Thursday, 26 April 2012

These days of hurry & bustle or the normal Christian prayer life?

As we come to the end of another great week of prayer, I have been challenged again by these old words from E M Bounds on prayer. You may have already come across these stories, but don't allow their familiarity to rob you of the provocation that they provide. I will let Bounds speak in his own words.

'The men who have most fully illustrated Christ in their character, and have most powerfully affected the world for Him, have been men who spent so much time with God as to make it a notable feature of their lives. Charles Simeon devoted the hours from four until eight in the morning to God. Mr Wesley spent two hours daily in prayer. He began at four in the morning. Of him, one who knew him well wrote, 'He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him come out of his (prayer) closet with a serenity of face next to shining.'

Luther said:'If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.'

Archbishop Leighton was so much alone with God that he seemed to be in a perpetual meditation. 'Prayer and praise were his business and his pleasure.' said his biographer. He was with God before the clock struck three every morning.

Bishop Asbury said, 'I propose to rise at four as often as I can and spend two hours in prayer and meditation'. Joseph Alleine arose at four o clock for his business of praying until eight. If he heard other tradesmen plying their business before he was up, he would exclaim, 'O how this shames me! Does not my master deserve more than theirs?'

John Welch, the holy and wonderful Scottish preacher thought the day ill spent if he did not spend eight or ten hours a day in prayer. He kept a plaid that he might wrap himself up when he arose to pray at night. His wife would complain when she found him lying on the ground weeping. He would reply, 'O Woman, I have the souls of three thousand to answer for, and I know not how it is with many of them!'

Bounds wrote these words over one hundred years ago to another generation, but he speaks with prophetic insight to our day when he concludes: 'This however, is not a day of prayer. Few men there are who these days of hurry and bustle, of electricity and steam, men will not take time to pray.'
The days of steam seem slow in comparison to the acceleration of the pace of life in our generation. Our hurry and bustle continue unabated. Will we be those who heed Bounds call to prayer? Can we afford not to?

Friday, 6 April 2012

What's so good about Good Friday?

If you had asked the disciples, the friends of Jesus who had shared their lives with him and lived through all the highs and lows, they would never have called it a good Friday. They would have called it 'Very Bad Friday', or 'Friday the Worst!'

They still didn't understand, immersed in the story as they were, unable to see the end from the beginning. It's not like that for us, we are not in the dark. We know the end of the story. Can you imagine anyone going to see the relaunched Titanic movie in 3D this weekend and wondering whether the boat sinks or not?! This is our position, we know that the man who died on the Friday, came through death and out the other side into indestructable life!

We know Good Friday is good news because with his death on the cross, Jesus broke the curse that we were under. The curse of separation which has been marked over our lives since the beginning, in the Garden, when Adam and Eve first made a decision to live their lives independently from the God who made them for relationship. Since that time, the curse has been like a thread, entangling all of our lives. However hard we try to overcome it with the extremes of our religion, or our ignorance of God, the curse looms large like the Titanic iceberg, no way past, a certain tragedy.

The scriptures tell us that Christ takes that curse on himself, on the cross - our shame, our separation, our punishment. This is good news on Good Friday.

He is an effective curse-breaker. The gospel accounts confirm that as soon as Jesus breathed his last breath, the giant curtain in the temple tore in two, from top to bottom. This barrier between the holy place in the temple, and the ordinary - if ever there was a symbol of the curse of separation, the curtain in the temple was it.

In one moment, this no entry sign is removed. So complete and final is this work of demolishing the curse, the later scripture writers are able to say that we can now confidently enter into the presence of God, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, through his body which is the curtain.

So Good Friday is good news. In our sorrow, he is more than just a comforter : The torn curtain means we can follow him right through into the joy of restored friendship and acceptance with the Father. In our darkness, we can follow Christ through the torn curtain, the blazing light of the world.
In our fears, our anxieties, our depression, we can walk through the torn curtain into the perfect love of the Father which chases fear away - even the ultimate fear of death no longer has a sting in it's tail. In our sickness, we step through the torn curtain with a glimmer of hope that we might just experience a foretaste now of the irresistible resurrection life of Christ in our bodies.

So Good Friday is good news. When you draw your curtains at home tonight, you can thank God that the way to Him will never be closed for you. When you open your curtains tomorrow and the bright light of a new day dawns in your home, you can thank Jesus that he has flooded your life with hope in his resurrection life forever.