Friday, July 30, 2010

Works of Jonathan Edwards - Vol. 26 - Catalogues of Books

So the last volume in the Yale edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards is slightly and very interestingly different - it's called a "Catalogue of Books" and really is just that - a catalogue. Yale describe it as;

"A notebook he kept of books of interest, especially titles he hoped to acquire, and entries from his “Account Book” a ledger in which he noted books loaned to family, parishioners, and fellow clergy".

Why on earth would a book like this be interesting to anyone but someone with a bibliophile bent?

1. It's interesting historically.

The editorial notes that the "Catalogue" affords us an expansive and insightful insight into eighteenth century America and the books available to Christians there. It notes that the colonials depended on developments across the Atlantic in Britain. Jonathan Edwards apparently was an avid newspaper reader. The editorial notes;

"Edwards abiding interest in "signs of the times" meant that he was an indefatigable source collector. Newspapers were one important source on the progress of God's Kingdom".

That last statement gripped me. Nowadays many Christians read newspapers to get glum about the state of the world. Jonathan Edwards read newspapers to "see if I could not find some news favorable to the interest of religion in the world". I love that!

2. It's interesting theologically.

Jonathan Edwards is recognised by most as a theological and spiritual hero. This volume is an incredible and exciting insight into what drove and what interested him.

The editorial notes;

"Edwards was firmly grounded in the Reformed scholasticism of his forebears. Like his father and grandfather he read what Cotton Mather called; "Good old Puritan Divinity".

I found this an interesting insight into Edwards working day;

"Despite his position as sole pastor to perhaps thirteen hundred people, Edwards tried to spend around thirteen hours a day alone in his study".

I wonder how many modern pastors manage that. How we may ask? The editorial says;

"He attempted to do this by minimizing pastoral visits except in emergencies - he judged himself better suited to the contemplative life - and even by skipping dinner with his family on many occasions. Bible study and sermon preparation occupied most of his time but he also added steadily to his "Miscellanies" and other notebooks".

I particularly identified with this comment in the editorial;

"Over the next three decades Edwards notebooks would increasingly reflect his omnivorous reading as he searched for intellectual allies and antagonists, sometimes copying long extracts from his latest book acquisition".

3. It is Stirring Spiritually.

I have frequently found myself personally struggling with my love for books and my desire for more of the Presence of God and more spiritual encounters. I love reading, I love studying, I love building a theological library - but then I see men and women of God like Rob Rufus who speak of having an encounter with the manifest Presence of God every day and I hunger for that so much! I feel such a spiritual pgymy in comparison! And a volume like this shows me that it does not have to be an opposing war - books in fact should testify of the amazing spiritual encounters and journeys that are available in the Christian life. And any books that do not are not worth reading.

Gone are the days when we had to choose between "Word and Spirit" - as Terry Virgo says in this wonderful video, we can have both!

Terry Virgo: Being Reformed and Charismatic from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A New Page is Turning .... !!

It's so amazing and fab to write a really "GOOD" post for once! I mentioned in my last post that I was meeting my parent's pastors yesterday to discuss the past - and confessed I wasn't going full of faith. Before Pete Day and I went to the meeting we spent some time in prayer together and a really strong prophetic reminder came; "Now unto Him who is able to do far more than you can think or imagine". Well God did indeed do FAR more than I could even imagine.

I'm not going to go into the detail of what was said and discussed - that's private between the four of us. But I am so grateful and excited to report that we completely put the past to rest. Confusion and misunderstanding was sorted out. I was able to apologise to them for writing angrily on the past on this and other blogs about my upsets with them - and they were gracious and godly enough to accept and forgive me and said I am welcome back at the church.

I was often accused of clinging on to a root of bitterness in regards to SGM - but for me the test case was how I would feel after the most wonderful end to a meeting like happened. Would I still want to hold on to being angry at them? I'm thrilled I didn't and I don't. I feel nothing but gratitude to God for the best possible end to an episode of my life - and am excited about what the future holds. And I'm excited to go back to the church and see how it's grown and enjoy encountering God there at times in the future.

I wouldn't say this means that I'm in 100% agreement with SGM and some of the views they hold! I still don't like various aspects - over-emphasis on the Cross to the neglect of resurrection, treatment of women, importance of Holy Spirit etc etc - but Peter Bowley (one of the Bristol pastors) put it really wisely - something like; "Disagree on substance - not on the person". I've often said to my friend Janelle that there's more I agree with than disagree with SGM and that must be a great thing.

Pete Day prophesied this song "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield - over me just after I left the church and I never really felt it came to pass - until now. Particularly the line; "The best is yet unwritten". Or as his blog calls it; "The Best is Yet to Come!".

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blessed are the Peacemakers?

Ken Sande's interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7;

"Love always looks for reasonable ways to trust others, to hope that they are doing what is right, and to interpret their words and actions in a way that protects their reputation and credibility. This is the essence of charitable judgments. Notice that I said we should look for “reasonable ways” to believe the best about others. We are not called to suspend critical thinking in the positive sense or to make judgments that are contrary to clear facts. If we hear someone say something that is patently false or vicious, we can conclude that it is wrong and legitimately confront the speaker".

So on Wednesday I am hoping to conclude a drearily on-going process that has been running since the commencement of this blog. I will be meeting with the "Grace Church Bristol" pastors (SGM) to discuss the events of a few years back, what happened, why it happened and whether there is any way forward. For those who aren't familiar with my story, I wrote it here: "Grace Demands Radical Change!" - so won't repeat it.

But this has been a long time coming - and has only happened thanks in particular to my friend Steve who runs the blog; "I Kissed Dating Goodbye - Wisdom or Foolishness?". And it has also happened thanks to the gracious and kind nature of Pete Greasley - if I had detected any judgementalism from him, I would have disappeared as fast as! But I had some really encouraging times at lunch with him and also loved the visits to Christchurch, Newport.

I must confess I'm not hopeful. I am far too cynical now to hope for anything of encouragement from this - but this meeting is something that has to happen for my family's sake and for my sake - to hopefully bring closure to an unpleasant event that I've let drag on for far too long. I think and earnestly believe however that God can bring wonderful good out of this - that I DO believe in! The challenge is that I have absolutely no control over this meeting - it is all in God's hands.

The opponents of the anti-SGM blogs bring a single charge against the thousands who have shared how hurt they have been by C J Mahaney and his leaders - and that is; "Well you are commanded to forgive - just get over it". I agree - "total forgiveness" is a must (as R T Kendall teaches so well). It's very easy to forgive someone who looks at you in sincerity and says; "I'm sorry". The tricky challenge is to forgive someone who does not believe they have done any wrong.

So I am praying that I will be able to go to this meeting heeding this wise advice - Ken Sande says;

"Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s greatest theologians, thoroughly discussed God’s call for charitable judgments in his superb book, Charity and Its Fruits. Drawing on the passages discussed above (Matt. 7 and 1 Cor. 13), he shows that the Bible condemns censoriousness, which he defines as “a disposition to think evil of others, or to judge evil in them".

To NOT think evil of others or judge evil in them - and whatever I think of these two men and my views on their theology or their motives or the many actions that they have done - to think the best of them and to see Jesus Christ in them. I can't promise anything - but I'm sure going to try. I'm no model Christian - that's for sure! But on my gravestone - the epitaph will read; "He kept on trying!".

Please pray for me! 13:30 on Wednesday just outside London.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The 10 Ugly Faces of the Grace-Hating Spirit by Rob Rufus

One of the main reasons why I was so utterly gutted to miss the last "Glory and Grace Conference" in Hong Kong was something called an "Island Getaway" that was held after the conference. During that time the guys got to hear Rob speak some more and he gave a session called; "The 10 Ugly Faces of the Grace-Hating Spirit". I did post it some time ago after it was made available but it is a MUST publish again for two reasons. 1. You can never hear these warnings enough. 2. This week we are going to encounter the "Grace-Hating Spirit" in various shades of intensity (myself included for certain).

Here it is:

"This feels like military training where you have been going for days and days and you think "We need to stop and have a break and fellowship!". And someone else says; "Nah push on!". I just want to finish this session so we can finish and go and have lunch. We need to finish at 12pm and I don't like working within schedules. The Holy Spirit seems to work a lot better when there are no schedules. I don't know many miracle ministries that don't have hours of meetings. This is what I believe. When we bring the whole church into grace - miracles will start breaking out in the opening of the service. The reason these meetings take so long to get miracles is because you have got to clear the unbelief away - the condemnation - the confusion and it takes 2-3 hours to get that off God's people. That's why I love local church! I have preached on platforms of multiple thousands and it is an incredible privilidge and an amazing honour but I don't find it flattering at all to my ego. I am enjoying this little church in Hong Kong - small little church at this stage! I believe we will grow into the thousands but I am enjoying this little church because it is the feedback of seeing lives changed through this message of grace. It is just so wonderful.

For me apostles don't go for a weekend here and a weekend there and a weekend there. I don't see that! I think the shortest trip may have been 3 weeks to the Thessalonians but other places - 2 years here, 3 years here. In Ephesus Paul preached every single day. He didn't fly out here and there but preached and stayed every single day for 2 years in the hall of Tyranus. Apostles are not just goers. They are sent ones. But they are not butterflies. I was sent to Australia and I stayed there for 12 years. I was sent to Hong Kong and am staying here! Paul stayed and he shared the grace of God with them and said don't get carried away by this and this - it is the grace of God that can give you an inheritance amongst those being sanctified.

That's what he was doing - preaching grace for 2 years! That is a man caught up in the 3rd heaven and got his message of grace from the Father and he took 3 years to unpack it. In that space of time it says the Gospel went throughout all Asia Minor but Paul didn't go. The fallout of this message gave an inheritance. You can't go - "Well I preached six weeks on grace!". All you did was introduce people to the shallows. "I didn't have anything else to preach - I did everything I knew on grace". Well start at the beginning and preach it all again. You are dealing with more than 1500 years of Dark Ages. The Reformation has only been 500 years but even top evangelical theologians are going back to a Roman Catholic understanding of justification by faith. Top evangelicals! Just read John Piper's books! Justification by faith is under attack again. And Christians are very shallow on their understanding of this.

You don't bring the church out of 1500 years of Dark Ages by a six-part series on grace! It takes years to transition people out!

Just to throw in something here for questions and answers. Abraham got grace. Galatians 3 says that God preached the Gospel in advance to Abraham. Then it was ratified in Christ. It says that the law came 430 years after Abraham but it says when the law covenant came it did not nullify or set aside the covenant of promise that God made with Abraham. So when Jesus arrived on the earth the covenant of grace and the covenant of law were there available for Israel. At any point Israel could have said; "We repent of saying give us the law - we will do what it says! We want what Abraham had!" and they could have come straight back into that. So when people repented and saw grace Jesus called them "sons and daughters of Abraham" and He only said that to two people.

Who were the people who had the greatest faith in all of Israel? Those who had never been under law! The Syro-Phonecian woman and the centurion.

So you have got to understand that by the time Jesus arrived to Israel - grace and the revelation to Abraham was almost completely gone. Abraham brought the key to knowledge - which is the nature of God.

What is the key to knowledge? I believe personally it is the nature of God. When the nature of God is revealed as goodness and grace - that is the key to knowledge!

I do have a history degree although that doesn't mean much because it was so long ago. It's history! This has fascinated me how civilisations have formed and secular historians will say that it was the Reinaissance that brought an acceleration of knowledge, inventions, arts, science and political freedoms. No - if you study Francis Schaeffers book on; "How Then Shall We Live?" - it is the Reformation - the revelation of the nature of God. Justification by faith that God is a good God that justifies the wicked and accepts them and loves them. That's where knowledge is! The nature of God and the revelation of God's nature is the key to knowledge. So once justification by faith came, that is when the church came out of the Dark Ages and you can trace from the Reformation advancements in science - because the religious church was wanting to put to death people that advanced in science! When Galileo was trying to say "No the whole universe isn't rotating around the sun" - the church under law said "We will kill you!". So science was surpressed because they had taken away the key to knowledge which is the nature of God.

Arts began to increase and everything began to explode. Human rights began to increase and civilisation came! That is why Europe was the cradle of civilisation because of the gospel - human rights etc - and now they have got a flimsy frame because they have taken away the foundation! They have taken away the key to knowledge. The church! Not the secular world!

The secular world almost seems to understand more about grace than the average fundementalist Christian.

So we are on about something more than just feeling secure - personal peace and prosperity. "I want to have a happy little church where we all feel happy and praise and worship". No! It is about transformation of the way society thinks. We are meant to have the key of knowledge which is the revelation that Abraham got. Let look here - I am going to look at 10 Ugly Faces of the Grace-Hating Spirit. If you do not understand what I am going to give to you now - if you go into this as a cute, sweet little pastor - then don't even start! Because you will be eaten for breakfast by the grace-hating spirit. You will be so confused and come under such demonic confusion that you won't know whether you are coming or going. You have got to know that Martin Luther nearly lost his mind many times and he was depressed for a long time! Can you imagine when one man stepped out and said "No!" to centuries! There was always a line who believed in justification by faith - but a small little thread here and there. So here is one man that stood out and took the whole thing on. It is not against the Catholic church but against a SPIRIT! I love Roman Catholics, I love Muslims and Hinduis.

2 Corinthians 5:9; "God was in Christ reconciling the WORLD to Himself - NOT counting MEN'S sins against them!". It didn't just say "the church's" sins against them. The world!

So we are involved with more than just sweet little churches that are happy because they are in grace. This is something that changes the globe. It is because of legalism that we have international wars, ethnic violence, religious wars.

Legalism makes people angry, harsh, mean, judgemental, full of selfish ambition, gossip, slander - you cannot trust legalists!

One of the mistakes the devil made when he began to attack us was that he overshot - some of the Chinese people in our church when I began to first preach freedom from the law were completely shocked! They just said "Oh my God he has gone made! If we are not under law what are we under?!". The Holy Spirit! "You mean there's no 10 Commandments anymore!?". I am not blaming them! I love them! I am blaming their teachers.

So those of you who have already started transitioning your churches will know that there are some things that happen. Sometimes it is not even through people - it is an invisible hatred that comes on your mind - an invisible hostility.

I remember I was in Hong Kong for at least a year and then I preached on the finished work of the Cross and got the devil so by surprise that it just flowed and everyone received it and it was wonderful. I stepped out the pulpit and went home and was so happy and then suddenly bang! The heavens closed! Without one second reprive it was a spirit of heaviness! Hong Kong wasn't used to hearing this message! There came a reaction! Please don't be confused. Don't think of human beings - think of a spirit behind human beings. Love the human beings - show mercy and kindness and don't react - that is exactly what part of the tactic is that you get bitter against the opposition and start fighting the opposition and start preaching to prove they are wrong and you are right. No Jesus preached very strongly at the Pharisees and warned them. You need to have those kind of guts and get up and warn and rebuke to their face people who preach the opposite in your church. Peter came to Paul's church in Antioch and Paul had the right to confront Peter to his face.

Shepherds you need to safeguard the church from legalism! That is your main responsibility to keep the church free from the law! You can't rely on apostles to do that because many of them aren't! They are under the law themselves - I am sorry to say that but it is the truth.

I was under the law and I preached law and grace mixed together in Australia and South Africa. I am doing my best to not preach any mixture anymore. When you start that - this is the way that Paul described some of the grace-hating spirit. "Spies, bewitchers, fearmongers, agitators, dogs, evil men, mutilators of the flesh, deceitful schemers". That is what you are dealing with! It can be a face that smiles at you because the legalist face is a nice face and it is sweet when it smiles as it cuts you. Please don't think most legalists to their face are these mean-hearted people. They are sweet and disarming! But they will disarm you from grace into law. It is cunning and clever and deliberate and intentional. Be aware!

What I learnt in the military was if you are going to succeed then know your enemy and know his strengths and weaknesses otherwise he will take you out. Do not try to transition into grace naively thinking "This is such a wonderful message and everyone is going to be happy!".

There is a way to transition without hardly losing anyone. I believe good leadership can transition a church without hardly having to lose anyone. Look quickly at Luke chapter 11. Jesus had just read "How to win friends and influence people" so He starts with "Woe to you!". (v52); "Woe to you experts in the law because you have taken away the key to knowledge". What Abraham saw - they took away. "You yourselves have not entered". In other words you haven't stepped into the glory - you haven't stepped into the power and the favour and blessing of God the way Abraham did. You yourselves have not entered and; "You have hindered those who were entering". That is what is happening in the earth. There are leaders who are hindering their people entering because they themselves don't enter and they are preachers of a mixture of law and grace. (v53); "When Jesus left there the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose Him".

1. Ugly Face No. 1: Opposition to Grace.

Jesus is grace! The law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came in Jesus Christ. The law is impersonal. It was given through a mediation of angels through Moses but Jesus who is grace came personally to the earth. Grace is not a doctrine - it is a Person. His Name is Jesus! That is His Nature! That is the key to knowledge; God is a God of grace. God never intended to bring the law and never wanted to bring the law. If you study Galatians 3 and other passages of Scripture like Hebrews 10:8 you will see that He brought the law because of Israel's unbelief.

2. Ugly Face No. 2: Fiercely.

"Oppose Him fiercly". There is a grace-hating spirit that really is fierce!

If you have not yet felt it then you have not yet been preaching grace the way that Paul preached it.

They began to oppose Him fiercly.

3. Ugly Face No. 3: Besiege.

They will set up siege against your ministry. A siege is when an opposing army camps around your city and tries to stop supplies coming in and things going out.

Stop people listening to your website. You won't get invited to our camp. This will close doors to you. I think they are doors that should be closed! They beseiged Him. "Well if we were politically correct then those doors would be open". You shouldn't be going through some doors through the power of political correctness because you are not coming with the gospel anymore! "Besiege Him with questions". Questions are good but questions within questions are not good. (v53). That's why when people ask Jesus questions sometimes He answers them beautifully and sensatively and graciously and sometimes He answered with a baseball bat and smashed the living daylights out of them! He was not going to be a politically correct diplomat because this was too important. (v54);

4. Ugly Face No. 4: Waits to Catch You.

The Pharisees caught that woman in adultery. It wasn't something they stumbled on. I believe they set it up. I personally think one of the Pharisees or indeed they may have paid someone to have adultery with her. They paid him to set it up and they caught her! When you start preaching this grace message you think "I could be caught - I could fail - I could get into serious sin and if they caught me what is going to happen to me?". Then they really can control me! I wonder if it would have been different for Jimmy Swaggert if he was in a community of grace.

Legalism makes sin go underground and then they catch you. Grace makes sin come out into the open because there is an environment of safety, accountability and kindness and there is an openness.

Who could Jimmy Swaggert really have gone to? He is preaching grace now but it took going through hell. He was preaching law back then and judging everything.

You will preach more and more law when you feel more and more guilt and the more guilt you feel the more law you feel. You see how happy the grace people are and you are jealous of their happiness and you don't want them to be so happy because you are trying to do things to earn God's love. They are waiting to catch you. Grace communities should have this attitude - we are not looking to catch people or be suspicious. "Ooh there is probably sin in their lives". Well there probably is! Look at yourself! Catch yourself!

That thing about logs and eyes and specks has some relevance. We ought not to be trying to catch people in sin. And if we do - then Galatians 5 says you that are spiritual should restore them gently. So we should have this attitude that if someone does fall then they are not "caught" - they are a comrade. They are together. There are certain sins you don't need to go public with! You just go to the Father. It does say confess your sins to one another but only if you have done something against the other! On a horizontal level. To the Father it is all gone and forgiven anyway!

Paul never speaks about confessing sins - once! They are already gone! But on the horizontal I need to confess my faults or apologise to people I do wrong. I find it so easy to say sorry when I know that he accepts me. The grace-hating spirit is trying to catch you, trying to besiege you, oppose you and is doing it and when you first start transitioning your church into full grace it will intensify for a while. Eventually when your church gets more and more established in grace then tyranny becomes far from you, no weapon formed against you can prosper and no tongue raised up - God will start giving you a legacy that your righteousness is from Him and God starts fulfilling those conditions of a people established in grace.

Let's have a look at the next one;

5. Ugly Face No. 5: Spies.

I could just say these things but let's look at them. This is not a preaching on a platform to produce miracles - this is teaching.

Spies are secretive. They hide. They move from a place of duplictity. They are double faced and come amongst you for a reason - to hide their real agenda and look for faults. To exploit any opportunity where you are vulnerable and make you a slave to the law and to their control.

Paul went around releasing people from religious handcuffs and spies came right behind Paul and put the handcuffs straight back on again. They brought "balance". You cannot balance grace with law! They neutralise one another! There is no middle ground! It is either all law or all grace and no middle ground! "This is a radical message!". Yes of course. "Rob's preaching a radical message" - no Paul did!

Have you ever thought how radical the law is? These people who preach law and grace are actually just compromisers - they are like the Pharisees and don't preach it at it's full power. If you are going to preach the law then do it properly. Then try and balance it with grace and see where you get. The law means cut your hand off! When guys drive planes into towers in the name of their god - they are being absolutely faithful to the law! Under the law - kill anyone who doesn't keep it! In fact if you go read the law properly if you kids don't keep the law then you must stone your own children. Grace is radical?! The reason why people say grace is radical is because the law is not being taught properly.

God gave me two years to go study the law about seven years ago. I used to sweat every day! Guys use it in evangelism as a schoolmaster to lead people to Christ but I tell you - the law is frightening! It is extreme! That is why Christians shoot people at abortion clinics! They are being consistent to what they believe. They are being faithful to what they believe! The rest who preach law and grace are all compromisers and all backsliders of the law. They just preach partial law! You cannot preach the law in all it's fullness and then balance it with grace! The answer is they water down law and water down grace so people don't know the difference. Preach the law properly and then preach the fullness of grace and see what your people will do! They will say "I am out of here - this is a schizophrenic". These things are so radical that they cannot meet! Because the church for centuries has watered down law and watered down grace - the people sit there like frogs in water slowly heating up.

A few fools for Jesus are going to have to stand up and address this grace-hating spirit. Like Martin Luther took it on, I am taking it on! There are many times that Glenda and I have fallen into each others arms and wept. There are times when Glenda has said; "Oh Rob please stop you are calling fire on our heads". I said; "I don't want to!".

Martin Luther didn't have a choice. Once he saw it, he was finished. Once you see this - you are finished. You are ruined forever.

I have been to law conferences and have heard law preachers and I sit there and think "I am so sorry but I am getting angry - I repent, I repent - look at all these people getting under confusion!". I can't sit there anymore! Either I have to go to the leaders and say "Look guys - do you know what you are doing?" or don't go back again! I pray that all law-preaching and preaching a mixture of law and grace will see this revelation and repent to their people.

Otherwise I pray that God will pull the finances right out of their systems and let them go under. I know that's harsh but I mean it.

(Galatians 2:4); "Some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves". That is their goal and their agenda! Spy on our freedom and make you slaves. Isn't that beautiful? Notice the apostolic passion of those days. "We did not give in to them for a moment!". Why? "So that the truth of the gospel might remain in you". Why mustn't you give in even for a moment? So this gospel will keep on remaining. I preached in Cape Town to 2000 people a night last year in July and there were hundreds and hundreds of hungry people there but there were spies in the camp. Spies coming to check me out. I said to the brothers to whom I was accountable; "Don't let me get naughty on this platform because when I find spies out there ... you know those destroyers that send down depth charges and it goes "ping" ... when I am preaching prophets feel this all the time. They nearly go mad because they can feel where the submarines are - the spies and can feel them out there. Jesus could! He said "Knowing what they were thinking, He said ...". So I could feel the spies there and some of them shouldn't have been spies! God even shows me who they are sometimes!

I am not talking about people sitting there exposed for the first time to the message of grace and are sitting there analysing and trying to work out. That is fine! I am talking about them sitting there trying to catch you and waiting for you to say something that they can twist and distort. Those are spies! So I said to the brothers I was with; "Now listen if I preach in Hong Kong then I can be as naughty as I like - that is my turf and my jurisdiction". But when I am on someone else's platform I am responsible to those leaders and I can't do anything I want to. I hope you understand that authority is exercised differently in different contexts. "If I start getting naughty because of spies out there then show me by code signals. I want to cross every T and dot every I theologically and leave no gap for these spies to seize". Bonnie came to me afterwards and said "Dad you are so tame - what's wrong? You are so nice!". So I said; "No - this is a different context". So I went to the team I was with - and teams form and de-form - they are dynamic and fluid - and said; "Guys is there anything I should have done better?". They said; "Rob we have never heard it so clear - faultless and clear". The elders at the church had problems with some of the grace message and said "That is it - we can't argue".

Some spies came out of that and went back to their home churches and said "Rob is preaching that you don't have to submit to leaders and you can sin as much as you like". Then I realised that this is not a rational thing but a grace-hating spirit. They don't know what they are doing to their congregations. Members of those congregations who had known me for years emailed me and said; "Our pastor is saying this - is it true?". We wrote back and clarified and they said; "We always believed that what our pastor said wasn't true but we just wanted to check with you". These leaders that are fighting this message don't know that they are fighting God. They are not fighting us - they are fighting God. We must be accountable - we can be in error! I say to my local leaders in this church; "If I am getting too harsh ..." - I asked that after the first session. I am an accountable man. I want to be! But you have to be bold.

6. Ugly Face No. 6: A Bewitching Spirit.

Galatians 3:1; "You foolish Galatians - who has bewitched you?". That word there can be elaborated into; "With occultic power". That is witchcraft! Witchcraft is being preached in our churches around the world. Hopefully not in our churches but maybe still. Witchcraft is like the sin of rebellion.

Christ died to remove the law forever and when you preach law the Holy Spirit is not empowering you to preach something that Christ has removed. Another spirit is - a spirit of witchcraft.

The disciples wanted to call fire down on the Samaritans and Jesus said; "You are of the wrong spirit". The legalists will call fire down on the world and will say God is killing and judging and smashing. He isn't! There is a day of judgement coming but "in the last days I will pour out My Spirit - for salvation - on all flesh!". He goes on and speaks about miracles, signs and wonders happening because you believe the message of grace and not observing the law. You are dealing with occultic powers here that are in the church. The devil doesn't dabble much with those on broomsticks etc - that is his hobby. Witchcraft in the church to come back under law is the main agenda. He is the accuser of the brethren. And if he accuses you enough - if you are under a little bit of law he will condemn you enough then think you must come under more law to improve and so condemnation will go. It's called witchcraft.

Let's do one more and then we will close.

7. Ugly Face No. 7: Fear.

Go to Galatians 2. The next one is fear. I have been enjoying grace and then someone maybe I respect or know who preaches a Pentecostal/Holiness (which is not real holiness at all - it is still law dressed up as holiness) and you are going along happily and the power of God is flowing and there is joy and then someone comes among you and you think they are holy because they don't go to movies or don't drink wine. And you feel fear! And start agreeing with them and their standards! And you start becoming a hypocrite and you start rebuilding the law over your life and then you make out that Christ is the one rebuilding the law over your life and that Christ is causing the sin of the law and you become a hypocrite and confuse those in freedom because you change your behaviour when certain people are in your midst. Certain leaders that are respected.

If Peter who had visions of heaven and revelation could go back under law and be afraid of the legalists then we ought to know that we are dealing with a fear spirit. A bewitching spirit, a fear spirit, a control spirit. (v11); "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face". Peter was one of the big boys! "He was clearly in the wrong!". (v12); "Because he was afraid of those who belonged to the Jewish group ... so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabus was led astray .. in front of them all I said; "How is it that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs"?".

He isn't just talking about the way you come into the kingdom but the way you live! Don't let people tell you it is all about justification.

(v18); "I prove I am a law-breaker .. might live for God". In the next session we will talk about the other things and transitioning through.

We ask that you will establish righteousness as a revelation in our hearts and we will discern what we are dealing with and we won't be naive or cute or politically correct or diplomatic but truly apostolic, discerning legalism from a mile away and protecting the church. We ask the Holy Spirit to brood over us. Help us to ask the question why every movement that has started in grace and freedom ended in law and institution and control? Because the leaders were naive about what they were up against. The Ugly Face of a Grace-Hating Spirit that took them out because they were unaware and not protected by a true apostolic ministry. We pray across the planet as we see grace revolution gathering momentum for more apostles to emerge that will be faithful to the gospel that Paul was faithful too and will be willing to confront those who preach a mixture. Deliver us from this niceness that Jesus never had. Help us to be willing to die to personal reputation - no matter how many doors are closed! They should be closed! We thank You for the multitudes waiting to hear this message!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fighting For This Love

Or in Biblical terms (Jude 20,21);

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God".

It's puzzled me for the last few months of struggling with depression - if love drove the Son of God to Calvary and if love motivated God in His grand salvation plan then why does it sometimes seem so hard to experience and encounter that love? There is no doubting the abundant love of God - so therefore the problem must be on our side.

Then I was just cooking in the kitchen and this song by Cheryl Cole came on; "Fight for this Love";

"Anything that's worth having, sure enough worth fighting for.
Quitting's out of the question - when it gets tough, gotta fight some more".

The verse from Jude 20, 21; "Keep yourself in the love of God" really seems to tie in with this song. Why would Jude write; "Keep yourself in the love of God" - if effort at times were not implied? Matthew Henry in his wonderful commentary writes;

"[1.] "Keep up the grace of love to God in its lively vigorous actings and exercises in your souls.'' [2.] "Take heed of throwing yourselves out of the love of God to you, or its delightful, cheering, strengthening manifestations; keep yourselves in the way of God, if you would continue in his love.''

Henry writes; "Take heed of throwing yourselves OUT of the love of God". So it is possible to throw ourselves out of God's love? This is clearly not a passive thing and as Cheryl Cole sings - if it's worth having, then it's worth fighting for! So that's all well and good. How then do we "DO" it?

1. Look to the greatest demonstration ever seen of God's love to us - the Cross of Calvary.

"My hearer, whensoever thy soul is clouded, turn thou to these wounds which shine like a constellation of five bright stars. Look not to thine own wounds, nor to thine own pains, or sins, or prayers, or tears, but remember that "with his stripes we are healed." Gaze, then; intently gaze, upon thy Redeemer's wounds it thou wouldest find comfort".

Later in the sermon he calls it; "study much the story of your Saviour's death". In another sermon, C H Spurgeon said;

"He did not die because he must; he died because he would. The only "must" that came upon him was a necessity of all-conquering love".

But that's not all. It can't be all - because if it was then why would we need anything but a detailed account (which we have) of the events of Calvary? Why would the Holy Spirit be poured out at Pentecost if there was not some divine plan to make all this experiential - the word that conservative reformed religious types love to hate?

2. Drink deep of the Holy Spirit who makes all this real.

"Let us try to abide under the influence of the Holy Spirit. To than end, let us think very reverently of him. Some never think of him at all. How many sermons there are without even an allusion to him! Shame on the preachers of such discourses! If any hearers come without praying for the Holy Spirit, shame on such hearers! We know and we confess that he is everything to our spiritual life; then why do we not remember him with greater love, and worship him with greater honour, and think of him continually with greater reverence?".

Incredible - whole conferences are still held without mention or experience of the Holy Spirit. May it never be true of us.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Iron Sharpening Iron!!

I've been wrestling with some "project" to get into recently - I should explain that I don't like being bored. This is why in the past I've embarked on transcribing sermons or lectures I love like Ern Baxter or Terry Virgo or Rob Rufus. I've loved transcribing some of the panel discussions from the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. Ern always used to say that for every book he read he agreed with, he would read two or three or more that he disagreed with - to spark his thought processes and get him thinking.

I decided to take a leaf out of his book but with transcribing. I've heard vaguely about the "Resolved" conference run by John MacArthur's church in the USA - but have never listened to any sessions. This past conference held a panel discussion and I decided that could be my perfect opportunity. The participants are all men that - well I wouldn't say I am a fan of.

1. John MacArthur - I don't like his anti-charismatic venom or his eschatology or his ecclesiology particularly.
2. Al Mohler - I respect his intellect and massively envy his library (!) but don't like his pneumatology greatly.
3. C J Mahaney - well, most will know what I think of this bloke thus far.

But I resolved (pun intended) to listen and to learn and to disagree - if necessary but above all to think. So far - I'm 40 minutes into the discussion and am finding it really interesting. I love the committed vision for the Gospel. Each of the speakers have a passion to get the gathered 18 to 30's there to see the true wonder and glory of the Gospel - and that is encouraging. Okay - so I am not quite so keen on a few comments - but by and large I am so grateful for this resource and conference - and so glad that I opened my far-too closed mind to hear this resource.

Here is the link for any who want to listen or watch it - and hopefully the transcript will be done shortly!

Keynote Panel Questions and Answers from Resolved on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Blight of Christianity

Sometimes Christianity reminds me of my family - there are some white elephants in the room that are never spoken about but everyone knows they are there. It seems that the Phelps family and their church have escaped little mention by the Christian world largely - that is left to the media to comment on. I've seen a few "incidences" involving the Phelps family and their "church" and I can't really keep my silence any longer. I'll start with the most recent and work back and then close with some reflections and questions.

I follow Lady Gaga on Twitter - and make no apology for it. I love her music and find her an inspiring albeit eccentric star. But most of all I love her outspoken honesty. Gaga tweeted last night;

"Tonight love and hate met in St. Louis. And love outnumbered the hate, in poetic thousands. Hate left. But love stayed. + Together, we sang".

I didn't know why she wrote that but somehow guessed that religion was involved. Sure enough I learned tonight that Phelps supporters decided to picket Gaga's concert in St Louis. You can tell that she was upset - because she tweeted quite a few times - and one comment stuck out to me. She tweeted;

"You are more fortunate and blessed than they are, and in your heart just pray for them. Although I respect and do not judge anyone".

Am I the only one finding something a bit "wrong" in that statement? Lady Gaga (who I am guessing isn't a Christian) is urging her fans and followers to realise they are MORE blessed and fortunate than people who would claim to be the most fortunate and blessed of all - yet are seen by the world as "hate criminals". Gaga describes the Phelps supporters as "violent and dangerous". Something's wrong surely.

Now some Christians (including the Phelps and co) would say that shows their gospel message is touching Gaga and her fans. "Violent and dangerous"? They are being convicted. Well what is the so-called "Gospel message" that the Phelps and their church is spreading? Here's a few of the key messages that I noticed on the pictures of the supporters picketing Gaga's concert in St Louis:

1. "Fags are Beasts - 2 Peter 2:12".

By the way I looked up 2 Peter 2:12 to see why this verse was chosen by the Phelps clan. The context of the passage - Peter speaks of the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority (v10). The result? These men are "not afraid to slander celestial beings". We cannot assume he means angels because in (v11) Peter makes the statement that "even angels" do not slander these people "in the presence of the Lord". Christians who have died and gone to glory? Opinion differs of course. And then (v12) he goes on to say that "such people" are brutes and will perish. The point - Peter is referring to "ANY" sinful being with corrupt desire and rebellion against authority. He is not singling out homosexuals and most certainly is including heterosexual lust. I trust the Phelps and their church never struggle with lust - because if they do, then by the judgement they dole out - are they so condemned.

2. "God hates Fags".

Well that can be dispensed with very quickly. John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that whoever believes ...". My favourite commentary on the Cross of Christ was by John Hosier. He said;

"Love constrained the Son of God to go to Calvary".

3. "God is your enemy".

I mean ... WHAT?! I love reading the Gospels to see how Jesus Christ walked the earth. The only time that I keep seeing Him angry and vengeful was against the religious Pharisees that walked in Jerusalem. Did He make whips and drive out the prostitutes? Or the tax collectors? No.

The other Phelps "item" that I saw was a You-Tube video - it wasn't Fred himself but his wife and granddaughters who appeared on the chat show of famous model and TV star Tyra Banks. The three women were obnoxious in the extreme - this is obviously what Banks wanted as it makes good TV. But to be honest she didn't have to work very hard to get the desired controversial results. The Phelps women called Tyra Banks a;


Essentially that term means that Tyra makes friends with "fags" and gives them jobs, encouragement and essentially "enables" their lifestyle. Here's the video;

Here's my questions and thoughts;

1. What does the "message of hate" that the Phelps and their church bring do to "attract" the lost to become interested in the Gospel?

2. Is hatred and derision of these Baptist "Christians" better than apathy?

3. The hatred of God - is it a biblically true concept in the New Covenant era - "the day of favour"?

4. The singling out of homosexuality - necessary? Appropriate? Helpful?

5. Is there a better way? I know there is - preach the gospel of grace in it's wonderful truth.


Terry Virgo on Being Reformed and Charismatic

It occurred to me that the Reformed/Charismatic tension is still one that doesn't seem to be wholly "cracked" at present. It certainly seemed close at one stage. Men like Ern Baxter, Terry Virgo (and for a time Stanley Jebb in our circles) taught so well on it on holding that tension. But I always used to think that the problem lay with charismatic life. That excesses seen in various moves of God like the Toronto Blessing or Lakeland scared people off. Now I'm not so sure. I met with the hospital chaplain at work and we found out we had a similar background - and got on to discussing Calvinism and why it seems that the theological viewpoint that should make Christians most humble and most worshipful seem to produce a judgemental, proud and arrogant spirit.

So actually I am wondering whether the reason why it is so tricky to hold a tension between Reformed and Charismatic life is because of the reformed doctrines and the fact that we are not allowing the glorious truth of them to become reality in our hearts. However there is no better movement of churches who is getting close than Newfrontiers in my opinion. They honour reformed doctrine but value charismatic life so much and that gives me massive encouragement. It was great to find the following video with Terry Virgo discussing this very issue;

Terry Virgo: Being Reformed and Charismatic from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Warning to the New Reformed Movement

The "New Reformed Movement" is an exciting development in church life and in theology. Servants of God such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Don Carson, Wayne Grudem and others have helped stir a passion for reformed theology - and that can't be a bad thing! I've been pondering for a while now however the "hero" syndrome especially among these individuals and how in discussion you often hear phrases like; "Well Piper said ..." and a rebuttal; "Yere but Carson demolished that and said ....". Or even; "Did Driscoll really say ... ?". Theological questions are often answered with "So and so said". Is that right? Can any Ephesians 4 Ministry truly "stand in the very stead of God"?

So I was really interested and encouraged to see the following pastoral caution; "What cautions do you have for the New Reformed Movement?" - from John Piper on my Twitter feed today. Piper was asked whether he had any warnings or cautions for the New Reformed Movement and he replied;

"I will give you one that is from a prophetic word given to me yesterday—take it or leave it".

That makes me sit up and take notice for starters - I love the fact that an intellect like John Piper doesn't have a problem hearing and accepting prophetic words - the prophetic and the mind are NOT enemies! Piper goes on;

"My caution concerns making theology God instead of God God. Loving doing theology rather than loving God ... We should be intellectually and emotionally more engaged with the person of Christ, the person of God—the Trinity—than we are with thinking about him. Thinking about God and engaging with him are inextricably woven together".

And then he goes on to make it explicit - emotions/intellect - they're all part of us and all belong together in our worship of God Himself;

"Intellectualism is a species of pride, because we begin to prize our abilities to interpret the Bible over the God of the Bible or the Bible itself" ... BUT ... "The danger on the other side is to say, "All that intellectual stuff, no, no, no. Doctrine, no. Intellect, no. Study, no. Experience, yes!" People who do this wind up worshipping a God of their own imagination".

I seize onto this warning because I've been in danger of this intellectual pride constantly myself since I began reading theology at university. I've sneered and looked down on church pastors who don't have as big a library as myself. I've judged sermons for their lack of quotes. And it is an UGLY, vile pride. Because why on earth does the God-given ability to read make me a better person than the humble, saintly dyslexic cleaner down the road?

By the way - that doesn't mean I'm giving up my books! But it is an apt reminder not to become so focused on theology that we miss WHO the theology is about - the Person - Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Worship from "Together on a Mission 2010"

One of the main elements I desperately missed from being at Brighton this year was the worship - Kate Simmonds and Lou Fellingham are my favourite worship leaders alongside Darlene Zschech (and Isi de Gersigny). What do they all have in common? Yes - they are all beautiful blond ladies. Yes - they all have incredible voices. But more importantly than even that, they all have a God-given, Spirit-empowered ability to lead the people into the manifest Presence of God. And I guess that is faith-building in and of itself.

I will never, ever forget being at CCK in Brighton when Rob Rufus was speaking just before "Together on a Mission 2007" and hundreds of us had flocked up for prayer - and I saw Kate Simmonds just round the stage up front dramatically receiving from God. That stuck with me - a daughter of God who was thirsty for more of Him.

So I'm grateful and very interested in this blog for faithfully recording the songs sung - and even more excited and encouraged to see that the worship leaders at Brighton do not make it all about "new" songs. Some of my favourite "golden oldies" were sung there such as;

Holy Holy (All The Heavens) Reuben Morgan
Majesty, Worship His Majesty Jack Hayford
Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean William Rees (& Kate Simmonds)
Jesus Lover Of My Soul Paul Oakley
Strength Will Rise Brenton Brown
Father of creation David Ruis
In him I have believed Kate Simmonds

Here's the complete list;


The Greatest Day In History (Happy Day) Tim Hughes
Come Let Us Worship The King of Kings Nathan Fellingham
To God Be The Glory Fanny Crosby and Nathan Fellingham
Holy Holy (All The Heavens) Reuben Morgan
Who O Lord (You Alone Can Rescue) Matt Redman
Majesty, Worship His Majesty Jack Hayford


We Are Gathered Evan Rogers
This Is The Day Evan Rogers
You Give Me (New Song) Evan Rogers
Twimba Lelu Evan Rogers
You O Lord, Rich In Mercy Mark Veary & Paul Oakley
And Can It Be Charles Wesley
You Have Become For Us Wisdom Mark Altrogge
No One But You Lord Andy Park


My Saviour, Redeemer Reuben Morgan
Wake Up My Soul Kate Simmonds
Looking In The Sky (Amazing God) Nathan Fellingham
Here Is Love Vast As The Ocean William Rees (& Kate Simmonds)
How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place (Better Is One Day) Matt Redman


The Glory Of Our King Matt Redman
Looking In The Sky (Amazing God) Nathan Fellingham
To God Be The Glory Fanny Crosby and Nathan Fellingham
Oh To See The Dawn Stuart Townend
Lift Up His Name Nathan Fellingham
Jesus Lover Of My Soul Paul Oakley


Clap Your Hand Evan Rogers
What A Mighty God You Serve Evan Rogers
You Are Mighty Craig Musseau
Strength Will Rise Brenton Brown
When The Dark Prevails Evan Rogers
There Is A Day Nathan Fellingham


Praise awaits you Matt Redman
Even as the world began Matt Redman
Great is he who’s the king of kings
Grace is not earned Kate Simmonds
I stand amazed in the presence C H Gabriel
Father of creation David Ruis


You Are The Lord Chris Tomlin
In Jesus Nathan Fellingham
Promised Land Nathan Fellingham
A Father To The Fatherless Paul Oakley


We Stand And Lift Up (Holy Is The Lord) Chris Tomlin
Praise Is Rising Nathan Fellingham
Our God Is Greater Chris Tomlin
We Are Thirsty (Let It Rain) Simon Brading
Strength Will Rise Brenton Brown
In All I Do (This Is My Worship) Lou Fellingham


To God Be The Glory Fanny Crosby and Nathan Fellingham
From The Highest of Heights Laura Story
Christ In Me Lou Fellingham
Your Blood Matt Redman
Blessing and Honour Gary Sadler


When the dark prevails Evan Rogers
I believe in Jesus Marc Nelson
From the north to the south Evan Rogers
Celebrate in the lord Evan Rogers
Who is this emerging like the dawn Evan Rogers
Everybody in the Church Evan Rogers
Free free I’m free indeed Evan Rogers
Ecstatic Praise Evan Rogers
Happy Day You give me hope / New Song Evan Rogers


There is mercy from the throne Phatfish
Here is love William Rees
Saviour King


In Jesus Phatfish
Wake up my soul Kate Simmonds
Grace is not earned Kate Simmonds
Christ in me Phatfish
In him I have believed Kate Simmonds

I hope there's a live CD coming out!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Awake O Zion!!

I had a post written about my current dilemmas and thoughts on "Total Forgiveness" and was planning to post that - but was just sorting through my email inbox after my week away in Spain and was reading some of Terry Virgo's most recent blogs. This post caught my eye because it reminded me of a fab song we used to sing as kids that went;

"Awake, awake O Zion - come clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendour - O Jerusalem".

The blog post of Terry's is working through the book of Jonah and he wrote;

"The church is God’s messenger to a storm-tossed world. She holds the keys to the nations. She knows the answers that everybody needs to hear. How can the church sleep while the world is agonizing with such colossal pressures? How can she drift while people’s hearts are failing on every side? Suicides, drug addiction, mindless brutality, abused children, elderly people terrified to answer their doorbells at night – what a world we live in. How can the church, God’s prophetic voice to the nations, become so purposeless and fall asleep?".

Sleep. Am I sleeping spiritually and personally? Is the church sleeping spiritually and corporately? It's not something you hear suggested very often. But if we are sleeping then who is acting as God's watchmen for the world? If we are sleeping spiritually then no wonder the prophetic is so lacking in passion and strength. The one prophetic word that we may not be actually hearing from God is;

"Wake up!".

Terry went on;

"Today, God wants you to share His anguish. ‘Look at those huge cities: London, Birmingham, Manchester …’ he’d say. ‘Their wickedness has come up before me, and I’m angry at their sin, but I love the people and long to show them compassion and mercy. Take the gospel to them. I want to display my love and power in your cities, to give them the opportunity to repent.’ Are you personally obeying God in this great commission, or have you fallen asleep?".

Waking up. Maybe that is the central word to my current situation. And the response? Terry Virgo's next blog post brings a response to that; "Help!".

"‘Help!’ That’s where you start. You don’t begin by trying to work out exactly how God might want to be addressed – ‘I beseech thee, almighty God, creator of the universe …’ You don’t begin by reviewing your own unworthiness and the various sins you’ve committed since you drifted away. There are times when urgency totally eclipses formality".

Too often Christians judge those struggling because they speak or write or act angrily. Such people are often seen as rebellious or backsliding - whereas actually could it be possible that "urgency is eclipsing formality"?

I love these next few words. These are the words of a pastor.

"‘Help!’ is a cry God will not ignore. You could be restored to God as you read these words. Why don’t you cry to him for help even now, at this very moment?".

And the next stage? Well Terry answers that in his next post; "What I have vowed I will make good".

"Jonah – far removed from God’s will, alone, tired and miserable – prayed, ‘What I have vowed I will make good.’ In that moment, as if a severed electric cable had been rejoined to its source, there was light, power, revelation and a shout of assurance, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9). His declaration triggered an immediate response in heaven".

Have you (like me) forgotten some of the promises you made to God in the initial rushes of "first love" towards Him? Have you forgotten how strong you felt - how passionate you felt about reaching the lost and changing the world for God? Has constant weariness, battle and cynicism worn you down so that you (like me) have become bitter and disappointed and wondering at times whether God too has forgotten the promises He made you?

I'm ready to take a risk and hope that electric cable will be rejoined to it's source. I am so so grateful for Terry Virgo and his faithful prophetic ministry that just manages to speak to exactly where you are at.

1. Wake up!

2. Cry "Help!".

3. Remember "What I have vowed I will make good".

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Don't Stop Believing!!

I'm repeating a cliche today that I have repeated before. And probably quoting a song that I have quoted before. But when life isn't the easiest or the best, it is often a wise idea to stick to what you know. Very often the depressed individual struggles with feelings triumphing over truth. The worse case scenario is that a person commits suicide when they truly lose all hope and cannot see any reason for living.

I was excited to see the trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been released and was fascinated with the final scene of it - Voldemort is facing Harry and asks; "Why are you still living?". Harry replies; "Because I have something to live for".

The key then - the message to everyone who has ever struggled with depression is this: DON'T STOP BELIEVING!