Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Gospel of Words and NOT Power?

"Word" and "Spirit" - "Charismatic Experience" and "Reformed Doctrine" ... familiar words?

Early this morning I was provoked by a quote of Bill Johnson's about the possibility of separating power and order in the ministry of apostles. This theme seems to be occuring again and again in the Christian world at the moment and I am at a loss to understand why - and more importantly what we can do about it. You can't deny it is a present tension. Terry Virgo sparked it off recently again ending a blog post talking about inviting Mark Driscoll to be the main speaker at Brighton by saying;

"It seems very good to me, therefore, having had Rob with us for the last two years, now to welcome Mark Driscoll whose emphasis on the Word of God will do us enormous good. That is not to say, of course, that either of these men represents a stance of exclusively Word or Spirit, but I guess you know what I mean".

Well ... no I don't really know what he means. I think I know what he is trying to say but I wouldn't place bets upon it. Is Terry suggesting that Rob Rufus carries more emphasis on the Spirit of God whereas Mark's "emphasis on the Word of God will do us enormous good"? Suggesting that for the last two years we have been missing out on an emphasis on the Word of God? We can only speculate. But I digress. My heart for this post was prompted by the launch of yes ... yet another blog. C J Mahaney has joined the blogging world (HT: Between Two Worlds) and he advertises his blog as;

"C.J. Mahaney's view from the cheap seats".

His first post is typical Mahaney in stating; "I think you can anticipate a disproportionate number of posts on one topic, “Christ and him crucified”. But it was an avid Mahaney-fan who brought this whole tension of Word and Spirit to my mind. Peter Cockrell writes about Mahaney's declaration;

"Without a doubt, in recent months, I have become more concerned about gospel issues than charismatic ones".

It sounds quite applaudable doesn't it? But there is the tension again it seems to me. "Gospel" rather than "Charismatic". 2 years of "Spirit" now "an emphasis on the Word of God doing us tremendous good". And of course Peter Cockrell is quite welcome to his views about his hero but I was listening to a Rob Rufus sermon in the shower and he quoted 1 Corinthians 4:20;

"For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power".

Where am I going with this? Surprisingly (for me) it leads back to the Cross. Julie wrote a wonderful post on; "Should We Be Cross Centered?" and commented that we are in danger in "never moving beyond the Cross" in turning the Cross itself (i.e the two pieces of rough wood) into an entity in and of itself in the same way that the Israelites did with their snake pole. She summed up; "We can end up putting our focus on the means of salvation rather than the person who saved us". I think that is spot on. Rather than speaking of a Living Person, we are speaking of a dead icon. Rather than drawing on power from an empty Cross and an empty tomb, we are reflecting emotionally on an event ("The Father killed Jesus") that occured 2, 000 years ago.

The best - absolute best - worship song that sums up the correct balance for viewing the Cross is a wonderful song from Hillsongs;

"Now ALL I know - Your forgiveness and EMBRACE! ... Worthy is the Lamb SEATED on the Throne!". The Cross must lead us into first and foremost a recognition that it was love that constrained Him to go to Calvary and the end of that is that we enter into full intimacy with Him! The Cross should lead us to worship the Reigning One! "For the joy set before Him - He endured the Cross".

Is this all semantics? Are we arguing about simply terminology? No I think Julie makes the important point that our use of words actually matters. "We are not helping people to understand these doctrines well but are deceiving them into thinking that knowing the right terminology means they have adequate understanding and are well-taught". But even more importantly than this - I think there are practical dynamic implications for separating what should never be separated.

Julian Adams said; "Our expectation is God's invitation and what you expect is what you will get". Rob Rufus said; "Don't you know that your attitude governs your altitude?". In other words if your expectation - if your attitude is limited to a memory of a historical event and your Christianity is shaped around two pieces of wood then your Christian life will be shaped by that (even if your doctrine sounds orthodox).

But if your expectation and your attitude is that all heavenly power and life flows from the empty Cross and the empty tomb through the Person of the Holy Spirit then we will surely be equipped to change the world. Let me close by quoting Doctor Lloyd-Jones (a "Word" man surely if there was ever one?!);

"Orthodoxy is absolutely essential. But orthodoxy alone is not enough. A church can be perfectly orthodox and perfectly useless. The Apostolic message was orthodox but there was something else. Our Gospel came not unto you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance ... you see the Apostle always relied on the power of the Holy Spirit".

Terry Virgo - Apostles of Order and Power?

I have mentioned in a previous blog that I have a great affection and respect for this father in the faith and man of God - he has been instrumental in opening my eyes to my legalistic past and showing the wonder of God's grace. But he has also stood firm (up until now) in the Person and power of the Holy Spirit and I have rejoiced to get to go to conferences where the manifest power of God is actively welcomed under Terry's leadership. I was prompted to go on this little investigation by a quote from a USA teacher called Bill Johnson - Rob Rufus quotes him a lot. Bill said;

"Apostolic order without apostolic power is to be questioned. Order based on biblical principle that is lacking biblical power is tragic at best, and deceptive at worst. Order does not exist unto itself. The wineskin exists for the wine. The wine is the focus. All order exists to house God Himself – not to restrict Him, but to accurately express Him.

Wineskins need to flex in order to be useful, because of the expanding nature of the wine in the fermenting process. The Holy Spirit brings constant change, and to house Him means to embrace flexibility as a way of life. The goal is not to create a perfect structure or government. It is to create one that recognizes Him, and flexes with His changes".

I think great strides have been made in the evangelical church in recognising that apostolic ministries do exist - even if the more conservative types don't want to use the word. But the question must be asked - are most modern-day "apostles", apostles of order and not power? If so according to Bill Johnson they must be questioned. "The wine is the focus"! David Holden was speaking at Brighton a few years ago about Ephesians 4 Ministries and he said;

"Apostolic ministry is far more to do with impartation than administration".

So I have taken a stand and expressed my concern about Terry inviting a man like Mark Driscoll to Brighton. (As did Scott). Some people have taken that concern to speculate that I have written Terry off in my mind. I've done no such thing. But what is he upto this year? Is his schedule more to do with "order" than "power"? Terry has graciously become quite transparent on his website and lets us see his diary.

1. Terry began the year by ending a three part series on Elijah at his home base church CCK in Brighton. That series is available here for download. I wrote up the notes of the last session that we attended.

2. On the 29th and 30th January (about right now) Terry is speaking at the FIEC Council Conference. Now this speaks to me of power! Because I grew up in an FIEC church all my life and they were - let me put it nicely - never that enthusiastic about the Holy Spirit. I don't know what he is going to speak about and I don't know whether the sessions will be available. But the fact he is there is a miracle enough. Or is it? Has his ministry suddenly become not a threat to conservative evangelicals now?

3. April 7-10 sees Terry going to speak at New Word Alive Pwllheli accompanying John Piper and Don Carson. My comments remain as above. Is it a miracle? Are the conservatives softening and opening to the fact that things can be learned from charismatics? Or are the charismatics they are welcoming becoming "acceptable"?

4. July of course sees "Together on A Mission" and Mark Driscoll. Power? Or a "feast of the Word"? Or both?

5. But it was the month of October that really caught my eye. Terry leaves the UK for South Africa on the 1st and goes from there to Sydney Australia where he will be based until December. I am guessing (because I don't know) that he will be there to help and assist Peter Brookes and the Newfrontiers push into the South Pacific rim.

That really excites me! What an upheaval but what a commitment to the Great Commission! Many men around Terry's age would or are thinking about retirement, peace, tranquility and "calming down". But the fact that he is so called to his role as a father that he is prepared to go and live on the other side of the world for three months is a real challenge to me. What am I doing to contribute to the Great Mission we are on?

There are many other apostles I could have mentioned and spoken about and I am sure come to your mind.
But in closing let me say again - are you in a position to have apostles over you and benefiting your churches? But are they guilty of apostolic order without apostolic power? Do they exercise and enjoy a form of authority without a father's heart and a father's love? In that case are they really anointed by the Holy Spirit or simply self-appointed and self-exalted? Let's NEVER settle for second best! If God has restored the Ephesians 4 Ministries to the church for the "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" then let us be absolutely sure we are relating to men and women of God!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Overturning the tables of legalism

A good number of posts (and comments) on this blog have discussed the dangers of legalism, and have powerfully proclaimed the glorious grace of God. For a while now, I have been thinking about how we should respond to legalism. Then, a few weeks ago, Dan sent me a text message in which he made reference to the following quote from Rob Rufus:

"If you don't get angry with legalists then you haven't seen grace".

And also:

"DON'T LET THE PHARISEES RAPE YOUR PEOPLE. Don't be nice to the Pharisees! Jesus wasn't!".

I was then reminded of one of the times we see Jesus getting angry: in the temple just before the Passover, where he drives out the money changers and those who are buying and selling animals for sacrifice (who, incidently, were occupying the "Court of the Gentiles", the only place where the Gentiles were permitted to worship the God of all the earth and had turned it into a market). Jesus showed these traders no mercy. He lamented the failure to fulfill God's vision for the place to be a house of prayer for all nations, and told them they had turned it into a den of thieves.

Here we see people (Jew and Gentile) being robbed of the grace of God.

What legalism does

It says: "He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business." (John 2v14)

Oxen, sheep and doves were the animals that people came to sacrifice in order to be accepted before God. There were many kinds of sacrifice, but the essential purpose of them was so that people could be right with God. In particular, at the Passover (the time when these events occurred), the lamb was sacrificed as a memorial that in Egypt the wrath of God was turned aside and the people were set free.

So here in the temple of God, they were selling the means by which people could get right with God. They were forced to pay in the temple currency (hence the money changers) - in other words they were forced to step into a particular mould of behaviour in order to be accepted by God, and to pay for the means of acceptance with the work of their hands.

The only way a person could be sure that the animal was acceptable to the priest was to buy from the sellers there in the temple. And the only way he/she could buy the correct animal was to have the right currency. If they brought their own animal, or tried to pay in any other way, they were rejected. So drawing near to God had been transformed totally into an operation where the people had to fit the mould, work the works, and pay the price to draw near to God.

If someone couldn't pay, they were left out and so could not draw near (or so they were taught). What an abomination!! How disgusting! And yet, this is a clear picture of what legalism does.

So many believers end up having to "tow the line" and approach God in the format demanded by their churches; they have to pay their way into coming near to God (only accepted if their tithes are fully paid up); they have to obey all the rules of church life in order to be an upstanding member of the church; they are taught that their behaviour (not the grace of God through Christ) determines their standing in the presence of God.

And so many, many believers are bound up by rules and regulations, and under a cloud of condemnation (because they don't meet the grade of human regulation) and are missing out on the joy and liberty of living in the amazing grace of God.

What should be our response?

It says: "When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables." (John 2v15).

Jesus overturned the tables. He drove them out. This might not be a popular thing to say, but I believe God has given to those who have discovered the truth of the free grace of God - to drive out the lies about the cost of God's grace and, if necessary, confront the people who stand in the way of grace.

We are to overturn the tables of those who sell God's love, who make the saints feel that have to earn acceptance. We must upturn the ables of law and regulation and invite every precious saint freely to come beyond the Court of the Gentiles right in through the torn veil right into the very throne room.

This might appear quite a rough response. What about love? I do believe there needs to be a difference in approach, depending on who we speak to.

Those enslaved and broken by legalism need a tender and gentle touch as the grace of God is taught and fed.

Then there are many victims of legalism who are, because legalism has become so ingrained, are very zealous for legalism and earning favour with God. These are like all the people who bought in the temple - they were caught up within the system, but they were none the less victims - shut out from intimacy with God and made to pay their way. With such there does need to a firmer hand, but still a tender hand. Be bold, but be gentle and patient, keep loving and keep persevering and demonstrating the grace of God.

Then, there are the moneychangers and the sellers themselves. It is clear from the scripture that Jesus showed them no tenderness, but drove them out. Frankly, these were the people (supported by the pharisees), who should have known better. And today, while I am sure many leaders are very sincere - they should know better. Scripture is very clear about the abundant grace of God.

We need to be bold - very, very bold. It is interesting that those who defend legalism do so claiming the authority of Gal 2v11 - "Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed." This verse is used to excuse all manner of authoritarian action and speech against people who do not agree. Yet the context is in fact an apostle standing firm to challenge another apostle who had fallen into legalism.

This was the line in the sand for Paul. Legalism had come into the church, and was being embraced by a leader - and it had to be opposed.

The likely response

It says: "And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him." (Mark 11v18)

The pharisees sought to kill Jesus. That doesn't bode well! But history has repeated itself since. The religious leadership sought to kill Tyndale for freely giving away the word of God. They sought to kill Luther for revealing the free gift of justification. It is the response of religion.

I'm not saying we will be killed, but it is an almighty battle. Instead of drawing the line in the sand over secondary issues such as the "role" of women in the church - our line in the sand is far more serious.

It is the GOSPEL itself. It is the glorious truth that we are justified freely by His grace, clothed in His righteousness, having the same standing before God as His own dear Son, with the right by His blood to stand in God's presence and bask in His glory as sons and daughters of the Lord, to hear His voice, and to cry Abba Father. And to know that we are free from any form of payment, free from any requirement to meet human regulations, free from the accusations and reminders of how we fall short, free from being reminded about indwelling sin.

I fully expect that we shall be accused of antinomianism (that is, being against the old covenant law - as if that were a bad thing :)!), of promoting licence, of undermining God Himself. But it is simply not true. God's grace is free, access into His presence is free, for every single child of God. It is essential that we encourage God's people to stand firm in the grace of God and enjoy their full inheritance.

Rob Rufus said in his first message on the grace-hating spirit: "When you realise that I can come to God, I can receive grace, then you can see the marriages getting blessed, the wife's a blessing she is a priest, the husbands a priest, they're priests over their children, they're priests in their marriage, they're priests, they are living with God, they have access to God. If we could liberate 1.2bn christians into the priesthood of all believers the power of heaven will come down on the church and what happened 2000 years ago at the cross when the veil was split and the glory of God came out and was accessible to all who were born again, we would see revival break out across the planet."

And there is simply the joy of being in love with Him, in His presence, being drenched in His glory. We must not compromise and allow these false teachings to hold people back from the glory cloud.

I found these wonderful songs from the Parachute Band (from New Zealand):

I see you Lord, in the most holy place
Where angels tremble and lay down in worship.
I stand in wonder, longing to draw near
You catch my eye and call me in.

I fall down, in awe of you
I fall down, in awe of you.
(Shonelle Barnes, (C) Parachute Productions 1998)


In so many ways you love me
just as I am not as I should be
and as your child you take hold of me
I see just why I fall in love with you.
The purest love I've ever known
was that you chose to give and die.
The blood that poured from your open hands
all so I could fall in love with you

I've got to worship you my God
I can't contain the way I feel
I dance free before you Lord
it's you that I adore.
(Shonelle Barnes, (C) Parachute Productions 1998)

Let's start dancing free...

Monday, January 21, 2008

A New Year Question from Rob Rufus

Just a short post for me today (I know ... unusual!) because I have been at the hospice from 09:00 till 21:00. But I think it's important. I am transcribing Rob's awesome sermon; "Invading the Impossible" and he asked this:

"The question is - okay Rob, how then do I live my life more concious of who God is than who I am? What is the answer to that? Well I have by trial and error and then revelation, I believe, gained insight into the answer for that".

The answer?


The full sermon to come here ...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Worship ... Until the Glory Comes!!

Stoneleigh Bible Week 1998 ... (the entire MP3 audio is here):

Ruth Heflin - the great charismatic pioneer who had such an influence on Rob Rufus - said this:

"Praise until the spirit of worship comes ...

Worship until the glory comes ...

Then ... stand in the glory!".

She went on to expound on that slightly and said this;

"When a worship leader is concious that the anointing has built to the place that the spirit of worship has come, he should slip quietly into a little song of worship. It should be less wordy than the songs of praise. When you worship, you don't need to say great things".

"Draw Me Close to You" came under rap a while back. Some evangelicals hate it - one pastor in particular I know has a real problem with it. But I think and still believe it is one of the most wonderful songs of expressive intimacy and love to the Most Amazing Person in the Universe - the only One who has ever loved us enough to give His life that we might live. "Love constrained the Son of God to go to Calvary!" (John Hosier) - Yes I do believe that we should begin our time together with praise - I love hymns of theology detailing what God has done for us.

But what husband and wife spend the entirety of their relationship talking about what they have done for each other? Surely the deepest expression of intimacy is in a look.

I love the video of this wonderful worship song because if you look carefully at the gathered thousands at Stoneleigh you will see "that look". Knowing Newfrontiers like I do, there were plenty of wonderful theological songs detailing what God had done that year at Stoneleigh ("Before the Throne of God Above" was one such song). But they had done what Ruth Heflin detailed. They had praised until the spirit of worship had come. And there was the deepest expression of intimacy ... in a look.

"Praise until the spirit of worship comes ...

Worship until the glory comes ...

Then ... stand in the glory!".

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Blogging Life of Dan Bowen!!

Recently I was having an enjoyable chat to Don Baker - a trusted friend of mine and a father in the faith to me. He made a comment that startled me and took me back somewhat. He said;

"I've been wondering what you've been up to -- your blogs are so quiet these days!".

I wasn't aware that I was quiet! But Don went on to say that he hadn't realised I had been posting mostly on "Life on Wings" covering the Mark Driscoll coming to Brighton thing. He thought I was writing more on "Spirit of God!" and obviously hadn't checked "Life on Wings". Initially I slipped, oh so quickly, into legalism and condemnation. The devil had a hey-day. "Oh well - about the only thing you do for God is blog and clearly your closest friends don't think you do much of that!". I had a much needed and valued chat with my best friend Pete Day who made a classic quote to combat this ridiculous legalism;

"There is no law of blogging, no righteousness of gold dust. I would rather seek the glory and if the gold comes then that is a bonus".

The reference to the "gold" was that I was also struggling with why so many people who went to Hong Kong seem to be having manifestations of feathers and gold dust and oil on their hands yet I have got nothing. So as you can see - it was a very helpful comment that freed me wonderfully!

However ...

We did agree that some order was required to make some sense out of what on earth was going on in my blogging little world. Jesse Phillips from Orlando Florida (an SGM pastoral intern) probably did the most admirable job of summing what's where. Here's my attempt:

"Life on Wings" - the original blog and father of them all - set up 3 years ago now just after I left SGM in Bristol. I dedicated it to the memory of Dr Ern Baxter. It is still probably the blog where I do most of my writing as well as housing my archive of Ern Baxter's teaching. However I found that I was writing more and more about the Holy Spirit, His Person and His ministry and trying to defend charismatic life.

So "Spirit of God!" was born. I now partner it with Pete Day and it is evolving into becoming a site for recording the prophetic - prophecies given to us and from us for the church. The longest post on the site is probably "Charismatic Resurgence" - a post that is long overdue for an update. It is our continued hope that more and more charismatics will break the traditional trend and begin to write and document what the Holy Spirit is doing in our age.

I was inspired by a "quotes" blog that Mark Heath (an old friend of mine) set up to launch an exclusive Charismatic/Pentecostal quotes blog. I am blessed to be joined on the blog by an excellent team of people who all share my hunger for more of the Holy Spirit and the Presence and glory of God. Jesse is one of them as are Julie Morris (a real fire-brand), Pete and of course my loyal Scott (my Caleb!).

And then Rob Rufus entered my life in July 2006 at "Together on a Mission 2006" and again in 2007. What a man! I haven't encountered a man of God since Ern Baxter himself who so brings together the Word of God and the power of the Spirit. I fast began finding that taking notes of his sermons was out-growing any blog I was using so he required his own. Here (I still can't believe anyone else had taken the domain name!).

So where does that leave us? Well I am still attempting to post blogs as the Spirit inspires them on the appropriate blog posts. A couple of times I have transcribed a sermon or two and felt they are too key to be limited to just one blog. My fear is that someone will miss it so I have posted them on two. An example is Rob Rufus's first sermon of 2008. But if a friend like Don is missing some posts, then something needed to be done.

So what Pete and I have agreed is to set up a box at the side of each blog (thanks to Google Reader) under the name "Grace and Glory!". I did call it "Network" but Pete and I don't like the word "Network" for various reasons. Rather than tracking my favourite blogs (because why should you care what I read?!) - the idea is to follow the blogs of those of us who have been hugely blessed by Rob Rufus's ministry and which really seek to marry Word and Spirit - Doctrine and Experience - Grace and Glory.

I hope it proves a useful tool. If you feel your blog deserves a place in it, then please do let me know! I would be delighted to add it and follow what you have to share. I love the blogging world. It truly is a place of "No Well Worn Paths". I think our fore-fathers are looking down and applauding us and probably can't quite believe hopefully what it is achieving in making a statement for the glory of God on the internet.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Rob Rufus on Leadership that is Word AND Power

I do believe that even though great leaps have been taken in seeing Reformed doctrine and Charismatic Experience come together, recent events have demonstrated that the link is tenous and may easily drift apart. For example Terry Virgo bemoaned having to choose between "Word" and "Spirit" at various conferences when writing in the Newfrontiers magazine. But then he wrote in his blog when announcing Mark Driscoll was coming that we have had two years of "Spirit" ministry and hinted it's time for a re-balance with a "Word" speaker. That dissatisfies me!

I don't want and don't think the ideal is to seek out "Word" speakers and "Spirit" speakers. The ideal surely is for leaders to seek to be men of both Word and Spirit - of both doctrine and power - of fire and light.

I was hugely encouraged to find Rob Rufus clearly believes the same. I have been listening to the wonderful series he preached when he was visiting Los Angeles last year and he said this;

"We really do need in these days to substaniate the supernatural with theology and with Scripture. I dont know what I am ministry-wise and maybe there is an element of the evangelist in me. But I get so discouraged when I hear people say of evangelists that they are so shallow in theology but move in the power. We cannot afford that. Evangelists cannot use lack of theology as an excuse anymore because to just move in power without theology is a dangerous thing to do. But neither can the teachers and the theologians hide behind theology anymore as an excuse to not move in the power. Jesus was the Theologian of theologians and yet He raised the dead and He said we can do likewise.

Paul the apostle was the theologian of theologians after Jesus and he raised the dead and moved in dramatic miracle power. Teachers need to in the same ministry of power that Jesus moved in. We cannot say that those who had the greatest miracles in the New Testament were evangelists. No - no - no. Those in the Bible in the Book of Acts some of the greatest spear-head ministries were the apostles and they moved in signs and wonders and miracles.

The whole five-fold ministry cannot hide behind theology of lack of theology. Everyone needs to have theology and the demonstration of God's power so that the priesthood can come to the full measure of the stature of Christ.

We can't have teachers teach great things and close their Bibles and say "Let's go home". We have to demonstrate what we are teaching in manifestations. We cannot wait for evangelists or prophets or apostles to come to our churches before we have a demonstration of power. Otherwise what we are doing is side-lining those ministries as fringe fanatics and saying "That's what they do - that's their anointing". I dont have any special anointing for that. I could not move in the power of God for the first few years even though I was baptised in the Holy Spirit because my theology was wrong. It was good Pauline theology that activated the dormant power of God in me.

It's not some people who have special gifting. If it is activated without good theology, then it will go wrong. We do not worship the manifestations - we worship the Manifestor - but we are not ashamed of the manifestations!".

Let us take Rob's wise counsel and seek - whether we are leaders or not - to marry the "Word" and the "Spirit" in our church life and in our personal life. The two do not have to be seperated! They were designed to stand together as one!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ern Baxter on the Rent Veil

Anyone who has been following my blogging train of thought recently will know that the concept of the veil that was torn in two after Calvary has been on my heart recently - a lot. God first spoke about it dramatically when Pete and I met together for fellowship with God. Then the whole concept again was appropriately referred to in Pete's awesome article on "Liberating Leadership". It is my genuine concern that many church leaders (even unwittingly) are establishing themselves as mediators between God and His people and preventing them from entering or coming into the Holy of Holies - the very Throne Room of God. An example? I was concerned when Bob Kauflin - the SGM Worship Leader - wrote;

"So as I’m standing in front of the church, leading them in songs, Scripture reading, and prayer, my goal is not to "lead them into God’s presence," but to help them remember ... what Christ has accomplished ... through His atoning death".

So suddenly worship becomes something not dynamic but more memorial. Now to be fair myself, Julie and Pete left some comments questioning what Kauflin meant and he did admit that he believed in the concept of God's active and manifest Presence being different from His omnipresence and there should be a place for hungering for God to come down. He said in a comment;

"We need to keep a healthy tension between celebrating his promised presence and eagerly anticipating and crying out for his active presence".

But my concern remains. So I was thrilled to be able to find this video clip of Ern Baxter preaching on this very issue - and was interested that he too noted the same concern. That some leadership (largely Roman Catholic but creeping into Protestantism) isn't eager for every lay Christian to realise their God-given, Christ-paid right to enter into the Throne Room of heaven in experience boldly.

Here is the clip:

The clip comes from the "Priestly Clothing" series that Ern preached at Anglia Bible Week 1983 - organised by my home church, New Covenant Church in Dunstable. The sermon was "The Linen Breeches" - and you will be able to see the model of the priest that Ern used to illustrate his messages behind him.

We MUST realise that we are securely and wonderfully and FOREVER in the New Covenant - and that gives us a right to walk into God's manifest Presence with Christ's imputed righteousness added to our account and when God sees us the sceptre of His acceptance is pointed at us and we are WELCOME there! And that means that every benefit that Christ has from sitting in God's Presence is ours also! Being seperated from God's Presence meant that Jesus Christ cried out in terror and loneliness on the Cross; "My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?!". I wonder if some of us as Christians would even know that terror and loneliness if God removed His Presence (which He will not).

The price is paid! Why are we standing in the Court of the Gentiles looking from afar? Why are we listening to leaders who seek to tell us that that worship is simply about memorials to a past event? Of course we must celebrate the Cross of Christ - that made it all possible! But Christ died for a PURPOSE! And that purpose was made so clear in Hebrews 10:19;

"Therefore brethren since we have CONFIDENCE to enter the Holy Place by the blood of Jesus ... let us draw near with a sincere heart in FULL ASSURANCE OF FAITH, having our hearts sprinkled CLEAN ... and our bodies washed with PURE water".

To simply remain "remembering" and going no further would be as ridiculous as the High Priest sacrificing the lamb at the Brazen Altar and yet remaining there watching the lamb burn, rather than taking the full benefits of the sacrifice it made and going on in to the Holy Place and then the Holy of Holies - God's Manifest Presence and God Himself. We are CLEAN! When God looks at us, His justice is SATISFIED! Let's go in! Let's go and commune with our heavenly Father who is passionate to meet us!

Surely to not do this is to make mockery of the sacrifice and the Cross of Jesus Christ. Let's go in. The veil is torn in two - forever! FOREVER!

Monday, January 14, 2008

"If the Lord is with us ... Why?"

I wonder if anyone remembers this statement that Terry Virgo made at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2001.

In this post I am going to take him up on that offer. In light of that statement he made at Stoneleigh, I feel obliged to take him up on that offer. I think he would be disappointed if I didn't take him up on that offer and that challenge!

I am intrigued with Terry Virgo at the moment. I am fascinated as to what is going on in his head and where he is going and where he is taking Newfrontiers. I hope that doesn't sound too cheeky. But he is one of the very few church leaders who has had a tremendous impact upon my life. His teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Stoneleigh Bible Week really cemented my experience in what was a confusing time when my senior pastor was changing his mind on this most important of encounters with God. His teaching on the grace of God absolutely saved my personal walk with God and my faith in church after one of the most difficult experiences of my life. He has consistently displayed the qualities of an apostle and a prophet in what church life should be like today - when very few other self-appointed "apostles" seem so far from the biblical model.

So when I ask these questions, I do so out of the utmost respect and love and admiration for this man of God. I ask these questions because I am bothered. If the example that Terry Virgo set didn't really matter to me, then what he did and who he invites to Newfrontiers conferences would pass without comment from me. But it does matter to me and it does interest me and I do want to grow in experience by looking at this man and understanding why he is who he is. It does matter to me that "Together on a Mission" remains one of the most powerfully visited by God conferences in the United Kingdom. In my lifetime I have attended the Dales Bible Week and that got stopped. I attended the Anglia Bible Week and that got stopped. I went to Stoneleigh Bible Week and that got stopped. I am not content to see Brighton become merely a "feast of the Word". I want to encounter God there!

Now when I say "open questions" to him, I essentially mean I want to open up these questions for comment very like Jesse Phillip's "Questions of the Month". I do not know Terry Virgo and I certainly don't expect answers from him! But I hope you will all feel free to leave comments to help me if you have any thoughts. As you will expect, a lot of the questions are about the forthcoming "Together on a Mission 2008" and Mark Driscoll's visit. But there are some other questions about the broader and more glorious work of the Holy Spirit as well. Questions that "Together on a Mission 2007" began! I do - I really do - want to learn ...

So Terry ...

1. "Together on a Mission".

If the Lord is with us - and in light of the glory of the past two years of TOAM - why have you invited Mark Driscoll to Brighton?

If the Lord is with us - and bearing in mind you live in a city with a thriving gay population - why have you invited a speaker who has publicly made homophobic comments and jokes?

If the Lord is with us - why is there no seminars about what Rob Rufus ministered in the last two years? Why are there no seminars about the manifest Presence and glory of God? Why are there no seminars about the Holy Spirit and His Presence and dynamic power in spreading the the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Why are there no seminars about signs and wonders and miracles that we should expect to accompany our message?

If the Lord is with us - why do we need to balance what was already a balanced Word and Spirit message at the conference? Why do we need a "Word man" when you yourself bemoaned;

"Why is it so rarely that we are privilidged to experience at the same time the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's power and true respect for the Word of God? How sad that we so often have to put up with a lack of one or the other".

It seemed to me that last year's Brighton was the closest we have ever got to a true marriage of Word and Spirit. Why do we have to change that?

2. "With Signs Following".

If the Lord is with us - would you agree that the command to Ezekiel to "Prophesy to the winds" - somehow carries an instruction for us? Would you agree that in the Spirit, the prophetic is somehow capable of unlocking and beginning dramatic moves of the Spirit of God?

With that in mind ...

If the Lord is with us - why didn't you prophesy once at last July's conference? Your prophecies have proved so influential in guiding the family of churches and provoking yet more prophecies from others. We needed to hear from God through you!

If the Lord is with us - why aren't we seeing speakers coming to Brighton who will provoke and impart greater and greater faith for miracles and signs and wonders rather than strategies for building bigger churches?

If the Lord is with us - won't the bigger churches come as a result of a greater manifestation of the glory and Presence of God rather than hearing "How-To" speakers?

And finally ...

If the Lord is with us - and the nations are our inheritance as the heirs of Abraham then why are the majority of leaders of restorationist church movements living in the West where only 5% of the world's population live? Why aren't we going into China? What is our strategy for seeing the glory of God cover China as the waters cover the sea as God promised?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rob Rufus Prophetically Looks Forward to 2008!!

There are a couple of things already that have tainted my excitement of 2008 and the potential it holds and the things I believe God could do. It was with excitement then, that I noticed Rob Rufus chose his first sermon in City Church International to be called this; "What to Expect in 2008?". I have always been told that we should be very wary of the prophetic attempting to look into the future and should focus more on the present. However I've been learning since Hong Kong that actually there are degrees of revelation that God wants to prepare His Church for, for the future. Why else are there so many prophecies (many of which are yet to be fulfilled) in the Word of God?

Here's the notes from what Rob preached - and let me say here and now that I haven't heard such an AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME Rob Rufus sermon! There is a growing in depth and anointing and glory that is so evident to me since I have been hearing and listening to the wonderful material coming from City Church. If we can take what Rob preaches here, then 2008 looks set to be a year of possessing promises rather than simply a "feast of theological concepts";

"I don't think any of us get to the point where we can say; "We don't need any encouragement any more". The Bible says encourage each other daily! I believe in a culture of empowerment - I believe that is the automatic outflow of being a son or daughter of the kingdom of heaven. Our Father is an encouraging Father - He is the God of all hope. People say the most bitter tears of regret are those over a graveyard on a funeral day because they were words never said to that person while they were alive. I don't want to reserve my greatest speech for Glenda's funeral - I want to say them all now.

We had an awesome holiday - it was an absolute delightful rich and fantastic time. I love deep sea fishing - we went out and caught 19 tuna out at sea. It was great. It is lovely to live a full life. We are men and women - not just worshippers, church-goers. It is good to go and read a novel - not just the Bible. Have you ever met Christians who can not do anything but pray, read the Bible and go to church? They are odd and they take themselves too seriously! Everyone wanted to be with Jesus not just because of His healing but because He turned water into wine!

And the evangelicals have been busy trying to turn the wine back into water!

We need to go into 2008 with no regret. Regret is an absolutely useless emotion - there is nothing positive about regret at all. Regret torments the mind and chains the mind to the past. Regret makes us re-live our past all the time and makes people keep looking back with the question; "If only" and "What if". People live with regrets that they didn't study enough, didn't spend enough time with their families.

You only get attacked by the devil in two situations - when you are in the will of God or when you are out of the will of God. He will attack you more when you are in the will of God than when you are not. When the pressure gets on and things don't happen, the devil gets you to make decisions that will end up like nightmares within weeks and months. When you live with regrets, you are looking backwards. Have you ever tried to drive a car for 20 miles looking backwards?

There are two ways to deal with regret - and you cannot deal with it by going back into your past because there is nothing you can do about it. Every person in this room has regrets! You cannot do anything about the "What-ifs" because they are gone. It is futile to try and change your past because you cannot.

Your past is powerless unless you give it power by going back and re-visiting it. 1. Attack your past by going and doing something about your future! Now is the time to see the power of your future! 2. The second way to deal with regret is to get a big picture of Who God is. God can turn a divorce into your good. God can use that to make you a greater person than you have ever been before!

"What-if" is a question we do not know the answer to! We are here to do the obedience of the great King of Kings who is coming back and we are going to give an account for our impact on this planet. We need stable marriage and stable homes - it reflects the Kingdom.

But if that is your goal then it is too small.

If we made their plans and purposes more important than Gods then we would have grown up with the kids feeling that Mum and Dad live to serve me and I am therefore more important than God. Kingdom first! And the kids realise Jesus must be amazing because He is more important than us! Those who make the living God their God will not live with regret. "As for me and my house we will serve God". We were terrible parents! We missed their birthdays! But the kids are serving God!

When Joshua invaded the Promised Land with Israel, they were given promises to inherit. They were given the geographic dimensions of the Land - they were given authority to clear the land of all foreigners and giants. We too have a Promised Land! To see cities shaken with the glory of God! Joshua before he died said; "Everything God has promised me ...". Yet there was still much of the Promised Land not occupied! But the next generation occupied what Joshua hadn't.

As soon as the people stopped fighting and settled down, the signs and the wonders stopped. Miracles are divine provision and coincidences that God brings. Contacts in nations for further advancement. When you put the Kingdom first, God will bless your career and your life. As soon as you put up the white flag and say "I've had enough" - the signs and the wonders will stop and the Presence of God seems far away.

There are sections of the church today that are no more different than pagan worshippers. They have no passion! No faith! No signs and wonders! I love to meet men and women after God's own heart! There is something perverted about making plans for your future without any mention of God! You hear Christians talking about their plans for the future and God is rationalised in, in a reasonable way that God is just my servant to make me happy! 500 years after Joshua, David came and they conquered the entire geographic area of the Promised Land.

A day will come when a people with a David-heart - not settling for partial conquests and partial promises fulfilled and the miracles aren't happening as fast as we want BUT we won't go back to Egpyt and we will go on conquering and taking ground! David committed adultery and murder - check the context - David stopped fighting! As soon as he stopped fighting, he got back into things that can cause regret. Keep fighting! Keep advancing! The purpose of war is to occupy territory so that new occupation becomes a platform for further advancement. If we are not advancing, we cannot keep what we have got! If you lose your fighting spirit how will you guard and protect what you have got? We must learn to not only keep what we have got but ADVANCE!

The most famous person in the world today - the most influential man on the planet today is Osama Bin Laden. Every time you take a plane, you realise that nations will do all things because of fear out of him. Bin Laden was a millionaire but gave his millions away because he wanted to re-create a world of Utopia. Moslems are not worshipping idols! Paul, the apostle - used to be the most influential person on the planet but he was motivated by love not hate like Bin Laden. Paul is still affecting the world today! Bin Laden is so effective that even if the USA find him and kill him - his death will be to his advantage. How many Christians can admit we have a higer purpose than to kill and destroy? Do we have the influence of Bin Laden?

We have the passion and power to be suicide bombers with explosions of glory so we can run into masses and let loose the power of God? Bin Laden has coped with the fact that millions hate him! Many in the church today wouldn't like to sit down with him today!

We are called - this isn't radical preaching - this is normal Christianity! The other stuff has made people live with regrets! A few weeks ago I had to make a hard decision because I was offered to go back on team in Adelaide but I TURNED IT DOWN. I could rationalise why that decision would be good - but my heart said that would be wrong. (Romans 3). The preaching here over the last 3 Sundays was outstanding. Get those teachings - all 3! I hope everyone in this church makes sure you get the CD.

Every Sunday is a supernatural sequence staging us for the next step and if you miss it, you are missing out on a stage!

Everyone should be here on a Thursday in our house to pray! There's nothing more important! "I've got to keep my dogs" ... Shoot them?!! "Let's save the whale!" ... no let's save the nations! If Bin Laden can change the world because of a radicalness - and the church is absent of radicalness - then we are not going to change the world over him.

I want to read a few things and talk about what I believe we can expect to happen in 2008 but need to re-cap what I spoke about last time.

There are two purposes of the Law - one purpose under the Old Covenant and one under the New. The Old Covenant purpose of the law is to give conciousness of sin, to curse you. There is no such thing as the curse of the devil - it is the curse of the law. In the New Covenant when you come into Christ, the law changes it's role and is no longer a judge and prosecutor under you - but the law witnesses that you do indeed have a perfect righteousness in Christ - a righteousness apart from yourself. Once you come to Christ, the law which is the standard of God's perfection and integrity, stands up in the courts of heaven and says; "You - Ryan, Glenda - you have a perfect righteousness that is apart from me. It has got nothing to do with your obedience but the obedience of Jesus Christ".

The law testifies a good report that I am the righteousness of God. Sin is never an issue again past, present and future - it has been taken away at the Cross! I am the righteousness of God! "I have just sinned" ... but I am the righteousness of God! "I have just shot my dog because Rob told me to" ... but I am the righteousness of God! "I lost my temper" ... but I am the righteousness of God! "I just gossipped" ... but I am the righteousness of God!

This teaching of righteousness and grace is more than just you and I feeling God - it is the foundation for us to take over the world!

The purpose of the Gospel is for you to feel confident even when you sin and mess up! It's much more than you just feeling comfortable when you sin and mess up (although it would still have great value). This righteousness is a gift from God not earned. The Old Covenant (Romans 3:19) - "Through the law we become concious of sin". That is how people are living who are not in Christ. But when you come into Christ, the law changes it's purpose (3:21) - " ... which the Law and the Prophets testify". The Law is testifying to your perfect righteousness in Christ! The Law is testifying on your behalf! It is validating the fact that you are unconditionally righteous 24 hours a day 7 days a week! (3:22) - "Comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe - there is no difference". It comes to ALL who believe! Do you believe?

How does this impact the world? Those who believe that are those who become heirs of the world. Those who do not believe that will never impact the world. The light that shines brighter is that which shines at home base. There is a world that God says is our parish. (4:13) - "His offspring receive the promise that he will be heirs of the world but through the righteousness that comes by faith". Anyone who lives under the attitude that my good behaviour obligates God to give blessing then you have missed it.

When there is no law, there is no transgression. 1 John writes - "Sin is the transgression of the law". Once you are in Christ and no longer under law - God doesn't even see you sin! Because where there is no law, there is no transgression! On the Cross, Jesus disarmed the law!

(4:16) - "by grace and guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring ... to those who are of the faith of Abraham, he is the father of us all". Heirs of the world! Jesus said "All authority has been given to Me ... Go and disciple NATIONS" - not just individuals! Those who have faith in Me have global vision to impact nations! NATIONS! It's too - too big to have a strategy for, it's too big to plan for - that will come. The main thing is to stay in will of God believing you are the righteousness of God, living with no regrets, going into your future and keep fighting - keep taking land!

As soon as you stop fighting signs and wonders stop!

From about 7 years ago, God began to start weaning Glenda and me off everything you find your identity in that is not Me. Every area you find approval from man but not Me, I will wean you off it. I said; "But God I am Rob Rufus - I know you! My identity and approval is in You alone!". He said; "We'll see". A lot of pastor's identity is in their church. Too many people in those churches like the pastors because of what they do not because of who they are. So you live with delusions about yourself and they do too because of who they are and what they are not - because they are intimidated by gifts and positions. I was lying in Him in Coastlands and He said to me; "Rob if you will give this church over to me, then I will give you the multitudes". We were co-ordinating an area of Australia and I was leading it! But one day I went away on holiday and came back and it had been taken away from me! They just took it! And I was left on the outside. God said; "I am weaning you. That bitterness you have in your heart? Deal with it boy!". In 2002 and 2003 I felt like a conspiracy - it was! God spoke audibly to my heart one day and said; "Son, man is not side-lining you. I am taking you out of the loop to re-position you for future inheritance and jurisdiction to influence nations which you cannot do in this context. It's too comfortable and too easy for you!".

Everyone in the last few years who have been going through a pruning and weaning process in which you found your approval and identity in and God has begun to move you out of situations with great pain - know this. God has been side-lining you! When you go through the pain that is involved and you wake up and maybe think "Slavery is better - let's go back to Egpypt. We can live without the signs and wonders. We just want peace!". It's not PEACE! It's bland sterility. When you can keep relationships for 25 years that is a sign of maturity. But a new wind of freedom is blowing in the earth and we have to be weaned off dependance for identity. Never never replace God! We must bless each other. We need partnerships and togetherness - but the Spirit of denominationalism will come in when you need those relationships over God.

In my last 3 years in Adelaide, I was travelling doing meetings and I was lonely. In the middle of this, God said; "Son you are in the middle of the biggest pruning ever and yet you are producing the most fruit. If you are producing fruit during pruning then how much more fruit will you produce when you are planted?". And then in 2003 He said "Go to Hong Kong and leave your friends and family. Lay your life down". What?! Will the pruning end when I go? No it won't. 2007 was an in-between stage between the pruning season and the fruit time.

While I was on holiday and was out running, God spoke to my heart and said; "Rob there will be no pruning. You have resisted the seduction. You have resisted the fear of being left out and have chosen to take My inheritance. You have understood grace and now in 2008 there will be no weaning and no pruning - you have come into the fruitful season".

The prophetic helps you live free from regrets because you are living with eternity in your heart.

This isn't just for a preacher! I want to work harder for God - I want to play better and have better holidays and be more than just what I have been doing. I have been weaned, I have been pruned - I am ready for fruit now! I have got books inside me that need to be written! I have got movies inside me that need to be filmed! When God said to the shepherd of the church, He means it is for City Church International! Some of us have been to hell and back as we haven't been deterred from the grace message! It is now time for rewards!

2008 ...

1. God will give us extrodinary, unprecedented favour for endorsement from heaven - and unprecedented global favour from the world. China is too small for those who are the offspring of Abraham! "Global approval - global favour".

2. God will call numbers and numbers of people from different nations to re-locate to Hong Kong and assemble on City Church International. They will leave behind visions of their happy little lives and they will come and learn Mandarin and impact nations. Hong Kong is an international city! Hong Kong is a hub of the world! It is opening up to a world and is right alongside China that is fast becoming the super-power in the world! 95% of preachers live in the world where 5% of the world's population is.

I have been in a group of churches that call themselves "International" yet live where the least population is. I don't think that is God's direction - I think it is comfort's direction. Where is the deployment?

The prophecies I could give to you - revival will come from Asia to awaken darkened Europe! The sun will rise in the East and set on the West! The glory of God will be seen in Asia and will awaken darkened England, and slumbering Scotland!

Christians go to church inducted into the guilt of law. The signs and the wonders stop when you stop fighting and pressing in to take more ground! It is fighters with tenacity that will bury loved ones and will go. The anonymous graves that pock-mark China of missionaries who went without a thought.

Go and live a small little life?! I puke on that with purpose! It is a crime against Heaven to have that mentality! To say I have been gripped by grace and gripped by God yet all I want is a nice little life!

The adventures that God will give to those who just walk with Him! You can live with no pain and little joy and yet have no purpose. Eternity is coming! The end of the age is coming! We are living with lost people around us! In 2008 God will call numbers of people to Hong Kong who are already trained and equipped. They are trained in science and administration.

They will come who aren't trained and equipped but with raw talent and we will train them! I speak it out - I call them out in Jesus Name! Come and invest your life!

There is 1 billion, 200 million unsaved in China - there are whole cities with no Christian witness. How are we going to train them? With groups? You train on the job! Every Thursday night I am training people to lead meetings! I am going to start coaching people - I am going to ask people what they think and what they do. I don't want academic theorists, I want people who can do the job! Western academic conceptualisation knows nothing about doing it "on the job".

Conceptual knowledge rather than experience. Heart experience not just concepts!

3. I expect resources to come from the nations into Hong Kong. We need millions! We need our tithes and offerings to come in from the nations! I believe God will pay for where He is directing us! There is a big bill to be paid God - but you can do it!

You bring your tithe to where you are being fed. You don't get cursed if you don't tithe - that is law! It is an investment into eternity.

Tithe to the local church in which you go. If you are tithing to another church - then go to them! You don't eat at MacDonalds and pay at Burger King. There is something wrong in feeding somewhere yet paying somewhere else!

4. I expect God and believe He will open up unprecedented doors. God is that our door!? It's open! Let's go in! Let's go through!

5. God will place expectation in the hearts of people who come to sew into City Church. I may not go - but I will stay here and build City Church. Preachers, administrators, greeters. We are going to impact orphans! We must invest! If this is not a base that is not getting stronger and stronger - then our preaching out there is invalid. If that is the case then I am just a Harvard lecturer preaching concepts. I am as bad as a surgeon who kills people when he operates and then goes around the world lecturing on how to operate. We are not into wish-ions but visions!

Vision connects your vision with reality and brings practical administration.

People are going to make eternal decisions to stay and invest in this church and get it stronger and stronger. Glenda and I will never put pressure on you to stay in this church. I don't want anyone to stay because I have emotionally manipulated them.

We make our decisions and then our decisions make us. What we are today are the decisions we made in the past.

I will never stand before God one day and hear Him say; "Why didn't you say everything you should have to that person? Why did you just smile and say that is fine?". I wish I could be just a nice guy!

6. I expect us to see unprecedented global favour in partnerships and associations with other apostolic/prophetic leaders that are not part of a wide thing and don't want a network but just partnerships. I have made a conference call to some of these leaders who don't want a President or a Pope but just want relationship. Paul wasn't even a leader of a team!

As soon as you get a head over a whole organization you have got a Pope by definition and everyone has to get permission from HQ as to what you do!

God will give us global partners of men and women of influence and we will link up relationally. There are ever-expanding partners and men and women will come and help us and we will go to them and their nations and help them. And we will raise up sons and fathers to release more sons. There is a free-flowing winekin in the New Testament not Popes!

7. With global favour and global endorsement from heaven, God will conspire to collaborate with us to give evidence and proof of this endorsement with magnificent signs and wonders not just with us but those who partner with us. I will never be a President of an organisation. The fluid-ness of the New Testament isn't static.

Father in the Name of Jesus, we thank You that You've called us to be alive in 2008. Thank You for the pioneers who came and poured all their years into Hong Kong and their influence will continue and grow. Thank You for the Chinese Christians. Thank You for the ex-pats who have come to this city and as Christians they are ambassadors of Your Kingdom and they have used their mouths to share the Gospel. I thank You for the missionaries who have come and made sacrifices and thank You we have opportunities this year.

We don't want to look back in 2009 with regrets being seduced from our highway of destiny! Let everyone of us in this room come to such a revelation of the Gospel that we are the righteousness of Jesus and that You have guaranteed us a promise to be heirs of the world - to have greatness about our name, to be a blessing to all nations! That all who bless us will be blessed! And all those who curse us and stand against us will be judged by You. Father we are part of that offspring and that generation. Father we want to exploit this to it's optimum. We want to leave footprints in the sand of human history. This Gospel can stop religious wars and wars. This Gospel can bring the peace of heaven to earth.

Our assignment is not to go to heaven - our assignment is to bring heaven to earth.

Let us not just occupy what we have but let us keep advancing because if we do not it will be lost and taken away. Father we want to be like those who take our talents and make risks and fail but Lord we want to be those people who took our talents and kept on fighting to the very end because we made decisions based on eternity. We ask at the beginning of 2008 for every member of this church. We love each one.

God let us as a people positioned at the climax of the consummation of the ages make Osama Bin Laden seem tame. Not to kill people with bombs but to bring the Glory-Gospel to all we can.

Let us pay the price and make the decision. City Church International - look at us and see our hearts. Father be pleased with what you see - we do know our hearts before You and we don't want to be hi-jacked by anything else. Let us not re-visit the past. Thank You today that You turn it all around for the good and use our failures and our bad decisions and our broken relationships for our good. Thank You God - today we believe You will use it for good. You are our righteousness. Let us stand".

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Together on a Mission" website available.

As has been promised for some time, Newfrontiers has finally made available the "Together on a Mission" website - offering a bit more detail into the upcoming conference in Brighton in July. Some of my friends have teased me in saying they have never seen me more interested in a conference that I am probably not going to this year. I would say that's pretty accurate! I'm not going because of lack of interest. I'm certainly not going because I can't be bothered! Surely anyone who has followed this blog for the last couple of years will remember that both Luke and I started building up to "Together on a Mission" as soon as booking opened and the details became clear! I'm not going because I can't afford it - God has been awesomely gracious in "miracle finances" since I moved back to Birmingham and I am more blessed now than I ever was in Bristol.

I'm not going to Brighton because I just can't give a good reason why I should be there.

I promised in my blog post looking at the main speaker, Mark Driscoll - (Humour vs Holy Spirit) that I would reserve judgement until more was known about the seminars and the other speakers. (Scott didn't feel so led as shown by his post here). Well that information is now available. Probably if Mark Driscoll was absent, the list of "home-grown" Newfrontiers speakers would have attracted me. There is;

Terry Virgo - UK

Stephen Van Rhyn - South Africa

Dave Stroud - UK

David Devenish - UK

P-J Smyth - South Africa

Dave Holden - UK

Guy Miller - UK

Wendy Virgo - UK

Mick Taylor - UK

Roger Smith - UK

Steve Oliver - South Africa

Jeremy Simpkins - UK

John Groves - UK

Greg Haslam - UK

John Hosier - UK

Ray Lowe - UK

Seminar subjects? Well other than "Developing Prophetic Gifts", there's no real explicit topics focusing on the Holy Spirit, His Presence and power, other gifts - and obviously a more recent passion of mine - the glory and manifest Presence of God Himself. The various topics are more cultural - certainly fitting in with the main speaker.

The worship? Ah the one thing both Scott and I agreed we will most definately miss if last years was anything to go by. Once again the wonderful Kate Simmonds assisted by Phatfish and Simon Brading are leading. I'll look forward to the CD next October though.

And of course Terry Virgo's invitation. That usually settles it for me. I still remember reading his glorious invitation to "Together on a Mission 2007" when Rob Rufus was returning. This year? Well there's a lot about Mark Driscoll (and not so much about the Presence of God this year - although hopefully that is assumed. Mind you, can you assume the Presence of God?);

"It's a special joy to be able to announce that our main visiting speaker this year is Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill, Seattle, USA. Mark has built a strong church of several thousands from a small nucleus in a short period of time. He is a man of great passion and remarkable gifting. The values that shape his ministry strongly reflect our own, and he expresses them with a passion and zeal that will inflame your own heart and help you to stir up the gift that's in you".

There may be still some arguments as to why I should be in Brighton next July that I haven't thought about. For example maybe I should expose myself to Mark Driscoll live and open myself to the fact he's not all bad. Well I never said he was all bad. I am sure that he has unique giftings and it's certainly not intially a bad thing that he upsets people. Upsetting people is better than apathy as long as there is a reason for them being upset. I was told recently that Mark Driscoll was actually attacked by a knife-wielding man in his church in Seattle. That's pretty shocking if he was simply expounding the Gospel and you have to admire him for his courage and bravery. If he was simply saying rude and abrasive things ...

I am certainly going to miss Brighton. It has been a conference that has probably contributed more to my spiritual life and walk with God than any other I've been to (and that maybe even includes Stoneleigh Bible Week). But I am more than ready to rejoice with those who do go with what I am sure God will do this year and will look forward to hearing the sessions on MP3. My path is just leading me a bit more abroad than Brighton in 2008.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Prophecy of Angels - Ministering Spirits!!

At present I am posting the prophecies that were given during the "Glory and Grace Conference" in Hong Kong on the Rob Rufus blog (here and here so far). I have mentioned about how outstanding the depth of the prophetic was during the conference and I have been trying to figure out why. Here's a couple of thoughts;

1. The Holy Spirit was let loose. I realise that sounds somewhat almost blasphemous because the Holy Spirit is God - He doesn't need to be let loose surely? Well in my 30 years of church experience, I've seen plenty of what the Word of God would call Him being "quenched". So I think "let loose" to burst in flame is actually quite accurate. During the conference Rob Rufus told us that he had promised God before the conference he wouldn't turn down a single prophecy. Obviously the fleshly and the heretical would be dealt with (of which I heard neither) - but he said that he was so tired of the prophetic being turned down. There was free reign at the conference! And I think the Holy Spirit took full advantage of that.

2. Prophecying for Mission. Cessationists delight in recounting prophecy after prophecy of self-delighting and self-worth. John MacArthur has many prophecies to recount in his various books for example. But in Hong Kong I heard again and again God's heart for the nations thunder out. And how in line with 1 Corinthians 14 is that? The unbelievers will come in, hear prophesying and fall down and say "God is truly among you!". For example one prophetic statement that kept occuring was; "China is Mine!". Another example came from a prophecy of Rob's;

"I am going to establish a move of My Spirit in Hong Kong that will touch the world". He said; "It won't primarily touch the church - it will touch the world. It will touch the church but it will touch the unsaved"

I suspect in my experience that the Holy Spirit gets excited when the church's heart matches His own to see the whole earth covered with the glory of the Lord.

I am thrilled that this particular prophecy was included on the CD because it proved quite catalytic for me personally. I shared here on my testimony of my time in Hong Kong that Ryan Rufus (Rob's son) prophesied about angels. As soon as he began prophesying I began to have a dramatic vision of an angel manifesting behind me and firing my worship to God. Well here is the transcript of the prophecy and what Ryan declared;

"God said to me the other day that these are the days that some of your closest friends are going to be angels. Your closest friends are going to be angels of God - the cherubim of His glory! You are going to get to know them in these days - they are going to reveal themselves to you. You will even get to know their names. I see angels on the left of us and on the right of us and between those cherubim of His glory - I see His glory Presence coming down on us!

These are the days when our closest friends will be angels of God! Oh, my friend went out running the other day (his name is Tony) and he was doing these laps and he was feeling quite discouraged. Suddenly he saw a mighty angel right next to him and he reckons it was an angel of encouragement and he heard the angel saying; "Tony go for it! Keep going! You are doing well! Run man! Keep going Tony! Pick up the pace and run!".

I see heaven open! I see the angels of glory - the cherubim angels of His glory coming down upon us that are in Christ bringing the glory Presence of God! God come in Your glory! Bring your glory! We say "Come angels descend upon Christ in these days in Jesus Name!".

Whatever we may make of that prophecy - we cannot deny that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve the mission of God and indeed us in these final days. Countless men and women through the Bible saw angels manifest to them in times of need. Why not us? We are at the climax of the consumation of the ages! Do we not need angels in these days? Maybe those with inbuilt "discernment detectors" are going mad at this point. Yes indeed Lucifer appears as an angel of light - but genuine angels will not point to themselves or draw attention to themselves. Indeed the Word of God makes it quite plain they won't even allow any worship of them. That was my experience in Hong Kong. The angel who appeared to me wouldn't even let me look at him but kept point towards the glory of God.

May this word prove a catalyst like it was for me. Maybe you are feeling weary and broken and desperate. Maybe you are hurting. Lift your gaze - cry out to God. Maybe you need supernatural strength to keep going. Lift your gaze - look up! You may just sense the presence of a minstering spirit come to change the whole situation and reveal the glory of God to you!