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Showing posts from August, 2012

A few thoughts from the news: The place of faith in British society

A few weeks ago the world tuned in to a display of modern-day Britain, and right in the midst of it, embedded among the scenes of the NHS, the industrial revolution, the Beatles, J.K. Rowling, Mr Bean, the world-wide web and James Bond, great hymns of faith made themselves heard. Abide With Me and Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah rang out, as did the familiar prayer for God to save our Queen. (No doubt the organisers considered Jerusalem a hymn as well, but we'll not get into that!)

Now, I'm sure the opening ceremony of the games of the 30th Olympiad could be read in many different ways. But certainly it acknowledged that, somehow, faith (and specifically Christian faith) plays a role in the story of these isles.

Now skip on a fortnight. Today the role of faith in our society made it to the main story in the Daily Telegraph. The subject was a call from two doctors and a chaplain at Great Ormond Street for the faith of parents to stop being a 'determining factor' in court …

God's Two Words: Law and Gospel

God speaks to us two words in Scripture: His word of Law and His word of Gospel. Both law and gospel are God's Word, and yet it's vital to distinguish between the two, as they each perform a different function. Both are God's Word, and yet they're two fundamentally different ways of speaking.

The Law is God's Word. But the Law is essentially an uncomfortable word (which is what we need to understand). God hasn't given His Law as a way of salvation. Romans 3:20 explains what is and what isn't the function of the Law:
'Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.' In the earlier verses of Romans 3 we read that no one has kept the law, no one is righteous (vv.10-18). In fact, when the Law is heard, it revels to people their guilt (Romans 3:19). That's the job of the Law. God has not spoken His word of Law as a way of salvation: it cannot justify. God has spoken His Law in order to…

I'm not the centre of the universe (and neither are you)!

Why do we always want to make everything about us? Well, actually the answer to that is simple enough - after all, Augustine said the very essence of sin was to be turned in on yourself - incurvatus in se. And yet we persist in living our lives as if everything were about us. We want other people to revolve around us. We want church life and church services to revolve around us. And so we ask of a meeting, is it convenient for me? And will I enjoy it? We even have the propensity to listen to sermons that are all about me and sing songs about what I'll do, what I want, and what I'll receive. Even church, it seems, can so easily become all about me.

Yet that's not the life that God calls us to. He is not a God who comes to our aid to help us better enjoy a life turned in on itself. No. He is the out-looking and out-going God, who has sent His Son and His Spirit to turn our lives, not so much upside down as inside out. We are made in His image and being renewed by His Spirit…

On the Sunday After Convention

Okay, so Ablaze is over, and we're all back in our own assemblies. Perhaps there'll only be a few of you wherever you are in church tomorrow morning. Perhaps the music won't be so accomplished or well led. Perhaps the preaching won't be so exciting. Perhaps there isn't the same anticipation of God speaking through prophecy. (Or perhaps there is to all those things.)

But, no matter what, Christ is just as powerfully, and (even more importantly) graciously present among you in your small assembly when you gather to the ordinary means of Word and Sacrament.

So, don't go to church expecting an anti-climax after the excitement of convention. Go expecting to encounter Christ in His Word. Go expecting to feed on Christ at His Table. And go rejoicing that where Christ crucified is lifted up, God is present in His glory and His grace.

It's not the big crowd or the big speakers that bring the glory of God. Only Jesus does. So look to Him this Lord's Day.

The Other Gifts: Singleness and Marriage

One of the seminars at Ablaze earlier in the week touched on spiritual gifts. On the screen there was a big chart showing all these gifts mentioned in the New Testament. There were the Ephesians 4 gifts, the 1 Corinthians 12 gifts, the Romans 12 gifts, and the 'Miscellaneous Passages' gifts (or as the joke ran last week, the life of Ps Black in Leeds: celibacy, voluntary poverty and martyrdom!).

So, I've been thinking since about some of those other gifts. Now, that was only a few days ago, so I haven't been thinking very long (or very hard for that matter), so what follows are only tentative thoughts, not firm dogma!

What exactly are these gifts? For, whether intentionally or not, we tend to work on assumptions about the nature of such things. Peter Wagner (not a source I often quote) gives what I think is probably the widespread assumption of a definition of the gift of celibacy: 'the gift of celibacy is the special ability that God gives to certain members of th…

Some Post-Ablaze Reflections

Now that convention has been and gone, it's important not to just leave it in the past and forget about it. So I want to offer a few reflections stemming from this year's Ablaze UK.

1. God does what He says He's going to do

The Lord spoke in prophecy on Tuesday night and said He was going to bring a prophetic anointing on His people - and He did. Now, we could have got in the way of that through focusing on the clock and all that needed to be fitted in to the last night; but we can't stop God doing what He says He's going to do. And if He did what He said He would in the meeting, that's just further confirmation that He really will do what He's said He will outside the convention meeting.

I think that what God did on Tuesday night through the prophetic Word, and what He says He's going to do, is the culmination of a number of prophetic words over the last year, going back to the prophecy at Ablaze last year about a shout from God coming into the fellows…

The Last Night at Ablaze UK

Well, it's all over now until next year! Last night there was good news and there was even more good news tonight.

Ps Elwyn Williams brought powerful prophetic ministry, with the declaration from the Lord, 'Welcome home! For some years I have brought you through difficulties, but over these days I have placed you where you can stand... I have touched the mouth of the Apostolic Church this week ... and today I release your mouths to speak. Speak to tear down the things that need to be torn down. Speak to uproot problems ... And my Word will cause things to take root and they will begin to grow again.'

'I am going to do something special and bring a prophetic anointing on you. Open your mouths right now as this prophetic unction comes over you. It will be an unction that causes you to speak life into dead situations.'

'I want you to speak and advance in the Spirit. Speak and prophesy into your church. Speak into absolutely dead situations and as you do you will s…