Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My AWESOME Christmas Present!!

This Christmas I found myself utterly blessed beyond words at the love and care of my family. We had a wonderful Boxing Day together and I wish it could have been longer only I had to come back to work. However in particular my Mum and Dad came up utterly trumps at the present they blessed me with. It's a Bowen family tradition that we make "wish lists" in the months leading up to Christmas to give my large family a range of ideas about what we would ideally like for Christmas! It's my habit to usually try and put a complete range of ideas - from the ridiculously expensive (that I never expect to get) to the dirt cheap - and one of the ridiculously expensive ideas that I asked for was Jonathan Edwards "Notes on Scripture" book - Volume 15 in the Yale edition.

My mum brought out my final present on Boxing Day and gave it to me. I discerned in the Spirit that it was a glory-filled hardback book - but NEVER dreamed it would be my hearts desire! I was thrilled therefore to open it and find it was! My parents are wonderful! As were all the other kind and generous presents my family gave me. One of the most quirky was probably my lovely sister and brother-in-law's present - a Gollum cookie jar! But back to Edwards.

Some may remember that when Pete and I visited the Evangelical Library last year - I spent the majority of my time reading the "Notes on Scripture" and seeking Edwards opinion particularly on the Song of Solomon and how it compared to C J Mahaney's rather odd views expressed in "Sex, Romance and the Glory of God". I fell in love with the book then and the Bible-saturated thoughts of Jonathan Edwards so it has been an awesome joy to begin reading. Here's some background to what the book actually is about. The Editor wrote;

"A young Jonathan Edwards penned the following private resolution in the closing months of 1722 ... "Resolved: to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently as that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in knowledge of the same".

Edwards was honest enough to see through any pride he had and noted at one point in his "Diary";

"... he chided himself for having "lost that relish of the Scriptures" that he had known earlier".

So these three volumes that I am now blessed enough to have - "Notes on Scripture" and the two "Blank Bibles" - are no mere academic volumes. They come from the personal pen of a man who desired to know the Scriptures for through them he would know his God better. They are books that when read - one cannot help but catch something of that passion.

Here is how the Editors describe concisely what "Notes on Scripture";

"Notes on Scripture" (is a) biblical commentary that includes more than five hundred numbered entries ... the last entry in the series - No. 507 - was written approximately two years before his death in 1758 and is a lengthy comparison between Canticles and Psalm 45 ... "Notes on Scripture" is a private working notebook in which Edwards recorded exegetical ideas, took notes on his reading and developed select theological themes ... At first glance "Notes on Scripture" appears to have little organizational coherence or thematic integration. Edwards made no attempt to survey all parts of Scripture; the entries move randomly among the books of the Bible.

"Notes on Scripture" documents his consuming interest in typology, a traditional method of biblical interpretation that links the Old and New Testament ... "Notes on Scripture" represents only a portion of Edwards extensive exegetical writings, for through the years he also wrote entries interpreting the Bible in several other manuscripts".

So there are some more general introductory statements by the editor as to the purpose of "Notes on Scripture". Let me comment on some more specific and direct statements. One of my favourite Books of the Bible (hence the reason why I defend it so vigorously against people such as C J Mahaney) is of course the Song of Solomon. The editoral comment states;

"He (Edwards) rejected the suggestion that Canticles was "an ordinary love song" by treating the affection between the biblical lovers as a "shadow of the love, union and communion" between Christ and the Church (No. 147) and by linking typologically the spouse in the Song of Solomon and the "tents of Kedar" (SoS 1:5) with the Church (No. 458)".

It should be noted of course that Edwards did not compile the "Notes on Scripture" primarily as his own writings alone. He did read widely and used such reading to aid his insights into Scripture. The editorial team at Yale write;

"Edwards' reading was a primary element in his method of study. In "Notes on Scripture" he cited forty different identifiable sources. More than a hundred entries include quoted or paraphrased materials for which Edwards lists a source ... "Notes on Scripture" situates Edwards firmly in the exegetical world of the eighteenth century. The variety of the sources in "Notes on Scripture" is instructive in other ways as well ... the sources Edwards used are impressive for the scope of their subject matter, the variety of ancient references and the sophistication of the linguistic arguments. They are filled with Latin, Greek and Hebrew citations, many of which he entered into "Notes on Scripture".

The picture shows the original manuscripts. As with the "Blank Bible" Edwards constructed them himself. There is an interesting note that he made to himself for future construction;

If I live to make another book of this sort, to observe to cut the gashes for the stitching in deeper and not so near to the joinings of the stitch, that the book may open more freely and fully. And let the sheets be divided into twice so small divisions, and starch no paper in a paper cover for that makes it crack. And if that don't do try next stitching the backs of all the divisions of sheets to a slip of leather and sew the cover over the leather".

The editors conclude that "Notes on Scripture" provides a fresh view of a critical component in the intellectual and theological world view of Edwards. It essentially explains and provides a context to the massive writings of Jonathan Edwards and I hope in the coming days and weeks to provide some quotes! Oh that present pastors and teachers, apostles and prophets would have the same vision - to commit the revelations and anointings to paper thus preserving it for generations to come.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dr Ern Baxter on Jesus' Ultimate Victory

I was listening to a sermon by Dr Ern Baxter while driving back from Brighton last night. It was part of a conference series he gave at Bishop Earl Paulk's church in Atlanta called "The King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit". It's a comment on how we view where Jesus Christ is today as so important to the way we live our lives;

"I don't see Jesus Christ as a baby lying helpless in a manager. I don't see Jesus as walking the land of Israel limited by location. I don't even see Jesus walking on the water or performing miracles. I don't see Jesus broken and bleeding and dying on the Cross - I see the Cross as an event on the way to His ultimate place. I see Jesus crowned with glory and honour - ruling the nations in victory!".

It occured to me that John Bunyan may have a point in how he wrote 'Pilgrims Progress'. Remember that Pilgrim met the Cross early on in his journey towards the Celestial City and it truly was an event. It was there that his burden fell off and rolled down into the open and empty grave. Pilgrims life was indeed changed by his encounter at the Cross but he rose up and walked on. It was at the Celestial City that he would meet the Lord Jesus Christ. And just so with us. Jesus died once and for all - we will never again see Him hanging at Calvary. When we see Him finally on that glorious day we will see Him crowned with glory and honour seated at the right hand of God the Father! Let's pray that the eyes of our hearts be opened to get a glimpse of that now - that the heavens split like Stephen and we see Him!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Emmanuel - God WITH US!!

Most bloggers tend to customarily write something especially on Christmas Day. Some thanks to readers usually. Maybe some plans for the future - to continue to blog or not. Maybe a reflection on the past (although that's often more New Years Day). It's very strange. Some of my parent's generation still can't get their head round blogging and find the words of a post as objective as a published book - but already we are talking about the "customs" of blogging! How quickly does the world develop!

I wasn't going to write anything necessarily unless I really felt inspired to. I don't like following customs very much - and I must confess I don't particularly like Christmas Day because I think a lot of sight has been lost about the true meaning of the day. I heard an early sermon by my former pastor Dr Stanley Jebb and he commented how little Easter Sunday and the celebration of the Resurrection - the most glorious moment of all history - is celebrated compared to Christmas.

But my attention was caught by the sermon Rob Rufus preached in Hong Kong last Sunday:

I must confess I haven't heard the sermon yet. I'm currently taken up with transcribing and rapturing in the previous message to the CCI prayer meeting: "Pulling Heaven Down". Once again Rob reminds me so much of my hero Dr Ern Baxter! It's so thrilling.

But that matter aside - it was just that simple statement: "God WITH US" that has had me thinking all this Christmas Day. The theme of God being with man is present throughout the whole Bible. God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden. The crowning moment of glory at the Tabernacle was when the cloud of glory filled the Holy of Holies. And again in Solomon's temple - when the preparations were complete, the cloud of glory filled the place so that the priests could not continue ministering! God was with us!

And then in the New Testament - on Christmas Day - the birth of Jesus Christ, He was called "Emmanuel" - God with us! But that wasn't even it - God was not finished pouring out His Presence upon man. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh and still is poured out to this day! God is WITH us! If I have one wish and one desire as we advance into 2009 is that I will stop thinking like a Christian and live in spiritual schizophrenia that one day God may be pleased with me due to my good works and the next angry with me due to my mistakes and my flaws.

My wish is that rather I will start living like a son and realise that God is with man. God has shown faithfully throughout His Word that despite man's sin - His desire is to walk with man and commune with man and have relationship with man! And to realise that as His son, His heart will never change towards me! I do sincerely thank from the bottom of my heart each and every person who reads this blog and takes time especially to comment and support and encourage me. I feel so blessed and it's my prayer that 2009 sees a greater advance of the Kingdom of God - as a Kingdom of sons than ever before!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

THAT'S The Kind of Pastor I want!!

The last 2 or 3 posts have been related and have spiralled from a Christmas newsletter I read back at my parents house. The comment that prompted this pattern of thought was directed towards Todd Bentley and; "his fall from grace". I hope I dealt adequately with how I do not believe that the term "fall from grace" can be biblically applied to anything or anyone other than individuals who have begun in the Spirit and by grace and have stepped back into law and are attempting to achieve some sort of standing before God by their own works. I just can't see it! My US friend Janelle Phillips has raised the question of church discipline and it is a post that is currently being written by both Pete Day and myself. She rightly noted that I didn't comment on church discipline in the most positive light - and the question therefore remainds - do I believe in it?

Well the Bible does - and therefore I do. But the way that current churches practice discipline does not greatly impress me - it seems to be done in legalism and from a desire to control rather than "gently restore". But before we finish that post - I wanted to make draw attention to Bill Johnson and the way he has made comments about Todd Bentley. It was after-all a comment about Todd Bentley that started this train of thought so it is well within context.

What is no secret is the Todd Bentley-haters who disapprove of the man and his ministry - we all know what they believe. They haven't stopped calling for his blood since he first walked on stage - tattoos and all. I am sad to admit that I think this moral fall was exactly what they were hoping for. A comment about Bill Johnson made by one of his fellow pastors caught my attention. Kris Vallotton said:

"The only trouble I have seen Bill in, in 31 years is when he refuses to treat people the way they deserve and he believes in them the way they don't deserve. And then when they fall, he refuses to treat them the way that their fall requires and he wants to believe in them again".

That impressed me! My first thought was: "THAT is the kind of pastor I want .. and have never had". A kind of spiritual father who acts like God Himself and refuses to treat people the way they deserve and in the style of 1 Corinthians 13:5 takes no record of wrongs. So here is what Bill Johnson said regarding Todd Bentley - it's in 3 parts:

It's well worth watching in entirety. I think the teaching component is awesome for everyone who has some form of responsibility in their churches - this is how a Christian CAN be dealt with. Why do so often we take it so personally if fellow Christians fall? I must admit my first reaction when I heard about Todd Bentley was "Oh no ...". Did that mean I was wrong to be hugely interested in Lakeland and what happened there? Not at all! I've heard and seen enough by way of testimony from personal friends and over the God TV to know that God was most certainly at work!

Todd Bentley certainly isn't the first Christian leader to fall into sin and do so publicly and I am sure he won't be the last. The thing that I am considering is this: what brings more glory to God and His Church? Christians gathering like vultures nodding their sage heads and saying; "Ah well - he had tattoos and piercings - what do you expect?". Or Christians who stand up like Bill Johson and weep over their brothers and sisters falls and yet KEEP on believing in them and are prepared to do WHATEVER it takes to see them restored to full fellowship and encounter with God?

Let me take a moment to comment personally. Pete's recent wonderful post: "Just get over it?" made some reference to my personal experience with church discipline. I haven't made a secret that I still believe that those particular church leaders were wrong and unbiblical to act the way they did. But I think God has brought me on far enough since then to appreciate what they did do - that they were courageous enough to attempt to do something they surely knew would be unpopular but because they believed it was right. I can see now that they did what they did because they were honestly concerned. But genuine motives can't be an excuse forever.

Bill Johnson sets an awesome example of what it is to be a real pastor - a real spiritual father. Let's learn and follow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dr Lloyd-Jones on Imputed Righteousness

I've been reading this wonderful last volume in Dr Lloyd-Jones series in Romans - that I got for my birthday - and was amazed to read his commentary on Romans 14:7; "The Kingdom of God ... is righteousness, peace and joy". His comments on "righteousness" are right at the end of the volume and they are so similar to Rob Rufus's wonderful teaching on righteousness that one might almost think that they are the same people.

I don't know why but I always feel like Christianity sees Rob Rufus as a bit of an "extrem-ist". That his teaching on New Covenant grace is "dangerous" and nigh-on antinomian. I am sure that Rob himself receives far more vicious attacks than I can even dream of from Christians. But what shouldn't really shock me is that Rob is so careful to unpack his teaching from the New Testament and yet why are those of us who he has persuaded on grace feeling like we have to defend ourselves?

Listen to this selection of quotes from Dr Lloyd-Jones:

"Christians are people who have been declared righteous by God, who know that justification is by faith only, and that God 'justifieth the ungodly' (Romans 4:5). They believe all Paul's arguments in the first five chapters of Romans. This is how Christians think of righteousness; not little details here and there but this whole matter of their standing before God and the declaration of God that He "accounts" them as righteous".

Twice Dr Lloyd-Jones mentions the "declaration" of God. We - formerly sinners - have been "declared" righteous! So why are Christians so generally unaware of this "declaration"? If we had to go through the gruelling experience of being in court but yet hearing the exhilaration of the judge declaring - "Not guilty!". Surely we would remember that moment for the rest of our lives? Yet here God the Just - the ruler of heaven and earth - has declared the same - "Not guilty!". So WHY does most of Christianity act as if we are?

Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on to add that it is not just a "declaration" but that we are "clothed".

"Not only that, Christians believe that they have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that God has put this "robe of righteousness upon them" (Isaiah 61:10). They know they have been born again, 'born of the Spirit'. They now belong to the realm of righteousness, whereas before they did not".

So when God looks at us - He sees us as clothed in Jesus Christ's righteousness and there is none more perfect or acceptable than the Son of God! Now most Christians would say they do not have a problem with the justification issue. Most will accept and admit that we are justified by faith and when we accept Christ as our Saviour, we are indeed clothed in His righteousness. It seems to me that the problem comes when we talk about sanctification.

That's when the law seems to creep in along with discussions about spiritual disciplines, attempts to be "more righteous", the whole issue of indwelling sin and the "old man". Dr Lloyd-Jones makes an excellent point on this matter:

"Here is a man who has a conception of righteousness; he wants to be rid of everything that is wrong; he wants to be wholly right, he is interested in holiness".

That is Rob Rufus's key point when it comes to sanctification and it seems to me that's where the issue of divide comes. Many Christians who criticise Rob Rufus and the danger of "a license to sin" seem to be of the opinion that Christians by and large want to sin. Or more often - "My old man wants to sin". But Dr Lloyd-Jones insists that a man who has a conception of righteousness "wants" to be rid of everything that is wrong! He "wants" to be wholly right!

I have to say for myself - I am by far from being perfect. I sin and fall and make mistakes pretty regularly. I've been a first-class legalist and tried all manner of things to "stop sinning" - even to the extent of cutting myself (rather like the priests of Baal), going to self-help Christian groups and talking about how hard it is. But nothing has worked! Yet despite all that - I have always, ALWAYS had the deep agony that I want to be rid of everything that is wrong. I WANT to be right! So this quote of Dr Lloyd-Jones is a huge encouragement to me. I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ because I want to be rid of sin!

I find Lloyd-Jones final comment quite interesting and am not quite sure what to make of it:

"Do you see the point? The righteous are unconcious of their righteousness. That is the glory of their whole position. I trust I am making this clear to you. Christians are righteous in themselves because they have been brought into the kingdom of God and the realm of righteousness".

I'm thinking aloud here. If we went and spoke to non-Christians and asked; "Are you aware that you are unrighteous?" - I wonder what they would say. Unrighteousness of course is a Christian term. But if we explained the concept as clearly as Christians seek to understand righteousness - would they really be "concious" of the daily experience of being unrighteous and far from God? I doubt it. So does it make sense that we too as Christians are unaware of our righteousness? Thinking of the Old Covenant foresights - the blood on the outside of the house in the land of Egypt - was on the OUTSIDE. I am sure the Israelites wondered if the blood would suffice as the angel of death passed over. But the blood was on the outside - just as the righteousness we are clothed in, is on the OUTSIDE.

I hope that these quotes bring a degree of amazing authenticity to what Rob Rufus is saying and preaching. He isn't just some radical who is trying to bring license to sin. Rob is a serious man with a serious heart for the Church world-wide. And his vision is that if we would understand our true standing clothed in the righteousness of God then we would see it as a dramatic step. Rob said this in a recent sermon:

"The devil is not attacking us for the grace message - he's attacking us for where the grace message will take us. He understands that the revelation of grace is the access into the 10/10 glory. Out of the control spirit. Out of guilt. Out of condemnation, fear, rejection and into a constant sense of God is for us, no matter what".

Let's make every effort to be Berean-like and not dismiss teaching just because it disagrees with our experience of the past. Our one unifying heart - across the world - is that we become more like God. Surely our interest must be the best and most biblical way to do that! And while I know that Dr Lloyd-Jones and Rob Rufus may disagree on many issues - I am so thrilled that here on this most important of issues, they stand as one!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Greatest Motivation for Sanctification - A Smack? Or a Tear?

Following on from yesterdays post - I was driving back up to Birmingham (about an hour and a half drive for those friends who don't live in the UK!) from my parents and was thinking quite a lot about this question: "Fallen from grace" and particularly Todd Bentley as he was mentioned in this Christmas newsletter as apparantly "falling from grace". I have no doubt that some will accuse me of suggesting that what Todd has done is acceptable. I never said that - and have no intention of ever suggesting that sin is still sin.

What I am interested in is not discussing the men and women who have fallen morally and how "dreadful" it is. My sins of pride, arrogance, hate, legalism, lying and so on are just as grieving to God as Todd Bentley's sin. What I AM interested in is this: what is the most EFFECTIVE way of following the verse in Galatians and "restoring such a one gently"?

The question was in part answered as I had the wonderful Stoneleigh album: "Covenant of Grace" - live worship from Stoneleigh Bible Week 1999 - blasting out as I drove up in the dark! There's a wonderful song on it that the fantastically talented Kate Simmonds was leading the gathered thousands in called: "Jesus loves the Church (Can you hear Him singing?)" and the one line that answered my question went like this:

"Not rejected, not forgotten, not abandoned in sin! Can you hear Him singing? I love you - I love you - Can you hear Him calling? I want you - I have chosen you to be Mine".

It reminded me of my experience growing up as a child with my earthly father. My parents believed in and were taught by Stanley Jebb at our church that corporal discipline was a godly practice to do. We were spanked as children - quite vigorously. Speaking as a child who was spanked I can't say that I disagree with it. It taught me respect for authority. Where I do perhaps differ from my parents and the church is that they delegated the authority to spank a child to the teachers in the Christian school I went to - and so I also experienced that from the teachers. That I DO disagree with. I had a profoundly negative relationship especially with the deputy headmaster and I believe it was linked to the fact that I felt he was doing things that only my parents should such as corporal discipline. But that's an aside.

But despite being spanked numerous times by my father (yes - I was a wild child!) and by the school, the one experience that sticks in my mind was when I had a disagreement with my father about something and I actually saw him cry and state his love for me. It is that experience that spoke to me far more strongly than the amount of times I was spanked. Because I realised through those tears how much my father did love me.

Christians who use the term "fallen from grace" - I am certain - would see Christians who have fallen morally as in need of severe discipline. I know that the person who wrote the Christmas letter mentioning Todd Bentley is of the view that once Christian leaders have fallen morally just once - they are "disqualified" for ministry ever again. It's a very similar view to my experience of church discipline. Rather than ever hearing talk of "restoring such a one gently" - I heard the term "disfellowshipped" being used regularly.

My point is this: I think that it is an experience of hearing the Father singing: "I love you - I love you - I have chosen you to be Mine - you are NOT abandoned in sin" will work far more powerfully than the discipline and the disfellowshipping and the disqualification that Christians seek to apply to their fellow brothers and sisters.

Or as Sheila commented so rightly in my last post - surely this is "falling into grace" when you sin morally. I may not be able to testify much in my experience to "falling into grace" because my background has been far more characterised by legalism. But I CAN speak about how it feels to be struggling with sinful practices and have the Church apply the sanctions that they do. And I can tell you honestly - it doesn't work. I've been spanked as a child and yes it hurts. But sin is far more fun. I've been told off and spanked by teachers and church elders and it hurts - but it just made me bitter and angry and resentful.

But seeing my earthly father cry and tell me he loved me? That broke my heart. And I imagine if I could get a sense of my heavenly Father singing that He loves me and has chosen me and has not abandoned me in sin - then that would even more powerfully surely even break the hardest of hearts! Look at the Cross - that historical moment in time when the Son of God was hung up. The wrath of God was poured out upon HIM! And was there any anger in His eyes? Was there any vengance in Him against us for causing Him to have to suffer the agonies of Calvary? No. Rather He cried:

"Father - forgive them for they know not what they do".

As one of my favourite songs says; "God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon ME!". So why would He change His mind? And why if He is satisfied to look on His Son and pardon us - who does the Church think they are by passing judgements on who and who has not "fallen from grace"? I remember hearing somewhere (I can't remember where) the saying:

"Be careful how you speak to My Bride".

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Deception and Discernment or Misery and Morality?

I came home today to visit my family for a belated birthday celebration and had an absolutely lovely time with them. I was thrilled to receive two Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones books that I can't wait to get reading. His final book in his Romans series: "Life in Two Kingdoms" and also his fifth volume in his series on the Book of Acts entitled: "Authentic Christianity - Acts 7". My family know me so well!

However while I've been socialising with my parents we have had some very interesting chats mainly centered around the gospel of grace and legalism. One such conversation was provoked by a Christmas newsletter I was rather distressed to find, pick up and read from someone. The individual wrote:

"The recent debacle of the so-called "Lakeland Revival" under Todd Bentley and his subsequent fall from grace should have jolted some Christians into thinking seriously".

The writer then went on to recommend two books - one of which was edited by C J Mahaney entitled; "Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World". So the question that I put and we discussed at some length was this phrase: "Fallen from grace". What does it mean? Christianity traditionally uses it against Christians who have sinned morally in some way. But as Rob Rufus among others shows quite clearly - to use the phrase in such a way is totally unbiblical and misleading.

"Fallen from grace" is found when Paul writes his letter to Galatians in Galatians 5:4 and he writes:

"You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace".

Paul is writing - as is well known - to the Galatian church who began in the true gospel of grace and ended up in a gospel of works. He did not have any commendation for them and was extremely angry. So the apostle Paul does not apply the term; "Fallen from grace" to Christians (such as the Corinthians as one might think) who have fallen morally. Rather he sees legalistic Christians who are seeking to be justified by law - THEY are the ones who have fallen from grace.

In writing to the Corinthian church (who had fallen morally as is well known) Paul at the start of both letters (1 Corinthians 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 1:2) actually uses the phrase: "Grace ... to you"! A well-known old hymn speaks of the wonder of what happened at the Cross of Christ to our sin:

"My sin, 0 the bliss of this glorious thought - My sin, not in part but in whole - Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more - Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, 0 my soul!"

So has Todd Bentley "fallen from grace"? By no means - rather I hope and pray that at this moment he has found that underneath are the "everlasting arms of grace" and that his beloved Father will not let him rest until he is back in God's will for his already remarkable life. May Todd Bentley know this Christmas that "grace and peace" is coming to him and the question from heaven is: "Don't you know that you are light?".

The question is rather - are such legalists aware that by attempting to gain approval with God through the keeping of the law that THEY are the ones who have fallen from grace? May they too re-find the wonder of their first love when they realised that it: "Is BY GRACE you are saved - THROUGH FAITH and that NOT OF YOURSELVES - it is the GIFT of God".

I can't resist ending this post without quoting from my new Dr Lloyd-Jones book: "Authentic Christianity - Acts 7". A lot of the discussion that I've so enjoyed and benefited from was about how we work through sanctification now we are justified. We discussed the pros and cons of "accountability groups". We talked about the Puritan view of "Mortifying sin" and generally the whole question - how do we grow more like Jesus Christ? Should I be going out and buying these books on "Worldliness" that teach me about modesty and what clothes I should wear? About music and what singles I should listen to and buy? Dr Lloyd-Jones presents a powerful and refreshing alternative:

"What does Christianity offer? Is it an exhortation to you to live a better life? Is it the business of preaching to tell you; "Stop drinking. Stop committing adultery. Don't do this and that. Try to pull yourself together. Read good books. Get a little moral uplift. Gradually make yourself a better person"? A thousand times - no! That is no message: we cannot do it!".

The thing I love about Dr Lloyd-Jones - like any expert clinician - is that he does not tell you what not to do and leave you floundering. He presents the correct view.

"What is it then? Well, as you saw, our Lord puts it so plainly to Nicodemus: "You must be born again". That is the message and it is about a miracle. We cannot be improved. We need the miracle of a rebirth, a regeneration, a new nature, a new creation. The God who created us all at the beginning is going to create us anew, make new people of us and here is the hope and the only hope.

The gospel is not the proclamation of a moral reformation".

Or as Rob Rufus puts it - "The Gospel is not about right living but right believing".

"But of regeneration and life in the Spirit. It offers us a new start, a new beginning; it offers us a new power, which is the 'power of God unto salvation'. It offers us power to live the remainder of our lives in this world and at the end it promises us a like conquest over death, a glorious resurrection and an eternity in the Presence of God. It is not ... a moral, ethical scheme; it is not a political scheme; it is nothing less than the re-creating work of the almighty God. It is a miracle. It is supernatural. It is divine action from beginning to end.

THIS is the message of the Christian gospel of salvation!".

Let's never forget that. We all aim I am sure - legalists and non alike - to become more like Jesus Christ. But the fact is that the Bible is very clear in how that can most effectually be accomplished. So people of the Word (if that's what we claim to be) let's be truthful to the Word of God and realise that there is nothing more abhorent to God Himself that attempting to gain a standing with Him by our own works of the flesh.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Huge Encouragements for those Who Aren't Academics!

Rob Rufus said in his latest sermon: "Sonship" versus "Christianity":

"It is His pleasure to hide the revelation of the Father's love to the wise and learned, the arrogant and self-righteous - those keeping the law. But it is his joy and His pleasure to reveal the love of the Father to those who come down in humility and believe that He has not called you to be a Christian but a son who the Father loves!
What is the revelation of the Father's love?. Rest. Why? "Come to Me all you that are laiden and heavy-burdened and I will give you rest ... My yoke is easy and My burden is light! Christians talk about "God's given me a burden". Now if you mean by that that God has given you a calling and is showing you what He wants you to do along with Him then fine. But if your idea of a burden is moaning and groaning then that is not rest and that is not a yoke that is easy or a burden that is light".

Just awesome! I've been drinking in this sermon this week so far as well as scribbling frantically and have heard some incredible insights that the Holy Spirit has shown will potentially mend what doctors, psychologists and medicine cannot in my life! The whole revelation of sonship is one that I am only now struggling to learn as I missed it in my formative years growing up in church life. Regretfully I grew up as a Christian not as a son. But I am sensing this week that the Holy Spirit is saying that NOW are my formative years and the best IS yet to come!

I will be sharing more on that very very soon!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ern Baxter with William Branham

Just couldn't resist a final quick post and a link to a site I discovered set up I think by supporters of the late William Branham. It's called: "Believe the Sign" and there is a seperate page devoted to Ern Baxter and his involvement with William Branham. They very kindly link to the website that is hopefully being still developed with Pete Day - "Ern Baxter dot com" and make reference to an interview with Ern that I published about Branham.

The photo that they published was also of great interest to me - it is Ern Baxter standing deep in thought in front of a ministry car for William Branham. The website very honestly makes note of the fact that in his later years Ern Baxter seperated himself from Branham's doctrines yet never, ever (a point I had to argue and battle with some of the elders at my home church in Dunstable who were trying to claim that Ern Baxter didn't support Branham) argued with the verifiable and authentic miracles that he witnessed while travelling with Branham.

Here's a video that I published some time ago - of an interview with Ern where he was discussing William Branham:

Why do I make mention of this? I mentioned yesterday that Rob Rufus provokes me by his relationship and continual encounters with the manifest Presence of God and the resulting signs and wonders that follow the message of grace that marks his ministry. I have found a video on You-Tube of testimonies from Kings Church in Eastbourne following Rob's visit that we were able to be at (Pete, Scott and myself along with Nick and Malcolm):

The difference to me - the unfolding revelation that is clear to me marking us out as different from the days of William Branham and the other healers of the 1950's is that in those days people flocked to those men and women seeking a miracle from them. And God blessed them graciously! But what I feel passionately now is that Rob Rufus among many others have opened up the truths of the Scripture to us to show that we ALL are responsible for seeing signs, wonders and miracles following OUR ministry and OUR witness.

The question is - will we accept that we are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ and as such are equipped by God the Holy Spirit to go out and make His Name famous among the nations!?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Get Thee Up into the High Mountain!!

Well once again God shows His wonderful grace through some awesome friends I've got. I'm being taken away tomorrow for a week's surprise holiday for my birthday! (It's on the 8th December). It was felt that I would benefit from some winter sun. I can tell I'm a workaholic when I don't want to go away because I will miss the chance to work! But I am going because I think it will be a good break - and hopefully a chance to re-boot, rest and make some major decision choices.

But most importantly of all - I pray again its a chance to just do "nothing" and encounter God in powerful ways. I love this clip where Rob was speaking to the Mobilise thousands last Brighton conference when we were there and he urges that getting away with God is so important.

I love the way that Rob's example is so grace-filled. My life has been full of great men and women of God who have testified to an awesome relationship with Him. But somehow I have always felt condemned and guilty because I couldn't quite match up to their walk with God. Yet Rob Rufus is a different story and I am not quite sure how he does it. He testifies to encounters with God that I can only dream of - yet this motivates me rather than condemns me! I think because his teaching is so undergirded with New Covenant grace - no one can be left with the impression that it's thanks to great scholar-ship or great study or great prayer and fasting but GRACE!!

So I've got great hopes for this week - I hope to return refreshed and full of revelation and new vision for the end of this difficult year and a new year full of hope and promise! Loadsa love to everyone - hope you have a great week. I will try and get to an internet cafe if I can but if not - see you when I get back!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dudley Daniel - Father of NCMI

Anyone who follows Rob Rufus's ministry will know the impact that a man called Dudley Daniel had on his life. Dudley was a spiritual father to Rob and continues to have profound influence on Rob - even though City Church International is not part of New Covenant Ministries International. I am always interested in the influences on my heroes because the influences help to shape them become who they are. For example Dr Ern Baxter and Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones both had great impact on Dr Stanley Jebb - my first senior pastor. William Branham had great impact on Dr Ern Baxter. Dr John Stott and Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones had great impact on Terry Virgo and so on.

So over the past few days I have been watching with great interest - "NCMI TV" and in particular a series of interviews conducted by Tyrone Daniel - the current leader of NCMI - with his father Dudley Daniel. They really are well worth watching. In it Dudley shares his heart about where the movement of churches has come from and where he hopes it is going.

Here are the videos:

1. "The Dream".

3. "The Price".

6. "The Faith".

Each video is only about 5 minutes long so won't take long but the spiritual truth is well worth it! These videos have also re-emphasised to me the importance of "spiritual fathers". You can catch something of Dudley Daniel's heart here and it also helps me piece together something of how Rob Rufus became who he is today.

By the way - I do re-recommend an interview with Rob Rufus conducted by Adrian Warnock. They discussed something of NCMI and Dudley Daniel's influence and it's a vital interview for anyone interested in Hong Kong and in Rob's ministry.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

According to Your Faith ... So Be It!!

The last month or so has been quite rough for myself and many Christian friends I'm in contact with. Pete's been struggling with health issues. Both Julie and Lydia have lost loved ones. And I've given short accounts of what's been going on up here in Birmingham. I should add it's coming close to a wonderful conclusion here - God is opening up awesome new doors for me (the dreaded Christian metaphor I know!) that may lead to me being far more mobile across the country which is really great. However one of the things I noticed was the discussion about "warfare" and about the "enemy" and about "attacks".

While no one would deny the presence of spiritual warfare and attack, Rob Rufus brought an important counter-balance to the discussion about warfare and attacks in the most recent sermon of his that I am transcribing - "The Struggle For The Authentic Part 4 - "The Parable of the Sower" - it's certainly made me stop and think!

Here's what he said;

"How many believe that God hasn't called us to be fighting all the time? It's wrong to be in the frontline all the time. Sometimes you have to have a rest and there is a place of peace and certain teaching will lead a Christian to think they are always fighting all the time. I think the devil wants us to believe that too. I don't believe Jesus was always fighting against the demonic. It says the enemy came and then left Him for a "more opportune season". But he left Him and retreated from Jesus after the wilderness temptation.

Jesus said over and over again; "According to your faith - so be it". So according to what you believe - so be it in your life! If you build a theology where every day you believe you are toe-toe and eyeball-eyeball in a fight with the devil, then that is according to your faith and he will be very happy for you to believe that. But I actually feel that according to my faith I dwell in the secret place of the Most High and dwell under the shadow of the Almighty and will not fear the arrow that flies by night or the fowlers snare because the Lord is my dwelling place".

I know for a fact that Rob wouldn't be promoting a triumphalistic sort of life where we drift through happily until heaven - that just isn't real life! And again and again in his sermons, you get the sense that Rob and Glenda (like other Christian leaders) go through trials that we can only dream of. But this perspective is really important. These last few months I have begun to find myself dropping my head lower and lower and wishing for this day of struggle to end. But am I falling into the trap of "according to my (low) faith - so be it?!". The devil isn't going to have a problem in me thinking the day of warfare will never end!

Rob goes on:

"Though a thousand fall by my left hand and 10, 000 by my right hand it will not come near me because I am in the shelter of the Most High. His shield of favour is around me and there are firewalls of protection and He has sent angels, seraphim, cherubim - mighty ministering spirits to me - an heir of salvation! There are times He lets me go through the valley of the shadow of death and His rod and His staff will comfort me. It says though I WALK through the valley of the shadow of death. He leads me through it and I am going to get out! And it's really only a shadow - it's not the substance and the shadow of a dog can't hurt you!

We have got to believe that God has called us to walk in peace and rest. I want to talk to you about that. I am not against psychiatrists and have many good friends who are psychiatrists but many Christians do not have mental health and they are not happy. They are not joyful and are always fighting devils.

They are more concious of the devil than of the grace and love and goodness of God and the favour of God".

And that is the challenge - are we more concious of the devil's work and actions than we are the love and goodness and favour of God? I am persuaded that rather than investing my time in reading psycho-therapy books and going to therapeutic counselling meetings, I would be far better suited to reading, immersing and saturating myself in the grace and favour and goodness of God. Once again I am reminded of why Rob is so determined never to move on from preaching New Covenant grace! Because it's not just a crazy motif to weep over with pseudo-tears and build an icon to outside your church. It's a life-changing historical moment when the curtain was ripped in two!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

John Piper on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

In these exciting thrilling days of signs and wonders and miracles and outpourings of the Spirit that are occuring all over the world - it's important that certain fundamental truths are not forgotten. Hebrews calls one of those fundamental truths; "The Doctrine of Baptisms". Water baptism isn't one that I've ever had problems arguing or felt the need to defend. I was brought and raised up in a Baptist church - so adult believers baptism has never been a problem for me. Whereas most who have followed my blog for some time will know that I had need to work through what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit meant biblically due to a drastic change in doctrine and practice at my home church.

I was interested therefore to read John Piper's sermon of the week that was sent to my email. He brings a larger and wholler perspective - refusing to immediately jump into the "What" and "When" questions. Here are some of the more important points he raises:

What Does Jesus’ Baptism with the Holy Spirit Mean?

So what does it mean? What does John the Gospel-writer have in mind when he tells us what John the Baptist says in verse 33, “This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit”? What does baptism with the Holy Spirit mean?

1) The Holy Spirit Comes Through Jesus

First, it means that from now on—now that God has come in the flesh—the Holy Spirit will come to people through Jesus Christ. The Spirit came upon Jesus and remains upon Jesus, and therefore Jesus is the one who gives the Spirit (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit will not do his redemptive work apart from Jesus. Jesus will be the means by which anyone receives the Spirit. Whatever saving work the Spirit does, he does because of Jesus. The Spirit does not flow like a fluid through the world unattached to Jesus. Everywhere he moves he moves with Jesus and for Jesus. That’s the first thing it means to say that “Jesus baptizes with the Spirit.”

2) Jesus Immerses People in the Spirit

Second, it means that Jesus immerses people in the Spirit. That’s what the word baptize means. There are pictures in the Bible of the Spirit being poured out. But when the idea of baptism (that is, dipping or immersion) is brought in, the point is that the Spirit is poured over us to such an extent that we are enveloped in him.

The point of this image is that the Spirit becomes profoundly and pervasively influential in our lives. When you are immersed in something, it touches you everywhere.

So when John says that Jesus is going to baptize with the Spirit, he means that the day is coming when the lives of God’s people will be plunged into the life of the Spirit with profound and pervasive effects.

3) Baptism Signifies All That the Spirit Does for Us

Third, what are those effects? Now here we could let ourselves go straight to the debate about whether the term “baptism with the Spirit” refers to a second blessing in the Christian life sometime after conversion marked by speaking in tongues, or whether it refers to the point of conversion. But I don’t think the way that question is posed will help us yet.

As I have tried to let John define for us what he means by baptism with the Spirit, it seems to me that the term is a broad, overarching one that includes the whole great saving, sanctifying, and empowering work of the Spirit in this age. I don’t think it is a technical term that refers to one part of the Christian life—say conversion, or speaking in tongues, or a bold act of witness. It is the continual, and sometimes extraordinary, outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s people. It immerses them not just in one or two, but in hundreds of his powerful influences.

In other words, if you are not born again, one way to describe your need is that you need to be baptized with the Spirit. That is, you need to be plunged into God’s Spirit with the effect that you will be born again and come to faith in Christ. If you are born again, but you are languishing in a season of weakness and fear and defeat, one way to describe what you need is to be baptized in the Spirit. That is, you need a fresh outpouring of his Christ-revealing, heart-awakening, sin-defeating, boldness-producing power. Every spiritual need that we have before and after conversion is supplied by Christ immersing us in greater and lesser degrees in the Holy Spirit.

So I don’t take baptism with the Spirit in John as a technical term for one experience of the Christian life, but as a general term for all that the Holy Spirit does for us because of Christ.

There are some points that even a great like John Piper doesn't quite persuade me on. I am familiar with the argument to try and "unify" the baptism of the Holy Spirit into one great Christian experience that all believers are by necessity automatically included in. I'm not sure that's how the Bible sees it. There's enough in the Gospels, Acts and the Epistles to suggest to me that the Baptism of the Spirit brings particular graces from God that should be sought and asked for from the "Father who gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask".

Nevertheless John Piper's conclusions still bring a vital perspective to correct what many traditional Charismatics and Pentecostals may have been guilty of in promoting "a second blessing".

Jesus: The Ground and Goal of Baptism in the Spirit

So back to John the Baptist. John says that Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Now we see why that is a great tribute to the greatness of Jesus. It’s not just because Jesus is the ground of all the good that the Spirit does in us and for us. If Jesus were not first the Lamb of God who takes away sin by dying, he could never be the baptizer who gives the Spirit by rising. But he is not just the ground of the Spirit’s work.

Jesus is also the goal of all that the Spirit does in us and for us. He immerses us in the Spirit, and no one else can do it. And then the one in whom he immerses us witnesses back to Jesus and glorifies Jesus. Jesus is the ground and goal of the baptism in the Spirit.

All Things from Jesus and for Jesus

So the ultimate point of John’s testimony is that, under God the Father, all things are from Christ and all things are for Christ, including even the Holy Spirit.

The main reason we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit—the great outpouring of the Spirit, the great immersion of every part of our lives in the Spirit—is because God’s aim in every part of our lives is the glory of Jesus Christ. Is your life magnifying Christ in every part? If not, pray, as I do so often, for a fresh, fuller baptism in the Holy Spirit. O Holy Spirit, come. O risen Christ, for your great name’s sake, grant us a fresh baptism in your Holy Spirit.

Whatever your view about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit - surely anyone who truly has a heart aflame for God can't help but utter "Amen" to that!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Does Anyone Listen to What They're Singing Anymore?!

Okay this might be one of those points that could sound like a small moan ... maybe. But I hope my point will come across. It was prompted by the purchase of the latest Brighton "Together on a Mission" worship CD - "Salvation's Song: 2008 Live worship from TOAM & Mobilise". It's always hard to listen to a live worship CD and "connect" to the sense of worship there when you weren't actually at the conference yourself. I always find Newfrontiers live worship CD's the easiest to try though - because I've been to more conferences than not, I can imagine pretty well what it was like. But would I rave about it? Because you've probably figured out I am one of those people who can't be lukewarm about anything - I love it or I hate it! Whereas this CD - I'm lukewarm. I love some of the songs (more later) ... I always love Lou Fellingham and Simon Brading's wonderful worship leading ... but ... I don't have the memories to bring it to life!

The one song that has confused me somewhat is Lou Fellingham's recent; "Once I was dead to You (Promised land)". And here's where the whole "hymnody" musing arose. The song (while sang beautifully by herself and the gathered thousands) has the line in it:

"Through Your suffering, I’m forgiven, Pressing onward to the promised land ... His name is Jesus, sent from Heaven, To take us homeward to the promised land".

I have to ask - why did the Fellinghams chose the words "Promised Land" to describe what they clearly mean as heaven? Because in doing so they have abandoned a clear fundamental restorationist type of Old Testament teaching (absolutely central to Ern Baxter's Dales Bible Week 1977 series) and have adopted a more popular but misguided conservative evangelical type - seen in hymns every now and then. Essentially that teaching - as Lou Fellingham sings - is that the "Promised Land" is a spiritual type of heaven and our eternal rest.

But as C H Spurgeon asks:

"It has generally been considered, that the passage of the Jordan by the Israelites is typical of death, and that Canaan is a fitting representation of heaven. We believe that in some sense it is true, and we do fondly cherish the household words of those hymns which describe our passing through Jordan's billows, and landing safe on Canaan's side; but we do think that the allegory does not hold, and that Jordan is not a fair exhibition of death, nor the land of Canaan a fair picture of the sweet land beyond the swelling flood which the Christian gains after death.

For mark you, after the children of Israel had entered into Canaan, they had to fight with their enemies. It was a land filled with foes. Every city they entered they had to take by storm, unless a miracle dismantled it. They were warriors, even in the land of Canaan, fighting for their own inheritance; ...

But when we cross the river of death we shall have no foes to fight, no enemies to encounter. Heaven is a place already prepared for us; out of it the evil ones have long ago been driven; there brethren shall await us with pleasing faces, kind hands shall clasp ours, and loving words shall alone be heard. The shout of war shall ne'er be raised by us in heaven; we shall throw our swords away, and the scabbards with them. No battles with warriors there, no plains besoaked with blood, no hills where robbers dwell, no inhabitants with chariots of iron.

It is "a land flowing with milk and honey;" and it dreams not of the foeman of Canaan of old. We think the church has lost the beauty of Scripture, in taking Jordan to mean death, and that a far fuller meaning is the true allegory to be connected with it".

Does it really matter you may ask? It's "poetic license" and it makes the song sound nice. Well how about I give another example from the more cessationist side of things before drawing my conclusions.

I remember shortly before I left my home church in Dunstable, the new pastor (and successor to Dr Stanley Jebb) was receiving rave reviews from most of the congregation mainly because he was choosing "lively choruses" during the worship - whereas for the last few years in Dunstable, the worship had been restricted to hymns. But I was rather staggered when he proceeded to preach a sermon from 1 and 2 Samuel about Saul prophecying with the prophets - and drew an application from that, that the gift of prophecy did not and could not exist today ... and closed and asked us to stand and sing; "I Hear the Sound of Rustling"!

For those who are not aware of the chorus - "I Hear the Sound of Rustling" was a very popular chorus that was sung during the Charismatic Movement at the Dales and Downs and our own Anglia Bible Weeks. The lyrics included a charismatic theology (that the new pastor of my home church had just spent half an hour trying to dismantle!) including words like this;

"The Spirit of the Lord has come down on the earth
The church that seemed in slumber has now risen from its knees
And dry bones are responding with the fruits of new birth ...

And all around the world the body waits expectantly
The promise of the Father is now ready to fall
The watchmen on the tower all exhort us to prepare
And the church responds-a people who will answer the call
And this is not a phase which is passing
It's the start of an age that is to come ...

A body now prepared by God and ready for war
The prompting of the Spirit is our word of command
We rise, a mighty army, at the bidding of the Lord
The devils see and fear, for their time is at hand ...".

I personally love the song! But there again - I believe fervently in restoration! Why on earth were we singing that chorus after an essentially cessationist sermon in a reformed evangelical functionally cessationist church?! Can that be called "poetic license" too?

And here again we come back to my problem. Are we really listening to what we are singing? One of my favourite historical books charting the Charismatic Movement (or more accurately the Restorationist Movement) is by Professor Andrew Walker and is called; "Restoring the Kingdom". Professor Walker made the point that in his opinion Graham Kendrick was probably the most influential "theologian" of charismatic life in the United Kingdom - purely through his choruses and his songs. So on the one hand songs DO matter! But then on the other - do they?

I must state my profound admiration for SGM and in particular Bob Kauflin at this point. I've made no secret of the fact that I have many problems with some of their ecclesiology. But thanks to songwriters like Bob Kauflin - SGM are 100% consistent in what they believe and in what they sing. I could be wrong but I doubt you will find an SGM-written song promoting a theological viewpoint that they don't believe in. I remember years back Mark Altrogge wrote a number of restorationist songs (because we sang some of them back in Dunstable in the days before I had even heard of C J Mahaney or Larry Tomczak!). I doubt they are sung anymore in SGM circles - and again I applaud the consistency with the changes in theology.

So back to the song that started this "moan" - Lou Fellinghams; "Promised Land". I suppose in the grand scheme of Kingdom New Covenant life - it really doesn't matter whether I sing a song about heaven being like the Promised Land or not. But I think C H Spurgeon has got the ultimate and final point. Are there going to be giants in heaven with cities to take? I sincerely hope not - if Scripture is to be believed. So why then are we singing about it? Does it signify a drift away from Newfrontiers traditional restorationist beliefs or is it really as simple as the line fitted the song quite well? Or does no one really care?!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

For Those Whom the Traffic Lights are Red ...

I've been texting Pete Day a bit about this - so I do hope it will make sense. If anyone reads it and am not sure quite what I am on about then do feel free to ignore and move on! Essentially the thought for this blog was prompted by a comment that Rob Rufus made in one of his more recent sermons - "The Struggle For The Authentic Part 3 - Qualifications For The Blessings - Faith or Works?" - about how things have been very tough for the Rufus family and for City Church International but recently;

"When I woke up this morning I felt that the air was clear again and the pollution of darkness and oppression had evaporated and lifted off us. I don't want to be weirdly spiritual but the very natural atmosphere has had the pollution blown off it. Then every traffic light driving here was green and God was saying; "It's a green light - it's a go-ahead! ... Sometimes in God things aren't a coincidence - there is a prophetic significance".

Just after listening to that portion of the sermon, I had to drive to a night shift and was thinking absently about what Rob said until I came to realise that every traffic light I was coming upto (and there are a lot in Birmingham) was RED. Every light! Rob said that some things aren't a coincidence - I couldn't help but think each and everyone of my red lights weren't a coincidence because they were changing so frequently just as I drove upto them - and then staying red for what seemed like an obscene amount of time! If that wasn't bad enough, my car proceeded to break down on my way home from a night shift and needed water in the radiator.

So what I found myself thinking was that if God was saying to Rob Rufus through his green lights - "It's a green light - it's a go-ahead!" - what was He saying to me through every light being red?! Initially I was quite down-cast and found myself unhelpfully drawing comparisons between myself and Rob and Hong Kong and feeling that all-too familiar sense once again of condemnation creeping over me and that all-too familar voice; "Rob is a great man of faith - you'll never be like him! What?! You reckon you can even stand in the same room as Rob!? You're pathetic" - and so on and so on. I think most will know what I am talking about.

But as I waited on God I actually began to find a quieter but more insistent voice speaking and it was speaking words of hope and words of comfort. And He was saying things like; "The light is red just before it turns green. The night is blackest just before the dawn" and the sense that I was receiving was not that the red lights were condemning lights telling me that I was useless and my life was never going to go anywhere - but rather that this was a time to wait on the Lord and renew my strength and mount up with wings as eagles because the lights were about to change.

So if anyone else feels like me that their life is in a "red zone" at the moment, I hope this will be something of a comfort to you. God is absolutely and utterly 100% sovereign and each portion of our lives are carefully planned out and approved and set by Him. Nothing happens without His say-so. Even a sparrow cannot fall from it's nest without our Father knowing about it - how much more will He care for and love those He has appointed, predestined, called, justified AND made righteous?! Those traffic lights will turn green soon ... and when they do we will speed off all the faster because of that time of waiting on God! It's never a waste!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Faith!! I Can Move a Mountain!!

The line of this blog comes from a wonderful Hillsongs songs that I have loved for years. The concept of faith is something I am only recently getting my head round. Here's the song by the way!

I think I always used to get rather depressed at Jesus' words; "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed ...". My conclusion? My faith is smaller than a mustard seed! But Rob Rufus's wonderful Kingdom teaching has opened my eyes to the glorious realisation that faith is something imparted to us from on high! I'm in the middle of helping transcribe one of Rob's more recent sermons; "The Struggle For The Authentic Part 3 - "Qualification for the Blessing - Faith or Works?" - and Rob brought this powerful definition of faith;

"Faith is a supernatural ability to connect with a living God with confidence. Faith is the substancein your heart of the things that you are hoping for and it is the evidence of what you cannot see. Faith has evidence - faith is not a blind leap into the dark. Faith is a leap into the light based on supernatural substance and evidence inside your spirit given to you by the Spirit of faith - the Holy Spirit.

When faith rises up in your spirit you have the substance to manifest your hope and what you are hoping for starts happening and the goodness of God starts happening around you - but you need faith for that ... Today we will pray that the spirit of faith will rise in everyone of our hearts to believe the good news of the message of grace and that what the enemy intended for evil over the last 2 weeks is going to be turned around so powerfully for our good - that we will come into a more delighting place of confidence in the grace of God than ever before".

I love that last particular phrase. That's faith! I've hinted at the last month or two of hell that I feel I've been going through - ending up with me currently being on anti-depressants. I always grew up with a deep suspicion of anti-depressants. Such was the deposit of legalism in my church history that my gut feeling was if I resorted to anti-depressants then I didn't have much faith in God. John Piper was quite helpful in getting me to agree to my G.P's request. But all that aside - the question that I'm sure anyone and everyone who goes through times of trial must ask is "Why?". As I mentioned before - God doesn't seem to want to talk to us about our circumstances but our destiny.

That aside, I've been searching my heart as to why on earth I have spent the last year of my life working somewhere that has ended so sourly. Why has the chance to spend time with those vulnerable and needy children come to an end and it's become nigh-on impossible for my health to be in such a place of negativity? I don't have any answers ... yet! But I love what Rob Rufus said;

"That what the enemy intended for evil over the last 2 weeks is going to be turned around so powerfully for our good - that we will come into a more delighting place of confidence in the grace of God than ever before".

That's destiny. That's something that I can feel my faith stirring towards and for! I know I am not the only one who is struggling in life so I hope this is a post of encouragement. We know that all things work together for those who love God. That's not just one of those rosy verses that look nice on your mother's fridge. That's reality!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Singing Rob Rufus!!

This post came to me rather spontaneously - and I've learnt to listen and think when those spontaneous thoughts come. Many people think of Rob Rufus as being primarily a preacher and a prophet but some who are perhaps newer to Rob's ministry don't realise that he is a very adequate musician and singer as well. "Singing prophecy" is something that is new to my Christian walk and I must admit to certain misgivings when I first encountered it. I believe the first time I heard a sung prophecy was by Bob Kauflin in conjunction with C J Mahaney. Being honest - I thought it was odd and couldn't see the Scriptural justification for it. I don't know if both men still do that anymore but my experience with the sang prophetic went on and I began to hear it at the Brighton "Together on a Mission" conferences.

And then of course Rob Rufus himself. I must admit Rob's sung prophecies have had profound spiritual influences on me. I love music - not being a musician in any sense of the word (!) - I still deeply love music and have found it's an amazing gift of God through which He speaks and moves. So what I've tried to do in this post is gather together clips of the times that Rob has sung prophetically - or he has just sang! I do apologise for the quality of the clips. I'm not quite sure how else to get them on the blog other than using my camera phone. But I think despite the lack of quality - the impact still comes across!

1. Rob's Prophetic Song over Hong Kong.

This clip has to come at the very top of my list and I posted it back in June of this year. Rob sang it during City Church International's "Miracle Healing Weekend" and it is packed full of vision and hope and fire for the city of Hong Kong. It gives a glimpse into the fact that Rob isn't in Hong Kong simply for personal gain or for financial benefit. He's there (and City Church International is there) because of the motivation of love for Hong Kong.

2. A Song of Worship Inspired by Grace!

This short song was sung at the beginning of Rob's message; "The Blood - Substance or Shadow?". I say it's short because it has just two verses and a very simple chorus but it's simply profound. Absolutely magnificent in simply being a song written by a man who's life has been changed forever by the grace and wonder and majesty and Presence of God. And this song of worship - everytime I hear it - it challenges and provokes my heart to reach out and seek God to draw closer to me also - to desire His Presence.

3. Prophetic Song from "Glory and Grace Conference - Hong Kong".

This short clip begins with a bit of music from the worship team and then Rob sang a very short few sentences but I so vividly remember being there at "Glory and Grace" in Hong Kong when he sang it. It was such a prophetic statement of truth - but it wasn't just words alone. So many times I have heard prophecies spoken and even prophetic songs sang and felt very little. They are so empty when the Spirit of God doesn't brood in weighty glory on the words He wants His Church to hear. This clip can't even convey how the glory cloud filled that place!

So there's a few already. This is a post I hope to add to - so if anyone knows anymore recordings where Rob has sung prophetically or other then please let me know and we can add to this. Why am I doing this? It's not to exalt one man. Rob would never want or allow that. It's meant to be a motivation and a prompt (mainly to myself) to see how the Spirit of God can touch and use men and women to utter forth the truths of His glory. I can't sing - but I've got a voice and I must utter forth what He says!

Above all that - I hope - I really hope that listening and hearing these songs bring an awesome sense of God's Presence to you as you hear them.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dave Devenish Hit By the Power of God!!

I love, love, love watching people touched and struck by the power of God. I have been watching some ministry videos while I've been off sick from work and this particular main session of David Devenish's at "Together on a Mission 2007" was particularly awesome to me. The notes are available here. It so reminded me of the power of that conference and the way God fell upon us - and made me hungry for more! It also occured to me how preaching - the best preaching - contains a prophetic element to it. Even Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones attested to the fact that the Holy Spirit fell upon him at times during his sermons at Westminster Chapel.

I don't tend to speak that much about David Devenish but I do have a profound love and respect for this man. Many church leaders and so-called "apostles" don't really fit the New Testament model because they don't stray far from the safety of the Western world and the riches of the church at which they are based. David Devenish seems to be constantly somewhere deep within Eastern Europe or the Russian states faithfully proclaiming the Gospel of power. Yet while he is a man of the Word of God - the Holy Spirit powerfully rests upon him and it is always somewhat nerve-wracking experience wondering what and when he might break into prophecy during his preaching!

Not hearing Dave Devenish preach this year at Brighton was certainly something I greatly missed - you cannot fail but find your faith lifted by the world vision that he presents. If anyone's interested in hearing more of Dave - then here's some links to more sermons that he has given at times. In this day and age we need speakers like him!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ern Baxter on "The Old Man"

I found this very interesting transcript from one of Ern Baxter's series of sermons; "The Adam/Christ Analogy". During the sermon he spoke about the "Old Man" from Romans. Why do I quote him? I don't even presume to imagine that Ern Baxter is seen as an authority who will persuade those who doubt Rob Rufus's stand on the issue. However for me it serves to personally amaze me at the similarity in theology and teaching between these two heroes of mine and to men of God. Here's what he said;

"Our 'old man' is not something that is in us, it is something in which we are".

You don't have an 'old man' in you. Having said that, I have to prove it don't I? Well what does this have to do with the corporate? We will get to that. You have to realize how important the Corporate is. You see this whole matter of unity isn't just something nice. It's something mandatory! We have to come at it from God's side not our side. Not from holding ecumenical meetings. We have to find out what it is all about from God's Word.

In Romans 6:6, let's assume for a minute that you have got an "old man" in you, dirty, rotten, nasty fellow in there. He's in you! It says; "Our old man was crucified". In the English, we do not have a corresponding tense to the Greek aorist tense. The Greek aorist tense is simply this;

"It declares that something happened in time, once for all, never to be repeated - the effects of which continue".

Our old man was crucified! Now whatever that old man was; whenever it was crucified; it was crucified once for all - never to be repeated. Now let's be very logical about this; if that "Old Man " in you was crucified, at sometime back there, "he" was crucified! When a person was crucified, what happens to them? They die! If you have an old man in you - and there was some point in time when he was crucified - he's dead! Very dead! Right? If he was dead, dead then you don't have an old man in you because he's dead! He isn't there!

But the fact of history and the fact of experience is, whatever makes people sin, continues with us and it's something that we have to deal with. Therefore if that "old man" is in me and he's supposed to be dead - who's that other guy in there giving me trouble?

"Our old man was crucified with him that the body of sin (this is in the aorist tense) might be destroyed. Now if the body of sin is destroyed or made ineffective (and that's my physical body) - because that's what people say; "I have an old man in me and he makes me sin and he sins through my body!" - but the Bible says that old man was crucified, so he's dead and the body of sin has been destroyed, so I don't have a body?"

And if we are Christians we would all be in the grave! If you take it without looking at it closely, it becomes ludicrous; silly. If the body which is spoken of here is your body through which sin manifests itself then then the Bible categorically states that at some point in your past your old man was crucified and your body was "destroyed". Now your body is not destroyed, you are sitting here - unless I'm looking at a mirage - you are here. So what does it all mean?"

"Let me be autobiographical for a moment. I was raised under the teaching that I had an "Old Man". And when I became converted, I had - me. Then there was my "old man" which is seperate from me, which is my sin nature. It is not really me, it is my sin nature. Before I was converted it really dominated me. Now when I became a Christian, I got a "new nature". So now there is three of us in here. I know this because I was taught this. I am concerned because it kept me in semi-defeat for about 20 years of my Christian life even in the ministry!

I was taught that I had this "old man" plus me and then the "new man". Three of us in there. And I am the neutral umpire who decides who operates. And my old man is a disreputable, scandalous, vile, foul, vicious thing living in there - but I got converted and now I got a new man and he lives in there too. One of them wants me to do something wrong and one of them wants me to do something right and I am in the middle here and I kind of arbitrate between the two. So I am caught in this everlasting dichotomy; this on-going tension. Now I believe this, every one in a while to prove my orthodoxy that I have to let this "old guy" have some sort of expression, just to prove I am sound.

I was raised to believe it was not possible to really have complete victory in life and only in death would I have complete victory".

One day I was researching Romans chapter 6 and I decided to look into a commentary. I really didn't like this commentator because he didn't hold to my theological views. I decided I would look at him anyway on Romans 6. As I was reading him, he said;

"Many of my brethren feel that the article of physical death has more power to deliver Christians from sin than the Cross of Christ".

And I slammed the book shut and said; "I never liked him anyway". But the hook was in my jaw. I began to laugh and I saw the logic of what Adam Clark said. Everybody believed that when we die - we are going to move into instantaneous sanctification. I was sitting in my study and I said; "Come quickly terminal cancer that I may enter into sanctification!". You know the more I ridiculed the view that I held, the more I began to see the truth.

That I was saying that terminal cancer or a heart attack could do more to me in terms of sanctification than the Cross of Christ! And I saw how ridiculous this way. I saw how I was constantly downgrading the accomplishment of Calvary and I was imputing to the act of physical death a power that it didn't have.

"In fact - death is the last enemy - it is not my friend at all! It is not a sanctifying power; it's an embarrassing power! It's going to be done away with!"

Well to a cut a long story short ... and a very long story ... I discovered that I didn't have a seperate person in there called an "Old Man". And I tell you something else that does. It gets you off the hook of moral responsibility. I do something wrong and I can say; "It wasn't my fault - it was my old man". So what do I do? I cope out of moral responsibility as a responsible person and I say; "It was my old man!". Now I am doing exactly what Adam did in the beginning. So what are we doing? We are saying; "God it is Your fault! If I didn't have this "old man" then I wouldn't be doing this bad thing". I've got news for you.

"You are not going to be able to blame Him again because you don't have it! You don't have an "old man"! You are in, by nature, the "old man" but there is no "old man" in you! In fact what ever old man is in you is just as old as you. Your old man is you, not something seperate from you".

See when God came to save us, He came to save me not replace me. He didn't come to replace me. He didn't come to put someone beside me and call that "me". That isn't fair. There is just me in there. He came to save MY soul. He came to regenerate MY spirit. To renew MY mind. The Holy Spirit has come into MY life, not seperate from me. For the Bible said; "If anyone be joined to the Lord, he is one spirit with him" (1 Corinthians 6:17).

"Now it is very important that you see that we are members by nature of an Adamic body. And that the "old man" that was crucified was not something in you, but something in which you were and furthermore that the crucifixion of the old man and the destruction of the body of sin is a legal, judicial act which God performed in the Cross".