27/02/2008

An answer to cessationists

This morning at the Life in the Spirit Conference, Sam Storms gave a masterly outline of Revelation 11. He said some amazing stuff, which I will publish in another post, but there was one application to the "debate" with cessationists that Sam shared almost as a parenthesis to the rest of the message.

One of the main objections given to the idea that the gift of prophecy operates today is that it adds to the Word of God. So, goes the argument, when the canon of scripture was completed, there was no need for prophecy, because the revelation was complete.

But Revelation 11 tells us that the "two witnesses" will prophesy!!! Whatever your view of this passage, whether it represents a literal two people in Jerusalem, or the church as a whole, there is no question that this passage uses the term "prophesy", and that it also speaks of miraculous signs and wonders.

While our view of eschatology might determine when these events take place (either in the future, or in the present church), these events are taking (or will take) place after the completion of the canon of scripture.

So the Bible clearly shows that miraculous signs and prophecy occur after the death of the original apostles, and after the completion of the canon of scripture. So there is no argument that can say "these things have ceased."

These gifts are very much for this age!

07/02/2008

Passion for His presence

It seems that almost every time I post here, I am apologising for the long time since the last post! But this time, I have searched my Bible and I can't find any commandment which says "thou shalt blog at least once a week"! Praise God!! Although I am grateful for those of you who take time to visit and I don't want you to be wasting your time checking and finding nothing, I plead for your patience!

Allow me to explain! I am certainly not lacking anything to post! It is simply time!! I could happily sit and post here all day, but as I am responsible for the church here in South East London, that has to be my priority. So I haven't forgotten the blog, there is much I am bursting to say (three more draft posts, and one over at the new blog After God's Own Heart) and it will come out as time permits!

Anyway, last week in my reading through the scriptures, I came to Psalm 84. Verse 4 says (in the NKJV), "Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You."

There was a real mistake I made in previous years as a pastor. I was so desperate for passionate worship in the church that I must admit I put pressure on people. Of course, there is a place for exhorting people to draw near to God, but the exhortations had become heavy handed; I was almost looking for a charismatic "form" of worship (hands raised, dancing etc, etc) and (although I didn't realise it at the time) people were crushed. Many were feeling that if they didn't "perform" then they weren't accepted. The horrors of legalism!!
:-(

My problem was passion for a "form" of worship, rather than a passion for His presence. This verse is so key - those who dwell in His house (are tangibly in His presence), will still (other versions say "always", "ever") be praising. Presence leads to praise! Presence leads to passion and delight in God.

Dwelling in His presence leads to effortless praise. Of course we still have to choose to declare His praise, but His presence releases something in us. How can we be silent with such tangible power and glory around us? How can we ignored the beauty of the Lord?

His presence is everything! Ruth Heflin said, "The glory is not in a song - the glory is in His Presence".

Rob Rufus said, "God said to me when I moved to Hong Kong; 'Son, if you will live not to fill buildings with people but will live to fill people with My Presence then I will fill buildings with people full of My Presence'".

This is also a vital promise for our own personal walk. The key word is "dwell". What a wonderful word!! Not "visit" but "dwell". Most of us visit God's presence. We visit in corporate worship, or in our regular "devotions". But this verse says "dwell". And this is the norm of new covenant life. The curtain is torn in two and so we meet God on the basis of His finished work!! There is no work to be done to get in His presence!! We haven't got to be kneeling or bowing or talking in hushed tones. We haven't got to have our eyes closed. We haven't got to be in a church building.

The curtain is open, we can dwell in the house of the Lord. You can be in the house of the Lord at your desk at work, on a building site, fixing a computer, playing with the children, washing up, cleaning the house, digging the garden, walking the dog, going for a run, lying in bed, having a shower, painting a wall, driving a car, anywhere!

And the result of being in His presence - we will still be praising!! Always, anywhere, anytime. Praising in His presence!