Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wesley and a case of demonic possession

Saturday, October 1, 1763: I returned to London, and found our house in ruins, great part of it being taken down, in order to a thorough repair. But as much remained as I wanted—six foot square suffices me by day or by night.
I now received a very strange account from a man of sense, as well as integrity:
I asked M. S. many questions before she would give me any answer. At length, after much persuasion, she said: ‘On old Michaelmas Day was three years I was sitting by myself at my father’s, with a Bible before me, and one whom I took to be my uncle came into the room and sat down by me. He talked to me some time till, not liking his discourse, I looked more carefully at him. He was dressed like my uncle; but I observed one of his feet was just like that of an ox. Then I was much frighted, and he began torturing me sadly, and told me he would torture me ten times more if I would not swear to kill my father, which at last I did. He said he would come again, on that day four years, between half hour past two and three o’clock.
            ‘I have several times since strove to write this down; but when I did, the use of my hand was taken from me. I strove to speak it; but whenever I did my speech was taken from me. And I am afraid I shall be tormented a deal more for what I have spoken now.’
            Presently she fell into such a fit as was dreadful to look upon. One would have thought she would be torn in pieces. Several persons could scarce hold her; till after a time she sunk down as dead.
            From that Michaelmas Day she was continually tormented with the thought of killing her father; as likewise of killing herself, which she often attempted, but was as often hindered. Once she attempted to cut her own throat; once to throw herself into Rosamond’s Pond; several times to strangle herself, which once or twice was with much difficulty prevented.
            Her brother, fearing lest she should at last succeed in her attempt, and finding her fits come more frequently, got a straight waistcoat made for her, such as they use at Bedlam. It was made of strong ticking, with two straps on the shoulders, to fasten her down to the bed—one across her breast, another across her middle, and another across her knees. One likewise was buckled on each leg, and fastened to the side of the bed. The arms of the waistcoat drew over her fingers, and fastened like a purse. In a few minutes after she was thus secured, her brother, coming to the bed, found she was gone. After some time he found she was up the chimney, so high that he could scarce touch her feet. When Mary Loftis called her she came down, having her hands as fast as ever.
            The night after, I fastened her arms to her body with new straps over and above the rest. She looked at me and laughed; then gave her hands a slight turn, and all the fastenings were off.
            In the morning Mr. Sparks came. On our telling him this he said, ‘But I will take upon me to fasten her so that she shall not get loose.’ Accordingly he sent for some girth-web, with which he fastened her arms to her sides, first above her elbows round her body, then below her elbows; then he put it round each wrist and braced them down to each side of the bedstead: after this she was quiet a night and a day. Then all this was off like the rest.
            After this we did not tie her down any more, only watched over her night and day. I asked the physician that attended her whether it was a natural disorder. He said, ‘Partly natural, partly diabolical.’ We then judged there was no remedy but prayer, which was made for her, or with her, continually; though while any were praying with her she was tormented more than ever.
            The Friday before Michaelmas Day last, Mr. W. came to see her. He asked, Do you know me? She said, ‘No, you all appear to me like blackamoors.’ But do not you know my voice? ‘No, I know no one’s voice, except Molly Loftis.’ Do you pray God to help you? ‘No, I can’t pray. God will never help me. I belong to the devil; and he will have me. He will take me, body and soul, on Monday.’ Would you have me pray for you? ‘No indeed. For when people pray, he torments me worse than ever.’ In her fits she was first convulsed all over, seeming in an agony of pain, and screaming terribly. Then she began cursing, swearing, and blaspheming in the most horrid manner. Then she burst into vehement fits of laughter; then sunk down as dead. All this time she was quite senseless; then she fetched a deep sigh, and recovered her sense and understanding—but was so weak that she could not speak to be heard, unless you put your ear almost close to her mouth.
            When Mr. W. began praying she began screaming, so that a mob quickly gathered about the house. However, he prayed on, till the convulsions and screaming ceased, and she came to her senses much sooner than usual. What most surprised us was that she continued in her senses, and soon after began to pray herself.
            On Sunday evening Mr. W. came again, asked her many questions, pressed her to call upon God for power to believe, and then prayed with her. She then began to pray again, and continued in her senses longer than she had done for a month before; but still insisted, the devil would come the next day between two and three, and take her away.
            She begged me to sit up with her that night, which I willingly did. About four in the morning she burst out into a flood of tears, crying, ‘What shall I do, what shall I do? I cannot stand this day. This day I shall be lost.’ I went to prayer with her, and exhorted her to pray for faith, and her agony ceased.
            About half hour after ten, ten of us came together, as we had agreed the day before. I said, ‘Is there any among you who does not believe that God is able and willing to deliver this soul?’ They answered with one voice, ‘We believe he both can and will deliver her this day.’ I then fastened her down to the bed on both sides, and set two on each side to hold her if need were. We began laying her before the Lord, and claiming his promise on her behalf. Immediately Satan raged vehemently. He caused her to roar in an uncommon manner, then to shriek, so that it went through our heads, then to bark like a dog. Then her face was distorted to an amazing degree, her mouth being drawn from ear to ear, and her eyes turned opposite ways, and starting as if they would start out of her head. Presently her throat was so convulsed that she appeared to be quite strangled. Then the convulsions were in her bowels, and her body swelled, as if ready to burst. At other times she was stiff from head to foot, as an iron bar, being at the same time wholly deprived of her senses, and motion, not even breathing at all. Soon after her body was so writhed, one would have thought all her bones must be dislocated.
            We continued in prayer, one after another, till about twelve o’clock. One then said, ‘I must go: I can stay no longer.’ Another and another said the same, till we were upon the point of breaking up. I said, ‘What is this? Will you all give place to the devil? Are you still ignorant of Satan’s devices? Shall we leave this poor soul in his hands?’ Presently the cloud vanished away. We all saw the snare, and resolved to wrestle with God till we had the petition we asked of him. We began singing an hymn, and quickly found his Spirit was in the midst of us. But the more earnestly we prayed, the more violently the enemy raged. It was with great difficulty that four of us could hold her down; frequently we thought she would have been torn out of our arms. By her looks and motions we judged she saw him in a visible shape. She laid fast hold on Molly Loftis and me with inexpressible eagerness; and soon burst into a flood of tears, crying, ‘Lord, save, or I perish. I will believe. Lord, give me power to believe, help my unbelief.’ Afterwards she lay quiet for about fifteen minutes. I then asked, ‘Do you now believe Christ will save you? And have you a desire to pray to him?’ She answered, ‘I have a little desire, but I want power to believe.’ We bid her keep asking for the power, and looking unto Jesus. I then gave out an hymn, and she earnestly sung with us those words:
O Sun of Righteousness, arise
            With healing in thy wing!
To my diseased, my fainting soul,
            Life and salvation bring.
            I now looked at my watch and told her: ‘It is half hour past two. This is the time when the devil said he would come for you.’ But, blessed be God, instead of a tormentor he sent a comforter. Jesus appeared to her soul, and rebuked the enemy, though still some fear remained. But at three it was all gone, and she mightily rejoiced in the God of her salvation. It was a glorious sight. Her fierce countenance was changed, and she looked innocent as a child. And we all partook of the blessing. For Jesus filled our souls with a love which no tongue can express. We then offered up our joint praises to God for his unspeakable mercies, and left her full of faith and love and joy in God her Saviour.

Daily Devotions for Week 7 of Sermon on the Mount Fri

Week 7 Day 5 Devotions
A Coat for Christ
“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Luke 3:11

It was a wild, wintry night. The temperature had dived to a polar position. Winds rose in shrieking crescendos and lashed the country with lethal blasts. But the Czar's interests must be protected. A Russian soldier must patrol between two sentry boxes even on such a night. Poorly clad, the miserable man marched from one post
to the other, shivering and chilled. Then it began to snow. Before long the hills which surrounded that frozen, forsaken place were covered with snow. The sentry was wrapped in the vicious embrace of a fierce, freezing blizzard. Then a poor peasant happened to pass nearby on his way home. Answering the soldier's challenge, he identified himself and secured permission to proceed. But the peasant pitied the sentry. "You are cold and must patrol all night," he said kindly. "I am only a short distance from my cottage. Here, wear my coat tonight. You can return it to me in the morning."

The soldier gladly accepted the proffered wrap. But even the heavy borrowed coat could not keep out the cold which seeped through the sentry like poison. No wrap seemed warm enough on that night to fend off the icy fingers of death. The next morning his comrades discovered the soldier frozen in the field. The peasant never recovered his coat. But he did see it again. A long time afterwards, when the peasant himself lay on his deathbed, he dreamed that Jesus appeared to him. "You are wearing my coat, Lord," the dying man said, recognizing the wrap he had loaned to the sentry. "Yes," answered Jesus. "This is the coat you loaned to me that frightful night when I was on duty and you passed by." "But Lord," objected the peasant, "You were not that soldier!" "No," replied Jesus in the dream. "But inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto me. I was naked and ye clothed me!" (Author Unknown)

Then let us attend
Our heavenly friend
In his members distressed,
By want, or affliction, or sickness oppressed;
The prisoner relieve,
The stranger receive,
Supply all their wants,
And spend and be spent in assisting his saints. (482)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 7 of Sermon on the Mount Thur

Week 7 Day 4 Devotions
What Would Jesus Do?
“Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6

Our focus this week has been “giving” and in particular of course giving to the needy. Our model for giving is based on what Jesus taught us about giving. The entire Gospel is of course about giving from beginning to end. John 3:16 which is sometimes referred to as the gospel within the gospel has these words: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” God gave, Jesus freely gave, and after the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit was given. Life in the Trinity especially as it relates to created human beings seems to revolve around giving; lovingly, selflessly and regardless of the cost.

In His life as it is recorded for us in the Gospels, Jesus from the earliest age gave himself over to the will of His Father. It might only be later in His life that we hear these words on His lips, “not my will but Thy will be done,” but those words sum up the reason behind everything that Jesus did. We are called to walk as Jesus walked which means in all things we are to ask ourselves that question which was so popular a while ago, “What would Jesus do?” The answer to that question is in some way always related to giving. Jesus gave Himself to acts of piety: He prayed, sincerely and privately and taught others to do the same. He studied the Scriptures, in a sense fed on them, discussed them with others, sometimes even in the Temple, and taught us to do the same. He retreated and fasted and taught us to do the same. He fellowshipped with others in the Temple, in the synagogue and in social family events and celebrations and He taught us to do the same. He submitted to baptism and taught us to do the same. He instituted the first service of Holy Communion and told us “to do this often in remembrance of me.”

He gave Himself in acts of mercy: He fed the hungry, He gave the thirsty a drink, He clothed the naked, He welcomed strangers, He visited the sick and the prisoner. He always sought to do these things in a practical way before doing them in a spiritual way and we should too. For example, give real food before spiritual food.  What will it mean to walk as Jesus walked today?

Governed by thy only will,
All thy words we would fulfil,
Would in all thy footsteps go,
Walk as Jesus walked below. (515)

A loving, simple people

Thur. 29 Sept 1743. I preached at the castle of Fonmon, to a loving, simple people. Friday 30, it being a fair, still evening, I preached in the castle yard at Cardiff; and the whole congregation, rich and poor, behaved as in the presence of God. Saturday, October 1. I preached at Caerphilly in the morning, Llantrisant at noon, and Cardiff at night.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 7 of Sermon on the Mount Wed

Week 7 Day 3 Devotions
The Wisdom from Above
“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
James 3:17

Feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty a drink, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers visiting the sick and the prisoner; all of these are not only the right thing to do, they are also the wise thing to do. Think of the nation in which you live: how would things change if there were no poverty, in other words no hunger, thirst or nakedness? Perhaps even apply these thoughts on a smaller scale: how would the absence of poverty change things in your city or even in your church? Are strangers, aliens or foreigners a “problem” in your nation, city or church? There is certainly not a nation on the planet that does not have a problem with illness. Think of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Alzheimer's disease and so on. As for prison populations, most nations struggle to develop a prison system that eventually sets free rehabilitated convicts with no desire to return to a life of crime.

The Scriptural injunctions (that is a more gentle word than command but it means the same thing) to feed, give, clothe, welcome and visit are wise things to do with your time. The wisdom that comes from the world says: “Don't do these things because what difference can you make anyway?” But when you choose to feed, give, clothe, welcome and visit the least among you, you are choosing to bring kingdom wisdom to bear on worldly problems and there is no better wisdom than that. It might not make sense to the world around you, or to your friends nor sometimes even to the people you love and whose support you long for, but this wisdom from above which begins with the purity of your intentions and your desire to get along with those whom you reach out to and leads to an overflow of your impartial and sincere good works is the kind of wisdom which can begin to change our world for the better.

It starts in that place where God has placed you today.
Ye simple souls that stray
Far from the path of peace
(That lonely, unfrequented way
To life and happiness),
Why will ye folly love,
And throng the downward road,
And hate the wisdom from above,
And mock the sons of God? (21)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 7 of Sermon on the Mount Tues

Week 7 Day 2 Devotions
Saved by Faith
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Titus 3:5

Well, perhaps after yesterday's devotion you went out with the eyes and a heart that are open to looking for and reaching out to the hungry, the thirsty, the poorly clothed, the stranger, the sick and even the prisoner. (If you didn't then today is an opportunity to go out with the eyes and a heart that are open to looking for and reaching out to the hungry, the thirsty, the poorly clothed, the stranger, the sick and even the prisoner.) Bless you, and remember that as much as you did (or do) these things for the least of those you came (or come) across you did (or do) them for the Lord Jesus Christ. But let us pause as well and remember that we are not saved because of the righteous things we do. Good works are the fruit of saving faith; we do righteous things because we are saved, not in order to be saved. Wesley's comments on our text verse remind us once again of the grand truth of the Christian faith: “Not by works - In this important passage the apostle presents us with a
delightful view of our redemption. Herein we have, The cause of it; not our works or righteousness, but "the kindness and love of God our Saviour." The effects; which are, Justification; "being justified," pardoned and accepted through the alone merits of Christ, not from any desert in us, but according to his own mercy, "by his grace," his free, unmerited goodness. Sanctification, expressed by the laver of regeneration, (that is, baptism, the thing signified, as well as the outward sign,) and the renewal of the Holy Ghost; which purifies the soul, as water cleanses the body, and renews it in the whole image of God. The consummation of all; - that we might become heirs of eternal life, and live now in the joyful hope of it.”

As you look forward to living out your faith today you may want to sing or hum the Wesleyan verse that follows (it will fit into the tune of Amazing Grace or, if you know it, Scarborough Fair):

Happy the souls to Jesus joined,
And saved by grace alone;
Walking in all his ways, they find
Their heaven on earth begun. (15)

No time to lose

Tuesday 27 Sept 1743: We came to Mr. Gwynne’s at Garth. It brought fresh to my mind our first visit to Mr. Jones at Fonmon. How soon may the master of this great house too be called away into an everlasting habitation!
Having so little time to stay, I had none to lose. So the same afternoon, about four o’clock, I read prayers and preached to a small congregation on the ‘faith’ which ‘is counted’ to us ‘for righteousness’.
Very early in the morning I was obliged to set out in order to reach Cardiff before it was dark. I found a large congregation waiting there, to whom I explained Zech. 9:11: ‘By the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.’

Monday, September 26, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 7 of Sermon on the Mount Monday

Week 7 Day 1 Devotions
The Law That Gives Freedom
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2:12 & 13

The text before us today is tucked between two better-known sections of James’ letter. Preceding our text verses James has asked us to examine ourselves with regard to our responses to two different types of people who might come to our meetings: the very rich and the very poor and he warns us about showing favouritism. This teaching is for us today as much as it was for those to whom James wrote and of course doesn't only apply in our church meetings, but in all our relationships. He then goes on and refers to the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” In the verse following our text verses James asks what good it is to claim to have faith but to have no deeds. Our text mentions speaking and acting which together cover almost all human behaviour. Think about the next day in your life and in particular of any possible contacts which might arise with the hungry, the thirsty, the poorly clothed, with strangers or foreigners, the sick and even those in prison. Think about what you will say and do in the situations which might arise. Are you tempted to judge those who might be in the the abovementioned situations or are you “tempted” to show mercy? Is there anything you can do now to prepare for any close encounters which might arise? (This preparation is often as simple as just having a few extra sandwiches at hand, or a packet of old clothes and then asking God to show you who He wants you to give them to.)

While some might see this as a burden, James suggests beautifully that the law of God actually sets us free to behave this way. God's law and in particular the royal law to love your neighbour as yourself is not a burden; instead, it sets us free because we are obeying out of joy, the joy that flows from having experienced mercy ourselves.

What will it mean to let mercy triumph over judgment today?

O that all the art might know
Of living thus to thee!
Find their heaven begun below,
And here thy glory see!
Walk in all the works prepared
By thee to exercise their grace,
Till they gain their full reward,
And see thy glorious face! (316)

Lessons in Evangelism

Mon. 26 Sept 1743. I had a great desire to speak plain to a young man who went with us over the New Passage. To that end I rode with him three miles out of my way, but I could fix nothing upon him. Just as we parted, walking over Caerleon bridge, he stumbled and was like to fall. I caught him, and began to speak of God’s care over us. Immediately the tears stood in his eyes, and he appeared to feel every word which was said; so I spoke, and spared not. The same I did to a poor man who led my horse over the bridge, to our landlord and his wife, and to one who occasionally came in. And they all expressed a surprising thankfulness.
About seven in the evening we reached Crickhowell, four miles beyond Abergavenny. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 7

Acts of Righteousness and Giving to the Needy

Matthew 6:1-18

We’ve been working through the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus himself describes as the foundation, the rock, the teaching on which the Christian life is built. So when someone asks, “How does the Christian life work? How does a Christian live? What does God expect the Christian life to look like?”……we need look no further than the Sermon on the Mount.

 In what we call chapter five, Jesus has described the various part of inward religion, bare essentials, foundations made up of spiritual poverty, holy mourning (I’m bringing to mind the beatitudes), meekness and so on. And he has described how these inner dispositions of our heart, when brought under the influence of the Holy Spirit, lead to outer holiness. The holiness without which no one will see the Lord, as the writer to the Hebrews puts it.

In our last talk we saw how these inner attitudes, mixed with the power of the Holy Spirit, enable us to, in the words of Jesus, have a righteousness which surpasses that of the Pharisees. Without which, Jesus says, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So having dealt with the inner things, Jesus now describes the outer Christian life.
In chapter six and verse one, Jesus talks about your acts of righteousness. Some translations have your religious duties. The KJV speaks of your alms.
The Christian life is not just an inward thing. It is an outward thing as well. And Jesus describes three outward acts of righteousness: giving to the needy, praying and fasting. These therefore become part of the foundation to the Christian life. Remember Jesus’ words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, ‘Whoever hears these words now and obeys them (that’s a choice that you and I have) is like a wise person who built his or her house upon the rock.” And of course, visa versa. Hearing them, not obeying them is foolishness and is building your house on sand.
Notice Jesus is not saying, “In this kingdom, which I invite you into in this life (in fact, which you must enter into in this life if you are not going to be washed away into hell in the next life), in this kingdom, if you feel like giving to the needy, this is how I suggest you do it. And if you feel like praying, this is how I suggest you do it. And if you happen to feel like fasting, here is how I suggest you do it. No! He says, when you give to the needy, when you pray, when you fast. These are not suggestions for us to pick and choose from.

Now Jesus is not introducing something new here. The idea of doing your religion has always been and remains an established part of the life lived under the Lord who is my shepherd.
Acts of righteousness…the doing part of our faith/belief/religion…. can be divided into two groups: acts of mercy and acts of piety. Giving to the needy, from verse two, is an act of mercy. In verse five, praying is an act of piety. In verse 16, fasting is an act of piety. Jesus and Scripture and Methodism speak of there being a balance. A Christian life which has only acts of piety and no acts of mercy is an imbalanced life spiritually. The early Methodist class meeting held people accountable in both of these areas. We are going to look at prayer and fasting separately over the next two weeks so for today we have a look at giving to the needy.
Who are the needy and what do we give to them? At the end of Matthew’s gospel, in chapter 25, Jesus describes various acts of mercy and who to do them for in a lot more detail. He says it is identifying with the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, assisting the stranger, visiting the sick and the prisoner. This is giving to the needy and Jesus says, “In as much as you do this for the least of these, you do it for me.” Notice first of all, Jesus identifies with this group of people, the poor. That means we must too.

Notice secondly, the words “the least of these.” The Christian’s ministry and of course the ministry of the church and the mission of the church is not just to the poor, but to the poorest of the poor. It is not just to the sick, but to the sickest of the sick. John Wesley said to his ministers and to the early Methodist people, “Don’t go to those who need you (as an aside let me say that there is always an endless list of those people who need you), but go to those who need you most.” When you give to the needy (in the Old Testament this was over and above what you gave to the temple, to God and for his work and this is the case now as well), and while today in this church we have areas and channels of mission, it is always to those who need us most. And while these things might be in place in our church, you and I still have an individual responsibility to the needy who God in his grace and wisdom places in our path each day. So it is not, I’ll give to the church and they must look after the needy – no, Sermon on the Mount Christianity makes things far more personal than that.
Jesus says, “When you give to the needy.” It really is a command for personal religion, isn’t it? He’s talking to a crowd of people with a word that is individual. This is not something for others to do, it is something for you to do. And he says, ….When you do this, don’t announce it. In verse 2 he says don’t blow your trumpet. The Pharisees did that, they blew a trumpet. They said it was to call the poor, to get their attention. This is what they would do when it was time for them to give to the needy they would go out onto the street corner somewhere and blow their trumpet.  Their trumpet blast would announce: “The Pharisee is about to hand out goods to the poor.” That’s why they blew their trumpet. Jesus says, “Don’t blow your trumpet” because he knew their motive was to get everyone to stop and look at them – picking up the trumpet, blowing it – “look at me, I’m about to give to the poor. I’m saying it’s to call the poor but actually it’s to make sure you notice that I am giving to the poor.”

 Jesus knew that was one of the reasons they blew their trumpet. I think Jesus also knew that they were just too darn lazy and too proud to actually go to the poor. Their arrogance made them believe that the poor should come to them. It could also be because their lack of real faith might have meant that they were actually afraid of going to the poor. So they blew their trumpet to bring the poor to them, to where they felt safe, their comfort zone we would call it today.
Jesus says, When you give to the needy (verse 4) do it in secret. He uses an idiom, he says don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, don’t blow your trumpet. Do your acts of righteousness in secret so that all the glory goes to God.
So, we’ve looked at giving. We’ve looked at who we must give to. We have looked at what we should give. We’ve looked at how we should give.

Jesus says, “So when you give to the needy …”

I close with four words: Give to the needy. 


Discussion Questions/Biblestudy based on Sermon on Mount 7

Week 7 Discussion Questions and Bible Study

Giving to the Needy

Study Passage Matthew 6:1-5 & 16

1.      Discuss Jesus’ use of the word “when” in verses 2, 5 and 16. Discuss the degree to which giving, praying and fasting are embraced in your life and in the life of your church. Are they ‘whens’ or ‘ifs’ or ‘not at alls’? Why do you think this is so?
2.      What is a hypocrite? Discuss Jesus’ use of the word in these verses. How should one deal with hypocrisy in the church?
3.      Compare Matthew 5:16 with 6:1 and discuss what you understand Jesus’ teaching to be.
4.      In the talk mention was made of acts of mercy and acts of piety. Define each without using examples.
5.      Have a brainstorming session and using newsprint (if possible) make a list of various examples under each heading.
6.      Discuss the importance of balance in our personal lives between acts of mercy and acts of piety and the danger of emphasizing one over the other.
7.      Read Matthew 25:31-46 and identify six acts of mercy. Discuss practical ways doing these things today.
8.      Respond to the person who is listening to all this discussion and thinking: “We are saved by doing good works.”
Discuss the statement: “A relationship with God is central to salvation, and good works are                necessary to sustain it.” (From Covenant Discipleship by David Lowes Watson)
9.      How would you feel about being part of a group of people who hold each other accountable in the area of “doing” acts of righteousness? Discuss the potential strengths and weaknesses of such a group.
10.   Mission pillars
Go back to the list from question 4 and divide the acts of piety into those which are private and        those which are public (you can add to the lists if new ideas come up). Likewise divide your acts        of mercy into acts of compassion and acts of justice. Now discuss how or where each act fits into        our four pillars:

Evangelism & Church growth
Justice & Service
Development & Economic Empowerment

© 2006 

A quite serious and attentive congregation

Sun. 25 Sept 1743. I preached at Bristol in the morning, and at Kingswood in the afternoon on ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and for ever’. A vast congregation in the evening were quite serious and attentive.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Smallpox and Asthma

25 Sept 1767. I was desired to preach at Freshford, but the people durst not come to the house because of the smallpox, of which Joseph Allen, ‘an Israelite indeed’, had died the day before. So they placed a table near the churchyard. But I had no sooner begun to speak than the bells began to ring, by the procurement of a neighbouring gentleman. However, it was labour lost, for my voice prevailed, and the people heard me distinctly. Nay, a person extremely deaf, who had not been able to hear a sermon for several years, told his neighbours with great joy that he had ‘heard and understood all, from the beginning to the end’.
I preached at Bristol in the evening on 2 Cor. 4:17, a text which had been chosen by William New a little before God called him hence. He laboured under a deep asthma for several years and for seven or eight months was confined to his bed, where he was from time to time visited by a friend, who wrote the following account:
He was one of the first Methodists in Bristol and always walked as became the gospel. By the sweat of his brow he maintained a large family, leaving six children behind him. When he was no longer able to walk, he did not discontinue his labour; and after he kept his room, he used to cut out glass (being a glazier) to enable his eldest son, a child about fourteen, to do something toward the support of his family. Yea, when he kept his bed, he was not idle but still gave him what assistance he could.
He was formerly fond of company and diversions, but as soon as God called him, left them all—having a nobler diversion, visiting the sick and afflicted, in which he spent all his leisure hours. He was diligent in the use of all the means of grace, very rarely, during his health, missing the morning preaching at five, though he lived above a mile from the room.
About a year ago, he took his leave of the society, telling them that it was with great pleasure he had joined and continued with them; that it was in this despised place the Lord first manifested himself to his soul; that no tongue could tell what he had since enjoyed under that roof; that the same Jesus had enabled him to hold on thus far, and he hoped to be with him soon, adding, ‘I do not expect to see you any more here but have no doubt of meeting you in glory.’
During the last twenty days of his life, he took no other sustenance than now and then a teaspoonful of wine or of balm-tea. About fourteen days before his death, his tongue turned black, with large chops in it, through the heat of his stomach, and his lips were drawn two or three inches apart, so that it was difficult for him to speak. In this condition, he lay waiting for his discharge, saying sometimes, ‘I am, as it were, two persons. The body is in torturing pain; the soul is in sweet peace.’ He frequently said, ‘I long to be gone. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly.’ When I asked, ‘Do you desire to see such a person?’ he said, ‘I desire to see none but Jesus. To him I leave my dear wife and children. I have no care about them.’
The next day, Satan violently assaulted his faith. But instantly our Lord appeared in all his glory, and he was filled with love and joy unspeakable, and said, ‘Call my friend and let him see a dying Christian. Oh what do I feel? I see my Lord has overcome for me. I am his. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!’ He desired them that were present to sing, and began, ‘Jesu, lover of my soul.’ He then desired the text for his funeral sermon might be 1 Cor. 4:17.
The next time I saw him, having desired him to make signs rather than speak, which was painful to him, he said, ‘Here is a sign’ (pushing out his feet and holding up his hands), ‘a dying Christian, full of love and joy! A crown, a never-fading crown awaits me. I am going to everlasting habitations.’ He then desired us to sing, and quickly added, ‘He is come! He is come! I want to be gone; farewell to you all.’ When he could no longer speak, he continued smiling, clapping his hands, and discovering an ecstasy of joy in every motion.
After a while his speech returned, and he said: ‘Today is Friday; tomorrow I expect to go.’ One said, ‘Poor Mr. New!’ He said, ‘It is rich New: though poor in myself, I am rich in Christ.’
I saw him on Saturday in the same spirit, praising God with every breath. He appeared quite transported, pointing upwards and turning his fingers round his head, alluding to the crown prepared for him. I said, ‘Your Lord has kept the best wine unto the last.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ said he, ‘it is in my soul.’ When I took my leave he pressed my hand, pointed upward, and again clapped his hands. Afterward, he spoke little, till he cried out, ‘The chariot, the chariot of Israel,’ and died.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 6 of Sermon on the Mount Fri

Week 6 Day 5 Devotions
Today's Dirty Word
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Isaiah 64:6

C. S. Johnson shares this family lesson:
"My son, Michael, was four years old the night I found him sobbing uncontrollably in the hallway. Concerned, I knelt next to him and drew him close. "'What's the matter, sweetheart? Are you hurt? 'He shook his head and turned to me, but I was unprepared for his response. "'Daddy said a bad word to me!' he sobbed. I almost laughed out loud. I had known my husband 12 years and had rarely heard him raise his voice. But Michael had heard him say something, and I was curious enough to want to know what it was. "'Honey, what bad word did Daddy say?' And seeing a chance for sympathy, my sensitive four-year-old stopped crying and blurted out - 'Obey!'

"I never think of that incident now without asking my Heavenly Father to keep me from believing, as my son did, that 'obey' is a bad word." 

Today's text graphically highlights the effects of disobedience. Sin makes us unclean. Think about that. Many of us pride ourselves on our cleanliness, making sure our homes are spotless, our clothes neatly pressed, if we have cars they must be shiny and who would think of going into a shop, a restaurant, or even a church which looks filthy?

 But our sin makes us unclean and even though we might look clean on the outside we are filthy on the inside. Jesus once spoke to the Pharisees (whose righteousness we must exceed) about this very thing, being clean on the outside but filthy on the inside. The text goes on and points out that sin pollutes even our righteous acts turning them into nothing more than filthy rags! Sin shrivels us, drains us and dries us up like a leaf and then like a wind it carries us away, who knows where? And all of this because of the four letter word that it is so unpopular today: “Obey.”

It can all seem quite hopeless and we can be tempted to say: “What's the use even trying?” But remember, there is a secret ingredient which when added to our obedience changes everything. It was missing in the obedience of the Pharisees (whose righteousness we are called to exceed) but it needn't be missing in your obedience today. The secret ingredient is of course……. Desire. Add the desire to be obedient to your obedience today. Obey because you want to and not because you have to and then ask God for the power that only His Spirit can give, the power to show your love for Him by your obedience to Him.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 6 of Sermon on the Mount Thur

Week 6 Day 4 Devotions

A Very Good Book

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
Isaiah 40:8

While there are many reasons why Jesus makes it clear that the Law and the Prophets are not done away with, among them moral, historical and theological reasons, today we look at a more down-to-earth reason: The Old Testament (to which Jesus was referring) and of course the whole Bible as we know it today, is plain and simply a very good book. Hold your Bible in your hand and read the following :

All Sufficient
When I am tired, the Bible is my bed;
Or in the dark, the Bible is my light;
When I am hungry, it is vital bread;
Or fearful, it is armor for the fight.
When I am sick, 'tis healing medicine;
Or lonely, thronging friends I find therein.
If I would work, the Bible is my tool;
Or play, it is a harp of happy sound.
If I am arrogant, it is my school.
If I am sinking, it is solid ground.
If I am cold, the Bible is my fire;
And it is wings, if boldly I aspire.
Should I be lost, the Bible is my guide;
Or naked, it is raiment rich and warm.
Am I imprisoned, it is ranges wide;
Or tempest-tossed, a shelter from the storm.
Would I adventure, 'tis a gallant sea;
Or would I rest, it is a flowery lea.
Does gloom oppress? The Bible is a sun,
Or ugliness? It is a garden fair.
Am I athirst? How cool its currents run!
Or stifled? What a vivifying air!
Since thus thou givest of thyself to me,
How should I give myself great Book to thee!
[Author Unknown]

God of all power, and truth, and grace,
Which shall from age to age endure;
Whose word, when heaven and earth shall pass,
Remains and stands for ever sure. (380)

Stop! say the Quakers

Thursday 22 Sept 1743: As we were riding through a village called Sticklepath, one stopped me in the street and asked abruptly, ‘Is not thy name John Wesley?’ Immediately two or three more came up and told me I must stop there. I did so, and before we had spoke many words our souls took acquaintance with each other. I found they were called Quakers; but that hurt not me, seeing the love of God was in their hearts.
In the evening I came to Exeter and preached in the Castle; and again at five in the morning to such a people as I have rarely seen, void both of anger, fear, and love.
We went by Axminster at the request of a few there that feared God, and had joined themselves together some years since. I exhorted them so to seek after the power as not to despise the form of godliness, and then rode on to Taunton, where we were gladly received by a little company of our brethren from Bristol.
I had designed to preach in the yard of our inn, but before I had named my text, having uttered only two words, ‘Jesus Christ’, a tradesman of the town (who it seems was mayor elect) made so much noise and uproar that we thought it best to give him the ground. But many of the people followed me up into a large room, where I preached unto them Jesus. The next evening, Saturday 24, we arrived safe at Bristol.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 6 of Sermon on the Mount Wed

Week 6 Day 3 Devotions
Righteousness That Surpasses That of the
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD,
until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
Hosea 10:12

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus concludes his teaching on the Law and the Prophets with an exhortation to those listening, and therefore to us, to have a righteousness which exceeds that of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. We are called to pursue righteousness and to seek holiness in our lives and in the verse before us today we find some tips on how to go about this. 

“Sow for yourselves righteousness:” Go about doing good, look out for opportunities to do good deeds. Feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, clothe the naked, welcome strangers, visit the sick and those in prison. Do these things, or some of them at least…… TODAY. 

Let's take a closer look at the first one, feeding the hungry. Don't feel you have to go out and solve the problem of poverty in your area today, just make a few sandwiches and give them to a hungry person that you come across. Sowing righteousness can be that easy, and notice what follows; “Reap the fruit of unfailing love:” One translation has: “you will reap a crop of my love.” 

The picture we have is one of sowing little seeds (our little acts of righteousness) and reaping a great crop (God's unfailing love). That is a great return on investment! “And break up your unplowed ground:” These words remind us of the hard soil in the parable of the soils. It often happens when we start ministering to the people mentioned above that our own hardness of heart gets in the way and these words encourage us to break any hardness that may have crept in.

“For it is time to seek the LORD:” There is a sense in which you are seeking the Lord right now through finding the time to do this devotion, but of course there are many other ways of seeking the Lord as well. Carry on,……. “Until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” Isn't this a beautiful picture? Sow righteousness into the world around you until God showers His righteousness on you. Can you see how suddenly, somewhere along the line, we no longer have a righteousness of our own? His righteousness becomes our righteousness and in this way our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law.

Praise the Lord!

Large company of tinners [yes, tinners]

Wed. 21 Sept 1743. I was waked between three and four by a large company of tinners, who fearing they should be too late had gathered round the house and were singing and praising God. At five I preached once more, on ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ They all devoured the word. O may it be health to their soul and marrow unto their bones!
We rode to Launceston that day. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 6 of Sermon on the Mount Tues

Week 6 Day 2 Devotions
The Delightful Law
“Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight.” Psalm 119:77

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the Bible and it is divided into twenty two stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In each verse, each line begins with the same letter of the alphabet - this makes it what is called an acrostic Psalm. The text before us today is from the tenth verse of the Psalm and in the original language each of the eight lines in this verse begins with the letter “Yod,” the tenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

 The whole Psalm is an extraordinary tribute to the Law of Israel and in all but seven lines of the176 in the Psalm there is a reference to the Law. Furthermore, God is addressed or referred to in every one of the 176 lines! The author of this Psalm loves the Lord and loves the Law. We should too. “Your law is my delight:” What a wonderful way to describe God's law and no wonder Jesus wants to make it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that such a source of pleasure and delight is not done away with.

 Why do away with something that is so very good for us?
In our text the Psalmist is asking for the Lord's compassion to come to him so that he may live. He is suffering some sort of affliction and may even be close to death and his cry is one that has been on the lips of many who have suffered. It is interesting to look at the cause of his affliction which is mentioned in 119:75: “in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” The Lord-loving and Law-loving Psalmist is suffering an affliction which is the result of having broken the law and his loving and long-suffering Lord has in faithfulness had to afflict him. Breaking the law of God has consequences. Sometimes the natural consequences of breaking the law bring affliction without the Lord's faithful intervention - not all suffering or affliction comes from God. 

But sometimes stiffnecked rebellion and stubborn disobedience require that our Lord, because of His faithfulness to us, afflict us in order to bring us to our senses. It is at times like these that we, like the Psalmist, must cling more than ever to the Rock of our salvation, delighting in His Law even when it is broken laws that are causing us to suffer and cry out for compassion.

When stronger souls their faith forsook,
And, lulled in worldly, hellish peace,
Leaped desperate from their guardian rock,
And headlong plunged in sin's abyss,
Thy strength was in our weakness shown,
And still it guards and keeps thine own. (471)

Ten Thousand gather to hear Wesley

Tue. 20 Sept 1743. I concluded my preaching here by exhorting all who had ‘escaped the corruption that is in the world’ to ‘add to’ their ‘faith, courage, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity’. At eleven I spent some time with our brethren in prayer and commended them to the grace of God.
At Treswithian Downs I preached to two or three thousand people, on ‘the highway of the Lord, the way of holiness’. We reached Gwennap a little before six and found the plain covered from end to end. It was supposed there were ten thousand people, to whom I preached Christ our ‘wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption’. I could not conclude till it was so dark we could scarce see one another. And there was on all sides the deepest attention, none speaking, stirring, or scarce looking aside. Surely here, though in a temple not made with hands, was God ‘worshipped in the beauty of holiness’!
One of those who were present was Mr. P----, once a violent adversary. Before sermon began he whispered one of his acquaintance, ‘Captain, stand by me; don’t stir from me.’ He soon burst out into a flood of tears, and quickly after, sunk down. His friend caught him and prevented his falling to the ground. O may the Friend of sinners lift him up!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 6 of Sermon on the Mount Monday

Week 6 Day 1 Devotions
But What Does It Mean?
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

When the Psalmist writes about God's word he is usually referring to the Law but we can
quite comfortably take what the Psalmist says about the Law and apply it to the entirety of
God's written communication to us, the Bible.

Someone has painted the picture (with words)
of the Psalmist having little candles or lamps tied to his feet and only as he lifts his foot and
moves forward does some light shine on the path ahead. The idea is that God's word guides
us more step-by-step than by illuminating the whole of our future for us. In another context
we are told to ask for daily bread, not monthly provisions. So it is that Christians turn
expectantly to God's word, the Bible, for guidance and direction.

While most (one would
hope all) Christians agree that God speaks to us by His Spirit through the words of the Bible
there is not always agreement on what the words mean or what a particular text really says.
When it comes to interpreting the Scriptures, some believe a literal interpretation is the only
way, others that a literal interpretation must always take precedence (John Wesley was
certainly part of this school of thought), while others allow for varying degrees of freedom in
deciding what a text might mean; for example, who really believes that if our hand causes us
to sin we should get a knife out the drawer and cut it off?

How does God's word become a
lamp for my feet and a light for my path if it doesn't always mean what it says?
The Beatitudes might be helpful here: always come to God's word spiritually poor,
acknowledging the bankruptcy of your understanding. Mourn the fact that God's Word
doesn't have a more important place in your life. Approach God's word meekly willing to
come under the submission of whatever God might reveal to you and then hunger and thirst
for God-given revelation. Celebrate God's mercy in deigning to communicate with you
through His word and come to His word with a heart purified by the cleansing forgiveness
which follows honest repentance. Make peace with your Bible and especially those parts of
it that you wish weren't there. Be prepared to persecute, to banish or even put to death wrong
interpretations of God's word that you have clung to.

The Bible is God's word for us today and is an important means of God communicating His
grace to us. There was a time when the Bible was not in the hands of ordinary people like
you and me and the interpretation of its meaning was in the hands of a select few. Believe
and then praise God for the fact that with the guidance that His Holy Spirit gives, you can
read the Bible and be led into understanding what it means.

As far from abjectness as pride,
With condescending dignity,
Jesus, I make thy Word my guide,
And keep the post assigned by thee. (458)