Sunday, 16 August 2015

New website, new blog!

We've got a new website - same address, but with a completely new look! As part of this upgrade, our blog has moved from being externally hosted by Google’s Blogger platform, to full integration with the new WordPress-powered site. However, this old blog will still be online and act as an archive for old posts, so if you ever want to go back and read previous posts, you still can.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Revival - Part 13: Tthe 1859 Revival in Wales

The Revival had its beginnings in Cardiganshire in 1858 with the preaching of Humphrey Jones and David Morgan, but the two men differed in their views of revival. Jones applied the methods he had learned from Finney in America, believing that revival would come if certain practices were followed, but Morgan on the other hand believed revival to be a sovereign work of God. They parted company in early 1859, Jones being disillusioned with the results of his ministry. David Morgan had prayed for many years for revival and in 1859 he experienced what he described as an anointing of the Spirit. One night Morgan had an extraordinary encounter with God, ‘I awoke at four in the morning, remembering everything of a religious nature that I had ever learnt or heard’. This soon became evident in his preaching. It was his practice to preach for about 30 minutes to be followed by a hymn. Then he would address unbelievers in a very direct manner urging them to believe in Christ. A fellow minister commented that there was nothing new in what was said but it was “the power of the Spirit by which it was anointed.” At the end of 1859 Morgan had another experience. He said, “I have been wrestling for the blessing and I have received it.”
A turning point in the revival occurred in Tregaron in Nov 1858 with Morgan (pictured right) praising God for evidence of ‘a rising cloud’, and earnestly beseeching God, ‘let the whole sky grow black’.The hymn following the sermon was repeated over and over and there were scenes of weeping and rejoicing. News spread throughout Wales and reports of many conversions followed thick and fast. One of the chief characteristics of the revival was prayer, both public and in families, and it was only rarely that preaching was omitted. In the meetings the presence of God was felt to be overwhelming and this increased as the revival went on. There was weeping over sin, and time and everyday matters seemed to be unimportant.
After 1860 David Morgan continued to preach in the Calvinistic Denomination, but he was never again to know the power that he had experienced in those two years. It is estimated that in the years 1859 to 1860 over 110,000 people were added to the churches in Wales. The churches were strengthened and the whole of society was affected for good. These years were wonderful times for the whole of the UK, and revival took place in England, Scotland and Ulster.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Star Gazing

The article in the daily newspaper caught my attention immediately; “Want to be more selfless? Try gazing at the stars” read the headline. It concerned some research carried out by a Dr. Piff of the University of California (I know – I nearly gave up when I read that, but stick with it!) which showed that when people looked at something amazing in the natural world, they became more considerate of others and altogether nicer. Those who were awe-inspired reacted more altruistically in a series of tests than those who weren’t. Interesting, that, isn’t it?
For those who know their Bibles of course, the research results shouldn’t come as a surprise. Whereas unbelievers look up their stars in the newspaper, for Christians, looking up at the stars of the heavens is a biblical discipline. Recently in our study of Galatians we reminded ourselves of that covenant-establishing moment recorded in Genesis 15 when God told Abraham to look at the night-time sky. According to Galatians 3, you and I are part of the fulfillment of that great promise.
A thousand years or more later, David was doing the same thing, and Psalm 8 was the result. If you have a Bible to hand, find the psalm and remind yourself of its glorious poetry. When David looked at the stars he recalled the amazing grandeur of God and his creative power. It led him to worship the God whose name is excellent in all the earth. It made him think too of how insignificant man was by comparison, and of how remarkable it was that God should care about him and even visit him with salvation. That too led him to praise God even more! As we look at the same stars three thousand years later, we should feel the same.
In Hebrews chapter 2, the writer quotes from Psalm 8, and leads us to the Lord Jesus Christ. He, of course, is the one who ‘flung stars into space’, carefully speaking them into their exact orbit on the fourth day of creation! Five little words in Genesis 1, “He made the stars also”, comprise the most astonishing understatement ever made! There are, we are told, 18 billion planets in our solar system alone! Even more remarkably, this same Lord Jesus chose to become man, to lay aside the presence and praise of angels and make Himself a little lower than the angels. Listen to verse 9 which tells us why; “But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
However kind we are to others as a result of looking into the heavens, our life on this planet one day must come to an end. We have to face not space - the final frontier, but death - the final enemy. How can we do that with any hope? Only if we are trusting in the Lord Jesus who tasted death and conquered it! He died for the sins of his people, and rose again that they might have eternal life. Are you trusting in Him?

Monday, 15 June 2015

Falling Short (Lessons from Life)

A recent children’s talk by our pastor reminded me of my days as a student at the old Abersychan Mining and Technical Institute. The class had assembled and waited the arrival of our tutor, all restless and fidgety. After some delay the deputy head arrived to announce that as our tutor was sick, he would be taking the lesson. I do not remember what lesson we were to have had, but I did learn a lesson I never forgot.
Having taken up our exercise books, pencils and ruler we were instructed to draw a line two inches long!! With that the deputy head left the room. Whatever was he thinking of? After all technical drawing was on the curriculum, so we knew how to draw a straight line, didn’t we?
The task was swiftly accomplished, pencils put down, chaos reigned. Then, just before the lesson was due to close, the deputy head reappeared, silence fell as he said “Now measure the line you have drawn.” There was utter disbelief, “But sir,” spluttered one bright spark, “its two inches long, like you said,” “I know what I asked you to do” replied the deputy, “ now measure it again, but this time instead of laying the ruler flat on the paper, as you did to draw the line, turn the ruler onto its edge, and then measure the line.” “Now how long is the line you have drawn?” One measured one inch and fifteen sixteenths, another two and one sixteenths of an inch, another two and one eighth inches. Of twenty two students only two or three came anywhere near being correct. When the ruler had been carefully laid against the line drawn our careless and casual errors were revealed.
So also in our lives. Lives lived according to our ideas and thoughts always fall short of the ruler of God’s law. Romans 3:23 reminds us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Psalmist also reminds us there is none righteous no not one (Psalm 14:1-3).
However ROM 3:24 says we can know redemption and justification through faith in Jesus Christ. God setting a new standard in our lives. A new measure of true perfection, that is the fullness of Christ Himself ( Ephesians 4:11-13). This state is not arrived at overnight, but by the Spirit of the Lord we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Which measure or rule governs your life?

Monday, 8 June 2015

Revival - Part 12: Revivalism

The New School Theology, a modified form of Calvinism, developed in America in the latter half of the 18th century. One of its teachings was that man had not lost all ability to accept the Gospel but had only lost the desire. This led to the belief that anyone can be persuaded to believe given the right inducements. Preaching became an attempt to make the person want to be saved, to come to a decision at once, and to publicly make a profession of faith. Revivalism was the belief that revival could be created by use of the right means.
In the early 1800s open air camp meetings were held on the American frontier that were characterised by a highly charged atmosphere at which strange emotional and physical phenomena occurred. There were reports of falling, rolling, jerking and dancing. Many converts were claimed and each meeting was hailed as a mini revival. Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875, pictured right) believed that God had revealed the necessary conditions for the creation of revival and these he detailed in his book “Lectures on Revival”. Finney took the ethos of the camp meetings and started preaching at revival meetings in the North Eastern states. His preaching was aimed at putting pressure on the will of the people to make a decision, and to come to the anxious seat as a public profession of their new faith. The results at first were very encouraging with large numbers professing faith. However, Finney later admitted in “Lessons on Revival” that he had been too optimistic about the results, and that most of his converts were a disgrace.
Following Finney’s example the travelling evangelists emerged such as Sankey and Moody, Billy Sunday, and in our own times Billy Graham. Large crowds were assembled by means of mass advertising and each meeting was carefully planned and executed to bring about the required results. People were prepared by singing to hear the Gospel message, after which they were urged to come to the front and publicly profess their faith. Large numbers of converts have been claimed for these meetings, but they have proved to be only temporary.
Revivalism has been an attempt to create revival by what are mainly psychological means. It is true that genuine converts have been made, but in general the effects are short lived, and the influence on the community minimal.