An exhortation by Brother John Haines
Whatever view we hold concerning the way the Second Coming of our Lord will occur, the great need is to be ready for His appearing. There can be no substitute for readiness or alertness, and knowledge of what is promised, without the resulting preparation of heart and mind, can only result in disappointment. It is an event which, so far as the church is concerned, should be regarded as something that may occur at any moment. "Like a man going away, leaving his house, and giving authority to his servants, and each man's work to him, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Then you watch, for you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, at evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or early: lest he come suddenly and find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all. Watch." (Mark 13.34-37)
Before that glorious event occurs we are to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, so that we may be found worthy to be a part of His Church. Not that we can do this in our own strength, but because we have shown our willingness to follow His will in every aspect of our lives we will, through the undeserved grace of our heavenly Father, be considered to be worthy to be granted the privilege of ruling with Christ in God's future heavenly Kingdom.
In whatever we are going to do, the preparation is important. There is not much point in planting a packet of seeds in the garden if you do not dig and clean the ground first. Unless first of all you properly prepare the ground, then it is quite possible the seeds will not come up, and even if they do manage to start to grow, the weeds that you did not bother to clear away will probably choke them. Our Lord said much the same thing when He told the parable of the Sower. The seed He was talking about was the seed of the word, and the ground was the mainly hard earth of men's hearts. He was telling us that unless we prepare the soil of our hearts, by getting rid of the hardness, it will stop the seed of His word from taking root in us. Then if we do not carefully dig out the weeds of worldliness, that will choke the new growth. Unless we clear away the stones of materialism, which prevent the seed from being able to put down a good root system, the seed of His word will wither and die in the first spiritual drought, because we are relying on material things to sustain us, not the word of the Lord. What we should be doing is to be cleaning the ground of our hearts, clearing from it everything that could be a hindrance to the growth of the seed, then fertilising it with study of God's word in the scriptures, so that no trouble that arises can stop the seed of the word from growing.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians (3.2) to "be mindful of things above, not of things on the earth". We have, of course, to pay proper attention to some earthly things, such as doing our job to the best of our ability, but we should never put doing earthly things before our duties to our Lord. When we do keep our thoughts on earthly things, we are in effect making an idol of them, that could deprive us of our heavenly inheritance. So our aim should be to become more heavenly minded: not in a mystical sense, but in the way of practical Christ-like godliness.
Our loving Father wants all men to be saved - He would have no man die. Jesus made this quite clear in two of His parables; first when He told how the Father, as soon as he saw the prodigal returning to him ran - he did not walk, he ran - to meet the wanderer. Our heavenly Father does not wait for the prodigal to come to Him on bended knee to beg for forgiveness. But as soon as the errant one, of his own free will, turns his face back towards his heavenly home, God in His delight actually hurries to meet the one who went away, and then celebrates that prodigal's return.
We are told that if one of His flock of sheep drifts off, He will search until the lost one is brought back to the fold, and when that wanderer is brought back He rejoices. So if our heavenly Father is not satisfied with only 99 out of a flock of 100, He certainly won't be satisfied until He has done everything possible to prevent one of His children from harming themselves through self-will, disobedience or just plain stupidity.
In these two stories the prodigal is the one who deliberately follows a life that will take him away from the Father, whilst the sheep pictures the one who drifts away through sheer foolishness - the one who does not think about consequences. The whole point of these stories is to show us that God is more understanding, more merciful, more forgiving, and that His love is far greater than any man's.
Our heavenly Father is preparing a holy spiritual Temple in which He will dwell, and we can be quite certain that He has set a time for the completion of His preparations. So far, this heavenly Temple, the Church, the Body of Christ, has been steadily growing for nearly 2000 years, and from all the signs in the world it must be nearing completion: but even though God appears to delay, He is never inactive. He is a God of order and organisation. He is never too early and never too late. Every member is being prepared according to his attributes. Their abilities are being sharpened and their powers ripened for their work of joy throughout the coming ages, a work that will bring a blessing to all the families of the earth. Then, at the appointed time, we shall arise, equal to the task
The sons of God must walk by that faith for which we are earnestly to contend, and live by the hope and the earnest desire for the revelation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. "We all, with our face having been unveiled, having beheld the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are being changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord's Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3.18). The work of building our character is going on all the time. From a thousand sources come the influences that make it grow: the lessons we get from others, the influences that friends exert on us, the truths we discover in our reading, the impressions which life leaves on us, and most of all the inspiration we receive from the Holy Spirit. The work never stops from the time we first believe until the time we fall asleep. So, "Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." (James 1.2-6 & 12).
These thoughts are taken from a convention address given by our brother in 2006.
Brother John Haines
Sadly, we record the death of Brother John Haines on Sunday 28th February. In the last 10 years he had been greatly used by the Lord in very spiritual discourses at conventions and conferences, in Britain and USA. He also worked very hard since 1995 in the administration of the Bible Fellowship Union as a member of the council and treasurer. In a similar capacity he served the Gainsborough House retirement centre as a trustee and treasurer. He not only had a valuable knowledge of accountancy but also of the building trade, which he used to good effect at Milborne Port.
John suffered various health problems during his latter years, although he never complained or looked unwell— perhaps due in large measure to the loving care and consideration given to him by our Sister Gillian. Now to her our thoughts and prayers must turn, that she may have our Heavenly Father's comfort and guidance, for she will miss him more than anyone. But John will be greatly missed in the USA and here at High Leigh and Gainsborough House. John was quiet but very firm in his spiritual and ethical beliefs. The Lord will reward him for his labours among his people, and we look forward to sharing his fellowship in the days that are yet to be