31/03/2007

Jesus shall reign

In a recent trip to the Evangelical Library in London, I looked at some of their large selection of hymn books. I found an old Isaac Watts hymnbook and turned to one of my favourite hymns, based upon Psalm 72, Jesus shall reign where'er the sun. This glorious hymn speaks with great faith, based upon this psalm, of the power of the Gospel, and the biblical promise of the ultimate triumph of Christ's Kingdom. Through the Gospel, the Lord's kingdom shall extend from shore to shore.

I was interested to find some extra verses in the hymnbook that we don't normally sing today. The hymn is shown below, with the extra verses in italics:

1. Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

2. Behold the islands with their kings,
And Europe her best tribute brings;
From north to south the princes meet,
To pay their homage at His feet.

3. There Persia, glorious to behold,
There India shines in eastern gold;
And barb’rous nations at His word
Submit, and bow, and own their Lord.

4. For Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His Name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

5. People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His Name.

6. Blessings abound wherever He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

7. Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more:
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.

8. Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honours to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

I would imagine these verses have been dropped because they appear to speak of empire in a way that some might think reflects old British Empire (especially verse 3), and it is a little antiquated to speak of "barbarous" nations. But still the truth remains - Europe shall bring to Him their tribute. Persia (modern day Iran!) shall submit and bow, as will India, and the other nations. I am stirred by the faith of men like Isaac Watts who penned these words, and then by the missionaries who went out in full faith that the scripture behind these words would be fulfilled. Psalm 2v10-11 says "Now therefore, be wise, O kings, be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling." God's King has been installed and He shall reign!

The theme of this great hymn is given a modern flavour by Lex Loizides:

Be still and know that I am God;
My Son has asked Me for the nations of the world.
His sprinkled blood has made a way
For all the multitudes of India and Africa to come;
The Middle East will find its peace
Through Jesus Christ My Son.
From London down to Cape Town,
From L.A to Beijing,
My Son shall reign the undisputed King!
(Lex Loizedes (c) 1996 Kingsway Thankyou Music)

Amen! God stir our faith to believe this, to pray for it, to preach for it, to give for it.

And our great motivation is the great blessing we have in Him - "In Him the tribes of Adam boast, More blessings than their father lost."

Yet there is more. Cyberhymnal gives even more verses of Watts' hymn, and I will leave these to speak for themselves!

Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne.

The scepter well becomes His hands;
All Heav’n submits to His commands;
His justice shall avenge the poor,
And pride and rage prevail no more.

With power He vindicates the just,
And treads th’oppressor in the dust:
His worship and His fear shall last
Till hours, and years, and time be past.

As rain on meadows newly mown,
So shall He send his influence down:
His grace on fainting souls distills,
Like heav’nly dew on thirsty hills.

The heathen lands, that lie beneath
The shades of overspreading death,
Revive at His first dawning light;
And deserts blossom at the sight.

The saints shall flourish in His days,
Dressed in the robes of joy and praise;
Peace, like a river, from His throne
Shall flow to nations yet unknown.

30/03/2007

Three Rs for the church

For those of you who live on the British side of the Atlantic Ocean, you will be aware that there is an ongoing political debate about education in the UK and the need to teach the three Rs again to children. That is, reading, writing and (a)rithmetic. The fact that two of these words begin with a letter other than R is simply a part of British quirkiness (I write as a Brit), but the point is that many believe that children's education should be founded upon the basics.

Yesterday, during an extended time of seeking the Lord with my friend Dan, three different Rs were laid on my heart for the church - Reformation, Restoration and Renewal. I had this real sense that these three are God's desire for His church and are essential if we are to see the fulfillment of His awesome promises to gather His elect from every nation and for the knowledge of His glory to cover the earth.

I am not putting myself forward as a prophet to the wider church, but simply desire to share what I hope are some insights into what we need to see in our day if the church is to fulfil her glorious potential.


Reformation

The Reformation has fallen on hard times. There are those who would seek to undermine it and even say it should never have happened. Yet without the Reformation we would not have the gospel. It was the Reformers who brought into the light once again that "the just shall live by faith." We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The source of our doctrine and the command for our living is scripture alone. It is this word alone which is the difference between a gospel of works and the true gospel of God's grace. It is not grace plus our actions, faith plus works, Christ plus our obedience or scripture plus tradition or human reason. It is grace, faith, Christ and scripture alone.

Thank God for the Reformation. However, the Reformers themselves taught that the Reformation was not a single event. Rather the church should be continually reforming. She should continually be exposed to the light of scripture.

The Reformation has happened. Hallelujah! We are not labouring under a religious system that keeps us from Christ. But we still need to examine our doctrine and practice under the searchlight of the Word of God, and we need to stand firm on sound doctrine.

I am concerned that in the pressure on churches now for results and for services which entertain, and for preaching that meets felt needs, we can downplay sound, expository, doctrinal preaching. That is not to say that doctrine mustn't be applied, but application must flow out of truth.

We need expository preaching. While I wholeheartedly endorse the continuation of New Testament prophecy, we must remember that God speaks through the preaching of His infallible word. The puritans held this view in such esteem that preaching was regarded as the exercising of the gift of prophecy. I would agree in part, but prophecy does not only come through the preaching of the Word. We need both - but we need to see fire and truth in the preaching of God's Word, and the glorious liberating truths that transformed much of Europe as people realised the abundant mercy of God, the liberating truths taught by great men like Calvin, the puritans, Jonathan Edwards, CH Spurgeon and others.

I understand that one group of charismatic churches during the renewal in the mid-1990s decided to chose Geneva over Toronto. Why not both? Geneva and the fire of the Holy Spirit, are vital for healthy church life.


Restoration

I first came across this term when my old pastor began going to the Stoneleigh Bible Week (run until 2001 by Newfrontiers). I began to read Ephesians 4 in a new light. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers were given by the ascended Christ until we reach unity of the faith (Eph 4v8-13). I don't need to rehearse the teaching on this matter, which has been given with great clarity elsewhere (see Terry Virgo's book A People Prepared).

In his message to the Preach the Word conference, Terry Virgo described apostles as those who laid foundations, planting churches: "His purpose was to extend the New Testament community - that miraculous new creation community. Yes the apostles laid the foundations of the universal church at the beginning, but the word goes on. The dynamic ongoing ministry of apostles is to lay foundations... The Church needs to rediscover this ministry. If we are concerned about world mission, we know that we have to set about planting churches all round the world. It is the role of apostles to lay foundations. For the sake of world mission it is vital that we must rediscover the biblical place of apostles."

Of course we need a restoration of all the gifts. We need to see prophets building up churches, evangelists preaching with power for people to be set free and then these living stones built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2v4) on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2v20) - all over the world. And the churches themselves must be healthy in doctrine, in love, in godly works and in power, desiring spiritual gifts "..that the church may receive edification" (1 Cor 14v4).


Revival

Right doctrine and divine church order are vital, but the temple without the presence of God is just a building, Elijah's sacrifice without the fire from heaven was simply a dead animal, Ezekiel's bones were dead (even with flesh on them) until the wind of the Spirit made them alive!

Thus the third R is "revival." We desperately need a visitation from on high. Psalm 84v6 "Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?"

God has done it before and He can do it again. The tide can be turned! "O Lord, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy." (Hab 3v2).

There must be a passionate seeking after God. "We dare not let Thee go – Thou art our one desire: Oh, rend the heav’ns, in power come down! Baptise us, Lord with fire."

"You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29v13).

All three

Many churches embrace one or even two of these three Rs. There are Reformed churches faithfully teaching the doctrines of grace and expounding the Scripture week by week. There are Restoration churches, faithfully committed to seeing a restored and vibrant church. There are many churches (including many Reformed and Restoration churches) who are seeking God for revival.

Yet I believe that the need of the hour is to see all three. The fuel of reformed doctrine (preached and experienced with passion), the liberating order of apostolic and prophetic churches, and the fire of revival. So may the day come when "we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Eph 4v13).

28/03/2007

O Gladsome Day of Praise!

I'm so sorry. I've been silent for three weeks now! I haven't forgotten the promise to produce notes of Life in the Spirit, but I've been ill and one of my kids has as well, which has kept spare time to a minimum. I'm still working on the notes from Life in the Spirit, but before I post some more of those, I just wanted to share this awesome hymn.

By way of background, my fellow leader, Ken Vincent (who is a retired pastor), preaches one Sunday morning each month. He is preaching an awesome series through Romans 12, and has now done a couple of sessions on the gift of prophecy. Ken is a lover of the old hymns and his favourite hymnbook is Redemption Hymnal - which is full of great Pentecostal hymns.

A couple of Sundays ago, we sang this wonderful hymn, which speaks of Christ's glorious ascension, but also His promise of the Holy Spirit and our pursuit of Him. It blessed me so much, I would like to share it (it goes to the tune of Crown Him with many crowns):

1. O gladsome day of praise
O day of joy divine
The Christ who died is ris’n again,
In glory now to shine.
He hath gone up on high,
Ten thousand hosts attend;
He takes the throne in majesty,
All pow’rs before Him bend.

2. The heavens resound with praise
Earth owns His regal state:
A glorious company of saints
His promised gift await.
For ere the Saviour went
In triumph through the cloud,
Said He, “The Holy Ghost shall come.”
Then at His feet they bowed.

3. In ecstasy and joy,
With songs of love and grace,
As one they tarry for their God,
As one they seek His face,
Nor can they be denied –
They ask in Jesus’ name;
Behold! He comes! The Spirit comes
In wind and fiery flame.

4. The old prophetic word
Becomes His Church’s dower:
“Upon all flesh” is now outpoured
This plenitude of power.
Who owns Him Christ the Lord
May all His fullness prove;
Yea, boldly now this gift we claim,
Through His redeeming love.

5. All-powerful on high,
Dazzling in splendour bright,
Enlarge our souls, our hearts inspire
With Pentecostal might-
We dare not let Thee go –
Thou art our one desire:
Oh, rend the heav’ns, in power come down!
Baptise us, Lord with fire.
(LFW Woodford)

That phrase in verse 4 "The old prophetic word, becomes His Church’s dower..." might seem a bit unusual! I looked up the word "dower" and it means this: "The part or interest of a deceased man's real estate allotted by law to his widow for her lifetime. Also called dowry." A "life-estate", a right allotted to us as His bride for all our time here before we see Him in the glory face to face! The blessed fulness of the Holy Spirit is the legal right of the church - we must not settle for anything else.

Thus the final verse says "We dare not let Thee go." We dare not! There is nothing else. We can build buildings, have conferences, write books, preach sermons, have evangelistic campaigns, and all of the 1001 activities the church engages in - but we need Him.

"Oh rend the heavens, in power come down! Baptise us, Lord with fire."

09/03/2007

The Joy of the Lord in Missions - more from Life in the Spirit 2007

I apologise once again for the slow production of notes from Life in the Spirit conference. At the conference there is plenty of spare time to sort out my notes, but back home, there is less time. At last, however, I have produced one more set of notes. This one is from the Tuesday evening.

Ben is a member of the Life in the Spirit team. Until the mid-1990s he served as a pastor in a church in Kent, in the South-East of the UK. Then, the Lord met with him in such power that the Lord turned his life around. He should have been thinking of retirement, but the Lord stirred him for a new mission - to bring the Word of God to other countries, by means of Bibles, literature and teaching leaders. I won't say more because I don't want to compromise this brother's ministry. He is a gentle man of God with a passion for His glory. Something of the Lord's heart came through the teaching.

Here goes:


Introduction

The theme of tonight’s message is the joy of the Lord in missions. The approach is from Christian hedonism, not a legalistic spirit. We must remember there is more yet to enjoy – so let us go for more. Our chief purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him. Pleasure is the measure of our treasure.


The need

The Great Commission tells us the great “alls”. Christ has all authority. We are to go to all nations and teach all He has commanded, and He is with us all the days, even to the end of the age.

Sadly the Great Commission is often referred to as the great omission. So few churches have a global concept in their mission statement. Jesus’ mission statement includes the world.


The motive

Quoting from Piper, Let the Nations be Glad: “Missions is not ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t... Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal in missions. It’s the goal of missions because in missions we simply aim to bring nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory… But worship is also the fuel of missions. Passion for God in worship precedes the offer of God in preaching…”

Joy is so key. Nehemiah 8v10 (NIV) – “Go and enjoy… Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Dual application:
1) My contemplation of God’s personal joy and delight in His people and His purposes envisions and stirs me.
2) My own joy in God mightily empowers me.


His joy

God is the living God. He is Almighty and there must be no flippancy in our speech concerning Him. Yet we can say that He is a happy God. We see His joy in creation (“He saw that it was good… He saw that it was very good.”). Job 38v7: “When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”

Therefore God made us to be happy. People’s lives are consumed in pursuit of happiness. Heb 11v25 “pleasures of sin.” Even the suicidal are seeking happiness by their actions. The pursuit and need of joy is a fundamental aspect of creation. In Christ we have the expulsive power of a new affection - set free by discovering joy!

Joy is ruined by sin. From Gen 3 onwards God is reclaiming us (and that true joy for us). God doesn’t give up on His joy though. Eg: Ezek 18v23 – “'Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord God, ‘and not that he should turn from his wicked ways and live?’” Multitudes of souls have no idea of their true purpose.

Is 53v10 – “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” He found pleasure because of love His for all the lost. Zeph 3v17 – He rejoices over you with singing; He takes great delight in you. Heb 12v2- for the joy set before Him. The joy of the Lord in bringing worship where satan reigns. Rev 5 tells us that one day worship will exist everywhere!

It is impossible for us to be too exuberant in worship. We need to be unembarrassed about letting go and worshipping God. It says that in heaven there is a party whenever someone comes to Christ. What an honour to be included in that party, and being used to bring in multitudes that will be around throne on that day. But not just in this country, from the nations. One-third of the population of world has still to hear of Jesus in a meaningful way.


Joy of God’s people

1) Joy of sacrifice. Whatever was to my profit, I consider loss, everything compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Him. I count them rubbish that I may gain Christ, not having a righteousness of my own… To know Him the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings… I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of me (Phil 3). What is your 'that'? Hudson Taylor said “I never made a sacrifice.” Elliot, “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot hold to gain what he cannot lose.” It is not a sacrifice because of the all consuming joy.

2) Joy of service. Seeing from God’s perspective, in Psalm 2, the Lord laughs and tells His Son “Ask of Me and I shall give the nations for your inheritance.” In Luke 10, Jesus sends out the 70, who returned with joy. Jesus tells them to rejoice that their names are written in heaven. Jesus Himself rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.

3) Joy of suffering. Scriptures say they rejoiced. Blessed are you when men persecute you and revile you, that’s how they persecuted the prophets. We who are rich have a responsibility to share.

4) Joy of submission. “Not my will but Your will.” One example, from China, some believers raised funds to help pay for the release of some pastors from prison. When they arrived at the prison the pastors told them “God has put us here to share His love. Use the money to help our families.” The pastors gave up their freedom and the prison was transformed.

5) Joy of success. This needs to be handled carefully, because it is not about carnal success. But Matt 25v21 says, “Well done good and faithful servant.” What will Jesus say to you? We need to live life backwards – imagine yourself standing before the judgement seat of Christ. Luther said there are two days – to-day and that day. 1 Thess 2v20: “You are our glory and our crown.”

6) Joy of satisfaction. In Your presence is fullness of joy and at Your right-hand pleasures forever more. That pleasure is both future and now for us through the Holy Spirit, who is the downpayment until the redemption! Paul’s desire was to “finish my race with joy… to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20v24). The most precious diamonds come from the deepest and darkest of mines


Conclusion

Another quote! “Therefore the church is bound to engage with the Lord of glory in His cause. It is our unspeakable privilege to be caught up with Him in the greatest cause of history… The gathering of the elect, and all Israel will be saved, and the earth is full of the knowledge of His glory. Then the supremacy of Christ shall be manifest to all. And He will deliver the kingdom to His Father and God will be all in all.”

Missions cause Him joy – joy in heaven; it pleases our Lord Jesus. There is joy on earth as light comes and forgiveness flows, and new life fills hearts. It gives us joy and anticipation of our great reward.

Therefore get your focus back. This is work but not toil. Rededicate yourself to the work. Nothing is more satisfying than serving Jesus.

05/03/2007

The Beacon Church

Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates from the Life in the Spirit Conference. Returning to pastoring after 4 days away left me with lots to do over the weekend. But I am still working on my notes and will post again shortly.

Just to say, if you do want CDs of the sessions, please e-mail me via my profile page and I will pass you on details of the company who did the recordings.


A new Church

Before I continue reports from the Life in the Spirit I need to share the exciting news of a new church-plant in my area. Last night I went to the launch of the Beacon Church, in the neighbouring south London district of Dulwich. It was wonderful to see the school hall where they meet absolutely packed out with friends and supporters and I pray with new people from the area that they are seeking to reach.


A great mission

The church has a vision to reach the needy people right across the area they have called “south-Central London”. It includes areas such as Brixton, Streatham, Norwood, Dulwich and Peckham (across this area they have been three fatal shootings of teenagers in the last few weeks). There are some 300,000 people across this area, and they need Jesus.

Someone asked me yesterday, “Are there too many churches in the area?” I don’t believe so – there is such need. There almost can’t be too many churches – provided we are seeking together for the advance of the kingdom of God. Our calling is to advance the kingdom of God, not simply to build our own church. It is not about our own empire but the power and empire of Christ our Redeemer.


A great commission

During yesterday’s service there was a powerful word of prophecy about building the church on the name of the Lord. There is no point in building any other way. We can seek to build with human wisdom or in the ways that others have built in the past. But the Church has been commissioned to build on His name. The mighty name – the Lord our righteousness, the Lord our healing, the Lord is salvation.


A common vision

God has given this church a vision that is tied up with its name – to bring light to a dark world and be a light to welcome and draw people into the kingdom. There is an amazing similarity with a call that the Lord gave to Lansdowne many years ago – to be a lighthouse, warning people of the dangers of the rocks, but at the same time being a place of welcome into the harbour of security in Christ.

I thank God that He is starting something very special right on our doorstep in South London.

{Edit 2013:  Since this first visit, I lost touch with the church and the pastor.  However, I am happy to report that the Beacon Church is still continuing under a new pastor.  I visited there about a year ago and was challenged by precious preaching from God's word from Genesis 6 on the justice of God.  It was a very sobering message - and a reminder to all believers of the urgency of the preaching the gospel.

So, charismatics can and do take God's Word seriously - and they can preach it faithfully!}

01/03/2007

The Doctor for a new generation - Tony Sargent

The Tuesday afternoon session from Life in the Spirit was an opportunity for Tony Sargent, {edit 2013: then} principal of International Christian College, to share about a new book he has written of gems from Dr Lloyd-Jones.

I was introduced to the Doctor a couple of months after my conversion, by means of a taped message from 2 Cor 2v1-5 (Jesus Christ and Him crucified). I was hooked! So I was interested to hear what Tony had been up to. After an introduction sharing his vision for training at the ICC, he warned us of two danger for preachers:

1) Being toothless - having a message with no bite;
2) Being deaf and not hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

The Doctor was neither of these things! Here's what Tony had to tell us:


His first book

Tony Sargent’s first book was a study of Lloyd-Jones and the importance of the Holy Spirit in the act of preaching. It was called The Sacred Anointing [and is a very good book!]. The presence of the Spirit is the smile of God upon the preaching – to lack God’s smile is the worst thing a preacher can experience. It is said that Spurgeon repeated before he preached, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Lloyd-Jones is described as “logic on fire.”


A new book of quotes

Now Tony has completed a new book of quotes from the preaching of Lloyd-Jones which is indexed in 100 or so categories. It forms a compendium in theology and a summary of the Doctor’s position in many areas.
The Doctor quarried in areas where no-one else seemed to go, eg: the devil and demonism. He was one of the few prominent leaders in his time who actually taught on the existence of the devil (see his 20 or 30 addresses on the devil and his wiles in the Ephesians series). He covered demon possession in his lectures to the Christian Medical Fellowship. He shows how to cope with someone demon possessed and the importance of the blood of Christ in seeing people delivered.

Other areas covered in the new book:
  • Penal substitution. The Doctor shows clearly that this is the only way of salvation; divine love and divine wrath mingling. See his book The Cross.
  • On the reality of hell. He would not flinch from this - if salvation is eternal, so is damnation.
  • Preaching. He saw the preacher as having the greatest calling in the world to teach the unsearchable riches of Christ, bringing eternal truth to bear on the lives of the hearers. He saw himself as a physician of the soul. He said that counselling goes up when preaching goes down. He expected the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the preached word (so he wouldn’t have a radio broadcast from the Chapel because he wouldn't be restricting by their timing if the Holy Spirit came upon him during the preaching of the Word).
  • He believed that preaching is the word of God. The word of God to the hearers at that time. The preacher is a messenger who stood before them on God’s behalf.
  • On being ready for eternity. Does what you say and believe take you to the end? He warned preachers - never live for your preaching; you die a man. What will you do when you can preach no more? He himself was ready to go even when he could not speak at the end - when visited by a friend, he took his Bible in one hand and with the other pointed up. He believed that after death he would be taken into the conscious realisation of the presence of God and the glories of heaven. He was anticipating heaven not in terms of getting away from here – but for God Himself.

Conclusion
The preacher’s job is to bite with the non-negotiable truth, and to listen to God and declare what he hears.
{end of notes}


I'm looking forward to this book. Tony told us it has just gone to the publisher - so it should be with us sometime later this year!