And frees the pastor from such cares
To preach a word with power and grace
And fill God's people with fresh faith
To spread to the corners of the land
The works of an almighty hand.
That this nation may be set aflame
All for the honour of Jesus' name.
And those throughout the earth abroad
May know the glory of the Lord
So as he sets out row by row,
He knows he helps the church to grow.
This job does not define his worth,
For he's seen God's glory fill the earth!
— Chris Hamer-Hodges
So we had no trouble at all coming up with our list of five. I only have time for a short post today, so I'll pick up the details in later posts. For now, here is the list without any further explanation.
- See the big picture
- Value the presence
- Speak in tongues
- Recognise all we need is in him
- Use what you already have to go deeper
This is true for our anointing in the spiritual gifts. We may not consider that we have much to give, but it is as we move out in what we have got that God multiplies it. Like the little boy with his few loaves and fishes, when we give our little, God transforms it into something abundant.
More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution.
And 44% said they would like creation to be taught as an alternative in the classroom.
It's curious is it not, when part of the argument for Evolution is: "No one seriously doubts it to be true." It seems this Emperor's New Clothes effect is wearing off at last. I wonder how much longer we will still be force fed it as an "unquestionable fact" in every natural history program the BBC and others produce?
For those who don't know what you are missing, or for Scotland's prodigal sons like me, who have forgotten the details, the BBC have a great page devoted to the Burns Night activities.... Don't worry, we won't be doing them all!! I cannay learn the bagpipes in four hours!
To give you a flavour, it would be apt to let the great bard himself have the final word:
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!
What struck me in particular is that the gifts the servant gave to Rebekah were like her wedding ornaments. They were what prepared her to be presented. The prophet Jeremiah says something very significant about wedding ornaments:
Does a maiden forget her jewellery, a bride her wedding ornaments? Yet my people have forgotten me, days without number. (Jer 2:32)
If it is inconceivable that a bride would turn up on her wedding day without her dress or her makeup, her jewelry or her flowers, so too it is inconceivable that the church can be prepared to be the bride of Christ without the gifts that the Spirit gives. They are not just optional extras for the "charismatic" side of the church. They are essential tools to get the job done. By both cultivating the fruits, and lavishing the gifts, the Spirit makes the church beautiful like a bride ready for the bridegroom, by transforming us to a greater reflection of the image of Jesus.
Some of these gifts are people (Ephesians 4) and these gifts of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers are just as essential if the bride is to be prepared to be presented. In fact the clear implication in Ephesians 4 is that we cannot reach maturity without them. They are aspects of Christ, given by Christ, to form Christ in the church, and so prepare the bride to be presented to Christ.
I love the way that the whole message of scripture is unified around the great eternal purpose of the Father for the Son in the Church. This is what the Spirit within us is working towards.
So as the church grapples with this new medium - with blogging and the Internet - I would urge caution that we do not equate all blogs. A blog is merely the medium. A blog is little more than an ordered list of postings or articles. These postings can have no value or they can have great value. They can do great good or they can do great harm. We should evaluate a site on the message it brings rather than the way it brings that message.
I have come across some Christians who are very sceptical of this new medium. They often dismiss it as being a waste of valuable time, or an indulgence of the ego of the blogger. But to me the question "Should Christians Blog?" completely misses the point. It's like asking if Christians should send emails, or text messages, or appear on TV or speak on the Radio. Like it or not, the medium of blogging is here, and it's not showing any signs of going away. The real question is, do we have a voice that deserves to be heard? Are we going to speak up for what we believe to be good and right and honourable and trustworthy and true, or are we content to just comment on the state of the internet from the sidelines? Do we light a candle, or curse the darkness? Remember, the word that God gives us is both bread and seed. If you regularly receive good things from the Lord, why not consider sowing it freely to whomever will receive it?
I was also encouraged to talk with some people afterwards who had been blessed and encouraged by what I had brought, and had seen something fresh in God's word that had gripped them. It was also really nice to talk to a couple of people who confessed to reading my blog! (Hello Glyn and Peter! Hope you keep reading.)
You faithful readers have already had a taste of what I feel stirred to share: A Bride for the Son. The wonderful eternal purpose of the Father, in the Church, that we have become a part of.
Skype is free to download and free to use, but if you buy some credit you can also use it to for calls to regular phones. It has very cheap international call rates (the call goes over the internet to the local phone network of that country). We now use it for all our international calls. If you don't have Skype, and you do have friends, I recommend you download it. It's one of those programs that once you use, you wonder how you ever lived without it.
[btw. if anyone wants my Skype contact details, drop me an email. I'm not going to put it up for the world to see ;-)]
...the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Lk 3:38)
"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
This is a profound mystery--but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Eph 5:31-32)
As I was considering the Genesis account of Isaac and Rebekah today, I was struck how Isaac's reaction upon meeting Rebekah was much like Adam's reaction upon meeting Eve. Since I believe the story of Isaac and Rebekah is a parallel of Christ and his church, as I explained in this post, it got me thinking if the account of Adam and Eve also paralleled Christ and the Church. As soon as I had asked myself the question, the answer seemed obvious — of course it is!
The story of redemptive history is the story of the search for a Bride for the Son. Right from the beginning we see this played out with Adam who was God's son, and the search for a suitable bride for him. Even though God says right from the start that he will make a suitable helper, he nevertheless parades all the animals in front of Adam knowing full well that none will be suitable. Why do this unless it is to highlight the search for the Bride that is to fill out the rest of the Bible and indeed the rest of history.
Prophetically Eve is not made from the dust of the earth as Adam was, but there is a cost Adam must pay for his bride. He is put into a deep sleep, and his side is scarred with the wound that will produce her. In the same way Christ would pay for the church, his side was pierced on Calvary after he fell into the deep sleep of death. Those wounds that purchased us from death and nothingness and made us a people belonging to God; the church; Christ's bride.
Eve came from Adam and belonged to Adam, and through Adam she would fulfil God's plan to fill the earth with sons like Adam for the display of his glory. So too, the church comes from Christ and belongs to Christ, and through him we fulfil the ongoing and unchanging Kingdom plan of God to fill the earth with sons who are being transformed into ever increasing glory to reflect the image of his son Jesus, and so to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory as the waters cover the sea.
How wonderful to be a part of Christ's beloved bride, and to be a part of his unstoppable kingdom plan!
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. (Rev 19:7)
I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation
I want to serve the purpose of God while I am alive
I want to give my life for something that will last forever
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will
I want to build with silver and gold in my generation
I want to build with silver and gold while I am alive
I want to give my life for something that will last forever
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will
What is on Your heart?
Tell me what to do
Let me know Your will
And I will follow You
I want to see the Lord come again in my generation
I want to see the Lord come again while I am alive
I want to give my life for something that will last forever
Oh, I delight, I delight to do Your will
In one sense, I can understand it; because it focusses on us and what we want, rather than on the Lord and who he is, it does not naturally fit into a worship setting. But on the other hand, as a public declaration of purpose it is fantastic, and captures some of the radical edge that we sorely need at this time, or indeed any time. We do not live for ourselves, we live for him and for his kingdom. With every fibre of our being we seek to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. If we capture this reality, all our petty grumbles and complaints that can so often preoccupy our time would be replaced with a passion for Christ and his kingdom. Ironically, although this song focusses upon me and what I want, it is actually a great tonic to put my selfish desires to death and replace them with Christ. It's a radical song for a radical people, not to be sung lightly because God takes us at our word!
I don't want to give my life for anything less than Christ and his Kingdom.
Hugh has asked a really interesting question of his fellow bloggers in this post.
"Other than the Bible, which book has recently made the most difference in your life and why?"
I have to confess, I am not a great reader. I love reading the Bible, and read it at least twice a day, but apart from when I am on holiday I tend not to read a great deal of other books. To give you an idea of my general pace of reading, it took me nine months to read Moby Dick (but it was worth it).
The book I have chosen is "The History of the Church, by Eusebius." It may strike some as odd that an ancient history book, rather than a modern inspirational Christian paperback can be lifechanging, but let me explain why. First, I read it in response to the Holy Spirit. I felt very stongly stirred that I needed to know more about the history of the early Church. Not for an intellectual exercise, but because if it was not for them we would not be here. As Eccelesiastes says: There is nothing new under the sun. Many times in our debates in theology we are just reinventing the wheel that was crafted by masters many centuries ago. If we learn how these early heroes of the faith stood firm from such pressures both from without (horrific tortures and deaths) and from within (from insidious heresies) and remained true to the faith, it will inspire are stir us and save us from going round the same mountain again and again, when we should be pressing into new land.
I read the account of the Gallic Martyrs at the time a member of our church was tragically killed in a motor accident. It really brought home to me that this life is fleeting, and that what really counts is the mark we make on eternity. This book is full of giants of faith, who carried on the baton from the first apostles. Now, down through the centuries, the baton has passed to us. All that they fought for, all that they lived for and all that they died for, now rests on us. We did not begin this race. God's plan was not in trouble before we came along. If we fail God will raise up others to pick up the baton and run. But we have this awesome privilege to be part of this race, and we owe it to our Lord, and to all who have gone before us to run with all our might. We have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this. We are part of the great eternal History of the Church that is still being written.
[Well done Hugh for bringing blogging monologues into a fruitful dialogue. I'd like to see much more of this type of blogging.]
Abraham in particular, I believe was chosen by the Father to experience a special measure of closeness to His own Fatherhood.
First, he had to sacrifice his one and only Son. Something that as fathers is the most precious and sacred thing to us. Who can know the anguish that went through the Father's heart when he sent the Son to the cross? The anguish of the Son is recorded for us in Gethsemane where is tears fell like blood. But of the anguish of the Father, we have no direct account. Only through certain men in the scriptures: Abraham by his obedience, and Jephthah by his foolishness, do we gain an insight into what he endured. God chose Abraham to go through this testing "ordeal" not just to prove his faith, but to share his fellowship. A fellow father who could understand something of what the Father was to do on that very mountain some 2000 years later.
Next, we are told an account of how Abraham dispatched his servant to find a pure and suitable bride for his son. In this way he again captures the heart of our heavenly Father. This is the purpose of redemptive history, the culmination of the Kingdom, that the zeal of the Lord Almighty is single-mindedly and passionately throwing himself into. He is looking for a bride for his son. The Church, Christ's bride is being prepared by the Spirit of God, sent ahead with his message to come, and his gifts to prepare her. All he is looking for is for that willing spirit he found in Rebekah.
We often consider fellowship with Christ and with the Spirit, yet throughout the history of man we find that the Father himself is seeking fellowship with the man he made. That was the very reason he was created.
The prophetic spirit flowed freely and many significant words were brought. One came with a confirmation of knowledge that only God could have known. Simple actions of faith produced powerful results. Everyone went away having both given out in the spiritual gifts and received from God. But most precious was just being in his presence and knowing he was with us.
"Let's have more cellgroups like this!" Said one to me as we left for the night. Amen! I would that they were all this way!
I left some comments on a prominent cessationist blog, and initially had some good dialogue with some of the other commenters. However, it didn't last long and the thread degenerated to the point where further dialogue was pointless. Some are more interested in twisting your words, and then condemning you for something you never said. I'm not going to continue the discussion there, however, it is unfair to leave the few civilised individuals I did engage in fruitful debate with no way to come back. So this post is it.
Cessationists who are not merely out for a scrap seem to have the following main concerns:
- They think the continuance of apostles is in conflict to the canon of scripture being closed.
- They think the continuance of the prophetic gift is in conflict to Sola Scriptura and the sufficiency of scripture
- They think that a prophet must be 100% accurate when he prophecies or he cannot be a true prophet
If you're looking for a scrap, please go elsewhere, but if you are genuinely interested and would like clarification on why none of these is a genuine issue, then please feel free to ask me a question in the comments below. You can stay anonymous if you like.
[I reserve the right to delete comments if they are off-topic or deliberately confrontational.]
The synopsis is as follows. The king of Shinar [Babylon] and three other kings, make war against the five kings of Canaan. The four defeat the five, and invade Canaan, taking loot and captives, including Lot, Abram's nephew. Abram rallies his own forces, 318 home-grown heroes and chases after and defeats the four kings and reclaims his captive nephew. On his return from the plunder he meets two kings, one of the defeated five — the king of Sodom, and a tenth king previously and subsequently unmentioned — the king of Salem. He refuses to accept any reward from the king of Sodom, and gives a tithe (a tenth of all he had) to the King of Salem who was also a priest of God.
There's so much here. We often think of Abraham the man of faith who believed God for his son and heir, but here we see that even before this event he was still a mighty man of faith.
- Boldness — Even though the combined might of five kingdoms had not stopped the invaders. Abraham did not hesitate to take them on with just the members of his household. This is the same spirit of bold faith that enabled David to stand against Goliath. Victory comes from the Lord, not from might or numbers.
- Victory — Notice that although the story ends with a mighty and miraculous victory it begins with calamity. Lot, Abram nephew is captured. Being bold and faith-filled men of God does not mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us or our families. But if we are bold men of faith we will not let such calamity be the end of the story, but it will provoke us to press in to receive a greater victory from the Lord.
- Integrity — Abram did not want to be associated in any way with the king of Sodom. He recognised the corruption there and wanted no part of it. He could have easily decided pragmatically that his enemy's enemy was his friend, but he made no such compromise.
- Recognition — Here we have the first recorded account of the principle of tithing. Abram recognised two important things when he tithed. First, all he had came from God, as his source of provision who gave him the means to get the wealth. Second, that the king and priest that he met represented God to him and so could receive what he gave to God.
Such men of faith are blessed by the Lord.
"Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand." (Ge 14:19b-20a)
What a fantastic weekend! We were in Scotland. Saw old friends and made new ones. Witnessed two wonderful people and servants of God enter into a lifetime covenant of love together. And danced the night away at the Ceilidh afterwards!
Congratulations Ranald and Christine, may your marriage be abundantly blessed.
[Title Translation: Off to Glasgow!]
Ecclesiastes says that the man of God will avoid all extremes (Ecc 7:18) This does not mean that we will not be "all out" in our love devotion and commitment to God, his people and his mission, but that where there are two aspects of truth, we will not (or rather we should not) hold fast to one at the expense of letting go of the other.
There are two of these extremes to be avoided when it comes to things practical and things spiritual, if indeed they can be considered to be separate, but indulge me for the sake of a clear explanation. When we are faced with a need, how do we react, spiritually, practically or like Nehemiah — both? One extreme would be to live purely by the natural, with no exercise of faith, meeting practical needs purely with practical responses; but the other extreme is to become "super spiritual" and assume that God must always answer super-naturally to every need.
Those who fall into the first extreme, live by sight and not by faith. They are shaken by every challenge that comes their way if they do not naturally have the resources to meet it. They look at their salary as the limits of their financial resources, without recognising that God is their source. They pop paracetemol as soon as they get a headache without ever considering to pray about it.
Those who fall into the second extreme, live under the delusion that they are being spiritual. They are quick to bring their requests to God, but painfully slow to recognise his answers unless they come in a dramatic way. They will constantly ask God to meet their financial needs, whilst never budgeting or honouring God by seeking to be good stewards of what he has already given. They will storm the heavens at the first sign of a cold, but never consider the Lemsip in the cupboard might be part of God's provision.
I guess at times we have all veered towards one or other of these extremes. What I like about Nehemiah's response is that he does not create any false dichotomy between meeting the threat spiritually and meeting it practically. He does both. It's not a question of should I be spiritual or practical, but "What is the right thing to do?" When he was threatened, he prayed to God and posted a guard.
You could transfer this approach to many areas. If you are in financial need: look to God, and examine your budget. If you have a headache: pray for healing and take a paracetemol. The two are not contradictory. We do not believe like the first century gnostics, that things spiritual are inherently better than things natural. God made both, and he made them well. But nor are we limited like those who have no faith to living purely by the natural. We lift our eyes to see the realities of heaven, and live by what we see there.
"Keep your faith in God, but keep your powder dry" — Oliver Cromwell
When we are introduced to John the baptist, we are given a few choice details about this prophetic man. He dressed like Elijah (2Ki 1:8); this in itself is highly significant. And we are told what he ate. Why? Unless it is also significant.
Locusts are the devourers; in Exodus 10 and Joel 1, we see they are brought as a judgement, where the best of the land is devoured. Yet John devoured the devourers. It is fitting, as God delights to turn the oppression of his people on its head. They are to take captivity captive, to rule over those who subjected them, and defeat the enemy with his own weapons.
Wild honey is also significant in this respect, as it is reminiscent of Sampson's riddle, when he found wild honey inside the carcass of a lion. The eater is eaten; the devourer has been devoured!
"Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet." (Jdg 14:14)
The Church, in the spirit and power of Elijah, is not to be subjected to any power, but it will overcome all opposition, and prepare the way for the Lord's coming.
In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the fall of the city--on that very day the hand of the LORD was upon me and he took me there. (Eze 40:1)
It is the start of a new year. And although all days are significant to God, I feel a rise of expectancy and faith for good things from the Lord this year: a year of a move of the Spirit of the Lord and great fruitfulness. Whatever your expectation, there is no better way to start the year than like Ezekiel: knowing the hand of the Lord on your life and hearing and responding to his word.