Introduction Albu van Eeden
The Youth Conference ended on Friday, 21 June. Our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude. Most of the young people have returned home and we thank the Lord for travelling mercies. Thank you to everyone who contributed in whatever way to this conference. Thank you to the steering committee who were responsible for the planning and smooth running of the conference.
We thank the Lord for His working. We experienced the presence of His Holy Spirit in our midst. This is the most essential part of the conference. Without His presence and blessing, all the organisation and labour would have been in vain. We thank the Lord for being here and working in our midst.
It is a privilege to experience God working in the hearts of men, something which only God can do. My heart was deeply touched when a soul came for help. Looking at his outward appearance, one could not imagine what he said. In a remorseful and quaking voice he confessed that there was so much wrong that he had done, whether through disobedience, or deception to parents or community, debasing his body, harming himself with drugs. (It is possible that you stand afar off and make your own foolish conclusions but you do not hear the cries of the people who need the gospel.)
This morning I would like to remind you of the greatness of God. I fail to put it into words, therefore I would like to use words written by those to whom God gave utterance.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2
Dr Ted Engstrom relates a story told him by a veteran Korean Christian. In the early 1880s three Korean workmen, labouring in China, heard the gospel and embraced the Lord Jesus. The three soon conspired to get the message of Christ into their own country, an action forbidden by the government. Since the Korean and Christian alphabets were similar, they decided to smuggle in a copy of the Chinese Bible. They drew straws to see who would have the privilege of bringing the gospel into Korea.
The first man buried the Bible in his belongings and headed toward the border, a journey of many days by footpath. There he was searched, found out and killed. Word reached the others that their friend was dead. The second man tore pages from his Bible and hid the separate pages throughout his luggage. He, too, made the long trip to the border only to be searched and beheaded. The third man grew more determined than ever to succeed. He ingeniously tore his Bible apart page by page, folding each page into a tiny strip. He wove the strips into a rope and wrapped his baggage in his homemade rope. When he came to the border, the guards asked him to unwrap his belongings. Finding nothing amiss, they admitted him. The man arrived home, untied the rope and ironed out each page. He reassembled his Bible and began to preach Christ wherever he went. And when the missionaries of the 1880s fanned the country. They found the seed already sown and the first fruits appearing.
O Lord, You are eternal
Your word will last as long as the heavens.
You remain faithful in every generation,
And the earth you created will keep standing firm.
Brutal enemies are waiting to ambush and destroy me,
But I obey your rules.
Psalm 119:89,90,95 (CEV)
There are times when a rope will be the tool to send out the gospel. It will not fail. God may choose a rope and select you to braid this rope or assist those who are braiding the rope to ensure that the gospel is alive. What are you busy with? Are you just living for your own sake? Are your eyes open? Has the Lord anointed your eyes so that you can see? We live in times when our eyes need to be washed, cleansed and anointed.
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? If your eyes are not anointed, your sight, discernment and imagination will be vain in God’s sight. It would be terrible if God, for whom you have surrendered all, will one day become an imagination to you.
Let us remind ourselves of God’s wondrous deeds and the miracles He has performed in the past.
For from of old no one has heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who works and shows Himself active on behalf of him who earnestly waits for Him. Isaiah 64:4 (AMPC)
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia [almost seventy years after the first Jewish captives were taken to Babylon], that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might begin to be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and put it also in writing: 2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. Ezra 1:1,2
Cyrus, a heathen ruler of a heathen empire (Persia) was “twice named before his birth in the book of Isaiah as anointed of God and predestined to conquer kings and fortified places, and set the Jews free from captivity. Daniel records that during the night that followed the great feast, Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans, was slain and Darius the Medes received the kingdom. Darius was predecessor of Cyrus, or his regent, in Babylonia” (Davis’ Dictionary of the Bible). God gave Cyrus the resolution and the desire to execute His intention. That the Lord at this time chose a heathen as His instrument was in accordance with the new position that the empires of the world were henceforth to assume toward the kingdom of God. (Lange’s Commentary, condensed) Footnote Ezra 1:1 in AMCP
When the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, the king of Persia, Daniel was an old man who was loved of God. The Lord spared him to see this unimaginable thing taking place.
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty, whose power no foe can withstand. 2 I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I confidently trust! 3 For then He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 Then He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge; His truth and His faithfulness are a shield and a buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow, the evil plots and slanders of the wicked, that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction and sudden death that surprise and lay waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not come near you. Psalm 91:1-7
Dear brother, sister, are these words ointment to you or are they a terror to you? Do you understand why I said that I cannot utter such things but God found utterance through His Spirit and His servants through whom He chose to speak these truths.
What joy this must have been to Daniel – his crowning glory! After 70 years of banishment he heard a heathen king rise up and proclaim that God in heaven had instructed him. Jeremiah had prophesied it and it came into fulfilment.
Read all these wonders and apply your mind and heart to these things and see if God does not weave a rope for you. Are you busy weaving a rope, your rope of escape? Paul was one day in a town and the rulers wanted to end his mission but Paul was not intimidated into resignation. Through his friends, he was let down over a wall in a basket suspended by ropes. He was assisted by his friends who did not allow him to fall into the hands of the evil men. They recognised that Paul was an instrument of God for that time. They realised saving Paul was to their benefit so that the gospel could continue to proceed from his mouth.
Child, do you support your father who is a bearer of good tidings? Do you exert yourself so that he can be safe? The father who brought you these glad tidings, that mother, boy or girl who brought you the message of salvation. Do you let down a rope so that they can escape and their blessed mouths continue spreading the truth?
11 And that same following night the Lord stood beside Paul and said, Take courage, Paul, for as you have borne faithful witness concerning Me at Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome. 12 Now when daylight came, the Jews formed a plot and bound themselves by an oath and under a curse neither to eat nor drink till they had done away with Paul. 13 There were more than forty men of them, who formed this conspiracy swearing together this oath and curse. 14 And they went to the chief priests and elders, saying, We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath and under a curse not to taste any food until we have slain Paul. Acts 23:11-14
On whose side do find yourself? Are you busy fasting like these Jews were and have you determined not to taste food until Paul is killed?
When Jesus was on earth, the chief priests and elders were in power. They saw the sky darkening at His death, they experienced the earthquake. They saw the curtain in the temple torn from top to bottom. They should have asked, “People, what is going on here?” A centurion saw and experienced the same things and he acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God but the elders and chief priests did not. They were the enemies of the gospel of Christ. It is a pity that professors of the gospel of Christ can utter things more vile than the heathen.
These enemies of Paul had a very ‘noble’ calling – to kill Paul. Is there any nobility in that? They had committed themselves to something even heathens do not do. Can we ascribe this to the hardness of their hearts? Beware that He who sits in the heavens and laughs the nations to scorn will not pull a veil over your eyes and turn your heart to darkness so that you will be unable to see correctly. You need salve for your eyes that Jesus offered in Revelation. Did these 40 people keep their oath and the curse with which they bound themselves?
In closing, Scotland’s preacher, Thomas Guthrie was born on 12 July 1803 to a local merchant and his devout wife. He attended Edinburgh University at 12 years of age and graduated at 16 years. In 1830 he assumed the pastorate of small congregation of farmers and he started with parish library. His preaching was well received. After 7 years he was made minister of Old Grey Friar Church in Edinburgh and then of St. John’s Church in the same city. He established ministries to the poor whom he frequently visited, talking to them of their feelings and needs. He was continually innovative. His best known programme was the Ragged Schools for juvenile delinquents. He fiercely promoted total abstinence, seeing daily the effects of alcohol on the unfortunate. The poor loved him yet his outgoing personality, intense passion and colourful sermons appealed to the higher classes of society and Guthrie soon became the most popular minister in Scotland. When his health failed he turned from pastoring to spend his remaining years editing a Christian magazine. On 23 February 1873, while resting into the arms of his son, he looked up and said, “I am as helpless now in your arms as you were in mine when you were a babe.” With that he died. His funeral procession was huge and included 230 children from the original Ragged School.
Maybe the success of his preaching is best explained in his own words: “When I went to Arbilot, I knew pretty well how to speak sermons, but very little about how to compose them: so I set myself vigorously to study how to illustrate the great truths of the gospel and enforce them so that there should be no sleepers in the church, no wandering eyes, but everywhere an eager attention. To convert my hearers was not within my power; but to command their attention, to awaken their interest, to touch their feelings and instruct their minds was – and I was determined to do it.”
4 For from of old no one has heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who works and shows Himself active on behalf of him who earnestly waits for Him. Isaiah 64:4