Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Unstoppable Spirit of God

Christianity is principally a Charismatic religion. It is supernatural, spiritual, miraculous, and mysterious. These are words that sum up 'charismatic' which comes from the Greek word- "charis" which is most often translated 'grace'. Therefore, Christianity is principally a religion of grace. This makes Christianity unique among the world's religions.
This grace is administered by the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of God. It was the Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus as He ministered and performed miracles. It was the Holy Spirit who filled, empowered and led the original apostles and disciples as they preached, prayed, worked wonders, and planted churches. It was the Holy Spirit who dramatically entered the world of man on the Day of Pentecost and the whole world shook at His arrival! And the world is still being shaken!

Jesus spoke with the deepest respect about the Holy Spirit. In John 3 He said that it was the Holy Spirit who brought salvation to a human soul. In doing this the Holy Spirit removes an unbelieving heart and replaces it with the gift of a believing heart. He takes out the still-born spirit of a person and replenishes it with a God-enriched new spirit. He removes God-hating sinful desires and plants in their place the seeds of God-honouring desires. At first, Jesus said, the Holy Spirit would confront people. They would immediately recognise what they had previously been blinded to - their true condition before God. Jesus referred to this as conviction of sin. Without this initiation, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit could not commence.
Throughout the centuries, the Holy Spirit has unexpectedly landed upon unsuspecting people and revolutionised their lives and literally changed the course of human history. Jesus also said of this soon-to-be phenomena-
John 3:8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
History cetainly verifies what Christ stated. From the mighty Medieval Italian street-preaching evangelist, Savonarola, to the great English outdoor preacher, John Wesley, to the erudite Australian public theologian and one of the greatest preachers of all time, F.W. Boreham, to the history-making American preacher, Billy Graham - the Holy Spirit has un-arrested the most unlikely people and set them ablaze with a holy passion for the Cause of Christ.

Over the past few months, I have witnessed up close the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Never before in my pastoral ministry have I ever had so many completely unchurched people make appointments with me to talk about the condition of their souls. In nearly every case I have begun by ntroducing them to God and explaining His acts and attributes. And in each case, those whom the Holy Spirit had been breathing on did not need a lot of convincing about God, His acts or His attributes. I have seen the "wind of the Spirit" blowing over the young people of the Tamar Valley!
He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit.Titus 3:5
Each Sunday night we meet to pray for the people of the Tamar Valley to have the Holy Spirit blow upon them. And from George Town to Youngtown He is! We now have people from all over the Tamar Valley experiencing the breeze of the Holy Spirit across their souls. Every Sunday new attenders are drawn to our worship services with an alien curiosity about the things of God. As the Holy Spirit continues to blow across the formerly dead spirits of those He has wooed we can expect that the Unstoppable Spirit of God will ignore devilish, carnal pleas to desist, and will continue to interrupt people's lives with His saving grace.

This is why we pray. This is what we pray for. This is why we can be assured of answered prayer - even if we don't all have the privilege of seeing up close. In the near future we can expect that the Holy Spirit will prepare us to receive the most unlikely trophies of Christ's grace. But we can be assured that the same Holy Spirit will prepare us to be His instruments of grace so that He might work in us all to glorify Christ.
1Corinthians 2:12 ¶ Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
Father, help us to be nourished by You. May we experience Your nourishing grace through wonder, amazement, adoration, and appreciation of what You have both done and inspired. As we gather as Your House in Your House, Sunday by Sunday and through the week in our various homes, may we have our souls nourished as a result. Help us to be a means of spiritual nourishment to those You place in our lives. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 21 July 2011

How To Nourish Your Soul

The problem I have with discussing eating to be nourished is that it is such a foreign concept to most of us. Most of the time my eating is for pleasure rather than nourishment. While I've fasted a day here and there recently and experienced mild tummy grumbling, the notion of what two-thirds of the world calls "hunger" is largely an alien concept. But if I can be allowed the forgiveness to discuss the need for 'nourishment' I should like to draw from what our bodies may experience to what our soul's need.
Nourish. The Scriptures paints a delightfully insightful snapshot of our soul's need and ability to be nourished. With the right kind of nourishment, weariness gives way to strength. With the right kind of nourishment, gloom is exchanged for encouragement. With the right kind of nourishment, loneliness is turned to contentment. With the right kind of nourishment, problems are turned to opportunities. And weariness, gloom, loneliness, and despair are all conditions of the soul. If we can learn to nourish our souls, we can learn how to respond to these soul-depleting afflictions.

Our souls need nourishment even more than our bodies do. A malnourished body can be dramatically revitalised by nourishment as Jonathan's was when he ate the honey that his father had banned his starving troops from eating while in long pursuit. Then Jonathan said, "My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey (1Sam. 14:29). Jonathan's weary body was nourished and restored from eating wild honey. A nourished soul is a restored soul. In Psalm 23, David describes God as restoring souls ("He restores my soul...") and concludes with a picture of God's restoration of a soul as a banquet table set to to nourish ("You prepare a table before cup overflows..."). Souls need nourishing.

In John 4, Jesus sends His disciples on ahead to get food while He waited by a Samaritan well. He soon strikes up a conversation with a woman about her parched and malnourished soul and offers her water. When the disciples return, they offer their hungry Lord some food but He declines because He has just eaten and nourished His soul. The disciples are curious about this. Christ reveals the source of His soul's nourishment as doing the will of My Father-
John 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work."
Jesus knew how to nourish His soul. The way He did it was almost counter-intuitive. Do you know how to nourish your soul?

As with any nourishment, the immediate result is a sense of satisfaction. This is why food always tastes better to a hungry person (Prov. 27:7).
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!Psalm 34:8
God is the only true Source of our soul's nourishment. Our spiritual fellowship with Him is the only sustainable means of finding nourishment. And there is much that connects our soul with Him - such as wonder at His creation, admiration of what He has inspired. I know of a man who would go to an art gallery each week and sit for an hour or so in front of a painting which the artist had done to the glory of God. This man found his soul nourished as a result. 

As parents of four children, Kim and I have found ou souls nourished as we as a family have attended church and sought to instill in our children a love for the House of God. Eric Liddell, an Olypic Gold Medalist and a devout follower of Christ, found nourishment for his soul when he used the gifts and talents God had given him. "When I run, I feel His pleasure" he said. Sometimes, nourishment for our soul comes from counter-intuitive avenues of God's grace. When you're weary, staying home from the House of the Lord seems more nourishing than making the effort to get up, get ready for Church, and go to Sunday worship. But assembling together on Sundays to be a part of the church's witness, to worship Christ together, to partake of the nourishment of the Lord's Table, to receive the Bread of Life through preaching, and to be immersed in revitalising Christian fellowship is all (at times) counter-intuitive nourishment for our souls.

There is of course a nourshment for your soul that you can enjoy now. Our soul's know full well that there is a world of difference between being still and doing nothing (Psalm 46:10).Our souls also know that when we cast all our cares onto Him, there is a divine care that nourishes our souls in return (1Peter 5:7). And the soul of the Psalmist knew that since beholding God brought the only true nourishment that our souls could receive, that it would only be by ensuring our eternal destiny by making peace with God, that we stood any chance of finding that ultimate nourishment that could bring ultimate satisfaction.
Psa. 17:15 ¶ But because I have done what is right, I will see you.
When I awake, I will be fully satisfied,
for I will see you face to face
Father, help us to be nourished by You. May we experience Your nourishing grace through wonder, amazement, adoration, and appreciation of what You have both done and inspired. As we gather as Your House in Your House, Sunday by Sunday and through the week in our various homes, may we have our souls nourished as a result. Help us to be a means of spiritual nourishment to those You place in our lives. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 15 July 2011


My hero, F.W. Boreham, had an interesting approach to proving God to unbelievers. He warned believers not to expend too much of their efforts attempting to prove God to a skeptic. Rather, he wrote, believers were more likely to be apologetically fruitful if they talked about God, who He was, what He had done, what He was doing. In fact, FWB wrote toward the end of his life that if he had his time over again as a preacher he would preach more about God than anything else.

Boreham argued that "proving" something that was obvious, could actually cause doubt about it. For example, imagining entering a majestic cathedral. The architecture is inspired by God's majestic transcendence. Its lofty ceilings, its tall stained glass windows, its artistically Biblical wall hangings, and its glorious timber beam trusses, all create a wonderful ambience for admiring the God Who rules the Universe. The Dean of the Cathedral, in the course of the worship service, may even draw the worshipers' attention to these elements of the old building. He may point out that the central part of the ceiling is dome-like and designed to point the worshiper to heaven. He may point to the very front of the Cathedral, the Chancel, to remind worshipers that we must draw near to God by means of approaching an sacrificial altar. But, if these objects and fixtures are pointed out in a cold fashion, their meaning is somewhat diminished.

But if the Ministering Dean was to go to great lengths to assure the gathered worshipers that the building they were in was "safe" and that there was no need to fear that the great timber beams they were gathered under would fall on their heads, and then proceeded to go to even greater lengths to describe in detail the material contained in the foundations of the Cathedral, he may actually be introducing an element of doubt into the minds of his listeners that was previously not there.

In a similar vein, when the believer tells the seeker about the scientific proofs for God from cosmology, astronomy, biology, archaelogy, and philosophy, he may actually create previously unimagined doubt in the mind of the seeker.
Instead, FWB encouraged, the believer was more likely to achieve their goal of helping seekers to believe if they spoke more of the One they believed in. By helping the visitor to use the Cathedral's majesty to help them worship the One the Cathedral was dedicated to, they could more likely help the seeker meet with God.

And this was FWB's grand argument. The greatest "proof" of God, he wrote, was to introduce the seeker to God! As believers spent time with God in their daily routines where their worship of Him is interwined with the more seemingly mundane activities, they were in a greater position to introduce the seeker to God.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8
There are good reasons to believe in God and equally good proofs for Him, but the danger is that we spend more time proving our proofs than introducing the One we are proving to the one who is seeking. Once introduced to God, the unbeliever-turned-believer can now appreciate the proofs for God - in a similar way that a worshiper more likely appreciates a Cathedral and its sacred fixtures when they are experiencing it.

Directly introducing a seeker to the God you are in relationship with is the greatest proof you can offer them. Once introduced to God, often through a worship experience such as a church service or prayer meeting, they can now begin to appreciate the cosmological proof, the teleological proof, the moral proof, the Christological proof and the experiencal proof.
Father, help us to introduce people to You. May our hearts ache with the ache of Your compassion for Your children who have wandered away from You. Open our eyes to see the world the way You want us to see it. May we as a church work together to introduce people to You. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bread & Discipleship

wheat and wheat productsOf all the glorious things to which our Lord could have compared Himself, among other things He identified Himself with "bread". In fact, Jesus spoke of bread quite often. He said we should ask God for it daily. He said children should expect it from their fathers. And on that night when eternity intersected with time, He took bread and broke it, and said, "This is my body."

Bread is derived from wheat and in Biblical times, barley. The wheat is sown in the ground and "dies" so that it can germanate. Jesus said that this is what He was doing. He had come down from heaven and like a grain of wheat would die and be put in the ground. When the wheat grows it develops a grain head. Unlike its imitator, tares, which closely resembles wheat, when its grain head is fully developed it bends over (the grain head on tares stands upright). This is a picture of the difference between the one who is planted by God ("wheat") and the one who sown by the enemy ("tares"). As the wheat matures, it bows in submission to its Lord. Toward the end of Christ's life on earth, we find Him continually on His knees, alone, in anguished submission, bowing before His Lord. If we are to follow the Bread of Life, we too must defer to the lowly position- willingly bowing to our Lord by promoting others, not isolating ourselves, being ever thankful, not taking offence.

When the wheat is harvested, its grain is sifted to separate the wheat from the chaff. This is done with wind and fire where the lighter chaff would be blown by the wind into the nearby fire as the prized wheat would fall back onto the cloth. Sometimes we find the winds and fires of life confusing, but our Lord has a good goal in mind for us.

The sifted wheat would then have to be ground (crushed). We see that Christ journeyed through His life and ministry all the time being increasing ground. This grounding almost seems to have reached its climax in Gethsemane where our Lord is showing the signs of being crushed. Yet the Cross, the ultimate crush, still awaits. In our lives too, it is not the times of pleasantness and ease which tend to make us who our Lord wants us to be. While Christ thoroughly enjoyed the times of pleasantness and ease, as we should, He knew what we can only imagine - Heaven, with all its ecstasy and bliss, is only the fragrance of the One it encompasses, and in Him the LORD, is infinite ease and pleasantness, not for a moment, not until interrupted, but for eternity. By enduring and submitting to the grounding process here on earth, an eternal reward of infinite delight would be assured. We too must be ground by our Lord if we are to grow to the fullness of who God wants us to be.

The resultant flour must then be mixed with oil. The anointing of the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture as being like "oil" poured over a person. As Christ entered Gethsemane, I suspect the anointing of the Holy Spirit "increased" upon Him. But this is not when He initially experienced the Holy Spirit. Clearly the Spirit was in Him from His conception in much the same way that we who are born again receive the indwelling Spirit of Life. But it was at Christ's baptism that the Spirit came upon Him. In a similar way we are saved when the Holy Spirit comes into us, but we are empowered by the Holy Spirit when He comes upon us. This is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. For the flour to become bread, it has to have some oil poured over it then mixed into it. We too must have the Holy Spirit infuse every part of us. He renews our minds, cleanses our hearts, opens our ears, enlightens our eyes, fills our mouths. It is the Holy Spirit who causes us to bear fruit (Galatians 5) and enables us share our Lord's Word with the world.

As the flour is turned into "meal" (dough), it is also introduced to other flour and slightly salted. Christ didn't live for Himself. Christ gave Himself for all people. When we walk with our Master down the path of discipleship growth, as flour is turned into dough, we are mixed in with others. It is no longer about "me". It becomes about "one another" (Mark 9:50).
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.John 13:34
What was once a single grain of wheat is now fused with inumerous other former grains into a new identity. In a similar way, the believer can not remain just a solo believer. He must be kneeded into the dough to become a part of a local body of believers which is ultimately kneeded into Christ Himself. Of course this kneeding process rubs us the 'wrong way'. We struggle to get along with people. We take offence. We experience pain from others. We all too easily yield to the temptation to withdraw and do Christianity on our own. But the wheat must be harvested, sifted (with its chaff burned), ground to flour, mixed with oil, salted, and kneeded together, to be transformed into what our Lord desires.

The dough also has water mixed with it to appropriately moisten it. We too have the refreshing water of God's Word flow into our lives as open up His Word in solititude and particularly as we gather to give attention to it in House of the Lord each Lord's Day.

The prepared dough must then be cooked in the oven. There comes a time when we must pass through fires to be transformed. In this furnace of God's oven, our lives are transformed from indelectable dough to savouring fresh bread. The pain of planting, harvesting, sifting, salting, kneeding, and watering, are all forgotten as the miraculous transformation takes place. Along with the more painful parts of the process, the oven also deals with our sorrows, regrets, and hurts.

The bread must now sit for a time. The maturing believer discovers that what he mistakenly thought was idleness is actually restThere is a good deal of difference between being still and doing nothing, the Sensai told the Karate Kid. It is from the position of rest that the believer is now of use. He is now able to nourish. He is now able to refresh. He is now able to strengthen others.

The next time you hear the words declared over the Table of the Lord, "and He took bread", pause to consider the impact of what our Lord is telling us. In this moment, consider that He, The Bread of Life, The Bread That Came Down From Heaven, calls us to be bread as well. This is one of the reasons why we take the time and especially why we take our time, to celebrate the Table of the Lord each week. For us this reminder is also an act of worship. It is not just a reminder of what Christ has done for us, but it is a reminder of what He is doing in us. As He declares to us, "take eat", He is transforming us into His bread and He is calling a hungry world to His table to "take eat".
This Lord's Day as we have "guests arrive at midnight" we once again call upon the Lord to give us as bread to a desperately hungry world. "Lord, lend us three loaves" we cry. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly until our Lord answers.
 And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves"
Luke 11:5
Father, help us to be the bread You have called us to be. May we go through the process of dying to self, sifting, grounding, kneeding, salting, watering, baking, with delight, so that we can be a source of nourishment to our spiritually starving world. Make us the bread that makes the world want more. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew