Thursday, 30 May 2013

Jesus Wept

Doug in Colour

We attended the funeral and memorial service this week of my good friend and ministry partner of more than twenty years Doug Harris. Doug founded a ministry to cults, Reachout Trust, in 1982 as a result of seeing Jehovah’s Witnesses streaming into their annual conference near his home in Twickenham, England. In 1989 my wife Ann and I got involved having come, ourselves, from a Mormon background.

Since then there have been many conventions, conferences, seminar and preaching engagements. We have written books and articles, made films, shared trustee responsibilities and been about as involved in the ministry as it is possible to be. Family members and friends have joined us, sometimes speaking, often playing instruments in times of worship, always enjoying Doug’s good company and wise counsel.

It is a strange world inhabited by “colourful’ characters. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, witches, pagans, new agers – the list seems endless. But for Doug the goal was always the same, sharing the Jesus of the Bible with the lost. Pointing out the error by holding it up to the light of truth and allowing people to make comparisons and come to their own conclusions. Doug trusted if he played his part God would always play his so ministry simply involved telling the good news.

I shed more than a few tears at his memorial service and, I think for the first time in my life, seriously asked that question – why? I believe the Lord gave me an answer and put in my mind the story of Lazarus.

If you recall, Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus. When word came that Lazarus was dying Jesus seemed deliberately to delay his coming to his friend’s bedside. Finally, he arrived only in time to comfort Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, because Lazarus had died.

“Lord,” cried Martha,” if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” You can read the story in John chapter 11. Later we read:

“When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him'?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord.’ they replied. Jesus wept.”

Here are those wonderful but puzzling words, ‘Jesus wept.’ Wonderful because they appear to speak of God’s complete identification with our sorrows, yet puzzling because the story goes on to tell how Jesus’ intent all along was to raise Lazarus and demonstrate his power over sin and death.

The words translated, ‘Jesus wept,’ do not carry the meaning of loud grief. What was in those tears was not sadness and regret at loss, nor simply sympathy with those around him riven with genuine grief. His tears were tears of rage, indignation at the audacity of death. Jesus was enraged, as am I, that his friend should be so stricken so. B B Warfield puts it like this:

“It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words, ‘as a champion who prepares for conflict.’

The raising of Lazarus thus becomes, not an isolated marvel, but…a decisive instance and open symbol of Jesus’ conquest of death and hell…not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. He has not only saved us from the evils which oppress us; he has felt for and with us in our oppression, and under the impulse of these feelings has wrought out our redemption.” (The person and Work of Christ, quoted in Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, John.)

Why? we ask. Why do we have to stand by and watch our loved ones die? Because of sin, that brings death. And Jesus was as enraged about Doug’s death, and finally yours and mine - for the mortality rate in this world is still 100%. But, what Jesus’ achieved temporarily  for Lazarus – because Lazarus was raised not resurrected – he would, on Golgotha, achieve for all who trust in him.

He approached that gibbet with the same determination with which he approached the tomb of Lazarus. He views our tombs with the same rage and indignation and his set purpose is to free all who trust in him from the curse of sin, death and hell. We may feel today that death has its small victory, but in eternity death is conquered by life and Doug enjoys fully now the life won for him at Calvary. To wish him back is to rob him of the prize to which he has looked all his life.

See you there Doug.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Diversity, not Jesus, Saves…Really?

Bishop JeffertsThe Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has denounced the Apostle Paul as mean-spirited and bigoted for having released a slave girl from demonic bondage as reported in Acts 16:16-34.

In her sermon delivered at All Saints Church in CuraƧao in the diocese of Venezuela, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori condemned those who did not share her views as enemies of the Holy Spirit. You can read a report on Anglican Ink.

Is this an Episcopalian thing, or is it a woman thing? I am a traditionalist when it comes to women in leadership but anyone who knows me will tell you I am always ready to be wrong and I have changed my position on many things in my Christian life.

I am currently sharing leadership responsibilities  with men and women, elders and deacons, and, despite my reservations, I am learning from the experience. Then I read all out liberal heresy like this, which always seems to come from women or feminised men, and find myself agreeing with the remarks of Samuel Johnson:

"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

It would be bad enough if she was saying this was her spin on things but others see it differently (indeed, this “interpretation” of Paul is so novel as to be fresh out of the box) But this bishop is effectively saying that her liberal agenda best reflects the heart of God. Most disturbing is the despotic tone in her words when she characterises dissenters as “enemies of the Holy Spirit.”

Surely, this is the Achilles heel of liberalism, which wants to embrace, promote and generally allow any and every view – except the view that disagrees with liberalism. Then the liberal becomes intolerant, uncharitable, chauvinistic.

There is plenty of good commentary on the bishop’s sermon as well as correct teaching on the text she mutilates. Timothy Fountain neatly explains the situation on Stand Firm the comments following his piece giving a flavour of the outrage of Christians who actually believe what the Bible clearly says.

A fuller explanation of the text as well as some wry comment can be found on the Not Another Episcopal Church Blog It always seems to come as a surprise to liberals that others may have actually thought about whatever the issue and come to different and often quite convincing conclusions. Rather like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, they believe they are the first to come up with an idea.

It worries me that people today go with what they feel rather than what they think about objective truth. People begin statements with, “I like to think of God as…” and then they put in whatever “feels” right. That is not how the Christian Church has operated for two-thousand years

Of course, there is and has to be interpretation. The Bible is not a child’s primer, it contains myth, parables, poetry,  laws, history gospels, letters, examples and warnings and cultural references we must strive to understand. But preachers, teachers, scholars, theologians and ordinary Christians have wrestled with these things over millennia and some pretty trustworthy commentary is available. You can’t simply cut out what doesn’t suit you, because it doesn’t “feel” right to you.

The Bible is perfectly capable of interpreting itself in most cases and those who help us with the more difficult passages must adhere to an already established orthodoxy. If we read our Bibles we will learn something of that orthodoxy and if we encourage each other in these things we will be in a position to “tell a hawk from a handsaw.” Otherwise these heretics will play on us any tune they please.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Doug Harris–With the Lord

DougThis morning at 9.00 am the best and wisest man I ever knew departed this world and entered glory. He was a friend, a brother in Christ, a mentor and I miss him more than I can say.

Please pray for his wife Noemi, his family, his church family, close friends and the countless folk to whom he ministered and who will mourn his passing.

Doug Harris founded Reachout Trust in 1982, initially as an outreach to Jehovah’s Witnesses but it quickly grew as a ministry to the cults, the occult and New Age movements.

Doug’s work, of course, involved so much more. He had been a church elder since 1963 and for the past five and a half years was a key member of the team at Revelation TV. He and his wife, Noemi, had only last year moved to Spain as the TV operation moved its main office and studio over there. I am sure Revelation TV will soon publish its own account of Doug’s work with them but it has been every bit as substantial as anything he did with Reachout Trust.

Doug was instrumental in guiding our transition from Mormonism to Christianity, allowing Ann and I to “purge” old and unhelpful ideas by talking about our journey in seminars, and by writing on the subject for Reachout. We learned from him the value of grace, the importance of patience and the skills involved in sharing our story in a way that challenged Mormon teaching while loving the Mormon to whom we were witnessing.

We worked together for over twenty years he as chairman and Ann and I as trustees of Reachout. We shared platforms, developed the ministry, wrote and published together.and lead in twenty or so Reachout Conventions. They were great times, challenging times and he will be missed more than words can say.

About thirteen years ago I suggested I interview him for a short history of Reachout that was eventually published in booklet form. In 2005 this was updated and is still the most recent account of an exceptional work started and driven by an exceptional Christian man of vision and grace. I reproduce it in part here:


The Reachout Story

The Story So Far

It is sobering to reflect that the day you stepped out with some tracts and a handful of friends you started something that would grow to national proportions. Reachout Trust began in 1982 as a local outreach to Jehovah's Witnesses. From a single initiative, by a handful of people, at a Witness convention in Twickenham the Trust has grown to become a nation wide ministry to those in the cults, the occult and the New Age movement.

Over the years we have taken on responsibilities, met needs, and developed in ways that were never envisaged in those early days. No one sat down and said, "why don’t we see if we can achieve this?" The ministry can truly be said to have evolved until, today, we are one of the foremost Christian groups in our field.

The first newsletter was produced in 1984, was four pages long and photocopied, and had a run of a few hundred. Today's newsletter is sixteen pages and growing and goes out to several thousand individuals and churches across the country. It is our main organ of communication and seeks to keep people informed and equipped for what they face on their doorstep or high street.

Doug Early Reachout

The first Reachout convention was held in New Malden Baptist Church in 1984. After that it moved to Kingstanding Elim Church until 1991 when we held it at the Wycliffe Centre at High Wycombe. Having outgrown that venue we moved in 1996 to the Pioneer Centre near Wolverhampton. From a handful of 'interested' people at that first meeting we have grown to over a hundred attending a full weekend of seminars every November.

2004 saw a landmark 20th Convention and proved successful with seminars on Developing the Ministry, Defining “Salvation”, True Christian Communion and the need to be a peculiar people. In 2005 we found ourselves moving back - or is that forward? - to the significantly expanded Wycliffe Centre and it has been a little like coming home.

Seminars and workshops typically cover all the main cults including, of course, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, but also other groups such as the Children of God, Freemasonry, Moonies etc. We also provide instruction in dealing with the occult and the New Age and have included counselling workshops and teaching on deliverance.

A landmark in the growth of Reachout was the introduction, in 1988, of the Action Pack. This has been a special blessing over the years and has contributed significantly to meeting our financial needs. Especially gratifying has been the fact that it gives us the opportunity to give something practical to those who give to us. This partnership scheme means that the giver is entitled to receive regularly free or discounted Reachout resources from books to videos to regular publications.

The Task

Ours is a ministry of discernment and apologetics and our primary role is 'truth-telling'. However, we have developed beyond simply publishing and distributing information. One area in which we have been particularly successful and effective is in recruiting people, many from cult backgrounds themselves, to represent Reachout 'on the ground', to be Reachout in their location.

Our system of having Associates is unique in this ministry in the UK and is a major contributory factor in our growth and success. These people who represent Reachout in their locality are a help to the local church and a first point of contact for those seeking the help Reachout provides. Through their different talents and experiences Associates are able to provide training for the local church, specialised insights into the world of the cults, and sympathetic support for those seeking freedom and truth.


Our spiritual forebears fought hard for the
eternal truths cherished by today’s believers.
Similarly, tomorrow’s believers will inherit
what we contend earnestly for today


Where possible our Associates are encouraged to work closely together in their regions under a regional leader who co-ordinates their efforts and is responsible for training etc. Praying together, sharing problems and ideas, and encouraging one another builds strength, encourages commitment and makes Reachout a real local resource.

Reachout continues to evolve and we face new challenges almost daily. Managing and training a growing number of people, and maintaining and enhancing the reputation of Reachout in an increasingly demanding ministry, means finding new, more efficient ways forward. In these challenging times we seek to define more clearly what we do and how we do it. To help in this work a 'ministry team' is being developed to look at all aspects of the ministry, from literature to training to how we should respond to developments in the constantly changing world of the cults.

2004 saw the publication of Should Christians Apologise, a book that shows every Christian that apologetics is something we all need to learn, and that equips every Christian to begin that process of learning and gaining in confidence in their witnessing. The Reasoned Defence series of booklets begin to address some of the key issues Christians might meet and have proved a handy reference tool.

We also re-published Audrey Harper’s testimony book Dance With the Devil, a harrowing account of one person’s experiences in the occult. It has been controversial and we have had our critics but we feel it is important that people like Audrey have the opportunity to tell their story, and important that others hear them.

We also continue to find popular Doug Harris’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, Their Beliefs and Practices as well as, Mormonism, a Gold-Plated Religion, the definitive British books on these groups. A full catalogue is available from Head Office.

In 2004 we also saw an increase of 30.8% in the number of people reached. Much of this is accounted for by the continuing development of our web site. A new version of the web site was produced in 1994 and has proved very popular. Our presence on the world-wide-web can now be said to make a significant difference in the number of people we can reach. 1998 saw us reach 104,746, while 2001 saw this figure increase to 188,337. In 2003 we reached 221,028 but this latest increase has seen us reach a record 289,158 people in 1994.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope you
have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
1 PETER 3:15 (NIV)

Reachout Trust has a good relationship with the media and undertakes a number of media interviews each year, being called on by researchers for a wide range of subjects. Representatives appear regularly on news items, 'chat shows' and documentaries covering all areas in the cults, occult and new age.

When stories, such as the first 'approved' Satanist in the Navy are reported on, many newspapers and TV programmes request information and interviews. These do not always bring direct responses to Reachout Trust, although it does make us known. It also enable a 'Christian' perspective to be placed on the items of news people are talking about. This is a demanding avenue of work and we would welcome the help of people who feel they would like to join us to work in this area.

The Church

We are sometimes referred to as a para-church organisation. As an organisation, of course, that is what we are. Reachout is not a church, but neither are we separate from, or in addition to the Christian community. We are Christians first and foremost who see our role in the body as that of watchmen. The way we fulfil that role is in organisations like Reachout, just as those called to mission form missionary societies.

People who escape the cults need a new spiritual home. God's provision for all new Christians is the church. Members of Reachout Trust are members of the local church and Reachout always seeks to work closely with local church leaders. From the beginning it has been very important to have a network of church contacts across the country.

As people have come to Reachout for help we have in turn sought to 'plant' them in an appropriate fellowship. Reachout is often simply a first point of contact leading to more appropriate ministry within the church and even professional help in a counselling setting.

The Need

There is an urgent need for Christians to be equipped to meet the challenges of the modern world. People are needed to act as comforters to the hurt and wounded, bringers of fresh hope to the disillusioned, friends to the betrayed and truth-tellers to the deceived.

Churches need to act as communities of refuge where there is shelter and safety for the vulnerable, life and hope for the lost, and sound teaching and gentle discipling for the many who need correcting and direction.

Reachout Trust seeks to provide that equipping through a training programme designed to teach individuals and churches. Through seminars and workshops we bring to the Christian community specialist knowledge, gained from first-hand experience, that will arm Christians for the battle for truth that rages in our society

By means of newsletters, fact sheets, books, audio and video- tapes, as well as the internet, we share our knowledge and understanding and keep the church informed of up-to-the-minute developments in the ministry.

We are, then, those who in Christian love, often having experienced ourselves life in a cult, wish to come alongside, advise, pray with and otherwise help cult members and their families and friends.

As far as our experience and knowledge takes us, as God leads, we help and minister.

Doug Monotone