CharisMissional

empowered by the spirit for mission

What can we learn from Liberal Christianity?

This week I am started a series of posts on what we can learn from several different Christian traditions. My own tradition is evangelical charismatic but as well as looking at those two roots I want to look at a few others. I shall start with liberal Christianity.

Isn’t Liberal Christianity dangerous?

Descent_of_the_Modernists,_E._J._Pace,_Christian_Cartoons,_1922If like me you are from an evangelical background you might well be wary of liberal theology – after all liberals don’t really believe the Bible do they?

Yes, liberal Christians has been known for their doubts – doubts about the historical nature of the Bible particularly the supernatural elements of the Bible such as miracles, probably most importantly the miracle of Jesus resurrection. As such many evangelical Christians would consider them the enemy of true Christianity.

Question too many things and you can get accused of being a liberal backslider” as portrayed in Martyn Joseph’s song. The idea is that if we start ask too many questions or doubt the literal interpretation of the Bible then we are on a slippery slope as the cartoon Descent of the Modernists illustrates. Of course I would tend to agree that they do go too far and depart from my understanding of Christianity.

In the end liberal Christianity can end up being nothing more than morality and miss the emphasis on the gospel entirely. It can end up preaching a watered down version of the law and miss the gospel of grace. However, doubts and questions are very important. Our faith needs to be open to scrutiny and surely testing what is right can only strengthen our faith.

What does Liberal Christianity say about interpreting scripture?

Liberals have traditionally recognised that the Bible is a set of documents written within a particular historical setting. They are not just a set of propositions to be followed. Anyone who has done any serious Bible study knows, we need to take care in interpreting the Bible. We need to understand the type of writing and the historical context in which it is written.

If Paul told a church to do something it doesn’t necessarily follow that God is telling us to do that today. The words need to be interpreted before they can be applied in our contemporary setting. Just taking the Bible as rules to follow can lead problems with many issues such as gender roles and head covering as well as understanding prophetic books like Revelation

Liberals are associated taking passages more figuratively understanding that poetry, hyperbole and imagery were never intended to be taken literally. Of cause, the conclusions of liberal scholars sometimes need to be rejected especially when they doubt something fundamental such as the claims of Jesus or deny the resurrection.

I think that it is good that liberals honestly evaluate the scriptures but when their conclusions undermine our faith then we need to be wary. But taken with discernment I believe there are some things we can learned from them. Personally I prefer to read evangelical scholars but I think there are some liberal influences in evangelical writing that can valuable.

For example, evangelical evolutionist Peter Enns has argued recently Genesis (at least the early parts) is probably best seen in mythological terms as many liberal scholars have argued for a long time. But it is not that he is denying the truth of the Bible. Myth is often misunderstood as being untrue rather than as being a story with a spiritual meaning written as history.

I have also enjoyed reading Greg Boyd’s positive portrayal of doubt in Benefit of the Doubt. Boyd challenges the idea of faith being certainty and sees it as being willing to commit even if we are not sure. He clearly and brilliantly places these ideas, which might once have only been associated with liberal Christianity, firmly in a sound evangelical context.

What does Liberal Christianity say about righteousness and justice?

In The Normal Christian Birth David Pawson advocates “a synthesis of the ‘liberal’ emphasis on repentance, the ‘evangelical’ on faith, the ‘sacramental’ on baptism and the ‘pentecostal’ on the Spirit.”

Liberals have not just emphasised rationality and interpretation but also practical application.“Liberal thought has concentrated on repentance,” David Pawson writes, “especially in terms of radically changed attitudes and lifestyles, though in recent years the emphasis has been on social injustice rather than personal immorality.”

Liberals have emphasised the Bible’s teachings about our behaviour – the moral teachings of Jesus such as in the Sermon on the Mount and the call of the Old Testament prophets to care for the marginalised such as widows, orphans, foreigners and the poor. We should applaud their integrity when we see their efforts to put this into practice and follow their example.

It is important to distinguish liberal theology from liberal politics here. The left/right distinction in politics hasn’t always been helpful. However it is worthy of note that the liberal branch of Christianity has been associated with important and stands for social justice that have sometimes brought them into conflict with right wing politics.

Of course if social action is your only focus that you have missed an important element of the gospel and ceased to lead people to Christ. But there is no reason why both cannot be emphasised are part of our mission as for instance we see with William Booth and the Salvation Army who took preaching the gospel and serving the poor equally seriously.

So what can we learn from Liberal Christianity?

From our liberal friends we can learn not to just take the plain literal meaning of a text without thoughtful interpretation. We can learn to take into account the nature of the writing and the context in which it was written and how the original readers would have understood it. Of cause we also need to take the Bible seriously and use ‘interpretation’ to avoid what we know it says.

And we can learn the importance of social justice. Though liberal Christianity should not be confused with liberal politics there may be a lot of overlap. Speaking out for and serving the marginalised and poor can be seen as important way to express Jesus love to the world. But again we should not do this at the expense of telling people the good news about Jesus.

I hope you can agree that we would do well to remember these positive elements even if we forget that their liberal origins, be grateful for them and seek to put these into practice in our own lives rather than just criticise this tradition for its short comings.

Further reading

Liberal Christianity – Please check out this Wikipedia entry if you’re unsure about what I’m saying or if you just want to know more about Liberal Christianity.

April 29, 2014 at 8:35 pm Comment (1)

What is the Purpose of Life?

In the late 90s Paul Baloche was leading worship and he sang out “Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see you”. He had been reading Ephesians 1:18 and been praying this prayer. He wasn’t sure how the rest of the song came out but fortunately it was recorded and from that he wrote the worship classic “Open The Eyes of My Heart”.

This week I have been reading Ephesians and it occurred to me that this could be seen as a prayer for God to open our eyes to the ultimate purpose of life. It is about seeing Jesus and might sound like praying to see some sort of vision of Jesus. But really it is about experiencing the resurrected Jesus in your life and realising that your true identity can only be found in him.

I have recently been listening to the rerun of the radio series the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Radio 4 Extra. In this a giant computer is built to calculate the answer to the ultimate question, of life the universe and everything. It eventually arrives at the answer of 42. You see the problem was no one knew what the question was so another computer had to be built to figure that out.

When I was a teenager I dedicated my life to finding out what life was all about. I wanted to really know what our ultimate purpose was. I obsessed over this for months. This quest eventually led me to Jesus and the Bible. Of all the passages in the Bible the first part of Ephesians one is probably one of the clearest about what our purpose really is. What is the meaning of life?

The purpose of life is found in Jesus

The Body of Christ, image from IFBC

The Body of Christ, image from IFBC

God’s purpose is to bring everything under the authority of Christ. It is nothing less than bringing the universe together in his kingdom with Christ as the supreme ruling entity and we are to be part of that purpose. We are the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the temple of Christ and we have the mind of Christ – not as individuals but corporately.

The purpose of life is to be joined to Christ functioning as part of his body on earth ushering in his kingdom rule. Paul’s prayer for the spiritual eyes to be opened is that somehow we will grasp that we are part of something bigger – something that will last for eternity.

Our purpose is so much more than his traditionally preached as the gospel. It is not just about a personal relationship with Jesus. Coming into God’s Kingdom and so into the body of Christ is not about losing our individuality under an oppressive regime or following rules and regulations. It is about relating together, bonding in love with one another and together being Christ on the earth.

Ephesians 2 shows that God breaks down walls of prejudice that might divide us. Colossians says there is neither male nor female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free. Christianity should be known for integrating races, genders and social classes – God’s the ultimate equality agenda. We are formed together into ‘a new humanity’ – not just a new race but a new being – a corporate individual.

Being incorporated into Christ is the result of the gospel. The true church is not ‘worthy institution’ or a building you go to on Sundays. It is a network of people bound together in love. This is the church that is destined to grow and fill the earth as more and more people find their true purpose in life.

The purpose of life is found in getting on with one another

Of course, let’s be real it isn’t easy getting on with one another. As an introvert I am very aware of my need for to be alone. Our own personal relationship with Jesus is vitally important but my Christianity cannot just be about this. It must overflow as I function albeit imperfectly as part of a body networking with other believers and even further in reaching out to those outside my faith community.

This week I watched Disney’s Frozen for the first time. I was in tears. I could really identify with the misunderstood villain come heroine Elsa in her self-imposed exile. I suspect that there is something in all of us that others that feels misunderstood and struggles to control the desire to lash out, even if it is now deeply buried in our memories. Learning self control can sometimes be an uphill struggle.

When I am frustrated with others and even lose control I know that there is forgiveness as God gently directs me and I believe helps me to improve in this area. The fruit of the Spirit grows within us to build character strengths to enable us to function together in love. We are baptised into this body and equipped by God’s Spirit to be the hands and feet of Christ to a world in need.

The purpose of life is found in reaching out to others

Jesus sent out the 12 and the 72 and by implication all his followers to tell the world of this message. They showed love to others by joining the communities wherever they found themselves. For instance in Luke 10 we see the disciples moving into new neighbourhoods, accepting hospitality and then reaching out into that community.

In reaching out Jesus followers were to tell people about Jesus. But their mission was not restricted to words. It also included acts of kindness. In the first part of Luke 10 we see that these were supernatural healings bringing health and wholeness to people just as Jesus did.

In the later part of Luke 10 Jesus also show in the parable of the Good Samaritan that these expressions of love involved helping people in ordinary ways too. Sometimes when we see needs we can wait for someone else to act but if we are Christ on earth surely we should be the ones that take that initiative.

Fulfilling our purpose together

This week I have felt my eyes being opened afresh to this wonderful truth. Yes, I struggle with building relationships. But God has joined me to others and in that I find my fulfilment. In that is the answer to life the Universe and Everything – to bring all things together under Christ’. My prayer is that God will open all our eyes to his amazing purpose.
I wonder what further practical steps we can take to practically outwork this together.

April 25, 2014 at 9:12 am Comments (0)

A Letter To My Congregation – a book about Welcoming Gay People into the Church

How many mainstream evangelical charismatic churches are welcoming LGBT members into their congregations without saying that they need to repent? Well, probably not many! But this is what is happening in Ann Arbor Vineyard Church in Michigan. Ken Wilson’s book A Letter to My Congregation explains why. Having read this book I’d say that it’s well worth you getting a copy whether you agree with his conclusions or not.

Church of the Pilgrims

A gay friendly church. Photo from Flickr by Drama Queen.

Why is A Letter to My Congregation relevant to me?

As the title says, this book is really an extended letter to his church written by Ken Wilson – an evangelical charismatic pastor in the Vineyard movement. He wrote it to explain why the church has begun to welcome gay people and why it is not exercising church discipline when they continue with their gay lifestyle.

However this book’s relevance goes beyond this one congregation. Wilson’s view is that whether gay sex in itself is sin is not as clear in the scriptures as we once thought. If accepted, this view may cast doubt on the standard evangelical practice of eventually putting someone out of the church for being a practicing homosexual.

Any evangelical with pastoral responsibility might want to examine Wilson’s argument carefully especially if they know anyone who is gay or want to reach out to the gay community. Those in the Vineyard movement or similar evangelical charismatic churches may be particularly interested. Ultimately this book could also be for anyone who, like me, may not have an official role in a church but who takes seriously the Bible’s exhortations to care for one another.

What are the benefits of reading A Letter to My Congregation?

This book gives some very moving insights into Wilson’s own journey with God wrestling with this issue in real pastoral situations and in his own study of the scriptures. He writes about discussions both with members of his own congregation and with other leaders in his own denomination. However, Wilson’s view does not represent the official position taken by Vineyard.

Anyone serious about understanding the Bible will benefit from the example of Wilson’s approach to hermeneutics whether they agree with his conclusions or not. He looks carefully at specific Hebrew and Greek words. He is very thoughtful about when to take a statement as prescriptive or descriptive. And he is very aware of the importance of textual, historical and cultural contexts as well as placing his argument into the wider context of the gospel.

Wilson outlines his solution to the problem of gay people wanting to follow Jesus when the traditional evangelical response is that homosexuality is a sin. But rather than affirming that gay sex is not sin he argues for a third way. His thesis is that this is ‘disputable matter’ akin to those found in Romans 14. He accepts and welcomes such people not feeling that he can dogmatically demand repentance or excommunicate them for not changing.

Yes, but what are the practical implications for me of reading A Letter to My Congregation?

Reading this book will help equip you for conversations on this topic. You will better understand the nuances within this debate and that it is not as black and white as you may have once thought. Some of these arguments might not be easy to get your head around nevertheless they could be very worth your while studying.

Hopefully reading Wilson’s pastoral concerns and situations will give you a greater compassion for people within the gay community even if in the end you do not agree with all that he says. He is clearly dealing with actual people and not a theoretical issue. And for some his arguments may be an eye opener as to how people can be true followers of Jesus and still be gay and yet respect the authority of the Bible.

More importantly it may drive you to examine Wilson’s argument and come to your own informed conclusions of what the Bible does really say and what the implications of this are for today. Hopefully it will do this before someone who is gay and wants to follow Jesus asks you for your thoughts on what the Bible says about homosexuality!

Isn’t A Letter to My Congregation a dangerous book?

Some will undoubtedly see redefining of sexual morality like this as bowing to cultural pressure as gay marriage becomes increasingly acceptable. But perhaps the biggest danger is that this book could cause people to fall out and even churches and denominations to split over this issue. Even addressing this topic may be considered divisive by some.

However Wilson is arguing for a third way beyond either simply asserting homosexuality is a sin or categorically denying that it is. By placing it within the category of ‘disputable matters’ he is saying that Christians can still have unity and be in the same church or network of churches even though they might have strong and opposing moral opinions on this issue. This should not be an issue that divides Christians.

These hermeneutical arguments aren’t that easy to articulate in conversation. Discussions could cause frustration and misunderstanding. But I don’t believe that this should cause us to shy away from them. It might be better to show people the book rather than to try to argue the points yourself. But an awareness of these arguments can certainly inform your conversations.

How does A Letter to My Congregation compare to similar resources?

Most books and resources fall into the two camps that Wilson outlines: the “welcoming and affirming” camp or the “love the sinner, hate the sin” camp.

The “welcoming and affirming” literature may be helpful in arguing some of the hermeneutical points that Wilson outlines. However as much comes from a more liberal Christian position it may be seen as unpalatable and of little relevance by those in evangelical congregations.

The “love the sinner, hate the sin” literature can appear very cold and clinical. It might show the arguments clearly from the Bible but may not always deal with the pastoral consequences. The notable exceptions are accounts by people with gay orientations who have felt that the solution is to remain celibate.

The only book I have seen that takes a third way similar to Wilson’s is Andrew Marin’s Love is an Orientation. Marin is engaged in Christian mission to gay communities. He refuses to come down on either side when asked if it homosexuality is a sin. This approach can come over as very frustrating. Seeing this issue as a ‘disputable matter’ as Wilson argues is really helpful.

It is important to understand that Wilson’s book is just one side of a hotly contested debate in evangelical Christianity. Last year in the UK leading evangelical Steve Chalke came out in favour of affirming gay relationships and published a detailed argument. Subsequently this was debated in Christianity Magazine with articles by Steve Chalke answered by Greg Downes taking the more traditional line.

So is A Letter to My Congregation worth buying?

Yes, I would highly recommend buying Wilson’s book. But please also read the other side of the debate, study the Bible yourself and seek God with an open mind and heart on this issue. If you do read A Letter to My Congregation I would love to hear what you think.

Related Post

The Evangelicals You Don’t Know This book that I reviewed last year gives some of the background to the changing face of evangelicalism in the States.

Further Reading

The Bible and Homosexuality – a series of articles in Christianity Magazine from 2013 featuring opposing views from Steve Chalke and Greg Downes

Against Heterosexuality – a recent article by Michael W. Hannon that gives an important counter argument from the traditional viewpoint. Hannon argues that the modern idea of sexual orientation obscures the real issue.

A detailed review of Andrew Marin’s ground breaking book from 2009: Love is an Orientation

An interview with Ken Wilson

Accepting without affirming – A short review by David Matthew followed by quite a few quotes from the book that should whet your appetite.

March 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

Cosmos Reborn by John Crowder

A book review

Cosmos Reborn follows on from John Crowder’s earlier book Mystical Union where he introduced his teaching on the finished work of Christ. Here he develops the ideas further. He looks at the deeper at the doctrine of the atonement and examines the earth shattering implications of the cross in his own readable, if quirky, style.

Is Cosmos Reborn Hyper-Grace teaching?

John Crowder is associated with a group of teachers labelled as “hyper-grace teachers”. If you’re interested in finding the truth of what these people actually teach this I suggest you start with Mystical Union or D.R. Silva’s book Hyper-Grace. If you want to see how “hyper-grace” teaching might fit into a wider theological framework then read Cosmos Reborn for John Crowder’s take on this.

Watch this trailer and listen to some quotes from the book:

What is Cosmos Reborn feel like to read?

You might find the first chapter in Cosmos Reborn, which is trying to counter anti-intellectualism, a little frustrating. I certainly did but then again I didn’t need it. But once you get past this you’ll read John Crowder explaining some intriguing theological points. Often he explains these clearly and simply but sometimes he stretches a point too far.

His writing is both entertaining and more rigorous than you might expect. He quotes extensively from a wide variety of sources including C. Baxter Krugar and Karl Barth. He uses a great variety of Bible translations including the recently published paraphrase the Mirror Bible by Francis De Toit, whose other writings he also quotes.

At first John Crowder’s tone may sound a little hyped but as he gets his teeth into the theology he appears to calm down. He is very encouraging but sometimes very repetitive too. And if you did start off without any theological knowledge at all you might find some of this material a confusing at times. Nevertheless you will find this mostly to be quite accessible theology.

What does Cosmos Reborn actually teach?

Here is a quick rundown of some of the main points:

Fractal Cosmos by  new 1lluminati on Flickr

Fractal Cosmos by new 1lluminati on Flickr

• This book explains what it means to be born again and united with Christ and how we are looking forward to the entire world being ‘born again’ in a similar way when Jesus returns. Hence the title! But before it covers plenty of theological ground before it gets to this point.

• Throughout the book the teaching on grace shines through. You will go away encouraged that God has forgiven you totally. You don’t need to worry that he’ll be angry with you if you sin again. This wonderful doctrine is the one that the “hyper-grace” teachers have been accused of over emphasising.

• It explains the superiority of the Christus Victor model of the atonement over the evangelical norm of penal substitution. Christus Victor refers to Jesus victory over Satan on the cross by giving his life as a ransom to set us free. Penal substitution refers to Jesus taking God’s punishment as he vented his wrath on his only son.

• As John Crowder explains the work of the cross it becomes apparent that he believes in universal atonement as opposed to the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement. Jesus died for all humankind not just the elect. He atoned for the sin of the whole world or ‘cosmos’ in the Greek.

• But John Crowder is not a Universalist. He is hopeful that many if not all may accept Christ even from the everlasting punishment of hell. A view outlined recently by Jerry L Walls in this interview on Rachel Held Evens blog. Walls was representing the traditional view of hell as eternal torment in contrast to previous interviews with an annihilationist and a universalist.

Hopefully that will help you see where Cosmos Reborn is going and where John Crowder stands on these issues a bit more clearly. In addition to these I can’t promise that you won’t find a few oddball ideas here. Nevertheless this is an enjoyable book with some accessible teaching on the finished work of Jesus on the cross and on the nature of God’s abounding grace.

8/10

Thanks to Mike Morrell of the Speakeasy network for sending me a free copy of Cosmos Reborn to review.

P.S. I must write more about grace and the finished work of the cross sometime.

Related posts

How To Get Stoned On Jesus: Meet John Crowder – a profile showing a balanced assessment of some of the more whacky aspects of John Crowder’s ministry.

Seven Spirits Burning by John Crowder – another of his books previously reviewed.

John Crowder on Baptism with the Spirit

Further reading

Sons of Thunder – previously ‘The New Mystics’, John Crowder’s ministry site with tons of free resources including many vidoes of John Crowder teaching.

John Crowder – Like his fan page on Facebook to receive regular updates of the site and find out what John is getting up to.

Buy Cosmos Reborn on Kindle from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Buy Mystical Union (John Crowder’s previous book introducing the finished work) by from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Buy Hyper-Grace (a defence of the Hyper-Grace teaching) by D.R. Silva from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Confronting the Error of Hyper-Grace an article by Micheal Brown in Charisma Magazine criticising the “Hyper-Grace” teaching.

February 25, 2014 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

My Holiday at New Wine

This year for our family holiday we went to New Wine in Newark summer conference with nearly 30 members of our church. New Wine is a week long Bible camp. It is predominately charismatic Anglicans although many other types of churches take part.
New Wine
If you are keen on the big main meetings then New Wine will appear very much like a number of other Bible weeks that are around. Each of these had a thousand or more worshipping to modern worship music with usually a talk by a well known speaker followed by an invitation to go forward for prayer ministry.

But to be honest this wasn’t the main attraction for me. Not only was I more interested in the some of the seminars and art workshops during the day but also some of the music and comedy that rounded off each evening. And of course if you know me you’d know that I’d be heading for the prayer room.

Sanctuary

P1000577One of the main things I loved about New Wine was the early morning prayer-times in the Sanctuary venue. It was a pity that its location was so close to other venues where the music was so loud. I understand it had been moved at the last minute. But it was possible to work round this.

I found two good times to be there: just after 7:00 am and at lunch time. So I was out across the campsite to Sanctuary most mornings and went two or three times for lunch time prayers. There were probably 20 or 30 people there each time and it was great as there was very little sound from other venues.

Sanctuary had a number of prayer stations with activities and suggested ways to pray and meditate and prayer walls where you could scribble thoughts and prayers. They were open most of the day but also had some more structured prayer and worship at specific times with Celtic style prayers and poetic liturgies.

I must confess that I preferred Sanctuary to the big loud worship gatherings in the other venues. Not that there was anything wrong with them. I thought they way they did the café style venues in them where you could sit and drink coffee was a great idea. I just didn’t really connect with any of these gatherings.

The school of missional leadership

I really enjoyed the school of missional leadership was an excellent eye opener on this subject. The week long series of seminars were not just talks on related themes but included group work that enabled us to begin to work through the material.

I came back with notes that I will post shortly and that hopefully can be applied in our own situation with projects such as WorkShop.

Arts & crafts

In the 3:16 venue I got to do sessions on art-journaling and ‘stitch-a-prayer’ needlework. I chose these two as rather than just learning skills they were using them in a more devotional way.

There was also an opportunity to create a picture there while listening to an evening celebration via the radio which I did one evening

P1000609On Thursday evening they had an exhibition of all the arts and crafts that had been done throughout the week.

After hours

The after-hours that I went to most was the comedy. I went to three sessions of Andy Kind who was hilarious.

On the first night I went to hear Steve Parsons, which turned out to be the music highlight of the week for me. I loved the fact it had a bar and I got a Guinness and sat on the front row soaking up some spiritual wisdom from this guy as he performed his songs. One after another these songs spoke deep into my heart.

I was glad that we had a caravan so that I could be quiet and rest during the day – often when my wife was off at one of the main meetings – and that the after-hours were not too late especially as I was getting up for the early morning prayer.

How does New Wine compare to other Christian camps like Spring Harvest or Greenbelt?

Spring Harvest

Having been to Spring Harvest a couple of times before I found New Wine is very similar. They had similar worship times, seminars, contemplative prayer venues and exhibitions and stalls.

However:

• New Wine had a larger variety of seminars with noticeably more charismatic input including a number of seminars on spiritual gifts and accounts of healings.

• Spring Harvest has the advantage of some of the Butlins entertainment being available. But then New Wine had the arts & crafts workshops.

• If you bring your own tent camping at New Wine can be cheaper but less comfortable than a chalet at Butlins for Spring Harvest. However it is more expensive if like us you hire a caravan.

• Seven full days at New Wine is longer than you get at Spring Harvest which is 5 or 6 days. Greenbelt is even shorter – a long weekend of 4 days over the August Bank Holiday.

Greenbelt Festival

New Wine was great but I am sorely missing Greenbelt this year. I am looking forward to returning to Greenbelt in a year or two. It was interesting that what I liked at New Wine were the parts most like Greenbelt. But unlike Greenbelt at New Wine everything comes from an evangelical charismatic perspective.

P1000661I must also say there was nowhere near the choice of activities that you find at Greenbelt where you can often pick between music, worship, talks and discussion and other activities at the same time. And there is a lot more contemplative worship at Greenbelt.

Would I go to New Wine again?

I don’t know. New Wine may have been a one off for us but it was certainly worth it. Our daughter would love to go back another year so we may possibly return if our church’s youth group goes again.

I’m interested in perusing this year’s memory stick of the recordings that our church is purchasing and I’d definitely want to have a listen to any that our church buys in coming years too.

Related Posts

Spring Harvest: More than just the big top
10 Highlights of my Greenbelt this year
What if Greenbelt and Spring Harvest merged?

Further Reading

New Wine – the official site

August 21, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

Stop Waiting for the Spirit

I ended my previous post with the words “So what are you waiting for?” How can I say “stop waiting”? Aren’t we commanded to wait for the Spirit? After all didn’t Jesus say to his followers that they must wait for the gift the father had promised – that is the gift of the Holy Spirit? Surely if the early disciples had to wait so do we?

The Holy Spirit has already been given

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR ?We often talk about waiting for the Spirit but today as Christians we do not have to wait at all. The Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. The Spirit was given to the church then. There is no more waiting.

When we follow Jesus by turning from our previous way of life in repentance and embracing a new way by faith then we become eligible to receive the Holy Spirit in the same way that the first decuples did.

You can receive the Holy Spirit now

If what you mean by waiting is fervently asking and drinking now but nothing is happening then don’t give up. But the baptism in the Spirit is something you can experience straight away. Don’t delay your asking or receiving by saying well I’m waiting on God for his time.

You don’t have to wait until we are mature or until a certain time has passed. You’re not in the same position as the first disciples during that ten day period. You can experience the Holy Spirit straight away. Stop waiting and start receiving!

Related Posts

How to Receive the Baptism in the Spirit

July 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

How to Know God

As a Christian you say that we know God. This is an intimate relationship with God that affects your life. It’s not just factual information. Perhaps it is better to say that you are getting to know God – as you learn more of him as you develop your relationship with him.

I Don't Know ANY of This!

But how do you know him? What does this really mean? Yes, you come to know God both through learning what the Bible says but if you really come to know God then you also have a spiritual encounter that is just the start of a lifetime relationship. God works by his Spirit helping you to understand how God want you to live out the Bible.

1. God reveals this knowledge to you

This relationship begins with God opening your spiritual eyes – he takes the initiative in revealing himself to you.

This is both an initial experience and continual as he keeps opening your eyes to more of his character and ‘to know the hope to which you are called’ (Ephesians 1:18).

As you get to know God more you realise how you’ve oversimplified him in the past.

You learn how he loves you and he answers your prayers.

He sometimes blesses you before you ask.

Then you learn that he doesn’t give you everything because sometimes it wouldn’t be good for you.

You then learn that sometimes you just cannot fathom his ways.

2. This knowledge of God inspires you to action

You may feel you know God well or you’re just beginning to get to know him. Whatever you feel you know of God then you will find that the Holy Spirit inspires you to act on what you are learning.

This begins with a change of attitude or repentance and then continues with continual adjustments as you seek to align your life with how you understand God wants you to live.

You become aware of your failings and your sin. You also become aware of his great forgiveness. You feel determined to change but also become aware of your weakness. You become aware of his grace and somehow sense that this empowers you and looking back you see that you are not the same as you were.

“No-one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (Luke 24:32). .

3. This knowledge is for you to apply to your life

You are not just to feel inspired and have good intentions – but you realise that you do need to actually change and keep on changing.

You know it is foolish not to apply knowledge. After all you learn things so that you know what to do. To gain knowledge and then not apply it is ridiculous. James 1:3 says “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror.”

Sometimes this call inspires you but on occasions it can overwhelm you. The Christian life is about living God’s way but don’t forget it is also about God’s grace and the joy in the Holy Spirit who empowers you to live like this.

4. This knowledge transforms you

The good news is that Jesus died for your sins and he has changed your very nature. You are not changing by your own self effort but God is transforming you by his Spirit to be more like Jesus in our character.

You are bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10) As you keep learning more of how God wants us to live and you do keep on changing. You add to your knowledge self control… perseverance… godliness… brotherly kindness… (2 Peter 1:5-7)

5. This knowledge provokes others

As you are transformed you become a provocation to others.

You are a role model. Sometimes you are a good role model sometimes a bad role model. Nevertheless you are a role model. As you seek to be more like Christ you may find yourself focusing on your short comings. You may even see how those are affecting others. But God has changed you.

As a follower of Jesus there is a lot in your actions that is having a positive affect on others. Sometimes some will react negatively to your faith. But often the affect will be positive – even if you don’t always see it.

Other Christians will follow your lead when they see your passion for prayer or how you stand up for what is right. Others including those outside of the church will be inspired when they see how your cope with difficult situations or how you so often have a kind word for people.

The Bible tells us that even the heavenly realms your influence is being felt – where forces that we barely understand are in operation both for good and evil.

6. This knowledge enables you to glorify God

Your knowledge of God will bring glory to God. God is fulfilling his purposes. He is at work in this world. He is making himself known to people (John 1:1-5 &18). As you learn about how he wants you to live and you do it, as you throw yourself into his purposes that people you see and understand and know more of God.

This is how you will know that you are getting to know God. People praise God because of you.

May 29, 2013 at 11:00 pm Comments (2)

The Eight Sundays of Eastertide

Anyone as who knows a bit about the church year will tell you that Easter is not just one weekend it is a whole season stretching from Easter Sunday until Pentecost. We have fifty days, including eight Sundays, to celebrate the resurrection.

EastertdeI have recently been studying some of the traditions of Easter. To some these may be clichés but they are virtually unknown to many evangelicals and charismatics.

During each of the Sundays of Eastertide traditional liturgy reminds us of the following truths regarding this resurrection life:

The first Sunday: The ressurection

Just as Christ has enabled us to overcome spiritual death he enables us to overcome difficulties of living in this fallen world and ultimately to defeat death.

The second Sunday: Church

Together as God’s people that we can overcome our doubts and misgivings by encouraging one another in the faith. On our own our faith with dwindle and die.

The third Sunday: Worship

As we gather for worship we learn and experience this resurrection life. It is in our experiences together that we are strengthened to live in the good of the resurrection.

The fourth Sunday: The good shepherd

Jesus is the good shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep and taken it up again. He leads us to green pastures and feeds in the midst of our enemies.

The fifth Sunday: Ministry

During his time on earth and especially between his resurrection and ascension Jesus taught his disciples how to be Jesus after he had left – to live this resurrection life.

The sixth Sunday: The Holy Spirit

Jesus taught them to expect the Paraclete – the Spirit that would come when Jesus went away. The Spirit is given to empower us to live the resurrection life.

The seventh Sunday: Unity

Despite our many differences the fact is we as Christians all have this resurrection life in common and the important fact that will bring us to unity and so glorify God.

The eighth Sunday: Pentecost

Following Jesus ascension the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost on his church bringing a boldness to proclaim the gospel and live the resurrection life to the full.

These wonderful themes are emphasised every year as the traditional church works its way through the Easter lectionary readings. Treasure these if they are part of your heritage. If they are not then I would encourage you to study them more and maybe even incorporate them into your Sunday worship.

May 12, 2013 at 8:03 am Comments (0)

Do you know more Christians or non-Christians? – the Results

missional pollHere are the results from the poll I ran the other week: 92% said they knew a good balance of Christians and non-Christians and the other 8% felt that they knew more non-Christians.

These results appear to be very encouraging. If we are to be truly missional we do need to mix beyond our Christian circles and it looks like most of you are. You feel that they know a good balance of both Christians and non-Christians. Not knowing non-Christians isn’t a problem for you.

Of course it could be you tend to have closer relationships with people who are also Christians. I wonder if the poll might have got different results if I had referred to friends rather than just people you know.

It is interesting that one comment did indicate awareness that this might be problem for Christians. “I think there is a real danger to becoming cut off” my friend Ann said.

Speaking as someone who remembers “experiencing exclusion in many areas” she wrote: “I am determined not to do what was done to me – how ever I can see and do experience people who say they are Christians… [who] are selective in who they are Christian towards”

Perhaps how to get to know people outside Christian circles isn’t the issue. But perhaps you need help developing or maintaining those relationships? Or could it be serving those you know whether they are Christian or not is more important as well as how to have conversations about spiritual issues them?

April 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

My Google A to Z of the Holy Spirit

A quick way to research what people are searching for on the internet is to use Google’s predictive feature. You start typing a word and Google with give you a few suggestions based on popular searches. By typing a word followed by each letter of the alphabet it is easy to collate an A to Z of that topic by just picking one of the four words or phrases that Google gives you.

googling Holy SpiritUsing this technique here is my Google A to Z of the Holy Spirit:

A is for “aint got a pen” as in “the Holy Spirit ain’t got a pen” Russell Brand’s response to the members of Westboro Baptist Church when discussing inspiration of scripture

B is for Bryan and Katie Torwalt from the Jesus Culture Music of Bethel Church who sing about the Holy Spirit

C is for Bryan and Katie’s ‘Holy Spirit Chords’

D is for dove and then when you’ve typed dove Google then suggests “dove tattoo”!

E is for experience such as the tremendous experience with the Holy Spirit described by Denzil Washington

F is for female depictions of the Holy Spirit – controversial!

G is for Gettymusic resources for churches by Keith & Kristyn Getty.

H is for hymns such as “Holy Spirit Living Breath of God”

I is for “in the world today” as in “Holy Spirit in the World Today” a conference organised by Holy Trinity Brompton’s Alpha ministries

J is for Jesus Culture

K is for Kim Walker another American singer, songwriter and worship leader

L is for “living breath of God”

M is for “move me now” as in “Holy Spirit Move Me Now” another song this time by Vinesong

N is for novena – prayers for nine successive days such as the nine days before Pentecost (a Catholic tradition)

O is for “of fire” as in “Holy Spirit of Fire” a more traditional hymn

P is for Pentecost

Q is for quotes about the Holy Spirit from the Bible and from Christian writers and speakers, which abound on the internet

R is for “rain down” as in “Holy Spirit Rain Down” by Hillsong

S is for school. It is amazing how many Catholic schools are named after the Holy Spirit. You need to put “sp” before you get speaking in tongues!

T is for “thou art welcome in this place” as in “Holy Spirit Though Art Welcome in This Place”

U is for university – as well as schools there are other Catholic educational institutions such as the “Holy Spirit University of Kaslik” in France

V is for videos not just of songs but of people encountering the Holy Spirit in some unusual ways

W is for worship songs such as “Holy Spirit We Welcome You” by Chris Bowater and many of the others already mentioned.

X is for XVI as in Pope Benedict XVI (although I have heard a rumour that Pope Francis I is more open to the Holy Spirit than his predecessor)

Y is for “you are welcome here” as in “Holy Spirit You Are Welcome Here” by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

Z is for Zac Poonen – a preacher, teacher and writer who among other topics has written about the Holy Spirit.

Please try this yourself to see if you come up with something similar or try different words.

April 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

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