Friday, 22 February 2008

Jesus Men

Yes, it has been a lot longer than I had planned for my third post. There is a draft post about grace which is work in progress, and loads of things in my heart, but I can only really get to writing and publishing in the small amount of spare time outside the call of pastoring the church here in London (plus the various other blogs I seem to be contributing to!) :-)

This post was meant to be on grace - and that post is still coming - but I was so overwhelmed by things that Rob Rofus said during the Grace and Glory Conference in Hong Kong last year, that I had to post this teaching and prayer concerning men. These words come during a ministry time during session 5. It might seem a bit disjointed at first read. Rob is ministering, encouraging, praying, there is a song, there is some teaching. I have just transcribed it as it happened. Please read with an open heart and allow the Lord to minister to you:
"Forgive us for taking the culture of the world as men, Lord. So afraid of intimacy, so afraid of closeness, so afraid of emotions openly expressed. We thank You for the example of David, Lord, a real man, a masculine man, a warrior, a mighty warrior, a man who killed many people in battle, a great warrior in the army of Israel, the king; yet a sensitive and tender poet, a romantic, a lover, a tender-hearted man. Oh give us men like that in the world today - warriors who will stand up and fight and yet they know tenderness, intimacy.

Jesus, the Son of God, who stood against the most evil force on the planet, religious demons behind Pharisees; He stood against them sometimes alone, and would not buckle under their pressure, or intimidation. What a man and yet He could stand before Lazarus' tomb and weep and shed tears and say 'Let the little children come to Me for such is the kingdom of heaven.' This Jesus who could look at a woman caught in adultery and say to her, 'Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I accuse you."

Such tenderness in this man, Jesus of Nazareth, fully God yet fully man, weeping with compassion. Showing such kindness, that even on the cross dying for our sins looks down at John and says 'John, behold your mother', pointing at Mary - thinking... thinking about His mother while He's on the cross with the sin of the world on Him - He's still wanting to make sure that Mary, His earthly mother, is looked after by His disciple John, the one that He loved.

What kind of man is this? So full of masculinity, so full of male authority, yet so tender, so intimate, that He let John the apostle put his head on his own chest at the last supper, and was not embarrassed by the contact of a physical man touching His chest in public, so innocent and pure.

What happened to the church? This bridegroom does not need our love but He desires our love with a passion. He desires our love with a passion.

Father, we want signs and wonders and miracles, we want these things. But they are not our priority - You are! We're not seeking healing, we are seeking the Healer. We're not seeking miracles, we're seeking the Miracle-worker. We're not seeking deliverance, we're seeking the Deliverer. We're seeking You, we want to be captured by Your jealous love. We want to respond - we love You, Lord because You first loved us.

I pray for men right now, that where their emotions are still locked up, under a disfunctional, illegitimate, unrighteous cultural conditioning, that is contrary to the culture of the Kingdom, or locked up because you had a dad whose emotions were locked up... Your children need to see tears in your eyes, your wife needs to see tears in your eyes, your friends need to see tears in your eyes...

Jesus had tears in His eyes. As we sing this "I love you, Lord" the Spirit of God is going to come on you and release your emotions to be able to weep, to be able to cry like Jesus of Nazareth. And it is for the ladies aswell, and it is not weeping because of remorse, it's not weeping because of guilt, it's weeping because you're liberated to be a fully completed human being, with all your emotions released in freedom - where religion has made you a robot, made you mechanical, the Spirit of Life releases you into friendship and sonship into the fulness of your humanity.

We love You, we love You, we love You, our Lord.
We love You, we love You, we love You, our Lord.
We thank You, we thank You, we thank You, our Lord.
We thank You, we thank You, we thank You, our Lord.
We thank You, our Lord.

The Holy Spirit is here to confirm His Word. He's been doing it already. But if you've had your emotions locked up, supressed, because of fear of expressing them, people frowning on you, being misunderstood, trying to be macho...

A lot of the research going on in the church world today is trying to tell us the reason we don't have lots of men in the church is because men don't like to sing in public. That's a lot of rubbish - they sing at rugby matches. So they do research on society and current cultural trends and make the church conform to that rather than seeing society conformed to the Kingdom.

They say men don't like to hold hands in public. Well I've seen men hugging each other on rugby fields and cricket fields when they score a try, so I don't believe that either. They say men don't like to cry in public; well I've seen Aussies, survivors of the Galipoli campaign in the Second World War cry in public about their lost friends.

It is just anti-Christ - to cry and do all their emotional stuff outside of church. But in church there's a spirit of religion that's locked people in. It's an anti-Christ spirit, its anti the finished work. Right now the Spirit of God is moving on men and women, and is unlocking those emotions, setting you free to be the person God created you to be...

{Time of praying in the Spirit.}

Let fears be broken off our lives. Let the flood of Your glory bring freedom, Lord. It's broken... Freedom, release...

And now may the grace that gives us unusual favours and advantages in life, the grace of the Lord Jesus; and the love of God that never fails is never withdrawn and is unconditional; and the exquisite delight and fellowship with the wonderful person of the Holy Spirit the Comforter who is alongside of us to help us, be with all my brothers and sisters, in this place now and forever more. Amen

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Expanding the vision

I did say that I wouldn't post again until January, but during the night I spent several hours awake and I had plans for posts pouring through my head. I feel a growing longing to serve people with what I trust will be biblical, helpful posts to equip us all to be those who are after God's own heart.

Yesterday I conceived this blog as mainly being a forum for posts based on my series of teaching to the men of my church on growing as men of God. During the night this phrase was dropped into my heart, I trust, by the Holy Spirit - "Why only half of My people?"

I had (and have) no answer to that. God's church consists of male and female. Male and female are made in His image, all are created for His glory and for fellowship with Himself. All are redeemed by the same precious blood, and are heirs together of the grace of life.

Also, in the church I pastor, I am giving a series of teachings on growing as women of God, and I believe the Lord would have me share some of these aswell.

But this begs an important question: what right have I as a man to bring such teaching? This is exactly the question that some people have asked in the church I pastor, and this is the answer I gave and still give:

Firstly, I do not intend to bring oppressive legalistic teaching, but to honestly and carefully open up the scriptures for the benefit of men and women.

Secondly, as a pastor, God has called me to shepherd the flock - the whole flock, not just the men. This took a real, clear leading of the Holy Spirit over a long period of time, that took me from an unbiblical view that women should teach women and I should concentrate on the men, to a sense of God's call to help my sisters in Christ reach their glorious potential in Him. Let me share the story:

A short testimony

About a year after becoming pastor I did a most terrible thing to my wife, Margaret. We had just started the men's meetings and I came home and announced to her "we need to start women's meetings so what are you going to do about it?" (yes, I am sorry, that is the way I was before I began to learn about grace).

Margaret (and I praise God for her graciousness), submitted to me and got the other elders' wives together and began to plan. After a year or so, the meetings were launched, and they were a wonderful blessing, but Margaret always sensed that something wasn't quite right - and after a while, so did the elders. As elders we sought God for revelation, and the Lord clearly spoke to us through a prophetic word in the elders' meeting - "you teach the women." I still had all kinds of objections, but I kept quiet.

After a few weeks, Margaret shared with me a vision she had of someone holding the tiller of a small boat, steering. She realised that person was her and that the boat was the women's ministry, but then she got up from the tiller and handed it to someone else. She said, "I believe the Lord is freeing me from the women's ministry, it is time to let go. But I don't know who, because I only saw the knees."

After a while I shared what God had spoken to the elders. It was like everything clicked into place. Margaret said, "The knees of the person who took the boat, they were yours. You need to lead this ministry."

And so that is how it happened. No, I am not a woman, and there are many things I don't know or properly understand because I haven't experienced them, but God's Word is God's Word and I am called to teach what it says; and so I do trust that the posts I share will help and encourage.

I have a vision that we should help each other

Much is made in the complementarian teaching about the differences between men and women, and, of course, there are many important differences. However, I found again and again that as I prepared the talks for the women's meetings they were so similar in content to those for the men's meetings.

I spoke on men of God, and on women of God; on men of prayer and women of prayer; on men of the Word, and women of the Word; on men of the Spirit, and I will soon be teaching on women of the Spirit.

Yes, there are differences, and there were different messages, but there is so much that men and women can learn from each other, and we can learn together as we seek Him together.

So, also last night, I had a vision that this blog can become a forum where, yes, I share the fruit of my study of the Word and try and bring helpful teaching, but also where through the comments we search the scriptures together.

I still have so much to learn - we all do. I am very happy to be corrected in any of the posts that are made - I am also happy to be agreed with :) !

Last night I read this challenging quote from Joyce Meyer's excellent book, Battlefield of the Mind:

"The Lord keeps revealing His secrets to those who are diligent about the Word. Don't be the kind of person who always wants to live off someone else's revelation. Study the Word yourself and allow the Holy Spirit to bless your life with truth."

I wonder if much of the problem in the teaching of manhood and womanhood has occurred because many of us simply imbibe the teachings of others, without searching the scriptures ourselves. That is not to say that some of the teaching isn't excellent, and I do have respect for people such as John Piper and Wayne Grudem - they have helped me in many areas of my understanding of many doctrines. However, we need to study for ourselves. And the truth will set us free.

So I pray that this blog will become a forum where we search the scriptures and we do each other good in God.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

After God's Own Heart

I'm starting this blog because I have been challenged and stirred by two recent blog posts which have led me to serious thinking about the issue of Biblical manhood. Before you click away and think, "oh not another site about this issue," I humbly ask you to read on.

Last week one of my friends, Scott, wrote a blog "Mark Driscoll: The reason I'm not going to Brighton 2008!" Then, on Christmas Day, Dan, my friend and partner in the ministry to publish Ern Baxter's sermons, published a post "Humour versus Holy Spirit."

I read these posts, and the comments made on them, with a very heavy heart. Both posts referred, with deep concern, to a number of comments that had been made by Mark Driscoll and others on the subject of manhood. A number of the comments on these posts highlighted the horrific impact of poor teaching about manhood upon Christian women - our sisters in Christ and daughters of the King of Kings.

Today the burden for laying down some correct teaching has been growing in my heart. Even though it is still Boxing Day in the UK, I cannot get rid of this burden.

I am no expert, but I am a pastor and I study God's Word. A couple of years ago I started showing the men of our church what the Bible teaches about being men of God. I hope, over the next few months, to edit and publish my notes from these studies, and also to publish any other helpful material when I find it. My aim, by God's grace is to help my brothers in Christ to grow to be men after God's own heart. And also to encourage wives, mothers and sisters to pray for us on our journey.

Now, I must be honest, over at my other blog (The Best is Yet to Come), I have not posted as often as I would have liked, but I do hope that I can at least post here monthly. So, please be patient, but please do visit here from time to time and, I trust this will be of help to you.

If you have any thoughts or comments yourself on this subject, please feel free to post comments below, or e-mail me.