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Needed Negatives for the New Year

Many years ago there was a popular song which had as its main theme, “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” Make no mistake about it, in true Christianity the accent is definitely on the positive, and this is where it belongs in the believer’s daily life, but the negative cannot be eliminated. It is part and parcel of God’s holy Word. For example, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is gloriously positive in the avalanche of truth it unfolds to the enlightened heart, yet the negative is by no means eliminated as highlighted by several practical exhortations in 4:17-32 (eg. “walk not as other Gentiles walk,” (vs. 17); “be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (vs. 26); “let him that stole steal no more” (vs. 28); “let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth” (vs. 29;) “and grieve not the Holy Spirit” (vs. 30)

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Editorial: A Sober Read

Every Christian should read some Church history. The Pilgrim Church by E.H. Broadbent (available from Gospel Folio Press at www. gospelfolio.com) is a worthy choice of a book giving a good overview of the history of the church from the Day of Pentecost to the last century. At times the reading may be difficult as we are confronted with unfamiliar places and people, some with unpronounceable names, yet the cumulative effect of reading the entire history gives one a sober perspective on the church.

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Fear of Silence

Everywhere they can be seen, heads bobbing, shoulders pointing, toes tapping, fingers drumming. They come in all sizes, shapes and styles. Male or female, young or old, they can be found almost anywhere, jogging in the park, sitting in the airport, on the way to school, or just gazing out there-somewhere. They have one thing in common, those little earphones, attached by an umbilical wire to a miniature tape recorder fastened to a belt or tucked in a pocket.

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A Letter to a Friend on the Subject of United Prayer

A Letter to a Friend on the Subject of United Prayer

I append this remarkable letter by CHM, written, probably between 1888-1892, to an unknown friend. It still communicates with freshness what had weight in his soul and brings again the appeal for the need of united prayer by all who love our Lord Jesus Christ and what belongs to Him. May the prayerful desires of this faithful servant of the Lord still speak to our consciences and stimulate the reader to similar expressions in their prayers.

Beloved in the Lord,
I have, for some time, been deeply exercised as to the condition of the whole church of God – the body of Christ; the beloved lambs and sheep of His flock, scattered through the various denominations and associations of Christendom, and the assemblies of those ostensibly gathered out to His blessed name. In a word, the low condition of things, on all hands; the little fruit in the gospel, and the excessive feebleness in collective and individual testimony for Christ. All this has weighed very heavily on my heart, before the Lord, in connexion with the fearful progress of infidelity, in all its phases, and the darkening influence of superstition; and I feel called to send forth an appeal to every child of God and servant of Christ, throughout the whole world, to unite in humbling ourselves before the Lord, in self-judgment, confession, supplication and intercession.

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Prerequisites To Worship

Worship is not some difficult, complex, sophisticated religious activity which is limited to a few elite saints. It is to be the portion of all believers. Worship is simply bowing before the Lord and expressing His worthiness to be worshipped. (Rev. 5:8). Now worship goes beyond the wonderful fact that Jesus died for us. While we should never forget this amazing fact, and the wonderful love of Christ, there is much more for which He can be worshipped.

Rather than being solely occupied with our blessings, we can think upon His beauties as seen through the eyes of the Father, to Whom He always brought delight. As the hymn writer has so nicely put it, “Loved with love which knows no measure, Save the Father’s love to Thee. All His joy, His rest, His pleasure – All His deep delight in Thee – Lord, Thy heart alone can measure what Thy Father found in Thee.” If we would see some of what the Father saw in Him, we will find ourselves at His feet, and we will be worshippers!

Worship has been called the Christian’s “highest occupation.” If this is true, and it is, then the Church is sadly failing to fulfill its highest calling. Much of what is called worship is not really worship at all. Listening to sermons and choirs falls far short of Biblical worship. Saints in many circles rarely, if ever, come together to simply be occupied with Christ and to exalt Him together.

Others come together specifically for this purpose, but often there is little worship. Many have given little thought to Christ during the week and the best they can muster is singing someone else’s thoughts penned in a hymn – this is not to say that singing hymns that honour and exalt the Lord are not worship, but they can become a substitute for real worship.

In the Bible there were two things that characterized those who were worshippers. It seems to be true of them, regardless of what dispensation they lived in. Perhaps we could view them as prerequisites to worship, and test our hearts accordingly as we come together to worship the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first thing that characterizes those saints in Scripture that worshipped was that they had a right view of the Lord. They understood to some degree, and were often overcome by, the majesty of His person, the greatness of His power, and the glory that is His. They never came into His presence in some casual way, but with great reverence – a reverence that is often missing in our casual day!

We see this in David’s prayer regarding the materials for the temple and the offering of the people. “Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our Father, for ever and ever. Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the Heavens and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and Thou art exalted as head above all.” (1 Chron. 29: 10-11)

Isaiah records, “…I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple… And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isa. 6:1-3)

Thomas uttered that short, but wonderful expression when he realized he was in the presence of the risen Christ, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) Scripture records many expressions which indicate that the worshippers had a right view of the Lord.

The second thing that characterized those who worshipped was that they had a right view of themselves. After expressing his worship, David asked, “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort?” (1 Chron. 29:14) Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isa. 6:5) Seeing the Lord, John writes, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” (Rev. 1:17)

Those who found themselves in the presence of the Lord were fully aware of the vast difference between the One they worshipped and the one worshipping. They were humbled to think that such creatures could be so privileged as to be in the presence of the Lord Himself. Are we aware of this great difference and the grace that has brought us to this place of acceptance and privilege? Do we with little thought of such things gather together to worship? If so, is it any wonder than we worship so little?

As accepted in Christ, we may come boldly into His presence (Eph. 1:6; Heb. 10:19), but this does not negate the need for a right view of the Lord, and a right view of ourselves as we come into His presence to worship.

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Fellowship Is A Tender Thread

There is an all-too-common phenomenon in the Christian life – the phenomenon known as backsliding. A backslider is a true believer who is out of fellowship with God because of unconfessed sin in his life.

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Focusing on Christ

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

The institution of the Lord’s Supper could not have been in a more simpler fashion. A small group of men sitting about a table in an upper room away from the busy world without any distractions. There was no pipe organ. There was no priest in elaborate garments, no altar of any kind, no stained glass windows, no worship leaders, no formal prayers, no bells, no incense, nothing, except Christ.

Christ used simple and common item, bread and cup filled with fruit of the vine. Perhaps using the practice mention in Jeremiah, “Nor shall men break bread in mourning for the, to comfort them for the dead; nor shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother,” the Lord Jesus used bread and the cup as a way for His disciples to remember Him. (Jer. 16:7 NKJV)

It should be noted that Christ did not say, “Remember me in my death.” We so often use those words, “Remember Christ in His death.” His request was that they would remember Him. It was a Person they were to remember, not so much an event. Now when they broke the bread which Christ said represented His body, and drank of the cup which represented His blood, they “declared” the Lord’s death until he come. Too often we remember only His death, but have little memory of the Lord Himself.

When we grow cold and have given little time to remembering Him in our daily course of life it is often reflected at the Lord’s Supper. Not all times of silence are a reflection of coldness, but frequent periods in which the brethren are silent can well be an indication we have “forgotten” the Lord duing our daily life. Sadly, instead of confessing our coolness, we install external “props” in an effort to produce worship. It may be by having a “worship group” provide music, it may be ornate surroundings, it may be liturgy, anything that appeals to the natural senses, our ears, eyes, touch, smell, etc. All of these only mask the real internal condition of our hearts.

When in truth we are gathered in simplicity to remember the Lord there are no props and the true condition of our hearts is clearly revealed. It is soon evident, individually and collectively, that this is why our wise Saviour instituted this supper. We are prone to forget! At times such as these we often revert to the hymn book and sing words that other godly saints have written. (do not misunderstand, the right hymns sung from right hearts convey many proper thoughts.) In addition to the hymn book we can drift into a “thanksgiving” meeting in which the wonderful truth of our salvation takes center stage. We become “we” centered. We concentrate on the gifts, not the Giver. Like the assembly at Ephesus we can do many good things, but lose our focus. (Rev. 2:2-4)

I would like to suggest four words that might help us keep our minds focus on Him. Now there is plenty of latitude associated with these suggested words and so they will in no way infringe on the work of the Holy Spirit in orchestrating the worship of His saints.

The first would be His preincarnate “Loftiness.” He was God! (John 1:1) He was eternal! (John 1:2) He was the Creator! (John 1:3) He is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by word of his power,” (Heb 1:3) and of course much, much more could be added.

Second would be His incarnate “Lowliness.”  He who was God took upon Himself humanity. (Phil. 2:6) Additionally He was a servant! (v. 7), a humble and obedient servant, even to the point of dying a “cross death.” He was rich but for our sakes became poor. (2 Cor. 8:9) How rich was he? How poor did He become? His life was perfect, without sin. He did always those things that pleased the Father. (John 8:29) He was “a friend of publicans and sinners,” and “went about doing good.” (Matt. 11:19; Acts 10:38) volumes have been written in attempts to speak of His lowliness, and there is plenty of room for our hearts and minds to ponder and adore.

Thirdly, we could think of His “Lordship.” Not that He is to be Lord of our lives, but that He has gained the victory over death and now sits enthroned “on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3) Because of His submission to His father’s will He has “highly exalted him” and “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil. 2:9-10) We declare the Lord’s death, but we worship a living glorified Lord! Certainly as we do so we cannot forget what He has accomplished for us, but let us not forget when He accomplished for God. “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)

We can think of Christ’s Loveliness. Here there are multiple avenues of thought that lead to worship, not just due to His work, although certainly that is proper, but also of Him personally. “Remember me” was His request. “Do not forget Me.” Not only what He has done, as amazing and wonderful as it is, but remember “Him” as well.

We see His love, meekness, humility, purity, compassion, graciousness, kindness, devotion, obedience, righteousness, sincerity, and so much more. So much that we have no justification to be silent. We can fall at His feet and worship for many reasons. He has many glories that we can call to mind. Certainly that he purchased our redemption with His blood, but also for the humble mind that was behind His coming to earth and going to Calvary. He is altogether lovely. Let’s remember Him!

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Mary at His Feet

The study of the ‘Marys’ of the New Testament is a delightful one. According to Robert Young’s Analytical Concordance there were seven of them. Probably, all were believers devoted to our Lord Jesus. Much more is written about some of them than others: notably, Mary the mother of the Lord; Mary Magdalene; and Mary of Bethany, who is the subject of this article. The latter is in many ways the loveliest character of them all.

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Spirit Controlled Ministry

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, throughout chapters 8 to 11, he reveals the encroachments of carnality into their church; in this, chapter 14, he administers a specific rebuke to the evident license given by the saints at Corinth to the flesh, for here true Christian liberty is seen as the Divine control of the Holy Spirit. In this one chapter there are at least seven principles which constitute the Spirit’s control in the assemblies of the saints. The influence of the Holy Spirit is seen to be, not only the power of ministry, but the restraint of ministry as well.

THE QUALITY OF MINISTRY:

All oral ministry must be to edification, exhortation, and comfort (vs. 3). Edification is for the mind, exhortation for the conscience, and comfort for the heart. The first build up the Church in right thinking, the second, to right acting, and the third aspect of ministry binds up the wounds of the discouraged and broken-hearted.

THE COMMUNICATION OF MINISTRY:

All ministry must be in words easy to be understood, “Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood how shall it be known what is spoken?” (vs. 9). The glory of God and the welfare of the saints must ever be before the speaker.

THE MEANS OF MINISTRY:

The speaker must be conscious that he has a message from God. “That I may teach others also,” (vs. 19). It is only in malice that we are to be children. In understanding we are to be men (vs. 20). We must ever guard against a waste of precious time by ten thousand words to no profit, and say as much as possible in as little time as possible.

THE POWER OF MINISTRY:

Ministry in the Holy Spirit is convincing. It flows from the heart to heart. Of the listener we read, “He is convinced of all, he is judged of all” (vs. 24). When the presence of God is felt in the midst of His people the consciences of all are gripped, there is indeed a holy atmosphere, and as the saints engage in their devotions the power of God is felt and known. It is according to the spiritual condition of the Lord’s people whether they bring that power and holiness with them or not when they come together in the Church.

THE APPRAISAL OF MINISTRY:

Ministry is tested by the judgement of the saints (vs. 29). No man is the judge of his own ministry. There is a Divine liberty to minister, but only for those who are so gifted to minister by the Risen Head of the Church. The dignity of ministry is lowered when the assembly tolerates every one who feels that he has liberty to minister. Many a Christian conference and many a Gospel testimony has been ruined by an “every man” ministry. Verse 29 teaches that God-given gift should be acknowledged by the Church.

THE METHOD OF MINISTRY

God lays down principles, rather than rules and regulations, for the guidance of His people. Here an important principle is stated, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (vs. 40). We may, and do, adopt methods to carry out the principles of Holy Scripture, but these must be in keeping with the dignity and holiness of God’s testimony. Let us ever remember that God has given no legislation for methods, He has given His people wisdom instead. Methods may change in every generation and in every country, but principles never change. Consequently, God never meant that we should look in the Scriptures to find methods, for the simple reason He never placed them there. The grace and ability to distinguish clearly between principles and methods would save the Lord’s people from many a heartache and the Spirit of god from being grieved by vain wrangling.

THE PURPOSE OF MINISTRY

The aim of the Spirit in the assembly of the saints is to unveil Christ to every eye. In chapter 11, verses 10 to 16, the Spirt of God uses a simple exercise and custom to accomplish this end. Here he treats of the subject of Headship. “The head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (vs. 3). Men appearing in assembly capacity uncover their heads. Why? Because the head of every man is Christ. He must not be covered. The unveiled head of the man teaches what the aim of the Spirit is, the unveiling of Christ to that His glory fills every vision. (vs. 7).

Women appear in the Church with their heads covered. Why? Because the head of every woman is the man, he must be covered; put out of sight. The woman is the glory of the man (vs. 7). That glory must be veiled. The glory of Christ must have no rival in the assembly of His people. Every act of the flesh has its rebuke in the covered heads of the sisters. Thus, our very deportment teaches angels and ourselves that all flesh should be silent before God, that reverence and Godly submission to the control of the Spirit becomes us lest we in some way hinder His revealing of Christ in all His beauty to the hearts of His own.

We conclude by pointing to three verses the summarize these seven Divine principles:

“Let all things be done unto edifying.” (vs. 14:26)

“Let all things be decently and in order,” (vs. 14:40)

“Let all your things be done with love,” (vs. 16:14)

Editor’s Note: Robert McClurkin was the founding editor of Counsel Magazine. This articles was reprinted from the May 1955 issue of Food for the Flock

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He Purposes A Crop

My wife and I pray together every morning for the members of our assembly and for a needy world as well as ourselves. It is a privilege the Lord has granted to us in these days, to engage with others in intercession and we are able to do so in a greater measure than ever before now that child rearing is long passed and increasing age has forced us into semi-retirement. We are learning that the things that happen to all as we go through the cycles of life may bring not only unwanted experiences but increased opportunities. For the Christian nothing is without purpose or meaning. F.W. Faber wrote:

“Ill that He blesses is our good, And unbless’d good is ill;
And all is right that
seems most wrong,
If it be His sweet will.

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