TO FEAR GOD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM

Approaching worship with the idea that our hearts are in good enough shape to do so worthily would seem more than a bit audacious, but that is what much of both mainline Protestant and evangelical worship does. Contrast that attitude with one of the historic prayers of the Book of Common Prayer, commonly called the Prayer of Humble Access.

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalms 51:17

So if worship is formative, guess what actually does matter. The form is inextricable from the substance of the liturgy.

The church cannot look like an entertainment show and retain any integrity whatsoever.

When we tailor our forms in accordance with what we think will resonate with people instead of what frames the liturgy with beauty and dignity, we are crowning people, lords of their own hearts.

That’s why the rule of prayer, not the rule of pop culture, should govern our worship.

None of us have hearts that are right with God, save the intermediation of Jesus Christ. We cannot worship, on our own, at our own initiative, with thoroughly pure motives and hearts that are in the right position. That’s why liturgy is a big deal in the first place. By praying right and true things steeped in Holy Scripture, by receiving the Word rightly preached, and by consuming the gifts of bread and wine, we are formed more into Christ’s likeness.

What is required seems to be approaching worship as we do the gospel. We must be ready to admit that we are helpless and that our hearts are in desperate need of redemption and renewal. We bring nothing to Christ. We have nothing of value to offer. Our works are utterly useless. This little bit of Romans 4 should both haunt us and overwhelm us with joy:

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Romans 4:7-8

SUBMISSION TO AUTHORITY

Submission comes down to a choice. Are we going to recognize the authority of another, or are we going to insist on doing things the way that we want to do them? Above all do we recognise the authority of our Creator God. The following Scripture tells us exactly what our Creator thinks about the importance of us submitting to authority. Moreover, His word tells us exactly the roles and rules He has established for male, females, fathers and mothers, elders and children that enable us to function in His world.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2:5-9.

Understanding that submitting to authority does not have anything to do with the value or worth of an individual is fundamental to our ability to accept whatever role God assigns to us.

Submission is defined as, “The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.”

People have struggled with the idea of submission forever, usually because of pride, ego, or greed. For organizations to function effectively, there must be order and recognition of authority. In the absence of these two things, we have chaos. Jesus is such a great example for us and yet Jesus asserted His authority over man when He said:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6. and “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Matthew 28:18

Sadly, the roles and rules established by our Creator are no longer considered valid in todays society. We would prefer to make up our own rules so that we can do whatever we desire to do whenever we want to do it. Lawlessness is the result. God’s Word tells us that in the last days before Jesus returns to this earth lawlessness will abound.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.Matthew 24:12-14

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him… Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” 2 Thessalonian 1:1,3-4

Jesus second coming is as important as His first coming. It is glorious for those of us that have accepted His offer of eternal life. It was achieved by Jesus sacrifice on The Cross which was necessary to bring us back into a righteous relationship with our Heavenly Father. However, accepting Jesus offer also requires us to submit to His Lordship over our lives. When we do, Jesus makes it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to indwell our Spirit enabling us to live the Christian life. Our Spirit is the lamp of the Lord which requires oil, the Holy Spirit to function, to produce light.

“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts.” Proverbs 20:27

When we say to our Heavenly Father, as Jesus did during His time on this earth, not my will but your will be done, the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness gentleness goodness, kindness and self control. Also all nine gifts of the Spirit will be available for us to achieve God’s purpose for our lives (1 Corinthians 12;4-11).

Sadly, many people who think they are Christians have never truly submitted to the Lordship of Christ and so have never received the Holy Spirit to enable them to live the Christian life. They have never truly died to self to enable them to be born again in Christ. Where do you stand?

GOD’S KINGDOM WILL COME

Christianity initially grew because of the suffering service of its adherents. It had no political power for several centuries yet it continued to gain followers. However, once it hitched its wagon to the Constantine cart it went off the rails because power found in weakness doesn’t gel well with a government that wants to flex its muscle. 

We need to be very careful when we try to use worldly power to promote a Gospel that is inherently about power in weakness. When we take Christianity into the halls of power we are in essence asking Jesus to leave His embarrassing life of suffering service behind and become the poster boy for a political cause. God has always worked through that which the world considered foolishness, yet we seem intent on making Him worldly- wise. We need to take Paul’s exhortation in the second chapter of Philippians seriously because it constitutes the rule of law for the Kingdom of God.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2: 5-8)

We cannot forget that we are citizens of another Kingdom where we render unto God what is God’s and obey God rather than men. We have been saved by a God who did not wield a hammer but yielded to the nails. Maybe we can let more of God’s Kingdom peek through if we practice a bit more yielding and a bit less wielding.

THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF JESUS

The coming Millennial reign of Jesus on this earth is when we will see His Kingdom truly come to earth. Biblical prophecy reveals Jesus will reign with the resurrected saints from a restored Jerusalem, with a rod of iron, for one thousand years. God has unfinished business with Israel, the nation He established to be an example to the other nations of His Kingdom on earth. It is a transitional period before the second resurrection of unbelievers followed by the White Throne Judgement and finally a new heaven and a new earth when Jesus hands authority back to our Heavenly Father. We are told that during Jesus thousand-year reign Satan is bound unable to deceive those born during this time. Sadly, we are also told that when Satan is released at the end of the thousand years, he is still able to convince thousands if not more to join him in rebellion against Jesus and His Kingdom.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him so that he might not deceive the nations any longer until the thousand years are ended. After that, he must be released for a little while.
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:1-6

Wickedness of the heart of man

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.Genesis 6:5-6

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ephesians 2:1-3

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.Jeremiah 7:9-10

CHURCH AND LIFE CHANGED RADICALLY

In evangelist Nick Hall’s 10-hour Livestream session called “Leader Check In” this week, Francis Chan, former megachurch pastor, who recently left America to become a missionary in Asia, urged those watching to “repent” and self reflect because there’s a possibility we won’t go back to “church as usual, life as usual.

“What if God is taking us to a different place?” Chan shared from the balcony of his new home in Hong Kong. “Many of us are anxious to get back to normal. I hope your anxiety is not just so you can go back and get busy with so many things.”

What a powerful time to repent,” he said as he reflected on the fact that no one knows what will happen during and following the global pandemic.

“This could be the beginning of the end,” he stressed. He said he believes this occurrence is ushering in a new period for the church as a whole.

God is doing something now that I’ve never seen in my lifetime … It feels like we’re headed into a new season.”

The preacher hopes for this to be a time of “growth” for those watching. This is a time to remember that Scripture says “to live is Christ and to die is gain.

“Please get right with the Lord,” Chan implored, as he referenced James 4:10, which says, ”Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” “I’m begging you to think about humbling yourselves.

“This virus is showing us how unprepared we are,” he noted and then challenged people to be reliant on God alone. He said in a world where technology is also capable of failing us, God alone is omnipresent.

When speaking of the lockdown, Chan wondered, “Could [this] be a blessing in disguise for some of you?”

He admitted that the quarantine has helped him spend more time with God and his family as he is usually travelling every month.

“If you were truly isolated all by yourself, even without the Bible, would you be OK? We have the internet right now so we are not truly isolated, but if we were,” Chan asked those watching if they would be able to lead themselves in their walk with the Lord, or even lead others to Christ. “Perhaps we are not prepared for such a situation.”

He also told his pastor peers: “We no longer have the luxury of giving nice, lighthearted sermons that are softened with jokes on either side. My little self-help tips are not enough anymore,” he said.

Now is the time to rely solely on Scripture and the spirit of God, he emphasised.

CHOOSE TODAY WHO YOU WILL SERVE

God is in control of our circumstances but He left us in charge of our choices. In these “last days” our daily life choices are crucial so that we live our lives by the grace of God, in His strength and to His glory. Tomorrows regrets are today’s wrong choices. These thirty Biblically based life principles provided by Peter Rahme (Inner West Baptist Church, Chullorah) will help you choose wisely and well, so you wholeheartedly serve our deserving Lord.

It is crucial you let the indwelling Holy Spirit play His role as your counsellor, comforter and teacher concerning all thirty of these Biblical principles. Let Him direct your choices and you will be able to do all thirty, without Him you will do nothing pleasing to the Lord.

  1. Today I choose to experience Forgiveness from God (and others) and express it freely to othersrather than hold on to bitterness.
  2.  Today I choose to be Grateful to God (and others) for His amazing grace, rather than be angry at Him (and others) for almost everything that seems to go wrong in my life.
  3.  Today I choose to extend Love and Grace to my family and friends rather than being critical of them.
  4.  Today I choose to exercise Mercy towards my family and friends rather than being condemning of them.
  5.  Today I choose to experience Peace with my family and friends rather than being contentious with them.
  6.  Today I choose to make Restitution with others, rather than take revenge on them.
  7.  Today I choose to be set Free, serving God and othersrather than be under the bondage of the spirit of ententitlement.
  8.  Today I choose to learn from and let go of the pastrather than being held back by it.
  9.  Today I choose to live in the presentrather than miss out on it.
  10.  Today I look forward to the future rather than worry about it.
  11. Today I choose to accept responsibility for my own action and behaviour, rather than blame others for theirs.
  12. Today I choose to come clean with my painful memories, rather than camouflage them with a fake smile.
  13. Today I choose to be Humble and Reasonable in the way I treat others, rather than be proud and arrogant in the way I mistreat them.
  14. Today I choose to be careful not to re-offend and be much better at understanding, rather than be easily offended at the slightest misunderstanding.
  15. Today I choose to be comfortable in my own imperfectionrather than look to find faults in others.
  16. Today I choose to lift people up and have fun, rather than put people down and making fun of them.
  17. Today I choose to be able and willing rather than stubborn and unwilling.
  18. Today I choose to be positive, exploring ALL the options available to me rather than negative opposing ANY opportunities presented to others around me.
  19. Today I choose to be proactive in going forward rather than reactive and getting nowhere.
  20. Today I choose to be productive getting things done rather than busy doing things and getting nothing done.
  21. Today I choose to be a User Friendly person rather than a person who is User of Friends.
  22. Today I choose to function according to my design rather than exist in a dysfunctional state of failure.
  23. Today I choose to function at an Interdependent level rather than a Co- dependent one.
  24. Today I choose to focus on the Us and What Is rather than ME and What if.
  25. Today I choose to focus my effort, energy and emotion on doing my best rather than being the best.
  26. Today I choose to make my priority in my business is to serve the people rather than sell a product.
  27. Today I choose to do life for the betterment of all rather than the detriment to any.
  28. Today I choose to connect and contribute rather than control and be contentious.
  29. Today I choose to take the necessary action to do my life goals rather than talk needlessly about doing them.
  30. Today I choose to give and receive rather than grab and run.

A NEW CHURCH REFORMATION NEEDED SAYS JOHN LEE GRADY

The following article by John Lee Grady for Charisma Magazine outlines great reforms needed in the church. What it does not address is what Francis Chan is heralding; we need to get back to church as it is outlined in the Book of Acts. Francis discovered that you can’t train up disciples who will be committed to the great commission in a church of thousands, even hundreds. Moreover, the cost of buildings and paid staff is better off being spent on outreach to our communities.

Image result for picture of Martin Luther nailing Theses to door in Wittenberg

In honour of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I’m (John Lee Grady) offering my own list of needed reforms in the modern charismatic/Pentecostal movement. And since I can’t hammer these on the Wittenberg door, I’ll post them online. Feel free to nail them everywhere.

  1. Let’s reform our theology. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is God and He is holy. He is not an “it.” He is not a blob, a force or an innate power. We must stop manipulating Him, commanding Him and throwing Him around. (And we should also stop ignoring Him, as if He is an optional “add-on” to our scripted agendas.)
  1. Let’s return to the Bible. The Word of God is the foundation for the Christian experience. Any exotic experience must be tested by the Word and the Holy Spirit’s discernment. Visions, dreams, prophecies and encounters with angels must be in line with Scripture. If we don’t measure them against Scripture, we could end up spreading deception.
  1. It’s time for personal responsibility. We charismatics must stop blaming everything on demons. People are usually the problem.
  1. Stop playing charismatic games. Spiritual warfare is a reality, but we are not going to win the world to Jesus just by shouting at demonic principalities. We must pray, preach and persevere to see ultimate victory.
  1. Stop the foolishness. People who hit, slap or push others during prayer should be asked to sit down until they learn that gentleness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
  1. End all spiritual extortion now. Christian television ministries must cease and desist from all manipulative fundraising tactics. We must stop giving platforms to prosperity preachers who make outlandish claims of supernatural financial returns, especially when Scripture is twisted, deadlines are imposed and the poor are exploited.
  1. No more Lone Rangers. Those who claim to be ministers of God—whether they are traveling evangelists, local pastors or heads of ministries—must be accountable to other leaders. Any who refuse to submit their lives to godly discipline should be corrected.
  1. Expose the creeps. Preachers who have been hiding criminal records, lying about their past marriages, preying on women or refusing to pay child support should be exposed as charlatans and shunned if they do not repent.
  1. Stop faking the anointing. God is God, and He does not need our “help” to manifest Himself. That means we don’t sprinkle glitter on ourselves to suggest God’s glory is with us, hide fake jewels on the floor to prove we are anointed or pull feathers out of our sleeves to pretend angels are in the room. This is lying to the Holy Spirit.
  1. Let’s return to purity. We’ve had enough scandals. The charismatic church must develop a system for the restoration of fallen ministers. Those who fall morally can be restored, but they must be willing to submit to a process of healing rather than rushing immediately back into the pulpit to cause more damage.
  1. We need humility. Ministers who demand celebrity treatment, require lavish salaries, insist on titles or exhibit aloofness from others are guilty of spiritual pride. Christians should avoid prideful leaders instead of rewarding them with applause.
  1. No more big shots. Apostles are the bondslaves of Christ and should be the most impeccable models of humility. True apostles do not wield top-down, hierarchical authority over the church. They serve the church from the bottom up as true servants.
  1. Never promote gifts at the expense of character. Those who operate in prophecy, healing and miracles must also exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit. And while we continue to encourage the gift of tongues, let’s make sure we don’t treat it like some kind of badge of superiority. The world needs to see our love, not our glossolalia.
  1. Hold the prophets accountable. Those who refuse to take responsibility for inaccurate statements should not be given platforms. And “prophets” who live immoral lives don’t deserve a public voice.
  1. Stop the politics. Our deadly mixing of nationalism and party politics with the gospel has diluted our message and ruined our credibility. We are not Democrats or Republicans first—we are followers of the Lamb. Our allegiance is to Jesus, not Trump or Obama. Christ’s kingdom transcends presidents.
  1. Quit trying to be so cool. Our desire to be popular has ruined our witness. Today we care more about our giant LED screens, our coffee bars and our stage lighting than whether people have an experience with the Holy Spirit.
  1. No more racial division. Let’s get rid of the idea of a “black church” or a “white church.” There is only one body of Christ, yet we pretend we are integrated if one person of color serves on our greeter team. True Pentecost is multicultural. The Holy Spirit builds bridges, not walls.
  1. Let’s make the main thing the main thing. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s anointing is to empower us to reach others. We are at a crossroads today: Either we continue entertaining people with our charismatic sideshows or we throw ourselves into evangelism, church planting, missions, discipleship, and compassionate ministry that helps the poor and fights injustice. Churches that embrace this New Reformation will stop trying to please the crowd so they can focus on God’s priorities.

J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organisation that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression.

GOD INVARIABLY USES THE MEEK & HUMBLE TO ACHIEVE HIS PURPOSES

On what was more than likely an ordinary day 500 years ago, Luther nailed his 95 theses, written in Latin, to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. He intended them to be read only by church theologians.

Without Luther’s permission, someone took the 95 theses and translated them into German and printed them. Luther’s ideas went viral, spreading like wildfire throughout the whole of Germany, causing a tremendous stir within the church and with the common people.

WHO WAS THE UNKNOWN PERSON WHO TRANSLATED AND DISTRIBUTED THE 95 THESES?

“Ordinary people didn’t know their Bible because they didn’t have Bibles,” says Dr. Kendall, an admirer of Luther’s and a student of Luther’s life and ministry. “The Roman Catholic Church did not want you to have Bibles. They just told you what the Bible said. Your faith [was] whatever the church believed. For Luther, it was deeper than that.”

In 1520, Luther stood trial before the German emperor, Frederick the Wise, and Cardinal Catejan, and was asked to recant his words. He didn’t, and while awaiting a possible execution, Luther was “kidnapped” by a group of friends, who took him to Wartburg, where he spent 10 months translating the Bible into the common German language.

“Martin Luther began to teach the Bible, and it really began to turn things upside down,” Dr. Kendall says. “People had never heard the Bible explained to them the way he did. They came in droves to hear him preach. And now, 500 years later, people have Bibles, but they don’t read them.

Extract from article by Steve Strang in Charisma Magazine

AOG CHURCH MUST EMBRACE BIBLE AS ABSOLUTE TRUTH

It will be interesting to see what impact Dr Doug Clay will have in getting the AOG church to reaffirm the Bible as the absolute inerrant word of God – the truth about the cosmos from Genesis to Revelation.

During his recent consecration as the new general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Dr. Doug Clay had two things in mind: First, he wanted to reaffirm the identity of his denomination, and second, to look to the future by keeping four AG core values at the forefront.

Drawing an analogy between Martin Luther and his 95 Theses and today’s Assemblies of God church, Clay, 54, said he recently had a dream about what it would look like to start a Pentecostal Reformation through the denomination. It would begin, he said, with the reaffirmation of these tenets:

  • The Holy Spirit is a person, not an “it.”
  • The Bible is the absolute truth.
  • Character, regardless of your title or position, matters.
  • The purpose of the Assemblies of God is evangelism, and the denomination must avoid getting sidetracked from that purpose.

A third-generation pastor’s kid, Clay spoke passionately about each of these values as applied to the AG church. The largest Pentecostal denomination in the world, the Assemblies of God has grown to more than 67 million members worldwide.

“I really want to see the Holy Spirit do what He does best: magnify Jesus,” Clay said. “We just need to let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit. … With the Bible, we really do believe it is the foundation for all of life transformation and community transformation. Biblical literacy is one of the major initiatives I want to take on during my administration.

“We also need to place a high value on character. Paul says that if you don’t have the fruit of the spirit, then you are not a tuned instrument. … And finally, I’m committed to say that, in the DNA of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal organisation, evangelism is going to have a high priority, as it has for the last 103 years.”