Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dr Peter Masters is Right!!

Well this is now the third part in an inpromtu series sparked off by Mark Driscoll and his rather colourful words on the Song of Solomon. The first was Dr John MacArthur's reaction to Driscoll here and the second was Rob Rufus's wonderful inspired words on the Song of Songs at "Glory and Grace" in 2007. I guess that part of the motivation behind why I feel so intensely about this could be explained in my post; "Speak Tenderly to My Bride". It's my conviction that something had gone drastically wrong when a preacher is laying down rules and regulations on what Christian wives "should do" in the privacy of their bedroom - with the end result of guilt and condemnation if they even feel they do not want to do what their husband is demanding.

So yesterday on the back of a recurrent dream I have been having I travelled down to London and went to the outstanding Evangelical Library. I was hoping to spend time in the periodicals and journals that they have but they are currently in storage. Instead I spent my time in the commentaries on the Song of Solomon. And I found a quote by Watchman Nee that made me think. Underneath the mocking of the allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon - I believe there is actually a problem with believing that God can feel so intimately about them. Why? Because they believe that they still have sin within them somewhere that the blood of Jesus Christ didn't quite cover and thus deserve something of the wrath and judgement of God.

In short this issue of how you understand the Song of Solomon is not just some secondary issue that can be ignored. Understanding that book rightly has implications on worship, on intimacy with God and the gospel itself. Because we will never be able to access the full glory, weight and wonder of God's love and passion for us conveyed through the Song of Solomon (among other Scriptures) until we understand the Gospel of grace properly.

Here's the quote from Watchman Nee;

"The book's (Song of Solomon) innermost heart speaks of spiritual communion. It is a book for the heart ... The book addresses itself to those who are already regenerated by the Spirit of God and who are awakened to longings for a fuller experience of Christ. There is not the slightest mention of things pertaining to salvation. The emphasis is not on matters relating to the sinner but rather on those concerning the advancement of the believer. It does not address itself to those outside of Christ but to the Lord's own people.

Consequently there are no instructions given as to how one may be saved but it tells of the longings of a believer for deeper experiences of the Lord. It does not speak of faith but of love. Love floats like a banner over the whole Song ... ".

And that's when I got my shock. Searching more through the shelves of the Evangelical Library I found a commentary on the Song of Solomon by Dr Peter Masters - the senior minister of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. I am ashamed to say that Dr Masters is another individual I classed along with John MacArthur in the "rabidly anti-charismatic, anti-everything" camp. And that's true - he is. But I sat myself down and read his commentary. It was excellent. Here's the basis of his argument which I hope will be helpful;

1. The Title Points to Christ.

Firstly the original Hebrew is "Song of Songs" meaning the best of all possible songs, or the supreme and most beautiful song ever composed, an extravagant title for the love of ordinary human beings. Such a title best refers to the love of the Son of God for His people and their responding love to Him.

2. Solomon is Not a Model for Marriage.

Secondly Solomon, the inspired author, would hardly be the ideal channel for lessons on love and marriage in view of his having acquired a thousand wives and concubines who turned away his heart from God.

The life of the teacher must surely commend his message. If Solomon wrote about his own first courtship and marriage, how could this be described as the best song and put forward a model when it quickly became a betrayed relationship? A repentent sinner however is an acceptable person to write about the mercy of Christ to His church and Solomon became such a person after His restoration to God (reflected in Ecclesiastes).

3. There is No Wedding.

A third reason why we must see the Song as an allegory of the love between Christ and His church rather than a manual on married life is that there is no wedding in it.

It is a fact that the bride and groom are viewed throughout the book as not yet fully married, this being one of the compelling dramatic features. Modern writers tend to marry the couple off at an early stage so they view them as husband and wife, complete with physical intimacy and marital tiffs but this is read into the song. The reality is that the bride and groom had engaged in the first stage of an ancient Jewish betrothal so that they were wholly committed to each other but they did not yet live together.

Throughout the Song the bride and groom are seen waiting for the day of the wedding ceremony with it's great marriage supper and they are still looking forward to it with great desire at the end. This is powerfully prophetic providing an exceptionally close union between believers and their Lord as they wait for His coming at the end of the age and the great bridal supper of the Lamb.

C H Spurgeon said; "As a believer draws near to Heaven, this is the book he takes with him".

If we miss this the Song has ... nothing to say to our spiritual lives.

4. Love Terms Cannot Be Real.

A fourth reason for the superiority of the grand old view is that many expressions of admiration used in the Song are simply not credible for human love, such as when the groom tells the bride she resembles Pharoh's horses or that she has a neck like the squat, rough Tower of David, plus other equally jarring descriptions.

If however the poem is an allegory of the love between Christ and the church, these sentiments come to life, describing the privilidges and characteristics of saved people. The love poem is only the "vehicle" for the message. The descriptions were never meant to be wholly realistic or to be taken literally. As the old saying goes - an allegory says one thing but means another. We must see the deeper meaning.

5. Great Prophecies are Here.

A fifth reason for taking the groom to be Christ and the bride to be the Church, is the amount of prophecy which becomes obvious through this interpretation. It is no coincidence that many passages picture well the incarnation of Christ, His saving work, His resurrection, the establishment of the church age, the calling of the Gentiles and the future heavenly kingdom.

One modern evangelical Bible dictionary says rather surprisingly that "there is little in the book that is explicitly religious". This is only true if one takes the fairly modern view that this is a literal love story. However if we take the older view that this book is a guide to spiritual love then we see Christ and His work prophesied throughout it's eight chapters.

6. Allegory is Solomon's Speciality.

A sixth reason for believing that Christ and His church is the subject of this poem is that the Bible tells us that a parable style was the principal feature of Solomon's writings. He issued 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:32) many of the proverbs being in the book of Proverbs. A proverb is (in the Hebrew) a rule or a comparison, ranging from a short, pithy comparison to a full-size paralell or allegory. While we are told that Solomon specialized "comparisons" (teaching truth by means of a fictional story) and also in songs,

We are not told that a major part of his work was a marriage guidance manual.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I arrived home from a day out in London to this ...

You can imagine the screams. Many thanks City Church International! The glory cloud has descended truly on Birmingham. Let it begin!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

And Signs Following ... !!

I found this video clip on You-Tube today. One of the discussions Mark, J-D and I enjoyed was discussing signs, wonders and healing and it really re-enforced my conviction that this is no "secondary" issue to be abandoned and ignored for "true gospel unity". Rubbish! If God were truly to restore signs, wonders and miracles like they saw in the book of Acts then we wouldn't need to be resorting to flashy lighting, amazing bands and music and language and jokes to reach the lost. They'd be hammering the door down to get their hands on this power.

I know my history - you don't need to remind me what happened to A. A Allen and so on. But the fact is they saw signs and wonders and miracles that we are only dreaming of.

And I truly believe the answer is a restoring of the gospel of grace and the faith of Abraham - just a belief that God is for us and God is wanting and willing to bless us!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

When Rob Rufus Gets It Right!!

There have been some really awesome comments on my previous post; "When John MacArthur Gets It Right!" - which I'm so grateful for. I think we all appreciated my non-Christian friend's input and frankness! All Christian husbands need to never, ever forget that sexual intimacy means that wives should be enjoying it too! But I carried the conversation on at home with my mum and dad when I met them for coffee yesterday. It's something I really love and appreciate about Mum and Dad - they are willing to listen to whatever's on my heart. The benefit of discussing this Driscoll/Song of Solomon thing is that I've come to appreciate how important Christian married couples long for some Biblical teaching and input on their intimate lives.

But I think Sheila makes a vital point too - we don't need schoolboy toilet (or bathroom) humour or language to get that point across. And while I am sure Mark Driscoll is an incredibly unique person - his behaviour doesn't necessarily have to be prescriptive to try and emulate the kind of success God is giving him at the moment. My heart still is for Christian women - sisters in Christ. And so I was thrilled driving back from Bristol to be reminded of something Rob Rufus said in a prayer at "Glory and Grace" when I was there in 2007.

Here's what he said - and it's absolutely on-topic. One might have thought he knew of the debate!

"The Bible in Song of Solomon and many other places talks about us being the Bride and being loved and ravished by heavenly romance with a Bridegroom that is so in love with us! Your love is better than wine. Come away with Me, My beloved!

Forgive us for taking the culture of the world as men - Lord! So afraid of intimacy. So afraid of closeness. So afraid of emotion. We thank You for the example of David - Lord. A real man, a masculine man, a warrior, a mighty warrior! A man who killed many people in battle, a great warrior in the army of Israel! A king! Yet a sensative, tender poet. A romantic. A lover! A tender-hearted man!

Oh give us men like that in the world today! Warriors who will stand up and fight yet know tenderness and intimacy! Jesus the Son of God who stood against the most evil force on the planet - religious demons behind Pharisees - and He stood against them alone and would not buckle under their intimidation or pressure. What a man! Yet He could stand before Lazarus's tomb and weep and shed tears and say "Let the little children come to Me for such is the Kingdom of heaven".

Jesus who could look at a woman caught in adultery and say "Woman where are your accusers? Neither do I accuse you". Such tenderness in this Man! Jesus of Nazareth! Fully God and fully Man! Weeping with compassion! Showing such kindness! But even on the Cross and dying for our sins, He looks down at John and said; "John behold your mother" - pointing at Mary. Thinking about His MOTHER! While He is on the Cross He is still wanting to make sure His earthly mother is looked after by His disciple John - the man He loved!

What kind of Man is this?! So full of masculinity and male authority yet so tender and intimate. He let John the apostle put his head on His chest at the Last Supper and was not embarressed by the contact of a physical man touching His chest in public - so innocent and pure. What happened to the church? This Bridegroom does not need our love but He desires it with a passion!".

I think that last point for me answers one of Driscoll's most distressing comments where he mocks those who see certain allegories in the Song of Solomon and says;

"Well the allegorical interpretation, it's not between a husband and a wife, Song of Solomon, love and romance and intimacy; what it is, it's about us and Jesus." Really? I hope not. [Laughter from crowd] If I get to heaven and this goes down, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I mean it's gonna be a bad day. Right? I mean seriously. You dudes know what I'm talking about. You're like, "No, I'm not doing that. You know I'm not doing that. I love Him [Jesus] but not like that." [Laughter from crowd]"

Whether it was meant as a joke or not (and an extremely bad one if it was) - the fact remains that Jesus Christ the Man had absolutely no problem in loving one of His disciples and welcoming His disciple's love and longing for closeness in absolute innocence and purity. I must confess one of the thoughts that has most often gone through my head when I first lay eyes on the Risen and Exalted Lord Jesus Christ for the first time is a longing that I will be able to run into His arms and do the same thing. Let's recover that innocence and purity. As Rob Rufus said;

"What's happened to the Church?".

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dr Stanley Jebb Hits the Blogging World!!

I've just come back from a blessed day of fellowship with two childhood friends - Mark Heath and J-D Laurence - in Bristol and their respective families. We spent many happy hours discussing theology and the past and our church experiences. One of the most exciting pieces of news that Mark told me was that my prayers have been answered and my former senior pastor has given in to popular demand and has begun a website/blog!

It's here;

One of his first posts is absolute vintage Stanley Jebb - "Books and Reading". He writes;

"A minister must read. A leader must be a reader. The Apostle Paul sent for the books and the parchments (2 Timothy 4:13). But there are three obstacles to overcome if a minister is to read much: the money to buy them, the time to read them, and the choice of what to read from the vast choice available".

This emphasis from Dr Jebb was one of the things that convinced me to join Mark Heath and set up a "Quotes Blog" and read with the purpose of absorbing other men and women's wisdom and using it and not allowing said ministries to fade into history.

It will most certainly be a blog I am following and recommend it highly for readers who want a high quality, Reformed, teaching blog full of years of experience and wisdom. My parents are having them to lunch tomorrow and I can't wait to hear what was discussed!

Friday, April 24, 2009

When John MacArthur Gets It Right!!

One of the joys of being a constant student and son of God is that the Holy Spirit is constantly tweaking and adjusting prejudices in my life and I always know when it is Him. Because He does so, so utterly gently and tenderly. After leaving Bristol (as many know) I struggled a lot with unforgiveness and bitterness towards Sovereign Grace Ministries and the church in particular for their harsh legalism. And if I dared to share what I was struggling with, I was told (mainly by SGM-ers) that I should "just get over it". I am indebted still to Pete Day for dealing with this excellently in a blog post.

But probably in the last 18 months or so I've discovered that the Holy Spirit has taken away that bitterness and that anger without me even noticing or making any attempts to "just get over it". That's true sanctification surely! That as Ryan Rufus said in his sermon on Sunday - God wants us to focus on Him and His heart and then He will adjust the externals that He wants changing. Rest! Anyway that's a bit of an example as to how constant gentle change goes on in our lives so gently by the Spirit within us.

I've never had much time for John MacArthur since reading his "Charismatic Chaos" back in the days when our home church was marching steadily towards a functional and theological cessationist position. I hated his aggressive attitude and judgemental intolerance of charismatics (ironic that the Holy Spirit's gently pointed out in my life recently how aggressive and judgementally intolerant I have become of those I didn't like for being such!!). However I was very impressed with some articles that MacArthur published earlier this month dealing with the Song of Solomon - and in particular Mark Driscoll's approach to them.

Here's a brief summary of what MacArthur wrote;

1. "The Rape of Solomon's Song".

"Apparently the shortest route to relevance in church ministry right now is for the pastor to talk about sex in garishly explicit terms during the Sunday morning service ... These are schemes that make daily sex obligatory for married couples over a specified time—usually between seven and forty days".

This was exactly the question I asked my family at dinner last night. "Relevance". I was shocked to hear that Driscoll's worship pastor used a swear word from the CCK platform when he was there for the Worship School recently. Now I am no prude! I'm a nurse and am well aware of swear words. Like Rob Rufus said once - I too can swear like a poet if I am so inclined. But I was asking my family if we need to use such words in church to be "relevant"?

MacArthur isn't saying we should stay in the Dark Ages of Victorianism and avoid sex in church;

"So there's simply no way to preach the whole counsel of God without mentioning sex. But the language Scripture employs when dealing with the physical relationship between husband and wife is always careful—often plain, sometimes poetic, usually delicate, frequently muted by euphemisms, and never fully explicit".

He then went on to get more specific with the way that the Song of Solomon is used in this "relevant" approach to sex;

"But it has become popular in certain circles to employ extremely graphic descriptions of physical intimacy as a way of expounding on the euphemisms in Solomon's poem. As this trend develops, each new speaker seems to find something more shocking in the metaphors than any of his predecessors ever imagined ... We're assured moreover that the shocking hidden meanings of these texts aren't merely descriptive; they are prescriptive. The secret gnosis of Solomon's Song portray obligatory acts wives must do if this is what satisfies their husbands, regardless of the wife's own desire or conscience.

I was recently given a recording of one of these messages, where the speaker said, "Ladies, let me assure you of this: if you think you're being dirty, he's pretty happy." Such pronouncements are usually made amid raucous laughter, but evidently we are expected to take them seriously. When the laughter died away, that speaker added, “Jesus Christ commands you to do this.” That approach is not exegesis; it is exploitation. It is contrary to the literary style of the book itself. It is spiritually tantamount to an act of rape. It tears the beautiful poetic dress off Song of Solomon, strips that portion of Scripture of its dignity, and holds it up to be laughed at and leered at in a carnal way".

That was exactly my concern and my heart when I wrote my blog yesterday. Something is wrong when women who were created and given to be protected by man are being treated like this surely?

Anyway MacArthur ends the first part by mentioning that he feels Mark Driscoll is the main proponent of this view and treatment of the Song of Solomon. That may be true - I don't know. But in my opinion it was C J Mahaney who first brought this to the discussion table.

2. "The Rape of Solomon's Song - Part 2".

Again I couldn't agree more with his opening lines;

"It's frankly hard to think of a more appalling misuse of Scripture than turning the Song of Solomon into soft porn. When people can no longer read that portion of Scripture without pornographic imagery entering their minds, the beauty of the book has been corrupted, its description of righteous love perverted, and its role in sanctifying and elevating the marriage relationship deflected. That preachers would do this in public worship services is unconscionable".

MacArthur quotes Tremper Longman saying;

"Tremper Longman III says this about preachers and commentators who interpret the Song's poetic imagery in overtly explicit ways: "[Their] free association with the images of the Song is so prevalent that we learn far more about the interpreters than we do about the text".

He then goes on with some more specific comments about Driscoll which can be read but aren't the object of this post. This isn't meant to be a dig at Driscoll. I don't like the guy but I know he is touching thousands with his style and that's great! My querying is more about this issue of do we have to become like the world and speak like the world to attract the world? Or should there be something rather different about us?

3. "The Rape of Solomon's Song - Part 3".

MacArthur makes some comment on the interpretation of Song of Solomon that I'm not quite sure about. He says;

"I emphatically agree with those who say the Song of Solomon is not mere allegory. It is best understood when we take it at face value, like any other text of Scripture. Many interpreters whom I otherwise hold in high esteem (including Spurgeon and most of the Puritans) have unfortunately done more to confuse than clarify the Song's message by treating it in a purely allegorical fashion that eliminates its primary meaning. Solomon's Song is, as I've said from the outset, a love poem between Solomon and his bride, celebrating their mutual love for one another, including the delights of the marriage bed. To interpret this—or any other portion of Scripture—in a purely allegorical fashion is to treat the interpreter's own imagination as more authoritative than the plain meaning of the text".

I agree that it's not helpful to take everything in an allegorical fashion. But my gut feeling is that we must see marriage as it's God-given intention - that of a picture of Christ and His Bride! The supremacy of the relationship between God and us surely sets the tone for everything else. After all - why else would there be no "giving and receiving of marriage" in heaven? If marriage was that supreme then surely it would go on into eternity? Why does God get so upset in the Word of God when His picture of marriage is abused through sexual sin? Because it reflects on Christ and the Bride. Why did Moses get forbidden from entering the Promised Land? Simply for abusing a picture of Christ on the Cross.

MacArthur quoted Driscoll saying this about the allegorical approach to Song of Solomon;

"Some have allegorized this book, and in so doing, they have destroyed it. They have destroyed it. They will say that it is an allegory between Jesus and his bride the church. Which if true, is weird. Because Jesus is having sex with me and puts his hand up my shirt. And that feels weird. I love Jesus, but not in that way."

MacArthur goes on;

"Driscoll has said almost the exact same thing in at least three other sermons. For example: “Jesus keeps making out with me and touching me in inappropriate places.” “Now I’m gay, or highly troubled, or both.” “As a guy, I do not feel comfortable with Jesus, like you know, kissing me and touching me and taking me to bed. Okay? I feel sort of very homo-erotic about that kind of view of Song of Solomon.”

Some of Driscoll's supporters have tried to stand up for him saying that he's toned down in his recent "Peasant Princess" series that some of my family have liked so much. MacArthur thinks not - quoting Driscoll;

"Now what happens is some say "Well, we do believe in the book [of Song of Solomon], and we will teach it, but we're gonna teach it allegorically." And there's a literal and an allegorical interpretation. They'll say, "Well the allegorical interpretation, it's not between a husband and a wife, Song of Solomon, love and romance and intimacy; what it is, it's about us and Jesus." Really? I hope not. [Laughter from crowd] If I get to heaven and this goes down, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I mean it's gonna be a bad day. Right? I mean seriously. You dudes know what I'm talking about. You're like, "No, I'm not doing that. You know I'm not doing that. I love Him [Jesus] but not like that." [Laughter from crowd]"

Er ... no. This "dude" doesn't have a clue what he's talking about. But I won't go on otherwise I'll be writing stuff that I will later regret. MacArthur (while not taking the allegorical approach to Song of Solomon) writes something that I really found helpful and interesting;

"Thus even a non-allegorical interpretation of Song of Solomon, (simply taking the love-song between Solomon and the Shulamite at face value) ultimately points us to Christ and his love for the church. The text ought to be handled by the preacher accordingly, not as an excuse to bathe in the gutter of our culture's easygoing obsession with crude sex-talk and graphic sexual imagery".

I think if Mahaney and Driscoll had pointed to Christ and His love for the church then I wouldn't have had half the problem I do with the "literal" approach.

4. "The Rape of Solomon's Song - Part 4".

In his final article MacArthur begins by responding to questions that arose from the many comments left as a result of these articles on his blog. Just prior to that MacArthur quoted Tim Challies who's reaction to this view of Song of Solomon was;

"I have a real problem with anyone interpreting Song of Solomon like that . . . . To be honest, words fail me when I even try to explain myself—when I try to explain how I just cannot even conceive of Song of Solomon like that. The poetic nature of the Song is entirely eroded when we assign such meaning to it: such specific meaning. And I think as well of what it may do to a couple to be able to say “Look, this specific sex act is mandated in Scripture. So let’s do it.” That may be said to a spouse who has no desire to do that act or who even finds it distasteful. And yet with our interpretation of Song of Solomon, which we really have no way of proving (at least beyond a reasonable doubt) we are potentially bludgeoning an unwilling partner into doing something. I just … again, words really fail me here".

One interesting question I noted was this (followed by MacArthur's answer);

"2. Song of Solomon is a very explicit erotic book. How can you possibly argue that this book of the Bible, which is God's Holy Word, is anything but "fully explicit"? Isn't it a denial of the obvious to claim that the Song of Solomon is not a pretty graphic description of sex?

explicit -- ek ● SPLIS ● it -- Distinctly expressing all that is meant; leaving nothing merely implied or suggested; unambiguous

Since there is not one explicit mention of a reproductive body part or sexual act in Song of Solomon, no credible commentator on the Song would ever make such a claim about that book. Furthermore (and this is the key point of the whole discussion) Song of Solomon is not "erotic" literature in any sense—i.e., it is not intended to arouse readers sexually. Clearly it should never be preached in a way that has that effect. That is so obvious a point that only an exploiter of the book would ignore it for prurient interests".

One important question was raised;

"4. Could it be that your scruples about graphic descriptions of sexual acts are cultural and generational? Perhaps the culture in which you minister isn't as uninhibited as the subcultures other preachers are trying to reach".

This surely is a fair point. MacArthur is a lot older than Driscoll. However I think Mahaney isn't that much younger than MacArthur and he seems to be very much in agreement with Driscoll. But even though I'm 31 - and I don't have scruples about discussing sex - I still have the same problem in graphic descriptions of sexual acts from the pulpit. How on EARTH is that fulfilling the Ephesians 4 mandate that these gifts of the ascended Christ are meant to be doing? To bring the body of Christ to maturity? To giggle in repulsion at the idea of the glorified and risen Christ trying to "put His hand up my shirt" sounds like it belongs in the gym changing room at school. Not the church. And certainly not from the platform.

Anyway. I promised myself I wouldn't get into a rant. Here's MacArthur's answer to that question;

"Sex is not something new in the postmodern era. Every culture and every generation has dealt with the same obsessions and perversions as today—though not always with the same unbridled self-indulgence our culture encourages. Every Christian has always faced the same lusts and temptations that assault us: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Those who think pornography and unrestrained debauchery weren't commonplace in the pre-Internet era ought to visit the ruins of Pompeii and see what life was like in the culture of Rome during the apostle Paul's generation. Paul ministered in cultures that were far less “inhibited” than ours. Yet when he found it necessary to deal with sexual topics—whether giving positive instruction about the marriage relationship or a negative exhortation about sexual sins—he never spoke in sexually graphic terms".

In many ways our generation is more prudish than some of the generations that MacArthur mentioned. MacArthur makes a very important point;

"The truth is that God’s Word never gives specific instruction about the details of a married couple’s personal preferences in their sex life. Sermons that pretend to find such instruction, like the sexual preoccupation demonstrated in these assaults on the Song of Solomon, are more damaging than helpful—because they elevate the imagination of the preacher to a higher position of prominence and authority than the true revelation of God".

This is something I've worried about time and again. The two churches that formed the bulk of my Christian experience were both led by very dominant (some might say domineering) church pastors. Even if they didn't intend it - there was a culture in both churches where church members would take the word of the pastor as the Word of God. And that wasn't just the preached word. That was throw-off comments and opinions that said pastors had.

We discussed Driscoll's views on the Song of Solomon last night (mainly me and my mum) and this question actually came up in conversation;

"6. Was Driscoll’s sermon really as bad as you say? Aren’t you overreacting to what is ultimately just a difference in style?".

MacArthur gives a link to the two sermons Driscoll preached in Scotland - and I duly read them. Why is such an issue made of this? Well here's why according to MacArthur;

"That’s why I am making such an issue of this. Because the New Testament makes an issue of it. It is not simply a difference of opinion, generation, preference, style, or methodology. It is an issue that arises from clear New Testament mandates related to the character of an elder. If anything, I don’t think I have reacted strongly enough".

Finally someone asked MacArthur why he is dealing with this matter publicly and why he hasn't approached Driscoll privately (he has and was ignored). The questioner knew that both John Piper and C J Mahaney are having some degree of input into Driscoll's life. Here's what MacArthur said;

"I am pointing out something that should not be the least bit controversial: pastors are not free to talk like that. In response, a flood of angry young men, including several pastors and seminary students—not one of whom has ever attempted a private conversation with me about this topic—have felt free to post insults and public rebukes in a public forum, declaring emphatically (with no obvious awareness of the irony) that they don’t believe such things should be handled in public forums".

He quotes Scripture to back this up;

"When 1 Timothy 5:20 says, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all,” it is talking about elders in particular. Those in public ministry must be rebuked publicly when their sin is repeated, and public, and confirmed by multiple witnesses".

On Driscoll's tongue, MacArthur said;

"Mark did indeed express regret a few years ago over the reputation his tongue has earned him. Yet no substantive change is observable. Just a few weeks ago, in an angry diatribe leveled at men in his congregation, Driscoll once again threw in a totally unnecessary expletive. A few weeks before that, he made a public mockery of Ecclesiastes 9:10 (something he has done repeatedly), by making a joke of it on national television. So here are two more inappropriate Driscoll videos being passed around by young people and college students for whom I bear some pastoral responsibility. In their immaturity, they typically think it’s wonderfully cool and transparent for a pastor to talk like that. And they feel free to curse and joke in a similar manner in more casual settings".

That's something I've noticed. I know a church in Wales that has adopted the "Driscoll-style" in church life (and the pastors certainly aren't immature) and I've heard the MP3's and the same cursing and joking seems to crop up there too.

And finally on Mahaney and Piper's involvement;

"Finally, it seriously overstates the involvement of John Piper and C. J. Mahaney to say they are “discipling” Mark Driscoll. In the first place, the idea that a grown man already in public ministry and constantly in the national spotlight needs space to be “mentored” before it’s fair to subject his public actions to biblical scrutiny seems to put the whole process backward. These problems have been talked about in both public and private contexts for at least three or four years. At some point the plea that this is a maturity issue and Mark Driscoll just needs time to mature wears thin.

In the meantime, the media is having a field day writing stories that suggest trashy talk is one of the hallmarks of the “New Calvinism;” and countless students whom I love and am personally acquainted with are being led into similar carnal behavior by imitating Mark Driscoll’s speech and lifestyle. Enough is enough. Yes, I did inform John Piper and C. J. Mahaney of my concerns about this material several weeks ago. I itemized all of these issues in much more thorough detail than I have written about them here, and I expressly told them I was preparing this series of articles for the blog. To those asking why pastors Piper and Mahaney (and others in positions of key leadership) haven't publicly expressed similar concerns of their own, that is not a question for me. I hope you will write and ask them".

I'm glad that someone of MacArthur's statesmanship wrote these articles. Not because I am rejoicing that someone else is taking a pop at Driscoll - because I said before that wasn't my concern. He is who he is. And God can work all things together for good. But because the whole issue of Song of Solomon is being dealt with properly and in a concerned manner for the glory of God and for His Name and for His fame.

The world isn't very impressed when the church starts speaking in a smutty manner. They can do it far better than the church ever can. The world isn't very impressed when the church starts speaking explicitly about sex - not when explicit sex is available anywhere and everywhere. In my experience non-Christians expect the church to be different. And when they are not - even non-Christians know something is wrong.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Speak Tenderly To My Bride ...

"You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; You have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes" - Song of Solomon 4:9

I've just come back from a lovely evening with a small part of my family - Mum, Dad and my three younger sisters. The object of my trip was to collect my laptop that I left there during Easter - hence a small break in transcribing! We enjoyed a KFC and some fascinating conversation. I've noticed that whenever I spend time with the women in my life whom I love and adore, I always come back feeling extremely protective towards them. I think that's why God hasn't let me get married actually. If I did get married, chances are that I would become over-protective towards my wife and maybe over-idolise them. At the present I am so blessed to have six sisters and countless "adopted" sisters in Christ!

As I was driving back I was listening to Isi de Gersigny's first session at "Glory and Grace 2007" and forgot totally that during the ministry time Fini led a time of blessing to the women at the conference. I understand he did the same thing at "Glory and Grace" this year too.

And I got thinking. Why does it drive me so absolutely crazy with anger when I hear about a church pastor manipulating and abusing one of my sisters? Why does it drive me crazy when I hear men teaching and preaching and instructing women what they should be doing externally to allegedly please God - such as what to wear? Why are women being forcibly subdued in church and being prevented from moving into powerful ministry because they're expected to "submit" - while their male counterparts aren't loving them "as Christ loved the church"?

I think a balance needs to be struck here. I've always reacted against the chauvinistic call to "manhood" trumpeted by men like C J Mahaney and Mark Driscoll. Comments like "real" men shouldn't have any fashion sense and Driscoll's more unspeakable ideas on what "real" men should be doing to their wives sicken me to my stomach quite frankly. But I heard Rob Rufus speak recently on the need for "real" men and it made me re-think my hasty angry conclusions! I know - many may say how come Rob can make you re-think when the other two can't? Well because Rob has demonstrated in his life that he's a man's man (enjoying running very fast!) - but can also unashamedly weep, express his love for Glenda and other things that "men's men" don't seem too good at. Men need to get this balance. It's desperate! And the answer doesn't lie in endless courses and "marriage specialists". It lies in a true grasp of the Gospel.

Nothing makes me rejoice more than seeing women released in ministry and setting the church ablaze. Some of my heroes are Kate Simmonds, Darlene Zschech, Isi de Gersigny, Glenda Rufus, Wendy Virgo, Julie, Lydia, Ursula, Nick and Sheila! And on behalf of my gender I want to apologise to women for the hurt and pain that men may have inflicted on women. Especially Christian women. I'm so so sorry beyond words for the emotional, physical and sexual abuse that may have been inflicted in the name of "submission". I know that God's heart couldn't be further from that.

And I listened and learnt a new song at home on a CD - from the amazing Hillsongs. It's called "At the Cross" and I found the video on You-Tube and was mesmerised by the women worshipping as they sing it. I think in worship women almost look like angels lost in the glory realm - so I post this and dedicate to every Christian sister reading this. May today you know the love and intimacy of the true and best spiritual Husband ever! Who will NEVER abuse you! Who will NEVER point out your faults or flaws! Who will NEVER do anything but adore you and delight in you and wonder in you and excite over you!

Tomorrow .... a first. I agree with John Macarthur! :-o (that's an emoticon btw!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Which Husband Do You Prefer??!

I was driving home this morning listening to Rob Rufus's session at the first "Glory and Grace Conference" in Hong Kong (still waiting for my CD's of this years!) and it was his penultimate session. He had decided to postpone the awesome fire-tunnel to the following day because everyone was tired and he spoke on "Staying sane in revival". The second half of that message was an awesome treatment of the law and grace. Although I've heard so much now on the law - this morning it was really like seeing this truth again from another level up the spiral staircase.

Here was the quote that I actually had to stop and pull over to copy down;

"The law does not die, the law must stay in the earth thundering out judgements as a school-master to lead the self-righteous to a place of revelation that they are going to hell if they try to keep the law and they will not gain inheritance through the law so they must repent and turn to Jesus Christ!".

So the question is this - which husband would you prefer?

1. A Husband who will make it his life's work to point out every area of wrong in your life - and the more that you proudly conquer an area of wrong - the faster he will find another to point out. (Romans 2:23)

2. A Husband who when he speaks does not expect or a require a response from you and when you do try and speak, you will be told to "shut up" - other than have you obeyed him TOTALLY and 100% PERFECTLY? If you have not - then you are condemned. (Romans 3:19 - "so that every mouth may be closed").

3. A Husband who will only speak to you to tell you that you are a sinner and you have fallen short. Again and again for all time. He will never commend you for a small act of "righteousness" - rather he will condemn you that your "righteousness" is putrid to him. Or rather is like a dirty sanitary cloth to him. (Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 64:6).

4. A Husband who does not require you to have any faith whatsoever and offers no promises to you. Only when you keep that requirement of having no faith - he will again condemn you and find fault with you for that. (Romans 4:14 and Hebrews 11:6)

5. A Husband who will delight in telling you that his only mission in your life is to bring about wrath - but will emotionally taunt you that if he were not around there would be no pointing out of the wrong in your life. (Romans 4:15).

6. A Husband will tell you that you will never be free from him until he dies (and he will never die) but if he did die (and be assured - he never will) then your faults would not be held to your account and you would be truly free. (Romans 5:13 and Romans 7:2).

7. A Husband who simply makes it his life's ambition again and again to point out every area of fault in your life and drives you into such a frenzy of frustration and despair and exhaustion that you end up cheating on him and finding your behaviour is getting worse and worse. And your husband will find out and punish you for those acts of defiance also. (Romans 5:20).

8. A Husband who will face you when you are guilt-ridden after a sin such as lying or pride and will tell you you may as well commit murder or adultery or lust as well - seeing as you have failed totally his requirements of you. And he will even sketch out a graphic description of how good those said sins may feel. But then if you do do them will point out your failures again. (Romans 7:5)

9. A Husband who is irritatingly perfect in every way - and never falls or fails. And never fails to point out that fact either. (Romans 7:7 and Romans 7:12).

10. A Husband who will remind you that before you married him, you were a vibrant, alive, free individual. But when your marriage was secured - you died inside and became an emotional ice-cube. (Romans 7:9).

11. A Husband who you know is 100% accurate about your flaws and failings. He never lies but is only truthful. You can't even claim he is unjust. He isn't. (Romans 7:16).

What a man! I don't know about anyone else but if I was married to someone like that I would be seriously considering suicide. This man is an emotional rapist. He will never, ever make you feel good about yourself. So whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy ..... would any Christian want to still have anything to do with this Law?!?! Why?! Are we mad?!?! Especially when you consider how good the alternative is! Rob said;

"When you came to Christ you died to Christ and God cancelled for you the writing of the 10 Commandments. You DIED to the Law! The Law doesn't die - it is still around for the lost! If you are dead to something then you are dead! But you are alive to a different Husband who has sympathy with your infirmities and He mediates a covenant depending on HIS performance! This Husband doesn't point your faults out!

The Gospel isn't a revelation of what's wrong with you but how right you are with the Father in Jesus Christ!!".

Of course as Christians we can choose to stay under Law - but there are consequences. Rob said;

"They will go to heaven but they will never recieve their inheritance. A person under law has an ideal self that they are trying to live upto and fall so short that they feel they deserve the abuse of the law. God will never punish you again because all punishment was poured out on Jesus.

But God cannot allow you to inherit New Covenant life under law. If you commit adultery - stay under grace! God knows how to restore adulterers! He knows how to love adulterers! He wants heart transformation not behaviour modification".

This isn't just theology for me anymore. Another friend of mine has just been diagnosed with HIV. He's only in his mid-20's. And I can't express how it feels to sit across from him and see the pain and the regret in his eyes. The agony as he tries to decide whether to tell anyone. And you know what? I can't recommend any church around here to take him to ... yet. Because he needs signs and wonders and power accompanying the gospel of truth. So I am finding it hard to celebrate so-called unity that is specifically leaving aside "secondary" issues - of which the movement of the Holy Spirit is one. That's not to say my friend doesn't need the gospel which addresses the Cross. He does. But Jesus Christ didn't stop there. He went on.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. To set free those who are oppressed and to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord".

My friend needs a Jesus Christ (and a church) who will do this;

"If Jesus was here today and so many thousands of people had HIV or further advanced AIDS - He wouldn't say; "Your sin got you into this". Jesus would heal them ALL".

Monday, April 20, 2009

Time to Get My Feet WET!!!

I've heard this quote before, but it freshly came alive to me today;

"I'd rather DROWN trying to walk on water than die of BOREDOM sitting in the religious boat!".

Oooh yes!! Yes, yes, YES!! What a way to cure boredom eh!? Start living a life worthy and ready for martyrdom! I must confess I'm so bored at the moment. I'm working and paying my bills. Waiting for the next pay day. As Rob would say; "Eating food, passing it through my body" - but am I making footprints on the sands of history?! I'm not so sure. Time to start stepping out of the religious boat. It's so dull in there anyway! Yes I may have spent 30 years trying to get my doctrine "right".

But God used people like William Branham and Kathryn Kuhlman in mighty, mighty ways and they didn't get it "right" all the time! I love the picture I found of Peter walking on the water. So many pictures all show him sinking. The church loves it when someone tries to walk on water but sinks - like Todd Bentley. But the fact is that he walked on water! And "the others" just stayed in the boat. Time to be "safe"? Or time to walk towards the open hands of Jesus?

Ern Baxter on Righteousness and EXPERIENCE!!

Here's the third video clip that I've got so far. I do apologise for the poor quality - for some reason the DVD wouldn't play on the TV so I had to try it out on my laptop. I think the essence of the message comes across though. Once again Ern is just so naturally funny (unlike other preachers who seem to "try" just a bit too hard) - and it really brings the whole message to life!

But he notes an important lack in charismatic life - that sometimes the essential doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone can get neglected for the enjoyment of experience. Historically the church has indulged in two gross errors. One is to despise the charismatic neglect of such doctrines and revert to a dead, dry formalism where grace is really a misnomer and legalism tends to creep in. The other is to despise the doctrines of grace and enjoy the day to day experience. The truth that Rob Rufus among others are restoring to the church is that these doctrines bring life and freedom and liberty and actually release a greater glory of experience that lasts!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ern Baxter on Romans and Abraham!!

Here is the second video clip I've discovered of Ern addressing the key figure of Abraham. I never really appreciated the role that Abraham played in redemptive history until I saw him through revelation through Rob's ministry earlier in the year. Since then everything just seems to make "sense"! Words like "righteousness" and "faith" have stopped carrying condemning connotations and now carry excitement and vision and hope!

I have been reading "Five Views on Law and Gospel" and found it an interesting read in comparing the different ways that theology views the place of the law. But I found it disappointing to see that one theologian wrote of Abraham;

"Even though he (Abraham) did not receive the Decalogue, he kept the law of God ... It is important to note that the "father of faith" was a law keeper".

It seems to me that the Bible is pretty clear that Abraham walked with God apart from law - hence why he truly is the "father of faith" - (Romans 4:13, 4:16, Galatians 3:17 (law came 430 years after Abraham!), 3:18 and so on)

I love the way Ern deals with Abraham and brings his encounter with God to life - again his preaching style and humour so reminds me of Rob and vice versa!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ern Baxter on Romans and Righteousness!!

I've been thinking quite a bit about this blog and it's direction particularly as the majority of my time is taken up with Rob Rufus's ministry and transcribing his sermons over here. My initial attraction to Rob Rufus's ministry in July 2007 in Brighton was how he reminded me of Ern Baxter. I was thrilled therefore to find that Ern was one of Rob's heroes! And while I've tried to publish and transcribe a lot of Ern's ministry there is still so much more to share and be heard and not be forgotten.

So I have got out a box of Ern's video sessions at the Anglia Bible Week in 1985 (I was merely 8 years old!). He brought a series on the first few chapters of Romans upto chapter 8. A lot of the material is extremely theological and deep but I want to publish video clips that mark and highlight and back up this outstanding message and walk of grace many of us are on.

The first is a clip where Ern is talking about righteousness and it's inevitable triumph. But he begins by speaking about how wrong it is and what a blasphemy to the Cross it is to remain pseudo-humbly thinking of ourselves as "worms" and focusing on our sin. Now I understand the word "righteousness" as "right standing with God", it is possible to hear this clip in a new wonderful light!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Angels Are BORED!!

I absolutely love this video clip - thanks to Patricia King and Bill Johnson:

"It's good to be in awe again" - Bill Johnson.

You Have Heard It Said ...

I was reading Phil Moore's "A Healthy Theology of Healing" in the Newfrontiers Theological Papers section with great interest and I've always struggled with the well-known evangelical phrase; "Already But Not Yet". It's never sat quite comfortably with me because it seems to me that there is a built-in excuse for leaving things we can't manage or like to heaven. Sort of like the word "Continuationist" - which admits yes the gifts of the Spirit may continue but there is no suggestion of an "eagerly desiring" such gifts from a willing Holy Spirit to manifest in the church!

Phil Moore presented a much-better alternative!

"The Kingdom now but not yet ... We can say that there is evidence in the Bible that God may not choose to heal everyone immediately, but this is a long way from saying that sickness is either God’s normal means of sanctification or a
primary means for His glory. Jesus and the apostles talked very frankly and in some detail about the
suffering we must endure as Christians, but not one of them ever talked about the suffering of sickness in this context despite being surrounded daily by crowds of sick people. Importantly, not one of them ever told anyone who came to them for healing that they should go home and continue to glorify God by the faithful way in which they bore their sickness".

But rather;

“A Healthy Theology of Healing: The Kingdom has Already Come and is Ever-Increasing

"Despite the fact that Jesus had given the Twelve “authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness” (Mt 10:1), the combined efforts of nine of them failed to heal a child with epilepsy because the disciples lacked faith in the Father’s willingness (v16-20) and had not pursued the kind of intimacy with the Father which results in effective partnership (v21). We have not placed enough confidence in God’s willingness to heal those around us because we would rather not attribute their continued sickness to our lack of the persistent prayer which characterises true faith".

This is such a challenge and I found it so encouraging. Enough with the excuses! God IS willing to heal! The nuclear power station of the empty Cross and empty Tomb are producing enough power to raise the dead! The question is what my fuse box of faith is upto ...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Try LESS and Do MORE!!

Okay so God can speak through many, many means. Whitney Houston? Maybe. Kylie? Barely acceptable. But Cliff Richard!? That's going too far surely! Alas it happened! I was driving back from Bristol and had taken a box of my old CDs and books that were cluttering Mum and Dad's. And I found "Cliff Richard - the Event!" - a concert that he did at Wembley Stadium in 1989. I brought it because back then Cliff Richard was the only acceptable pop music barely allowed in Dunstable! So I was listening to it in the car and remembering happy memories and this song; "Fighter/Thief in the Night" came on.

It was these lines that stayed with me;

"How can we fail to get excited,
The battle is ours, why don't we fight it ...
So we will sing songs of victory
We will rise and set men free
We will applaud your majesty
We will proclaim your kingdom come
We will announce the battle done".

Sadly my first thoughts were legalistically-driven. Yes! How can we fail!? What's wrong with us!? What strategies can we employ to have more success? Should we start behaving like the world? Should we start using swear words in church from the stage? Should we open pubs in church? Should we .... And then the still, quiet voice of God - my Father - began to speak;

"Oh son, when will you realise that the less you do and the less you try, the more you will accomplish and the better you will be? I love your efforts. I love your passion and your desires but they are so unnecessary. When will you let Me impress you? When these truths start to really strike home then you will do less and accomplish more! Do you think that I need you to accomplish My purposes in the earth? The issue isn't that I "need" you but that it's My joy and My pleasure and My delight to use you to My glory!

It is a demonic lie that you only get results if you put in the effort. That's a worldy, anti-Christ way of thinking. Why do you think your efforts should get the glory in My economy? No - I want and will have a people that are driven and are prepared to die for a vision that demands nothing of them other than believe that it is My pleasure and My delight and My thrill and My joy to bless.

Your efforts and your attempts will not fire you to walk to a martyr's grave. Only a heart that has fallen so deeply in love with Me and My love for you will do that. Once you touch and taste My love, once you feel My intimacy for you flooding your soul, once you hear Me rejoicing over you with singing - just one look from your eyes! Then you will walk proudly to die for Me and receive a standing ovation in heaven.

The war is over. The battle's won. My Kingdom has come! What do you think your efforts will achieve that Mine cannot?! So My precious, beloved son. Try less. And you will see - you will do so much more!".

I've sat on this word for almost a week because it just didn't feel "right" until I realised it was my 30 years of tradition that were objecting! I recalled two occasions in the last few years when two of my heroes in the faith have also mentioned this theme of "less effort - more success" or "dialling down in the flesh". The first was Rob Rufus at the "Glory and Grace Conference" when he was talking about raising the dead. He shared his conviction that to raise the dead we are going to have to dial down on our flesh hugely. The second was the last time David Holden spoke at "Together on a Mission" in 2006 and he also talked about the need to "dial down" on the flesh and as a result see the work and movement and manifestation of the Spirit "dialled-up".

So am I trying to sneakily make excuses for Christians to become more passive?! NO! What a ghastly thought! I'm sensing and exploring the passion of the Father to motivate us to more action, greater exploits of faith, bolder deeds but from a perspective of passionate love and devotion rather than our own earthly energies - so that ultimately He and He alone will take all the glory and we will get none.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The "Goosebump" Factor

Have you ever noticed how with worship songs particularly you can sing some and feel nothing yet sing others and have your hair stand on end and tears fill your eyes or other assorted manifestations?  This can happen when you are at home listening to particular worship CD's or MP3's - it can happen if you are watching worship DVDS.  But it can also happen when you are in different churches.  You can go to some churches and be there for years but only once or twice experience - what Ern Baxter called - "the Goosebump Factor".

Stanley Jebb once called it the "Deep Bass Note of Worship" - many, many years ago in Dunstable.  There are of course many other ways to describe it and many attempts to explain it.  But the clearest example for me was yesterday (I'm still in Bristol) when I was showing my dad my discover on You-Tube of the wonderful Grapevine worship videos.  I was explaining how the video I posted yesterday along with my miracle moved me to tears.  I played him Chris Bowater's leading of "The Power of the Cross" - and we both agreed it had the "Goosebump Factor".  Here it is;

But out of interest my dad found and played Keith & Kristyn Getty's version of "The Power of the Cross".  And neither of us felt anything.  No goosebumps.  No hair standing on end.  No tears.  Nothing.  What does this prove or suggest about worship songs and the manifest Presence of God hovering and touching those individual worship songs?

Well if Jonathan Edward's is to be believed - it neither disproves or proves the Presence of God.  It can mean that the manifest Presence of God was touching those songs powerfully from Grapevine and not the more professional rendition of the Getty's.  But it can just be a psychological reaction to videos that we liked and those we didn't!  Just as I could have spent 2 years in a church and felt nothing of the Presence of God apart from once or twice purely because of my bad attitudes.  But on the other hand it could have meant that church wasn't open to or welcoming of the manifest Presence and power of God.  Ern Baxter used to say that Beethoven or Mozart can achieve the same results as powerful worship songs!

So what you may say?  Well it's just an observation that occured to me as I was thinking about driving back up to Birmingham and home!  But it made me grateful that God has built "Goosebump Factors" into us.  We are not just brains and intellect that must focus on theology and doctrine.  He has given us in His divine sovereignity emotions and feelings (or affections) that are meant to and designed to react and respond to His awesome Presence when it falls on a person or a movement or a nation.  May it be so soon in the United Kingdom again as You have promised!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I was going to wait before posting this - but I can't keep it in any LONGER!!


I had an absolute miracle happen to me two days ago. I was driving home blearily from work and Scott rang up - which I thought was rather unusual. Fearing it was an emergency I answered and he told me he had been on the internet bank borrowing some money from me. And a rather large payment of money had gone into my account from the Children's Hospital - and he thought he ought to warn me! I wasn't expecting one as I haven't been able to work for them for almost four months due to my community nursing commitments. I initally feared that it was another error of overpayment which I would have to pay back.

But then my payslip arrived and it turns out it was a tax rebate! I've never had a rebate before and certainly never one so large. The funny thing is that I've had some quite large outgoings in the last few months and I have been worrying about it. This payment more than covers all my outgoings and then some!! I've had the whole area of finances on my mind - especially with Rob Rufus's transforming teaching - but now it is actually coming true! A gift from my glorious, wonderful heavenly Father!!

And the most exciting thing is that I've been planning with Him how to invest it in His Kingdom and asking His thoughts on where He wants it going. He gave it and it's all His anyway!! I've always feared that I have the potential to be selfish which is why I suspected that God's never allowed me to have money! But when it's actually there - wow the thrill of investing into His Kingdom and His mission! Where on earth is the fun of spending it on myself when that gift can go to China or to London?!

What can I say? Every time I think about what a complete God-send it is, what an extravagant gift of love from my wonderful Saviour - my tears start flowing (call me a wuss - I don't care!) and I am just lost for words. This wonderful beautiful song from Grapevine (an awesome Bible Week in the United Kingdom) sums it up ... perfectly;


Resurrection Reflections!!

Well I am down in Bristol again visiting the family and once again find myself alone in the house preparing Easter Sunday dinner while my family are at church. And it's an awesome and glorious time to consider and think and generally get excited about what this day means for us. Surely this day is the most glorious of the entire Christian calendar! Yes of course Christmas - His incarnation. Pentecost - wow! Fireworks! Good Friday? Well it had to happen for Easter Sunday to come. Jesus Christ had to go through Calvary "for the joy set before Him". I know a favourite song with my family and SGM-sort of people is "The Wonderful Cross". Odds are they will sing it today.

But there's nothing actually wonderful about the Cross is there? Did Jesus call what He was about to face "wonderful" in the Garden? Would the millions who died throughout history call it "wonderful"? Here's some cold, hard details about crucifixion:

"Crucifixion was ... usually to provide a death that was particularly slow, painful, gruesome and public ... Death could result from any combination of causes, including blood loss, hypovolemic shock, or sepsis following infection, caused by the scourging that preceded the crucifixion, or by the process of being nailed itself, or eventual dehydration.

In Roman-style crucifixion, the condemned took days to die slowly from suffocation — caused by the condemned's blood-supply slowly draining away to a quantity insufficient to supply the required oxygen to vital organs. The dead body was left up for vultures and other birds to consume. The goal of Roman crucifixion was not just to kill the criminal, but also to mutilate and dishonour the body of the condemned. In ancient tradition, an honourable death required burial; leaving a body on the cross, so as to mutilate it and prevent its burial, was a grave dishonour".

What IS wonderful is that the Son of God was willing to go through that physical ordeal (and the agony of the spiritual suffering He went through can't even be imagined - one shortfall to the "Passion of the Christ") so that His righteousness and His obedience might be imputed to me! What IS wonderful is not that He died. Because virtually everyone who hung on Cross's died (apparantly one survived according to Josephus). His human body was nailed to the Cross in the same processes that the Romans used for all. He even had a spear thrust through His side. What IS wonderful is that He ROSE AGAIN from the dead on the Third Day! Oh He definately died! But He rose again!

And 1 Corinthians 15 is so clear;

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins ... But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep".

Essentially if in our view Christ is still hanging on a Cross then we are still in our sins experientially. If we need actual wooden crosses at the front of our churches then surely something's a bit wrong. The true Gospel-centred life takes the whole picture. That He was indeed incarnate and came to earth and had His divinity veiled in His humanity, fully God and fully Man. Yet He chose to walk to Calvary and endure the horrors of the Cross. (Maybe that's a better title for that song; "The Awful Cross" or the "Horrid Cross"). But glory of glories! He rose again! He triumphed over death, principalities and powers and DISARMED them!

How did He disarm them? What did He actually do to emasculate the powers of darkness and take away their best weapon? Hell's best secret and best tactic?

" ... having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him".

The law was hostile to us but now it is cancelled! He has "taken it out of the way!". I am in the middle of two transcribing project sermons (Ern Baxter and Rob Rufus) and there's a remarkable parallel between the two. Once again both so remind me of the other! There are ways and means of living under law. Ern Baxter speaking on the "Brazen Altar" said this commenting on Hebrews 10:1-2;

"The whole legal dispensation was INADEQUATE. You must understand that! The whole legal dispensation was a picture of the perfect that was to come. With Christ the perfect has come! Now if one sacrifice had perfected you forever then why would you keep bringing the sacrifices? But they did and they had to".

That really got me thinking. The Old Covenant sacrifices "can ... never ... make perfect those who draw near". Never! So they continually had to be offered! But Ern Baxter goes on;

"Why put people back under something they can't handle? God never did have pleasure in the offerings of bulls and goats! That was a lesser thing! His heart was never there! His heart was always with Christ as the Lamb of God! Now if He has taken away the first (law) then we are we forever trying to re-establish the first? Look at the first and understand the first but understand that first is a picture of the second and the SECOND is the permament one! Christ has come!

The Lamb has been slain ONCE and for ALL! He is on the Throne NEVER to be removed! Ultimacy has arrived and you and I have plugged into it and we have eternal life and we shall never perish! We have been made perfect by the ONE sacrifice of the ONE Lamb FOREVER!".

So if that's the case then why are we wasting time mixing Old Covenant law with New Covenant grace? And why do we imagine that our confessing sins can somehow make God right with us when He is right with us already because of something that happened 2000 years ago? And why are we wasting time in accountability groups talking about sin - something that God declared;

"And their sins and lawless deeds ... I .... WILL ... REMEMBER ... NO .... MORE!".

Now that's a glorious Gospel message this morning! This Jesus we are remembering this morning ISN'T hanging broken on a Cross anymore! He is very much alive and pouring out His love and passion on His children - and that love is expressed how? By declaring that He will nto remember our sins and lawless deeds anymore! He's ALIVE!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Think You are a "Grace" Christian, Church, Movement??!

Here's a litmus test ...

"We that receive the message of grace love to believe we are not self-righteous in any area. "Praise God I go to a grace church and I believe I am the righteousness of God that is in Christ Jesus! There is NO self-righteousness in me! No filthy menstrual cloths over my head!". Oh yere? You want to look me in the eye and tell me there is NO area in your life that you are not self-righteous in? Come on. Anyone want to do that today? Let's find out who has got self-righteous areas in our lives. I believe deeply at many levels that I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus even when I have messed up and made a mistake - I am still the righteousness of God. It is a permament standing in Christ. Do I have any self-righteous areas in my life? Unfortunately - yes. Where? Not telling you!

Here is the litmus test - this is how you know which area you have self-righteousness in. Any area in your life where you have worry, anxiety frequently - that is an area where you are living in self-righteousness. Let me say that again. The pagans and heathens - most of these precious Hong Kong and expat people - 99% of people in this city take thought and worry. How do you know that someone is a heathen and self-righteous? Worry. Anxiety. What shall we wear? What's my image? How will I pay the bills? He said; "Take no thought!".

Any area you have anxiety or worry in - you are being self-righteous because in that area you do not believe you are the righteousness of God. Those who believe I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus have such a secure self-image and a trust in this Good Shepherd that they are not going to worry about going down".

Now lest anyone is getting twitchy and thinking Rob is being condemning - he isn't! I cannot recommend this sermon highly enough to you - "The Good Shepherd". Read it or listen to it - I don't care which. But I sat there at work last night typing with tears pouring down my face. Because it's just .... so .... easy! We are sheep! And we can put every ounce of all our trust in the Good Shepherd for EVERY area of our lives! My big problem is money, finances and debt. I was stupid with money in the past and am paying the price for it now - big time. And I frequently worry now that I am going to make it to the end of the month and pay day. And in our flat the 3 of us frequently joke that if we won the Lottery all our worries would be over.

Rubbish. Our worries will only be over when I get this revelation into my head.

But THIS Good Shepherd leads me beside restful waters, and takes me to fresh, new, green anointing, and leads me in paths of ever-unveiling revelation of His gift of righteousness to me and restores my soul - and all this for HIS glory! What rest! What peace! He even commented on the all-too frequent striving after "holiness" and "righteousness" that so much of the Church indulge in - involving them in getting up at stupid times in the morning, going without food for stupid amounts of the day, feeling bad and guilty for stupid lengths of time - all to no avail;

"The new anointing of the New Covenant is different to the old anointing of the Old Covenant. The old anointing reminds you of your sins. The New Covenant reminds you that you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus! The Old Covenant anointing reminds you of everything that is wrong with you. The New Covenant anointing reminds you of how perfectly right you are with God all the time because it is in Christ Jesus! The Old Covenant says "I will not remove the iniquity of the guilty" and imputes your sin to you. The New Covenant does not ever impute your sin to you but it is declared; "Your sins He will never remember!".

He leads me in pathways of ever increasing revelation that I have the righteousness of God as a free gift! For Romans 9 and 10:1-4 says Israel sought after righteousness according to the principle of the law and never gained righteousness. The Gentiles who did not seek righteousness obtained righteousness and then in Romans 10:2-3 says that Israel was zealous but their zeal was without knowledge and they did not submit to the gift of God's righteousness but sought to establish their own righteousness but those who look to Him will never be put to shame! WE have the righteousness of God and this Good Shepherd will keep leading you in that pathway of understanding the righteousness of God!".