Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Ease of an Ascending Escalator!!

Just been watching a few videos when Rob Rufus was at "Together on a Mission" in Brighton and this clip from 2006 really made renewed sense to me today in light of this morning's post. I remember vividly when I first heard Rob - he said that truth and revelation is like a spiral staircase. And you can hear a truth and then go up a level and see the same truth but from a higher place. That's where I am at with much of his early teaching that I first heard in 2006. It's happening!

Hope this video is of such awesome blessing - it really is so true. Grace is so easy. I think Hebrews calls it; "My rest".


It's Starting to Sink In!!!

I drove home this morning after a fantastic night shift - having spent a few glorious hours transcribing just 20 minutes of Rob's second sermon in the series "Established in the Gift of Righteousness". (The entire transcript of Part 1 is here). And do you know?! I think it's starting to sink in! It was just such an exhilarating, glorious feeling! In his small book; "The Cross-Centred Life" C J Mahaney was fond of saying; "Preach the gospel to yourself daily". I always interpreted that to mean recount the agonies that Jesus went through on my behalf, the horror of my sin that drove Him there and so on. I must confess I didn't find the experience hugely enjoyable or helpful. It just made me feel bad about myself.

Today I tried "preaching the gospel to myself" but slightly differently. Bearing in mind Rob's glorious comment about "living with a truly receptive mind means not dreading every day" - I tried to imagine what it would be like if this Saturday was the first day that I had won the jackpot on the National Lottery! That all my debts were paid off and I didn't have to worry another day about each pay-day paying another endless payment of debt to a faceless company that didn't appreciate the hard work I put into earning that money. That the Lottery win meant I could buy outright my beautiful flat and pay the mortgage off straight away! And that I could work because I WANTED to not because I NEEDED to.

I know some Pharisees may be "tutting" at my National Lottery mention - shame on you. Would YOU turn down 14 million pounds if it was offered you!?

But then I thought about the approaching dreaded day for singles - St Valentines Day. And rather than being single and heading home to my empty bed, I thought about having a wife in it - the most beautiful, kind, caring wife in the world who I could dote on and love with all my heart. And I suddenly thought that if money were no object then I knew what I would do for her! I would fly her (first-class) to New York for the most romantic weekend of her life! I would watch the sun set up the Empire State Building and cuddle her until the lights of the city came on. I must confess imagining the ideas that I would put into practice for a loved one gave me an even bigger thrill than the National Lottery!

But as I was thinking about that, I heard the inward, audible voice of God whisper; "If you being evil know how to give good gifts ... how much MORE ... ?" and I suddenly got a glimpse of what I think Rob Rufus is trying to get across in his sermons. That right NOW up in heaven, God Himself is getting a kick out of thinking about ways to bless and thrill ME simply because He loves me!! Wow!! That if I get a pleasure from thinking even about an imaginary loved one and what I could do to demonstrate my love to them - how much MORE is our wonderful, abundant Daddy thinking of ways to bless us?

See - I have always been taught traditionally that it's all about "faith" and that faith means "we don't see" and because we "don't see" the Father's love but take it by "faith" then we are blessed - somehow. I can see now that is complete and utter heresy. What kind of SICK relationship would it be if a partner - a husband - a wife expected their loved one to simply "know" that they are loved without demonstrations of that love? Now I know - the ultimate demonstration of love was at Calvary. Ohhhh wow .... I absolutely know that. But is God going to stop there? No!

I am still getting my head round Romans 4:13 that;

"For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith".

Why was Abraham's faith counted as righteousness? Because God came to a heathen and told him; "I am going to bless you". And Abraham simply accepted it because he didn't have the law in his life telling him that "he needed to earn such blessing". He just accepted it! And God was thrilled with such faith - and that was credited to him as righteousness. Just so with us! Just so with me!

I am not going to limit God today! I am not expecting financial blessing or anything in particular! What excites me is wondering how God will demonstrate His love to me today - not because I deserve it. But because He loves me! And because He gave His Son freely for me that I might be called the righteousness of God and be accepted and be made a co-heir of royalty! Speaking of "heirs" - it's interesting that Romans 4:14 mentions them as well but in a different context;

"For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation".

I am no biblical scholar but that simple verse says to me that if there is one percent of law in my life and in my belief - then faith is simply NOT required and the promises of New Covenant blessing won't work. Why? Because the blessing comes by faith that God loves me! But even worse than that - the Law brings wrath! So why on earth would we EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER want to mix law and grace?! Because where there is NO law, there is NO violation! Or as another translation puts it;

" ... but where no Law exists, there can be no violation of Law".

Looking forward to a thrilling day - being so loved!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The "Established in Righteousness" Series!!

I am so excited to report my return to the world of transcribing - I have just published Rob Rufus's first sermon of 2009 on the "Rob Rufus - Grace and Glory Blog"! I mentioned in a previous blog that the events of the past few months at work have somehow managed to wreck my concentration so I found it really hard to focus for more than a few moments on writing down the sermons. But since I've handed in my notice and am looking forward to the future with such hope and excitement - it's great to be back!

I said in a text to my dear friend Nicky that this series of sermons is a MUST. I earnestly believe that these three sermons (the series isn't even finished yet) have done more to defeat legalism in my life than ANYTHING I have heard or read or watched in my life. There was so much that was quote-worthy and is available here. This series of sermons is going to pose a huge challenge to churches and church leaders across the world to examine carefully the gospel that you are preaching. Is it purely New Covenant grace based and founded on the righteousness of Jesus Christ that is given to us by faith? Or is there an element of law mixed in demanding that there is something the believer must "do" to make the gospel complete?

Rob Rufus gives two reasons why Christian leaders may be mixing law and grace;

"1. They do it innocently and sincerely because they have theological errors that they have inherited through the generations and traditions of men and sincerely preaching what they believe is the truth. When those people hear from the Bible the clear teaching on grace, they immediately repent, they search the Scriptures and they change.

2. The other reason is more sinister. The other churches are directly under the control of a religious, demonic spirit that is a controlling spirit. When they hear the message of grace - especially in 2007, 2008 - they start spitting, gnashing their teeth and become compulsive, obsessive haters".

Note - it is NOT a valid excuse to continue preaching a mix of law and grace in your church or believing it in your life just because of fear that it will "give a license to sin". Ursula described "fear" very graphically by revelation of the Holy Spirit and it is in short nothing more than a deceiving demonic spirit. I've begun to notice that the excuse many Christians make for their favourite leaders is that they are "sincere" and "mean well". I'm not sure how much longer that excuse is going to fly - particularly when a revelation of the Holy Spirit shows that God is particularly fierce about legalism and getting back under law.

So if you have never, ever bothered to read a Rob Rufus sermon before - maybe because you are worried that he is "dodgy" (!) or because he's not intellectual enough - I plead with you;

R E A D - T H E S E - S E R M O N S ! ! !

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Radical Grace ISN'T New and it ISN'T Heresy!!

One of the many charges levelled at Rob and Ryan Rufus and Joseph Prince and any other Ephesians 4 Ministries who are seeking to spread the "Grace Revolution" around the globe is that they are giving people a "license to sin". I love Rob's reply to this one - he says; "You who say this - check your own churches. You will find your people are not requiring a license to sin!". But other charges are that Rob Rufus is misinterpreting the Word of God and dangerously close to antinomianism - all of which simply isn't true. I've heard enough of Rob's sermons (and I've heard a lot) to know that he deeply cares how his church live because he knows that true happiness doesn't lie in sin!

But last night when I was at work I decided to take along some books to explore deeper some of the verses that I've heard Rob Rufus expound and see how he compares. Last night I took along two volumes from Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones wonderful series on the book of Romans. The one volume I read last night was "Exposition of Chapter 7:1 - 8:4 - The Law: It's Function and Limits". And let me say it was a highly interesting read. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a highly respected evangelical preacher and would be held by most as a hero of the faith. I know even some of the legalists who hate Rob's grace teaching so much respect Dr Lloyd-Jones. I was stunned therefore to read the following quote while the Doctor was preaching on Romans 7:1 (p10);

"It does not matter how deeply, how violently you may sin as a believer, you should never come again under condemnation. If you do, it is because you have not understood your relationship to the Law, and you have put yourself back 'under law' again.

'By saying that' says someone, 'yu have incited people to go on and sin as much as they liked'. Not at all! In reality I have done the exact opposite; because if you but really understand the truth at this point it will give you much strength to withstand sin.

I say again, that however much you may sin, and whatever the character of the sin, you must never put yourself back 'under the law'; you must never have that sense of condemnation again".

I sent this quote as a teasing text to Pete Day this morning and knew he would instantly guess it was Rob Rufus who said it - like myself, he was amazed to find it was Dr Lloyd-Jones! The second volume I took along was; "Exposition of Chapter 6: The New Man". And it had some just as amazing quotes! Does anyone remember my rather snappy reaction to a Christmas Newsletter where I read that the writer stated that Todd Bentley had "fallen from grace"? I stated then back in December that I just couldn't agree with how the writer used the term. "To fall from grace" is in fact to fall back "under law".

I was intrigued therefore to find out that Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones had his views on the right usage of the term "fallen from grace" also. I note them because I happen to know the writer of that newsletter had great respect for Dr Lloyd-Jones. Here's what the Doctor had to say - commenting on Romans 6:11;

"I am not only not under the dominion of the Law at this moment - I never shall be! My whole relationship to the Law as something that is against me, that condemns me, has finished once and for ever. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS 'FALLING FROM GRACE'. If I am in Christ, I am in Christ".

Considering that the whole volume is talking about "The New Man" - a reader might be forgiven for wondering what Dr Lloyd-Jones views on the "Old Man" are. My US friend Janelle and I have had some interesting discussings about "Indwelling Sin" - I remember her making a comment that I thought over for ages saying something like; "My old man is particularly strong at the moment". It troubled me back then. I think I know where Sovereign Grace Ministries get this flow of thought from. C J Mahaney stated years ago that one of the books that tops his list of most influential is Volume 4 from John Owen's Works; "Mortification of Sin".

Bearing in mind this is Dr Lloyd-Jones we are discussing - I suppose even I would have assumed he would have a similar view to the Puritans as he had such respect for them. But Dr Lloyd-Jones was never afraid to critique his heroes. He much preferred Jonathan Edwards because Edwards had a far more experiential theology as opposed to John Owen's more "academic" style. So Dr Lloyd-Jones had this to say again on Romans 6:11 - "reckon yourselves dead to sin";

"Therefore we must not begin to think in terms of a conciousness of sin within us and how we are going to get rid of it, for there never was any sin in Christ at all and He never had any conciousness of sin ... We are told to realise and hold before ourselves and in our conciousness constantly, something that is already true of our position or status. It is not an exhortation to us to do anything with regard to sin but to realise what has already been done for us with respect to our relationship to sin.

It is an exhortation to us to remember what is already true of us. It urges us to realise what has already happened to us as Christians; those of us who are joined to the Lord Jesus Christ. And what is true of us is that we are already in an entirely new position and standing with respect to sin".

As though knowing that he would receive experience-based arguments, Dr Lloyd-Jones answers them;

"Should someone come to me and say 'But how can I say that I am indeed dead unto sin when I am concious of sin within me and I feel I am a terrible sinner?' - my answer is that you have got to believe it in spite of those feelings, exactly as Abraham had to believe God's Word that Sarah was going to bear a son though he knew that as he had reached the age of ninety-nine and Sarah ninety, the thing was a sheer impossibility on the natural level.

Now this is what this statement exhorts us to do. It is not experimental, not a matter of experience but we just have to take this word that if we are in Christ, if we are joined to Christ - and that is true of every believer in Him - then we are already "dead to sin" even as He is dead to sin".

I realise that has rather breath-taking implications for the Christian book-saturated market. Writing books on techniques to defeat sin is big business. But what money the Christian could save if we would be realise that we are "dead to sin" and that sin has no more power in us than a rotting corpse! But we do sin! That's the fact! Dr Lloyd-Jones doesn't deny this but he says;

"We must realise rather that every time we sin, we sin deliberately and as a child of God. We are no longer merely breaking or offending against the Law, we are now wounding love. That is much more grevious, but it is not a legal offence".

I am not sure why the church has so deliberately bound itself to coming back 'under law' and becoming so works-focused. But I suspect that the devil had a strong hand in it - and in deceiving us to believing that what we do actually makes some difference to our standing with God. What Christ has DONE makes the difference! I am so excited about these quotes - I think it adds to the growing evidence that there is something so powerful in this "Grace Revolution". It is not only a matter of our conversion and how we came in - but how we progress. If these quotes are right and Dr Lloyd-Jones has a point - as do Rob and Ryan Rufus and others - then this view has got breath-taking implications for our on-going sanctification too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Open Door!!

I have had the phrase "Open Door" in my head for a few days now. I think it's thanks to my wonderful friend Ursula. Does anyone else live in the kind of Christian community where certain phrases are quite "fashionable"? I mentioned the other day that when I spent my 2 years in SGM a popular phrase was; "I am the worst sinner I know". Another preaching cliche was; "We will never move past the old rugged Cross". Well going slightly further back to my 20 or so years at New Covenant Church in Dunstable - it was quite fashionable to talk about "doors".

Here's an example of how it could be used for those unfamiliar with it;

"The Lord closed that particular door to me ... I am praying for a door to open so that I may ... why won't this door open?! It just seems totally shut! ... The door seems to be shutting so I may have to give up on that particular idea".

And so on! But last night I was having a rare night at home sleeping in my own bed and I kept dreaming about "open doors". In all sorts of shapes and forms and sizes. From the domestic house door to the massive gates on a medieval castle. They were all open! Open! And when I woke up a verse from Revelation (3:8) was going through my mind;

"'I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name".

I don't know if that's where Ursula got her blog name inspiration from but I must admit to getting slightly delirious when I let the implications of that Scripture sink into my mind. That surely is one of the New Covenant promises that Rob was addressing in his sermon - that become ours if we realise;

"Every promise God has made is yes and amen in Christ! So every promise - it's His absolute will for you to live in the benefits and fullness of New Covenant promises! Yet most Christians hardly live in any of them. What's the reason? The condition for all the promises to work is not you being more obedient or more holy or fasting or coming back under the law. The way you are going to come into every promise being fulfilled is that you get established in righteousness as a gift".

So when we realise that we are in the same situation as Abraham - if we will simply realise that God WANTS to bless us then that will be credited to us as righteousness and that's it then this "open door" truth becomes one for us all! I know I can write honestly that I've experienced the frustration of what feels like a "shut door". But if a door is open in heaven that NO MAN can shut then surely any door or gate on earth stands NO HOPE!

Ern Baxter used to comment on something Jesus said and it was ever so funny. He recalled the words of Jesus; "The gates of hell shall not prevail" and he said that Christians everywhere interpret that verse wrongly and speak of it as how we will retreat into our Christian strongholds and be safe from hell's gates. But Ern said;

"I have not ever been attacked by a gate! I have never seen a gate jump off it's hinges and chase me down the street!".

No rather what Jesus meant was that in the power of the New Covenant we will advance through the world with the advancing flame of the Gospel of grace and even the darkest, most strongest gates cannot withstand the marching New Covenant church! Even hell itself - the gates must burst open! Jesus Himself said that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church! That sounds pretty triumphant to me! When is the Church going to wake up and realise the power and glory of these truths!?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yikes!!

My Father is soo amazing and wonderful and knows exactly when encouragement is needed! I had to get up early on this Saturday morning because I have to go to a rather difficult meeting which I've been dreading. It seems to me that just as soon as I get a tantalising grip on grace and the blessings of the New Covenant there's always something isn't there to come try and throw you off! So I got up and was sitting drinking my cup of tea and found to my surpise that Cyberranger has awarded this blog as "Best Christian Blog of the Week"!

You have to understand I was always the kind of child who NEVER won awards at the Christian school I went to. Mainly because the teachers always thought I was a sulky brat! Correction! I won just one award called; "The Character Development Award". Essentially it was known as the "Naughty but Nice" award. I used to be a brat - and by the time I won the award I could just about muster a smile at my hated deputy headmaster! Just winning the award then was seen as a bit of an insult anyway!

So this is really nice, totally undeserved and an awesome blessing. I always get really excited when someone new comments on my blog. It's like meeting a new friend - with new links to new blogs that look like they are going to be great! So this is a good moment to thank you all - each and every reader who takes the time to drop by. Time is a precious commodity in this day and age and the fact you would even take a few minutes to read my ramblings ... well! So I dedicate this award to each and everyone of you. The hurting and lonely housewife wondering if God has forgotten about her (He hasn't!). The geeky college student growing up wondering if they will ever be popular. The Christian with skeletons in your closet you are terrified anyone will find out about. God is CRAZY about you! Because I am learning He loves me and if He loves me then He most surely loves you!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 23, 2009

John Piper on our One Hope

I've just started reading; "Pierced for Our Transgressions" by Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach. I've resisted reading this mainly due to my bad attitude towards how the church culture I was in presented the Gospel. Substitutory atonement has been something I've always taken for granted and saw no reason why Steve Chalke or anyone else should persuade me otherwise. However in light of my recent passion for learning more about true grace and imputed righteousness in our justification - I saw it on special offer and thought it would be an excellent read seeing as I've finished all my Christmas books.

John Piper wrote the foreword and instantly my eyes fell to an excellent quote;

"There was only one hope for us - that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God".
Only ONE hope! I'm still thinking and re-thinking the previous blog post from this morning and what God revealed to Joseph Prince. What is wrong with us Gentiles if the Roman centurion and the Caananite had no feeling of disqualification thanks to the law - yet we do? Why is it not said of us that we have "great faith"? I think it is because the mixed gospel of law and grace has led us to the distinct desire to "add" something to the only answer to our great need. Yes we have been justified and the righteousness of Jesus Christ has let us in - but now it must be our holiness, and our righteousness and our works that take us on.

Well that sounds pretty blasphemous to me. So the righteousness and sacrifice of Jesus Christ was good enough to commence us in the Christian life but not good enough to take us through gloriously to that moment when we will "meet Him in the air and be like Him"? John Piper is clear. "One hope". There was only "one hope" when we came to Christ and there still is only ONE hope for us now! That the love of God has satisfied the wrath of God! And that love is STILL abounding now and we can call Him "Abba! Daddy!" because are His SONS!!

One AWESOME Revelation from Joseph Prince!!

I wasn't very happy last night. I forgot my IPOD and so couldn't spend the hours from 02:00 to 06:00 when it's usually quiet transcribing the glorious messages of Rob Rufus! But it actually worked out pretty well - and I wonder if it was a divine coincidence in light of my last blog. It was as though my heavenly Father was having a laugh at my expense and making me sit quietly just reading. Because fortunately I had taken Joseph Prince's book; "Destined to Reign". So I finished reading it last night and WOW am I glad I reached the end!

He shared something so profound and so obvious that I sat back and laughed out loud to myself. I - who prided myself on being well-taught in the Word - had totally missed this! My doctor of theology senior pastor never preached this! But here it is!

"As I was reading these Scriptures one night, the Lord asked me; "Why did that man have great faith?". I immediately replied that it was because he, being a Roman centurion, was a man of authority and thus understood the authority of the Lord Jesus. I was confident of my reply, having been taught that to have great faith, we need to understand the Lord's authority and the authority He has given to the believer.

The Lord said to me; "Good and what about the other person who I said had great faith?". He was referring to the Syro-Phoenician woman who had a demon-possessed daughter ... The Lord continued; "Well if the centurion had great faith because he understood authority, what about this woman? She was not a soldier - she was a homemaker". Now the Lord had got me there ... then the Lord said to me; "Son, look for the common denominator between these two people and you will discover the secret to great faith".

Boy I was excited! I was about to discover the secret to having great faith! But after more than half an hour, I was still sitting in my study, searching for the common denominator. I was searching and searching to no avail. I simply could not find the answer. Finally my "lightning-fast" mind told me I should ask the Lord for the asnwer. So I said; "Lord, You have to show me because I cannot see it".

Then the Lord said this to me; "Both were Gentiles. They were not Jews. One was a Roman and the other a Caananite. Both of them were not under the law of Moses and therefore they did not disqualify themselves. They were not under condemnation and so they could have great faith to receive from Me".

Do you know that there is a verse in Galatians that says; "the law is not of faith?". In Romans, it also says, "For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is of no effect". So clearly there is no way we can give people the law and yet expect them to have faith. The law will disqualify them from receiving any blessing from the Lord. It is only faith in His grace that will qualify God's people and cause them to have great faith to receive what they need from the Lord".

You might be asking quite rightly; "But what is faith?". Because the word can be understood in many ways. Perhaps the health-wealth-prosperity preachers have given the word a bit of a bad name. But despite the excesses I think they may have taken the word "faith" to - I still think they started off in their teaching with a point. Joseph Prince defines faith thus;

"Faith is not trying to make something that is not already there happen. Faith is bringing out of the spirit realm what is ALREADY there, what is ALREADY true of you. I am not telling you to confess something you are not".

And note this especially. It was so awesome I had to text it to Pete Day at some unearthly hour of the morning! And if I could have got online to blog it - I would have!

"Whether you confess that you are the righteousness of God in Christ or not, you are still the righteousness of God in Christ. But when you confess it, you become concious of it. You sense it and it becomes powerful and real in your life. You do not confess that you are righteous IN ORDER to become righteous. You confess you are righteous BECAUSE you are ALREADY righteous! ... That's not having faith in faith. It is faith in His goodness - faith in His grace".

Driving home with a big grin on my face looking stupid is becoming something of a habit only this morning I was repeating; "I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus"! Oh and if you are wondering why I've put a couple of pictures of Darlene Zschech worshipping - it's because my response to these revelations is worship and adoration at His great grace. And no one sums up a posture of worship like this amazing woman - who is one of my favourite worship leaders along with Kate Simmonds! The Australians have certainly discovered the key to worship.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Marination" - "To Soak ... To Tenderize"

I was really challenged by an interesting question on Facebook from my wonderful friend Chris Welch (author of blog; "080808 On,Now,To the Third Level"). Knowing him as I do there was no judgement or criticism to it - he was just interested. Chris asked what my favourite "soaking" C.D's are. I thought about it for a bit and I replied as honestly as I could that "soaking" isn't something I am very good at, at all. For those who aren't familiar with the term, probably Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship provide the best working definition;

"Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive”. We’re very good at the asking part…but how about the ‘receiving’? If we are the ones who are doing all the talking, it’s really a one-way conversation. Soaking is the listening part of our conversation with Him. It’s setting aside time to lie down and receive from Him. Soaking is a dedication: “God this is time just for you.”Soaking is an invitation: “God do what you want to in me”. Soaking is an expectation: “Thank you Father for what you are accomplishing as I rest in you.”".

Now here's a confession - I am not very good at staying still. At all! I hate being alone and I hate even more being alone and quiet. And I have always just put it down to being full of energy but when I trace back I wasn't always like that. I mentioned in my testimony that I used to legalistically spend time with God (well it was actually with my Bible) from 05:00 till 06:00 - take that Mrs Mahaney. So I can do it! But I stopped doing it when I began to struggle with depression and all the other things that came upon me. And the other day Rob Rufus defined so prophetically and succintly why that is (from his sermon; "Being Established In The Gift Of Righteousness - Part 2 : How To Increase In The Blessing");

"I am convinced that many Christians struggle with living happy because secretly they don't like themselves. I think it's probably the number 1 problem in most Christians lives - if they were really honest, they don't really like themselves. Then they also think that is being spiritual! That the more you despise yourself the more holy you are. Imagine Jesus walking around hating Himself. How would He hate something the Father said; "I love"? Jesus was the righteousness of God and He has given us the exact same righteousness He has as a complete standing - our position before the Father is permamently the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!

I believe people don't like themselves because they have brought into the lie of religious people that is being self-indulgent and not narcissistic. We are not talking about Hollywood - we are talking about the reality of David saying; "I am fearfully and wonderfully made - I am not going to just tolerate how you have created me - I am going to celebrate EVERYTHING about me from my hair, my nose, my fingers, my voice - everything - I thank You that You made me God and I will not despise what You created! I will celebrate it!".

We have listened to the lie of the devil for so long on this issue. When you like yourself - it is a sign of security. I am not talking about being so in love with yourself that you are selfish and ignore everyone else. I am talking about being so secure in who God has made you that you really like yourself. How many of you like spending a lot of time with someone you don't like? Who do you have to spend the most time with? YOURSELF! If you don't like yourself then you don't like life because you take yourself wherever you go! And if you don't like yourself then you are taking misery and spending time with somebody that you don't like!".

This is an issue that many of us former-SGM'ers will be very familiar with. It's quite trendy to speak of yourself as being "the worst sinner I know" at the moment and I always felt that wasn't quite in line with Scripture. Yes I know Paul said it. But the way I heard it said, I knew that the people who said it didn't really mean it. It became a form of spiritual pride. So to hear Rob say this was a wonderful freeing statement. Yes! "I am fearfully and wonderfull made!". God looked at man when He had finished and said; "It is very good!".

So back to soaking - as I said, I answered Chris Welch honestly and decided to do something about it today. On my way back from the gym, I went into St Andrews Christian bookshop near me and browsed a section of C.D's that normally I wouldn't go near! Interestingly enough the only "soaking" C.D was one called;

"Marinating - Pickling in God's Presence" ... by Todd Bentley.

So I brought it! I know, I know - the heresy alarms are going to be going crazy at this point. I can see the concerned comments flooding in - "Do you really think you should be buying a CD by a convicted sinner ... " blah blah. So let me save you some time. I know all the "concerned" questions already! As I was hovering debating whether to buy this C.D - this thought occured to me;

"If Paul the apostle was alive today - knowing his history of Christian-killing and Stephen-stoning and all - what would the concerned evangelicals have to say about buying his books or his C.Ds? He worked signs and wonders and miracles as well as being pretty sound on doctrine! Definately dodgy.

Furthermore the only judgement I am permitted to make on Todd Bentley is that he is the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I don't know his state before God, and because I am not without sin, I don't intend to throw any stones. But this I do know - Todd Bentley has got more anointing in his little finger than most "concerned" evangelicals have got in their whole bodies.

Why? Because he's more holy? Well clearly not. Because he's more righteous? Nope - we are ALL the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Because he's more HUNGRY. And at the moment I want to spend time with hungry men and women of God. And I will leave Todd Bentley's condition upto God".

So I brought the C.D! And I put it on in the car and essentially it is an instrumental C.D but with Todd reading Scripture, praying and generally exhorting. And I kid you not - I was drunk at the wheel driving back home! All he kept saying was the verse; "There is a river that makes glad ... out of his heart will flow rivers of living water". I started to cry first (always the first sign the Spirit is falling) and then started to laugh ... just at how good God is and how much He loves me!

So Chris ... you will be interested to know my "soaking" collection is growing and I think I've got an awesome C.D here that will serve as an amazing tool to just spend time alone and loudly in the Presence of God basking in His Presence! And for those of you who are even secretly "tutting" and shaking their heads (and you know who you are) I won't write off Todd Bentley for his mistake, just as I wouldn't write off Roy Clements for his mistake or William Branham for his mistake - I will celebrate the fact that they are simply human like me and are receptors of God's grace and His righteousness just like me. Jesus Christ hasn't written me off for my numerous mistakes! Just as He hasn't written them off for theirs ("those whom the Father has given Me, I will by no means cast away") - so what right do I have to do anything but follow Him?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why I Drove Home Smiling on a Freezing Wednesday Morning!!

I should explain a little bit about depression - anyone who has suffered from it will know that one of the manifestations are that basic, every-day events become unusually difficult to cope with and deal with. For me these past few months - for some reason - those basic, every-day events have been the arrival of the post and telephone calls. I know that sounds odd! But it was mainly thanks to the constant stream of letters arriving from Acorns Children's hospice trying to persuade me to come back to work and then launching various "disciplinary" procedures for various reasons. Each letter was recorded delivery so it became rather standard to wake up each morning to the postman ringing insistantly because the letter had to be delivered by 09:00! When I was advised to stop accepting the letters they then started ringing - hence the paranoia.

So with that in mind - I drove to work last night and began listening to Rob's second sermon in the wonderful series; "Established in Righteousness" that he preached on the 11th January 2009. And he said this;

"Having a receptive attitude means living with a confident expectation of good coming into your life. Every day I have got to discipline my mind to stop the negativity, the foreboding, the sense of dread, the sense of this coud happen or that terrible thing could happen - I have GOT to live with a spirit of receptivity, a confident expectation of God that I have come into fulness of grace and from that fulness of grace I AM receiving one blessing after another!".

I just couldn't stop laughing as I felt so loved by God through His Holy Spirit! I have lived in dread for the last few months - fearing the postman or fearing a phone call. Even this week after having two court summons served on me (one is for an error of payment made by my previous employer - who then failed to update my new address - and the other from an overly zealous council who are demanding the rest of the year's council tax!) - the truth of God's word just brought such joy!

Rob quoted Proverbs 10:6;

"Blessings are on the head of the righteous".

I think traditionally (like most of the other verses in the Bible I have wrongly interpreted through my mix of law and grace lense) I always thought that "righteous" meant someone strong in good works who serves God well - that is the person God will bless. And looking at my past few months - a legalist might conclude that I am clearly NOT righteous! Interestingly enough I noted that even famous commentator Matthew Henry wrote of Proverbs 10:6; "Those who are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, are likely to be rich in faith, and rich in good works". Doesn't sound very full of faith and sure of his interpretation does he?

Rob on the other hand reminded us so clearly that having received the imputed gift of Jesus Christ's righteousness - that promise applies to US! That blessings "crown our heads!". That there is nothing we can EVER do to earn the blessing that the Father is about to pour out on us - should we just accept that He is waiting to pour it out BECAUSE He loves us so passionately! No other reason! Nothing we have done or will do or are doing! Just because! And the reason I was confusing so many commuters by driving along smiling like an idiot on a horrid frosty morning is because I think, I THINK that the penny is starting to drop!

I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ and just as by the disobedience of one man - Adam - I was condemned to judgement so by the OBEDIENCE of the one Man - Jesus Christ - I am saved, justified, declared righteous FOREVER, glorified, seated and reigning as a co-heir in heavenly places! Now THAT'S the best news you can get to start the day off!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Glory and Grace Blank Bible" addition!

I had a glorious night last night working transcribing through almost 45 minutes of Rob's; "Being Established In The Gift Of Righteousness". He dealt with a familiar verse to me but in an incredible new light. This re-focus through the gospel of grace is something I am getting used to thanks to Rob and Ryan Rufus's ministry among others! It's a humbling experience for someone like myself who prided myself on being "strong on the Word" coming from a church where the senior pastor was a doctor of theology. I realised that a mixture of Old Covenant and New Covenant teaching actually means you don't understand much of the Word of God at all.

The verse Rob mentioned was Colossians 2:6 and his commentary was perfect to go onto the "Glory and Grace Blank Bible" project that some of us are working on. Here's what he said;

"Paul says just as you received Christ so walk in Him. Or the NIV says just as you received Christ, "live in Him"! How did you receive Christ? Did you have to earn or deserve or keep the law or be good enough? No - you received Him by grace through faith - He declared you righteous. So just as you received Christ - so walk in Him and live in Him.

There is a major theological heresy in this earth that is a very dangerous heresy and is more serious than any other deception in the Church today. It is this idea that there are two types of righteousness. The free gift of righteousness that God gives you and the righteousness that you have to perform after you are saved.

That's not only bad theology - that is confusing because that means that God's righteousness is not good enough. And how can you be established in the gift of righteousness if you don't know where God's gift of righteousness ends and where your performance of righteousness has to begin?

No! The truth of the matter is that the gift of righteousness is the only righteousness that you live by. You receive Christ by the gift of righteousness and you continue to live by grace through faith that "I am the righteousness of God". That gives you the power to change - but you are always righteous and are constantly righteous!".

Reference: Rob Rufus - "Being Established In The Gift Of Righteousness" - City Church International, Hong Kong - Sunday 4th January 2009.

Friday, January 16, 2009

When He bares His teeth - Winter meets it's Death!

Many know of my love of the Chronicles of Narnia - I think my great new friend Jon Sidnell referred to it last year. I adore the books (and have done since I was a child) and also love the two films that have been brought out. Me being me - I must buck the trend - I don't like the favourite evangelical phrase that is over-used ("He's not a tame lion" ... yawn - yes we know!). I do indeed love the quote from the Silver Chair that Jon mentioned ("There is no other stream"). Time for another. This one is from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Here it is;

"This is no thaw' said the dwarf stopping suddenly. 'This is SPRING. What are we to do? Your winter has been destroyed, I tell you! This is Aslan's doing'".

I was struggling to find a way to convey the emotions of my heart over the past few days. I've been absolutely blown away by the kindness and the compassion of the comments in response to my post; "Grace Demands Radical Change ... !". I was fearing the worst. But through you I encountered the passion and the kindness and the love of God and I can't thank you all enough. Depression is quite frequently described as "the winter of the soul" and having experienced depression it's something I can identify with. So why do I take a step of faith to suggest that this is no thaw but spring has broken, not only in my heart and life but also in the world?

Firstly I am thrilled to be able to say that I've finally left my place of work at Acorns Childrens Hospice. I will always be grateful for the experience I had working there for a year. To see children facing death with the bravery they do is a life-changing experience. What is tragic is when they do not receive the care and the love that they are entitled to because there is more of an obsession with rules, policies and outward appearance. I handed in my notice on Tuesday and I cannot describe the feeling of relief that swept over me when it was done! Truly a cloud of darkness was lifting!

I then went out to town and indulged in some retail therapy to celebrate. Now for some people their idea of retail therapy may involve couture and labels! Mine tends to involve Christian books (I confess I did indulge in some underwear - but hey saves washing!) I brought three - one was called "A Radical Encounter with God" by Greg Haslam (a hero of mine). The second was called "The Gift of Prophetic Preaching" by Michael Eaton and the last was by Joseph Prince and was called; "Destined to Reign". I haven't read any of Joseph Prince before but I can tell he's going to become a hero - a true grace preacher in the shape of Rob Rufus. I haven't read Eaton's book yet but both Greg Haslam and Joseph Prince brought resounding messages into my life that I need to hear right NOW!! (I've posted a selection of quotes over on the "Post-it Notes" blog).

The second "event" was the sharing of a prophetic word from another really amazing individual I am proud to call friend - Ursula from Sydney. She read my post and had a prophetic insight into exactly how wonderful (NOT!) "fear" is! Here essentially is what fear is and what it does to the believer;

"During worship, one Sunday morning, I looked around and on about half of the church were these black demons. I'm going to try to describe it here. They were almost tar like, sticky, and they held onto the upper half of the peoples bodies. They clung with their legs around the bodies of their victims, their faces plastered over thier victims faces, covering their faces with black tar like goo, and their hands were plastered over their ears. I was so confused, and really concerned. I cried out to Jesus, "Jesus, what is this!!" I closed my eyes and tried to block it out, it was so disturbing, and spiritually the entire atmosphere was killing me! Everytime I opened my eyes I was confronted with these creatures.

Then the Holy Spirit answered me, in His beautiful voice of rushing waters He said to me, "Ursula, that is fear". I was like, "WHAT?". He explained to me that the demon I was seeing was fear. It clung like sticky tar, and stuck to everything that touched it. It was contagious. Transferable and imprisoning His people. He showed me that fear covered the faces of the people for various reasons. It covered their mouths and shut them. It covered their nose's and suffocated them. It covered their eyes, and closed them to things of the spirit, as well as ensuring that the people could not see past their fear. And it covered their ears, shutting them from hearing the truth and His voice. People that touched these people, were infected by this same fear, because it was so sticky, it just stuck to them! It was terrible, but showed me the truth of fear".

But she ends so biblically by reminding us that we are told simply not to fear! Simply this;

"The Holy Spirit reminded me, there is a reason He tells us not to fear. This demon imprisons people, and they can't see past the lie of fear itself. They can't see truth".

And the truth of the matter? Well let Joseph Prince answer what the TRUTH really is!

"Did Jesus die on the Cross to free us from committing sinful actions or harbouring sinful thoughts? If He did then allow me to conclude with reverence that He failed ... When David described the blessed man as one to whom the Lord will not impute sin, he meant that even when this man sins, God will not count his sin against him nor punish him for his iniquity. Too good to be true? That is why David defined this man as a blessed man! And this blessed man is you and me!".

And if "God is for us then WHO ... WHO .... WHO ... WHO ... WHO can be against us!?!?". No one! Not any man - not any church pastor or elder - not any work boss - not any demon of fear - not even Satan himself. God is for us! And He never will be against us because His Son died to ensure that we are adopted into the royal family of heaven! And once we are adopted - what cruel parent would "disfellowship" their child? It just wouldn't happen!

So back to why spring has brought an eternal, permament end to the winter of depression in my life! The third reason is that many of you may have noticed that my transcribing of Rob Rufus's sermons has slowed in the last few months. I couldn't explain why - other than my levels of concentration had totally gone. It was all I could do to sit and focus on the sermon for more than 5 minutes - and that is bearing in mind how utterly glorious Rob's sermons are! Since I handed in my notice at Acorns Hospice - it is like that dark cloud has vanished and my concentration is back and with a vengance! I spent the last couple of evenings glued to my IPOD and just soaking in the wonderful teaching of grace!

The sermon in particular that I've got to thank for this acceleration of spring's arrival is the first sermon that Rob preached in 2009 - "Being Established In The Gift Of Righteousness". This sermon is just ... incredible! Here's a quote that is so similar in theme and glory to Joseph Prince's book;

"If the main reason for Jesus dying on the Cross was to stop us sinning then He failed but if the main reason for Him dying on the Cross was so that your sins will never be imputed to you again because they have already been charged to Him - if the main reason He died was so that your sinning and sin can never again seperate you from the love of God then Jesus utterly succeeded in what He did".

I just love it. I can't hear it enough. "Who shall seperate us from the love of God?". No-one! It can't be done! Calvary was sufficient! God the Just was satisfied to look on Him and pardon me! I just have to re-post the clip of the most beautiful rendition of "Before the Throne of God" at Stoneleigh Bible Week - and the verse in particular that says;




"When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within upward I look and see Him there who made an END to ALL my sin!".

The question is - son or daughter (I did write "Christian" and then I had to come back and change it!) - do we really believe that "ALL" means all? Or are we content to almost blaspheme the Cross and suggest that Jesus gave us a good head-start but then we have to contribute and help finish off His mighty work with our works? That Paul by the way calls; "Dung!" or as Rob Rufus rather politely translates it; "POO!".

Let me finish - because I am finding I could really talk all day! Why has Spring come and brought an end to the eternal 1000 year winter of depression in my life, and in your life if you know something of what I am going through? Because of where we can look! "Upward". That heavenly song finishes with the verse;

"Behold Him there the risen Lamb - MY perfect SPOTLESS RIGHTEOUSNESS!
The great unchangable I AM - the King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die! My soul is purchased with His blood!
My life is hid with Christ on high! With Christ my Saviour and my God!".

I have to say it's amazing - once you start to "get" the true gospel of grace it is like everything just "adjusts" into focus. I've sung and loved that song since 1998 when I first heard it on a Stoneleigh CD (and I didn't even know what Stoneleigh was or who Lou Fellingham was at that point!). But I am seeing these words clearly only just recently! My perfect spotless righteousness! Purchased with His blood! I know that while in heaven He stands - no tongue - no tongue - no tongue - no tongue - NO TONGUE (No one! Not any man - not any church pastor or elder - not any work boss - not any demon of fear - not even Satan himself) can bid me thence depart! Safe forever! NO FEAR!! With all of these glorious truths - what chance does winter have? I know it's not going to be long before I go to my G.P and he says there is no need for me to be on anti-depressants anymore. And I know once I am off them - I won't ever need to go back on them again!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rob Rufus on Mis-use of the Cross

"Today the Cross is used as a lever of manipulation to stop people sinning and it doesn't work".

Rob Rufus - "Being Established In The Gift Of Righteousness" - City Church International, Hong Kong - 4th January 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Grace demands Radical Change ... !!

This post is not going to be a comfortable one for anyone. It's not going to be comfortable for legalists because I am going to make some statements that will draw them to conclusions - conclusions I have already been receiving from some quarters. It's not going to be comfortable for "nice" Christians who may have formed particular opinions of me and don't want those "nice" opinions shattered. It's not going to be comfortable for those who may be in denial about areas of my life they don't want to know about. And it's going to be a definite step out of my comfort zone because any air of "respectability" that I proudly hung onto will be gone! So with that caveat-warning out the way, I can take no responsibility for what is to follow. Read on at your peril!

Please note that I haven't written this post in solidarity. I am aware that it may cause offence to some (I hope it doesn't because I don't mean it to - I am just telling the truth). So I have emailed it to Pete Day and to Julie and Lydia and have taken their observations and edits on board.

The statement I am about to make is based on my own experience and observation and I am more than willing to be corrected on it. I believe there are certain taboo subjects in the church that bring an element of discomfort and awkwardness. One such subject is that of people suffering with HIV and AIDS. I rejoiced therefore to read in the latest Newfrontiers magazine;

"As Christians we should not ask, ‘How did you become infected with HIV?’ but rather our question should be, ‘How can we help and support you to live with the virus?’".

Attitudes seem to be slowly changing! Thank God for Newfrontiers! But the issue I want to discuss is that of homosexuality. To put in context why I am writing this post, it is necessary that I share a degree of personal testimony. Before I do that however I need to make some definitions. As a New Covenant Christian I don't believe that God sees His creation as "gay" or "straight". But the world has become so familiar with such titles that I must of necessity use them. In this post I will be talking about;

1. Homosexual (Men or Women) - People attracted to members of the same sex exclusively.

2. Heterosexual (Men or Women) - People attracted to members of the opposite sex exclusively.
3. Bisexual (Men or Women) - People attracted to members of the same and opposite sex.

A. The Past

So I grew up (as many who read this blog are aware) in a strict religious background in a Bible-believing church where it was explicitly taught that homosexual practice is wrong. Stanley Jebb - my senior pastor - made much use of the passage in Leviticus and Romans 1 to show that homosexuality was a perversion and I believed it. It was slightly upsetting and disconcerting therefore to find that as I progressed into my teenage years I was developing feelings of attraction towards people of the same sex. This wasn't helped by attending a Christian school ran by the church - while I was at that school I was abused by an adult and went through the usual feelings of guilt that I didn't do anything to stop this pattern that went on until the individual left the church. In a weird sort of way I "enjoyed" the attention of the abuse. I was to spend the next 10 years trying to "cure" myself. If there was a pill on offer that would have made me heterosexual then I would have taken it. If there was surgery - I would have gone through it ... without anaesthesia.

When I say I tried to "cure" myself - this is just some of what I attempted. I legalistically read my Bible for an hour every morning (without fail) - especially the passages in the Bible that dealt with the horrors of homosexuality (such as Leviticus 20:13 and Leviticus 18:22). I attempted castration (seriously). I went to a Christian group that believed that chastity was the only answer for homosexual Christian men (and ended up getting abducted by one of the men and driven deep into the countryside and left there when I wouldn't sleep with him!). And I attempted giving up. Oh and I attempted exorcism (thanks to Derek Prince).

By the way for anyone who wishes to "label" me - I guess according to the world I am bisexual. But thank God according to the New Covenant - I am a son of God, co-heir with Jesus Christ, I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, I am accepted, I am loved and God is crazy about me!!

B. Pete Day

Because of my background in church I used to struggle with the opinion that I am an "abomination" and am worthy of the death penalty until I met Pete Day. Many know how close we are but not many know how absolutely key this man was in saving my life. Pete and I met through a mutual friend and when that friend moved away, our friendship deepened thanks to common loves and passions like Dr Ern Baxter, the doctrine of Word and Spirit and a general longing for more of God. One January morning about 7 years ago Pete and I went to the famous Metropolitan Tabernacle Christian book sale and we sat in a McDonalds and I felt I trusted this man of God enough to make a full testimony of my past and my background and my struggles with attraction towards people of the same sex.

Pete responded in grace and acceptance and love - and that has never altered to this day. I have shared my failings (of which there are some) and I have shared my struggles and heartaches and remain accountable to him to this day. Pete and I spend a lot of time in prayer and in waiting on God when we meet and it was during one particularly powerful time that I suddenly felt the power of God fall upon me and I heard the audible voice of God say; "My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in your weakness" and I felt God ask me to surrender my struggles to become "straight" into His hands. It was during that time while I was lying on the floor in Pete's office in the Spirit that I felt a commission to reach out to the homosexual community in the United Kingdom. I already had and have a number of gay friends - both men and women - and I felt the passion of God for them - the longing of God that they would receive His love.

C. Sovereign Grace Ministries

Some time ago my friend Janelle asked for a bit more information into my views on church discipline and I promised to give it. So here's a bit more context. I joined Grace Church Bristol some years ago and as had become habit to me I kept quiet about my past and my struggles. It was more awkward because Grace Church was a small church and I was the only single male in the church. Eyebrows were raised and the cliche; "Oh I am waiting for the right woman to come along" didn't always cut it. I managed there in membership somehow for 2 years however. It was incredibly difficult and a lonely time because as with most churches, the social life of the church was shaped around couples. And so because I was an "odd number" I didn't get invited out much. I went to see the senior pastor with the other single female in the church and we shared our unhappiness but nothing really came of that although he promised much.

Unfortuately I was to discover that years of "keeping a mask" on was having an effect. I was working as a childrens nurse and was accepted and appreciated for who I was there. My collegues and friends couldn't understand why I was so cut-up about who they thought I should be. The church however was a different matter and I began to struggle with depression and with self-harm. As I began to deteriorate I became increasingly desperate and my parents suggested I go and share my struggles with the church leaders (although my parents were not aware that the depression and self-harm was linked to my struggles with my sexuality).

Rather stupidly I did. There were only three meetings. The first meeting was gracious. The second was not and the third was my disfellowshipping from the church. Here is what happened. I made the leaders aware of my past and my present. I shared with them that I did have homosexual friends but that I was celibate and had been for some years. During the second meeting I was informed that my struggles with depression and self-harm were because they felt I was "lying" and was in fact NOT celibate and more particularly was having a sinful relationship with a dear friend of mine who is like a brother to me. While they admitted they had no evidence - it seems that the "feeling" of a Sovereign Grace leader is enough.

I was asked to do the following. 1. I had to move back in with my parents and make a full statement to them about my past. 2. I had to cut off contact with ALL non-Christian friends especially those who were homosexual. 3. I had to vow to attend every church service and care group without fail. If I fulfilled these ultimatums then they would help me with my depression and other struggles. If I did not ...

So I was given two weeks to consider this and went straight to London and consulted with Pete and we spent time praying and thinking through what to do. I came to the conclusion that I couldn't reconcile how biblically any pastor could make such demands of a church member. Particularly when it came into such conflict with my God-given commission that had come to me to reach the lost and hurting homosexual community. I couldn't imagine how I was to tell my friends that I was no longer able to have any contact them because the church had told them so - and how they would find this glorifying to the God I had been trying to interest them in.

So I went back after the two weeks and met with the pastors and informed them of my decision. I felt that to obey such ultimatums was to go against my conscience. They became angry and informed me that if I refused to obey then I would be "disfellowshipped". They would inform the church that I was banned from church services and care groups. They would also write to every other church in Bristol and would inform them that I was not to be accepted because I was in "unrepentant sin". Despite these threats I actually felt I had made the right decision rather than the wrong one and stuck to my decision and left the meeting. I know that many are afraid to leave their SGM church because of years of history, friendships, a social circle they would miss, awesome worship, or excellent preaching - I didn't have any of those restraints.

As I stated in an earlier blog I have been guilty of holding bitterness against these church leaders and I am truly sorry for that. I don't understand why they did what they did and I can't condone it from Scripture. To be told I was "being put out to Satan" was shocking and upsetting to me - I thought that Scripture only condoned this extreme and last resort decision in the case of gross immoral behaviour and blatent unrepentance. I had not been caught in any sin, or confessed to any such sin. It seemed to me this was all happening because of "a feeling" of the church leader. Thanks to the gracious work of the Holy Spirit over time I can now appreciate the sincerity of the church leaders in doing what I am sure they felt was right. I can appreciate their bravery in being prepared to make a hard decision and being prepared to be extremely unpopular. I still don't agree with it or them. But can appreciate it and know the blessed relief of "It is well with my soul".

D. The Present

This post (both Pete and I felt) had to be written because of a recent unpleasant incident which has acted as a catalyst to get this post written. We both felt that the Holy Spirit was desiring to use this to the best and maybe break down some walls of bigotry and ignorance within His Church. Furthermore I was amazed at how quickly "FEAR" began to attempt to control me again because of what happened in this incident. I was genuinely terrified that I was going to be "exposed" in public. So this post is a way of defeating that fear. I have told the truth here and therefore the fear has got nothing to grab hold of because there is nothing left to be revealed!

The incident was this - I am a reluctant member of Facebook and mainly use it as a method of storing my own photos. For my birthday in December I treated both myself and my friend to a luxurious stay in a hotel in Birmingham called "Malmaison". We enjoyed "deep tissue massages" - an experience in and of itself! - and generally had an amazing time! It was just what I needed after my trouble at work and re-occurance of depression. I put those photos on Facebook. I should add that I slept in the double bed and my friend slept on the sofa in the adjoining lounge.

I had a couple of messages on Facebook from an individual I know expressing concern at the photos. That person had examined the photos in detail and had come to some wrong conclusions about what happened (or might have happened) that weekend. (Ironically I spent the weekend with the same friend that I had been "commanded" to cut out of my life by the SGM leaders - so talk about deja vu!) Like the SGM leadership I can truly appreciate the sincerity of this individual and the bravery in wishing to address it knowing they would be unpopular. But like the SGM leadership the tone was accusatory at best and and the result was condemnation. And as Terry Virgo said; "Condemnation is a work of darkness - it doesn't work".

This person has accepted that their concerns are unfounded and apologised (unlike the SGM leaders who to my knowledge have never backed down and admitted they were wrong) - but there is a principle that concerns me. And it is this;

Just because I may have admitted that I struggle with "bisexual" feelings does NOT mean that every man I spend time with, I am living in sin with. Just as every heterosexual man who spends time with a woman is not necessarily living in sin with. I live in a flat with two other people and both are dear friends to me. But the thought of anything "more" .... ?!?! To use Sheila's now famous phrase; "Ack!!". I regularly go away with girl friends that I work with and are good friends with but the thought of anything "more"??!!? Ack!!

Both Pete and I agreed that everyone is liable to fall - but Galatians is clear - if we walk in the Spirit, we WILL NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh! Todd Bentley's tragic fall proves that even a man deep in the anointing can be succeptible to fall.

But that FEAR of being tempted surely cannot stop us from taking the Gospel of grace to those who need it!

This friend who I love spending time with came to the Newfrontiers Leadership Conference in Brighton and experienced the prayer meeting as his FIRST experience of Christianity! He heard God speaking to him with words of love and acceptance and welcome and he still remembers that experience even though it was 4 years ago! Something happened and I fervently believe that "He who began a good work WILL complete it!".

E. The CHALLENGE

By and large homosexual people know that the Church don't approve of what they do and they think that the Church doesn't like them. And pretty much I am sad to say they are right. Scott and I happened to be at CCK in Brighton during the Gay Mardis Gras celebration and I was interested to see if it got a mention. It did - but not in a positive "let's go out and show them what REAL life and REAL celebration is like". So imagine my thrill, tears and joy when I was at the Glory and Grace Conference in Hong Kong and I heard Isi de Gersigny say this;

"I encourage people to sit on the front row with me because I am sick and tired of this front-row, second-row, third-row rubbish! I want PROSTITUTES sitting next to me! I want to reach the gays of Sydney! I want the kings and queens of Sydney's streets to be near me! I want to see chains break off! I want to see glory in people's eyes! I want them to see what I am seeing! Because He is more glorious than what people have made Him out to be! His eyes are like consuming fire that wraps around you and you will never be the same!".

There ARE true grace churches out there and it is my prayer that this positive, open love for homosexual people - both men and women - will spread like a brushfire. Because the challenge is this - unless the Church changes it's attitude then the homosexual community simply won't come. And even more definately won't listen to the church's message that what they do and who they love is wrong. I was impressed to consider Jesus Christ's attitude and behaviour when He dealt with the "untouchables" of His day.

The parable in Matthew 22 is interesting to consider - how would it compare to today? In Matthew 22:4 the king sent His servants to His guests saying that the banquet was ready. But they ignored Him and spurned His generosity and grace. Then (v9) is relevant here;

"Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast".

I know that exegetically that applies to Israel rejecting the Messiah and the Gospel then being given to the Gentiles but it shows to me the Father heart of God. That the Gentiles were the unacceptable to the Jews and the Pharisees. They were called "dogs"! Does the Christian community really think of the homosexual community as much better? One of my main problems with Mark Driscoll was the offensive comments he has made about homosexuals. How is that demonstrating the love of God to the ends of the earth?

So in conclusion - our attitudes must change. I don't know if God will ever "make me straight". But what I do suspect that if I had grown up "straight" then I have no doubt I would have the same proud bigoted attitudes towards the homosexual community as those that I have experienced and that have hurt me so much. I am so grateful to God that He has chosen to allow me to be in this position - because maybe in a small way I can reach the lost and the hurting one by one and show the homosexual people that God loves them JUST AS MUCH as He does the respectable sinner who lusts in private or who lies and cheats. Sin is sin. And the respectable sins drove Jesus Christ to the Cross just as much as the homosexual. The homosexual person is just as in danger of falling as the proud man.

Let the fires of the grace of God sweep across the world from pole to pole and from sea to sea. Jesus Christ spread out His arms and said; "It is finished! Father forgive THEM!". And that is an inclusive statement to all that come to Him and receive His imputed righteousness!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Prophetic Declaration for 2009 (I hope!)

I've had a mixed start to 2009 - some impending awful meetings, the prospect of weaning of anti-depressants, just general unpleasantness over the last few days really. I am battling that by repeating and re-telling myself the glorious wonder of my salvation and standing in the righteousness of Jesus Christ! Wow - never fails!

However I was interested to learn some theological tit(d)-bits from Terry Virgo's blog. Always exciting for a bibliophile like myself.

"It is particularly extraordinary to notice that three commentaries on the book of Galatians will be published this year – one by D A Carson, one by Thomas Schreiner and one by Douglas Moo. One can hardly wait!".

But the best statement that I have read came next. Terry Virgo is a recognised prophet and I pray - pray - pray that this statement is PROPHETIC for 2009! Here it is;

"This should be a hard year for legalists!".

Let it be so! Every bone in my body aches so!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Song of Sonship ...

The last couple of blog posts have quite coincidentally been about the issue of sonship. It was a coincidence particularly as the sermon I have been transcribing of Rob's over New Year has been: "Sonship vs Christianity". My prayer at the end of 2008 was that a kingdom of sons would rise up to change the world. Thanks to Jonathan Edwards I have been reading and basking in a series of quotes that have drawn attention again and again to the spirit of sonship we have received.

There is an absolutely perfect song of worship that couldn't sum this up better. It is the hymn; "Before the Throne of God" and couldn't have been sung more perfectly than at Stoneleigh Bible Week in 1998 and led by Lou Fellingham. Fortunately that year they captured the worship on video so can be replayed here. The one line of the song that keeps on replaying round my mind is;

"For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me".

How better can the gospel be summed up!? Here are the videos - I had to split them up because the song is a bit long! But well worth it! May they exceedingly bless;







When I look at the faces of the gathered thousands at Stoneleigh, it seems to me that mankind is never more glorious than when he is worshipping his Maker, his Lord and his Father.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Convicted of Righteousness - a good thing?

There's a very interesting discussion going on over at Mark Heath's website; "Word and Spirit". Interestingly enough he has pulled a verse up for examination that until last October caused me enormous guilt problems and then at "Glory and Grace" in Hong Kong, I saw it in a new light and then caused me wonderful joy! The verse is John 16:8-11;

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged".

So at my home church - New Covenant Church in Dunstable - when things were taking a slightly sour cessationist downturn, this verse was regularly used to brow-beat the people of God into showing that the Holy Spirit is given mainly to "CONVICT"! Not to do fun, exciting things like distribute spiritual gifts. And the dangerous mix of Old and New Covenant law and grace was then subtly applied to suggest that if we were not humbly desperately feeling bad about our sin then the Holy Spirit was not really and truly at work within us. Seriously. I have an old church magazine in my possession where the editorial said that the gift of tongues is a SELFISH gift (well if it's selfish to want to build yourself up in the faith by talking in tongues and following the example of the apostle Paul - then gimme more!)

Anyway - so as I said I never really liked this verse until I heard Rob Rufus preach and expound it in his sermon on the Holy Spirit, the Sunday after "Glory and Grace" on the 28th October. He showed that while part of the role of the Holy Spirit is to show the world that they are sinners and need a Saviour - the part of His role towards us is to actually show us and convict us that we ARE righteous and that we HAVE the imputed righteousness of God! Rob asked the question - if we have received "all the fullness of Christ", why would the Holy Spirit come and point out gaps where we need to add works to Christ's finished work? That would suggest that the Cross was somehow defective - and it got us in but hasn't finished us off. And that is blasphemous.

So with that mixed history with this verse I was interested to read Mark's post; "Convicted of Righteousness" and see that he too has been visiting commentaries and examining what this verse means. Typically of Mark's careful scholarship and love of reading he examines commentaries which was helpful - only I was disappointed with Don Carson's usually honest examination of the text. Apparantly Carson thought that the verse had something to do with; "the Spirit is simply continuing an important aspect of the ministry of Jesus, confronting and challenging religious hypocrisy". Hmm ... not convinced!

I left an inital comment mainly because I have been reading Jonathan Edwards "Notes on Scripture" - my new Christmas present! - and was excited to see how similar some of Jonathan Edwards conclusions on law and grace are to Rob Rufus's. So I left a comment with a quote of Edwards I found on Galatians 5:18 that I posted a few days ago. My good friend Julie left a concise and helpful comment too saying;

"Keeping that in mind the interpretation you bring up would make no sense, but that the job of the Holy Spirit is to convince believers of their righteousness in Jesus would be very consistent with the rest of Scripture in the New Covenant".

This is important - it's not so much a case of finding the writer or teacher that best supports your view but examining the explanation that is most consistent with the New Covenant! Julie also had a vital comment on how we view sin in New Covenant life;

"I think you have given a rather old covenant definition of sin, thinking it is primarily bad behaviour. New covenenant definition of sin is unbelief (which could lead to bad behaviour), concerning what we believe about God and how righteousness is obtained".

Last night I was continuing to read Jonathan Edwards and was thrilled to find his exact comment on the verse in question and Edwards wrote this;

"On John 16:8-11;

And when the Comforter has come, He will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgement. He shall convict the world of sin as men must be convinced of their guilt in order to receive Christ. That is the reason that sin and guilt lie upon them because they believe not on Christ and their rejecting Christ above all things enhances their guilt".

(Here it is:)

“Of righteousness” - that is He will convict them of the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness of the way of REMOVING guilt by Him. Christ finished His work as priest, or what He did for the removing of guilt by His ascending into heaven, His entering into the holiest of all with His own blood to make intercession for us and thereby GAVE EVIDENCE TO THE WORLD THAT WHAT HE HAD DONE WAS ENOUGH”.

That is such good news! Evidence has been given to the world by the fact that Jesus Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father and poured out the Holy Spirit that what He has done is ENOUGH! The Cross of Jesus Christ is entirely 100% sufficient! There is not a gap left to be filled by "our works". Our works can do NOTHING! Our acts achieve NOTHING with the Father! God is only ever and always interested in the perfect righteousness of His Son! Only that - ONLY that will give us bold access to the Father! So yes in a sense my former church was partially right. The Holy Spirit isn't just about tongues and prophecy. His key work is to come into us as a Spirit of sonship and give us assurance that we are accepted in the beloved and He will convict us when doubt and fear set in that we are sons and that Christ's righteousness is accepted - God the just is satisfied!

Okay - I am getting excitable and shouting. Deep breaths! ...