Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Restoring Our Vocabulary ...

I do have a post currently being drafted. My South African best friend Brogan and I are co-writing it together addressing the subject of suicide. Suicide from the mountaintop of grace! And it isn't an objective perspective. Both Brogan and I have and daily deal personally with the temptation of suicide. We are writing because we really do understand. But that is a process in coming!

Today I just want to get a "rant" off my chest. I am sick to the back teeth of "labels". What do I mean by that? Well if we persist as a church in living in a mixture of Old Covenant and New Covenant terminology then we may be familiar with certain labels but we certainly are not consistent with them. Brogan texted me today and used a label that I will address - and it irked me. It didn't irk me that he used it. It irked me that a lifetime of legalism forced him to use it out of habit.

So I want to propose two scenarios. The first is a scenario that is consistent mixing of Old Covenant and New Covenant. The second is purely New Covenant.

1. Mixing Old and New Covenant.

The label that Brogan used in a text to me was "queer". I don't think anyone will need help in understanding the context of that label. "Queer" is just one of the labels used to denote people with a homosexual orientation - i.e they are attracted to the same sex. But the dictionary definition of "queer" is this;

"1. strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular: a queer notion of justice.

2.of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady: Something queer about the language of the prospectus kept investors away".

It seems to me there is absolutely nothing positive about the use of this term in connection with the children of God. However I'm sadly familiar with it. Before I talk about consistency, then there is a key verse that should be mentioned here - 2 Corinthians 5:19;

"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".

If God is "not counting our trespasses against us" then what business do we have using a label that denotes particular sons or daughters of God as "strange or odd"?! Be that as it may - if we ARE going to use that particular label, then we must be consistent. If we are going to mix law with grace - then we should be aware that the law is absolutely radical! And law has a lot of labels. Here's a few that should be included in our vocabulary along with "queer".

Adulterer - an individual who looks at another with lust in their heart (Matthew 5:28).

Penalty under law: Required mutilation of offending limbs (Matthew 5:29-30).

Murderer - an individual who looks at another with hate in their heart (Matthew 5:21-22).

Penalty under law: Hell fire (Matthew 5:21-22).

The Proud - an individual who (albeit secretly) loves themselves, thinks there is something good about themselves and cannot quite believe they 100% need God (Psalm 10:4).

Penalty under law: The HATRED of God (Proverbs 8:13).

The Coveter - an individual who looks at a possession of another and wants it albeit secretly (Exod. 20:17).

Penalty under law: The curses of Deuteronomy 28:16-68.

And those are just a selection. Is anyone prepared to adopt those labels? Have you ever looked at a woman/man with lust in your heart? In that case, how are you "adulterer"? Have you ever felt so strongly against someone that you hated them? Are you facing your actions "murderer"?

Some may claim I am being petty. But that is exactly the whole point of the law. The Law IS petty. The Law excuses NONE! If you have looked at another individual with lust in your heart and that person was not your married spouse then you have committed adultery in your heart and you are guilty of death (mutilated of course). If you have hated another individual and felt so strongly against them that you have called them "fool" or the modern equivalent in your heart then you are guilty of hell fire.

Galatians 5:4 is clear; "You are separated from Christ, you who are trying to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace".

Todd Bentley has not fallen from grace by getting divorced! Are you trying to gain acceptance before God through keeping forms of the law? Then it is you who have fallen from grace.

But there is another alternative!

2. New Covenant - How God Sees Us!

I have already quoted 2 Corinthians 5:19. God is not counting man's sins against him! The wrath of God has been satisfied 2,000 years ago on Calvary. The New Testament is packed full of the phrase; "You were ... but now you are".

Galatians 5:18: "But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law".

Law or Spirit. It is not a case of both! It is a case of either/or. You chose law - you can use the term "queer" - but you must also adopt for yourself the many terms law has for you. You choose grace?! There is just one state.

"You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God!".

So I ended my text discussion with Brogan asking him not to use or adopt the label "queer". God is not counting man's sin against them therefore the only valid label that we may adopt under the New Covenant is this;

We are beloved sons and daughters of God - brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ - beloved, chosen before the foundation of the world - justified, called, chosen, sanctified, glorified - accepted!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rob Rufus on Transitioning a Church From Law to Grace

Rob Rufus at the "Increasing Glory" Conference in South Africa on the cost of transitioning a church from law into grace;

"No church will transition out of a mixture of law and grace into full grace unless the eldership team have a revolutionary renewing of their minds. That’s what it needed for me. And when you are going through the process you have to factor in rejection, accused of saying things that you haven’t said, you have to factor in maybe losing some of your closest friends but if you are captured by divine approval and not by man’s approval – then you will be a true leader in the house of God".

What a cost - but how worth it!

Something They Should Teach in Pastor's College

But I'm not sure that they do ...

Rob Rufus speaking at the 'Increasing Glory' Conference in South Africa said;

"We will not use people to build our ministries; we will use our ministries to build our people".

A revolution is rising in the earth that isn't just freeing people into the glory of grace - but it is freeing pastors and teachers to realise what their true identity and mission is for.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Are We Just STUPID?!

I swear this verse from the Bible is going to haunt me. Mark 9:43, 45, 47;

"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire ... If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell ... If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell".

I was sitting on the bus going into work yesterday and was sitting behind what was obviously a very zealous Christian woman. From what I overheard she was a mother and was speaking on the phone to her son/daughter (I guessed son). The mother was extremely upset because it sounded like she had discovered pornography on the history section of the internet at their home. She was speaking very angrily and upset and used the above verse and said something like;

"I am NOT going to lose my child to hell! You must do this! The Bible says if your eye causes you to sin then PLUCK it out! You are SINNING by looking at this stuff and God is ANGRY! PLUCK it out!!".

Although I could appreciate the mother's sincere love for her (what sounds like) a quite normal teenage son, I felt like tapping her on the shoulder and saying;

"Excuse me madam. I couldn't help but overhearing you. How would you feel if you got home from work today and found your son slumped in the chair with two empty eyeball sockets with blood streaming from them? And the two gouged eyeballs lying on your dining room table? Do you think that action would STOP your son lusting with his mind? And how about you madam? Have you ever looked at another person's possessions and envied them? Have you ever got so angry with someone you love that you felt like you could hit them? Why have you not gouged out your eyes or cut off your hands? That rather makes you a hypocrite does it not?".

I didn't do that and I wouldn't have. But WHEN is the church going to start thinking LOGICALLY about this statement that Jesus said? When are we going to stop being so STUPID? Do we really believe that bodily mutilation is a sufficient enough sacrifice to save us from HELL? Is that how little we think of our sin? That our body parts are an acceptable sacrifice to God to buy us a pass into heaven? Do we really think that by losing our hands and eyes and feet then we will lose the "sinning" parts of our body?

What about our MINDS? Jesus Himself said if we look at a woman and lust after her then we have already committed adultery! Why did the Lord Jesus not instruct us to perform a lobotomy?

Don't get me wrong.

This verse IS showing how radically God thinks and hates sin.

This verse IS showing the radical nature of the Law.

But the only, only, only, ONLY acceptable answer to the demands of the Law in this verse could and were met 2,000 years ago at Calvary on a hill called Golgotha. It's done already! So the radical demands of the Law have already been met! God's wrath is satisfied! And He does not want, demand or require the mutilation of our body parts to try and "stop" sinning! Because even if we did perform those drastic actions then it still would not stop sinning! And even if we did perform those drastic actions then the Law is STILL not satisfied.

Do I sound angry? I am angry. I'm angry because in MY lifetime I have heard a church pastor who boasts about being a "man of the Word" use this verse against myself and my behaviour. And I have heard this woman on the bus use this verse to condemn her son. I have heard Terry Virgo use this verse in a sermon to wrongly (I believe) illustrate something he was saying. I am angry because I think about the (possibly) secretly afraid teenager on the other end of that phone. I am angry thinking about the many thousands who could be plunged into clinical depression and guilt because they know that they are not brave enough to mutilate their bodies in this way.

I'm angry that I am 31 and I have only JUST heard true grace teaching from Hong Kong that has made it so abundantly clear that Jesus is talking about the extreme demands of the Law here - but thereby demonstrating that the demands and requirements of the Law have been met and have been met in ONLY one way! Because only ONE way could meet them!

To those who have read this and still persist in believing that this verse applies to Christians today - then I say only this. Stop being such a hypocrite. Stop talking the talk. Get a scalpel out and start walking the walk. If you really believe Jesus Christ is setting a precident for your behaviour today then send me pictures of your hewn body parts and send an accompanying testimony telling me if you are now sin-free.

To those - like me - who have secretly trembled when you have heard this verse preached or used in a condemning manner, then have hope! Jesus was talking to the worse form of legalists around and He was showing them that even this extreme behaviour was NOT sufficient enough to stop sin completely in their lives. But He did provide the answer. When He said "It is finished!" - He meant it. Put your scalpel away! Jesus loves you with all His heart! He loves you so much that He was mutilated so that you would not have to be. He had His side pierced and His hands and feet pierced so you would not even have to contemplate this.

Hallelujah! What a Saviour! (P.S: If the picture offends you then I don't apologise. If you believe that Christians should be complying with this verse literally then you are going to have to get used to sights like this).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rob Rufus Speaks to Church Leaders!

I'm in the middle of transcribing one of Rob Rufus's sessions in South Africa at the "Increasing Glory 2009" conference. I love nothing more than when he gets angry and lays into legalists. It thrills me beyond words - is that wrong!? I think a lifetime of legalism makes you so glad when someone is brave enough to stand up and confront wrong-doing.

Anyhow - Rob said this to church leaders;

"Stop bullying, managing and controlling God's people. We do not have a right to have authority in the church unless the authority we have is liberating, grace, fatherly, fond, affectionate and kind. We will use our ministries to to build people up - not use people to build our ministries".

He went on;

"Too many church leaders have an addiction worse than cocaine - it is to the approval of man".

Many church leaders would proudly claim they are prepared to make unpopular decisions that upset their congregations. One well-known US so-called apostle was heard to say that he was sick and tired of being told he should keep people happy - he said he was there to upset and be unpopular. But Rob Rufus went on to point out that actually - the approval that many church leaders so desperately cling to is the leadership hierarchies in their movements or church families or denominations.

Question - would church leaders be prepared to stand up and defend their congregations even if it meant going against their regional apostle?

I remember being subjected to corporal discipline in the church school when I was a child. I had a conversation quite recently with someone who asked if I resented being hit by a school teacher. I thought about it and answered that it wasn't the actual physical striking I resented. What I resented was the refusal of my parents to even consider listening to my side of events. The fact I was a child meant that I had to be wrong and the school teachers always right.

I think the same applies in church families. Surely there is nothing more discouraging and hurtful than someone who has allegedly been put in charge of your soul and yet refuses to believe you first and hear you out before making judgements. Oh for more church leaders that do indeed have a liberating, kind, gracious, fond love to their leadership! Thank God there are leaders out there like that. The photo shows two of my favourites - the Morrises and the Rufus's!

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Nature Publications - UK!!

I am thrilled to announce;

Ryan Rufus has very kindly allowed me to become the U.K distributor for "New Nature Publications" - the publishing arm of City Church International in Hong Kong. They have only just begun so at present there are 2 books by Ryan Rufus available and Rob Rufus's latest book - "Invading the Impossible". But this is expected to grow!

Of course people in the UK are still more than welcome to order through the website from Hong Kong but if you would like to save the time and travel of international postage then please do contact me on:

I've got supplies of Ryan Rufus's two books; "Sanctification by Grace" and "Do Christians Still Have a Sinful Nature?". Ryan has also just posted supplies of Rob's book; "Invading the Impossible". Please do contact me if you would like orders for yourself or for your church. Over the next few weeks Ryan's allowed me to send complimentary copies to church leaders to see the message of grace spread. I'm hugely excited! The United Kingdom so needs this message of grace! Don't miss out on this opportunity!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Don't Delay - Move on!!

I read a fascinating Twitter comment from Al Mohler this morning before leaving for work - it linked to a book review of a book called; "Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers" by sociologist Mark Regnerus. His point is simple, shocking and sincere;

"Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s.Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It's battling our Creator's reproductive design".

Now let me be clear, I haven't read his book - only Mohler's review. But I must admit as a single person (and one that is sometimes slightly anti-cliche Christian marriage) I found the review and the concept he presented intriguing and stirring. I don't quite see it as far as Mohler states;

"As men and women, we are made for marriage ... Marriage is the central crucible for accepting and fulfilling the adult responsibilities of work, parenthood, and the full acceptance of mature responsibilities".

As excellent a scholar and theologian as Mohler may be - I would argue he has forgotten that Paul makes explicit room for celibacy. Maybe Mohler is reflecting the modern Church he represents, who have also forgotten that Paul made explicit room for celibacy. Rather most single people get treated as odd, different and not quite making up even numbers at dinner parties or social events. Anyhow - back to the book review.

Mohler concludes;

"Mark Regnerus certainly drives the point home when he argues that "when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex." Nevertheless, Christians are called to a moral standard that, by any secular standard, is profoundly unreasonable. I would prefer to argue that the delay of marriage is unwise, not only because of the demonstrated risk of sexual immorality, but because of the loss of so much God gives to us in marriage".

Probably the cruelest thing that any church leader can do is to deny a couple the chance or opportunity to get married or to delay their wedding. You may argue you have never heard of this happening in the 21st century Christian church. Well I have. And not only that, it is also mentioned in the New Testament;

1 Timothy 4:2-3; "(Such teachings come) by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron - they forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth".

In the Expositor's Bible Commentary Ralph Earle comments on this often-forgotten and rarely taught on verse;

"The apostle uses strong language in describing the teachers of the false doctrines he is about to mention. He declares they are "hypocritical liars" (the teachers who forbid marriage); this implies that they know better but they have deliberately forsaken the faith and teach falsehood ... Paul now mentions two of their false teachings; forbidding marriage and ordering people to "abstain from certain foods" ... what these false teachers forgot is that marriage is an institution that God established as the normal thing in society ... the apostle struck out forcefully against it as a negation of our freedom in Christ".

Marriage is one of the most beautiful and complete expressions of the grace of God that He can give. What can get closer to the image of His love, desire and passion for His Bride than that of marriage? In marriage, God has given mankind the opportunity to get a taste - just a taste of what we will enjoy at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Why am I so utterly passionate about the Song of Solomon being understood in it's true Biblical context? Because nothing excites me more than considering the tangible expression of love and glory that will be ours on that Day when our glorious Bridegroom returns. The glory will be such - we are told - that human marriage will not be in heaven. That's not something to mourn because the wonder of marriage that Christian couples enjoy now is nothing compared to what will be. That is why I so vigorously contend against the false emphasis that men like C J Mahaney and Mark Driscoll put on the Song of Solomon. Such teaching is distracting and putting too much emphasis on human marriage and too little on ultimate marriage - Christ and His church.

I wonder if that happened because too much emphasis was put on human marriage. Christian marriage is a serious undertaking because it is for life, it is done in the sight of God and man - but let us not forget that the apostle Paul himself said;

"But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion".

He's not down-grading the sanctity of marriage. But he is also not unnecessarily over-exalting the sanctity of marriage to a near-gnostic level so that marriage is forbidden unnecessarily and thereby sinfully exalting lust. Any leaders who do forbid marriage surely stand before God in accountability for causing those under their care to fall. All that aside - I stand convinced by Mohler's review of this book. Maybe the church has over emphasied too far in one direction and it is time to have the balance of truth adjusted somewhat. Young people!? Get married!!