Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Better to Receive Than Give ...

This post was generated by a comment that my friend Julie Morris - the grace champion - sent me on Facebook. I was feeling pretty grotty and miserable. I've had a week where I've leant loads of money to people and just generally felt used and abused. So very much in the flesh, I wrote my status as saying something rather grumpy like "whoever said it's better to give than receive obviously never gave!". But Julie brought it back to God and all day I've been thinking as to actually is the proverb; "It is better to give than receieve" - an Old Covenant statement?

Is the essence of the New Covenant that God wants us to realise that actually it's more blessed to RECEIVE (from Him) than to try and give to Him?

All day I've been thinking about the Cross. And all the brilliant Cross-centred quotes I've heard have been going through my head. Here's a few;

"Love constrained the Son of God to go to the Cross" - John Hosier

"What is the obvious clear message of what happened on the Cross? Simply this - that Jesus was crushed so that God would never crush you. Jesus was pierced so that God will never ever pierce you with sorrows or with sickness or with poverty. Jesus was punished so it is a guarantee that God will never ever punish you! Jesus was made a guilt offering by God so you will never feel guilty" - Rob Rufus

"Paul gloried in the ‘old rugged’ cross not in nostalgic reflection but in triumph and glorious emancipation" - Terry Virgo

Everything that happened - everything Christ did on the Cross was for US. Why does Christianity persist in refusing to accept that? Why has law so successfully ingrained in us that we somehow have to "pay God back"? I wonder why Jesus spoke in the Gospels about "becoming like children". The funny thing about children is that they never have any trouble receiving gifts. Just watching my beautiful nieces and nephews at Christmas proves that! The smiles that light up their faces just does something right inside me when they rip open the paper!

I was driving back from work listening to CCK Brighton's latest wonderful album; "Have You Heard" and the most heavenly song by Paul Oakley and Lex Loizides hit me like an Exocet missile. Funnily enough Julie's latest post bemoaned the lack of true grace songs. I think this beautiful song - "This is for Me" - will fit the requirements Julie! I can't urge you enough to get this album and listen to this song again and again. Even better CCK have made this particular track available free off their website.

Here's the words;

"How can I resist, this love that draws my heart,
This Voice that calls my name, I'll never be the same again,
And how could I deny, this King who took my place,
The One who bore my shame, I run into these arms of grace;

How can I refuse? I choose to follow You!

This is for me, this blood of Christ, washing all my stains,
Breaking all my chains! This is for me! This death He died,
Taking all my sin - giving me a chance to live again.

I choose to follow You! You gave Your life for me - I choose to follow You!
Jesus I believe".

I remember when I was in my home church in Dunstable a number of us wanted to see Darlene Zschech's song; "My Jesus, My Saviour". The elders (rapidly becoming anti-charismatic at the time) wouldn't allow it to be song because it was "too personal". Sadly they missed the whole point. The whole point of the Gospel. The whole point of everything. Another line in the same CCK album by Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty says;

"Creation gazed upon His face, the ageless One in time's embrace.
Unveiled the Father's plan of reconciling God to man".

I wonder still on Julie's post whether the reason why there are so few "grace" worship songs is because the church has embraced the "debtor's ethic" worldwide and is suspicious of any songs that sing of our feelings and our emotions that are evoked at the wonder of the Gospel. Maybe song-writers and theologians need to learn how to become like children again and learn;

The joy of receiving.

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Increasing Glory" Conference - South Africa - MP3s!!

Here's another chance to hear Rob and Glenda Rufus and Fini and Isi de Gersigny that I was planning to grab but missed thanks to swine flu! Fortunately I knew a few people who were at the conference so I was enjoying text updates throughout! The hosts have very kindly made the MP3's available for wider listening around the world - so here they are;

Session 1 - Morning
Rob Rufus

Wednesday 8 July
Download Session

Session 2 - Afternoon
Rob Rufus

Wednesday 8 July
Download Session

Session 3 - Evening
Rob Rufus

Wednesday 8 July
Download Session

Session 4 - Morning
Fini & Isi de Gersigny

Thursday 9 July
Download Session

Session 5 - Evening
Rob Rufus

Thursday 9 July
Download Session
Session 6 - Morning
Rob Rufus

Friday 10 July
Download Session

Session 7 - Afternoon
Rob Rufus

Friday 10 July
Download Session

Session 8 - Evening
Fini & Isi de Gersigny
Friday 10 July
Download Session

Testimonies - Morning

Saturday 11 July
Download Session

Session 9 - Morning
Rob Rufus
Saturday 11 July
Download Session

Session 10 - Evening (Celebration Service)
Rob Rufus

Sunday 12 July
Download Session

Interview with Fini & Isi
Leadership Podcast

Friday 10 July
Download Podcast

Sunday, July 26, 2009

New Nature Publications on You-Tube!!

Just got back from an awesome weekend away in Brighton - to find this:

Awesome!! Get over to the website and get browsing - this is only going to grow!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Favourite Worship Leader Ever!!

I was thrilled to find this morning a clip from an interview with the amazing Kate Simmonds. She probably was the person I missed not going to Brighton this year! Why am I such a fan? Because she unfailingly has led me into the Presence of God every time I have been in a meeting where she is leading. Whether it was in the conference hall at Brighton or at Stoneleigh or at Church of Christ the King - everytime. And I think she does it because she is a worshipper first and foremost. You can see it is pretty irrelevant to her about being on a stage - her heart is simply to lead people into God's Presence and when you look at her and see she is already in God's Presence, then it creates a thirst to follow quickly behind and not miss out!

I've been unfortunately in some meetings where some (mostly male) worship leaders dominate the proceedings and make it all about them. They don't like being interupted even if God shows up and one in particular would look irritated if someone came to the microphone wanting to bring a prophecy or a tongue! Kate couldn't be further from that. I will never forget her leading at "Together on a Mission" 2007 when Rob Rufus was causing all sorts of chaos! Correction - God through Rob Rufus was causing all sorts of chaos! She loved it. You could see she didn't know what was happening but her God was present and that was all that matters.

My heart's desire is to get to go to Sydney one day soon and visit the church there where Peter Brookes is leading (another hero of mine!) and split my time somehow between Kate Simmonds, Darlene Zschech and Hillsongs and of course the wonderful Fini and Isi de Gersigny! What a blessed city! So here's the video clip;

This particular quote really stuck with me;

"How I would love to be remembered is ... as someone who loved God, loved people and help people know that they were loved".

Ryan Rufus's latest awesome book; "Sanctification by Grace" was so important in that respect because I believe the same passion grips his heart as Kate's. He wants to help people know that they are loved. And I think that is something that has become increasingly a burden to me. I've been in too many churches now for my liking where the leadership are too often focused on telling you that God is angry with you, that God is judging and watching you. How many like me remember the kind of poems our well-meaning parents would repeat to us? They often had a line like;

"And when we're good it pleases Jesus".

The unspoken implication being; "If you are bad then it makes Jesus angry and He'll 'get' you". Surely the cruelest thing that a church leader can ever do is to use threats such as; "We are casting you out to Satan". How far is that from the prodigal son account? The father who was watching anxiously for his son's return and came running down the road eagerly on his approach. I wonder how many church leaders would come running down the road if prodigals returned to church. My conviction is that many prodigals won't ever darken some church doors again because they are too scared about what will happen if they do. Even I - who have been in Christian and church life for 30 years - wouldn't go to some churches ever again.

No - I love this vision that is expressed by both Kate Simmonds and Ryan Rufus. To help people know that they are loved. What a thing to be remembered for!

Monday, July 20, 2009

He Reigns!! ... Even in a Pandemic

I've mentioned every now and then that I've been working on a new job - essentially I'm working on a team at the Children's Hospital focusing on the swine flu pandemic sweeping the nation and the world. Anyone based in the UK will know the West Midlands statistics are very high compared to the rest of the nation so it's quite a challenging role. Part of my job is to take phone calls from staff, patients and relatives who have concerns and need answers and advice. And there is a LOT of concerns which is quite understandable. So these phone calls mean that in the last month I've had to learn a lot, quite fast about swine flu and what it does and may do.

What I didn't expect (maybe naively) was for that panic and fear to worm it's way through the Church. I took a fascinating but rather surprising question from someone in a church. They asked whether (based on guidance from the group of churches they belong to) - whether they should be pre-cutting up the communion loaf to limit the spread of potential infection. I did some research yesterday and I was increasingly surprised to find that this guidance is quite tame. Other churches are looking at sterile pre-packing wafers and a small goblet of wine. Other churches are banning communion altogether.

The most sensible advice I read was by a Lutheran minister in the USA who advices those with flu-like symptoms to stay at home until they are better but states that she will not stop sharing communion or shaking hands or hugging her congregation. This is precisely the advice that I gave - to me, taking the excessive step of pre-cutting the communion loaf is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. A Christian microbiologist did some research into what germs are in the communion communal cup and found some rather terrifying things. That being said, she concluded you stand more chance of catching something from your children at home than if you partook in communion every day.

Essentially the issue is this - someone with flu-like symptoms who potentially has swine flu should not be coming to church and sitting in close proximity with other worshippers for over an hour. If they are doing so then the flu virus will spread through their coughing and sneezing whether the communion loaf is pre-cut or not and whether each worshipper has pre-packed individual wafers and wine or not.

The Christian bloggers are of course busy debating whether this is the final wrath of God or not on the back of the economic collapse. What utter rubbish. What about the Black Death of centuries back? What about the seasonal flu pandemic of 1968 to 1970? God is not mad. He spent His wrath at the Cross and His Son cried; "It's done! It's finished!". Rather this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity for the Church to stop being afraid and to rise up and show the world that we are not afraid. This is in an opportunity to show the world that healing and signs and wonders really do exist now, right now and totday here in the 21st century.

What chance does swine flu have if the fire of God were to fall in response to the authoratative command of His people? Does He reign or doesn't He? Does He heal or doesn't He? If John G Lake could confidently take some infected saliva infested with bubonic plague in South Africa and put it on his skin and watch it die because of the anointing upon him, then why should swine flu stand any more chance?

Enough fear. Enough cutting up of communion bread. Stop! Do we believe or do we not? Does He reign or doesn't He?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Terry Virgo on the Hope of the World!

I love this quote from Terry Virgo's recent "Firstline". It was an excellent article all round and I've posted two other quotes - one on my quotes blog and one in the "Blank Bible". But this one is about the Church - one of my favourite topics;

"New converts need to encounter not simply a series of meetings and events but a family dwelling together in love and light where grace is not simply ‘in the air’, but in personal relationships which communicate life, support and strength".

I know that I can testify to my home church in Dunstable truly reflecting this. I remember that I couldn't get away from the place. Our whole lives were wrapped up in church. I often get asked questions like; "When did you start going out clubbing?". Well as a teenager for myself that didn't happen - Dunstable didn't really have any clubs worth visiting! But more importantly there was far too much going on at the church to even consider it. I can't actually remember even sitting at home bored on a Saturday night.

It was exceptionally difficult for me to leave Dunstable to go to university to start my nursing career and I had to seek advice off the elder I trusted most before going. Maybe the church didn't emphasise evangelism and getting into the world enough - but I'm so grateful that when I read this quote of Terry's I am blessed enough to have experienced true church family. As a single guy it is all too painfully evident in many churches that you are alone. I don't think my "singleness" actually sunk in until I moved to Bristol - because in Dunstable I was surrounded by church family. I loved it! I used to travel back from Birmingham every weekend I could because I loved going to the 18's and over's meetings that my friend Mark and his wife Steph used to hold - it was a touch of revival!

My heart goes out to those who have never known church life as Terry Virgo describes it. To those who's church leaders do indeed "hire and fire" not only other leaders but also deal with church members in the same heavy-handed way. Who rule with a rod of iron and cannot even contemplate any other situation than "their word being law". To those who haven't experienced real grace. Even though I can't honestly say I'm in the kind of church family I knew at Dunstable at least I know what to hope and pray for! How awesome to be in a family where you are addressed as;

"My brothers, my beloved, my longed-for, my joy, my crown".

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Together on a Mission round-up!!

I've been so busy with my new job at the hospital and the swine flu pandemic sweeping the West Midlands quite badly that it actually slipped my mind that this years "Together on a Mission" has been and gone. How horrendously shocking! The Brighton conference formed such a key part of my life for a number of years and I experienced God there in power like I have in very few other places. I'm not saying we'll never go back - it just didn't happen again this year.

Together On a Mission Conference, Brighton Highlights from Newfrontiers on Vimeo.

But that's not to say I'm fascinated to see and read what happened. And I truly rejoice especially to read the re-statement of the awesome Newfrontiers vision that is doing so much to change so many nations. The sessions will be made available here over the next few weeks. Here's a few bloggers that were there and were covering it;

Dave Bish wrote up an excellent summary post of what sounds like three outstanding messages from Terry Virgo. "Past, Present and Future". I will be doing my best to get hold of the DVD's of these sessions! I was especially encouraged by this statement;

"When we speak of being charismatic we say we are people who want to experience the Presence of God, knowing God actually is among us, who want our affections effected by Him and who eagerly desire the gifts that Christ and the Holy Spirit give to the church for her upbuilding. We are a charismatic people".

What better definition than that? It's not quite fashionable for many former charismatics to sneer at this term and speak of their "child-ish" days but now they have "grown up" and are into doctrine and theology. What utter rubbish. If anything it's more childish to reckon that there is something more spiritual about sitting with theology books than the very Presence of God! "Charismatic" needs a re-statement and it sounds like Terry has done an excellent job - as always. I'm sure there are many who would love to see Terry Virgo join the ranks of the "former charismatics" and begin courting him as a trophy for the cessationists. I'm glad that's not happening!

Phil Whittall - an elder from Shrewsbury Community Church wrote his posts here;

TOAM: Day 3 (the rest)

TOAM: Day 3 (so far)

TOAM: Day 2 (the rest)

TOAM: Day 2 (so far)

TOAM: Day 1

TOAM: Session 1

Off to Brighton

The Mobilise blog also followed the events from their side;

Together on a Mission day 1

Together on a Mission day 2

Together on a Mission day 3

Together on a Mission day 4

I was most excited to see that the CCK Life blog was also following the conference;

Together On A Mission - Day 1

Together On A Mission - Day 2

Together On A Mission - Day 3

Together On A Mission - Day 4

It seems clear to me that Terry Virgo's three sessions were one of the key points of the conference. I listened to his first session - "The Past" driving down to Bristol and it was truly amazing. Here's a couple of key quotes that stood out to me;

"The gospels promise the Holy Spirit is coming, the epistles write as though the Holy Spirit has come but Acts says how it happened.

This sounds so familiar to some excellent teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit that I learned at my home church in Dunstable. One of the common arguments often heard is that the baptism of the Spirit was limited to some promises in the Gospels and then the events in Acts. Stanley Jebb once wrote an article called "The Quiet Shout" documenting how the epistles are full of teaching about the baptism/sealing of the Spirit. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones taught the same - the epistles write to a people who have received this down-payment from on high!

Back to Terry:

We will never understand how the New Testament church grew without having the dynamic of the Presence of the Holy Spirit - it is absolutely vital.

It is not whether you are worthy - it is whether He is glorified".

One final but rather unique perspective on the Brighton conference. Nigel Ring is well-known and well-loved in Newfrontiers circles as the administrator of their conferences and often faces the unenviable task of choosing when to interupt the flow of heavenly worship to bring those much-hated essential part of all services - the notices. He writes here about a breakfast meeting to keep the conference running smoothly - something not seen but much appreciated;

"Administration helps God-encounters".

Monday, July 06, 2009

My 1,000th Post!!

Funny - I had all sorts of plans and ideas for my 1,000th post!

I was wondering about taking a look back to where it all began and some of the highlights and low points of this journey. But that's not how it turned out. Maybe I'll do that or maybe I won't - but there seems to me to be no better way to start a Monday morning than being truly Cross-centred and by that I mean not staring misty-eyed at some icon on my wall. I don't have any icons of the Cross on my wall because (thank God!) He is not there! He's alive today and His Spirit is right next to me ... there. But I have begun transcribing again with a fury - and I've got a few Rob Rufus sermons to catch up. I'm typing "We are God's Workmanship Created in Christ Jesus" (preached on the 24th May 2009) - and what better statement of victory to begin the week with than this?!

"Men wouldn’t die for something they had not experienced first-hand. These men were willing to die, to be burnt alive and crucified upside down for this One because they had seen Him. You don’t go and steal a body and hide it in a secret grave somewhere, claim He is resurrected and then be prepared to die for that. There was no money gained for them – only martyrdom and suffering and death.

You have to see Christ – He is your workmanship that you are created in. You have to see Him as Almighty God before time began – you have to see that He is the one who created time and see He created all things and see the uniqueness of His virgin birth and see the uniqueness of His life of miracles on this planet and see the wonder of the Cross and the cosmic consequences of the Cross where He took away the laws, rules and regulations that were opposed to you and judged you and He cancelled them at the Cross and He forgave all your sins 2, 000 years ago there and took your sins on Himself and didn’t just carry your sins. He obliterated them and He made them totally disappear and He gave you His righteousness!

He disarmed the powers and authorities at the Cross and He triumphed over them and they are now under your feet and you have total authority in the cosmic consequences of the Cross. We are not engaged in a battle to pull principalities and powers down and neutralise them. They have already been neutralised at the Cross! Don’t agree with the lies that they put on your mind. Don’t agree with the depression and oppression and negativity and confusion that they put on your mind! If you keep disagreeing with them they are powerless and don’t have any rights – you are in total dominion over them whether you feel like it or not because you are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus!".

The "Monday-morning" syndrome?! What's that?! I've often wondered about Christ's cries from the Cross. I wondered what they sounded like. I remember a certain preacher once reading them out with the intention of impacting his hearers with the gravity of what they meant. But it's the final cry that is gripping me today - this early Monday morning. I'm convinced that;

"It is FINISHED!".

- was a cry of victory because the Son of God knew what He had done and maybe He heard the cries and screams and groans coming from the defeated and toppled powers of darkness. Maybe He heard the ripping of the veil and in His Spirit saw the ripping of the spiritual veil and the glory of God beginning to shine forth. Maybe He saw the Father close the book of the Old Covenant law once and for all never to judge mankind by it again. Maybe He saw the Father's wrath and anger disappear into a cosmic vortex never to be seen again!

It is truly finished - and to finish means; "To come to an end : terminate ... to defeat or ruin utterly and finally ... to bring to an end" and my personal favourite;

"To bring about the death of".
Thanks to all who still come and read my ramblings - may you know truly and experientially that you are the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus this morning!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Dave Bish on the Song of Solomon

Dave has written an excellent post recently that thanks to Twitter I noticed. He interacts with Tom Gledhill, author of the BST Song of Songs and the article on it in the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology and Gledhill's views on this beautiful book. Gledhill follows (or maybe is to blame) for Mahaney, Driscoll et all and states;

"... there is some biblical justification for a moderate typological approach. But the danger of this hermeneutic is that of thinking that the relationship between the believer and God is highly emotional or even erotic".

He then goes on to state that it is "safer" to "the straightfoward and explicit admonitions of the NT". Dave responds;

"So Gledhill says a moderate typology is fine, but we're to abandon it because:

a) we might take it too far, but can we not restrain ourselves? And what if we permit ourselves to ask whether a less cautious hermeneutic might be fruitful? I'm not saying be wreckless, but let's not run scared. Sounds like an argument for abstinence from alcohol for risk of drunkeness...

b) the NT gives us 'straightfoward' words but Matthew Henry suggests: "when the meaning is found out, it will be of admirable use to excite pious and devout affections in us; and the same truths which are plainly laid down in other scriptures when they are extracted out of this come to the soul with a more pleasing power" Can we not have poetic theology?

c) it's prone to excessive allegoratization, but it's ok for Mark Driscoll to follow Gledhill's lead and interpret the foxes as sexual temptation? Excesses all round I guess, but might we miss some of the riches if we pass over details?I appreciate there are dangers, but I think Gledhill over reacts. Given he concedes there is some basis for this typological approach it seems a shame to throw away the opportunity for this book to testify about Christ and the church for fear of getting carried away with it. I accept it's possible to over-read the text, but perhaps we're more likely to under-read it...".

I don't think I need add anything to this outstanding rebuttal. Once again the danger of no use because of overuse - when rather we should be holding to right use. Fantastically written and I urge you to follow Dave's blog and his teaching.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Day of Favour is Here!!

I've just been blasting this wonderful beautiful song from Kate Simmonds into the flat - competing with my neighbour who is doing some drilling or something. Kate wins every time. Just reminded me how much I miss her wonderful style of worship leading. Lord ... when can I go to Sydney and relocate!?

The words are just pure grace!

"That we might be the righteousness of God! ... It's our time to arise! I am not ashamed ... I know I am changed and all You've given me - this hope, this love, this life - I can't deny Your power within me! So here I am send me! ... Be reconciled to God - Your favour is here! Now is the time - let Your glory arise!".

It reminded me so much of Rob Rufus's absolutely AWESOME song he sung in Hong Kong last year. So often gospel preaching is talking about the anger of God and that salvation is from His wrath. And yes there was an aspect to that - but the Cross finished that! His wrath is done! His wrath is spent! So our message to Hong Kong, to Birmingham, to London and the world should be;

"Turn your hearts to Me! Turn away from misery! Turn away from unbelief! Turn away from every offence! Turn away from all bitterness and turn to Me your God! For I am turning the hearts of the city of Hong Kong! ... This is your day! This is your hour! Let's cry out to Hong Kong! He doesn't visit you with judgement or rejection - He is pouring out His glory on you Hong Kong! He is pouring His glory and grace! Fathers will find their sons and sons their fathers!".

Oh let our message ring out to the lost. Favour is here! This is the time! This is the hour! Let ALL come and find salvation!

New Nature Publications!!

I am so tremendously excited to report that Ryan Rufus's new publishing company - "New Nature Publications" - has just gone live on the internet offering an awesome vision along with products and resources from City Church International and others to "rain grace upon the nations"!

Ryan's two incredible books; "Sanctification by Grace" (that I've just finished reading for the tenth time!) and "Do Christians Still Have a Sinful Nature?" are available there along with ...

A new book by Rob Rufus called "Invading the Impossible!"

The vision is this;

"The vision of New Nature Publications is to provide an ever increasing amount of grace resources to churches and people across the planet and to see those churches and people come into the fullness of His glorious grace. Our desire is that the lost will find these resources irresistible as well, as they encounter gracious grace filled people who are getting these resources out!"

I do urge you all to go have a browse! This is an awesome answer to prayer for all those who hunger and long for a people of reality and grace to arise in the earth and start showing the lost that not all religion is hypocrisy and legalism!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I brought a book today completely on a whim - which is quite unlike me! Normally I have to read at least a few chapters in the Christian bookshop and feel grabbed by the title or the content. My other stipulation for buying a book is usually if the author is on my favourite list of authors which is quite considerable. For example a book by Terry Virgo or Greg Haslam or Andrew Wommack or Rob Rufus will get brought regardless of the title or content because I know and trust and love these teachers and am pretty certain what they have written will be worth reading.

This book was different. I've not read anything by David Shearman although I've heard of him. I was wandering around Wesley Owen on my lunch hour and saw the title;

I opened the front cover and read his introduction and the following statement sold it. I haven't begun the book yet as I've only just got home from work so I don't know if it's good - although I suspect it will be! He wrote this;

"The Church will be more effective in it's mission of representing Jesus in every place in every generation when;

1. It understands that it has been empowered and given authority.

2. It sees clearly it's task and the power and effectiveness that comes from working together.

3. It takes seriously it's responsibility to "make disciples of all generations".

And then this;

4. It holds to the conviction that NO ONE and NO THING can destroy it.

I think that is a staggering statement. When you KNOW that you are on the winning side then you will act and walk and speak differently than if you have doubt that you are going to "make it". John Piper's book that I mentioned this morning still troubles me. Realism - fine. But negativity is just as dangerous as naive triumphalism. Ultimate triumph is assured! Let's start living it and seeing the unstoppable church relentlessly advancing!

The Cost of Being a Disciple

I have been reading John Piper's book; "Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ" yesterday and I must confess I wasn't largely thrilled at first. Piper writes in his usual God-centred glory focus but also in his usual rather depressing eschatological outlook. Essentially he believes and quotes extensively from the Scriptures that the world is going to get worse and worse and that evil will continue to abound and that we will begin to suffer and die for our faith. My one caveat is that while yes I also believe this - I also believe the Scriptures point to the church ever-expanding and the Kingdom of God more than matching this advance of darkness. "The Spreading Flame" - F F Bruce called it.

But then I also happened to be reading through my most recent copy of Evangelicals Now that I get and was interested to read an article by E M Hicham on "Receiving Muslim Converts?". He is a Muslim evangelist and writes with that as his focus but some of his comments gripped me;

"There is perhaps no more baffling, unsolved problem than the care of the new convert ... our churches need to receive converts from Islam with open arms and to share in their trials ... many local churches are often unwilling to receive Muslim converts for fear of the consequences ...

Such cowardliness and faithlessness are inexcusable. Do we have any idea of what conversion may mean for a Muslim? Do we realise the cost for any Muslim who wants to be a disciple of Jesus? ... Shall we give them a cold shoulder because our own comfort and complacency may be threatened?

I cannot conceive of any justifiable circumstance where a local church could refuse to extend a warm hand of fellowship to a convert brother from Islam and I have little doubt that wherever this does occur, it will be nothing less than the church's concern about its own vested interests that will be the root cause of it.

For a local church to reject a brother or sister in order to protect it's own security is to surely anger God".

He then goes on to discuss his view that Muslim converts must make a complete break from Islam and join the local church but honestly admits he has no easy answers. For someone who lives in Birmingham with such a high cosmopolitan community I have often thought the same. The church has many evangelists looking to reach converts. But does the church have apostles and prophets who are building grace foundations in those churches to receive the converts and disciple them when they come?

A key Newfrontiers prophecy is "It is too small a thing for you to restore the house" and goes on to address that the heart must be reaching the lost and indeed that must be so. But the house must be still built properly at the same time! For a house built without proper foundations surely will never reach the heady heights it was meant to.

I found while I was reading the article in Evangelicals Now that my heart and my thoughts went to the issue of reaching people with same sex orientations with the Gospel of grace. Surely the very same issues face them! For instance;

1. Our churches need to receive converts with same sex attractions with open arms and share in their trials - most specifically we are asking them to live a life of celibacy.

2. Many local churches are unwilling to receive converts (maybe not for fear of consequences) but because of their own prejudices.

3. Such cowardliness and faithlessness surely is also just as inexcusable as not receiving Muslim converts.

4. Do we have any idea of what conversion may mean for someone with a same sex attraction?

5. Shall we give them a cold shoulder because our own comfort and complacency may be threatened?

It is rather sad that the very same issue of Evangelicals Now does indeed mention homosexuality but only to bemoan the fact that the new Equality Bill coming through Parliament will soon mean that churches must employ gay youth workers. I can't imagine many gay youth workers who would actually want to work in a lot of churches - but I wish that the same issues would be discussed and challenged for the many tens of thousands of gay men and women sitting on our doorstep who surely need to hear the same gospel of grace as Muslims.

How many church elders and pastors have sat down and discussed how best to care for - say two lesbians who are converted as a couple and come into the church and welcome them with open arms and see them discipled? If there are churches out there that do this - then praise God! But my experience of spending my entire known life in church is somewhat different and sadder.

The spreading flame of the gospel means that sooner or later all nations and all people groups will come - so this issue must be faced one day and one day soon. Maybe that is why the tidal wave of glory and revival hovers on the horizon still. Are we ready for what's coming?