Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
21 June 2020
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
A Happy and Blessed Father’s Day to all fathers, in Jesus Name, Amen.
Pastor’s Press-ups for Persecuted Christians
I’m attempting to do 100 press-ups next Sunday 28th June 2020. Please go on to the following link to “Just Giving” to donate money – many thanks. You can donate to my JustGiving page by clicking here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/harrypritchard.
“As we have all been in lockdown a lot of people say they have suffered boredom. I began to wonder if Jesus ever did. We don’t read anything in the Bible which suggests He did. His early work life would keep Him busy and from the accounts of His travels He had no time.
I don’t smoke, drink, take drugs (apart from prescription) or do social media. This in many people’s eyes would make my life boring, but I am never bored. A bit like Jesus I always keep busy. You could say I’m lucky but I prefer to say I’m blessed!”
The first time I heard a preacher say this, it did surprise me. It came in the form of a question: “Before the Fall, what was it in the Garden of Eden that was not good?” I suppose the answer I thought of at time might have been accepted: “The serpent!” But that was not what the Church Minister was getting at. His answer:
The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’Genesis 2:18
Adam was in the most spiritual place possible, in the immediate presence of God. He didn’t have a sinful nature to battle with but despite all this there was something in his situation that was not good. And God did something to remedy it. He remedied his aloneness before He remedied his fallenness. Having been single for a good chunk of my life, and also knowing a number of very godly people who are single, I don’t believe this means everyone has to get married. Jesus Himself, and the apostle Paul, taught that the call to be single (like all callings), was a high calling:
Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given … The one who can accept this should accept it’Matthew 19:11-12
The apostle Paul wrote:
I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.1 Cor 7:7
A personal testimony
To marry or not to marry was something I wrestled with in prayer and agonised about for many years. A brother in the Lord helped me once when he said: “Harry, the call to be single is not like holding a hot potato which you pass from one hand to the next, looking around for someone else to pass it on to.”
What I want to look at today is some of the deep needs we all have as already illustrated here by the word “alone” – “it is not good to be alone.” Please permit me to share another personal example. When I first left the Bible College of Wales I started going around the various towns, cities and even villages, preaching wherever there was a few people around. I so enjoyed it and met numerous people in the cause of doing this work. Often people would provide me with a place to stay for the night. The whole of my days would be spent in prayer, Bible Study, preaching, talking to people about Jesus, and fellowshipping with the Christians I stayed with in the evening, what some would say was a pretty spiritual day.
However, on quite a few occasions, I used to have to sleep in the back of my car. Having been surrounded by people in the day, talking to them, relating to them, suddenly around 7pm the streets and towns would be deserted and it was then I started to feel that agonising loneliness. Ironically, there were less people around on Sundays in those days and that could be the most difficult day of the week after church had finished – a lot of churches didn’t have evening services. I found at these times, despite my spiritual day and feeling close to Jesus, that temptations were much stronger.
After maybe 6 – 10 weeks of living like this, I would go back home. My elder brother and his wife invited me to stay with them (and my 10 year old niece and 8 year old nephew), whenever I was back home, rather than staying alone in the flat formerly inhabited by my Mum. What had been such strong temptations, when I was alone in those strange cities, now didn’t touch me. Just being in a family was very strengthening spiritually. I shared my concerns with my Church Minister and told him I really believed the Lord had called me to this work, and as of yet, no-one was being called to come with me. He made the point that it was a spiritually unhealthy situation in that when I was in these strange cities I was working alone and that wasn’t Jesus’ way – He sent His disciples out two by two:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.Luke 10:1
Eventually, I was able to get together a team of 7 Christians and the loneliness issue disappeared. Note the Minister didn’t say to me, “well, you have the Lord and He is always with you”, which was true (cf. Adam in the Garden of Eden). If he had said to me you need to pray and read your Bible more I would have told him the hours I spent doing this. If he’d asked have I disobeyed the Lord in any way I would have said to the best of my knowledge no. These weren’t the issues – loneliness was and it can have a very debilitating effect on us all.
Loneliness is a very difficult situation to deal with, and has been especially highlighted in these times of lockdown. It is a vast subject but all I want to do today is to look at a few case studies and how the Lord can use His people, the Church, to address this issue and also other deep needs that we all have in one degree or another. Interestingly, Captain Sir Tom Moore (the centenarian who raised over £33m for NHS), mentioned in one interview during Mental Health Awareness Week that his next project was to deal with loneliness and has launched the Captain Tom Foundation to help combat loneliness, support hospices, and help those facing bereavement. The Church can play a vital part in this whole area.
A happy reunion
Let me tell you about a man we met in the course of helping a Church reach out to their community in Wales. This man definitely wanted company but kept emphasising that he wasn’t religious. He’d run a very successful business 10 years previous, but things started going wrong including his business being burnt down which was when he found out he was under-insured. He had been through the pain of divorce, which was still continuing, and it was as if he couldn’t work out what was wrong with him. What kept coming to the surface though was that his father had walked out on his Mum “when he was still in nappies.” It was as if there was a void of loneliness in his life as a result and it felt like water off a duck’s back when speaking to him about our loving heavenly Father.
To cut a long story short, and thanks especially to the amazing work of the Salvation Army’s Family Tracing Service, 10 months later, he and his dad, who he hadn’t seen for 48 years, met up. I had the privilege of meeting them both and what amazed me was the similarity between them, they even walked with the same gait and they got on remarkably well together. Over the months, the effects on this man, of finally meeting his Dad and continuing to build a relationship with him, were quite remarkable and led to a much greater openness to his Father in heaven.
Oranges and Sunshine
I watched a film recently, “Oranges and Sunshine” again, based on a true story, of the scandal of the British Government’s “Home Children” child migration scheme which was eventually stopped in 1970. Some 130,000 children, as young as 3 years of age, who were supposed to live in Care Homes in the UK for only a short period, were shipped over to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Families were told that their children had been adopted into good homes in England. Children were told that their parents had died. These children then faced a life of slavery, hard labour, and were often separated from their siblings. Some were subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Some were even sent to a Monastery run by the so called ‘Christian Brothers’ where they were appallingly abused.
A Social Worker, named Margaret Humphreys, uncovered the scandal in 1986 and then spent her life re-uniting these former child migrants with their families. The Australian Government issued an apology in 2009 for the cruelty shown to the child migrants. In 2010, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued an official apology for the misguided programme. Space only permits a mention about one man Margaret Humphreys helped. The deepest need of this man, about 50 years of age, was for him to find his real mother. After months of work on his case (it took so long because his adoptive parents had changed his name) she found out that unfortunately his mother had died not long ago, he was just too late. So strong was the need in this man to know his mother, whom he had never met, that he just wept uncontrollably when Margaret Humphreys told him the news of what she had discovered.
I’ve just opened at a quote that is highlighted in the book by David Ferguson: “The Great Commandment Principle” – “If we ignore the crying relational needs of our neighbours, we cannot expect them to be attracted to the message of the gospel.” Sometimes these needs are so deep, so painful, so hidden that we need to approach with great love and care, not even saying anything, but listening and asking the Lord to help us empathise with them by feeling their pain.
We love because He first loved us.1 John 4:19
That has got to be the starting point to love people first and foremost. This was God’s starting point with us.
Verses of the week
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God … God who comforts the downcast, comforted us …”2 Cor 1:3-4; 7:6
“Our heavenly Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, we praise and thank you for Your great comfort and compassion. Lord, You have truly met with us and satisfied some of our deepest needs and longings with Your great love, comfort and compassion. Continue Your work of making us whole in Jesus Christ. Help us to love and comfort all who we meet with this same love and comfort that You have given to us. We pray for all those who are experiencing loneliness; for those with mental health disorders; for those with continual pain in their hearts over the loss of loved ones; for those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder; for those with substance abuse disorders; for those who have been orphaned. Lord in Your great mercy meet with them, and everyone else, with love, comfort and compassion. Lord use and enable Your Church to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
We especially pray for all fathers today, in an age were there has been a devastating breakdown in family life. Lord restore father’s to their wives, sons and daughters for that is on your heart to do in these last days (Malachi 4:6; Luke 1:17), in and through Jesus Christ, Amen.