Thursday, November 26, 2015

CP 259 Penty worship 22/11/2015

CP 259 Worship Sunday Nov 22, 2015
Retread series NO 2
Hi friends, last weekend we attended a church not unlike the church we attended the week before. The text was from Genesis 22 and Jacob’s night-long wrestle with the angel. My personal longing is that preachers would ‘get’ that accounts like this Jacob episode are not recorded to be an example of how we should live, but that they point inevitably and inexorably (big word) to the true seed of Abraham, to Jesus who is the Christ, the Messiah.

Be that as it may, on Monday I got in email contact with the preacher of that first sermon and shared some of my thinking with him. I added the following note:
B.., I'm not anti-Penty... Some of my kids worship at Hillsong HQ. One young chap I mentored is part of leadership team at Hillsong Greenwich UK. Yesterday I had to consider the contrast between, on the one hand, elderly people singing the hymns on ABC’s Songs of Praise, and on the other, hundreds of young people at the Sunday evening service at a Liverpool church. Not only that, but at the end of worship probably 60-70 of those young people went forward for prayer. That is awesome. I guess my point is that you (Pentecostal preachers) have such an extraordinary opportunity (and grave responsibility!) to teach the young, and you have such an open door... but I beg you to teach and preach from a New Testament point of view, with Gospel lenses not Law blinkers, from an "in Christ" starting point rather than a law of Moses 'you should do this' kick off point, from a new covenant perspective rather than a Sinai covenant view.

A reminder hit me about a correspondence which took place just after I got back from Vietnam in September, and shared the experiences with you. Here is one writer’s response:
“My nagging question - Why is it we have these experiences outside of Australia?  I had similar experiences on my trip to Cambodia. Do we take our relationship with Jesus for granted in Australia? Why is it so different?  Do we relax into the palm of his hand and give it no more thought?”

Here’s Fred’s reply:
“N..., Re your question, I had the identical discussion with my neighbouring passionate Anglican priest before I went... 

Somebody here, in just the last few days, reckoned that it was because, in Australia, the only message we consistently hear about is that, 'You are saved by grace and there's nothing more you need to do.' That resonates with what two of their (Vietnamese) leaders said about courses in which they sometimes participate in Cambodia... 'They only teach about everything up to the Cross... we never hear anything about the Holy Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and the Gifts of the Spirit when we are there...' 

N.., that's exactly my end-of-38 year-ministry summary in the LCA... When someone consistently speaks about the Holy Spirit in the ongoing life of the believer, our church busily goes about finding reasons why we should not take that too seriously. We are so sure that we have the Holy Spirit sorted in our doctrine of Word and Sacrament that we can't see any place for the Holy Spirit of Jesus doing something like Pentecost in our day to bring the Lord Jesus and his Kingdom to the world where people are dying of spiritual hunger and thirst... Anybody who speaks of experiencing an encounter with the Spirit of Jesus is pigeon-holed 'to be ignored…'” 

CrossPurposes friends, these are real questions being faced day-in, day-out, by searching hearts all over the church. The only answer I have is that all of us speak and teach from a new covenant / biblical standpoint, and that we pray, ceaselessly, for fresh Pentecostal showers… “Come Holy Spirit, revive your church…”

Be blessed this week…


Thursday, November 19, 2015

CP 258 A different worship 15/11/15

CP 258 Retread series …NO 1
Worship on a Sunday evening November 15 2015
So there we were, having laid down the formal call to Ministry a couple of weeks ago, and wanting to ‘go to church’ somewhere. Having let other things detain us on Sunday morning we went instead to an evening service at a local church here in Campbelltown. There are a couple of things I’ll tell you about that service. The first is that the music was so loud and bass-based that I could feel it reverberating through my insides. I’ve been in a few of the louder churches in my time but this was a revelation. I was all shook up. I’ve been racking my brains but can’t remember a single word of what we sang. And I’m still young enough to want to hear myself sing!
Second thing was the preaching. He was a guest preacher and was billed by the worship leader as ‘awesome’. He told us himself that he was fired up for this service. His text was 2 Chronicles 15. He could just as effectively picked Deuteronomy 28 where Moses, having given (humanly speaking) the law of God to Israel, proclaimed to the Israelites the blessings that would come for obedience and the curses which would come upon them for disobedience. 
2 Chronicles 15 is about Asa, King of Judah. I won’t bore you with the details of the exact words of the preacher but will share with you the gist of what he put out there. ‘’If you do this (good thing), God will do that (good thing) for you.” A variant of that was, “Because you do such and such (good or bad things)… then God in turn, will do such and such (good or bad things) to you.” This was classic law-based theology which cuts both ways. Blessings if you obey, curses if you disobey… Your behaviour will draw an appropriate response from God. I have no recollection of whether he at any point mentioned Jesus Christ. Certainly there was not a skerrick of an indication that there is a heavenly Father. Certainly I heard zip about repentance, faith or the Cross. He spent the entire 30 minutes exhorting us to the behaviours which would gain God’s blessing.
I wondered whether he had ever come to terms with the guts of Paul the Apostle’s teaching. Let me give you just one example:
 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. (Romans 8:3)
Do you get that? What the law was powerless to do… God did!
Yes, it was challenging preaching. It was spirited. A Rabbi could have preached it with equal vigour and approval. But it was not Jesus Christ-based gospel-grace-forgiveness-Holy Spirit preaching.
I have a book in my now packed up library entitled, ‘Forever ruined for the ordinary.’ It is what happens when you ‘get’ the gospel, or rather what happens when the gospel ‘gets’ you, when Jesus the Christ is revealed to you as your Saviour and Lord. Every time I sit in a pew my ear is cocked to hear the gospel. I couldn’t bear it if the ‘bread’ served up to me each week for the rest of my life was what I got on Sunday… dry, unpalatable throat-choking stuff being passed off as bread. I’m so over ‘God’ theology.
Still, I’m a sucker. I’ve set myself the challenge of digesting and responding to whatever I hear, whenever I hear it, in worship for the first year of this new phase of my life. Given that Rosemarie and I will be circumcising Australia in 2016 it might be an interesting exercise. I’ll keep you posted.

Forgive my arrogance Lord.