Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Remembering the Lives of Children

I don't often mention my job but I had quite an emotional day today. At present I am responsible for coordinating the staff and patient immunisation campaign programme against flu at Birmingham Children's Hospital. In the UK we are offering a "triple" vaccine that protects against swine flu as well as two other strains of flu that are present this winter.

I just got a bit sick today of the talk of "targets" and "percentages". The reason why I want to do my job as well as I can is because vaccines actually save lives! Last winter the swine flu virus claimed the lives of six children. I know children die all the time in hospital - but my particular focus is flu - and for that reason I hate the flu viruses very specially.

So I released six "BCH I've had the flu jab!" balloons into the air today to remember the lives of those children who were victims of swine flu - to remember what my job is REALLY about!

Here it is - it's only very short;

Monday, November 29, 2010

A NEW Look at Ephesians 4 Ministries

I have been transcribing one of Rob Rufus's sessions at the recent "Grace and Glory Conference 2010" from Hong Kong on the book of Hebrews and was fascinated by a preliminary point he made. I have always been taught from the charismatic days by men like Terry Virgo and Stanley Jebb about Ephesians 4 Ministries - "God gave some to be ...". And have always assumed that God gives the gift of one. For example - personally I have wondered frequently what I may be! An apostle? No. A pastor? Definitely not. A teacher? Possibly. And so on.
Rob Rufus brought a very different and wonderfully freeing perspective to consider. Here's what he said;

"We often take the definition of who we are from other people's perspectives. We let other people define us!

From 30 years ago I had people saying to me; "I am telling you - you are an evangelist". Okay I am an evangelist. Someone else would say to me; "Rob I am telling you - you are a teacher". They would say it to me like they were the final authority! Okay I am a teacher - so I would try and teach. Then they would say; "No Rob - I am telling you - you are a prophet". Oh okay so I would try and prophesy. Then they would say; "No Rob - you are a psalmist when you lead worship". Okay great I'm a psalmist. A few would actually say; "No you are a pastor!". None said I was an administrator! Then some said I was an apostle! So I was living like a religious schizophrenic! Who am I!? I am an administrator of chaos! Then people would say - no you are an artist, a poet.

One day Bill Hamon - a wonderful prophet from the United States of America. He had never met me before and then one day laid his hands on me and said; "I have given you elements of the apostolic, elements of the prophetic, elements of the teacher, elements of the pastor, elements of the apostle, elements of the evangelist, elements of the psalmist". And I said; "Praise God for a word from heaven!". I want to say the same thing over all of you. God has given you diversity and elements in your uniqueness! I am telling you that if you believe you are pigeon-holed to a tight category then in your faith you will stay in that box and think you are being original.

Don't copy and mimic other people! We are called to imitate their faith - not mimic their methods! And there is a big difference.

We are more inside of us and becoming more as unique individuals than we realise. It is never too late to have a happy childhood!

When a chameleon stands on different colours - the chameleon becomes those colours. Paul the apostle says; "I become all things to all men to win some to Christ". Some may say - oh that's a politician, changing his colours to the political agenda of the day. No - hold on. Politicians move in fear to cater to their constituancy. They are so insecure that they want to be voted in again. That is not a chameleon. If you've watched a chameleon he does not change his colours out of fear but to be a successful hunter. He doesn't get eaten by predators like that - he gets close to his prey and out comes the tongue and he takes it out. When he touches a different colour. The colour-change doesn't come from the outside artificially. For within the chameleon is the capacity to become the colour of any colour he is standing on at that present time.

So if you don't know whether you are a poet then stand on a poetic colour. If you don't know whether you are prophetic then stand in a prophetic environment and you may see something inside of you become prophetic. If you don't know whether you are apostolic or not then stand in an apostolic environment Mr-oh-chameleon. Don't shrink your life! It is not an office you are to be unique in! You can be a whole diversity of rainbow things. It is where you express those rainbow things through the uniqueness of your personality that is most important".

I love this free understanding of the wonderful Ephesians 4 gifts - maybe this is something to consider and allow to thrill us. Imagine - God is so generous and so giving and so lavish that He isn't confined to assigned YOU a role as an apostle, or a prophet, or an evangelist - but wants you to be a prophetic evangelist! Or a teaching apostle who pastors! What an imaginative God who gives such good gifts!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Learning from the Fathers of the Past

There is so much that can be learnt from the men and women that have gone before us. One of the things that concerns me most in organised religion these days is to see great heroes of the faith changing their vocabulary and methods to simply become "contemporary" in the way they see it. I've been reading through some of my collections of Restoration magazines and found an amazing interview that Wesley Richards did with eight of the key leaders of the charismatic movement of the 1970's. It was from the May/June 1987 edition and I've typed it out.

Richards begins by commenting on why the name "Restoration" was chosen;

"The name was chosen to 'emphasise our conviction that the Spirit of God 'is moving within the church today, not merely to renew what exists but to restore so much that has been lost or neglected".

Here's the interview;

Question: Why has this emphasis on the restoration of the church come about? Why wasn't the
most recent 'renewal' movement of the Spirit — which most of these men were part of — adequate?

Gerald Coates: 'The renewal movement did spill out into a very broad constituency. Through Michael Harper and others, folk such as myself were exposed to a quality of teaching, a perspective of church life and a ministry of the Spirit which revolutionised us. 'I'm not sure that Michael Harper is as aware of that as we are, but he actually had a lot to do with the beginning of the house-church movement. But we couldn't follow God and be obedient to him within the existing church structures. Many folk felt that allowing the Holy Spirit to come into Anglicanism, Methodism, 'Baptistism' or whatever would simply brighten up the worship and liven up the pulpit.

And, of course, it may do so, but that's very superficial and cosmetic. God wants to go much deeper. The baptism in the Spirit doesn't make you a better Anglican or a better Methodist. It makes you a worse Anglican, a worse Methodist, because Jesus isn't an Anglican or a Methodist and he won't fit into either. If the purpose of the renewal movement was to renew denominational Christianity, it has failed hopelessly. 'That's not to say that God hasn't done — and isn't still doing — wonderful things through it. But when you consider that it has been going now for over 20 years, it's a remarkable indictment of the renewal movement that there are so few thoroughly renewed churches today, in terms of both heart and structure.'

Arthur Wallis: Perhaps the foremost reason for the manifest decline in the renewal movement was the unwillingness in many quarters to face up to the implications of reformation. What was
needed was a fresh kind of obedience to what God was causing to break forth from his Word. It would be wrong of me to judge brethren, because I don't know how much light they had —how much they saw. Nor do I know how much instinctive recoiling there was from a path that was going to mean, "I haven't got to be clobbered again, have I, by some of my friends and colleagues?" But the fact that people began to withdraw indicates there was not an embracing of what God was saying and doing. The Spirit of God was in some measure quenched and grieved. There wasn't that quickening of faith for the next phase because people were a bit afraid of what the next phase would mean. I think some retracted on what they had experienced and sank back
into the old ecclesiastical rut. 'Others were busy maintaining what they had and thought, "This is it. Let's see it spread, but we mustn't go too far. We mustn't start challenging the historic structures."

Roger Forster: 'Renewal is not an end in itself. Unless you are prepared to improve cosmetically what is corroding. And whatever great moves there have been in renewal — which I rejoice over for the sake of those who have been blessed — have really been personal renewals, whereas God is seeking a corporate renewal which is not possible within those structures. He may choose, in his mercy and grace, to bless individuals there, but I don't see any hope that those great, creaking institutions will be turned around.

Barney Coombes: 'As I look around, there are very, very few churches which ever changed the wineskin — particularly Anglican churches. You could probably count on one hand those that made any significant changes. Then the ones that actually did make ultimate changes left the Anglican church as they sought to walk in obedience. Believers' baptism was, and still is, a big issue. People such as David Pawson, who preach it very clearly, are increasingly seen to be persona non grata in that sort of circle, where at one time he was quite popular.

Question: So, if renewal has fallen short, in what ways have the restorationists helped the church of Christ to move forward?

Clive Calver: I think the whole emphasis on worship, both physical and verbal, has been very important. I have heard a number of denominational leaders endorse that. The house churches have also taught us that we mustn't just sit in pews —we've got to learn how to relate. It's fair and valid to say that the emphasis on teamwork has come from the house-church movement. I think also that a strong affirmation of evangelical orthodoxy has come from within the movement. In the midst of the turmoil in certain of the established denominations, house churches have looked like a bastion, standing for the truth, and that has been fundamentally important — it has helped to strengthen the church's backbone a bit more.

Bryn Jones: 'One essential emphasis has been that, whereas we all believe in body life, what we are saying inside the context of restoration is that body life doesn't mean a free-for-all —it means freedom under government. It means you are totally free to express what is in keeping with the will of God and the ways of God. And the way God expresses his will and keeps us in his ways is by a government that he has established within his body. If we don't heed that government, we will either substitute some other form of control or we will have a charismatic free-for-all, which will eventually lead to a disintegration of the group.

Terry Virgo: 'The prophetic vision and refurbishing of the hope of the church through prophetic preaching has been complementary to what God has done spontaneously. When we gather in our thousands in Bible Weeks and sing songs full of prophetic truth, people are not just focusing on their own individual walk with God; they are responding to the sense of being a people of destiny, caught up in the great purpose of God. Again, the emphasis on the need for local churches to be built on apostolic foundations has been crucial. This plumb line has been applied to the previous foundation of church life, which has normally been the tradition in which that company has grown up. I believe that what has come to be known as the house-church movement has a voice for the whole church. It is tremendously important that we fight against the attempt being made to corner us and put us outside. We have to bring a leaven to the whole lump.

Arthur Wallis: 'We have emphasized that God wants a structure through which to work and move, one that is capable of containing the full release of the Holy Spirit without the nets breaking or the structure giving way — without the thing splintering and disintegrating. Then there has been a strong relationship emphasis — that the body of Christ consists of members who are in relationship. Where commitment, love, loyalty and trust break down, the
church breaks down. God designed it that way. He doesn't want it to work without that sense of relationship and commitment.

Gerald Coates: God has given his heart back to the church. Prior to what we know as the charismatic movement, worship, teaching, church life and theology were very cerebral. Now we've got some heart back in our worship, teaching, theology and eschatology, and that's making us laugh and cry.

Question: What about allegations that the house churches have been arrogant, authoritarian, elitist and factious and 'already a denomination' — to mention a few? How do the leaders of the various streams/teams react to the charges levelled against them?

Terry Virgo: 'We have not been elitist. If people look at the facts rather than the rumours, they will see that we have sought to hear from men of faith and gift who have not necessarily been
within our own framework. But we've not sought, under some strange pressure, to have any speaker in just to demonstrate that we are open to anybody, nor have we necessarily joined in every inter-church endeavour in order to demonstrate that we are broad-based. We haven't been authoritarian either. The BBC radio programme, "Front Room Gospel, interviewed people
at random among us and found no trace of that kind of thing at all.

Bryn Jones: 'Right from the start, when those in denominations perceived — rightly — that relationship based on spiritual authority called into question leadership structures that were merely constitutional or ecclesiastical, stories began to circulate that were quite apocryphal. Even where there were elements of truth, they were exaggerated out of proportion. There has been an effort to discredit the exercise of spiritual authority as being something oppressive. You had wild stories of excess, where people's door-keys had to be handed over and
bank books were demanded from them. As far as I'm aware, all those stories in this country were fictional. I never personally found any credible support for any of them. I don't believe we're exclusive. I do believe that in large measure we are the ones who have been excluded. One
thing we do admit to is being clear, and I think our clarity is often taken for exclusivism. What we're saying is that what we believe we will practice.

Now some people are frightened when they see clear practice. They don't mind talking to us privately. Often, the people who in public are very vocal about our being exclusive are in full agreement with us in private. But they say, "You shouldn't really expect us to practise that and do that. We might hold it privately but we've got to wait for some magic moment for God to make the time right for it to be done." But, let's be clear, at no point are we calling people to leave their denominations. We've said it again and again, put it in writing, recorded it on tapes and repeated it at Bible Weeks: it is only where your denomination compromises your conscience in terms of the Word of God that you have a choice to make. We shouldn't impose on people what is the level of our faith and conscience. We should respect the other man's judgment, as Paul teaches in Romans 14.

Barney Coombes: 'One mistake we've made — and John Wimber is having to face the same problem — is that when there's a move of God, because of the thirst and hunger in the hearts of God's people, the followers become more extreme than the leaders. Jesus had the same problem. I mean, his disciples wanted to bring down fire to destroy people! 'People have suddenly heard this message of restoration and started running with it. But revelation didn't
suddenly fall out of the sky to Bryn Jones, Arthur Wallis or myself. It's something we've grown into. A lot of people have been hurt byincessant singing, pride about our own sacrifice and the decisions we'd made and so on, all of which runs completely counter to the gospel's message about being poor in spirit.'

Tony Morton: 'Our mistake has been that, in blazing a trail and seeking to be obedient to God, we have sometimes alienated ourselves from brethren we need, men who have held the truths of the gospel with integrity to the best of their knowledge. We've created a gap — a gap which
needs to be bridged again for the sake of everybody. The body of Christ is not going to be further separated through the ministry of apostles and prophets but, as Ephesians 4 promises, actually brought together. I believe that in the great drive that has been born of the Spirit within many men to establish new churches, to create a new status quo which is New Testament oriented though not perfect, something has happened which has become almost the opposite of God's intent.

We have alienated ourselves from men of God in charismatic and Pentecostal situations who could have blessed us, and whom we could have blessed. It has almost become a competitive issue as to whom God will own. I don't think anyone has intended that. But through our insecurities and our need to prove something, probably plus the pressures of having to get on with the work, we have failed actually to declare the glory of our common kingdom-oriented, church-oriented intents. That's a major blemish about which God is addressing us now. God is changing things!

Gerald Coates: 'I often wish I could write books and give talks that were acceptable. That would make me more likeable and lovable! But every time I put pen to paper, every time I open my mouth, I feel this great anger and anguish on God's heart about the state of the church in general in Britain and the fact that there are so few voices crying out on God's behalf about it. And so I find myself having to do it. Obviously there are things I've said which should have been dosed with more compassion. But equally, there are things I've said which have been compassionate and kind, where I might have done God a far greater service by being really honest.

Bryn Jones: We are men who go for what we believe, but we have often been deeply hurt by what has been thought of us collectively, and some of us have been deeply hurt by what has
been said to us individually. At times, some of the people questioning our motives are those we
least expect. I think in all we've done we've sought to keep our motives pure. I've heard some say we're so cold that we don't let anything hurt us, that we just plough on and aren't sensitive
enough. And then I've heard others say we're so sensitive that we take too much heed of what is said and don't pursue things aggressively enough. Sometimes I've faltered in my pursuit of what I was convinced of because of the hurt I felt or the questioning of our motives by others. I can truthfully say that we could have planted churches in a lot more towns and cities of this country if we hadn't been sensitive to what others felt. We have deliberately curtailed our advance in many areas, and in some places actually withdrawn after giving in, because of the feelings others had about us being there.

Question: The future, not the past, is clearly dominating the leaders of the new churches?

Barney Coombes: Contrary to accusations of just being little 'blessing' groups, my opinion is that those who have embraced the kingdom are the most outgoing, innovative, creative, sacrificial people around today. My own observations are that the restoration pioneers are far from changing down a gear, content with their impact on the church to date. Instead, they are moving into overdrive, with their sights set on affecting the destiny of the nation. In private conversation, as well as public interviews, I found leaders who, far from being intoxicated by so called 'success', were full of a sober realism concerning the immense challenges ahead if the church is going to make a significant breakthrough back into the mainstream of national life in Britain.

Terry Virgo: 'God has spoken to us strongly about reaching the nation through large churches. We were praying about how we could influence the media and speak to the nation. God told us through a prophetic word that we weren't ready to speak to the media, but that God would build large churches, as a result of which the media would come to us and ask us what was happening. Through that we would begin to get a voice. I believe we will see a revived, restored church emerging across the nation. I've been in full-time ministry since 1963 and I have never
known such a time of continual conversions. It's only a steady trickle, but the tide is coming in.
'But when we begin to see large numbers being saved and vested interests being touched — and as we grow in strength and begin to speak out more on moral issues such as abortion — I believe there will be a backlash. In England there will probably be an attack on leaders to undermine their integrity. I think also there will be an attempt to undermine what they would call fundamentalism, attacking Christians for not being free thinkers and caricaturing them as Bible-reading obscurantists.

Barney Coombes: 'I am very encouraged about future prospects! It excites me to see young men and women coming forth with commitment, abandonment and recklessness to serve God. If that continues, I can see some amazing things happening.'

Bryn Jones: 'I believe that the whole body of Christ is going to experience a huge spiritual awakening. That doesn't mean we'll be without persecution, though. We're on the very threshold of a tremendously positive future. I see the rains of God over our land. I see the flame of the Holy Spirit burning in all our cities. I see a largescale spiritual revival.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Don't Tell Me the Fire of God isn't For Young Children"

I love this recent video from the Bay of the Holy Spirit revival in Mobile Alabama. Nathan Morris the evangelist out there - said something extremely profound about 4:00 minutes in. He said;

"Sunday School teachers hear me - don't tell me the fire of God isn't for young children".

The video is full of clips of God touching children and is very moving and exciting. I think one of the greatest crimes of the modern day church is to minimalise and side-line children. God works on children as powerfully as when Jesus said; "Let them come to Me!".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lloyd-Jonesian Experientialism!!

It's been a while since I've mentioned blogs I tend to follow but one of my appreciations for Twitter and Facebook is the ability to keep up to date with such blogs. While I do try and read blogs that perhaps I don't agree with such as John MacArthur or C J Mahaney/Sovereign Grace Ministries or Mark Driscoll (as Ern Baxter used to say - they act as iron sharpening iron), I prefer blogs that feed my passions!

"Confluence" is one such - it is a wonderful Newfrontiers blog written by John Lanferman and other contributers, the apostolic leader in the USA. It's mission statement is;

"We want “Confluence” to be a welcome place for those who stand firm on the integrity of scripture and embrace the full activity of the Spirit’s present empowering work, along with a commitment of taking the gospel and planting churches throughout the earth".

One of my deepest appreciations is his honouring of Dr Martyn Ll0yd-Jones's monumental teaching on all things about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Reading "Confluence" made me wonder whether we have neglected certain aspects of the Doctor's teaching at the peril of the church. For example - it's been a while since I have written on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit - a doctrine and encounter I still hold extremely precious and indeed pivotal to Christian life. This post on the blog addresses this issue;

It asks the question:

"Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit something that all Christians receive unconsciously at conversion?".

Yes. That question still has to be answered and will continue to have to be answered as long as souls are being saved and are potentially missing out on their inheritance through wrong teaching such as cessationist or Third Wave views!

The "Confluence" blog using the teaching of Dr Lloyd-Jones begins correctly by asking the "WHAT" question of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and this is something the Doctor was cautious to do. Many modern Christians race to answer the "WHEN" question. We must understand what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is before we can appreciate when God gives this gift.

"It is clear that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is always something clear and unmistakable, something which can be recognized by the person to whom it happens and by others who look on at this person. This is obviously a most vital and important principle ... The very essence of this is that it is conscious, that it is experimental, obvious, plain, and clear; not only to the recipient but also to those who are familiar with him ... I think the bible makes it perfectly clear, it makes it quite beyond any doubt, that this is something essentially experimental, which involves a mystical experience, to use such a term.".

The book of Acts calls it; "This which you both see and hear". Ern Baxter used to say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS something which other people can SEE and HEAR.

But what about regeneration? Well the Doctor writes;

"Regeneration is something unconscious, not experimental; and the great point is that it is a mysterious, miraculous act worked in the depths and the vitals of the soul, and no man can tell you the moment when he was regenerated. Everybody is agreed about that - that regeneration is non-experimental. You later begin to discover the fact that you have been made regenerate and give evidence of it".

So there we have it. The logical conclusion is that IF (and I don't believe it does) the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs simultaneously with regeneration then every new convert must of necessity have an encounter with God that is seen and heard. And not everyone can testify to that. I personally had a number of steps I remember in Dunstable towards my moment or process of conversion. I couldn't say which was the actual moment. But my baptism in the Holy Spirit? I remember it clearly as if it were yesterday - in a school hall in Birmingham in 1999! And a week later in the shower the gift of tongues poured forth!

So I do recommend this blog to you - the writing is excellent and they have quite a few "Dear Doctor" blogs where they pose questions to Doctor Martyn Ll0yd-Jones. Let's not forget the importance of encountering the manifest Presence of God. I personally I am really troubled when I see so-called charismatic groups of churches being wooed by the "respectability" of evangelicalism and reformed doctrine. Why on earth would we abandon the reality of the Presence of God?! The lost will come to encounter a Person - not a doctrine, not a thought.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Revival of Worship

I'm still reading through my old "New Covenant Songs" book - the worship songbook that my home church used to use before it inherited the "Praise!" hymnbook that I detested from FIEC. Why did I detest it? Mainly because of the poor mutilation of words in classic hymns in an attempt to make it more "contemporary". But that's an aside and one I won't embark on.

I found this comment written in the foreword of
the "New Covenant Songs" book that I can't believe I haven't noticed before. It said;

"Times of renewal bring new hymns and spiritual songs to birth and such a time as the present season of refreshing is no exception".

The charismatic movement was unique for birthing worship leaders such as Stuart Townend, Nathan and Lou Fellingham, Kate Simmonds and of course who can forget Graham Kendrick and many many more from different streams. Ironically their songs are sung by churches and denominations that would baulk at charismatic theology!

Our church in Dunstable was no exception to birthing new songs - we had some very beautiful songs mainly written by women such as Joy Hammond and Joan Barr. I used to love this one;

"The Lord our God is a great God, lift up your voice and praise His Name,
The Lord our God is a mighty King, lift holy hands and bless His Name.

Royal priesthood come bow before His throne, bring a sacrifice of praise,
Holy Nation exalt before Your God; He is worthy of our praise".

Although this one wasn't written by someone from our church, it was a real favourite during our growing up years and I loved it;

"O Lord our God how majestic is Your Name, the world is filled with Your glory,
O Lord our God, You are robed in majesty, You've set Your glory above the heavens,

We will magnify, we will magnify the Lord enthroned in Zion!
We will magnify, we will magnify the Lord enthroned in Zion!

O Lord our God, You have established a throne, You reign in righteousness and splendour,
O Lord our God the skies are ringing with Your praise, soon those on earth will come to worship;

O Lord our God, the worlds are made at Your command, in You all things will hold together,
Unto Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and glory and power forever!".

Interestingly the pattern we saw at Dunstable was that when backs were turned on the Charismatic Movement, we began abandoning the new spiritual songs I'm reading through and reverted to the older Wesley/Whitfield-esque hymns. There's so much that comes from times of refreshing - the church is revived, new songs of worship are written and inspired by fresh encounters with God and most importantly of course the lost are saved.

Do it again Lord - and please don't miss out the United Kingdom!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One to One with Rob Rufus and Nigel Ring

I found this interview between Nigel Ring and Rob Rufus taken just after the "Together on a Mission Conference" in Brighton in 2006. It's so stirring.

NR: Were you brought up in a Christian family?

RR: I had an incredibly happy childhood but my mother was an agnostic and my dad was an atheist but a very good father. From about three years of age I was conscious of God's Presence and about the age of seven or eight, I began to read the gospels. However in my high school years I really went out of my way to undermine Christian faith; but I was longing for them to win the argument. When I finished high school my dad had convinced me that Christianity was a modern form of sophisticate superstition but I had the privilege of leading my dad to Christ many, many years later, three weeks before he passed on!

On "call-up" in the military I began to ask questions about the meaning of life even more. Then at university I got very involved with the Hare Krishna movement. I even joined a Hindu Ashram full time.

NR: Had you met Glenda at this stage?

RR: We met at university and got married. We had our first son Jay (Hindu for victory) by the time we had joined the Hare Krishna movement. In the meantime Glenda had an amazing encounter with God and was "born again". I ridiculed that a martyr could save the world. It seemed foolish that Jesus died on a cross; He could have done better as a teacher. One day a man wanted to join our community. I asked him how long he wanted to stay and he said as long as was necessary! That night he suddenly sat straight up and pointed at a picture of Krishna, shook his head and just said; "Jesus Christ is the pure sacrifice of God and He is the only way" - a pretty courageous thing to say in a Hare Krishna temple!

I was suddenly aware that I was not right with God. When I got up at 2am he had gone and I never saw him again.

NR: Angelic?

RR: I don't know Nigel. For months I tried to increase my performance in Hindu rituals. Then in the Ashram on my own, Jesus came and said; "My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Come follow Me!". So I was "born again" in a Hindu temple! That was in 1977.

NR: Did you walk straight out?

RR: I did leave as I was called up again by the South African military. But I went back and witnessed to every single one there. I heard later that some I had spoken to had left the movement.

NR: I think your second child had been born by this stage?

RR: Yes, Ryan was conceived whilst we were in the Hare Krishna movement. He is now part of our leadership team. We also have a daughter Bonnie who leads worship in our church.

NR: When you left Hare Krishna, how did you engage with a church?

RR: We went back to the university on a post-graduate course. I met Christians who had fasted for forty days for us when they heard we were going to the Hare Krishna people. They burst into tears and were amazed! We joined them as a community of people.

NR: How did you plant a church?

RR: After I graduated God called me to plant in our home town but there was nothing supernatural there. I began to read Acts and God asked me; "Do you believe everything that is My will will automatically happen?". I said; "Yes Lord!". "Do you believe it is My will to save people every week and add them to you?". I said; "Yes Lord!". "Do you believe it is My will that people get healed miraculously?". I said; "Yes Lord!". "Then how come it isn't happening?".

He spoke to me about going to sit under the ministry of Kenneth Hagin for three days. Initially I was quite critical and analytical but I watched the miraculous happening. Then God said; "Lift your hands - you can do this!". The Presence of God came on me overwhelmingly and powerfully for the first time in my life. The next Sunday our church was hit by the power of God. People with deaf ears began to hear, different people began to cry out. I felt God say; "Pray a blessing over the people". So I asked them to stand and said; "Father would you bless ..." and I didn't get any further.

I heard this amazing rushing sound through the building and saw people being picked up and carried two to three rows through the air. We had never seen anything like this. I called out and said; "You have seen that God is real. Come and get saved!". People literally ran to get saved that day. Even the local rugby team visited and broken bones were healed. The church grew by hundreds. Then God said; "I am going to lift this heavy anointing off you for a season and I want you to get to know me. I am going to link you with people that I want you to be accountable to. I want you to develop your doctrine and knowledge of Scripture. I am going to bring this power back on you at a later stage".

It was at that stage I met Dudley Daniel.

NR: Has God brought that power back to you?

RR: Every year I asked God; "Is this the year?". Every year He would say; "Be faithful - this is not the year". By 2001, 2002 I wondered if God would ever do this again but at the beginning of 2006 I heard God say; "This is the year not just for you but for much of the wider body of Christ". He promised He would restore this power at a higher level and I feel certain that as the year progresses we will see this more and more.

NR: Is this world-wide?

RR: There is fresh expectation in many parts of the world and reports of some unusual signs and wonders. I think 2006 is the year our Lord is taking His finger off the "pause" button.

NR: Such ministry comes out of an intimacy with God. How did you deepen your personal walk with God?

RR: I love to get out to solitary places; the mountains and the forests. When I first planted a church I would spend a day or two every week alone with God, not trying to prepare messages but wanting to get to know Him. I learned to fine-tune my spirit to hear His voice and talk to Him about who He is. He said; "Rob I want you to ask Me questions about Me. If you open your heart to me, I will open My heart totally to you - and reveal things to you". I found that if you develop a depth of relationship with God in the solitary places I could start hearing His voice in the noisy places. I can even stand in Mongkok - one of the densest population areas in Hong Kong and hear the voice of God.

NR: Many leaders would ask; "How did you carve out that time? Did you have a team with you?".

RR: Yes I did have a good team but there is also unnecessary guilt that comes. One day sitting on a mountain looking out over factories where members of my congregation were working, God said;

"Son those people want you here - they want you to come with dew of heaven on your shoulders and speak the living word of God".

NR: Moving in these dimensions, do you experience opposition?

RR: Yes! The enemy is against the anointing because it destroys the yokes, lifts the burdens off people's shoulders and breaks his strategies and attacks. There are anti-Christspirits trying to get the church to be more secular, to run programmes, entertainment with human wisdom. Reaction is mainly from religious people; the world longs to experience something that is supernaturally authentic. We need to redeem the supernatural back to sound theology, basing it on good doctrine, expressed by people who have healthy marriages, healthy families and so forth.

NR: Where do you find your own peer relationship that will keep you secure and where you weigh each other's ministry?

RR: A very good question! When God exploded into our church I had no understanding of proper Biblical government foundations or biblical wineskins. I had difficulty in hosting a big crowd! As I mentioned, it was then in 1984 that I was introduced to Dudley Daniel. I first met him on his day off. He came out of his study in a pair of shorts and hugged me. I got the shock of my life! I felt God say; "I have joined you to this man forever!". I began to realise that Dudley had an apostolic wisdom, understanding and grace on his life. He helped us lay proper New Testament patterns and Victory Faith Church is still very healthy today.

NR: How did New Covenant Ministries begin?

RR: When Dudley was baptised in the Holy Spirit, his denomination kicked him out. He was invited by a small group in Bryanstone, Johannesburg to pastor them. He also felt God say he should build relationships with pastors who are lonely, wanting friendship and looking for togetherness. Out of that came the phrase; "Friendship before function". This began to reflect what Jesus revealed so wonderfully with His friends who were disciples.

There were many BBQs with humour and laughter. Slowly the idea of a trans-local team began to develop; that is when I got involved. God began to open up the oath He made to Abraham to bless all nations. We began to see that we would have to plant New Testament local churches in every nation.

NR: Did you have a particular strategy?

RR: In Scripture proven ministries took the initiative to break new territory. For example Paul and Barnabas having established Antioch moved on. Dudley relocated to Australia. This sent a big signal to us all. We thought South Africa was going to fall apart but God actually blessed us. Then God called Glenda and me to join him.

NR: Were you creating South African churches?

RR: Not at all! As we planted we started working with indigenous people and they started coming on team. We wanted to reflect the culture of the kingdom not a religious sub-culture.

NR: Have you found that God has given you favour with particular sections of the community?

RR: In certain countries, doors open through situations of poverty. In others, it has come through Christian businessmen and women like Priscilla and Aquila.

NR: How did your next transition come about?

RR: When Dudley felt called to work into the USA, he handed the visionary leadership of Coastlands International Christian Centre over to me. In 2002 after seven years God called us to go full-time trans-local equipping churches in evangelism, signs and wonders and miracles so we handed the church over to Dudley's son Tyrone. Then our hearts began to turn to Asia and Glenda and I planted a church in Hong Kong.

NR: Did you know people on the ground?

RR: There were five people in Hong Kong and five young people from South Africa to help us for 6-12 months.

NR: How have you grown?

RR: Originally I thought we would build primarily with ex-pats using the medium of English. However Chinese people started coming because they heard about the Presence of God and were attracted to the message of grace. One young, very intelligent and hi-tech Buddhist man came. The Presence of God was so powerful in the meeting that he began to weep and said; "They are not singing about Buddha, they are singing about Jesus so He must be alive!". He gave his life to Christ and we baptised him very soon after that. We are, probably about 95 adults at this time plus children.

NR: Do you have any comments on multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual church?

RR: When diverse ethnic groups come together that reflects the wonderful finished work of the Cross! The idea of the homogenous church for me is foreign to the Scripture. We are enjoying being a rainbow church.

NR: Has the signs and wonders ministry opened doors for you in Hong Kong?

RR: Yes! There is a lot of idol worship that opens people up to demonic influences so when God sets people free they go and tell their friends. The potential to have exponential growth in Hong Kong and into mainland China is enormous. The secular humanistic money culture has left a real emptiness in people's lives.

The Presence and power of God is a major means to impact that part of the world.

NR: Can you disciple others into this ministry or impart it to others?

RR: Both! The main way is through impartation. It is through association with people that are moving in the supernatural like Elijah to Elisha or Paul to Timothy or Moses to Joshua and so on. There also needs to be practical instruction; how to co-operate with God; how to co-labour with God; how to partner with God. I love to coach even in services on a Sunday morning - "This is why we are doing this".

NR: You referred earlier to what God was saying about 2006. Can you expand on that?

RR: I came to London in 2005 and I was praying in Richmond Park and suddenly I felt the clear voice of God saying He is going to come with a visitation of His glory to the British Isles. It may seem unlikely or like wishful thinking but I just felt it so strongly. He said He was going to call me back and have some involvement in facilitating, in a small way, some of those things. Something would rise up within these British Isles. It would be for everyone who is hungry for God. It would require people to look at wineskins to avoid another charismatic movement that will run for a while and then burst.

Those who have been faithfully establishing wineskins for years need to start looking with expectation that they have not laboured in vain. Others will need to be looking at Scripture and to people who have built according to a Biblical pattern. This is the time to prepare for this visitation by building proper Biblical government and pattern into the church.

A Biblical wineskin embraces three elements:

1. Biblical authority structures which is proper government based on what the Bible teaches not on democracy.
2. Biblical vision which involves going to the nations and involves reaching the lost.
3. Biblical values - how we do it, with integrity, humility, with team, accountability etc.

Prophetic ministries around the world are picking up an excited expectation of something significant. This time hopefully we won't have a Philistine cart with our Uzzah's and Ahios. We will receive this visitation with a lot more reverence and honour who this is for. This is for the honour and pleasure of our great God not to make certain movements more famous or our churches grow faster. This is to see the glory of God come into the nations that multitudes can be saved.

NR: Thank you so much Rob - An excellent place to conclude!

Wonderful Grace of Jesus!

I've been using today and the trapped nerve in my neck to slow down considerably and sort through and read some of my collections of books, journals and magazines. I found an old "New Covenant Songs" book that we used to use at our church in Dunstable and was reading some of the great old songs.

I love this one;

"Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin,
How shall my tongue describe it? Where shall it's praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea,
Higher than the mountain, sparkling like a fountain,
All sufficient grace for even me!
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious, Name of Jesus - praise His Name!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,
By it's transforming power, making me God's own child,
Purchasing peace and heaven, for all eternity,
All the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me!".

Those who remember this one will remember the bouncy, triumphant tune it was sung to. You couldn't help but smile when you sang it!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nathan Morris - Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival

I've got God TV on and Nathan Morris - the young evangelist is preaching;

"Why is it that we have to drive miles to find a church filled with the fire of God?".

Makes you think. Here's a video I took of him. I am really excited about the vital combination of ministry and prophetic calls to mission and the advance of the Kingdom of God. So much of charismatic ministry can be quite narcissistic and inward-looking. This guy is an evangelist and his heart is for the lost. Apologies the quality isn't great - my iPhone doesn't have the best video!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Love Kate Simmonds!!

Ahh at the risk of sounding like a desperate fan, I am SO thrilled to find these video's tonight. I've been a fan of Kate Simmonds for some years now since I enjoyed her leading worship at Stoneleigh Bible Week. I've never experienced such gentle but powerful leading into the Presence of God. Even if you are struggling to plug into the Presence of God, you only need look at her and see her example. She isn't just singing or performing. She's worshipping.

So her loss to CCK and to Brighton was a loss for the UK - but a massive gain for Australia and Sydney! And it is great to see she is putting her God-given awesome gifts to use for the benefit of the nations. Here's some videos that her church have uploaded with some new songs she has written. The first video is where she explains how she came to write "Grace is not earned".

The final video is the classic hymn "Here is love vast as the ocean" but with Kate's unique slant on it. Alas you can't embed it - but it's well worth following the link and watching!

Healing of a Baby in Mobile Alabama!!

Being a paediatric nurse I have a very soft spot in my heart for babies and children. So as I have been following the "Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival" (I love that name!) in Mobile, Alabama I was instantly gripped by this video and this beautiful child - who it seems has been healed of deafness. I find it incredibly moving how emotional Nathan Morris is when he hears the child has been healed. Every servant of God who moves in signs, wonders and miracles will generally be accused of being a phony by cessationist septics. This to me isn't a phony man. This is a desperate and passionate man who is thrilled his God is moving and acting.

Here's the video. I took a screen shot of the medical results shown on the video at 2:23. I am quite familiar with these results in nursing. I would interpret this results card as a baby passing all audiology tests but follow-up being recommended because the hospital staff don't understand why the child has passed!

Here's the results screen capture;

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saturday, November 06, 2010

And By the Way ....

I know the first thing the cynics always ask is - well where is she now? That's all very well she seemed to have got "healed" at the meeting. But is she still healed now?

I have just found this video of the lady walking onto stage and worshipping;

The Lame Shall Walk!!

I was taken aback by a "sovereign surprise" when I got back from the gym today. I turned on the TV and was channel flicking. Normally I tend to whizz past God TV but was caught by something called "Revival - Mobile Alabama". Intrigued I stopped - Mobile is a place dear to my heart because it's where the Ern Baxter Memorial Library is. What I saw on TV was a young evangelist praying for a gorgeous tiny little baby. It looked somewhat similar to Lakeland although I didn't know any of the individuals on stage.

I'm absolutely gutted to say that my initial thought was; "Oh no - not again". What I meant by that was - not another flash in the pan "revival" that will excite for a few months and then be gradually whittled away by cynics and critics - and even possibly the leaders falling into some error.

But then I kept watching and was softly and lovingly rebuked by the Holy Spirit. Dare I ever let cynicism and weariness from unfulfilled promises tarnish our openness to something new? Surely not! I never, ever, EVER want to become one of those Christians I saw and feared becoming back in Dunstable. Who were bitter and resentful and suspicious of anything new - just because they weren't used to it. This Mobile uprising may perhaps be "another Lakeland" - but I really really want my default position to be - I hope not! I hope it's the start of something new that God is doing in our day! There's nothing I dread more than - nothing.

So here's what I know so far:

Nathan Morris - a UK evangelist - came to John Kilpatrick's (former pastor involved in Brownsville in Pensecola) church in late July to close a conference. The power of God broke out and he has cancelled his other commitments and stayed there to this day. There have been some very notable miracles that Charisma Magazine has reported:

This was videoed and has attracted over 100,000 hits on You-Tube! Here it is;

So I don't know what's going to happen - and I don't know how it will all end up. But I'm excited to watch and see what breaks out - and by God's grace get touched by a personal revival myself (because God knows I need it!). I've been listening to Nathan Morris - the evangelist - preach for the last half hour or so and I must say I'm impressed so far by his commitment to mission and the Word of God.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Joyless Christians - A Sin?

Dave Bish wrote an excellent blog post that really got me thinking today - called; "How come new Christians are so full of joy and then that fades?". He said;

"Confusingly and foolishly and bewilderingly the Galatians swap faith in the gospel word and hence life in the Spirit for works of law and flesh. For religion and do-it-yourself living. What happens? Joy disappears. Life fades, and you get the kind of phenomenon that we observe happening as a Christian apparently "matures" and we pat them on the back for getting over their early enthusiasm and getting on with joy-so-deep-you-can't-see-it".

That really reminded me of my past. I remember when I was baptised in the Holy Spirit up here in Birmingham while I was at university and I went back home to my church in Dunstable bubbling over with the wonder of new life in the Spirit. I couldn't WAIT to tell my friends about what I had experienced and awesome I found God. Many of my peer friends were fascinated but I'll never forget attending a pre-service prayer meeting and I heard Stanley Jebb - my senior pastor and hero - pray quite angrily like this;

"Lord we pray against the excesses of youthful exuberance".

I am sure he meant it in the best sense but I took it very personally to heart and felt it was a personal attack on me just because I had an experience he was busy telling my church did not exist. Crushed I went to see one of the elders who were responsible for my care - and shared with him what had happened. He smiled at me benignly and said; "Ah yes it's great to be enthusiastic but you will grow up and mature". The implication - as Dave said - that I would essentially become miserable and dull and boring.

I love the way Dave ends the blog post and echo it whole-heartedly;

"Paul's word to us would be let's start with the gospel and grow up with the gospel, please don't poison new Christians, or older Christians, with the filth of religion and effort - what good is that? - let the gospel change lives, let the Spirit change lives, help one another with that by walking one another back to the gospel, loving and bearing with one another rather than rushing people to something that has an appearance of godliness but nothing more than a veneer. Win hearts to Jesus rather than to a miserable lifestyle".

It isn't particularly mature or God-glorifying to be miserable for the sake of it. In fact I rather think the Bible says it's a sin. Of course we should not be ridiculously and falsely happy all the time. Life brings pain and hurt. But abounding joy? Surely that is a characteristic of life in the Spirit. And that and that alone will glorify God by grabbing the attention of the world.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quotes from Glory and Grace Conference 2010!!

I was so blessed and encouraged today to receive an email from Paul Ellis - a fellow grace guy who is actually AT the conference in Hong Kong. I admitted to him I had been feeling wretchedly sorry for myself wishing I was in Hong Kong and was so buzzed to hear that it was going well. Paul said there are some absolutely sterling messages coming from the conference so I cannot WAIT to get typing and transcribing!

Paul guided me to his Facebook profile where he is posting some of the key quotes he hears. Here are some;

‎"God requires perfection and nothing less... Unless you have a perfect high priest, you're finished!" - Rob Rufus G&G10)

“Trying to prove you’re free (by skipping church, not praying etc.) means you’re not free. This spirit of independence discredits the grace message.” ~ Rob Rufus (G&G10)

“Jesus doesn't hate religious people. Religious people put Jesus on the cross and He said, ‘Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing. We have paranoia in parts of the grace movement with people reacting to anything that looks like law or control. One line in a song and they walk out. Don’t hold your leaders hostage. If we’re easily discouraged or judgmental, then we’re still in bondage.” ~ Rob Rufus (G&G10)

"Jesus believes in you! “Your life is not essentially changed by who you believe in. Your life is changed by Who believes in you. When someone recognizes you, it empowers you. It’s not the lesser recognizing the greater. But when the Greater recognizes the lesser, supernatural power is released.” ~ Rob Rufus (G&G10)

Pete Day and I agreed that since we touched the grace movement in 2006/7 the powers of hell have been relentless in trying to discourage, discredit and make us believe that God is not answering His promises, is not good, is not kind and life generally sucks. I love this reminder from such a portal of heaven that God IS good, He IS kind and He IS answering His promises!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Call to the Ministry - by Dr Stanley Jebb

I find Dr Stanley Jebb's latest blog post incredibly interesting - for some years I deeply believed that I was called to "the ministry". I actually had a very vivid dream I still remember well in which I was walking down a country lane with Dr Stanley Jebb and turned to him and gripped his arm and said; "Stanley - I MUST preach!". So the call to the ministry is one that is very much on my heart.

However it is interesting to me that Stanley Jebb sees the problem as; "There are some men available, but not enough to fill all the vacant pastorates. Besides, not all the men are suitable, for one reason or another". I remember being at the Westminster Conference with a friend of mine in 2001 when Stanley Jebb was speaking. And during one of the discussions, some of the elders there said the same thing; "WHERE are the young men?!". My experience as one of those "young" men is slightly different. My experience is; "WHERE are the fathers!?".

And by that I mean that I have encountered many young men and women eager in fact desperate to be used by God in ministry for Him and His church but there is a massive lack of spiritual fathers - men like Stanley himself or Terry Virgo who have the ability to father, nuture and love those young people. The three main churches I have been involved with in my life has not been positive at recognizing and using that willingness to be used. I think Sovereign Grace Ministries in Bristol was by far my worst experience. I foolishly thought that being part of a church plant would be a massive opportunity to be used and made my intentions clear that I was so keen to be available. That was seen by the leadership as "pride" and so I was ignored for 2 years.

I say again - I think the church needs BOTH! It does need those eager and willing to be called. But it needs secure and mature fathers in the faith who can gladly disciple and nuture and teach and use. One other point - essential to any "call to the ministry" is a recognition and appreciation for the Ephesians 4 Ministries. Prior to 1990 - Stanley Jebb used to teach very wisely that it is wrong to expect all to be poured into the mold of pastors. There are different gifts and different ministries - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Here's the blog post;

Call to the Ministry
By stanleyjebb

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9).
So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it, but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:30).
He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor… (Isaiah 59:16a).
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. (Matthew 9:36-38).

Some months ago I was in conversation with a former President of a major denomination about the difficulty of finding a suitable pastor for a vacant pulpit. We agreed that there is a dire shortage of suitable men. There are some men available, but not enough to fill all the vacant pastorates. Besides, not all the men are suitable, for one reason or another. The few excellent men available are quickly settled into a pastorate Some of the men who have made themselves available are already in a pastorate but want to move. Either they want to leave or have been asked to leave their present position. Some of those men may be very able and sound and have good reasons for wanting to move. In the case of others it raises a question in the minds of those responsible for finding a pastor. The Scriptures cited above suggest that, in a sense, God Himself is looking for men suitable for His service. In considering this shortage it is worth asking the question, what are the necessary and the desirable qualities in ministers of the Gospel? This is how I see these matters.

1 A definite call from God.

Some would deny this. A few months ago when I mentioned in a discussion this need for a call a prominent evangelical minister retorted that there is no difference at all between the call to be a minister and the call to be a dentist . Another evangelical minister said to me, ‘The only call in the New Testament is the call to be a Christian. There is no such thing as a specific call to the ministry.’

Now granted that we use the word ‘calling’ in a general way to describe any person’s job, and therefore every person has, in that sense, his or her ‘calling’, is there really no difference? The Scripture does use the word ‘calling’ in that general sense in 1 Corinthians 7:20. But is there no difference between the sacred ministry and any other calling? Surely the vast majority of people in what we may term ‘secular’ employment actually choose their vocation. While in school or college they consider the various options and select the one that most appeals to them. In some cases they may have had that goal in mind from childhood, perhaps following in a parent s footsteps. It is certainly possible that in a very few cases their particular vocation was impressed upon them by God, but that is surely rare. It is certainly possible that a person may feel that God has specifically called them to be a dentist or a dustman, a farmer or a fisherman, but the impression one gets is that most people choose their vocation. Please note that to be doing one s job as to the Lord and serving Him in one s chosen calling is not the same thing as to be called by God in the first place to do it.

But for a man to choose the Christian ministry as his option without any sense of it being God s will, would seem to fly in the face of biblical teaching. Normally the ministry chooses the man, or the Lord does! Let me stress that I am not seeking to deny that a person may strongly feel that God led them into a particular ‘secular’ employment, but merely seeking to make clear that the call to the ministry is a definite and distinct calling, different from other ‘callings’.

Consider the Biblical evidence.
In the first place, we are told quite clearly in Hebrews 5:4 concerning the Old Testament priesthood that ‘no man takes this honour to himself, but he who is called by God.’ John the Baptist was ‘a man sent from God’ (John 1:6), and Jesus said to the apostles, ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit…’ (John 15:16). Again, in Ephesians chapter four we read that the ascended Christ ‘gave gifts unto men,’ and ‘He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers’. In Acts chapter Thirteen we read that ‘as they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”’ Clearly that was not the call to salvation, but a distinct and definite call to ministry. Of course there are several ‘callings’ in Scripture which are common to all Christians, such as the call to salvation, the call to holiness, etc (e.g. 1Cor. 1:1-9). But the calling to an Ephesians four ministry is not common to all Christians, for Ephesians 4:11 states that it is only some that are so called. This calling may not come in a dramatic way. In fact one of the striking features about those called to ministry in the Bible is that each call to ministry seems to have been distinct; Moses, Gideon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul. Only the fishermen friends and brothers seem to have been called in a common way to be Christ s apostles.
Now if it is being taught that there is ‘no difference at all’ between the call to be a dentist (or any other work) and the call to be a minister, which means in effect that you can choose to be a minister if you like, is it any wonder that there are men in the ministry without a sense of definite call from God? And is it any wonder that, if the idea of a distinct call from God to the ministry is denigrated, men do not expect to hear it or, if there are a stirring within them from God, His voice is ignored as being an erroneous suggestion?
Jesus looked with compassion on the multitudes and said to the disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.’ (Matthew 9:37,38). Surely that passage implies that labourers are specifically sent by God into the harvest? But why bother God with such prayers if there is no definite and distinct call into the ministry? Why not spend our energy in persuading men that they should choose that vocation? The answer to the dearth of ministers is to earnestly beseech God to send forth labourers, and to expound the Scriptures so that God may use such preaching to call men.
James M. George in his chapter on The Call to Pastoral Ministry writes:

The call of God to vocational ministry is different from God s call to salvation and His call to service issued to all Christians. It is a call to selected men to serve as leaders in the church. To serve in such leadership capacities, recipients of this call must have assurance that God has so selected them. A realization of this assurance rests on four criteria, the first of which is a confirmation of the call by others and by God through the circumstances of providing a place of ministry. The second criterion is the possession of abilities necessary to serve in leadership capacities. The third consists of a deep longing to serve in the ministry. The final qualification is a lifestyle characterized by moral integrity. A man who fulfils these four qualifications can rest in the assurance that God has called him to vocational Christian leadership. [Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, John MacArthur, et al, Word Publishing, 1995, p. 102].

2. A Knowledge of the Bible.

This may seem obvious, but, alas! It cannot be taken for granted today. Many men coming from Bible Colleges and University Theological departments just do not know their Bibles. A minister showed me a letter from an officer of one of the largest city missions in this country, in which he gave examples of five candidates for posts as city missionaries who, in a fairly simple and straightforward Bible examination, revealed an appalling ignorance of Scripture. Three of those applicants had degrees in theology from British Theological colleges! A graduate of Oxford University told me that a lecturer in Theology there complained that he found it extremely difficult to get theological students to study their Bibles. When he set them a passage to study they went straight to the commentaries and quoted them, rather than studying the passage itself. This may be a reflection on the churches from which those students came, but sadly one hears of supposedly evangelical churches where drama, testimonies, family services have replaced the reading and exposition of the Word of God. And how many churches have dropped their Bible Study meetings? A minister must know his Bible.

2. Doctrinal Integrity.
If there is a lack of Bible knowledge in the churches today there is certainly also an ignorance of basic doctrine, or at least woolliness about fundamental truths. A man must be sound in doctrine if he is to be a preacher of the Gospel. A leading evangelical minister stated recently that every evangelical minister ought to be able to preach on the doctrines of grace without any notes. In other words, he should know basic doctrines so well that he could preach on them extempore.

3. Preaching ability.
It goes without saying that if a man is to be a preacher he should be able to communicate truth in a clear and compelling fashion. This ability will grow, however, if someone is called. This alone, however, is not enough. Even non-Christians can be eloquent speakers, and many liberal ministers are able communicators.

4. A man of prayer.
The apostles refused to take on other tasks because they insisted that they must give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. Notice the order, prayer first. Notice also that they were to give themselves continually to these matters. It is a sad reflection on our churches that few candidates for the ministry today seem to have experienced spending a day, a half-night or a whole night in prayer, still less done this with any regularity. What is even more alarming is that some will confess that they do not have a daily time of prayer and meditation on the Word. Some pour scorn on the term Quiet Time but cannot suggest a better name for it. It is usually reckoned to be wisdom not to destroy something good until you are ready to replace it with something better, and the danger is that publicly denigrating the title of a Quiet Time may result in the practice of it suffering as a side effect.

5. Consecration.

The ministry should be their all-absorbing passion. Like Paul they should be able to say, ‘this one thing I do..’. They may, of course have other interests. It is good for a man to have a hobby, a means of relaxation. But if the hobby, the sport, television, or whatever it is, looms too large in his life so that at times the ministry takes second place, the balance is wrong. Some men today are so obsessed with sport that the ministry seems like an avocation and the sport is what they live for. The hymn, Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee, must be a reality in a minister s experience.

2. Separation.
This is a contentious issue, and standards and opinions vary widely among evangelicals today in a way that they did not fifty years ago. Worldliness is an increasing problem in Western churches at the present time. But let us take an issue which is very clear; our use of time. It is surely incontrovertible that before the advent of television no man of God would have spent as long in the cinema each week as some ministers today spend in front of the television. Oh yes, we all know that some programmes are informative and interesting, but the vast bulk of television is distinctly unedifying, and much of it is degrading and depraved. It seems to me that one application of Romans 1:31 is that to ‘have pleasure’ (AV) in those who do wicked and depraved things could include being entertained by watching people enact them. That would rule out all the ‘soaps’. But let us assume that a godly minister will not allow himself to be entertained by watching evil perpetrated on the screen. Let us simply draw attention to the amount of time spent watching TV. A recent survey revealed that many ministers spend very little time reading. It is a question of priorities. There are many other smaller issues one could mention such as dress, demeanour, general attitude, behaviour of children, attitude of wife, use of money, etc, which in themselves might not debar a man from ministry, but when added to the more serious matters turn a congregation off, or even more seriously, lead a congregation into worldly ways. By way of illustration, think about buying a second-hand car. If you are getting it for a good price then one small defect that can easily be remedied, such as one cracked wing mirror, or one worn tyre, might not put you off. But if there were many such ‘small’ defects you would almost certainly look elsewhere. It is just the same with ministers. No man is perfect, and one small defect such as a fondness for television, keenness on sport or a less than tidy appearance, might not deter some churches. But if the candidate watches a lot of TV, is very keen on, say, football, is untidy in appearance, his wife uncooperative, his children undisciplined, etc, a church would have to be either very undiscerning or desperate, or both, to call such a man.

3. Willingness to sacrifice.
It is deplorable how some churches treat their ministers. But entering the ministry is for most men a sacrifice in that they could earn more money and live more comfortably in secular employment. A man may have to go to a church that can afford only a small stipend at first, until God has blessed the work and the church has grown. Indeed he may have to take a part-time job as well as the pastorate to support himself, as the apostle Paul did.

4. Godliness.
Godliness is a general term for a way of life that is God obsessed. Some years ago the writer was at a conference and sitting next to the Principal of a well-know Bible College. In conversation it came out that we were seeking to train men for the ministry in the church I was pastoring at the time. I remarked that my aim was to produce men of God. To my astonishment the Principal remarked. ‘Oh, that s impossible in Bible College. The students are so bolshy, wanting their rights, and so on.’ What are things coming to?

5. A stable home life.
In the qualifications for an overseer in I Timothy 3, two out of the seven verses refer to the candidates family life. A minister has to set an example.

These are some of the issues the present writer considers essential for a call to the ministry.

Live Streaming from Grace and Glory Conference - Hong Kong!!

For those of you who don't know - the "Grace and Glory Conference" is going on right NOW in Hong Kong - and I was excited to get the following group email from Ryan Rufus (Founder of New Nature Publications). Follow the link if you can and let's have second best after being there in person!

"Hi guys
We've decided to stream the rest of the Glory and Grace conference! Already it's been such an amazing time with heaps more to come!!!

Tonight (Monday) at 7:30pm (GMT +8)
Andrew Wommack

Tuesday at 10am, 2:30pm, 7pm (GMT +8)
Rob Rufus, Fini and Isi De Gersigny.

Here's the link: http://ccihk.com/en/media/video/live-video (refresh (F5) a few times if you get an error message)
Would love you to join us!

Ryan Rufus
Pastor @ City Church International

Founder, New Nature Publications

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"The Purpose of the Second Coming" by Bob Mumford

This afternoon I was hugely irritated when our internet broadband, television and phone went down thanks to Virgin Media - from 12:00 to 20:00. However I decided to use the time profitably and type up a New Wine Magazine article from 1974 by Bob Mumford on the Second Coming of Christ. I find this issue one of incredible significance - because it seems to me that the church uses the 2nd coming as an "escape hatch" when things get tough. Rather than fighting and becoming militant about what we believe in - many look to the skies and say with a sigh; "Ah well - Jesus will come soon".

As Bob Mumford clearly shows - the second coming of Christ was never meant to be the escape hatch for the church. He may have written the article in 1974 but I still think the teaching carries much truth for today. Here it is;

"The 2nd Coming is more than a divine rescue mission

As a serious and eager seminary student, I was assigned the research topic of “The Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ”. I was taken aback when reading in one of the massive reference volumes I was using, “Every serious student of prophecy would do well to remember that no one has ever accurately interpreted scriptures which pertain to future events”. The experiences of the following years have proven that admonition to be exceedingly accurate. As a result, I have spoken little about prophetic events and above all, felt the necessity not to be dogmatic. I should however make it clear from the beginning that I hold to a literal, visible return of Jesus Christ in glory (Acts 1:9-11). I also believe that the usual dispensational and popular teachings concerning the rapture, marriage supper, tribulation etc have been grossly misinterpreted and soul-ishly interpreted. As we approach the end of the age, pre-, post- and mid-tribulational interpretations that accompany them will undergo major adjustments. There will be many facts and events and texts that we should have seen but in reality did not. These new ingredients will modify much of our understanding concerning prophetic events. As the prophet Hosea explained, “Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3).

A simple illustration of the prophecies and events of Christ’s first advent will serve to illustrate what I mean. It was written about the origin of the Messiah, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son” (Matthew 2:15). “That He was born in Bethlehem” (Micah 5:2). “Yet He was from Nazareth”. Can you see the impossibility of accurately interpreting all the biblical facts in proper perspective until the circumstances of His birth were known? How could the readers of the prophecies possibly understood that His parents were from Nazareth and that was to be His home? And that due to a decree for taxation, Mary was taken by Joseph to Bethlehem where Jesus was born? Also, that being warned in a dream not to return to Nazareth the family of Jesus fled to Egypt where they were later led to return? How clear it seems to us now, but how confusing to the prophets and prophetic interpreters prior to the unfolding of the events.
Anyone browsing casually in a religious bookstore will quickly be overwhelmed by the overabundance of printed material of different theories and interpretations about the 2nd coming. Even the general attitude and approach of the Scriptures can seem confusing. The time of Christ’s return is unknown (Matthew 24:36-42); but the concept of imminence (that He may come today) has always been a truth held dear to the heart of the church (James 5:8). On the other hand, examination of many scriptures tend to give us another view; that certain events, such as spiritual maturity in the church, world evangelism, establishment of His government and kingdom etc must be accomplished PRIOR to His coming. This seems to exclude any possibility of immediate return.

Bible truths are often set in opposition to each other – like parallel lines – which act as balancing factors in the life of the church. “Behold I come quickly” is balanced by the command; “Occupy until I come”. These parallel lines can only meet in the infinite Creator.

Purpose of His Coming.

It will not be my purpose to examine the reality or circumstances of His coming but to try and shed some light on the purpose of His coming. We cannot dwell on the entire purpose of the 2nd coming but rather examine what I feel to be one major purpose of His coming.

Unfortunately much of the popular teaching that centres on events in the world that will preceed the coming of Christ (i.e. wars, famines, natural disasters, the rise of the antichrist and satanic activity) has tended to make us believe that Christ is coming back to snatch the church out of the world just before it self-destructs! For the cataclysmic-minded believers it has become a divine rescue mission to save the persecuted church in it’s last gasp. If we examine the 2nd Coming in the light of the purpose of the church, the bride of Christ and her mission on the earth, it takes on a very different meaning. The coming of the Lord Jesus is the consummation or completion of God’s plan for the church through the ages. It is a victory celebration rather than a rescue mission!

As the Apostle Paul speaks of the Lord’s coming in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, he writes of a fiery judgement that will come upon the world. Then in verse 10, he speaks of Christ’s coming as it will relate to the church. He says; “ ... He shall come to be glorified in His saints”.

The concept of a spiritual coming in the saints prior to His physical coming for His saints is overlooked by most people.

Paul clearly teaches that Jesus is coming for a bride that is “glorious ... not having any spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). This is Christ revealed in the saints. This same theme is carried on elsewhere in Scripture. Galatians 4:19 reads; “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”. Acts 3:21 states; “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world begun”. And James 5:8 admonishes us; “Be patient therefore brethren until the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman (God) waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth and hath long patience for it, until He receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stabilise your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh”.

Many of us have been given the idea that Christ’s coming is what defeats the foes and establishes His kingdom. Jesus said however that all power (authority) had been given to Him in heaven and in earth; and because of that we were to go into all nations and disciple them. Rather than thinking of Christ’s coming as an event that accomplishes His purpose in the earth, let us consider His coming as God’s consummating His eternal purpose by that very event.

Concerning the purpose of His coming, Bakers Theological Dictionary says,

“So Jesus’ parousia (coming) is not the decisive event of the gospel; it is rather the inevitable sequel of the decisive event which took place with His death and resurrection. The time of it’s occurrence does not matter so much as the fact that it’s occurrence is assured!”.

Sequence of Events:

It is this inevitable sequence of events which begins with His death and resurrection and sees Him establish a kingdom on the earth (His revelation in the saints) that is consummated by His visible return for the saints. At this present time He is in the process of establishing that spiritual kingdom in the earth. Psalm 110:1 is one of the verses most quoted by New Testament writers. It speaks even to the casual reader that there is a purpose to be accomplished by Christ being seated at the right hand of God the Father. “He (Christ) will sit there until ...”. I make your enemies your footstool”. A similar theme is carried throughout the New Testament ... “Until” ... the redemption of the purchased possession (Ephesians 1:14) ... the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) ... the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:14) ... the harvest of tares and wheat (Matthew 13:30) ... we all come in the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:13). The same Psalm is quoted in Acts 2:35. “Until I make thy foes thy footstool”. This expresses Peter’s understanding of Psalm 110:1. Jesus ascension to the right hand of the Father would continue until something that that approximated Christ’s victory in the human situation had been accomplished here on the earth.

There is a present kingdom just as surely as there is a future one. But the kingdom of God must be proclaimed, received and established in some degree prior to the coming of the King of that kingdom to rule. Matthew 24:14 teaches us this much.

Does it seem incongruous to believe that the body, which is His church and bride be won, sanctified and prepared before He comes for her?

Is it not logical to assume that the kingdom in spiritual form be established – literally established – on earth in the saints before God reveals His King and His kingdom? (Revelation 5:10). New Testament grammar teaches us that His coming (parousia) is to be a revelation (unveiling) of Jesus Christ. Somehow and His own spectacular way, God will reveal Jesus His Kingdom and church and bride by the events of His parousia.

The Place of the Church:

Whatever God has yet to do in the earth, He purposes to do it through and by means of a militant church, an advancing kingdom, a united body which is rising to the challenge!

“Thy people will be willing in the day of thy power” says the Psalmist in 110:3. The years of spiritual warfare, evangelism, missionary endeavour, combined with the present global outpouring of the Holy Spirit, cause me to know that God is setting the stage to consummate His purpose in the earth by the revelation and return of His King – which has been delayed ... until!
Let’s turn to the book of Revelation for a glimpse of what I am trying to express.

“Behold He cometh with clouds and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Revelation 1:7).

This is the literal return of the One who was taken in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11). What an unveiling of God’s eternal purpose in Christ, His Son! What a sudden consternation and embarrassment to the world which has rejected God’s Son and abused His church! What joy and triumph for those who belong to Him – for those called according to His purpose! As the writers of Hebrews says; “ ... and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation”.
Whatever the unique turn of prophetic events or unexpected developments in the church or in the nations; those who have come to see the purpose of His coming, will not be preoccupied with dates, signs or dispensational charts or attempting to place the label of antichrist on a world figure.

In Revelation 22:17 we find these words;

“And the Spirit and the bride say come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely”.

As one who longs for His coming, but also sees the purpose of His delay, the Lord began to say something to me from this verse. When the Spirit and the bride say; “Come ... Come Lord Jesus” = it will be then that those who are sensitive to that which the Holy Spirit is saying will know that His coming is in fact very near. The Spirit and the Bride are now saying; “Unity ... plurality ... submission ... obedience”. The Spirit is seeking to draw us – each of us – into a belonging – a kind of spiritual community if you will. All of these words plus the quickening pace of the pain and peril of the day in which we live, cause me to listen carefully to hear a cry – not just teaching – but a cry in the Spirit among the beloved that groans and sighs. This cry when heard and interpreted will say; “Come, oh come Lord Jesus – the Spirit and the bride are ready – come Lord Jesus!”. When we hear this, sense this, perceive it among the beloved, it is then that we can know that His purpose for delay is nearly completed. The bride has made herself ready. The Holy Spirit who was given to present her faultless before Him in her wedding garment agrees .... “Yes she is ready! Come Lord Jesus!”.

“He which testifies those things saith, surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).