Category Archives: Ministry

Exodus

I’ve always said that there’s no instrument quite like the piano. And it’s by far my favourite instrument to play.

And perhaps the most colossally brilliant pianist on the Christian scene at the moment is the amazing Terry MacAlmon. I love his style, I love his heart for worship, and I love his anointing and skill.

In this excellent demonstration of Terry’s ability, he plays the epic theme from the 1960 movie ‘Exodus’, original score by Ernest Gold. Note how he is offering what some would call a ‘secular’ score as an act of worship; some people wouldn’t be able to cope with that, but I personally have played secular pieces in worship; indeed I consider John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song‘ to be one of the finest worship songs ever written. Segueing then into his own song, ‘You Deserve the Glory‘, which I have shared on my blog before.

Let your spirit be lifted by this magnificent music – ‘secular’ or not – and enter into the worship that Terry takes you into so easily. I’ve put the lyrics to ‘You Deserve the Glory‘ below the video so you  can join in if you want to.

Enjoy!

You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

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The Power

One of my favourites of all of Don Francisco’s songs is ‘The Power‘. Telling the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it speaks of a massively supernatural experience for an un-named member of the group of Jesus’s friends who met together on that morning.

And something that always strikes me with this story is that those guys were just ordinary people, just like you and I. God was fulfilling His promise on that day, just as Peter said (Acts 2:17-21) when he quoted the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32), “…I will pour out My Spirit on all people…”

All people. That includes you and me! There is only one Holy Spirit. He’s the same now as He was then. There’s no ‘junior’ or ‘budget model’ of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit that came on Pentecost is exactly the same One Who comes to us now; He’s the One Who lives in us and guarantees our inheritance as saints of God (Eph 1:13-14; 2Cor1:22). Now if that’s not completely awesome, then I don’t know what is. The indwelling, tangible Presence of God, living inside ordinary people like you and me. The incredible assurance of knowing that we belong to God – our inheritance as saints is guaranteed. It’s almost unbelievable, isn’t it? But it’s true. I and many other believers can testify to that awesome Power living within us and giving Life to us in our mortal bodies, and giving us that assurance that we are indeed God’s children (Romans 8:16). Paul is not talking about some bookish theory or idea; he’s not talking about stuffy, dusty doctrine, he’s talking about a real, fizzing, bubbling, tangible reality for which all the doctrines in the world are simply no substitute. This is why nothing that anyone says to us can shake us from that knowledge – because it’s real. Some may say, ‘Ah, but the Bible says…’ or ‘Ah but in our church we don’t believe that…’ Well that doesn’t change what I know, and it does not change the believer’s assurance. It simply can’t.

So, have a listen to this song. Let it minister this fabulous truth to your spirit: If the Spirit of Him Who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, then He Who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit Who lives in you. (Romans 8:11) Let this truth minister to you in all its incredible reality and power.

This is real.

This is you

This is now

It was a crowd of mixed emotions
That walked back to the room
But steadfastly we set all our minds to prayer
Waiting together with His relatives and friends
Well above a hundred of us there
Some of us He’d healed; some He’d raised up from the dead
Some He’d called as He went walking past
We recounted all the stories, with no detail left unturned
Determined with a will to make it last

Outside in the street, the Feast’s cacophany began
As crowds from all across the world convened
Flowing upwards to the temple, with their firstfruits in their hands
Unaware of all that we had seen
Dawn turned into daylight, just like all the days before
And again we lifted hands to God in prayer
And though no-one had imagined what the morning held in store
Still all of us felt something in the air

Then faint at first, we heard a sound that slowly grew to more
Like a tempest far away upon the sea
Descending ’til it filled the house with an unabated roar
Like an army’s final shout of victory
And right there in the midst of us
From nothing burst a flame
And tongues of fire rose high into the air
Then separating, settled down on each of us the same
And at once the sounds of praise were everywhere

And the flood of joy inside me then was more than I could bear
Like peace and laughter joined into a whole
‘Cause the power that came from Jesus that we’d felt for all these years
Was flowing deep and wide within my soul

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

– Words and music by Don Francisco, used here with his kind permission

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Fly to Jesus

This entry is part 19 of 20 in the series Fiona

Today it’s a year since I lost my wonderful wife, Fiona.

How does one mark a whole year since we lost such an incredible lady?

Well, I can think of no better way to honour her memory than to post a number sung by our beautiful and supremely talented daughter, Ellie Rosie (that’s her stage-name).

Here’s a picture of Ellie singing at Fiona’s and my ‘wedding’, in December 2014, when we renewed our vows:

Fiona had an astonishing singing voice, and Ellie’s is equally astonishing. Here Ellie covers a beautiful song – Come to Jesus, by Chris Rice – which Ellie discovered on Hillary Scott’s album ‘Love Remains‘. I think this song sums up Fiona’s life perfectly, from her initial salvation, through all she experienced in her life, and right up to where she is now – ‘On Glory’s Side’. Fiona has indeed flown to Jesus and rests in His arms. And she would have loved this song.

 

Take it away, Ellie:

 

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
Raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!
 
Now your burden’s lifted
Carried far away
Precious blood has washed away the stain,
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!
 
And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when we walk
Sometimes we fall, so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!
 
Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and coursed with rain,
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!
 
When the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside,
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!
 
With your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side,
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

 

– ‘Come to Jesus’, by Chris Rice

 

Vocals, piano and keyboards by Ellie Rosie

 


Header picture is of Fiona in 1987, at the age of 23, not long after our first child, David, was born.
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Are You About to Come Out to Your Christian Parents?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Coming Out

In my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people, especially young people with Christian parents, I have so far looked at the matter from the point of view of the parents of the LGBTQ+ person.

Today, I want to share another piece by Susan Cottrell of ‘Freedhearts‘. Susan is a strong, loving and totally Christian advocate of LGBTQ+ people and especially of those who are young people still living with their Christian parents. In this piece, Susan shares practical advice and points out relevant considerations for young people who may well have to ‘come out’ some time in the near future. Click the graphic below to go to the article.

If you are a LGBTQ+ person who is considering ‘coming out’, then I would definitely suggest you read that article – it’s brilliant. Susan has a huge amount of experience in helping and standing alongside people in danger of rejection, either by parents or churches, for either ‘being gay’ or for affirming those who are. Personally, I don’t give two hoots what people think of me as an affirmer, but then I am not in a position where such people’s opinions make the slightest bit of difference to me. But I understand that for some people, the stakes are much higher, and this is why I have done this mini-series.

Be blessed. Grace and peace to you.

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Did Your Child Just Come Out to You?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Coming Out

In this, the second part of my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for young people of Christian parents, I want to share with you the wisdom of Susan Cottrell, of ‘Freedhearts‘.

In this piece, Susan gives sound advice to Christian parents whose child has just ‘come out’.

You think it might never happen to you? Well, how would you know? Because if your child is an LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) person, they might not feel able to tell you, because they know your views on the subject!

I would recommend all Christian parents read this article – not only ‘just in case’ your child does ‘come out’, but also to give you a better understanding of how Christian parents of LGBTQ+ young people can continue to affirm and support their child once they ‘come out’ despite what they think ‘the Bible says’.

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

This is a real issue affecting real people, and we need to examine this, as a Church, in a Chrstlike manner.

I know a Godly couple whose daughter recently ‘came out’ and which caused much soul-searching in their congregation…and those people in that church have essentially been forced – by their circumstances – to learn how to continue in their acceptance of that precious young life. And, so far, they have done very well…they knew that child from a baby and nothing has changed, except that now they know something that God has known about all along.

So, I recommend you read the article – it will stand you in good stead should you need it!

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Dwelling Places

This entry is part 18 of 20 in the series Fiona

The heart of worship is to draw near to God; to see more of Him; to desire strongly His Presence, to kneel (literally or figuratively) before Him and tell Him how much we love Him.

It’s eleven months since we lost my lovely wife Fiona. And Fiona’s heart was always that of a worshipper. Worship was our way of life, staying close to God and singing His praises whenever the opportunity presented itself 🙂 As I said here, basically if there was any excuse for us to break into song, we’d be singing and making music in our hearts to Jesus.

As I have already shared in that article above, Fiona gave me this lovely Scripture from her favourite Bible translation, The Message – because she said it reminded her of me!:

“Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:18-20 (Message))

And I love that – ‘Any excuse for a song….’ and that’s just what we were like together.

Fiona is, of course, now in that place where she can worship with the full, yet still increasing, knowledge of what God is really like. She is in His Dwelling Place – the place where He is – and likely worshipping her heart out. It’s what she did, and I have no doubt that it’s what she does. Worship is not only what keeps me going, but it’s what I believe Fiona has gone to. Have you any idea what a tremendous comfort that is to me in my bereavement?

And so, once again, the brilliant Terry MacAlmon comes to my aid. As I listen to this beautiful worship song, Dwelling Places, once again I am transported into God’s Presence. How lovely indeed is His Dwelling, because that’s where He is. So in a very real sense, as my heart rises up in worship with this song, I am worshipping with the angels and with Fiona in the Throne Room of Heaven. And there’s no place I’d rather be. Sitting at Jesus’s feet and basking in His Presence.

So, here’s the lovely song ‘Dwelling Places’, by Miriam Webster, sung by Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson. Be blessed:

Lovely are Your dwelling places
Thirsty I come after You
Jesus, my joy, my reward
Your love’s restoring my soul
Now I’m Yours and You are mine
And from my heart a song will rise

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
And my heart will follow wholly after You

Jesus, there is none beside You
Righteous, ruler of the earth
Nations will come and bow down
Name over all names
I sing You praises
And all that I can say to You is

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You

And my heart will follow wholly after You

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Praise Him!

I make no apology for including yet another Terry MacAlmon song on my blog, nor indeed for it being another number in which Shauna Chanda doubles the brilliance of the piece by leading with her amazing voice and obvious love for Jesus.

This one’s called ‘Praise Him‘, by Lynn DeShazo. As usual, let the song lift you as you agree with the singers (Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson) and, indeed, praise Jesus for all His goodness towards you.

Praise Him, Praise Him
Praise Him, Praise Him

We have assembled to praise the One we love
We join the chorus of the angels up above, oh yes…
They sing hosannas and praises to our King
So we lift our voices all together now and sing

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We are Your children, we’re here just to seek Your face
Lord we come boldly before Your throne of Grace
To love and worship You, and listen to Your voice
You are our Father, and how our hearts rejoice

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We love You, We love You
We love You, We love You

I love seeing the worship responses of the different people in the congregation. Some are actively singing with their hands lifted up. Some just standing and not singing, but just receiving. Some just sitting quietly listening, one couple sitting close together and just soaking in the worship. No self-consciousness at all, in fact; they are just concentrating on Jesus, each in their own way worshipping their Lord. This is simply beautiful, and it’s at times like that that I realise how much of an honour it is to have the privilege of leading precious people like these in their worship. This is beautiful worship, with beautiful music, to our beautiful Saviour.

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Rest In Your Love

This entry is part 16 of 20 in the series Fiona

This post marks the ninth month since we lost my gorgeous wife Fiona. Once again, like last time, it’s another musical post, to celebrate Fiona’s tremendous musical talent and at the same time to take a look at more of the tremendous Love of God that has kept me afloat for three-quarters of a year.

Fe and I used to sing a lot of songs together, sometimes with both of us singing, sometimes with me just backing her on the piano or guitar. One of our favourite songs was one that ranked in our ‘personal memories’ scale nearly as highly as ‘our’ song ‘Where you go, I will go‘, and it was called ‘Rest in Your Love’, by Phil McHugh, and recorded by Mo James, a gifted Leeds-based singer whose talent was sadly never really recognised nor developed as far as it could have been. The song is from her only album. More Love, released in 1982*.

I must testify that, for all our lives, we have rested in God’s Love. I have especially rested in that Love since Fiona died, for ‘underneath are the Everlasting Arms’ (Dt 33:27). That’s why I chose the top picture for this post: firstly to illustrate Fiona’s stunning, radiant beauty, and secondly to show little Lucy, our grand-daughter, ‘resting’ in Fiona’s love as she feeds her. This picture is such a good illustration of what this song is about – resting in God’s immense, illimitable parental Love. Fiona and I loved singing this song, and, in so doing, giving the testimony of the words that meant so much to us and which were so real in our lives.

This is why I have shared it in this post.

Here we are, then; Rest in Your Love, sung by Mo James.

It appears that the tempter never sleeps
It seems my best is always just out of reach
But I take comfort from the promise of Your unending care
I will rest when I reach out and find You’re there

And I can rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

It’s not easy to be human, You know that first hand
The flesh and the Spirit both make their demands
But here I am on this road of life, I’ve got to walk it through
And the best way is to walk it right beside You

Well I can rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

I’ll always need You, I’ll always need You

Rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

 


*Tragically, Mo died of a brain haemhorrage in 1999

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Giving up the Bible Debates

Recently, I have found, when reading my Bible, that instead of hearing the gentle voice of the Spirit, I have instead been feeling the dry, grating, harsh legalism from those harsh people with whom I have engaged in Bible debates. I have found that I can’t read the Bible without its passages being contaminated with the nastiness and horror of some people’s worldviews that, while purporting to be Christian, still are not reflections of the loving Christ that I know so well.

It’s time for me to step back for a while from all the Bible debates on the forums, and to let myself bask in the closeness of the Holy Spirit once again. Time for worship; time for just rejoicing in His goodness.

Even after my recent post expressing why I do these debates (for the upbuilding of the invisible, silent listeners), still I need to recharge every so often. I still need to learn to pace myself and to give myself space.

Just a few short hours after I made the decision to do this, the following post appeared on the Unfundamentalist Christians channel on Patheos. And it was like an RAF air strike: right on time and right on target. Thank You, Lord!

This article is so perceptive and penetrating; it’s one of those pieces that you can immediately see is really outstanding. It describes things really well, so, why not take a look for yourself and be encouraged.

These are wise words, from a wise man.

If this is your burden, be released and be free.

Click here to go to the article, or click the graphic below:

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The Invisible Listeners

This post is written to those believers who write on the Internet about Grace. People who write to encourage others, to build them up, not tear them down.

I am a member of several Facebook groups where people of the Spirit voice things from God, things new and old. Old widsom, and new wisdom. Things for the building up of the Saints (Eph 4:12). Jesus Himself said that there was so much more He wanted to tell us (Jn 16:12), and this kind of publishing is part of that. Much of this stuff is the prophetic Word of God for today. You can tell by the fruits manifested in their readers that these words are bringing life to those that read them.

But there is also huge discouragement, and often even despair, for those who write. If you are one of these writers, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. On public posts, you are torn to shreds by (sometimes well-meaning) Religious people who don’t like what they read. The Scripture says that people would be offended by the message of Jesus, and this is for several reasons. Mostly, though, the offence is found in the simplicity of the Gospel message, where St. Paul simply preached Christ crucified. Jesus has accomplished all that is necessary for the way to be open to God, and He invites us into His Presence. And this is counterintuitive. We humans naturally feel that surely there must be something we have to do, some sacrifice we have to make, something we can feel, think, do or say that somehow will make God more pleased with us.

But, actually, no, there isn’t. He’s already more pleased with you than you can possibly imagine! And that’s what is so offensive to people: that nothing they can do – or not do – will make them any more or less acceptable to God.

And so, I would like to encourage all my readers here today who write for Jesus.

People like me, who share regular blog posts containing what we believe to be the truth about God and how much He loves us, and how especially fond He is of us. People who write occasional pieces just expressing how they are feeling and how God is meeting them right where they are at. Or people who just build up others by sharing simple, gentle encouragement, whether in forum replies such as on the Patheos website (my favourite channel being ‘Unfundamentalist Christians‘), or even just in gentle Facebook replies.

To all such people I would say this:

Listen: your posts are encouraging far more people than you realise!

You are blessing hundreds and thousands of people simply by writing your gentle words of Grace!

When I post on the Patheos forums, and my posts are torn to shreds by the Religious gatekeepers; the Pharisees, or maybe just those who are secretly uncertain of their faith and feel that my words shake their foundations – and reply with violence because they feel threatened – I don’t worry about it.

Because I know that my posts have been read by my intended audience – not the Pharisees, but those who are broken, hurting, feeling rejected by the prim-and-proper religious elite. Those of ‘different’ sexualities. Those who have received abuse at the hands of those who should have been healing them: corrupt church leaders; antagonistic judgemental people pointing out their ‘sin’; ‘Sin-police’; those who deem themselves ‘fruit inspectors’. I take these people on, not to try to turn them or convince them – God will do that for them in His own time; indeed, only He can do it anyway – but to let those thousands of ‘invisible listeners’ and ‘lurkers’ know that not all Christians are like those people who cause harm. There are indeed Christians who gently manifest the presence of Jesus in their writings, and, to those bloggers like me who want to be that gentle, I would say, “Keep it up!” You are touching many more people with God’s love than you can possibly realise!

I leave you with a comment that was sent me by a man in New Zealand, to encourage me about my other website, ‘VintageWorshipTapes‘. On that site, I restore and make available electronic recordings of old worship tapes from the seventies, eighties and nineties. The comment still moves me to tears even now. Here’s what he said:

“One day, when we are in His Presence, you will find out just how many people were encouraged by what you are doing”

Wow! And I think that’s today’s take-home message 🙂

 

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