Flames and scales
OK, it’s not much of a title, more random word association based on at least two of the things I am going to write about in this update. Never mind.
William having been born, Caleb got some grandparent time while I tried to hold down the fort here. On Friday night I visited my wife at the birthing centre while on my way to Halland Chapel where I was speaking at their bonfire night celebrations. My brief was to situate the celebration historically (5th November 1605 and the Glorious Revolution) and to preach the gospel . . . in ten to fifteen minutes. Nice.
Feeling justified in taking the top end of my time window as a reasonable target, I suggested that we look into the flames and consider deliverance – our national deliverance which, in part, has secured for us the freedom to preach the full-orbed gospel. Then there is thanksgiving for personal deliverance: that same gospel has been preached to us, and many of us have been delivered from the fires of hell through the sacrifice of Christ who was consumed in the flames of God’s wrath on our behalf, quenching its flames for us with his shed blood. Finally, there is the need for deliverance, because those flames are a mere hint of the horrors of hell, “the fire that shall never be quenched – where ‘Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” I urged those present who were not saved to consider God’s great mercy in sending preachers to declare a Jesus who saves, and not to sleepwalk into eternal damnation, but to look into the fire and dwell upon the need for salvation. What a joy to stare into a fire next year and see not the threat of punishment but a reminder of deliverance! There were a good number present – about forty or so – of whom many were children and teenagers. There was, I think, a degree of warranted soberness during my brief address. I can only pray that some will heed the warning.
On Saturday I had to run a number of errands. My duties for the Lord’s day – already light – were further reduced by the deacons, and so my preparation was fairly straightforward. I still have vague recollections of a very full day, but that is in part because I was visiting Alissa in hospital. That night Caleb and I went for dinner with friends from the church and then came home and tried to hit the sack early.
On the Lord’s day, our Sunday School hour was a prayer meeting, which was well led, although I think people were a little weary in praying. I led the morning worship and one of our deacons, Tim Norton, the evening. Our preacher for the day was Pastor Reuben Danladi from West Ham Baptist Tabernacle. He preached a rich sermon on Sunday morning from 1 Kings 10.1-13, starting with Solomon and leading us to Christ, with many insightful suggestions based on the Queen of Sheba’s response to Solomon, and then pointing us upward to the greater than Solomon, Jesus himself. We had our regular fellowship meal at the church, and then I had to dash off as my wife was being discharged from hospital that afternoon. In the evening, Caleb and I went back to church to hear a sermon on Christian love for one another from 1 Peter 1.22. When is such a topic ever not timely?
Monday was a slower day with lots of church administration to catch up on, and then Tuesday night we had a church officers’ meeting. I was up at 4.30am on Wednesday, heading out to Heathrow airport to collect my mother-in-law, who was arriving from New Jersey. I got my act together, Caleb woke as if on cue at 6am, I slung him in the car and we headed round London trying to avoid the worst traffic. We got to my brother’s home and spent a couple of hours with him and his wife and ‘Cousin Susie’ near Twickenham while the traffic calmed down, and then had an easy run into the airport and a good run home. During the afternoon I took out an older gentlemen who – when his health was better – used to attend church. His wife suffers from Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home. He himself – once strong as an ox – is increasingly frail after a number of recent operations. As well as helping him out with banking, shopping, and visiting, it’s an opportunity to show Christian compassion and to declare and show the gospel to my friend. Wednesday night was the prayer meeting, fairly poorly attended with several struck down with sickness or caught out by unusual demands at work.
On Thursday we had our senior citizens’ Listen & Dine, an occasional (every five or six weeks) evangelistic opportunity in which we preach for about 20-25 minutes and then provide a meal, with time to follow up the Word of God over the dinner table. Friends in the church had suggested that I develop the material on counting up that I posted here a few days ago. I therefore preached on weighing our hearts in God’s scale, inveighing against the self-righteousness that imagines that anyone is good enough for God: it is not a question of whether we are sinners, but what kind of sinners we are. I used the example of David Dickson to press home the necessity of fleeing to Christ to obtain the only righteousness that would bring us to heaven. There was some good conversation afterward over the excellent meal. Some was desperately sad, showing only the spiritual blindness of sinful men and women, secure in their own imagined self-righteousness. Most encouraging were those who reacted vigorously to the ministry, and there may be opportunity to follow that up. At least when someone disagrees or becomes angry you know that they have to some degree understood what you meant!
Today I hope to go out to speak to the youngsters on the square in Maidenbower. If Listen & Dine tends to bring out the older brother types, Friday and Saturday night in the park is younger brother time (Luke 15). It is good to be well-received by the youngsters, but – should God send the gospel arrows home – their anger might not be so politely expressed as at Listen & Dine. It is painful to be wounded, but it is the necessary preparation for the binding up of the soul that Christ accomplishes through the gospel. Today is therefore given over to preparation for the weekend – I am preaching at Hope Baptist Church on Saturday evening at 5pm at their anniversary service, back again for their morning worship at 10.15am, and then home to preach here for the evening service. I had better get to it . . .