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Singing the Big Song

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I have a friend by the name of Dr John Dempster. Each week John writes an article for the Inversess newspaper in Scotland and he kindly sends me a copy by email.

Here is a copy of what he sent me this week. It blessed me I hope it will also bless you.

Ray

www.Christian-housesitters.com

Last Wednesday Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist held hostage in Gaza for 114 days was released. Tired, but composed and lucid he spoke about his time in captivity and his joy at being freed. ‘I dreamt, literally dreamt of being free again and always woke up in that little room,’ he said. ‘It’s hard to put into words how good it is to be free.’

On the first of July Inverness Methodist Church organised ‘the Big Sing,’ marking the 300th anniversary of the birth of Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism.

Today, Wesley is best remembered for his hymns – he wrote several thousand, some of which, including Hark the herald angels sing, Jesus lover of my soul and Love divine all loves excelling are still sung today. 

What strikes you as you read his work is the strength and passion of his faith and his experience of joy and personal freedom. ‘He breaks the power of cancelled sin,’ Charles writes confidently, referring to Jesus. ‘Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night,’ he tells us, before describing  what happened when Christ intervened – ‘I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell of, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee.’ 

This gift of freedom seems to have been every bit as real to Wesley as Alan Johnson’s deliverance from literal captivity was to him. But in what sense was Charles ever ‘fast bound’ in a ‘dungeon’?  It seems that as a young man he became acutely aware of his own sinfulness and moral imperfections, and realised these were a barrier closing his heart to the loving, holy God he longed to encounter. He believed that unless this barrier were  removed, he would face God’s judgement after death, yet  his strenuous efforts to live a committed, Christian life were not, he felt,  really changing him for the better.  

This failure drove him to the dungeon of despair from which he was only set free when he realised Christianity is not after all about trying to make ourselves good enough for God, but about inviting Christ to demolish the barrier which separates us from him, forgiving us, setting us free, empowering us to be better people.  These thoughts came to a focus for Charles Wesley on one particular Sunday, 21st May 1738, and it was from then that he dated the beginning of his true Christian faith. That night he says, ’I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness yet confident of Christ’s protection.’

 All of us as Christians know something of the freedom Wesley describes. Like him we’ve discovered that Jesus Christ reconnects us with God, forgiving us totally. And to one degree or another we’ve all received through faith in Christ freedom from fear, freedom from guilt, freedom from hopelessness, freedom from destructive patterns of behaviour, freedom from the negativism which tells we will never be free. 

Alan Johnston described his difficulty finding words to adequately describe his joy at being free. Christians find in the Bible, but also in the work of writers like Charles Wesley a storehouse of words, helping us both to express and to understand more deeply what our minds have come to know and our hearts to feel.  

Spiritual experience was important to Charles Wesley and his equally-famous brother John. On his death-bed in 1735 their father Samuel, an Anglican vicar, told John ‘The inward witness, son, the inward witness, this is the proof, the strongest proof of Christianity.’ And yet Charles Wesley was no stranger to depression, and he sometimes felt that God was working through him rather than working in him – others were encouraged by his preaching, while he was unmoved.  

Many of us, knowing how fluctuating is our sense of God’s presence prefer to base our faith on more reliable evidence of the truth of Christianity, such as eye-witness accounts of meetings with the risen-from-the-dead Jesus. And so we continue to believe that we all as Christians singers in a great song far bigger than we are, a song sung by God’s people throughout the whole of history. And day by day we make Charles Wesley’s words our own – ‘Other refuge have I none…All my trust on thee is stayed…Thou O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I found.’ 

After his release, Alan Johnston voiced his concern for the five other Britons currently being held hostage in Iraq. ‘My heart goes out to anybody in that situation, he said. ‘I do so much hope they have a day like mine. I pray for them.’ Which is precisely the impulse which motivates folk like Charles Wesley who have tasted deeply of the freedom Jesus brings to help others find him for themselves. 

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About housesitters

ABOUT Christian House Sitters Christian House Sitters is a Worldwide ministry that started in order to provide holidays for Christians and sitters for owners who needed a reliable Christian to look after their home, pets and garden. House owners do not pay anything to have their property listed. House sitters are only charged £25 per year and in return for this some enjoy numerous holidays each year. All fees from membership go to sponsor food for children at the Home of Peace Children’s Home in Kenya. This only supplies about a quarter of what is needed to feed the children so we urgently need sponsors. All funds go via our Registered Charity TLC Children’s Trust Charity Number 1156786 website http://www.tlc-childrenstrust.org N.B. Joining Christian House Sitters does NOT commit you to sponsoring a child or giving any support beyond your membership fee to these children. Although naturally if you want to support that would be greatly appreciated. We have some regular sponsors and other people who give an occasional gift. All are greatly appreciated. ABOUT RAY & MARILYN We are Marilyn & Ray White. A fun loving Christian couple who have been in Christian work for over 30 years. Marilyn was born in England but moved to Zimbabwe as a baby. At the age of 16 she moved to South Africa. Ray was born in South Africa and grew up on a farm. We met in Johannesburg and got married in 1966. Ray worked in business for many years then he worked for YfC in South Africa then went on to Bible College and Pastored a church. In 1982 we moved from South Africa to England. In addition to his theological training Ray trained in Psychology and since moving to the UK he has lectured in Psychology, counselled for the NHS and opened a Christian Counselling Centre. Marilyn is also a trained counsellor and manager. In addition to the counselling we trained Christian counsellors both in our local area and by invitation in other areas of the UK. In total over 700 people completed the training courses. Many are serving the Lord by working in or through their local churches. We also ran a secular Stress Management business. We are now semi-retired and focus our time and attention on Christian House Sitters and Ray also serves as a member of our Church Leadership Team. Ray also has an active preaching ministry and runs Christian seminars on subjects such as stress management for church groups. He has written two books. A Christian book that is a very practical workbook on Christian commitment as applied to real life. The book looks at how we can surrender ourselves more fully to God. This is looked at under the headings of Physical, Mental, Social and Spiritual commitment. The book is called Let’s Get Serious. He has also written a secular book on Stress Management called Stress Overcoming this Potential Killer. (Ray was previously Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK). News Update This book has now been released as an e-book as well A few years ago we did a 2 month House Sit in France. Whilst there we felt the Lord leading us to set up a Christian House Sitting service. Since then we have done a number of other house sits. We believe this site will benefit many Christians around the world. Feel free to contact us (BUT please no spam) NOTE: If you want a fast reply the best way to contact us is via the contact page on the Christian House Sitters website www.christian-housesitters.com God bless you, Ray & Marilyn

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