Last night, I had the immense privilege of preaching at the Christian Workers Union meeting in Magherafelt. It was a tremendous service, and we did not only assume that the Lord was present, we knew He was there. He was very gracious. While we "walk by faith, not by sight," we did not simply believe that He was really present by His Spirit, we felt His closeness, we sensed that nearness of God right throughout the meeting, the attention of the listeners was rapt, and the freedom in preaching was sweet. Yes, I had prepared well, and went armed with my notes, but very seldom referred to them. I preached for an hour, and no one felt the time passing. It was as if "heaven came down and glory filled the room." God was so good to us because God is so good.
Some of the members of my former congregations in Tobermore and Draperstown attended the service, and said it was like old times, commended me for the 'strong message' that I brought, and thanked me so warmly for what I had said. One friend said that that was the kind of preaching we should still be getting in church - the reference being to my being sacked by PCI for preaching the same kind of truthful, clear and passionate sermon, thus depriving them of my ministry.
The organisers said that they would have me back again to preach.
It was noteworthy that two elders (friends) from Union Road were also present, and one thanked me for being there, and the other said I had given him much to think about.
I was trying to address the question, Why, if "the Gospel of Christ ... is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes," was its power not being felt, and experienced in the numerous evangelistic services that are held throughout our country?
Answer: Preachers are preaching to people who do not feel their need of Christ; preachers have lost their confidence in the Gospel as "the power of God unto salvation...," therefore have resorted to using the many "obstacles" that have been built up around church life, and are presenting a message that is essentially parallel to Roman Catholicism's "faith+" message, only for evangelicals it is a "gospel+" message - Gospel + testimonies, Gospel + never-ending singing of often silly ditties, Gospel + jokes and frivolity and flippancy - to get people relaxed, Gospel + the active involvement of as many people as possible in the services, etc; the loss of dread at the thoughts of "the Gospel of God," "sin," "the wrath of God," "ungodliness," unrighteousness," and "suppressing of the truth in unrighteousness," (Rom.1:16-18). I confessed my own failure in this regard, and said that my lack of trembling at the very mention of these truths was evidence of the hardness of my heart.
One Church of Ireland vestry man and CWU committee member said that he thought that I had seen behind the scenes in his church, and confessed that he could identify with everything I had said.
When I got home, I collapsed into my chair, exhausted. I had given my best to the Lord in that service, and was reminded of Calvin's words: "I have given my heart as a sacrifice to God."
This had been so precious a time for us as a family, that I just wanted to tell you about the service and about God's gracious enabling of me, his most unworthy servant.
I have found my mind being filled with a growing number of sermon skeletons, which I have recorded for future use - what is God doing in me and with me?
Thank you for your prayers and your constant support and encouragement.