Friday 21 March & Saturday 22 March 2014
Jack Seaton, Richard Clarke & Paul Bassett
Ebenezer Chapel in Old Hill was again the kind host of the Birmingham Conference, organised by the Committee of the Christian Worship Trust. The attendance has steadily increased since its inauguration, and this year the chapel was well filled with pastors and their wives, together with other church leaders and believers from across the country. Helpful and stimulating ministry was given over the two days by Jack Seaton of Inverness, Richard Clarke of Plymouth and Paul Bassett from Leicester. There was ample opportunity for rich fellowship and this alone is the means of great encouragement to the Lord’s people.
Mr Seaton spoke from the prophecy of Habakkuk word of God, showing how a believer is to react and conduct himself in times when revival is absent from the church. Habakkuk’s example in times of spiritual decline was shown to be very instructive for our situation today. The prophet lifted his mind to consider the greatness of God’s Being, brought his ears to His word, and finally came out of state of virtual desperation to a renewed determination to rejoice with confidence in God’s sovereign and gracious purposes. We would do well to follow Habakkuk’s pattern today. Mr Seaton’s second message addressed characteristics of times when reformation is present in the church. From the eighth chapter of Nehemiah we were shown that where there is a spirit intent on spiritual reformation certain marks will be in evidence. There will be an appetite for God’s word, a reverent attitude to its Divine origin, a close attention to the preaching of its truth, and an active response to its message. It must be our fervent prayer that these things might be more in evidence in our own day.
In his two addresses Mr Clarke’s theme was the precious love of Christ and the response that should come from our hearts to the riches of His grace. From the fifth chapter of Solomon’s Song we were shown how the devotion of a believer to the Saviour should deepen and progress in ever greater measure as we realise and appreciate His love. We were left thinking that we should be far more thoughtful about and spiritually moved by the infinite love of Christ than we are. Mr Clarke’s second message took us to Christ’s dealings with Peter in John 21. We were led us to consider what it means to be ‘constrained’ by the love of Christ, and how love for the Lord drives us to Christian duty. Love for the Saviour will affect the mind, the will and the whole being in a self sacrificial and consistent way, and will spill out toward the brethren. Love and compassion for lost sinners will also be in our hearts, reflecting the love of Christ Himself.
Mr Bassett preached a stirring message from the first chapter of 1 John emphasising that the blessing of the gospel is found in fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. This is the essence of Christian experience, and believers enjoy the unspeakable honour of knowing and rejoicing in this glorious truth through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is our joyful privilege to call others to the same fellowship in the preaching of the gospel.
In a discussion session the men considered the weighty issue of divine judgement on the nation, something that many believe is presently being experienced, and how the life and condition of the church contributes to the plight we are in. We must take care in how we relate events to particular sins, and laying blame at specific doors is no straightforward matter. What is certain is that we must each search our own hearts before the Lord, praying that in wrath God may remember mercy. In a separate meeting for the ladies present, Mrs Catriona Seaton spoke on the sensitive issue of the Christian’s response to personal tragedy.
These were two days well spent, and heartfelt thanks is due to all concerned in organising the conference and to contributing to the fine hospitality provided, as well as to the speakers for their faithful ministry. Next year’s conference is scheduled for 27th and 28th March and we prayerfully look forward to a further time of blessing in the will of God.
John Saunders (Providence Chapel, Chichester)