Tag Archives: church

Letter to the Churches of the Western World

Letter to the Churches of the Western World

I received the following through the post on May 5th 1974 together with a covering note which read:  ‘The writer was sitting quietly on Easter Sunday afternoon feeling a great peace and very close to the Lord.  Suddenly, as though it was a human voice, he heard the command ‘Fetch a pencil and paper and write.’  The dictation flowed and the writing was non-stop, without correction and without alteration.’ I never discovered who sent it.

Hear what the Lord Jesus says to the churches of the Western World:-

I told you that, when the Holy Spirit came upon you, you would be filled with power –  ­where is your power?

The Holy Spirit stands at the door and knocks and you refuse him entrance and you are powerless in consequence.

You blow neither hot nor cold as I told the church at Laodicea; you are filled with fear and your level of faith is so low that you cannot hear. So many that are of your number are not the members of my Body. They are those who the body should be witnessing to, comforting, strengthening and bringing into my fold. They are of the sheep the Church I founded was to feed.

You cannot feed them without the power on high for you have no food of yourselves. The food they need is of my kingdom and given to you to disburse. Not more than one basketful of my food is needed to feed the whole world – reach up and receive it for the world’s healing.

The fruits of the Spirit are nothing unless they are born of the gifts of the Spirit in his power. You cannot even love as I love unless you are empowered to love by my Holy Spirit. The love you have of yourselves is a pale shadow and fails to love except where love is returned, or is to those you find lovable. To love the unlovable, the nasty and degraded, needs power, my power. My power is the true power of love for it is me whom you have to give and to share, for I am Love.

Reach up your hands now and receive power. This is my gift – given by my Father to me to pass on to you for the coming of the kingdom and the glory of God.

The gifts of the Spirit, the power gifts which the apostles received at Pentecost, are the same gifts as I offer now. The same miracles are available to you now, the same turning of your world upside down available to you as to them in their day and age. The need is as great as it was then. A great hunger is in the world and I have what is needed to satisfy it.  Feed my sheep! Feed my sheep! !

‘How?’ you say. You have all the answers in the Word I have left with you through my apostles and those who knew my mind in the period before the world crept in and diluted and distorted my message with sophistication and human philosophical thought – of the minds of men and in the intellectual strength of men.  My words are of my Spirit to your spirit.  To those whose ears of the spirit are open, hear!  To those whose eyes of the spirit are open, see!

You, as I am, are spirit, made of the same stuff as I am, as is the Father. You are made in his image but the world is strong and is a battlefield between my kingdom and the kingdom of the usurper. He is conquered but you do not know it until you wear the mantle of my mind and have the heart of my Spirit. Then you see in varying degrees according to your surrender of self and your openness to me, from shades of grey, to light and dark, to the near brightness of the dawn of my kingdom where the stars sing together of the glory of God and you enter into my gift of eternal life.

Take note of what happened at Pentecost. Don’t be misled and pay undue attention to any one aspect of that happening. Yes, there were tongues, but this is a manifestation of the evidence, of a sealing of a happening, not the happening itself, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual truth – a sacramental happening. It gives assurance and is a gift of the Spirit, the fruits of which are assurance and confidence and a deepening trust in me and an empowering to go forward with your hand in mine.

Note what happened then.  Peter spoke in the power of the Spirit. What about?  About me.  For the Father gave me to the world for the world’s healing and if I am spoken of to the world, not in the light of scholarship or of intellectual reasoning but in the power of the Spirit, in words given by Him, then men’s hearts are changed. They hear what they long to hear, the answer to each man’s deepest need.  The words will mean different things to different people for they are words of the Spirit who knows each man’s deepest need as you cannot.

Then what happened? Peter and John showed in the power of the Spirit what can happen through people who are Spirit-filled. At the Gate Beautiful they did not send the man who was lame to a doctor, they did not give him sympathy, they did not even feel they could do anything except use the words that the Spirit gave them and the man was healed and rose and walked and leaped and praised God. They acknowledged that they had nothing to offer except me and, in the power of my Spirit, they lifted the man up to me.

I said that you would do greater things than I did.  I turned water into wine, I healed the sick, I raised the dead.  Do you do these things, and greater things?  Yes, here and there, these things are done but so few are they who so trust in me and my promises, so few who are bold enough to step out in the assurance of my promises, in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

I died to give you this power. I conquered the usurper of the world, the devil, to give you the world as part of the Kingdom of God. I entered hell and accepted forsakenness to bring you forgiveness and I rose in the power of the Spirit to give you power to continue my work and you have forgotten and are asleep.  Awake and step out again in the power I offer you.

Be baptised, as my apostles were, by the one Spirit.

Accept the gifts of power, the great ones of healing, of wisdom, of knowledge, of discerning of spirits, of supernatural trust, of miracles, and the lesser ones of prophesy, tongues and interpretation of tongues.

If you are one Body, my Body in the world, my Church, then you must all be baptized into that one Body by the Baptism of the one Spirit and the gifts of that one Spirit are all needed as the limbs of the body are all needed.  All have their place, none can do without the others, none can be missed without damage to the whole Body.  The lesser gifts of power will be the most used and the most apparent.  They must be safeguarded by the more constant and obvious use lest they are forgotten and lost to the detriment of the Body.

How is it that the Holy Spirit, without which my Church would never have been born, has been so neglected and so forgotten that, except as a meaningless ritual in a mechanical rite, the power has gone out of the Church?

The devil is defeated by me and by those who are mine but alas, over the centuries, he has cast a shadow over the minds of millions so that they have lost the dynamic at the heart of things, the power that makes my Body effective in the world – the power of the Spirit.

Awake, oh my Church!  Open your hearts and minds to the Baptism I offer.  Accept in the place of your own intellects and powers, my mind that I offer you and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Feed my sheep. If you love me at all, feed my sheep.

Advertisements

Freedom From Guilt

‘I can never forgive myself for killing my own child!’

The woman who said this was a member of the community in which I was serving as a Methodist minister. It transpired that she had had an abortion some years previously.  As gently as possible, I asked her: ‘Would you if you could?’ The silence that followed seemed interminable.  Eventually she whispered ‘Yes, I suppose so… BUT I CAN’T!’   ‘Good, in that case I can ask the Lord to help you’.  I have never known the Lord to fail to answer this prayer.

It is important to recognize that she had the freedom to choose. If she had said ‘no’ there is nothing further I could have done.  Having expressed her willingness to forgive herself, I could then ask the Lord to help her. Having received the Lord’s forgiveness and choosing to forgive herself, she was freed from a burden of guilt that she had been carrying for a number of years.

We can be guilty without knowing it.  I did not realise that I was a sinner needing a saviour until after I had become a Christian.  We can feel guilty for no good reason.  There is such a thing as false guilt.

Part of what God has done for us through His coming in the person of Jesus Christ is to make provision for us to enjoy freedom from guilt and the forgiveness of our sins: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The prophet Isaiah foresaw what Jesus achieved for us through his death on the Cross: ‘He endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne.  All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God.  But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did.  We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received’ (Isaiah 53:4-5).

John, one of the disciples of Jesus, expresses it like this:  ‘(Jesus Christ) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).  Through his death on the Cross Jesus paid the price for all our sins.  John also tells us that the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sins (1 John 1:7).

The blood of Jesus washes away our guilt. An old chorus expresses it: ‘There is power in the blood’.   This is a mystery that I do not understand but nevertheless believe.

In the Catholic tradition it is customary to go to the Confessional in order to confess our sins to a priest and hear him pronounce absolution.  For those of us who are not Catholics it can be very helpful to acknowledge the truth of what has happened to a minister or another Christian who will listen to what we have to say and remind us of the truth expressed in the Bible that if we confess our sins, he will keep his promise and do what he has said he will do: he will forgive us and purify us. (1 John 1:9)   Our part is to choose to accept God’s forgiveness.

If we have difficulty doing this we may need to consider whether we have forgiven ourselves.

The Continuing Ministry of Jesus

I have long been convinced that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is meant to be continuing the ministry of Christ through the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Something to notice is the way in which Jesus shared his ministry with his disciples:

“When Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick…so they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere” Luke 9:1-6

And also 72 others:

“After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you’.  Later the 72 returned with joy and said  “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Luke 10:1,8-9,17.

During the high priestly prayer, Jesus said to his Father: ‘Just as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world’. (John 17:18).  Then, in one of his resurrection appearances he said to his disciples: ‘Just as the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. (John 20:21).

Jesus was sending them out to continue his ministry but they were not to do so in their own strength.  They were to wait until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-5,8).  Then they would realize that Jesus was back with them in a new way. (John 14:15-21,23)

This became their experience.  Mark concludes his gospel like this: ‘After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it’.

Paul testifies:

“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ” Romans 15:18-19.

I believe that this is how it is meant to be today.

How Lay Witness Missions came to the UK

For me it began with a waking dream: one word, MACEDONIA, like a place name I saw once on a Welsh railway station, with the letters embossed,  standing clear of their background.  Pouring over a map later, I realized that, for the apostle Paul, the call from a man of Macedonia was a call to take the gospel west across the sea to Europe.  Was God calling me to go west across the sea to America? I knew no one in America and saw no reason to go there.

Ten years later, in 1974, when I was the Methodist minister at Bolsover near Chesterfield, I was in my study thinking about this again.  By then I had an open invitation to visit someone in Florida and a pressing request to allow two Americans, Charles and Lucille Gipson, to take me to a Lay Witness Mission if ever I visited the U.S.A.  I was also keen to see how the Lord was at work in various situations being affected by the Charismatic Renewal which was then at its height.  I decided to go for it.

So it was that I found myself in a remote community in the Appalachian mountains where a small Methodist church was having a Lay Witness Mission.  I could see the potential for the U.K.  Several months later, early in 1975, I had a letter out of the blue from Dr. Roger Haining, a dentist living in Seattle, asking if I would be willing to help him introduce Lay Witness Missions to England.

The idea was that we would have a joint American and British team for the first weekends that Roger would lead.  My task was to find the British team members and the churches to have the first missions.  Roger was hoping that they would be held later that year but as time went on it became apparent that though it was easy enough to find some volunteers to be the first British team members, finding enough churches willing to have an American led mission about which they knew nothing was a different matter!

The Lord knew that I needed help.  I recall vividly the day when Nev  Marples, a neighbour and a member of the church at Bolsover, called at the manse looking very worried.  He told me that he had been putting on his boots ready to go to work at the local Coalite plant when he heard a voice telling him to go to America.  When he recovered from the initial shock and asked whereabouts, the answer came back clear as a bell “Spokane”.   This was totally outside Nev’s experience and when I asked him why he was looking so anxious he told me that he thought I might recommend him to see a psychiatrist!  He had never heard of Spokane (neither had I for that matter).  Looking it up on a map he found that it was near the west coast!

After Nev’s visit I came across the word ‘Spokane’ on three separate occasions, one of them in a letter from Roger saying that the Methodist church in Spokane was thinking of sponsoring one of their young people to join the team.  I realized that Spokane was not all that far from Seattle and asked Roger if he would like to invite Nev over to sample a LWM so that he could then come back and help me find the churches to have the first missions.

The day came when Nev was dropped off at Spokane and told that he would be collected again later in the day.  Looking around and wondering what he was doing there, he noticed a building with a cross on it.  When he went to investigate he found that it was a shelter for disadvantaged men.  Nev ended up having lunch with the director who told him how he had been a successful cattle rancher when the Lord called him to the work in which he was now involved: how reluctant he had been and how he had been thrown from his horse, ending up on his back with plenty of time to think.  He told Nev: ‘If the Lord calls you to do something you’d better do it!’

Nev was taken to a Lay Witness Mission and also saw their potential for the U.K.

When  Nev came back home he had an amazing story to tell and was the one who encouraged churches to have the first missions as well as becoming a member of the management committee and going on missions himself.  Sadly, Nev died a few years ago.

The 1,000 Lay Witness Mission was held in October 2006.  This coincided with the 30th anniversary of the first mission being held at Bolsover.

Looking back it feels as if I had the privilege on entering into something that God was doing.

Seeing is Believing

Seeing is Believing – Sight for the Blind

eyeWe have seen that Christianity is a revealed religion.  God has chosen to make himself  known by stepping into his creation in the person of Jesus Christ. Spiritual truth is spiritually revealed. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Consider how the apostle Paul describes God’s calling: ‘I am sending you to them (the Gentiles) to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are made holy by faith into me’. (Acts 26:18)

Paul tells us that the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see who Jesus is (2 Corinthians 4:4).  However the good news is that when a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed, the blind see (2 Corinthians 3:16). This is an important aspect of healing because we are blind to the truth of the gospel until we turn to the Lord and put our trust in Him.

One day, during the time I was at theological college, we had a time of sharing about how we had come to faith in Christ.  I remember our theology tutor saying that though he could not name the day when he became a believer what he could say was: ‘Whereas I was blind, now I can see’.

There came a very important day in the life of Jesus and his disciples: it marked a turning point in his ministry.   It was the day they came to Caesarea Philippi:  the day Jesus asked his disciples:  “What do people make of me?  Who do people say that I am?”  Peter’s answer was  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.  “Well done,”  said Jesus  “You’ve seen it.  This was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.”

(Matthew 16:13-18)

The Church would grow as unbelievers became believers by putting their trust in Jesus and coming to see his true significance. This points to the importance of the ministry of the evangelist whose task is to help people become believers. This is a very important ministry because it results in the new birth and the gift of eternal life.  It is like being born again.  For more about this see John 3:1 – 8. Notice that the new birth is a work of the Holy Spirit.  (John 3:6).

Creation and Fall

Creation and Fall

207px-creationwindow1Why the Incarnation? Why did God come?  Why did he step into his creation in the person of Jesus Christ? The bible gives us a number of reasons, all of them related to the fact that we live on a fallen planet.  In order to understand this we need to go back to the beginning.

The opening chapters of the bible are profoundly important in that they express profound spiritual truth:  ‘In the beginning God…’  God is, he exists.  ‘God created…’  We are creatures of the Creator.  His creation was good.  This is a recurring refrain in Genesis 1, repeated five times, culminating with ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good’.

This raises an obvious question: What went wrong? What about all the evil and suffering in the world?  Jesus told a parable pointing us to the answer:

‘An enemy did this’. (Matthew 13:28).  The apostle John puts it very strongly when he declares: ‘The whole world is under the control of the evil one’. (I John 5:19).

In the last book of the bible, there is a picture of a war in heaven between Michael and his angels on the one hand and the dragon and his angels on the other. (Revelation 12:7-9).  We are told that ‘the great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.’

Satan is thought to be a fallen angel, originally one of the most splendid of God’s created beings.  There are two rather obscure passages in the bible which point to Satan’s fall being the result of pride, Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28: 12-18.

The story of the Fall is in Genesis 3.  Satan the tempter appears in the form of a serpent.  His first temptation was to doubt the word of God:  ‘Did God really say?’  What is our own answer to this question?  Do we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, authoritative for faith and practice?  Eve successfully resisted this temptation: ‘Yes, God did say.’

The second temptation was to disbelieve God.  Adam had been warned that death would be the result of eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17).  Satan accused God of being a liar ‘You will not surely die’ said Satan to the woman. Then, tempting her with the sin of pride, said: ‘You will be like God.’  Eve chose to believe the lie of the evil one.  The sin of disbelief, rejecting the truth of what God had said, led to the sin of disobedience, the eating of the forbidden fruit, which in turn led to spiritual death, the severance of their relationship with God.

The apostle Paul expresses it like this: ‘Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because all sinned’. (Romans 5:12)

The four steps leading to the Fall can be expressed like this:

Doubt  –  Disbelief  –  Disobedience  – Death

The reason that planet earth is the Visited Planet is because it is also the Fallen Planet.

The good news is that ‘When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive in Christ.’ Colossians 2:13

Note: The image is a stained glass window at the Melkite Catholic cathedral in Roslindale, Massachusetts depicting an Creation according to Genesis. January 2009 photo by John Stephen Dwyer

God’s House – A Conducted Tour

One Saturday evening in the 1970s, I was relaxing at home when I felt prompted to go into the study and started typing.  This is what came:

God’s  House – A Conducted Tour

I cannot show you all of it because there is much more to it than meets the eye and it’s more like a mansion than a house.  There are rooms I haven’t been in yet, but I hope I will one day.  There are rooms you can tell me about: rooms that you know about and I don’t because you have been there and I haven’t.

We begin with the hall that is remarkably large, in fact it’s more like a railway station than the hall of a house.  There is a lot going on in the hall and it is almost like a house in itself.  Many people seem to live there supposing that this is all there is to it.

There are more doors than I can count, all leading into the hall of the house.  Each of them carries a label: one reads ‘Sunday School’, another ‘Baptism’, another ‘Women’s Meeting’, another ‘Young Wives’, yet another ‘Men’s Meeting Point’.  The hall is a meeting place for everyone in the house.

On the far side of the hall there are two swing doors marked ‘Jesus’.  Here I pause, puzzled.  I had not properly noticed them before and the feeling I have as I look at them is that they don’t lead anywhere.  Is not the hall all there is to the house?  Do these doors just lead outside again – or what?  Just then a voice in my ear whispers:  ‘Try them and see’.

Looking round, I find that it is a servant of the Master who has spoken to me inviting me to go through the doors marked: ‘Jesus’.  ‘How do I go through?’ I ask. ‘Just lean against the door’ is the reply.  ‘Give your whole weight to it.  Give your whole self to the Door and it will open.’ I try it and it does.  I find myself in a room with unaccustomed brightness and it takes me a while to get used to the light.  Somehow I feel different. I feel as if I’ve changed in some way.  One thing I know: it is great to be in the Light.

I go back into the hall and try to tell them about the light, thinking that they will be as enthusiastic about it as I am, but they’re not because they’ve not seen it yet.  They don’t know that it is there and many of them are concerned with other things.

Sadly, I turn back to the door marked ‘Jesus’ and this time I find that it opens of its own accord as I approach it.  It takes some time for my eyes to get used to the brightness but then I notice that there are a lot of people there.  Somehow this comes to me as a surprise that there have been others who have gone through the door before me.  Having left the people in the hall I am not alone after all.  I notice a knot of people clustered round another door marked ‘Baptism’.  They appear to be arguing about the label on the door.

‘I’ve been baptised already’ says one.

‘I was baptised as a baby’ says another.

‘Read the label more closely’ says a third.

Surprised, they turn to look at the label on the door again and find that it reads not ‘Baptism’ but ‘Baptism in the Holy Spirit’.

Just beyond this door,  there are other smaller doors which can be seen clearly.  Most of them have groups of people around them discussing the label on the door.  There is a large group in front of a door marked ‘Speaking in Tongues’.  Some of them are getting  heated as they argue among themselves about what, if anything, lies on the other side of the door.  Just then, someone comes back through the door.  ‘This is a prayer room’, he says.  A silence falls on those clustered round. They realise that there is a room here that they haven’t been in yet.

Another door is marked ‘Healing’.  Just as I am looking at it someone comes through looking excited:  ‘The Lord has just healed my daughter’, he says.  Again I am left wondering.

As I look round and become accustomed to the light, I see that there are many more doors and many people going in and out of them.  Then it dawns on me that the Master of the house is inviting everyone into all of it.  There is no door marked ‘Private’, no corridor labelled ‘No entrance’.

This realisation  makes  me  feel  a little afraid because I don’t know what’s in the rooms I’ve not been in. My fear is a fear of the unknown, of the things I don’t understand. Then I realize something   else.   The   Master   is   with   me.  Where  He  leads  I  will follow.  I will put my hand in His and not be afraid.