this day.
In the thirty-three years since we left Lansdowne the church has continued to thrive under successive ministers.
Now, however, as previously mentioned, the building is increasingly becoming outdated and requiring ever more expensive maintenance. The present visionary pastor, Rev. Peter Baker, together with the leadership team and members of the church, are moving forward in a step of faith to demolish the old building. God willing, it will be replaced with a modern purpose-built sanctuary on the same site in the center of Bournemouth. The new church will be known as Lansdowne Church.
This brings us up-to-date with the Regeneration Project. In the next few weeks the church is entering a new and challenging phase of its ministry as it becomes “Lansdowne Without Walls”, and the congregation meets together for worship in other locations.
June and I will continue to pray for Peter and Sian Baker and the leadership team of Lansdowne as the existing building is demolished and a new sanctuary arises from the rubble. We ask you to do so also.
This month I am including an extract from my sermon on “Justification by Faith”, which was first printed in my booklet of the same title. It tells of an incident which happened to me when I served three years in the Royal Air Force from 1952 to 1955. Most of that time was spent with the Forces of Occupation in Germany following the end of World War II.
Does “to be justified” mean the same as “to be forgiven?”
Answer: It includes forgiveness but involves MUCH MORE.
When God justifies the ungodly sinner his sin is pardoned, yes, but also his heart is cleansed and the sinner is acquitted. That is more, isn’t it? The slate is wiped clean. There is nothing against his name. It is just-as-if-he’d never sinned. But there is yet more. He is even counted good. Isn’t that amazing? Many Christians never grasp this truth.
It is as if a man is in terrible financial debt. He cannot possibly pay, but someone comes along and not only wipes out all his debts (wonderful itself), but also credits to his account so much money that anything he could ever want or need is there in plenty. It is as if a terrible criminal, who is in court on trial for his life, having begged for mercy, finds himself not only pardoned and set free, but honored. Instead of being condemned he is commended. Of course we would say that could never happen. It would be unjust. Precisely. If your Gospel does not seem to you an apparent miscarriage of justice (a guilty offender going free and actually being honored and an innocent Man condemned) then it is probably not God’s Gospel!
Sometimes I use an illustration from my time in the Royal Air Force. It is a trivial thing, really, but it illustrates this truth and people enjoy the story.
I grew up in England, and when I was eighteen years old I was drafted into the Royal Air Force. I served three years National Service as an enlisted airman and I was a radio mechanic.
One day a pilot was going off for a flight by himself in his single-seat jet fighter, and I was to go and tune-up his radio. I went underneath the belly of the aircraft, unscrewed the hatch where the radio was kept in the fuselage and, because it was windy, instead of putting the hatch down on the ground, I did what we often did and tucked it up inside while I finished the little job.
But I forgot to replace it.
I went back to what we called our “Section”, and I was doing some other work, when I saw this airplane taxiing by. I noticed, with horror, the dark shadow underneath the belly of the airplane, and I realized which aircraft it was and that I had forgotten to replace the radio hatch.
I could not ignore it because it was very dangerous. The hatch would possibly – even probably – become caught up with the controls damaging them or rendering them inoperative. So, with a sinking heart, I called the control tower on the telephone and I said, “Guess what? I just noticed a plane, without the radio hatch underneath, heading for the runway.”
Well, when the airplane came to the end of the runway the pilot, having been informed of the problem, actually got out, climbed down, and took a look. He confirmed the warning and returned to base.
I waited for the telephone to ring. I knew they could easily find out who was the culprit because my signature was on the service sheet. Sure enough they called, and I was summoned by the Squadron Leader.
He asked me, “Did you service that airplane?”
“You left the hatch off?”
“You are a very bad man,” (or words to that effect!).
He charged me with about six charges, most of which I was convinced would carry the death penalty! Failing to re-attach the cover; gross negligence; endangering the life of the pilot, etc.
I slept in a hut with about thirty men, and when my friendly colleagues heard what I had done they were taking bets as to what would happen to me, ranging from life imprisonment down to several months in jail on bread and water.
It was one of the most miserable times in my life.
The day came when I was brought before the Camp Commander.
I was marched in, “Left-right, left-right, left-right. Halt. Left-turn. Hat off!” (I do not know why, but one always had to take off one’s hat.)
Of course the pilot-officer was there, and the sergeant. They kept their hats on.
The Group Captain asked, “What is the charge?”
“Oh, several charges, sir,” replied the sergeant and explained what had happened–heavily emphasizing my dangerous negligence, and life threatening conduct. Obviously he wanted the rope!
Well the Group Captain, with all his gold braid and medals, looked at me and said, “Is this true, Airman?”
“Are you guilty or not guilty?”
“Oh,” I said, “Guilty, sir. Yes, sir, I did it. (Please say goodbye to my dad, and my grandma, and all my friends).”
He looked at the pilot and asked, “Aren’t you supposed to visually inspect the aircraft yourself before you climb into the cockpit?”
“Yes sir,” said the pilot.
“Did you do that?”
“Well – er – I was in a hurry.”
“Then I think you are partly to blame for this.”
That cheered me up a bit. I thought, we will hang together, brother. Then the Group Captain said to the sergeant, “How was this discovered?”
And the sergeant said, “Sir, an airman, looking through the window of his Section, noticed the hatch was off and telephoned the control tower.”
The Group Captain said, “Reahhlly!?” Because, you see, officers of his rank did not think that enlisted airmen of my rank knew how to use a telephone – so that impressed him. He said again, “Reahhlly!!?”
“Yes sir,” said the sergeant, “he picked up the telephone, called the tower, and said there was something wrong with the airplane.”
“Well,” my commandant replied incredulously, “that is quite remarkable. And who was the airman who did that?”
So the sergeant, reluctantly I thought, said “Kilbride, sir.”
The Group Captain looked at me with eyes like saucers and said, “Was it you who telephoned the control tower and had this airplane stopped?”
“That was jolly commendable of you, Kilbride,” he said, “very perceptive.”
“Thank you, sir.”
And then he turned to the pilot and he said, “I think you owe your life to this young man.”
“Thank you very much,” said the pilot to me.
The C.O. glared at the sergeant and said, “I think these are ridiculous charges. Case dismissed. I am going to see this man is commended for his prompt and intelligent action,” and turning to me, “Well done, airman. Well done!”
“Attention! Hat on! Left-turn. Left-right, left-right,” and out we went! I could not believe it.
I went back to my friends in the billet who were clearly astonished to even see me. “Well, what did you get? What did you get?”
“Commended,” I replied – as nonchalantly as I could.
I still do not think they know how it was done. And I do not know how it was done either because I walked in there unquestionably guilty of several serious life-threatening offenses, and by some strange turn of events – I almost said “work of fate,” except I don’t believe in fate – came out commended.
Will you forgive this amusing, but absolutely true, illustration of a holy and precious truth? This is what justification is. You walk into the courts of God, a guilty sinner, with guilt for offenses since your earliest memory that would stretch around the world. Every one of them is a capital charge for the Bible says, “The soul who sins will die,” and, “The wages of sin is death.” Yet because of Jesus Christ you come out, not only NOT GUILTY, but COMMENDED for Jesus’ sake.
No wonder Luther said it is “the very heart of the Gospel”. No wonder John Stott said, “If you have not understood this, you have never understood Christianity.”
For audio of the sermon click on the following link: Justification by Faith
Hymn for the month: Make me a channel of your peace – Audio
Make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred let me bring your love; where there is injury, your pardon, Lord; and where there’s doubt, true faith in you.
Refrain: Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved, as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace. Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope; where there is darkness only Light; and where there’s sadness, ever joy.
Make me a channel of your peace. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, in giving to all men that we receive; and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.
Words based on the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
Our featured hymns for April reflect the Easter message.
Man of Sorrows – Audio
“Man of Sorrows!” what a name For the Son of God, Who came Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Bearing shame and scoffing rude, In my place condemned He stood: Sealed my pardon with His blood: Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we; Spotless Lamb of God was He: “Full atonement” – can it be? Hallelujah! What a Savior!
“Lifted up” was He to die, “It is finished!” was His cry: Now in heaven exalted high: Hallelujah! What a Savior!
When He comes, our glorious King, All His ransomed home to bring, Then anew this song we’ll sing: “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
This recording features The Salvation Army Celebration Choir and Citadel Band of Sheffield, England. It was produced by Kingsway Music in 1999. So far as we can ascertain it is no longer obtainable.
Jesus is Lord – Audio
“Jesus is Lord!” Creation’s voice proclaims it, For by His power each tree and flower was planned and made. “Jesus is Lord!” The universe declares it, Sun moon and stars in heaven cry, “Jesus is Lord!”
Refrain: Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord! Praise Him with “Hallelujahs” for Jesus is Lord!
Jesus is Lord! Yet from His throne eternal In flesh He came to die in pain on Calvary’s tree. Jesus is Lord! From Him all life proceeding, Yet gave His life a ransom thus setting us free.
Jesus is Lord! O’er sin the mighty conqueror From death He rose and all His foes shall own His name. Jesus is Lord! God sends His Holy Spirit To show by works of power that Jesus is Lord.
One of the hymns often sung at national occasions is the paraphrase of Psalm 90 by Isaac Watts, “Our God, our help in ages past”. It was sung at the funeral of Winston Churchill.
The version featured here was recorded in the new Coventry Cathedral in 1992 by the St. Michael’s Singers.The new Coventry Cathedral was built to replace the beautiful 14th century Gothic Cathedral that was destroyed in the Blitz on Coventry in November 1940. The roofless ruins of the old Cathedral remain hallowed ground next to the new Cathedral.
Our God, our help in ages past – Listen or Download
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast;
And our eternal home;
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
Challenge! A word from God’s Word for the New Year
This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Jeremiah 6:16 NIV
It seems to me we may consider this under three headings – the first this month and the subsequent two in coming months.
First: To the People of God
These words by the prophet Jeremiah were delivered to God’s ancient people, Israel. They were the promised seed given to Abraham and the Chosen People as described in Deuteronomy 7:7-8a,
“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand…”
And Isaiah 45:8-10, “But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
But all that changed when God sent His only begotten Son into this world. By His life He came to show us God and by His death on the cross to reconcile us to God. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. All the promises and prophets and types and rituals of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Him.
God’s chosen people are now all people of every nation and ethnic group, male or female, who have put their trust in the Lord Jesus. They and they alone, belong to Him.
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29).
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16).
For he himself is our peace, who has made of the two [Jew and Gentile] one (Ephesians 2:14).
Read the whole of Ephesians 2:14-22.
See also 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 3:6; John 17:20.
So: what of the church? What is the message to the local churches that are the Body of Christ and the Chosen people of God? Well, I can only speak of what June and I have found in recent years. We have visited many churches in the State of Florida and I have to tell you that, speaking generally, we have returned home disappointed.
Preaching God’s Word
Yes, they would say they believe the Bible to be God’s inspired Word and authoritative Word, but evidently there is no time in the service to read a passage from it! The sermons often seem ill-prepared, or spattered with stories and jokes – not to illustrate a vital truth but (seemingly) to entertain. Some never preach the cross, and certainly there is never a mention of sin, guilt, repentance, and judgment to come. Yet these truths are the very heart of God’s Gospel.
Most seem to feel that anointed preaching is not enough. We have to screen pictures – we have even seen cartoons. Unsaved sinners are heading for hell and we are watching cartoons!
May we never forget the pastor’s number one calling as urged by the Apostle Paul in his letters to Timothy:
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others;” (2 Tim 2:5) and, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15); and “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim 4:1-2).
His second calling is, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5).
The Worship Service
The early church gave themselves to prayer as well as teaching. In many churches we have attended there was no intercessory prayer. If there was a perfunctory prayer it seemed to be an opportunity for the choir, band, or singing group to assemble or to sort out their instruments.
In many, if not most, places the great hymns of Wesley, Watts, and many other Christian writers have been abandoned. Not all of the new which has taken their place is bad. I myself love good rhythmic songs. Some are very good indeed; full of truth, and we are blessed in singing them as are the congregations we have visited. But many more have unsingable tunes with banal words and congregational participation is limited or non-existent. Should we not be incorporating the best from every generation of our Christian heritage?
Now someone may be thinking, “O, this is just Harry. He is now another old fogey who longs for the ‘old days’. He cannot move with the times or adapt to the changing culture.” Sure I can. Why, otherwise, do you think we have produced this website? We are constantly updating it using the skills that the Lord has given June – she built it! She is even on Facebook! Old fogeys? Not at all! Old, yes, but not fogeys.
The Awesome Presence of God
Rather, finally, may I ask you, when did you last attend a service of worship where you were overcome by the awesome Presence of our holy and almighty God? Don’t you long for that?
Before Christmas I received a greeting from a dear friend from England. He mentioned that he was invited to preach in his Anglican (Episcopal) church. I asked him to send me his notes, which he kindly has done. He chose as his text Luke’s account of how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary; telling her of the forthcoming son she was to bear.
Luke 1:30 reads, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”
My friend, John, comments on Mary’s first reaction of fear: “Here was a being who carried with him the aura of the glory of the presence of God. And she was afraid. The same happened when Gabriel appeared to Zechariah. There was an awesomeness about this messenger from the realms of glory, likewise the shepherds [Lk 2:10].
We need, do we not, to capture a sense of this awesomeness in our worship and in our daily prayers? If an angel can cause fear, how much more the supreme God. Listen, God is no plaything to be manipulated by our wills, nor a cuddly toy to be cast aside when we are tired of him. God is God. There is none like him. He does what he pleases in heaven and on earth, and none can stay his hand. [Ps 135:6 and Dan 4:35]
It took the death of Jesus on the cross to open up a way for us sinners into his most holy presence. There is nothing easy about our access to God. It was purchased for us at great cost – even the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So let’s beware, dear friends, of adopting a casual or flippant approach to the eternal God but rather let us remember that God is God. He is, according to the Holy Spirit, speaking through the writer to the Hebrews, ‘a consuming fire’ (Heb 12:29). Let us therefore offer to him ‘acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.’”
Would you not agree with my friend that we have lost the awesome Presence of God?
If so, let us pray for God to return to us, and let us choose to return to those “ancient paths” He laid down for us: prayer, preaching, fellowship and reverent worship. And then, as our text says, “you will find rest for your soul.” How, if God is almighty and holy? Because He is also the God of all comfort and matchless love and grace.
Next month: The Nation; and thirdly, The Individual.
Previous months notes “From Harry’s desk…2014″ can be found on the Archives page. Go to Archives