Category Archives: Postcards from the Prophets

Running on Empty

Yesterday I spoke at my home church, Central Baptist Church, Dundee in my series of Postcards from the Prophets on Elijah at Mount Horeb from 1 Kings 19 titled “Running on Empty”. In it I sought to outline Elijah’s external persecution and internal despair along with his encounter with the whispering God. Through it all I sought to understand what Elijah’s experience can teach us in our trials and challenges in the UK today.

The slides are available here and sermon online here or to download here. During the service I also read out an article I wrote last year called “We need the tears of the prophets for a broken nation” – available here.

The God Who Is There

I recently spoke at my church on the next in my series on Elijah. This time Elijah is facing the prophets of Baal, King Ahab and the people of Israel at the top of Mount Carmel. Its a classic passage from Israel’s history and I focussed on 1) A guilty silence (ie the people who refused to respond to Eljah’s challenge for faithfulness), 2) An impotent enemy (the prophets of Baal who couldn’t get their God to show up) and finally 3) The testifying God. On this final point I spoke about how God used the method of fire from heaven to testify to his presence throughout Israel’s history, but challenged us to whether we allowed God to change his methods? I gave a brief apologetic to explain how the UK has no place for supernatural events and why believing in miracles such as these is so hard for people today. I explained how Francis Schaeffer sought to understand and explain these changes back in 1968 in his book The God Who Is There, and what that means for us today. I finished by looking at 1 Timothy 2.5+6 as Jesus is presented here as God’s final testimony – better than fire from heaven, for as God’s character is revealed so his testimony is refined. The sermon is available here as a download, or online here, and slides here.

The Outlaw and Obadiah

In the evening last Sunday I preached on Elijah meeting Odadiah, the fourth in my series of Postcards from the Prophets and used this encounter to ask some questions about a Christian’s view of civil disobediance, including looking at Martin Luther King Jr and Oscar Schindler. You can access the sermon here and the slides here.

An Empty Jar and a Broken Heart

Last Sunday I preached on Elijah meeting the widow of Zarepheth from 1 Kings. It was the third in my series of Postcards from the Prophets. The sermon is available here and the slides here.

A Donkey in Trouble

Here is the first in a series of children’s talks on animals in the bible – #1 a donkey in trouble.

Using the slides (here) ask the children “Who can guess what animal is this is?” That’s right its a donkey, who knows of donkeys in the bible? Do you remember Balaam’s Donkey? Well, Balaam’s donkey was in trouble – just like the donkey in this picture.

Balaam was a kind of prophet who was going to say bad things about God’s people and God sent an angel to stop him. As he was riding on his donkey, the donkey saw the angel standing ready to kill Balaam and moved away. This happened three times unil finally Balaam had had enough and started beating the donkey for being so stubborn. God opened the donkey’s mouth to ask if he normally behaved in this way? When Balaam admitted that he did not, the donkey explained about the angel. Then God opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel and he realised the donkey had saved him. So, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth and also Balaam’s eyes.

This reminded me of the passage in Acts when God opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16.14) and I thought about how this is a picture of what it means to be a Christian.

  1. Firstly God opens our eyes so that we can see ourselves are we truly are and not as we think we are, we can also see Jesus as he is – in his majesty and power.
  2. Secondly, God opens our hearts so that we love him and love the things that he loves and hate the things that he hates.
  3. Thirdly, God opens our mouths so that we can praise and thank him and tell other people what he has done for us.

“Has God opened your eyes, your heart and your mouth?” I asked the children – lets ask God to do just that if he hasn’t already.

Famous Last Words

Here is the second in my series of sermons on Postcards from the Prophets, taken from Genesis 49.8-12 and Jacob’s prophecy concerning Judah.

In this message I focussed on how the final words of Jacob to his son Judah were remarkably fulfilled hundreds of years later and why this is relevant to us in the 21st century.

The slides are available here and the audio here.

We need the tears of the prophet for a broken nation

For those of us who live in the UK the events of the past week have been shocking and saddening. Today the Prime Minister declared that the UK had a “broken society” . Many are now searching for reasons as to why this eruption in social unrest should break upon these lands so quickly and with so little warning. Those of us who have watched the moral collapse of our country first hand are not surprised. But while we have long predicted that moral collapse would follow the wholesale abandonment of the UK’s Christian heritage, now is not a moment for “I told you so”.

For the last couple of months I have been studying the life of Elijah and his ministry to a backslidden and apostate Israel. Elijah realised that at the heart of the people’s problems was their broken relationship with God. So too in our day, I believe that the first place to look for a cause for our situation is at the door of the Christian church. God has appointed the church to be a light to the world, preserving the good, opposing the bad. Although a marginalised church cannot prevent a nation from self-destruction, if the light is not shining brightly then how great is the darkness?

Thus it is that for years in the UK there has been gradual deterioration in the faithfulness and purity of the church. The church has been under sustained attack and has not, on the whole, managed to withstand the attack. The result has been an undermining of our confidence and belief in the supremacy of scripture, the reality of judgement to come and the uniqueness and lordship of Jesus. Our modern liberals call themselves “Progressive” as they discard the historic truths of the Christian faith, our institutional leaders call themselves “Embracing” as they ride roughshod over central biblical truths on sexuality, edit out the miraculous from scripture and refuse to speak out on anti-Christian legislation.

The role of the prophet was to speak God’s eternal and unchanging truth into the ever-changing contemporary world. It was often an unpleasant word as they rebuked the indifference and compromise of the people, the hypocrisy and self-serving of the leaders and the dishonesty of the king. But there’s was no impersonal detached edict – it was the burning passion for the honour and glory of their God that etched itself across their souls. They spoke as they felt and they felt God’s heart – broken for the waywardness of his children who should know better, who should repent sooner, who should obey more wholeheartedly. Although they did speak judgement on the nations around Israel, they were not primarily concerned with these nations. Their first and primary calling was to the nation of Israel, to God’s own people, called through Abraham, rescued through Moses and exalted through David. They had had all the blessings and privileges possible, and still they abandoned Jehovah within two generations of the wilderness refugees.

And are we so different? We in the UK, indeed in Scotland, have a blessed heritage. Many prominent Christians have shaped this nation in the past centuries to give us as strong a foundation as anywhere in the world. But what type of building have we constructed on this foundation? When did our light go out in this dark nation? When did we cease to pass on the truths to the next generation? When was that connection of 2 Timothy 2.2 broken? Like the melting of an iceberg – imperceptible but continual, the erosion in historic Christianity has occurred. Gradually we lost our theology, then we lost our convictions, then we eventually lost our piety and practise. We were left with nothing to say and no one listening.

The word of the prophet speaks into the darkness – “Remember the height from which you have fallen and do the things that you did at first. You have lost your first love, but return and I will return to you, break up your unploughed ground and clear your filled wells. Come back in brokenness, humility and fear and I will heal you”. Only as there is a reformation in the church can the healing hope for our society be administered, for there is no one to administer it apart from the church. Our nation is looking for an answer and will look to every solution apart from God, but nevertheless, now is a moment for those in leadership to bring a prophetic message, mixed with tears of pain, to a wounded nation. Are we prepared for God to break us for our nation so that we can say: “streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” Psalm 119.136?

Father have mercy on us this day, remember your people, restore your church, bring hope to the nations. Father, give us the tears of the prophet broken for your people, the heart of the prophet to feel as you feel for the lost world, the mouth of the prophet to speak your truth into our hurting nation and give us the eyes of the prophet to see the glory of the coming king who will refine his church, judge the corrupt and restore the honour of his name in his world.

The Call

On Sunday 31st October I began a series of sermons on the prophets. I’m calling it Postcards from the Prophets and throughout the series I will seek to understand what these significant moments in the history of Israel have to say to us today.

The first one was titled The Call and was looking at the call of Jeremiah. The sermon can be downloaded here.