Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Great Thou Art!

I hardly need mention that I am a charismatic in every sense of the word - loving worship that engages with God by the Spirit. I love modern song-writers, I love bands and my favourite worship leaders are women such as Lou Fellingham, Kate Simmonds and Darlene Zschech.

But I'm slightly a bit of an anomoly in that there is a powerful part of me that loves the mighty sung hymn written by men such as Charles Wesley. You cannot surpass singing your heart and soul out to a thundering organ and gathered orchestra. I guess this influence came from Dunstable, Stanley Jebb and the church which always loved to sing hymns along with the charismatic choruses.

So today I've been sorting out, unpacking and tidying my study/library and have been playing the latest album release from the wonderful All Souls Orchestra - "How Great Thou Art" - and an unashamed to admit I stood in the study with tears rolling down my cheeks as I enjoyed them sing the namesake of the album - the great hymn; "How great Thou art!". Here's the lyrics that really, really hit me;

"And when I think that God his son not sparing,
Sent him to die - I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

He bled and died to "TAKE AWAY" my sin! So if He went through that awful agony to take it away then why do I invest so much time trying to remember and mortify sin that is dead and doesn't exist anymore?

And this verse! Ah!

"When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!".

For those who are unfamiliar with the All Souls Orchestra and choir - here's a video below giving a taster with Stuart Townend.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Photos from the Rufus's Visit to the Phillipines!!

One of the benefits of being a far-off fan of the Rob, Glenda, Ryan and Kylie Rufus is the tremendous excitement of seeing their wonderful ministry grow and develop as the grace message gathers momentum around the globe. Of course one of my aching frustrations is that I don't have the resources or a church to bring them back to the United Kingdom!

However thank God for the internet - and the fact we can enjoy and hear the wonderful message from afar. So there has just been a wonderful trip to the Phillipines (while celebrating Glenda's birthday - who I swear does NOT look the age she is!) and I'm looking forward to hearing the ministry.

Here's a few photos from the event - thanks to Glenda;

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Video of Terry Virgo from 1996!

I just found a great video of Terry Virgo speaking in Germany to a church there. He made reference to their being at Stoneleigh Bible Week and there was some short footage of that - including them worshipping around the tents (ah brings back wonderful memories).


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Resurgence Interview: Mark Driscoll with Terry Virgo

I must admit the friendship between Mark Driscoll and Terry Virgo was not one I was especially thrilled with - given my caution with Driscoll's rather chavinistic brand of ministry. However Terry Virgo is a man of God I trust implicitly and if he sees something in Mark Driscoll, then I'd hate to miss out on that. That being said - it wasn't enough to make me sit down and start listening to Mark Driscoll's preaching (I wouldn't go that far).

But when Terry posted this interview between him and Mark I felt this would be a good place to start. Many know I have a deep love for the interview format. I think you can learn far more from interviews than many lectures or sermons because you are capturing the man of God or woman of God in a spontaneous conversation. Here's the transcript I typed up - the video is below;

Mark Driscoll (M.D): Thinking of leaders, particularly younger leaders and emerging leaders - people who are starting in ministry voluntarily or vocationally, what would you say about the ministry of the Holy Spirit to lead the leader? In the classic sense so much of Christian teaching on leadership really borrows from secular practices on how to be a good leader. And there are some good things to be learned in God's common grace. But very little is written about being "led" by the Holy Spirit so you are then able to lead God's people in the things of God. Could you talk a little bit about what it means to be a "Spirit-filled leader" or a "Spirit-led" leader?

Terry Virgo (T.V): I would put together the grace emphasis I guess with the enjoyment of God's love. So for myself I have always tried to engage with the Spirit.

M.D: What does that look like in real life? You know for the average Bible college guy who's up in his head. What does that look like?

T.V: Yes I can only illustrate that from my own experience. I am in the Word each day - I am saying "Lord this is Your Word - I want You to speak to me". So I am looking to feed on the Word. At the moment I am using the Murray M'Cheyne reading plan - that is a recent thing for me over the last 3 years. I think it's good to switch around from the way you read the Bible. But then I am looking to Him to fellowship with Him and talk to Him. I sing to Him - I enjoy fellowshipping with Him so I am looking to sing to Him. I sing songs, I sing in tongues, I sing expecting and enjoying God being with me. It's out of that celebration of His kindness and His love that very often leads me to the Cross again and the wonder of who He is and the phenomenal thing that He has done for us.

Then I find myself beginning to ask and pray for things. So I felt from an early age, Lloyd-Jones's emphasis on prayer really influenced me - and other guys - so yes, praying with the energy of the Spirit. Paul says; "Praying in the Spirit" and sometimes you are praying about something. And I read Don Carson once said; "Pray yourself into prayer" - it is a Puritan quote actually and sometimes you are praying and your brain is going everywhere and then other times you find a caring that you didn't know - and you find yourself going; "Hey - there's more in me" and I believe it is the Holy Spirit making you care more about something and that stirs my faith! I think "Hey - God cares about this more than I do".

You want to fellowship with the energy - you feel God is kicking in, in your heart. I find other times fellowshipping in the Spirit can be more in the corporate group. Sometimes there have been visions, prophecies and things that we feel God has been sharing and they have influenced decisions we've made. Rather like Paul who wanted to go north and the Spirit forbade him, he wanted to go another way and then there was that Macedonian call. It seems to me that the Spirit was showing him which way to go. Over the years as a movement we have gathered guys to pray a lot. Three times a year in the UK we gather all our leaders for two days of prayer and fasting.

M.D: So many people for two days of prayer and fasting!

T.V: Well the first time we did it, there was about 20. And last time 750. So three times a year it has just grown and it is all because I mis-read a Scripture that says; "Three times a year you shall gather your men" and it says; "They shall not come empty-handed". And I read; "You shall come empty-handed". And I thought; "What's empty-handed? No agenda. No food". And some guys have never forgiven me! So we gather for two days and we fast and we pray for two hours and break for an hour and pray for two hours and break for an hour and pray for two hours and break for an hour. These days we hire a big church and all go out to different hotels and then come back again the next morning and again we pray and break and we worship. We pray for different things we are doing - maybe there's a crisis in a nation, we pray for India or we may pray for famine in Kenya. So we corporately pray. Sometimes small numbers and sometimes "Korean-style" in big numbers as we think of it.

Sometimes someone will come and lead us from the front and sometimes we will pray in twos or threes. So over many years now we have prayed together corporately. Then that goes back out into the churches and church plants - teach your people to pray. Believe for buildings, believe for new elders to be raised up. So prayer has been quite a big emphasis in my life probably from my early pastor and my early influences. And when I felt led to put down secular work - I actually felt the call was to have more time to pray. So prayer has always been a personal emphasis in my life. But at the beginning it was a bit condemnation-driven and I felt God released me from that and now I enjoy it and still feel I want to pray.

M.D: Yes when I was talking with Joel and said; "So what do you remember about growing up with your dad when he took over the church in Brighton?". He said; "I remember often my dad sitting in the other room singing and praying". He said; "My dad sings and prays through everything!". That stuck with him. Then I was talking to one of the younger worship leaders and I said; "What's your favourite part of being in that Newfrontiers church?" and he said; "Oh the mid-week prayer meeting! That is the best thing of all because we just sing and pray and sing and pray. That's where we hear God speak to us and guide us and where He's leading us. You don't want to miss the prayer meeting".

In the States that's something quite frankly you wouldn't hear a lot - I am a Reformed, Bible-teaching evangelical who says; "In the Holy Spirit" in my prayer times but that's about it. Why do you think those two don't come together as often as they should?

T.V: I guess it's been who we have been for a long time and I guess it's easy to be impressed by management skills and I don't despise planning - but I think you can put all your eggs in that basket. I want to be confident in God and I know the big breakthroughs have been faith issues. There have been times when we have been refused - "No you cannot have this building - no you can't do this or that" and there's no way that you can plan through that. You have to believe God and pray though it - and it's been exciting to be honest over decades to see God do amazing things for us through prayer. I think we have a heritage in the UK when reading men like Hudson-Taylor who said; "I want to move men to God through prayer alone" and you read these biographies of great men. I used to commute to London an hour every day and I used to devour biographies - especially praying missionary guys. A man called J O Fraser who worked in China and his exploits through prayer. He said; "I want to be like a businessman who has found a line that really works" and he said; "Prayer really works" - and that really grabbed me and I thought; "I want to be like that".

M.D: Do you "like" God?

T.V: I love God! I love worship! It sounds awfully pious when you are asked; "What do you enjoy?" but it is true - I enjoy being with God. I enjoy being with the saints when worshipping. I love the Lord!

M.D: Do you think that's the key to prayer? If you like God and enjoy God then prayer is what happens?

T.V: Yes I suppose I don't think of prayer as much in that way but when I am trying to engage with God.

M.D: When I have worshipped with you and your people, they like God. A lot of places I go to - they believe in God but I'm not sure they "like" Him. They can get a little stiff and unhappy and dull but when there is a people who like God and believe in Him then there is a joy there and a unity and the people tend not to gravitate towards legalism and the leaders don't need to become heavy-handed because that is not the spirit.

T.V: A combination of believing the grace of God - for me, when I really believed that I was accepted and saved - I then learned that I was free but you had to do this and had to do that and pray more and I thought "Am I accepted or am I accepted if I do all these things?" and then it dawned on me; "I am accepted!" and it was like getting born again! They said after the resurrection; "They could not believe for joy" - and that was the way it was with me - I thought this is amazing! That has transformed my life to know grace is so free!

The Holy Spirit and enjoyment of the Presence of God and you combine those two and it is electric! It gives us purpose on a world mission to glorify Jesus - Lord we want to glorify You - we are about a serious work and I find that is a really dynamic mixture!".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Way to Think about Christian Books

C J Mahaney has an excellent and accurate way of describing and thinking about Christian books - and one that I have held for some time. In his "study tour" video, he said;

"These are the individuals - dead and alive - who serve me. They are my friends, my teachers, my mentors and reading the volumes present here has made all the difference in my soul ... these are not just books, they are treasures".

I have had that thought for ages ever since I started buying Christian books back in university. I remember my first serious set of books was by C H Spurgeon and it grew from there. When I really enjoy a book and find the author is speaking to me about God, it is as though they are speaking and sitting in the same room with me. As Mahaney said; "They are my friends".

My best friends are writers like Ern Baxter who "though dead still speaks".

Saturday, April 16, 2011

My love of Pastor's Studies

I don't know why but I just love looking round pastor's studies and seeing the walls lined with books. I guess it grew up from being used to Dr Stanley Jebb's study in Dunstable. His study was a massive "L" shaped room and was lined floor to ceiling with books. Sadly his successor had quite a few less and it was sad seeing empty bookshelves.

I think it's because books say a lot about those who's libraries they belong in. There have recently been a few videos on You-Tube looking around the studies of some well-known men. I thought I'd post a tour round half my library before these men of God - because mine's a lot smaller! (Half to three quarters of mine is housed in London at Lansdowne Evangelical Free Church). The noise is very poor but I focus on my favourite Holy Spirit books, preserved videos from Stoneleigh Bible Week and my Puritan collections;

Terry and Simon Virgo have been doing some interviews in Terry's study which I have loved. You also get a good glimpse at some of the wonderful books Terry has and reads.

5f. Free to worship from Terry Virgo on Vimeo.

Together for the Gospel posted two videos in C J Mahaney's study and in Mark Dever's study. Sadly C J tends to spend rather a lot of time fooling about with a glove and basketball but you do see the set of C H Spurgeon books which is a favourite in my library too.

Mark Dever's library is wonderfully massive and reminds me of Stanley Jebb's. I spied Richard Baxter's works which I have.

And again it was wonderful to see around John Macarthur's amazing study (although didn't see enough of it!);

Books are all very well and good - but if they do not serve in increasing a passion for a real encounter with the Presence of God then they are simply tools to increase intellectual snobbery.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rob Rufus on Matthew 18:9

It's long been irritating to me that many so-called New Covenant teachers and men of grace have been known to use Matthew 18:8-9 in application for Christians today (I have even heard Terry Virgo make reference to it). Just as a reminder, the verse says;

"If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell".

I used to believe this was true - that we seriously had to be so radical in fighting sin that we should be prepared to chop our limbs off if they caused us to sin. But I'm listening to Rob Rufus speak at a conference in East London in South Africa and he makes such a plainly obvious point - it's laughable (if it wasn't so tragic). Speaking on Christians using this verse, he said;

"Even if you can't see and you can't grab - you can still imagine!".

And of course the law makes it absolutely clear (as applied by Jesus Christ) - if you lust after someone in your heart or if you hate someone then you have committed the sin. So we MUST re-evaluate the use of this verse and re-question the context. What is Jesus saying here? And of course - what makes perfect sense is that as Rob says, Jesus is preaching the law "on steroids" to make it so obvious that the law simply CANNOT be met.

That is why we need the gospel so desperately!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Origin of All Worry - by Rob Rufus

A quick-fire quote from the amazing Rob Rufus that cuts right to the heart of ALL my current problems in life. This quote comes from a sermon I'm currently listening to - and I think it is the best summary of the Song of Solomon and it's place in the Christian's life - ever! (transcript of course will be coming here);

"The origin of all worry is the absence of certainty and deep assurance of His absolute intense and passionate burning love for you. When that revelation of His burning love for you comes - you know He will look after you. When you have that assurance of His love you can trust Him easily".

Rob Rufus - "Experiencing the Fire of God's Burning Love for You" - City Church International, Hong Kong - Sunday 6th March 2011

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Report from Grace Church, Bristol (SGM)

On Sunday February 28th 2010 I visited Christchurch in Newport (SGM head church) for the first time since my excommunication. It was a significantly encouraging visit and I wrote about it here. Last Sunday (as many know) in the UK was Mother's Day and I decided that it would please my mum and hopefully honour her to visit Grace Church, Bristol for the first time in almost six years or so. It wasn't an easy decision but I'm glad I did.

Here's what happened:


Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).

The building:

A school in Fishponds, Bristol.

The neighborhood:

Fishponds, a not-so-nice area of Bristol.

The cast:

Nathan Smith (the Senior Pastor), Peter Bowley (other Senior Pastor) and an American chap called Colin who led worship.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Morning.

How full was the building?

100 or so plus.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Yes I was made to feel really welcome being met (and hugged) by Peter Bowley, Nathan Smith and a number of other people I used to know well when I was in membership there.

Was your pew comfortable?

For a plastic school chair - not bad.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Lively and cheerful. They've just adopted a new logo that looks something like a Playstation control pad. There is a reason why they've chosen it - I got lost though.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning everyone - shall we stand?".

What books did the congregation use during the service?

ESV Bibles made available helpfully to those who didn't have their own (like me).

What musical instruments were played?

A guitar, a keyboard, drums and a trumpet.

Did anything distract you?

A little old man sat right behind me on the back row snoring through the entire sermon and then awoke at some point and declared he needed to "piddle" and so left to do so. Then got back and promptly began to snore again.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Lively with some hands raised and some clapping. There were no gifts of the Spirit present that I saw. Sadly I didn't know any of the songs having been out of SGM circles for years so I didn't find it that easy to enter in.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

Around 40-45 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7. Loved the Lloyd-Jones quotes. Loved the emphasis on more of the Spirit and His vital role in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. My perhaps only criticism would have been loving Nathan's urge to the people to be ready by faith to accept what God wants to do. And then not so loving him telling them to take with a pinch of salt if anyone suggests they may have seen the risen Christ. Who's to say that we can't see the risen Christ?


Acts 1. "Unstoppable Mission".

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Hearing songs sung about the gospel - always good to hear truth spoken! And feeling welcome back at a place I'd feared for six years I was barred from. A closing of a chapter!

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The pain of wishing I was truly part of a church family again.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

I didn't even take that chance - I left as soon as the final strains of the hymn were fading.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Not sure - didn't try it.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

3 - it's great to be able to visit but I'm still not sure I'm SGM at heart.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes - a reminder of the Cross/Gospel is always of huge encouragement.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?

God was working marvellously to make this day happen that I thought NEVER would - that I could revisit Grace Church again and feel welcome there and actually enjoy it!