Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Where Were You?

Where were you, when the bullies pushed me down
Where were you, when I lay bleeding on the ground
Where were you, when their words cut me so deep
Where were you, when there were no more tears to weep

Where were you, with words of comfort and of peace
Where were you, with loving arms to sit beneath
Where were you, to hold my hand in all the pain
Where were you, when I was crying in my shame

Where were you, I was alone and in the dark
Where were you, separation leaves its mark
Where were you, when I could look no one in the eye
Where were you, when I was just left asking why

Where were you, to celebrate my special days
Where were you, pride just gets in the way
Where were you, to share triumph and success
Where were you, to give me guidance in the mess

Where were you, did you really just not care
Where were you, a child's life their dreams to share
Where were you, I built a wall around my heart
Where were you, for no acknowledgement of your part

Where were you, then Jesus whispered in my ear
Where were you, my child you need not fear
Where were you, I have been with you all along
Where were you, when you are weak there I am strong

Where were you, I died for love upon that cross
Where were you, I took your guilt and shame and loss
Where were you, I rose again you're now my son
Where were you, I'll never leave, forsake, I've won

(I claim artistic license for not putting in the question marks) 

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Introverts, Business and the Church - Why is the world geared towards Extroverts? The cost of being an Introvert.

I recently heard an interview on the Simon Mayo Drive Time show on Radio 2 that I found particularly interesting. It was an interview with an American author called Susan Cain who had written a book called 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking' (review HERE). We live in a world that, 'she argues, excessively and misguidedly respects extroverts. We make them our bosses and our political leaders. We foolishly admire their self-help books....' (from review linked above). Also from that review the reviewer makes the point from the book that 'We introverts attempt to emulate extroverts, and the stress of not being "true to ourselves" can make us physically and mentally ill'.

Now I work for a large American IT company and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that in the business world that I have experience of that could not be more true. I think it is also fair to say that being an IT Techy I also come across, I guess, a higher number of Introverts than there are say in other lines of business or professions. However, that being said, the company as a whole is very much geared towards Extroverts. The way the yearly personal reviews are measured, promotions gained and generally moving on up are geared very much to being easier for Extroverts than for Introverts to achieve. 

So before I move on let me put some sort of definition to the meaning of the terms Introvert and Extrovert as they are commonly misunderstood to mean a loud person and a shy quiet person which is not at all what they mean. So here is what Wikipedia has to say about the two:


Extraversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self".[4] Extroverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative, assertive, and gregarious. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings, such as parties, community activities, public demonstrations, and business or political groups. Politics, teaching, sales, managing and brokering are fields that favor extroversion. An extroverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. They tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves.


Introversion is "the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life".[4] Some popular writers have characterized introverts as people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction.[5] This is similar to Jung's view, although he focused on psychic energy rather than physical energy. Few modern conceptions make this distinction.
The common modern perception is that introverts tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in groups. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking and fishing. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer, composer and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though he or she may enjoy interactions with close friends. Trust is usually an issue of significance: a virtue of utmost importance to introverts is choosing a worthy companion. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate, especially observed in developing children and adolescents.[6] They are more analytical before speaking.[7] Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement, introversion having even been defined by some in terms of a preference for a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment.[8]
Introversion is not seen as being identical to shyness or to being a social outcast. Introverts prefer solitary activities over social ones, whereas shy people (who may be extraverts at heart) avoid social encounters out of fear.[9]


For me the main difference has to be found in how a persons emotional energy is re-energised. Extroverts tend to be energized by being around groups of people, need the social interaction whereas Introverts are re-energised by being alone and away from social interaction or at least with very minimal numbers of people.

Now I am a full on Introvert without any shadow of a doubt. I can also be shy when around large groups of people I do not know but Introversion very much defines how I interact with the world. That is not to say I am unsociable, though again I can at times be very unsociable verging on the rude when not in the mood to interact. At work I have to attend many meetings either face to face or over the phone and I am perfectly happy to talk and engage with the matters being discussed. However this is because we are talking with purpose and a goal. I know the reason for the interaction and generally in my work setting I know what I am talking about and can even at times come across fairly vocally aggressively when making a point or disagreeing with someone. This may not seem to be the perceived behaviour of an Introvert but this is where the misunderstandings come in. Introverts are not necessarily quiet and in some situations like I mentioned above are not quiet at all. However the cost comes in the emotional energy it takes to deal with those situations. If I have a day where I have had to attend many meetings or have a lot of personal interaction with other people it takes its toll on me emotionally. I will be drained and need some quiet and space in order to unwind and feel refreshed again. That is one of the main differences between us. An Extrovert may in fact be quite charged up by a day of that kind of social interaction and be ready for an evening of more of the same. The last thing an Introvert wants after a day like that would be to spend more time with people.

This is where I find the business world is not at all geared towards Introverts. Again I point out that IT seems to attract more Introverts than many other professions so I am often with like minded folks. However I am generally required to have that outgoing, confident, expressive persona most of the time whereas often I just want to be left alone and talk to no one. At work I need space, time out from hustle and bustle, to be away from interruption and interaction. I find it incredibly difficult and irritating, if I am focussed on a particular problem, to be required to switch to something else then back again. Now fortunately for me, I can work these needs into my day. I work from home some days which is a particular blessing. Complete peace and quiet. 

So that is a tiny window into life as an Introvert in an Extrovert business environment. But what is it like for an Introvert in a modern large Evangelical church environment? This is where it gets tricky. Shorts of just turning up to a main Sunday service and leaving straight after, church is entirely geared towards social interaction. Even walking in to a large meeting on a Sunday morning can be a daunting task for an Introvert, especially if one is also Shy. Generally at the end of a meeting there is tea and coffee to be had where far greater social interaction is expected and needed. There are mid week meetings with say groups of up to fifteen as well as other opportunities to meet up. 

Remember it is not that an Introvert hates social interaction in large groups, it is that it is an emotionally draining experience for them. There is only so much group interaction that an Introvert can cope with before the desire to run away kicks in and to get as far away as possible from people. For me when I am tired, which seems to be most of the time at the moment since having a child, I have very little emotional energy in reserve. Therefore evening meetings are particularly draining for me when I have been at work all day. Now sometimes I lead a small group evening and do some bible teaching which I greatly enjoy. But the evening is then a known quantity. I am for all intents and purposes in control but on evenings where I am not leading I can easily just sit there and not speak. It comes across as aloof and unsociable but most often it is simply I have no energy to engage socially. On just social evenings I am awkward and don't know what to say to people. I will often latch on to a particular person who I may know or have common ground with and would quite happily talk to them all evening. I am happy and comfortable one on one but not at all when there are many people and the requirement is to socially engage. At the end of an evening like that I will be completely drained and just want to go home and be alone (and sometimes not just at the end of the evening).

Conversely I could spend the entire day with one of my closest friends and feel very energised and not at all drained. The expectation is different and it take far less energy to be with someone who knows you very well. I am far happier in a group of one or two. Any larger than that and it gets draining and unless I am very awake and energized I will not enjoy being in such a group. 

Now I may be a fairly extreme introvert and I am not writing this because I have answers to these issues facing Introverts in a business or church setting. I am writing simply to open the door on the world of the Introvert which I think is often misunderstood. To an extrovert I imagine what I have just written will seem utterly alien. Similar to how I feel when someone says 'Oh I just love being in a large group of people and socialising and could stay there all night'.

The business world and the Church community, though very different, both require of the Introvert a much greater investment of emotional energy to function effectively in and that is the main message I would want to get across. 

To Extroverts, if we are not enthusiastic about another big meeting, another opportunity to socially interact with others then please understand it is not necessarily that we don't care. If we are quiet and don't chat in a social gathering don't assume we are being rude or shy. We might just need a break, some solitude, something smaller. We may have had our fill of people that day, that week. Don't judge us by comparing us to how you feel as an Extrovert. To my Church family, I love you but frankly sometimes I don't want to be with you. Or not at that particular moment. I can also be rather melancholic at times and couple that with my Introversion sometimes the thought of lets face it pretending to be ok (and don't pretend you don't do it) is too much. Regardless of how much we say 'you can come as you are' in church most of the time no one actually does. Everyone wears masks of some sort or another and for an Introvert wearing that mask can be an emotional killer. For an Introvert the church seems full of 'full on' happy, loud Extroverts. Which can be the last place you want to be when you are weary. Either that or you just want to punch them, or is that just me?

“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”

Monday, October 08, 2012

Out in the Desert but not Alone!

Well I thought I would dust off the cobwebs of this here blog and write something since it is a ridiculous amount of time since I last posted anything.

Just thought I would share briefly where I am at. Yes I know you probably don’t care but it is simply for the reason of sharing two songs that I find so helpful when I am spiritually as dry as a bone baking in the desert sun. Which I am right now! We all go through dry times at various points in our spiritual walk and I am certainly no exception. In fact for me it is more a rule than an exception. Sometimes I am there out of my own doing because I am lazy and sinful and often chose the easy worldly options to feel better than the Road Less travelled of spiritual discipline in prayer and meditation on the Bible. Sometimes life kicks you there unexpectedly and before long you are walking round in circles in the sand. Currently both of those are probably true. I got kicked here at the beginning of the year and have stayed there because of the aforementioned.

So what keeps me going in these parched and weary lands that I walk far too often. Firstly the grace of God. Simply if God did not keep me I would have walked away years ago. He sustains me somewhere deep down and stops me from walking away. Where else would I go? (John 6:66-69)

However I have two songs that I find bring me light in the darkness of the soul. First is the aptly titled ‘Desert Song’ by Hillsong. It is an honest statement of declaring praise to God in the midst of hunger and thirst and in spite of it. It reminds me not to rely on my feelings and to rest on the truth of who God is. Take my eyes of circumstances and lift them to the one who sustains all things.

Second song is ‘In Christ Alone’ by Stuart Townend. There is not a greater recent song that declares such deep biblical truth as this does. From beginning to end it encapsulates the Gospel of Jesus Christ so succinctly. For that reason alone it brings water to my soul and reminds me of the profound truth that I am saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone in Christ Alone! That is the rock upon which I stand knowing nothing I do can change that truth. How I feel does not change that truth. I cannot earn salvation so I need to flippin well stop acting like I can.

Anyway from one traveller to another I commend these songs to you. The Versions in the You Tube videos are by Natalie Grant simply because I like these versions best! Read the Words and listen to the songs and bathe in the eternal truths of scripture!

Desert Song

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides
This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flame


I will bring praise, I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice, I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand


BRIDGE: All of my life in every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship


This is my prayer in the harvest
When favour and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow


In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

‘Dr Who – The God Complex’ : We all Worship Something!!


This is not a review of the episode per se but some observations from it.

The recent episode of Dr Who was entitled ‘The God Complex’. This title was given to the Dr, by the Muslim character Rita, for taking charge and giving the impression that he could save everyone.


The basic premise of the episode being that there was this creature that looked like a Minotaur that was very old indeed, had previously set itself up as a God on other planets, they then ‘grew out of’ their need for Gods and built this prison ship for the creature and sent it off on its merry way. The creature and ship formed a sort of symbiosis whereupon the ship scoured the galaxy for people with very strong faith and pulled them aboard whereupon the creature fed upon the energy of their faith once it was suitably invoked. This was done by the people being placed in a holographic 80’s Hotel with many rooms, each of which contained some deep rooted fear for the individual causing them to fall back on their faith.

As an episode it was enjoyable and well done. Particularly David Walliams character who initially appeared as simply a cowardly amusing humanoid alien. Indeed the most invaded race in the Galaxy but actually turned out to be the most sinister, in that he would do anything to avoid being killed including betrayal.

The Tardis ended up there due to Amy’s total faith in the Doctor to save her.

Theme of Faith


‘everyone believes/puts their faith in something’

It is this theme of faith I wanted to comment on. According to the story it was people with a particularly strong faith in ‘something’ that resulted in them being taken. Whether it be a Muslims faith in God, a Gamblers faith in chance and luck or one persons faith in another, as per Amy in the Doctor. Interestingly the character of Rory was given the opportunity to leave as he apparently had no faith at all in anything (I disagree but I will come back to that).

What I found interesting is the observation that even in these times when ‘religious faith’ is seen to be on the wane, many people still believe in something. Dr Who confidential had an interview with the writer Toby Whithouse where he explained in more detail his thinking.

However I believe this should more accurately be stated ‘everyone believes/puts their faith in something’. I believe it to be a universal constant that every human being firstly has faith and secondly puts that faith in something, someone or several different somethings or someones (sorry about the poor english there!).

Put another way every human being gives themselves to the worship/idolisation of something or someone or to the aforementioned somethings or someones. But wait a minute, aren’t ‘Worship or Idolisation’ strong words to use. Yes they are very strong actively ‘doing’ words. They are not passive words at all and this is my point.

Let us define worship as ‘giving of oneself to’, ‘pouring oneself out to’ or ‘looking to XXXXX’ in order to provide meaning, security, worth to that person. The thing that when taken away would prove devastating to the person and is the thing that a person would most fight for if it was threatened.

The Drive to Worship

We all do it! It is a universal human desire to find security, meaning and worth for ourselves. This can be directed towards so many different things in this world and our culture is built around providing these things for us to feed on to satisfy those desires. Whether it be the ultimate relationship, sex, money, power, status, shopping, comfort, then next shiny toy, promotions, pride in ones house, pornography, drugs, alcohol to name a tiny fraction. All of these, some good, some not, serve the same purpose. Their purpose is to fill that aching desire in each of us. That ache that sais “surely there is something that can fill this emptiness inside me!” The ache for something lost or missing. The ache that no matter where we try and look is never satisfied and fulfilled. Sure we can pretend that our comfy well kitted out house, our job and family is all we need to be satisfied. This pretention can go on for years but if we are honest the ache is still there. It is NEVER satisfied and is what drives us.

It drives the alcoholic to keep drinking, the compulsive shopper to keep looking for the next thing to provide that purchase quick high, the adulterer, the promiscuous casual sex, the co-dependent and on and on it goes.

All these things are designed to either satisfy that deep rooted ache or to numb the pain of it not being satisfied.

Misdirected Worship is Idolatry

So if all these things cannot possibly fulfil this deep rooted ache then who or what can? Well I am glad you asked!

We were designed and created by God to worship Him alone. It is the first of the ten commandments in the Bible paraphrased as ‘you shall have no other Gods but The Lord and you shall worship Him alone’.

God designed us to depend entirely on him. He is the only one who can satisfy the deep ache and longing in our heart that each and every one of us has. Only in personal, intimate relationship with Him can satisfaction be found and our deep longing for Security, meaning and worth be found. Only in the Worship of our Creator God can we find all our thirsts met. It is what we were primarily created for, as worshippers.

When mankind first sinned the sin was pride and idolatry. It took God from His rightful place and raised us up equal with Him. The devil deceived our first parents with the lie of autonomy. The lie that says we don’t need God! It is the same lie that the world shouts at us today with all its myriad of pleasures and temptations. All designed to draw us away from faith and Worship of the only one worthy of it. All designed to provide a counterfeit. The Bible calls this Idolatry! Any time we worship, give ourselves over to, something that is not God it is worship in the form of idolatry.

‘The Human heart is an idol factory"’ – Martin Luther

Idolatry is the most serious sin in the Bible. It is an act of Cosmic treason against the creator. It is something every human does completely naturally and is all that is needed to justly condemn us, dead in our sins, for eternity before our Holy creator God. Praise God in His Grace and Mercy He provides for us a way out. Through Jesus Christ we can know forgiveness for our sinful predilection to idolatry. We can be declared righteous before God through Jesus and be given new life and hope for eternity. A life that can know that deep longing and ache satisfied when we quench our thirst in the living water of worship of our awesome creator.

I dare you to have faith in the only one who can satisfy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Review of the audio book ‘Churched’ by Matthew Paul Turner

I first became aware of the writer Matthew Paul Turner (MPT from now on) when someone I follow on Twitter re-Tweeted one of his tweets. I was curious to read more about him, not because I agreed with what he said, quite the opposite in fact. I don’t remember exactly what the comments said but I seem to remember it was making fun of either Reformed Theology or possibly John Piper. Anyway it was enough to peek my curiosity so I started to follow him on twitter and read some of his Blog 'Jesus Needs New PR' (The blog title may give you a hint of his agenda).

It wasn't long before I stopped reading his blog and some time later I stopped following him on Twitter. The reasons will become clearer.

Any way a few months ago Christian Audio gave away his book ‘Churched’ as their free monthly download. So, since it was free, I downloaded it to see if I could try and understand where MPT was coming from. The book has the following description:

He spent his childhood trapped within the confines of countless bizarre, strict rules. And lived to tell about it.

In this first-hand account, author Matthew Paul Turner shares amusing–sometimes cringe-worthy–and poignant stories about growing up in a fundamentalist household, where even well-intentioned contemporary Christian music was proclaimed to be “of the devil.”

is a collection of stories that detail an American boy’s experiences growing up in a culture where men weren’t allowed let their hair grow to touch their ears (“an abomination!”), women wouldn’t have been caught dead in a pair of pants (unless swimming), and the pastor couldn’t preach a sermon without a healthy dose of hellfire and brimstone. Matthew grapples with the absurdity of a Sunday School Barbie burning, the passionate annual boxing match between the pastor and Satan, and the holiness of being baptized a fifth time–while growing into a young man who, amidst the chaotic mess of religion, falls in love with Jesus. (Cited from amazon.co.uk)

churched The Audio Book version that I listened to was read by MPT himself which I guess added to the experience as His reading of his own book clearly added extra weight and humour to the words.

Several things struck me after I had finished listening to the book:

Firstly I have no experience first hand of that kind of Fundamentalism. The only thing that comes close was an evening when my first church invited some man to talk about secular music to the youth group. I was about 18 at the time. He was a nutter quite frankly and saw the devil in everything. I quickly learnt to filter out that kind of nonsense.

I have heard about that kind of US fundamentalism and have read the odd article from people with that kind of viewpoint. Not growing up in a Christian home I cannot imagine what it would be like to be a child in a grace filled Christian home let alone one so rigidly moralistic and graceless.

There are some areas of UK Christianity that are very moralistic in nature but I have not personally come across that level of Fundamentalism, described by MPT, in my 22 years as a Christian believer. There were some friends at university that came from a fairly moralistic, Baptist upbringing and struggled to cope living outside of that bubble. With some predictable results of going off the rails a little.

Secondly, although I do not in any way doubt the sincerity in which the book was written, I struggle to accept that much of what was written has not been embellished by MPT’s adult self. I struggle to remember conversations that happened last week let alone detailed conversations I had as a child. Since this book is a series of narratives of various stages of MPT’s growing up it is full of these conversations.

We all filter and interpret our memories through the life lenses we are currently wearing. That is not to accuse MPT of lying or making stuff up. However he has clearly been deeply affected by growing up in such a strict environment and many of the subtle points he is making come through narratives that are time wise his childhood but message wise most certainly his adult self.

Thirdly it can only be by the Grace of God that he is even a believer today. Some of the incidents described are literally ‘you could not make this stuff up’ stories. Enough to crush and stifle the life and soul out of any person.

However, back to the reason I could no longer stomach reading his blog or following him on Twitter. It is fully understandable to be angry and frustrated with the Fundamentalism in which he grew up. Who wouldn’t be? But much of his twitter stream and blogging is filled with poking fun at and maligning anyone who could be broadly categorised as Reformed or Calvinist. Particular targets are the likes of John Piper and Mark Driscoll (which is odd as the fundamentalism that MPT experienced, Driscoll pokes fun at all the time). That is not of course to say that they are above criticism as no one of course is. However Piper, Driscoll and the pastors, teachers and groups they are associated with are as far from MPT’s fundamental experience as you can get. Their whole message is ‘Grace’ which of course is anathema to moralistic fundamentalism.

What saddened and yes annoyed me most was the comments that others made on his blog. Now Calvinists have a reputation for being harsh, but I have never read more angry, insulting and blatantly Un-Christian views than I read from people on his blog comments against anyone in the Reformed camp.

I use twitter and read blogs for one main reason, to learn more about and grow in my Christian faith from gifted and wise teachers and writers. If I find the blogs of the people I follow on twitter no longer serve that purpose or in fact have a negative affect on that purpose I no longer give them my attention or time. Different views on theological issues are welcome, but when those views are nothing more than childish digs why waste time with them.

MPT if a gifted writer and communicator. Sadly however his childhood experience has so blinded him that he seems to now lump anyone who he does not agree with and is on the more conservative side into one category, Fundamental.

No MPT, Jesus does not need new PR, that is a very arrogant. The Church is Jesus’ body on earth despite itself. What everyone needs is to know, understand accept and experience is the unconditional Grace which he freely offers to all. That is the message of true Reformed theology which you seem to so dislike!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Do not Quench the Spirit

holy-spirit-01 We are currently working through 1 Corinthians in our Sunday Sermon series at church and last Sunday we hit 1 Corinthians 12:10-11. You can listen HERE.
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
The focus was working miracles and distinguishing between spirits and then on v11. Prophecy and tongues etc will be dealt with in a different sermon later in the series. We also had a lively debate, last night, in our small group. This is not uncommon when the spiritual gifts are being discussed.
(Please note the dove picture representing the Holy Spirit is posted slightly tongue in cheek)

Where do I stand on Spiritual Gifts?

For the record I will lay out where I stand on what are often called ‘The Charismatic Gifts’. That is the supernatural gifts given in scripture by The Holy Spirit:
  • I believe the gifts of the spirit are for today and did not cease at the end of the Apostolic age. Therefore I am NOT a Cessasionist at all. The best term to use would be ‘Reformed Charismatic’.
  • I believe God can and indeed does heal people today and know people who have been miraculously healed.
  • I believe in prophecy (as in words of knowledge from God about others as well as words from God including pictures etc.. Also words for specific people or the church that are from God about what God wants to do in the future. By way of some examples) I have operated in these gifts myself. NB: With the Caveat the prophecy is always subject to Scripture and is in NO way equivalent to it!
  • I believe speaking in tongues is valid, as is interpretation of tongues. I however do not speak in tongues myself.
  • There are many other gifts mentioned in scripture and I do not have any issues with them being a normal part of the Christian life and experience.
  • The greatest spiritual gift is the gift of Regeneration of the unbeliever to being a believer. The creation of a new Christian life. The must surely be the greatest miracle of them all!
I became a Christian at 18 and have always attended churches where the spiritual gifts were practiced. It has always been part of my Christian experience. I was witness first hand to what became known as ‘The Toronto Blessing’ (look it up). I have seen some pretty whacky stuff over the years it has to be said.
With that being said why did I find Sundays sermon challenging? I’ll come on to that!
On one hand we have the above on the other, I am a self confessed cynic . I very rarely just accept what people tell me without question. If people claim to have been healed I want proof. Very often one must just accept the word of the person and trust their integrity. However I do sometimes wonder why God does not heal more obvious problems rather than the obligatory back ache, arm ache, head ache’s etc… All those are great and fantastic to be healed from. I suffer back problems and would love to not have to worry about it recurring again. We do have testimonies of more obvious physical symptoms being healed. Like legs growing, backs straightening, the deaf hearing. Those I get more excited over as they baffle doctors and are clear undeniable miracles. In my previous Church in Crawley there was a wheelchair bound lady with ME and other disabilities, dependant on medical and financial help, who had been in her chair for years. One night she was healed and to this day I believe is now walking about. A walking talking miracle!
Tension-in-rope1505 So I am constantly in this tension between cynic vs believer. It is certainly not a helpful place to be and is often lack of faith or just plain unbelief on my part.

I certainly have issues with some of the more wacky things people are claiming and much of this comes from Bethel mania among others, see below. Gold dust and Angel feathers for example just say to me distraction from God rather than glorifying God which ultimately all spiritual gifts must do. I know the bible does not list in exhaustive detail all spiritual gifts or miracles but I find such things unhelpful.
So what was so challenging in Sundays message? The following passage was cited:
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–22 (ESV)
Now v21 is often used as a defence against some of the more out there spiritual manifestations and rightly so. However preceding it is v19. We are often in danger of quenching the spirit when we throw out everything, if we detect even one thing that may set off our alarm bells. I find this is exactly what I do. As soon as I detect the slightest hint of theology that I would consider ‘off’ then I switch off.
My biggest example of this is in the case of Bill Johnson from Bethel Church in Redding California. Now there seems to be little doubt that God is moving spiritually in that church in some amazing and miraculous ways. The long list of testimonies of healing is amazing. However I cannot listen to Bill Johnson preach. I have tried and cannot get through an entire ‘sermon’ of his without being very annoyed by it. I certainly have theological differences with him and with his use of scripture and these create a huge barrier. Yet God is using him in ways that are undeniably amazing.

Main two Tension Points!

What I massively struggle with is the tension between the fully realised Kingdom of God in the new creation of Jesus return and the now, cursed fallen world that God’s kingdom breaks into occasionally. The already and not yet of the Kingdom. How much can we expect of the miraculous in this age?
The other is the line between how much a part faith plays vs the absolute sovereignty of God. V11 of 1 Corinthians 12 says:
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
The spirit decides who gets what, when, where and how much.


So on the one hand we MUST ‘test everything’ as I believe there is much counterfeit faux spirituality out there within the Christian church. One example of which I heard recently was an event where the preacher/teacher didn’t once open his bible and it was all about the ‘experience’. Run away, run a mile and don’t look back at that sort of thing. If Gods word is not taught and supporting what is experienced or lip sevice is paid to the word then at least question what you are seeing. Be a Berean (Acts 17:10-11)!
Yet on the other hand we must NOT let our own prejudices and fears of the supernatural ‘quench’ what God is doing even through people I may disagree with theologically. I need to be open to God using me for the miraculous. I need more faith to be honest as I struggle to believe supernatural things will happen when I pray. My struggle with the tension points mentioned above often causes me to choose safe faith over stepping out and taking risks. I must learn to be humble realising how little I understand and trust God always that whatever happens He is Sovereign and works all things together for Good (Romans 8:28).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Fathers Cup – A Crucifixion Narrative

crown-of-thorns Just before Good Friday this year I saw John Piper link to This MP3 by Rick Gamache. It is a narrative of the biblical events of the Thursday evening and Friday leading up to and including Christ’s crucifixion.

This narrative utterly floored me and brought alive the agony and suffering of Jesus like nothing else since seeing ‘The Passion of the Christ’ film.

It is a very graphic portrayal of the physical suffering that Jesus went through from weeping tears of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane to His death on the cross. It is not easy to listen to in any way. If you have seen Mel Gibson's film you will certainly have had a similar experience with seeing in all its gory detail this same representation of our Lord’s suffering.

However what I have previously failed to entirely, if at all, grasp was what the full meaning of ‘drinking the Father’s Cup’ meant for Jesus.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44)

So what had caused Jesus such anxiety as to sweat drops of blood? Certainly He new the physical suffering he was to face. However I think the greater stress was caused by peering in to ‘the Cup’. I think I had always assumed the Cup was the horrendous physical suffering of the cross itself. No, the Cup was much more than that.

The narrative brings in to focus the cost to Jesus himself of the subsitutionary atoning side of what He did on Calvary. I had never before thought about it how this narrative describes it.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says: ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. Never had I realised what this really meant for Jesus. Of course this is only a tiny speck, a splinter compared to what it really meant.

The Son of God, the Perfect spotless lamb, Holy, Righteous and sinless becomes Sin. For those hours He hung there every sin of those whom are His became part of Jesus. He became the filthy, dirty, abominable evil that sin is. Not only that God the Father looked upon Jesus, His beloved Son and poured out His full, complete and terrible, judgement and Wrath against sin upon Him until it was fully spent. For that time the eternal relationship between Father and Son was broken and the Father turned from Jesus in disgust at the sin upon Him. That was the Cup that Jesus drank for the sake of His Glory and our Salvation.

Read the words of that narrative, weep, repent, rejoice and worship at what Jesus did for us. (The PDF can be found HERE)

Then Jesus is startled by a foul odour. It isn't the stench of open wounds. It’s something else. And it crawls inside him. He looks up to his Father. His Father looks back, but Jesus doesn't recognize these eyes. They pierce the invisible world with fire and darken the visible sky. And Jesus feels dirty. He hangs between earth and heaven filthy with human discharge on the outside and, now, filthy with human wickedness on the inside.

The Father speaks: “Son of Man! Why have you sinned against me and heaped scorn on my great glory? You are self-sufficient and self-righteous—consumed with yourself and puffed up and selfishly ambitious. You rob me of my glory and worship what’s inside of you instead of looking out to the One who created you. You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and gossip. You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel adulterer. You practice sexual immorality; you make pornography, and fill you mind with vulgarity. You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator. And so you are given up to your homosexual passions, dressing immodestly, and lusting after what is forbidden. With all your heart you love perverse pleasure. You hate your brother and murder him with the bullets of anger fired from your own heart. You kill babies for your convenience. You oppress the poor and deal slaves and ignore the needy. You persecute my people. You love money and prestige and honour. You put on a cloak of outward piety, but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones—you hypocrite! You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world. You covet and can’t have so you murder. You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and un-forgiveness. You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin. You are never slow to speak. And you have a razor tongue that lashes and cuts with its criticism and sinful judgment. Your words do not impart grace. Instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk. You are a false prophet leading people astray. You mock your parents. You have no self-control. You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions. You’re a drunkard and a thief. You’re an anxious coward. You do not trust me. You blaspheme against me. You are an un-submissive wife. And you are a lazy, disengaged husband. You file for divorce and crush the parable of my love for the church. You’re a pimp and a drug dealer. You practice divination and worship demons. The list of your sins goes on and on and on and on. And I hate these things inside of you. I’m filled with disgust, and indignation for your sin consumes me. Now, drink my cup!

And Jesus does. He drinks for hours. He downs every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s own hatred of sin mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin. This is the Father’s cup: omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present, and future—omnipotent wrath directed at one naked man hanging on a cross. The Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away.

Jesus pushes himself upward and howls to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Silence. Separation.

Jesus whispers, “I’m thirsty,” and he sags.

The merciful centurion soaks a sponge in sour wine and lifts in on a reed to Jesus’ lips. And the sour wine is the sweetest drink he ever tasted.

Jesus pushes himself up again and cries, “It is finished.” And it is. Every sin of every child of God has been laid on Jesus and he drank the cup of God’s wrath dry.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thoughts on Spiritual Gifts!

I was reading 1 Corinthians 12 today and a few things jumped out at me:

29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.


No is the answer to those statements. Not everyone gets each gift since all gifts are given according to Gods sovereign will (see v18).

We are to seek the higher gifts that build up the body of Christ!

The issue Paul is dealing with here and one that is still quite prevalent in the Charismatic church is the gift of tongues or rather it's over emphasis. Clearly from this text not everyone has the gift. The higher gifts are those that build up the body. Since tongues is largely a personal gift unless brought publicly with interpretation it should not be considered a higher gift here.

Paul of course then goes on to explain that ALL of them without a spirit of Love motivating their use are worthless and that is the most important issue to consider.

It is so easy for us to get carried away with certain gifts we see as more important that it can make people with less obvious gifts feel second rate. This chapter 12 stands against that and we should always check ourselves against both chapters 12 & 13 regularly to see if we are in line with scripture.

Most of all remember that it is God we seek first and foremost not His gifts. God is our ultimate treasure to be sought after!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jesus Culture–’Come Away With Me’ Review

Now before I start I want to say I am a big fan of the Jesus Culture worship music. The last three Albums ‘We Cry Out’, ‘Your Love Never Fails’ and Consumed are on the whole very good indeed and just the type of worship music style that I love. The albums have a great ‘Big’ sound to them and hit you with a powerful wall of music and they pushed musically all the right buttons for me.

That being said we come to the new album ‘Come Away With Me’. I have so far listened to it a couple of times. Production wise it is great and up there with the rest of the albums. The big sound, wonderful vocals from Chris Quilala and Kym Walker-Smith as you would expect. However my main impression of the album is, sorry to say, all style and no substance.

My reason for saying that is because of the lyrical content of the songs. The music itself is the usual highs standard I have come to expect from them. However the lyrics to the songs are what can only be described as biblical truth light and a little on the lovey dovey, wishey washy side. Now there is definitely a place for that in a worship meeting. To sing our heart felt response to Jesus is right and proper. However since it is true that most people pick up a majority of their theology from the worship songs they sing in church then they will be left sorely lacking by these songs.

I like songs that declare solid biblical truth and are taken from parts of scripture. There is very little of this on the album. Previous albums have been much better and especially when they have done their own interpretations of other well know worship songs.

I don’t doubt for a second the devotion and heart felt way in which these guys worship God. I would dearly love to have powerful spirit led worship times like they do. However this album is frankly disappointing for the above stated reasons. Sorry guys!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Casting Crowns Live, Stoke, November 2010

I was greatly blessed to have seen Casting Crowns for a second time last night at the Queens Theatre in Burslem, Stoke, UK.

Although being on my own this time I enjoyed this gig better than two years ago when I saw them in the same location (Review here). This time it was just CC playing without major support so it was pretty much over two hours of the band which was great.

What I like about CC is that they are not just musicians that are Christians. They are first and foremost youth pastors, youth workers and the music comes from that experience of dealing with people. This gives the lyrics a raw, earthy reality while at the same time being 100% rooted in scripture. Few bands music can reduce me to tears but CC’s music can do it to me with uncomfortable regularity because what Mark Hall sings is so heart felt and speaks to God from where we are at.

The song that particularly gets me every time is ‘Praise you in this Storm’. It has particular meaning recently given what happened in my life earlier in the year. Last night Mark had not even sung the first line and tears were streaming down my face. I sobbed through most of it glad for the relative darkness of the theatre.
Here is that song with an explanation of why it was written. I have posted this many times and I doubt it will be the last time either:

Another thing I really liked about CC and Mark Hall is his clear communication of the Gospel at each gig. Cleverly woven in between the songs. I had to smile as his explanation of how we come to know Christ was thoroughly Reformed. God calls us to Him and it is nothing in us that makes it happen, it is all by Grace, nice! I wonder if this riled any non reformed Christians in the audience?

The audience were very impressive last night with the heartfelt singing and worship of God. Most importantly God was Glorified in that place.

It is a shame they seem to only manage to tour Europe every two years as more people should see them live and appreciate the ministry God has given them. Also would be nice if they did a gig a little nearer the south Winking smile.

Please go and see them if you ever get the chance and be blessed.

One negative thing to note and nothing in any way connected to Casting Crowns was this. NXT ministries who organised the evening, as well as two years ago, have an event coming up in 2011 where Brian McLaren is speaking. From what I understand he preaches a very wooly Gospel at best and unscriptural at worst. Best avoided!