Thursday, 26 May 2016
‘Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.’ John 4:35. I have just finished reading a classic, if disturbing, book on the barbaric conditions of Stalin’s Communist labour camps. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is a well known masterpiece describing totalitarian repression. Stalin tried to remove God, religion, freedom of speech and opportunity for progress in the USSR – and woe-betide anyone who resisted. China in 1966 was going through much the same baptism of fire. The Chinese Cultural Revolution has its fiftieth anniversary this year. Mao launched an all-out class war to promote socialism and a peasant lifestyle. His Red Guard tried to remove Christianity, which Mao regarded as a western religion, as well as the old Chinese customs practiced throughout the country. Mao expelled 10,000 Christian missionaries. As with Stalin, and notwithstanding today’s ruling Communist party, Mao’s vision has thankfully perished. In truth, mankind cannot live with such a godless philosophy. By God’s grace the China of today is very different to the country of fifty years ago. And not just in terms of the growth of industry and a prospering middle class. The Church in China is growing rapidly. It is predicted that China will become the largest Christian nation by 2030. In 2010 there were approximately 58 million Protestant Christians in China. By 2025 that number is predicted to rise to 160 million – exceeding the number in the United States. A recent study in China found that online searches for the words ‘Christian congregation’ and ‘Jesus’ are far more numerous than for ‘communist party.’ There are large mega-churches sanctioned by the state. There are many more underground house churches free from government interference. Sometimes in the West we can feel that Christianity is on the wane. But this is not true globally. Remember John 4.35 (above). The remarkable missionary efforts of pioneers like Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission in the mid-nineteenth century are still bearing fruit. Let’s be encouraged by the fact that God is still blessing faithful gospel endeavour abundantly. His Word will not return to him empty. The anniversary of Mao’s cultural revolution has passed us by quietly. Fifty years later it has not had the enduring impact he hoped for. Christianity, however, is 2,000 years old and more vibrant than ever. What we need in the West is a new cultural revolution – a counter-cultural revolution, which enthrones the Lord Jesus Christ in the hearts and lives of all people.
Sunday, 10 May 2015
Father’s Day I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15.18-19 This year Father’s Day falls on the 21st of this month. Father’s Day was started by Sonora Smart Dodd in 1910 and though it is kept on different dates throughout the world the idea of a community celebrating fatherhood on one Sunday of the year has spread everywhere. Sadly, it tends to be associated here merely with increased sales of power tools and car accessories! However, honouring fathers should not just be about having a fun day and keeping the economy going. Fathers make a highly valuable contribution to the welfare of their families. Their place is part of the created order and reflects God’s purposes for the world. The US Department of Health and Human Services details some of the positive impact good fathers can have on their children’s well-being. For example, ‘Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females’ (www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chaptertwo.cfm). Christian fathers have an even more significant role. When they teach the Bible and the gospel to their children they are instilling Christian truths that can last a lifetime. God’s wish for Christian parents is that they may be faithful to each other and have godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). Christian fathers in particular reflect, however imperfectly, their heavenly Father God, who is always loving even when his children run away from home (see above). God the Father is like the father in the story of the prodigal son; loving, generous and longing for his wayward offspring to return. Christian fathers are likewise to act in a loving and generous manner, praying that their children will come home to the Lord. This goal is to be primary and above every other aspiration they have for their children. On 21st June let’s honour fathers who stick to their task of caring for their children and their children’s mother. We need to thank God for them as we pray for them in their God given task.
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
‘In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.’ John 1.4-9 One of the most amazing things about the Christian message is that the eternal Son of God became incarnate. John chapter 1, which we often read at Christmas, describes him coming as a shaft of light; like a ray of light. The Word came and brought light into a dark, dark world. This is a world, darkened by ignorance: without Christ we would not know where we have come from or where we are going or why we are here at all. We would be ignorant of meaning and truth. But with Christ our minds become enlightened - the light comes on. Our understanding is illuminated. Like a light bulb being switched on, mankind can begin to see and understand. We can have knowledge about life and do not have to be ignorant any more. This is also a world darkened by sin. There is undeniable evil in the world: immorality; lawlessness; hatred; greed; selfishness; darkness. There is rebellion against God. But with Christ there is a pure, clear light that dispels the darkness. His light has come into the world to chase away the darkness. You cannot have light and darkness together. Yes this is a dark world. But the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The light is of course the person of Jesus. He has come into the world, says the apostle John. We have seen him, he continues. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1.14). John claims that the Word became flesh, that God became a man. He became someone he knew well - Jesus of Nazareth. John makes an appeal to us. “I have seen him and the apostles have seen him. Trust me, I was with him,” he says. The light has indeed come into the darkness of this world. If you had lived 2000 years ago you could have seen God. You could have touched him. And that is the apostle John’s point. He did see God. He saw and touched the eternal Word. He was an eye-witness to Christ. I hope this is the Jesus you believe in. I hope you don’t just have a vague belief in a god out there somewhere. I want you to have (John wants you to have) a steady trust in the Jesus of history, the Jesus that John knew, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word who really did come from the Father full of grace and truth. He came to bring his light. He came to bring his goodness and righteousness. This dark world is not all there is.
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly as I should.’ Colossians 4.2-4 St. Paul knew the necessity of prayer if a mission was to be successful. He implored the believers in Colosse to pray for him as he proclaimed Christ. He entreated them to pray that his communication and explanation of the gospel would be as clear as possible. As a church we are planning a focused period of mission for next November. Indeed, the whole diocese of Down and Dromore is preparing for mission. The one essential component of that preparation is prayer. As part of a continuous diocesan prayer chain we are challenged to commit to a full week of prayer: 14th – 21st November 2014. We are asked individually to fill hour-long slots so that every hour is covered in that week. It will be quite a test for us! But at the same time, it could be a turning point in the life of Knockbreda. John Calvin, one of the Bible teachers at the time of the Reformation, likened prayer to digging up treasure. ‘It is by the benefit of prayer that we reach those riches which are laid up for us with the heavenly Father … We dig up by prayer the treasures that were pointed out by the Lord’s gospel, and which our faith has gazed upon.’ Calvin wisely explains that God the Father has many, many blessings stored up for his people. He has precious treasures which he is longing to give us. All we have to do is ask him for them: ask, seek; knock (Matthew 7.7). But like digging for treasure, prayer can be hard work. It does not take much to distract most of us from praying. Even Christians often prefer to be activists. Running to meetings, speaking of the gospel, reading a Christian book, handing out Christian literature – prayer can be well down the list of Christian priorities. But without prayer we will not receive all the marvellous blessings and treasures which God has in store for us. When we pray we are putting our faith into practice. Faith can be seen in the believer who prays because it is the one way to show that we are trusting our heavenly Father to supply all our needs – and more! I trust that every Christian believer at Knockbreda will be involved in our 24/7 prayer project this month. Sign the sheet in the church if you have not already done so. Sign it more than once, if you can. Pray for the mission, pray for yourself, pray for others, pray for the blessing.
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
‘By Christ all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’ Colossians 1v16-17 How does one get to know a God who cannot be seen? Answer: we can see the invisible God in Jesus Christ – the man who walked and talked in ancient Galilee. Our creator can be seen when we look at the Christ we see in the Scriptures. In fact, as God, Christ was involved in creating everything that was created. We tend to think it was only God the Father who created the world. But in the verses above we are told that God created the world by and through Christ, God the Son. We sing about this at Christmas, don’t we? ‘Lo within a manger lies, He who built the starry skies.’ The hymn is talking about Jesus Christ the creator. So from the DNA inside each of us and all the plants and flowers around us, up to the mountains of Mourne and the planets around the sun, Jesus created it all. Harvest time is a good opportunity to reflect on our creator. He is the same God who continues to provide for us today. Christ was the creator of the world at its beginning and Christ sustains and keeps the world going. In him, says the apostle Paul (v17), all things hold together. He graciously continues to uphold and sustain his creation, every moment of every day. Without him this world could not carry on for a minute. Most manufacturers do not take an interest in their goods after they have sold them. When you buy a new washing machine, you will not find the manufacturer constantly enquiring about how it is running! Christ on the other hand manufactures the world, shares it with us, and then goes on to look after it. He has a continuing interest in the goods. The cosmos, the world, depends on Jesus for its continuing existence. It is due to him that we have a harvest to be thankful for each year. All things have been created by him and for him. And that includes you and me. We have each been made for Christ. We therefore have an obligation to acknowledge him as our creator, to thank him for our creation and to worship him. But we can only do this properly when we have turned to him in repentance and faith. Have you acknowledged Jesus Christ personally as your creator and ruler? Harvest time is a reminder to be thankful to the Lord. He has given us every good thing in this world to enjoy. The gratitude he requires is our commitment to him as Lord and Saviour.
Father’s Day I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longe...
‘Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.’ John 4:35. I have just finished readin...
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