It is 36 years since I first went to the Chapel Anniversary and Bible School at Stanton Lees, Derbyshire. During that time many dear saints who used to meet there have gone to be with Christ. So we understood John Wesley’s emotion, quoting his brother’s hymn shortly after Charles’ death, ‘My company before is gone, and I am left alone with thee’.
John Harris mentioned this incident during his wide-ranging lecture on the life of Charles Wesley (born 300 years ago on 18 December). A church history lecture has become the regular link meeting between the weekend anniversary and the Monday-Wednesday Bible school.
George Mills (Doncaster) opened the anniversary meetings with a powerful sermon on Matthew 12. Equipped by the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus deals tenderly with weak and struggling souls and draws to himself many who, like the Gentiles, thought he had no interest in them.
Three services made for a full Lord’s Day. Paul Cook spoke in the morning on ‘The incredible Christian’ – the astonishing fact that a Christian church should ever be found in sensual pagan Corinth. It was not formed by importing believers from elsewhere but through the conversion of people from a hostile background.
No wonder there were problems! But the surprising thing is that a religion which contradicted the entire ethos of Corinthian life could take root at all. It was a demonstration that Christ crucified is ‘the power and wisdom of God’.
Simon Clarke (Shepshed) preached in the afternoon from Acts 4 – a plea for prayer for preachers and boldness in preaching. Paul Cook preached in the evening from Psalm 34:4 – ‘How to deal with fear’. Faith in God’s sovereignty convinces us that our lives are not a haphazard series of accidents, while faith in his providence assures us that his love manages everything for our good.
Providence was the keynote of Geoff Thomas’ series of studies from Esther on Monday-Wednesday.
God is not explicitly mentioned in Esther. Yet he is there, controlling every disparate circumstance to stir his people to repentance and preserve them from destruction. And everything happened with perfect timing. Despite the godless totalitarianism, even the heart of a tyrant like Ahasuerus is in the hand of the Lord and is turned wherever God wishes.
In a day when there is increasing official scorn for biblical Christianity, it is good to be reminded that God has not abdicated his throne and he has called us to serve him ‘at such a time as this’.