Archive for June, 2013

Big News – Gay Exodus No More: 20 June

June 20, 2013

Exodus International, the US umbrella organisation and spokespeople for ministry to change gay orientation, has apologised for much of its attitude and approach and has shut itself down. See http://exodusinternational.org/2013/06/exodus-international-to-shut-down/ and http://exodusinternational.org/2013/06/i-am-sorry/
Alan Chambers, the last President of Exodus International, writes:

‘Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.’

Chambers seems to acknowledge that the key problem was to make the secondary primary. The secondary issue of gay orientation became more important than the primary command to love our neighbour. He writes: ‘Our beliefs do not center on “sin” because “sin” isn’t at the center of our faith.’

Chambers also writes about not completely agreeing with the vocal sections in both the gay and Christian communities. He deems these sections, wrongly I believe, majorities. He sees himself now as an outsider to both sections. Alleluia! Join the crowd in the middle? See http://gaymarriagemaybe.wordpress.com for more.

Roger Harper

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Revival? We don’t know! 14 June

June 14, 2013

‘There is one prayer that God never answers with a ‘yes’ – ‘same again please.’ C S Lewis wrote this, or something very like. God is too creative to repeat Himself. He loves to do far more than we can ask or imagine, as Paul wrote.

Christianity magazine (July 2013, out this week) asks of The Cwmbran Outpouring ‘But is it a revival?’ Some moves of the Holy Spirit in the past have been given the term ‘revival.’ Some people have looked at what the Holy Spirit did then and created a pattern of what they consider revival. What happens today is then checked against this pattern, this definition, so that a judgement can be made.

The danger of this thinking is that it is that of Nicodemus the Pharisee in John 3. Nicodemus starts by saying ‘We know… Because of our religious and historical knowledge we can tell who is a teacher sent by God and who isn’t. Good news, Jesus, you make the grade. We, with our superior special, knowledge are ready to give you our approval. We know you are a teacher sent by God…’ Nicodemus is about to carry on when Jesus interrupts him.

Jesus is not impressed. He does not welcome this, probably conditional, seal of approval. He challenges and dismantles Nicodemus’ whole thinking. ‘Very truly, I tell you, no-one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.’ ‘You think you know things. Here’s the truth, greater than religious knowledge. To see and recognise what God is truly doing, you have to start from scratch. Go back to being a baby who knows nothing at all. Start all over again. Give up your religious knowledge. Then you can see, then you can know.’

Starting with ‘We know what revival is,’ is the wrong place to start. Far better to start with a child’s view, even a baby’s view. ‘What’s this then? Does it taste good? Can I have some? Yum yum. Whoopee!’

Maybe this is why the Welsh Outpouring is primarily for Welsh addicts. Victory Church was started by an ex-addict and, even in only 3 years, has a considerable ministry to addicts. They know they need to start life all over again and need the Holy Spirit to make this happen.

The Outpouring in Cwmbran may or may not be like other recognised Outpourings. It may or may not be like other recognised Revivals. It really does not matter. What matters is what we see God doing, as Jesus said to those John the Baptist sent when John wasn’t sure just how Jesus fitted into his understanding. Healing of body and heart, new commitment to Jesus, new enthusiasm for Jesus. That’s what there is to see. Let’s welcome it, enjoy it and stop trying to find a category for it.

Doug commented on my first post on Cwmbran:
Great post! Although there is great “enjoyment” in being in the presence of God, the ultimate aim has to be to receive the Spirit as per book of Acts and receive boldness to preach renewal in the church and to witness to those outside of the church. The hopes for a wider revival are not for enjoyment, but for the saving of a great many souls in our nation. At least that is my strong hope and prayer. Have mercy on us and our fellow men Lord!

Yes and no. The ultimate aim has to be to receive the Spirit as per Jesus. We are Christians, not Actsians. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ is a command of Jesus in John 20. ‘Don’t let the Holy Spirit pass you by. Welcome Him in. Take Him in.’ (It’s the same word translated as ‘take’ in Jesus’ words in the last supper about taking in, receiving, bread remembering Him.)

Jesus connects this receiving with power and authority to forgive, an awesome power and authority for ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Now, because Jesus died and rose again, God the Holy Spirit, living in us, cooperating with us, can and does forgive sins, or retain sins. Mind-blowing! Jesus also connects receiving the Holy Spirit with sending us as the Father sent Him. Our ultimate pattern is not the early Church of Acts but Jesus Himself.

We receive the Holy Spirit, in Cwmbran or anywhere, simply to enable us to love God fully and love our neighbour as ourselves. Part of this love will be witnessing to others. But if we think of witnessing before loving we are putting the cart before the horse. John Arnott of Toronto says ‘The Great Commands before the Great Commission.’

We receive the Holy Spirit to make us children of God. The Holy Spirit does not want to make us servants of God, but children. The Father does not make us His children so that we then act wholly as messenger evangelistic servants. He makes us His children because He loves us and wants us to love Him, because He enjoys us and wants us to enjoy Him and enjoy the life He gives. Enjoyment is primary. It includes the great great joy of seeing sinners repent. But if our witnessing is not enjoyable, not fun, the cart has again crept in front of the horse.

Roger Harper

Visiting the Welsh Outpouring: 2 June

June 2, 2013

The Welsh Outpouring at Victory Church, Cwmbran, continues. Five of us from our family went last Wednesday to catch it.

Victory Church is in a converted industrial unit, round the corner from a major shopping park in Cwmbran, easy to find. We joined a large queue before being ushered into the ‘dark shoe box’, as the Minister, Richard Taylor, called it. People were standing packed at the back, not a seat in sight. A leading local man led us to the front where there were free seats. Not so different from normal church…

The format was normal Pentecostal: worship songs, followed by talk, followed by more songs and prayer ministry at the front by the local team. Some of the initial songs were from 10 or so years ago, not all bang up to date. Later we sang some old hymns. The familiarity and gusto of all the singing indicated that most of the people present were long-standing Christians. We sang ‘Here is love, vast as the ocean…’ the ‘signature hymn’ of the 1904 Welsh Revival. Richard Taylor said that the Cwmbran Outpouring is the first significant such move of the Holy Spirit in Wales since 1904.

People had come far – from Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Tennessee and Singapore. We heard that Victory Church has had a million people viewing their Facebook page since the Outpouring began. Hundreds of people have decided to welcome and follow Jesus in their lives. Hundreds have reported healing. We were told of an 18 year old girl who had been self-harming, including on her legs, and who now no longer needs to cut herself. She came again to Victory Church in shorts, showing her former scars: ‘trophies of grace’ – a phrase she had heard there. A man with curvature of the spine came. He wasn’t healed, but he started praying in tongues. The Holy Spirit prompted him to go back to be reconciled with the leaders of a church which he had left in bad grace. He returned to Victory Church and, on this second visit, his back was straightened.

My 88 year old mother-in-law was with us, hoping to see at last with her own eyes a dramatic healing, like someone leaping out of a wheelchair. We didn’t see that. We did see her falling onto the floor while someone prayed for her. This is usual for her. Many such times have made her healthier and happier than when she was 68. I went forward for prayer for Holy Spirit Outpouring on me and through me. I didn’t fall over, as is usual for me. Standing, I did feel gently filled up, as though with warm air, similar to other times of prayer for the Holy Spirit, but distinctive. No obvious difference since. Maybe when I pray with others..?

From what I could see, there were fewer physical signs of the Holy Spirit moving, fewer shakings and fallings over, in the congregation, as opposed to during prayer ministry, than I have seen in a couple of other places.

Richard Taylor preached on the cross with genuine passion. He called for people to make first time commitments in the usual way: first putting their hand up, then coming to the front for a prayer of dedication and to be given follow up material. Nothing unusual: focus on Jesus and him crucified, rather than on the Holy Spirit.

It seems that some critics have said the Outpouring is all money-making. Richard Taylor joked that he could make a fortune out of selling anointed prayer cloths, instead of just giving them away. There was no offering, nor a mini-sermon on giving, as is usual in many churches, only a retiring collection. The screen at the front was no hi-tech super-reflective surface, but a white bed sheet tacked onto a wooden board.

Richard Taylor said repeatedly that Victory Church is just a local church. They are doing what they have done before, but with more sense of the Holy Spirit flowing.  He hinted that they have moved on from some of their previous practice – no longer giving a benediction. ‘When the Outpouring came, Benedict left the building.’ Mostly, though, they are the same but more so.

Normal local church with more sense of the Holy Spirit welcome, present and moving. That possibility, to me, is tremendous, exciting, inspiring hope. Not an unusual time called ‘Revival’ which comes and then goes leaving powerful memories and a disappointed hangover. Ordinary local churches being themselves in their various traditions, but with more enthusiasm, more sense of the Holy Spirit, more light, more fire, more healing, more commitment to Jesus. ‘Don’t join our church,’ said Richard Taylor, ‘there are plenty of other good churches.’ A few things may have to leave the building; not all that we do is what the Holy Spirit wants. Mostly, though, we will remain the same, but more so. May this Outpouring flow to many more local churches in Wales and beyond.