Don’t be ashamed of Christ

For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.
Luke 9:25-26

Some of you may have read a recent newspaper article in which it was stated that “The Quakers” are considering dropping any reference to the word “God” in their meetings, literature, publicity, etc.

As so often happens with newspaper articles, clarity and accuracy is sacrificed for the sake of brevity. In the context of the article, “The Quakers” refers only to the body in the UK properly known as Britain Yearly Meeting (that body also affects the title ‘The Religious Society of Friends in Britain’, as though claiming exclusivity to name and territory). BYM has inherited the organisation and property of the Society of Friends, though, for a long time, it has abandoned the Society’s faith and testimonies for ones based on worldly values. We know BYM folk to be well-meaning people, but being well-meaning is not enough. Indeed their well-meaning-ness has gained them the respect of the world – but what does that profit them if that respect is gained at the loss of their soul. Their organisation may continue to function, but it will never again live.

We take no pleasure in their failure. Their being named in the context of the article, however, means that those of us who are not associated with them but who bear the same outward name – “Quaker” – are obliged to work doubly hard to re-affirm that BYM does not speak for us, nor does it speak in the name of Quakerism, nor does it express the ground of our faith in Jesus Christ.

We do not have creeds that we recite, as the churches of the world do, but we do find unity in the statement our ancient friend George Fox made to the Governor of Barbados in 1671, as reproduced below.

“We own and believe in God, the only wise, omnipotent and everlasting God, the Creator of all things in heaven and on earth, and the Preserver of all that he hath made; who is God over all, blessed for ever. And we own and believe in Jesus Christ his beloved and only begotten Son, in whom he is well pleased. And we own and believe that he was made a sacrifice for sin, who knew no sin, and that he was buried and rose again on the third day by the power of his Father, for our justification, and that he ascended up into heaven. This Jesus who was the foundation of the holy prophets and apostles, is our foundation and we believe there is no other foundation to be laid but that which is laid, even Christ Jesus who tasted death for every man, shed his blood for all men, is the propitiation for our sins, and not ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. We believe that he alone is our Redeemer and Saviour. Christ Jesus the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last. He is (as the Scriptures of Truth say of him) our wisdom, righteousness, justification, and redemption, neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. He rules in our hearts, by his law of love and life, and made us free from the law of sin and death. We have no life but by him, for he is the quickening Spirit, the second Adam. He is our Mediator who makes peace and reconciliation between God offended and us offending. He being the Oath of God, the new Covenant of Light, Life, Grace, and Peace, the author and finisher of our faith. This we say is that Lord Jesus Christ, whom we own to be our life and salvation.”

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“Beware of Low-flying Bigots! “

The following article appeared in The Call in 2013
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Some sects of professing Christians maintain that no believer should go by any other name than ‘Christian’, because that is what the early Church knew themselves as, citing the Bible as their prime evidence for this. However, let us look at where this word appears in the Bible. It can be found in three places:

Acts 11:26And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” This Greco-Latin word Χριστιανός /Christianus was undoubtedly given to believers by the pagan population of Antioch, most likely as a dismissive term, and was not how they addressed or thought of each other and themselves.

Acts 26:28Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” From Paul’s audience with King Herod Agrippa and Roman Procurator Porcius Festus, we learn that the Rome-educated Agrippa, brought up in the Jewish faith, comes close to an intellectual, outward assent to the Apostles testimony that Christ fulfilled the Prophets. He uses the word common amongst outsiders – ‘Christian’ – but Paul does not use it. Rather, he distinguishes between the outward perception and the reality. “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day were both almost, and altogether such as I am…” (Acts 26:29) “Such as I am,” says Paul! Not one who may be outwardly labelled a ‘Christian’, but one who can say “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

1 Peter 4:16Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God…” The previous two usages of the word prepare the way for this. They are super-ficial, they do not show an understanding of what it meant to be a disciple, to be a member of the early Church, to be a ‘saint’. When a person suffered for being a ‘Christian’ he suffered not because anyone truly understood that to which he was bearing witness, but because of what they perceived him to be. Disloyal, a fanatic cultist, a bad citizen, a traitor to the Emperor, a blasphemer, a performer of erotic rites (‘love feasts’), an eater of flesh and drinker of blood, even a fire-raiser and an atheist. The early Church had a message of love and salvation, but many were deaf to it, hearing and seeing only the superficial ‘Christian’.

It has been claimed that the name was adopted by believers, maybe as a convenient identification, or maybe to take the sting out of it as a term of reproach. This is not unlikely, and the term ‘Christian’ is one with which most believers, including ourselves, are comfortable. Thus it came into being in the same way that 17th century disciples became known as ‘Quakers’ first as a term of abuse and then by adopting the name. But still, there is no more scriptural evidence to suggest that ‘Christian’ was divinely ordained than ‘Quaker’ was, save that providence may have led the way into each. In Peter’s time, each assembly of believers (and not the building in which they assembled) was known as a Church, and its congregation as ‘saints’. Peter himself called them “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…” (1 Peter 2:9)

By contrast, these days the term ‘Christian’ seems to be a very broad and liberal definition. Rather than insist on the nomenclature and criticise anyone who doesn’t, it behoves us to strive to be ‘as Paul was’, when he appeared before Festus and Agrippa.

There is a danger in adopting a name levelled slanderously at us. Nowadays the most frequent term used by outsiders is ‘bigot’. This is mainly due to our testimony with regard to a single issue. But our testimony is one of God’s love. “How can you claim to ‘love’ us,” ask our detractors, “If you do not agree with our self-image and with our socio-political agenda?” Hard as it may be for them to understand – we simply do! In the famous parable, the Samaritan simply sees a man beaten and left for dead by thieves and helps him. He never once asks the man who he is, what his ethnic heritage is, what his sexual orientation is, what his class or political beliefs are, what his religion is, whether he is an honest man or himself a thief. He simply helps him, and at his own risk.

That was one of Christ’s models for what a person who was ‘as Paul was’ would be like. His charity would be unthinking and unhesitating, informed by no bigotry. But there would nevertheless be things to which he could not, in all love, assent without shattering the peace of God in his conscience. To label this kind of person a ‘bigot’ is to redefine the word by bending it wholly out of shape. What part of a believer’s testimony to telling the truth would it be if we ever accepted this term as being divinely ordained for us, or even convenient to adopt?

Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way…  Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:22-26)

We put this question: For our righteousness to be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, how would we ‘agree’ with an adversary who has insulted us in this way? What canst thou say?

 

Be silent , O all flesh.

This article was first published in The Call in 2011.

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Dear Friends,

In the stillness and silence of the power of the Almighty dwell, which never varies, alters, nor changes, but preserveth over and out of all the changeable worships, religions, ministers, churches, teachings, principalities, and powers, with the power of God, which keepeth over all this, to the kingdom of Christ, that is everlasting.”

(George Fox, Epistle 201)

It is unlike us to lead on George Fox. Worthy though our ancient friend was, and though he was both an apostle of Christ in his time and an elder and apostle to us now by his writings, we do not preach George Fox. We preach Christ. We preach the same Christ that Fox preached.

George Fox never founded the practice of silent worship; in fact it could be said that far from founding it he found it! It was the practice of a group known as the Seekers, who came into being in the 1620s, probable influenced by the preaching of the brothers Walter, Thomas, and Bartholomew Legate. This group of people had come out of all the forms and hierarchies of established religion, broken, poor in spirit (that wonderful state in which one realises that nothing, even one’s standing in a church, even one’s piety, even one’s works, even one’s humility, is of any value to God and in realising that takes the first step heavenward; “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3), and knew that their only hope was Jesus Christ. Their silence was one of waiting and hope – “Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” Zechariah 2:13. It was a silence and a hope that George Fox knew and recognised, and there is no better way to hear this than by his own testimony:

But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition. When all my hopes in them and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do, then, oh, then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition; and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.

Then the Lord let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory. For all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been; that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith, and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall hinder it? and this I knew experimentally.

My desire after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spoke of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit. Then the Lord gently led me along, and let me see His love, which was endless and eternal, surpassing all the knowledge that men have in the natural state, or can obtain from history or books; and that love let me see myself, as I was without Him.” (GF, Journal, Ch1)

To meet in the silence of the flesh in those days was a matter of prophecy. It was prophecy to the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, before whom all things made by human invention are worthless. From that silence before the Lord all other things proceeded – prophesying, praying, preaching, teaching, singing – according to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. “All ye Friends, that wait in that which is pure in itself, which cannot lie, which doth not change, wait upon God, for God doth not change, and let all flesh be silent before the Lord, that the life may speak in all; then the mouth of the Lord is known, and God is exalted and glorified with his own work, which he brings forth.” (GF, Epistle 43).

Fox speaks of “them that are come to silent meetings… to feed there” (Epistle 131), meaning that such things as were broken and blessed by the Lord were to be had as spiritual sustenance at such meetings as observed the commandment “be silent , O all flesh”, but we know that early Quaker meetings, whilst ‘silent’ in that way were far from ‘quiet’ in another. The prophesying, praying, preaching, teaching, and singing all filled the air with sound.

Where does that find us today?

A Friend coined a word for religious proceedings which delighted the senses – he called it ‘religertainment’, a combination of the words ‘religion’ and ‘entertainment’. A second Friend replied with another coining – ‘religaxation’ – a combination of ‘religion’ and ‘relaxation’, by which he meant a meeting in which the silence does nothing more than soothe the senses. Each is a manifestation of the personalisation of religion. The disciples waited with ‘one accord’, taking the words from Acts 1:14 and 2:1.

We are a small and isolated people, our meetings are small and largely quiet. Perhaps that is meant to be so, perhaps we are keeping a particular, if small, candle of prophecy burning to let other professors of Christianity know that Jesus Christ is sufficient. Perhaps we are like a small number of soldiers ‘holding a line’ in the Lamb’s War. Our silence must therefore be the silence of all flesh, and if we are quiet that must be the outward testimony to the inward silence. It must be at the Lord’s command, and must be broken when we are commanded to speak, to prophesy, to preach, to pray, to teach, or to sing.

Someone unused to Friends’ worship recently asked “Why are Friends not more exuberant?” He had been invited to the funeral of a Friend which took the form of a meeting for worship (albeit within the discipline of the liberal body where the name of Christ is rarely heard). He was surprised to find that no one spoke, and at last felt impelled himself to stand and speak about the deceased person. He left at the end somewhat dissatisfied, but perhaps he had not considered that it had been the Lord’s will that he and no one else should speak on that occasion. Who knows?

One last thing about the appeal to the senses in worship. When we are come at last to Jesus Christ and know his love and salvation, the whole world has a different feel and scent to it. It is fresh to our senses, fresh to our intelligence, as it is to be seen with the refreshment of our spirits. There is nothing amiss with what may be given in worship pleasing the sense or the intelligence, but only if that measure of pleasing is according to the Lord and not according to us. There is nothing wrong with singing or with ‘exuberance’ as long as it is in answer to the clear prompting of the Lord. It is not to be an end in itself, either to impress or please a visitor or to delight ourselves. If we sing the words of the Psalmist or of Whittier or of Wesley it should be because the Lord has given us those words to sing. Otherwise we are not in the same spirit as were the Psalmist or Whittier or Wesley when the Lord led them to write their words. Take heed however, Friends, that the prophecy we are given may not always delight us nor be agreeable to the world.

Therefore silence all flesh, and see your own ways be clean.” (GF, Epistle 47)

Putting your trust in princes

The following article was published in The Call in 2011.

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Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
Romans 13: 1-7

The above passage from Scripture is often quoted by those who insist that a Christian should be a law-abiding, quiescent citizen of wherever he or she lives. After all, the guidance which the passage gives is unequivocal.

Critics of this view object that it makes the reign of Adolf Hitler somehow ordained by God, and his waging of unjust wars of conquest, his persecution of political opponents and racial groups a ‘terror to the evil’ works. This is something which would be difficult for any intelligent person, believer or not, to accept – that Hitler was ‘a revenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil’.

At the time of Hitler’s rise to power the German pastor and theologian Martin Niemöller, and many like him, initially supported Hitler because they shared his anti-communist beliefs. But when Hitler declared the state’s supremacy over religion Niemöller became the leader of a group of clergymen opposed to Nazism. In 1933 his group inserted a clause in their founding charter to the effect that any dismissal by the state of one of their pastors on the grounds of his having Jewish ancestry should be refused. By 1937 Niemöller was interred in a concentration camp and was not released until 1945.

These famous words against political apathy are ascribed to him: “First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” It is not certain where and when he first said those words; many people have offered other versions, but the words above are the ones that Niemöller himself claimed as his own.

These words of Niemöller’s are a world away from the quiescent citizenship in defense of which Romans 13 is most often cited. The deeds of many who have defied – one may even say ‘resisted’ – the laws of their countries are also a world away. These countries have included the most despotic and the most apparently democratic. Where their requirements and laws have been seen to run contrary to the commandments of Christ then Christians have stood against them, have refused to acquiesce, have demonstrably not rendered tribute, custom, fear, and honour.

The Apostles Peter and John were commanded by the High Priests Annas, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, they replied: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20); yet surely these men who commanded them not to speak were higher powers of the Jewish church, and Peter and John were subject to them?

It is a common complaint, or indeed a matter of scorn in the mouths of those who do not believe, that one can prove anything with a Bible quotation, and that diametrically opposite viewpoints can be supported by Scriptural text. This is, of course, entirely true! The Bible has been used to excuse all manner of things, according to human wisdom.

But Scripture itself is not a product of human wisdom but of God’s. There are many professors of Christianity who hold that the only interpretation of Scripture allowable is what is plainly seen on the page, thus declaring that man’s wisdom which did not produce Scripture is the only wisdom that may interpret it. It is that viewpoint and no other, however, which gives rise to the criticism from others that the Bible may be used to support any argument. Paul may say one thing in Romans 13 – the Psalmist says “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help” (Psalm 146:3).

Certainly there is a level at which Scripture is a simple and plain witness to those who have not yet had the baptism of the Holy Spirit. However there are things within Scripture – its apparent contradictions for one – which remain mysteries to human wisdom no matter how assiduous a study is made of them. In those cases it is necessary to acknowledge that as the Lord’s Holy Spirit made them mysteries then the same Holy Spirit alone can open those mysteries. To run ahead of the Holy Spirit in interpretation of Scripture is both to take away from it and to add to it, both of which are cursed in Revelation 22:18,19.

They that wait upon the Lord…

The following article was published in ‘The Call’ in 2010.
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And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. Matt 8:21,22

Readers, today is the day of your visitation. As you look at this page, you have come to a point in your lives where you have to make a choice. None of you is exempt from this – it applies to those of you who consider yourselves religious, as much as those of you who do not.

The choice is this. You stand, as it were, at a fork in the road. In one direction is a broad, flower-strewn path, bordered by every delight and diversion you can think of, every reward of “success”, every lottery win, everything by which the world measures worthiness – but the distant horizon is dark. That is the path of selfishness, and down it stroll people who repeat, “I’m not such a bad sort, really. I’m not such a bad sort, really…”

In the other direction is a narrow path of no apparent beauty, just a steady climb. But on the horizon a light shines; and it seems to shine not only in the distance, but also it illuminates the path, so there is no mistaking where to put your feet. And it seems to call to you, it is familiar somehow, there is a light in your consciences which grows in answer to the light ahead. There is something terrible about the light, because at first all it seems to illuminate in you are things you would rather forget; but the more you look at the light, the more it seems to offer a way out of these things, a kind of cleansing.

Even now you can still refuse the call! You can still shrug off the familiar feeling, and jog merrily down the broad, easy, well-trod path, picking up gew-gaws as you walk ever closer to the darkened horizon.

The choice is yours!

This article is not an exhortation to join a sect, not even to join Friends in Christ if you are not already members. It is not a demand that you read the Bible (although that would be a very good idea!). It is a plea to you to fix your eyes on the light – it shines inside you, and it will never let you down! It is he who said, “I am the way, the truth, the life,” Jesus Christ, and he has come to meet you, spirit to spirit.

This article is not an invitation to come along to a chapel or mission on such-and-such street, not even to meetings of Friends in Christ if you do not already worship with us. It is a plea to you to wait in silence (that means to let your worldly concerns slip away from your thoughts), and let the light of Christ grow in you. You can do this anywhere, even in your own homes.

This article does not suggest that you “get religion” (religion means talking to God, or rather at him!), but that you accept the gift of faith (faith means listening to God!). The people who put this before you did not hand you an outward map to a meeting room, but an inward map – and only a rough one at that – to point to the narrow path and to the light.

People do all sorts of things with their lives – they join the rat-race, they play football, they take part in religious activities, and so on. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. The converse is true – they that do not wait upon the Lord, or wait upon some other thing or idea, shall not renew their strength.

Today is the day of your visitation. Today is the day of your choice. Today you stand at a fork in the road.

What therefore God hath joined, let not man put asunder

(This article appeared in The Call in 2009)

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.
John 2:1-10

At their recent annual convention the larger, liberal body which also takes the name ‘Friends’ gave its support to marriages between people of the same gender. At our Yearly Meeting, which happened a handful of weeks later, the subject did not even come up. You may ask why that was.

There is no doubt that the matter is a ‘hot’ social topic, one about which there is much pressure, and about which there is much public debate, with views for and against expressed forcefully by their proponents. How can something which is so much to the forefront of the public consciousness not be on the agenda of a church that reaches out to the world?

In the Apostle’s letter to the Romans we read: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2). The implication – no, the clear meaning – of this is that the Church, of which Jesus Christ is the living Head, is not conformed to the world, does not dance to the world’s tune, does not necessarily give priority to things which are high on the world’s agenda; on the contrary, the Church listens, with an open heart and mind, to the voice of the Shepherd, and lets him be its Guide, it’s Teacher, it’s King – the setter of it’s agenda, one could say.

The Lord may speak to the Church at the time the world calls ‘Christmas’, for example, and say: ‘Remember my death on the cross, and my resurrection’. Or he may speak to the Church at the time the world calls ‘Easter’ and say: ‘Remember my birth in the stable’. He may come amongst the assembled Church at times when the world mourns, and say: ‘Rejoice!’; or when the world rejoices he may say: ‘Mourn!’ At a time when the world agitates itself with such-and-such a matter, he may come amongst the assembled Church and calm them; and when the world is calm, he may stir up his Church.

Everything which the Church does in response to the Lord – even its expectant waiting upon his presence – preaches the gospel. Every last thing, small or large! This includes witnessing the marriage of two people, whom he has brought together. The witnessing is to be part of the preaching of the gospel, and the marriage itself is to be part of the preaching of the gospel.

An important message to the world on the subject of sexuality, marriage, and indeed of anything, is that no one – gay or straight – has any right to foist an agenda onto the Lord. No one, gay or straight, has a right to try shake God by the throat and say “I demand that you sanctify and justify me exactly as I am!” It doesn’t work like that. Someone who comes in pure fear of the Lord says, like the publican in the temple, “God be merciful to me a sinner”, giving his or her all to God – right down to those cherished socio-political agendas – willing to give up all, to die if necessary, to be crucified and risen with Christ. Nothing in any person, gay or straight, is to be hugged close and held back; God will have us totally, and anything held back becomes an idol!

There is a well-known text in scripture, at the head of this article: “What therefore God hath joined, let not man put asunder.” Friends, the facility with which ‘man’ puts asunder marriages, even those in which the couples have had solemn words spoken over them by a priest or by a civil functionary, is testimony to the fact that in the world God frequently does not join these people; equally, the loveless marriages which are endured on a point of ‘religious’ principle are a testimony to the same. Whilst we believe that ones word, once given, should be kept, we can see that humankind is a weak vessel, and human strength alone is not to be relied upon in such cases. Far from widening the ‘right’ for two people to come together by choice, it is the lot of the Church – perhaps – to narrow it, to bear witness that only a man and a woman truly joined by God are not to be put asunder; and by doing this, by bearing this witness faithfully, even if we do so at the expense of our own inclinations, opinions, and agendas, the Church preaches the Gospel.

Let this be added as a footnote and as a caveat. Friends in Christ, by our coming before the Lord in worship and in our daily lives, endeavour to give up all and become the Church. This is not ours by right, nor by desert, but by Grace alone. Do we fail? Of course we do, time and time again; but we are willing to throw ourselves on the Lord’s mercy time and time again. Once we felt led to witness the marriage of a couple, in hope and in trust. That marriage eventually failed. Did that failure preach the Gospel? Or was it perhaps a lesson given to us, so that we would learn first hand the feeling of our own weakness? Who can say?

What can be said is that such a circumstance has made us more willing to bow our heads and to accept humbly the agenda of our Ruler, the ever-present Lord Jesus Christ. It is him whom we preach – we are nothing, Christ is all.

The commandments of Christ.

(The following address was found in the files of The Call and is reproduced here in edited form. The author’s name has not been recovered.)

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another

John 15:15-17

For a Christian to be humble is to yield ones self to God, to surrender one’s own will to God’s will, to let go of our ‘self ‘ and let the Lord work through us. It is not to be hiding from the world nor is it to be a cowering figure afraid to speak truth, for fear of reproach.

It is to live a life   filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and the strength of God, and to speak God’s truth as and when it is given us to speak regardless of what may be thought of it. This is not arrogance, it would only be so if we spoke from our own will instead of the Lord’s will. It is to be cleansed by Christ of our own selfishness and desires, to lead a simple life, unfettered by the world’s vanities, fashions, values, or agendas and to give our lives over to the will of the Lord: to act as the Lord leads us, to speak as the Lord bids us. To be humble is to be rid of ‘self’, to seek for nothing for ourselves, nor to gain anything other than what the Lord wills for us, for is it not written: He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

A simple life is an inner life, a life lived in the spirit, a life of spiritual poverty, desiring only to serve the Lord and to be content in this, to spend our life cleansing all that the Light of Christ holds up before us, all that lies within us which creates a barrier between ourselves and Christ. Humility is accepting that we need to change and to be changed, and to be emptied of all that opposes such change. For such change to occur we must be filled with the Love of God and the Holy Spirit. But how can we be filled when there is no space within us due to the accumulation of so much that keeps us from seeing God. The Lord cannot light up the temple if the temple is not a fit vessel. What is already full of sin must then  be emptied out as the light of Christ blazes up within us to do the work on each of us that needs to be done. To paraphrase early Friends, sin must be eradicated, Satan must be banished from our lives by the fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Such a humility implies trust, a trust in the Lord, and acceptance of God’s grace. If we did not trust we would not be willing   to surrender ourselves to the Lord’s care, for to do so requires us to live a life of uncertainty as to where we will be led. Only trust or faith in the Lord enables us to embrace such a life.

A trust such as this is only possible with a great Love of God, who in turn loves all, and dwells within all, waiting for us to turn to his light and seek him out. We are called to love as God loves, open and accepting to and of ourselves and others, even our enemies. We are called to judge, (but not to condemn for that is the Lords right only) but only when we do so as a servant of the Lord, for if we judge on our own will then we judge as the world judges and we sin. When we judge in the Lords will we speak God’s truth and do the Lord’s work. To judge is the speak God’s truth to the world, it is not to condemn but simply to speak the truth. When we judge we act from a  knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, we know that something or someone is contravening God’s law and we are called to speak out. The act of turning to Christ in our lives is a judgement upon the world and its ways. For we are saying that the worlds ways are not the Lords ways, they are not The Truth, and we will not follow the way of error nay longer. So, to turn to Christ is to turn to the truth and speak this truth to the world and to ‘judge ‘ in that sense of the word.

For judgment through our own will is self righteousness and is not the Lord’s voice. It is always easier to see wrong doing in others than in  ourselves  this is why Christ admonishes us when he says to those who have not yet found their way to  God, “How can you say to your brother, Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye, when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

When we seek to address someone regarding a matter of concern we should do so whilst speaking from the Lord, otherwise we are hypocrites

Christ’s Love exemplified ultimately this love when he sacrificed himself to redeem the world and show us the way to God. His Love was for all, even those who condemned him – his enemies – how can we love less than this and still call ourselves His Friends or disciples!

His Love was so great he asked for those who condemned him to be forgiven, he did not ask for vengeance or judgement upon those people. This Love demands that we do like wise in loving one another and loving our enemies, and leaving condemnation to the Lord.

This Love is not an airy, superficial love, it does not imply that ‘anything goes’ as in the period of the 1960’s for example-do what you will was the prevailing belief, or today with quick fix man made religions/new age systems of belief. This love is a life changing powerful love, lived out and expressed in accordance with Scripture and guided by the Holy Spirit and It is the failure to live in this way that has brought the world to it’s present state, a disobedient people turned from God’s truth and destroying Gods creation.

The world chooses the delusion that needs will be satisfied in full by technology and science, yet the real need is ignored, spiritual need from which all others needs are truly met.

Love means caring about others, this means that Love may sometimes demand of us placing ourselves in the firing line or, giving a stern word or rebuke as the occasion demands, or be seen as politically incorrect by others/society. However, in the world today the emphasis is on individualism, and ‘individual rights’ and it runs counter to the societal norm for anyone to speak out in a way that is seen as diminishing this notion that  as individuals we can behave as we please and no one has a right to gainsay what we do or say. As Christ’s ‘Friends’ we may well be called to speak out on matters that contravene God’s laws regardless of what others think of this.

This type of individualism however runs counter to serving God, as this means pursuing one’s own way without God’s guidance and setting up modern forms of idolatry and false Gods – money, ambition, success, egoism, inappropriate use of and reliance on technology. The world has not changed much since the time of Christ except that there are fewer people of faith today than then. To paraphrase early Friends again, Satan still stalks the earth, evil is abroad in the world, and the Lamb’s war continues though his army seems fewer in numbers today.

The Gospel of Christ is probably even more necessary today than at any time in our history. If we see someone acting in a way as to cause harm to himself or others Love may demand us speak out – not in judgement but to point out the error in their conduct for the benefit of all concerned so that they do not cause harm through ignorance of what they are doing and its consequences. For example, a child putting its hand up to a pot of boiling water, the parent may shout at the child and grab its hand with force, causing the child to cry. But such an act is done with love, not seeking to distress or hurt the child, but to prevent the causing of serious harm. God loves us the same way, he may rebuke us, or deal us a strong lesson because he Loves us and wants to free us from sin and error which prevents us from coming closer to him.

God in turn demands of his people, that in obedience to his call, they rebuke and act to free others from sin and error in order to lead them closer to God. We are called to return blows with love, to the world this seems an odd response, but to do otherwise only perpetuates cycles of violence, retaliation which are forms of sin, and conflicts with Christian Love and Christ’s command to keep the commandments of Moses, and to Love one another, and forgive our enemies. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”

If we are wronged we can speak out in response to the other party with Love but still speak with determination, resolution, and judgement (God’s Truth). We can speak the truth in our defence when someone wrongly accuses us of an offence as Christ did to the Pharisees and others, we can also be clearly determined in the nature our responses as when Christ drove the money lenders from the temple, which too was an act of Love. If our own lives are to be temples for the Lord to dwell in, they must be cleansed of all that stands in the way of the Lord touching our lives enabling the  in pouring of the Love of Christ. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” But we must first seek that spirit within us, turn to the light of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and clear away the debris that conceals it from us. We must cast out Satan from our lives as The Lord cast him out of Heaven.

The commandments of Christ all hinge around Love, which is many faceted, it can take the form of tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, rebuke, challenge, anger (it is fine to be angry so long as we express our anger in the Lord’s will ,without hate or malice). Christian Love is not a call to lay down and hide or to be weak willed, it calls us to stand up and be counted amongst God’s children and possibly receive ill responses from others for doing so, it can lead us to be in places and do things we feel uncomfortable with, but need to be done, the lives of the Apostles reflect this. Love calls us to practice in our daily lives the commandments of Christ and not to compromise them to accommodate the world or to ‘fit in’ with the world, or to adjust them to be politically correct and conform to the latest social and political agendas. Love will lead us to a more intimate relationship with our Lord and Saviour, to find great joy even in our tribulations, and to a deeper more meaningful love for life and all creation.

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

Proverbs 3:1-8

Why Silent Worship?

Silent worship, open worship, listening prayer and unprogrammed meetings are all essentially terms for the same type of worship. It is a time that people meet together to listen to God and to hear His message through themselves and others… People generally gather together without saying much. For a while they may just sit, listening (praying) to God. If someone feels led, they may speak a short message or testimony, they may sing a song or request that a song be sung, or they could just read some Scripture aloud. Generally, though, most of the service is spent in silent listening…  Depending on how the Lord leads, there may be a few minutes of silent prayer, or several people may share what the Lord put on their hearts.

The Lord said [to Elijah], “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper (I Kings 19:11-12). If you want to hear God speak, most of the time He speaks with a still, small voice. We need to be listening to Him so that we can know His will in our lives.

Prayer is not a one-way channel. Prayer should be a combination of talking to God and listening. However, most Christians today have lost that idea. They look at prayer as a time to make requests to God and give him thanks for things he’s done for us. These are valid parts of a prayer; we just need to remember that it is very difficult for God to speak to us if we are the ones that are always talking.

When we have open worship as a corporate body, it allows us to strengthen each other by what God speaks through us. Open worship gives God a distinct opportunity to speak to multiple people though others’ testimonies and challenges. Open worship gives the opportunity for God to express Himself spontaneously, through whatever gift he may give the person delivering His message. These gifts could be in the form of songs, devotionals, testimonies, or even sermons.

Be sure to listen. God doesn’t usually want to yell to get your attention. He has given us the free will to choose whether or not to listen, and most of the time he will not force his message on us if we have not given ourselves to him.

from an article by Nathan James, written 2002
originally published in The Call