Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"We Were Never Meant To Be Content With A Little!!" - Dr Lloyd-Jones

"You love your conferences don't you" ... so said my beloved older sister kindly. On this coming Saturday I am going away to Brighton for the upcoming "New Frontiers Brighton Leaders Conference 2005". And to say I am excited is to drastically understate it. But I've been to many conferences in my time. Stoneleigh 2000 was the highlight - to worship God among the thousands ... pure heaven!! I've been to the Brighton Conference before - if anything more intense than Stoneleigh!! I've been to Sovereign "Grace" Celebration weekends ... enough said. So is this ... just another conference?

I don't want it to be - and I don't intend it to be. Actually I don't think it will be. Because my expectations of God have never been greater. His sovereignity aside ... I am desperately thirsty for Him to move in awesome unparallelled power. Terry Virgo wrote a commendation to "Joy Unspeakable" - Dr Lloyd-Jone's tome on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and he said; "This is NO age to advocate restraint". Amen, amen and AMEN!! All cautious restraints are laid aside. I come desperate ... I come barren ... I come to be flooded with God's Spirit. And as such my thoughts are drifting to my aims and objectives this coming week. I want to be clear in what I want of God; "I will not let You go until You bless Me".

1. Jerusalem Must Be Revived

Me. Revival must begin with the individual. I don't think I have ever experienced greater darkness these last 8 to 10 months. Trials - upon trials - and I seriously wondered if I would ever make it! One day I will testify to all ... when I can see how God brought me through and for why. But my soul is so desperate. So hungry after real Presence of God. To see Him move again. To feel His touch. My darling older sister would counsel me that I am seeking after the unusual, the radical and I should settle for the normal, the peaceful. But I can't!! As hard as I try!! The clarion call of Dr Lloyd-Jones hangs over my life: "We were NEVER MEANT TO BE CONTENT!!".

So I come to Brighton for "a touch". I want to leave that place transformed - a different person. And why not? Jacob left his wrestle and encounter with God different. Moses left the burning bush different. Paul left the Damascus Road different. An encounter with God will change forever!! It may disable this outer shell - but so be it!! I want a touch!! As the chorus says; "I feel the touch of Your wind on my face - I feel the first drops of rain!!". I want more than the cloud the size of a man's hand. I want the deluge!!

2. Judea Must Live

"It is the church - the hope of all the world! And here I place my heart and hand - I CANNOT TURN AWAY!!". My heroes - Ern Baxter and Terry Virgo have left me bound to the church. I cannot turn away - they have shown me a glorious city set on a hill that cannot be hidden!! And I have seen glimpses!! But my experience of church has been horrible. I have trusted in church and confided my deepest hurts and they have trampled on it. "Sincere" as my father may say. But they still trampled. "My expectations are too high" my sister may say! But still they trampled. Again I will testify soon - but my faith in church has been severely shattered.

Can it really be true? Can God really be serious? Can He intend to use this motley crew of people who hurt each other, who love power and abuse it by wrecking people's lives? By acting truly like the Pharisees of old? Can it be true? I come to Brighton looking for that city again!! I come desperate to have my faith in church restored!! I come and want to leave - my faith sure and true that the church IS the hope of the world!! Prophecy has been fulfilled - the passion of God's Son will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea!!

3. The World Will Know!

One of the most exciting things about Brighton is that I don't come alone this year. I am bringing two of my spiritual children ... Myriddin and Scott. These two boys mean more to me than words can express. I have seen the seeds of God beginning to work in both of their lives and I thrill at it!! I was asked to cut them off - cut off my friendship with them by people who were bound to cliches and I refused. I dont regret that decision at all! God brought them into my life for a reason!! And that reason is so close!! So close!! God has great designs for these two!! Already words of prophecy have been spoken to both of them! Already He is unfolding the future and how they will fit into His glorious church!!

So I want to see both of them encounter God in just as powerful ways as me. I want to see Him touch their lives and for them to be genuinely converted and dramatically baptised in the Spirit!! I want them to have a total New Testament Peter Package conversion!!! I want them to leave that place running!! I want them to leave that place with their lives changed!! Two non-Christians coming to a Christian conference where the Spirit is allowed to roam and walk unquenched!! The air is potent with possibility!! Oh that they may see Your glory!! Oh that they may see Your might!! And let them be just the beginning!!!

May the 3 of us come back from Brighton filled with Your Spirit - overflowing with Your passion and may Bristol - our home town be affected greatly. May the ripples of Your Spirit's workings begin to flow out to the nations!! Let it begin with us!! But let it begin!! We are tired of waiting!! We are tired of the day of small things!! We long for Your to unveil Your holy arm!!

So ... we shall see!!

Of course Your are sovereign. You are God whether You bless ... or whether You hide Your face. But I will not let You go until You bless!! Put my hip out of joint!! But bless!! Touch us!! Revive us!! So that the nations may be glad!!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Fire Must Not Go Out!!!

I'm afraid the Lord has been speaking to me again about burning. I am so so burdened - so so challenged - so so spurred by this message - this thrust!!!

I went to see Elton John last night at the Birmingham NEC last year and immediately the word that came pounding through to me from God was ..... "This man burns". And he does!! He would be rejected by the Pharisees of our day ... after all - he's gay!! But on that stage, I have never seen a man so taken up and enraptured in his music. He was totally focussed!! Totally obsessed!! He was there to perform!! And the thousands gathered at the NEC watched in amazement as he thundered out amazing tune after tune!! What a show!! What a display!! And all from a man who burns!!

Then the Lord took me one step further. And He reminded me of this quote of John Wesley's that I know very well:

"I set myself on fire .... and the people come to see me burn".

Awesome words!! But what do they mean?! What is this all about burning?!? It's a biblical concept of that we can be sure. Romans 12:11 "Never flag in zeal" apparantly according to the commentators literally means: "boil in the spirit!". They said of Jesus - zeal for His Father's House consumed Him. Does anything consume you? Do you boil about anything? Look around you!! Our world is full of bland, grey people who dont care about anything!! That's why someone like Elton causes such a stir - why people want to go and see him!! Because he is PASSIONATE about something!!!! Yet isnt it gutting - that he has to content himself with being passionate about his music!??!

Yet guys - the challenge remains for us. We have something FAR great - FAR more glorious - FAR more amazing!! And where are the hearts that burn for God?!?!?! Where are the burning ones?!?!? Because I am absolutely convinced - utterly persuaded that if we would follow John Wesley's counsel - and emulate his example, then people would come to us - to see us burn!!
The question of course is how. I found a sermon by the great amazing John Piper .... on this very

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Whole Counsel ...

I read this fantastic quote by Don Carson today in his critique of the 'Emerging Church' and Stevel Chalke:

At what point does an ‘orthodoxy’ that is more ‘generous’ than God’s become heterodoxy? Not for a moment do I want a vote cast in favor of the narrow-minded, whining, fault-finding, picky, sectarianism with which Christianity has sometimes been afflicted. Rather, what is called for is biblical fidelity. One can be biblically unfaithful by being much narrower than Scripture; one can be biblically unfaithful by being much broader than Scripture. Both sides call it faithfulness; both sides are seriously mistaken. How can we know By returning to Scripture, again and again, and refusing to be uncomfortable with the categories that God himself has given us, but seeking to learn and digest and believe and obey the whole counsel of God, as far as we see it, without flinching, without faddishness

The whole mystical "Whole Counsel of God" has been quite an issue with me ever since I was seriously impressed by Ern Baxter's mission. He was driven by the desire to preach the whole counsel of God and did so amazingly. Yet the question troubles me ... what IS the "whole counsel"?

John Piper has just preached the best sermon I have ever read on the expostion of the key text:
Acts 20:24-31 - it is God-centred as always and throughly worth the time to read it. The link is: http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/leadership/20050616_toward_spiritual_awakening_and_unity.html

I think the quote of Carson's is absolutely crucial - that we cannot be uncomfortable with the categories that God Himself imposes. Terry Virgo told the acount of when he went to see Dr Lloyd-Jones over a pastoral issue. He was facing opposition over signs, wonders and spiritual gifts and the introduction of them into his church. The Doctor responded that: "The greatest sin of the evangelical church is to put God into a box". I seriously wonder whether anything at all has changed. The discomfort with God's categories - with God's counsel is shocking and it can be found in most churches.

Yet what interested me the most about the Carson quote is that he sees error on both sides of the tension. There is error in being "narrower" than Scripture and there is error in being "broader" than Scripture. So the responsibility of any self-respecting theologian is to establish the Scriptural principles laid down and follow them. My small knowledge of Scripture suggests to me that the principles for church life are pretty amazingly broad. A read of the New Testament is thrilling! My personal conviction based on my last two years interesting experience in a Sovereign "Grace" church is that they are guilty of being "much narrower than Scripture". And according to Carson that is biblically unfaithful.

To come back to that quote, it is been extremely useful - now my thoughts follow the framework that Piper laid down in his excellent sermon to try and establish the whole counsel - what is it, how do you preach it, believe it and live it?
Dan Bowen's Bookmarks

Anyone familiar with the internet and more particularly Reformed theology will have come across Phil Johnson's Bookmarks. He runs the outstanding Spurgeon Archive website (http://www.spurgeon.org) but also has compiled this huge list of websites that he likes and doesn't with his own commentary on them.

I've grumbled for ages that charismatics seem far inferior to Reformed men in terms of research and delving into things so here is my beginnings at "Dan's Bookmarks" - websites that I like and don't. The same rules apply as Phil's.

1. Those I Adore :)

http://www.samstorms.com - the home of "Enjoying God Ministries" and Dr Sam Storms. I've raved about this man and his ministry in my previous blog so read all. It's an excellent website brimming with theological gold nuggets - highly commendable.

http://www.desiringgod.org/ - the home of Dr John Piper. Once again an outstanding website (although I still prefer Sam Storms). John is singular in his passion - that of the name of the site. The site bookstore outstrips Storms and Piper offers his entire catalogued ministry of sermon texts online and Scripturally indexed as well .... yum!

http://theologica.blogspot.com/ - the blog website of Justin Taylor (John Piper's theologial assistant). What a man! You can see the fatherhood of Piper coming out in his writings. The best blog online so far.

http://www.newfrontiers.xtn.org/ - the home of New Frontiers (founded and fathered by Terry Virgo). This is the family of churches I ally myself with (and go to one of the church plants). Their mission is Word and Spirit - fiercly honouring the Word of God but passionately welcoming the Holy Spirit. They used to run the heavenly Stoneleigh Bible Weeks and now host the Brighton Conference - touches of heaven. The website has their magazine online - worth reading - there are some excellent articles and now has a shop online.

http://www.cck.org.uk - the heavenly Church of Christ the King in Brighton, UK. Pastored by Pete Brooks (the most passionate pastor I've ever come across) and boasting an eldership/preaching team of Terry Virgo, John Hosier, Dave Fellingham and Nigel Ring to name a few - to go to this church is almost as good as being at Stoneleigh itself. The website is being revamped as at present, but was an awesome resource with all their sermons online.

http://www.csmpublishing.org/Pages/school.htm - Charles Simpson Ministries and more particularly the home of the Ern Baxter Memorial Library. There is a link to the complete catalogue of Ern Baxter's entire library ... wow oh wow. My aim and my goal!

http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk - my good friend Mark Heath's home webpage. An excellent site with his blog (book reviews and comments on contemporary theological issues), also some of his writings and his interests in music.

http://www.spurgeon.org - the mentioned Spurgeon Archive. For those who don't possess the entire Metropolitan Tabernacle series in book form (I'm still collecting) or have the CD ROM, this is the best place online to come and read the dew-like, honey soaked words of the awesome preacher himself.

http://www.katesimmonds.com/ - the awesomely talented and beautiful worship leader Kate Simmonds. This woman is truly outstanding. Have never been lead to the throne of grace and glory more closely and more passionately than when under her worship leading. She is living proof that those who don't believe in women worship leaders are slightly ... mad. Her website has got a great resource in her worship notes - an amazing resource for those who want to learn more about worshipping God and leading others in it.

http://www.hillsong.com - Hillsongs Church, Sydney - the home of Darlene Zschech. Concerns about health, wealth aside - God is truly touching these people. Each of Darlene's worship videos bring a touch of heaven and are just breathtaking to watch. You can sense the Presence of God through them and makes you long to be there.

http://www.westminsterchapel.org.uk/ - Former Ministers: Campbell Morgan, Lloyd-Jones and Kendall and now Haslam. You truly feel you are on holy ground at this place. Recently hosted the "Preach the Word Conference" - a fantastic resource in this ministry-training starved age. Amazing things happening!

http://www.rtkendallministries.com - This is what Dr R T Kendall is upto these days.

http://www.mlj.org.uk/ - The Martyn Lloyd-Jones Recording Trust. They barely made it into this list by the skin of their teeth. While I passionately adore and love the writings of the Doctor as well as the great tape ministry they offer, the site unfortunately is somewhat tacky. Much improvement needed (oh how often did THAT comment appear on my school reports!) Also unfortunate is their many links to the FIEC ... more of THEM to follow.

http://members.aol.com/pilgrimpub/chshymn.htm - Proof that yes, Charismatics DO like hymns - just not the traversty of a "Praise!" hymn book. This advertises the "Our Own Hymn Book" edited by C H Spurgeon, and the best hymn book I think around to date. It beats Christian hymns by a whisker.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"God-Besotted Heroes".

John Piper said that it was absolutely biblical to have "God-besotted heroes" and that indeed we are to "reside with them". One of the most amazing blessings of my life is that God has seen fit to give me a whole heap of them!! Dr Ern Baxter must stand at the top. I will write more about him again at some point. My friend Mark Heath has written some things about him as well as publishing one of my books on his blog ... find it at: http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk. Ern was closely involved with my home church in Dunstable and my pastor Dr Stanley Jebb. I fell in love with his teaching and ministry shortly after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit and truly his sermons became the foundation to the fuel!!

Other heroes are Terry Virgo, Stanley Jebb and John Piper.

Yet after yesterdays rant, I want to reflect on something more glorious and more positive. A new hero has come this year!! I've always heard bits and pieces about Sam Storms prior to this year - he contributed the Third Wave perspective to Wayne Grudem's book "Miraculous Gifts" for example. However I was fortunate enough to go to the Life in the Spirit Conference at High Leigh for the first time. Sam Storms was the keynote speaker and spoke four times. Three were on the Divine Election - a most outstanding theological presentation that was breathtaking! The fourth was on the Gift of Prophecy.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I haven't seen a more closer personification of "Word and Spirit" since Ern Baxter himself. Storms is an outstanding theologian who can cover any issue with ease and clarity - yet he also ministers the Holy Spirit and moves in great anointing and power. God truly came down when he prayed for us.

His website: http://www.samstorms.com - "Enjoying God Ministries" is an absolute treasure trove of writings and comments and reflections. He has a biblical studies section where there are almost full commentaries on quite a few hard books of the Bible. (I recently used my work computer to print off the whole commentary on Ephesians - Glory!!). He has a huge theological studies section where he will go where angels fear to tread. Here's a taster of the list:

Controversial Issues Revised
Session 01 (A Brief Response to John Hick)
Session 02 (Are Apostles for Today?)
Session 03 (Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? - Part I)
Session 04 (Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? - Part II)
Session 05 (Are Prophets Foundational to the Church?)
Session 06 (Are There Territorial Spirits?)
Session 07 (Are There Two Wills in God?)
Session 08 (Are Those Who Die in Infancy Saved?)
Session 09 (Baptism of the Holy Spirit - Part I)
Session 10 (Baptism of the Holy Spirit - Part II)
Session 11 (Can a Christian be Demonized?)
Session 12 (Could Jesus Have Sinned?)
Session 13 (Divine Election - Part I)
Session 14 (Divine Election - Part II)
Session 15 (Divorce and Remarriage - Part I)
Session 16 (Divorce and Remarriage - Part II)
Session 17 (Eternal Security of the Believer)
Session 18 (Gifts iin Church History)
Session 19 (Hell and Annihilationism)
Session 20 (Imprecations in the Psalms)
Session 21 (Is Apostleship a Spiritual Gift?)
Session 22 (Is God Guilty of Genocide?)
Session 23 (Is There Healing in the Atonement?)
Session 24 (Open Theism - Part I)
Session 25 (Open Theism - Part II)
Session 26 (Open Theism - Part III)
Session 27 (Pauls Thorn in the Flesh)
Session 28 (Pseudonymity)
Session 29 (Romans 11 and the Future of Israel - Part I)
Session 30 (Romans 11 and the Future of Israel - Part II)
Session 31 (Signs of an Apostle)
Session 32 (Suicide)
Session 33 (The Lordship Salvation Debate)
Session 34 (Tithing)
Session 35 (Was Jesus a Calvinist?)
Session 36 (What is the Sin unto Death?)
Session 37 (Manipulation or Ministry? - Part I)
Session 38 (Manipulation or Ministry? - Part II)
Session 39 (Legalism vs. Liberty)
Session 40 (The Carnal Christian: A Study of 1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

I think the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of the few doctrines where I would disagree with him.

But above all his passion for God just shines through. He is not interested in dead doctrine or dry theology (aka Boettner) but wants to see God known and be known through all that we read or study. His website is awesome, his writings are heavenly and my box file of printed works is growing all the time!!

I think the next time he is due in the UK is at the Life in the Spirit Conference 2007 - but I pray he gets tempted over here sooner!! I completely and utterly recommend him, his website and his ministry!!
To Forgive Or Not to Forgive?

Had an incredibly interesting number of days since last entry. Ever the controversialist I have begun reading the "Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown last night. I've read all the "anti" stuff on it by theologians left right and centre. My former pastor Dr Stanley Jebb used to say that the "Unexamined opinion is hardly worth holding". Therefore I see no merit in reading the "Anti" stuff without reading "The" stuff. As with Harry Potter, I am absolutely gripped - WHAT a great book!! I'll wait till I finish it before writing my thoughts and conclusions.

Now concerning forgiveness ... about 3 months ago the church that I used to attend behaved in what I considered to be an unbiblical way - smacking somewhat of "heavy shepherding". I will be writing a full account at some point. So in trying to deal with that, I read R T Kendall's "Total Forgiveness". He argues very strongly for the implications of the title ... "You must let them go". However I was reading the excellent unpublished commentary on Ephesians by Dr Sam Storms and he had some very useful "Myths about Forgiveness" that I don't think Kendall covered. Here they are:

From: http://www.samstorms.com - downloaded this date.

* Forgiveness is not forgetting. Why Because: (a) God does not forget, notwithstanding what you think Jer. 31:34 is saying. This is a metaphor, a word picture, designed to emphasize God's gracious determination not to hold us liable for our sins. (b) It is intellectually and mentally impossible to forget. Try to forget and you can be assured you will remember! (c) It is experientially devastating. Once having successfully 'forgotten an offense, any occasion that provokes the memory of it can lead to guilt and shame and depression for having failed so miserably to forget. One becomes unwilling ever to forgive, knowing that they will in all likelihood remember.

* Forgiveness does not entail the absence of feeling pain. (a) The only way to stop hurting is to stop feeling and the only way to stop feeling is to die emotionally. (b) This myth is one of the primary reasons people refuse to forgive. They know they can't stop feeling the sting of the sin and they don't want to be hypocrites.

* Forgiveness does not mean you cease longing for justice. Vengeance is not a bad thing. If it were, God would be guilty of a sin (see Rom. 12:19). It's simply that He's better at it than we are. Leave it to Him. Forgiveness does not mean you ignore that a wrong was done or deny that sin was committed. It simply means you decide to let God be the avenger. One reason people refuse to forgive is that they believe to do so would be to minimize the offense . . . . 'and that's not fair!

* Forgiveness does not mean you make it easy for the offender to hurt you again. He or she may hurt you again. That is their choice. But you must set boundaries on your relationship with them. True love never aids and abets the sin of another. True forgiveness is not incompatible with holding a person accountable for their actions and calling them to repent. Forgiveness does not mean you become a doormat for someone else's sin.

* Forgiveness is rarely a one-time, climactic event. It is often a life-long process. It may well begin with an act, but it often requires reaffirmation.

Got into an interesting "text debate" with my father about it. I texted the points and he obviously knew I was referring to the church leaders in question ... the drift of my father's argument went as follows ... because God is sovereign, He allowed the "sincere but misguided church leaders" (his words) to do what they did - therefore their actions can be excused. I had to disagree - strongly. My concerns are as follows:

1. Does God's sovereignity allow human responsibility off the hook? Consider Romans 9. God used the Babylonians to execute judgement on the Israelites - yet still judged them for their wrongdoing. Just because He is sovereign does not mean we can behave as we like and get away with it.

2. Does "sincere" excuse anything? Hitler was sincere! Virtually everyone who makes mistakes and does stupid things are sincere! Yet does that negate responsibility?

I think Storm's "Myths" brought a very useful counterbalance to Kendall's words. Forgiveness is something we must do - because the Lord commanded it. Yet forgiveness does not mean that we lay down and become wet blankets for arrogant church leaders who get a power kick from laying down ultimatums to trample on. God gave us brains and Bibles for a reason!

Rant over ... for today

Monday, June 20, 2005

So ... day 1 of my attempt at "blogging".

The motivation came from reading two absolutely excellent blogs ... the first was Justin Taylor's. He is John Piper's theological assistant (oh how I struggle with the sin of envy) and his blog is called "Between Two Worlds". It's such a stimulating and exciting read! Well worth a visit at: http://theologica.blogspot.com/. The second is my good friend Mark Heath's. He's a childhood friend and is very similar in theological outlook and shares exactly the same theological passions and interests. (Although I suspect he is a little more 'sound' than I). His blog can be found at: http://wordandspirit.co.uk.

So why me? Revelation 1:19 has become an extremely key text in my life experience recently. C H Spurgeon wrote that "we are not permitted to see for the charming of our eyes alone ... we must ... write what we see". I have seen much. Someday I might follow Mark's example and share my testimony (http://www.wordandspirit.co.uk/blog/index.php?/archives/48-My-Reformed-Charismatic-Journey-Part-1.html) for I stand in awe at what God has allowed me to experience. I have seen much ... therefore I want to write. To share. To ponder. To wonder.

I don't have a clue how this will turn out - but it's an exciting new venture!!