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Friday, December 6, 2013

Lee Grady Calls for a Reformation of Christian Television

Initially in a blog post, and later in an eBook, I critiqued Lee Grady's response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire. I also argued that Grady's response to Strange Fire was disappointing in light of his previous appeals for reformation within the Charismatic movement.

The recent death of Paul Crouch has sparked online discussion about the nature of Christian TV, and Lee Grady has added his voice to the discussion with an article, 'Is it time to reboot Christian Television.?'

Grady's article is commendable in many ways - he calls for the following changes to be made to Christian TV:

1. Support it with advertising, not donations.
2. Prosperity preaching shouldn’t be allowed.
3. Preachers—and their doctrines—should be more carefully screened.
4. Donors should never be manipulated.
5. Money should never be misused.
6. It should be relevant to today’s culture.
7. Network owners should not set up broadcasting kingdoms.

Grady expounds each of these points in his article, and to almost every point I contribute a hearty amen. However, I do think his response neglects to take note of the elephant in the room. It misses the fundamental question, which came first the dodgy showmanship or the cameras? Pentecostal historians have acknowledged that the development of radio and film stations created a golden opportunity for pentecostal evangelists. In other words, the pentecostal evangelists were ideally placed to step into that market - for all the reasons that Grady seeks to challenge. They were natural performers, they were entertaining and charismatic. People watch TV because it is entertaining, and it is also one of the main reasons why so many people watch Christian TV. To ask the faith healers to ditch their exploitation for a social conscience is a bit like asking the owner of a pub to stop selling alcohol and to start selling only soft drinks. It aint gonna happen, And if it does, the punters will vote with their feet.

Grady claims, in regards to the Crouch Era of Christian TV:  'My generation and my children’s generation tuned out long ago because Christian TV came off as fake, campy and spiritually out of touch.' As well meaning as Grady is, I cannot help but think that this is wishful thinking. In reality the present generation are happy with health and wealth in the same way that their fathers were. Joel Osteen is for today's audience what his dad was for the previous generation. And if the younger crowd feel that Osteen is a bit out of touch, well there is always Steve Furtick.

In summary, Grady's critique is a praiseworthy attempt to rid the tree of bad fruit, but like most charismatic attempts at self-correction it fails to get to the root of the problem. Most Christian TV shows, like Americanised Christianity and charismatic spirituality in general, all share the same root - their existence depends largely on exploiting the natural desires and needs of the masses. Grady asks, 'Is it time to reboot Christian Television?', given the en masse gospel corruption that spews forth from most Christian networks, maybe it's just time to boot it.




Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is there a still place for Evangelism? (plus some Old Skool books on evangelism)

I'm not the first to notice that there is a lot of talk these days about being missional, intentional and incarnational. Missional strategy is good industry these days. After all, in this very complex postmodern, postChristian, Millennial, and misunderstood generation - it seems that people are now so highly evolved that we need specialists to help us feel the heartbeat of our own culture in order that we can 'engage'.

Yet, for all the specialisms, it seems that so much of that which passes for missional strategy is nothing other than rehashed marketing techniques.

I wonder, is there still a place for simple evangelism?

Very soon after becoming a Christian I was drawn to evangelism. I became involved in the 'missional activities' of my local church (door to door literature work). I got involved with local para-church outreaches such as Teen Challenge, Stauros, and the Gospel Mission.

I also read about evangelism.

Here are some of the books that I found helpful in the early days:

'How to bring men to Christ' by RA Torrey

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Bring-Men-Christ-Torrey/dp/088368098X/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386284914&sr=1-1-fkmr0&keywords=RA+Torrey+How+to+win+men+to+Christ

'He won them for Christ: 30 Conversions under Spurgeon's Ministry' Eric Hayden




I believe in evangelism' David Watson




'Presenting Jesus in the open air' Mike Sprenger

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Presenting-Jesus-Open-Mike-Sprenger/dp/0850091810/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386285409&sr=1-1&keywords=presenting+jesus+in+the+open+air

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Empowering Principles for Preachers by Spurgeon: Preach and Pray with Power!

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Jud├Ža, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 2:8)

The following Extract from the treasure chest which is the Spurgeon Archive, is very challenging and humbling for those of us who are involved in leading services and preaching.
 
BRETHREN, we want to do our work rightly and effectively, AND WE CANNOT DO IT WITHOUT POWER. . . .We could be ministers, as some men are ministers, without any particular power, either natural, or acquired. Merely to perform services (to use an ugly word) "perfunctorily" does not require special endowments. Any speaking machine might do as well. There are ministers whose sermons, and whose whole services, are so much a matter of routine, and so utterly lifeless; that if power from on high were to come upon them, it would altogether bewilder them. Nobody would know them to be the same persons; the change would seem too great. The same things are said, in the same tone and manner, year after year . . . When this is the case among Nonconformists, it ruins the congregations, for it is death to every possibility of collecting people to hear; and still more is it murder to all hope of their being improved if they do hear. . .It is possible, even without a liturgy, to pray in a very set and formal style; indeed, it is so possible as to be frequent, and then the long prayer becomes a severe infliction upon an audience, and the shorter prayers are not much better. When I have thought of the preaching of certain good men, I have wondered, not that the congregation was so small, but that it was so large. The people who listen to them ought to excel in the virtue of patience, for they have grand opportunities for exercising it. . . You labour to discharge your ministry, not with the lifeless method of an automaton, but with the freshness and power which will render your ministry largely effectual for its sacred purposes.

Spurgeon knew the key to true success in ministry: the anointing of the Holy Spirit. At the start of this New Year let us seek God for a fresh filling and empowering of His Holy Spirit. Do you preach? Pray that you may preach with power. Do you pray? Pray that you may pray with power. Pray for yourself, your church and your minister that God may pour out His Spirit afresh and deliver us from spiritual dryness.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Considering 'The New Calvinism Considered' by Jeremy Walker (Book Review)

THE NEW CALVINISM CONSIDERED

Evangelical Press have recently released a timely new book on the New Calvinism. The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment by Jeremy Walker is a sensitive, appreciative and often challenging critique of this evolving stream of evangelicalism. Walker's book avoids blind acceptance of all that flies under the title New Calvinism on the one hand yet on the other hand he does not hold back from speaking out against several unhealthy elements within the movement. Consequently those who loyally follow many of the leading lights of the New Calvinism (Piper, Driscoll, Keller, et al.) will likely find many (all?) of Walker's critiques unfair and those who are firmly rooted in historic calvinist churches may bemoan the fact that Walker expresses sincere approval of many of the good things which are found among the New Calvinists. This book is not an all out war against the New Calvinism but neither is it a blind acceptance of the principles, personalities and practices of the New Calvinism.

The outline of Walker's book is as follows:

Chapter One: Comprehending the new Calvinism

In this chapter, Walker sets out the nature and purpose of his critique of the new Calvinism. The strengths of this chapter is the graciousness, humility and great care not to over-generalise, which so clearly characterises this chapter. On the down side: it is very short, at times over-cautious, and seems to present what feels like an unending a list of disclaimers for the criticisms which are to follow. 

Chapter Two: Characteristics of the new Calvinism

The first characteristic which Walker deals with is Calvinism, Walker acknowledges that the players of the New Calvinism are 'United by convictions about the sovereignty of God in salvation.' Walker rejoices in this emphasis but also identifies that 'Not all the new Calvinists, are, in fact, Calvinists.' He goes on to demonstrate that many have more in common with Amyraldians, who are basically 'four point' point Calvinists. Walker is careful to demonstrate the distinction between the soteriology of some of the new Calvinists with that of the historical Calvinists.

Walker goes on to identify the fact that the New Calvinism is driven by personalities. (in addition to the aforementioned names, some readers may be surprised to find RC Sproul and John MacArthur lumped in with the New Calvinists - but Sproul and MacArthur are acknowledged as having a different role) In particular he looks at the characteristics of the celebrity culture which tends to dominate the movement. He also identifies that very often celebrity-type leaders tend to generate a cult-like following and very often popularity supplants the place of orthodoxy as the mark of a good ministry. Walker argues:

The danger of these figure heads is that, in the minds of some, they become celebrities and gurus, perhaps even idols. Slavishly following them, their disciples reproduce not only much of what is good but also exaggerate them at their points of weakness or aberration.


Walker highlights the fact that the New Calvinism is "A movement of coalitions, of conferences . . . of networks." However, he argues that as a result the movement has a tendency towards introspection and unaccountability.' Walker argues that the para-church nature of many of the leading networks can actually undermine the place of the local church. In particular, Walker highlights that biblical faithfulness becomes difficult to maintain in a para-church network that is bound by relational loyalty and minimalistic doctrinal commitments.

Walker claims that the movement itself is now maturing and evolving into a machine. In other words, as much as the New Calvinism has wanted to avoid institutionalism, it cannot - and the process of institutionalism is already taking place.

Chapter Three: Commendations

Walker identifies and praises the New Calvinism's emphasis on being Christ-oriented and God-honouring, however he does question if Piper's reformulation of the shorter catechism, and his emphasis on human satisfaction is shifting the emphasis from God -exaltation to human fulfilment. Walker rightly notes that 'What it means to glorify God in Christ is often very much a matter of Jonathan Edwards mediated through John Piper.' Later in the book, Walker demonstrates that this focus is too narrow and does not do justice to Jonathan Edwards.

A further commendation of the New Calvinism is the fact that the movement is "Grace-soaked". Walker argues that we should rejoice in the fact that the New Calvinism seeks to magnify the grace of God in Christ Jesus. He deeply appreciates that the gospel is communicated by many people who clearly are living in the freshness of grace.


While Walker recognises that 'missional' has become something of a buzzword, he identifies that the New Calvinism's emphasis on mission is excellent, biblical and to be admired. He acknowledges that the wider church has much to learn from the New Calvinists in this area. A further area of appreciation is the movement's emphasis on Complementarianism. Walker argues that this focus on biblical gender-roles is a healthy corrective to the wider church. However, Walker is not blind to the caricatures which are also emerging in the area of complementarianism, he argues that complementarianism is often being presented in terms of "A sort of hairy, Neanderthal, chest-beating machismo."

In addition to these areas, Walker highlights and is encouraged by the fact that the movement has a healthy focus on good theology and preaching. The New Calvinists read the works of 'Dead guys' and this is good. He also identifies the fact that social media and technology is effectively harnessed by the New Calvinists in order to spread their message. What the printing press was to the reformers, the internet is to the New Calvinists.

Chapter Four: Cautions and Concerns

Chapter Four is where the real action happens. So far Walker has been almost tacit in his critique, while he maintains a respectful grace, it is in this chapter that the gloves come off. Walker engages with a wide range of concerns, some of which will be expected by many readers but some also which may come as a surprise. Walker identifies the following problems: pragmatism and commercialism; An unbiblical approach to culture and contextualisation; a tendency towards antinomianism (perhaps the most serious charge); An evangelical ecumenism that tolerates heretics and undermines orthodoxy;  an openness (or promotion) of the charismatic movement which inevitably conflicts with and undermines reformed theology and a triumphalism which fosters youthful arrogance, naivety and a downgrading of discernment. Walker sums up his assessment by concluding: "New Calvinism, at its worst, can seem or even be thoroughly man-centred."

Chapter Five: Conclusions and counsels

In the final chapter, Walker makes the following appeal: "Be Calvinists. Don't be new Calvinists or any particular brand or stripe of Calvinists, whatever these distinctions presently mean, or may come to mean." He further argues that we should be sensible in our assessment of the movement:

With regard to the new Calvinism, we should avoid knee-jerk reactions, thoughtlessly dismissing or embracing something or someone, or everything and everyone, without proper consideration.



Overall the book is a fair treatment of the topic. Walker repeatedly acknowledges how difficult it is to define the movement, this is largely due to its recent appearance, its diverse nature and the fact that it is still developing.

Having been someone who has been influenced by the New Calvinism I found Walker's book incredibly helpful. For myself, I have recognised many of the weaknesses not just within the New Calvinism but also the Charismatic Calvinism to which it is closely related. This is inevitable if New Calvinism leads you to read not just the works of the lead figures of the movement but the works of Calvin and the other reformers. Reformed theology is much more than a Calvinistic soteriology. If we engage with the reformers, they will soon disturb our contemporary church commitments.
They will challenge our contemporary  culture, creed and compromise. They are after all, Reformers.




Monday, October 28, 2013

Gospel Centred Youth Work and Ministry: A Missional Approach to Working with Young People




'Gospel Centred Youth Work and Ministry: A Missional Approach to Working with Young People', is the working title for a book which I am currently writing.

What's it about?

Many approaches to Christian youth work and ministry sell out to the philosophies of relativism and relevance. This book calls for youth work aims, values and methods that are rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Contents

Chapter One
What’s the Point? Prioritising the primary purpose of Christian youth work and ministry
Chapter Two
Mixed Messages: What is the gospel anyway?
Chapter Three
Regeneration for a New Generation: What is conversion?
Chapter Four
The Heart of Worship: Cultural Expression or Christ Exaltation?
Chapter Five
Need for Creed: Confessional Christian Youth Work and Ministry
Chapter Six
The Making of a Missionary: Essential Qualifications and Characteristics of Christian youth work and ministry
Chapter Seven
Conclusion: Gospel Centred Youth Work and Ministry
Original Source: here

 Evangelical Press have expressed some interest in my book proposal. Since the work is not yet complete, it is only a provisional arrangement at this point, but they do seem genuinely interested.*

While there is nothing official at this stage, EP have agreed to review the manuscript on a chapter by chapter basis (as I write each one), upon completion they will consider the manuscript as a whole. I have agreed to this proposal, so my current focus is on completing the manuscript rather than pursuing publishers with an initial proposal.

I am really encouraged by the response from EP. I also like the fact (from what I understand) that they are a non-profit publishing house who use their funds to support the work of mission. I also really like the fact that they are committed to publishing gospel centred resources.

* The manuscript is now complete and is at present being reviewed by Evangelical Press

Original Source here

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pentecostal Pastor Warns about False Fire Years Before MacArthur's Strange Fire

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pentecostal pastor W.T.H Richards published a book in 1972 (6 years before MacArthur's Charismatic Chaos and decades before the release of Strange Fire) called Pentecost is dynamite. While the book is supportive of Pentecostalism, he does devote an entire chapter to the emerging problems within the pentecostal movement. In chapter Six: Is the Pentecostal movement in decline? Richards observes:

Many church services are nothing more than a pentecostal ritual, lacking fire and apostolic power. Often-times there is an exibition of the false fire of emotionalism. The hallelujah shout has an empty ring about it. Meetings are gipped up and manipulated, and the results are reminiscent of jungle tribes who work themselves into a frenzy. Nothing can be more damaging to the cause of Christ than an attempt to "create an atmosphere" by psychological means and manoeuvres. (P69)


Richards quotes Pentecostal writer and missionary David Wommack who had also begun to identify that the pentecostal church was drifting back towards a pre-reformation condition:

Anyone who has observed the pentecostal movement over the past years can see that the same separation from apostolic sources and the resulting symptoms of deterioration that tore down the early church are at work today.
 
 What strikes me as ironic is the fact that previous Pentecostal leaders recognised the spiritual problems decades ago, as they were emerging - yet many are unaware of them today when the problems and excesses are in full bloom.

Richard's book can be bought for £0.01 from Amazon.co.uk here or for $1.00 here







 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pentecostal Pastor responds positively to Strange Fire

I just stumbled across this Pentecostal Pastor's response to Strange Fire. One of the best I have seen so far.

A Pentecostal in (General) Support of the Strange Fire Conference

The issue of John MacArthur’s recent Strange Fire Conference (and forthcoming book) is all the rage in the Evangelical blogosphere right now. Truth be told, I’m impressed by the attention the whole thing is drawing. If you know anything about MacArthur you know he is a cessationist, and that he has promoted cessationism publicly for quite some time.

I gather the issue is not MacArthur’s cessationism, which is well-known. The issue is that MacArthur has thrown down the theological gauntlet. He’s not merely saying continuationism is wrong, he’s saying it’s wrong and dangerous. While I was not at the conference, reports I read had MacArthur likening Charismatics to Mormonism, saying that Evangelicals will challenge 14 million Mormons, but are silent in the face of half a billion Charismatics. This is inflammatory, perhaps even reckless, speech.

But as you may have gathered from the title, I’m not writing this post to point out MacArthur’s errors or where I disagree with him (though such disagreements do exist). That I’m writing in general support of Strange Fire implies I have particular differences with the conference and some of its themes. This post is about my support of the conference, not my differences with it.
You might be curious about how I, as a Pentecostal pastor, could possibly support any conference that fundamentally challenges the theological foundation of my movement and condemns many of its practices. My reasons are simple:

1. Any error John MacArthur espoused at the conference, and any recklessness he demonstrated, is far less than the errors and recklessness we see in much of the modern Charismatic movement.

We may say that things like barking in the Spirit represent the fringe of the Pentecostal Charismatic movement. In some cases, this is true. I have no doubt that if the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God (George O. Wood) saw a congregant doing this that he would confront them about it. But George O. Wood is, unfortunately, NOT the public face of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. The most prominent and popular Pentecostal/Charismatic pastors tend to be TBN broadcasters. And what we get from TBN is error after error, from false prophecies galore to Prosperity “Gospel” nonsense. People hear “Charismatic” and they think “Todd Bentley” or “Bethel Church, Redding.”

I know many Charistmatic/Pentecostal leaders have responded to Strange Fire with calls for distinction. We want a distinction between those with common sense and Biblical fidelity in our movement and those who lack this (like Todd Bentley, Benny Hinn, and nearly every other pastor on TBN). But let’s be honest here, we Pentecostals have failed to make such a distinction, and that brings me to my second point.

2. Pentecostals and Charismatics are allergic to doctrinal distinction and discernment.

I wish I could say I was lying about the sentence I just wrote, but I am not. We want cessationists like John MacArthur to draw careful distinctions between different groups in our movement, but we ourselves refuse to draw such distinctions. This refusal has primarily come in the form of SILENCE regarding false teachers and false prophecies. While we Pentecostal pastors and academics often do not buy the Prosperity nonsense, we refuse to condemn those who teach it.

A few years ago, as an undergraduate student, I attempted to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed Pentecostal/Charismatic journal. In retrospect, my article was probably not up to academic par (I was an undergraduate student, mind you). The basic idea behind the article was to point out certain denials of the sufficiency of Scripture within some of the more popular teachings in our movement. I went after, for example, C. Peter Wagner and his book 7 Power Principles I learned After Seminary. I also challenged Prosperity teaching and one or two other things. My article was rejected for publication, but the editors of the journal did not cite academic quality (which could have been amended by adding a few more sources and revising a few footnotes) as the reason for the refusal. Instead, they said while they agreed with much of the content of my article it was too divisive and would not be published. I could have accepted something like “You don’t have the academic credentials we want” or “You need to add additional sources” or something like that. But no, the stated reason for the refusal was divisiveness.

I recognize the value of unity, but a unity not grounded in and centered on the truth is merely a superficial unity. If we Pentecostals want John MacArthur to make distinctions when he calls out the Charismatic movement for its abuses, then maybe we should be the first ones making distinctions and calling out heresy and excess where we find it.

Where are the orthodox Pentecostals condemning Oneness Pentecostalism (modalism)? Do we hold the nature and character of the Triune God in such low esteem? Where is the unified front of Pentecostal and Charismatic pastors speaking out against the Prosperity Gospel? Where are the Pentecostals warning about the creeping influence of Open Theism in our movement? Where are the Pentecostals upholding and demanding the regulative principle of worship in our services?
The answer is, sadly, that the Pentecostals/Charismatics speaking out on such issues are the real fringe. We put ourselves in the difficult position of upholding truth and doctrine in the midst of a movement that tends to value experience. When we do speak out against abuses and false teachings, even our brothers who agree with us tend to warn us about being too “divisive” and not being “sensitive to the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps those who are truly sensitive to the Holy Spirit are those offended by the abuses and lies taught in His Name. If we fail to expose known lies we become implicated in their continuation.

3. The false teachers have more influence than we think or admit.

While we’re on this topic, the abuses and excesses of the Charismatic movement are often rejected by certain pastors (though they are accepted and promoted by others) and denominational leaders. But let’s not forget the people in the pew. As an associate pastor, I often speak out against the Prosperity Gospel. But I know, despite this fact, that there are certain congregants who continue to believe it. In my involvement with Chi Alpha I’ve often spoken out against Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and T.D. Jakes. It seldom fails that I offend a brother or sister when I do so.

Why does this matter? Because I’m on staff at a small church. I’m around average Pentecostals in my congregation and campus ministry. I’m not constantly around denominational leaders or scholars. And among most congregants the likes of Osteen, Meyer, Copeland, and Shuttlesworth are incredibly popular.

I’ve heard demands for MacArthur to evaluate us by looking at French Arrington or Stanley Horton. To be completely honest, my congregants have no clue who those men are (apart from perhaps a vague familiarity established by sermon references). My congregants do know who Kenneth Hagin is, or who T.D. Jakes is. I don’t think MacArthur’s concern is primarily with the Pentecostals who hold Horton in high esteem. It’s with the congregants who hold Jakes and Copeland in high esteem, and given that priority, MacArthur’s approach makes more sense.

MacArthur wasn’t looking to spark a debate in peer-reviewed literature. He was looking to engage at the popular level, and he has been wildly successful at this. It’s the popular level where the false teachers and excesses are often a problem, and it makes sense to aim there.

It should also be noted that TBN is exported to other countries. They broadcast all over the world. They broadcast to Christians who don’t have the benefit of owning their own Bibles. The incredible damage of Prosperity teaching in world missions must be carefully observed.

4. We routinely ignore the regulative principle of worship.

Much of MacArthur’s criticism has been aimed not merely at doctrinal issues like the Prosperity Gospel, but at practical issues like what is allowed in worship. If you’re Todd Bentley, you say the Holy Spirit demands things like kicking women in the face. If you’re like most Pentecostals/Charismatics, you permit being “slain in the Spirit” despite the fact there’s scant Biblical evidence for such a practice. If you’re like me, you think we should only promote and permit that which can rightly be found to be the normative practice of Scripture.

Honestly, this puts me at odds with many fellow Pentecostals/Charismatics. The people promoting the really strange practices, people like C. Peter Wagner and his “power principles,” and their followers are incorrigible. They are not open to rebuke, even if that rebuke comes from the Bible. I speak from experience as a Pentecostal. But we Pentecostals have allowed things that seemed harmless, even though they don’t seem to come from Scripture, and now we are increasingly seeing things that are harmful and that still don’t come from Scripture. But we have no experience saying “no” to anything in worship, so we implicitly or explicitly say “yes” to everything.

What’s really concerning about the whole thing in most Pentecostal/Charismatic circles a debate about the regulative principle of worship is not even underway. We just don’t care about it. We’re at risk of nullifying the commands of God for the sake of our traditions. We need to rigorously Biblically evaluate our movement’s practices in worship.

5. We functionally ignore Sola Scriptura.

This point follows from the last one. While we tend to uphold Sola Scriptura intellectually and verbally, we tend to ignore it functionally. This is true not only in worship, but in evangelism, church growth, counseling, and church government. Let’s be honest, most of our Pentecostal churches (mine included) are run by boards of trustees that have more in common with corporate America than anything we find in the Bible.

We want to grow our churches by applying the marketing strategies of corporate America. We, a movement dedicated to the work of the Holy Spirit, consistently outsource our counseling to bloody secularists. We buy into pop-psychology about love languages.

If what I’ve just said sounds like Evangelicalism as a whole, you can probably understand why John MacArthur is so upset. I don’t think all (or even most) of the above problems originated in our movement, but our movement’s adoption of the above practices along with it’s explosive growth has gone a long way to carry these things further into the identity of the broader Evangelical movement. We Pentecostals and Charismatics are now very influential, and we haven’t always used our influence intentionally or responsibly.

We need to recapture our dedication to the sufficiency of Scripture and the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. We need to articulate our understanding of spiritual gifts in such a way as to not conflict with the sufficiency of Scripture. If the effect of our teaching is that people look to a subjective experience for guidance and assurance before they look to Scripture for those things then our teaching is dangerous and needs to be corrected.

Conclusion

I know in what I’ve said I probably have not sounded much like a Pentecostal. But it is because I love my heritage and my movement that I grieve deeply for it. What we love greatly is capable of hurting us deeply. And I have been hurt by the abuses and lack of Biblical fidelity in my own movement.
This doesn’t mean I agree with everything John MacArthur says. I remain a continuationist, he a cessationist. We have some real differences. This doesn’t mean I always agree with the way John MacArthur stated his rebukes, some of them were too general and lacked necessary distinction.
But an overly broad condemnation of real problems is better than no condemnation of the problems at all. We Pentecostals and Charismatics needed to be offended, I’m afraid it may be the only thing that will make us think critically and Biblically about ourselves as a movement. And for this offense I want to thank John MacArthur and the participants in the Strange Fire Conference. The most hurtful thing about that conference is not the broad generalizations, sweeping condemnations, or lack of distinctions. For me as a Pentecostal the most hurtful thing about the Strange Fire Conference is my knowledge that far too many of the criticisms are true.

God bless,

Joey


Original source here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Discerning the Body: An Examination & Refutation of Needed Truth Doctrines. By L.W.G Alexander


L.W.G Alexander was teacher and preacher in the Churches of God: he was a contributer to 'Needed Truth' and he also edited the magazine for a period of time. Alexander is one of the brethren who would eventually leave the Churches of God along with many other leaders and bible teachers. Alexander left the movement in 1906. The following is a pamphlet he published which outlines the false teaching within the Churches of God.
 
As a former member of the Churches of God, I find the truths in this pamphlet very powerful and compelling. Although I do not endorse all that he says, many of the following truths are the same truths that I have arrived at through my own study of the scriptures and examination of the doctrines which I was taught by the Church of God when I first came to Christ. Any believer who is seeking to understand the teachings of the Church of God against the teaching of scripture should read the following book by L.W.G Alexander.
 
I trust that my review of Park's work, along with the following pamphlet from a former Church of God bible teacher, will help to highlight some of the more exclusive claims that are believed by the Church of God. I also hope that it is of help to anyone who may be considering joining a Church of God, or members who are in a church of God but have unanswered questions, or perhaps former members who find themselves in a spiritual wasteland either because they feel condemned because they are considered by their former fellowship to be an 'erring saint' or who are perhaps struggling to adapt into the life of a different fellowship. I pray that the Lord will guide you into all truth and that you will know the fulness of your inheritance, as member in God's house, with all the saints, who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
Thanks to Tom at Brethren Archives for making the following images (book) available to me. For more documents relating to Brethren history visit: http://www.brethrenarchive.org/
 

 
 
























Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Open Brethren & Churches of God Division: Exclusivism and the Catholicity of the Church


The Churches of God, Their Origin & Development in the 20th Century by Jim Park is an interesting account of the formation of the brethren sect The Churches of God in Fellowship of the Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ (normally just referred to as the Churches of God.)

The Churches of God are an offshoot of the Brethren movement which began around 1826-27. The brethren movement was a grass-roots restorationist type movement which sought to restore the simplicity of New Testament Christianity. They emphasised the ministry of the brethren rather than the ministry of the clergy, their churches were led by a plurality of elders and they rejected the concept of a full time minister presiding over a local church, their main meetings centred around the breaking of bread rather than the sermon. Regarding the Brethren, Park observes, 'These people desired to free themselves from the dry, lifeless formalism of the churches to meet together as true believers, to share their common life in Christ and their hope for the future.' In addition to these characteristics, Park identifies two main characteristics of the early brethren assemblies:

'Traditionally . . . The Brethren believed that all believers have a birthright to a place at the Breaking of Bread and none should deny it to them . . . Also, they held and practiced that each assembly was independent of all others and responsible directly to God alone for its teachings and practices.'

The early brethren churches were marked by inclusiveness and non-denominationalism. In other words in regards to fellowship they emphasised unity in Christ and in regards to church government each local church was autonomous.

'The Brethren movement began with a few people meeting in a house for the Breaking of Bread and the study of the Bible. One of those people, but not the first, was John Nelson Darby . . . In 1826 he was ordained curate . . . but only a year later his high church ideas began to wane.'

Darby grew in stature and leadership within the brethren churches, however he soon had a clash with one of the other leaders (B.W Newton) and left the group with about 60 others to start a new assembly. Later Darby would clash with another Brethren leader (the well known George Muller) and as a result went to all the churches and excommunicated all the fellowships who remained in communion with George Muller's church (Bethesda Chapel.) This conflict between Darby and Muller lead to a split in 1848 which resulted in two distinct Brethren movements, the Open Brethren (led by Muller) and the Exclusive Brethren (led by Darby.) The Open Brethren maintained the Lord's table was 'open' to all the Lord's people who led a godly life but the Exclusive Brethren would '"Exclude" those who did not hold to what they considered to be sound doctrine.' Park notes that 'This was the beginning of doctrinal conditions being attached to reception to the Breaking of Bread.'

According to Park the Exclusive Brethren 'Had many thoughts on the need for doctrinal soundness on matters of assembly fellowship and fellowship between assemblies.' In contrast to the Open Brethren who practiced local church autonomy, the Exclusive Brethren adopted a centralised model, where 'One church became a centre of control of doctrine and judgement, which other churches were expected to accept.'

Due to the independent nature of each brethren assembly, there began to emerge a multitude of varying beliefs and practices. Some churches were credo-baptist and some were not. There was a lack of discipline; a person could be excommunicated from one assembly but be accepted by another. The movement was marked by confusion and disunity. A number within the churches were concerned about church unity and began to raise their concerns through a publication which became known as Needed Truth. Park states that 'Teaching about a union of assemblies continued verbally and exercised many people. They saw such truth as the way to unity of doctrine and practice for which they longed.' In response to the articles appearing in the Needed Truth publication, the mainstream Brethren publication: The Witness, in 1889, raised the following question:

Is it necessary to have a union of assemblies to form a basis of acting independently from those they consider as not following the Lord fully?'

In other words, was there a need for the independent brethren churches to reorganise themselves on a presbyterian model where decisions on doctrine, discipline and practice are worked out at district, national and international levels?

There were three responses to the question: One group wanted to keep the independent model, others wanted to adopt the Needed Truth position and others wanted something in between. Consequently there was a conference of bible teachers which met in Windermere on the 13-15th July 1891 where it was hoped that the assemblies could determine a way forward. The leaders could not arrive at a consensus; in 1894 a large number of individual Christians and assemblies left the Open Brethren to form the Church of God on the basis of the ideology of Needed Truth.

On the one hand, Park's account of the 1894 division seems to indicate that the nature of the split was simply over church government. In other words, independency was destroying the movement because there was no clear standard of truth and means of preserving the purity of the church. It seems that Needed Truth Brethren were arguing for a presbyterian system of church government that would preserve essential evangelical doctrines. In reality, the Needed Truth Brethren held to an elitist ecclesiology and they needed a presbyterian model of government in order to enshrine their strict and exclusive beliefs. Park identifies the concerns raised by the Open Brethren and informs us that many within the Brethren saw the teaching of the Needed Truth publication as being a 'Revival of the exclusivism of J.N Darby.'

As the division was emerging those in favour of the Needed Truth position began to make their convictions known. They began to speak of a recovery of 'The pattern of God's house.' and to claim that 'Brethrenism rested on a false foundation.' In other words, in the same way that the Exclusive Brethren (Darbyites) had excluded from the Lord's table those who failed certain doctrinal tests, the Needed Truth Brethren were claiming that only those churches who met certain doctrinal conditions could claim to be The Church of God and the House of God. Essentially this meant that only those Brethren churches who reorganised themselves on the 'district oversight' (presbyterian) model, and submitted to this group's interpretation of scripture, were considered to be the true church.

While many in the Open Brethren recognised the weakness of independency, the Needed Truth solution to preserving purity and restoring unity was sinister and schismatic. Park notes that F.R Coad identified that the Needed Truth Brethren 'Unashamedly reserve to themselves the name the Churches of God.' Park claims that Coad's criticism is 'inaccurate and unfair' but the evidence is to the contrary. Park's response to Coad makes this clear:

The Fellowship (Churches of God) holds that all christian believers should be baptised by immersion then added into congregations known as Churches of God and that these congregations should be joined together into one fellowship worldwide.'

In other words, Park is rejecting Coad's accusation of exclusivism by arguing that the Churches of God are not exclusive, but that 'all Christians' should join themselves to their fellowship if they want to be a part of the true Church of God. Essentially Park is arguing that all believers should be added to the Brethren sect known as the Churches of God. In this sense there is a dangerous cultish element at work within the ideology of the Churches of God.

As noted earlier, the Open Brethren were concerned that the Needed Truth Brethren were reviving the 'Exclusivism of J.N Darby.' Charles Spurgeon published and article in the Sword and the Trowel which dealt with some of the sinister characteristics of the Darby (Exclusive) Brethren, as identified by Mr Grant. When these characteristics are compared with the teaching of the Needed Truth Brethren it is clear that the concerns of the Open Brethren were not unfounded. In particular, the following observations from the article in the Sword and the Trowel are relevant:

"It (Exclusive Brethren) recognizes no other denomination, whether the Church of England, or either of the Nonconformist denominations, as a church of Christ. Mr. Darby has again and again said in print, as well as written in private, that those who belong to his party in the metropolis, constitute the only church of Christ in London."

"Darbyites who gather together in London, can go so far as to exclude all other denominations, even the most godly among them, 'believing themselves to be the one or only, assembly of God in London."

The Open Brethren concerns regarding the Needed Truth Brethren were not unfounded, the Churches of God clearly share the exclusive ecclesiolgy that was promoted by J.N. Darby. This exclusive teaching on the nature of the church (which denies the catholicity of the church) is still very much at the heart of the movement today. This can be seen in the The Brethren Movement written by Keith Dorricott.

In describing the separation from the Open Brethren and formation of the Churches of God, Dorricott states:

"Finally by 1894 there was a mutually known fellowship of about 100 assemblies, including Melbourne, Australia. The house of God was once more in operation after an interval of hundreds of years."

This is an outstanding claim. The Churches of God believe that the formation of their movement was actually a recovery of the House of God which had not been in operation for hundreds of years. Dorricott does not state how many hundreds of years, but their rejection of the Open Brethren, the Exclusive Brethren, the established denominations make it clear: there has been no House of God in operation since the early apostolic period! After making this incredible claim, Dorricott incredulously asks 'Why is this truth not embraced by more believers?' Yet rather than consider the possibility that the teaching might not be true, Dorricott concludes: 'Only the Lord can answer that.' On the contrary, proper exegesis of the scriptures, theological study, and a basic understanding of church history will provide a crystal clear answer to Dorricott's question. Scripture, history and theology reveal that The Churches of God are extremely misguided and set themselves in opposition to the scriptures and two thousand years of church history.

In order to justify this exclusive position Dorricott claims:

"In Christian circles generally there is little understanding in evidence of the distinction between the church the body of Christ (consisting of all believers) and the house of God (the gathering of baptized disciples of the Lord Jesus serving God in full obedience and unity)."

However what Dorricott really means is that in Christian circles there is little understanding of the exclusive ecclesiology held by the Church of God. Presbyterian, and Baptist churches (just to name two) have a wealth of theological resources that explore the nature of the church. If one reads the sections dealing with the church in Calvin's Institutes (Presbyterian), or Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (Baptist), one soon finds it is the Church of God which lacks an understanding of the nature of the church. While Calvin and Grudem differ on essential areas when it comes to ecclesiology they are united when it comes to the catholicity of the church. In other words they recognise along with the reformers that: "Where the word of God is truly preached and taught, the sacraments rightly administered, and church discipline faithfully exercised, there the one true holy and apostolic church is present.".

Like the Churches of God, the reformers were interested in the marks of the true church, however unlike the Churches of God, the reformers acknowledged both the catholicity of the church but also the weakness of church, as the Westminster Confession states: 'The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error.' Failure to recognise this truth has caused the Needed Truth Brethren to assume for themselves a utopian ecclesiology and to fail to discern the House of God among other churches.

Dorricott correctly identifies the broken state of the churches, but he wrongly concludes that Christians are excluded from God's house because they do not embrace the Church of God teaching and join with them:

"The Christian world today is totally fragmented, unlike the New Testament years, and totally contrary to the pattern of unity that the Lord prayed for. Unlike those early years, most believers today are not in the house of God, but may not be aware of it."

On the contrary, it is impossible to be a Christian and be excluded from God's house. Christians are not in God's house, they are God's house.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ . . . Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone . . . In him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." (Eph 2: 13-22)

The scriptures are clear, it is God who draws us to himself and accepts us on the basis of Christ's shed blood. True Christians are those who are 'In Christ Jesus', and if we are 'In Christ Jesus' the apostle tells us that 'Consequently, you are . . . members of his household.' Church of God doctrines are not the basis for membership in God's house: Faith in Christ is.

Sadly, this exclusive teaching has been used as a means of keeping people bound in legalism. Some of the choicest Christians are found among the Churches of God, yet they are bound by a legalistic teaching that seeks to control them, separate them from fellow believers and rob them of the liberty that is in Christ Jesus. The exclusive ecclesiology not only teaches that it is God's will for all Christians to be in a Church of God, but it also teaches that it is never God's will for a Christian to leave a Church of God:

We have reviewed many instances over the years of both good and evil, of truth and error, of faithfulness and apostasy. What about our generation, as the torch has been passed to us? We have been called by God into the Fellowship of His Son, and He will never call us out of it. And so, when the Lord comes, will He find the faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)? That is up to you and me, by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Dorricott)

Dorricott is not speaking of the fellowship of His Son that all believers enjoy, he is talking about membership in a Church of God (read: Their particular sect). Consequently many believers are bound into thinking that their favour with God rests not in their faith in Christ alone, but in their faith in Christ and membership of a Church of God (again not a local bible believing church but their sect). This is legalism, and it is the type of thing that Paul was dealing with in his letter to Galatians. Those who are trapped in this type of teaching have 'fallen from grace' and do not realise that the basis of God's favour and fellowship is in Christ and Christ alone.

The following verse is often used to justify the exclusive ecclesiology of the Church of God:

'But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.' (Hebrews 6:3)

However, the verse is taken out of context. To be sure it teaches that membership of God's household is conditional, but what is the condition? According the above text it is 'holding firmly' to the 'confidence and hope in which we glory?' What is this confidence in hope in which we glory? It is certainly not ecclesiastical dogma! It is Christ himself! The Hebrew Christians were being persecuted and many were abandoning their hope in Christ and returning to Judaism. The writer of Hebrews is encouraging them to remain faithful to Christ. As the following verses make clear, he is explaining that those who belong to God are those who remain faithful to Christ to the end: 'We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.' (Heb 3:14) In other words he is teaching that true believers are those who persevere to the end. Persevere in what? Church government? Premillenial views about the Lord's return? Exclusive ecclesiology? No: Persevere in faith in Jesus Christ.

In summary: Jim Park's book is an interesting account of the Open Brethren and Church of God split. It raises afresh the problems encountered in an independent approach to church government but (if read critically) it also reminds us of the dangers of exclusivism and legalism. While the Churches of God are faithful in maintaining a gospel witness and have some outstanding Christians in their ranks, they are the inheritors of an exclusive and legalistic ideology that is still active at the heart of their movement.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Who can partake of the Lord's Supper?




Today was week six as a visitor at the Free Church of Scotland in Portree and it was also our first communion service.

In the Highlands, many believers do not partake of the Lord's Supper because of a sense of unworthiness. This has been a long standing issue in many presbyterian churches despite the best efforts of many ministers who labour tirelessly to magnify the grace of God. Traditionally, in some presbyterian churches, the minister would 'fence the table' in other words certain criteria had to be satisfied before a person would be allowed to take communion. Sadly, a zeal for purity created a legacy of legalism which remains a stumbling block for many believers to this very day.

On the other end of the spectrum, many modern churches can fall into licence and the communion table is so open that even non professing attendants can partake of the Lord's Supper.

This morning the minister laid out four simple questions (and offered some explanation) to help clarify who can partake of the Lord's supper.

1) Do you know Jesus?

In communion we remember Jesus' death, we can only truly remember Jesus and what he has done if we know him personally. Have we encountered the Saviour?

2) Do you love Jesus?

Do we love the Lord? The question is not, do we love him as much as we ought, but do we love him? Is it impossible for us to say that we do not love him? The Lord's Supper is for those who love Christ.

3) Do you trust Jesus?

Do we trust in Christ alone for salvation? As the minister said today, 'Communion is not for those who think they are good enough, it is for those who know they are bad!' In other words the Lord's Supper is for those who know they need a saviour.

4) Will you obey Jesus?

Jesus says 'Those who love me will obey what I command.', will we obey Jesus' command to 'Do this in remembrance of me'? Communion is not about pronouncing ourselves as righteous, it is simply a response to the grace of God and obedience to the command of Christ.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Radical Christianity: A new thing or an old thing?

As we reflect upon both the contemporary evangelical and wider church scene it is increasingly apparent that something is amiss. We even hear claims that 'God is doing a new thing'. Many modern churches are blown from one fad to the next as they seek the latest solution to church growth. Many believers are sinking in oceans of uncertainty as they seek to hold on to various pieces of theological driftwood, anything to keep them afloat in a world of material and moral pressures.

For a number of years I have had the growing conviction that the way forward for the contemporary church is to be found by looking to the past.

Why look to the past?

Quite simply, our faith comes from the past.

We have 2000 years of church history to draw from. There are lessons to be learned from former generations. There are men of God who walked faithfully in the midst of darkness from whom we can draw inspiration and wisdom from. More importantly we have the age-old holy scriptures to guide our paths in truth and righteousness.

Time and time again Israel fell in to apostasy and barrenness and during these times the Lord sent prophets to bring correction and restoration. These prophets, most of the time, did not declare new things, instead they called God’s people back to old things. They called God’s people to remember. God’s people were called to remember their past. They were called to remember the Lord’s dealings with them. They were called to remember his mighty deeds. They were called to remember who He was and what He was like. They were called to remember his promises. They were called to return to His word, their departure from which, was the source of their present troubles.

The following scriptures along with an excerpt from C.S Lewis sum up many of these issues quite well.
 
“This is what the LORD says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” Jer 6:16

“Ask the former generations
and find out what their fathers learned,
for we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
and our days on earth are but a shadow.
Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?” Job 8:8-10
 
 
The following is a fairly extensive quote from C.S Lewis which emphasises the importance of drawing spiritual wisdom from the past.
 
“There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English Literature that if the average student wants to find out something about Platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of Plato off the library shelf and read the Symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about “isms” and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. But if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what Plato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.
 
This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Hooker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself.
Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (“mere Christianity” as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.
 
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”
C.S Lewis Introduction to Athanasius: On the Incarnation

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Worship in 'Spirit and Truth' (Part 3)

A number of years ago I was struck by an article in The Guardian which read: "The great evangelical rebranding: US evangelicals no longer talk about how God will smite you. Now it's all about personal, spiritual and material fulfilment".


While the article creates some caricatures, and focuses on some of the more extreme expressions of  the 'evangelicalism' of the God TV variety, there is a shameful amount of truth contained within the stinging observation that evangelicals have modified their view of God. When we consider the claims of modern evangelicalism regarding the nature of God, we are often presented with a being who is 'loving' and who exists for no other reason than to make us happy. Other aspects of God's character (his attributes) such as his holiness, justice and  his actions such as judgement and wrath are often minimised or not mentioned at all.

While the impoverished preaching from many pulpits is a primary reason for this theological shift, another reason is the type of songs that are sung regularly in many evangelical churches. I think it was Jeff Lucas who once said that he was concerned about the number of 'God is my girfriend' type songs which were becoming increasingly popular in evangelical circles. Lucas, through use of wit and satire is basically making the same point as the article in The Guardian: the God of evangelicalism is too fluffy.

This brings me to my final  and perhaps most important reason why I have found the singing of the psalms so 'incredibly refreshing'. Not only do psalms, as I mentioned in my last post, incorporate the fullness of human emotion into worship, but the psalms also reveal the fullness of God's nature. The psalms magnify the mercy, goodness and love of God without shrinking from his justice, righteousness and holiness. They reveal his acts of kindness and his works of wrath.

Michael Lefebvre in his book Singing the Songs of Jesus uses an example from C.S Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to illustrate how the psalms enable us to reflect not only upon the goodness of God, but also his justice:

"One of my favorite lines in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia occurs when Mr and Mrs Beaver first tell Lucy about the lion Aslan (the Christ-figure in that allegory). Quite alarmed at this talk of a lion, Lucy asks, ‘Is he quite safe?’ to which Mr Beaver replies, ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.’ And so the thematic phrase is repeated throughout the story, ‘He is not a tame lion.’" Lefebvre then applies this observation to the psalms that deal with God's justice and judgement which, he argues, serve to remind us that: "Jesus is a good king, but not a ‘tame’ king. He is a just king, who loves his people and comes to their aid."

I share, with many Christians across the various denominations in Scotland, the desire that our land and churches will experience revival. However, I am increasingly convinced that in order to experience revival we need to stop expecting God to conform to our expectations. It is perhaps good to remind ourselves that he is the God who made us in his image, we need to also be careful that we have not substituted this God, for a god which is made in our image, Perhaps more precisely, a god that is simply a reflection of the values of secular culture: A god who is pleasure seeking, tolerant of unrighteousness and intolerant of truth.

On the other hand, the God we encounter in the psalms, is God as he truly is. We can, as believers, at no point say, 'Oh I don't really like that psalm', if we do, what we are really saying is 'I don't really like that God.' Jesus explained to his disciples the nature of true worship: Those who truly worship are those who worship in 'Spirit and truth'. What is truth? Jesus again tells us 'Thy (God's) word is truth.', elsewhere we read that scripture is 'God breathed' (therefore spiritual). Perhaps the historic psalm singing churches have something to teach us about worship in 'Spirit and truth' after all.


Psalm 102
For God will yet appear
In glorious might to reign;
The Lord in grace will build
Jerusalem again