Monday, September 28, 2009

An Endorsement from Joshua Mills!!

I've been mentioning Ryan Rufus's latest book "Sanctification by Grace" recently - and loving posting them out to people. I can't emphasise how much this book is working in my life and tearing down strongholds of legalism that have locked me in condemnation and in fear for so long. So it's always a thrill to find out what other people think about the book.

Ryan sent me a few reviews done by some other people. One is by the well-known and very awesome Joshua Mills of New Wine Ministries. Joshua was a guest speaker at the latest "Glory and Grace Conference" in Hong Kong. While he was speaking he stopped and gave a very specific address - which turned out to be that of Fini and Isi de Gersigny, who he had never met before. He went on to bring them a very encouraging prophecy.

Here's what he says;

Ryan Rufus is a champion in the kingdom of God. His revelation and ministry of grace is setting the captives free, healing broken lives and releasing joy in the goodness of God’s glory. Through Ryan’s teachings you will be challenged and empowered to accomplish all that God has called you to be!”

Here's a few other reviews of what people thought of this incredible book of Ryan's;

"I had some fantastic feedback from folk in our church who read your book. I’m looking forward to reading it myself ... … I read your book yesterday - a masterpiece! Well done!! By far the best book I have ever read on the subject. I would highly recommend this book as compulsory reading for anyone serious about understanding how to work out their salvation"

Steve Wheeler
Lead elder.
Highway Christian Community, Natal, South Africa.

"There has been a lot of misunderstanding in the body of Christ over the years concerning this topic. It's so refreshing to read a book that focuses on Gods role in sanctification, rather than my performance or efforts at holiness. Seeing God's involvement in our lives will cause us to run to God and embrace His work in and through us. Ryan helped me fall in love with Sanctification, rather than be afraid or intimidated by it. I love being sanctified!"

Wayne Duncan
Lead elder
Coastlands Christian Church, Port Edward, South Africa

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Love the Church: Lyrics of love" - Dave Bish

Following on from yesterday's Spurgeon sermon, I was thrilled to hear from Dave Bish - the well-known Bluefish blogger. He and I have shared thoughts on the Song of Solomon for some time now and he's encouraged me many times on his insights on this beautiful book of the Bible.

Dave spoke on the Song of Songs to his UCCF team recently. Here is the link to the notes from the session:

"Love the Church - Lyrics of Love".

Dave accurately sums up the two positions on how to view the Song;

"There are two broad camps of understanding about The Song. Those who say it is about marriage – as it appears at first reading, and those who say it is about Christ and the church, as I’m going to argue. Of course it is both, but which we give priority really effects how we proceed".

That last point is key to my whole understand of this book. I don't have a problem with married couples reading and learning from the love expressed in the Song of Solomon. What a better model to follow? But I do believe that if Christ and His church is isolated from this book (as per Driscoll/Mahaney etc) then a substandard love will result both for Christ in worship and indeed in marriage. As Dave says - what we give priority to will effect how we proceed.

Dave responds to Mark Driscoll's "icky" dislike of seeing corporate love in the Book by reminding us:

"Driscoll’s key argument is that it’s just too icky if this is about “Jesus and me”, I agree but whilst its true that Jesus gave himself up in love for me, we also know “Jesus gave himself up for the church” – and that a corporate reading is more the norm in Scripture. The bride is not individual believers but the church as a whole. Us not me, our husband not my husband".

He then splits the Song of Solomon up very helpfully by "tracks" of lyrics;

Track 1 (1:1-2:7) - Delights.

Track 2 (2:8-3:5) – Desire.

Track 3 (3:6-5:1) – Wedding.

"I find myself thinking – if he loves the church like this I want to know that love, to be found in the church and feel this love by the Spirit. To know his love as Ruth experiences the LORD’s love through Boaz. That means being found among God’s people not being alone. I am not his bride, the church is – it is the church whom he loves like this".

Track 4. The fourth song (5:2-6:1) – Loss

Track 5 (6:2-8:4) – Grace

Track 6. (8:5-8:14)- Home

Dave concludes wonderfully;

"This brief overview is designed not entirely to convince you to read the Song as about Christ and the church but to tug on your heart to love the bigger story of Christ and the church. To want to be found in her to know his love for her, and to grow with the church to love him as she does".

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Spurgeon Sermon on the Song of Solomon

Many know by now that the Song of Solomon is become an "issue" to me. The modern teaching popularised by Mark Driscoll or C J Mahaney has bothered me, and I've made no secret of that. But I was challenged recently that it's no good being "anti" everything without examining what I DO believe. So I am writing my own commentary of sorts on the Song of Songs - and reading everything I can lay my hands on.

C H Spurgeon preached a great number of amazing sermons on the Song of Solomon but this one in particular caught my eye. It wasn't just the way he touched on this wonderful book but it was his teaching on the Presence and glory of God that thrilled me. C H Spurgeon is popular among evangelicals - mainly for his gospel-centred preaching. Maybe this one was overlooked.

Text: Song of Solomon 3:4-5 -

"It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please."

Brethren, if a church be without the Spirit of God in it, it may have a name to live, but it is dead, and, you know, that after death there follows corruption, corruption which breeds foulness and disease. Hence, those churches which have turned aside unto error, have not only lost all power to do good, but they have become obnoxious and the causes of great evil in the midst of the world.

Let the Spirit of God be in the church, then there is power given to all her ministries; whether they be ministries of public testimony in the preaching of the word, or ministries of holy love amongst the brethren, or ministries of individual earnestness to the outside world, they will all be clothed with energy, in the fullness of the power of the Lord Jesus. Then her ordinances become truly profitable, then baptism is burial with the Lord, and the sacred supper is a feast of love; then the communion of the brethren in their solemn prayer and praise becomes deep and joyful, and their whole life and walk are bright with the glow of heaven.

In the presence of the Lord the graces of the saints are developed; the church grows rich in all spiritual gifts; her warfare becomes victorious, and her continual worship sweet as the incense of the golden censor.

I. And first, we learn from the text that before ever we can bring the Well-Beloved into our mother's house, the church, WE MUST FIND HIM PERSONALLY FOR OURSELVES.

I am not now about to speak of the need of conversion; we all know that no spiritual act can be performed until we become spiritual men; but I am now speaking about something higher than bare conversion. If we would bless the church, we must ourselves occupy a higher platform than that of being merely saved; we must be believers, walking in fellowship with Christ, and having, in that respect, found him whom our soul loveth.

There are many believers who have only just enough grace to enable us to hope that they are alive; they have no strength with which to work for God's cause, they have not an arm to lend to the help of others, neither can they even see that which would comfort others, for they are blind, and cannot see afar off, they want all their sight, and all their strength, for themselves. Those who are to bring the Well-Beloved into our mother's house, must be of another kind. They must get beyond the feebleness which is full of doubting and fearing, into the assurance which grasps the Savior, and the fellowship which lives in daily communion with him.

Pray ye for Laodicea in her lukewarmness, and Sardis in her spiritual death; but you will only prevail in proportion as your inmost soul loves the Redeemer and abides in his love.

In seeking our Lord we must use all ministries. The spouse enquired of the watchmen. We are not to despise God's servants, for he is usually pleased to bless us through them, and it would be ungrateful both to him and to them to pass them by as useless.

But, while we use the ministries, we must go beyond them. The spouse did not find her Lord through the watchmen.

But she says, "it was but a little that I passed from them, that I found him whom my soul loveth." I charge you, my dear hearers, never rest content with listening to me. Do not imagine that hearing the truth preached simply and earnestly will of itself be a blessing to your souls. Far, far beyond the servant, pass to the Master.

Oh, for more Enochs, men who walk with God, whose habitual spirit is that of close communion with Jesus, meditating upon him, yea, more than that, sympathizing with him, drinking into his spirit, changed into his likeness, living over again his life, because he is in them the monarch of their souls. O that we had a chosen band of elect spirits of this race, for surely the whole church would be revived through their influence.

II. This brings us to the second point of the subject. If we would be a blessing to the church, and have already found Christ, WE MUST TAKE CARE TO RETAIN HIM.

To come to Christ, and to sit down at his feet, is a simple thing enough for believers, and many of us have attained to it; but to sit day after day at the Master's feet is quite another matter. Oh, could I always be as I sometimes am! Could I not only rise above but remain there! But, alas, our spiritual nature is too much like this weather—it is balmy to-day; one would think that spring or summer had come; but, perhaps, to-night we may be chilled with frost and tomorrow drenched with rain. Ah, how fickle are our spirits. We are walking with Christ, rejoicing, leaping for joy; and anon the cold frosts of worldliness come over us, and we depart from him.

Mark, that according to the text, it is very apparent that Jesus will go away if he is not held. "I held him and I would not let him go;" as if he would have gone if he had not been firmly retained.

But note, next, he is very willing to be held. Who could hold him if he were not? He is the omnipotent Savior, and if he willed to withdraw he could do so: let us hold him as we might. But, mark his condescension. When his spouse said, "I held him, and I would not let him go," he did not go, he could not go, for his love held him as well as her hands. Christ is willing to be held.

He loves that sacred violence which takes him by force, that holy diligence which leaves not a gap open by which he may escape, but shuts every door, bars every bolt, and saith, "I have thee now and I will take care that if I lose thee it shall be through no fault of mine." Jesus is willing enough to be retained by hearts which are full of his love.

III. It appears from the text that, after the spouse had thus found Christ for herself and held him, SHE BROUGHT HIM INTO THE CHURCH—"I brought him to my mother's house."

IV. This leads me to the last point, which is this, to CHARGE THE CHURCH THAT SHE BE CAREFUL NOT TO DISTURB THE LORD'S REPOSE, if we have been enabled by divine grace to bring the Lord into the chambers of our mother's house.

May you stand as a sparkling pile of precious gems, inhabited by the eternal Spirit, to the praise and the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the Beloved. Amen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

True Godly Greatness!

A quote from Rob Rufus's new book "Invading the Impossible";

"We were never called to be mediocre. We were called to be great men and women of God! The Bible does not call great - "perfect". The Bible reveals great men and women whose imperfections and failures were clearly recorded. I sometimes think "God aren't You ashamed of the things we do?". No! God does not call greatness, "perfection". Men and women's imperfections are recorded but instead of disqualifying them, it instead reveals God's greatness and perfection through them.

Don't measure your greatness by people's responses to you. Some people are so preoccupied with smallness that they cannot even see you are on a journey to greatness. All they see is your history because they are over familiar with you. You have heard God tell you about your greatness! If you haven't, it isn't because He hasn't spoken, because He is speaking to every believer about "greatness" and every - includes YOU!".

Let's do something "great" (as God understands it) today!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Box FULL of Glory!!

It was a thrill to come home from work today and find the postman had delivered a box full of Rob Rufus's latest book; "Invading the Impossible!" - direct from Hong Kong!

As with Ryan's two books - if you live in the United Kingdom and would like to get hold of one of these three awesome books then please do drop me an email and I would be thrilled to ship one or any of them to you.

The "Invading the Impossible" series was a particularly significant and life-changing series for me. Rob preached it in the early part of 2008 at City Church International and it was put into book format. Rob Rufus deals with these issues in this book:

1. Enjoying the Benefits of the Resurrection Power of Jesus.

2. The Designer's Original.

3. The Revolution has Begun - Overthrowing the Spirit of Control!

4. Lifting the Limitations - a Mirror Mentality vs a Window View.

5. No Regrets!

6. Dealing with Disappointment.

7. Authority to Invade.

8. Invading by Reigning.

9. Let God Impress You - (a powerful prophecy to Rob).

I can't urge you enough! Read this book! Listen to the sermon series! It is dangerous!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The ULTIMATE Church Discipline

It's about time to lay another one to rest. It is my conviction that the ultimate church discipline wielded by church leaders is taken from 1 Corinthians where Paul says;

" ... hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord".

Do I think that the church is more in danger of license and immoral behaviour or do I think the church is more in danger of legalistic overuse of verses like this to control God's people? Let Rob Rufus answer that one - he was speaking at the "Increasing Glory" conference in South Africa;

"But if the first question elders ask after getting the message of grace is; “What leverage have we got now if this is true?” – it shows how that they have been seduced by a spirit of witchcraft and are thinking themselves as moral policeman and are making the people behave with threats of withdrawal of favours, of ignoring them".

That to me is the litmus test. If church leaders hear the message of grace and their first question is this - then the problem is clear. And one piece of leverage that must be removed is the threat of handing "church members over to Satan". I have experienced it myself - and it is the most devastating thing that can ever be spoken to anyone. So what does it actually mean?

Well I am indebted to City Church International for taking the time to answer questions such as this. Here's what Rob and Ryan Rufus had to write about this Scripture and it's implications:

"Handing someone over to Satan - 1 Cor 5:

Handing a brother over to Satan is actually a very encouraging scripture, because it shows that even this brother who was involved in a terrible sin was born again and once his flesh was destroyed (once he dies) he will then go on to be with the Lord as any born again person does!

I don't believe it means Satan plays a part in getting the guy saved. What kind of gospel would that be? There's no precedent for that in scripture. I believe it means the guy is already saved. I think handing him over to Satan means just withdrawing any prayer support and covering over him. Basically giving up on him!

I really don't think we should practice this kind of thing to hastily as there's not enough scripture to build a strong enough case for us to do this and it's really not written to us but for a specific situation and I believe is the only reference to this kind of thing.

Any way later on we see that this guy repents and Paul says they should embrace him again. We really don't know what exactly happened to this guy to make him repent. We can speculate but the details are so vague and it would be very dangerous to try and build and promote a formula out of this situation.

Churches that are quick to try and practice these sorts of things will end up treating people with a judgmental pharisaical spirit. We need to be very wise about how we treat people. And slow to judge. Are they struggling with a sin or are they overtaken in a sin and influencing others to partake in it and teaching that actually there's nothing wrong with it?

So many people are quick to associate someone with the people that Jude talks about. To make anyone equal to the people Jude talks about is a very very serious accusation. Those people Jude talks of are very evil! I don't know many people if any like them. Most times when Paul, or Peter or even Jesus seem to come across harsh to people I don't believe they are attacking brothers and sisters and being ungracious, but are attacking a spirit- a religious spirit and a spirit that opposes faith in Jesus and anything that mixes the gospel with other things.

Handing someone over to Satan? I can't say I've personally done it or know anyone who has! Not sure if I would ever do it. Not sure if I'd even build a theology around it. Why? Because it seems like such an extreme thing to do and yet the scriptures don't give us a clear method or definition or urging to do it. To start developing a church discipline method for doing this could get you into some dangerous territory.

We need to be very careful with Corinthian scriptures as they are written to a specific people for a specific time that we don't totally understand. Some of it we can learn from but some of it is not for us. It was written for us but not to us.

1 Corinthians 5 about handing someone over to Satan is a very serious thing that we just don't have enough scripture to build a solid doctrine on. To form a practice or a standard for Church on this one scripture I believe is dangerous and will just end up in lots of judging going on in the church. Where do we draw the line between one persons sin and another’s? All sin is bad so why don't we just hand everyone over to Satan who just commits one sin?

I believe Paul warned them possibly, to not eat with 'such' people, because they were so weak and struggling with sin and would be so easily influenced. Like an alcoholic - I would suggest that they never go to bars even if they were going to drink a coke! It would be bad for them. Also they are obviously people who have come under deception and now just living in sin. They're not pursuing the gospel anymore and it's not helpful to hang around those people, but we mustn't write them off with pious self righteous judgment. Even handing them over to Satan seemed like a drastic but loving act towards them.

If our interpretation of scripture causes us to become self righteous and judgmental it usually means we are misinterpreting it and are putting law back into it. There should be such a liberating sense of grace about the scriptures that empowers people into freedom and cause people to get their eyes off themselves an onto Jesus and to put their faith and hope in Jesus not themselves".

To summarise - is it right to build a church discipline on one verse? Can we argue from context that this action was only applied (not even by Paul - but from the Corinthian church) in a situation where the sinner was unrepentant and influencing others? If even the apostle Paul gave this advice in a "last resort" situation then what business does a church pastor/elders have doing this quickly, judgementally and angrily? Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A "Panic Button" on Sin?!?!

I'm down in Bristol this weekend visiting the family and as is usual for a Sunday morning they are out at church while I do the Sunday roast. I was thinking last night actually I should find a good church to attend nearby because I do miss the chance of being in awesome worship and preaching even on a weekend away. Anyway that's an aside. As usual I have had some excellent conversations with my mum and dad. I love them so much for being prepared to listen to their oldest son's latest theological rantings and ramblings!

We got onto talking about the mutilation of limbs as a possible sin deterrent! Dad and I talked through the implications of taking this verse as seriously as some church pastors seem to have us go and he himself said that it's interesting you don't see many church leaders hobbling around with no legs or no arms or eyeless! What then does this verse mean? We talked through the question is there still a responsibility on us (despite the glory of the Cross) to take some radical action to try and stop sinning.

For example Dad proposed that the prostitute who was dragged to Jesus and touched by His grace would have been so scared by the almost-stoning she received that she would have stopped being a prostitute because of that. I respectfully disagreed. I feel strongly that as a Jewess she would have known that she was under threat of the death penalty daily for her actions. If anything she would have felt that what happened that day could have given her a free pass to carry on sinning. "Anyone without sin throw the first stone, He said! Hands off me! You aren't without sin so I can do what I like!". But I don't believe that from that day on she ever was involved in prostitution again. Why? Because Jesus touched her with grace and said "Go and sin no more".

Was that statement an angry command; "I've saved your ass this time - don't do it again you slutty woman?". Not at all. I believe that in that statement there was an empowerment from on high conducting the awesome radically life-transforming glory of grace to her. Once you have seen the tender, loving, intimate eyes of Jesus Christ and heard Him say to you; "Sin no more". Then you won't want to sin! It will be the furthest thing from your mind! Surely that account in the New Testament is the embodiment of "Walk in the Spirit and you will NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh".

But that question of my Dad's - "Shouldn't we still be doing something radical ourselves to stop sinning?" stuck with me. And it was brought home this morning because I logged on to check my mails and was informed that I was being watched by something called "Covenant Eyes". Intrigued I investigated further and found out exactly was watching my every move. There was something called a "Panic Button" that I pressed (I've never been able to resist investigating interesting things"). I was informed that unless I cancelled the operation within 10 seconds then all internet activity would be cut off and I would have to ring a US number to get reconnected! I thought it would be quite funny to let that happen but cancelled it anyway.

Clearly "Covenant Eyes" is a spy-ware programme that can be installed to monitor activity and hopefully end looking at inappropriate websites such as pornography. I can't quite figure out though who decides what is "inappropriate" and where the line is drawn. And what is more interesting is the disagreements and comments from mainly men - some who have found this programme helpful to curb their activities - and others who feel it is an intrusion. Here's one comment;

"Covenant Eyes has been so helpful to me. the only ones who do not want it up are those who are enslaved to porn and the devil. Repent from adultery and sex outside of marraige or you will end up in the lake of fire. Turn to jesus for salvation and he will enliven your spirit and cause you to hate the sin you once loved and love the righteousness you once hated. He can do it for you, and programs like covenant eyes can help in your battle against sin".

Sounds pretty similar to this guy who calls Ellen Degeneres a sexual pervert doesn't it?

Another guy I read was vigorously defending this programme and said this;

"I pay for my wife to receive a full report of anything that I see on the internet. Not only does it keep me from visiting trashy sites, it gives her the psychological benefit of knowing that I don't. That is not weird ... I choose to give my wife certain information".

Well - sorry but that does seem a trifle weird to me. This man pays a considerable amount per year to send a report to his wife who lives in the same house - why can't he simply tell her verbally? "I choose to give my wife certain information". Why doesn't he "choose" to simply show her the "history" page? And I know - "history" pages can be wiped. But if he can "choose" to send this report whether he likes it or not then why can't he make the choice to not wipe the history or make the choice to tell her what he has done? I think this man doesn't want to stop looking at pornography and the only way he can make this "choice" is to remove the choice of telling her or not.

So what do I think? Am I saying pornography is okay? No - of course I am not. I spent most of my university years bound up with it. What I am thinking through is whether "Covenant Eyes" is really the best way to go about dealing radically with this form of sinful activity. Having spent four years having a love-hate relationship with pornography - AND having tried every form of radical activity I could think of, I think that;

"Covenant Eyes" is only as good as your desire NOT to look at pornography and the support of the appointed "accountability partner".

If you have any internet experience at all then it won't be hard to skip round some of the filters set up or even disable it. A simple "Google" search showed that some people have already developed downloadable programmes that can wipe any such spy-ware programme off their computers without the "accountability partner" even knowing it.

Or even if pornography on the internet is taken away from the person through this "programme" - then there are still the age-old magazines that can be brought or the X-rated telephone calls that can be made. Or even the clothing catalogues that so many teenage boys resort to. There will always be the temptation of pornography with us. Do I applaud the desire to stop that? Yes. Do I think there's a much cheaper and more effective way to do it? YES!

It doesn't say "you may not" or "you will find it easier not to". It says "YOU WILL NOT". Enoch is one of my favourite Bible characters mainly because he demonstrates "walking with God". And suddenly he walked with God and he "was not". Would anyone think he was tempted to lust or use pornography? I highly doubt it - there's not a hope if you are walking with God constantly. Let me say again - I applaud the battle against sinful practices. I really do. But there is a BETTER way!

Stop writing books on lust Joshua Harris. Start preaching on "how to walk in the Spirit". Start demonstrating a life of walking in God encounters and in the Spirit. It's far more than simply "tongues and prophecy" as sadly so many so-called "charismatic" churches have reduced it to. It's all about the Presence and the glory of God! When the Presence and glory of God falls upon you as a person - sin is the furthest thing from your mind. I know something about that too. Not enough sadly - which is why I still sin. But I've tasted it in Hong Kong and other times in my life!

Learn how to walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Sorry. But that's Scripture - the Word of God. And it's that simple. And it's that easy! So let's get learning what it is to walk in the Spirit and how to do it - and all these books, CD's and computer programmes will be redundant!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Casting Stones With Sin

I logged onto Facebook this morning and happened to glance at some vaguely interesting news that apparantly Ellen Degeneres was a guest judge on American Idol. I love Simon Cowell but that news didn't really bother me. It was a comment below that did and went something like this;

"Ellen DeGeneres is a SEXUAL PERVERT".

The individual went on to comment on how her surname seemed appropriate because she is indeed "degenerate". To be fair the person did finish by saying; "Having said that there for the grace of God go I". Well I found that the only amusing thing in the comment. The person leaving the comment was male. So it truly would be unfortunate if he became a lesbian and must, I guess, be attributed to God's grace that he does not.

A few caveats. I don't know this person (and don't have much of a desire to). This person (I am guessing) is probably a Christian but I don't know that. I am guessing that this comment is aimed at DeGeneres' sexual orientation but I don't know that.

But as you may guess by now - this comment upset me. To put it mildly. Once again the Christians are putting sexual orientation on a pedestal and seeing it as "the" worst sin. If this individual leaving this comment is a man then I would hazard a guess at some point he has lusted after a woman who is not his wife (or a man maybe ....). Therefore if we are consistent with the teaching of Jesus, he has committed adultery in his heart and certainly should be considering dealing with his sin by plucking his eyes out.

So why he is really any better than DeGeneres'? Why are any of us better than DeGeneres'? Why does her sexuality in this person's view disqualify her from a secular TV show? I would hazard a guess that the other American Idol judges just may partake in sexual practices that probably also would qualify as "perverted" or "deviant" in his eyes - such as sex outside of marriage? Or is it really homosexuality that fits the criteria?

I love Jesus Christ so much.

When a prostitute was dragged to Jesus to be condemned (and I wonder if this person would be included in that crowd doing the dragging) His response was classic. He did not defend the woman's sin. He did not throw a stone and sign her death warrant (as the Law demanded). He started simply writing in the sand and when He did finally say something, it was this;

"He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

C H Spurgeon in a wonderful sermon on the Song of Solomon said this;

"The peril of self complacency increases in precisely the same ratio as the zeal of proselytising. When counselling others, you think yourself wise. When warning others, you feel yourself safe. When judging others, you suppose yourself above suspicion".

Ellen DeGeneres may indeed be "dead in her trespasses and sin" - but a comment like this really isn't going to make her wonder about her need for a gospel of grace. It's high time we all started listening to the words of Jesus Christ and dropping our stones where we found them and going home.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Ending It All?

  • More males than females "succeed" at suicide, by a ratio of 4 to 1.

  • Suicide has been reported as the second leading cause of death among teenagers.

  • It appears that about one in three teen aged suicides is by a gay or lesbian.

  • Followers of religions that strongly prohibit suicide, like Christianity and Islam, have a higher suicide rate than those religions which have no strong prohibition.

This blog post has been born out of three different experiences. Firstly my friend Brogan (from South Africa) and I have both been thinking along parallel lines on this. Secondly I was upset to hear of one of the members of City Church International in Hong Kong taking his own life - announced here (he had suffered beyond belief for years). Thirdly;

I had an unusual experience today when I was out running. I'd done a longer run on Friday night and was aching a bit so was finding it quite tough going. I put on my "gym playlist" and suddenly without warning found I was listening to "Heroes" - originally sang by Mariah Carey but this version was sang by the X-Factor finalists of 2008. And I heard this phrase in the song that stuck;

"Hold on until tomorrow - in time you'll find a way".

And I felt a massive emotional stirring for those who have taken their own lives or those who have been so close to taking their own lives. I have never heard suicide be addressed in any other terms but shock, disapproval and downright condemnation. Some Christians even suggest that if you take your own life then you are guilty of murder and may not even go to heaven. This of course is another blatent example of the legalistic wing of the church's ability to categorise and put sin on pedestals.

And the ironic thing is that I suspect that the final thought going through the one taking his/her own life is that they know that the church will tut, shake it's head and disapprove ... again.

So in this post - I want to speak to the potential suicidal. And then to the legalistic church.

1. To the one planning to take their own life.

If you have dealt with suicidal thoughts then you will be extremely sensitive to anyone trying to speak to you. "You don't know what I'm going through" - will probably going through your mind. And you are right. I don't know specifically what you are going through. But I DO know what it is like to carry the weight of considering whether or not to take your own life. I've been thinking about that for a number of years since I lived in Bristol. I still have a packet of pills in my bedroom that I never touch - earmarked for my use should I need it. Can I say I will never take my own life? No, I can't promise that. So please - I do know something of what it is like to consider suicide. BUT! That doesn't stop me trying to think through ways out.

So there is a very simple principle that needs to be totally and utterly demolished. Rob Rufus said this;

"The law addresses your behaviour. Grace addresses your heart. If your effort got you there, then your effort must keep you there. If grace got you there, then grace will keep you there".

There's so much I could say but I know that your time may be limited. I could baffle you with theological arguments and persuasions or even threats but you know them all. What you essentially want to know is surely why you should bother carrying on another day but secondly what will happen if you do pull that trigger, or take those pills or start that car. The question you need answering is why you should bother living another day. The song "Heroes" pleads; "Hold on - there will be tomorrow - in time you will find a way!". But I know you are answering that; "I can't hold on - I can't face tomorrow and I have tried and failed to find a way".

Listen to the best piece of good news in the world - 2 Corinthians 5:19;

" ... namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation".

There are the two greatest pieces of good news in the world here. And if you can dare to allow yourself to believe this, I guarantee it will do more to dispel your depression and maybe just maybe give you cause to live again.

1. God has reconciled YOU to HIM - permamently and forever and nothing and no one can take that away. No sin can remove that reconciliation. Let's get specific. You will hear the Church perhaps tell you that no sin can take that reconciliation away. You like me may suspect that they mean lying or a tendancy to pride or jealousy. Or maybe even lust as long as you read Joshua Harris's book. But what about if you have been a prostitute? Or what about if you have murdered someone? What about if you are gay and in an active relationship with someone? What about if you are a paedophile? What about if you have been a pagan and practiced witchcraft? But we must persist in allowing the Word of God and the promises of God to be consistent. God has reconciled you to Himself no matter what you have done. That must mean;

2. God is NOT counting your sins against you! I don't know what sins are worrying you. But let's talk about one I can bet we all have considered. You may have been told that if you commit suicide and take your own life then you will go to hell. The argument is that if you take your own life then you cannot ask forgiveness for the sin of murder therefore you are condemned to hell. No disrespect to anyone who says this but they are lying. If the forgiveness of your sin depends on the quantity, timing and appropriateness of you "confessing" such sin then Jesus Christ's sacrifice and blood shed on the Cross was conditional.

So what about the pseudo-threats of the Church that if you take your own life then you will go to hell? Well for that to happen, suicide must be too great a sin for Jesus Christ's death and sacrifice to cover. To suggest so is complete and utter blasphemy. Therefore if you have committed your life to Jesus Christ and accepted freely the gift of His righteousness then (let me say this slowly);

If .... you .... commit .... suicide .... you .... will ..... still .... go .... to .... heaven.

Do I want you to still go through with this? No of course I don't! I don't know you or your situation but I do believe earnestly that God has great schemes in store for you - if you will give Him a chance then you will see He has good plans for you - plans to give you a future and a hope. But I say again - if you do feel that you have absolutely no option but to take your own life then you absolutely will go to heaven and you will see the face of God. You may ask what will your arrival in heaven be like? Will you be saved "as though by fire"? Well I can't say for sure because I haven't yet taken my own life and been there. But I think I can say what I believe would happen.

When I was out running listening to the song "Heroes" I had a powerful experience and I felt as though I was sharing the experience of someone who was dying and closing their eyes and awaking in glory. The first thing I was aware of was the face of God and I looked eagerly although scared to see if there was disappointment or worse anger. What I saw was an overwhelming empathy. How foolish to not realise that God Himself knows every pain, every agony, every torment that we - His creation - go through! He knew. And He understood. And He loved. And He forgave freely just as He has always forgiven freely since Calvary.

Well I haven't said anything to stop you taking the pills or pulling the trigger - you may say. That's true. I never promised all the answers. All I promised was that I know what you are going through. And I am on a voyage of discovery and my discoveries so far show that God really wants us to live and enjoy each day so that He can unfold revelations of His love and passion for us and show us that He has gladly reconciled Himself to us and He is NOT counting our sins against us!

2. To the Church family wanting to support the suicidal.

I have got nothing to say to the legalistic church who despise the suicidal as "weak" and taking the "easy way out". You have blood on your hands. If God is not holding the sins of the suicidal against them - then what gives YOU the right to hold their sins against them? "If God is for (them) then who can be against (them)?". It is the condemnation that you are placing upon those struggling souls that is a major factor in driving them to end their lives. I hope that the gospel of grace will wake you up one day and realise what you are doing.

I want to speak to the church family (like City Church International in Hong Kong) who REALLY want to help the suicidal among them and REALLY care and love and long for them to find "a future and a hope". I must urge anyone who really wants to look into this to listen to Rob Rufus's two messages - "Announcement about Barry Summers" and "The Glory of Tested Faith (Part 2)Enduring Hardships". Rob's compassion and love for both Barry (the guy who took his own life) and the church is incredible. Rob speaks about clipping Barry around the ear when they next meet in glory but he speaks passionately to the church to prevent them from feeling they "could have done more".

So what can the church do to help? I believe it is quite simple. One of my favourite Stuart Townend songs is "The Resurrection Hymn" with the verse;

"See Mary weeping, 'Where is He laid?' As in sorrow she turns from the empty tomb; Hears a voice speaking, calling her name; It's the Master, the Lord raised to life again! The voice that spans the years, Speaking life, stirring hope, Bringing peace to us, Will sound till He appears, For He lives, Christ is risen from the dead!".

The church has been so eager to defend doctrine especially the doctrine of the Cross in recent years - and there is nothing wrong with that. But an over-emphasis on the doctrine glosses over the fact that He died 2,000 years ago but HE NOW LIVES!! And He doesn't just live but He lives "to intercede for us". He is alive and He is busily active! Church ministries need to make every effort to remind the church that He is alive, He is active and He does speak!

Even some so-called reformed charismatic churches allow for prophecy in their midst but seem to forget the point of prophecy. Jesus Christ is SPEAKING TO HIS BRIDE! When He intervenes in divine and miraculous healing it is a touch of love! One of the things John MacArthur said that made me so angry was to write in his commentary that Jesus only healed in the New Testament "for a purpose". What he meant was that each miracle was to achieve or prove something. There was no suggestion in the commentary about the difference that the healing would make to the person themselves. The woman bowed over for 18 years was healed and the first thing she saw was Jesus Christ's face - full of love!

The suicidal man or woman needs to hear Jesus Christ speaking to them for themselves. They need to hear the words of love that our heavenly Bridegroom is speaking to them! And the church is the place where that can happen. They need to be in a family who love, welcome and appreciate them. They need to be in a family that assure them that their salvation is secure and even if they do end it, they will still go to heaven. They need to be in a family that gather together eagerly to EXPECT the voice of Jesus Christ to resound through the body.

I can recall some of the prophecies that have changed my life because the prophet heard Jesus speak and relayed the message.

1. Terry Virgo Prophesies at Brighton Leaders Conference 2003 - "Resurrection!".

2. Terry Virgo Prophesies at Together on a Mission 2006 - "Embrace change!".

3. Terry Virgo Prophesies at Together on a Mission 2006 - "Eavesdropping on My plans!".

4. Terry Virgo Prophesies at Stoneleigh Bible Week 2000 - "This is Dancing Ground!".

And they are just a few! Each prophecy made me cry, laugh, shake and tremble. But the one resounding thing about each prophecy was that it made me more convinced that I have ever been more sure that JESUS CHRIST IS ALIVE!

In closing I mentioned that I have a pack of pills in my bedroom that I keep ... just in case. When heaven seems silent and Jesus Christ might as well still be hanging on the Cross - that is when I feel low, depressed and that life is without purpose. When the prophetic is flowing, when I can hear Him speaking and talking - that is when I want nothing less than to end my life. A dear blogging friend - Jamie - summed up suicide excellently - I will let her close;

"Suicide: sad choice for our earth suit but that's about it. :)".

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

My Attempt at Q and A on Grace/Healing

I haven't forgotten the "Suicide" post - it's on it's way. Incredibly it seems jinxed though. Every time I type it, Blogger keeps crashing and losing my work! So I have taken it to Word and am typing it there. Until I get it done though - I received a fascinating email asking a key question. My first thought was to pass it onto someone else because I simply do not and am not qualified to answer this sort of stuff. But then I thought I would give it a go.

So here it is. If anyone has any improvements or further thoughts then please, please add comments and let me know!

The question the guy asked was this:

"Since God's grace has brought blessings and made us receive His healing, how come we believers who believe in pure Grace with no condemnation, still fall sick?".

My answer:

"Many thanks for your email - it's great to hear from you.

You ask an excellent question and it's one that I will try to the best of my ability to answer you. But you should know that I answer it from being in a position similar to yourself. I.e - I also believe in God's grace and believe we are not under law, but struggle to understand this. So please don't think I am writing as any expert - merely a fellow Christian seeking truth!

My understanding is this - sickness is and has never been God's will. It is not God's will that any should be sick. Sickness came in as a result of the Fall, and it will never be glorifying to God. I think Christians can glorify God THROUGH suffering but do not glorify God by passively ENDURING suffering.

Secondly I believe that one of the mission points of Jesus Christ was to banish suffering as an effect of the coming of His Kingdom. He said Himself; "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed me to preach ... to HEAL .... to bind up" and so on. He did absolutely that during His earthly ministry and then He commissioned His church to "go" and do likewise. The church was equipped to do just that when the Holy Spirit was poured out thereby empowering and anointing the church.

So we have the commission from Jesus - and the empowerment and anointing to do so from the Holy Spirit in the understanding that sickness is not to be tolerated.

Back to your question -

Why then do people get sick? There may be a variety of reasons. Rob Rufus (one of my favourite grace teachers) says that the LESS law is in our lives the MORE glory (i.e healing) we will see in our lives. So like you - I don't believe I am under law. But I wouldn't say that the law has no influence on my life still. I can testify to it's effects - every now and then I feel condemnation creeping in. Once our beliefs starting changing us and soaking into our complete personality then that is when (I think) we will see healing begin to manifest in and through our lives.

That being said, I am NOT NOT NOT saying that people who are sick are guilty of not throwing off law off their lives. There may be a number of reasons - they may be in a church hearing preaching that mixes law and grace. They may be receiving teaching from a pastor/elders who mix law and grace. I think the very grace message means that it cannot be anyone's "fault" that they don't get healed - apart from those whom God has entrusted with responsibility to reveal His Word to them if they are teaching legalism in the gospel - i.e Ephesians 4 Ministries.

So I hope this shows how absolutely vital the gospel of grace is. We have absolutely categorically GOT to believe that God is passionately for us and it is His desire that while we may endure suffering, we should not endure sickness passively. We have GOT to see that it is God's will that we see healing and signs and wonders and miracles come into our lives! Otherwise if we do not believe God is 110% for us, then we will not completely believe that He wants to heal us and if we do not completely believe He WANTS to heal us, then we will question why He SHOULD heal us.

I've gone on long enough! But I hope some of those thoughts are of help. I am no expert in grace, but I'm thinking through these things and pray they will be of blessing to you.

Please don't hesitate to come back to me if you have any further comments/questions".