I guess you learn something after 40 years or so in ministry in a local church setting and in a wider setting which I seemed to be called to be part of for 1 or 3 decades. Here is one thing I have learned. When people rubbish the past they rarely take anything into a better future. In actual fact they tend to undo ground patiently and unostentatiously taken for the Kingdom.I have spoken with people who saw their calling being to bring what God had blessed to an end so that the “more” could emerge. They actually told me to my face without any embarrassment, that they had been called to bring what I myself was involved in, to an end! They told me that with a straight face and no awkwardness! They told me that was their calling. But they are either no longer involved in Christian ministry or are achieving exaggerated successes, hardly moving the Kingdom on at all and having undone previous progress in order to progress the minimal advance of their own ministry.
Pride comes before a fall.
Don’t rubbish what has been gained , because of the strength of your passion for your own particular passion which makes you sneer obviously or ever so slightly with an unreal smile towards others who in your eyes are Yesterday’s men and women. They may still be standing and bearing fruit after your venture in self aggrandisement has been long forgotten.
know that will not be listened to.
My sadness is only that some of those associated with me have been labelled “ Kenny’s boys,” and dismissed as no longer relevant to what God wants to do today. Of course they were not actually mine! But they were humble and willing to learn on their way to becoming their own man or woman. I am glad that despite being dismissed as irrelevant for what God is doing now, their humble ministries are advancing the Kingdom of God in Scotland and beyond in both new ventures and more traditional ways. Both types of advance are needed. One is not better than the other! I remember in the past that people used the erroneous term “ Kenny’s Boys” in a positive way. It has not been used positively across the board. For some that label placed upon them has led to shut doors , a feeling of being dropped and being inexplicably out of favour, bypassed, no longer the favoured flavour. That is hard. But you know what? Every time I have had a true encounter with God, doors have shut before more doors opened. I have had invitations withdrawn after fresh encounters with God! Several! It seems to have been almost a pattern, if such a concept as “pattern” is not irreverent to the Living God , the God who does not hold as guiltless those who use His Name in vain, attaching it to their own plans, projects, passions, pursuits, prophecies and proclamations.
Every May since 1983 I have felt like leaving the Church of Scotland due to anticipated decisions of the General Assembly. That memory and awareness came to mind in a wonderful private Zoom meeting with a younger than myself, devoted parish minister earlier today. His ministry is being blessed, but he is feeling “the May effect.” I have several such ongoing conversations. Does the General Assembly have any idea how much increasing grief, tears and sorrow it causes to the Church of Christ? Praying for you, my born from above brothers and sisters in ordained ministry in the C of S who seek to honour the plain meaning of God’s Word, who will feel you should leave this May! I am not being patronising, but I want you to know I felt, at times, intensely alone over the last 40 years in ministry. You are not and I was not. Keep your eye on your calling that people would come to the cross and be saved. Remember Elijah. He was wrong.
Again, I f don’t mean to pull out the almost 40 years ordained card, but I will! Be upset – how can you not be? – but not unsettled! If you love the Word of God you are more needed than ever, right now! I have no confidence that God may not bring the C of S to an end. Indeed He made it clear to me He will not tell me. But I know this: anything He may do is just. He does all things well. But if that day comes know this: He has recorded the names of those who fear Him and in that fear may be talking with one another in grief this very month. You will be His, still, on the day He acts! Be humbly assured of that!
To be completely honest, I am not sure I still have faith enough to pray with conviction that the Church of Scotland will be spared a decisive judgement from God that will bring it into a worse state than the present decline. I am not sure if I need God’s forgiveness and help with that lack of conviction, or if a line which mercifully I cannot see, has already been crossed from which there is no possibility of repentance thought it may be sought with tears. It may already have been decreed: “I will remove your lamp stand!” I don’t know. I do meet some who declare that they do know the future of the C of S for sure. Some are sure renewal is coming. Some are sure judgement is coming. Some are sure that both are coming and indeed are ongoing. All claim Scriptural warrant for their confident predictions. All may prove to be both right and wrong, at least in part.
Those who have zealously proclaimed there can be no blessed future for the C of S as the Word of the Lord, seem to discount the fact that God in mercy is still calling people who fear Him who are saved, washed in the blood and born from above, into the ministry of the C of S and people are still being saved, though we are very far from spiritual health in that we cannot say the Lord is adding to our number daily those who are being saved. However, those who claim our day is finished may prove to be future seeing prophets. The only thing I would ask is if such a prediction is one that makes you mourn and causes you to pray that it will not be so? Does it make you and cry out, “ Lord, may it not be so as I have declared!” or do you secretly hope you will be proved right? Be truthful about your heart and tremble before its immeasurable deceitfulness. God reads it with accuracy.
So today, as my reading in James 3 taught me more about meekness, especially meekness in leadership of a congregation, I am thinking of Bishop David Pytches. Through the “New Wine” gatherings and network tens of thousands (or more) believers have been strengthened and renewed in the U.K. and beyond, without him Soul Survivor would never have happened, people like Matt Redman would never have brought renewal to the worship life of the church.
One day at New Wine I was with him and his wife Mary as they were looking for a parking place at the Summer Gathering. A rather officious young volunteer on parking duty demanded to see their badge, told them rather ungraciously they should not be on the road they were on or the area in which they were in! I was raging and wanted to say, “ Look, sonny, do you not know without this man there would not have been car parking for you to supervise? He started this whole thing!!!” Instead David smiled and said “ Thank you so much for your help and for what you are doing. God bless.”
Later on in the same week I saw David making his way from the car park to the Leaders’ Tent in torrential rain, with Tesco bags over his shoes, as thousands of all ages thronged past him, scarcely noticing him. He didn’t seem to need to be noticed. He didn’t seek the limelight. He had a great gift of making people feel they mattered more than him and made “you” and your family and ministry the central thing in humour peppered conversation.
Meekness in practice: wider than shorthand definitions.
I saw the same thing as Tommy MacNeil interviewed Bishop Sandy Millar for the service in Martin’s Memorial a week or two ago. Worth watching if you have not done so already.
Men like this, without them knowing it, have taught me so much about how to lead a work of God and see it blessed and fruitful.
How did we behave differently from a citizen of the kingdom of this world in our attitude and compliance with Lockdown restrictions? That may show whether God can yet trust us with Revival. It shows whether our prayers were empty passion or birthed in a desire for that “new beginning of obedience” which is one of the more famous definitions of what revival is, as well as being a sign of its beginning, and the lasting fruit it produces.
I am also thinking of another definition of Revival given by Duncan Campbell himself: “the impact of the personality of Christ.” Jesus constantly lived under restriction: the righteous Will of His Father. In His arrest, trial and judicial execution He additionally came under the unrighteous demands of unjust authority. “He opened not His mouth.” Do we really make it our aim in life to become like Him in His death more and more until the prize of the upward call? Even a sinner can be happy to be meek when he agrees with what is being demanded, is persuaded it is reasonable and fair, and sees it could bring measurable personal advantage. We should be pursuing a greater meekness than that of sinners.
Have we read the New Teatament? It holds out to us this simple truth: the Christian life is supernatural. It means leaping for joy in the face of the most unreasonable treatment by unjust authority throughout all the spheres of human interaction where unreasonable demands can be made upon us and unwarranted suffering endured as a consequence.
In the time of greatest injustice in my life, I remember my spirit leaping and dancing with uncontrollable joy! Joy was not coming from my mind, soul, heart! It was my born from above spirit made alive by God exulting with unbound freedom. Hallelujah! What a surprise! It made me gasp for breath! My mind did not catch up easily with that supernatural joy to be honest. Oh to live more consistently from the spring of Spirit intertwined with spirit as our minds play catch up to learn the beauty that resides in meekness blessed by God’s “Well done!” I never felt from that moment on to this day that I needed to win any argument or be vindicated for my benefit or to enable me to move on.
I am saying all this from having lived for many months under the severest restrictions of Shielding. I could have made it so unpleasant an experience for myself and for others who live with me and live me, were it not for meekness. It is one of the strongest spiritual weapons I know for defeating enemy intentions.
Without meekness we cannot be given more territory in God. We could not be trusted with inheriting the land, for without meekness it is all about “me” or “us” and not about the Lord or about others.
Have we shown meekness in the face of restrictions or fought and disregarded them arrogantly as though such things were for lesser people than me or “us”? “I” or “we” are above law, above authority, above being told what to do, a favoured exception to the rules.
Well, if this is from the Lord…
A propheticky thing that seemed to drop on my spirit with a great thud: “I have been searching the hearts of my people for meekness.”
I believe this is a word from the Lord. It may not be the sort of word we want to hear or receive.
Only those who treasure and practice daily meekness will be part of the Lord’s advance: “In your majesty ride forth victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness…” (Psalm 45 verse 4.)
Without meekness, no revival, no matter how passionately we pray. How can we expect God to come in blessing of our hearts are defiant and rebellious?
That defiance of rules in Lockdown may be insignificant to you or to me. It may even be a laughing matter, or something of which we feel proud! Time to realise the Lord is not laughing and repent? Such are the things that show we are ready for the “more” of God, and truly desire that more, however much our pride must be humbled. The alternative is to be passed by when God moves in a day of His power, our prayers disregarded as they were not true prayer, but an insistence on our will, a cross border adventure into witchcraft to manipulate God in the direction of our will.