Saturday, October 31, 2009
I've had heroes in the past who have been men of Word and Spirit and have fallen into law or cessationism and the respectability of men. So to see elders in the faith who still firmly believe in a living God who encounters His people and is passionate about them - as well as not straying into excess or weirdness - is glorious and a true blessing from Him.
Terry's latest blog was just ... awesome. He is a man who has lived through decades of church life and yet still is prepared for change - for upset - for a coming God. He writes;
"Jesus came as the ultimate table-turner! He upset everything! What if He should come to His church today? What tables need to be overturned in modern evangelicalism?".
As you may expect - I've got plenty of tables in mind that need to be overturned in modern evangelicalism! But this is Terry's blog and he goes on;
"Reformation was not a matter of keeping up with the changing times but conforming to God-inspired prophets and their writings. What about today? Tables must be overturned if we are to return to authentic Biblical Christianity. Human traditions - unknown in Scripture - have become foundational in many churches".
Oh there is so much I could say! Human tradition - WHY do humans so quickly respond to a genuine move of God through His Spirit and settle down into traditions? Why do humans see a gifted and anointed man who has been singularly used and seek to reproduce the anointing on that individual by copying what they think are the secrets of their success? And yet know nothing of the secrets of the God who gave that anointing in the first place?
Terry makes a point that is quite personal to me;
"What point is there calling for private, personal obedience from individual believers if churches blatently ignore the Biblical instruction regarding church life?".
I have heard church leaders order me to do something yet I have seen them stand up in church on Sundays and without shame quench the Holy Spirit - or worse teach something that is contrary to the Word of God. I'm not trying to use Terry's comment as an excuse for disobeying church leadership - I long and love submitting to genuine, spirit-filled authority when it is clothed and soaked in grace. But what point is there?
I love his conclusion;
"Ultimately God's purpose is not merely to overturn church life but to turn the world itself upside down ... We follow a table-turning Saviour - let's not be status quo disciples".
Friday, October 30, 2009
I remember once some of us tried to introduce the beautiful song; "My Jesus - My Saviour" at my home church in Dunstable when it was fully into it's functional cessationism. The answer from the elders was; "No - it's too "me" centred". Hymns were promoted as being "Him-centred". I know that certain church circles still promote such a view and ban beautiful songs such as "Draw Me Close to You" in favour of more liturgical hymns (who can drearily forget the Charles Colson row?!). I was amused to listen on my IPOD to a Grapevine live worship interpretation of "O for a thousand tongues to sing". A wonderful hymn and a glorious live atmosphere. But for a "theological hymn" - it says "me" quite a bit too ...
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
My point was this - how can we truly go out and evangelise with confidence and passion if we believe that hell is going to be populated more than heaven? How can we walk out into the world and share the gospel with the lost if we believe that "great is the darkness that covers the earth" and that is it? How can we go and take a gospel accompanied by signs, wonders and miracles if we are simply waiting for Jesus Christ to return and end this present world?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
You could exchange "material" for "organisation" or even "church". One of the frustrations of my job is planning for something you don't quite know when it will come. I was walking and praying and thinking about my longing for an unsurpassed move of God - for revival itself - and I found God directing my thoughts to my job. To the job of my boss - the "Emergency Resilience Planning Manager". My boss spends his entire working week planning for something that he doesn't quite know when will come. And even IF it will come! Yet he plans and makes the hospital as ready as he can.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
"Repetition is an integral part of pedagogy, which means if you’re going to teach something you say it over and over and over again, until we get it. Most of what we are saying this week revolves around three prepositions, ‘out’, ‘through’, and ‘into’. And God has used the Old Testament covenant nation of Israel as a type, as an ensample, as a warning and an admonition for us upon who the ends of the ages have come. They are a great school for us from which we learn. And what God intended for them, he intends for us, as we will find out but on a larger, vaster scale. The tragedy is that they failed.
Pastor says, ‘How you getting along?’
‘Well, Lord, it was really just my body I wanted attended to. Maybe later on we could get around to … I have a number of important things to do Lord, would you mind healing my body?’
Monday, October 12, 2009
But that's an aside. I was thrilled last week to find a treasure in CLC which I duly brought. Day One Publications have brought out a volume; "C H Spurgeon's Sermons Beyond Volume 63". I'm an avid collector of the "Metropolitan Tabernacle" volumes and have about 20 or so to go. This volume has produced 45 "forgotten" sermons that have been transcribed and edited. Phil Johnson wrote the foreword and made a valuable point;
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I walked home from work today and was "venting" at God. I don't know if that's allowed but I did. I was thinking about how so much of life is made up of hoping. Hoping for ... more. 2006/2007 were very key years for me in my spiritual life. There were such exciting promises that God was going to visit the country in glory and power and things would never be the same again. I had dreams personally. I heard some such exciting sermons particularly at "Together on a Mission" in Brighton. And I'm not quite sure what happened.
This year has been one of the most challenging of my life. But what I've noticed is that the strategies of the enemy have changed! Earlier in the year I dealt with bullying at Acorns Childrens Hospice and the resulting stress of that with lying management - and the experience of being on anti-depressants. Now things are different! I love my job and find it rewarding and challenging. But I'm so bored and frustrated waiting for "something" to happen in life! As Rob Rufus puts it, I find myself eating food, passing it through my body and taking up space in life. And that is NOT good for someone with my temperament!
So my walk home ...
I was pondering about frustrations and promises of God that haven't been fulfilled and I think that the church generally reacts in a couple of ways - two are wrong and only one is RIGHT:
The Old Testament says that unfulfilled promises make the heart sick. I have seen again and again church leaders especially so full of hope in the Charismatic Movement during the 1970's and 80's - and I have audio-tape after audio-tape of their preaching hope and vision. And yet you look at where they are today and they are embittered and disappointed. They have looked and hoped for revival and for world-change and haven't seen it.
Rather than holding on and trusting in the promises of God some have embraced functional cessationism and declared that if God will not reveal Himself then clearly He never intended to pour out His Spirit or give His gifts in the first place. They retreat to the relative safety of the Word of God (conviniently ignoring the fact that the Word of God NEVER EVER says that God has stopped anything) and adhere to doctrine and theology. And death.
The other option is that some churches don't lose their hope but they become impatient waiting for God to move and devoting time to praying and seeking Him. So they become distracted. They begin looking around the world to see "success stories". Looking to churches and church leaders who seem to be seeing a measure of numerical growth. Those churches and church leaders then become famous and are invited on tour around the world to speak at conferences to give their "tips".
The churches attending those conferences hear those "tips" and mistake them for the anointing of God and thus try and integrate those "tips" in their churches. Now this may work to a degree. People may come into those churches. But it will never, ever produce a Pentecostal revival where the glory of God hovers over cities and nations and we can watch and see MILLIONS swept into the Kingdom of God.
So what do we do?
We remind ourselves of the promises of God and we remember that some are yet to be fulfilled. We don't give up hoping and praying and watching for them. We remember that God is more passionate than we are to fulfill those promises and waiting for a people who are content to wait for His perfect timing. Here are my two favourite UNFULFILLED promises. That means that a day is rapidly coming when we will see them come to pass.
A. Numbers 14:21: "but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD".
This is probably my most favourite promise in the Word of God. It got a lot of coverage in the 1970's at the Bible Weeks. It was even sung after one of Ern Baxter's monumental sermons at the Dales Bible Week. It HASN'T been fulfilled yet. But it is GOING to be! One day - Isaiah 60 will be fulfilled as well and all nations will come to the dawning of the light! One day all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord!
B. Acts 2:17: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams".
If Numbers 14:21 was my favourite promise in the Word of God then this surely must be the second. I read this and am staggered at how so-called "teachers of the Bible" can hold to a cessationist point of view. How Christians can proudly despise "experience" and claim they are "doctrinal". This promise is an outpouring of unparalelled proportions. To be sure - the Day of Pentecost was the "beginning of that fulfillment" (as F F Bruce writes in his commentary). But it's not been done yet.
So as I was turning the corner almost home - I got back to thinking about swine flu and the possible "second wave". I earnestly believe that swine flu or pandemic influenza is a demonic counterfeit. The whole health service is waiting planned and ready for whatever the future may hold and dreading it. Whereas the church should be poised, ready and waiting looking like Elijah to the skies waiting for a cloud to appear. This isn't the time to get distracted or disappointed! This is the time to fix our eyes on the horizon and wait for the glimmer of glory that says the tidal wave of glory is coming.
Because I truly believe that the tectonic plates of hell's strongholds are shaking and moving and when they do - a massive tsnuami will result. God has promised on HIS Name that all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. So bring it on! We're waiting!
Monday, October 05, 2009
My main annoyance was that my grouching may have distracted from my key point about a positive eschatology and evangelism! How ironic is that - I'm pleading for a more optimistic end-time world view and writing very grumpily. Anyhow - that being said I want to share a frequent dream/vision I have at times when I'm sleeping. It comes frequently especially after reading Isaiah 60; "Arise shine for your light has come ... nations will come to your light". I keep seeing myself flying in my dreams over country and cities and everywhere I fly - people are worshipping exuberantly crying out; "He is good and His love endures forever!".
I've looked on You-Tube and the closest I can come is this to what I see in my dreams;
It's so easy in day-day life to get bogged down in the trials of what life brings. But look at the eagle! He glides above and beyond and he sees so much more than we do. Can he see the nations coming to the dawning of the light of the Bride? I think he can! So, so much more than we can! We can so easily ge depressed and down-cast by life. The eagle doesn't get down-cast. He soars high above the clouds near to the sun.
There's a reason why "Life on Wings" is the name of this blog and the name of my favourite sermon of Ern Baxter's. It embodies everything that the Christian should be!
Sunday, October 04, 2009
So with this glorious promise there in the Word of God, why is the church so darkly pessimistic about it's future? Of course we all know we're going to heaven - that's assured. But it's the bit in-between that seems to flag up some questions. Much of religion that I have experienced tends to take the analogy of a medieval castle. We raise the drawbridge - post a few "prayer" archers on the roof and hope that the devil and the powers of darkness don't scale the walls. Or even worse - that sinners come knocking trying to come in and get saved.
It seems crazy to me! Jesus said "I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!". That's not a defensive promise! Ern Baxter always asked the question, since when did you see a pair of gates jump off their hinges and chase a screaming church down the street?! No! This promise is Jesus Christ promising His church - there is not one stronghold that is able to stand against My advancing church! Not even hell itself!
Now - back to restorationism for a minute. Lots of Christians pray for revival. Two examples: My former senior pastor Dr Stanley Jebb commented on it in a recent blog, yet I have a tape where he spoke very strongly against restoration in our old church in Dunstable - after decades of believing in restoration passionately, singing wonderful choruses about it (Does anyone remember "I hear the sound of rustling"??!) and of course going to the glorious Dales Bible Weeks to hear Ern Baxter preach on it!
A former friend of mine - ex-blogger Jesse Phillips used to talk about revival a lot (he may still believe in it - I'm not sure). But Sovereign Grace Ministries would not be classed as having a positive end-time eschatology as I understand it from their resident theologian/'apostle' Jeff Purswell. So I confess myself a bit confused - what is the point of praying for or hoping for revival if there is no active expectation that the Church is destined to grow gloriously to a degree that not only the nations will "flow to it" but also that the nation of Israel will be wonderfully provoked to come in?
Church history is almost united in the understanding that revival means a "re-viving" of the church. The Holy Spirit being poured out in unprecedented power so that the church is corporately affected. I like Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones definition that it is "a corporate baptism of the Holy Spirit". The result of course is that the world cannot help but come. But it all begins with the church! It must all begin with the church!
My point - let me state again:
If you don't believe truly in restoration then you can't properly get truly passionate about the Great Commission.
Perhaps a bit controversial and I'm ready to stand corrected! But let me ask what mentality you have when you go out to witness and spread the Gospel. Do you really believe that we are saving them "one by one" and any convert is a bonus (which of course is true) but we are really working to a rapidly coming deadline and hell is going to be more full than heaven anyway? Or do you walk out of your house daily KNOWING that we are on the winning side and that God is more capable of saving millions through one outpouring of revival than we are with our evangelism techniques and "crack squads" or "hit teams" imported from the USA (or whatever they are called) or maybe adopting Mark Driscoll-esque techniques in your church and uttering the odd profanity or crude joke from the pulpit?!
I believe that a positive eschatology can absolutely transform your life. It can affect how you go to work, it can affect your worship at church - singing celebratory songs of triumph rather than bleeding heart ballads hoping God might show. It can most definately affect your evangelism in ways we can't even dream of! When we are simply "hoping for the best" - I suspect our evangelism cache will only spread to white, middle-class "safe" people. We will leave the "dangerous" lost to the few evangelists who dare to go into prisons etc. But if we really believe that we are on the winning side and that the principalities and powers REALLY were bound at the Cross and disarmed - and we KNOW that we have a glorious message to take - that God is reconciling the world to Himself not counting men's sins against them, then we will surely want EVERYONE to hear!
Let me get really practical for a minute. As a children's nurse there is no horror I hate worse that paedophilia. If there was still the death penalty, I probably would be tempted to call for it for this alone. The thought of children being hurt or damaged breaks my heart. But can I deny them the gospel of grace? That God wants to reconcile THEM to Himself and is not holding their sins against them? There are two incidents that make this more than just theory.
A paedophile who used to work for my old hospice - Acorns in Birmingham - is awaiting trial. Now it doesn't surprise me that this happened. I experienced enough at Acorns to know that the management is entirely ineffective with archaic screening processes who waste more time and money on "investigations" such as they used to bully me for months, than to ensure that their standards are upto scratch. But that's an aside - he was there. And he did this. But he needs the gospel! And the arms of Jesus Christ stretch to him! And you know what? If I really allow the glory of restoration to sink in - I can see him coming into the church.
Or the paedophile ring that were caught in the UK just this week. This one upsets me just as much as the man at Acorns. That a woman can work at a nursery and misuse her position like this - just staggers me. But she and they need the gospel too! And are we really going to leave it to a prison chaplain (who may or may not believe the gospel anyway!) or some evangelists? No! A restored church is the only hope! As Lex Loizides wonderful song went;
"It is the Church! The hope of the world!".
And I am sorry - but at the moment, it looks rather like the world has no hope. When someone like C J Mahaney puts the onus for an effective pastoral ministry on the church by stating:
"The effectiveness of pastoral ministry is dependent upon a proper response TO pastoral ministry".
It just seems a recipe for disaster, condemnation and legalism to me. Not to say completely unbiblical. The apostle Paul had one of the most effective New Testament ministries short of our Lord Jesus Christ. He not only was completely full of grace in his doctrine but he performed signs, wonders and miracles. Yet can we say that the Corinthian church were completely supportive of his ministry? They gossiped and criticised him and it seems didn't even give him any monetary support (2 Corinthians 11:8-9). They thought they were more spiritual than he was. Did that affect the effectiveness of his ministry? Not in the least. So it's another Mahaney-typical "catchy" summary - and a gift he is very good at. But it's not Biblical.
Again - another digression. But my heart and my passion in this is to call for a bit of optimism. I've spent so much time over the last few months typing up Rob Rufus's sermons and anyone who has read them will know he is grace-obsessed. But without a positive eschatology to set that doctrine ablaze, I find myself wondering what the point is. Fortunately I know Rob Rufus's eschatology is ENTIRELY positive!
Maybe you shrink back from the term "restoration" and can't quite get the "post-millenial" eschatology that I am pleading for here. But if I can at least make you re-consider some of the glorious promises in the Bible - particularly in Isaiah 60 - then I think we will find our hearts full of hope and our prayers for revival come alive!
Come Lord Jesus! Pour out Your Spirit we pray!