Friday, 21 September 2018

LBC Prayer Week: Devotion 6

The following incident from the life of George Müller is related by Mr. Inglis, who heard the story from the captain of the ship with whom Müller prayed.

When I first came to America, thirty-one years ago. I crossed the Atlantic with the captain of a steamer who was one of the most devoted men I ever knew, and when we were off the banks of Newfoundland be said to me:
"Mr. Inglis, the last time I crossed here, five weeks ago, one of the most extraordinary things happened which, has completely revolutionized the whole of my Christian life. Up to that time I was one of your ordinary Christians. We had a man of God on board, George Müller, of Bristol. I had been on that bridge for twenty-two hours and never left it. I was startled by some one tapping me on the shoulder. It was George Müller:
"'Captain, he said, 'I have come to tell you that I must be In Quebec on Saturday afternoon.' This was Wednesday.
"'It is impossible,' I said.
"'Very well, if your ship can't take me, God will find some other means of locomotion to take me. I have never broken an engagement in fifty seven years.'
"’I would willingly help you. How can I? I am helpless.'
"'Let us go down to the chart-room and pray.'
"I looked at that man of God, and I thought to myself, what lunatic asylum could that man have come from? I never heard of such a thing.
"'Mr. Müller,' I said, 'do you know how dense the fog is?'
"'No,' he replied, 'my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God who controls every circumstance of my life.'
"He got down on his knees and prayed one of the most simple prayers. I muttered to myself: 'That would suit a children's class where the children were not more than eight or nine years old.' The burden of his prayer was something like this: 'O Lord, if it is consistent with Thy will, please remove this fog in five minutes. You know the engagement you made for me in Quebec Saturday. I believe it is your will.'
"When he finished. I was going to pray, but he put his hand on my shoulder and told me not to pray. "First, you do not believe He will; and second. I believe He has. And there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.' I looked at him, and George Müller said..
"'Captain. I have known my Lord for forty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to gain an audience with the King. Get up, captain, and open the door, and you will find the fog is gone.' I got up, and the fog was gone!
"You tell that to some people of a scientific turn of mind, and they will say, 'That is not according to natural laws.' No, it is according to spiritual laws. The God with whom we have to do is omnipotent. Hold on to God's omnipotence. Ask believingly. On Saturday afternoon, I may add, George Müller was there on time."
Herald of gospel liberty, Volume 102, Issues 27-52

Thursday, 20 September 2018

LBC Prayer Week: Devotion 5

One New Year's day, before going to visit his uncle Dick, who was an invalid, the Holy Spirit revealed to Rees Howell (1879-1950) that it was the Father's will to heal him.  Rees' response was to think that it seemed 'too good to be true, and too great too believe.'  His uncle had not been able to walk for thirty years!

When he arrived at his uncle's home his uncle asked, 'Anything new from the Lord?'  Rees informed him about what God has told him.  His uncle needed a moment to take this in, went out to pray in the garden, and then returned with a radiant face.  'Yes,' uncle Dick declared, 'I am to be healed in four and a half months, that will be on May 15.'

The news was spread that Uncle Dick was going to be healed.  Two weeks before the date of the healing, the Lord made it known to Rees that he was to leave home for a few months, and that after telling his uncle he wasn't to visit him until after the healing.  When he went to inform his uncle, his uncle said that he would be healed at 5 o'clock in the morning and that he would then walk to the chapel and back (15th May was a Sunday).

On the night before the healing Uncle Dick was as bad as ever.  As usual he had to get up between one and two.  However, when he went back to bed a deep sleep came over him.  The next day he heard the clock striking five, and he found himself perfectly restored.  He called the family up to visit him, and there was a sense of solemn awe.  When he arrived at the church there was another time of thanksgiving.  People from all parts of the district came the next day to see him.  The Welsh correspondent of The Life of Faith, wrote an article in that paper about the wonderful healing.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

LBC Prayer Week: Devotion 4

In the early 1930’s a poor carpenter in the mountains of Romania prayed the following prayer:

‘My God, I have served you on earth and I wish to have my reward on earth as well as in heaven. And my reward should be that I should not die before I bring a Jew to Christ, because Jesus was from the Jewish people. But I am poor, old and sick. I cannot go around and seek a Jew. In my village there are none. Bring a Jew into my village and I will do my best to bring him to Christ.’

God heard that prayer and graciously answered. A young Jewish man, who had become an atheist, was passing through some spiritual turmoil. He found himself thinking about the God he said that he did not believe existed. He would be passing churches and be drawn to go in. Then something drew him to the carpenter’s village. ‘I had no reason to go there. Romania has twelve thousand villages, but I went to that one.’

‘The carpenter courted me as never a beautiful girl had been courted.’ He saw the young Jewish man as an answer to his prayer and gave him a Bible to read. ‘The Bible he gave me was written not so much with words, but in flames of love fired by his prayers. I could barely read it. I could only weep over it, comparing my bad life with the life of Jesus; my impurity with His righteousness; my hatred with His love—and accepted me as one of His own.’

That young Jewish atheist was Richard Wurmbrand; who would go on to be one of the most celebrated Christians of the twentieth century. Are we praying that God would use us in bringing people to himself?

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

LBC Prayer Week: Devotion 3.

George Mueller cared for orphans, in Bristol, in the 1800s.  His life was marked by amazing answers to prayer.  As can be seen in the following story.
One morning, all the plates and cups and bowls on the table were empty. There was no food in the larder and no money to buy food. The children were standing, waiting for their morning meal, when Müller said, “Children, you know we must be in time for school.” Then lifting up his hands he prayed, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.”
There was a knock at the door. The baker stood there, and said, “Mr. Müller, I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you didn’t have bread for breakfast, and the Lord wanted me to send you some. So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some fresh bread, and have brought it.”
Mr. Müller thanked the baker, and no sooner had he left, when there was a second knock at the door. It was the milkman. He announced that his milk cart had broken down right in front of the orphanage, and he would like to give the children his cans of fresh milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it. 

Monday, 17 September 2018

LBC Prayer Week: Devotion 2

From Brother Andrew in 1967 (in former Yugoslavia)

My first stop was Zagreb. I had been given the name of a Christian leader there, whom I shall call Jamil. The name had come from the Dutch Bible Society, which listed him as a man who occasionally ordered Bibles in quantity. However, they had not heard from him since Tito had become premier in 1945. I hardly dared hope that he would still be living at the same address, but with no other choice, I had written a carefully worded letter stating that towards the end of March a Dutchman might visit his country. And now I was driving into Zagreb, looking for this address. 

To underline the wonders of that first Christian contact in Yugoslavia, I shall have to tell what happened to my letter, even though of course I did not know the whole story until later. It had been delivered to the address all right, but Jamil had long since moved. The new tenant did not know his whereabouts and returned the letter to the post office. There it was held up for two weeks while a search was made for Jamil's new address. On the very day I entered Yugoslavia it was finally delivered. Jamil read it, puzzled. Who was this mysterious Dutchman? Was it safe to try contacting him? 

With nothing better than a vague feeling that he should do something, Jamil boarded a tram and went to his old apartment house. But then what? Jamil stood on the sidewalk wondering how to proceed. Had the Dutchman already arrived, and gone about asking for a certain Jamil? Did he dare go to the new tenant with the suspicious story that some day an unknown Dutchman might call asking for him? What on earth should he do? 

And it was at that moment that I pulled up to the curb and stopped my car. I stepped out not more than two feet away from Jamil, who of course recognised me at once from my licence plates. He seized my hands, and we put our stories together.

Jamil was overjoyed at having a foreign Christian in his country. He repeated the theme I had heard first in Poland, that my 'being there' meant everything. They felt so isolated, so alone.

Of course he would help me set up contacts with believers in his country. He knew just the man to translate for me. So a few days later, with a young engineering student named Nikola as my guide and interpreter, I set off in my blue Volkswagen to bring 'greetings' to the Yugoslavian Christians. 

Copyright © 1967, 2002 by Brother Andrew and John and Elizabeth Sherrill

Sunday, 16 September 2018

LBC Prayer Week: Devotion 1

For this Week of Prayer in LBC I want to share with you some true stories that have really encouraged me.

In his autobiography ‘Out of the Black Shadows’, the Zimbabwean Bible teacher, Stephen Lungu, recounts the story of how he came from being a gang member to being a Christian.  He also tells the amazing account of how he met his wife.
One day when Stephen was praying he had what he describes as a sort of waking vision.  In this vision he saw a young woman seated before him, dressed in a loose blue outfit and holding a Bible.  The Bible happened to be upside down yet in the vision he could see what page it was opened at—Acts 26.  This was hugely significant for Stephen as the Lord had used Acts 26 previously in his life.  This vision came to him two more times over the following two years and he occasionally thought about it and wondered what it meant.        
When he was visiting another part of the country, a friend mischievously suggested that he must meet a girl called Rachel. 
A few days later he was speaking at a youth meeting.  After he had preached he was talking to a man who was asking him questions about faith.  Stephen’s eye was caught by the person seated just behind the man—a girl in a loose blue outfit, holding a Bible, which happened to be upside-down and open at Acts 26.   The next day he decided to visit the man he had been talking with.  When he arrived the houseboy told him that he was out.  Seeing Stephen’s disappointment the houseboy invited him in and told him to wait a moment.  Then a young woman appeared.  Stephen could not believe his eyes.  It was the young woman from the vision again, the man’s sister, who happened to be the girl, Rachel, his friend had said he should meet.
Do you think that Stephen Lungu thinks those events were simply a strange set of coincidences?  That Rachel ‘just happened’ to be in that dress, that she ‘just happened’ to holding the Bible upside down at Acts 26, and that she ‘just happened’ to be the woman his friend suggested he meet and the sister of the man he was visiting?  God may be invisible but things don’t ‘just happen.’
What ever you are facing today, remember that the God who stands behind all things cares for you.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

What do your words say about you? (Proverbs)

‘Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.’  Rubbish!  Not even close to being true.  Words wound us.  Some of you carry scars from the harsh words of a teacher or parent.  Those words stung.  The Proverbs put it much more accurately when they claim: ‘There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts’ (12:18a).

This morning we are looking at one of the major themes in the book of Proverbs: our use of words.  In particular, we are going to examine the difference between harsh words and gracious words.  We will also see four keys to speaking better words.
Harsh words taste good, but gracious words are sweet
At the end of Proverbs there is a portrait of the ideal woman.  This woman’s life is a living illustration of the wisdom of Proverbs.  We see that ‘the teaching of kindness is on her tongue’ (31:26b).  However, not all words are kind.  Gossip and flattery are anything but kind.
‘The words of a gossip [literally ‘the whisperer’] are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts’ (18:8).  We gossip because we enjoy it.  It appeals to our sinful nature (lit. ‘flesh’), whose works include envy, jealousy, strife, enmity, fits of anger and the like (Galatians 5:20-21).  The words of a gossip may be true, but they are told in such a way as to make the subject of gossip look bad.  Gossip makes us feel superior to the person being gossiped about.  We want people to think that we would never do what they are doing.  As we see others put down, we feel ourselves being lifted up.
As well as gossip, the Proverbs warn of the danger of falling for flattery.  ‘A person who flatters his neighbour spreads a net for their feet’ (29:5).  I heard a clever explanation of the difference between gossip and flattery: gossip is when you say something behind someone’s back that you would never say to their face, and flattery is when you say something to their face that you would never say behind their back.  Be on our guard against flattery!  Don’t use charm to manipulate people!
Harsh words are not the only words that have a taste.  ‘Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body’ (16:24).  As one commentator points out, there is a spirit of friendliness in such gracious words.  It actually tastes good to speak kindly to people.  It tastes good to say, ‘thank you’ or ‘I am sorry’.  It tastes good to speak positively about people.
This issue of taste provides us with the first key to changing how we speak.  You see certain tastes don’t go well together.  You might like meat balls, but not with your muesli.  So, if you fill your mouth with the muesli of kind words, you will not want to add the meatballs of gossip.  
Key One:  Fill your mouth with loving words that taste good, and you will have no appetite for words that do harm.  Practice speaking graciously, and you won’t want to tear people apart by what you say about them.  Practice encouragement and you will give up the put-downs.
Harsh words show a lack of love, but gracious words bring healing
While harsh words are like sword thrusts, ‘the tongue of the wise brings healing’ (12:18b).  Similarly, ‘anxiety in a person’s heart weighs them down, but good words make them glad’ (12:25).  I think of a card received from a friend when I was struggling with depression, and the encouragement that was.  I think of the caring WhatsApp messages from another friend at the same time.  Have you ever been in a situation where you have been filled with worry, but a friend has listened and spoken gentle words of reassurance?  Do you want to speak words that heal?  
The Proverbs tell us that words have the power of death and life (18:21).  They can cause strife or bring reconciliation.  I remember having an argument with a friend, where I spoke arrogantly, and probably ruined the friendship.  Words can separate close friends (16:28), but they can also make friends out of former enemies (16:7).  Was it not with words that someone spoke the life-giving message of the gospel to you?  Someone sat down with you and explained that while your guilt before a holy God is far more serious than you ever realised, God sent his one and only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.

This provides the second key to changing your words.
Key Two:  Ask God to enable you to love people, so that you want to speak words that heal.  The fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22).  He can cause you to speak kind words that restore, rather than harsh words that wound.
Before going on to our third point, I must point out something that I find very challenging, as someone who speaks too much: Proverbs tell us to listen more and speak less.  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent’ (17:28).  ‘Whoever belittles his brother lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent’ (11:12).
Harsh words are worthless, but gracious words are precious
‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver’ (25:11).  The most precious of all words are the words recorded for us in the Bible.  ‘Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him’ (30:5).   Foolish people don’t see the value of words.  What value can you place on an ‘I love you’ from someone that you adore?  What price could be paid for an ‘well done’ from someone you admire?  I love the line in the film ‘Wonder’: ‘If you have to choose between being right and being kind, choose kind.’
Because words have both power and value, we should think before we speak.  ‘Do you see a person who is hasty in his words?  There is more hope for a fool than him’ (29:20).  We pray with the Psalmist, ‘set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!’ (Psalm 141:3).
Key 3:  Remember the value and power of words, so think before you speak.
Harsh words anger God, but gracious words please him
While God hates deceitful words, gracious words please him.  Isn’t it wonderful that God can take pleasure in words that come from your mouth?  One type of word that he loves is the prayer of his forgiven and adopted children.  ‘The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous’ (15:29).  ‘The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him’ (15:8).  He sees gracious words as pure (15:26b).    In the Revelation we read that ‘the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hands’ (Revelation 8:4).  God loves it when you pour out your heart to him.
Not only do kind words please God, they make us a pleasure to those around us.  ‘He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, has the king for his friend’ (22:11).  When your words are kind, charitable, truthful, sincere and pure you will attract people to you, and you will attract people to God.  When your speech is negative and critical you will repel people from you, and they will not be interested in your God.
Key Four: Remember that God cares about the words that come out of your mouth.  Surely this is the greatest motive to speak gracious words.
Four keys to speaking gracious words:  Fill your mouth with loving words that taste good, and you will have no appetite for words that do harm.  Ask God to enable you to love people, so that you want to speak well of them.  Think before you speak.  Remember that God cares about the words that come out of your mouth.  
Finally, what do your words say about your heart?  Jesus said, ‘out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’ (Luke 6:45).  One blogger explains, ‘A critical heart produces a critical tongue.  A self-righteous heart produces a judgemental tongue.  A bitter heart produces an acerbic tongue.  An ungrateful heart produces a grumbling tongue.  But a loving heart produces a gracious tongue.  A faithful heart produces a truthful tongue.  A peaceful heart produces a reconciling tongue.  A trusting heart produces an encouraging tongue.  So fill your heart with grace …’ (Jon Bloom).  Remember the love that the Father has poured out on you and let it change how you speak!
We finish by praying with the Psalmist: ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer’ (Psalm 19:14).