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Showing posts from March, 2013

On Good Friday

’ Tis finished! The Messiah dies, Cut off for sins, but not His own: Accomplished is the sacrifice, The great redeeming work is done. ’Tis finished! all the debt is paid; Justice divine is satisfied; The grand and full atonement made; God for a guilty world hath died. The veil is rent in Christ alone; The living way to Heaven is seen; The middle wall is broken down, And all mankind may enter in. The types and figures are fulfilled; Exacted is the legal pain; The precious promises are sealed; The spotless Lamb of God is slain. The reign of sin and death is o’er, And all may live from sin set free; Satan hath lost his mortal power; ’Tis swallowed up in victory. Saved from the legal curse I am, My Saviour hangs on yonder tree: See there the meek, expiring Lamb! ’Tis finished! He expires for me. Accepted in the Well-beloved, And clothed in righteousness divine, I see the bar to heaven removed; And all Thy merits, Lord, are mine. Death, hell, and sin are n

Maundy Thursday: What's Important According to Jesus?

Today's Maundy Thursday (you know, the day before Good Friday, and the day on which Jesus ate the last supper with His disciples). Maundy Thursday's isn't really famous for what happened during the day, but rather for what happened that night. It was the night on which Jesus was betrayed. It was the night on which Jesus was arrested and tried before the High Priest. And before that it was the night on which He washed the disciples' feet and the night on which He prayed in Gethsemane. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) tell us a lot about what happened that night. John, on the other hand, tells us a lot about what Jesus said that night.  It was the night before the Cross, and yet Jesus spent a lot of it teaching His disciples. In fact, one of the largest chunks of Jesus' teaching to be found in the gospels, the Upper Room Discourse and High Priestly Prayer of John 13-17 was what He taught on that eventful night. Jesus knew what was coming. He had alre

Wednesday Words: The Cross

What better Wednesday Word could there be for the Wednesday of Holy Week than the Cross? (And, lest anyone be tempted to note that I’m a few days out, you can’t have a ‘Wednesday’ Word on a Friday, so this is as close as I can get!) In some ways the Cross doesn’t seem like all that good a candidate for a word to explain. We all know what a cross is: we see its shape adorning church steeples and neck-lines up and down the country. And you don’t need to have seen a gory film to know the excruciating nature of death on a cross. In fact, that’s even where the word excruciating comes from (Latin crux = cross). But the Cross is about a lot more than physical suffering. In fact, it’s quite possible to see the physical suffering and yet miss the point of the Cross. And sometimes on Good Friday there’s a temptation in that direction, to focus simply on the horrors of the physical suffering of the cross. To us those physical horrors seem strange and even unique, yet in Roman days there were

Thinking about why I blog

Last week the church's national office asked me to do a quick interview about the blog as part of a news post on their site, which got me thinking. They asked me about why I started blogging and what sort of things  people can expect to read. So I had to try to remember why I started blogging 5 years ago and try to think about what sort I things I actually write about. As they didn't use the actual interview in the end, I thought I'd post those two questions and answers here as a sort of partly thought-out explanation of this blog. What prompted you to start this blog? I was teaching at a Bible college at the time and doing some research on D.P. Williams and other early leaders in the Apostolic Church, and found a lot of their writing very helpful. So at the beginning I wanted to share some of their insights. I also got lots of theological questions from people in my own assembly and other assemblies, so I thought it would be helpful to write about the sort of

Meanwhile, Elsewhere

What Theological Challenges are coming our way? My Top Ten by Andrew Wilson. Wilson reflects very briefly on what he expects will be the issues "coming towards us as charismatic, evangelical churches." It's not wild speculation - he's not talking about issues that'll come up way in the future, but things that are already beginning to raise their heads now. So definitely worth thinking about. What About God Killing People in the Old Testament?  Was God different in the Old Testament? Was He mean? Why'd that happen? And how can we think about it and talk to people about it? A short, yet powerful reflection from Dave Bish. Some helpful self-assessment of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. Sam Storms (who is a charismatic) reflects wisely and helpfully on 10 strengths and weaknesses of the Charismatic movement. If you're a Pentecostal or charismatic, then read this! But Sam Storms doesn't leave it there. He goes on and gives  10 Suggestio

Reclaiming Faith: Stop Believing "for" things!

I have an idea. Let’s all stop ‘believing for ’ stuff. You know, the way we say things like, ‘I’m believing for growth’, or ‘I’m believing for breakthrough’, or even ‘I’m believing for healing’. That sort of thing. Let’s stop saying it! Why did we even start saying it in the first place? What does it even mean? I know it sounds really holy, but, you know what, sometimes things that sound really holy, well, just aren’t. Sometimes they just don’t make any sense at all. And this one doesn’t. Just think about it for a moment. What does believe mean? Well, ‘trust’. Now try switching the words. Believing for something might sound really holy, but ‘trusting for ’ something just doesn’t make any sense at all. Trust obviously isn’t something you do to earn a reward; that would be work. You can ‘work for’ stuff, but you can’t ‘trust for’ stuff. In fact, at the heart of the gospel there’s a key difference between working and trusting. Our sinful way to try and save ourselves is to ‘work for’

An English Gospel Martyr

Today, as the attention of many is focused on the enthronement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, it’s worth remembering that it‘s the 457th anniversary of the martyrdom of one of his most influential predecessors, Thomas Cranmer. Yes, 457 years ago today the leader of the English church was burnt at the stake for the sake of the gospel. Cranmer was the archbishop who oversaw the reformation of the English church. Although Henry VIII didn’t want a Reformation in his realm, just a Catholicism he could control, he ended up giving many of the most important jobs to evangelical Protestants (those two words being synonymous back then). Henry had Cranmer enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury. Then, after Henry’s death, with his Protestant son on the throne, Cranmer set about reforming the English church. One of the most significant ways that Cranmer brought reformation to the English church was through his Book of Common Prayer, and, although prayerbook worship might be rathe

The Word of God

What sort of Wednesday Word is that, I hear you ask. Surely everyone knows what the Word of God is – the Bible is the Word of God! Yet, ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). And when Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey, newly saved Gentiles ‘glorified the word of the Lord’ (Acts 13:48). The Word ‘grew mightily and prevailed’ (Acts 19:20). And the Word of the Lord gets preached and spoken a lot in the Bible too. Sometimes people even do things ‘by the Word of the Lord’ (e.g. 1 Kings 13:1) without that particular Word of the Lord being written down in the Word of the Lord! Confused yet?  So, the Bible is the Word. Yet Jesus is also the Word. And preaching and prophesying are the Word too. (For ease, let’s just group preaching and prophesying together as proclamation.) But the Bible isn’t Jesus, Jesus isn’t proclamation, and proclamation isn’t the Bible. So what is the Word? 

'The Lamb is All the Glory'

I was preaching about the glory of the Lord on Sunday. To cut a long sermon short, Jesus is the glory of the Lord. So if we want to see the Glory of the Lord then we're to look to Jesus. And thinking about that made me think of the song in the video (which if you subscribe by email might just look like a black box, so you might need to click through to the blog to see it). The lyrics are below. Have a look especially at verses 3,4 and 5.

Signs, Wonders and Worship?

What are signs and wonders all about? Basically, I'd say that the point of signs and wonders is to point people, not simply to a powerful God, but to who Jesus is. So, in John's Gospel there are seven signs, all of which reveal Jesus' real identity, but most people missed the point and just wanted the exciting miracles. In John 6:26, after the feeding of the 5000, Jesus says "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." In other words, they liked the miracles, but they missed the point, and that's no good. If it's really a sign it has to point to something. In Acts, when Peter and John heal the lame man when they go to pray in the temple, it leads to people gathering around to find out what's happened and so creates an opportunity to preach the gospel and many people believe (Acts 3:11-4:4 – in fact, that's when we're told that the church grew to 5000 people). There t

Exploding Pentecostal Myths: Pentecostalism shouldn't downplay the Word

There's a strange belief out in many places about Pentecostals and charismatics. For some reason, many people seem to think that Pentecostals/charismatics downplay the Bible in favour of either experience or ‘the Spirit’. And to be fair, there are examples of people who sometimes do that. (I do tend to get riled up by people who tell me ‘the Holy Spirit hasn’t spoken to me about that’ when the issue at hand is one that’s addressed in the Bible. In that case, my reply is along the lines of, ‘Yes He has! And it’s so important He’s even written it down in a book for you!’) Yet, we can’t judge a movement by a few sadly confused people. True Pentecostalism is a movement of the Word. In fact, if you had asked me growing up what was the distinctive of my church, I’d have said its belief in the authority of Scripture.  Back in the early days of Pentecostalism in Britain, D.P. Williams addressed the problem of some people who thought that they could pit the Spirit against the Word: 

Meanwhile, Elsewhere

Zac Hicks thinks carefully about what Spirit-filled worship really looks like  and some implications for our lives and for our planning. In the week the conclave elected a new pope, John Stevens, National Director of the FIEC, has written a helpful summary about evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism and Alpha. Alpha and Catholicism: Why are so many Evangelicals naive about Roman Catholicism? On a related note, Andrew Evans is surprised by the twitter reaction of many evangelicals to Cardinal Bergoglio's election and reminds them why the new pope (probably) isn't a Christian . Moving back to the world of evangelicalism, Gavin Ortlund explains why he changed his mind about baptism . Having been baptised as a baby in the Church of Scotland and brought up in American Presbyterianism, he became a convinced credobaptist (believer in believer's baptism), and he explains how. Still on the topic of baptism, here's an older, yet provocative post from Andrew Wilson on the subje

Wednesday Words: Baptism

This week’s Wednesday Word is Baptism , so what is it and why does it matter? The seventh Tenet of the Apostolic Church says that we believe in ‘the Sacraments of Baptism by immersion and of the Lord's Supper.’ So that gives us two things about baptism to start off with: 1) it’s a sacrament, 2) it’s by immersion. We’ll start with those and then go on and see what it’s got to do with Union with Christ, the Trinity, God’s Word, and Testimony.  A Sacrament So then, what’s a sacrament? As children we often learn the rhyme that a sacrament is ‘an outward seal and sign of an inward work divine’ instituted by Christ. (It was Jesus Himself who told His disciples to baptise and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.) The Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 66) explains this a bit more:  The Sacraments are visible holy signs and seals appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof He may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the Gospel: namely, that of free grace, He g

God and Opposites: Some Wisdom from Sibbes

'God often works by contraries: when he means to give victory, he will allow us to be foiled at first; when he means to give comfort, he will terrify at first; when he means to justify, he will condemn us first; when he means to make us glorious, he will abase us first. A Christian conquers even when he is conquered. When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security.' (Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed , p.95) Richard Sibbes, ‘the heavenly doctor’, has a way of getting to the heart of things with just a few words. ‘Sibbes never wastes the student’s time’, said Spurgeon, ‘he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.’ And Mike Reeves says of Sibbes that ‘reading him is like sitting in the sunshine: he gets into your heart and warms it to Christ.’ But what’s Sibbes going on about here where he talks about God working by contraries? What’s all this about terror coming before comfort, condemnation before j

Some Resources

I've finally got round to putting a few new resources online. They're things that people have asked me for copies of before, so I hope they'll be useful to others as well. I had put off putting them online before in the vain hope of having time to make some revisions and make some improvements, but, as I've realised I won't have time to do that any time soon, I thought I'd put them up as they are as they may still be of use. So here's what's been added: The Doctrine of the Application of Salvation - 40 pages on soteriology originally prepared as a course book for students on Leading Together in Swansea last year. It covers Grace, Regeneration, Faith & Repentance, Justification, Sanctification and the possibility of falling from grace. So, as you can see, it doesn't by any means cover the whole of soteriology, and even the areas it does cover aren't complete (as it was a supplement to the classes I taught). But some of it might possibly

The Cross, Our Future, and the Battle of the Hymns

I have to make a confession. I really don’t like ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ (the song that is, not the actual cross!). And that’s not particularly a problem. It’s not a song I’ve encountered a lot. I didn’t grow up singing it (it’s not even in the Redemption Hymnal ) and it’s not suddenly popular and no one’s begging me to use it in church. So why do I even bring it up? Well, simply because the same problem that creeps into ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ so easily creeps into our thinking (even if we’ve never heard of that particular song). What, you may ask, is this problem precisely? Well, it’s not the age of the song, or the style of the music (or even the fact that it’s not in the Redemption Hymnal). No, it’s the chorus. Or rather, an idea that’s in the chorus. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown. There are two words there that really jar: ‘till’ and ‘exchange’ . Now,

Meanwhile, Elsewhere - Some really good links!

I haven't posted any links here for ages (I've just been tweeting them instead), but this week there were just too many good things to read or to which to listen, so I thought I would resurrect the Meanwhile, Elsewhere format. If you follow one link anywhere on the internet this week, let it be this one and listen to Steve Levy's amazing sermon on praying and preaching (Eph. 6:19-20). If you preach, listen to this. If you listen to preaching (which is everyone who goes to church!), listen to this. If you want to see the power of God at work, listen to this. Glen Scrivener reminds us of the importance of the fact that, not only did Christ die for us, but we died in Him . And then he shows what it means for holiness and for healing. In light of Steve Chalke's recent article on homosexuality, and the arguments in the CofE about women bishops, trajectory hermeneutics seem to be all the rage. Andrew Wilson has a look at the idea, the back up, and where it all goes wro

Wednesday Words: Repentance

Over the last fortnight we’ve looked at grace and faith , and seen that what really saves us is Jesus Christ and Him crucified. But where does repentance fit into all this? After all, that’s what Jesus Himself preached – ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (Mark 1:14). Not only that, it’s what He commanded us to preach, commissioning His disciples ‘that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations’ (Luke 24:27). And then, later on, Paul told the Ephesian elders that he testified ‘to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21). So repentance wasn’t only an important aspect of Christ’s preaching, but also part of what He commissioned the Church to preach and part of the preaching of the apostles, like Paul.  But how does this repentance business fit in with being saved ‘by grace alone through faith alone’ (which, we’ve been seeing, really means ‘by the finished work of Christ alone’ )? Is rep

The Genius of Tenet 4: Double Grace in Chirst

To mark the 500th post on this blog, I thought I'd better write something that fitted well with the name 'Apostolic Theology' . So today's post is about both theology and the Apostolic Church, and to do that we’re going to have a quick look at one of the Tenets. The Tenets of the Apostolic Church consist of only 146 words, and so the desire was for doctrinal precision in as few words as possible. And in that minimal number of words, the words ‘justification by faith’ don’t appear. Oh dear! Isn’t that a bit embarrassing? Surely that means we lose all our good evangelical Protestant credentials? Not at all. For the Tenets say something much better than ‘justification by faith’ . You see, if they had simply said ‘justification by faith’ or ‘justification by grace through faith’ that wouldn’t be enough to tell us very much. The Roman Catholic Church would have no problem with a statement like that – they believe wholeheartedly in ‘justification by grace through faith’

On the Feast of St. David: A Welshman and the essence of Christian Leadership

While I wouldn’t want to condone the veneration of saints, I’m all for learning lessons from those who have gone before us. And, seeing as it’s St David’s Day today, I thought we could learn a lesson from Dewi (that was his proper name). Now, first of all let me say this, most of what we know about Dewi’s life was written down about four or five hundred years after his death, so no doubt some of the details have been embellished or misremembered with time. As well as that, when ‘Lives’ were written of saints back in those days, the intent was not to give us what we’d understand as a biography today. Rather, hagiographies were usually written to give a reverential account of a saint’s miracles and deeds. And often there were other reasons behind their writing as well (in the case of Dewi, his Vita was written in part to enhance the claims of the bishops of Saint David’s to metropolitan status and equality with Canterbury). Added to that warning about the little we know about De