Plunging into a new year, the imperatives for and constraints against preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ have both ramped up considerably.
A year has gone past since the meetings in the Holyrood building of the Scottish Parliament concerning the ‘hate poster’ issue and, very sadly, the spiritual condition of Scotland has become even worse since then. However permit me to share three things which have been a challenge to me personally to ‘press on’ in the things of God.
A couple of years ago, and while glancing through my daily newspaper, I spotted a ‘quote’ from the TV personality and breakfast show host Eamonn Holmes. While recognisable as a ‘cheeky/cheerie chappie’ with a ready wit and likeable personality, I had not known him as a philosopher: neither do I know what prompted his quoted remark. But what he said was this:
“[Today] I have more experience behind me than I have ever had;
and [today] I have more opportunity before me than I will ever have.”
And I guess that this is true for us all. As such, and for those of us who are Christians, I came to ponder on both what the Lord has – spiritually and experientially – put into each of our lives; and also the ever-lessening period of time we each have to employ these things in the work of the Kingdom. To paraphrase the above quote:
“We have an increasing store (placed within us by God); and a decreasing time to effectively use it (for the Gospel and for the Kingdom).” In the context of the privilege which is ours in Jesus Christ it is quite a calling and quite a responsibility.
Meanwhile and elsewhere a good friend of mine Douglas Mowat was delivering an excellent illustrated presentation on the Lewis Revival under Duncan Campbell. During that awakening and at four o’clock one morning – with no church in their village open at that time – a group of about 200 people had gathered at the local police station. Why? They had come under the conviction of sin and knew that the policeman was a Christian. As a bit of 'drive-by' rhetoric my friend posed the question to those of us present:
“If revival broke out in your street at four in the morning,
would the people know where to go?”
This led me to think: Would those in my neighborhood come to our house? Would those in your street come to yours?
As our country sinks deeper into Godlessness I am more and more convinced that ultimately there are only two things that will bring us back to the Lord - prayer and the fearless and faithful preaching of the Gospel of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is in this regard, and in the context to the increasing hostility to the Christian message that I come to the last of my new year ‘challenges’.
Towards the end of 2019 myself and my wife re-visited a most stirring address given at the Keswick-in-Buckie Convention in 2008. The speaker, Rev. Jonathan Stephen, taught and preached most powerfully from the experience of the apostles in 1st-century Thessalonica. I have augmented the video with some current context and also made an 8-minute trailer (to provide a time-efficient summary).
The trailer is embedded in an article entitled ‘The Troublesome Gospel’ which carries an extract from a recent posting by Rev. Dr. Campbell Campbell-Jack covering the same theme. Both the video and the blog posting make reference to the counter-cultural message which the Gospel - faithfully delivered - presents to our society.
While the trailer carries some of the challenging points, I would thoroughly recommend taking the time to listen to the full message from Rev. Stephen: it is highly instructive, powerful, challenging and relevant. (See Footnote.)
Footnote: The full video message lasts an hour. There is a short introductory piece (on both the trailer and the full video) to give some contemporary context. Images have been overlaid for the same reason. Links, credits and further information are appended to the full message. But it can be obtained by contacting the Editor. [The company which produced the original 'bare' video is no longer in business.]