First Responders

The first people on the scene can often dictate what happens from then. Two cars have a small collision. If no-one arrives the drivers will sort the matter out between them. If a police car is first on the scene then the legal due process will dictate what happens. If a tow-truck is first on the scene you can be sure that the tow-truck driver will hook up the car that needs the most work, since that will give him the most income from the repair job.

People’s motivations, as per the Motivational Gifts of Romans 12, have been demonstrated to influence how an event unfolds. If an Organiser arrives on the scene they will start organising people into the most effective response. If a Helper arrives first they will usually dive in and start doing what they can. A Teacher will take the opportunity to point out some lesson from what happened, while a Mercy motivated person will seek out the ones needing the most reassurance and meet that need.

In a medical problem a surgeon thinks about cutting people open. A pharmacist thinks about which chemicals will be the most helpful. A chiropractor thinks about which structural manipulation will be the most helpful, and so on.

All that is said, simply to introduce the idea of our personal First Responders. When people face a new moment in their life they will tend to have a suite of first responses which they have cultivated over the years. Their choice of first response will have impact on how things unfold from there.

For instance, if a person’s first response is, “Oh Dear!” compounded by feelings of inadequacy, then each new moment will start off as a struggle. If a person’s first response is that they are being bothered by the interruption or challenge of something new, they are likely to express exasperation, saying something like, “What is it this time?”

It strikes me that not many people have been trained to think about their First Responders. They have developed a suite of responses which suit how they feel and they fail to see how those responses impact others. I have met people who always give off the signal that they are more important than others and should not be interrupted. Every call on their attention is greeted by a groan. This is often very out of place in the signal it sends to their loved ones and family.

I have met people who give off the signal that they are not interested. They may simply grunt or give a cold stare when they are spoken to. This is an enormous hurdle for people to overcome in order to respect them and build relationship with them.

Others are dismissive and always want to give the impression that they already know anything anyone could wish to tell them. They talk down to others, making them feel that their contribution was not needed. Still others launch into ‘oneupmanship’, the game of competing with others. If someone has something valuable to contribute these people feel the need to go one better. This makes friendship with them very difficult.

Way back in my primary school days a teacher talked about how our face is always sending a signal to people. If we are smiling then people will like us. If we are frowning, then people will tend to stay away from us. Since I liked the idea of people liking me, I make mental note and made a point of smiling all the time.

By the time I was in High School I was noted for my grin. It had become such a part of my life that I wore it all the time, or at least, a lot more often than others. When someone called my name and I turned to see who it was, I wore a smile. When the teacher was talking to the class I tended to smile.

The other thing I did was introduce some affirming sounds into my vocabulary. We can use words or ‘sub-vocalisations’, which are grunts and noises. “Uh Huh!” is a sub-vocalisation, and so is, “Umm”, “Err”, “Uh Uh”, etc. I tried to give positive sounding sub-vocalisations, that let the other person know I was listening, interested and friendly.

These became my First Responders. And they served me well. They gave people the impression I was friendly and worth talking to and respecting. King Solomon, in his wisdom, told us thousands of years ago that if person expects to have friends he should be friendly to others.

“A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

That doesn’t mean that I always responded well, but it at least gave me a head start. Even today my face feels comfortable in a smile and the lines on my face celebrate the impact of my frequent grin.

I would like to coach the western world in how to train the face and words to be good First Responders. The problem is that our words come from our heart, since our mouth is most likely to speak what our heart is feeling.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

There are two ways around the problem of our mouth speaking what is in our heart. Firstly we can at least tame our face and tongue to give a pleasant and respectful First Response. Most importantly, however, we can let God search our heart and uncover those things which poison our tongue, because they poison our heart.

Selfishness, pride, intolerance, hatred, unforgiveness, shame, rejection, jealousy, conceit, self-will and personal agendas are just some of the garbage in our hearts, which cause us to speak unwisely and give a poor First Response to others.

Try putting a smile on your dial and a kind word on your tongue. Try thinking of that other person, whether spouse or stranger, as someone who deserves to be blessed with the gift of your pleasant persona. Try blessing people, instead of reacting to them. You will find that your communications and friendships go a lot further when you show yourself friendly.

Oh, and do yourself a favour. Listen to what comes out of your mouth. Catch a glimpse of the look on your face. Do a reality check on your First Responders and see if you shouldn’t erase your old programming and write some new code for your face and your tongue. Hmmmm?

Horatius Bonar Longs for the Spirit

This is the day that … Horatius Bonar died in 1889.

He was born December 19, 1808 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Along with his brother Alexander, he witnessed revival meetings in 1839 under W.C. Burns. The brothers kept revival expectancy alive in the hearts of their hearers.

He is remembered as one of the greatest of Scottish hymn-writers, indeed the “prince of Scottish hymn writers”.

“Go labour on, spend and be spent” and “I heard the voice of Jesus say, ‘Come unto Me and rest’,” are but two of the 600 hymns which came from his ever-busy pen.

Besides hymn writing, he found time to edit the “Quarterly Journal of Prophecy” – a magazine dedicated to pre-millennial beliefs. He also was elected Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and ministered at Chalmers Memorial Church in Edinburgh for 23 years.

Over and again his hymns return to the theme of the Lord’s return:

Toil on, and in thy toil rejoice;
For toil comes rest, for exile home.

Soon shalt thou hear the Bridegroom’s voice,

The midnight cry, “Behold I come”.

In reference to his hymn writing his friend, Rev. E. H. Lundie, said at his memorial service, following his death:
“His hymns were written in very varied circumstances, sometimes timed by the tinkling brook that babbled near him; sometimes attuned to the ordered tramp of the ocean, whose crested waves broke on the beach by which he wandered; sometimes set to the rude music of the railway train that hurried him to the scene of duty; sometimes measured by the silent rhythm of the midnight stars that shone above him.”

Dr Horatius Bonar lamented the church’s reluctance to embrace the move of the Holy Spirit. He likened the limiting of the Holy Spirit in his day to Israel’s rejection of Christ in the days of His flesh.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at

The Spirit Came

History accounts many instances when God’s Holy Spirit fell on people and changed their world forever. From the Day of Pentecost and Cornelius’ house in New Testament times to the Cane Ridge Revival, the home of Jonathan Edwards, the life of Wesley, the ministry of Sister Etter, the Welsh Revival, Azusa Street, George Mueller’s orphanage, and a multitude of other times and places, the Holy Spirit has fallen with amazing impact.

Since the days of the Pentecostal outpourings, over this past century, through the Charismatic Renewal Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and the more recent visitations, people in churches, homes and meeting rooms have experienced times of awesome visitation by the Living God.

The poem I have just penned is my limited attempt to encapsulate those experiences and touch a chord with those who resonate with this wonderful grace. If this is not your experience then I encourage you to press in for the chance to be part of such a time and place as the manifested presence of God.

The Spirit Came

They stumbled and they fell, undone like drunken men!
Laughing to their knees to weep gratitude again.
Lost in adoration and found before His throne
These worshippers of Most High God found heaven as their own.

Enthralled by deepest senses of things too grand to share
They swooned and laughed and chortled, hands stretched to the air.
Singing inspiration in word and tongue and cry,
Heaven’s sweetness drugged them as happy hours slipped by.

The tempest passed, and crumpled lives hung on the ebbing breeze.
No mortal joy compared with that which brought them to their knees.
Stillness held command where silent tears did spill
And foreign words from trembling lips tumbled headlong still.

Exhausted and enthralled each held their heaving chest;
They had met with Daddy God and tasted of His best.
Transfixed in transformation they dared not stir this place
For each felt wonder undescribed now showing on their face.

And in the coming days, they’ll thrill to still recall
The sweeping of the Spirit and how it hit them all.
They’ll shed a tear of gratitude and feel a bond with men
Who joined them at God’s footstool
there, and long to go again.

Thank You, Lord for the privilege of being there.

William Penn and Pennsylvania

This is the day that … William Penn died in 1718, at the age of 74.

His father was an Admiral in the British Navy, Admiral Sir William Penn, and so young William enjoyed “the favour of the king … he was admired at court, handsome in person, graceful in manners … expectant heir of a title of nobility …”

And all this he gave up for a life of ridicule and scorn. He was even expelled from Christ Church, Oxford (1661) because he held views no longer in keeping with that of the state church. William Penn had become a disciple of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (the Quakers).

Four times he found himself thrown into prison because of his non-conformist (i.e., not belonging to the Church of England) views. He courted trouble not only by street preaching and by means of the printed word (over 100 tracts and booklets came from his pen), but also by the distinctive Quaker attire, and his refusal to remove his hat to anyone – even King Charles!

Eventually Penn and a group of fellow Quakers migrated to America and a 45,000 acre tract of land was granted him by the king. It was called ‘Pennsylvania’, named after William’s father. Young William had inherited great wealth from his father, including a debt owed by King Charles II, which was paid by the grant of land in the New World.

In Pennsylvania the Quakers and Red Indians intermingled without problems for 70 years. “Whilst English and European settlers in neighbouring areas were constantly at war with the Indians, Penn and his company made friends and lived in perfect harmony …” (English Sects, by A. Reynolds, page 159). This achievement was due to Penn’s “Great Treaty” with the Delaware tribe.

It should be pointed out that the Quakers rejected the sacraments and placed more emphasis upon ‘the Light within’ than the Holy Scriptures. (See the post on George Fox on July 19)

Politically, it could well be argued that William Penn’s religious convictions were a primal component of the principles on which the nation of America was to be built.

Further information on William Penn can be found at:

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at

World Youth Day 2008

My Filipino Catholic friend Bobby shared an interesting insight last week – prompted to him by the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. That occasion proved to be a significant meeting of Catholic and Protestant youth. He watched the broadcast of the Pope’s mass at Randwick Racecourse, where huge crowds gathered on Sunday July 20.

What he came out with surprised me and tied in with a revelation I had back in 1978.

He noted that Protestants place the emphasis for salvation on faith alone. Catholics, he pointed out, believe that faith must be accompanied by works, as is indicated in several places in the Bible.

But, he added, the Bible suggests that neither the Protestants nor the Catholics are right.

Hmmmm ?

He took me to the teaching of Jesus at the end of His Sermon on the Mount.

“Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23

The faith profession of calling Jesus “Lord” is what many Protestants consider to be all that is needed to be saved. They are sure that no works are needed, only faith.

The Catholic position involves both faith, expressed by these people who say “Lord, Lord”, and works. Jesus points out that these people who come to Him have both! They have faith (Lord, Lord) and works (done many wonderful works).

Yet what would suit both the Protestant and the Catholic positions proves to be less than Jesus is looking for. “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”


Bobby saw in this text the fact that God looks on the heart. What God is looking for is not a faith confession, nor appropriate works to affirm the faith. But God is looking at our hearts and looking to see that we have a right heart toward Him.

Way back in 1978 I was standing in the foyer of a small church, during the opening songs, desperate for God to give me a message to preach. I was on a travelling ministry tour, as a Bible College student in New Zealand. The Apostolic church which I was about to preach to included many learned and experienced people. I wanted to bring them a message which would be more than just a rehash of my college lectures.

As I prayed, desperately, for a message, three quick images flicked in my mind. One was of the huge brass laver used in the Tabernacle. That spoke to me of my evangelical roots and the emphasis of being washed clean of our sins. The second image was of the golden lampstand from the Tabernacle. This spoke to me of the filling of the Holy Spirit and all that goes with the Pentecostal experience. To my way of thinking at that time, Pentecost built on all that evangelicalism gave us, thus giving greater power to the gospel and Biblical faith I already had.

The third image, however, completely challenged my respect for both the Evangelical gospel and the blessing of the Holy Spirit. I saw a beautiful young bride, dressed in white, ready for her beloved’s embrace.

The impact of that quick sequence of images, which became the basis of my message that night, was that Christianity is all about ‘Relationship’. The end of our life is not a celebration of our faithfulness to the old time gospel, or our exploits in the power of the Holy Spirit. The culmination is a wedding, not a show and tell session. It’s all about Relationship.

When Bobby shared his insights I saw in Jesus’ words the subtext of relationship again. “I never knew you”.

Christianity is not about fulfilling the religious expectations of our brand of Christendom, but it is all about being in wonderful intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ, through our faith in the finished work of the Cross and through God’s salvation in our lives.