Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Ethics of War and Colonisation

Is it ethical for one country to go to war with another? Can there ever be circumstances in which it might have been ethical for one country to colonise another country, set-up government and occupy their land?

In the Bible, judgement was sometimes executed by war and colonisation. So the real question is not, Is war okay, is colonisation okay; but, Is judgement called for.

The book of Hebrews mentions "eternal judgement". There shall be eternal judgement. But not all of God's judgements are eternal. Some of His judgements only last during this present world. Others last ten generations. Others to the third or fourth generation. Others only for a lifetime. Some for less than a lifetime. And some can even be averted before they happen.

When God's judgements are in the earth, people learn righteousness.

Being filled with the Spirit includes being filled with judgement.

Paul told the Corinthians believers to set those who are least esteemed in the church as their judges.

One day the saints shall judge the world.

Many of us struggle with this concept of God, because we think it's Old Testament, we see Jesus operating differently.

But it's not just for the Old Covenant. Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation are examples of judgement being spoken of in a New Covenant setting, by Jesus Himself.

God righteousness and His mercy are in tension with each other. God's grace has no meaning without God's Law. Redemption is needless if there is no judgement. Jesus is God's mercy in manifestation - but God's mercy exists against the backdrop of God's justice.

The Book of Romans says that civil officers are God's agents to enact His vengeance. That's a New Testament Scripture!

God still has His ways of dealing with nations. We can learn them.

Perhaps it's easier for us to think of it as reaping what you sow. God is not mocked - whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. And if men do, then nations do - for nations are just groups of men. That's a New Testament concept.

In the New Testament, the remedy for judgement is different than it was under the Old Testament, and it's more effective - but the backdrop is still the same - God's justice, God's Law, God's judgement. "You reap what you sow" is both an Old and a New covenant principle. God still deals that way. Only the solution is different now. Once it was the Law - now it's to receive God's grace through faith.

God's judgements in the earth help us learn things. One of the roles of prophets is to receive revelation about history and to declare it and write it.

Let's have a look at a couple of Scriptures.

Remember the time when God promised Abraham, "I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it."

And Abraham replied, "Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?"

And God said to him, "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance."

So we see a principle here that God judged a nation because of the way they treated an ethnic minority within their land.

In this case, it wasn't a complete judgement against Egypt, to the point of another nation possessing their land. This was just a temporary judgement, in the form of pestilence and deaths, etc. This judgement was done directly by God. But God let them keep their land and their self-governance.

But sometimes instead of judging a nation directly, God also used another nation's military to enact a temporary judgement against another nation. The Book of Judges is full of examples of God sending foreign nations against Israel. These were only temporary judgements - often lasting around 40 years - because God later raised up deliverers.

Often these temporary judgments consisted of Israel being oppressed by a foreign regime, and often it seemed to be for approximately 40 years. So God sometimes allows temporary regime changes, through military actions. Sometimes divine-principle has allowed it.

But there was also a time when God saw fit to judge several nations more completely and permanently - to the point where another nation was commissioned by God to engage in military action and completely take over their country. For example:

God said to Abraham, "Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."

The LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: he Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites" (Genesis 15).

God promised all those lands to Abraham's seed. But his seed couldn't possess it yet for over 400 years. Why? Because the iniquity of one of those nations (the Amorites) was not yet full.

In other words, it wouldn't have been ethical yet for God to thoroughly judge the Amorites by handing their land permanently to another nation (to Abraham's seed) because their iniquity hadn't yet become so bad that such a permanent judgment was justified.

So we see a principle here that there came a point where God deemed it ethical to allow one country to be taken over permanently by another. When a country reached that point, due to its iniquity being full, God commissioned another country to possess their land, permanently.

And it doesn't mean the nation God is using is more righteous. Moses told Israel that it was not due to their righteousness that God was bringing them in to possess their lands, but due to the wickedness of those countries.

But God will also judge the nation He uses for its own wickedness, except they repent.

There are Scriptural precedents for all of this.

In the case of the Amorites - when the time came, He decreed His judgement against the Amorites by commissioning the Israeli military to fight against them. The military action was the enactment of a divine judgement. The military was acting as God's servants.

The Bible says in the Book of Psalms that the saints had that honour - the honour of executing God's judgements upon the nations.

So we see a principle, that military action is a service to God, and it enacts God's judgments.

And this didn't only apply when Israel was the actor. Remember when the Lord said to Ezekiel, "Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled..."

Notice God called it a "great service" that the king of Babylon had engaged in military action against Tyrus.

Then it goes on to say, "...yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it..."

It says that when one nation performs military action against another, at God's bidding, that nation deserves to be paid for it, like any employee deserves a reward.

Now notice what payment God decides to give him (to the leader of Babylon):

"Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD."

God gave Babylon another land - the land of Egypt - as payment for having taken military action against another nation - the nation of Tyre. Obviously Egypt's iniquity must have reached the point that it was justified for them to now lose their land to another nation, as a judgement. Whereas when Moses was in Egypt, they were severely punished yet were allowed at that time to keep their autonomy.

So we see the principle here that God judged a nation by giving that nation's land to another nation as payment for services rendered to God by that other nation. Military action was considered a service to God (when such military action enacted a judgement which God had decreed - that is, when such military action was ethically mandated).

And notice something else: God allowed all this because He had decided it was time to allow another nation - a third nation - in this case the nation of Israel - a chance to strengthen, in the midst of all those goings-on:

"In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth..."

So we see a principle here that when God wanted to cause one nation to strengthen, He did so by allowing other lands to be given to another nation - but only because all of this was ethically mandated - that is, because judgement or prosperity was called-for.

Now notice that God didn't always have to use a righteous nation to enact His judgments against another regime: He sometimes used the military of an unrighteous nation too. He even used a less righteous nation against a more righteous nation.

God used Babylon to judge and occupy other lands. But Babylon did not acknowledge that it had merely been a tool in God's hands - Babylon thought it had accomplished all these victories by itself. So because of their pride and cruelty and wrong motives - and because they were just as unrighteous (or perhaps even more unrighteous) than the nations they'd invaded - God decreed through the prophet that He would turn and also judge Babylon.

So we see these principles: that God enacted both temporary and permanent judgement against nations; that military invasion was a tool of God's judgement; that military engagement (when it was ethically mandated) was a service to God; that a nation who exercised such military action deserved a spin-off from it; that occupying another nation's land was sometimes allowed as a reward for ethically mandated military action; that God sometimes even used a less righteous nation to enact such judgments; and that the nation who exercises such military action would itself be on the receiving end of military judgement if its own motives and standards were not righteous.

It can all be summed up like this: "God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap." What applies to men, applies to nations. They reap what they sow.

But all in God's time. He has His times and purposes.

Sometimes He delays His judgements to give people space to repent.

Now let's have a look at whether all of this still applies in the New Testament:

ROMANS 13:1-7
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

That's New Testament!

So, sometimes intervention may be the compassionate thing to do, when it's ethically mandated.

But it's not the prerogative of individual civilians to take such matters into their own hand. It's the prerogative of God's appointed agents - governments, and their military.

A lady spoke at our church once who had been a missionary in Afghanistan. Kidnapped by the Taliban. Her testimony was that while she was held in prison by the Taliban, she and another imprisoned missionary were praying together, when she received a word of wisdom. It was revealed to her that God had allowed the Taliban to rule Afghanistan for a prescribed time as a judgement on Afghanistan for their having systematically burned down the last remaining churches, and she said it was revealed to her that the prescribed time of that particular judgement was up, and that God was calling her to intercede that the Taliban regime be removed seeing the time of Afghanistan's judgement was over. (It had been some 40 years). There in her prison, she felt led to perform a prophetic action in which she enacted God's missiles flying into the Taliban.

At the time, she had no knowledge that September 11 had happened. She had no knowledge that America was planning to invade Afghanistan - because in that prison she had no contact with the outside world. Next thing, America's missiles began landing, and soon she was freed by an American serviceman! She said God's purposes had been fulfilled.

All of what she said can be true, even if America's response to September 11 wasn't right. God can use everything to fulfil what He has decreed for the nations, even man's evil.

What man means for harm, God can turn for good.

It doesn't mean God always makes everything happen that's bad. But for reasons of moral principle, we can become subject to certain things that aren't good, by our behaviours. And sometimes by others' behaviours not our own. And God may allow it because of certain ethical principles too.

One such principle is that God is giving sinners space to repent. Another is that He has given us the world and waits for us to engage Him by our faith. Judgement is also one of His principles.

A Divine Perspective on Australia's History

When I first visited Parramatta NSW and observed all the historical buildings and monuments, I noticed I was having some difficulty truly celebrating our past. I couldn't help thinking about what I'd heard about atrocities perpetrated against aborigines. I questioned what right the British had to come here.

I commented to my brother, "It seems that we Australians, unlike Americans, have a wounded social conscience."

Americans are so patriotic about their history. But many of us Australians feel a little ashamed of ours.

It's almost like we have questioned, Do we really have the right to celebrate our history, and the way our nation came to be founded?

I desperately needed to find an answer to that question, so I set myself to fast certain days and seek God.

One afternoon I knelt down to pray when suddenly I began to see a vision. In the vision, it was as if I was taken back to the period before the European colonization of the continent of Australia - more than 200 years ago.

I saw an indigenous man walking through the scrub - in the vision it's almost like I was that man - I saw as he saw, thought as he thought and felt as he felt. He was minding his own business, not expecting anything to happen that hadn't already happened. He stepped through a clearing in the scrub, onto the beach on the east coast of Australia, looking out to sea.

As I (he) looked over the sea toward the horizon, I was surprised to begin to see bright beams of light radiating from over the horizon of the sea, which arrested my attention. I wondered what the source of this bright light could ever be.

It's like I was standing in the place of how an Aboriginal Australian would be feeling more than 200 years ago, if he'd wandered towards the beach one day only to then find himself in this situation.

The light became brighter and brighter. It became obvious that whatever was the source of this beautiful light, it was coming closer and closer towards us and would soon appear over the horizon. I felt a mixture of fear and excitement - anticipation.

Then over the horizon appeared the most glorious city. This was the source of the light. The city kept moving towards me, above me, and finally it came and rested on the land. The city was so large that it occupied the entire continent of Australia, with only centimetres of land to spare outside its walls.

As I observed the buildings inside the walls of the city, I noticed they had windows - some of which were white and some black. But it didn't matter that some of them were black - it wasn't bad, just different.

I knew straightaway what the vision meant. God was up to something good at that moment in our history.

It was His plan that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ - the glorious Gospel - should come and shine upon those who lived in this land; and upon those who were being brought to this land; and from this land to other lands; and that all men who subsequently come to live in this country would have the opportunity to live together in harmony in His city and Kingdom.

Truly God has been good to Australia - God has been good to all men!

That's something which all people in this country can celebrate.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Explanatory Notes on Romans 9

In the previous eight chapters of his epistle to the Romans (chapters 1-8), Paul has finished presenting his treatise that salvation is receivable on the scheme of grace through faith (rather than on the scheme of mere Jewish ethnicity or Law-keeping). That particular thesis had some ramifications for Israel: it meant that many Jews, because they were not embracing salvation through the scheme of faith in Jesus, but were relying on their Jewish ethnicity or on their keeping of Moses' Law for righteousness, were missing out on experiencing the promised salvation.

As you can imagine, some believers at Rome may have had some issues with that, thinking that God's promises to Israel may have somehow failed, or that God may even have been unjust to exclude Jews because they weren't embracing the way of faith.

Paul now addresses those concerns, in chapters 9-11.

1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Paul's topic in the following three chapters is all to do with some specific concerns which his readers may have had regarding the ramifications of the Gospel for Jews.

[Note:- Paul wasn't directly addressing the question which Calvin and Armenius debated centuries later. Rather, Paul was writing some explanations specific to the question of where natural Israel fits with the Gospel of salvation through faith.]

4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

The fact that the first-century believers at Rome were observing many Jews missing-out on experiencing the promised salvation, did not mean that God's Word (God's promises, the Scriptures of the Prophets) have failed - because not every ethnic Jew was considered to be a true Jew, in the spiritual purposes of God.

7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Not every natural descendant of Abraham was deemed by the Scriptures to be a true child of Abraham, in the Scriptural, covenantal, spiritual sense, in God's purposes and promises.

8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

The Scriptures declared that God's purpose would revolve not around natural descent from Abraham, but around a different criteria - a criteria of God's own choosing and promise.

9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

Paul cites a Scriptural precedent of God revolving His plans, not around mere ethnicity, but rather on the basis of His own set criteria and promise.

10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

We now have yet another example of God revolving His plans around a criteria of His own choosing and promise, rather than automatic upon ethnicity or descent.

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

God declared an outcome, election, calling and purpose ahead of time, before the works were even done yet which were factors in those outcomes.

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

This was the outcome of the behavioural traits which the twins were already displaying in their mother's womb, as they strove together. Rebecca asked God what these traits meant. God then told her ahead of time what the outcome of those traits would become after the boys were born and lived and their descendants after them.

The outcome was due to their behaviours and God's response to their behaviours - and all of this was declared ahead of time.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

The full outcome was that God loved one (and his descendants) but hated the other. This statement was made many centuries after the twins had both lived and died and their descendants.

Similarly, God declared through the Prophets ahead of time, that Jesus would come as the Saviour, and that all who believe in Him would be saved while all who don't believe would miss out. The present outcome in Israel - that some were believing while others were not - that some are experiencing salvation while others are not - has transpired exactly according to Scriptural prediction and principle.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Paul makes the point that this is not to be misunderstood in a way that makes God out to be unrighteous.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

God showed mercy on believing Jews, as He said believing would be the criteria; and has withheld the experience of salvation from unbelievers, as He said He would. Paul has written in the previous chapters that the criteria upon which God has chosen to show mercy is "by grace through faith" rather than through mere Jewish ethnicity nor through Law-keeping.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

God's purposes revolve around the criteria which He Himself sets, not the criteria which man sets or thinks. That criteria, Paul has already established and is now defending, is "by grace through faith" rather than through Jewish ethnicity alone nor through Law-keeping.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

Pharaoh was long previously worthy of judgement, but God delayed Pharaoh's judgment, left him alive and even raised him up to display His own power. Similarly, God delayed ethnic Israel's long due judgement, preserving the polity of the nation, that He might show His power in the nation.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

He shows mercy on those Jews who believe in Jesus, as He willed to; and those who don't believe, become hardened and even believe a delusion, as a consequence of their unbelief.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

We can't complain that God set His own criteria, despite its ramifications for unbelieving Jews.

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

God decided the criteria that would deem one vessel to be honoured while another dishonoured - and that criteria, Paul explained, is by grace through faith, or else unbelief.

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

Unbelievers and the wicked were already worthy of judgment, but God left the polity of Israel in existence in order to show His power in them.

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

He prepared the vessels of mercy by initiating His plan to save those who believe. It is the believers whom He has prepared for glory - not necessarily all ethnic Jews or Law-keepers.

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Even Gentiles who believe are the called, the prepared.

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

Gentiles are included.

27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

The Prophets already foresaw that not all ethnic Jews would be saved. Therefore the Gospel does not mean God's promises to Israel had somehow failed. It was foreseen all along that faith alone would be the means of grace.

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

The Prophets foresaw that faith - or the lack of faith - would be the sole criteria.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

God's Sovereignty in Salvation

God can do anything He wants. He can make choices which have no basis in our choices. He has done so. Where were any of us when He made the worlds? And that is precisely the truth Paul was appealing to in Romans 9. Paul was saying that God made the choice on His own that salvation would be by grace through faith - it wasn't our will or running that decided that scheme.

If it was left up to man to decide the scheme upon which salvation would be granted, many would have decided that Jewish ethnicity should be the basis upon which salvation should be granted; others were asserting that Law-keeping should be the basis - but God, without requiring anyone's permission, will, or running - decided upon His own scheme: salvation would be granted by grace through faith alone.

That's all Paul was defending in Romans 9. The scheme (salvation through faith) was God's and God's alone. And despite the ramifications of this scheme for unbelieving Jews, God was just and His promises had not failed.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Ezekiel's Temple

Is it possible that Ezekiel's vision of the Temple was instructional rather than predictive?

Instruction - for Israel returning from captivity; rather than predictive - for us, of events still in our future?

Further thoughts which possibly support that idea:

Just because something was written by a prophet does not mean it is predictive. Moses was a prophet but most of what he wrote was instructional not predictive. Therefore not everything Ezekiel wrote need be taken as predictive.

When a prophet's writings is predictive, it's worded clearly as predictive. But Ezekiel's vision is not written using the terminology of prediction but rather the terminology of instruction.

If you buy a model aeroplane kit, and look at the instruction sheet, the instruction sheet is not a prophetic prediction, it's merely instructions.

A prophet's instructions settled Israel into the land in the first place; it's only natural that a prophet's instructions should resettle Israel into the land again after captivity.

Moses' instructions covered the dimensions of the tabernacle, the service of the tabernacle and the divisions of the land. Ezekiel's instructions similarly covered the dimensions for a rebuilt house of God, instructions for its service, and the reallocation of land allotments.

Ezekiel was told that he should give the plans for the new Temple to the Jews only if they showed signs of repenting. In other words, Ezekiel's vision was no guarantee that it would be achieved fully by the Jews.

Ezra and Nehemiah did begin the task. Perhaps Herod's Temple took it a step further. Perhaps it was never fully fulfilled. We don't know.

Part of it may have been symbolic, such as the river flowing from the threshold of the door to the Temple.

Ezekiel's Temple - Not Predictive but Instructional

Some people say Ezekiel's vision of the Temple will literally be fulfilled during a future Millennium or Great Tribulation. That's awkward seeing the Old Covenant with its Levitical priesthood and blood sacrifices has been abolished.

Others say it is symbolic, and was prophetic of the work of God through the Church.

But tonight a third possibility dawned on me: it wasn't written as a prophecy of a certain future event, rather it was written as instructions for Israel returning from captivity. Whether or not Israel obeyed it to the letter is another matter.

The instructions about the Temple are not worded like a prediction; rather, it is written like instructions. Ezekiel saw the pattern in a vision, similar to how Moses was shown a pattern for the tabernacle while in the mountain, and how David was given the pattern for the Temple by the Spirit. Some of it was obviously symbolic, like the part about the river flowing from under the threshold of the Temple. This represented the blessing that Israel was meant to be, if Israel had obeyed God. It also represents the blessing that true Israel - the believing and faithful - succeeded at becoming.

Moses gave instructions to Israel before entering the land. It was necessary therefore that Israel again be given instructions upon re-entering the land after the Babylonian captivity.

A prophet's instructions led Israel into the land; a prophet's instructions would lead them to re-enter the land.

Moses and Ezekiel's instructions alike included instructions about the house of God, the service of the house and the division of the land.

In the first instance, no strangers were given inheritance; but in the second instance they were to. Israel had been softened through their time in captivity.

Israel did seek to follow these instructions through Ezra and Nehemiah. How far the nation co-operated with them and completed the task is another matter. But Ezekiel's vision gave them their blueprint.

God said He would again bring the Jews to the land. They would be purified. He would again require their offerings. They and their rulers would again serve him again without wickedness, potentially. And potentially forever. We now know that only the remnant of the believing and faithful did so to the full extent. But all the prophets predicted that would be the outcome - the remnant, the true Israel, would inherit what was promised, along with believing Gentiles, rather than the nation as a whole.

So in summary, it seemed to me tonight upon reading the Book of Ezekiel, that the passage about the Temple was not written as a sure prediction of a future outcome in Israel but as instructions for the nation returning from captivity.

If you buy a model aeroplane kit, and look at the instruction sheet - the sheet is not a prophetic instruction about the future. It's just an instruction sheet! Similarly, the passage about the Temple is not worded like a prediction of the future, but like an instruction sheet. There are other passages in the Prophets which do include specific prediction. Other parts are instruction, not prediction. Ezekiel's Temple is written about instructionally, not predictively.

Just because something was written by a prophet, does not mean it was all predictive. Moses was a prophet, but most of what he wrote was instructional not predictive. Some passages in Ezekiel were intended to be instructional to Israel not predictive to us.

In conclusion, if this is correct, it means we need not look for a future fulfilment of this passage either literally or symbolically.

But spiritually, the spiritual blessings foreshadowed by it are experienced in fulness and in reality and perpetuated in the true Israel, the true house of God, through the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, 14 September 2012

In the spirit He Speaketh Mysteries

One day my friend Paul Williams came over to visit, and the two of us had a time of praise and prayer together. I can still remember the great joy that filled our hearts.

These Bible verses seemed to be highlighted to me:

"...and the people...rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them" (I Kings 1:40); and

"...they are come up from thence rejoicing, so that the city rang again. This is the noise that ye have heard" (verse 45).

It was no ordinary joy that we felt that day!

I wrote the date next to those verses in my Bible. It was 26th March, 1981.

I also had a sense that the two of us would one day be sent by the Lord to minister overseas.

I never knew at the time though that Paul and I would one day travel overseas together. But some fourteen years later, I was scheduled to travel to the Philippines with Brent Campbell and Bree Kullick. For some reason though Brent wasn't able to go, so his plane tickets were given to Paul. (Paul was on a 40-day fast at the time, and no doubt this was part of the Father's reward for his seeking after Him).

So Paul, Bree and I traveled together to the Philippines. While we were there, we laughed so much for joy. After two weeks, Paul and Bree returned to the Philippines. I however stayed for nineteen months. And one of the predominant fruits of the Spirit I saw expressing itself in the meetings was joy - and laughter.

It's interesting that joy was what Paul and I had felt in that prayer time fourteen years earlier. And interesting that we both ended up traveling overseas together.

Sometimes when we pray in the Spirit we are speaking forth mysteries about our future. Sometimes we are partaking, in the form of an earnest, of a manifestation which we are one day going to see in greater measure. That's what was happening that day when Paul and I prayed together in my parents lounge room at Prunda Parade, Raceview.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Assertive vs Aggressive

There's a difference between asserting how we feel and stating what we want to see happen, as opposed to being emotional, aggressive, passive-aggressive, accusing or attacking.

Understanding the difference is really helpful for two reasons: one, it makes it easier for the other person to explain himself or own what he's done; and two, it admits the possibility that we might have misread the other person's actions and motives and gives them a chance to explain before we accuse them of anything.

Healthy assertiveness goes like this:

"What I see happening is..."

"How I feel is..."

"What I would like to see happen is..."

It welcomes the other person to respond with the following:

"Your feelings are important to me..."

"What I see happening is..."

"What I'm prepared to do is..."

Even if you've misread the situation, the person can at least respond to the fact that you are feeling a certain way.

It can produce a win-win outcome!

But unhealthy aggressiveness behaves like this:

"You did this..."

"You meant this..."

"You are a @#*&!"

"Therefore I'm doing this...!"

It doesn't leave any room for the possibility that we may have misread the situation.

Or even if we've read it right, such aggression and accusation is not likely to get a positive response. We need to show that we're looking for a win-win outcome. Otherwise it's just mud-slinging.

Sometimes we have our own baggage which makes us misread others. That's why it's helpful to leave-out the aggressiveness and accusations and emotions until we give the other person a chance to explain or respond.

Let's always aim for win-win situations.

All Who Believe Come to Jesus

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me..." (John 6:37).

All whom the Father giveth to Jesus shall come to Him.

But who is the Father giving to Him? Verse 35 says: "...he that believeth..."

And who or what causes a person to believe? The passage itself does not establish how or whether God is the sole actor in that. But verse 36 does show us that Jesus upbraided those who did not believe.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Changing End-Times Views

Decades ago end-times teachers were asserting that Germany will figure prominently in the fulfilment of end-times Scripture. They even found Hebrew or Greek words in the Scriptures which they felt refer directly to modern-day Germany.

That was back before the Berlin Wall came down. But after WWII was further away from memory and the Cold War ended, Germany was no longer perceived to be an imminent threat to America or to Europe, and therefore we seldom hear anything about Germany in end-times teaching today. All of a sudden the Hebrew and Greek words don't seem to refer to Germany any more. Since September 11, the new threat has been perceived to be Islam. Now all of a sudden, some end-times teachers are 'clearly' seeing Islam in the same prophetic Scriptures that were once perceived to be about Germany.

I though of an analogy which illustrates this method of interpreting Scripture. Imagine that the color of a wall inside your house is cream. Outside the window is a light that changes from red to green. Ask somebody what color the wall is. While the light outside is red, the wall looks reddish, because it reflects some of the red light outside. "It's red," he says.

Then the light outside changes to green and the green light shines on the wall. "The wall is green," he says.

He was actually wrong both times, because actually the wall is cream. His mistake was that instead of examining the color of the wall itself, he allowed the changing circumstances outside the window (the changing color of the lights from red to green) to reflect on his assessment of the colour of the wall.

That's what a lot of end-times teaching does. Changing current affairs are imposed onto the meaning of Scripture, rather than seeing that the wall is cream - rather than allowing Scripture to speak for itself.

Irrespective of whether or not Germany or Islam are to figure prominently in future times, my observation is that the focus of popular end-times teaching changes as perceptions of what is threatening our society changes. Yet the text of Scripture doesn't change.

A good place to start in order to understand Bible prophecy, would be to study what the text of Scripture says for itself, before allowing changing current events to be imposed onto what the texts might mean. But many of us are more aware of contemporary interpretations than we are aware of the Biblical text itself.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Non-Christians' Home-Meeting

Our local Christian book store once had an all-night clearance sale and it was after midnight when I got to have a look.

As I browsed the shelves, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me by an inner witness to walk around to the next aisle. Though I wasn't sure why, I followed the leading and when I got to the next aisle I noticed another young man perusing the pages of a book: "The Aldersgate Experience of John Wesley." I wondered at what sort of young person would be attracted to such a title.

It was only after we'd begun to talk that we recognized each other. "You came to the shipping office where I worked. Do you remember handing me that bit of paper?"

He reminded me that about a year before, I was at Union Bulkships handing over a Bill of Lading to collect a delivery order when their computers temporarily went down. While we waited, I began sharing Jesus with him, then the computers came on again, so I collected my papers and had to go, but not before giving him a Gospel tract that my friend Paul Murphy and I had written: "Break Free," which included the testimony of our friend Paul Chan and a prayer for salvation.

That night in the bookstore he went on to tell me: "After you left my office that day, I read that pamphlet you gave me and I thought to myself, 'This is what I've been looking for."

Then when I got home I rang up my friends who I used to do drugs with and said, "Come around here and read this pamphlet – I think I've found what we've been looking for."

My friends came around and when they read it, they said: "Yep. This is what we've been looking for."

We agreed we had to find a church service to go to. So we grabbed the Courier Mail and looked-up the ads for the churches, and ended-up at Mansfield Christian Outreach Centre. That night they had a guest speaker, Helen Ivicevich who began her sermon by riding a Harley in full leathers down the aisle of the church.

That night we all got saved. We kept going to church after that and one by one many of our other friends started coming and gave their hearts to Jesus too. I started a home group which the church called "The non-Christians' home group" because so many of my non-Christian friends, were coming."

I think he said up to thirty had come along so far.

Well I'm so glad I followed the inner leading of the Spirit that night. He just wanted to show me the end of the story!

"Forasmuch as ye know your labour is not in vain in the Lord."

Supernatural Leading and Provision

Before I left to go to the Philippines, I had a sense in my spirit that God was wanting my itinerary to change. This was confirmed through Sharon when she told me that while she was praying for me the Lord said to her, “John will have to really listen to Me on this trip.” Then at the airport my friend Paulo said to me that if I had to forfeit any tickets for flights I’d previously booked, God would more than make it up to me.

Often we think that because we’ve already spent money on something, that we can’t change it even when we’ve come to feel like somehow we’d missed God’s mind when we planned it - and that’s where possibly we miss it.

(There’s a story in II Chronicles 25 where Amaziah was told by a man of God that he’d missed God by arranging to hire the military help of Israel. When the man of God told him not to let the Israelites accompany him as he’d planned, he asked, “But what about the hundred talents I’ve given to the army of Israel?” That’s $195 000! The man of God said, “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.”

Besides money, it made the Israelites really angry when Amaziah obediently went back on his original intention and sent the Israelite army away. That’s another thing – sometimes it does make people angry when we change our plans to get in alignment with God’s will).

I was due to spend two weeks in the island of Negros Occidental then two weeks in Mindanao. But God changed all that!

In the first place, it rained constantly while I was up in the mountains preaching near the Guerilla hideouts. The river overflowed the bridge and we couldn’t leave!

Several days later I was determined to make an attempt to return to the city but the road was impassable by jeep. I wanted to walk, but the locals said it wasn’t safe because of the rebels, so they arranged armed protection for the group that walked with us (I didn’t want such measures, but I allowed it just because it made them feel better).

God had a good purpose for me to stay longer than planned in that area, but by this time, I’d missed my flight to Mindanao.

Next I went to Cagayan de Oro City where I preached at a youth camp. At the end of the meeting I promised them I would visit them in one year. I sensed this in my spirit and spoke it by faith. I thought I would be home in Australia then come again and visit them in the Philippines a year later. But God knew different.

Unexpectedly I was asked to Davao City. I thought this would be for two weeks, then I’d return to Australia. But when the day came for me to leave Davao, I had an uneasy feeling in my spirit as I was packing my suitcase. The feeling was so strong that I couldn’t continue! So I asked the Pastor, “Do you mind if I leave tomorrow instead?” Ofcourse he didn’t.

When tomorrow came, I dutifully began packing my suitcase but again, I had that nagging, uncomfortable feeling. I couldn’t leave! So I asked again, “Do you mind if I leave tomorrow?”

The next day, I had that gnawing feeling again. So I asked God to confirm it. That night we went to a church of 4000 people. I asked God, “If its really so important that I stay and not leave, surely in a church this size you have someone Spirit-filled enough to hear from you and come and pick me out of the crowd to tell me.” Then one of their leaders came to me and said, “You have a door that is open to you and it seems obvious that you should go through it, but the door that is not quite open yet, its just a little ajar – that’s the one God wants you to wait for and go through.”

Then in another church, a visiting speaker chose me out of the crowd and prophesied, “God is redirecting you. He wants to change your plans.”

In yet another church, a lady said she was praying for me and the Lord said, “Tell John he must not leave but stay.” Then in the same church a man prophesied, “God doesn’t want you to leave but to stay in the Philippines for a year or more and bring revival to the Pentecostal churches.” That was pretty clear. In addition to this, brother Nick showed me the scripture where it says Paul continued many days in a certain place to preach the gospel.

So I told the Pastor about it and he said, “You’re welcome to stay.” Immediately a peace that is so beautiful to describe filled my soul!

I stayed 19 months in the Philippines (even though I only planned to stay for 1!) and fulfilled a ministry which I never foresaw in my wildest imagination! It was a time filled with the Holy Ghost. Doors were flung wide open. We saw a visitation. Heaven was poured out.

Supernatural Provision

Right at the start of this new plan, I told God, “If you want me to stay a year or more bringing revival to the Pentecostal churches of the Philippines, I’m not going to accept any financial support from Australia.”

A lot of Western preachers travel to the Philippines to teach prosperity. After the visitors leave, I heard a local pastor comment, “Its ok for them to preach prosperity – they have American dollars, we only have Pesos.” So I wanted to be an example of faith that God can provide for their ministries in the Philippines just as well. In 19 months, I never accepted $1 from abroard (apart from $100 which Pastor Brent gave me when he visited me which I immediately gave to a Filipino pastor so as not to be robbed of this boast). God provided for me supernaturally. Here’s one example...

“Lord, I want you to bless the Pastor I’m staying with, and let him know that the reason you’re blessing him is because he’s looking after me,” I asked the Lord, because I’d been staying with this Pastor and his family so long.

Soon afterwards we met some fishermen from the village of Toril. They were complaining that they’d been at sea for weeks and caught nothing. Their boss was going to close the operation down. So I asked, “Would you like me to pray for you to catch a lot of fish?” I could tell they didn’t think it would work, but just to humour me they said yes.

So I prayed for them, and that night, after being at sea for only one hour, they caught so many fish that the boat was full and they had to return immediately! Someone estimated the catch to be around 5000kg. It was a type of fish that is normally caught only deep below below the surface, but they caught them on the surface. Its worth a lot of money in the markets. So overnight, these poor fishermen became quite well off. The next time I saw them, they had gold chains on which I hadn’t noticed before, and they didn’t seem to know what to do with the rest of their takings so they spent time gambling it. The next night they caught 4000kg.

After a while, the captain of one of the other fishing boats asked these men, “Why do you keep catching so many fish, when we still catch nothing?”

“Because of the prayers of John,” one captain replied. So he wanted me to come on his boat and pray for them too. To court my favour, and to celebrate the catches of fish, the fishermen kept sending boxes of fish to the house where I was staying with the Pastor and his family.

In this way, the whole family was fed for months. We even had enough to take to the church and give away.

On one occasion I told the Lord, “I think I’d like Tuna this week.” That afternoon a box of fish arrived, with one big tuna sticking out the top. “Surprise – we had tuna jump into the nets this week,” said the young boy who delivered it.

The fishermen were unsaved so I asked them, “Would you like me to start a church in your area?” From that point onwards we sent a team from the church in Buhangin to their fishing village to start regular meetings.

God had another miracle of provision in mind too.

I told Him one day, “I’d really like to preach on radio, my own program.”

Soon afterwards the Pastor and I, pastor Bobbie Abrina, were sitting at a pastors’ meeting when a lady approached me, “I have radio time that I’m paying for, and I want to start a Christian program, but I’m looking for someone to take the time-slot and develop a program. I can pay for it,” she said, “but I can’t do the preaching.”

So Pastor Bobbie and I started a one-hour daily program on the station with the largest coverage of the world’s largest city – all for free. People started sponsoring Pastor Bobbie for his efforts in this ministry by contributing some finances.

After preaching over the radio one night I decided to go door-knocking evangelism. We knocked on a door and the people had just finished listening to me on the radio. Now here I was standing at their door! The whole family prayed to accept Christ that night.

This continued for the 9 months that I stayed in Davao city. And the week I left, the fishermen stopped sending fish to the house and the association with the lady paying for the radio time stopped. Yet neither of them knew that I had gone. So in this way the Pastor knew that these (the fish and the radio sponsorship) were blessings that God had sent his way while looking after me, answering my prayer. After I’d left, the pastor sometimes rang me long distance asking, “When are you coming back? – we’re a bit short at the moment.” He told me, “I’ve learnt by experience that God blesses us while you’re with us.”

God has since blessed Pastor Bobbie with not just a radio program but a radio station and a tv channel – so he’s still seeing the gospel over Davao city.

It was only after 19 months in the Philippines, when I was just about to leave, that one local Pastor discovered that I hadn’t been receiving financial support from Australia while in their country. “You mean all this time you’ve been in the Philippines you didn’t receive any money from home – you just did it by faith?” he asked. “Oh now I really respect you.”

What God has done for He can and will do for anyone who puts their trust in Him.

The Coming Revival

The coming revival will bear the characteristics of the beginning of the gospel, in that it will be miraculous and that it will attract the attention of whole regions.

Lets look to the beginning of the gospel at John’s ministry:

16 The people which sat in darkness saw GREAT LIGHT; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

Notice that the people saw “a great light.” It was no small thing. All Israel went out to hear John. Even the Romans came. So impacting was John’s ministry that Jesus called him “a burning shining light.”

5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and ALL FLESH SHALL SEE IT TOGETHER…

The glory wasn’t revealed in a small building in some corner of the city. “All flesh shall see it together,” the prophet said.

Yet John’s ministry was only a preparation for what was to come – the ministry of Jesus. His ministry was so great that John said He had the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). Jesus actually made and baptized more disciples than John. “And all men come to him,” said John’s disciples (John 3:26). His teaching and miracles of healing attracted multitudes.

Now lets look at the effects of the apostles’ ministries after the resurrection.

ACTS 5:12-16
12 And by the hands of the apostles were MANY SIGNS AND WONDERS [not just a few] wrought among the people…
14 And believers were the more added to the Lord, MULTITUDES BOTH OF MEN AND WOMEN [not just a few].

They certainly continued in the style of John and of Jesus – they attracted the attention of whole regions. And they followed in Jesus’ ministry of miracles, as He said they would (John 14:12 – “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father”).

Paul was the same:

ACTS 19:10
10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that ALL THEY WHICH DWELT IN ASIA HEARD THE WORD OF THE LORD JESUS, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS.
11 And God wrought SPECIAL MIRACLES [better than ordinary ones!!] by the hands of Paul:
12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and THE DISEASES DEPART-ED FROM THEM, AND THE EVIL SPIRITS WENT OUT OF THEM…

The gospel got the upper-hand in society! People eventually called the apostles “those who have turned the world upside down” and said, “all the world is gone after them.”

God never intended for the manifestation of His glory to be contained to a little building in the corner of society. Its not just for a few lucky people who happen to live next-door to a witnessing Christian. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed! All flesh shall see it together. A river will flow into society.

If there was so much glory manifested publicly in Moses’ ministry, which was all to do with a temporary covenant - how much more glory do you think God wants to reveal through the gospel, which is the prized and final plan of God since before the foundation of the world! It ought to make the plagues, the parting of the red sea, the pillar of fire and cloud, the shaking of the mountain and the provision in the desert seem small, because it is much more important now.

7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:
SPIRIT BE RATHER GLORIOUS? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation [because the law of Moses brought condemnation] be glory, MUCH MORE doth the ministration of righteousness [the gospel brings righteousness] EXCEED IN GLORY. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of THE GLORY THAT EXCELLETH. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, MUCH MORE that which remaineth IS GLORIOUS.

Its coming!

How It Works

Joel said, “…and it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered [saved]… (Joel 2:32).

But notice that is preceded by, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour my spirit upon all flesh…” (Joel 2:28).

Its all done by the Spirit of God.

That’s the significance of the current move of God. God is visiting the church with a fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God to prepare it for the coming revival.

Anything God does in the world, He will do through the church. Because the bible says, “Out of Zion the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.” If God is going to reveal his salvation and glory to ALL FLESH (“All the ends of the earth have seen [not just heard about but seen demonstrated] the salvation of God”) its going to start by a fresh outpouring on his church.

Be aware of God is wanting to do. Discern the significance of all this laughter and joy, all this healing & deliverance and all these visions and gifts that accompany this current outpouring. Its not just a temporary refreshing. It is intended to result in revival and church growth. God is up to something bigger.


The following is a testimony of the extent to which this outpouring can progress.

I was sitting in a church ready to preach, thinking over what I was going to say. Then the Holy Spirit said to me, “I don’t want you to preach that sermon.” Now, it had a title, an introduction, three points and a conclusion (and I could even have thrown a poem in at the end)! But I said, “Why not, Lord, its about the Holy Spirit, and they need to hear about the Holy Spirit in this church.” The Lord said, “This church has had 20 years of good preaching and teaching, what they need is a fresh move of the Holy Spirit. And they’ll learn more about that by watching me move than by hearing you talk about it.”

“So what do you want me to do?” I asked.

“I want the people to experience the Joy of the Lord,” He replied.

When I stood up to preach I said, “I know we usually preach first, but tonight lets allow the Holy Spirit to move first.” I got them singing a joyful song but I had a sense that wasn’t quite what God was talking about when He said, “I want the people to experience the Joy of the Lord.”

I didn’t quite know what to do though, so I stepped off the stage and laid hands on a lady and said, “Receive the Joy of the Lord.” To my surprise she started laughing and ended up rolling around the floor. So I tried it with someone else. They started laughing too. It spread to the whole church. 45 minutes later we had some testimonies of people who were touched, and we discovered that healing and all sorts of things accompanied the laughter!

In future meetings, we gave more room to the Holy Spirit to touch people like this. The laughter became deeper. People were so drunk they had to be carried home. As interest grew, the church started meeting more often, not just a couple of times a week. Even prayer meetings and music practices were affected. People started seeing visions as well. Tongues were poured out. Deliverance began to take place. They gladly allowed it to interrupt their song list!

Finally, young people were so full of the Spirit that when they went to school they couldn’t stop speaking in tongues – apparently including known languages such as Chinese and English (which they hadn’t studied!) The teachers asked, “Where did you learn to speak these languages so fluently?” So the young girl asked God to enable her to speak her own language again so she could explain. The whole class fell under the power of God. Classes couldn’t continue. The next day the same thing happened. Students began to come from other class rooms, wanting to be prayed for. Everyone she touched fell over and when they got up they asked with tears, “What have we got to do?” As she laid hands on them, she prophesied and cast out demons. Classes couldn’t continue for weeks so that the Principal threatened to expel her. She brought students to the Holy Ghost meetings at church, and as soon as they walked in the door, they fell under the power and cried. The TV news arrived to the school to film her. But to avoid too much attention (and trouble with the teachers) she refused. To further avoid attention, she laid hands on her friends to impart the same anointing, so they could be used as well as her – and everyone they touched received from God in the same way. It spread to other schools and universities. Students in universities were on the floor of lecture rooms laughing in the Spirit, under a visitation of God.

Meetings that started with 25 people grew to over 400 in a matter of weeks as other churches began to close down their own services to join the revival. Unprecedented unity was the result. Backsliders came back. Reconciliation was made. Finances multiplied. As pastors went back to their own churches, the glory spread, as they agreed to put aside their programs and let the Holy Spirit move.

One such pastor was opposed to it at first. But finally the Holy Spirit challenged him, “Are you going to let me move in your meetings like this?”

He agreed. The presence of God came in like a mist. Unbelievers walking past saw the building on fire. They came the next day to give the pastor their condolences for losing his building- but there the building was – perfectly fine! In that meeting, they had to put the children outside to allow room for the adults. After the adults had a glorious meeting they went outside to get their kids. And guess where they were? Flat on their backs on the ground under the power of God – seeing visions of Jesus, angels and laughing. The church grew.

Some Baptist pastors came to have a look. When they went back to their own church, people began laughing in the Spirit and speaking in tongues while he spoke, without anyone even laying hands on them. The place where they were gathered began to shake so they all ran outside thinking it was an earthquake. But the neighbours said, “There’s no earthquake. Your church is the only building shaking.” There were some visitors in the church that day. When they returned to their own churches, it spread their also.

The anointing is transferable.

You see, the laugher brings with it the potential for revival, if we become intimate with what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do in meetings and in our lives, on a continuing basis.

Lets be like the children of Issachar who “had discernment of the times and seasons, to understand what Israel ought to do.”

[This testimony, with footage of some of the actual meetings, is available on video].

Letting God Move in Meetings

Having discerned what God is wanting to do, we can learn to make adjustments and flow with it in our services, in order to maximize the potential of the anointing that God is making available in these days.

Some Suggestions:

1. This is not just a temporary visitation. If we look on it as merely a season of laughing and then we go back to church as normal, we could be like Israel who did not perceive the hour of her visitation.

2. “Refreshing” is meant to be a permanent state of the church. Let’s clear something up about “times of refreshing.” Its possible to over-emphasize the truth that God moves in seasons by calling something seasonal when really it should have stayed and just been the beginning!
We often hear Acts 3:19 quoted, but lets look at it in context and notice what its really saying:

ACTS 3:18-21
18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets,
that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, WHEN THE TIMES OF REFRESHING SHALL COME FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD;
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things…

Its clear that “the times of refreshing” which Peter referred to is the offer made to Israel through the gospel. The time frame for this “refreshing” begins at the cross (verse 18), is received through repentance (verse 19) and lasts until Jesus comes back (verses 20,21). At that time, Peter may have thought it would only be a short season of refreshing for the nation and then Jesus would shortly return. But he soon discovered that the promise included the Gentiles, and that season of refreshing has extended to 2000 years so far. The time of refreshing referred to is the entire gospel age!

So lets receive all that God is making available and not mistakenly think that revivals are only meant to be periodic seasons of blessing for the church. I believe that what we call revival, God calls normal. Revival can be the normal state of the church. The reason God has to keep sending revivals is because we keep sinking below what was intended to be continuous.

When I was a child I eagerly studied revivals to learn how they started. Then once I became involved in moves of God in churches, I became more interested in why they stopped. In every case I studied or observed, specific reasons could be pointed to concerning why they stopped, and it was never because of God. He wanted them to keep going and growing! But outside observers who were not aware of those reasons easily came to the wrong conclusion that God must have decided to stop what He had started, and then called it “seasonal.”

(Some of those reasons include: ceasing to allow God to use whoever He wants; ceasing to allow the move of the Spirit to manifest at any time in the meeting; pride & jealousy about people who are used; common arguments and disunity; not acting on guidance from the Lord; backing-down because of criticism of the move; fear of man, not perceiving the purpose of God. There are so many examples that could be given of churches that were in the move and were experiencing revival and church growth, then it suddenly stopped due to the reasons above – it was like switching off a light or turning off a tap. And there were such simple, human causes. Then there are examples all around the world of churches that have continued and become famous in their area because of continuing in the move – and again, its because they responded accurately in the Spirit and consistently with what God was revealing and doing.

3. Develop and maintain a relationship of integrity with the Holy Spirit.
For example, we sing to usher in the presence of God – right? Then often His presence comes, and we all feel it, but then we keep on singing songs like “Let Your Glory Fill this Place,” or “Summon your Power O God.” We continue on with our song list when all the while God had sent His anointing to do things in the meeting! Wouldn’t it be better to honour the Holy Spirit by allowing Him to take over in different ways when we sense He’s wanting to do that – even if we don’t get to our next song for an hour? Sometimes I think song leaders want to do this, but they feel obligated to do the job they’ve been given to do. Or sometimes we sense an anointing come but we’re so used to having the preaching first – so we override it by going ahead with the preaching and then we often try to re-create that sense of anointing on an altar call at the end. Wouldn’t it be better if the various leaders of a meeting had an understanding that they will let the Holy Spirit do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, through whomever He wants – and all the leaders flow together and make room for each other. We could make room for more flexibility in the order of our services.

4. When we sense that anointing come into a meeting, our usual response has been to keep singing, perhaps with a bit more gusto. We may sing in the Spirit and even dance a little. But I think that anointing came to do a work in the meeting – and He’s wanting to manifest Himself. Singing is only one response. Yet it seems to be the one we do all the time. We began the meeting with singing, then He comes in response to that, wanting to fill people with laughter, visions of glory, healing, deliverance etc – He just wants to fill the meeting and everyone in it – but we keep singing! Some people will still begin to be touched despite that, but most will just go along with the songs. There could be a greater manifestation of the touch of God, however, if the song-leader would instead say to the congregation something like, “The Lord is here to touch you. Now is the time to just receive. Be filled. Drink.” Or another leader who felt to could take-over at that point and begin to encourage the congregation to receive. You don’t even necessarily need to lay hands on anyone. But if you felt to, you could move amongst the congregation and begin ministering the Spirit by the laying on of hands, or by speaking words of faith like “More.” Once Jesus has had His way, ministering to the people, it usually results in a celebration of praise, singing and dancing. Out of that, preaching, teaching, prophesying and interpretation of tongues are inspired, for the instruction of the people. Sermons sometimes get preached that were not pre-planned – but its birthed by the Spirit – its what God wanted said!

5. At other times you may not feel any special anointing, so you continue with worship and the Word. Then the anointing can be activated simply by faith in the Word.

6. Sometimes when you’re activating this anointing and wanting people to come into it, they tend to do something they’re already used to doing, such as speaking in tongues or singing, or even prophesying. I often say, “This is not a time to intercede but to receive. Its not a time to speak in tongues – receive. We can sing later. Now – receive!” Sometimes I come straight out with it and say, “Laugh!” In the same way that Jesus said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch it forth,” and the power of God was activated by the spoken word of faith, I say, “Laugh,” or “Be Filled,” fully believing that if they know how to receive, it will happen. Sometimes we don’t get results when we minister if we don’t know exactly what it is we’re expecting. For example, Jesus never actually prayed for the sick. He gave commands. In the same way, we often spend so much time praying for people when all we really need to do is speak a word of command. But you have to speak exactly what you want. If you want this anointing to come on them, say, “Receive,” or “Be filled,” or even “Laugh.” If you’re not clear, they’ll probably just fall back into an expression that they’re used to. And it doesn’t just stop with laughter, it may not start there either, but it results in a wonderful work according to the will of the Spirit in that person’s life.

7. Sometimes our songs get in the way because they keep us thinking that we’re still asking God to move, when in fact He’s already there. So they actually hinder faith and receiving.

8. We will see new songs birthed which acknowledge what God is doing rather than contain themes which keep asking Him for something which is already here and available to those who make room for it.

Interpretation of Tongues in Song
This is a day of fulfillment
This is a day of “coming to pass”
This is a day of activation

9. This move of God also affects the way we pray. Sometimes God is waiting for us to stop praying so He can answer our prayers. A lot of our prayers are for the Holy Spirit to move in the church etc. Then God is ready to pour out His anointing but we keep praying for it instead of making room for it.


I was asked to speak during a half night of prayer in a particular church. I asked, “How long can I speak for?” They replied, “40 minutes.” I said, “Well how about I speak for 20 minutes and then we’ll allow the Holy Spirit to move for 20 minutes (knowing full well that once He started to move, He would spill over beyond 20 minutes – the meeting couldn’t be the same again!)” They had no idea what to expect so they said, “Whatever.” Well I spoke, then the Holy Spirit filled the church – I mean filled. They were drunk with laughter and received a new anointing. After 40 minutes I dutifully handed it back to the leader, who was supposed to lead them in prayer. When she stood up she couldn’t speak. Everyone was laughing. I was hoping that she wouldn’t just go ahead and pray as usual, because that would be evidence that they missed the significance of the visitation they’d just received. Finally she said, “We were supposed to pray for a fresh move of God – but we’ve just had one! Next, we were supposed to intercede that our musicians would be anointed – but they’ve just been anointed! Everything we were supposed to pray for – God has already poured out! So I think we’ve got nothing left to do but to dance and praise God!” Hallelujah! She caught it!

There have been more people praying for revival in the last two decades than ever before in history. Now God is pouring it out all over the world – so don’t keep begging for it – receive it!

So what place does prayer have? Well, we can ask God to increase it. We can ask God to do signs & wonders out in the community. We can pray for our persecutors. We can ask God to let the outpouring spread. We can pray for backsliders etc. We still pray, but we pray out of an understanding, an acknowledgment, a thankfulness and a receiving of what God is already doing. Don’t pray with ignorance or unawareness of what God is already doing. That blocks faith, and you keep praying for something which doesn’t need to be prayed for but is simply a matter of learning to step aside and make room for. After a church has rolled around laughing, enjoying the Lord, been ministered to by angels, seen visions, been empowered by the Spirit and ending in a great celebration of dancing and praise – then when they begin to pray – its altogether different to if they’d prayed without an acknowledgment of what God was already up to in their midst. You pray from a more informed stance.

10. Its simply a matter of making room for God to move. For this outpouring to happen in your church, you don’t need to go on a long fast. You don’t need to intercede any more for it. God is already making it available all over the world. Just jump in! Even children are being used.


I was at a combined churches meeting and they had a big banner on the stage with the words “Great Awakening.” When I looked at their program, it was all typed out: Opening Prayer – brother So-and-So – 2 minutes. Opening songs – sister So-and-So – 15 minutes. Special number – sister So-and-So – 3 minutes. Worship songs – brother So-and-So – 20 minutes. Announcements – Pastor So-and-So – 5 minutes. Guest Speaker – Pastor So-and-So – 45 minutes. Offering – brother So-and-So – 3 minutes. Closing Prayer – brother So-and-So – one minute.
I looked at the program and thought, “Exactly at what point in this program do you want the ‘great awakening’ to take place?” I so much wanted to get up and show them how to make it happen, but I wasn’t a speaker that day.

At another combined churches meeting, a similar thing happened. But this time they gave me a chance to speak right at the end. I stood and said, “Today you’ve sung about revival, you’ve prayed for revival, you’ve had a special song about revival, and you’ve preached about revival. Now, would you like to have a revival?” They looked at me weird. Then I said, “You’ve spent 40 minutes singing and 40 minutes preaching, wanting revival. Now God is saying, “OK, I’ll give it to you.” But then you would have closed the meeting by now, if it wasn’t for your feeling of obligation to give me the courtesy of speaking just because you know I’m a missionary. Since we spent 40 minutes singing and 40 minutes preaching, do you think we could now give the Holy Spirit just 20 minutes to respond to us?” They all agreed. But once it started, it went much longer than 20 minutes. They didn’t want to stop. They were laughing, crying, getting filled and it didn’t stop there. Finally I exhorted them to get into the habit of deliberately making room in their services for God to move the way they’ve always wanted Him to. That’s all the Holy Spirit is waiting for.

11. The Welsh Revival saw about 200 000 people added to the churches in two years, yet there was hardly any preaching or leadership in the revival. It all happened because the young 27 year old revivalist, Evan Roberts, held meetings where he simply said, “Obey the Holy Spirit.”

12. Find out what is happening to people after their experience, and if they’ve been given specific guidance, help them to put action to it. One of the criticisms of this move of God is that it hasn’t resulted in evangelism or church growth in some places. But through good leadership, we can channel what God is doing into real work for God. Saul is a scriptural example of how being “slain in the spirit” can result in action for God:

ACTS 26:13-20 13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying…[then Jesus called him into the ministry – lets pick it up at Verse 16]
16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness…
20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent…

Saul had a spiritual experience, a heavenly vision, but then he put action to it, he was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.

In the same way, we can encourage people to get up off the floor and go and obey any direction they’ve received.


In one church, we had some testimonies after the people had a time of laughing and enjoying the Lord. One guy said, “I was laughing and I saw a vision of myself leading an evangelistic team along a mountain.” I said, “Fine – when are you going?” He hadn’t even thought of doing anything about it! I said, “I want you to go to your pastor and make a definite plan to obey that vision.” A couple of months later I was back in that church and I found the young man and asked him, “What ever happened about your vision, did you go?” He said, “Yes. We took a team for two weeks. And many people came to Christ!”

In another church, a girl was crying then laughing then crying again. We asked her afterwards what was happening. She said, “I was crying because I saw a vision of my sister tied in chains by a demon. Then an angel came and beat off the demon and untied my sister. So I was laughing at the demon. Then some demons came and fought off the angel and proceeded to tie up my sister again. They were trying to drag her to the end of a waterfall at the bottom of which was a river of flames. So I cried again. God told me, “I want you to go and share the gospel with your sister.” So she went and told her sister about the vision and she cried and hugged her and received Christ.

In the same church, the first person to start laughing was an eleven year old boy. God told him to preach to his teacher and class. So at school, he told them about Jesus and led them to Christ in prayer. Then they all started laughing!

In this way, you go from laughter to real results – by acting on the heavenly vision. You’ll go out in a new anointing that you haven’t known before.

13.Settle it in your heart that its not because of you that people are touched, neither is it your fault if they’re not. You can go to some meetings and all heaven breaks loose. In other places not much happens at all, and you can start wondering, “Maybe I didn’t pray enough.” No. There was probably some reason why they weren’t accepting it so easily, such as being unsure about the whole move, or having their minds on the program or the dinner that was to follow. Sometimes you can think, “Well maybe God just wanted to do something different tonight.” Maybe, but usually its just that they were having trouble receiving. Atleast you’ve done your part.

14.As God leads you in the future, always maintain a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Let Him guide in everything. He is the director of the church and of all ministry. Stay soft and sensitive. Follow even when it costs.

15.Remember the most important thing is love. If we make love our goal, everything else will follow – the manifestation of the Spirit, and souls being saved.

16.As you go on in this revival, share with us what you learn along the way!

- Originally preached in Melaka, Malaysia, June 1999

Tongues and Interpretation as a Ministry

28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly
teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

Notice that each of the gifts listed in the above scripture are public ministries.

In this article I want to draw our attention to the last ministry gift listed: the public ministry of tongues and interpretation.

As a public ministry in the church, diversities of tongues was considered by Paul to be important enough to list it along with the roles in the church of apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, then gifts of healings [evangelists], helps [deacons], and governments [pastors/elders].

Like the other offices listed above, God “hath set [or appointed] some [some members] in the church” to function publicly using the gifts of tongues and interpretation.

Tongues as a Distinct Public Function

I want us to see that throughout I Corinthians 12-14, Paul is primarily dealing with tongues as it is used in a distinct public ministry, rather than discussing how the individual believer can or cannot use tongues in his prayer-life for his own private benefit.

Each of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in I Corinthians 12:7-10 are dealt with as public manifestations of the Spirit during a church gathering.

Paul’s whole discussion about the gifts is in the context of what takes place, “when the whole church be come together into one place” (14:23).

So when our opening text continues on to say, “do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?” (verse 29), this is not to imply that some believers will never be meant to speak with tongues ever at all.

(All believers today who are baptized with the Holy Spirit may pray with tongues, just as in every account in bible days. Praying in tongues is personally edifying, and is to be encouraged.)

Rather, Paul is simply explaining that during any given church meeting, all of us will not need to have the same ministry function.

To some it will be given by the Spirit to address the church with tongues and interpretation.

Now let’s consider another verse which also deals specifically with tongues as a ministry in the church.

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.
28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

The above advice (limiting the number of speakers to two, or at the most three, and then only when an interpreter is present) clearly is specific to the use of tongues as a ministry to the church – otherwise we make it inconsistent with occurrences within the Book of Acts.
For example, have you ever wondered why Peter never insisted that only two, or at the most three, be allowed to speak with tongues, at Cornelius’ household? and why he never insisted that they keep silence unless someone interpreted?

“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word”, and he “heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Acts 10:44,46).

We know this was no small gathering, because it says that Peter went in to the house, “and found MANY that were come together” (verse 27).

What's more, they even interrupted Peter's sermon while they spoke in tongues, for we are told that, “WHILE PETER YET SPAKE these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word” (verse 44).

At Ephesus, Paul didn’t insist on any such protocol or guidelines either. After baptizing certain disciples, we are told, “when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve” (Acts 19:6,7).

Clearly then, it is scriptural to have meetings like that, where the Holy Spirit falls and many speak with tongues at the same time, or everyone prophesies, or sees visions, or are filled with joy - even if no interpreter is present. We've seen meetings where all of this has happened – meetings just like the Pentecostal outpouring in Acts chapter two!

(If it’s been a while since you were in that type of meeting, you could plan such a meeting. Make it happen - like Smith Wigglesworth who said, “If the Holy Ghost doesn't move, I move the Holy Ghost”).

When Paul gave this advice then, clearly he was offering guidelines concerning the specific function of speaking with tongues as a ministry to address an intent audience in the church. By the time Paul wrote this, the Corinthian church had been established long enough for a variety of ministries to become recognized among them. So it had now become necessary for Paul to address the manner in which these gifts were expressed in public.

When it came to the public use of tongues, Paul’s advice to the members exercising this particular gift was: There's not a lot of point for all of you to stand up and hold the floor, drawing everyone’s attention to yourself, to address the congregation with an unknown tongue, since no one understands you. Better to just have two or three of you speak, then let the interpreter speak as well, after you’ve had your say.

The guiding principle of all public ministry to the church, which Paul urged them to keep in mind was, “Let all things be done unto edifying” (14:26).

It’s obvious to anyone, unless he’s “mad”, that a person needn’t bother holding the floor to address an entire congregation in an unknown tongue – unless someone interprets. It simply wouldn’t be edifying.

However, it’s an entirely different situation if the Holy Spirit is being poured out and everyone begins speaking with tongues, like they did in Cornelius’ house, and at Ephesus, and in Acts chapter two. In such a case, no-one is holding the floor as such; everyone is being filled with the Spirit; and in fact everyone is edified – even without an interpreter.

We can have meetings today like they had in the Book of Acts. It isn’t unscriptural for a congregation to sing or pray together in tongues, because when done in unison, it isn’t obtrusive. Actually this is still decent and orderly.

But when tongues is used for the purpose of addressing a congregation, it is only natural then that someone should interpret, if we are to apply the advice, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Cor.14:40). So it is evident that Paul was talking about circumstances where tongues were being used very specifically in a public ministry function.

Making Room for the Gift

I have been a witness to the powerful effect this gift can have in the church and in the community, when it’s given its rightful place alongside the other offices in the church.

In one meeting, the Holy Spirit impressed upon a pastor that before he gave his sermon, he was to speak with tongues, and then a certain brother would interpret.

So he proceeded to speak with tongues, and then stepped down off the stage and handed the microphone to the brother to give the interpretation.

“Come and be healed. Be healed spiritually and emotionally...says the Lord.”

That was a fairly simple message, but what the Pastor did next allowed God to manifest His power to meet the needs of the people that day.

Without any further ado, the pastor led the congregation to respond by inviting people forward who needed to receive healing.

The power of the Holy Spirit manifested with many healings, and one person was delivered from an evil spirit. Needless to say, everybody was eager to hear what the pastor had to preach on after that!

That night, it was the public ministry of tongues and interpretation, coupled with the way the pastor made room for the congregation to respond, that opened-up the way for God to do what He wanted to do in the meeting – things which hadn’t otherwise been planned.

In another church where I was a guest, when I stood to the pulpit to preach—instead I began to speak with tongues. It went on and on, and I wondered when it was ever going to stop. Finally the interpretation began to flow—and I just continued preaching along the same theme as the interpretation. As a result, several were touched by the Holy Spirit with tears, repentance and reconciliation, and some were filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy.

Afterwards one of the elders of the church told me, “This is exactly what we needed.” God knows what a church needs—and sometimes it’s different to what we have in mind.

On that occasion, it was again the gift of tongues and interpretation that inspired the sermon which God wanted to be spoken in the meeting.

Smith Wigglesworth often interjected his sermons with tongues, then he’d interpret them, pouring forth heavenly revelation to the congregation.

Once during another series of meetings, I witnessed how speaking with tongues can begin to reach even the outside community.

When I stood to preach this particular Sunday morning, the anointing was so heavy that I couldn’t preach. Instead, I preached in tongues, and God used someone else to interpret. All over the building there were tears of repentance, people being reconciled, and people getting filled with the Spirit and speaking with tongues, without anybody even laying hands on them.

During that series of meetings, one person claimed he heard about a dozen young people speaking Indonesian; an overseas visitor claimed she heard a remote Chinese dialect; and another person heard his own Maranaw dialect, as people spoke in tongues. This was a sign and a wonder to them.

Many became so drunk, they spoke in tongues for days afterwards. One such girl was still speaking with tongues when she got to school on Monday. “Why haven’t you ever told me you can speak Chinese?” her teacher scolded her. So she asked God for her own language back, so she could explain. When she preached to them, the whole class fell under the power. She prophesied over them. Demons came out of many. They got up off the floor saying with tears, “What have we got to do to be saved?”

This continued for days so that classes couldn’t continue. The Principal called her parents to the school, asking them to sign an affidavit that they would forbid their daughter to preach the Gospel anymore at school, or else risk seeing her expelled. But the more their daughter tried to keep order, the more her fellow students thronged her classroom seeking prayer. Even a TV news camera crew turned-up wanting to interview her. But she didn’t want to attract any more attention to herself.

Then she thought of a way she could see the work of God continue, without attracting any more attention. She could lay her hands on her friends, imparting the anointing to them, so they could be used to spread the work of the Spirit. Everywhere her friends went, they now carried the same anointing, and the work of the Holy Spirit spread to other schools and universities. I visited one lecture hall where the whole contingent was flat on their backs under the power of God. Hundreds began coming to the church.

Notice that it was the phenomenon of speaking with other tongues that sparked this move of God in the community. Paul said, “Tongues are a sign…to them that believe not”. (I’ve always wondered how tongues will ever become a sign to unbelievers, if we never let unbelievers hear them!)

How Tongues Can Open Up a Meeting

The seemingly little gift of tongues can actually have great effect in a church and community, if we let it. To begin with, we need to admit that we need this public office of tongues in our meetings, and we ought to earnestly desire it. Then we need to be practical about giving tongues its place, either during worship, or during the Word. Then so much can be gained or lost, depending on how widely we respond to it. Sometimes instead of just moving-on with the program after an interpretation or prophecy has been given, the meeting leader could consider whether the word is meant to shape the rest of the meeting - and if so, allow time for the congregation to respond and to see the Holy Spirit move. In this way, the interpretation of tongues can have the effect of being much more than simply a word during a meeting. At times it can open up the whole meeting, or even start a whole work of God in the community, as the stories above illustrate.

Altar calls, instead of being the end of a meeting, can become the beginning of the next phase of the meeting. I have observed, after people pick themselves up off the floor and return to their seats, that quite often two people will remain under the power of God. Shortly, one of them will stand and begin to speak in tongues while the other interprets. Then they may begin laying hands on the congregation, usually with a message of repentance and of the need to preach the Gospel because of the soon return of the Lord. All of this would have been missed, if we’d assumed the altar call was the end of the meeting.

In another use of diversities of tongues, brother Hagin would sometimes speak in tongues while his wife would interpret – as a means of giving “counseling” to someone who had come for help.

Interpreting tongues can also be useful in one’s private prayer-life, as a means of obtaining guidance and revelation from the Lord.

When we become practical about giving the Holy Spirit room to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, through whomever He wants—then we will witness the full place and power that He has ordained for His gifts in the church.

Who May Have This Ministry?

“I would that ye all spake with tongues” (I Cor.14:5), said Paul. This ministry is not limited to members who also hold another office in the church.