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Follow ActionOverseas for Prayer Updates

ActionOverseas, the missionary arm of the UK Apostolic Church, now has a Facebook page for prayer updates about our missionary work. So, if you'd like to hear the latest Apostolic overseas mission prayer requests, then 'like' it. Apparently they're also on Twitter, so you can follow @ActionOverseas.

Desire Spiritual Gifts (Part 2)

Yesterday we looked at two important reasons why we should desire spiritual gifts (namely, because the gifts of the Spirit point to the Lordship of Christ , and because the gifts bear witness to the Gospel ). Today, let's have a look at a third reason to earnestly desire the gifts. The gifts of the Holy Spirit build up believers . The sixth Tenet of the Apostolic Church states that we believe in ' The nine gifts of the Holy Ghost for the edification, exhortation and comfort of the Church, which is the body of Christ. ' We don't just believe in the gifts, but we also believe that they've been given for a specific purpose; and that purpose is the edification, exhortation and comfort of the Body of Christ. Where does the Bible teach this? Well, in 1 Cor. 14:3 these three purposes are specifically attached to the gift of prophecy. However, prophecy is clearly not the only gift given for our edification: 1 Cor. 14:26 says that everything that's done in a church s

Desire Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 14:1 tells us to ' desire spiritual gifts .' It's an imperative, a command. And if we're commanded to desire these gifts of the Holy Spirit, that means they're necessary. But, why do we need the gifts? Well, firstly, the gifts of the Holy Spirit point to the Lordship of Christ . We can see this in 1 Cor. 12:1-3. Anyone who speaks by the Spirit of God will demonstrate the Lordship of Christ. How? The content of the gift highlights Christ's Lordship. The words that are spoken in prophecy will point to Jesus as Lord. But, not only does the content of the gift highlight Christ's Lordship, but the very manifestation of the gift itself points to the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord. It is He who is in control of the gifts, not us. We can't decide that there should be a gift in operation, only the Lord of the Church can. We don't determine the content of a spiritual gift, only Christ does through His Holy Spirit. (N.B. 1 Cor. 12:4-6 point

Reforming the "Spirit Filled" Church (Part 3): Authentic Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual warfare is real. The only problem is sometimes the ideas people have about spiritual warfare aren't real. J. Lee Grady's 3rd and 4th reforms for the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements both speak about people's perceptions of spiritual warfare. 3. It’s time for personal responsibility. We charismatics must stop blaming everything on demons. People are usually the problem. 4. Stop playing games. Spiritual warfare is a reality, but we are not going to win the world to Jesus just by shouting at demonic principalities. We must pray, preach and persevere to see ultimate victory.

Don't Outsource Your Discipleship

'There is a big difference between saying that pastors discharge an essential ministry by making us disciples and quite another to say that they are vicarious disciples, studying, praying, meditating, and witnessing in our place. We can easily assume that we have discharged our duty by paying "church workers" to be disciples for us.' Michael Horton, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God's Strategy for Making Disciples (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), p.19

Jesus is coming again! (Part 2)

Yesterday we were looking the importance of Christ's return and learning a few things about it from Revelation 19:11-16. We saw that 1. Jesus is coming as King , and 2. Jesus is coming as God . Let's look at two more things about His return from these verses today. 3. Jesus is coming as Judge. Revelation 19:11 tells us that ' in righteousness He judges and makes war ' (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1). First He pronounces the just verdict, then He goes to war. But there's no need to worry; the outcome of this war is certain. The victory has already been assured by the Cross. And how does He wage this war of judgement? With ' a sharp sword ' (Rev. 19:15). Does this mean He's going to hack at His enemies? To answer that, look at where the sword comes from: ' out of His mouth '. The sword with which He wages His war of judgement is what comes out of His mouth; it's His Word. Jesus conquers by the power of His Word!

Jesus is Coming Again!

The return of Christ is a vital part of the Christian faith. It's so important, that's not only people that have spoken about it: in Acts 1:10-11 angels spoke about Jesus' return. And when the angels spoke, they taught that Christ would return suddenly, visibly, personally and bodily. But the fact that Christ would return wasn't some new revelation that the angels were bringing, for Jesus Himself had spoken of it (John 14:3), as had the Old Testament prophets. So let's have a brief look at this cardinal doctrine. Revelation 19:11-16 describes Jesus' return to the earth, and in these verses we can learn four very important things about how Jesus is coming back.

Reforming the "Spirit Filled" Church (Part 2): Back to the Bible

Pentecostals love the Bible. In a typical Pentecostal church you'll see many well-worn and well-marked up Bibles. We place emphasis on knowing the Scriptures, giving our children plenty of memory verses to learn and often singing songs that are simply direct quotations of Scripture. Pentecostals love the Bible. Yet, it seems, sometimes our love of the Bible causes us to take it for granted. Sometimes there's very little Scripture read in our services. Sometimes those well-worn Bibles are carried to church, but don't need to be opened. Sometimes adults seem to think that all the memory verse learning was finished at the age of 11 when you left Sunday school. That brings us J. Lee Grady's second reform proposal for the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement:

The Wonderful Exchange

This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion , iv.xvii.2

Of Royals, Reformers, and Romans (Or Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!)

Don't worry, this post isn't actually about the finer points of the British constitution. Nearly 500 years ago Luther, Bucer, Calvin, et al . wanted to reform the church. Nowadays Messrs Cameron , Harper , Key , et al. (not to forget Miss Gillard ) want to reform the monarchy. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government met (along with Her Majesty the Queen) in Australia, a realm with both a female monarch and a female Prime Minister. In fact, even the Governor-General of Australia (the Queen's representative in the realm) is a woman. So perhaps it was fitting that Australia be the place where the Commonwealth Realms agreed to introduce (and coordinate) legislation to change the royal succession so that daughters are treated in the same way as sons. Yet, that wasn't the only change they agreed to the royal succession. The other change the Prime Ministers agreed was to remove the ban on a monarch married to a Roman Catholic. A few years ago Autumn Kelly co

Reforming the "Spirit Filled" Church (Part 1b): A bit more on Reforming our Theology

Well, this will do wonders for my PhD motivation! Last year a friend and I went to an academic theological conference. It was an academic event held in a secular university, yet nearly everyone there was a Pentecostal or Charismatic (as the conference was to do with Pentecostal & Charismatic Studies). It's the only time I've ever seen the laying on of hands and prayer for healing during a session of an academic conference! Yesterday we looked at how J. Lee Grady points to the need to reform our theology when it comes to the Holy Spirit. But today I want to take that reform further than Grady's suggestion. And that's what brings me back to the academic conference. Now, let me just say that it was a conference I very much enjoyed. My thinking was stimulated. I had refreshing discussions with serious Pentecostal theologians from all over the world. In one day I talked about the liturgy over breakfast with a Singaporean theologian, discussed patristic Trinitari

Another Song for the Lord's Supper

As a postscript to last week's post on songs for communion , here's one more. Zac Hicks has taken a communion hymn written by Joseph Hart in the 1750s and transformed it into a contemporary worship song on his new album, Without Our Aid . It's a great album, the aim of which 'is to combine the energy and vitality of the modern worship sound (made most popular by groups like Passion and Hillsong), with the depth, theology, and historical connectedness of Christian hymnody across time.' Lord I Believe is a communion hymn that includes both our feeding on Christ and the meaning of the Cross. Here are the last two verses: I eat the bread and drink the wine, But, O, my soul wants more than sign! I faint unless I feed on Thee, And drink the blood as shed for me. For sinners, Lord, Thou cam’st to bleed, And I’m a sinner vile, indeed. Lord, I believe Thy grace is free. O magnify that grace in me. The MP3 is available for free from Justin Taylor&#

Reforming the "Spirit Filled Church"(Part 1): Reforming our Theology

Martin Luther wasn't able to blog. Earlier this week I recommended J. Lee Grady's article ' It's (Past) Time for a Charismatic Reformation ' from Charisma . If you're Pentecostal or Charismatic and haven't read Grady's article yet, then please do: he's saying things that need to be said. In Grady's own words: 'I am no Luther, but I’ve grown increasingly aware that the so-called “Spirit-filled” church of today struggles with many of the same things the Catholic church faced in the 1500s. We don’t have “indulgences”—we have telethons. We don’t have popes—we have super-apostles. We don’t support an untouchable priesthood—we throw our money at celebrity evangelists who own fleets of private jets. In honor of Reformation Day, I’m offering my own list of needed reforms in our movement. And since I can’t hammer these on the Wittenberg door, I’ll post them online. Feel free to nail them everywhere.' Like Luther, I'm sure Grady isn&

Justification & the Possibility of Falling from Grace

Falling from grace is more serious! Justification is the doctrine ‘upon which the Church stands or falls.’  So we can't allow ourselves to compromise our doctrine of justification in order to over emphasise another doctrine.  Unfortunately, this is sometimes what happens with the doctrine of the possibility of falling from grace. Occasionally this doctrine is overemphasised in a way which distorts the Bible’s teaching on the subject and which does damage to the doctrine of justification.  This can happen when it is taught that sin causes believers to lose their salvation.  The biblical teaching is that believers are simil iustus et peccator (justified and sinful at the same time); in the words of 1 John 1:8, ‘if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’  Thus believers sin and will continue to sin throughout their earthly lives.  Our continuance in a state of having been justified does not depend on us or our works , but rather on Chri

Reformation Day Round-up

494 years ago yesterday, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg. He had no idea at the time, but that was to be the beginning of something big. Luther's announcement of a debate ended up sparking the Reformation, which is why the 31st October is remembered as Reformation Day. Rather than retell the story yesterday, I thought I'd wait until today and point you in the direction of some of the good things that have been written elsewhere to mark Reformation Day this year (with a few comments thrown in along the way). The Reformation isn't just history. It's lessons still need to be applied today. And for three good ways to apply some lessons of the Reformation today, have a look at  3 Ways to make the Reformers proud  (Clint Archer,  The Cripplegate). Here's a quick summary (but this is just to make you want to read the original!):- 1. Read more Bible than blogs! After all, the Reformation was all about getting back to the

What is Sin?

Eating apples isn't necessarily sinful. If there's one thing we all know about sin, it's that it isn't good. But what exactly is it? The closest we get to a one verse answer in the Bible is that 'sin is lawlessness' (1 John 3:4). So, does that mean sin is committing crimes? Does that mean sin is really bad stuff like the looting and rioting that went on during the summer? A 'yes' answer would come as a relief to most of us. After all, we're not criminals. We even disapprove of the criminal behaviour we hear about on the news. Yet the Bible tells us that 'all have sinned' (Rom. 3:23). How can it be? It can be, because the law we're talking about when we talk about sin isn't the law of the United Kingdom (or whatever country you happen to be sitting in), but rather, God's law. That means sin isn't just the serious crimes we hear about on the six o'clock news; sin is anything that goes against what God has said

Jesus lived for me

A living lamb. This one might have spots and blemishes, but the Lamb of God didn't. Christ’s sinless life is of the utmost importance for our salvation.  He needed to be sinless in order for His sacrifice to be acceptable on our behalf.  He could only bear our sins because He had none of His own.  Indeed, we ‘were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot’ (I Pet 1:18-19). However, this is not the only significance of Christ’s sinlessness for our salvation.  Christ’s sinless blood, shed for us, secures the forgiveness of our sins.  Yet this only brings us back to the state of Adam and Eve at the beginning in the Garden of Eden.  At that time they didn't have eternal life.  They would have had to continue in obedience to God (keep His covenant) in order to be established in righteousness and receive eternal life.  Yet Christ, like Adam, is our covenantal represe

One Cup

'Again, there is to be one cup, just as there is one loaf. The church is one body, for Christ is not divided into one hundred or more fragments.' Robert Letham, The Lord's Supper: Eternal Word in Broken Bread (Philipsburg: P&R, 2001), p. 42 'As we share the same cup, we realise that we have an equal share, a common interest in the same Saviour. We realise that we are all on the same level - just sinners saved by grace. There is a greater unity and sense of oneness.' Edwin Williams, 'The Lord's Supper', Riches of Grace , vii 5 (May 1932), p.214

Missing Verses and Theology

Long mine imprisoned spirit lay Fast bound by sin and nature's night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light: My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. So goes the fourth verse of Charles Wesley's well-loved hymn And Can It Be . Or at least so it goes if you live in the UK, for one day I was leafing through the hymnbook of a certain American Pentecostal denomination which happened to be lying around at work (yes, it's true, that is the sort of place I used to work) only to find that their version of And Can It Be only has 3 verses (as opposed to the traditional 5) and that this particular verse is one of those missing. As this is one of the greatest of all hymns, and this verse is a great verse in its own right, I've been wondering why it's missing from aforementioned American hymnal. As I see it, there are two possible reasons (okay, I admit there are in fact more po

Songs for the Lord's Supper

When it comes to songs for the Lord's Supper, maybe I'm a bit picky. What I don't want are songs that just focus on remembrance. Why not? Well, for two reasons: The Lord's Supper is about more than just remembrance! In the Supper we feed on Christ in our hearts with thanksgiving. People often have a tendency to revert to a functional Zwinglianism, so I don't want songs that would reinforce that. Instead I want our singing to remind us that in the sacrament, those who receive in faith, partake of Christ and all His benefits. Remembrance isn't about remembering to remember - it's about remembering what Christ accomplished through His death.  Some worship songs for communion make much of the act of remembering, but then skim over the details of the gospel we're supposed to be remembering. When we remember and proclaim the Lord's death, we're remembering and proclaiming the fact that Christ bore the full weight of God's wrath for our si

And Can it Be

And Can it Be is one of my favourite hymns. There are few worship songs of any age that can compare to its celebration of the gospel and wonder at the grace of Christ. It's been re-hymned a few times and I've always been disappointed at the results. Sagina (the hymn tune its normally sung to) has some quality that sets it apart; it doesn't sound like other hymns, and so it draws attention the great lyrics. There are so many great hymns with terrible tunes that could do with re-hymning, why not do something for them instead? So, when I saw a few months ago that Phatfish were going to be releasing a new re-hymning of And Can it Be on their latest album, I wan't all that enthused. But I was wrong. Today I heard it. It's beautiful, contemplative, and draws fresh attention to the words, and thus to the wonders of the gospel. So, here it is. Enjoy. Worship. And survey the wonders of the Cross.

Do Benedict and Rowan have a point?

The Bishop of Rome recently divulged his thoughts concerning the growth of Pentecostal and Evangelical Christianity around the world: 'Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon . . . poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse?' Benedict XVI , Erfuhrt, Germany, 23rd September, 2011 Benedict admits the 'missionary dynamism' of what he looks at as 'a new form of Christianity', yet he goes on to bring a major critique. His Anglican counterpart in Canterbury has also given his view of Evangelicalism: 'I t is  something that I think became very important to me at one or t

Why we still need church government in a 'post-denominational' age: A Biblical case for Council

The Council of Nicea. (You can tell it's not a picture of last year's May Council because we don't wear hats.) We live in an increasingly post-denominational world. Independent churches and loosely affiliated networks abound. 'Surely that's the way of the future', it might seem. But, there is one argument that can turn our attention away from what seems to be in vogue: the New Testament demonstrates a church government that doesn't stop at the doors of the local church. One way in which the New Testament shows church government going beyond the local is in the concept of Council. The word Council isn't actually used, but the concept is certainly there. The major biblical example of Council, is the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. The Jerusalem Council was held to decide upon an important matter of doctrine. Yet the actual manner of the convening of the Council is worth noting. Paul and Barnabas didn’t go up to Jerusalem for Council because it was

Nigerian Gospel Treasure

The city of Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria. This is where Pastor Philip Olowo is from. The imputation of Christ's righteousness. That's what the Nigerian pastor spoke about. He extolled the virtues of Christ's active obedience, made sure his listeners were clear on the truth of justification by faith alone, and came back again to the theme of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Throughout the evening he reminded his listeners of what Jesus did for us at the Cross and encouraged them to walk in the Spirit. And he prayed; godly prayers, biblical prayers. I remember it well, for it was just last night and I was sitting right beside him. A few months ago, Conrad Mbewe, a faithful, sound, gospel-preaching, Zambian pastor wrote a warning about Nigerian religious junk . Later D.A. Carson interviewed him about it at the Gospel Coalition. (Mbewe is actually very clear in both his article and the interview, however, that Nigeria isn't actually the country of orig

Recommended Reading on the Lord's Supper

     The Lord's Supper is at the heart of the life of the church. Right from the very beginning we're told that the Body of Christ ' continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers' (Acts 2:42). So here are some helpful books to encourage you to learn more about something so important. ·          Richard D. Phillips, What is the Lord’s Supper (PRP, 2005) A short booklet (30 pages) looking at the biblical teaching and theology of the sacrament. ·          David Allen, Neglected Feast: Rescuing the Breaking of Bread (Expression/New Life Publishing, 2007) A short, easy to read book written by a lecturer from a British Pentecostal Bible college. I've blogged about this book before . It even made my list of top books I read in 2009 as my top Pentecostal book. Back then I'd borrowed it from the library, but didn't know where to get my hands on a copy to buy. Since then I've found ou