Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Joining the dots



What sort of people does God use?

Let's join the dots.

We have looked at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and culture, Moses, the ageing shepherd, Saul, the violent persecutor, Hugh Bourne, the introvert, William Clowes, the extrovert and John Benton, the rough diamond.

We have seen that God can use people of quite different personalities and background. Introvert or extrovert, illiterate or well educated, rich or poor, young or old, and even those who are radically hostile to Christianity and the cause of Christ. There is no single personality style or background that God uses.

So what’s the real key to the question? What is the common thread linking the lives of the five examples of people God used?

The answer is in Acts 4 verse:13 "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." The key is that they had been with Jesus.

God can use all sorts.

He can use you and me if we have been with Jesus. Then we must be willing to obey him and do what he asks.

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

Hugh Bourne the introvert

William Clowes the extrovert

John Benton the rough diamond

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 5)



What sort of people does God use?

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures. So far we have looked at the lives of Moses, the ageing shepherd Saul, the violent persecutor, and the founders of the Primitive Methodist movement, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes.

The last of the five is John Benton.

John Benton was a coal miner with limited education, whom God used in the early years of the Primitive Methodist movement from 1810 onwards. He was what we would call a "rough diamond". He became a local preacher and passionate open-air evangelist, who believed Primitive Methodism would spread through all England. It did within fifty years or so.

His command of the English language was inadequate, and his poor use of grammar in public speaking was considered by some to be offensive. He could not put together a grammatically correct sentence and it is an understatement to say he was uncouth in the way he spoke. One local preacher sharply reprimanded him “You are bringing a scandal on the cause of Jesus Christ, you have had no learning, you do not even understand grammar”.

Shortly after this critic made these comments, Benton was preaching on Good Friday. His audience was a group of coal miners and he began with the text “it is finished”. When he had preached nearly half his sermon there was a move of the Holy Spirit in the congregation. Some of his hearers groaned and shrieked whilst others fell to the floor. The Spirit of God was present in a powerful way.

As Benton closed his Bible, and began to pray for those being convicted of sin, he saw his friend and critic, the local preacher, watching in amazement. Benton said to him, ‘This is grammar!’ His astonished critic replied, “I never saw such a meeting as this."

God can use all sorts.

God can use anyone, whatever their formal education (or lack of it).

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

Hugh Bourne the introvert

William Clowes the extrovert

More on John Benton

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 4)



What sort of people does God use?

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures. My first three examples were Moses, the ageing shepherd, Saul, the violent persecutor and Hugh Bourne, co-founder of the Primitive Methodists.

My next example is William Clowes (1780 – 1851).

William Clowes was born in Burslem, in the English midlands, the centre of the pottery making industry. Like many other children, he had a limited education, starting work at the age of ten, making pottery for his uncle.

In his youth he led a decadent lifestyle marked by drunkenness, swearing and violence. He was often involved in fights and sometimes had bruises all over his body. He wasted money on alcohol and gambling and ran into debt.

He was outgoing by nature, and in many ways was the “life and soul of the party”. He was also a successful dancer and always seemed to gather a crowd, wherever he went. He had a magnetic personality that drew people to him. He was definitely an extrovert.

God uses all sorts.

William Clowes became the apostle, leading evangelist and missionary pioneer of the Primitive Methodist movement, much like the apostle Paul. Known as apostolic Clowes, he preached in the open-air to vast crowds and saw many men and women come to faith in Christ.

God used this extroverted young man to reach a particular social class, those on the lowest rungs of the English class system, the poor working classes to bring the transforming message of the gospel.

Next post: John Benton - the rough diamond

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

Hugh Bourne the introvert

More on William Clowes

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 3)



We began this series by asking “what sort of people does God use?”

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures. My first two examples were the biblical examples of Moses, the ageing shepherd and Saul, the violent persecutor.

My next three examples are men who were leaders in the Primitive Methodist movement. The first of the three is Hugh Bourne (1772 – 1852).

Hugh was one of the founders of this movement that grew rapidly from 10 members in 1810 to over half a million in attendance in their chapels and meeting places by 1851 (as measured by the census in England). There were many radical conversions as violent, angry men became passionate followers of Jesus Christ.

Hugh grew up with an alcoholic father on a remote farm in the English midlands. By nature he was extremely shy, probably because of the isolated location of the farm. He had terrible nightmares as a child of the fear of hell. These lasted into adult years and only stopped when he became a believer at age 27. His conversion to Christ brought joy and freedom from these nightmares.

For Hugh Bourne, public speaking was a constant challenge. Whenever he spoke in public, he put one hand to his face, a mannerism that stayed with him for most of his life. Like Moses, God used him to overcome his fear of public speaking, and become a co-founder of a socially and spiritually significant movement during the early years of the industrial revolution.

His education was limited and much of what he learned was self-taught. In later years he wrote prolifically, and taught himself Greek, Hebrew and Latin. He was a rigorous thinker, and used techniques like Edward De Bono’s “thinking hats” to test an idea. He tested ideas by pretending to have a courtroom where the defence and prosecuting lawyers laid out the case, for and against the proposition. He was forthright in open debate, and he was well-known for his short temper.

God uses all sorts.

God used this introverted, self taught farm boy to begin a movement that transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of poor, illiterate working class men and women and children. Those whose lives were hopeless found hope in Jesus Christ.

Next post: The extrovert

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

More on Hugh Bourne

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 2)



I began this series by asking the question “Can God use me?” By that I also mean “can God use you?” or to put it another way “who does God use?”

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures that God used. My first example was the Old Testament figure of Moses.

My second example is that of a man who was as hostile to Christians as it is possible to get. Saul wanted to kill Christian believers, male and female alike, and was actively seeking to send them to prison. He breathed murderous threats against the followers of Christ, zealously persecuting the church. It is difficult to find someone more violently opposed to Christians than this man. (Acts 8:1, 9:1-2, Phil 3:4-7, 1 Tim 1:12-14)

On the positive side, he was well educated, and without question was an expert in Old Testament law. He had studied long and hard as a Pharisee. Sadly his training had caused him to become a hypocrite, using violence and murder to uphold the law, thus contradicting his beliefs by his actions.

By background he was Jewish, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was also born a Roman citizen, a status which bestowed rights and privilege in the world in which he lived. He possessed a unique blend of culture, language and education that God used when he had a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. (Phil 3:5, Acts 22:27-28, Acts 9:1-19)

When Jesus spoke to this angry, violent blasphemer on that dusty road, Saul the persecutor of Christians, became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. The angry young man became one of the greatest ambassadors for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God uses all sorts.

Today there are violent angry atheists in our world, spitting venom and hatred towards Christ and his followers. Some of them will be transformed by the Spirit of God though an encounter with the Son of God to be the most ardent, fervent followers and advocates of Jesus Christ.

Next Post: Hugh Bourne, the lonely introvert

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Can God use me?



I think that is a question worth asking by all of us.

I don’t know the specific answer to similar questions such as “where will God use me? or “how will God use me?”. (When I say “me” I mean “you and me”, if you see what I mean!). What I do know is that God can use all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures and life experience. The possibilities are infinitely varied.

I want to use some examples of people God used, from the Old and New Testaments, and from the Primitive Methodist movement.

  1. Moses, the ageing shepherd

  2. Saul, the violent persecutor

  3. Hugh Bourne, the lonely introvert

  4. William Clowes, the exuberant extrovert

  5. John Benton, the rough diamond


Each of them was used by God in remarkable ways, yet they came from significantly different backgrounds and life experience.

When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, and called him to go to Pharoah, Moses was an old man of eighty years, a humble shepherd, in a no hope, lonely job with zero career prospects. His life was not going anywhere in particular. His future looked unexciting and hopeless. He was a nobody going nowhere. (Ex 3:1-10, Ex 7:7)

On the positive side he had grown up in a privileged environment in the palace of Egypt, he was well educated and spoke both the Egyptian and Hebrew languages. He knew Egyptian culture and palace protocol, even though he was Hebrew by birth. He was in a unique position of being both a Hebrew and an adopted Egyptian who had been raised in the courts of Pharoah. He knew Egyptian ways and customs from the inside.

He tended towards being an introvert. He shied away from public speaking claiming to be slow of speech (Ex 4:10). He was also fearful and timid when challenged to go and stand before Pharoah (Ex 4:13).

Yet God used this introverted, timid, fearful man during the last decades of his life to be a bold, confident leader who fearlessly confronted Pharoah and the might of Egypt. He was used by God to set the Hebrews free from their slavery and oppression.

Next: Saul the violent persecutor