29/05/2007

How important is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

{Edit 2013:  The documents and blog that inspired this post originally are no longer available. However, the point that Jesse makes is still very interesting, so I am leaving this post up (minus the original links, which no longer work)}

What a glorious day! This morning I did my usual check of the various blogs in my favourites and found this! {Edit 2013: link removed as it no longer works.}

Jesse Philips, newly graduated from the SGM Pastor's College, has given us his paper on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit (a college assignment) to read. The title itself - "Subsequence: a biblical-theological defense of Pentecostal pneumatology"- was enough for me to know I had to read it at once.

Over the last few days, since I posted on how important is the Holy Spirit, I have been thinking about the question of the doctrine of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. What impact does it have on our experience of the Holy Spirit if we reject the Pentecostal teaching that the Baptism is subsequent to conversion?

Jesse answers this question in his introduction:

"My motive for this study is as follows: the maintenance of a biblically significant charismatic dimension to Christianity. It is not mere coincidence that the Pentecostal revival, to which the contemporary church historically owes much of its charismatic experience, held as one of its main theological tenants the view of a subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit. There is something pro-Charismatic about the Pentecostal view of the Spirit’s baptism, which has a proven track record of producing experientially charismatic churches unmatched by other pneumatologies.

"The Third Wave position, while not at all cessationist concerning the spiritual gifts, and even held by a few prominent charismatic leaders (i.e. John Wimber), has not shown itself to be quite as prolific as the traditional Pentecostal view in producing churches that are able to maintain a robust pneumatology and a distinctively charismatic experience over a long period of time. The primary reason for this is that the Third Wave position has a somewhat cessationist interpretation of Acts. What I mean is that Cessationists and ‘Third Wavers’ agree that what is seen in Acts should not be normative for today. Therefore, since most of the biblical data about the baptism in the Spirit is contained in Acts, we should not be surprised the Third Wave perspective of the Spirit baptism tends not to produce experiences that are quite as charismatically prolific as the Pentecostal view."

In other words, it does make a difference. And it goes back to our understanding of Acts. I stand with Jesse on this one. Acts is normative. We are not only reading history, we are reading glorious examples of how God is able to work with equal power today, through the same means of a people clothed with power from on high.

Jesse concludes:

"I hope that this exploration of Luke-Acts will assist the reader in reading the Bible with new eyes and an expectant heart, engaging the text and engaging God, experiencing all that God has made available through Christ to the believer, by virtue of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May the church continue to suffer the influence of Pentecost."

Amen and amen.

{Edit 2013: I am looking again at this issue.  Is Acts normative?  I still believe, "yes."  It shows us how the early church functioned and how God moved in power.  There is nothing in the book itself that tells us that all this glorious activity should stop.

At the same time, it is clear that we are not living in the days of Acts. We are not seeing miracles on this scale.  Those who claim to regularly move in such miracles have larger (although not exclusively) been exposed as false teachers.

However, abuse should not mean disuse.  Preaching is abused but we don't stop preaching; we preach correctly and we teach young pastors and trainees to rightly divide the Word of Truth.

At the same time, the decline of a doctrine or a practice should not mean that the thing is regarded as un-Biblical.  Otherwise, why would we ever have accepted the recovery of justification by faith?  Why would the practice of believers' baptism ever have regained acceptance among many believers?

So, we search the scriptures.  Miracles are present today, but not as much as in Acts.  We should neither manufacture false miracles, nor create an interpretation of Acts that locks the miracles in a box for then.

Instead, it is time to seek the Lord!  We need fresh dynamic gospel preaching and faithful apostolic teaching.  We need fresh outpourings of the Holy Spirit to awaken sinners (so that they are cut to the heart), to stir holy zeal in the hearts of His people and to demonstrate the present reality of God through healing.

Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85v6)}


PS: It is interesting that yesterday Dan posted a transcript from Life in the Spirit 1997 - with Michael Eaton and RT Kendall conversing on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It can be read here.

24/05/2007

How important is the Holy Spirit?

{Edit 2013:  The blogs mentioned in this post are no longer functioning.  I have therefore removed the links and changed the text slightly.}

Jesse Philips' recent post on Charismatic Resurgence Through the Blogosphere is so encouraging. He says:

"I have been encouraged as I started blogging to find out that there are like-minded Christians who have faith for an increase in the miraculous gifts in our generation of the reformed-charismatic church."

I believe, like him, that these blogs can: "contribute to a charismatic resurgence, particularly by increasing people's faith for gifts such as prophecy, faith, miracles or healing."

Further, I believe these blogs can help us tackle important issues in the practice of charismatic life. For example, Jesse has posted on Uninterpreted tongues is not sin. We need to examine things like this together, looking at God's word and seeking the help of His Spirit.

{Edit 2013:  Jesse's sister, Janelle, also used to blog.  At the time this post was first written, she had been looking at the different views of the the group of churches called Sovereign Grace Ministries.  It was Janelle's blog that first inspired this post.  I appreciate that, since my writing, there have been many issues with respect to SGM and to its then leader, CJ Mahaney.  I was tempted to remove this post altogether.  However, the point "How important is the Holy Spirit" remains.

In particular, at the time, many were saying that the involvement of CJ Mahaney at Together for the Gospel would cause a decline in charismatic distinctives among SGM.  Many would argue that this has happened, although perhaps not because of the Together for the Gospel connection.

My concern in this post was to discuss how much charismatics should "hold back."  Should charismatics pretend that they are not charismatics when they are working with non-charismatics?  How should unity impact upon our charismatic life? Should we downplay it and seek gifts less in the interests of unity?}

A couple of thoughts - first on fellowshipping with cessationist churches and secondly on preaching the gospel:

Fellowship

While I am very happy to stand with people from any evangelical church on the vast number of issues upon which we agree, I believe we must be careful not to downgrade our charismatic distinctives - even subconsciously - in order to avoid offending our cessationist friends.

Obviously, we are wise. It would not be appropriate, say, for CJ Mahaney to make an altar call at a John MacArthur Shepherds Conference for people to receive prayer for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, because CJ has voluntarily come to serve under John MacArthur's leadership. But it would also be totally wrong to discourage (or fail to encourage) the expression of gifts of the Holy Spirit because John MacArthur has come to Covenant Life Church.

In our relationship with our non-charismatic friends we must never downplay who we are, although we must respect who they are. It is not our job to convert their flocks to the things of the Holy Spirit (although we might hold private discussions with the leadership). But it is our responsibility to remain thoroughly (and increasingly) charismatic in our walk and corporate church life.

Preaching the gospel

While conferences like Together for the Gospel can be helpful in terms of encouraging and envisioning churches and leaders to the glorious task of gospel preaching, when it comes to actually going out on the streets, or inviting people to hear the gospel, as charismatics we might find ourselves on difficult ground. Why? Because gospel preaching in the Scriptures is charismatic!

Jesus sent out His disciples to preach, heal, cast out demons and raise the dead. Should we hold back on seeking these things for fear of offence to the cessationists? Acts 2v38 ("what shall we do?") is answered by repent, be baptised and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. As charismatics is it right to reduce our gospel preaching to simply repent and believe? Don't we want to see new believers birthed fully into Kingdom life?

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, healing and gospel preaching go together, and they must stay together. God uses healing to awaken people's attention that there's a message to be heard (Acts 3v11).

So, while we pray for, encourage and fellowship with all who love the message of the gospel, we must not downgrade our charismatic fulness, even in the way in which we preach the gospel.

{Edit 2013:  In rereading the above, this is too dismissive of working in gospel partnership with non-charismatic churches.  Acts does contain healings and deliverances, some on a large scale (Acts 5 and Acts 19).  However, the apostles and disciples primary work was preaching.  They preached and they dealt with healings and deliverances as the need arose.  They (and Jesus) didn't go out to heal they went out to preach.

Therefore, I can go out and preach with my cessationist friends.  However, if someone asked for healing, then I would pray for them trusting God to stretch out His hand to heal.}


Facing criticism

Janelle concluded her post with this:

"If we are going to be criticized, then it certainly would be GREAT to be criticized for being "too charismatic" than having a false Gospel."

I hope we are never criticised for having a false gospel. We may differ from Reformed Cessationists over the present operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but we and they must stand together on "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

But I think if I wasn't criticised for being too charismatic, I would be worried. Not because I want to go out of my way to offend, but because the Scriptures are clear that charismatic experience is at the heart of church life and evangelism.

God bless cessationists. Many of my heroes of past generations, and some of the present, are cessationists. But the Holy Spirit is, as it were, the dynamite of Kingdom life and we must not limit His gracious influence in anything we do, whatever people may say.

22/05/2007

The good old gospel

Those who follow Life on Wings will know that Dan is in the process of moving to Birmingham. He has had to downsize his library temporarily and has loaned to me the vast majority of his books to bless me and the members of the church here.

Included in this glorious library is a significant number of Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and the full six volumes of the New Park Street Pulpit. I have just opened volume 1 of the New Park Street Pulpit. While I have all the messages on CD there is still something special about opening a books.

So far I haven't even got onto the opening sermon because I am intrigued by Spurgeon's preface where he speaks with absolute confidence about the divine authority of the messages preached. I found myself wondering about his humilty! However, on reflection, I find in Spurgeon not pride, but a total confidence in the power of the preached Word and God's promise of the Holy Spirit's enabling as we preach His gospel.

We can learn something from this. We have no need to apologise for the Word of God. God has ordained this awesome means (under the power of the Holy Spirit) for the deliverance of souls, and for the good of the people of God. Let us approach the preaching of God's word (whether as hearers or preachers) that God's Word shall accomplish the purpose for which He has sent it (Isaiah 55v11).

In the light of recent blogs about being Reformed and Charismatic, I have been thinking about the importance of being Reformed. I thank God for the Charismatic resurgence through the blogosphere {edit 2013: blog no longer available} and look forward to so much more. At the same time, it helps to remember why we stand on being both Reformed and Charismatic. We don't say we are Reformed to try and build bridges with Reformed Cessationists, but because we believe that Reformed theology is thoroughly biblical. In the light of these reflections, I was interested in Spurgeon's comment about Calvinism in his prologue:

"The word Calvinism, is frequently used here as the short word which embraces that part of divine truth which teaches that salvation is by grace alone, but it is not hence to be imagined that we attach any authority to the opinion of John Calvin, other than that which is due to every holy man who is ordained of God to proclaim his truth. We use the word simply for shortness of expression, and because the enemies of free grace will then be quite sure of what we mean. It is our firm belief, that what is commonly called Calvinism, is neither more nor less than the good old gospel of the Puritans, the Martyrs, the Apostles, and of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The good old gospel. Let what we preach magnify the wonderful grace of God. It is by grace we are saved, through faith, and that is the gift of God (Eph 2v8-9). Praise God for His amazing grace.

14/05/2007

Hiding in the caves

In the light of what has been written by Jesse and Dan, and my own post of a few days ago, I was interested to read in Terry Virgo's book, The Tide is Turning, his comments about Gideon's day, and the generation "...who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel." (Judges 2v10).

Terry says:

"On the whole we too have grown up in a generation that has not seen the mighty acts of God as our forefathers did. We have not seen revivals during which thousands flock into the churches to get right with God. Unlike our fathers we have not known whole towns change, with demonstrations of power and incredible manifestations of the glory of God. The majority of our generation knows nothing of these things so we may closely identify with the Israel of Gideon's day.

"Finding that God was not with them, many of His people simply dug in, living in holes on the mountains. It was even more pitiful than this because mountains are supposed to typify significant places for strategic possession. When they had begun to move into the Promised Land under Joshua the mountains represented the heights of authority and power...

"In a similar way you can either possess a great truth of God or you can dig in and hide behind it... We often take great truths from the Bible and instead of living in the good of them we dig in defensively and hide behind them. The result is that instead of saying, 'God is faithful; let us therefore bring the kingdom,' we say, 'God is faithful; I will defend that truth to the end'...

"By contrast, in Caleb's day, they laid hold of the truth. They argued, 'If God is faithful, as the Word says, let us go and take the land.' Their doctrine was a source of confidence - more a springboard than a dugout!"

Are we guilty of spending so long defending reformed doctrine at the expense of living in the good of it? Doctrine is a source of confidence and strength, but also a motivator to action.

God is sovereign, He is Almighty, He is with us! So let us advance the Kingdom of God.

We must therefore pray for revival - because the Sovereign God hears from heaven. We must therefore preach the gospel because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, and He is the One who brings life to the dead souls who hear our preaching. We must pray for the sick because it is by His almighty power that healing comes.

Let our doctrine release us into faith-filled action!

10/05/2007

Is it right to hold 'healing meetings'?

{Edit 2013:  I wrote this post at a time when I was involved in discussions with a couple of local pastors, some of whom have now moved on, about holding joint meetings for evangelism and signs and wonders.  While the issue never came to pass - because the idea never got off the ground - I am leaving the heart of the post here, which addresses the issue in the title - Is it right to hold "healing meetings"?}

When the idea was first mooted (now over 6 years ago) I had a real rise in my spirit about this, but at the same time was troubled.  The idea of "healing meetings" is something I have been troubled by {edit 2013: and remained troubled by today}. From the beginning of my walk with the Lord I was taught to regard all healing evangelists with suspicion and that continued even after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. "Healing meetings are not in the Bible," I was told. "Do you ever read of Paul holding a healing meeting? You should just meet to preach the gospel, and pray for healing if you are so led. You can't presume God will heal..."

That's how the argument went. I have to say I bought it. But my dear brother's vision has caused me to re-examine. So should we hold healing meetings?

The first thing I sought to do was to examine what I believe are the two main objections to such meetings:

Objection 1: The apostles never held meetings where they advertised "healings"

Not as far as we know, but they did hold meetings at which healings took place. They taught publicly and from house to house. They preached the gospel, but during various services healings took place (Acts 8v5-7, 14v8-10, 19v11-12).

It became known in Jerusalem that God was healing through Peter and so people sought him out (Acts 5v14-16). The words "a multitude gathered" (v16) point to people gathering for the purpose of receiving healing. They were not, in the first instance at least, coming to hear the gospel, they were coming to receive healing. Undoubtedly they did hear the gospel as well, but the healing power of God was what gathered people.

So surely we should follow in their footsteps and hold meetings at which the gospel is preached, but also where we pray for the sick.

{Edit 2013:  Apologies for the terrible exegesis above!  The actually did not "hold meetings" at all, in the sense that evangelistic and healing crusades occur today.  People came to them because it was evident that God was with them.  This itself is a challenge to every believer.  Does our character, and the presence of Jesus with us, draw people so that they want us to pray for them and want to hear what it is about us that makes us different?}

Objection 2: It is presumptuous to declare that there are going to be healings

Wasn't the command of Christ - preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead (Matt 10v8)? While many have argued that miraculous gifts have ceased, one can only do so by saying that the Gospels and Acts do not represent the normative experience. But if we regard these narratives as normal, then miraculous healing is not a rarity but a regularity. We are subnormal!

But if God is truly among the people of God as they gather (as He promises to be), then surely we must take Him at His Word. We can invite people to meet the living God. We can invite people to hear His Word that can change their lives. We can invite people to come and experience His healing power.

{Edit 2013:  I would now add, the emphasis of scripture is not on inviting people to come and hear, but to go and tell.  That is not to say we shouldn't invite people to church or to special events, but it is our job (every Christian) to share the gospel and the pray for our friends (souls and bodies); we shouldn't just be relying upon the pastor or evangelist.}

If Jesus said go and heal the sick and nothing happened when the disciples prayed, then He was a liar. But people were healed! If He is the same yesterday, today and forever, then His statements are true today. Praying for healing comes as part of the preaching of the gospel. It is part of the kingdom package, as it were. The powers of the age to come have broken through (Heb 6v5). People will hear of the kingdom, and they will experience the kingdom in conversion and in healing.


The breaking in of the Kingdom of God

Having delivered someone from a demonic spirit, Jesus said to the crowds "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matt 12v28). The delivering power is evidence of God's rule being extended in the earth.

We are living after Calvary, and after Pentecost. We are living in the light of Jesus instructions to His disciples to preach and heal. We are living in the light of Acts which is an account which continues what Jesus began to do and teach - and He is still doing and teaching.

Isn't healing and deliverance a part of the ministry of Jesus? Of course salvation is the greatest miracle of all - because a dead soul is being made alive - but the teaching of both Jesus and the disciples was accompanied by healing miracles. Extending His kingdom is more than simply numbers but also quality of life. Its the rule of God being seen in our souls and our bodies. Therefore praying for the sick to be healed should be an integral part of our gospel preaching.

{Edit 2013:  I need to think again about my statement above, "Therefore praying for the sick to be healed should be an integral part of our gospel preaching."  I take issue with the word "integral" now.  Ministering to the sick was clearly a part of both the Gospels and Acts, but the priority was the salvation of souls.  See below.}

So we should have outreach meetings where we pray for healing

Having reflected on these things, I must conclude that it is Biblical to hold evangelistic gatherings where the gospel is preached and the sick are prayed for. It is right to approach these meetings with an expectation that souls shall be saved and that people will be healed.

{Edit 2013:  As with most of the edits so far, on reflection, this post misses the issue of personal evangelism.  I do believe the priority of personal evangelism is to lead a soul to Christ.  While this is a sovereign work of the God, we are still responsible for preaching the gospel.  While healing is also a sovereign work of God, we are still called to pray for the sick.

In relation to outreach meetings - the priority must again be the gospel.  We should and must pray for any needs that there are and be expectant that our great and awesome God will intervene in people's lives and make Himself known.}

The awesome impact on the healing of the man at gate beautiful, the opening up of the Samaritans to hear the gospel through Philip, the transformation of the city of Ephesus are all testimony to impact of the power of God in signs and wonders to open up a door for the gospel to be preached.

We need this in our day.

Let me close with a quote from Jul in response to one of the comments on Dan's blog:

"I'm beginning to realize that we're not really preaching the gospel if there is not a demonstration of God's power in signs, wonders, miracles, healing, casting out demons, etc... "

Amen! We want to see God move in saving multitudes and showing His healing power, too!

08/05/2007

Terry Virgo has a blog

Congratulations to Jul, who has reported that Terry Virgo has a blog - here!

There are three posts so far, but I am sure more will follow. The first post is from South Africa and includes more testimony of God's healing power. The most recent is a great challenge to worship God in the context of action.

Go and see!

Charismatic hypercalvinists!??

Years ago I preached at a church in the North-east of England that was looking for a pastor. I can't remember what I preached on, but I do remember being asked by one of the elders about my church background. He said, "So you are from a good reformed church then?" My answer was "Yes, and we are a charismatic church also." The elder looked shocked to say the least!

Now of course, it has become more popular for people to say that they are reformed charismatics. Some do find the two terms contradictory but I find nothing in the Word that says holding to the doctrine of grace mean that you cannot also "earnestly desire spiritual gifts."

It has been interesting to follow some recent blogging on the subject of Reformed Charismatics. Back in March, Adrian Warnock posted on the 2007 Shepherds' Conference, where CJ Mahaney preached and asked the question "what would the church look like in another 30 years?"

An important question! Does being reformed and charismatic mean we end up losing our charismatic or reformed distinctives? Do we become middle of the road - a little less charismatic or a little less reformed - or both?

Since Adrian's post raised such important questions I have discovered through my friend Dan Bowen, a blog called Prophetically Speaking by Jesse Phillips, a pastoral intern at Metro Life Church, Orlando (SGM church). He has posted some excellent stuff, including "Is Reformed Theology inherently cessationist?" {Edit 2013:  This blog has closed, but the points raised are still good!}  His answer is "no", but he issues a challenging statement -

"...although there is nothing inherently cessationist about reformed theology, given its emphasis on God's sovereignty it's easier for charismatic apathy and functional cessationism to set in."

And

"Functional cessationism, for example, is an attitude that says, "If God wants to heal he will" without praying earnestly with expectancy that God will respond to and answer our prayers for healing. We can become complacent though certain gifts cease, assuming that if God wanted certain gifts to be given he would provide some sort of sovereign jump-start apart from any human initiative."

In reflecting and commenting on this post, I was struck that the danger of fatalism in relation to seeking God for spiritual gifts, or for healing, is exactly the same danger that is faced when reformed theology is misapplied in the area of evangelism.

Reformed theology should motivate evangelism

While I don't wish to caricature hyper-calvinism, the impression given is that "the elect shall be saved, we must not offer the gospel to those who are not elect." So active evangelism is discouraged or at least ignored.

In my mind - the elect shall be saved and that is a very good reason to go out and preach the gospel. What better motivation than a guarantee that there shall be success in preaching! Not all shall be saved, but the elect shall be saved.

In Acts 18v9-10, we read - "Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, 'Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no-one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.'"

The elect are there to reach, so let's go and preach the gospel to every creature so that the elect will hear!

Furthermore, if we take God at His Word - He commands us to go out! That in itself should be enough! It helps, though, to have the gracious promise that the elect shall be saved.

Reformed theology should encourage seeking after spiritual gifts and healing

By the same token, Jesus told His disciples to pray for the sick! We have the model of the early church praying for the sick! We are commanded to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14v1). Isn't that enough?

Simply saying that God is sovereign and will give gifts and give healing if it is His will is a form of hyper-calvinism. If we apply the same logic to the rest of our lives we would not reach out and we would not strive for godliness. God has commanded us to preach, to be godly and to seek spiritual gifts.

But God's sovereignty is surely an encouragement. We are told - "How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him" (Matt 7v11), and "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." (1 Cor 12v7).

Here again is gracious encouragement. He commands - so we obey, but He also promises. He will give gifts! It is part of His sovereign plan. So let us actively seek Him for them.

He is the great Healer (Exodus 15v26). It is part of His sovereign purposes to heal - not everyone, but many. So why not pray in faith? And we will have the joy of seeing God answer in power and we will give Him the glory for His mighty work.

And if it is not His will to heal in that particular instance or at that particular time, we have lost nothing. We have shared precious fellowship in caring for His people in prayer, and we know that He works all things together for good to those who love Him. And we know that we find Him in the valley.

May God's sovereignty fuel our faith and our praying. And may we see a mighty outpouring of healing power.

05/05/2007

A preacher’s dream

My holiday reading on the Puritans made mention of Laurence Chaderton of Cambridge. Here is one report about a memorable Sunday message:

“On one occasion Chaderton broke off after two hours in the pulpit, declaring that he proposed to trespass no longer on his hearers’ patience. At that, his biographer narrated, ‘the auditory cried out, [wonder not if hungry people craved more meat] “For God’s sake, Sir, Go on! Go on!”’”

I wonder if, in this age of the soundbite, such behaviour is regarded as strange. It may only seem like a quaint story from the past, but is the fact that it is so far from much of our present experience of church a reflection of the condition of our hearts?

Even in our recent history, Dr Lloyd-Jones encouraged churches to give their preachers time. Do we? Should we? Can we become too concerned with modern views which say that people can only concentrate for a certain number of minutes? Can we become too concerned with the slick powerpoint presentation?

Of course there is bad preaching around, but bad preaching shouldn't mean no preaching, or dumbed-down preaching. One of the judgements that God said would come to His people was a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord (Amos 8v11).

May that not happen! I am challenged by this Chaderton, not to preach longer, but to pray for more unction, and for more unction upon the hearts of the hearers that they become hungry - even desperate - for the Word. When ministry colleagues of mine have travelled to Eastern Europe and China they report that people will happily sit for two hours or more and listen to the Word preached. When I visit my brothers and sisters in the Afro-Caribbean churches, they will regularly and hungrily sit for well over an hour under the preaching of God's Word.

Is there something wrong with us? God's Word is powerful and effective (Heb 4v12), it is to build us up (Acts 20v32)! We need to have a solid foundation of doctrine and powerful application so that we stand firm and complete (2 Tim 3v16-17).

God, renew our desire after Your Word (Psalm 119v127)!

02/05/2007

Thy throne shall never pass away

One of the thrills of being in a church that is both charismatic and reformed, is the older members who have such a rich heritage of hymns. Again and again, these hymns are a reminder that the glorious expectation of Christ's kingdom increasing was a hope that was carried with faith by our spiritual forefathers - which we need to carry today!

Last night in the prayer meeting, my fellow leader, a retired pastor, closed with the hymn The Day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended.

I had sung it before, years and years ago and it had disappeared into the realms of those hymns which had passed into disuse. But last night it came with fresh fire, the last verse bursting out with faith:

So be it, Lord! Thy throne shall never,
Like earth's proud empires, pass away;
Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

Thy kingdom stands, and grows for ever! That's the promise of His Word - "Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9v7). Glorious!