Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Devotion: The Heart of Prayer By E.M. Bounds

Devotion is the particular frame of mind found in one entirely devoted to God. It is the spirit of reverence, of awe, of godly fear. It is a state of heart which appears before God in prayer and worship. It is foreign to everything like lightness of spirit, and is opposed to levity and noise and bluster. Devotion dwells in the realm of quietness and is still before God. It is serious, thoughtful, meditative. Devotion belongs to the inner life and lives in the closet, but also appears in the public services of the sanctuary. It is a part of the very spirit of true worship and is of the nature of the spirit of prayer.
      Devotion belongs to the devout man, whose thoughts and feelings are devoted to God. Such a man has a mind given up wholly to the Christian life and possesses a strong affection for God and an ardent love for his house. Cornelius was "a devout man, one that feared God with all His house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed always." "Devout men carried Stephen to his burial." "One Ananias, a devout man, according to the law," was sent unto Saul when he was blind, to tell him what the Lord would have him do. God can wonderfully use such men, for devout men are His chosen agents in carrying forward His plans.
      Prayer promotes the spirit of devotion, while devotion is favorable to the best praying. Devotion furthers prayer and helps to drive prayer home to the object which it seeks. Prayer thrives in the atmosphere of true devotion. It is easy to pray when in the spirit of devotion. The attitude of mind and the state of heart implied in devotion make prayer effectual in reaching the throne of grace. God dwells where the spirit of devotion resides. All the graces of the Spirit are nourished and grow well in the environment created by devotion. Indeed, these graces grow nowhere else but here. The absence of a devotional spirit means death to the graces born in a renewed heart. True worship finds congeniality in the atmosphere made by a spirit of devotion. While prayer is helpful to devotion, at the same time devotion reacts on prayer, and helps us to pray. Devotion engages the heart in prayer. It is not an easy task for the lips to try to pray while the heart is absent from it. The charge which God at one time made against his ancient Israel was that they honored him with their lips, while their hearts were far from him.
      The very essence of prayer is the spirit of devotion. Without devotion prayer is an empty form, a vain round of words. Sad to say, much of this kind of prayer prevails, today, in the church. This is a busy age, bustling and active, and this bustling spirit has invaded the church of God. Its religious performances are many. The church works at religion with the order, precision and force of real machinery. But too often it works with the heartlessness of the machine. There is much of the treadmill movement in our ceaseless round and routine of religious doings. We pray without praying. We sing without singing with the Spirit. We have music without the praise of God being in it. We go to church by habit, and come home all too gladly when the benediction is pronounced. We read our accustomed chapter in the Bible, and feel quite relieved when the task is done. We say our prayers by rote, as a schoolboy recites his lesson, and are not sorry when the Amen is uttered. Christianity has to do with everything but our hearts. It engages our hands and feet; it takes hold of our voices; it lays its hands on our money; it affects even the postures of our bodies, but it does not take hold of our affections, our desires, our zeal, and make us serious, desperately in earnest, and cause us to be quiet and worshipful in the presence of God.
      Why all these sad defects in our piety? Why this modern perversion of the true nature of the religion of Jesus Christ? Why is the modern type of Christianity so much like a jewel-case with the precious jewels gone? The great lack of the modern Church is the spirit of devotion. We hear sermons in the same spirit with which we listen to a lecture or hear a speech. We visit the house of God just as if it were a common place, on a level with the theater, the lecture-room or the forum. We handle sacred things just as if they were the things of the world. We need to put the spirit of devotion into Monday's business, as well as in Sunday's worship. We need the spirit of devotion to remind us of the presence of God, to be always doing the will of God, to direct all things always to the glory of God.


      The spirit of devotion puts God in all things. It puts God not merely in our praying and church-going, but in all the concerns of life. "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." The spirit of devotion makes the common things of earth sacred and the little things great. With this spirit of devotion, we go to business on Monday directed by the very same influence and inspired by the same influences by which we went to church on Sunday. The spirit of devotion makes a Sabbath out of Saturday, and transforms the shop and the office into a temple of God.
      The spirit of devotion prevents Christianity from being a thin veneer and puts it into the very life and being of our souls. It ceases to be doing a mere work, and becomes a heart, sending its rich blood through every artery and beating with the pulsations of vigorous and radiant life. The ardor of devotion is in prayer. In the fourth chapter of Revelation, verse eight, we read: "And they rest not day nor night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." The inspiration and center of their rapturous devotion is the holiness of God. That holiness of God claims their attention, inflames their devotion. There is nothing cold, nothing dull, nothing wearisome about them or their heavenly worship. "They rest not day nor night." What zeal! What unfainting ardor and ceaseless rapture! The ministry of prayer, if it be anything worthy of the name, is a ministry of ardor, a ministry of unwearied and intense longing after God and after his holiness.
      The spirit of devotion pervades the saints in heaven and characterizes the worship of heaven's angelic intelligences. No devotionless creatures are in that heavenly world. God is there, and His very presence begets the spirit of reverence, of awe, and of real fear. If we would be partakers with them after death, we must first learn the spirit of devotion on earth before we get there. These living creatures, in their restless, tireless attitude after God and their devotion to His holiness, are the perfect symbols and manifestations of true prayer and its ardor. Prayer must be aflame. Its ardor must consume. Prayer without fervor is as a sun without light or heat, or as a flower without beauty or fragrance. A soul devoted to God is a fervent soul, and prayer is the creature of that flame. He only can truly pray who is all aglow for holiness, for God, and for heaven.
      Activity is not strength. Work is not zeal. Moving about is not devotion. Activity often is the unrecognized symptom of spiritual weakness. It may be hurtful to piety when made the substitute for real devotion in worship. The colt is much more active than its mother, but she is the wheel-horse of the team, pulling the load without noise or bluster or show. The child is more active than the father, who may be bearing the rule and burdens of an empire on his heart and shoulders. Enthusiasm is more active than faith, though enthusiasm cannot remove mountains nor call into action any of the omnipotent forces which faith can command.
      Activity is often at the expense of more solid, useful elements, and generally to the total neglect of prayer. To be too busy with God's work to commune with God, to be busy with doing church work without taking time to talk to God about His work, is the highway to backsliding, and many people have walked therein to the hurt of their immortal souls.

In the Day of Thy Power: 3. The Latter Rain Of Promise By Arthur Wallis

"And I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing" (Ezek. 34:26).
      "What are the prospects of revival?" asked the writer of an aged servant of God.
      "They are as bright as the promises of God," was the swift reply.
      No truer answer could have been given. We know that there are to be those in the last days who shall say of the hope of Christ's coming, "Where is the promise?" (2 Pet. 3:4). Even so there are those today who question the expectancy of revival, because they cannot see in God's Word any ground for such a hope. "Where", they would ask us, "is the promise of revival?" If, however, they are right in implying that there is no promise, then they must be asked to explain why, down the centuries of the church's history, God's people have been led and moved to plead with Him to do what He has never promised to do, and why He has done it again and again in answer to their burdened prayers. But is there no promise?
      Already some of the great revival promises of the Old Testament have been quoted. They could be easily multiplied. Let us take the familiar chapter 35 of Isaiah as an example: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon: they shall see the glory of the Lord, the excellency of our God.
      Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompence of God; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the glowing sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water" (verses 1-7).


      It may be objected, however, that these Old Testament prophecies refer to national Israel, and find their fulfilment in a dispensation other than this age of the church. It is not disputed that this may be the primary application of many such passages, but we surely make a great mistake when we confine such glorious promises to their immediate and literal fulfilment.
      God never intended that we should limit His word in this way, by restricting His precious promises to dispensational pigeon-holes, for He has not done so Himself, as we shall see when dealing presently with the Joel prophecy.
      When the Spirit of God causes these Old Testament promises to come alive in the hearts of His children, and gives them faith to appropriate them in prayer and plead them before His face, until He answers from heaven in revival, who are we to suggest that this is a misapplication of God's promises to Israel? The outcome is conclusive evidence that God does not think so. "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground" (Isa. 44:3) was one of the promises constantly pleaded in the recent Lewis Awakening, and God responded to such pleading. It has been so with almost every revival.
      The promise of revival, however, is not confined to the Old Testament. The verse just quoted, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground", has its New Testament counterpart: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink . . . as the [O. T.] Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37, 38). The teaching in both passages is the same, and it is the whole principle of revival: the personal thirst - assuaged by the water of the Spirit - resulting in an overflow of blessing.
      Next in order there is the statement of Peter on the day of Pentecost referred to in the opening chapter: "In the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17), where he relates the Joel prophecy to the age of the church. This must be considered more fully in a moment.
      There are the further words of Peter in his address in the porch of the Temple: "Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send the Christ" (Acts 3:19, 20).
      The order set forth here is important. Firstly, repentance and turning to God; secondly, seasons of refreshing from His presence; thirdly, the return of Christ. Here is the promise of revival, "seasons of refreshing", before the return of Christ, and as definite as the promise of the return itself.
      The latter half of Joel 2, from which Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost, applies primarily to the time of Israel's national restoration. It relates to a day when Israel has responded to the call of the Lord (verses 12-17) and her people have turned to Him with all their heart. He will then have pity upon them, and cause that they should be no more a reproach among the nations (verses 18, 19).
      After He had driven away from them "the northern army" (verse 20), He would bless their land by restoring the former rain and the latter rain that "the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil" (verses 23, 24), and they would know that the Lord was in the midst of them (verse 27). After this, the Lord promised to pour out His Spirit on all flesh, in the familiar prophecy, quoted by Peter at Pentecost (verses 28-32).
      These prophecies of the restoration of the rain and of the out-pouring of the Spirit which was to follow come within the space of six verses. They must both be taken literally or both figuratively. We cannot take one literally and spiritualize the other without doing violence to the passage. Plainly, the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit can only be literal, therefore the promise of the former and latter rain must be also taken literally to mean that those special seasons of rain in Palestine to which the Jewish farmer looked in order to obtain maximum fertility from the soil, are to be restored in full measure, as in the beginning, and that this is to take place at the time of Israel's national restoration.
      But "afterward", as Joel says, these natural and temporal blessings were to be followed by their spiritual counterpart - there was to be an outpouring of the Spirit, not upon selected ones here and there, as in Old Testament days, but upon all flesh. This was to be accompanied by wonders in the heavens and in the earth, and was to precede "the great and terrible day of the Lord" (verses 30, 31). There would be a calling on the name of the Lord for deliverance (verse 32), and all this was to be when God should bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem (3:1) as promised.
      It is evident from consideration of these factors that the prophecy, as we find it here in Joel, has not been fulfilled, and must await that day when world-wide blessing shall come through national Israel turning to God, when "all Israel shall be saved" (Rom. 11:26) and "a land shall be born in one day", and "a nation be brought forth at once" (Isa. 66:8).
      Paul expressed it thus: "If the casting away of them [the nation of Israel] is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom. 11:15).
      However, the wonderful fact is that Peter declared on the day of Pentecost, "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel", and then changing the word "afterward", he continued, "In the last days. . . I will pour forth of My Spirit". The inspired Apostle thus revealed that Joel's prophecy had an earlier application to the age of the church, "the last days", which began with Pentecost.
      It is a feature of Old Testament prophecy, that there is very often a secondary fulfilment as well as the primary and literal one. The primary fulfilment is of necessity an exact fulfilment of the prophecy in every detail. The secondary fulfilment which usually precedes and anticipates the primary, will be but a partial fulfilment. Failure to recognize or acknowledge this duality in prophecy has led to much confusion.
      Joel thus predicts for Israel, at the time of her national restoration, the return of the former and latter rain in Palestine, bringing abundant temporal blessing, to be followed by a glorious "latter rain" of the Spirit. Peter reveals by inspiration what could not otherwise have been known from the passage in Joel, that the promised "latter rain" of the Spirit was also to apply to the age of the church; that hidden away in that Old Testament prophecy was a secret purpose of God, to pour out His Spirit during this age and before the time of Israel's national restoration, and that this began with the outpouring at Pentecost. "Upon all flesh" indicates that the outpouring was to be unrestricted - as to sex, "sons and daughters" (Acts 2:17); as to age, "young men and old men" (2:17); as to race, "to you and to your children [Jews], and to all that are afar off [Gentiles]" (2:39).
      It hardly needs to be asserted that the history of Israel in the Old Testament has a spiritual application to the church. Who has not seen that the redemption from Egypt, the wanderings in the wilderness, the entering of the Promised Land have a fulfilment in Christian experience? The New Testament confirms this again and again, for it is packed with Old Testament allusions to illustrate and enforce New Testament truths (viz. 1 Cor. 10). It now remains to show that the promised outpouring of the Spirit referred to by Peter at Pentecost was prefigured by the rain that God promised He would pour out upon the land in response to the obedience of His people.
      When the nation was about to enter Canaan, God said through Moses, "The land, whither ye go over to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven. . .
      And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil" (Deut. 11:11-14).
      It is clear from this passage that the harvest was dependent upon the rain, and that the rain was promised by God, contingent upon their obedience.
      There are many references in Scripture to the long "dry season" in Palestine which commences in April and lasts until October, leaving the ground parched and the cisterns almost empty. Only those who have experienced this "dry season" in the East can appreciate the great longing which fills the hearts of all for the coming rain. How graphic are David's words in this connection: "My soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee, in a dry and weary land, where no water is" (Ps. 63:1; cf. Isa. 32:2; 35:7).
      The rainy season usually commences about the end of October with light showers that soften the ground (Ps. 65:10), and then continues with heavy intermittent falls of ten lasting for two or three days, throughout November and December. These heavy falls were called in Scripture "the former [or early] rain" (Heb. yoreh or moreh). The farmer depends upon the former rain to render the rocklike soil suitable for ploughing and sowing.
      A native of Palestine has written in this connection, "When the rains have come in sufficient quantities, he must begin to plough. He may have to plough in the face of hail and snow, storm and tempest, but plough he must, for if he does not plough and sow with the early rains, he will not reap after the latter rains" (Prov. 20:4; Eccles. 11: 4) (Samuel Schor).
      When these heavy falls are over, lesser showers still continue intermittently. "At no period during the winter do they entirely cease" (Smith's Dictionary). With the approach of the harvest, however, the heavy rain would return to swell the grain and fruit in preparation for the time of reaping. This was known as "the latter rain", meaning the rain of ingathering, which was very similar in character to the "former rain", for both are described by the word "geshem", meaning gushing rain. "Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain [geshem], both the former and the latter, in its season; that reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest" (Jer. 5:24; cf. Joel 2: 23, 24, Hos. 6:3).
      We see from this that the former and latter rains are distinguished from various other kinds of rain spoken of in Scripture (in all ten different Hebrew words are used) by their own distinctive names, and by the description "geshem" or "gushing rain", that pours down in copious falls. It is also clear that the former and latter rains could not be expected at any time, for they had their appointed seasons. Finally, both were related to the long-looked- for harvest, for without them there would be neither sowing nor reaping.
      On the face of it, the similarity between this rainy season of Canaan and the age of the church is striking. Just as that season was heralded by preliminary showers that soon gave way to the copious falls of the former rain, so in the ministries of John the Baptist (when there "went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan" Matt. 3:5), and of Christ, (when "there followed Him great multitudes from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judaea and from beyond Jordan" Matt. 4:25), we see distinct movements of the Spirit which told all those looking for the consolation of Israel that the season of drought was over, and that a new and glorious season of rain had come.
      At the outset of His ministry the Lord said, "Thou shalt see greater things than these" (John 1:50), and at its conclusion, "Greater works than these shall [ye] do" (John 14:12). The former rain was at hand, and Pentecost marked its commencement. "In the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of My Spirit." The outpourings continued throughout that first century, gradually decreasing in power and frequency as time elapsed and faith and spirituality decline.
      However, all through the ensuing centuries of the dark middle ages, the showers continued here and there, now and again. Such histories as Broadbent's Pilgrim Church make it clear that at no point, not even in the darkest days, did the rain of blessing entirely cease, though the heavier outpourings of revival were few and far between. Since the Reformation there have been outpourings more distinct and frequent.
      The latter rain is in preparation for the day of harvest; it is the last epoch of the rainy season prior to the final ingathering. But when and what is the harvest? In the parable of the tares the Lord explained that "the harvest is the end of the age" when "the Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that cause stumbling, and them that do iniquity" (Matt. 13:39, 41). It will be the time when the word shall come to the one "like unto a son of man" sitting upon the white cloud, "Send forth Thy sickle, and reap: for the hour to reap is come". He will then "cast His sickle (viz. angels; Matt. 13:39, 41) upon the earth", and the earth shall be reaped (Rev. 14:14-16). The harvest is clearly associated in Scripture with the coming of Christ at the end of the age.
      It has been shown that this age of the church is the time of rain. We may look upon Pentecost as the commencement of the former rain, for it was during those first and powerful effusions of the Spirit that the gospel was spread throughout the civilized world, and the ground prepared for the final harvest. Before the age concludes with the personal return of Christ at harvest time we must expect the latter rain of promise, or the rain of ingathering.
      How can the day of reaping come before this final season of the outpouring of the Spirit, so vital for the final maturing of the spiritual harvest? Just as the rainy season of Canaan concluded with the same kind of rain as it began, the "geshem" or heavy rain, so should we expect before the coming of Christ a season of mighty outpourings, eclipsing all that the church has experienced since the Reformation, and only comparable in character and in power with the former rain of the early church.
      James puts the matter beyond doubt when he says, "Be patient therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it, until it receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (Jas. 5:7, 8).
      Do we long for the day of harvest? Do we grow impatient for the coming of the Lord? It is as though the apostle would curb our restless spirits, and enjoin us to be patient by reminding us that the heavenly Husbandman has been waiting all through the long seasons, waiting for the fulfilment of His purposes, waiting for the precious fruit of the earth at the time of harvest.
      We must be imitators of "the God of patience", who has been waiting so much longer than we have. The Husbandman knows, and those also who labour as His servants should know, that before the final harvest day can dawn at the coming of the Lord the fruit of the earth must receive the early and the latter rain.
      If we in this day can look backward to the former rain, we have still to look forward to the latter rain, the final epoch of the age, prior to the day of harvest.
      Leaving aside for a moment the testimony of Scripture on this point, one has only to survey with unprejudiced eye the harvest-fields of God's kingdom, one has only to examine the spiritual condition of that which is growing up unto the harvest to be convinced of the absolute necessity of the latter rain of the Spirit before the fruit of the earth can be mature for harvesting.
      If it has been shown that there is in the word of God a promise of revival for us today, if there is any evidence that we are, in the purpose of God, moving into the era of the latter rain, then let us heed the word of God to Israel, let us do what they shall do in a coming day: "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain, even of the Lord that maketh lightnings; and He shall give them [geshem] showers of rain" (Zech. 10:1).
      Pour down Thy Spirit once again, dear Lord;
      Our cry goes up to Thee for "latter rain";
      Unite Thy people as the "heart of one",
      And Pentecostal days shall come again!
       - E. M. GRIMES.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The three dimensions of the cross by William Still


click each link for each dimension 1, 2, 3.
Speaker: W Still
Scripture:
Series: The three dimensions of the cross
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Speaker: W Still

What is it to be a Christian? (MP3 Series) by William Still


still3.jpgThe Reverend William Still ministered in Gilcomston South Church of Scotland for 52 years. Through William Still's ministry, many men (including Sinclair Ferguson and Eric Alexander) would follow in his footsteps. By the 1970s there was a network of evangelical Churches up and down Scotland committed to the systematic preachiing of the Bible. Mr Still produced weekly preaching notes under the auspices of what was known as the Didasko Press to aid his disciples in their preaching.
The following files are in MP3 format. To download, right click and save to your hard drive.
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Monday, 4 July 2016

Brownlow North: A Zealous Preacher:Knox Hyndman

Preachers of the Gospel are dealing with truths which always ought to grip their hearts. They are ministering to people who are of infinite worth. Their purpose is to glorify God. Zeal then is surely essential in every preacher of the Gospel. It was a characteristic of the Saviour Who in His ministry fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, ‘ He wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak’.
What then is zeal ? The simplest definition is that it is strong feeling, and intense enthusiasm. Throughout the history of the Church it has been seen in many preachers of the Gospel. One such man was the eighteenth century evangelist Brownlow North.
Early life and conversion
Brownlow North was born in January, 1810. He was a man with several significant ancestors. His father Charles Augustus had been rector of Alverstroke in Hampshire. His grandfather had been a bishop in the Church of England. He also numbered among his relatives the Prime Minister Lord North, who served under George III.
It is not surprising then that Brownlow North’s early life followed the course of a member of the upper class. As a youth he was sent to Eton where he became known as ‘Gentleman Jack’. Life was one long round of self-indulgence. He grew up as a constant smoker, a heavy drinker and a notorious gambler and admitted, ‘My greatest idea of pleasure was to shoot grouse and catch salmon.’
Physically he was extremely strong and a very able horseman. He was also gifted with enormous levels of stamina and could walk the hills for miles without apparently getting weary. His appearance was striking. Though less than average height, plump and with a deep chest and broad shoulders, he had an aristocratic bearing. However, such were his facial features that one contemporary commented unkindly, following North’s conversion, ‘If he is to do any good he will require a reformed face as well as reformed life.’
After going on the ‘Grand Tour’ and experiencing disappointment when he was denied the title of Earl of Gilford, which it was assumed he would inherit, Brownlow North crossed to Ireland and travelled to Galway on the west coast. There he met Grace Ann Coffey, the daughter of the local rector, Rev Thomas Coffey. They were married while Brownlow North was still only nineteen . The couple subsequently had three sons.
After a foray into Europe where he enlisted in the army of Don Pedro, North returned home and settled in Scotland. It was 1835 and from that time on, with some interludes and a brief time in London, Scotland remained his adopted home. His pattern of life remained the same as it had always been. He threw himself into the life of a country gentleman and adopted as his motto ‘every day and all day’.
Conversion
Though Brownlow North’s life seemed to be utterly profligate, we must remember that his mother continued to pray for her wayward son. She had taught him from childhood the great truths of the Gospel and occasionally during this period of careless living, he did seem to have serious thoughts and concerns about his spiritual state.
Once he was staying at Huntly for shooting and while there attended a dinner at the home of the godly Duchess of Gordon. She later recounted how, during the meal, North suddenly turned to her and asked, ‘Duchess, what should a man do who has often prayed to God and never been answered?’ The Duchess recounted her response, ‘I lifted my heart to God to teach me what to say, then answered, "You ask and receive not because you ask amiss that ye may consume it on your lusts."
Not long after that and following the near death of one of his sons, North received a tract from the Duchess. Suddenly he announced that he was going to Oxford to study for the Church. He tried to reform his life, but years afterward was to say, ‘The house was swept and garnished but empty.’ He did however spend two years in study at Oxford in Magdalen College and had the prospect of a curacy in Buckinghamshire. When the Bishop learned something of the kind of life North had been living before his arrival in Oxford, however, he confronted him with these facts. North had to admit that he was not in fact a suitable candidate for ordination.
By the following year, 1845, he was back in Scotland and back to his old ways – cards, gambling, shooting grouse and fishing. Reform had ended. Religion had apparently been dismissed as an unfortunate interlude in a life of pleasure. In fact he displayed a certain brazenness in his attitude. On occasions he made a point of driving past the church when people were going to worship and was careful to show that he had in his cart a fishing rod and lunch basket. Yet he was kind, generous and gentlemanly in his attitude. It is said that he wouldn’t stay in a room with men whose conversation was marked by infidelity and blasphemy.
In 1854 Brownlow North was on the Dallas Moors in Aberdeenshire. He was almost forty-four. In the second week in November he was sitting in the billiard room after dinner, playing cards and smoking his cigar. Suddenly he was seized with violent pains which were so severe that he was sure he was about to die. ‘My first thought then was, Now what will my forty-four years of following the devices of my own heart profit me? In a few minutes I shall be in hell.’ In later years he was to say, ‘I believe it was a turning point with me. I believe that if I had at that time resisted the Holy Spirit it would have been once too often.’ Next day he told his friends that he had given his heart to Christ. The whole direction of his life changed dramatically. He began to attend the Free Church in Elgin where Rev Donald Gordon was minister.

His conversion, however, was followed by great spiritual struggles. One of his greatest struggles was with the temptation to atheism. Even when engaged in prayer he felt as if the devil was at his elbow whispering in his ear, ‘There is no God.’ At such times North would walk in the garden and say aloud, ‘God is, there is a God.’ At last he came out of these struggles settled in his faith and convictions. On the first page of the New Testament which he began to use on first January 1855, he wrote, ‘Brownlow North, a man whose sins crucified the Son of God.’
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Sunday, 26 June 2016

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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