Tag Archives: Revelation

A barren day in Moulin

From Fergus Buchanan: In his recent book on Charles Simeon Derek Prime quotes Simeon writing in his journal on an experience he had after preaching in Moulin, near Pitlochry:

‘On the whole, this Sabbath was not like the last. Then I was very much affected: now I was barren and dull: God however is the same, and his word unchangeable: and in that is all my hope. Woe be to me if I were to be saved by my frames: nevertheless, I would never willingly be in a bad one.’

Prime goes on:

‘But it was as a result of that visit to Moulin, when Simeon felt so barren, that Mr Stewart, the minister, came to experience new birth, followed not long after by a period of spiritual revival in Moulin. The lesson is plain: we should thank God for every spiritual encouragement and token of his presence as we preach, but we should never let neither their presence not their absence determine the estimate we place on the value of what we do.’

Ministry To A Hopeless Man


The task of the Christian leader is to bring out the best in man and to lead him forward to a more human community; the danger is that his skilful diagnostic eye will become more an eye for distant and detailed analysis than the eye of compassionate partner.  And if priests and ministers of tomorrow think that more skill training is the solution for the problem of Christian leadership for the future generation, they may end up being more frustrated and disappointed than the leaders of today.  More training and structure are just as necessary as more bread for the hungry.  But just as bread given without love can bring war instead of peace, professionalism without compassion will turn forgiveness into a gimmick and the kingdom to come into a blindfold. (page 42)


Many will put their trust in him who went all the way, out of concern for just one of them.  The remark “He really cares for us” is often illustrated by stories which show that forgetting the many for the one is a sign of true leadership. (page 73)


All this suggests that when one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community.  The man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men are one at the wellspring of pain and joy. (page 73)


I have—found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible to others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people.  It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others.  This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves. – Carol Rogers on page 74.


A Christian leader is not a leader because he announces a new idea and tries to convince the others of its worth; he is a leader because he faces the world with eyes full of expectation, with the expertise to take away the veil that covers its hidden potential.  Christian leadership is called ministry precisely to express that in the service of others new life can be brought about.  It is this service which gives eyes to see the flower breaking through the cracks in the street, ears to hear a word of forgiveness muted by hatred and hostility, and hands to feel a new life under the cover of death and destruction. (page 75)


Many ministers, priests and Christian laymen have become disillusioned, bitter and even hostile when years of hard work bear no fruit, when little change is accomplished.  Building a vocation on the expectations of concrete results, however conceived, is like building a house on sand instead of on solid rock, and even takes away the ability to accept successes as free gifts. (page 77)


Hope prevents us clinging to what we have and frees us to move away from the safe place and enter unknown and fearful territory.  This might sound romantic, but when a man enters which his fellow man into his fear of death and is able to wait for him right there, “leaving the safe place” might turn out to be a very difficult act of leadership.  It is an act of discipleship in which we follow the hard road of Christ, who entered death with nothing but bare hope. (page 77)

Boredom makes us sin

Boredom is a preview of death, if not death itself a form of death, and when trapped in prolonged boredom, even the most saintly of us will hope for, pray for, or even engineer relief, however demonic.  Sincere Sunday worshipers will confess to welcoming in muffled celebration any interruption of the funeral droning.  Be honest: Have you ever quietly cheered when a child fell off a pew, a bird flew in a window, the lights went out, the organ wheezed, the sound system picked up police calls, or a dog came down the aisle and curled up to sleep below the pulpit?  Passengers on cruise ships, after nine beautiful sunsets and eighty-six invigorating games of shuffleboard, begin to ask the crew hopefully, “Do you think we’ll have a storm?”


I recently heard a quiet and passive clergyman tell of his attending the Indianapolis 500.  He confessed that after two hours of watching the same cars speed by again and again, the boredom turned him into a degenerate sinner.  At first, he said, he simply entertained thoughts of “What if…?” and his own imagination thrilled him.  But soon his boredom demanded more.  A car caught on fire.  Hurrah!  Not until later did he remind himself that he, a Christian minister, had experienced no concern for the driver.  But a burning car was not enough; something more dramatic was needed to effect a resurrection from the death of boredom.  Voices within him, be admitted, began to call for a smash-up.  The demon of boredom had totally transformed him.  Shift the scene to a classroom or sanctuary, subject him or you or me to repeated and prolonged boredom, and a similar process begins.  For the communicating of the Christian faith, formally or informally, to be boring is not simply “too bad”, to be glossed over with the usual “But he really is a genuine fellow,” or “But she is very sincere.”  Boredom works against the faith by provoking contrary thoughts or lulling us to sleep or draping the whole occasion with a pall of indifference and unimportance.

Sanctuary and Classroom



At the conclusion of the seminar we joined the entire seminary in the chapel to hold a memorial service for a respected teacher who had died suddenly of a heart attack.  The worship leader read the text: Psalm 91.  The appropriateness of the text was apparent: The text interpreted the occasion, and the occasion interpreted the text.  Afterward, some of the students who had been in the seminar, in a mood of anti-academia, spoke to me in praise of the chapel service and in criticism of the apparent uselessness and sterility of our classroom exercise.  In no way, they said, did our analysis of Psalm 91 compare with the immediacy and clarity of the reading in worship.  There was truth to what they said; there is light upon the page in the sanctuary that seldom comes in the classroom.  Nevertheless, I reminded the students that we did not just hum the psalm in the chapel, we had attended to words, to a message from the psalmist for a particular occasion.  We talked in the hallway at length about what that message was and listened to comments by students who were in the chapel but not in the seminar.  Before long two observations were made: First, while all in the chapel were moved by the appropriateness of the text, probably none present quite grasped the meaning and power of Psalm 91 as did those who had carefully studied it; and second, classroom and sanctuary should and do serve each other in the service of God. – Page 18

Battles aren’t won by preachers

On meeting Tony Blair

On the way back, we talked about Militant.  I wanted to know what he thought about this Trotskyist sect that had infiltrated Labour.  I was representing the party in the legal case against them and, having studied them and their methods, I knew there was no dealing with them, other than by expelling them.  He didn’t agree, and I spotted the fundamental weakness in his position,: he was in love with his role as idealist, as standard-bearer, as the man of principle against the unprincipled careerist MPs.  He wouldn’t confront those who were actually preventing the idealism from ever being put into effect.  He was the preacher, not the general.  And battles aren’t won by preachers. (page 36-37)

On Preaching


‎’Every Sunday morning when it comes ought to find you awed and thrilled by the reflection – “God is to be in action today, through me, for these people; this day may be crucial, this service decisive, for someone now ripe for the vision of Jesus’ . . . Realise that, although your congregation may be small, every soul is infinitely precious. Never forget, that Christ himself, according to his promise, is in the midst, making the plainest and most ordinary church building into the house of God and the gate of heaven . . . Then preaching, which might otherwise be a dead formality and a barren routine . . . will become a power and a passion; and the note of strong, decisive reality, like a trumpet will awaken the souls of men.’   James S. Stewart.



Some words of encouragement for tomorrow from Dr John Erskine (1721-1803): ‘Know, then, that preaching and hearing the Word are the chief means of extending the Redeemer’s Empire, and of advancing His honour. Faithful ministers are the glory of Christ.’


Here’s a thought for tomorrow – and I realise that someone else has probably placed it in my head.  When Jesus preached the Kingdom he was preaching about something that was happening. When we take up His Word to preach we are part of that Messianic surge that is moving towards that Day when tears will be wiped away and death will be no more; and there will there be no more mourning or crying or pain anymore for the former things will have passed away.  Pray that we and our people will be caught up in this great hope.



‎’God, for years I have been preaching to men. I had almost forgotten that there is an invisible audience in church, too; that the angels are listening as we expound your Word’.  Richard Wurmbrand, ‘Sermons In solitary Confinement’.  I’ve sometimes wondered if the angels are holding their breath during a preaching, wondering what the outcome will be for those who are listening.


‎’Wherever a human being, Bible in hand, stands up before a group of other human beings, invites the gathered assembly into a particular text of the Bible and as faithfully as possible tries to say again what the living God is saying in the text, something always happens. Something transformative, empowering, life-giving happens’. Darryl W. Johnson.  Let’s ponder this as we prepare for tomorrow’s work, guys and gals.

On Preaching

Thanks to Fergus Buchanan for these:


It is on our knees before the Lord that we can make the message our own, possess or re-possess it until it possesses us. Then, when we preach it, it will come neither from our notes, nor from our memory, but out of the depths of our personal conviction, as an authentic utterance of our heart. – John Stott


‎’I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me a sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something that is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the gospel.’ – Martin Lloyd Jones


Billy Graham – Part 5


(page 155)

“The mightiest force in world” on prayer from Frank Laubach.


On support from Catholics (page 161)

Heartening to us also was the response of the Roman Catholic Church [during the Boston mission of 1950], remarkable especially in the light of the fact that the landmark decisions on ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council were still years away.  “BRAVO BILLY!” read the editorial headline in the Pilot the official newspaper of the Boston Archdiocese.  “We are ‘not amused’ by his critics, some unfortunately among the Protestant cloth…  If, as some people seem to think, the non-Catholic Christian congregations of New England are disintegrating, we are not such bigots as to rejoice therein.”


On speaking in Universities (page 165)

My appetite for many opportunities to speak in university settings had been sharpened.  I always felt the power of the Holy Spirit in these student meetings.  I didn’t claim to be an intellectual, nor did I have the academic training to answer every philosophical question that might be raised.  But I had come to realise that there was absolutely no need to apologise for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in academic settings.  The Gospel could more than hold its own.  It alone dealt with the deepest questions of the human mind.  It alone met the deepest yearnings of the human heart.  As someone once commented to me, the Gospel wasn’t so much examined and rejected on most university campuses as it was ignored.


On keeping going (page 166)

Then there was the question of my own stamina.  The Lord tells us to be anxious for nothing (see Philippians 4:6) but that’s always been a hard lesson for me to learn.


In MIT (page 168)

This has been an age in which we have humanised God and deified man, and we have worshipped at the throne of science.  We thought that science could bring about Utopia.  We must have a spiritual awakening similar to that which we had under Wesley and Whitefield.


Preparing for the London Crusade of 1954 (page 212)

Early 1954 gave me very little time at home in Montreat.  Ruth maintained in her counsel and advice to me that my studies should consist primarily of filling up spiritually; she believed, as I did, that God would give me the message and bring to remembrance in my preaching the things I had studied.  This was always the most effective preaching, we had discovered: preaching that came from the overflow of the heart and mind filled not only with the Spirit but with much reading.  Hence I picked each sermon topic carefully, read myself full, wrote myself empty, and read myself full again on the subject.

Billy Graham – Part 2


The meeting room was small, with a potbellied iron stove near the front to take the chill of that cold, windy night.  The song leader, who chewed tobacco, had to go to the door every so often to spit outside; he could have used the stove just as conveniently.  The congregation of about 40 included ranchers and cowboys in overall and their women in cotton wash dresses.


When the moment came to walk to the pulpit in the tiny Bostwick Baptist Church my knees shook and perspiration glistened on my hands.  I launched into sermon number one.  It seemd to be almost over as soon as I got started, so I added number two.  And number three. And eventually number four.  Then I sat down.


Eight minutes – that was all it took to preach all four of my sermons!  Was this the stuff of which those marvellous preachers at Florida Bible Institute were made?



(Page 49)

I practiced for when the time would again come to preach in public.  My roommate Woodrow Flynn, was a great sermonizer and would preach his outlines to me in our cold room in front of the little stove.  I used outlines of sermons borrowed from great published preachers like Dr. Lee Scarborough of Texas.  I would paddle a canoe across the Hillsborough to a little island where I could address all creatures great and small, from alligators to birds.  If they would not stop to listen, there was always a congregation of cypress stumps that could neither slither nor fly away.  The loudness of my preaching was in direct proportion to unresponsiveness, so the trees got my voice at full blast.


Once some fishermen, wandering within earshot, paused in amazement at this bellowing beanpole of a boy who seemed to rise from the river.  Too often a few of my fellow students would line the opposite bank at my return to cheer me on with comments like “How many converts did you get today Billy?”

Craving The Story

Trophies our own image

Key Words Self Hypocrisy Text Bible Preaching
Source Preaching and literary forms of the Bible
Author Long, T G
Page 28
Quote All of us – fundamentalists, charismatics, social activists, feminists, evangelicals, traditionalists, liberationists – all of us in fact got the texts of the Bible and return with trophies that are replicas of our own theological image


The great history

Key Words History Story Narrative
Source Preaching and literary forms of the Bible
Page 28
Quote The novelist Reynolds Price once remarked that most of the world’s chatter – novels, jokes, plays, songs – represent craving for the one truly sufficient story – “We’re satisfied”, he says “only by the one short tale we feel to be true” History is the will of the just God who knows us

History is more than “one damned thing after another”